US President Donald Trump falsely declared victory early Wednesday in the American presidential election — a claim entirely unsubstantiated by the results, which were still being tallied.
“Frankly, we did win this election,” said Trump from the White House, alleging, without evidence, that Democrats were perpetrating widespread electoral fraud that he said the US Supreme Court will be asked to stop.
“So our goal now is to ensure the integrity for the good of this nation,” said Trump. “This is a very big moment. This is a major fraud on our nation. We want the law to be used in a proper manner. So we’ll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.
“We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list,” he added. “This is a very sad moment. We will win, and as far as I’m concerned we already have.”
He appeared to mean stopping the counting of mail-in ballots that can be legally accepted by state election boards after Tuesday’s election, provided they were sent in time. It was unclear exactly what legal action he might try to pursue.
“A very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people [that voted for me] and we won’t stand for it,” Trump claimed. “What happened to the election? It’s off.”
“This is a fraud on the American public,” he charged. “This is an embarrassment for our country. We were getting ready to win this election; frankly we did win this election.”
In fact, as he spoke, various states were still counting millions of votes that were submitted legally, Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden were locked in a tight battle, and the election was too close to call. As Trump made his unfounded claims of victory and fraud, CNN was showing Biden at 220 electoral college votes and Trump at 213, with 270 required for victory.
Trump said, without evidence, that he had won the races in Georgia and North Carolina, both of which were still too close to call.
In a statement sent before 4 a.m. Wednesday, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon called Trump’s statement “outrageous, unprecedented and incorrect.”
O’Malley Dillon said the Biden campaign has “legal teams standing by ready to deploy to resist that effort,” and, she said, “They will prevail.”
Speaking immediately after Trump, Vice President Mike Pence sounded a different tone, predicting but not claiming victory and promising to protect the integrity of the ongoing vote count.
“While votes continue to be counted, we’re going to remain vigilant,” said Pence. “We’re going to protect the integrity of the vote.”
“I truly do believe, as you do, that we are on the road to victory and we will make America great again,” Pence said.
The tight overall contest reflected a deeply polarized nation struggling to respond to the worst health crisis in more than a century, with millions of lost jobs, and a reckoning on racial injustice.
Several states allow mailed-in votes to be accepted after Election Day, as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday. That includes Pennsylvania, where ballots postmarked by November 3 can be accepted if they arrive up to three days after the election.
Trump suggested those ballots shouldn’t be counted. But Biden, briefly appearing in front of supporters in Delaware, urged patience, saying the election “ain’t over until every vote is counted, every ballot is counted.”
“It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who’s won this election,” Biden said. “That’s the decision of the American people.”
Biden told a gathering of supporters that his hopes for victory remain high despite the uncertainty and cautioned them that it could take a day or longer to know who won. He told them: “Your patience is commendable.”
Trump carried Florida, the nation’s most prized battleground state, and he and Democrat Biden focused early Wednesday on the three Northern industrial states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — that could prove crucial in determining who wins the White House.
Four years after Trump became the first Republican in a generation to capture that trio of states, they were again positioned to influence the direction of the presidential election. Trump kept several states, including Texas, Iowa and Ohio, where Biden had made a strong play in the final stages of the campaign.