WASHINGTON (AP) — With votes still being counted across the nation, President Donald Trump on Thursday sought to undermine confidence in the nation’s election, making unsupported accusations from the White House about the integrity of the results in his race against Democrat Joe Biden.
Hours earlier, Biden offered reassurances that the counting could be trusted, projecting a more presidential appearance while urging patience from Americans.
The candidates’ sharply contrasting postures intensified a national moment of uncertainty as the nation and the world waited to learn which man would collect the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the presidency. Trump pursued legal options with little success, working the phones and escalating efforts to sow doubt about the outcome of the race.
His path to victory narrow, Trump pushed unsupported allegations of electoral misconduct in a series of tweets and insisted the ongoing vote count of ballots submitted before and on Election Day must cease. And in his first public appearance since late on Election Night, he amplified the conspiracy theories amid the trappings of presidential power.
“This is a case when they are trying to steal an election, they are trying to rig an election,” said Trump of Democrats, whom he accused of corruption while providing no evidence.
He made similar claims about election integrity during the 2016 campaign, which he went on to win. This time, he was speaking not as a candidate, but as the sitting president of the United States.
Biden took a different tack, speaking briefly to reporters after attending a COVID-19 briefing to declare that “each ballot must be counted.”
“I ask everyone to stay calm. The process is working,” said Biden. “It is the will of the voters. No one, not anyone else who chooses the president of the United States of America.”
Biden’s victories in Michigan and Wisconsin put him in a commanding position, but Trump showed no sign of giving up. It could take several more days for the vote count to conclude and a clear winner emerge.
With millions of ballots yet to be tabulated, Biden already had received more than 72 million votes, the most in history.
Meanwhile, a federal judge has denied a bid by Trump’s campaign to stop the vote count in Philadelphia over observer access, urging the two sides to instead forge an agreement.
U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond suggested each party be allowed 60 observers inside a hall at a downtown convention center where the final ballots are being tallied.
As the hearing unfolded Thursday evening, Trump and Biden were locked in a tight battle for the 20 electoral votes in Pennsylvania.
Diamond, an appointee of President George W. Bush, chastened the lawyers as both sides bickered about who was following the rules and reminded them they are officers of the court.
“Really, can’t we be responsible adults here and reach an agreement?” the exasperated judge asked. “The whole thing could (soon) be moot.”
Republicans went to court Thursday afternoon to complain that election officials in the Democratic-led city were ignoring a state court order they’d won earlier in the day to give them a closer view of ballot processing.