TODAY'S PAPER
Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon
Long IslandPolitics

With counts not adding up for him, Trump blitzes courts

Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, speaks

Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, speaks in Philadelphia on Wednesday, joined by Eric Trump and his wife, Lara. Credit: AP / Matt Slocum

Rush to judgment

With the ballot tallies looking better for Joe Biden, President Donald Trump increasingly is pinning his hopes for surviving the election on a select group of citizens whose votes can count for more — those presiding in black robes in courts.

In Pennsylvania, the president wants the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the count of absentee ballots before Biden can catch up, though legal experts said Trump cannot simply seek the high court's quick intervention to halt a count. In Michigan, Trump lawyers challenged ballot counts that saw Biden come from behind and win the state, according to Wednesday calls by numerous news organizations. A suit in too-close-to-call Georgia alleged that a GOP poll watcher saw 53 late-arriving ballots were added to a pile of on-time ballots for tabulating.

In Wisconsin — also declared a Biden win by about 20,000 votes Wednesday — campaign manager Bill Stepien is calling for a recount. In Arizona — called for Biden on Tuesday night by Fox News and early Wednesday by The Associated Press — Trump's team wants to keep the count going in desperate hope of overcoming a steep gap. In Nevada, where Biden leads and is the likely winner, according to CBS News, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday denied an emergency request from the Trump campaign to impose more restrictive vote-counting procedures in Democratic-leaning Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.

If Biden sews up Arizona and Nevada, he won't need Pennsylvania for the 270 electoral-vote threshold needed to win the White House and deny Trump a second term. Trump's only hope would be to invalidate results through the courts. Newsday's Tom Brune, rounding up the legal maneuvering, reported the lawsuits could take a long time to resolve even as Biden drew close to clinching 270.

Trump, after his early Wednesday speech to supporters in the White House, stayed out of public sight during the day, but he and his allies amplified on Twitter various unfounded fraud claims circulating on social media. One said Biden suddenly received 100% of 138,339 newly counted votes in Michigan. (A conservative columnist who spread the story later retracted it.) Another claimed that Arizona poll workers had provided Trump voters with felt-tip pens to mark their ballots and that scanners couldn't see the votes. (The votes all were counted, Arizona officials said.)

The president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, went to Philadelphia with the president's son Eric to claim — with no evidence — that there was "massive cheating" against Trump. "Do you think we're stupid? Do you think we're fools?" said Giuliani. He complained the mail-in ballots could have come from dead people or Mars or Canada — or from one person who Giuliani claimed sent in 100,000 votes.

Whether or not Trump's legal fight goes anywhere, he has a better shot at a secondary goal to undermine in the eyes of his supporters the legitimacy of a prospective Biden victory. A group of Trump supporters gathered in Long Island's Bellmore parroted the fraud theories to Newsday reporter Antonio Planas. One said they "believe we are watching the election be stolen right in front of us."

Biden's plea: 'Unite and heal'

Biden delivered a pre-victory statement Wednesday afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware — "when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners" — and appealed to Trump voters to accept the final result.

"Every vote must be counted," the Democrat said. "Once this election is finalized and behind us, it will be time to do what we’ve always done as Americans … to lower the temperature, to see each other again, to listen to one another, to hear each other again, to unite and heal, to come together as a nation."

"I know this won’t be easy," Biden continued. "I know how deep and hard the opposing views are in this country on so many things, but to make progress, we have to stop reading our opponents as enemies." He declared that "what brings us together as Americans is so much stronger than anything that tears us apart."

Trump can't fully count on GOP

After Trump came into the White House East Room at 2:21 a.m. Wednesday to claim he won, level accusations of "fraud" and demand a halt to some counts, the first Republican official to edge away from him, as least in tone, was Vice President Mike Pence, who spoke next.

"While the votes continue to be counted, we’re going to remain vigilant, as the president said," Pence told the gathering of supporters. "The right to vote has been at the center of our democracy since the founding of this nation, and we’re going to protect the integrity of the vote."

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who helped Trump prepare for debates, said of Trump's comments: It's "a bad strategic decision, it's a bad political decision, and it's not the kind of decision you would expect someone to make tonight who holds the position he holds."

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said on Fox News on Wednesday evening that while "I am for Trump … if it ends up being Biden, all of us will accept that." He continued: "We as a country accept election results. We believe in counting all the votes."

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who spoke at a recent Trump campaign rally, said in a tweet that "taking days to count legally cast votes is NOT fraud." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "Claiming you've won the election is different from finishing the counting."

Janison: History made, ethics trashed

The 2020 presidential election had several distinctive aspects, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

The turnout was huge and motivated, showing healthy participation during a pandemic year — amid massive reliance on the U.S. mail, expanded early voting and social distancing at the polls. There also were the ways an incumbent president diverted federal resources for self-promotion.

Trump-appointed overseers of the Postal Service continued to draw fire on Wednesday for failing to follow a judge's order aimed at ensuring timely delivery of mail ballots. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany used her highly visible position on the public payroll to promote her boss's campaign.

The president’s main political operation was moved this week from his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, to the White House complex. This echoed Trump's use of the South Lawn for his GOP convention speech.

In September, Attorney General William Barr reportedly briefed Trump on issues with nine Pennsylvania ballots. Trump, meanwhile, has made clear he'd like his judicial appointees to help as needed in turning the count process in his favor.

What's got Democrats feeling down

If Biden pulls out a win, it will be the big bright spot in what was otherwise a disappointing year for Democrats, whose hopes included winning a Senate majority.

Republicans held on to key Senate seats that Democrats hoped to flip in Maine and Iowa, and the GOP looked likely to keep a North Carolina seat. Democrats ousted GOP incumbents in Arizona and Colorado, but a Democratic senator in Alabama lost. Facing a current 53-47 GOP majority, the Democrats' net gain so far stands at one.

The outcome of two Georgia races was uncertain, but both looked tough for the Democratic candidates. Still, McConnell was cautious. "I don’t know if I’m going to be the defensive or offensive coordinator," he said. If Democrats got to 50-50 and Biden won, the new vice president, Kamala Harris, would be a tiebreaker.

Democrats will keep their House majority, but the Republicans could end up gaining some seats.

GOP leads for L.I. House seats

Republicans in Long Island's 1st and 2nd congressional districts said Wednesday they were confident they have enough votes to win — even after mail-in ballots are counted — as their Democratic challengers awaited a full count and declined to concede.

In the 1st District in Suffolk County, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) declared victory late Tuesday over Stony Brook chemist Nancy Goroff.

In the 2nd District, which includes parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties, state Assemb. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) led former Babylon Town Council member Jackie Gordon, a Democrat, in the race to succeed retiring Republican Peter King. See Newsday's story by Candice Ferrette and Scott Eidler.

100,000 new COVID cases

Trump maintained at his campaign's closing rallies that news about the coronavirus pandemic was aimed at undermining him and that the bad-news stories would fade away after Election Day.

He's not talking about it, but the health crisis still rages. For the first time, the United States reported more than 100,000 new cases Wednesday, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. More than 232,000 Americans have died of COVID-19.

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond, written by Newsday's Bart Jones and Rachelle Blidner. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • Voter turnout for the election is estimated at nearly 67%, the highest rate in 120 years, writes U.S. News & World Report. About 160 million Americans participated.
  • Biden was leading the popular vote Wednesday by 3.5 million. Four years ago, Hillary Clinton had almost 3 million more votes than Trump but lost in the Electoral College.
  • Nearly 7% of ballots in U.S. Postal Service sorting facilities on Tuesday were not processed on time for submission to election officials in 15 states, according to data the agency filed Wednesday in federal court, The Washington Post reported.
  • Pro-Biden groups rallied in Port Jefferson and in Manhattan as hundreds chanted: "Count every vote," report Newsday's Planas and Matthew Chayes and David M. Schwartz.
  • Dozens of pro-Trump vote challengers attempted to barge into a vote-tabulating center in Detroit on Wednesday afternoon, chanting, "Stop the count." Election officials said they were limiting watchers from both sides because of coronavirus rules.
  • Rap superstar Kanye West, running on his Birthday Party ticket, received approximately 60,000 votes from the 12 states where he managed to get on the ballot, Yahoo News reports. He appeared to concede defeat while hinting at a future run, tweeting: "KANYE 2024."

Latest Long Island News