ATLANTA (Reuters) — President Donald Trump’s desperate bid to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election was dealt another blow on Friday when a high-ranking Georgia official announced President-elect Joe Biden was the winner after a recount in the U.S. state.
Biden, a Democrat, is preparing to take office on Jan. 20, but Trump, a Republican, has refused to concede and is searching for a way to invalidate or overturn the results in a number of states, claiming widespread voter fraud.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger confirmed that a manual recount and audit of all ballots cast in the southern state had determined that Biden was the winner.
“The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision by the secretary of state’s office or courts, or of either campaigns,” Raffensperger, a Republican and Trump supporter, told reporters.
With the door seemingly slammed shut in Georgia and having been stung by a series of court defeats, the Trump team is resting its hopes on a bid to get Republican-controlled legislatures in other battleground states won by Biden to set aside the results and declare Trump the winner, according to three people familiar with the plan.
It is focusing on Michigan and Pennsylvania for now, but even if both those states flipped to the president he would need to overturn the vote in another state to vault ahead of Biden in the Electoral College.
Such an extraordinary event would be unprecedented in modern U.S. history. Trump not only would need three state legislatures to intervene against vote counts as they stand now, but then also have those actions upheld by Congress and, almost certainly, the U.S. Supreme Court.
Trump’s lawyers are seeking to take the power of appointing electors away from state governors and secretaries of state, and give it to friendly state lawmakers from his party, saying the U.S. Constitution gives legislatures the ultimate authority.
“The entire election frankly in all the swing states should be overturned and the legislatures should make sure that the electors are selected for Trump,” Sidney Powell, one of Trump’s lawyers, told Fox Business Network on Thursday.
Legal experts have sounded the alarm at the notion of a sitting president seeking to undermine the will of the voters, though they have expressed skepticism that a state legislature could lawfully substitute its own electors.
Biden campaign legal adviser Bob Bauer told reporters on Friday that Trump was in a hopeless legal position.
So far, Trump’s attempts to reverse the outcome via lawsuits and recounts have met with little success. Despite the setbacks, his campaign has not abandoned its legal efforts and has vowed to file more lawsuits.
White House meeting
Trump will meet with Michigan’s state legislative leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House of Representatives Speaker Lee Chatfield, both Republicans, at the White House on Friday, according to a source in Michigan.
The two lawmakers will listen to what the president, who requested the meeting, has to say, the source said. Shirkey told a Michigan news outlet earlier this week that the legislature would not appoint a second slate of electors.
Upon arriving at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport outside Washington, Shirkey and his colleagues were met by a swarm of protesters. Some held signs that read “SHAME” while others chanted “Certify the results” and “respect Michigan voters.” One protester asked, “What has Trump promised you?”
“It’s incredibly dangerous that they are even entertaining the conversation,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, told MSNBC. “This is an embarrassment to the state.”
Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were the pillars of Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, but Biden prevailed in all three by even larger margins than Trump did four years ago. Trump’s hopes of remaining president are doomed without them.
Even though election officials have not reported any major irregularities, most prominent Republicans have remained on the side with Trump or quietly acceded. But a few, including U.S. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, have spoken out.
“Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the president has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election,” Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, said in a statement on Thursday. “It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president.”
Other Republican senators including Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Joni Ernst of Iowa, called on Trump to offer proof of electoral fraud.
Biden, meanwhile, was due on Friday to meet Democratic leaders in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, after spending most of the week with advisers planning his administration.
Nationally, Biden won nearly 6 million more votes than Trump, a difference of 3.8 percentage points. But the outcome of the election is determined in the Electoral College, where each state’s electoral votes, based largely on population, are typically awarded to the winner of a state’s popular vote.
Biden leads by 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232 as states work to certify their results at least six days before the Electoral College convenes on Dec. 14.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax in Princeton, New Jersey; Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Detroit, Jarrett Renshaw in Wilmington, Delaware, Karen Freifeld in New York and Jan Wolfe and Doina Chiacu and Lisa Lambert in Washington; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Paul Simao; Editing by Lincoln Feast, David Clarke and Chizu Nomiyama)
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