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News Brief: Trump Tries To Claim Victory, Biden Says Votes Being Tallied

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It is the morning after Election Day.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And as we very well knew might be the case, we are still awaiting a result. President Trump did better than polls forecast in Florida. Joe Biden won Arizona, which no Democrat has done since 1996. Several states are undecided. Each candidate has made very different statements, Joe Biden urging patience while the president making false claims.

INSKEEP: We will get to those statements but start always with the facts. And with us now are NPR political correspondents Mara Liasson and Scott Detrow. Thanks to you both for a long night of work, and good morning to you.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Happy to be here.

INSKEEP: And Mara, let's start with you. What is the state of the election? I'm looking at npr.org at the electoral map there, the results tabulated by The Associated Press. What do we see?

LIASSON: Yes, this is a time for those maps to get a real workout. What we know is that Joe Biden has 238 electoral votes. Donald Trump has 213. You need 270 to win. And a lot of big, important swing states are not called yet, first and foremost, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. We also don't know about Georgia or North Carolina. But we are still counting votes, and that's where the race stands.

INSKEEP: And I guess we should mention, this is what was expected, particularly if things were close. There were so many more mail-in and absentee ballots this year than in the past that something of a delay would be expected. And we're still - is - am I correct? - in the normal range when you would have an election decision. It's not uncommon.

LIASSON: Absoutely. Yes. Look; we're a polarized country, and it's no surprise that we were also polarized in the way we cast votes. Large numbers of Democrats cast mail-in ballots. Large numbers of Republicans cast their ballots - went into the polling places on Election Day. And in many states, they count the ballots cast on Election Day in person first before they count the mail-in ballots. So we have a couple days to go. We might find out more today. We should say that, you know, one of the big things is that Joe Biden has actually won a state that Donald Trump won in 2016, Arizona. So that makes the path for President Trump a little harder.

INSKEEP: And before we get to the president's statement, I just want to note the way this map continues to change. I've been watching the state of Wisconsin, which was tinted red, meaning that Trump was a little ahead with votes still being counted. And just in the last little while, before you and I began talking, it became tinted blue, meaning Biden is now a little ahead there but certainly not enough to decide it. So things keep changing. Now in that atmosphere, the president, in the early hours of this morning, made a statement at the White House. What was that like, and what did he say?

LIASSON: Now, as expected, Donald Trump falsely claimed victory. He had hinted that he would do that. He said he was going to go to the Supreme Court. He said people were being disenfranchised. Here's a little bit of what he said at the White House.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want to thank the American people for their tremendous support. Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight. And a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people, and we won't stand for it.

LIASSON: He says he's going to the Supreme Court. It's very unclear how he plans to do that or on what legal basis. But the counting continues. And now the challeng is how the news media reports this, his declaration of victory. And we go forward to see what happens.

INSKEEP: And then Scott Detrow has been covering the Biden campaign in Wilmington, Del. And his (ph) campaign has made a couple of different statements with very different messages from Trump's tonight.

DETROW: Yeah. After President Trump prematurely and falsely tried to claim victory, campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon issued a statement that said in part, the president's statement tonight about trying to shut down the counting of duly cast ballots was outrageous, unprecedented and incorrect. It was outrageous because it is a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens.

The Biden campaign clearly anticipated this attempt coming, and that's why Joe Biden spoke around 12:45. He said he saw a clear path to victory in states still counting ballots - Arizona, which has since been called for Biden by The AP, as well as these states we've been talking so much about, the Great Lakes states. And importantly, Biden tried to preempt the president's false claim that this legitimate vote counting was fraudulent.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: As I've said all along, it's not my place or Donald Trump's place to declare who's won this election. That's the decision of the American people.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORNS HONKING)

BIDEN: But I'm optimistic about this outcome.

DETROW: And Steve, in the hours since, we have seen this legitimate, as planned and predicted, counting. As it continues, the picture in one of these case states now looks different with Biden eking out to a slight lead in Wisconsin now based on absentee ballots that were reported just a few minutes ago by Milwaukee.

INSKEEP: And just to emphasize again, we're not going to call this race until it's called. We're not going to call things until they're known, and there are a number of states where the counting is still going on. And Biden leads some of them, and Trump leads some of them. And we go on.

Biden's statement seemed to be a little more in line with what a traditional candidate would say in this circumstance. Correct, Scott? I mean, he didn't say, I think I've lost. He didn't say, it's totally - he says, I hope I will win. I believe I will win and have patience.

DETROW: That's right. All night and all morning, Democrats have told me they see a clear path to victory here. They, of course, are deeply worried about what they saw as the worst-case scenario of an information vacuum and confusing results. They've been concerned all along that President Trump would make claims like he made last night. But I think one thing to point out politically, lost in this conversation right now is that Georgia is in the same spot as Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Biden is currently behind but with a lot of outstanding early ballots from big cities in surrounding Democratic areas. So for all the talk of Biden underperforming in places like Florida, he does have a chance to possibly be in the mix in Georgia as Georgia counts its votes in the Atlanta area this morning.

INSKEEP: I guess, Mara, those are two big trends here - one of them that Republicans remain strong in places where they seem to be vulnerable, like Florida and Texas; but the other that Biden made inroads in Arizona, as you said, and has a chance to flip Georgia, which would make this electoral map look very different should that happen.

LIASSON: Yes, very different. And just the fact that Biden won Arizona, a place where a Democrat hasn't won in a long time, shows you that the map has changed. This was not, at least from what we're seeing now, a huge blue wave. But there's still enough paths for Biden to win that keep Democrats hopeful. And now the big question is, what do other Republicans say? Do they echo the president's false claim that he actually has won? We don't know yet if the president is going to say that vote counting should be stopped. But right now, Trump still needs to win two of the three blue wall states - Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania - in order to win. Biden can afford to lose Pennsylvania if he wins Michigan and Wisconsin.

INSKEEP: OK. All right. Well, thank you very much for your work all night. That's NPR's Mara Liasson and Scott Detrow. I was about to say get some rest, but I doubt you'll have an opportunity to do that. We'll keep hearing from you...

DETROW: No time soon - thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Thank you very much for your work.

Now, as we had expected with the big volume of mail-in ballots this election, Michigan, which Mara just mentioned, is doing the work of counting all those votes.

MARTIN: Yeah, Michigan holds 16 electoral votes. And as in years past, it has become a decisive state for both candidates.

INSKEEP: NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea knows Michigan well and is in Detroit. Hey there, Don.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What's the night been like?

GONYEA: I was in a Detroit vote center in one of those massive ballrooms in the convention center downtown where I'm used to seeing glitzy auto show displays and all of that going on. But it was just row after row after row of long tables and people looking at absentee ballots and counting them and sorting them before they fed them into a machine, a very tedious process. But it's - every absentee ballot in Detroit went through that room.

INSKEEP: Is there any sense of when Michigan might give us a result?

GONYEA: So initially, the secretary of state said because of that heavy load - about 60% of the total vote in the state that fall under the category of absentee ballots - that it wouldn't be all wrapped up until Friday. And the reason for that was because they couldn't start counting them until yesterday. There was some sorting that went on on Monday, but the actual count of all of those absentee ballots - 2 million-plus - didn't start until yesterday. It's a very tedious process. But yesterday, the secretary of state did say that it is possible now that they'll have it all wrapped up by maybe 9 o'clock tonight or so. So that would be 24 hours after the polls closed, a lot quicker than originally anticipated.

INSKEEP: OK. So 9 o'clock Eastern Time, I guess we're talking about there tonight...

GONYEA: That's correct.

INSKEEP: ...It's possible we have a result. And we should just note, also, just to remind people of the process here, we may be able to call Michigan before every single ballot has been counted if one candidate gets far enough ahead that it's just mathematically impossible for the other to catch up. But we are not in that circumstance now. This is still an open race. And you've seen a lot of these presidential races, so you know the process, Don.

GONYEA: Indeed. And about 75 to 80% have been tallied already. President Trump is ahead by 240,000 votes. But again, maybe more than a million of those absentee ballots are outstanding. And there outstanding in places like Wayne County, which includes Detroit. Again, that's where I was camped out, and that is a place where Joe Biden has a big lead. And there are a lot of votes for him to make up there, especially among those early mail-in votes. Oakland County, the Detroit suburb, college-educated voters, a big shift to the Democrats in recent years in that county - 80% of it's counted. Biden has a lead there. So those are still outstanding. So those will move the numbers.

INSKEEP: Don, thanks very much - really appreciate your insights.

GONYEA: All right. But we'll be here.

INSKEEP: Well, I imagine you will at least till 9 o'clock Eastern time tonight...

GONYEA: (Laughter) Yes.

INSKEEP: ...And perhaps a lot longer. We shall see.

So that is where we stand as of this moment - neither candidate at 270 electoral votes. We will continue to bring you updates throughout the day and throughout as many days as it takes. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.