- 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)
Liz Cheney Ousted From GOP Leadership Role for Calling Out Trump’s Election Lies
- Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) was ousted from her leadership post by Republicans on Wednesday due to her repeated criticism of former President Trump and his continued efforts to spread false information about the 2020 election.
- The congresswoman remained defiant in remarks Tuesday night, where she argued Trump was “a threat America has never seen before” who “risks inciting further violence.”
- While many Republicans cheered Cheney’s removal as a key step to unify the party, others condemned the decision and accused GOP leadership of “canceling” her for speaking the truth.
- The move represents perhaps the strongest indication since the Jan. 6 insurrection that the Republican Party will continue to embrace Trump and punish dissenters.
House GOP Removes Cheney From Top Spot
The House GOP voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), the number 3 Republican, from her leadership position Wednesday over her refusal to stay silent about former President Donald Trump’s false election claims.
The remarkable removal comes just four months after the former president incited an insurrection, causing major splits in the GOP.
The latest move is arguably the strongest signal that Republicans have decided their party line is unwavering loyalty to Trump, and that they believe his support is needed to win back the House in 2022.
This is not the first time that Republicans tried to oust Cheney from leadership. Earlier this year, Trump loyalists in the chamber held a vote to remove her after she voted to impeach the president for his role in the insurrection.
That attempt failed, largely because Cheney received backing from Republican leadership. This time, however, she did not have the support of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.), who began mobilizing to remove the congresswoman last week after she tweeted that the 2020 election “was not stolen.”
“Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system,” she added.
While Cheney has reiterated this stance many times since January, her latest comment seemed to be the final straw, and on Monday, McCarthy officially announced he was holding a vote on her position in a letter to his conference.
In the letter, which was full of contradictions, McCarthy claimed that the GOP was a “big tent party” of “free thought and debate,” while simultaneously calling for the removal of a leader who broke with Trump, and painting the vote as a necessary step to unify the party.
A majority of the party backed that decision Wednesday morning when McCarthy held a voice vote, making it so that the public will never know exactly how many people voted to remove the congresswoman.
Cheney, for her part, held firm to her beliefs in a defiant speech Tuesday ahead of the anticipated vote, where she continued to condemn Trump’s lies and accused her fellow Republicans of being complicit in undermining Democracy.
“Today we face a threat America has never seen before. A former president, who provoked a violent attack on this capital in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him,” she said.
“He risks inciting further violence. Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president, they have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.”
“This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans,” she continued later. “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”
Cheney’s parting speech drew boos from some of her colleagues, many of whom cheered her ouster Wednesday.
“Liz Cheney is the GOP of the past,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.) tweeted. “We are not going back.”
Trump himself also issued a series of statements calling Cheney a “bitter, horrible human being,” and claiming that Republicans “have a great opportunity today to rid themselves of a poor leader, a major Democrat talking point, a warmonger, and a person with absolutely no personality or heart!”
However, many House Republicans condemned the move.
“i predict that the history books of the future will not celebrate,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Il.) wrote in a thread “They will say this was the low point of the Republican Party.”
“Liz Cheney was canceled for speaking her mind,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-N.Y.) told reporters.
There has been a similarly mixed reception to Cheney’s anticipated replacement, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who McCarthy has tapped to fill the position.
Stefanik took office as a moderate cheered for openly defying and condemning Trump. Her role in Congress changed drastically in the fall of 2019, when she became one of the most vocal opponents of his first impeachment, prompting him to tweet, “A new Republican Star is born.”
After that, she booked more TV appearances, campaign donations, and general fame. Her support for the former president grew and she doubled down, spreading his false election claims in 2020.
If she is elected to leadership, as is expected, the top three House Republican leadership positions will all be held by people who voted to not certify President Joe Biden’s win.
Cheney, for her part, has made it clear she does not intend to go anywhere. After Wednesday’s vote, the congresswoman told reporters that she will do “everything” she can “to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.”
“The nation needs a party that is based upon fundamental principles of conservatism, and I am committed and dedicated to ensuring that that’s how this party goes forward, and I plan to lead the fight to do that,” she added.
According to The Washington Post, sources have said that Cheney already spent the last week planning for increased travel and media appearances to promote her case and rally other Republicans behind her.
She likely will not be alone in her endeavors: on Tuesday, The New York Times reported that more than 100 current and former anti-Trump Republicans are preparing to release a letter this week threatening to split from the GOP and create a third party if changes are not made.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)
Biden Says Americans Will Lose Unemployment Benefits if They Turn Down “Suitable” Jobs
- President Biden said Monday that out-of-work Americans will lose their enhanced federal unemployment benefits if they turn down a “suitable” job offer.
- The announcement follows a stark jobs report from the Labor Department, which found that just over 260,000 jobs were added in April when nearly 1 million had been projected.
- Republican lawmakers blamed the additional $300 a week in joblessness benefits provided by the federal government, and several Republican-led states have opted out of the programs, arguing that doing so will encourage people to go back to work.
- Biden rejected those arguments, noting that numerous studies disprove that claim. Instead, he said American corporations should do more to entice people to work, such as providing pay raises and COVID safety precautions.
Biden Addresses Benefits as Job Creation Falters
President Joe Biden on Monday ordered the Labor Department to ensure that Americans will lose their enhanced federal unemployment benefits if they do not accept a “suitable” job when offered.
In remarks at the White House, Biden also said he would direct the agency to work jointly with states to reimpose the requirement that people collecting joblessness benefits must show they are actively looking for work.
The comments come just days after the latest jobs report showed far fewer positions created than expected. The Labor Department reported that just 266,000 jobs were added last month, even though economists had predicted it would be about 1 million.
While broad swaths of the U.S. economy are opening up as more Americans get vaccinated, some employers have reported that they are having a hard time finding workers.
Republicans have largely argued that this is because of the additional $300 a week in unemployment benefits Americans are collecting from the last stimulus package.
The Unemployment Debate
In his address, however, Biden hit back on that claim. He said the White House does not “see much evidence” that benefits have deterred people from taking jobs — a fact that is supported by numerous studies on pandemic unemployment benefits. He also argued that corporate America has to do more to encourage people to come back to work.
The president placed responsibility on employers, especially those who have accepted federal relief, to raise their pay, protect their workers from the virus, and help them gain access to vaccinations so out-of-work Americans feel safe going back.
“My expectation is that as the economy comes back, these companies will provide fair wages and safe work environments, and if they do, they’ll find plenty of workers,” he said. “And we’re all going to come out of this together and better than before.”
Some companies have already started to take similar steps, like Chipotle, which announced Monday that it was raising its average wage to $15 an hour to address the labor shortage. However, many big companies will simply wait it out.
Those businesses may not have to wait long because a growing number of Republican-led states have been rejecting the increased federal unemployment money. On Monday, the governors of Alabama and Mississippi joined Montana, South Carolina, and Arkansas and announced their states would be leaving the programs by mid-June. More states are likely to do the same.
Trump’s DOJ Allegedly Obtained Phone Records of WaPo Reporters Covering Russia Probe
- Former President Trump’s Justice Department secretly obtained phone records from Washington Post journalists covering Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, the outlet reported Friday.
- The DOJ seized records of the work, home, and cellphone numbers of three reporters from April 15 to July 31, 2017. Those records included who the calls were with and how long they were, but not what was said.
- Many journalists and Free Speech activists condemned the action and called on the Biden administration to end the practice of record subpoenas, which are often used by the government to find clues about possible sources and can harm key newsgathering.
- A DOJ spokesperson defended the previous administration’s actions, arguing that the news media are not the targets of such investigations but rather, “those with access to the national defense information who provided it to the media and thus failed to protect it as lawfully required.”
Washington Post Reporters Subpoenaed
The Washington Post reported Friday that the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump secretly obtained phone records from some of its journalists regarding reporting they did on Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
According to the outlet, the DOJ sent three separate letters dated May 3 and addressed to three former Post journalists to inform them they were “hereby notified that pursuant to legal process the United States Department of Justice received toll records associated with the following telephone numbers for the period from April 15, 2017 to July 31, 2017.”
The letters, which listed work, home, or cellphone numbers, also stated that prosecutors had gotten a court order to obtain records for the reporters’ work email accounts, but that they did not ultimately not obtain those records.
The phone records, the outlet said, “included the numbers of all the calls made to and from the targeted phone over the specified time period, and how long each call lasted, but do not include what was said in those phone calls.”
“Investigators often hope such records will provide clues about possible sources the reporters were in contact with before a particular story published,” it added.
The Post reported that the letters do not say why the DOJ was seizing the phone records. However, it did note that toward the end of the time period outlined, the three reporters had written a story about classified U.S. intelligence intercepts that indicated then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had discussed the Trump campaign with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. when he was a sitting senator in 2016.
The alleged move is significant because it is rare for the DOJ to use subpoenas in order to obtain records of reporters in leak investigations. In fact, the last high-profile seizure of communication records was part of an investigation into a source cited in 2017 reporting that was also about the investigation into Russian election interference.
Also very notably, these subpoenas need to be approved directly by the attorney general. A spokesperson for the DOJ told The Post that the records had been requested in 2020, meaning it would have likely taken place under Attorney General William Barr, who stepped down on Dec. 23.
The allegations immediately drew criticism from First Amendment advocates and journalists, who have long opposed the practice of obtaining these kinds of records, and argued that attempts to identify sources of leaks hurt critical news gathering and reporting.
“We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists,” said Cameron Barr, the current acting executive editor of The Post. “The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment.”
Many other journalists also demanded that the Biden administration ensure such practices are not replicated, noting the escalated efforts to subpoena reporters records under both the Trump and Obama administrations.
However, a DOJ spokesperson defended the previous administration’s decision to subpoena The Post reporters in a statement to the outlet.
“While rare, the Department follows the established procedures within its media guidelines policy when seeking legal process to obtain telephone toll records and non-content email records from media members as part of a criminal investigation into unauthorized disclosure of classified information,” the spokesperson said.
“The targets of these investigations are not the news media recipients but rather those with access to the national defense information who provided it to the media and thus failed to protect it as lawfully required.”