LANSING, Mich. (AP) — After weeks of delay, the federal government acknowledged President-elect Joe Biden was the “apparent winner” of the Nov. 3 election on Monday and cleared the way for cooperation on a transition of power. The move came after President Donald Trump suffered yet more legal and procedural defeats in his futile effort to overturn the election with baseless claims of fraud.
Trump’s effort to stave off the inevitable — formal recognition of his defeat — is facing increasingly stiff resistance from the courts and fellow Republicans with just three weeks to go until the Electoral College meets to certify Biden’s victory.
Time and again, Trump’s challenges and baseless allegations of widespread conspiracy and fraud have been met with rejection as states move forward with confirming their results.
In Michigan, the Board of State Canvassers, which has two Republicans and two Democrats, confirmed the state results on a 3-0 vote with one GOP abstention. Trump and his allies had hoped to block the vote to allow time for an audit of ballots in Wayne County, where Trump has claimed without evidence that he was the victim of fraud. Biden crushed the president by more than 330,000 votes there.
Under Michigan law, Biden claims all 16 electoral votes. Biden won the state by 2.8 percentage points — a larger margin than in other states where Trump is contesting the results like Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
“The board’s duty today is very clear,” said Aaron Van Langevelde, the Republican vice chair. “We have a duty to certify this election based on these returns. That is very clear.”
Some Trump allies had expressed hope that state lawmakers could intervene in selecting Republican electors in states that do not certify. That longshot and legally dubious bid is no longer possible in Michigan.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement after the vote that it was “time to put this election behind us.”
“President-elect Biden won the State of Michigan by more than 154,000 votes, and he will be our next president on January 20th.”
The Trump legal team dismissed the certification as “simply a procedural step” and insisted it would fight on.
Mary Ellen Gurewitz, an attorney for the state Democratic Party, told the canvassers that attacks on the election results were “part of a racist campaign, directed by soon-to-be former President Trump, to disparage the cities in this country with large Black populations, including Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.”
Trump has tried to defy the results of the election through the courts. Having no luck there, he moved on to trying to personally influence local lawmakers to ignore the popular vote and appoint Republican electors, a strategy that would send Americans into the streets in protest, election law experts have said. Two local GOP canvassers who certified Wayne County results last week unsuccessfully tried to reverse course after being called by Trump.
Trump met with top Michigan GOP legislators at the White House on Friday and tweeted over the weekend: “We will show massive and unprecedented fraud!”
Trump was facing setbacks in other battleground states as well.
In Pennsylvania, a conservative Republican judge shot down the Trump campaign’s biggest legal effort with a scathing ruling that asked why he would disenfranchise 7 million voters with no evidence to back the campaign’s claims and an inept legal argument at best.
But Trump’s lawyers still hope to block the state’s certification, quickly appealing to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. The court ordered lawyers to file a brief Monday but did not agree to hear oral arguments.
The campaign, in its filings, asked for urgent consideration so it could challenge the state election results before they are certified next month. If not, they will seek to decertify them, the filings said.
Trump’s team insisted it did not want to invalidate all of the 6.8 million ballots cast in the state. Instead, the lawyers said they were taking aim at seven Democratic-leaning counties where they take issue with how mail-in ballots were handled.
“Appellants seek to exclude the defective mail ballots which overwhelming favored Biden, which may turn the result of the election,” they said in a filing Monday.
Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes. Other litigation has failed to change a single vote.
Pennsylvania county election boards were voting on Monday, the state deadline, on whether to certify local election results to the Department of State. The boards in two populous counties divided along party lines, with majority Democrats in both places voting to certify.
After all counties have sent certified results to Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, she must then tabulate, compute and canvass votes for all races. The law requires her to perform that task quickly but does not set a specific deadline.
In Wisconsin, a recount in the state’s two largest liberal counties moved into its fourth day at a slow pace, with election officials in Milwaukee County complaining that Trump observers were hanging up the process with frequent challenges. Trump’s hope of reversing Biden’s victory there depends on disqualifying thousands of absentee ballots — including the in-person absentee ballot cast by one of Trump’s own campaign attorneys in Dane County.
Associated Press Writers Maryclaire Dale in Philadelphia, Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pa., Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta and John Flesher in Traverse City, Mich. contributed to this report.