WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden told Americans on Monday that “democracy prevailed” as electors nationwide cast votes affirming his victory in last month’s election, saying the country’s governing principles withstood being “pushed, tested, threatened” by repeated, baseless claims of fraud championed by President Donald Trump.
In a speech from his longtime home of Wilmington, Delaware, Biden aimed to guide Americans past the tumult of the campaign and Trump’s refusal to accept defeat.
“If anyone didn’t know it before, we know it now. What beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this: democracy,” Biden said. “The right to be heard. To have your vote counted. To choose the leaders of this nation. To govern ourselves.”
After garnering a record of more than 81 million votes, Biden is still trying to build momentum as he prepares to assume the presidency on Jan. 20. That’s been complicated by Trump refusing to concede while instead pursuing legal challenges that have been roundly rejected by judges across the political spectrum, including the justices at the Supreme Court.
In his most forceful language to date, Biden noted that he received 7-plus million more votes than Trump and that the 306 electoral votes that secured his victory was the same number Trump got when winning the presidency four years ago. He added that, in 2016, Trump called his Electoral College win “a landslide.”
“By his own standards, these numbers represent a clear victory then, and I respectfully suggest they do so now,” Biden said.
He said the Trump-backed case that the Supreme Court unanimously rejected “tried to wipe out votes of more than 20 million Americans in other states and hand the presidency to a president who lost the Electoral College, lost the popular vote and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse.”
Biden said that while Trump’s actions threatened core democratic norms, the institutions that protect the rights of Americans didn’t crumble.
“In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant it to them,” the president-elect said. “The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing — not even a pandemic — or an abuse of power — can extinguish that flame.”
The fact that he had to even give such a speech shortly after electors voted to make him the president — a usually routine and even mundane step — shows how extraordinary the post-election period has been, with Trump trying to thwart Biden at every turn.
Despite that, Biden struck a familiar theme of his presidential campaign, pledging to be “a president for all Americans” who will “work just as hard for those of you who didn’t vote for me as I will for those who did.”
“Now it is time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history,” he said. “To unite. To heal.”
He said that was the only way the country could overcome the worst health crisis in more than a century, saying that in the face of the pandemic, “we need to work together, give each other a chance and lower the temperature.”
Whether his message of unity will have any effect remains to be seen. Top Republicans have mostly continued to back Trump and his unsubstantiated claims of a rigged election and, even once Biden takes power, are unlikely to give him any of the traditional honeymoon period.
Biden recalled that one of his jobs as vice president four years ago was to formally recognize Trump’s electoral victory in the Senate after 2016, and he said he expected the same process to occur this time — saluting the small number of GOP senators who have acknowledged his victory. But there are many other leading Republicans who have continued to side with Trump.
And after losing dozens of legal challenges on the state and federal level, Trump is expected to push forward with new litigation this week. Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani says he expects five more lawsuits at the state level.
Even after he takes the White House, Biden faces a narrowly divided Senate. Next month’s runoff elections in Georgia will decide which party controls the chamber. There’s also a thinned Democratic majority in the House as the GOP picked up seats even as Trump lost.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is set to hold a hearing Wednesday on election “irregularities.” Johnson has questioned why Congress wasn’t informed that the taxes of Biden’s son Hunter were under federal investigation during Trump’s impeachment trial last year.
The president was acquitted in a Senate trial that centered on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine’s president and on whether he abused his office by seeking an investigation into the Bidens. Hunter Biden served on the board of directors of a Ukrainian energy company.
The younger Biden said in a statement last week that he just recently learned that he was under investigation. He also said he committed no wrongdoing.
Biden’s deputy chief of staff, Jen O’Malley Dillon downplayed the notion that the investigation could hamper Biden’s ability to pursue his agenda.
“The president-elect himself has said this is not about his family or Donald Trump’s family,” O’Malley Dillon said. “It is about the American people’s families. And I think we’re going to continue to stay focused on the issues that are impacting their daily lives.”
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