Trump Administration Digs In Against Biden: Live Updates

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Following arguably the most important Election Day in memory, Joe Biden is the finally the president-elect after defeating Donald Trump with a key win in Pennsylvania on Saturday. We’re still following the aftermath, vote counts, assorted commentary and analysis, and all the latest post-election developments.

Updates will appear below in reverse chronological order.

The Department of Justice may open probes into voting “irregularities”

The Trump administration’s most competent partisan has largely remained on the sidelines during the last week — a reprieve that could soon be over. According to a memo from Attorney General William Barr to U.S. Attorneys obtained by the Associated Press, Barr wrote that election-related 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.”

As the AP notes, such an order would give “prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election is formally certified.” However, considering that Republican state officials in Georgia and Pennsylvania have asserted there has been no evidence of voter fraud, it’s unclear if these DOJ probes will go anywhere:

Administration gives no quarter to transition

Absent a concession from Trump his administration is not allowing for any transition process to begin several days after the presidential race for Biden. The head of the General Services Administration has not yet signed a letter leasing government office space to Biden’s team so they may be prepare to run the enormous enterprise that is the executive branch of the federal government in a little over two months. That led top political appointee at the U.S. Agency for International Development to tell the officials they will not cooperate with the Biden transition team absent GSA paperwork declaring he won, the Washington Post reported. A senior White House official is reportedly spreading word that he will fire anyone in the administration looking for a new job.

Pence is taking his talents to south Florida

To underscore the frivolity of Trump’s election lawsuits — and to reiterate the negligence of the administration’s pandemic response — the vice-president and head of the White House coronavirus task force is on vacation this week. As the nation faces three-straight days of record infections, Mike Pence will be on the island of Sanibel, Florida, from Tuesday until Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

Trump 2024 might happen

Trump is reportedly talking about running for president again in 2024, meaning he seems to understand that he lost the 2020 election despite no public concession since the race was called Saturday. Axios quoted two sources who say Trump has been discussing another White House bid with advisors. If Trump did it and won, he would be only the second president to serve non-consecutive terms since Grover Cleveland in the 19th century.

Defense Secretary ‘terminated’

As expected, Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Monday, saying in a tweet the Pentagon boss was “terminated.” The New York Times reports: “Mr. Esper’s downfall had been expected for months, after he took the rare step in June of disagreeing publicly with Mr. Trump and saying that active-duty military troops should not be sent to control the wave of protests in American cities. The president, who had threatened to use the Insurrection Act to do exactly that, was furious, officials said.” Esper also practically banned Confederate flags from military installations across the world, contrary to Trump’s public defense of the symbol of slavery and rebellion.

Historian John Meacham had a larger role in the Biden campaign than previously known

The New York Times reveals that John Meacham – who publicly endorsed Biden and spoke at the DNC – has also been writing his speeches:

Jon Meacham, the presidential historian and biographer, has been helping to craft President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s speeches, according to multiple sources involved, including writing the acceptance speech that Mr. Biden that he delivered Saturday night from Wilmington.

In that address, Mr. Biden spoke of a mission “to rebuild the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation, the middle class and to make America respected around the world again.” Mr. Meacham’s 2018 book, “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels,” has long served as a touchstone for Mr. Biden, who read it and has reached out to Mr. Meacham in the past to discuss passages he liked.

Mr. Biden’s speech-writing process is run by Mike Donilon, the president-elect’s longtime adviser. But behind the scenes, Mr. Meacham has been playing a larger role than was previously known, both writing drafts of speeches and offering edits on many of Mr. Biden’s big addresses, including one he gave at Gettysburg last month and his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in August.

Trump’s doomed strategy to contest the election is going to get interesting

While the president’s baseless allegations of voter fraud are almost guaranteed to have no effect in overturning the results in the crucial state of Pennsylvania, it won’t stop his campaign from trying , according to a new report from Axios:

President Trump plans to brandish obituaries of people who supposedly voted but are dead — plus hold campaign-style rallies — in an effort to prolong his fight against apparent insurmountable election results, four Trump advisers told me during a conference call this afternoon.

 Obits for those who cast ballots are part of the “specific pieces of evidence” aimed at bolstering the Trump team’s so-far unsupported claims of widespread voter fraud and corruption that they say led to Joe Biden’s victory.

Scenes From Your Election Celebration

Hundreds of New York readers have sent in photos and videos of themselves and others celebrating president-elect Biden’s victory this weekend, and we continue to update this gallery with our favorites, including, of course, this image:

Photo: Rachel Luba

Thanks so much to everyone who has submitted their scenes. We’ll keep updating the gallery, and hope you’ll keep sending in your photos and stories to

Totally more on Four Seasons Total Landscaping

The Philadelphia Inquirer has collected everything you could want to know about the weirdest, most perplexing story of the weekend: The Trump team’s decision to hold a press conference on its election-contesting legal strategy outside a random landscaping business in Philadelphia on Saturday (at roughly the same time the race was being called for Biden). Here’s a key excerpt from the Inquirer’s report, which is definitely worth reading in full:

The Four Seasons staff remained perplexed by their moment in the national spotlight. Kevin Moran, a foreman at the firm, simply shrugged when approached while opening the gate to the parking lot on Sunday. He said his boss got the call from Trump campaign staffers Saturday morning and thought they must have found the business on Google and been interested because it was a “secure location” set off from the street by a security fence.

As for the confusion with the hotel, Moran said, “everybody gets mixed up. There’s multiple Four Seasons. Four Seasons Hotel, there’s two Four Seasons Landscaping. We’re ‘Total;’ the other one, I think it’s just landscaping.” (There’s a Four Seasons Diner, off Cottman Avenue, too. They weren’t involved either, the hostess there said.)

But not all in the neighborhood were so bemused. The 78-year-old employee manning the counter at the Fantasy Island sex shop, who declined to give his name, said the phone had been ringing off the hook since Saturday with callers asking: “Is Rudy Giuliani there?”

And despite the stream of new interest in the neighborhood, it hadn’t led to an uptick in business. The Trump train had taken all his parking spots, Jacob complained. Then, the day after, normally the store’s busiest day of the week, more people than ever were gawking outside but none were stopping in to sample his wares.

“It is a circus,” he said. “But to be honest with you, it doesn’t surprise me. That’s Trump.”

George W. Bush has congratulated Biden, but most Republicans are making excuses not to

The former president, who now counts as a moderate in the present-day GOP, called president-elect Biden to offer his “warm congratulations,” according to a statement released Sunday. The New York Times reports:

Although Mr. Bush said Mr. Trump had “the right to request recounts and pursue legal challenges,” his statement made clear that he did not think those efforts would succeed, and Mr. Bush’s position could encourage other Republicans to speak out and increase pressure on Mr. Trump to stop fighting the results with unsubstantiated claims.

“The American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair,” he said. “Its integrity will be upheld, and its outcome is clear.”

Mr. Bush, the only living former Republican president, put his stamp on the outcome even as many of his party’s elected leaders held back either out of loyalty to Mr. Trump or out of fear of crossing the outgoing president. Mr. Trump has falsely asserted that the election was stolen without any evidence, leaving his party in the awkward position of following a president refusing to accept the reality that other Republicans have, even if they do not say so out loud.

On Sunday, Senator Ted Cruz claimed on Fox News that “I believe President Trump still has a path to victory, and that path is to count every single legal vote that was cast, but also not to count any votes that were fraudulently cast or illegally cast, and we have a legal process to determine what’s legal and what isn’t.” He also suggested, “This case could very easily end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.”


Why Trump-weary Americans need to relax and enjoy this

Intelligencer’s Josh Barro, a proud Biden booster since the beginning, savors a near-future where he can finally forget to think about who the president is:

[B]eyond what the government actually does, I also think it will be healthy for the country that we, for the first time in decades, will have a president that a lot of people don’t feel very strongly about. The high emotional valence around presidents of both parties — and the subsuming of so much of business and culture into political controversies driven by attitudes toward those presidents, especially Trump — has sucked the joy out of a lot of things, made it harder for Americans of different political persuasions to get along, and made people angrier and nastier to no apparent social benefit. I think it will be helpful for more people to be able to see the president as a manager, not as an avatar for a social movement. Without so much emotional investment in a president, people might even realize that more of the keys to their happiness are held within themselves, not by their leaders or their political opponents.

Like a lot of you, the main thing I’m feeling this weekend is relief. I have thought about Donald Trump every day for nearly six years, and I resent his relentless imposition into my consciousness. I am sick of hearing from him, and I am sick of having to care about what he thinks and says and does. I think one reason he won a small but essential chunk of crossover votes from those who voted Republican on the down-ballot is that a lot of people across the political spectrum share that exhaustion. Soon, whether Trump admits that he has lost or not, he won’t be president anymore, and we will all be more or less able to ignore him. You may even be able to ignore the new president, if you wish. Giving so many Americans so much of their mental space back, to be able to focus more on other things again, is an underrated social benefit of this result. For that, I am grateful.

Josh also wants to remind Democrats that Biden was likely the only candidate who could have won. Read the rest of his thoughts here.

The party didn’t stop last night in New York

Photo: Dina Litovsky for New York Magazine

Photographer Dina Litovsky shot the streets for us, remarking that “the pent-up frustration of the past four years exploded into a wave of joyful optimism that seemed to sweep over every single person.” View the rest of the photos here.

Biden’s ultra-slim lead in Georgia is still growing

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that he now leads “by roughly 10,200 votes in the latest tally released overnight by the Secretary of State’s Office,” adding that, “Few ballots remain to be counted, though exactly how many is unclear.”

He’s built his lead in Nevada, too

Biden’s vote total is now over the 50 percent threshold in that state, reports the indispensable Nevada Independent:

President-elect Joe Biden continued to widen his lead over President Donald Trump in Nevada on Sunday, now securing more than 50 percent of votes cast in the presidential election in the Silver State.

Though the race in Nevada was officially called on Saturday and Biden declared the winner of the presidential election nationally, votes continue to be tallied across the state, helping the president-elect expand his margin of victory. As of Sunday morning, Biden had secured a 2.4 percentage point lead over Trump, or about 31,464 votes, and had captured 50.1 percent of the total ballots cast in the race.

Biden visited the graves of his family on Sunday

NPR reports:

Biden began his day by attending Mass with his family at St. Joseph on the Brandywine church in Greenville, Del. After Mass, Biden visited the cemetery across the street where his parents, first wife, young daughter and son Beau are buried. According to reporters traveling with Biden, he briefly knelt down at one of the graves.

On the suddenly grim prospects for police reform

Intelligencer’s Zak Cheney-Rice outlines why the result of the election “bodes poorly for the kind of substantive federal policing reform that looked possible at different points during the summer”:

Between late May and early July, an estimated 26 million people in 550 U.S. municipalities protested in the streets to end racist police violence after a Minneapolis cop killed George Floyd, an unarmed Black man. Congress promptly failed to deliver a bill that met their demands, mired in disagreement between House Democrats and Senate Republicans. Now, Joe Biden is the president-elect and the Senate is still under Republican control with majority leader Mitch McConnell at the helm. Unless Democratic senate candidates in Georgia win both January runoff elections, the next two years are shaping up to be a partisan power struggle. Federal policing reform will probably be a casualty.

Dig into the rest Zak’s deep dive on the topic here.

The call to concede is coming from inside the house

She may not, however, be able to avoid planning another White House Christmas.

Eh tu, Bibi?

Arguably Trump’s closest foreign ally is moving on:

A farewell guide to the Trump administration’s ‘lesser ghouls’

Intelligencer’s Sarah Jones has written “an incomprehensive list of the worst Trump officials you’ve probably forgotten about, adding that readers “better memorize their names now, before they all disappear into lucrative consultancies.” Among them, labor secretary Eugene Scalia:

Trump pretends to be a friend of workers. In fact, he’s anything but, and Eugene Scalia (yes, one of those Scalias) has been an important weapon in the president’s war on labor. As Labor secretary, Scalia presided over a deregulatory push at the expense of unions and workers. The fate of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a particular highlight of his tenure. Scalia ended a policy directing OSHA to generate negative publicity for dangerous employers. In April, The New Yorker reported, Scalia introduced a policy memo that would have relieved “the vast majority of employers of any duty to keep records about whether employees’ coronavirus infections were ‘work-related.’” Scalia later retracted that memo under pressure. But he’s already done plenty of damage. The number of federal workplace safety inspectors employed by OSHA is the lowest it’s been in 45 years. In the middle of a pandemic.

Scalia will almost certainly return the big-money law world that spawned him. He will be fine. A lot of essential workers won’t be.

The president is back on course

Trump tweeted out some more misinformation and false allegations that the election was stolen, then hit the links at his golf course in Virginia again on Sunday. It was also the 300th visit he has made to one of his golf courses during his presidency.

An architecture critic’s thoughts on the bizarre setting of Trump’s legal presser yesterday

Curbed’s Justin Davidson shares his thoughts and feelings about Four Seasons Total Landscaping, which served as a backdrop for the Trump legal team’s weird press conference in Philadelphia yesterday:

But the president was mistaken; the press conference was in fact scheduled to take place at a different, unrelated business ten miles away: Four Seasons Total Landscaping. The name itself is magnificently Trumpian, goosed by that meaningless, grandiose modifier, total, which suggests that the firm is in the business of dynamiting mountains or, on a different scale, will mow any patch of body hair its customers desire. Instead of being invested in the majesty of the law and a democratic crusade, Giuliani managed to look diminished by a one-story taxpayer (the ironic term for a generic commercial building that generates barely enough revenue to keep the property from going into default) fronted by a garage door plastered with newly obsolete Trump-Pence campaign signs.

Four Seasons Total Landscaping joins the slabs of forlorn border wall and the graffiti-encrusted bathroom in Lafayette Square as the real monuments of an administration intent on ugliness and pathetic façades. Maybe the choice of venue was a not-at-all understandable mix-up. Perhaps it was sabotage on the part of a minion who had had enough. There’s speculation on Twitter that Trump announced an event at the Four Seasons (hotel) before it had been booked, and aides had to scramble to find any venue that made his words true. None of these explanations makes sense, because the site was simultaneously too perfect to be accidental and too elaborate to be intentional. An administration marked by episodes of sordid sex, wishful thinking, and mass death took place next door to a dildo-and-porn store named Fantasy Island and across the street from a crematorium. If you were hunting for such a symbolically rich stage, how would you even Google it?

Definitely read the rest of Justin’s critique here.

Despite Biden’s win, an attempted coup in still happening in plain sight

Our Vox colleague Ezra Klein tries to re-sound the alarm over what Trump and his allies are still trying to do:

That this coup probably will not work — that it is being carried out farcically, erratically, ineffectively — does not mean it is not happening, or that it will not have consequences. Millions will believe Trump, will see the election as stolen. The Trump family’s Twitter feeds, and those of associated outlets and allies, are filled with allegations of fraud, and lies about the process (reporter Isaac Saul has been doing yeoman’s work tracking these arguments, and his thread is worth reading). It’s the construction of a confusing, but immersive, alternative reality in which the election has been stolen from Trump, and weak-kneed Republicans are letting the thieves escape.

This is, to borrow Hungarian sociologist Bálint Magyar’s framework, “an autocratic attempt.” That’s the stage in the transition toward autocracy in which the would-be autocrat is trying to sever his power from electoral check. If he’s successful, autocratic breakthrough follows, and then autocratic consolidation occurs. In this case, the would-be autocrat stands little chance of being successful. But he will not entirely fail, either. What Trump is trying to form is something akin to an autocracy-in-exile, an alternative America in which he is the rightful leader, and he — and the public he claims to represent — has been robbed of power by corrupt elites.

“Democracy works only when losers recognize that they have lost,” writes political scientist Henry Farrell. That will not happen here.

How we’re feeling, now that it’s finally over

As we did on the morning of Election Day and twice after on this liveblog, Intelligencer staffers have once again shared their feelings on this momentous day and what it means to us. Here’s what senior editor Margaret Hartmann wrote on Saturday:

On Tuesday, even before the polls closed, I started experiencing strange flashes of an old, familiar feeling. Eventually I realized it was normalcy — a world where I did not need to check my phone every 20 minutes to see if the president was threatening another world leader via Twitter and there was no chance that the commander in chief would hawk canned beans from the Resolute Desk. Later that evening my soul would leave my body several times as the blue wave that was prophesied failed to materialize. But as the week dragged on and Trump’s loss appeared more and more certain I felt like I was slowly waking up from a long, bizarre nightmare.

Yet, I’m surprised by how much this feels like heading into a new day, not a return to our pre-Trump political reality. It’s not entirely about Joe Biden; I think he’s a decent man who understands the gravity of the situation we’re in and wants to take action, but he’s still a politician who was first elected to the Senate 11 years before I was born. Regardless of what Biden is or is not able to accomplish, I can’t go back because I see the country, its history, and our role as citizens in a radically different way than I did four years ago. It’s cliche for politicians to tell supporters after an election win that the work is just beginning, but for the first time I really feel it.

Read what nine other writers and editors had to say here.

Amid everything else, Harris made the most history on Saturday

And it means a great deal to a lot of Americans:

Read the Cut’s Amanda Arnold on Harris’s day of firsts.

Will Trump start holding rallies again?

There’s pretty much nothing the president likes to do more, as president, and the New York Times reported Saturday that aides believe he is eager to start holding public events again, having been denied the opportunity ever since his ego-boosting campaign ended:

Confined almost entirely to the White House since Election Day, Mr. Trump is eager to get out of Washington, and after musing about holding a rally this week, aides said he was likely to travel to his private club, Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla., instead. But the president has no intention of ending the boisterous demonstrations of support that he has held throughout his presidency and that always seem to energize him.

And no, there seems to be no chance that Trump will deliver any kind of concession speech anytime soon, if ever.

How Biden won Pennsylvania

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tamari and Julia Terruso analyze the the president-elect’s narrow victory in the state, concluding that “an array of factors combined to create the outcome” but “take any of them out, and Trump might have won again”:

Biden rebounded, compared with Hillary Clinton, in coal and steel country, often keeping pace with Trump’s rising support there. Trump modestly improved his performance in Philadelphia. But the city still cast more than 550,000 votes for Biden as a mix of voters from the full spectrum of racial identities and economic classes stood in lines to defeat a president who had stoked racial divisions and downplayed the coronavirus — each of which had scarred the city.

But the suburbs delivered Biden’s biggest gains. The four Philadelphia collar counties gave Biden a 283,000-vote advantage, a 50% increase from Clinton’s four years ago, and more than double the margin President Barack Obama enjoyed in 2012. Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh and its affluent suburbs, boosted Biden’s margin by 30,000 votes compared with Clinton’s, a 28% increase, with votes still being counted.

They report that, “Amid a still-raging pandemic and widespread economic pain, with social unrest over racial inequality roiling the country, many voters across the state embraced Biden’s seemingly simple pitch: a steady presence that, they hoped, would restore a semblance of normalcy”:

A huge piece of Biden’s support also came from older Black voters, the traditional backbone of the Democratic Party. Black women, in particular, said they were motivated by a pandemic disproportionately affecting Black and brown communities, and Trump fanning the flames of racism amid a national reckoning on civil rights.

Trump also gained support across the state, and Tamari and Terruso note “it appeared this would be the third consecutive presidential election in which the number of Democratic votes has declined in Philadelphia,” but the president’s gains ultimately weren’t enough to overcome the broad, diverse coalition of voters who backed Biden. Read the rest of their report here.

’I haven’t felt this level of love and togetherness in a long time’

Photo: Steven John Irby for New York Magazine

Photographer Steven John Irby jumped at the opportunity to go out and shoot New York’s citywide celebration for us on Saturday. He later expressed how overwhelming it was to see and feel so much joy everywhere he went, and you can read those reflections and see the rest of his images here.

Biden their time: GOP senators are almost all avoiding public acknowledgement of Trump’s defeat

Some 12 hours after the race was called, only two Republican senators have congratulated Biden: Utah’s Mitt Romney and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski. Meanwhile, other GOP senators have criticized the major networks for calling the race, they say, too early. With deadlock likely looming in the Senate and nothing to gain by provoking Trump when he is in full-on denial about the election outcome, it may take a lot more time for GOP lawmakers to publicly signal they are ready to move on.

Headline of the day

The Trump campaign’s voter fraud hotline has been getting trolled

Campaign staffers have apparently been fielding a lot of prank callers, ABC News reports:

Since Election Day, many Trump campaign staffers have been huddled on a noisy floor in the campaign’s Arlington, Virginia, headquarters fielding hundreds of calls a day on a hotline the campaign set up as they try to find instances of voter fraud, multiple sources told ABC News.

But the hotline has turned into a nightmare for some, as staffers, some of whom have contracts that expire in the coming days, have been bombarded with prank calls from people laughing or mocking them over Biden’s win before hanging up, sources tell ABC News. Prank calling the Trump campaign’s hotline has already become a trend on TikTok, the social media network that was used earlier in the year in an attempt to tank the president’s rally in Tulsa by mass-requesting tickets.

It’s a celebration!

The future first and second families react in surprise to a confetti cannon blast after Joe Biden’s first speech as president-elect on Saturday night. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

In first speech as president-elect, Biden calls for an end to this “grim era of demonization”

Biden’s big speech on Saturday night revisited many of the themes of his campaign, but he also tried to reach out to those who didn’t vote for him, like a normal president-elect would:

For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight,. I’ve lost a couple times myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again. … This is the time to heal in America.

Kamala Harris, meanwhile, noted the historic achievement her pending role in the government signifies. She thanked the women “who throughout our nation’s history have paved the way for this moment tonight,” and added, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

Biden’s plans for how immediately reverse Trump’s policies

A big downside to the Trump administration’s inability to conceive of, or effectively marshal much legislation has been the president’s perpetual reliance on executive orders for the purpose of establishing policy — since executive orders can be reversed with executive orders. So it should come as no surprise that, as the Washington Post reports, the president-elect is planning to quickly sign a series of them after being sworn into office in January:

[Biden] will rejoin the Paris climate accords, according to those close to his campaign and commitments he has made in recent months, and he will reverse President Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization. He will repeal the ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries, and he will reinstate the program allowing “dreamers,” who were brought to the United States illegally as children, to remain in the country, according to people familiar with his plans. …

Biden’s top advisers have spent months quietly working on how best to implement his agenda, with hundreds of transition officials preparing to get to work inside various federal agencies. They have assembled a book filled with his campaign commitments to help guide their early decisions.

Biden is planning to set up a coronavirus task force on Monday, in recognition that the global pandemic will be the primary issue that he must confront. The task force, which could begin meeting within days, will be co-chaired by former surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy and David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner.

But there has also been a recognition of those around him that he may have to lean more on executive actions than he had once hoped.

Trump returned to the White House a loser today

And huge crowds were waiting to let him know about it along the motorcade route home from the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia, particularly once he got back to D.C.:

Meanwhile outside the White House, there’s been a party going on all day:

Later, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who contracted COVID-19 during the first of three coronavirus outbreaks at the White House this fall, retweeted the above video and asked, “Where is @JoeBiden calling on the massive Super Spreader events held in his name to end?”

After Trump got back to the White House, he began digesting the day’s big news, and responded with what may in fact be the longest all-caps tweet of his presidency:

He then tweet-celebrated that his “71,000,000 Legal Votes” were the “most EVER for a sitting president!” That’s a little more than most current tallies of the popular vote give him. It’s also more than four million votes less than what Biden got (so far).

How Fox News covered Biden’s victory

Intelligencer’s Matt Stieb watched Fox News so you didn’t have to:

On Thursday night, several Fox News opinion hosts amplified the president’s baseless allegations that Democrats were “trying to rig an election.” Sean Hannity claimed that “nobody can testify to the legitimacy” of the count in Pennsylvania, called for a “do-over,” and suggested that the state’s Republican legislature invalidate the results. On Saturday morning, anchors like Chris Wallace went the other direction, detailing why Trump campaign lawsuits seeking to replace poll watchers with their own ballot counters are likely to fail. Wallace described the legal challenges as “lawsuits in pursuit of any evidence” that won’t be able to stand up in court without evidence of “tens of thousands” of fraudulent ballots. “We’ve seen no sign of that,” Wallace noted. Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant United States attorney and a columnist for the National Review, added that it’s hard to convince Americans of a Democratic “scheme” to rig the election at the top of the ballot when the party lost seats in the House and failed in their expensive attempts to flip the Senate. Perhaps most damningly, in the hours after the race was called for Biden, the network hosted two Republican legislators from Pennsylvania who denied that there were any concerns about voter fraud in their state.

Read the rest of Matt’s roundup here.

A worldwide win

Spontaneous celebrations broke out around the world following the news of Biden’s victory, according to social media reports. At the same time, calls of congratulations for Biden poured in from (undoubtedly relieved) world leaders, the Associated Press reported, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who separately congratulated Harris (whose late mother was from India).

Trump campaign urges protests for the president

Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien urged supporters of the president to join protests and prepare to attend rallies despite the race being called for Biden, the Washington Post reports. Stepien’s remarks came on a call with allies and campaign surrogates. Stepien also encouraged people to donate to a fund bankrolling the campaign’s legal challenges that seek to improve Trump’s position in several states. Meanwhile, the Post’s Jacqueline Alemany quotes a source close to the White House who says “the legal operation is designed for Trump to save face and ultimately give him the ability to say he didn’t lose the election fair and square.” The Trump campaign has not even put up the necessary $3 million to fund a recount in Wisconsin it said it would request.

Some Republicans are trying to discredit the call

Some of Trump’s allies and defenders are complaining online after news organizations called the race for Biden, reminding everyone that “the media do not get to determine who the president is, the people do,” as it was put in a tweet by Josh Hawley, the Republican senator from Missouri. “When all lawful votes have been counted, recounts finished, and allegations of fraud addressed, we will know who the winner is,” he continued. The New York Times takes note of some other reactions from GOP lawmakers:

Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, declined on Saturday to acknowledge Mr. Biden’s victory, with an aide instead pointing reporters to a generic “count all the votes” statement the Kentucky Republican released on Friday before the results were known. …

“The election isn’t over until all legal votes are counted and certified,” Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the second-ranking Republican, said on Twitter. “There are still serious legal challenges that have been made, and until that process is resolved, the election is not final. The American people deserve a fair and transparent process.”

News organizations project that recounts and pending lawsuits by Trump will not change the final result of the election.

The single best policy change under a President Biden?

Intelligencer staffers weigh in on what they’re most relieved and/or excited about from a policymaking perspective now that the election has officially been called.

ED KILGORE: I’d say an end to his sabotage of environmental, health care, and labor regulations is the biggie. Though emotionally, the best thing is not having a president who believes the Constitution lets him do whatever he wants. If Biden swears off Twitter, that’s dessert!

JONATHAN CHAIT: The most important policy change in a Biden administration will be environmental regulation. Rather than installing fossil fuel lobbyists, whose goal is to permit the maximal level of pollution, regulators will prioritize public health, especially limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The effect of this change will be extremely significant.

SARAH JONES: In immediate terms, Trump’s loss spells relief for workers and people living in serious economic distress. Biden is a moderate, but it’s highly unlikely he’ll take up Trump’s push to cut food stamps and limit Medicaid expansion; it also means the departure of Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, which is good news for unions. Both changes will be key to rebuilding the economy and to lifting people out of poverty.

ERIC LEVITZ: The United States will no longer go out of its way to sabotage cooperation on climate change abroad, or efforts to contain a pandemic disease here at home. Also, Biden will probably get to appoint people to the National Labor Relations Board who don’t have contempt for the rights of workers.

CHAS DANNER: I’m really looking forward to once again having a federal government that doesn’t demonize, cage, automatically reject, or hunt down immigrants like it’s a national pastime. And that doesn’t ban immigrants or visitors because they come from a Muslim-majority country. On a related note, I’m relieved we’ll soon have a White House in which Trump’s chief nativist and cruelty-architect, Stephen Miller, has no power.

Schumer shared the sound of Brooklyn celebrating with Biden over the phone

The Senate Minority Leader posted a video of it on Twitter:

Will Biden be the 46th — or the 47th — president?

ED KILGORE: Quite naturally all the media folk are referring to Joe Biden as the “46th President.” That may be how it unfolds. But if, as I have long anticipated, Donald Trump resigns at some point between now and January 20 in order to harvest a pardon from Mike Pence, then Biden would become the 47th president.

Van Jones breaks down on air while trying to talk about the significance of Trump’s defeat

Obama weighs in

Barack Obama congratulated his former vice president on being elected to the top office, saying in part:

I know he’ll do the job with the best interests of every American at heart, whether or not he had their vote. So I encourage every American to give him a chance and lend him your support. The election results at every level show that the country remains deeply and bitterly divided. It will be up to not just Joe and Kamala, but each of us, to do our part — to reach out beyond our comfort zone, to listen to others, to lower the temperature and find some common ground from which to move forward, all of us remembering that we are one nation, under God.

Scenes From Your Election Celebration

Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York City. Photo: James McKay

We’re asking New York readers to share photos of their experiences amid this day of jubilation (just as we did earlier on the topic of life under lockdown and Election Day). We hope you will once again send in your photos and stories, and we’ll keep updating this post with new images as they come in. You can share your images with us by emailing them to

We are also collecting images and videos of the celebrations in New York City from social media and the photo agencies and publishing them here.

Giuliani wants hundreds of thousands of ballots to be tossed

BEN JACOBS: The fat lady may be singing but Rudy Giuliani is undeterred. Speaking minutes after the race was called for Biden, he insisted that the fight had just begun for Trump.

At a press conference held at a landscaping company in Northeast Philadelphia, nestled on the same industrial block as a crematorium and an adult bookstore, Giuliani suggested a massive nationwide conspiracy by Democrats to steal the election from Trump. “They’ve done everything they can to yell out that they’ve been tampering with the ballots without being stupid enough to show it to you,” he said next to former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and disgraced former NYPD chief Bernie Kerik. Giuliani suggested a nationwide conspiracy spanning up to ten states and argued for throwing out hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots which he said were not properly inspected. Giuliani did note that setting aside the entire election might be too much, and that only discarding hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh would be a sufficient equitable remedy — which he said they’ll sue to accomplish.

Our first takes at New York

New York’s new cover story is on the “the agonizing slow, ominously fragile triumph of President-Elect Joe Biden,” by Gabriel Debenedetti:

[A] large part of Biden’s appeal has always been the implied promise that voters could forget about politics for a while, with the existential threat of Trump out of the way. Biden himself has never posed this as a trade-off, though Jayapal warned that “the challenge we have is that people are exhausted from four years of fighting Donald Trump, and there will be a temptation for people to say — as happened after President Obama was elected — ‘Okay, good, we did our job, we can go back to our lives.” This apparent contradiction has been knocking around in some of Biden’s circles for a few months now, as his chances of winning looked better and some allies tried mapping out a blueprint for his first two years in office. But the Democrats closest to Biden himself have never seemed all that worried about the prospect of his backers abandoning him, or wavering in interest once Trump was out of the picture. 

Jonathan Chait says this was never Trump’s America:

The reactionary core Trump has mobilized will not go away. The war against democracy and refusal to concede the legitimacy of majority governance will only grow more rabid. Defeating Trump will not banish the forces in American life he represents.

But the character of the American people as a whole has proved worthy. On Election Night 2016, in the immediate shock of Trump’s victory, I wrote about how we needed to stay and fight for American democracy and how that fight has always been part of America’s heritage.

The Cut’s Amanda Arnold counts the many ways Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris makes history:

It will be hugely, historically significant to see a woman of color in this role. Since the office of the vice-president was created 232 years ago, it has been occupied exclusively by white men, and only two other women have even been nominated for VP on a major-party ticket: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, and Republican Sarah Palin in 2008. In many ways, Harris’s nomination this year was a sign that Establishment Democrats are at least nominally aware of the influence that women — and especially Black women — hold within the party. (Biden picked her after publicly pledging to select a female running mate.) Her win also serves as a rebuke to those who’d argue that you cannot succeed with a woman at the top of the ticket.

Ed Kilgore celebrates the fact that candidate Biden did his job:

[M]ake no mistake: Biden did topple Trump, albeit by a much narrower margin than recently expected, and in the end that’s all that he really promised Democrats. Big policy ambitions ranging from urgent climate-change activism to health-care reform to voting rights and an assault on economic inequality will take a back seat to efforts to get a grip on the pandemic and avoid all sorts of catastrophes. Demographic change is still on the Democratic Party’s side, even though, as we have learned yet again, its progress can be uneven. Biden is arguably the perfect transitional figure for his party and his country. And the 46th president will have a secure place in American history for having defeated the 45th.

Lawsuits won’t save Trump now

ED KILGORE: Trump’s statement reacting to Biden’s apparent victory is predictably full of empty bluster and defiance, but it doesn’t indicate that any sort of viable legal strategy has emerged. The only thing the statement gets technically right is that the vote has not been “certified” in any state, which is something you could say four days after any presidential election, including big landslides. Trump’s threat of legal action, to the extent it is coherent at all, aims at the capillaries: marginal claims of observers not gaining access to vote counts. It’s likely he will continue to press the Supreme Court to retroactively rule out mail ballots received after Election Day in Pennsylvania, but it’s very unlikely there are enough of those ballots to matter, even if a Barrett-fortified conservative majority decides to intervene. The president indicates his lawyers will be in multiple courts Monday. We may not learn much about his actual strategy until then. Fox News is reporting that Trump has continued to focus on beefing up his legal team, with which he is unhappy, given their inability to spin straw into gold.

Trump was golfing when the race was called

President Donald Trump on Saturday in Sterling, Virginia. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor reports:

Trump is on a golf course and has released a statement claiming race isn’t over. He says, “Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated.”

Biden: “I am honored and humbled”

Sounds of celebration continue to ring out all over New York City

After Biden got the call, cheering immediately erupted across New York City. Clapping, screaming, car horns, pots and bangs clanging together, and fireworks greeted news of the election of the 46th president of the United States.

Fox News calls Nevada for Biden, too

Biden’s lead in the state has looked unassailable for days, and Fox News finally called it for him, at the same time they called Pennsylvania.

Joe Biden has won the election and will be the next U.S. president

It’s over. After more results came in from Pennsylvania on Saturday, pushing Biden’s lead in the state over 30,000 votes, CNN, NBC, and the Associated Press finally called the state, and the election. With Pennsylvania in his column, Biden has won the Electoral College and the presidency.

Lame duck nation

Our own David Wallace-Wells laments the likely stalemate to come:

[F]or now, we are experiencing what the Portuguese author Bruno Macaes has described as a peculiarly American kind of culture-war cosplay, performed on top of an inactive government, in which figureheads representing very different visions of the country and its values compete less over the right to implement those visions , than the right to simply project them. Of course, the stakes in this election were much higher than that, but its resolution in a Biden presidency probably feels to most liberals less like a victory that points forward than a reprieve from what might have been.

Still, it is a reprieve—from particular Trump policies now discontinued, and from more extreme possibilities contemplated for the second term; from a further decline of American standing in the world. Personally, I have to admit, it is also a psychological balm: evicting Donald Trump from our collective brainspace does seem to have motivated a lot of Biden supporters and indeed the president-elect himself, with his campaign mission — both grand and insubstantial — to heal the soul of the nation. But if the most we can hope for from political victory in a time of crisis is psychological comfort, rather than policy transformation, we are in for some very bleak times indeed. In other news, shrooms are now legal.

Read the rest of David’s thoughts, including his concerns about what’s next for the pandemic, here.

The anxious, glacial week that was

Here at Intelligencer, Max Read reflects on this week’s emotional slow-motion rollercoaster:

By Election Day, ambient anxiety cloaked every interaction. Group chats grew tetchy; Zoom calls more awkward. Every gently condescending article about election self-care felt like a direct attack: No, I will not drink water. No, I will not mediate. No, I will absolutely not log off. 

When did you first start to panic? For me, it was Florida. Not so much the fact of Biden being projected to lose, but the fact that — even retyping it now is enough to give my heart a little jolt — the polls were wrong again. To hear that in 2020 is to understand what it is to be Wile E. Coyote: to have invested time and money and heartache, to have planned and schemed, to have waited for your moment, and to have found yourself ten feet off the cliff edge, the ground disappeared from beneath your feet, Steve Kornacki hovering nearby calculating the precise distance you will plunge before you pancake on the canyon floor.

Read the rest of Max’s recap here.

Trump is having a bad morning

He’s on a real misinformation roll:

And he’s still going, tweeting at 10:36 a.m. that, “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!” (And yes, that message has also been swatted by Twitter.)

*Still* waiting for a call — will it come today?

Here’s FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver’s best guess on what it will take for that to happen:

The AP will not call a race if the margin falls within the mandatory recount range or if it could fall into that range as votes are counted. That’s pertinent in Pennsylvania, for instance, where the recount threshold is 0.5 percent. Currently, Biden leads by 0.43 percentage points in Pennsylvania as additional mail ballots are counted. That’s going to keep growing — probably to around 1 percent — as additional ballots are counted.

So could the race get called when Biden’s lead hits 0.5 percent [in Pennsylvania]? Actually, I think that’s decently likely, at least for some of the decision desks (keep in mind that not everyone necessarily uses the AP’s exact standards). But there is also that second provision: “or if it could fall into that range as votes are counted.” So in theory, the AP would have to be satisfied that not only will Biden maintain his lead but also that he’ll maintain a lead of 0.5 percentage points once provisional ballots are counted.

That is a higher standard. I’d consider it essentially certain that Biden will win Pennsylvania, barring unexpected legal challenges. Is it also essentially certain that he’ll win by 0.5 percentage points or more? I think you could argue the point based on those provisional ballots, but I’d probably come down on the side of “yes” on that question too, at least to the standards that decision desks usually use. Nonetheless, 0.5 percent is a higher threshold than one vote. And if we’re still waiting for calls throughout the day, that may be the reason why depending on what each network’s policy is and how they’re interpreting it.

A big batch of new — possibly definitive — votes from Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County should be reported late this morning or in the early afternoon, according to the county’s chief executive:

As far as what’s left in the state, overall, here is a general overview:

For a solid recap of why we don’t still have a complete picture of what votes remain left to be counted in Pennsylvania, read the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Lai explanation here.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has coronavirus

Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff who recently admitted “we are not going to control the pandemic,” has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 himself, as have at least four other White House officials, according to Bloomberg:

Meadows tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, according to one of the people, though it wasn’t clear whether he had developed symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. He informed a close circle of advisers after Tuesday’s election, another person said.

Meadows has remained involved in Trump’s post-election effort to challenge votes in several states.

At least four other White House officials have been infected, including Cassidy Hutchinson, one of Meadows’s closest aides. A senior Trump campaign aide, Nick Trainer, is also infected, according to people familiar with the matter.

Intelligencer’s Olivia Nuzzi reports Meadows “was in the White House Residence on election night huddled around Donald Trump alongside Ivanka, Jared, Don Jr., and other family members and senior staffers”:

I’m told that Mark Meadows, who rarely wears a face mask, was not wearing a face mask in the White House Residence on Election Night.

I’m [also] told that Mark Meadows and the White House went to great lengths to keep his diagnosis a secret. This is despite alleged contact tracing efforts. My source says: “It’s fucked up.”

This is not the first time the White House has tried to keep a coronavirus outbreak a secret from people who work in the White House and might have contracted the virus from the official who tested positive. I’m told that even senior White House staffers who had direct contact with Mark Meadows this week learned about his coronavirus diagnosis when the media reported it. [And it’s] not the first time senior white house staff has learned about their exposure to the coronavirus from Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs.

Biden: “We’re going to win this race”

Biden on Friday night predicted he will win the presidency during an address in Wilmington, Delaware, with running mate Kamala Harris. “We don’t have a final declaration of victory yet, but the numbers tell us a clear and convincing story: We’re going to win this race,” Biden said, citing expanding leads in Georgia and Pennsylvania, on top of leads in Nevada and Arizona. While Biden spoke on Friday night, all eyes were on Pennsylvania, where his lead was approximately 29,000 votes before midnight, putting him within striking distance of the state’s 20 electoral votes and the presidency.

The remarks represent the closest Biden has come to declaring victory since Election Day. Trump falsely claimed hours after the final votes were cast that he had won all the necessary states to be reelected — and called for ballots to stop being counted in order to cement his leading position. On Friday, Biden called for patience while votes continued to be counted across the country.

Supreme Court takes small step into the election

The Supreme Court is now involved in the election, as Trump wanted. Justice Samuel Alito handed down an order Friday telling Pennsylvania election officials to abide by the secretary of state’s own order to hold separate ballots that arrived by mail after Tuesday. Election officials already appear to be doing so, according to Reuters reporter Lawrence Hurley. Alito said the full Court on Saturday will consider whether to take up a lawsuit from the Trump campaign challenging the ballots. Republicans want the Court to overturn a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to extend the state’s deadline for receipt of ballots by mail to Friday. Republicans say Pennsylvania’s court lacked that authority and that it is vested only in the legislature, which declined to extend the deadline. The segregated ballots are currently being counted but not added to reported vote totals.

Trump’s legal plan left out the lawyers

For months, the Trump campaign built its victory plan around the necessity of legal challenges in key states such as Pennsylvania. Yet the Wall Street Journal reports that the campaign didn’t know who was in charge of the legal strategy. Jared Kushner, not a lawyer, was thought to be the point-person. Except he left it up to others. So on Friday — three days after the election — the campaign named another non-lawyer, David Bossie, to lead the effort. Even so, advisers told the Journal it’s too late, with political and legal options dwindling as Biden pulls away in the final states necessary to win. Advisers have told the president to be prepared to lose, leaving his mood as “black.”

New York’s Olivia Nuzzi reports more on what happened:

No more results from Nevada until Saturday

Biden’s lead in Nevada grew to 22,657 votes after a new report from Clark County surrounding Las Vegas, or about a 1.8 percent lead over Trump statewide. No further results are expected until Saturday at 9 a.m. local time, the Nevada Independent reports. Without further results on Friday, a state or national call in the presidential race looks unlikely.


Biden’s lead climbs to 20,000 in Pennsylvania

Just after 7 p.m., Allegheny County around Pittsburgh announced another 4,134 votes for Biden to 1,076 for Trump, according to CNN. The Democrat now leads statewide by 20,000 votes.

New York Post hits Trump, tosses MAGA editor

Three weeks after publishing the purported contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, the most influential man at the New York Post is leaving, and taking with him some of the tabloid newspaper’s pro-Trump tilt. “With Mr. Trump headed toward a likely defeat, top editors at the tabloid told some staff members this week to be tougher in their coverage of him,” the New York Times reports, citing newsroom sources. Rupert Murdoch’s Post went from calling Trump an “invincible hero” to a liar over false claims about voter fraud. At the same time, the paper’s adviser and not-so-hidden-hand Col Allan will end his career this week. In 2007, New York Magazine profiled Allan when he was the Post’s editor-in-chief:

At the Post, the party is slightly out of control, which is part of the fun, both for readers and reporters. The paper is aggressive, uninhibited, unpredictable, prone to anger and sometimes juvenile comedy in equal measure. Heroic consumption of alcohol has long been a part of this equation, but even in this tradition Allan stands out. “Col is a very engaging man,” says his sometime dinner companion Graydon Carter. “And he can drink just about anybody I know, with the exception of Christopher Hitchens, under many tables. He’s got real Aussie blood in him.”

Biden builds on his very slim lead in Georgia

After absentee ballots from the majority Democratic Gwinnett County were counted on Friday, Biden’s lead grew to 4,235 votes (amounting to a 0.08 percent lead out of nearly 5 million votes cast). It seems likely that Biden will still be ahead after all of the state’s absentee ballots are counted, but the final result won’t be clear until the count includes as many as 8,899 absentee ballots from military and overseas voters, which may come in by Tuesday, as well as pending provisional ballots from across the state.

In addition, whatever the result, it will inevitably be subject to a recount. This all means that there will not be a call for the state until next week at the earliest:

Why Trump could be a one-hit wonder for the GOP

Republicans might lose the White House, but there was plenty of other good news for them around the country after Trump — and even more so the GOP down ballot — outperformed expectations far and wide. That would seem to indicate that Trump’s unique brand of politics will endure and remain successful for the party far beyond his presidency, but as New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie pointed out in a Twitter thread on Friday, it remains to be seen whether voters are attracted to Trumpism — or just Trump:

I’ve said this a few times before but I am not so certain there is anyone who can replicate Trumpism and get the same political results except for Trump. Somehow, we still greatly underrate the extent to which Trump’s sui generis celebrity is his special sauce.

[T]ens of millions of people over the course of a decade watched a “reality” television show that relentlessly pushed the idea that Trump was among America’s greatest businessmen. Who else has that kind of juice? Some future Republican may be able to assemble a winning coalition for a similar politics, but I don’t think we can just assume it will be Trump and competence, since I don’t think Trump’s appeal to marginal voters happens on the level of “normal” politics.

My main takeaway from this week is that whatever happens next, I’m not sure we’ll really be able to predict the shape or form it takes.

Will Arizona be definitively called for Biden before Pennsylvania?

It seems possible. While the Associated Press and Fox News have already called the state for Biden, no other networks have. With Georgia, where Biden currently holds a razor-thin lead, unlikely to be called anytime soon, Biden needs calls from both Arizona and Nevada — which Biden now seems certain to win — for him to reach 270 Electoral College votes. He wouldn’t need to wait on any of these Sun Belt states if Pennsylvania was called for him, but it remains unclear when that might happen.

Trump’s only hope in Arizona was that the few hundred thousand ballots left to be counted in the state would skew heavily enough for him that he could overtake Biden’s lead, which now stands at just under 40,000 votes. That didn’t happen during the day on Friday, and while there are more votes due to be reported on Friday night, it looks like Biden is going to maintain his edge in the end. The Arizona Republic explains:

President Donald Trump fell far short of the margin he needs to capture Arizona’s 11 electoral votes in results released by Maricopa County officials Friday morning. Trump received 50.6% of the 62,787 votes released by the county at 9 a.m. Friday, to former Vice President Joe Biden’s 45%. …

The results narrowed Biden’s statewide lead over Trump to 43,779 votes. Trump fell far short of the 57% of the remaining vote he needs to take the state. And given the size of Friday’s batch of votes from Maricopa County, Trump is running out of ballots to make it happen.

Furthermore, the results that came in Friday from early-vote ballots dropped off on Election Day, which Republicans hoped would trend as much toward Trump as in-person votes did, also fell far short of GOP expectations.

The next big drop of results will come at 9 p.m. ET, and it’s possible, if these trends continue in those tallies, that the remaining networks will have seen enough to call Arizona for Biden at that point.

An excellent explanation of what’s still to come in Pennsylvania (and why there isn’t a call there yet)

The always sharp Steve Kornacki offers a clear and informative rundown of why neither NBC nor anyone else is willing to call Pennsylvania right now, including what votes remain to be counted and a few of the complexities:

But to be clear, this does not mean that Trump is likely to regain the lead in the state as a result of provisional ballots that may tilt toward him. As Nate Silver explains in response to Kornacki’s analysis, there is not compelling evidence to suggest that enough of those ballots could skew enough toward Trump to offset Biden’s gains.

Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania continues to expand

And the ongoing street party outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia continues to look like the happiest place in America:

Apparent QAnon supporters arrested on gun charges in Philly

Philadelphia police say they arrested two men on Thursday night for allegedly carrying firearms without necessary permits outside of the city’s convention center where ballots are being counted, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The men told the police a Hummer with QAnon stickers parked nearby was theirs. Police received an alert about two men, a woman, and child traveling from Virginia to “straighten things out,” the Inquirer reported, citing a law-enforcement source. (Trump and Republicans have falsely accused Democrats in Philadelphia of engineering voter fraud to hand Biden the presidency, but it’s not yet clear if those claims influenced the man to travel to the city.) The alert said the people had recently purchased AR-15 parts and large quantities of ammunition. An FBI bulletin last year called QAnon, a pro-Trump movement the president has refused to denounce, a growing domestic terrorism threat.

Why hasn’t the election been called yet?

Biden needs a victory call in Pennsylvania to be declared the next president. The numbers are moving in his direction as the state counts the remaining ballots, which are almost entirely those sent by mail and skew heavily Democratic. Nevertheless, no major news organization has called the state. Here’s how the Associated Press explains its rationale for not calling the state:

The Democrat opened a lead of more than 8,873 votes late Friday morning over Trump, of more than 6.5 million votes cast — a lead of about 0.13%. State law dictates that a recount must be held if the margin between the two candidates is less than 0.5%. There are tens of thousands of votes left to count.

Additionally, about 85,000 provisional ballots from 56 counties were outstanding. Those ballots will be counted after officials verify their eligibility to be included.

Absent a call in Pennsylvania, Biden would need any two calls from Arizona, Nevada, or Georgia. (North Carolina, also too close to call, will not finish counting until next week.) Arizona was called for Biden by Fox News on Election Day — to great consternation from the Trump White House and Republicans — but no major television network has followed. Biden leads in Arizona by about 50,000 votes with 95 percent of the estimated votes counted. Nevada is also considered too close to call, with Biden ahead by more than 20,000 votes, as is Georgia, where Biden’s lead is more than 1,500 votes.

It is not yet clear when any of these states will be called, so Election Week’s long wait continues.

Nevada looks like a lock for Biden

His lead in Nevada has now expanded as more of the last remaining ballots have been processed and reported. That is, of course, the opposite of what Trump needed. Clark County reported more than 30,000 new votes on Friday morning, and they came in two-to-one for Biden, doubling his lead in the state to more 22,000 votes (a 1.76 percent advantage out of more than 1.2 million votes cast in the state.)

As Nevada politics expert Jon Ralston quickly noted on Twitter, “It is over.”

Trump reportedly plans to refuse to concede

According to CNN, the president is telling aides and allies that he won’t accept defeat — though how that actually plays out, without legal traction, is anybody’s guess at this point:

Trump has not prepared a concession speech and in conversations with allies in recent days, he has said he has no intention of conceding the election, people familiar with the matter said. So far he has been bolstered in his stance by those closest to him, including his senior advisers and his adult sons, who have mounted an aggressive effort in the courts to challenge the results and have pressured other Republicans into defending him.

Top aides, including his chief of staff Mark Meadows, have not attempted to come to terms with the President about the reality of what is happening. Instead, they have fed his baseless claim that the election is being stolen from underneath him. Trump has acknowledged to some allies he recognizes the electoral math will not work in his favor, according to people familiar with the conversations, but has maintained that a prolonged court battle and corrosive rhetoric about election fraud would sow enough doubt to allow him to refuse to accept the results.

Two campaign advisers and one source close to the President said Trump will exhaust his legal avenues for fighting the results in several key battleground states before giving any consideration to conceding.

A Biden campaign spokesperson later responded that “the American people will decide this election. And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”

But as reporter Jacob Rubashkin comments in a tweet, Trump doing whatever he can to avoid admitting a loss is a tale as old as time:

Trump still hasn’t accepted that he lost the popular vote in 2016. He still maintains there were 3 million illegally cast votes – in an election he won! Hard to believe he’ll ever own up to losing this one. Real question is if he goes out of his way to muck up the transition.

And Trump refusing to concede does not necessarily mean he will refuse to hand over power. Here’s what the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman just reported on that point:

People close to the president question whether he will invite Biden to the White House before inauguration. Or if he’ll go to the inauguration himself. He does not care about the norms of the office. But no one I have talked to thinks he will refuse to leave.

Fox News has reportedly instructed its staff to ‘stay away’ from calling Biden the president-elect

CNN’s Oliver Darcy reports:

Fox News is instructing its talent not to call Joe Biden the “President-elect” when the network calls the race, according to two memos obtained by Brian Stelter and me. The memos say Fox should “stay away” from using the description. The memos [also] emphasized that Fox should report moves by Trump’s legal teams to challenge the results. “We will report both sides until there is further guidance,” one memo said.

The Trump campaign, which has already declared victory, now says the election isn’t over

They sent this out shortly after Biden took a lead in Pennsylvania:

Biden surges ahead in Pennsylvania

After days of counting, what appeared to be an inevitability has happened: Joe Biden surpassed President Trump’s vote total in the super-swing state of Pennsylvania — by 5,594, according to the AP. With more ballots coming in from Philadelphia and other Democrat-friendly areas, that lead is poised to grow substantially. And with Michigan and Wisconsin safely in his column, Biden only needs the Keystone State to bring him to 270 electoral votes, regardless of what happens in Arizona and Georgia. The upshot is that election calls by major networks and other news organizations seem imminent.

Is Trump’s campaign in Wisconsin soliciting voter fraud?

As President Trump rails against the counting of ballots cast by Election Day but received days later, it appears that his campaign in Wisconsin is mounting a push to have Pennsylvanians mail their absentee ballots after November 3 — which would be a clear violation of Pennsylvania and federal election laws. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, the Trump campaign is trying to take advantage of Pennsylvania’s effort to count all absentee ballots received by Friday:

Under a federal court ruling upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, absentee ballots received by 5 p.m. Friday can be counted.

That ruling said ballots received by that point without postmarks, or with illegible postmarks, will be considered to have been mailed in time “unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that it was mailed after Election Day.”

An email obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sent at 5:19 p.m. Thursday by Kenosha for Trump is headlined “Volunteers Urgently Needed.”

It reads: “Trump Victory urgently needs volunteers to make phone calls to Pennsylvania Trump supporters to return their absentee ballots. These phone calls will help President Trump win the election!”

Volunteers are urged to contact a pair of field directors listed in the email. The two, Riley Pella and Joshua Williams, are paid staffers for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, filings with the Federal Election Commission show.

Dozens of Republican staffers in Wisconsin were involved in the operation to recruit volunteers to contact Trump supporters in Pennsylvania, according to one person familiar with the effort.

Pella referred questions about the email to Anna Kelly, spokeswoman for the Trump campaign in Wisconsin.

Biden has overtaken Trump in Georgia

After a long night of slow and steady gains as the heavily Democratic Clayton County reported batch after batch of results, Joe Biden has pushed ahead of President Trump in Georgia. As of 5 a.m., Biden leads Trump by some 1,096 votes — a .02 percent advantage — out of nearly five million votes cast. There are still thousands of votes left to be counted, and don’t expect a call on the state anytime soon, but if Biden can hold onto his lead, he will become the first Democrat to win Georgia and its 11 Electoral College votes since 1992. (If the state is called for Biden, it would leave him just one vote shy of on an Electoral College victory.)

As far as what’s left, GPB reports: “The final vote totals will not be known until all remaining provisional, uncured absentee, military and overseas ballots are counted, but the unofficial results show Biden with an advantage with the balance of uncounted votes still in areas that favor Democrats.”

Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania continues to evaporate

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Julian Routh summarizes Biden’s steady ascent in the state through early Friday morning:

What was once a near-700,000 vote lead for President Donald Trump in the battleground state of Pennsylvania fell to below 20,000 in the early hours of Friday morning, and was poised to fall even further as Democrat Joe Biden looked to benefit — again — from soon-to-be-counted batches of mail-in ballots in blue areas like Philadelphia and its surrounding counties.

Down by just 18,229 votes as of 3:30 a.m., Mr. Biden looked like he could even take the lead in the state overnight, as counties continued to chip away at the 150,000-plus mail-in ballots left in their warehouses. In the previous 12 hours, mail-in votes had gone to Mr. Biden by a nearly 3-to-1 ratio. …

The biggest chunk of mail-in ballots that remained, as of the state’s latest tally after midnight, was in Philadelphia — which was continuing its vote-count throughout the night. Mr. Biden was winning mail-in ballots there by about 254,000 votes — or 92.5% to 7% over Mr. Trump.

He’s awake, folks

Considering the president’s usual sleep schedule and habit of watching TV late into the night, it was a reasonably safe assumption that he was awake watching the networks slowly call the votes in Georgia and Pennsylvania in favor of his challenger. But around 2:20 a.m., Trump confirmed the speculation, by going online to deliver misinformation and complain:

Twitter then once again attached a warning to the tweet, prompting the president to say that the company was “out of control.”

Where things stand in Arizona

Biden held onto a slim lead in the state on Thursday, with more results due to be reported starting Friday morning. Though Fox News and the Associated Press have already called the state and its 11 Electoral College votes for Biden, every other major network still judges the race too close to call. Here’s what Friday has in store and how that may play out, according to the Arizona Republic:

Trump won 55.6% of the ballots counted in Maricopa County on Thursday to Biden’s 41.7%. It was a great showing, but Trump’s challenge is he needs more than 57% of the outstanding votes to win.

Statewide, Trump chipped away 22,000 votes from Biden’s lead, closing the gap to 46,667 votes as of 9:30 p.m. Thursday. But unless the next batches of votes show Trump with a higher percentage than what the president managed Thursday, he will fall short.

The Arizona Republic estimates there were 300,000 votes left to count statewide as of 9:30 p.m. Thursday, with 218,000 of those votes left to count in Maricopa County.  Trump has already exhausted many of the remaining votes in the state’s reddest counties, as Mohave, Cochise and Yavapai reported many of the ballots they had left to count. Although Trump saw huge margins there, it wasn’t as much as some had hoped, said Republican pollster Paul Bentz of HighGround. 

Trump’s remaining path to victory here seems to lie in Pinal County, which still has 33,800 votes to count, along with winning the votes that were dropped off at the polls on Election Day in Maricopa County, which have yet to be counted.

There are about 32,000 of those votes left in Maricopa County.

The Secret Service is reportedly boosting Biden’s security detail

As it looks increasingly likely that the former vice-president will become the president-elect, the Washington Post reports that the Secret Service is increasing Joe Biden’s security detail as of Friday:

The Secret Service summoned a squad of agents to add to the protective bubble around Biden after his campaign alerted the Secret Service the Democratic nominee would continue utilizing a Wilmington convention center at least another day and could make a major speech as early as Friday, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the security protocols.

The additional security for Biden that is expected to begin Friday doesn’t give him a full protective detail that accompanies a president-elect, but moves closer in that direction. It remains unclear when the Secret Service would provide that level of security for Biden should he win.

The agency typically ramps up protection for a president-elect immediately after that person has been declared the winner by assigning a new raft of agents to the incoming president. Historically, that increase in protection has happened late into election night after one candidate has conceded and the other has given a victory speech.

According to MSNBC, Biden will now have “a full counter-assault team and a full HAMMER (hazmat, medical countermeasure) team, and there’s a national defense zone over his house with fighters on alert. There’s also now regular counter-sniper and counter-surveillance teams assigned.”

Trump escalates legal challenges to Pennsylvania’s count

According to a new report from the Philadelphia Inquirer, part of the reason for the considerable delay in ballots from the city can be traced to the Trump campaign’s legal efforts in Pennsylvania:

The pause in the city’s count came after a state appellate court ordered that monitors from Trump’s campaign be granted closer access to the counting operation. Within hours, the city had appealed the ruling to the state’s top court, which has yet to decide whether it will resolve the matter.

Early in the day, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court ordered that Trump’s campaign observers had to be able to stand within six feet of any tables where counting is taking place in order to meaningfully monitor the process. The ruling came as Joe Biden appeared to be on the cusp of winning the presidency, and his top campaign officials accused the president’s campaign of waging legal battles over “utterly immaterial matters, like where they may be permitted to stand and observe while the counting takes place” …

The pause in the city’s counting of mail ballots lasted only an hour or two, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Meanwhile, it continues to be a record-smashing week for COVID-19 cases

The third wave is still climbing:

A block-by-block guide to the vote in New York City

Gothamist has prepared an interactive guide for the nosiest of New Yorkers to see how their neighbors voted in the election:

Illustration: Screencap/Jake Dobkin/Gothamist

Like most prior elections, the city’s political divides remained consistent, with most New Yorkers voting Democratic with pockets of Republican support in the Rockaways, south Brooklyn, and in Orthodox areas of north and central Brooklyn. Staten Island remains Staten Island.

The USPS failed to deliver over 150,000 mail-in ballots before Election Day

Though the expansion of absentee voting during the pandemic election was largely a success, the USPS stated in a court filing on Thursday that over 150,000 ballots had not been delivered to state processing facilities by Tuesday — including 12,000 ballots in the five states that remain uncalled. As the Washington Post reports:

The number of mailed ballots the Postal Service did not deliver by Election Day is expected to grow as more data is released in the coming days. Some election experts worry such delays could run up against even more generous ballot acceptance windows that some states have granted.

In several swing states, late ballots will still be counted as long as they were postmarked by Election Day and received by Friday, according to state law. They include Nevada, where 4,518 ballots arrived after Election Day, as well as North Carolina (2,958) and Pennsylvania (3,439). But in other states — such as Arizona, where 864 ballots were delayed, and Georgia, where 853 were delayed — votes that did not reach election officials by Nov. 3 will be disqualified.

Counties hit hardest by the pandemic voted overwhelmingly for the president

In both 2016 and 2020, President Trump won the vast majority of the rural vote, a demographic that now includes many communities facing some of the worst COVID outbreaks in the nation. According to an analysis from the Associated Press, of the “376 counties with the highest number of new cases per capita, the overwhelming majority — 93% of those counties — went for Trump, a rate above other less severely hit areas.” Most of these counties were in Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Wisconsin, the “the kinds of areas that often have lower rates of adherence to social distancing, mask-wearing and other public health measures, and have been a focal point for much of the latest surge in cases.”

The president reportedly plans to act like he belongs in the White House

Politico reports that Trump and his aides have decided that the best way to convince the country that he has already won a second term in office is to make him look busy looking presidential:

Trump and his aides have settled on a plan for him to take full advantage of his existing perch at the White House to look as presidential as possible, according to three people briefed on the strategy. He may fire a few Cabinet members and top aides, including FBI Director Chris Wray and Defense Secretary Mark Esper. He could sign a slew of base-pleasing executive orders. He might even resume his travel schedule.

And Trump’s plan to contest the outcome of the election won’t just include legal challenges, but a surrogate blitz in too-close-to-call states:

The Trump campaign is separately dispatching surrogates like David Bossie, Corey Lewandowski, Pam Bondi, and Ric Grenell to battleground states like Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Nevada to raise doubts about state election results and elicit local media coverage for the campaign’s spate of ongoing legal challenges, which Trump aides and advisers anticipate will last for the next several weeks.

What are Trump’s legal options at this point?

While the president has filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia to lay the groundwork to contest the election, judges in those last two states have already knocked them down. As Yahoo News’ White House correspondent Hunter Walker notes, the “scattershot nature of the Trump team’s comments” — saying the vote count should be stopped in some states and continued in others — has “caused speculation about what litigation” he actually plans to pursue. According to Walker’s reporting, the president’s current strategy is as follows:

A source familiar with the Trump team’s legal strategy tells me their main Supreme Court litigation is the case about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that granted a three-day extension letting officials there count some mailed ballots received up to tomorrow.

Jay Sekulow, who has a winning Supreme Court record and helped lead the successful impeachment defense is the attorney of record for the Trump campaign in that case. Sekulow filed a motion to intervene on the Trump campaign’s behalf yesterday. The [state] consented to that intervention this evening.

This case began in late September. The Supreme Court deadlocked on it the following month. The Republicans are hoping they will hear it now with Amy Coney Barrett as a potentially deciding vote.

My understanding is that there are only about 100,000 PA votes at stake in this case. It won’t matter if PA is not decisive or if the margin there exceeds that total.

It is not clear that the Trump camp will have another Supreme Court challenge if Biden wins enough electoral votes to render PA irrelevant and there are still multiple ways that could happen.

Trump reads long rambling list of election grievances at Thursday night press conference

JUSTIN MILLER: Trump threw a presidential pity party for himself in the White House Briefing Room on Thursday evening as his vote margin over Biden continued to shrink in states that he must win to be reelected. He read a long prepared statement which offered little but falsehoods and grievances.

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us,” Trump said, apparently referring to election returns from heavily Democratic areas in places like Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Arizona’s Maricopa County.

Trump sounded notably less energetic, almost wooden, compared with the speech he gave to supporters inside the White House in the early morning hours after Election Night. On Thursday, the president falsely claimed that election officials across the country were trying to “rig” the election for his Democratic rival — an accusation that would necessarily include the Republican secretaries of state in Georgia and Nevada where Trump’s lead is shrinking. As usual, Trump falsely claimed he had won several states that have not been called for him, namely Pennsylvania.

Not content with a polling error that overstated Biden’s support, Trump went so far as to call out individual pollsters such as Quinnipiac by name. The president went on in detail about how off some of the surveys had been about his chances, rattling off a slew of numbers and percentages. He called the polls “suppression” efforts meant to try and dismay Republicans and reduce their turnout for him on Election Day.

Trump reiterated his campaign’s legal challenges and his intention to settle the election in the Supreme Court, but his campaign’s efforts have had no success in any courts thus far, and he is nearly out of time, with some key counts expected to finish as early as tonight.

Democrats couldn’t make it happen down-ballot at the state house level, either

While Electoral College math suggests the likelihood of a Biden win and a tight race in Georgia suggests that control of the Senate won’t be decided until two January run-offs, Democrats unexpectedly lost seats in the House and did even worse lower on the ballot, as Intelligencer’s Ed Kilgore explains:

It will take a while to sort through the debris, but it appears that the same disappointing suburban results that hurt Democrats in U.S. House races kept them from making the expected gains in state legislative contests as well … The really bitter setbacks for Democrats were in state legislative races in states where redistricting could have a significant impact on drawing new and favorable congressional districts with the 2020 Census results.

Democratic party operatives have told Politico that they don’t expect to win the state houses in Michigan or Iowa, either congressional chamber in Pennsylvania, or their best bet of the Minnesota state senate, despite a blue shift there in the presidential race. While it’s still possible they could gain control of the Arizona House and Senate, Democrats weren’t able to flip the nine seats needed to get a majority in the Texas state house — despite picking up a dozen seats in the midterms.

This post will be continuously updated throughout.

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