With his challenger Joe Biden at the brink of winning the US presidency, incumbent Donald Trump launched an extraordinary assault on the country’s democratic process.
In words and deeds, Trump showed desperation and panic as his re-election chances faded away, with more votes being counted in a handful of battleground states.
At a press briefing at the White House on Thursday, Trump falsely claimed the election was being “stolen” from him, as he also lost legal challenges to stop counting.
Offering no evidence, he lambasted election workers and alleged fraud in the states where results from a dwindling set of uncounted votes are pushing Democrat Joe Biden nearer to victory.
“This is a case where they’re trying to steal an election,” Trump said.
He spoke for about 15 minutes in the White House briefing room before leaving without taking questions.
In Georgia and Michigan on Thursday, Trump’s campaign lost court rulings to challenge the counting of votes.
Undeterred by the setback, the campaign vowed to bring a new lawsuit challenging what it called voting irregularities in Nevada.
In the Georgia case, the campaign alleged 53 late-arriving ballots were mixed with on-time ballots. In Michigan, it had sought to stop votes from being counted and obtain greater access to the tabulation process.
State judges tossed out both the suits on Thursday.
Judge James Bass, a superior court judge in Georgia, said there was “no evidence” that the ballots in question were invalid.
In the Michigan case, Judge Cynthia Stephens said: “I have no basis to find that there is a substantial likelihood of success on the merits.”
Trump allies alleged that there had been voting irregularities in Nevada’s populous Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.
Biden, the former vice president, was steadily eating away the Republican incumbent’s leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia.
He also maintains narrow advantages in Nevada and Arizona, moving closer to securing the 270 votes in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner.
In Pennsylvania, Trump’s lead had shrunk from 319,000 on Wednesday afternoon to less than 64,000 a day later.
His margin in Georgia fell from 68,000 to fewer than 3,500
Those numbers were expected to continue to move in Biden’s favour, with many of the outstanding ballots from areas that typically vote Democratic, including the cities of Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Biden, meanwhile, saw his lead in Arizona contract from 93,000 to 65,000; he was ahead in Nevada by only 11,000 votes.
Biden would become the next president by winning Pennsylvania, or by winning two out of the trio of Georgia, Nevada and Arizona.
Trump’s likeliest path appeared narrower – he needed to hang onto Pennsylvania and Georgia while overtaking Biden in either Nevada or Arizona.
Most major television networks gave Biden a 253 to 214 lead in Electoral College votes, which are largely determined by state population, after he captured the crucial states of Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday.
The Associated Press gave Biden 264 votes, calling out Arizona.
As demonstrators marched in several U.S. cities for a second straight day, the election lay in the hands of civil employees who were methodically counting hundreds of thousands of ballots, many of which were sent by mail amid the coronavirus pandemic.