Thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters marched through downtown Washington on Saturday to back his unsubstantiated claims of election fraud as he pushes ahead with long-shot legal challenges to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
A week after his Democratic rival clinched the election, Mr Trump’s lawsuits have made little headway in the courts, while Mr Biden has received congratulatory calls from world leaders and pushed ahead with work on forming his administration.
For the first time on Friday, Mr Trump began to sound doubtful about his prospects, telling reporters “time will tell” who occupies the White House as of inauguration day on January 20th next.
Flag-carrying Trump supporters, however, were out in force on Saturday to complain of alleged electoral fraud. Chanting “Stop the steal!”, Four more years!” and “We are the champions!”, they streamed from Freedom Plaza near the White House to the US Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill.
Scores of members of the far-right Proud Boys group, clad in black and with some wearing helmets and ballistic vests, were among the marchers. Some left-wing groups planned counter-demonstrations but there were no reports of major incidents.
Mr Trump’s motorcade briefly drove slowly through the crowds on the way to his golf course in Sterling, Virginia. Video on social media showed Mr Trump, wearing a red baseball cap, waving to his supporters from inside the presidential limousine.
As the marches picked up steam, Mr Biden told reporters in Delaware that he was getting closer to forming his government.
Mr Biden further solidified his victory on Friday as results from Edison Research showed him winning Georgia, giving him a final tally of 306 Electoral College votes, far more than the 270 needed to be elected president and way above Mr Trump’s 232.
The 306 votes was equal to Mr Trump’s tally in his 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton, which at the time he called a “landslide”.
Mr Trump briefly appeared close to acknowledging the likelihood he will be leaving the White House in January during remarks about the coronavirus response at a White House event on Friday.
“This administration will not be going to a lockdown. Hopefully the, uh, whatever happens in the future – who knows which administration it will be? I guess time will tell,” Mr Trump said.
With the election outcome becoming clearer, Mr Trump has discussed with advisers possible media ventures and appearances that would keep him in the spotlight ahead of a possible 2024 White House bid, aides said.
His supporters were fired up on Saturday.
Mike Seneca stood near Freedom Plaza with his dog Zena, which he had dressed in a red T-shirt emblazoned with “All American Dog”, and said he was backing the president.
“It’s hard to believe he wouldn’t have won,” Mr Seneca said, echoing Mr Trump’s unfounded allegations that mail-in ballots that favoured Mr Biden were fraudulent.
Massive US flag
Donald Tarca jnr, who travelled to Washington from West Palm Beach, Florida, held a massive US flag sporting a giant portrait of Mr Trump.
“I think it was rigged on multiple fronts,” he said of the election. “Also the media was so biased that they convinced millions of Americans to vote for Biden. They hate Trump.”
Protesting against the marches, opponents on social media sought to create confusion by flooding the hashtags #MillionMAGAMarch and #MarchforTrump with photographs of pancakes.
Mr Trump has refused to concede to Mr Biden and claims without evidence that he was cheated through widespread election fraud. State election officials report no serious irregularities, and several of his legal challenges have failed in court.
A Michigan state court on Friday rejected a request by Mr Trump’s supporters to block the certification of votes in Detroit, which went heavily in favour of Mr Biden. Lawyers for Mr Trump’s campaign dropped a lawsuit in Arizona.
Federal election security officials have found no evidence that any voting system deleted, lost or changed votes, “or was in any way compromised”, two security groups said in a statement released on Thursday by the lead US cybersecurity agency.
To win a second term, Mr Trump would need to overturn Mr Biden’s lead in at least three states, but he has so far failed to produce evidence that he could do so in any of them.
States face a December 8th deadline to certify their elections and choose electors for the Electoral College, which will officially select the new president on December 14th.
Mr Trump’s refusal to accept defeat has stalled the official transition. The federal agency that releases funding to an incoming president-elect, the General Services Administration, has yet to recognise Mr Biden’s victory, denying him access to federal office space and resources.
Mr Biden, who is meeting with advisers about the transition on Saturday in his home state of Delaware, has pressed ahead with the process, identifying legislative priorities, reviewing federal agency policies and preparing to fill thousands of jobs in the new administration.
The Democrat took a bike ride on Saturday morning with his wife Jill and some secret service agents at Delaware’s Cape Henlopen State Park. A reporter called out “Are you any closer to making a cabinet decision?” Mr Biden replied, “Yes” as he rode by. – Reuters