Election Minute

November 12, 2020

President Trump Won’t Concede as Questions Persist

President Trump is refusing to concede the presidential election to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as he and his campaign say questions over alleged voter fraud and ballots that should have been disqualified remain.

Trump campaign senior advisor Jason Miller said that the word “concede” is “not even in our vocabulary” as they pursue the claims of multiple witnesses about suspicious occurences. Miller said that their efforts to turn up instances of voter fraud and malpractice by election officials aren’t only about President Trump’s prospects at a second term in office, but “about the entire future of elections” in the United States.

“This is about election integrity,” Miller told Fox News. “If we can’t get this right, why think we will ever have confidence in these elections going forward?” White House Press Secretary and advisor to the Trump campaign Kayleigh McEnany said the election is far from being over. “We want every legal vote to be counted and every illegal vote to be discarded,” McEnany said. She went on to accuse Democrats of “trying to end-run around the Constitution to tip the election in their favor.”

McEnany did not provide any evidence of her claims. There is, however, a pile of questionable occurrences in a handful of states that decided the election that the Trump campaign is pointing to as evidence of their claims.

The allegations

In Nevada, a whistleblower listed a series of actions they said they saw occurring in the days leading up to the election, including election workers processing illegitimate ballots. The poll worker who made the claim signed a sworn affidavit attesting to the claim. A piece of software used in tabulating votes in 28 states suffered a glitch in Michigan, causing thousands of ballots cast for Republican candidates to instead be wrongly added to Democratic candidates’ totals. Republicans allege that this software may have possibly glitched—whether intentionally or not—in many or all the states it was used in, turning the presidential election in Biden’s favor. And many Republicans say they were barred from observing the ballot counting process in Philadelphia, saying that it appeared election officials were trying to hide something.  

Responding to these and numerous other allegations, some of which are unsubstantiated, US Attorney General Bill Barr ordered prosecutors across the United States to pursue “substantial allegations of irregularities and fraud.” In a memo to prosecutors, Barr wrote that investigations “may be conducted if there are clear and apparently-credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual state.”

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the Trump campaign could file as many as 10 lawsuits challenging the results of the election, fighting what he calls systemic fraud in the vote-counting system. Giuliani claimed that he has at least 50 people in Pennsylvania alone who could testify that fraud occurred in the Keystone State. Giuliani said there was no chance President Trump would concede the election to Biden “when at least 600,000 ballots are in question” across numerous battlegrounds. “It’s not my job to determine if the ballots are right or not; it’s their job,” Giuliani said at a press conference in Philadelphia. “With a mail-in ballot or an absentee ballot, the burden, under law, is on the party that’s proposing it, which is why it has to be inspected.”

In Georgia, a state where Biden was winning by razor-thin margins, the state’s two Republican US senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, called on the Georgia Secretary of State – also a Republican – to resign over “too many failures in Georgia elections this year,” specifically citing his failure in delivering an “honest and transparent” election. However, they did not provide any details or evidence to their claims and have declined interviews to clarify themselves. “The management of Georgia elections has become an embarrassment for our state,” Perdue and Loeffler wrote in a joint statement. “Georgians are outraged, and rightly so. We have been clear from the beginning: every legal vote should be counted. Any illegal vote must not. And there must be transparency and uniformity in the counting process. This isn’t hard. This isn’t partisan. This is American.” For his part, President Trump said Monday that he believes he will be awarded the electoral votes from Georgia, Wisconsin, and Nevada when the legal dust settles.

Mixed levels of support

President Trump’s attempts to turn the election in his favor has received mixed levels of support from Republicans. In his first public comments since the election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said President Trump is “one hundred percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options.” Newly reelected Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has been at the forefront of the fight on behalf of President Trump, urging the president not to concede and “fight hard” for a win, saying the allegations brought up by Republicans must be investigated. “We will work with Biden if he wins, but Trump has not lost,” Graham said. “Do not concede, Mr. President. Fight hard.” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, both prominent Republicans, echoed Graham’s statement, calling for investigations into the alleged misconduct to ensure the integrity of the election. But others, like former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, have not welcomed the allegations quite as warmly. Christie said that Trump and his supporters have to show clear evidence of fraud or concede the election. “If you don’t show us, we can’t do this,” Christie said. “We can’t back you blindly without evidence.”

Some Republicans, including Senators Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and Ben Sasse, who have always been a thorn in President Trump’s side, have already congratulated Biden and Harris for their win. Former President George H.W. Bush also extended his congratulations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, saying they were chosen by the American people and are the legitimate president- and vice president-elect. And Democratic Senator Chris Coons, a close friend of Joe Biden, said that several Republican lawmakers have called him to privately send their congratulations to Joe Biden, but said they can’t do so publicly yet for fear of igniting the wrath of President Trump.

World leaders in a quandary

The kerfuffle in the United States over the presidential election has put world leaders in a quandary, stuck in a choice between congratulating the newly elected president and angering the sitting president. A large group of world leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as the leaders of France, Germany, and the UAE, have called Biden to congratulate him. But a handful of leaders from several countries are waiting, citing legal challenges being presented by President Trump. Russian President Vladimir Putin is one of those leaders.

“You can see that there are certain legal procedures that have been announced by the current president. That is why the situations are different, and we, therefore, think it appropriate to wait for an official announcement,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Others, including China, Brazil, China, and Mexico are withholding their congratulatory calls to Biden for now. “President Trump has been very respectful of us, and we have reached very good agreements, and we thank him because he has not interfered and has respected us,” Mexican president Manuel Lopez Obrador said. “We don’t want to be imprudent nor act hastily.”

Many supporters of President Trump do not appear quite ready to congratulate Joe Biden either. In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, hundreds of President Trump’s supporters have rallied this week, protesting what they allege to be state election officials ignoring widespread fraud. The protesters were joined by Republican Congressmen, including Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. “We’re not asking for too much,” Rep. Perry told cheering supporters. “We want the ballots and the votes that are counted to be legal, to be valid.”

Working against the odds

Despite the odds weighted heavily against the sitting president, the Trump campaign is, for now, resisting calls to work with the Biden team on transition efforts to streamline the process of changing the commander in chief. Emily Murphy, a Trump appointee who heads the General Services Administration (GSA), said that she would not approve the beginning stages of an official transfer of power until “a winner is clear.” If the GSA does agree to begin the transition process, it will give Biden’s team millions in federal funding to use for salaries and travel expenses. If the GSA continues in its refusal to provide the Biden campaign with the resources necessary for a smooth transition, lawsuits could be filed to force them to do so.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden has done his part in trying to act presidential about the ongoing debate over the election. “This election is over,” Biden said at a virtual press conference. “It’s time to put aside the partisanship and rhetoric [that is] designed to demonize one another.”

It is not likely that efforts by President Trump and his team to uncover a major scandal will be successful. Allegations of voter fraud in past elections turned up little evidence, and recounts usually cause an insignificant number of votes to be changed—not the thousands President Trump would need to eke out an electoral victory. But regardless of what happens, it is undisputable that the presidential election and its aftermath has, so far, only served to further divide an already fractured nation.

Election Briefs:

Biden Forms Covid-19 Task Force

President-elect Joe Biden made his first major move as the president-elect on Monday, unveiling a task force that will help him make coronavirus-related decisions “based on a bedrock of science.” The task force consists of 10 health experts, including three who served as advisers on Biden’s presidential campaign. Notably, one task force member is Dr. Rick Bright, who was ousted by President Trump in April from his position as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, the federal agency in charge of developing a coronavirus vaccine. Advisers to Biden have floated the possibility that the task force could begin delivering public briefings on the coronavirus to the American public even before he assumes the presidency on January 20th. Similar to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which has not held a public briefing in some time, the Biden task force would give daily updates and suggestions on fighting the virus.

Biden also personally asked Americans to begin taking mask-wearing seriously. “Please, I implore you, wear a mask,” Biden said. “Do it for yourself, do it for your neighbor… A mask is not a political statement, but it’s a good way to start putting the country together.”

Just before Biden’s announcement, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said that preliminary data from a large trial showed that their vaccine was effective approximately 90% of the time. But Biden said it could take months for a vaccine to be available for all who need it, and that Americans must remain vigilant. “There’s a need for bold action to fight this pandemic,” Biden said. “We are still facing a very dark winter. There are now nearly 10 million COVID-19 cases in the United States… Infection rates are going up; hospitalizations are going up; deaths are going up.”

Biden said that he and others cannot forego the work that needs to be done now to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Reports say that one of the moves Joe Biden would like to implement in fighting the virus is implementing a national mask mandate. While the president of the United States’ executive authority does not permit creating a national mask mandate, Biden plans to speak to governors about enacting such a mandate, accomplishing his goal through their gubernatorial powers.

Senate Control Hinges on Runoffs

Though it was reported in this column last week, based on the data available at that time, that Republicans would keep control of the Senate, as more votes were tabulated throughout the week it became clear that Senate control would end up being decided in two runoff races, both in the state of Georgia.

Sitting Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler both did not garner over 50% of the vote against their Democratic opponents in their respective races, leading to an automatic runoff that will take place in December. If Republicans leads in Senate races in North Carolina and Alaska, they will have secured 50 Senate seats and Democrats will have 48 seats. If Democrats manage to win both runoff races, both parties will have 50 seats in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as the tiebreaker. Georgia is generally a reliably Republican state, but with Biden leading there, it isn’t yet clear whether Perdue and Loeffler will be victorious in defending their seats from Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Chris Warnock.

Biden Preparing Executive Orders to Undo Trump Policies

President-elect Joe Biden is preparing to sign at least four executive orders on the first day of his presidency that would roll back President Trump’s policies on a number of issues. The executive orders would include rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, an international agreement on steps to take to fight climate change; restoring the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that shields illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors; rejoining the World Health Organization, which President Trump pulled the US out of over issues related to the coronavirus pandemic; and repealing Trump’s travel ban targeting multiple Muslim-majority nations from which terrorist activity often originates.

Harris Says Biden Administration Would Reverse Policies on Palestinians

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said the Biden administration would reverse many policies toward Palestinians that have been in place during the Trump administration. “We will take immediate steps to restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, reopen the US consulate in East Jerusalem and work to reopen the PLO mission in Washington,” Harris said in an interview with Arab American News.

President Trump has cut off virtually all funding to the Palestinian Authority over their “pay to slay” program, which rewards terrorists and their families for attacks on Israel and its citizens. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has urged Joe Biden to strengthen relations between the US and Palestinians, and to move the US embassy in Jerusalem – placed there by President Trump – back to Tel Aviv. President-elect Biden has already said he would not make such a move, and has applauded President Trump’s accomplishments in securing peace deals between Israel and a handful of Arab nations, including the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan.