Donald Trump’s campaign has doubled down on claims that the US president could still win re-election even as Joe Biden expanded his lead, and some of Mr Trump’s allies urged supporters to take to the streets in protest.
The Trump campaign insisted on Friday morning the election was “not over” shortly after Mr Biden swung into the lead in Pennsylvania, putting him closer to declaring victory with votes still being tallied in a handful of battleground states.
Matt Morgan, the Trump campaign’s general counsel, claimed that results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona were all “far from final”, in an effort to cast uncertainty over results from the four states. All of them were trending in Mr Biden’s favour.
Arizona has already been called by the Associated Press and Fox News for Mr Biden, but other US television networks have held off, with thousands of votes still being counted.
The claim came in the wake of repeated baseless assertions from Mr Trump that Mr Biden was trying to “steal” the election.
It also came against the backdrop of protests in a clutch of cities as the vote count dragged on. In some places, such as Philadelphia, Trump and Biden demonstrators went toe-to-toe in competing protests.
Facebook took down a Trump-supporting group named “Stop The Steal” on Thursday over fears it was inciting violence. But organisers of the group, which had rapidly amassed more than 300,000 followers, still held a number of rallies in the four critical states on Thursday night. They promised to hold several more on Friday.
Alex Jones, the far-right founder of InfoWars and a conspiracy theorist who has been banned from Twitter, addressed protesters on Thursday night outside the election counting centre in Phoenix, Arizona.
“We don’t know how this is going to end, but if they want a fight, they better believe they’ve got one,” he told Trump supporters, likening his stance against a potential Biden victory to overturning British rule in the US.
“We’re going to defeat [George] Soros and Bill Gates like we defeated the King of England,” he cried, punching the air and railing against “a bunch of fascist commies” and “leftist scum”.
Michael Flynn, Mr Trump’s former national security adviser, urged Republican leaders to join with the president’s supporters to back Mr Trump. “Calling ALL Republican leaders, MUSTER your courage!” Mr Flynn tweeted.
The word “muster” is commonly used by self-described conservative militia groups, who number an estimated 50,000 members across the country, to assemble troops for battle.
Sam Jackson, an expert in far-right and anti-government extremism at the State University of New York at Albany, said people did not necessarily need clear instructions or a clear request from Mr Trump in order to mobilise in support of his candidacy.
“We’re likely to see periodic public demonstrations for the foreseeable future . . . from folks across the political spectrum,” he said, adding that adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theories needed little goading to action.
Senator Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania was among moderate Republicans who have sought to distance themselves from Mr Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of fraud.
Referring to unsupported claims that Mr Trump made in his White House appearance on Thursday, Mr Toomey told NBC television. “It was very hard to watch. The president’s allegations . . . are just not substantiated.”