CHICAGO (CBS) — The votes may almost be counted, but President Donald Trump’s fight to stay in the White House is just beginning – all while Joe Biden will be assembling a transition team.
President Trump has no plans to concede if Biden is the projected winner. As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported, that will not stop Biden’s transition plans – even if there are legal battles waiting. Biden’s transition could always come to a halt if President Trump is declared the winner after all.
But by law, there has to be a hard stop on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021.
LIVE UPDATES FROM CBS NEWS: Biden leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia as Trump’s path narrows
“If you count the legal votes, I win,” President Trump said some time ago. “If you count the illegal ones, they can trying to steal the election from us.”
Mr. Trump has set the stage for a protracted fight should be lose the election months ago. Now, it’s in motion.
He uses words like “illegal” and “fraud” when it comes to ballots in certain states. There’s a challenge in Pennsylvania, which President Trump’s campaign hopes goes back to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he is also expected to demand recounts in at least three states.
It is a smart strategy, said election lawyer Burt Odelson. But Odelson criticized President Trump’s other recent actions.
“Recounts. All this other nonsense about the felt-tip pens and watchers – it’s 30-years-ago stuff. It’s not stuff for now,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”
Added North Central College political science professor Stephen Caliendo: “He has the right to challenge the ballots if he thinks there’s wrongdoing, and the courts have the right to decide if there is or isn’t. It’s the rhetoric that’s the problem. It’s absolutely unacceptable. It needs to stop. It’s false.”
Both Odelson and Caliendo said recounts and challenges could take weeks or more. But Biden’s transition if he becomes the apparent president-elect will proceed.
“It’s always been cooperative, to varying degrees of enthusiasm,” Caliendo said.
The last presidential transition ended with a handshake between outgoing President Barack Obama and incoming President Trump on Inauguration Day.
And after a tough fight, outgoing President George H.W. Bush not only conceded to Democrat Bill Clinton, but also left a heartfelt note for Clinton in the Oval Office.
The last lengthy post-election battle occurred in 2000 in Florida, over hanging chads on ballots. That election went to President George W. Bush over Al Gore after the U.S. Supreme Court halted a recount in Florida.
But Odelson said this fight is nothing like that one. He believes the Pennsylvania case could go back to the Supreme Court – but he does not expect the Trump administration to prevail.
“I still have faith in the system,” he said. “I think they reject them again and allow the states to count the way the state law is.”
According to the U.S. Constitution, all state recounts and court contest over election results must be completed by Dec. 8.
The electors officially cast their vote on Dec. 14, so the states and courts will have those dates in mind as they handle those cases. And of course, again, Inauguration Day on Jan. 20 is the hard stop.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see who among other members of the Republican Party continue to support President Trump’s claims.
On Friday, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) backed the president’s right to make legal challenges, but he said his lawyers need to show good reason – adding that you cannot stop the count in one state and push to continue it in another.
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