President Donald Trump erupted in a tirade of unsubstantiated claims that he has been cheated out of winning the US election as vote counting across battleground states early Friday showed Democrat Joe Biden steadily closing in on victory. “They are trying to steal the election,” an increasingly isolated Trump said in an extraordinary appearance at the White House on Thursday, two days after polls closed.
Providing no evidence and taking no questions afterward from reporters, Trump spent nearly 17 minutes making the kind of incendiary statements about the country’s democratic process that have never been heard before from a US president. According to Trump, Democrats were using “illegal votes” to “steal the election from us.” “If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” he claimed. “They’re trying to rig an election. And we can’t let that happen.” Trump’s rhetoric — he also tweeted early Friday reiterating his claims — came as his campaign aggressively challenged the integrity of the huge number of ballots mailed in rather than cast in person on Election Day.
The big shift to postal ballots this year reflected the desire of voters to avoid risking exposure to Covid-19 in crowded polling stations during a pandemic that has already killed 235,000 Americans. Mail-in ballots have tilted heavily to Democrats. In the crucial state of Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign moved to stop the counting of ballots, which authorities were forbidden from processing before Election Day.