In his first public appearance since late on Election Night, President Trump on Thursday doubled down on his claims, against all evidence, that he is the clear winner of the election.
“If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us,” Trump said, alleging “historic election interference” while also boasting of “massive victories” in some states.
Trump also went on to introduce a new Hail Mary into his repertoire of attacks on the electoral process, claiming that pre-election polls led to “voter suppression.”
The polls, he said, were “designed to keep our voters at home, create the illusion of momentum for Mr. Biden... they were suppression polls, everyone knows that now.”
The statement came after two days of unrest and widespread protests following Trump’s false claim of victory in the early hours of Wednesday morning and baseless allegation of a plot to “steal” the vote from him.
The president had not been seen in public since that Election Night speech, though he has blown up Twitter over the past two days with nonstop demands for vote-counting to cease in areas that are not leaning in his favor. His campaign has also launched a last-ditch legal blitz challenging the vote count in several states. Earlier Thursday, those efforts suffered a setback as lawsuits filed by the campaign in Michigan and Georgia were dismissed. Trump campaign lawsuits are still ongoing in Pennsylvania.
On Thursday, the president vowed that he would pursue that litigation all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. “We think there’s going to be a lot of litigation,” he said, “and it’s going to end up perhaps at the highest court in the land, we’ll see.”
The president’s address on Thursday evening was largely a recitation of every grievance and conspiracy theory that he has aired, in some form, since he first declared his candidacy for the presidency five years ago. He railed against Democrats, the media, pollsters, technology companies, and officials in cities around the country that have overwhelmingly backed his political opponents.
He reserved particular ire during his remarks for election administrators in Philadelphia and Detroit. Those two cities, Trump said, “cannot be responsible for engineering the outcome of a presidential race.”
As he spoke, results continued to trickle in in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada, and in every one of them, Biden currently holds the lead or is closing the gap rapidly with few votes left to tally.
Trump’s repeated insinuations of illegal voting were either misleading or predictable enough that many television networks simply cut away from airing the remarks—a remarkable editorial decision given the historic stakes of what he was saying.
Though the text of his remarks were designed to convey triumphalism, Trump’s demeanor, and the subtext of his comments, conveyed an understanding that all indications point to him being a one-term president. In the process of trying to delegitimize the election results, he acknowledged that Biden could or even would go ahead in several states where he is trailing. And he practically pleaded with the courts to intervene in response to the “tremendous amount of litigation” that his campaign is pursuing.
The frustration was evident as he recounted all the states in which he enjoyed an early lead—as expected—but which have since narrowed considerably, or tilted entirely in Biden’s favor, as election officials tallied the unprecedented numbers of mail-in votes that Americans sent in this year.
The mere existence of that mail-in voting infrastructure was, for Trump, a man who voted by mail this year, the source of yet more baseless conspiracy theories. “It’s destroyed our system. It’s a corrupt system,” he said of mail-in voting generally, “They want to find out how many votes they need and then they seem to be able to find them...It’s amazing how those mail-in ballots are so one-sided.”
For all his fact-free griping about the illegitimacy of the election, Trump ended his remarks with a dubious call for fairness and transparency. “It’s not a question of who wins,” he insisted. “We can't let that happen to our country, we can't be disgraced by having something like this happen.”
Trump then reiterated that he would insist on a panel of nine unelected federal officers to determine the election’s outcome. “Ultimately,” he said, “I have a feeling judges are going to have to rule.”