President-elect Joe Biden shrugged off Donald Trump’s effort to challenge the election results, forging ahead with transition planning even as the president pursues a multi-state legal fight backed by Republican allies and the Justice Department.
Trump’s campaign on Tuesday said it would file a federal lawsuit in Michigan that seeks to stop the state’s top election official from certifying Biden’s win. The campaign filed a similar suit in Pennsylvania a day earlier, which Secretary of State Kathryn Boockvar moved to dismiss Tuesday, arguing Trump’s lawyers failed to present a case.
Biden leads Trump in Michigan by more than 148,000 votes and in Pennsylvania by more than 46,000 votes.
Trump’s campaign has so far produced no evidence of widespread irregularities or fraud, and it isn’t clear his effort to delegitimize the election is finding much traction among the public. A Reuters/Ipsos poll published Tuesday found that 79% of Americans believe Biden won the election, including nearly 6 in 10 Republicans.
Just 3% say Trump won, according to the poll, while 13% say the election hasn’t been decided.
Two separate groups of international observers have said the election was fair and free of major irregularities. One of them, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, criticized Trump for “baseless” attacks on the integrity of the vote. The other, the Organization of American States — which was invited by the State Department to observe the election — pointed out that Trump has repeatedly sought to cast “aspersions” on the election process.
Biden called Trump’s approach an embarrassment, and his lawyers said the legal challenges would fail and the Democrat will inevitably be sworn in as president on Jan. 20.
“How can I say this tactfully? I think it will not help the president’s legacy,” Biden said at a news conference in Wilmington, Delaware.
His campaign announced dozens of members of “agency review teams” on Tuesday that will begin preparing the government for Biden’s administration once the administrator of the General Services Administration, a Trump appointee, allows the transition to begin with a finding that the Democrat is the incoming president.
Biden allies have complained that the GSA administrator, Emily Murphy, is obstructing the transition by so far refusing to issue the finding.
Republicans have largely backed Trump’s effort, though a handful — including Ohio Senator Rob Portman, in a statement on Tuesday — have called on the president to produce whatever evidence he has of widespread fraud. Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, also a Republican, said Tuesday in an interview with Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 that the Trump administration should begin the transition to Biden’s presidency, a step it has so far resisted.
Nonetheless, Trump’s campaign has pressed ahead with its long-shot court cases while the president — who hasn’t spoken publicly since last Thursday — fires off tweets falsely declaring himself the winner. In a tweet on Tuesday evening he tweeted that the country had endured a “rigged election,” as usual presenting no evidence for the claim.
Trump’s campaign sent talking points to allies on Tuesday saying the election is “far from over” and that it would pursue a range of legal challenges. It also said they are “preparing to announce recount requests in key states.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has backed Trump’s approach. Attorney General William Barr issued a memo to federal prosecutors on Monday inviting them to recommend vote fraud cases, in violation of Justice Department policy that advises against conducting such investigations overtly before elections are certified in order to avoid harming public confidence in the results.
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo joked Tuesday that there’d be a smooth transition — to a second Trump administration.
Biden leads by about 12,600 votes in Georgia, 14,700 votes in Arizona, 20,500 votes in Wisconsin, 46,000 votes in Pennsylvania and 148,600 votes in Michigan. Vote recounts typically only change results of elections by hundreds of ballots.
“These margins cannot be overcome in recounts. So the recounts are yet another piece of the political theatrics,” one of Biden’s lawyers, Bob Bauer, told reporters Tuesday. Trump’s true aim, he said, is “other, if you will, collateral objectives.”
A few Republicans have spoken out against the effort by Trump and his allies to undermine the election and Biden’s presidency. His former national security advisor John Bolton said Pompeo’s remark “eviscerated his credibility internationally,” adding that he suspects the secretary was influenced by his own ambition to seek the party nomination in 2024.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican and a Trump critic, said the president had the right to use legal processes to challenge the results of the election, but that he hasn’t seen anything that would change the outcome. “I think most people realize that this election is over,” he said. “We’ve got to move on.”
The Trump campaign will likely have to decide by next week whether it will pay for a recount in Wisconsin. The former Republican governor, Scott Walker, has said he doesn’t think it will change the state’s results, citing previous recounts that had minimal effects on the tally.
The state’s last recount cost $2 million; two people familiar with the matter said the Trump campaign intends to ask for one in this election.
Biden’s allies are intensifying their criticism of the president. Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, called Trump delusional on Tuesday.
“This delusion is not a quaint sideshow. It’s an assault on our democracy,” he said Tuesday, adding that Barr’s invitation for vote fraud investigations is a “fishing expedition.”