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Trump Again Signals Objections to Pandemic Aid Bill

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U.S. President Donald Trump indicated Saturday his continued objections to a pandemic relief and government funding package that he sharply criticized earlier this week.

The larger checks have been seen as a rebuke to members of his own Republican Party, which had resisted Democratic efforts to negotiate larger payments.

The president is spending the holiday at his Florida resort as Democrats and Republicans wait to see whether he will sign the $2.3 trillion spending legislation, which includes $892 billion for coronavirus relief. The bill has been flown from Washington to his Mar-a-Lago club to be available if he decides to sign it into law.

Trump has not specifically threatened to veto the bill, but he surprised lawmakers in both parties by calling it a “disgrace” after it had been passed in the House and Senate, capping months of negotiations.

Meanwhile, 14 million Americans are about to lose unemployment benefits, according to Labor Department data. The White House had no updates as to whether Trump would sign the bill by Monday, an official told Reuters.

President-elect Joe Biden called on Trump to sign the bill.

“This abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences. … This bill is critical. It needs to be signed into law now,” Biden, who is spending the holiday in his home state of Delaware, said in a statement.

A partial federal government shutdown also would begin early Tuesday if Trump does not sign the bill. Congress is planning to return to work Monday, interrupting its usual Christmas recess, and could take up a stopgap measure to extend government funding for a few days or weeks while the impasse is resolved.

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Defense bill vote

House members are also scheduled to vote Monday to override Trump’s veto of a $740 billion bill authorizing the country’s defense programs. If the House vote passes, the Senate could vote on the measure as early as Tuesday. It requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers to override a presidential veto.

Trump has criticized the defense bill on several fronts, arguing without explanation that the bill benefits China, and has demanded the removal of language that allows for the renaming of military bases that honor Confederate leaders. He has also demanded the addition of a provision making it easier to sue social media companies over content posted by their users.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s veto “an act of staggering recklessness that harms our troops.”

However, Pelosi has embraced Trump’s call for $2,000 direct payments to all Americans below a specified income level, and on Thursday used a maneuver to force Republicans to defy Trump by blocking the increase.

Pelosi has announced plans to force another vote on the issue Monday. It is likely to be passed in the House, where Democrats have a majority, but unlikely to progress in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The White House declined to share details of the president’s schedule during his Christmas holiday. It said only: “During the holiday season, President Trump will continue to work tirelessly for the American people. His schedule includes many meetings and calls.”

Trump was photographed playing golf at his Florida course near Mar-a-Lago both Thursday and Friday. Reports said he was joined on the course Christmas Day by his close ally, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

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Amid Pandemic, US Farmers Endure Another Year of Uncertainty

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BLOOMINGTON, ILLINOIS – After reaching a “phase one” agreement with China in January, temporarily cooling a heated trade dispute between the United States and one of the largest markets for its crops, farmers like Brian Duncan in Illinois were optimistic.

“No matter if you liked how we got there or not, we felt like we were ready to move forward with some trade,” Duncan told VOA at the Illinois Farm Bureau’s headquarters in Bloomington, where he also serves as vice president of the organization. “Then, obviously, COVID hit in March.”

But even as the U.S. economy shut down in many parts of the country to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, panic was initially hard to find on Scott Halpin’s farm in Grundy County, Illinois.

“Fortunately, we’re just a family farm, and it’s just a few of us so we don’t have a great deal of exposure,” Halpin told VOA during a break in tending to his cows, which roamed the muddy fields behind his barn. “We still have to get up and feed these animals, and they really don’t care if we’ve got COVID-19 or not.”

But the virus reached workers at several meat processing plants throughout the Midwest and quickly spread, curbing production that created a ripple effect through the U.S. food chain, leading to an oversupply of livestock and an undersupply of meat on store shelves.

“The market has fallen off the cliff over the last two weeks,” Duncan told VOA during a Skype interview in April. “Hogs on our farm, the price has dropped 50%.”

The market for soybeans – a key source of feed for livestock — also tanked along with prices for corn, which when converted to ethanol, is used in gasoline. Demand for fuel plummeted when motorists stayed home to avoid the virus.

Corn is one of Illinois farmer Fred Greider’s key sources of income.

“Every one of my corn acres produces enough fuel for about 80 cars to run on through the year,” he said. “For each car parked, or miles reduced, it directly affects the demand for ethanol, which is the primary use of our corn.”

With a pandemic they could not control or avoid as the backdrop, U.S. farmers endured another year of uncertainty as coronavirus-related supply disruptions created whipsaw market fluctuations that impacted almost every aspect of their livelihood.

As a result, billions in government aid flowed to farmers to help soften the blow of market disruptions caused by shuttering the economy as the virus spread.

While the U.S. is now grappling with the deadliest phase of the pandemic to date, the food supply chain is stable. China is also buying more U.S. crops, fueling optimism – and price increases.

China has “huge needs,” Greider said, “and they’ve exhausted supply in Brazil. Brazil is actually buying some grain from us now to carry them through to their harvest.”

With this year’s harvest complete, farmers are looking at new uncertainty in 2021 as the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden tackles the pandemic, inherits a trade war and installs new agency heads key to farm policy, such as the chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who held the post under President Barack Obama, is Biden’s choice for the post.

“To some extent it’s going to be Biden wanting to go back to what he believes would be the successful policies of the Obama administration,” University of Iowa political science professor Tim Hagle said. He added that it won’t be easy, or practical, for the incoming Biden administration to undo some of the policies enacted under President Donald Trump.

“They have to combine the old with the new and deal with today’s reality,” Hagle said.

It’s a reality that many farmers who might not have voted for Biden are coming to terms with.

“I hope this administration, like any administration, would look out for rural America,” farmer Duncan said. “I would look for more trade deals, biofuel usage, economic stability, a farm bill that provides an economic backstop. All those things I’m hopeful we’ll get, it’s just too soon to know, but I’m hopeful for the best.”

 

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Ivanka Trump questioned over inauguration funds ‘misuse’

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President Trump’s daughter Ivanka has been questioned under oath over claims that not-for-profit funds were misused at Mr Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

A lawsuit launched by District of Columbia (DC) Attorney General Karl Racine alleges that Mr Trump’s real estate business and other entities misused the funds to enrich the Trumps.

Mr Trump’s Washington hotel is alleged to have been “grossly overpaid”.

Ivanka Trump has denounced the case as “politically motivated”.

In a tweet she shared a screengrab purported to be of an email in which she suggested the hotel be paid a “fair market rate”.

“This ‘inquiry’ is another politically motivated demonstration of vindictiveness and waste of taxpayer dollars,” she said.

The White House has not yet commented.

However, the inaugural committee has said its finances were independently audited and none of the money was spent unlawfully.

What are the allegations?

The lawsuit alleges that a tax-exempt non-profit organisation called the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee worked with the Trump family to overpay for event space at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

In one case, the lawsuit alleges, the non-profit organisation paid more than $300,000 (£222,000) for a private reception at the Trump International Hotel for Mr Trump’s three eldest children, Donald Jnr, Ivanka and Eric.

The event took place on the evening of 20 January 2017, the day of Mr Trump’s inauguration.

Earlier this year, Mr Racine said: “District law requires non-profits to use their funds for their stated public purpose, not to benefit private individuals or companies.”

His lawsuit is seeking to recover more than $1m in alleged improper payments made to the Trump International Hotel during the week of the inauguration.

Mr Racine’s office has subpoenaed records from people including Ivanka Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and Thomas Barrack Jnr, a friend of Mr Trump’s and the chairman of the inaugural committee, according to the Washington Post newspaper.

How has Ivanka responded?

She tweeted that she had spent more than five hours being interviewed at the office of Mr Racine, a Democrat who became DC attorney general in 2015.

She said lawyers had asked her about the rates charged by the Trump International Hotel for events at the inauguration – and said she had shared the email in which she directs the hotel to charge a “fair market rate” with them.

Ivanka Trump has been working as a senior adviser to President Trump, as has her husband Jared Kushner.

What are the rules around inauguration funds?

Inauguration committees are appointed by the president-elect to be in charge of the inaugural ceremony and related events and activities.

The committee can accept unlimited donations, including from companies. All donations have to be disclosed to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Mr Trump’s inaugural committee raised $107m – the biggest ever, according to FEC filings.

Richard Gates – who was one of several Trump associates convicted in relation to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election – was the inaugural committee’s deputy chairman.

 

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US, Estonia Partnered to Search Out Cyber Threat From Russia

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WASHINGTON – In a modern twist on old-fashioned war games, the U.S. military dispatched cyber fighters to Estonia this fall to help the small Baltic nation search out and block potential cyber threats from Russia. The goal was not only to help a NATO partner long targeted by its powerful neighbor but also to gain insight on Russian tactics that could be used against the U.S. and its elections.

The U.S. Cyber Command operation occurred in Estonia from late September to early November, officials from both countries disclosed this week, just as the U.S. was working to safeguard its election systems from foreign interference and to keep coronavirus research from the prying reach of hackers in countries including Russia and China.

Estonian officials say they found nothing malicious during the operation.

The mission, an effort analogous to two nations working jointly in a military operation on land or sea, represents an evolution in cyber tactics by U.S. forces who had long been more accustomed to reacting to threats but are now doing more — including in foreign countries — to glean advance insight into malicious activity and to stop attacks before they reach their targets.

The Defense Department has worked to highlight that more aggressive “hunt forward” strategy in recent years, particularly after Russia interfered through hacking and covert social media campaigns in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. American officials were on high alert for similar interference in 2020 but described no major problems on Nov. 3.

“When we look at the threats that we face, from Russia or other adversaries, it really is all about the partnerships and our ability to expand really the scope, scale and pace of operations in order to make it more difficult for adversaries to execute operations either in the United States, Estonia or other places,” Brig. Gen. William Hartman, commander of the Cyber National Mission Force, said in a conference call with a small group of reporters this week.

Estonia, a former Soviet republic, was in some ways a natural fit for a partnership with Cyber Command because in years past it has been a cyber target of nearby Russia, including crippling attacks on government networks in 2007.

Estonian officials say they have since strengthened their cyber defenses, created a cybersecurity strategy and developed their own cyber command, which like the U.S. version is part of the country’s military.

While nothing malicious was found on the networks during the exercise, “what we did learn is how the U.S. conducts these kinds of operations, which is definitely useful for us because there are a lot of kind of capability developments that we are doing right now,” said Mihkel Tikk, a deputy commander in Estonia’s Cyber Command.

Tikk added: “In some areas, it is wise to learn from others than having to reinvent the wheel.”
Hartman declined to discuss specifics of the operation but said the networks in Estonia were “very well defended.”

“I don’t want anyone to leave here with the impression that Estonian networks were full of adversary activity from a broad range of nation states” because that is not the case, he added.

Gen. Paul Nakasone, the commander of Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency, has hinted at a more aggressive, proactive federal government approach to cyber threats.

In an August piece for Foreign Affairs magazine, for instance, Nakasone wrote that U.S cyber fighters have moved away from a “reactive, defensive posture” and are increasingly engaging in combat with foreign adversaries online.

Cyber Command has worked in past years with countries including Montenegro and North Macedonia on similar missions. Estonian officials say they believe the partnership could be a deterrent to countries such as Russia.

“These kinds of operations, I think, they will continue,” said Undersecretary of Defense Margus Matt. But, he added, “I don’t know how much we will speak of them publicly.”

U.S. officials say they think the risks of a proactive approach — a country, for instance, could regard such an operation as a provocation toward a broader international cyber conflict — are outweighed by the benefits.

“We believe that inaction in cyberspace contributes to escalation more than reasonable action in cyberspace,” said Thomas Wingfield, deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy.

 

 

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Nevada now has one COVID-19 case a minute, one death per two hours

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The coronavirus is spreading so fast in Nevada that one person is diagnosed with it every minute and someone is dying from it every two hours, state health officials said Wednesday.

Nearly half of the state’s 142,239 total cases since the start of the pandemic in March have occurred since September — fully one-fourth of those in the month of November and 10 percent in just the last seven days, according to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services

“We have COVID-19 exploding in our community. It is spreading rapidly,” Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick told reporters in Reno. “We have exponential growth going on.”

While the majority of the state’s cases and 2,071 total deaths have been reported in Clark County — the most populous county that includes Las Vegas — the Reno-Sparks area in Washoe County has been hit the hardest in recent weeks.

“We have four times as many people in Washoe County that are actively infected with COVID-19 as we did a month ago,” Dick said.

Nearly half of all the coronavirus cases in Washoe County have been confirmed in just the past month, a total now of 22,726.

By comparison, Dick said, the latest surge has resulted in more than twice as many cases per 100,000 people in the Reno-Sparks area as the previous biggest spike in Las Vegas this summer.

“We are at 214 percent of the peak Clark County experienced in late July,” he said.

Washoe County has reported 59 additional deaths since Oct. 25 — 30 of those in just the past six days, including six on Tuesday for a cumulative total of 259.

The county’s seven-day moving average for new cases has more than tripled over the past month, from 140 on Oct. 25 to 513 on Wednesday. Active cases have grown during that period from 1,872 to 7,864.

Nevada reported another record number of hospitalizations for the fourth time in two weeks, a total of 1,414 on Wednesday (146 suspected plus 1,268 confirmed). Health officials said that’s enough people to fill nine commercial airliners.

Counting COVID and non-COVID patients, 84 percent of Washoe County’s staffed hospital beds are occupied, the highest rate in the state.

The state’s 14-day positivity rate has continued to rise to 16.5 percent on Wednesday. Clark County has confirmed 109,827 positive cases and 1,719 COVID-19 deaths as of Wednesday.

Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, has been reluctant to order business closures like he did in March. But he announced the state’s most expansive mask mandate to date Sunday and reduced the capacity at casinos, restaurants, bars and many other businesses from 50 percent to 25 percent.

Meanwhile, the Washoe County School District is suspending in-class instruction for middle schools and high schools beginning next week as part of an effort to curtail the spread of the virus.

The school board voted late Tuesday to continue to offer classroom teaching for elementary schools. But beginning Dec. 2, secondary students will switch to strictly distance learning instead of the current hybrid model that combines remote teaching and in-class instruction.

Both decisions came on 5-1 votes.

Middle- and high-school students currently are scheduled to return to some in-person learning on Jan. 4. But school board members intend to review the situation again at their Dec. 8 meeting.

In Las Vegas, Clark County announced earlier this week that public buildings except McCarran International Airport and University Medical Center will close and that government center activities that can’t be conducted virtually will be canceled. Las Vegas City Hall will remain open with public health guidelines enforced, city officials said.

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Trump administration kills plans for Alaskan gold mine

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The Trump administration denied a permit to build a massive gold and copper mine in Alaska that could have put the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery at risk.

In a surprise move, the Army Corps of Engineers said “the proposed project is contrary to the public interest” in killing a permit to build the Pebble Mine under both the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act, the agency said in a statement.

The decision is in contrast to President Trump’s efforts to encourage energy development in Alaska, including drilling in part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other moves nationwide to removing environmental regulations that would benefit oil and gas exploration and other industries.

After nearly two decades of political wrangling, the Army Corps of Engineers signaled in August that the project wouldn’t go forward, informing the developer that it would have to clear environmental hurdles and create a mitigation plan before it could be approved.

The project proposed for the southwestern Bristol Bay region was opposed by Donald Trump Jr. and Vice President Mike Pence’s former chief of staff Nick Ayers. Joe Biden in August vowed to stop the mine from being developed, if he was elected.

“It is no place for a mine,” he said at the time. “The Obama-Biden Administration reached that conclusion when we ran a rigorous, science-based process in 2014, and it is still true today.”

John Shively, the CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, the mine’s developers, said he was dismayed by the decision.

“One of the real tragedies of this decision is the loss of economic opportunities for people living in the area,” Shively said in a statement.

The environmental review “clearly describes those benefits, and now a politically driven decision has taken away the hope that many had for a better life. This is also a lost opportunity for the state’s future economy.”

Meanwhile, Alaskan residents cheered the news.

“Today Bristol Bay’s residents and fishermen celebrate the news that Pebble’s permit has been denied; tomorrow we get back to work,” said Katherine Carscallen, executive director of the group Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay.

The group wants Congress to pass laws protecting the region.

“We’ve learned the hard way over the last decade that Pebble is not truly dead until protections are finalized,” Carscallen said.

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Barack Obama to receive PEN America’s Voice of Influence award

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Former President Barack Obama is set to receive a PEN America award following the release of his best-selling memoir “A Promised Land.”

The free speech activist group announced Wednesday that it was awarding its second annual Voice of Influence Award to the 44th president, recognizing how his writings “have traversed political, social and ideological bounds and framed a self-reflective humanism that has marked his influence on public life.”

Presentation of the award will be held virtually on Dec. 8 with a discussion between Obama and award-winning author and historian Ron Chernow on the freedom to write, the nonprofit said.

Obama’s book came out last week and sold more than 1.7 million copies in its first week — making it the best-selling book in Penguin Random House’s history. He’s also penned “Dreams from My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.”

“As an organization of writers, we have always seen President Obama not just as a leader, but as one of us: an author,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel in a statement. “His probing and evocative narratives helped introduce the world to his unique background, and the power of his life experience as a prompt toward a more pluralistic and encompassing society.”

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay was the recipient of PEN America’s first Voice of Influence Award last year.

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Trump testifies by phone at state GOP election-fraud hearing in Pennsylvania

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President Trump on Wednesday phoned into a public hearing on election issues in Pennsylvania and declared that his loss to Joe Biden was the result of cheating by Democrats.

“This was an election that we won easily. We won it by a lot,” Trump said.

“This election was rigged and we can’t let that happen … This election has to be turned around.”

Pennsylvania has already certified its results and awarded its 20 electors to Biden, who on Monday was formally notified that the Trump administration was ready to start the transition process.

Those moves came after a federal judge threw out the Trump campaign’s most important suit challenging Biden’s victory in the Keystone State — a ruling that the campaign filed paperwork to appeal.

Trump offered the comments at a hearing in Gettysburg that was convened by Republican members of the Pennsylvania state Senate Policy Committee.

Trump said he’d heard “horror stories” about the election that included claims of ballots that were “dumped all over the place.”

“There were rough tactics,” the president said.

Trump alleged that an unidentified “elderly woman” showed up to a polling place to vote on Election Day but was told, “You already voted. Your ballot is in.”

“She said, ‘No, I want to vote,’” he said. “Then they gave her a provisional ballot.”

Trump also alleged that Democrats were “flooding the market,” with some people “getting two and three and four ballots at their home.”

“Dead people were requesting ballots and they were dead for years,” he said.

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Joe Biden urges nation to ‘forgo family traditions’ on Thanksgiving

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President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday called on Americans not to gather with extended families for Thanksgiving, saying it was a “patriotic duty” to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Biden said during an at times campaign-like speech in Wilmington, Del., that he and his family were setting an example by not celebrating the holiday as a large group.

“This year we are asking Americans to forgo so many of the traditions that we’ve long made this holiday,” Biden said.

“This year, because we care so much for each other, we’re going to be having a separate Thanksgiving for Jill and I, who will be at our home in Delaware with our daughter and our son-in-law. The rest of the family will be doing the same thing in small groups,” Biden said.

“I know how hard it is to forgo family traditions. But it is so very important. Our country’s in the middle of a dramatic spike in cases. We are now averaging 160,000 new cases a day.”

The former vice president said that the stakes are high if people flout health guidance.

“Many local health systems are at risk of being overwhelmed. That’s the plain and simple truth. … I believe you always deserve to hear the truth, hear the truth from your president,” Biden said.

“We have to try to slow the growth of this virus. We owe it to the doctors and nurses and other front-line workers — care workers who risked their lives, some lost their lives, put so much on the line in the heroic battle against this virus … We owe that to our fellow citizens who need access to hospital beds and care. We owe it to one another. It’s literally our patriotic duty as Americans. It means wearing a mask, keeping social distance, limiting the size of any group we’re in until we have a vaccine. These are the most effective tools to combat the virus.”

Biden reprised a campaign line that was frequently bashed by President Trump’s campaign, warning, “We find ourselves again facing a long, hard winter,” which he likened to starvation among Revolutionary War troops in the 1700s.

Biden will take office on Jan. 20 during the early stages of vaccine distribution. The Food and Drug Administration meets on Dec. 10 to review a vaccine candidate application filed last week by Pfizer, which clinical trials data indicates is about 95 percent effective.

Biden, who turned 78 last week, has pursued a starkly different approach than Trump toward avoiding personal exposure to the virus. Whereas Trump held large rallies and was infected with the virus in October, Biden relegated supporters to socially distant vehicles for “drive-in” rallies and put reporters in spaced-out bubbles during rare press conferences.

In his 17-minute minute pre-Thanksgiving address, Biden insisted that “none of these steps we’re asking people to take are political statements. Every one is based on science.”

He said “the federal government can’t do this alone. Each of us has a responsibility in our own lives to do what we can do to slow the virus. Every decision we make matters.”

Biden said that “life is going to return to normal” and that “I still believe we have much to be thankful for.”

“First, let’s be thankful for democracy itself,” Biden said, referring to his own election victory.

Biden said that a “this grim season of demonization and division” under Trump “is going to give way to a year of light” and a “more compassionate chapter in the life of our nation.”

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US election 2020: Biden wins Georgia recount as Trump setbacks mount

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US President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia has been confirmed by a recount, as legal efforts by Donald Trump’s allies to challenge his defeat were dismissed in three states.

The Democrat beat his Republican rival in Georgia by 12,284 votes, according to the audit required by state law.

Mr Biden said Mr Trump knew he was not going to win and had shown “incredible irresponsibility” by not conceding.

The Democrat is set to take office in January as the 46th US president.

Mr Biden’s victory margin in the public vote overall stands at more than 5.9 million. His victory in the US Electoral College system, which determines who becomes president, is projected to be 306 to 232 – far above the 270 he needs to win.

Mr Trump has so far refused to concede and has made allegations of widespread electoral fraud, without providing any evidence.

What happened in Georgia?

On Thursday, Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, said the hand audit of ballots had not altered Mr Biden’s victory in the state.

“Georgia’s historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state’s new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results,” Mr Raffensberger, a Republican, said in a statement.

“This is a credit to the hard work of our county and local elections officials who moved quickly to undertake and complete such a momentous task in a short period of time.”

The Democrats’ victory is their first in a presidential race in Georgia since Bill Clinton was elected in 1992.

The recount found the error rate was no greater than 0.73% in any county and Mr Biden’s margin of victory over Mr Trump remained at under 0.5%. The results will be certified on Friday.

Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis said the audit had gone “exactly as we expected” because, she said without evidence, the state had recounted illegal ballots.

But Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who serves as Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, told CNN on Thursday: “One of the big complaints is these machines somehow flipped votes or changed votes or did stuff. They didn’t, at least not in Georgia. We proved it.”

During the audit this week, nearly 6,000 untallied votes were found – paring back Mr Biden’s lead slightly – but they were the result of human error and not fraud, Mr Sterling has said.

Officials in Floyd County have fired their election manager over the matter, local media reported on Thursday.

What did Mr Biden say?

He was speaking after a virtual meeting with governors, including Democrats and Republicans, about the coronavirus crisis.

Asked about Mr Trump’s lack of concession, Mr Biden said the president was sending “incredibly damaging messages… to the rest of the world about how democracy functions” and that he would be remembered “as being one of the most irresponsible presidents in American history”.

“It’s hard to fathom how this man thinks,” he continued, adding: “It’s just outrageous what he’s doing.”

Of the election result, the Democratic president-elect – who is due to take office in January – said: “The vast majority of people believe it’s legitimate.”

“Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election,” he wrote.

“It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.”

What of the legal challenges?

In a matter of hours on Thursday, Mr Trump’s allies were dealt legal setbacks in Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Republicans lost their final lawsuit in Georgia as a court rejected their effort to block the results’ certification, which is due to happen on Friday. The judge who dismissed the case was appointed by Mr Trump last year.

In Arizona, a judge rejected a lawsuit filed last week by the state Republican Party seeking a new audit of ballots in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix – the state capital and largest city.

In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign lost their bid in state court to throw out more than 2,000 postal ballots.

At a Thursday briefing, Mr Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani continued to lay out unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and accusations of electoral fraud.

He railed against the reporting of his team’s legal challenges, saying the media had shown an “irrational pathological hatred for the president”.

Mr Giuliani also said the campaign was withdrawing its last remaining lawsuit in Michigan. He said it had achieved its aim of stopping the certification of the result in one key county.

However, the vice-chairman of Wayne County’s canvassing board said an attempt by its two Republican members to rescind their earlier certification of the result was invalid, and the certification was binding.

One of the Republicans said Mr Trump had called her personally after the vote had been certified “to make sure I was safe”.

Mr Biden won the county by a huge margin, according to unofficial results, and prevailed in Michigan by about 146,000 votes.

What could Trump’s next move be?

One possibility that US media are speculating on is that he will try to get Republican-friendly state legislatures in key states to override the choice of voters and instead select members of the US Electoral College who would be favourable to the president.

Mr Trump has invited Michigan’s Republican lawmakers to the White House on Friday, hinting at a possible change in tactics.

Instead of winning by direct popular vote, a US president must accumulate a majority of “electors” that each state is designated according to its congressional representation.

Most states determine these based on who won the popular vote there.

But federal law says statehouse legislators have the power to pick electors if the state has “failed to make a choice”.

This would appear a long shot as no evidence of electoral fraud has been shown and to potentially disenfranchise millions of voters would spark uproar.

Reuters news agency quoted one source familiar with the Trump strategy as saying it was now a “more targeted approach towards getting the legislators engaged”.

But one of the Michigan lawmakers going to the White House, Mike Shirkey, said earlier this week that the legislature appointing electors was “not going to happen”.

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