(AFP)— Georgia was expected Thursday to release results of a hand recount of votes reaffirming President-elect Joe Biden as the state’s winner, as Donald Trump and his legal team reiterated their claims of widespread fraud.
If the expectations hold, Biden would be confirmed as the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the southern US state in almost three decades.
President Trump has claimed baselessly that the recount of some five million ballots in Georgia is rigged and the state would “flip” to him if authorities conduct a fairer process.
But Georgia officials have defended the integrity of the audit and say there is no evidence that the recount will change the outcome.
Trump nevertheless dispatched his lawyer Rudy Giuliani to give a press conference Thursday where he read affidavits claiming fraudulent voter activity in multiple states and said the campaign would file a new lawsuit in Georgia.
Giuliani, a former mayor of New York, also brazenly accused Democrats of being “crooks” who committed massive fraud in several battleground states “to steal an election from the American people.”
As Giuliani and other Trump lawyers outlined their claims, the president — apparently watching the televised proceedings — took to Twitter to applaud them for laying out “an open and shut case of voter fraud.”
Earlier in a tweet Trump said the Democrats “got caught” in Georgia, without explaining what he was referring to, and claimed far more votes were about to be added to his column than he needed to reverse the result there.
Biden was declared the winner in Georgia last week after a tumultuous election that saw the veteran Democrat prevail overall by 306 electoral votes to 232, denying Trump a second term.
Trump’s legal team has launched dozens of challenges — several of which have already been dismissed — in battlegrounds like Pennsylvania, and requested recounts in Wisconsin.
In Michigan, controversy simmered after a Republican canvassing board official who had refused to certify the election result in a heavily Democratic county then reversed her vote, before saying Thursday that she had received a call from Trump.
“He was checking to make sure I was safe after seeing/hearing about the threats and doxxing,” Palmer told the Detroit Free Press, referring to personal information posted about her on social media.
Meanwhile Trump’s campaign Thursday withdrew a federal lawsuit in Michigan that was aimed at blocking final certification of the state’s election results.
Biden won Michigan by 155,000 votes, more than ten times Trump’s margin of victory there in 2016.
– Recount ‘did its job’ –
In Georgia, Biden’s original winning margin was just over 14,000 votes.
The hand recount that began last week and concluded late Wednesday narrowed that gap slightly to more than 12,700 as of early Thursday.
Some discrepancies were found in Republican leaning counties, according to Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system manager who helped monitor the so-called risk-level audit.
“The good part was, the audit did its job. It found those tranches of votes,” he told Fox News.
The issues, which were chalked up to human error and not fraud, included memory cards that were not scanned in Douglas and Walton counties, more than 2,700 missing votes in Fayette County, and 2,600 ballots from Floyd County that were not scanned.
Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who like Sterling is a Republican, said there was no widespread voter fraud and expressed virtual certainty that the recount did not change the outcome.
“I don’t believe at the end of the day it’ll change the total results,” Raffensperger told CNN late Wednesday.
This has not stopped Trump from spreading false conspiracy theories about massive voter fraud in Georgia and elsewhere.
The laser-like focus on Georgia is not just because of the recount. The state’s two US Senate races are going to runoffs on January 5.
With those contests set to determine which party controls the Senate next year, Republicans and Democrats alike are pouring resources into the state.
By promoting the voter fraud claims, Trump and his allies could be feeding a narrative that the election is being stolen, which may prompt Georgia Republicans to vote in large numbers.