US President Donald Trump holds a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap while arriving to board Air Force One as he departs Florida for campaign travel to North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin at Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida, US, Nov 2, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]
US President Donald Trump’s campaign on Wednesday took another step in its long-shot legal strategy to upend his defeat with a Michigan lawsuit, while Georgia announced a recount and Democrat Joe Biden worked on laying the foundation of his incoming administration.
Biden on Wednesday named Ron Klain as his White House chief of staff, his first major appointment as he builds his administration. Anthony Blinken, a diplomat and longtime confidant of Biden, is seen as a likely pick for secretary of state or national security adviser.
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 Nov 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 percent 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.
Major media outlets said Biden 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.
As of Wednesday, with 96 percent of the popular vote counted, Biden extended his lead by 5.1 million votes to nearly 77.4 million votes, according to The Associated Press. Trump had 72.3 million votes.
During this year’s 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. He now holds a 50,000-vote lead in Pennsylvania.
Hand recount in Georgia
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 Nov 20 deadline.
The scale of the Georgia endeavor 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.
Biden on Wednesday met with advisers who are helping him prepare to take office on Jan 20.
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 lawsuits are part of a broader effort to find evidence to support 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 maneuvers and push for recounts were aimed at coming up with support for Trump’s claims, but he, like many others close to the effort, acknowledged that the Trump campaign faced an uphill struggle.
“They’re looking at throwing up a hundred Hail Marys,” he said, using a US football term referring to a desperation pass at the end of a game.
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.
Agencies and Ai Heping in New York contributed to this story.