The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Where is Trump still trying to fight election results?

His campaign is still attempting a few legal Hail Marys. And there’s always Twitter.

Supporters wait to cheer on President Trump as he departs his golf course Sunday in Sterling, Va. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump is giving mixed signals on Twitter about whether he acknowledges his election loss, saying he hasn’t conceded but approving his government’s recognition of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition into the White House.

In his tweets, Trump promised to keep fighting to overturn election results.

There’s no reason to believe he’ll have any success. But if he means it, here’s where he could still try.

Two states are doing recounts, at the Trump campaign’s request

The Trump campaign asked for a recount in Wisconsin, where Biden won by at least 20,500 votes. But state law says it would have to pay for it, so the campaign opted for a recount for only two of the state’s Democratic counties, Dane and Milwaukee.

That’s going on right now, and Trump campaign representatives are being quite aggressive — some on the ground would say disruptive — as they hover over election officials and watch them count ballots. The Washington Post reported from the scene in Milwaukee over the weekend:

Trump campaign lawyer Stewart Karge almost immediately accused the newly sworn-in Milwaukee election workers of starting to open and look at ballot applications before the board of canvassers authorized it. “I’m just telling you what I’ve been informed,” he said to the board, citing no evidence.
Twice, Trump supporters erupted in cheers as he spoke, prompting an angry response from the board’s only Republican member.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we need this to be an orderly process,” thundered Rick Baas, staring down a group of Trump observers. “We will not be those other states!”

Wisconsin knows how to do recounts. When they’ve been done statewide for contentious governor’s races, they have moved the result by only a couple of hundred votes. So Trump’s chances of overturning results here are low to nil.

Georgia just recounted its ballots by hand — which election experts say is one of the securest ways to tally votes. It was the largest manual recount in U.S. history, and it was mandated by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), who was following state law after a close election and hoped that doing this would stop Republicans from questioning his state’s results.

But the Trump campaign has now requested another recount, which it can do under state law because the results are within 0.5 percentage points. It will be paid for by Georgia taxpayers and will be done by machine. So that’s starting now.

There’s almost no chance a third recount will suddenly overturn 12,670 votes. Raffensperger certified on Friday that Biden was the state’s winner. “Georgia’s voting system has never been more secure or trustworthy,” he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.

There are a few Hail Mary legal challenges

But I stress, they’re really Hail Marys.

In Wisconsin, the Trump campaign is trying to leverage the recount to ask the courts to throw out tens of thousands of votes. It is arguing that all absentee ballots that people cast in person, rather than by mail, should be tossed because they were supposed to be mailed. State officials dispute their interpretation of the law, and legal experts told The Post that courts would probably be reluctant to throw out so many votes otherwise cast in good faith.

It’s only slightly less audacious than the pitch the Trump campaign recently made in Pennsylvania, asking a judge to halt certification of that state’s 6.8 million votes, based on what the judge said amounted to little more than hearsay.

The judge, a conservative, scolded the campaign out of court with such a brutal opinion released Saturday that even some Republicans took notice and told Trump it’s over.

The Trump campaign, led by conspiracy-theory-espousing lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, is appealing that ruling to a higher court. Legal experts are highly doubtful the legal team will be successful, especially after the drubbing it just took from a federal judge. That judge came close in his opinion to suggesting discussing sanctions of Trump’s attorneys for even bringing the case to him, said Jessica Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Law School.

The Trump campaign also lost a case Monday at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which said it wouldn’t throw away thousands of legitimately cast ballots for having technical errors on the outer envelope.

And Pennsylvania’s governor on Tuesday morning certified its election results, closing the door to more legal challenges.

Finally, in Nevada, a state judge just threw out a Trump ally’s request to completely overturn Biden’s win of about 34,000 votes and give it to Trump, calling it a “shocking ask.”

One state that’s off the board for Trump: Michigan

This is the contested state where Biden won by the biggest margins. The Trump campaign’s legal challenges also failed here, so the president tried to win there, potentially illegally, by working to get election officials not to certify results and then asking the GOP legislature to step in and give him that state’s electors.

It was his boldest, arguably most undemocratic attempt to win the election. And it failed. On Friday, GOP state legislators met with him and said they wouldn’t choose electors. On Monday, the state board certified results, with one of two Republicans on the board voting with Democrats.

Trump is out of options in this state, and he has gained no traction with GOP election officials in any of the other states Biden narrowly won.

One state Biden won that’s not actively being challenged by Trump: Arizona

Trump allies said challenges are coming, The Post reports. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted baseless allegations, using an error-riddled affidavit, that votes were tallied incorrectly in Arizona’s largest county, Maricopa, and other states.

But Arizona is also moving quietly and steadily along to certifying its results by the state-mandated deadline of Monday. That would close the door to any legal challenges there. On Tuesday morning, Arizona’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey — who has stayed silent for weeks despite criticism from his Democratic secretary of state — finally said in a local radio interview that “Joe Biden did win in Arizona.”

One place Trump keeps challenging the results: On Twitter

Members of Trump’s inner circle have told The Post they don’t ever expect him to concede even if he knows he lost. He could just stop fighting all these legal and political battles. Or in the next few weeks, states will certify their results, setting up the electoral college to meet in mid-December and vote Biden the winner, and he’ll have no choice but to drop it all.

But Trump can still leverage polls that show a sizable portion of Republicans believe the election was stolen from him. He can keep that section of the population on his side and engaged — and thus Republican lawmakers beholden to him — even as he leaves office, by refusing to ever acknowledge he lost. On that front, he shows no sign of slowing down.