Georgia recount confirms Biden’s victory, Republican state official says

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said on Thursday that a hand audit of ballots in the state had confirmed Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the Nov. 3 election in Georgia.

An audit was launched after unofficial results showed Biden leading U.S. President Donald Trump by about 14,000 votes. It ended with Biden winning by 12,284, according to Raffensperger’s office.

Raffensperger, a Republican, said there was “no doubt” that the state would certify Biden’s victory on Friday.

“The audit has aligned very close to what we had in election night reporting,” Raffensperger told local station WSB-TV. “It’s so close, it’s not a thimble full of difference.”

Trump and his allies, including Georgia’s Republican U.S. senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who both face runoff elections in January, have accused Raffensperger without evidence of overseeing a flawed election, an allegation Raffensperger has angrily disputed.

The hand tally of about five million votes stemmed from an audit required by a new state law and wasn’t in response to any suspected problems with the state’s results or an official recount request. 

An election worker looks at a ballot during a hand recount of presidential votes on Sunday. (John Amis/Atlanta Journal & Constitution/The Associated Press)

Once the state certifies the election results, the losing campaign has two business days to request a recount if the margin remains within 0.5 per cent. That recount would be done using scanners that read and tally the votes and would be paid for by the counties, said Gabriel Sterling with the secretary of state’s office.

Trump campaign’s new strategy

With legal efforts to overturn his loss flailing, Trump’s campaign is now trying to persuade Republican state legislators to intervene in battleground states won by Biden.

The new strategy, confirmed by three people familiar with it, is being pursued even as Trump’s campaign said it was withdrawing a lawsuit challenging Biden’s win in Michigan.

Biden has captured 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232 in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner of the election, well above the 270 needed for victory.

In remarks on Thursday after a call with 10 state governors, the president-elect called Trump’s attempt to reverse the results “totally irresponsible.”

“It sends a horrible message about who we are as a country,” said Biden, although he expressed no concern that the gambit would succeed in preventing him from taking office on Jan. 20.

Michigan lawmakers summoned to White House

Trump’s campaign has filed at least nine lawsuits challenging the results since the Nov. 3 election, with scant success so far. An Arizona judge on Thursday dealt Trump yet another courtroom setback when he rejected a bid to block the state’s largest county from certifying its vote count.

A senior Trump campaign official told Reuters the plan was to cast enough doubt on the results in crucial states to persuade Republican legislators to step in and appoint their own slates of electors.

The Trump campaign has already asked a judge in Pennsylvania, where Biden won by 82,000 votes, to declare Trump the winner and said its Republican-controlled legislature should choose the state’s 20 Electoral College voters.

While legal experts see Trump’s last-gasp effort as unlikely to succeed, they say the strategy represents an unprecedented assault on the country’s democratic institutions by a sitting president.

Republican legislative leaders from Michigan were scheduled to visit the White House on Friday at Trump’s request, a source in Michigan said, adding the lawmakers planned to hear what the president had to say.

Several prominent law firms have pulled out of the campaign’s legal challenges, leaving Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to spearhead the efforts.

Sweat runs down the face of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, personal attorney to U.S. President Donald Trump, as he speaks about the 2020 U.S. presidential election results during a news conference Thursday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Giuliani alleges conspiracy

At a news conference on Thursday, Giuliani said he planned to file more lawsuits and that Democrats had engaged in a “national conspiracy” to manipulate vote totals, although he admitted he did not have any evidence. He did not answer a question about trying to sway state lawmakers.

Other members of the legal team floated a theory involving Venezuela and George Soros, a bogeyman of conservatives, although they said they would probably not pursue it in court.

Giuliani said accounts of suspicious activity would ultimately overturn the election, which Biden won nationwide by 5.9 million votes. Some of those accounts have already been thrown out of court.

“We cannot allow these crooks — because that’s what they are — to steal this election. They elected Donald Trump. They didn’t elect Joe Biden,” Giuliani said, offering no evidence to back up his claims.

Giuliani’s agitated performance, featuring rivulets of hair dye running down his face, was widely mocked by Democrats. Others expressed alarm.

“That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history,” tweeted Christopher Krebs, who headed up the U.S. government’s efforts to combat election disinformation until he was fired by Trump earlier this week.

‘No excuse’

Critics say Trump’s refusal to concede has serious implications for national security and the fight against the coronavirus, which has killed more than 250,000 Americans.

Biden is not receiving the classified intelligence briefings due a president-elect. He warned the delay could cause additional deaths as the pandemic surges to record levels across the country.

“There is no excuse not to share the data and let us begin to plan, because on Day 1 it’s going to take us time, if we don’t have access to all this data,” he said in his hometown of Wilmington, Del. “It’s going to put us behind the eight ball by a matter of a month or more, and that’s lives.”

The former vice-president has focused on preparing his incoming administration, naming senior staff members and getting briefed by his advisers. He said on Thursday he had selected a Treasury secretary and could announce his pick as soon as next week.

Part of the new Trump campaign effort involves trying to delay certification, the normally routine process by which election results are finalized, the senior campaign official said.

In Detroit on Tuesday, Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers refused at first to certify the results, then reversed themselves, then signed affidavits that they wanted to rescind their certification.

One of the members told Reuters that Trump called her after she agreed to certify the results.

Wayne County Board of Canvassers Republican chair Monica Palmer, left, and Democrat vice-chair Jonathan Kinloch discuss a motion to certify the election during a board meeting in Detroit on Tuesday. (Robin Buckson/Detroit News via The Associated Press)

Trump’s campaign dropped a federal lawsuit on Thursday challenging the election results in Michigan, citing the Wayne County officials’ affidavits. Officials say it is too late, however.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said on Thursday that the state would be conducting a planned, voluntary audit after the results were certified, which she called routine.

In the court of public opinion, the Trump campaign allegations appear to be having their intended effect. A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Wednesday found about half of Republicans believed Trump “rightfully won” the election.

Lawyer David Boies, who aided Democratic nominee Al Gore’s legal efforts after the 2000 election, said Trump’s efforts to “stir up” his political base would not change the ultimate outcome.

“From a legal standpoint, this election is over,” Boies told CNBC on Thursday.

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