Florida sues Biden administration in bid to restart cruise industry

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The state of Florida sued President Joe Biden’s administration in federal court on Thursday seeking to block the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to prevent the U.S. cruise industry from immediately resuming operations paused for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The suit, filed by Republican Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody in Tampa, asked the court to issue an injunction barring enforcement of the CDC’s order and to quickly lift a “nationwide lockdown” on the industry in place since March 2020. Early in the pandemic, there were dangerous outbreaks of COVID-19 on numerous cruise ships.

Florida, an important center for the U.S. cruise ship industry, said its ports have suffered a decline in operating revenue of almost $300 million since the pandemic started.

“We must allow our cruise liners and their employees to get back to work and safely set sail again,” Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said.

On Friday, the CDC issued new guidance to the cruise industry, a necessary step before passenger voyages can resume, but did not set a date for resuming cruises. Florida said in its lawsuit that “it now appears the CDC will continue that lockdown until November 2021, even though vaccines are now available to all adults who want them.”

“The CDC guidance is based on data and health and medical guidelines,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters when asked about the litigation.

The CDC declined to comment on the suit.

Florida said in the lawsuit that if a judge does not block the CDC’s order the state “will lose hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions. And, more importantly, the approximately 159,000 hard-working Floridians whose livelihoods depend on the cruise industry could lose everything.”

The Cruise Lines International Association, which represents Carnival Corp, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises, said on Monday the CDC guidance means there is “no reasonable timeline” for resuming cruises.

“With no discernable path forward or timeframe for resumption in the U.S., more sailings originating in the Caribbean and elsewhere are likely to be announced, effectively shutting American ports, closing thousands of American small businesses, and pushing an entire industry offshore,” the industry group said.

Norwegian on Monday proposed resuming cruises by July for cruises in which passengers and crew members are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Alaska’s two U.S. senators said in a joint statement on Saturday that after speaking with the CDC “we could see cruise ships in U.S. waters as early as mid-summer.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Will Dunham)

Georgia wins 8-year water fight with downstream neighbor Florida

By Rich McKay and Sebastien Malo

ATLANTA (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday sided with Georgia in ending its eight-year battle with Florida over water that runs through Atlanta’s thirsty metro region and downstream past cotton and peanut fields to Apalachicola Bay and its depleted oyster fisheries.

The high court tossed out claims by Florida that Georgia is using too much water from the Chattahoochee River, a tributary of the Apalachicola River basin downstream, driving up salinity levels in the estuary it feeds and causing the once-rich oyster population there to collapse.

In the eyes of Michael Dasher, a fourth-generation Florida oysterman counting on a different outcome in legal bids to wrestle back more freshwater supplies for his vanishing way of life, it’s over.

“We thought the court would finally do what’s right and help us out, send more water,” said Dasher, 54. “We know Atlanta and them all in Georgia need it too, but they’ve about run the river dry. This is pretty much the end for us.”

In a unanimous 9-0 decision, the court ruled that Florida did not prove that its proposed water diversion caps on Georgia were warranted, given the balance between the needs of Georgia’s population and agricultural needs versus the needs of Florida. Nor did the court accept that water depletion was the cause of the Florida’s declining oyster beds.

Georgia has argued over-harvesting by its southern neighbor in recent years and a 2012 drought were to blame for the oyster crash.

Florida had also neglected to “reshell” its oyster bars, a management practice that gives young oysters greater habitat, the justices wrote.

A spokesman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection was not immediately available to comment, but the agency has said that it had hoped the court would restore the historic flows of the Apalachicola River.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp touted the court win as a “resounding victory for Georgia and a vindication of years-long effort by multiple governors and attorneys general here in the Peach State to protect our citizens’ water rights.”

According to federal precedent dating back 100 years, both states have a claim to a share of the water in question, but it’s “not a 50-50 split,” Santa Fe attorney and water rights expert John Draper, previously told Reuters.

Thursday’s ruling was not unexpected, given that a state water rights expert named “special master” in the case by the high court, had recommended that the justices side with Georgia.

Georgia officials and farmers say they are already conserving more water than ever. The Atlanta Regional Commission said the nine-county greater metropolitan area around the state capital now uses 10% less water than it did 20 years ago, even though the population has climbed by 1.2 million.

Katie Byrd, a spokeswoman with the office of Georgia’s attorney general, said the ruling “affirmed what we have long known to be true: Georgia’s water use has been fair and reasonable.”

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Sebastien Malo in New York; Editing by Steve Gorman and Grant McCool)

New York lowers coronavirus vaccine eligibility age to 50

NEW YORK (Reuters) -New York will join a handful of U.S. states that have lowered their eligibility age for coronavirus vaccines to 50, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday.

The state, the country’s fourth most populous, had restricted eligibility to residents who are at least 60 years old, have pre-existing health conditions or are essential workers, especially those who come in contact with the public.

“We are dropping the age and vaccinating more people,” Cuomo said at a church in Mount Vernon, New York, where he launched a campaign to encourage houses of worship to make themselves available as vaccination sites.

With the change, which takes effect on Tuesday, New York joins Florida, the third largest state, which lowered its eligibility age on Monday, and a handful of other states that have made vaccines available to healthy people who are 50 years old or younger.

In Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey lowered the eligibility age to 16 at state-run vaccination sites in three populous southern counties, effective Wednesday. Three other counties already have eligibility at 16, but most are at 55.

Alaska has the lowest statewide eligibility age at 16. Its vaccination rate is among the highest in the country, with 31.5% of its residents having received at least one dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

New York has administered at least one dose to 26.1% of its residents and Florida has administered it to 23.8%, according to the CDC, which updated its data on Sunday.

Nationwide, the CDC said 24.9% of U.S. residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 13.5% are fully vaccinated.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Florida consumers ‘flabbergasted’ as property insurers push for double-digit rate hikes

By Suzanne Barlyn

(Reuters) – Florida property insurers are jacking up rates by double-digit percentages, blaming the hikes on lingering damage from past hurricanes, a wave of litigation, and a law that encourages lawyers to sue by allowing courts to award them big fees.

The rate increases in Florida, the third-largest property insurance market among U.S. states, are the highest in memory, according to some insurance agents and residents. One danger, they say, is that the new rates could make owning a home in Florida unaffordable.

“I was flabbergasted,” said Karlos Horn, a 35-year-old law student who owns a four-bedroom, single-family home in Hendry County, Florida. He said his premium doubled to $200 per month last August.

That is equivalent to half of his $400 mortgage payment and the largest increase in his five years as an owner.

Florida’s property insurance market, which collected $56.6 billion in premiums during 2019, is unique and covers complex risks including devastating hurricanes and the impact of climate change. Many insurers left the state after suffering big losses from hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005, leaving about 60 small and mid-sized firms underwriting property policies there today.

Although there were no major weather events last year, some insurers are still grappling with claims from Hurricane Irma in 2017, said Logan McFaddin, an American Property Casualty Insurance Association executive who specializes in Florida.

They are also facing what McFaddin described as “out of control” litigation in Florida, partly because of a law that can require insurers to pay attorneys “excessive fees” in those cases. The practice has spurred a cottage industry of contractors and lawyers who sue insurers to replace a whole roof when only a few tiles are damaged, insurers say.

Other less dramatic problems, such as leaky pipes, happen at an “abnormally high” frequency in Florida, often causing severe damage, including mold, consistently gnawing at profits, said Charles Williamson, chief executive officer of Vault, a Florida-based insurance exchange for wealthy individuals.

Insurers are also passing along to consumers the cost of hefty rate hikes for their own coverage, known as reinsurance, which kicks in after insurers pay a set amount of claims.

INSURER OF LAST RESORT

Florida’s domestic property insurers reported a more than $1 billion underwriting loss for the first three quarters of 2020 and almost $500 million in negative net income, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

“Insurance carriers understand that their role in our marketplace is to pay claims,” Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told Reuters. “The challenge is when those claims are so much more expensive than they expect, it creates uncertainty, it creates turmoil – and that has to be addressed.”

Florida insurers requested 105 rate increases during the first ten months of 2020, Altmaier said. More than half of the increases that regulators approved were greater than 10%.

Last month, Altmaier testified before Florida lawmakers, including his views on roofing litigation. “We need to really spend some time on this … coming up with ways that we might be able to mitigate this kind of activity,” he said.

Lee Gorodetsky, an insurance agent in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said he cannot recall such steep rate hikes during his 34-year career. “The last two years have been the worst we’ve seen,” he said.

As prices rise, more consumers are turning to Citizens Property Insurance Corp, Florida’s insurer of last resort, which takes on high-risk customers who cannot obtain other insurance or must pay extremely high rates.

Citizens issued 545,000 policies as of Feb. 5, a 23% increase from a year ago, and it expects the number to grow to about 700,000 by year-end, a spokesman said. The growth signals an unhealthy broader market by showing that typical coverage is not as widely available, industry experts said.

Insurers are hoping Florida’s state government will approve proposed legislation that would curb the elevated litigation costs they have seen in recent years. The bill, if passed, would add to other reforms enacted in 2019.

Measures would include limiting the fees insurers must pay lawyers in claims disputes, shortening time frames for filing claims and capping payouts for roof replacements.

However, the bill might also harm homeowners’ ability to pursue legitimate claims, lawyers said. That would unfairly favor insurers, one lawyer said.

“It’s a great business model that insurers can collect premiums and not get sued when they don’t pay somebody right away everything that’s owed,” said Tampa lawyer Chip Merlin, who represents policyholders. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that that’s good for the insurance industry.”

(Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn in Washington Crossing, Pa.; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Matthew Lewis)

Two FBI agents killed, three wounded in early morning raid in Florida

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two FBI agents were killed early on Tuesday and three others were wounded while trying to serve a search warrant at a Florida home, an encounter that turned into one of the federal law enforcement agency’s bloodiest in decades.

As a team of law enforcement officers tried to execute the court-ordered warrant involving violent crimes against children at the home in Sunrise, Florida, shots were fired at 6 a.m. EST (1100 GMT), the FBI said in a statement.

The search warrant sought evidence in connection with suspected possession of child pornography, the FBI Agents Association added in a statement.

Two of the wounded agents were in stable condition at a hospital, while the third did not require hospitalization, the FBI said. The subject of the warrant, who was not identified, also died, it said.

The man being investigated had apparently barricaded himself inside an apartment complex and was found dead, the New York Times reported, citing unidentified officials. It was unclear how he died, the newspaper said.

The scene on Tuesday morning near the home in Sunrise, just west of Fort Lauderdale and about 30 miles (48 km) north of Miami, was swarming with emergency and law enforcement vehicles from the FBI and police in Sunrise and surrounding jurisdictions.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that President Joe Biden had been briefed on the incident and would likely address it later on Tuesday.

FBI Director Christopher Wray identified the dead agents as Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger and hailed them as heroes.

“Special Agent Alfin and Special Agent Schwartzenberger exemplified heroism today in defense of their country,” Wray said in a statement. “The FBI will always honor their ultimate sacrifice and will be forever grateful for their bravery.”

The shooting deaths, which remain under investigation, were among the bloodiest episodes for the FBI.

In 1994, two agents were shot dead along with a police detective at the Washington, D.C., police headquarters when a homicide suspect opened fire on them with an assault weapon, also wounding a third agent, according to the FBI’s website.

Another deadly encounter occurred in 1986, also in Florida, when two agents were killed and five others were wounded in a Miami shootout with two bank robbery suspects, the FBI said.

The last fatal shooting of an FBI agent on duty was on Nov. 19, 2008, which also unfolded during the execution of a warrant, the FBI said. Agent Samuel Hicks was shot and killed as he sought to execute a federal arrest warrant associated with a drug trafficking organization in Pittsburgh, it said.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch, Mark Hosenball and Doina Chiacu in Washington and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Franklin Paul, Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

New York, Florida tell hospitals to speed COVID-19 vaccinations or lose supply

By Carl O’Donnell and Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The governors of New York and Florida sought to accelerate the slower-than-expected rollout of coronavirus vaccines by warning hospitals on Monday that they would reduce future allocations to those that fail to dispense shots quickly enough.

In New York, hospitals must administer vaccines within a week of receiving them or face a fine and loss of future supplies, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

“I don’t want the vaccine in a fridge or a freezer, I want it in somebody’s arm,” the governor said. “If you’re not performing this function, it does raise questions about the operating efficiency of the hospital.”

The U.S. federal government has distributed more than 15 million vaccine doses to states and territories around the country, but only around 4.5 million have been administered so far, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released on Monday.

The U.S. government has fallen far short of its target of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020. Officials said they expect the rollout will pick up significantly this month.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CBS News that there are 15 million to 20 million doses of vaccine available.

“We should be hopeful about that while acknowledging we have got to do better and we are going to keep doing better,” Adams said. “And I promise you, you will see in these next two weeks numbers increase substantially.”

The United States had reported a total of 20.5 million COVID-19 cases and 351,480 deaths as of midnight on Sunday. On a seven-day rolling average, it is reporting 210,190 cases and 2,636 coronavirus deaths per day.

In Florida, where officials have put senior citizens ahead of many essential workers for getting the vaccine, Governor Ron DeSantis announced a policy under which the state would allocate doses to hospitals that dispense them most quickly,

“Hospitals that do not do a good job of getting the vaccine out will have their allocations transferred to hospitals that are doing a good job at getting the vaccine out,” DeSantis said at a briefing.

“We do not want vaccine to just be idle at some hospital system,” he added, though he did not say they would face fines.

Florida will also deploy an additional 1,000 nurses to administer vaccines and will keep state-run vaccination sites open seven days a week, he said.

New York has dispensed about 175,000 doses of the 896,000 it has received since mid-December, according to CDC data. Florida has dispensed 265,000 of the 1.14 million doses it received.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said obstacles were slowing his goal to have 1 million residents receive a first of two vaccine doses by the end of January. A little over 110,000 residents have received their first dose so far, according to city data.

De Blasio urged the state to broaden early eligible groups beyond healthcare workers and nursing home residents to include essential workers such as teachers, police officers, fire fighters, grocery store personnel and people who are more than 75 years old.

New York City currently has 125 vaccination sites and plans to double that by the end of the month, the mayor said.

“This has got to be a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour reality going forward,” de Blasio said.

Monday also marked the first day when some Americans were due to receive their second vaccine shot, three weeks after getting the first dose. Among them was Maritza Beniquez, a healthcare worker in Newark, New Jersey.

“I now have body armor,” she said after receiving the dose in a video posted on Facebook by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who was part of a small gathering that witnessed the event.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen, Carl O’Donnell, Rebecca Spaulding and Peter Szekely in New York; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg, Anurag Maan, Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

U.S. Justice Department faults Acosta for ‘poor judgment’ over Epstein deal

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An internal Justice Department investigation has concluded that then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta exercised “poor judgment” by allowing financier Jeffrey Epstein to enter a non-prosecution agreement over alleged sex crimes, but cleared him and other prosecutors of any professional misconduct in their handling of the case.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Justice Department said that when Acosta let Epstein enter the non-prosecution agreement in 2008 that spared him from federal sex trafficking charges, he “failed to make certain that the state of Florida intended to and would notify victims identified through the federal investigation about the state plea hearing.”

The department added that while no federal prosecutors engaged in wrongdoing, Epstein’s victims “were not treated with the forthrightness and sensitivity” they deserved.

The controversial 2008 agreement with Epstein has come under intense scrutiny in recent years following an investigation by the Miami Herald. Under the terms of the deal, Epstein pleaded guilty to lesser state charges and served a brief stint in jail where he was granted daily work release.

At the time, Alex Acosta was serving as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Last year, federal prosecutors in New York were able to resuscitate the case and charged Epstein with sex trafficking of minors.

Acosta, who was serving as labor secretary then under President Donald Trump, initially tried to defend his role in the previous Epstein investigation. But he resigned amid growing pressure a few days later.

Epstein was found dead in his jail cell in New York of an apparent suicide about a month later.

His longtime friend Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested earlier this year and has pleaded not guilty to charges that she lured underage girls so that Epstein could sexually abuse them.

The findings by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility were announced earlier on Thursday by Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who blasted the agency for not taking a more forceful stance.

“Letting a well-connected billionaire get away with child rape and international sex trafficking isn’t ‘poor judgment’ – it is a disgusting failure,” Sasse, who had requested the internal Justice Department probe, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

Storm Eta drenches Tampa Bay, threatens more flooding as it moves offshore

(Reuters) – Tropical Storm Eta drenched Florida’s west coast on Thursday after making landfall north of Tampa Bay with 50 mile-per-hour (80 kph) winds, but the system weakened slightly as it moved across the northeastern part of the state and into the Atlantic.

Eta, the 28th named storm of the busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC), made its fourth landfall at around 4 a.m. on Thursday near Cedar Key, Florida, after it already slammed Central America, Cuba and the upper Florida Keys.

The storm had moved offshore into the Atlantic and was about 40 miles (65 km) north-northeast of Jacksonville on Thursday with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour (65 kph), the NHC said.

Storm surge from Eta in Tampa Bay reached 3 to 4 feet (0.9-1.2 m) above ground inundation, the NHC’s Storm Surge Unit said. The NHC forecasted that swells along the Florida Gulf coast today and the southeastern U.S. coast tonight would be “life-threatening.”

Flooded streets in downtown Tampa resembled lakes and sailboats in Gulfport, a city on Tampa Bay, were beached and tipped over on Thursday, photos on Twitter showed.

The storm was expected to drop an additional 1 inch to 3 inches ((2.5-7.6 cm) of rain over the Florida peninsula on Thursday, adding up to a total of 20 to 25 inches of rainfall in parts of South Florida.

“Localized bands of heavy rainfall will continue to impact portions of the Florida Peninsula today, resulting in isolated flash and urban flooding, especially across previously inundated areas,” the NHC said.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Tropical Storm Eta targets Florida west coast as it nears fourth landfall

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) – Tropical Storm Eta spun toward Florida’s west coast on Wednesday, nearing its fourth landfall in a matter of days, while threatening squall winds and storm surges, and prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency in 13 counties.

Eta, which had weakened slightly from its hurricane strength earlier on Wednesday to become a tropical storm, is the 28th named storm of the busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center. It was projected to make its fourth landfall early on Thursday, this time north of Tampa Bay, after it already slammed Central America, Cuba and the upper Florida Keys.

It had dropped nearly 18 inches of rain over parts of South Florida by Monday, moved southwest and then stalled over the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday before making a northward turn. It is was last moving on a north-northeast trajectory at 10 miles per hour (16 kph).

The storm was about 115 miles (180 km) south-southwest of Tampa, with maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour (110 kph)on Wednesday, the NHC said.

The west coast of Florida faces “the multiple threats of a landfalling hurricane or tropical storm,” said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, listing the heavy rainfall, storm surge and possible tornadoes in the forecast.

“One is of course the wind, which could be at the very least gusting to hurricane force, and sustained tropical storm force winds. That’s enough to do some damage,” Feltgen said.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 13 counties in Eta’s path on Wednesday and requested that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declare a pre-landfall state of emergency for those counties as well, to mobilize resources.

The storm surge from Eta was expected to affect southern and western Florida and the Florida Keys on Wednesday and Thursday. The state’s west coast was under a storm surge watch on Wednesday from the Suwanee River to Bonita Beach, including Tampa Bay, where the water could rise up to 5 feet.

“These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions,” the NHC said in an advisory.

Tampa International Airport said on Twitter it would suspend operations at 3 p.m. on Wednesday due to the impending storm.

Parts of Broward County, on Florida’s east coast, were still severely flooded on Wednesday, with lakes having overflowed and residential streets submerged. Rainfall totals from Eta could add up to 20 inches in some parts of South Florida, the NHC said.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Steve Orlofsky)

Trump lawsuits unlikely to impact outcome of U.S. election, experts say

By Tom Hals

WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump called in his lawyers to shore up his dimming re-election prospects, but legal experts said the flurry of lawsuits had little chance of changing the outcome but might cast doubt on the process.

As Trump’s paths to victory narrowed, his campaign on Thursday was ramping up legal challenges and said it was planning to file its latest case in Nevada.

On Wednesday, the campaign sued in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia and asked to join a pending case at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Experts said the litigation serves to drag out the vote count and postpone major media from declaring Biden the victor, which would have dire political implications for Trump.

“The current legal maneuvering is mainly a way for the Trump campaign to try to extend the ball game in the long-shot hope that some serious anomaly will emerge,” said Robert Yablon, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School. “As of now, we haven’t seen any indication of systematic irregularities in the vote count.”

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement Wednesday the lawsuits were aimed at ensuring legal votes were counted.

“The lawsuits are meritless,” said Bob Bauer, who is part of Biden’s legal team. “They’re intended to give the Trump campaign the opportunity to argue the vote count should stop. It is not going to stop.”

Ultimately, for the lawsuits to have an impact, the race would have to hang on the outcome of one or two states separated by a few thousand votes, according to experts.

In Michigan and Pennsylvania, Trump asked courts to temporarily halt the vote counts because the campaign’s observers were allegedly denied access to the counting process.

The Michigan case was dismissed on Thursday but a Pennsylvania court ordered that Trump campaign observers be granted better access to counting process in Philadelphia.

At the Supreme Court, the campaign is seeking to invalidate mail-in votes in Pennsylvania that are postmarked by Election Day but arrive by the end of Friday.

In Georgia, the Trump campaign asked a judge to require Chatham County to separate late-arriving ballots to ensure they were not counted, but the case was dismissed on Thursday.

“There is no consistent strategy there,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. She said the campaign was “throwing theories at a wall to see if anything sticks for long enough to muck up the waters.”

Edward Foley, who specializes in election law at the Moritz College of Law, said the cases might have merit but only affected a small number of ballots and procedural issues.

“But merit in that sense is very different from having the kind of consequence that Bush v. Gore did in 2000,” said Foley.

In that case, the Supreme Court reversed a ruling by Florida’s top court that had ordered a manual recount and prompted Democrat Al Gore to concede the election to Republican George W. Bush.

The 2000 election improbably close, with a margin of 537 votes in Florida deciding the outcome.

The campaign is still challenging late arriving mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania, which according to media reports numbered in the hundreds so far, likely too few to have a meaningful impact.

In addition, it appears increasingly likely Biden can win the race even if he loses the state.

Danielle Lang, who advocates for voting rights at Campaign Legal Center, said Trump has a long history of attempting to whip up mistrust in our electoral system.

“Allegations of ‘irregularities’ — backed up by lawsuits, even frivolous ones — could potentially serve that narrative,” she said.

Experts said the lawsuits and claims of fraud might be aimed at softening the sting of being bounced from office by calling the process into question.

“The litigation looks more like an effort to allow Trump to continue rhetorically attempting to delegitimize an electoral loss,” said Joshua Geltzer, a professor at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy & Protection.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Aurora Ellis)