On Saturday 7 November, news had just arrived that Joe Biden had been declared the winner of the presidential election of 2020. A record number of more than 75 million Americans had voted for Biden and Kamala Harris, the first woman elected as vice president. But more than 71 million others now had to grapple with the idea that their candidate—Donald Trump—had lost.
As Biden—or should I say anti-Trump—supporters danced in the streets of America, Trump loyalists latched on to the idea that the Republican incumbent would challenge in the courts what he asserted (without evidence) was a fraudulent election. What is Trump planning to do now, and could he actually tilt the election’s results in his favour?
By refusing to publicly accept the election results, Trump incited discord among his supporters, who gladly accepted his invitation. Across the US, they stood outside state capitols with signs that read ‘Stop the Steal’. In some states, confrontations turned into physical assaults. In Sacramento, California, a group of men associated with the Proud Boys were filmed arguing with and assaulting Biden supporters.
On Sunday, as top Republicans remained divided over congratulating Biden and declaring the election over, Trump’s closest advisers continued to brief him on possible “legal remedies,” according to a White House official. Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, strongly encouraged him while most other advisers have said privately that the chances of changing the results of the election through various court challenges are exceedingly slim.
On that same day, it was announced that Representative Doug Collins of Georgia will lead its recount team in the state, where the effort will begin as soon as the canvassing of ballots has concluded. Meanwhile, some within the Republican Party made it clear that it was time for Trump to concede, including former President George W. Bush who publicly declared the election over in defiance of Trump’s refusal to accept the results.
“I extended my warm congratulations [to Biden] and thanked him for the patriotic message he delivered last night,” Bush said in a statement released after he spoke with Biden by telephone. “I also called Kamala Harris to congratulate her on her historic election to the vice presidency. Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country.”
Although Bush said that Trump had “the right to request recounts and pursue legal challenges,” his statement clearly highlighted that he did not think those efforts would succeed. His position on the matter could potentially encourage other Republicans to speak out and increase pressure on Trump to stop fighting the results with unsubstantiated claims.
“The American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair,” stated Bush. “Its integrity will be upheld, and its outcome is clear.”
Republican Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have also congratulated Biden, while Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky refused to publicly acknowledge his victory (without necessarily embracing Trump’s false claims). Many Republican leaders have either remained silent or have been calling for all legal votes to be counted.
Speaking on the ABC programme This Week, Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota insisted that “computer glitches” and reports of “dead people voting in Pennsylvania” were concrete examples of fraud. “When you break the process on which we elect our leaders, you will break America forever,” Noem said, ignoring the fact that voting went smoothly and it is in fact Trump’s refusal to concede that goes against the normal process.
Former Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican and a friend of Trump, urged other Republicans to embrace the message he had just delivered to Trump: “If your basis for not conceding is that there was voter fraud, then show us. Show us. Because if you can’t show us, we can’t do this. We can’t back you blindly without evidence.”
While we await to see whether Trump will decide to pursue futile legal challenges, here’s what might be next for him and his family business. When Trump entered the White House in 2017, Trump Organization executives said the company had left behind more than 24 international branding deals, including in China, Israel and South America. This year, Trump could focus on selling his name again.
However, his company still faces the investigation into an array of potential financial crimes, conducted by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is also seeking Trump’s tax returns. At the same time, the New York State attorney general’s office is conducting a separate civil inquiry into suspicions that the company misstated its assets. Trump and his company have both denied any wrongdoing but neither are willing to provide investigators with more information.
Trump has also hinted at the idea of running again in 2024, which could have an important (and negative) impact on his business in the intervening years. Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump may also hold future political aspirations, which could curb some plans for growth. Finally, the president might turn back to his first true vocation: reality TV.
Only time will tell, but until then, Trump remains the US President until President-elect Biden moves into the White House on 20 January 2021, which leaves Trump almost 3 months to act as US President.
Even with the majority of votes already in and a possible outcome resolving in the offing, there is no end in sight to the drama surrounding America’s presidential election. So where do we stand?
As of Friday morning, Democrat Joseph R. Biden has secured 253 out of the 270 electoral votes he needs in order to win the presidency. As expected, the race now hinges on results coming in from a handful of states that will decide the outcome in the election: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. In all of these states, the gap between the candidates in razor-thin, and a mere few thousand votes could determine who gets to occupy the Oval Office.
As of this reporting, Biden has maintained his lead in Nevada and Arizona, although his advantage in the latter has shrunk as more mail-in ballots were counted. Yet, with the exception of Arizona, the majority of mail-in ballots (which in Pennsylvania and some Georgia counties are counted later in the process) favour Biden. This explains his sudden lead in both Pennsylvania and traditionally-Republican Georgia, where a Democrat has not been elected for president since Bill Clinton in 1992. Biden’s edge in all of these states grants him more than one path to 270, and dims Trump’s prospects for re-election.
As Biden inched his way closer to the presidency over the last few days, President Trump, backed by his inner circle and avid supporters, has ratcheted up his baseless claims that a grand conspiracy to overthrow him is taking place and that the electoral process in states where he’s projected to lose (or has already lost) is fraudulent. Are we surprised?
Trump’s attack on the elections began months ago, as he proclaimed, without a shred of evidence, that mail-in ballots (which are being used primarily by Democrats as a precaution against COVID-19) are being tampered with in order to fraudulently elect Biden. Trump and his allies are now calling out states where votes that were mailed out up until Election Day but received a few days later due to COVID-19 related delays in the Post Office were still counted. While under the US Constitution each state has the right to determine its own election process and deadline for accepting ballots, the president nonetheless declared these votes illegal and called for the counting to stop (except for in Arizona, where mail-in ballots that arrived late proved to lean Republican).
On the day after the election, Trump prematurely declared victory on Twitter and claimed that the election is being stolen from him. Such sentiments were echoed by some of his closest allies and family members. This has sparked a wave of protests by Trump supporters across the country who now believe that a Trump defeat could only result from fraud. In a tweet posted Thursday, President Trump’s son, Donald Jr., called for his dad to go “to total war” over the election results. In a speech from the White House earlier this week, Trump indicated that he will not concede, and will seek intervention from the courts.
As of now, few Republican leaders came out in support of Trump’s allegations, but that could change should they feel that a significant enough portion of the public in their districts supports the narrative promulgated by Trump.
Trump has filed multiple lawsuits in states where he lost his advantage over Biden. In most of these cases, Trump seeks to challenge the validity of mail-in ballots that arrived after 3 November, as well as some paltry technicalities that he seeks to present as indicative of fraudulent or illegal practices favouring Biden.
Of all the lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign, the one concerning Pennsylvania could make its way up to the Supreme Court in the coming days or weeks. In this particular case, Trump is joining Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers in attacking a decision by the Supreme Court of the State of Pennsylvania to extend the deadline for accepting mail-in ballots sent out before Election Day by three days. The plaintiffs claim that the Court overstepped its authority by intervening in the electoral process, which falls within the jurisdiction of the state’s legislative branch.
The case was already brought before the Supreme Court prior to the elections, but ended in a 4-4 tie, with the Chief Justice siding with the Court’s liberal wing in rejecting Republicans’ claims. Now, with the addition of Amy Coney Barret to the bench, Pennsylvania Republicans and Trump may just procure the missing vote they need, should the case be heard again.
While the Supreme Court is not endowed with the ability to install presidents, it can, as it did in Florida in 2000 with Bush versus Gore, determine that state courts encroached on the legislative branch in their rulings concerning elections and effectively invalidate the results influenced by the former’s intervention. In the case of Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court could rule that the state’s Supreme Court had no authority to extend the deadline to accept ballots and thus potentially disqualify thousands upon thousands of votes. Should the election hinge solely on the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, such a decision by the Supreme Court could change the outcome of the election and usher in four more years of Trump.
The Court is currently deliberating on whether or not to hear the case.