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US Election: Biden takes lead in Georgia as Trump claims conspiracy against him

By Mutala Yakubu
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Joe Biden is on the cusp of declaring victory after taking the lead in the state of Georgia early on Friday morning, while Donald Trump clings to a narrow lead in other swing states that are still counting votes.

Biden overhauled Trump's lead in Georgia the early hours of Friday as mail-in ballots were counted, leaping ahead by 917 votes with the count trending in his favor and less than 10,000 votes left to count.

If the Democrat takes Georgia, then he only needs to hold his lead in either Nevada or Arizona - where he is currently ahead by 11,000 votes and 46,000 votes respectively - to be declared the winner. Results in both states are expected later today.

READ ALSO: US Elections: Trump sons blast Republicans for not backing Dad

If Trump loses the state, then he has no path to victory. The best he can do is to tie with Biden, but would need to claim victory in every state remaining in play.

Biden is also narrowing Trump's lead in Pennsylvania, which was reduced to a little over 18,000 votes in the early hours of Friday with around 140,000 ballots left to count, many of which will come from Democrat strongholds like Philadelphia.

Despite the grim outlook, Trump is unlikely to concede even after Georgia is called, amid a slew of legal action by his campaign and unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud.

Trump renewed those attacks on Thursday night in his first TV appearance since election day itself, where he called the entire presidential election into question, claiming it was rigged against him from start to finish by a vast conspiracy.

In his 17-minute tirade he claimed he was the victim of 'big media, big money and big tech' coming together to commit 'historic election interference' to give Joe Biden the presidency.

He claimed that if all 'legal votes' were counted he would win the election as he charged Democrats with trying to steal the contest 'corruptly' through mail-in ballots in a suddenly-announced White House address delivered as his tiny voting leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia slipped further.

All three broadcast networks - ABC, CBS and NBC - cut away from the press conference before it finished, warning their viewers that Trump had made 'a number of false statements' that needed clarifying.

MSNBC was the first to cut away, as anchor Brian Williams warned 'here we go again', but Fox News and CNN covered it in full.

In a series of tweets sent at 2.30am Washington time, Trump continued his tirade - attacking social media regulation, making baseless claims of fraud, casting doubt over several close Senate races, and calling on the Supreme Court to intervene.

Joe Biden remained narrow favorite to win the presidency on Friday, with results in a number of key swing states expected before the end of the day.

Having narrowly won the swing states of Wisconsin and Michigan, he has more routes to the White House open to him - with Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina yet to be called.

A win in Pennsylvania would hand him the presidency even if all the other states go to Trump. Holding his lead in Arizona and Nevada would also hand him the win.

Meanwhile Trump needs most of the outstanding states to go his way to stand a chance of winning.

Biden also gave a speech Thursday, calling for calm and patience while the votes are counted, insisting once again that when the dust has settled he will have beaten Trump.

'Democracy is sometimes messy. It sometimes requires a little patience as well,' the former vice president said from the stage of Wilmington's Queen theater late Thursday afternoon.

'So I ask everyone to stay calm, all people to stay calm. The process is working. The count is being completed and we'll know very soon.'

He also tweeted: 'No one is going to take our democracy away from us. Not now, not ever. America has come too far, fought too many battles, and endured too much to let that happen.

'Keep the faith, folks.'

Meanwhile Donald Trump Jr gave a speech in Georgia, where Trump's lead is now just a few hundred votes, calling for his father to 'fight to the death' and urging him to 'go to war' to 'expose all of the fraud that has been going on for far too long.'

'Americans need to know that this is not a banana republic and right now very few people have faith that's not the case,' he added.

At the podium in the briefing room on Thursday night, President Trump read from from a script and listed his grievances at Biden's campaign, 'suppression polls' and 'fraud.'

He left without taking a question as CNN's White House reporter Jim Acosta shouted: 'Are you a sore loser?' - then his press secretary Kayleigh McEnany had to scuttle back to the podium because he had forgotten to take his notes with him.

Trump's condemnation of the entire democratic system and his growing list of enemies was switched off rapidly by TV network after TV network.

MSNBC anchor Brian Williams said as they turned away less than a minute in: 'Here we go again.'

CNN was among the few channels to air the president's full speech, after which Anderson Cooper said Trump was 'like an obese turtle flailing in the sun.'

'That is the President of the United States. That is the most powerful person in the world and we see him like an obese turtle on his back flailing in the hot sun realizing his time is over,' Cooper said on air.

'But he just hasn't accepted it and he wants to take everybody down with him, including this country.'

Republicans also turned on him within minutes with Larry Hogan, the Maryland governor, saying: 'There is no defense. No person or election is more important than our democracy.' GOP rep Adam Klinzinger called it 'insane.'

At the briefing room podium - where the only aide with him was White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnanany - Trump appeared downcast as he listed his enemies and claimed a victory which nobody has handed to him.

'If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us,' he said during what he called a press conference.

Joe Biden tweeted a rebuke shortly after he finished saying: 'No one is going to take our democracy away from us.

'Not now, not ever. America has come too far, fought too many battles, and endured too much to let that happen.'

Trump, whose campaign has launched lawsuits in several battleground states, spoke more about the polls than he did about his own campaign, calling them 'phony' and 'suppression polls,' claiming that errors by pollsters were a deliberate attempt to keep his supporters at home.

Then he turned on his own party saying that because of him was no 'blue wave,' referring to Democrats' failure to win the Senate and add to their majority in the House.

That was a coded attack on Republicans' most senior figures who have refused to come out in support of his claims of fraud. His son Don Jr. railed against Republicans earlier in similar terms - but Mitch McConnell has said that every vote must be counted.

'We won by historic numbers. And the pollsters got it knowingly wrong, they got it knowingly wrong. We had polls that were so ridiculous and everybody knew it at the time. There was no blue wave that they predicted,' Trump said.

Trump's lead in Pennsylvania is slipping and in Georgia too Biden is creeping up on him, while Biden remains ahead in Nevada and Arizona. Biden needs only Pennsylvania to win, taking him to 273 electoral college votes, or Nevada and Arizona, taking him to 270. In contrast Trump would need to secure North Carolina, Arizona and Pennsylvania to secure 271.

Trump had not been seen for more than 36 hours after appearing in the White House East Room at 2.30am on Wednesday morning in front of cheering fans in MAGA hats to claim then that he had 'won.'

But he spoke after a measured Biden asked Americans to be patient and calm as they waited for the final ballots in the presidential race to be counted - amid mounting anxiety over the long wait for results, and concern about public order.

'Democracy is sometimes messy. It sometimes requires a little patience as well,' the former vice president said from the stage of Wilmington's Queen theater late Thursday afternoon.

'So I ask everyone to stay calm, all people to stay calm. The process is working. The count is being completed and we'll know very soon.'

In the same brief statement, the Democratic nominee assured supporters that he and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, would come out on top.

In contrast Trump spent the his press conference railing. 'We grew our party by 4 million voters, the greatest turnout in Republican party history. Democrats are the party of the big donors, the big media, the big tech, it seems and Republicans have become the party of the American worker and that's what's happened,' Trump said.

He accused the media of giving Biden strong poll numbers as a way of keeping his voters at home.

'As everyone now recognizes media polling was election interference in the truest sense of that word.

'By powerful special interests, these really phony polls, I have to call them phony polls, state polls, were designed to keep our voters at home, create the illusion of momentum for Mr. Biden and diminish Republicans abilities to raise funds.

'They were what's called suppression polls, everyone knows that now. And it's never been used to the extent that it's been used on this last election,' he said.

He went on to accuse Democrats of tinkering with the election in states with outstanding results.

'There are now only a few states yet to be decided in the presidential race. The voting apparatus of those states are run in all cases by Democrats,' he said.

In fact Arizona and Georgia – two critical states that are still counting ballots – have Republican governors; Nevada's secretary of state is a Democrat and Pennsylvania's rules on counting were set by its Republican legislature.

He pointed to his campaign's lawsuits, which have alleged voter fraud but offered no proof of the allegations. Two were thrown out by judges Thursday, one claiming fraud for lack of any evidence.

'There's tremendous litigation going on and this is a case where they're trying to steal an election. They're trying to rig an election and we can't let that happen,' he said.

The blizzard of litigation he promised had been beset throughout the day by problems.

In Georgia, superior court judge James Bass said there was 'no evidence' to the Trump suit's claims that a 53 ballots arrived late and got mixed with other ballots. In Michigan, Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled against the Trump campaign's push to stop the count in order to gain additional access for its observers. 'I have no basis to find that there is a substantial likelihood of success on the merits,' she said.

In Nevada, he sent Ric Grenell, his former acting director of national intelligence to announce legal claims that out of state residents had been voting.

But the press conference went badly wrong when Grenell refused to say what his name was and was laughed at by reporters then chased into a van refusing to answer questions on what evidence he had.

In Pennsylvania, the campaign claimed they were 'banned' from watching poll counters in Philadelphia and are now suing in federal court.

And Jared Kushner was reported to be looking for a 'James Baker' figure to lead the litigation - hardly a vote of confidence in Rudy Giuliani who had been its public face for the last 48 hours.

Don Jr. headed to Georgia after tweeting a demand for 'total war,' and retweeting an appeal from a Trump supporter for a mass protest in Detroit against the count. Many of his tweets were flagged by Twitter.

Before he spoke Trump has responded to Biden's leads in Arizona and Nevada and his gains in Pennsylvania and Georgia on Twitter, often all in capitals. Several Tweets have been flagged by Twitter as misinformation.

Biden did not mention Trump's name Thursday.

But he did make a comment that was clearly aimed at Trump and his campaign team's legal efforts to stall vote-counting and rhetorical efforts to call into question the legitimacy of the election.

'In America, the vote is sacred. It's how people of this nation express their will. And it is the will of the voters, no one, not anything else, that chooses the president of the United States of America,' Biden said. 'So each ballot must be counted.'

Earlier Thursday, Biden was at the Queen to participate in a COVID-19 and also an economic briefing. He also made an appearance at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware Wednesday, where he again told Americans they needed to wait – but that he would win.

The appearance in Delaware was clearly intended to cast Biden as presidential and paint a contrast to Trump.

The plea for calm also spoke to increasing concerns about public order.

In Michigan, Arizona and Nevada, Trump supporters, some of them armed have descended on counting locations.

And in New York there were arrests Wednesday after a pro-Biden 'count every vote' protest descended into violence.

The president had launched a furious tweet demanding that the count be stopped early Thursday morning then said his campaign would sue in any state where Joe Biden had already been declared a winner.

The election outcome now hinges on five states: Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

Nevada, Arizona and Georgia had expected to finish their counts Thursday but then changed expectations.

The extraordinary focus on the counting in individual states is unprecedented.

The wafer-thin margins in each state mean that every ballot now counts to the result. In a normal year, the states' results would have been called quickly by television networks and the Associated Press and the count gone on quietly in the background.

But this time, with unprecedented numbers of mail-in ballots fueling a record turnout, the calls were not made and instead it is official counts which regularly take days or even weeks to be completed, certified and declared which have become the focus of public attention.

In each state:

Nevada: 50,000 ballots remain to be counted but late-arriving mail-in ballots are still arriving and will do until Tuesday November 10. And the result may not be known until Thursday November 12, officials said, when all provisional ballots will be resolved after going through a validation process.' Biden is ahead by about 11,430 votes.
Pennsylvania: Counting stopped then restarted in Philadelphia as Trump's campaign sued claiming they are not being allowed to watch the count, winning their case first. And in Pittsburgh, 35,000 votes cannot be legally counted until Friday. Trump remains ahead with 49.7% of the vote after his lead slipped to about 26,319 votes by Thursday night.
Arizona: Biden's lead in dropped to less than 47,000 votes following a dump of mail-in ballots from Maricopa County on Thursday night. Biden remains ahead with 50.1 per cent of the vote, compared to Trump's 48.5 per cent. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said there are now 285,000 ballots that still need to be counted statewide, with 200,000 of those in Maricopa County. Officials are expected to update the count by 11am Friday.
Georgia: State is down to its final 14,000 ballots but has still to say when that will be completed. Biden and Trump are neck and neck with 49.4% of the vote each. Friday is the deadline for ballots to be counted.
North Carolina: There is no indication of when the result will be finalized.

The Associated Press has awarded Biden 264 electoral votes - including in Arizona, a state not all news organizations have called and that the Trump campaign is arguing they can win when all votes are counted.

Nevada's six electoral votes would put Biden exactly at 270 in the AP's count - handing him the presidency.

Nevada released another tranche of votes Thursday that expanded Biden's lead to 12,000.

Georgia also released additional votes counts that resulted in Trump's lead going down to about 13,500 votes.

The state has about 50,000 absentee ballots left to be counted - along with provisional ballots, military ballots, and votes from Americans living overseas.

Trump, with 214 electoral votes, faces a much higher hurdle to 270. He would need to win all four remaining battleground states: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and Nevada.

The Trump campaign expressed confidence the president will get a second term in the White House.

'By end of tomorrow – Friday – it will be clear that President Trump and Vice President Pence will serve another term in the White House,' campaign senior adviser Jason Miller told reporters in a press call on Thursday morning.

The Biden campaign expressed similar confidence.

'Our data shows that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States,' Dillon said.

As the count dragged on, Trump expressed confidence he will win the election but said his campaign will sue in the battleground states Joe Biden won, a sign his team is not confident the vote tallies will come out in his favor.

'All of the recent Biden claimed States will be legally challenged by us for Voter Fraud and State Election Fraud. Plenty of proof - just check out the Media. WE WILL WIN! America First!,' Trump wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning.

Additionally, Trump has demanded the nation stop counting votes in the presidential election.

He also launched a barrage of litigation.

In Nevada, which could hand Biden the presidency should he win its six electoral votes, he claimed non-residents were being allowed to vote.

The Trump campaign had a legal victory in Pennsylvania on Thursday when a judge ruled ballot observers can watch officials count ballots within six feet. Representatives of both campaigns were in the room to watch the counts but at a further distance because of the coronavirus. A county judge agreed with the Trump campaign, but Democrats appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The Biden campaign accused the Trump team of using the court system to delay the inevitable.

'What we're seeing on these legal suits are that they are meritless and nothing more than an attempt to distract and delay what is now inevitable – Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States,' campaign manager Jennifer O'Malley Dillon told reporters Thursday morning.

'STOP THE COUNT!,' the president tweeted Thursday as state officials continued to make their way through the legally cast votes. Trump has spent the past few days holed up in the White House, speaking to advisers about the race.

If state officials stop counting now and the election were called on the current tallies as the president seems to be demanding - Biden would win. The president needs to make up vote gaps in Arizona and Nevada in order to win the election - in other words he needs officials there to keep counting the ballots.


The president was likely referring to Pennsylvania, where officials are counting any mail-in ballot received by Friday as long as it is post marked by Election Day. Trump currently leads in the state but Biden is slowing making up ground as the mail-in votes are counted. More Democrats than Republicans used the mail-in voting option.

However he did not state the law as it exists. The state was in the process of counting ballots that did not come in after Election Day. And the change to allow ballots that come in for three days after was upheld by the state supreme court in a decision the U.S. Supreme Court let stand. The Trump camp could try to challenge the post-election day ballots again later in the process.

Twitter put a warning on several of the president's tweets.

And the Trump campaign released a statement from the president to clarify his tweets: 'IF YOU COUNT THE LEGAL VOTES, I EASILY WIN THE ELECTION! IF YOU COUNT THE ILLEGAL AND LATE VOTES, THEY CAN STEAL THE ELECTION FROM US!'

The situation in Pittsburgh is complicated by about 30,000 outstanding ballots, where a vendor sent the wrong ballots to voters and had to reissue new ballots with the correct races.

Poll workers now have to examine these ballots to make sure that people don't vote twice, or, if they sent in the wrong ballot, they didn't vote in races they aren't eligible for.

They cannot legally be counted until Friday when Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh sits, swears in a special board to examine these ballots, as required by law.

Biden has been closing the gap with Trump in Pennsylvania as mail-in ballots are counted.

And in Chatham County, Georgia, where Savannah is located, a judge ruled against the Trump campaign's legal challenge to some absentee ballots. The judge declared officials took the proper precautions to ensure it was legal ballots that were counted. Trump's lead in Georgia fell to fewer than 20,000 votes as more vote totals were released.

As President Trump offers unsubstantiated charges of election fraud, pro-Trump demonstrators have showed up at vote counting centers in Nevada, Arizona, and Detroit demanding that all votes be counted.

The results of the election remain unclear but Biden is inches towards victory as mail-in ballots are tallied.

Trump has falsely claimed these votes are illegitimate because they are being counted after the election. The votes were legally cast before Election Day but the process to count mail-in ballots takes longer as they have to be checked against voter rolls to confirm it's a legal ballot from a registered voter – just as when someone who votes in person has to confirm their identity with a poll worker before receiving a ballot.

In Arizona overnight, armed pro-Trump protesters descended on a counting center in Maricopa County, after Biden's commanding 200,000-vote lead was slashed to just 68,000 as ballots continued being tallied.

They faced off with police and security outside the counting center, chanting that every vote should be counted with the result in the balance. At least one person made it inside, forcing the center to close with staff locked in.