Biden edges closer as count continues
Democrat challenger Joe Biden edged closer to victory on Thursday night (AEDT) with a trailing Donald Trump needing an unlikely clean sweep of the remaining four states to win a second term.
As his lawyers launched a flurry of legal challenges in battleground states and Mr Biden surged, Mr Trump was uncharacteristically quiet, hunkering down at the White House as chaotic scenes played out across the country.
Mr Biden on Thursday night (AEDT) exceeded the popular vote lead Hillary Clinton held over Mr Trump in 2016 and racked up electoral college votes that put him within spitting distance of the presidency.
Mr Trump held a diminishing lead in Georgia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina while Nevada was leaning towards Mr Biden.
Controversy surrounds the count in Arizona, which only Fox News and Associated Press have called in Mr Biden's favour and which Team Trump says he can still win.
Poll workers in populous Maricopa County, the second largest electorate in the US, were on Thursday night (AEDT) threatened by a large crowd of protesters who surrounded their building, some of them armed in the open-carry state.
Mr Trump's surrogates also claimed they had won Pennsylvania despite the state's attorney general saying counting could take until the end of the week.
Both sides have started fundraising to pay for lawsuits, reaching out to supporters on the same social media streams they used to raise money for the election race.
Mr Biden was on Thursday night (AEDT) just six votes from the necessary 270 he needs to win, but Mr Trump's team had already launched several legal challenges which could prolong the result for weeks and months.
Earlier, Mr Biden all but declared victory in a brief public appearance in Delaware beside running mate Kamala Harris.
"It is clear that we're winning enough states to reach 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. I'm not here to declare that we've won," a calm and smiling Mr Biden said.
"But I am here to report that when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners."
He promised to try to unite the country if he assumes power but acknowledged that the divisions were so deep that it "won't be easy".
"It's been a hard campaign. Once this election is finalised and behind us it will be time to lower the temperature, to see one another, to hear one another, to unite, to heal, to come together as a nation," Mr Biden said.
"I know this won't be easy."
Mr Biden said Americans on both sides had to stop viewing each other as "enemies".
"Let me be clear; we are campaigning as a Democrat but I will govern as an American president," he said.
"I will work as hard for those who didn't vote for me as for those who did."
Mr Biden may struggle to achieve this even if he does prevail, with his razor-thin victory likely leaving the Senate in Republican hands and the Democrat hold on the House of Representatives diminished.
Mr Trump's legal challenges could also linger for months, increasing tensions across the already troubled country.
"Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key States, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled," Mr Trump wrote in a tweet Thursday (AEDT), which was flagged by Twitter as misleading.
"Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted. VERY STRANGE, and the 'pollsters' got it completely & historically wrong!"
Mr Trump said in a later tweet as ballots continued to come in: "They are finding Biden votes all over the place - in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. So bad for our Country!"
Team Trump has accused Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan of stopping Republican poll watchers from observing their counts and requested a recount in Wisconsin.
Controversial Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is leading the legal efforts, falsely said in Philadelphia that Mr Trump had already won Pennsylvania.
The state has not yet been called and Pennsylvania's lawyer general says the count could take days.
"It is very, very sad that we are here in the city that is really the birthplace of our democracy and this is among one of the most anti democratic things that I have ever encountered," Mr Giuliani said.
"We were supposed to be allowed by law to observe the counting of the ballot."
The observers were being held at a 20 to 30 foot distance from counting and therefore not able to see what was on the ballots.
"Not a single Republican has been able to look at any one of these mailed ballots," he said.
"They could be from Mars as far as we are concerned.
"Joe Biden could have voted 50 times."
Mr Trump's son Eric said: "We're gonna win Pennsylvania, but they're trying to cheat us out of it because they know it's their only path to victory, they know it's the only path to victory."
But in an optimistic sign, Mr Biden on Thursday (AEDT) launched a transition website in anticipation of becoming the 46th president.
"The American people will determine who will serve as the next President of the United States. Votes are still being counted in several states around the country," an unsigned message on the site says.
"The crises facing the country are severe - from a pandemic to an economic recession, climate change to racial injustice - and the transition team will continue preparing at full speed so that the Biden‑Harris Administration can hit the ground running on Day One."
Originally published as Biden edges closer as count continues