Atlanta: President Donald Trump’s attempt to undo the election results was undercut twice by fellow Republicans on Friday, as Georgia became the first contested state to certify Joe Biden’s victory and Michigan lawmakers - after meeting with the president - said they would not intervene in their state’s election certification process.
After steady complaints by Trump about the Georgia vote count and a methodical hand recount, Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, bluntly declared Friday, “I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie,” and made official the final tally showing Biden had defeated Trump by 12,670 votes, out of roughly 5 million cast. Governor Brian Kemp, also a Republican, tersely stated that he would sign the certification.
Hours later, a delegation of seven Michigan Republicans, who had met with Trump at the White House at his request, said they had no information “that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan.” Biden beat Trump in the state by nearly 3 percentage points.
“We will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election,” the state’s top two Republican leaders said in a statement issued by the state Legislature.
“The candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan’s electoral votes,” the statement said. Trump’s outreach to state Republicans amid the ongoing vote certification process was condemned by Democrats and election law experts as a dangerous intrusion into the election process.
White House aides declined to respond to questions about the meeting.
Though Trump has tried mightily to stymie the process with ineffective lawsuits and false claims of fraud, his failure to bend lawmakers in Georgia and Michigan to his will signals a rapidly vanishing path for his corrosive efforts to subvert the nation’s election system.
Georgia’s certification is the leading edge of a series of battlegrounds that over the next five days could officially declare Biden the winner, with Michigan and Pennsylvania facing a deadline of Monday and Nevada scheduled to certify Tuesday.
While the president met with Michigan lawmakers at the White House, Biden’s transition marched forward, despite the Trump administration’s refusal to cooperate with the transfer of power. The president-elect met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, and announced more senior staff appointments for his administration.
“In my Oval Office, me casa, you casa,” Biden said to the two Democratic congressional leaders. “I hope we’re going to spend a lot of time together.”
His campaign held a briefing with its senior adviser, Bob Bauer, who called Trump’s apparent efforts to influence Michigan officials into helping him overturn the state’s results “an abuse of office” and “absolutely appalling.”
Echoing election experts, Bauer said Trump had “no chance whatsoever” to change the outcome.
On Thursday Biden issued his most forceful condemnation yet of Trump’s obstruction. “Incredibly damaging messages are being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions,” Biden said in remarks in Wilmington, Delaware.
Trump has continued to look for ways to reverse the election result even though there is still no likely legal path for him to succeed. He has discussed with aides a dubious theory that if certification were delayed in states with Republican-controlled legislatures, the lawmakers might then name a new slate of electors more favourable to him.
But in Michigan, for instance, that appears nearly impossible. While the state canvassing board process is considered perfunctory once all 83 counties certify the results, at least one of the Republican members, Norm Shinkle, has indicated he may ask for an investigation. Any deadlock will most likely be taken to the state Court of Appeals, seeking an order to force the canvassing board to certify the election results.
If the board still refuses to certify after the court order, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, could remove the members who refuse to certify, after a hearing, said Steve Liedel, an election law attorney from the Dykema Gossett firm in Lansing, Michigan.
The delegation of seven Michigan lawmakers said in a statement by Mike Shirkey, the state Senate majority leader, and Lee Chatfield, the speaker of the Michigan House, that they had accepted the invitation from the president to push for additional federal funds to help in the fight against the coronavirus. But they also sent a message about what they stand for, at a moment when Michigan Republican officials are facing pressure from all sides on the vote count.
“Michigan’s certification process should be a deliberate process free from threats and intimidation,” the statement said. “Allegations of fraudulent behavior should be taken seriously, thoroughly investigated, and if proven, prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And the candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan’s electoral votes. These are simple truths that should provide confidence in our elections.”
Trump’s legal challenges have so far produced mostly losses and embarrassing missteps. An affidavit filed by Trump’s legal team intended to prove voter fraud in Michigan apparently used data taken from counties in Minnesota, the latest in a series of embarrassments that have made the president’s uphill legal fight even steeper.
In Wisconsin this week, the president turned to a reality-warping tactic he has used more commonly in attacks against news organisations, falsely describing a routine meeting of the state elections commission about recount rules and manuals as a shadowy, backroom ploy against him. The event, a standard step in the electoral process, was livestreamed.
During the recount in Dane County, Wisconsin, on Friday, which was also livestreamed, the Trump campaign tried to object to every single ballot individually as it was brought up, forcing the three-member board of election officials there to simply accept that they were challenging all ballots en masse so as to speed up the process.