US election results on knife-edge: Biden maintains lead as Trump unleashes legal battle

By Henry Ojelu with agency report

Lawsuits were launched by President Donald Trump across America yesterday, adding fresh drama to a presidential election that is already on knife edge. Lawyers were running in and out of law courts in at least five states yesterday disputing or affirming results.

Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden is currently leading Trump by 264 to 214 electoral votes and is favourite to win the election. Key wins for both candidates in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona will determine the final lap of the race.

President Trump’s moves to stop further vote counts in about four swing states however suffered a setback in Georgia and Michigan where the two court yesterday dismissed two separate law suits.

In Georgia where Trump maintains a slim led against his Democrat rival, Joe Biden, the state court dismissed the lawsuit filed by Georgia Republicans  to prevent the “unlawful counting of ballots received after the election” in Savannah.

They filed the lawsuit after a poll watcher for the party allegedly viewed unprocessed absentee ballots mixed in with absentee ballots that were set to be tabulated.   Judge James F. Bass made the ruling orally in court Thursday morning.

The state Republican party and the Trump campaign said they filed the court documents in Chatham County Superior Court on Wednesday evening after a party poll watcher “witnessed absentee ballots that had not been properly processed apparently mixed into a pile of absentee ballots that was already set to be tabulated.The proper chain of custody for the ballots was not followed,” they alleged according to court documents.

The ballots in question were small in number:  “one stack of three ballots and a second stack of fifty-three ballots, according to a copy of the filing provided by the state Republican party.

In Michigan, a judge tossed a lawsuit brought by Trump’s campaign that demanded halting vote-counting in the state.

READ ALSO: Biden wins Wisconsin, presidency still hangs in balance

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens made the ruling during a court hearing on Thursday. She said she planned to issue a written ruling on Friday.

The lawsuit claimed Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, was allowing absentee ballots to be counted without teams of bipartisan observers as well as challengers.

She was accused of undermining the “constitutional right of all Michigan voters … to participate in fair and lawful elections.”

Benson, through state attorneys, denied the allegations. Much of the dispute centered on the TCF Center in Detroit where pro-Trump protesters gathered while absentee ballots were being counted.

Little succor in Pennsylvania

Trump’s attorneys claimed in a Pennsylvania court that one of their observers in Philadelphia wasn’t  allowed close enough to ballot processing. They lost at the entry level court, but filed an appeal and a judge weighed in Thursday morning.

Trump lawyer Pam Bondi said on Fox Business Network that an appellate judge entered an order “saying that we are to be immediately let in that convention center with 6-foot distancing of all aspects of that vote counting effective immediately so we can observe these votes being counted.”

Trump’s campaign aides claimed the ruling allows them to better observe the vote counting in Philadelphia, and they threatened to be on the watch for what they called improper ballots.

“It guarantees we’re gonna be able to watch the ballots being counted,” said Trump deputy campaign manager Justin Clark.

Elections officials have appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court, but they briefly  paused  counting in Philadelphia to reconfigure their space to  comply with the order.

Trump advisers scheduled the conference call to insist they have not given up in  Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada  and Georgia, all states Trump needs to win if he is to retain the presidency.

“We are going to keep fighting for this election,” campaign manager Bill Stepien said.

Dozen arrested as protesters demand vote count

Police arrested dozens of people in Seattle, Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon overnight during protests demanding a tally of all votes in the US election, while smaller groups backing Trump returned to tabulation sites in closely contested states to insist counting be halted.

In Seattle, seven people were arrested.  In Minneapolis, police arrested more than 600 demonstrators who marched onto an interstate protesting Trump’s threats to challenge the election results.

In Portland, protesters smashed windows at businesses, hurled objects including fireworks at officers. Police made at least 10 arrests, according to a statement from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.

In New York, hundreds of people paraded past boarded-up luxury stores on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, and in Chicago, demonstrators marched through downtown and along a street across the river from Trump Tower. Protesters also gathered in cities including Los Angeles, Houston, Pittsburgh and San Diego.

Shares jump as dollar slips

The dollar slipped and tech stocks rallied further on Thursday as Democrat Joe Biden drew closer to winning the U.S. presidency while the Bank of England became the latest central bank to say it will increase stimulus.

Investors leapt on the prospect of gridlock in Congress and the notion Silicon Valley will be spared greater oversight as the Democrats are unlikely to win control of the Senate.

Tech shares in Europe jumped almost 3%[.EU], extending a rally of more than 8% this week, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq, S&P 500 and Dow industrials rose 1% or more.

European stocks hit two-week highs on strong earnings reports and after the Bank of England increased its already huge bond-buying stimulus by 150 billion pounds ($195 billion), or about 50 billion pounds more than expected.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.47%, the S&P 500 gained 1.61% and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.93%.

Overnight in Asia, stocks rallied 2% to reach their highest since February 2018. Japan’s Nikkei rose 1.7% to a more than nine-month top, South Korea gained 2.4% and Chinese blue chips added 1.3% on hopes a Biden White House would ease up on tariffs.

The U.S. dollar fell to two-week lows against a basket of currencies and a seven-month low against the Japanese yen as the likelihood of a Democratic blue wave in the White House and Congress slowly vanished, snuffing any large U.S. stimulus package.

Iran’s Supreme leader mocks US democracy

Iran’s supreme leader has mocked the rancorous aftermath of election day in the United States, saying that the vote has exposed the reality of US democracy.

“What a spectacle!” supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted late Wednesday. One says this is the most fraudulent election in US history. Who says that? The president who is currently in office.

“His rival says Trump intends to rig the election! This is how #USElections & US democracy are.”

The deepening polarisation of US politics since Trump’s surprise election victory four years ago has drawn expressions of concern even from Western allies, with Germany warning of a “very explosive situation” in the aftermath of the poll.

Despite US allegations that Tehran sought to use social media to influence voters in the run-up to polling day, Iran’s leadership has publicly insisted it favours neither candidate, despite their sharply divergent policies towards Tehran.

Trump has led a campaign of “maximum pressure” against the Islamic republic, pulling Washington out of a multilateral deal on Iran’s nuclear programme and reimposing crippling unilateral sanctions.

Biden has signalled he is ready to rejoin the landmark nuclear agreement struck in 2015 when he served as vice president under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama.

But on Tuesday, Khamenei insisted the outcome of the election would have no impact on Iranian policy.

Facebook removes group calling for ‘civil war’ over election

A huge viral Facebook group spreading unsubstantiated claims that there is a Democratic party plot to “steal” the election has been removed by the social media firm.

Among the comments inside the group were threats of violence and calls for civil war and revolution.

A Facebook spokesperson says it took action because of “worrying calls for violence” in the group “which was creating real-world events”.

“Stop the Steal” was set up yesterday had more than 330,000 members before it was taken down. Posts called for its members to take to the streets in the event that Joe Biden is declared the next US president.

Dozens of comments went much further and encouraged people to take up arms or even shoot their political opponents. Some threatened rioting and looting.

The group taken down by Facebook was the by far the largest of a handful of “Stop the Steal” forums set up since election day. On Tuesday, a “#StoptheSteal” label gained a bit of popularity on Twitter, and included baseless and misleading claims of voter fraud and dirty tricks.

Similar claims have been circulating in the Facebook group. The allegations include some of the ones we’ve debunked

Facebook says it removed the group “in line with the exceptional measures that we are taking during this period of heightened tension”. It also said the group “was organised around the delegitimisation of the election process”.

Vanguard

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