US election: Biden wins Georgia as state begins hand recount

Democratic president-elect solidifies victory by raising his electoral college votes to 306

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 13: Gwinnett county workers begin their recount of the ballots on November 13, 2020 in Lawrenceville, Georgia. The difference in votes between US President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden is about 14,000 as of right now.   Megan Varner/Getty Images/AFP
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President-elect Joe Biden solidified his US election victory by winning the state of Georgia as President Donald Trump appeared to acknowledge his loss for the first time on Friday by saying "time will tell" if another administration takes over soon.

North Carolina, the only other battleground state with an outstanding vote count, is projected to go to Mr Trump, finalising the electoral vote tally at 306 for Mr Biden to 232 for the incumbent.

The numbers gave Mr Biden, a Democrat, a resounding defeat of Mr Trump in the Electoral College, equal to the 306 votes that Mr Trump, a Republican, won to defeat Hillary Clinton in a 2016 victory that he called a "landslide".

At a White House event where he predicted a coronavirus vaccine would be available for the whole population by April, Mr Trump edged closer to acknowledging he might leave the White House in January but stopped short.

"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 on November 7.

The president did not take questions after the event.

Mr Trump has claimed without evidence that he was cheated by widespread election fraud and has refused to concede. State election officials report no serious irregularities, and several of his legal challenges have failed in court.

Although the national popular vote does not determine the election outcome, Mr Biden was ahead by more than 5.3 million votes, or 3.4 percentage points. His share of the popular vote, at 50.8 per cent, was slightly higher than Ronald Reagan's share of the vote in 1980 when he defeated Jimmy Carter.

To win a second term, Mr 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 December 8 "safe harbour" deadline to certify their elections and choose electors for the Electoral College, which will officially select the new president on December 14.

Mr Biden won Georgia by about 14,000 votes after all ballots were counted. Officials started a hand recount on Friday because of the narrow margin of victory.

Mr Biden's legal team in Georgia said they do not expect the recount to change the results. Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told Fox News the campaign has "great confidence" it can prevail in the Georgia recount, which began on Friday.

Also on Friday, a Michigan state court rejected on Friday a request by Trump supporters to block the certification of votes in Detroit, which went heavily in favour of Biden. Lawyers for the Trump campaign dropped a lawsuit in Arizona after the final vote count rendered it moot, while the law firm leading its election challenge Pennsylvania said it was withdrawing from the case.

Federal election security officials have found no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, "or was in any way compromised," two security groups said in a statement released on Thursday by the lead US cybersecurity agency.

Biden officials said on Friday that they would press forward with the transition, 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 Mr Biden's transition team, told a press conference.

Ms Psaki said Mr Biden needs "real-time information" from the Trump administration to deal with the resurgent pandemic and national security threats and urged the White House to allow president-elect and vice president-elect Kamala Harris to receive daily intelligence briefings on potential threats around the world.

"With every day that passes on, it becomes more concerning that our national security team and the president-elect and the vice president-elect don't have access to those threat assessments, intelligence briefings, real-time information about our engagements around the world," she said.

Mr Biden will be briefed by his own group of national-security experts next week, she said. He met with transition advisers again on Friday at his Delaware beach house where he is mapping out his approach to the pandemic and prepares to name his top appointees, including cabinet members.

Mr 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 recognise Mr Biden's victory, denying him access to federal office space and resources.

Mr Trump has discussed with advisers media ventures and appearances to keep him in the spotlight ahead of a possible 2024 White House bid. In the near term, he is expected to campaign for Republican US Senate candidates in Georgia ahead of January 5 runoff elections that will determine which party controls the chamber, aides said.

He also is considering starting a new 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.

Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera, a Trump confidant, said he had spoken to the president by phone on Friday and Mr Trump gave him the impression he would follow the US Constitution and surrender his office after every vote was counted.

"He told me he's a realist. He told me he would do the right thing," Rivera said in an interview with Fox. "I got no impression that he was plotting the overthrow of the elected government. He just wants a fair fight."