WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden told Americans on Monday that their form of self- government ultimately “prevailed.”
Speaking from his longtime home of Wilmington, Delaware, on the day electors nationwide cast votes affirming his victory, Biden critiqued the damage done by Trump’s allegations that the contest was stolen. Such arguments have been rejected by judges across the political spectrum, including the justices at the Supreme Court.
Democracy, Biden said, has been “pushed, tested, threatened.” However, he said it proved to be “resilient, true and strong.”
“The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago,” Biden said. “And we now know that nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.”
Biden and his team hope the formal victory in the Electoral College combined with his 81 million-vote count will help the country unify and accept his presidency. However, the challenge facing Biden was evident as many congressional Republicans, including some of the party’s top leaders, refused to officially accept Biden’s win. Trump, meanwhile, shows no sign of conceding.
The president-elect acknowledged an irony in the circumstances, noting he won with the same number of electoral votes — 306 — as Trump did four years ago.
“By his own standards, these numbers represent a clear victory then, and I respectfully suggest they do so now,” Biden said.
A candidate needs to win 270 electoral votes to clinch the presidency.
Biden struck a familiar theme of his presidential campaign, pledging to be “a president for all Americans” who will “work just as hard for those of you who didn’t vote for me as I will for those who did.”
“Now it is time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history,” he said. “To unite. To heal.”
He said that was the only way the country could overcome the worst health crisis in more than a century, saying that in the face of the pandemic, “we need to work together, give each other a chance and lower the temperature.”
Whether his message will have any effect remains to be seen. Some leading Republicans have continued to back Trump and his claims of a rigged election.
Biden recalled that one of his jobs as vice president four years ago was to formally recognize Trump’s electoral victory in the Senate after 2016, and he said he expected the same process to occur this time — saluting the small number of GOP senators who have acknowledged his victory.
And after losing dozens of legal challenges on the state and federal level, Trump is expected to push forward with new litigation this week. Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said he expects five more lawsuits at the state level.
Even after he takes the White House, Biden faces a narrowly divided Senate. Next month’s runoff elections in Georgia will decide which party controls the chamber. There’s also a thinned Democratic majority in the House as the GOP picked up seats.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, is set to hold a hearing Wednesday on election “irregularities.” Johnson has questioned why Congress wasn’t informed the taxes of Biden’s son, Hunter, were under federal investigation during Trump’s impeachment trial last year.
The president was acquitted in a Senate trial that centered on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine’s president and on whether he abused his office by seeking an investigation into the Bidens. Hunter Biden served on the board of directors of a Ukrainian energy company.
The younger Biden said in a statement last week that he just recently learned he was under investigation. He also said he committed no wrongdoing.
Biden’s deputy chief of staff, Jen O’Malley Dillon, downplayed the notion the investigation could hamper Biden’s ability to pursue his agenda.
“The president-elect himself has said this is not about his family or Donald Trump’s family,” O’Malley Dillon said. “It is about the American people’s families. And I think we’re going to continue to stay focused on the issues that are impacting their daily lives.”
Electoral College confirms Biden
The Electoral College confirmed Joe Biden on Monday as the nation’s next president, ratifying his November victory.
The presidential electors gave Biden a majority of 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.
Heightened security was in place in some states as electors met to cast paper ballots, with masks, social distancing and other pandemic precautions as the order of the day. The results will be sent to Washington and tallied in a Jan. 6 joint session of Congress over which Vice President Mike Pence will preside.
For all Trump’s claims of fraud, there was no change as the electoral votes allocated to Biden and the president in last month’s popular vote went officially to each man. On Election Day, the Democrat topped the incumbent Republican by more than 7 million in the popular vote nationwide.
California’s 55 electoral votes put Biden over the top. Vermont, with 3 votes, was the first state to report. Hawaii, with 4 votes, was the last.
But there was no concession from the White House.
Trump remained in the Oval Office long after the sun set in Washington, calling allies and fellow Republicans while keeping track of the running Electoral College tally, according to White House and campaign aides.
Late in the day, he took to Twitter to announce Attorney General William Barr was leaving the administration before Christmas. Barr’s departure comes amid lingering tension over Trump’s fraud claims, especially after Barr’s statement this month to the Associated Press that the election results were unaffected by any fraud.
In a Fox News interview taped over the weekend, Trump said: “I worry about the country having an illegitimate president, that’s what I worry about. A president that lost and lost badly.”
On Monday in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the six battleground states Biden won and Trump contested — electors gave Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris their votes in low-key proceedings. Nevada’s electors met via Zoom because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Safety for the electors were also a concern.
In Michigan, lawmakers from both parties reported receiving threats, and legislative offices were closed over threats of violence. Georgia state police were out in force at the state Capitol in Atlanta before Democratic electors pledged to Biden met. There were no protesters seen.
Republicans who would have been Trump electors met in a handful of states Biden won. Pennsylvania Republicans said they cast a “procedural vote” for Trump and Pence in case courts that have repeatedly rejected challenges to Biden’s victory were to somehow still determine Trump had won.
In North Carolina, Utah and other states across the country where Trump won, his electors turned out to duly cast their ballots for him. Electors in North Carolina had their temperatures checked before being allowed to enter the Capitol to vote. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes withdrew as a Trump elector and was in quarantine because he was exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom Trump defeated four years ago, were among New York’s 29 electors for Biden and Harris.
The Electoral College was the product of compromise during the drafting of the Constitution between those who favored electing the president by popular vote and those who opposed giving the people the power to directly choose their leader.
Each state gets a number of electors equal to its total number of seats in Congress: two senators plus however many members the state has in the House of Representatives. Washington, D.C., has three votes, under a constitutional amendment that was ratified in 1961. With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, states award all their Electoral College votes to the winner of the popular vote in their state.
The bargain struck by the nation’s founders has produced five elections in which the president did not win the popular vote. Trump was the most recent example in 2016.