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Trump presses on with uphill legal struggle to overturn Biden victory

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Trump's team went to federal court to try to block Michigan, a Midwestern battleground state that he won in 2016 but lost to Biden, from certifying the November 3 election results. — Reuters pic
Trump’s team went to federal court to try to block Michigan, a Midwestern battleground state that he won in 2016 but lost to Biden, from certifying the November 3 election results. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Nov 12 ― President Donald Trump’s campaign yesterday took another step in its long-shot legal strategy to upend his election defeat with a Michigan lawsuit, while Georgia announced a recount and President-elect Joe Biden worked on laying the foundation of his administration.

Biden will name longtime aide Ron Klain as his White House chief of staff, possibly as soon as today, according to the New York Times.

Trump’s team went to federal court to try to block Michigan, a Midwestern battleground state that he won in 2016 but lost to Biden, from certifying the November 3 election results.

Trump trailed in the state by roughly 148,000 votes, or 2.6 percentage points, according to Edison Research, with nearly 100 per cent of the vote counted.

The lawsuit made allegations of voting misconduct, with the focus on the Democratic stronghold of Wayne County, which includes Detroit. Jake Rollow, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of State, said the Trump campaign was promoting false claims to erode public confidence in the election.

“It does not change the truth: Michigan’s elections were conducted fairly, securely, transparently, and the results are an accurate reflection of the will of the people,” Rollow said in a statement.

Biden last Saturday clinched victory as he won a series of battleground states to exceed the 270 electoral votes needed in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines who wins the presidency. Biden also was winning the national popular vote by more than 5 million votes with a few states still counting ballots.

Critics have accused Trump of aiming to undermine public trust in the US electoral system and delegitimise Biden’s victory through unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud as the Republican president, the first White House incumbent to lose a re-election bid since 1992, tries to hold on to power.

During the campaign, Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

Judges have tossed out several of the Trump lawsuits, and legal experts say the litigation has scant chance of changing the outcome. Biden widened his lead on Wednesday in key states as vote-counting continued, including Pennsylvania where he now holds a 50,000-vote lead.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced a hand recount of all ballots cast in the state’s 159 counties. He said it was expected to begin this week and would be finished in time to certify the results by a November 20 deadline.

Biden became the election winner even without Georgia factored in. He held a lead of just over 14,000 votes, or 0.3 percentage points, in Georgia, a Southern state that Democrats have not carried in a presidential election since 1992.

The scale of the Georgia endeavour is such that if counting took place around the clock, officials would have to count more than 23,000 ballots an hour in the remaining nine days.

Raffensperger told CNN there was no sign of widespread fraud in his state’s vote count and he did not expect the results of the hand recount to overturn the machine count that is near completion.

“We believe the ballots were counted accurately,” he said.

Biden yesterday met with advisers who are helping him prepare to take office on January 20.

Republican support

Trump has declined to concede the election to Biden, instead lodging a flurry of lawsuits in pivotal states to try to back up his unsupported claims of widespread voting fraud and irregularities.

Prominent Republican lawmakers and other Trump allies have said he has the right to contest the results. Biden has called Trump’s failure to concede an “embarrassment.”

“The more Republican leaders kowtow, the more Trump believes he is still in control and the less likely he will do what normal presidents do: make a gracious concession speech; fully cooperate with the president-elect in a smooth transition process; and validate the election process,” John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser turned critic, wrote in an opinion piece in the Washington Post.

The lawsuits are part of a broader effort to find evidence to back up Trump’s fraud allegations and forge a case that could end up at the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority including three justices appointed by him.

One Republican strategist with ties to the White House said the legal manoeuvres and push for recounts were aimed at coming up with support for Trump’s claims.

The strategist, like many others close to the effort, acknowledged the Trump campaign faced an uphill struggle.

“They’re looking at throwing up a hundred Hail Marys,” he said, using a football term referring to a desperation pass at the end of a game.

The election outcome in a small number of states remained undecided with Trump holding a lead in North Carolina and Biden ahead in Arizona in addition to Georgia. Recounts are unlikely to change the outcomes.

To remain in office, Trump would need to win all three undecided states plus overturn the results in one or more states in Biden’s column, a highly unlikely prospect. ― Reuters

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