NEW YORK, Nov 06 (APP): Former US Vice President Joe Biden Thursday night urges his fellow Americans, who are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the presidential election,to remain calm as he held on to a lead against President Donald Trump that brought the Democratic challenger close to the presidency–even as votes were still being counted in a handful of key states.

Trump, who has seen his path to 270 electoral votes greatly narrow, said he believed he would ultimately win the election and promised a lengthy legal fight to challenge the results.

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us,” the president, looking grim, told a news conference.

US Election 2020 Results
US Election Results – Updated with number of votes counted

“If you count the votes that came in late, we’re looking at them very strongly, a lot of votes came in late,” he said. No evidence was provided that illegal or late votes were being counted, nor that the election was being stolen.

Trump went on to rail against “historic election interference from big media, big money and big tech. The pollsters got it knowingly wrong.”

After the 17-minute speech, some of the Republicans — Trump’s own party officials — swiftly took to social media, urging for patience as votes were counted and pleading for the president to stop attacking the integrity of the election.

Paul Mitchell, a Republican congressman, said that every vote would be counted, adding that “anything less harms the integrity of our elections and is dangerous for our democracy”. Adam Kinzinger, another Republican congressman, tweeted: “STOP Spreading debunked misinformation… This is getting insane.”

On the other hand, Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, emerged in Biden’s home state of Delaware, telling the country that “each ballot must be counted.

“In America, the vote is sacred,” Biden said. “Democracy is sometimes messy. It sometimes requires a little patience, as well. But that patience has been rewarded now for 240 years with a system of governance that’s been the envy of the world.”

Biden noted he and Ms. Harris “continue to feel very good” about the ultimate result of the race. “We have no doubt that when the count is finished, Senator Harris and I will be declared the winners,” Biden said.

As the country remained on edge, awaiting the declaration of a victory more than 48 hours after the polls had closed and as sporadic protests have broken out in places such as Arizona, Michigan, Portland and New York, Biden said: “I ask everyone to stay calm.

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Three major American TV networks also cut away from the president’s live remarks, with news anchors saying it was “dangerous” to air his “absolutely untrue” statements.

The White House was set to be decided by razor-thin margins in five battleground states. Trump was still holding on to a lead in Pennsylvania but Biden was rapidly narrowing the gap as a backlog of postal ballots was counted. A win in Pennsylvania alone, with its 20 votes in the electoral college, would be enough to make Biden president.

Trump had been ahead in Georgia, but the two candidates were nearly tied by midnight, with Biden less than 2,000 votes behind, and an estimated 12,500 ballots left to be counted. The margin has steadily decreased throughout the day.

In Arizona, a Biden lead was being gradually eroded by late-counted Trump votes. The Associated Press (AP) and Fox News called the Democrat the winner in the state on election night, but by Thursday morning no other major TV network had followed suit.

With Arizona included in his tally, Biden would only need six more electoral college votes to reach the 270 required for victory, so a win in any other state would be enough.

In Nevada on Thursday morning, Biden bolstered a very slim lead to about 12,000 (about 1% of the vote) but there are about 200,000 votes still to be counted. Trump was leading North Carolina but the outcome depended on mail-in ballots. Jon Ralston, a leading political analyst in Nevada, tweeted: “I see no path left for Trump here.”

In the nationwide popular vote, Biden so far has a record 73.3 m million and about 3.7 million more than Trump.

Jen O’Malley Dillon, the Biden campaign manager, said during a press call: “Joe Biden now has won more votes than any presidential candidate in history, and we’re still counting. Over 140 million votes have been counted so far with more than 72 million of those votes going to Vice-President Biden.”

Dillon added: “Because he sees the same data we do and knows he’s losing, Donald Trump continues to push a flailing strategy designed to prevent people’s votes from being counted.”

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Millions of Americans got on with their lives on Thursday even as the election, described as the most important in generations, hung in the balance and moved at an excruciating pace. The candidates themselves maintained a low public profile.

The president was also active on Twitter, posting: “Stop the count!” It was a confusing plea because in Arizona and Nevada the Trump camp would be relying on late-counted votes to win. In these south-western states, the campaign strategy has been to focus on alleged irregularities in the count so far, seeking to undermine faith in its integrity.

Raucous crowds of Trump supporters staged protests outside vote-counting centres in Phoenix in Arizona, Philadelphia in Pennsylvania and Detroit in Michigan, riled by unfounded claims from Trump and some of his loyalists of widespread irregularities and the insistence that the reversal of the president’s early leads in the counts meant the election was being “stolen”.

The demonstration in Phoenix on Wednesday night saw about 150 Trump supporters gather outside the Maricopa county elections department chanting “Count the votes!” and “Where are the votes?” as officials inside the building worked to tabulate ballots.

Some pro-Trump protests continued and escalated Thursday night, with armed demonstrators rallying in Nevada and Arizona, repeating Trump’s fabrications about fraud. Downtown Atlanta, Georgia businesses boarded up in anticipation of potential further unrest after the race is called.

Facebook said it had taken down a group where Trump supporters posted misinformation, violent rhetoric and organized protests. The group had grown to more than 365,000 members in one day.

The social media network said: “In line with the exceptional measures that we are taking during this period of heightened tension, we have removed the Group ‘Stop the Steal’, which was creating real-world events.”

The Trump campaign also launched a flurry of lawsuits in four states with an array of technical challenges. In Michigan, which has already been called by the Associated Press for Biden, the president’s lawyers lost a legal demand for the count to be suspended until a campaign representative could be at each postal ballot counting table.

The Michigan court of claims judge Cynthia Stephens said: “I have no basis to find that there is a substantial likelihood of success on the merits.”