4 Nov 2020

Defiant Trump claims premature win in US election

10:46 pm on 4 November 2020

President Donald Trump has falsely claimed that he has won the US election with millions of votes still uncounted after his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, said he was confident of winning a contest that will not be resolved until a handful of states complete vote-counting over the next hours or days.

US President Donald Trump gestures after speaking during election night in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, early on November 4, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Photo: AFP

Trump has repeatedly and without evidence suggested that an increase in mail-in voting will lead to an increase in fraud, although election experts say that fraud is rare and mail-in ballots are a long-standing feature of American elections.

"Frankly, we did win," Trump told supporters at the White House tonight.

"We want the law to be used in a proper manner.

"We are going to the Supreme Court to stop further ballots. We don't want them to find ballots at 4am and add them to the list.

"This is a fraud on the American public," the president said. "This is an embarrassment to our country."

But election results from some battleground states, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia, were still not clear and projections from major networks and Edison Research showed Trump still short of the 270 electoral votes needed to win re-election.

A Facebook spokesperson said it has added a notification to feeds to reflect that votes are still being counted and the winner has not been projected.

A tweet by Trump, which claimed the election was being stolen, was flagged as misleading by Twitter.

A label on the social media network next to Trump's tweet said that it was potentially misleading and restricted users' ability to share the post.

Speaking at the podium in the White House's East Room, Trump began by thanking his family, and the millions of supporters who turned out for him today.

"We were getting ready for a big celebration," he says. "We were winning everything."

Taking a triumphant tone, Trump celebrated his big win of the night in Florida.

"We didn't win it, we won it by a lot," he said.

The president also baselessly accused Democrats of trying to "disenfranchise" his supporters.

"We will not stand for it," Trump said.

He also claims a lead in Pennsylvania - just like rival Joe Biden did earlier on election night. It is still too early to determine a winner in the state.

"Most importantly we're winning Pennsylvania by a tremendous amount of votes," the president said.

But again, there are many outstanding votes in Pennsylvania, and it's still unclear who has won the pivotal swing state.

The BBC's North America reporter Anthony Zurcher said that after Trump spoke, Vice-President Mike Pence tried to smooth over his remarks, declining to declare premature victory and insisting that all the legally cast votes will be counted.

It was much more in line with how a US leader would be expected to behave in a moment of political uncertainty.

The damage had been done, however. Whether Trump ultimately wins or loses, he has cast a pall on this election, as he calls the very machinery of American democracy into question.

Democrats react

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's campaign said it has legal teams standing by if Trump follows through with his threat to go to court to try to stop the counting of votes.

Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon said the statement is a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens.

Pennsylvania's Democratic Governor Tom Wolf called Trump's unsubstantiated claim about fraud a "partisan attack", and said his state was working hard to count more than 1 million mail-in ballots.

"Let's be clear: This is a partisan attack on Pennsylvania's elections, our votes, and democracy," Wolf said in a tweet. "Our counties are working tirelessly to process votes as quickly and as accurately as possible. Pennsylvania will have a fair election and we will count every vote."

Governor Tom Wolf speaks as he is joined by a group of Democratic Pennsylvania and Philadelphia lawmakers to call for a collective support on the efforts to reduce gun violence, at an event at Parkway Northwest High School for Peace and Social Justice, in Philadelphia, PA,

Governor Tom Wolf: "We will count every vote." Photo: AFP

Trump's unfounded declaration that "frankly, we did win this election" has prompted a strong reaction from other Democratic politicians.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is projected to win re-election in New York, condemned Trump's claim as "illegitimate, dangerous, and authoritarian".

"Count the votes. Respect the results," she tweeted.

House Representative for Minnesota Ilhan Omar called Trump a "dangerous man", tweeting "you can't stop ballots from being counted".

"This isn't a dictatorship," she added.

Amy Klobuchar, the senator for Minnesota, struck a more measured tone.

"All votes must be counted. We live in a democracy," she wrote minutes after Trump's statement.

Chris Christie apologised for the scandal.

Chris Christie Photo: AFP

Several top Republicans and conservative commentators are expressing alarm at Trump's unsubstantiated comments.

Speaking on ABC News, former New Jersey governor and Trump adviser Chris Christie called the president's speech the wrong move - both strategically, and as president.

"It's a bad strategic decision," he said. "It's a bad political decision."

Rick Santorum, former Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, said he was "very distressed" by Trump's comments. "Using the word fraud... I think is wrong," he said on CNN.

And Ben Shapiro, a conservative commentator and critic of Trump, tweeted calling the comments "deeply irresponsible".

- BBC / Reuters

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