Elections officials in several key states hurried to finish counting all outstanding votes as Americans could finally learn who won Tuesday's presidential election.
Joe Biden maintained his Electoral College lead over President Donald Trump, overtaking the president in Georgia and Pennsylvania. Trump, meanwhile, vowed to "pursue this process through every aspect of the law" Friday after offering a series of false claims about election integrity in defiant remarks from the White House the day before, and is mounting a legal blitz across several battleground states.
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Georgia secretary of state says 'there will be a recount'
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Friday the presidential race in the state is "too close to call" and "there will be a recount in Georgia."
With millions of votes cast, Raffensperger, a Republican, said, it appears "we’ll have a margin of a few thousand" deciding the race. "With a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia," he said.
"The final tally in Georgia at this point has huge implications for the entire country," he said. "The stakes are high and emotions are high on all sides. We will not let those debates distract us from our work. We'll get it right, and we will defend the integrity of our elections."
The state's voting system implementation manager, Gabriel Sterling, said, "We are looking at a margin of less than a large high school."
Raffensperger tempered his comment while speaking to reporters later in the day, saying a recount was "likely." Sterling called a recount a "strong probability."
Sterling said a recount could start only after the initial count is certified — a process that could take up to two weeks, although he said officials were optimistic they could get it done before then.
There were just over 4,000 votes still waiting to be counted Friday, and almost as many as 9,000 military ballots that will be counted if they're returned by the end of the day, election officials said.
Joe Biden's vote count began to exceed President Trump's early Friday morning, a lead that was up about 1,600 votes by just before noon ET.
Sterling said officials are not seeing "any widespread irregularities," but they're "investigating any real allegations." In a race this tight, Sterling said, "little small things can make a difference."
Democrat Mark Kelly unseats Martha McSally in Arizona Senate race, NBC News projects
Democrat Mark Kelly unseats incumbent Republican Martha McSally in the Arizona Senate race, NBC News projects.
Kelly, a former astronaut and the husband of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a 2011 assassination attempt, led the GOP senator by huge margins in polls leading up to Election Day, which also showed he is extremely well-liked and trusted in the state.
McSally, who lost her Senate bid in 2018, was appointed to the seat left vacant by the death of Republican Sen. John McCain later that year. The race was a special election to determine who serves out the remaining two years of McCain’s term.
An update on Trump's Nevada lawsuit threats
As of 10:30 a.m. Friday, the Trump campaign had yet to file the lawsuit it said Thursday would be coming in Nevada.
However, two Republican candidates for Congress filed a lawsuit late Thursday that includes an allegation similar to the one stated in the Nevada Republican Party’s letter to the Justice Department: "Irregularities have plagued the election in Clark County, including lax procedures for authenticating mail ballots and over 3,000 instances of ineligible individuals casting ballots."
This lawsuit notably does not ask the court to do anything but stop the county from using automatic technology to perform signature matching on ballot envelopes and to provide more access for election count observers.
Biden campaign tells staffers to 'enjoy this moment'
A top Biden aide said not to expect to hear from Joe Biden until Friday in prime time, assuming the race is called by then.
Per this aide, Biden is expected to focus his address on themes that have driven his whole campaign: "Unity, healing, coming together as a nation, being a president for all Americans."
A friend and ally of the former vice president described his mood and outlook as “Joe is really Irish so he’s understandably a bit superstitious about not taking anything for granted and waiting for the counting and challenges to resolve even while he’s getting briefed on options for pandemic response and recovery.”
The campaign said running mate Kamala Harris will speak before Biden.
The Biden campaign held its usual communications staff call earlier Friday, led by Communications Director Kate Bedingfield. One person on it says that where she’s been reserved these last few days, the vibe Friday morning was "we did it."
Staffers had previously been told, "don’t watch the news, keep your head down, do the work." But Friday morning, they were told: "This is the moment when you should be watching the news. They did the work, now enjoy this moment."
For a campaign staff that has tried to be reserved these last 48+ hours, this feels like a breaking of the emotional dam.
The mood at Trump campaign headquarters: grim but determined
The Trump strategy is coming into clearer view: claim fraud (despite no evidence to back that up) and don’t back down an inch. There's been no decision yet on whether the president will speak publicly on Friday.
The mood at campaign headquarters in Virginia seems grim but determined. Campaign manager Bill Stepien has yet to make any remarks to staff this morning, per a person close to the campaign. Younger staffers are feeling ready for a fight in the courts, but the more seasoned veterans know Trump has likely lost and there is a very, very narrow path left. People aren’t to the point of crying and comforting each other yet, but they aren’t high-fiving, either. Most staffers are still coming into work, but don’t have anything to do, so some are sitting at their computers refreshing results pages.
The public posture of defiance is becoming more clear: economic adviser Larry Kudlow told our colleagues on air at CNBC that he spoke with the president this morning and says he “intends to fight.” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany says a scenario in which the president concedes is “hypothetical” at this point. And one source close the campaign says there’s “no talk of conceding — no one’s having that conversation," adding the president will fight “to the last second.”
But there are those in the orbit who understand the endgame is likely near: “I think it’s over,” predicts one outside adviser, “probably goes to the courts in some form and then chips fall where they fall.”
Any concession would likely not happen until all canvassing is done and any recounts and lawsuits are complete, a source familiar with the discussions said.
Top White House adviser predicts 'peaceful transition of power'
Larry Kudlow, President Trump's top economic adviser, told CNBC on Friday that, "I think there will be a peaceful transfer of power ... This is the greatest country in the world and we abide by the rule of law, as will the president."
Kudlow also said he spoke to the president earlier Friday morning and Trump “intends to fight.” Kudlow says he personally is taking it one day at a time.
Kudlow says it has been an honor working for Trump for the past three years and it has been a tremendous experience for him.
Counties with worst virus surges overwhelmingly voted Trump
U.S. voters went to the polls starkly divided on how they see President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. But in places where the virus is most rampant now, Trump enjoyed enormous support.
An Associated Press analysis reveals that in 376 counties with the highest number of new cases per capita, the overwhelming majority — 93 percent of those counties — went for Trump, a rate above other less severely hit areas.
Most were rural counties in Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin — the kinds of areas that often have lower rates of adherence to social distancing, mask-wearing and other public health measures, and have been a focal point for much of the latest surge in cases.
'This election is not over': Trump campaign defiant after Biden takes lead in Pennsylvania
After Biden pulled ahead of Trump in Pennsylvania on Friday morning, the president's campaign released a statement declaring that the election was not over.
“This election is not over. The false projection of Joe Biden as the winner is based on results in four states that are far from final," the campaign's general counsel, Matt Morgan, said in a statement. "Georgia is headed for a recount, where we are confident we will find ballots improperly harvested, and where President Trump will ultimately prevail. There were many irregularities in Pennsylvania, including having election officials prevent our volunteer legal observers from having meaningful access to vote counting locations."
There is no evidence of ballot harvesting in Georgia and no evidence of irregularities in Pennsylvania where its officials have made clear that vote-counting observers have not been limited in their access to seeing the process underway.
There's also no guarantee there will be a recount yet in Georgia where Biden pulled ahead of Trump's lead early Friday morning by more than 1,000 votes. In Pennsylvania, NBC News projected that Biden leads in the state, pulling ahead of Trump by more than 5,500 votes Friday morning. If Biden secures Pennsylvania's 20 Electoral College votes, he will win the presidential race.
Morgan then claimed without any evidence that thousands of people improperly cast ballots in Nevada and that Trump is on track to win Arizona.
"Biden is relying on these states for his phony claim on the White House, but once the election is final, President Trump will be re-elected," he said.
Biden needs 17 more electoral votes to win the Electoral College while Trump would need 56 more votes.
FIRST READ: Biden has learned the lessons from the 2000 recount, Trump hasn’t
With Joe Biden on the cusp of 270 electoral votes — for yet another day — it’s become clear that the Biden camp learned the lessons from the Florida recount from 2000.
And Trump and his campaign didn’t.
Lesson #1: Pick a message and stick with it: In 2000, the Gore team said “count every vote,” while the Bush team said “the election is over,” our colleague Matt Rivera reminds us.
Well, right now, Biden and his campaign have stayed with a consistent message. “We have to count the votes,” Biden said Thursday.
But Trump has been all over the place. First, the president said, “Frankly, we did win this election.” (Which isn’t true.) And then he tweeted, “STOP THE COUNT!”
Joe Biden takes the lead in Pennsylvania after edging ahead in Georgia
A win in Pennsylvania, which carries 20 Electoral College votes, for Biden would secure him the election.
Economy added 638,000 jobs in October vs. 530,000 expected, unemployment rate falls to 6.9 percent
The U.S. economy added 638,000 jobs in October, far more than the 530,000 that analysts predicted, but still an indication of the challenges the next president faces in rebuilding the labor market.
The unemployment rate fell to 6.9 percent from 7.9 percent, according to data released Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, the country has replaced about half of the 22 million jobs lost in the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The sluggish hiring comes as the country faces record daily coronavirus infection rates that threaten to slow economic activity, with the U.S. logging 120,000 cases on Thursday.
Georgia voters urged to check status of the mail-in ballots
Joyce Lanterman, 48, from Atlanta, decided to check the status of her mail-in ballot Wednesday, the day after Election Day, after she saw multiple social media posts urging voters to make sure their ballot was received and counted.
After she mailed in her ballot back in October, Lanterman checked and saw it was marked as “received;” However, when she checked again Nov. 4, she saw it had been changed to “challenged” for an “invalid signature.”
“I thought I was done and [now] I have to open this whole can of worms back up again, the day after, like not even the day of, the day after the election, was so stressful,” Lanterman said.
Georgia officials are working to notify voters that they can cure their ballots, but many have not, according to the secretary of state’s office; Lanterman did not receive a call.
In addition, some organizations such as Stacey Abrams’ “Fair Fight” are recruiting volunteers to call voters and walk them through the “ballot curing” process.
Biden overtook Trump's lead early Friday as officials scrambled to finish counting ballots. Voters have until the end of the day to check on their ballot status.
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones addresses pro-Trump protesters in Arizona
Far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones joined supporters of President Trump gathered outside of Maricopa County's Elections Department in downtown Phoenix for a third consecutive night of protest Thursday.
Waving "Trump 2020" and American flags, members of the crowd — some of whom were armed — shook Jones’ hand before he stood to address them over a megaphone, urging them to not accept any potential election results.
"No matter what happens in this election, the fight’s out in the open now!" Jones said on video verified by NBC News. "The real fight starts now."
Jones is the personality behind InfoWars, a radio, website and internet empire that has been widely criticized. In December, a judge ordered the host to pay $100,000 in a defamation case over the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre after he was sued by the parents of a 6-year-old who was among the 26 killed in the attack in Newtown, Connecticut.
Trump has repeated made false and baseless claims about massive voter fraud.
Arizona is too close to call, according to NBC News. Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, is the largest in the state and will prove crucial in the presidential race.
The Maricopa County Elections Department said earlier that it had worked with sheriffs to create a "free speech zone" outside the building in order to "balance the protection and wellbeing of our election workers and volunteers with the constitutional right of protesters who may wish to demonstrate.”
INTERACTIVE: All the ways Biden and Trump could reach 270
Joe Biden maintained his Electoral College lead over President Donald Trump by early Friday morning, but he's still under the 270 electoral count needed to win the 2020 presidential election. Finish the 2020 map on our interactive page by clicking or tapping an individual state or toggle in order to move it to red or blue. States where NBC News has a projected or apparent winner cannot be changed.
Biden takes the lead in Georgia
Joe Biden overtook President Trump early Friday in the crucial battleground of Georgia.
He currently holds a slim 917 vote lead over Trump.
Biden's numbers in Georgia have improved as absentee ballots from large Democratic counties have been counted. Clayton County had been the source of the latest votes, which helped put Biden into the lead. The county has been counting ballots through the night, with Biden winning about 85 percent of the vote there.
There remain outstanding ballots in the state, mostly in Democratic-leaning counties.
Here's where things stands entering Friday
There remain six states that NBC News rates as either too close or too early to call. Five of those states are under the microscope as influencing whether Biden or Trump will win the presidency — North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Georgia.
Votes in those states are either trickling in or counts remain paused. As it stands, Biden holds a 253 to 214 lead in Electoral College votes. A candidate needs to secure 270 electoral votes to win.
Should Biden pull out a victory in Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes, he will have secured the election, which he can also do by winning any two of those other four states.
Much of the remaining vote to be counted in Pennsylvania is both of the mail-in variety and in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, both of which have broken substantially in Biden's favor.
In Georgia, Clayton County has continued counting through the night and has provided small numbers of additional votes, helping Biden overtake Trump.
'This is getting insane': Republicans push back against Trump's false election claims
Thursday night delivered a series of false claims about the presidential election, though many did not mention him by name.
Shortly after Trump at a news conference made baseless claims about massive voter fraud in Pennsylvania, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said in a statement Thursday that once the state's final election count is "reached and certified, all parties involved must accept the outcome of the election regardless of whether they won or lost."
The harshest pushback came from retiring Texas Rep. Will Hurd.
"A sitting president undermining our political process & questioning the legality of the voices of countless Americans without evidence is not only dangerous & wrong, it undermines the very foundation this nation was built upon," he said in a tweet. "Every American should have his or her vote counted."
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States still too close to call
Here are the elections results pages for the six states that are still too close to call, per NBC News' projections:
Trump told one falsehood after another about the presidential race. Here are the facts.
President Donald Trump, who had not spoken publicly since an early Wednesday morning address, delivered remarks Thursday evening about the state of the still-undecided presidential election that were largely false, including claims about "illegal ballots," mail-in voting and ballot-counting observers.
He then repeated some of them in a series of tweets sent after 2 a.m. ET on Friday.