Biden edges closer to White House win as Trump mounts legal challenge

The fate of the U.S. presidency hung in the balance on Wednesday as President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden fought for final battleground states and the Trump campaign launched lawsuits.

Biden declared the winner in Wisconsin, Michigan on Wednesday

Neither U.S. President Donald Trump, left, nor Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has reached the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the election. (Leah Millis/Reuters, Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The latest:

  • Biden wins Michigan, Wisconsin, Trump gets 2nd congressional district in Maine.
  • Electoral college vote stands at 253 for Biden, 214 for Trump.
  • Trump says, "As far as I'm concerned, I already won," despite ongoing vote counts in several states, and neither candidate reaching the required 270 electoral college votes.
  • Trump campaign sues to halt the vote count in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
  • Biden campaign calls Trump's claims 'outrageous, unprecedented and incorrect.'
  • Get all the U.S. election results as they come in.
  • How the electoral college determines who wins the U.S. presidency.
  • What do you want to know about the U.S. election? Email us at

Democrat Joe Biden moved closer to victory in the U.S. presidential race on Thursday as election officials tallied votes in the handful of states that will determine the outcome and protesters took to the streets.

Incumbent President Donald Trump alleged fraud, filed lawsuits and called for recounts in a race yet to be decided two days after polls closed.

With tensions rising, about 200 of Trump's supporters, some armed with rifles and handguns, gathered outside an election office in Phoenix, Arizona, following unsubstantiated rumours that votes were not being counted.

Anti-Trump protesters in other cities demanded that vote counting continue. Police arrested anti-Trump protesters in New York City and Portland, Oregon. Over 100 events are planned across the country between Wednesday and Saturday.

The presidential race was coming down to close contests in five states. Biden held narrow leads in Nevada and Arizona while Trump was watching his slim advantage fade in must-win states Pennsylvania and Georgia as mail-in and absentee votes were being counted. Trump clung to a narrow lead in North Carolina as well, another must-win for him.

Trump had to win the states where he was still ahead and either Arizona or Nevada to triumph and avoid becoming the first incumbent U.S. president to lose a re-election bid since fellow Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Trump's campaign announced at various times Wednesday that it would be suing to stop the vote count in two states  — first in Michigan, then Pennsylvania — and to order officials in Georgia to follow the law on storing and counting absentee ballots.

Referring to the Michigan suit, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement that the campaign "has not been provided with meaningful access to numerous counting locations to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process, as guaranteed by Michigan law."

WATCH | Is there a case to halt counting in Michigan?

Does Trump campaign have grounds for Michigan lawsuit?

2 years ago
Duration 3:56
Elections attorney J.C. Planas questioned the Trump campaign's claim that it had no meaningful access to the counting of Michigan ballots, which is the basis of the lawsuit it filed today.

The campaign said it was also suing to temporarily stop the vote count in Pennsylvania, claiming lack of "transparency."

Justin Clark, Trump's deputy campaign manager, said in a statement on Wednesday that the campaign is "suing to stop Democrat election officials from hiding the ballot counting and processing from our Republican poll observers." He said the campaign wants "to temporarily halt counting until there is meaningful transparency and Republicans can ensure all counting is done above board and by the law."

There have been no reports of fraud or any type of ballot concerns out of Pennsylvania. The state had more than 3.1 million mail-in ballots that take time to count, and an order allows them to be counted up until Friday if they are postmarked by Nov. 3.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said he had promised Pennsylvanians they would count every vote and that's what they're going to do.

WATCH | Pennsylvania officials say every vote will be counted: 

Every vote will be counted, Pennsylvania governor says

2 years ago
Duration 2:43
Saying the results may not be known today, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf assured the public that every vote cast in the U.S. presidential election will be counted and that the process will be free of outside influence.  

Trump's campaign and the Georgia Republican Party have filed a lawsuit against the Chatham County Board of Elections asking a judge to order the county to secure and account for ballots received after 7 p.m. local time on election day.

State party chairman David Shafer said in a statement Wednesday night that they planned to sue in a dozen counties. The lawsuit alleges that a Republican observer watched a poll worker take unprocessed absentee ballots from a back room and mix them into processed absentee ballots waiting to be tabulated.

People count votes at a vote tabulation centre inside the State Farm Arena Wednesday in Atlanta, Ga. (Marie Morrissey/CBC News)

Biden takes Michigan, Wisconsin

Biden wins in Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday afternoon brought the electoral college vote tally to 253 for Biden and 214 for Trump, with 270 needed to win the presidency.

Biden told reporters a short time later that he would not be declaring himself the winner of the election, but that he was confident when the counting was finished in all states, he would be ahead. 

"Every vote must be counted," he said from Wilmington, Del. "No one is going to take our democracy away from us."

And he said his victory would be a victory for democracy. 

"Here, the people rule. Power can't be taken or asserted," he said. "It flows from the people. It's their will that determines who will be the president of the United States and theirs alone."

WATCH | Biden says he won't declare his victory, but the vote count will:

'When the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners,' Biden says

2 years ago
Duration 1:14
Democratic presidential candidate tells reporters the day after the election that every vote must be counted, after the Trump campaign has filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Michigan to stop the count.

Margins remain tight

The margins were exceedingly tight in states across the country, with the candidates trading wins in battlegrounds. Trump held Florida, the largest of the swing states, along with Texas and Ohio.

The unsettled presidential race came as Democrats entered election night confident not only in Biden's prospects, but also in the party's chances of taking control of the Senate. However, the Republicans held several seats that were considered vulnerable, including in Iowa, Texas and Kansas. Disappointed Democrats lost House seats but were expected to retain control there.

The high-stakes election was held against the backdrop of a historic pandemic that has killed more than 232,000 Americans and wiped away millions of jobs.

Both candidates spent months pressing dramatically different visions for the nation's future, including on racial justice, and voters responded in huge numbers, with more than 100 million people casting votes ahead of election day.

Trump, in an extraordinary move from the White House, issued premature claims of victory and said he would take the election to the Supreme Court to stop the counting. It was unclear exactly what legal action he could try to pursue.

WATCH | 'We did win this election,' Trump tells supporters:

Trump claims win despite millions of uncounted votes

2 years ago
Duration 1:12
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said as far as he’s concerned he and the Republican Party have won the U.S. election. He said he will go to the U.S. Supreme Court and wants voting to stop. However, several states are still counting votes that have already been cast.

McConnell discounts Trump's claim of victory

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was re-elected Tuesday, discounted the president's quick claim of victory, saying it would take a while for states to conduct their vote counts. The Kentucky Republican said Wednesday that "claiming you've won the election is different from finishing the counting."

The president stayed out of the public eye, but he took to Twitter to suggest, without evidence, that the election was being tainted by late-counted ballots. Twitter flagged a number of Trump's tweets, noting some of the information shared was "disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process."

Vote tabulations routinely continue beyond election day, and states largely set the rules for when the count has to end. In presidential elections, a key point is the date in December when presidential electors meet. That's set by federal law.

WATCH | Protesters try to stop the vote count in one city — and fight for it in another: 

Protests cropping up in cities across U.S.

2 years ago
Duration 1:12
More than two dozen people at a Detroit ballot counting site tried to stop vote counting the day after the U.S. election, while hundreds of New Yorkers marched to demand that all votes be counted.

Campaigns brace for legal challenges

Trump appeared to suggest those ballots should not be counted, and that he would fight for that outcome in court, but legal experts were dubious of his declaration. Trump has appointed three of the Supreme Court's nine justices including, most recently, Amy Coney Barrett.

The Trump campaign on Wednesday pushed Republican donors to dig deeper into their pockets to help finance legal challenges. Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel spoke plainly during a donor call: "The fight's not over. We're in it."

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about early results from the U.S. election in the East Room of the White House in Washington early Wednesday morning. Later on Wednesday, the Trump campaign said it has filed a lawsuit to halt vote counting in Michigan. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, made a pitch on Twitter to supporters to pitch in $5 to help pay for a fight that could "stretch on for weeks."

Democrats typically outperform Republicans in mail voting, while the Republicans look to make up ground in election day turnout. That means the early margins between the candidates could be influenced by which type of votes — early or election day — were being reported by the states.

Throughout the campaign, Trump cast doubt about the integrity of the election and repeatedly suggested that mail-in ballots should not be counted. Both campaigns had teams of lawyers at the ready to move into battleground states if there were legal challenges.

WATCH | Politics professor calls situation 'a full-blown constitutional crisis':

‘A full-blown constitutional crisis,’ says politics prof of Trump’s victory claim

2 years ago
Duration 1:57
Scott Lucas, American politics professor at the University of Birmingham, called Donald Trump’s claim that he has won the U.S. election ‘false’ and explained why he sees this as a ‘constitutional crisis.’


  • An earlier version of this story mistakenly said that the Trump campaign was suing to pause the vote count in Georgia. In fact, it is suing to ask a judge to order election officials in Georgia to follow the law on storing and counting absentee ballots.
    Nov 04, 2020 8:12 PM ET

With files from CBC News and Reuters