Speaking at 2:22 a.m., and with several key swing states still counting ballots, an angry President Donald Trump made the extraordinary claim that he had already won the election in the face of unspecified fraud.
“We were getting ready to win this election, frankly we did win this election,” he said from the East Room of the White House, in front of a cheering crowd and dozens of American flags.
With millions of votes still being counted, Trump claimed, “We were getting ready for a big celebration, we were winning everything, and all of a sudden it was just called off.”
Trump fired the first salvos on Election Night, winning the tight states of Florida, Ohio, and Texas. But Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and even Georgia are still in play, with mail-in ballots likely to be counted in the coming hours and days.
Contrary to Trump’s claims, no states have suddenly “called off” counting. Some counties will continue ballot-counting on Wednesday.
Around 10 a.m., as the election’s outcome began to look rosier for his challenger, Joe Biden, Trump struck a less optimistic tone in a series of tweets—then suggested some sort of fraud was afoot.
“Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key States, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled. Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted,” he tweeted. “VERY STRANGE, and the ‘pollsters’ got it completely & historically wrong!”
Minutes later, he mused: “How come every time they count Mail-In ballot dumps they are so devastating in their percentage and power of destruction?” Twitter moved quickly to hide the posts and label them as “disputed” and possibly “misleading.”
In his earlier speech, Trump claimed he was on track to win Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, and had “a lot of life” left in Arizona, which the Associated Press called for Biden early Wednesday.
He said he’d go to the Supreme Court, but didn’t outline what, if any, issue warranted it. “We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballot at 4 o’clock in the morning and add them to the list. It’s a very sad moment,” he said, apparently contradicting his complaints that counting had “suddenly stopped.”
“This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country,” he added.
Trump then called on Vice President Pence to speak, but the former Indiana governor did not endorse the absolutist rhetoric, saying only that he believed they were “on the road to victory.”
Fox News personalities Laura Ingraham, Raymond Arroyo, and Jeanine Pirro were in the East Room for Trump’s remarks along with YouTubers Diamond and Silk, according to a pool report cited by CNN. Members of the Trump family were also there.
An hour earlier, Twitter slapped warnings on Trump tweets claiming that his campaign was “up BIG” and that Democrats were “trying to STEAL the election.”
Speaking just before 1 a.m. Wednesday, Biden, had called for patience but said, “We feel good about where we are.”
He also claimed Pennsylvania would be his, as well as Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, and, surprisingly, Georgia.
“I’m here to tell you tonight we believe we’re on track to win this election,” Biden said from Wilmington, Delaware. “It ain’t over until every vote is counted, every ballot is counted.”
Veteran Republican election lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg said he’d never seen anything like Trump’s Election Night claim.
“It’s a distressing moment for me as a longtime Republican to see it called [and] disenfranchise so many people,” he told CNN. “What the president said tonight is not only unprecedented and not only lacks any basis in the law, it really is a disservice to all the other men and women who are on the ballot as Republicans today.”