WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump is quickly delivering on a late campaign promise: cheating by trying to stop the count of legally cast ballots that would likely hurt his chances.
Trump spelled out his plan on Sunday, promising to send “our lawyers” into Pennsylvania to end counting there, and he repeated complaints about vote counting generally early Wednesday from the White House: “This is a major fraud on our nation. We want the law to be used in a proper manner, so we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
This came after weeks of trying to broadly delegitimize any election result that did not return him to the White House for a second term: “The only way they can win is to cheat, in my opinion,” he told Fox Sports Radio in September.
Anthony Scaramucci, a longtime Trump friend, then briefly the White House communications director and now a fierce Trump critic, said Trump’s pre-election statements likely worked against him. “Telegraphing what he was doing caused there to be a major rush of voting,” he said. “He is unwell. Very sick guy.”
On Wednesday, Trump’s campaign, which for four years falsely accused 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton of refusing to accept the results of that election, took multiple steps to refuse to accept the results of Tuesday’s election. This included lawsuits to stop the lawful counting of votes in Pennsylvania and Michigan, demands that news organizations withdraw projections that Democratic nominee Joe Biden had won Arizona and outright claims that Trump had won Pennsylvania.
The campaign even staged a news conference in Philadelphia, where local elections officials are continuing their count of more than a million mail-in ballots. “This is absolute fraud,” declared Eric Trump, without offering any evidence, while his father’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said he would conduct an investigation into how many dead people had voted.
Trump followed up personally with a Twitter post saying that, “for Electoral Vote purposes,” he was claiming the states of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and Michigan.
There was, in fact, zero evidence that anything inappropriate was occurring in the vote count. States frequently go well past election night to count ballots, particularly in high-turnout races. And in the cases of Pennsylvania and Michigan, Republican state lawmakers refused requests from Democratic governors and elections officials to permit the counting of mail-in votes before Election Day, so that it would not take as many days afterward until a result could be announced.
Trump’s demand that vote counting cease immediately would also have the effect of disenfranchising ballots from military service members overseas. In Pennsylvania, those ballots can be counted if they arrive by Nov. 10, and in Michigan by Nov. 17, as long as they have been sent by Election Day.
The Biden campaign, meanwhile, expressed confidence that vote counts, when finished, would deliver them Arizona, Pennsylvania and Nevada, more than enough to cross the 270 electoral vote threshold for victory.
“I’m not here to declare that we won, but I am here to report that when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners,” Biden said during a brief appearance Wednesday in Wilmington, Delaware.