WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s supporters began gathering in Washington on Saturday for a protest to back his unsubstantiated claims of election fraud as he pushes ahead with a flurry of longshot legal challenges to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Trump has made little headway in the courts with his lawsuits and for the first time on Friday he began to sound doubtful about his prospects, telling reporters “time will tell” who occupies the White House from Jan. 20.
There have been other pro-Trump protests around the country since Biden was projected the winner on Nov. 7, but they have been small and unfolded with few incidents.
The pro-Trump demonstrations in Washington and other cities will feature a mix of the president’s backers, including far-right personalities and members of the Oath Keepers militia and Proud Boys group in a public display of support for his effort to stay in power.
Trump’s motorcade drove by some of the protesters in downtown Washington on Saturday morning on his way to his golf course in nearby Sterling, Virginia. Flag-waving supporters chanted “USA!” and “Four more years!” as the cars rolled by. Outside the course, anti-Trump demonstrators waved signs including, “We voted — You’re Fired.”
Organizers have given the rallies various names, including the Million MAGA March, the March for Trump and Stop the Steal. MAGA is an acronym for the Trump campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.” Trump has tweeted his support.
Protesting against the marches, opponents on social media sought to create confusion by flooding the hashtags #MillionMAGAMarch and #MarchforTrump with photographs of pancakes.
Some left-wing groups planned counter-demonstrations in Washington and other cities.
Biden further solidified his victory on Friday as results from Edison Research showed him winning Georgia, giving him a final tally of 306 Electoral College votes, far more than the 270 needed to be elected president and above Trump’s 232.
The 306 votes was equal to Trump’s tally in his 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton, which at the time he called a “landslide.”
Trump briefly appeared close to acknowledging the likelihood he will be leaving the White House in January during remarks about the coronavirus response at a White House event on Friday.
“This administration will not be going to a lockdown. Hopefully the, uh, whatever happens in the future — who knows which administration it will be? I guess time will tell,” Trump said in his first public remarks since Biden was projected as the election’s winner.
With the election outcome becoming clearer, Trump has discussed with advisers possible media ventures and appearances that would keep him in the spotlight ahead of a possible 2024 White House bid, aides said.
He is considering starting a television channel or social media company to compete with those he felt betrayed him and stifled his ability to communicate directly with Americans, according to several advisers.
In the near term, Trump is expected to campaign for Republican candidates in Georgia ahead of two Jan. 5 runoff elections that will determine which party controls the US Senate.
Trump has refused to concede to Biden and claims without evidence that he was cheated by widespread election fraud. State election officials report no serious irregularities, and several of his legal challenges have failed in court.
A Michigan state court on Friday rejected a request by Trump’s supporters to block the certification of votes in Detroit, which went heavily in favor of Biden. And lawyers for Trump’s campaign dropped a lawsuit in Arizona after the final vote count there rendered it moot.
Federal election security officials have found no evidence that any voting system deleted, lost or changed votes, “or was in any way compromised,” two security groups said in a statement released on Thursday by the lead US cybersecurity agency.
To win a second term, Trump would need to overturn Biden’s lead in at least three states, but he has so far failed to produce evidence that he could do so in any of them.
States face a Dec. 8 deadline to certify their elections and choose electors for the Electoral College, which will officially select the new president on Dec. 14.
Trump’s refusal to accept defeat has stalled the official transition. The federal agency that releases funding to an incoming president-elect, the General Services Administration, has yet to recognize Biden’s victory, denying him access to federal office space and resources.
But Biden, who will meet with advisers about the transition on Saturday in his home state of Delaware, has pressed ahead with the process, identifying legislative priorities, reviewing federal agency policies and preparing to fill thousands of jobs in the new administration.
“We’re charging ahead with the transition,” Jen Psaki, a senior adviser to Biden’s transition team, told reporters on Friday, while stressing Biden still needs “real-time information” from the Trump administration to deal with the resurgent coronavirus pandemic and national security threats.