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Trump tweets 'stop the count' as legal vote counting continues

President TrumpDonald TrumpFreedom Caucus member condemns GOP group pushing 'Anglo-Saxon political traditions' MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's new free speech site to ban certain curse words Secret Facebook groups of special operations officers include racist comments, QAnon posts: report MORE on Thursday demanded that ballots stop being counted in the presidential race, as returns showed his path to reelection significantly narrowed against Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenFour members of Sikh community among victims in Indianapolis shooting Overnight Health: NIH reverses Trump's ban on fetal tissue research | Biden investing .7B to fight virus variants | CDC panel to meet again Friday on J&J On The Money: Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats | Justice Dept. sues Trump ally Roger Stone for unpaid taxes MORE, remarks his campaign later sought to clarify.

“STOP THE COUNT!” Trump tweeted cryptically Thursday morning, as workers across the country continued to count legally cast ballots, many of them received by mail, in order to determine a final result in the election.

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"ANY VOTE THAT CAME IN AFTER ELECTION DAY WILL NOT BE COUNTED!" Trump later tweeted. Twitter put a warning label on that post and wrote "Some votes may still need to be counted."

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Several states allow extra days for the receipt of ballots postmarked by Election Day. These include the swing states of Pennsylvania and North Carolina, which are allowing ballots mailed by Election Day to be received up to three and nine days after, respectively, to be counted. The Supreme Court has allowed those extensions to remain.

Pennsylvania also did not allow officials to begin counting the hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots until Election Day.

Trump's remarks come as his lead over Biden in Pennsylvania and Georgia steadily narrows as ballots are counted. Yet Biden also leads Trump in Arizona, where the gap also narrowed between the two candidates overnight. Stopping the count in Arizona would leave Biden ahead.

Biden also leads in Nevada, though a number of ballots have yet to be counted. Republicans are hoping that race turns around.

Republicans challenging vote counting processes have sought to argue they are making the case that only legal ballots should be counted. Trump's tweet muddled that message, simply stating that all ballot counting should stop without making a distinction for legal ballots.

On a phone call with reporters later Thursday, Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said that Trump was not addressing legal ballots but expressing concern about “illegal ballots.”  

“If these are legal ballots and people are following the law and they are clearly postmarked and they hold up and we have signature matches where the localities have that, then obviously all legal ballots should be counted,” Miller said when asked to clarify the tweet.

“What we should not be doing is treating ballots that are coming in late with no postmarks or ballots that are magically being found under very questionable circumstances, those should all be set aside and dealt with separately,” he added. “The president is right. We should not be counting illegal ballots and we hold fast to that opinion.”

There is no evidence that such ballots constitute a significant amount of outstanding votes and Miller did not cite specific evidence to back up his suspicions. 

Biden has been declared the winner in Michigan and Wisconsin — two states Trump won in 2016 — after he gained on Trump throughout the early morning and day on Wednesday.

Trump’s tweet is part of a broader assault on the election process that the president has engaged in for months. Trump has regularly railed against the use of mail-in ballots, claiming that widespread mail-in voting would lead to fraud despite experts saying there is no evidence of meaningful fraud in mail-in voting. States across the country have expanded access to mail-in voting because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump’s remarks also come as his campaign mounts challenges to the election results.  

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Trump’s campaign filed lawsuits on Wednesday in three states — Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan — challenging the vote counting process. Trump’s campaign is also demanding a recount in Wisconsin, a state Biden won by about 20,000 votes, citing “reports of irregularities.”

Trump prematurely declared victory in the presidential race in remarks early Wednesday morning, and said he wanted “all voting to stop” while threatening legal action. His remarks have been criticized by a number of Republicans.

“I thought it was outrageous and uncalled for and a terrible mistake,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said during a virtual Washington Post event on Wednesday. “Regardless of where you stand on this race and what party you are and who you voted for, most Americans really want a free and fair election process, and they want us to count the votes.”

Trump has not been seen in public since his remarks Wednesday morning at the White House. He has tweeted sporadically to perpetuate allegations of electoral fraud, and a number of his messages have been flagged by Twitter for containing misleading information.

Biden in brief remarks Wednesday expressed confidence he would win the presidential race but stopped short of declaring himself the victor, emphasizing that all outstanding votes should be counted.

“Now every vote must be counted,” Biden said. “No one is going to take our democracy away from us. Not now, not ever. America’s come too far. America’s fought too many battles. America's endured too much to ever let that happen.”

“We the people will not be silenced. We the people will not be bullied. We the people will not surrender,” he continued.

--Updated at 11:10 a.m.