- Georgia’s secretary of state said there will be a statewide recount because of the razor-thin margin between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Former Vice President Joe Biden.
- Biden took the lead in Georgia and Pennsylvania early Friday as he pushes closer to the 270 electoral votes he needs to claim victory.
- Trump has already announced his desire for a recount in Wisconsin, though the 20,000 vote deficit between Trump and Biden will be difficult to overcome.
- Few recounts in the last 50 years have led to changes in the winners. In Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, and Arizona — key states in this year’s race — no statewide recount has led to a change in the winner for at least 20 years.
A Tight Race in Georgia
Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden took a narrow lead over President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania and Georgia early Friday, putting Biden closer to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidential race. However, Georgia’s secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) told reporters later that morning that the state would head to a recount because of just how close the margin between them is proving to be.
“Right now Georgia remains too close to call. Out of approximately 5 million votes cast we’ll have a margin of a few thousand,” Raffensperger said. “With a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia.”
“Interest in our election obviously goes far beyond Georgia’s borders. The final tally in Georgia at this point has huge implications for the entire country.”
Candidates must be within half a percentage point of each other to trigger a recount in the state, and as of the morning, Biden had pulled ahead by just over 1,500 votes.
“Everything’s going to have to be investigated to protect the integrity of the vote,” Gabriel Sterling, the Georgia’s Voting System Implementation Manager, told reporters that same morning.“We are literally looking at a margin of less than a large high school.”
Still, officials noted that there are 4,169 mail ballots that need to be counted, with the majority of those coming in Gwinnett County, in Atlanta’s suburbs. On top of that, the state has until Friday to receive overseas and active military ballots that were postmarked by Election Day, and voters have until then to fix any mistakes on absentee ballots that were marked as deficient. There are also some outstanding provisional ballots, according to Politico.
Sterling emphasized that the count would be thorough and transparent, pushing back against false claims from the president and his base about ongoing fraud. “We’re not seeing any widespread irregularities,” he said.
A formal recount challenge will likely not be made until later in November as results continue to trickle in. Such a request must be made within two days of results being certified. As of now, the state certification process is set to be finalized by Nov. 20.
Winning Georgia’s 16 electoral votes will be an important feat for Biden. Trump won Georgia by 5.7 percentage points in 2016, and Republican presidential candidates have carried Georgia in every election since 1992, when Democrat Bill Clinton was victorious there.
What Recount Rules Look Like in Other Key States
Thin margins like that in Georgia could open up the possibility of recounts in other states as well. In fact, the Trump campaign has already signaled that it would request a recount in Wisconsin, where Trump trails behind Biden by around 20,000 votes. Many news outlets have already Biden the apparent winner.
In Wisconsin, a candidate can request a recount if the margin is less than 1%. The request must be made no later than 5 p.m. on the first business day after the state has received final results from the state’s counties.
If that recount is at all similar to past Wisconsin recounts, experts and even other Republicans admit that the vote deficit will be tough to overcome.
When Wisconsin conducted a statewide recount in 2016, after Trump beat Hillary Clinton by more than 20,000 votes, the recount netted Trump 131 votes.
Another key state in the race for president is Pennsylvania, where Biden is leading by over 12,000 votes. Over 124,000 mail-in ballots have yet to be counted.
If Biden wins Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, he doesn’t need any of the other states he’s leading in to reach 270. Trump, on the other hand, cannot find a route to 270 electoral votes without Georgia and Pennsylvania.
As far as recounts laws go, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar is required to order a recount if the winning margin is 0.5% or less. The recount would need to be ordered by 5 p.m. on Nov. 12 and completed by Nov. 24.
A recount can also be triggered in each county if requested by three voters, according to the Washington Post.
Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, and North Carolina have yet to be projected. Trump is ahead in both North Carolina and Alaska, with most expecting that to remain the case. Though, it is worth noting that North Carolina will accept mail-in ballots that arrive through Nov. 12, and the race is not likely to be called until then.
Alaska may be one of the last to be called as well because officials there won’t even begin counting mail ballots, or early in-person ballots cast after Oct. 29, for another week.
Meanwhile, Biden holds a lead in Nevada by around 22,000 votes. There, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit alleging that votes have been cast by deceased people and nonresidents. Election officials in Nevada have denied those claims.
It is unclear when vote count totals will be high enough to award the state’s six electoral votes since the state is still counting and will accept mail-in ballots received through November 10, as long as they were postmarked by Election Day.
If either candidate wants a recount there, Nevada will not launch it automatically. Instead, the state allows defeated candidates in any election to request a recount, no matter the margins. The deadline to request a recount is no later than three business days after the canvass of the vote. The candidate requesting a recount must also be willing to put down a deposit to cover the estimated cost of the recount.
That deposit will only be returned if the candidate requesting the recount ends up winning the race after it.
Biden has also maintained a lead in Arizona over the last few days, with Fox News and the Associated Press already declaring him the winner there. Meanwhile, Trump’s supporters have made baseless voter fraud claims there as well, encouraging the state to keep counting votes in hopes that their candidate can pull out a win.
Those calls are a sharp contrast to those from Trump supporters in Michigan, who called for counting to stop after seeing Biden’s lead grow with mail-in ballots.
It should be noted that all the ballots being counted are valid ballots and any decision to not count them would be both unprecedented and undemocratic.
In Arizona, state law requires a recount when the margin between the top two candidates is equal to or less than one-tenth of 1% of the total number of votes cast. However, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) told ABC News on Thursday morning that she did not anticipate that a recount would be necessary.
“Our recount margins are very narrow,” she said. “I don’t think we’re going to get to that territory.”
Biden is currently leading with over 43,000 votes.
Most news organizations have already declared Biden the winner since Wednesday, with a roughly 150,000-vote lead.
Michigan state law requires a recount be conducted automatically if the margin between two candidates is 2,000 votes or less.
A candidate can also petition for a recount if he or she alleges fraud or a mistake and “would have had a reasonable chance of winning the election.” The petition must be filed within 48 hours of the count’s completion.
A judge in the state has already dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit which alleged their election inspectors did not have proper access to observe the counts in Michigan. The judge argued it was basically moot because most of the ballots have already been counted.
Could a Recount Flip a Key Battleground? Probably Not
Though many expect Trump to seek some recounts as his paths to victory disappear, experts argue that recounts likely won’t make a difference in a statewide election. According to NBC News, few recounts in the last 50 years have led to changes in the winners.
In Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada and Arizona — key states in this year’s race — no statewide recount has led to a change in the winner for at least 20 years.
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Politico) (The Washington Post)
Pelosi Reverses Course, Signals Openness to Stock Trading Ban for Congress
The move comes as public and bipartisan support for legislation banning Congress members from stock trading has grown in recent weeks.
Pelosi Backtracks on Member Trading
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) on Thursday signaled openness to legislation that would ban members of Congress from trading stocks, reversing her previous position on the matter.
“I do come down always in favor of trusting our members,” Pelosi said at a press conference. “If the impression that is given by some that somebody is doing insider trading, that’s a Justice Department issue and that has no place in any of this.”
“To give a blanket attitude of ‘We can’t do this and we can’t do,’ because we can’t be trusted, I just don’t buy into that. But if members want to do that, I’m okay with that,” she continued.
The speaker’s remarks come as she has faced mounting backlash for voicing opposition to such a ban.
“We are a free market economy,” she told reporters when asked about the matter last month. “They should be able to participate in that.”
While Pelosi herself does not trade, her husband has invested millions in stocks. Those trades have been made public under the 2012 STOCK Act, which has required Congress members and their spouses to disclose when they buy and sell stocks for the last decade.
But the law has a mixed track record. A recent investigation by Insider found that “dozens of lawmakers and 182 senior congressional staff” have violated the law.
The act also came under intense scrutiny after financial disclosures filed by lawmakers exposed that members of both parties made trades in 2020 that benefited their portfolios after receiving early briefings on the seriousness of the pandemic.
The Justice Department reviewed some of the cases, but it ultimately did not bring any charges.
Momentum Grows for Congressional Ban
In recent weeks, pressure to reform the STOCK Act has been growing both among the public and in Congress.
Proponents argue that Congress members should be banned from trading stocks altogether to ensure they do not have conflicts of interest or use their access to classified briefings to make money.
According to a new poll from the progressive firm Data for Progress, 67% of voters support a ban. That number rose to 74% when the respondents were given arguments both for and against the idea.
In Congress, there is widespread bipartisan support for legislation to impose stricter regulations, including among top leadership.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) has reportedly said he is considering banning members from trading if Republicans win control of the House and select him as Speaker in 2022.
“I cannot imagine being a Speaker of the House with the power of what can come before committee, you name them and what can come to the floor and trading millions of dollars worth of options,” he told NPR earlier this month. “I just don’t think the American people think that’s right.”
Members of both parties have already put forth proposals. Last week, Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Mark Kelly (D-Az.) introduced legislation that would effectively ban lawmakers, as well as their spouses and dependents, from buying and selling stocks.
The same day, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) rolled out a very similar bill, though his version would not include dependents.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Hill) (Business Insider)
Supreme Court Allows Release of Jan. 6 Documents in Major Loss for Trump
The high court’s decision initiates the release of White House documents that the former president had attempted to block the Jan. 6 investigation committee from viewing.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected former President Donald Trump’s efforts to block the White House from handing over records to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Trump filed a lawsuit against the panel and the National Archives to prevent the committee from seeing key documents, testimonies, and other evidence lawmakers had requested.
In the suit, he argued that the records were protected by executive privilege, which he said still applied to him even though he’s not president anymore, and despite the fact that President Joe Biden decided not to exercise his executive privilege over the documents.
Trump also claimed that the information has “no reasonable connection to the events of that day” or “any conceivable legislative purpose.”
In an 8-1 decision with Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting, the Supreme Court rejected the effort to block the records from the committee until the issue is resolved by the courts — a process that could take months if not years.
In their ruling, the justices wrote that there are “serious and substantial concerns” regarding whether a former president can obtain a court order to prevent the disclosure of records, especially when the incumbent president waived their right to exercise executive privilege over said documents.
However, they still agreed with the determination by an appeals court that Trump’s claim of privilege over the documents would fail “even if he were the incumbent.”
Records Handed Over to Committee
According to reports, within just hours of the ruling, the National Archives began sending the roughly 800 pages of documents to the Jan. 6 committee.
The documents have not been made public, and it remains unclear if and when they will be.
What is known is the nature of the content that the committee has requested, including records detailing all of Trump’s movements and meetings on Jan. 6.
Notably, the lawmakers also requested information about plans by the administration to undermine Congress’s confirmation of the electoral college vote and Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the results of the elections.
Also unknown is what the panel will do with the documents if it finds damning evidence. While the committee’s powers are limited in scope, it could make a criminal referral to the Justice Department, which has its own ongoing probe into the insurrection and the events that preceded it.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Associated Press) (The Washington Post)
NY Attorney General Says Investigation of Trump Business Found “Significant Evidence” of Fraud
The state attorney general’s office accused the former president and his family business of falsely inflating the value of assets and personal worth to lenders, the IRS, and insurance brokers.
New York Attorney General’s Filing
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced late Tuesday she had “significant evidence” that former President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization “falsely and fraudulently” misrepresented the value of assets “to financial institutions for economic benefit.”
The allegations mark the first time James has made specific accusations against Trump and his business. They come as part of a nearly 160-page filing asking a judge to order the former president — along with Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. — to comply with subpoenas for the investigation after the family sued James to block her from questioning them.
The filing claims that Trump and the company inflated the value of six properties, including several golf courses and Trump’s own penthouse in Trump Tower, on financial statements to obtain favorable loans, tax deductions, and insurance coverage.
The document adds that many of the financial statements were “generally inflated as part of a pattern to suggest that Mr. Trump’s net worth was higher than it otherwise would have appeared.”
James outlined several specific examples, such as a financial statement where the value of Trump’s Seven Springs estate in Westchester was boosted because it listed seven mansions on the property worth $61 million that did not actually exist.
That resulted in Trump receiving millions of dollars in tax deductions on that property, as well as another in Los Angeles.
In another notable instance, the attorney general’s office said that the $327 million value of Trump’s penthouse in Trump Tower was calculated off a financial statement that falsely reported his home was nearly triple its actual size.
While the statement claimed the apartment was 30,000 square feet, Trump had signed documents stating it was actually 10,996 square feet.
Alleged Direct Involvement
The allegation regarding the apartment is especially significant because it directly ties Trump himself to the accusations of financial wrongdoing. It is also not the only instance where Trump was implicated.
The filing additionally asserts that Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg — who was indicted last summer on multiple criminal charges relating to the business’ tax dealings — implied the former president was involved in finalizing the false valuations.
According to the documents, Weisselberg “testified that it was ‘certainly possible’ Mr. Trump discussed valuations with him and that it was ‘certainly possible’ Mr. Trump reviewed the Statement of Financial Condition for a particular year before it was finalized.”
Another top Trump Organization executive also testified that he was under the impression Trump reviewed the statements before they were finalized.
While the filing provides less direct links to Trump’s children, it does detail their involvement. Specifically, it alleges that Ivanka Trump rented an apartment at Trump Park Avenue and was given an option to buy it for $8.5 million, despite the fact that the property was valued at $25 million.
It also connected Donald Trump Jr. to some of the properties flagged by claiming investigators found evidence he “was consulted” on the Statements of Financial Condition.
Citing these connections, James argued in a series of tweets Tuesday that it is necessary for her inquiry to question Trump and his two children on their alleged involvement.
“We are taking legal action to force Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump to comply with our investigation into the Trump Organization’s financial dealings,” she wrote. “No one in this country can pick and choose if and how the law applies to them.”
The former president has not yet addressed the matter, but a Trump Organization attorney representing Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump responded by arguing the subpoenas violate the constitutional rights of the family and that the filing “never addresses the fundamental contentions of our motion to quash or stay the subpoenas.”
In a statement Wednesday, the Trump Organization denied James’ allegations as “baseless” and accused her of trying to “mislead the public yet again.”
As far as what happens next, James’ office has said it “has not yet reached a final decision regarding whether this evidence merits legal action.”
Because James’s investigation is civil, she can sue Trump, his company, and his children, but she cannot file criminal charges. However, her probe is running parallel to a criminal investigation into the same conduct led by the Manhattan district attorney, who does have that power.