In 2019, a group of right-wing political operatives promoted a fundraising website to build a section of border wall, and the site later became the subject of a money-laundering investigation. Now, those same operatives are behind a Facebook group, which went viral Thursday, dedicated to delegitimizing election results that don’t favor President Trump.
On Thursday afternoon, Facebook took down the page, called “Stop The Steal.”
As members of the group repeatedly called for violence and a civil war, leading to turmoil inside Facebook, the group expanded at a rapid pace Thursday morning, topping out at about 350,000 profiles. The group pointed users to organized events, including one in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Thursday afternoon with a “#StopTheSteal” branding.
‘Clown show’: Trumpworld tries to project optimism despite concerns about messaging
The Trump campaign is publicly trying to project optimism about the president’s path forward, but it’s very narrow and relies on holding a lead in one state where Joe Biden is closing the gap — Pennsylvania — and cutting into the lead Biden holds in another state — Arizona. Still, some close to the campaign think there’s a chance — not a big one, but a chance. As one Trump adviser put it, “He has to get lucky everywhere, but this race isn’t over.” Another source familiar, while not confident, pointed out the door isn’t shut entirely: “Is it possible? Sure it is.”
Aides wanted to convince Trump to send a “better” tweet on the election. That’s why he tweeted Thursday to “stop the fraud” after “stop the count.” The aides think fraud is a better message and are trying to get him to stick to it, underscoring that they are struggling with their messaging. There’s also some discomfort from those in the Trump orbit about how the legal strategy’s unfolding, with one person close to the White House calling the legal effort a “clown show.”
That legal blitz is falling apart in key states, with judges tossing out lawsuits in Georgia and Michigan, in both instances because of the lack of evidence to back up the Trump campaign’s claims.
The president, working for part of the day out of the Oval Office, has not made any appearances on camera since his 2:30 a.m. remarks in the East Room the night of the election. But sources indicate he’s been very engaged with updates on the vote count from his team — “all in.”
If Biden does end hitting the 270 threshold, don’t expect an immediate concession — at least not until some of the legal fights shake out: “We’re going to fight until the very end. To the death. Until the last second.”
Nov. 5, 202001:33
Georgia election official says state still has more than 47,000 ballots to count
Gabriel Sterling, the chief operating officer of the Georgia secretary of state’s office, appeared less confident Thursday afternoon that his state would quickly wrap up the counting of votes.
As of 3 p.m. ET, he said that there were 47,277 ballots outstanding that needed to be counted. About 17,000 of those ballots are in Chatham County, where Savannah is located and where the process is moving slowly. Other counties that are still counting ballots include several in the Atlanta metro area.
Sterling said Thursday afternoon that the state is using paper ballots for the first time in 20 years, the counting of which is “going to take time.” When asked for a timeline on when Georgia might finish, he said, “done is a very relative term at this point” because so many races are so close across the state.
Earlier in the day, when Georgia still had 61,000 uncounted ballots, Sterling told reporters at the state Capitol in Atlanta, “We anticipate getting through this process today.”
Nov. 5, 202000:42
Former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney says Trump could run in 2024 if he loses
Trump’s former chief of staff claimed Trump could run for president in the next election if he were to lose to Joe Biden this time around.
Mick Mulvaney, now the U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland, said that the president could unite the country in 2024, in a webinar with the Institute of International and European Affairs.
Mulvaney told Michael Collins, director general of the institute, that 2024 would be the election that will “unite” the country after a “fork in the road.”
When asked about who he thinks would throw their hat in the race, Mulvaney said Trump.
“I’m telling you, absolutely, I would absolutely expect the president to stay involved in politics,” he said. “I would absolutely put him on the shortlist of people who are likely to run in 2024. He doesn’t like losing.”
Trump campaign presses legal challenges as count continues in swing states
President Donald Trump’s campaign continued its legal blitz across key battleground states Thursday, homing in on Pennsylvania with state judges denying or dismissing lawsuits in Georgia and Michigan.
The race for the White House has come down to just a handful of states — particularly Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Arizona, which are all too close to call, according to NBC News. NBC News has projected that Joe Biden has won Michigan and is the apparent winner in Wisconsin, giving the former vice president a narrow lead over Trump. But both remain shy of the 270 delegates needed to win the White House, raising the stakes in the states that remain outstanding, particularly Pennsylvania, with its 20 Electoral College votes.
The president and his allies have repeatedly and falsely suggested that the ongoing count of eligible ballots is a sign of fraud. By Thursday, the president had simplified his message to calls for the regular process of counting ballots to stop entirely.
Photos: Both sides rally in Pennsylvania
‘Let the institutions of our democracy do their jobs,’ Fed Chair Powell says about presidential election
“Continued support from both monetary and fiscal policy” may be needed to overcome the current economic downturn, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Thursday as the central bank wrapped up its two-day monetary policymaking meeting.
When asked by a reporter about the presidential election, Powell said, “I am very reluctant to comment on the election directly, indirectly or at all,” before adding, “It is a good time to step back and let the institutions of our democracy do their jobs.”
The Federal Open Market Committee voted to keep the benchmark interest rate unchanged, holding at 0 to 0.25 percent.
While the Fed has a formidable set of policy tools it can deploy — and has already deployed — to support the economy, it cannot do the one thing economists say households and businesses really need: Offer direct income support, either in the form of stimulus checks or expanded unemployment insurance benefits.
Powell, along with other Fed officials, has urged Congress, in increasingly urgent tones, to come to an agreement and pass another fiscal stimulus package to keep the fragile economic recovery going as Covid-19 cases soar around the country.
Partial victory for Trump campaign in Pennsylvania case
In a tactical victory for the Trump campaign that will have no immediate effect on the vote count, a Pennsylvania appeals court has ordered special handling of mail-in ballots for which voters don’t supply missing proof of identification until next week.
Here’s the issue: The state election code requires those who vote by mail to provide proof of identification. If it’s missing, it can be provided later. The issue is, what’s the deadline? The secretary of state said it’s Nov. 12. The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit asking a court to rule that it’s actually Nov. 9.
The appeals court on Thursday ordered the state to set aside any mailed ballots for which missing voter identification information is supplied between those dates. Those ballots are not to be counted until the court resolves the issue.
Missouri poll worker positive for Covid-19 still worked shift, died after Election Day
A Missouri elections supervisor who knew they tested positive for the coronavirus and still worked at a polling site on Election Day has died.
The unidentified election judge supervisor in St. Charles County tested positive for the virus on Oct. 30 and failed to isolate for the recommended two-week period, the county said on Thursday. It is unclear what caused the election worker’s death.
Instead of isolating as advised by the private lab that provided the test, the election supervisor worked at the Blanchette Park Memorial Hall polling site, where 1,858 voters cast their ballots. County officials do not believe the voters who came through the site would be considered close contacts with the supervisor but nine other election workers have been advised to get tested.
Coronavirus cases in the U.S. have hit record-breaking daily totals for two straight days. The country saw 104,429 new cases Wednesday, breaking the single-day record of 98,583 new cases set last week. There were 120,048 new cases Thursday.
Read more here.
Vote Watch: What worked on Election Day
The NBC News Vote Watch team compiled some bullets on the successes surrounding the 2020 election. Here are some of them:
- Voter participation is at a record high, with more than 142 million votes counted as of Thursday morning. NBC News estimates this will climb to more than 160 million, a record for a presidential election.
- More than 100 million ballots were cast during the early voting period, made possible by secretaries of state who ensured their citizens were able to vote safely during a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 230,000 Americans.
- Despite fears, the Department of Homeland Security was able to say on Election Day that “there doesn’t appear to be any violence anywhere.” While we are monitoring isolated protests across the country, there is currently no widespread unrest.
- Voters respected one another, and there were very few credible reports of voter intimidation at the polls. Poll workers, including the thousands of young people trained to fill the shortage left by older workers sitting this one out due to Covid-19 concerns, have been called the “unsung heroes” of this process.
- The polls closed on Election Day without any evidence of cyber manipulation by foreign governments or criminals. DHS credited the work of federal, state and local election officials who focused on protecting our elections over the past four years, part of a nationwide effort.
- Social media wasn’t the problem many feared it would be. Despite all the worry about widespread hoaxes and false information, this was not the horror scenario some expected.
- So far, ballot counting continues with no reports of significant fraud or systemic issues. On Election Day, machinery issues were limited and addressed.
- Despite multiple controversies, the Postal Service was able to get ballots where they needed to be and is currently not searching for any lost ballots.