The president's adult sons, Eric Trump, left, and Donald Trump...

The president's adult sons, Eric Trump, left, and Donald Trump Jr., in August 2019. Credit: AP / Frank Franklin II

Family fears separation — from power

President Donald Trump may have been joking when he told a rally that if he lost the election, he'd "never speak" to his adult children again. But Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump on Thursday may have been channeling their father's fears of abandonment with so few prominent Republicans rushing to echo his claims that a Joe Biden win would be a fraud.

"Where is the GOP?! Our voters will never forget … " tweeted Eric with an implicit threat of revenge. "The total lack of action from virtually all of the '2024 GOP hopefuls' is pretty amazing," tweeted Don Jr. "They have a perfect platform to show that they’re willing & able to fight but they will cower to the media mob instead."

Sure enough, a few of them — such as former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri — weighed in with supportive messages, if not outright endorsement of the Trump team's fraud claims.

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas tweeted a fundraising message from the Trump campaign, claiming: "The Democrats will try to steal this election!" Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he saw "troubling" things in the counting process.

And if neither the count nor court battles go Trump's way? Don Jr. advanced another plan to keep his dad in the White House. He retweeted a scheme blared out by right-wing talk show host Mark Levin to deny Biden the presidency even if he wins 270 or more electoral votes. The idea: Get Republican-run state legislatures to refuse to certify Biden's electors in states he won.

Legal experts note that nearly all states have laws mandating that legislatures abide by their voters' choices. The Republican leaders of the legislature in hotly contested Pennsylvania have signaled they want no part of any plot to overturn the popular vote. They have called ideas like Levin's "an imaginary scenario not provided for anywhere in law — or fact."

Still, the Biden campaign told donors in a private fundraising call Wednesday night that they wouldn't be surprised at such an effort to mess with the Electoral College, the Daily Beast reported. "These are not things to be scared of or worried about. This is what we prepared for," said Dana Remus, the campaign’s general counsel. The Biden campaign also told donors it was not fearful that Trump would thwart a peaceful transfer of power.

Are we there yet?

For the very latest election results, check

Flail of the chief

After a day during which his tweeted charges of election fraud were repeatedly flagged by Twitter as misinformation, Trump came to the press briefing room in the White House on Thursday evening for more of the same. The falsehoods and unsupported claims are too numerous to list here, but here are some accountings and fact-checks by Politico, USA Today and CNN.

"If you count the legal votes, I easily win," the president falsely claimed. "If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us."

Mail-in ballots are legal. Trump discouraged his supporters from voting that way, while Democrats encouraged the method as an option amid the coronavirus pandemic. So in some states that counted in-person votes first, Trump's early leads shrank or evaporated when election workers turned to the mail-in ballots. He tweeted "STOP THE COUNT," but that's not what his team wanted in Arizona, where later tallies have reduced Biden's lead.

The president also touted Republican wins in the House and Senate. "We kept the Senate, despite having twice as many seats to defend as Democrats," he said. So by his logic, Democratic fraudsters are dumping in fake ballots against him, but neglected to help Democratic candidates for Congress with those same ballots.

The Republicans not on board

The White House is reported to have sought a "James Baker-like" figure to lead its postelection battle, referring to the GOP elder statesman from the Reagan and the George H.W. Bush administrations who captained George W. Bush's win in the 2000 Florida recount battle.

But Baker, who voted to reelect Trump, doesn't think much of the Trump strategy. "We never said don’t count the votes," Baker told The New York Times in an interview. "That’s a very hard decision to defend in a democracy."

GOP strategist Karl Rove, a George W. Bush veteran, wrote on his website that claims of massive vote fraud won't hold up. "There are suspicious partisans across the spectrum who believe widespread election fraud is possible. Some hanky-panky always goes on," Rove wrote on his website. "But stealing hundreds of thousands of votes would require a conspiracy on the scale of a James Bond movie. That isn’t going to happen," Rove concluded.

Sean Spicer, who remained a Trump loyalist after serving as his first White House press secretary, was asked on SiriusXM radio if he thinks there has been "widespread fraud." Spicer replied: "I don’t — I haven’t seen any evidence of it. And again, I don’t think it helps his case."

Trump's evening comments in the news conference shook loose more GOP criticism. "For the president to claim fraud without any evidence is dangerous," Rick Santorum, a usually pro-Trump Republican and a former senator from Pennsylvania, said on CNN. Santorum said the Trump camp has the right to litigate its claims.

Biden turns down the volume

Biden said he feels "very good" about the election and told his supporters to "stay calm" as counting continued in states yet to be called. "We have no doubt that when the count is finished, Senator Harris and I will be declared the winners," the Democrat said.

Speaking from a theater in downtown Wilmington, Delaware, the former vice president said, "It is the will of the voters — no one, not anyone else — who chooses the president of the United States of America." He added, "The process is working. The count is being completed. And we'll know very soon."

A later Biden tweet, as Trump's news conference was imminent, took a more emphatic tone. "The people will not be silenced, be bullied, or surrender. Every vote must be counted," Biden wrote.

Janison: Crying hoax is old standby

Unfounded fraud assertions tend to be a default position for Trump and his chorus, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. Trump's best-known hoaxes consist of accusing others of hoaxes. Trust him to cry foul when his back is to the wall — or even when nothing is at stake — and have no evidence. This is a twisted form of Trumpian reliability.

The president long has peddled the fantasy that people are voting after Election Day and getting those ballots to count. Trump never bothered to confess to the public why he never backed up his false claims of being the victim of millions of illegal ballots in 2016 — his alibi for losing the popular vote four years ago. The "fraud commission" he appointed as president found not a hint of this.

Many in the president's fan base still parrot all canards on cue. Many more people might believe them, at least for a while, if not for Trump's repeated cries of wolf. In the end, hard facts will speak for themselves.

Fraud claims that fizzled

Trump campaign official Richard Grenell, recently the president's director of national intelligence, joined a news conference of Trump partisans in Nevada to makes claims of voting irregularities. His live evidence: a woman, Jill Stokke, who said she showed up to vote and was told someone had already cast her ballot.

Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria said Stokke’s version of events doesn’t match up with reality, the website Law & Crime reported. Gloria said he handled Stokke’s complaint himself, despite officials' belief that the signature on the already-cast ballot matched the one they had on file for her.

Gloria added that Stokke refused to provide a statement affirming her story to the county, which includes Las Vegas, and that the Nevada Secretary of State's Office, which is controlled by a Republican, backed Clark County's handling of the situation, Fox News reported.

Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Thursday retweeted claims circulated by Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo — all debunked a day earlier — about giant overnight dumps of "100% Biden" ballots in Wisconsin and Michigan and Sharpie pens that affect ballot scanning in Arizona.

Check out this tweet string from Cox Media reporter Jamie Dupree for a merry-go-round ride on fraud and irregularity claims that don't hold up.

Coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond, from Newsday's reporting staff, written by Lisa L. Colangelo. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • There were more than 118,000 new coronavirus cases recorded Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University, the highest total of daily infections on record and the second 100,000-plus day in a row. At least 1,060 new COVID-19 deaths were reported, bringing the overall U.S. toll to near 235,000.
  • Former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney predicted to The Irish Times that Trump would "absolutely" run again if he loses this election. He also said there would be "a peaceful transition or retention of power" depending on the outcome.
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper has prepared a resignation letter, anticipating he will get pushed out by the Trump White House, NBC News reported. Esper is helping members of Congress draft legislation to strip names of Confederate leaders from military bases, a move that could put him further at odds with Trump. A Pentagon spokesman said later that Esper "has no plans to resign."
  • An apartment company owned in part by Jared Kushner, Trump son-in-law and White House senior adviser, has submitted hundreds of eviction filings in court against Baltimore-area tenants with past-due rent during the pandemic, The Washington Post reported. The tenants also are being threatened with legal fees, though state and federal coronavirus regulations have barred evictions from being carried out for now.
  • Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, who survived a close challenge, said on a House Democrats' conference call that "we lost races we shouldn't have lost" because of progressives' messaging, Politico reported. "No one should say ‘defund the police’ ever again," Spanberger said. "Nobody should be talking about socialism."
  • An Associated Press analysis reveals that in 376 counties with the highest number of new coronavirus cases per capita, the overwhelming majority — 93% of those counties — went for Trump, a rate above less severely hit areas.
  • Twitter permanently suspended an account belonging to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon after he suggested that Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded, CNN reported.
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