US President Donald Trump’s desperate bid to overturn the November 3 election results was dealt a double blow on Friday after officials in the battleground state of Georgia certified Joe Biden’s win and top Republican legislators in Michigan said they had no information that would warrant reversing the outcome of the vote in that state.
Biden, a Democrat, is preparing to take office on January 20, but Trump, a Republican, has refused to concede and his team is seeking to invalidate or reverse the results through lawsuits, recounts and undermining the certification of results in some states, claiming – without proof – widespread voter fraud.
Trump’s critics have called the effort an unprecedented push by a sitting president to subvert the will of the voters.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced on Friday that a manual recount and audit of all ballots cast in the southern state had determined that Biden was the winner.
Biden is the first Democrat to carry Georgia since 1992.
“The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision by the secretary of state’s office or courts, or of either campaign,” Raffensperger, a Republican and Trump supporter, told reporters. Official figures on the Secretary of State’s Office website showed Biden winning the state by 12,670 votes.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, said he was required by law to formalise the certification of the results, “which paves the way for the Trump campaign to pursue other legal options in a separate recount if they choose”. But he also said the audit showed some errors in the original vote count.
Trump had earlier expressed dismay, saying on Twitter that Georgia officials were refusing “to let us look at signatures which would expose hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots” and give him and his party “a BIG VICTORY”.
The president provided no evidence to back up his claim.
Michigan backs Biden win
Trump, on Friday, also summoned a delegation of Republican legislators from Michigan, including the state’s Senate majority leader and House speaker, in an apparent extension of his efforts to persuade judges and election officials in the state to set aside Biden’s 154,000-vote margin of victory and declare him the winner.
But in a statement issued after the meeting in the Oval Office, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House of Representatives Speaker Lee Chatfield said they had faith in a review of Michigan’s elections process that is being conducted by state legislators.
“We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election,” their statement said.
The White House had no immediate comment.
Nationally, Biden won nearly six million more votes than Trump, a difference of 3.8 percentage points. But the outcome of the election is determined in the Electoral College, where each state’s electoral votes, based largely on population, are typically awarded to the winner of a state’s popular vote.
Biden leads by 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232 as states work to certify their results at least six days before the Electoral College convenes on December 14.
Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from the White House, said Trump was “running out of room and running out of days”.
“The Trump campaign has lost 33 court cases, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to see how Donald Trump can possibly overturn the election. Three states will meet to certify the results on Monday – Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona. The best hope that he’s got in any of those is that the Republican-controlled legislatures don’t agree to certify the results. But that seems highly unlikely.”
The Associated Press reported that Trump was also considering inviting legislators from Pennsylvania to the White House, while former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton tweeted that the “president could be calling Republican legislators and others to the White House to try and squeeze them”.
Bolton added: “Republicans at all levels – state, county, election boards, legislatures – must resist this political pressure.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that the meeting with Michigan officials was “not an advocacy meeting” and insisted Trump “routinely meets” with legislators from across the country. But such meetings are, in fact, rare, particularly as Trump has maintained a low profile since the election.
For the Trump campaign to succeed in the effort to overturn the results in battleground states, it would need to convince three state legislatures to intervene against vote counts as they stand now, but then also have those actions upheld by Congress and, almost certainly, the US Supreme Court.
‘Put the country first’
Pressure for Trump to start the formal transition process mounted, with a few more Republicans voicing doubts about Trump’s claims of fraudulent voting.
Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is retiring at the end of the year, said Biden had a “very good chance” of becoming the next president and that the loser of the election should “put the country first”.
There is a “right way and a wrong way” for Trump to contest what he sees as election irregularities, Susan Collins, the Maine senator, said in a statement. “The right way is to compile the evidence and mount legal challenges in our courts. The wrong way is to attempt to pressure state election officials.”
Republican Senator Mitt Romney launched a withering attack on Trump for pressuring local officials, saying, “It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president.”
Still, the vast majority of Republicans in Congress have yet to acknowledge Biden’s win publicly.
Al Jazeera’s Fisher blamed the Republican’s reticence on the president’s “takeover” of the party.
“He has the power of his base behind him. He has the power of social media, he could make or break careers, even that of senators. Remember, Trump went after Jeb Bush in the early days of the primaries and took him out as a force. This was the guy that everyone thought would be the potential nominee,” Fisher explained.
“He’s got a great deal of power and so no one is going to him just yet and said, you know what, you’ve run out of angles and there’s not much more you can do and it is bad for the country. Very few in the Republican Party seem ready at this stage to stand up to Trump.”