Biden leads in pivotal Wisconsin; Trump campaign sues in Michigan

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland

WILMINGTON, Del./WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrat Joe Biden held a narrow lead over President Donald Trump in Wisconsin after officials completed their vote count and pulled further ahead in Michigan, even as the Republican incumbent’s campaign vowed to pursue a recount and a lawsuit to challenge the results in the two Midwestern battleground states.

Wisconsin and Michigan are critical in the race to the 270 electoral votes in the state-by-state Electoral College needed to win the White House. Trump won both states in his 2016 election victory. Losing them would greatly harm his quest for another four years in office.

Trump, who made attacking the integrity of U.S. elections a central campaign theme, in the early-morning hours falsely claimed victory in the election and made unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud. His campaign on Wednesday said it had filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the count in Michigan, asserting it had not been allowed to observe the opening of ballots.

Biden led by 38,000 votes out of more than 5 million ballots in Michigan.

“Michigan’s elections have been conducted transparently, with access provided for both political parties and the public, and using a robust system of checks and balances to ensure that all ballots are counted fairly and accurately,” Ryan Jarvi, press secretary to Democratic Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, said in a statement.

Wisconsin officials finished their tally at around midday after an all-night effort, showing Biden with a lead of just over 20,000 votes, or 0.6%, according to Edison Research. The Trump campaign immediately said it would request a recount, which is permitted under state law when the margin is below 1%.

CNN, Fox News and the Associated Press projected Biden as the winner in Wisconsin, though Edison Research, which provides voting data to the National Election Pool media consortium, has not announced a winner because of the pending recount.

Closely contested states including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and North Carolina were still counting votes, leaving the national election outcome still in doubt.


Voting concluded as scheduled on Tuesday night, but many states routinely take days to finish counting ballots. There was a surge in mail-in ballots nationally amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump led in the two Southern states, Georgia and North Carolina, as well as in Pennsylvania. But if Trump loses Wisconsin and Michigan, he would have to win all three as well as either Arizona or Nevada, where Biden was leading in the latest vote counts.

At the moment, not including Wisconsin, Biden leads Trump 227 to 213 in Electoral College votes, which are largely based on a state’s population.

Biden led in Arizona, a battleground state with a high Latino population, which would make him only the second Democratic presidential candidate to win the state in 72 years. Trump won the state in 2016.

In Pennsylvania, Trump led by about 389,000 votes as officials gradually worked their way through millions of mail-in ballots, which were seen as likely to benefit Biden. Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien called the president the winner in Pennsylvania even though state officials had not completed the count.

In dueling conference calls with reporters earlier on Wednesday, officials from each campaign insisted their candidate would prevail.

“If we count all legal ballots, we win,” Stepien said, setting the stage for the post-election litigation over ballot counting.

Biden campaign manager Jennifer O’Malley Dillon told reporters the former vice president was on track to win the election, while senior legal adviser Bob Bauer said there were no grounds for Trump to invalidate lawfully cast ballots.

“We’re going to defend this vote, the vote by which Joe Biden has been elected to the presidency,” said Bauer, adding that the campaign’s legal team was prepared for any challenge.

Biden was expected to deliver an address later on Wednesday. The campaign also launched a new group, the Biden Fight Fund, to raise money for legal fights over the election.

Trump continued to make unsubstantiated attacks on the vote-counting process on Twitter on Wednesday, hours after he appeared at the White House and declared victory in an election that was far from decided. Both Facebook and Twitter flagged multiple posts from the president for promoting misleading claims.

“We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election,” Trump said before launching an extraordinary attack on the electoral process by a sitting president. “This is a major fraud on our nation. We want the law to be used in a proper manner. So we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.”

Trump provided no evidence to back up his claim of fraud and did not explain how he would fight the results at the Supreme Court.

In the nationwide popular vote, Biden on Wednesday was comfortably ahead of Trump, with about 3 million more votes. Trump won the 2016 election over Democrat Hillary Clinton after winning crucial battleground states even though she drew about 3 million more votes nationwide.

The election uncertainty only added to the anxiety many Americans were feeling following a vitriolic campaign that unfolded amid a pandemic that has killed more than 233,000 Americans and left millions more jobless. The country has also grappled with months of unrest involving protests over racism and police brutality.

Biden’s hopes of a decisive early victory were dashed on Tuesday evening when Trump won the battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and Texas. Among other undecided states, Nevada does not expect to update its vote count until Thursday, state officials said.


It was not clear what Trump meant by saying overnight that he would ask the Supreme Court to halt “voting.” The high court does not hear direct challenges but instead reviews cases that have worked their way up from lower courts.

Trump has repeatedly said without evidence that widespread mail-in voting would lead to fraud, although U.S. election experts say fraud is very rare.

Legal experts have said the election outcome could get bogged down in state-by-state litigation over a host of issues, including whether states can include late-arriving ballots that were mailed by Election Day. Both campaigns have marshaled teams of lawyers in preparation for any disputes.

The Supreme Court previously allowed Pennsylvania to move forward with a plan to count ballots mailed by Election Day that arrive up to three days later, but some conservative justices suggested they would be willing to reconsider the matter. State officials planned to segregate those ballots as a precaution.

The election will also decide which party controls the U.S. Congress for the next two years, and the Democratic drive to win control of the Senate appeared to be falling short. Democrats had flipped two Republican-held seats while losing one of their own, and five other races remained undecided – Alaska, Michigan, North Carolina and two in Georgia.

Trump’s strong performance in Florida, a must-win state for his re-election, was powered by his improved numbers with Latinos.

Edison’s national exit poll showed that while Biden led Trump among nonwhite voters, Trump received a slightly higher proportion of the nonwhite votes than he did in 2016. The poll showed that about 11% of African Americans, 31% of Hispanics and 30% of Asian Americans voted for Trump, up 3 percentage points from 2016 in all three groups.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Wilmington, Delaware, and Jeff Mason in Washington; Additional reporting by Jason Lange, Steve Holland and Susan Heavey in Washington, and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing by Joseph Ax; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Will Dunham)

U.S. Senate kills $300 billion coronavirus aid bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Thursday killed a $300 billion coronavirus aid bill written by Senate Republican leadership, as Democrats blocked the measure on a procedural vote.

The Senate voted 52-47 to advance the bill, short of the 60 votes needed to continue debate on the measure.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

House Republicans short of votes to pass immigration bill: lawmaker

Migrant families from Mexico, fleeing from violence, listen to officers of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection before entering the United States to apply for asylum at Paso del Norte international border crossing bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

By Richard Cowan and Amanda Becker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have not yet rounded up the votes needed to pass immigration legislation they plan to take up later on Thursday, a member of the House Republican leadership said.

“Well, we’re working with our members. Obviously we have to get 218 votes and we’re working hard to get there,” Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the head of the House Republican Conference, told Fox News Channel.

“We’re not there yet but we’re working on it,” she said.

The House plans to vote on two bills designed to halt the practice of separating families entering the United States illegally and address a range of other immigration issues.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday stepped back from his administration’s practice of separating immigrant families that illegally cross the border, which had been part of his so-called zero tolerance policy on illegal immigration. He signed an executive order to stop the separations but it was unclear how children already taken from their parents would be reunited.

The policy shift faces legal challenges because of a court order that put a 20-day cap on how long minors can be detained, and the Trump administration has called for legislation to find a permanent fix.

Both House bills, backed by Trump but opposed by Democrats and immigration advocacy groups, would fund the wall Trump has proposed along the U.S. border with Mexico and reduce legal migration, in part by denying visas for some relatives of U.S. residents and citizens living abroad.

The more conservative bill would deny the chance of future citizenship to “Dreamers” – immigrants brought illegally into the United States years ago when they were children.

Even if a bill clears the House, it would face an uncertain future in the Senate, where lawmakers are considering different measures and where Republicans would need at least nine senators from the Democratic caucus to join them to ensure any bill could overcome procedural hurdles.

“What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills when you need 9 votes by Democrats in the Senate, and the Dems are only looking to Obstruct,” Trump said in a tweet on Thursday as he renewed his call for a change in Senate rules to allow legislation to move with a simple majority.

(Reporting by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott)

After bloodshed, Venezuelan government and foes battle for votes

After bloodshed, Venezuelan government and foes battle for votes

By Andrew Cawthorne and Francisco Aguilar

BARINAS, Venezuela (Reuters) – Tirelessly traversing the lethargic plains of Venezuela, a brother of former leader Hugo Chavez and an ally of a famous opposition detainee vie for votes.

The governorship race in Barinas state – the Chavez family’s stronghold – is the most emblematic of state elections taking place nationwide on Sunday just weeks after opposition-led protests that shook Venezuela and claimed at least 125 lives.

“At every rally, Hugo Chavez is out front, showing us the way,” enthuses Argenis Chavez, 59, an electrical engineer and incumbent governor, jumping on a bike and evoking his late elder brother at every campaign stop.

“In Barinas, defeating the government means defeating the Chavez family who have wielded power at whim for 18 years,” counters opposition rival Freddy Superlano, 41, wearing a shirt with the image of his arrested party leader Leopoldo Lopez.

This year’s prolonged protests failed to bring down the government of President Nicolas Maduro, but they hardened global opinion against the ruling socialists and led to U.S. sanctions.

Now, opposition leaders want their demoralized supporters to turn out en masse at the gubernatorial polls to overturn Maduro’s majority in 20 of Venezuela’s 23 states.

The government, in turn, wants to minimize seemingly inevitable losses, and trumpet the election as proof against accusations of autocracy in Venezuela.

“Look at our ‘dictatorship’ then: an election where most candidates are from the opposition!” Chavez ironically told Reuters, as red-shirted supporters danced around him at a rally.

With voters angry over a crushing economic crisis, polls show the opposition coalition would win handily in normal circumstances. One recent survey gave the coalition, which aspires to win 18 governorships, 44.7 percent of voter intentions versus 21.1 percent for the government.


Circumstances are far from normal in Venezuela, however, and the government has threatened to ban any candidates linked to violence in protests.

Furthermore, as in past elections during the ruling “Chavismo” movement’s 18-year grip on Venezuela, state resources are being mobilized heavily for official candidates.

Distribution of subsidized food at government rallies is commonplace, state-run companies lend transport for the events, and state media give Maduro’s candidates unfettered air-time. One opposition candidate’s brother has been arrested for alleged car theft in what the coalition says is an attempt to intimidate its ranks.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage for the opposition is the electronic ballot sheet itself.

Despite primaries to choose a single opposition candidate per state from the plethora of parties within the Democratic Unity coalition, the pro-Maduro election board is declining to modify the ballot list to narrow it down to one name.

All initial candidates from before the primaries are listed on the ballot instead, something that could confuse opposition supporters and dilute their vote, benefiting the ruling Socialist Party’s candidates.

Further stoking opposition supporters’ skepticism, the election board is using a new vote machine provider after long-term partner Smartmatic accused it of inflating numbers in July’s controversial election of a Constituent Assembly super-body.


On a walkabout in an unpaved shantytown on the outskirts of Barinas city, Superlano told Reuters government candidates were using helicopters to campaign while he and other opposition aspirants spent hours on the road to reach remote communities.

The government was also exploiting Venezuelans’ hunger, during a period of unprecedented scarcity, by handing out food bags in return for promises of votes, he said.

“It’s a macabre plan,” said Superlano, a lawmaker from Lopez’s Popular Will party who won the opposition primary in Barinas. “Even with all that, they are losing!”

Having dealt a hugely symbolic blow to “Chavismo” by winning five of six congress seats for Barinas in 2015 elections, the opposition now wants to end 18 years of nearly unbroken control of the governorship by Chavez family members.

While there is widespread discontent over food shortages, idle land and rising malnutrition in a fertile region that should be Venezuela’s bread basket, the government is running a rigorous campaign and painting Superlano as “the candidate of the violence” in reference to this year’s protests.

Maduro supporters say the opposition, backed by Venezuela’s elite and the U.S. government, is intent on taking power by force to seize control of the nation’s oil riches.

“They want war for Venezuela. We want peace,” said 65-year-old retiree Ramon Alvarran, proudly wearing a red T-shirt depicting the eyes of Hugo Chavez at a rally for his brother.

Elsewhere though, resentment against Maduro is palpable.

“My kids don’t have a crumb in their stomachs yet today,” said Daris Gonzalez, 36, whose three children had not eaten by lunchtime. Like many in her poor and once staunchly “Chavista” neighborhood, Gonzalez is now leaning toward the opposition.

“There has to be change. We cannot go on like this.”

Offsetting such sentiment, many young grassroots opposition supporters feel their leaders have sold out – and betrayed the memory of slain protesters – by entering an election on an unfair playing field. Abstentions could hurt their numbers.

Should the opposition triumph on Sunday, the government can limit the impact by restricting funding and taking authority away from the governors’ offices, as it has done in the past when offices have fallen to opponents.

Any overt dirty tricks, however, risk bringing more international sanctions or torpedoing an already fragile, foreign-led mediation with the opposition that Maduro needs to improve his international image.

Following the gubernatorial election, the opposition wants to shift attention to demanding a date, and guarantee of free conditions, for the 2018 presidential election to advance their ultimate goal of ending socialist rule.

“People are very angry and their anger has a face: Maduro,” said Carlos Ocariz, an opposition candidate trying to hold Miranda state for the opposition against a rising star on the government side, Hector Rodriguez.

(Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne and Francisco Aguilar; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and Tom Brown)

‘No doubt’ Russia behind hacks on U.S. election system: senior Democrat

Vice Presidential debate in Virginia

By Dustin Volz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior Democratic lawmaker said Sunday he had “no doubt” that Russia was behind recent hacking attempts targeting state election systems, and urged the Obama administration to publicly blame Moscow for trying to undermine confidence in the Nov. 8 presidential contest.

The remarks from Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, come amid heightened concerns among U.S. and state officials about the security of voting machines and databases, and unsubstantiated allegations from Republican candidate Donald Trump that the election could be “rigged.”

“I have no doubt [this is Russia]. And I don’t think the administration has any doubt,” Schiff said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”

Schiff’s call to name and shame the Kremlin came a week after Trump questioned widely held conclusions made privately by the U.S. intelligence community that Russia is responsible for the hacking activity.

“It could be Russia, but it could also be China,” Trump said during a televised debate with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. “It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

On Saturday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said hackers have probed the voting systems of many U.S. states but there is no sign that they have manipulated any voting data.

Schiff said he doubted hackers could falsify vote tallies in a way to affect the election outcome. Officials and experts have said the decentralized and outdated nature of U.S. voting technology makes such hacks more unlikely.

But cyber attacks on voter registration systems could “sow discord” on election day, Schiff said. He further added that leaks of doctored emails would be difficult to disprove and could “be election altering.”

The National Security Agency, FBI and DHS all concluded weeks ago that Russian intelligence agencies conducted, directed or coordinated all the major cyberattacks on U.S. political organizations, including the Democratic National Committee, and individuals, a U.S. official who is participating in the investigations said on Sunday.

However, the official said, White House officials have resisted naming the Russians publicly because doing so could result in escalating cyberattacks, and because it is considered impossible to offer public, unclassified proof of the allegation.

Schiff and Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate intelligence committee, said last month they had concluded Russian intelligence agencies were “making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election.”

(Reporting by Dustin Volz and John Walcott; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

British PM: “Christian Message Is the Bedrock of a Good Society”

The prime minster of Great Britain has written an Easter message where he called Christianity the “bedrock of a good society.”

David Cameron wrote the article for Premier Christianity that says all people, regardless of their faith, could celebrate the values of Easter: compassion, forgiveness, kindness, hard work and responsibility.

“Whether or not we’re members of the Church of England, ‘Love thy neighbour’ is a doctrine we can all apply to our lives – at school, at work, at home and with our families. A sense of compassion is the centre piece of a good community,” Cameron wrote.

Cameron admitted he’s not a “model church-going, God-fearing Christian” but that he relies strongly on his faith to guide him and his decisions for the nation.

The message from the PM was not without critics, many of whom pointed out the upcoming elections and wondered if the message was an attempt to sway voters.

“What’s ironic here is that the prime minister, through trying to convey he is not afraid to call himself Christian, has actually communicated that he seems terrified to identify as one. The prime minister is entitled to hold whatever religious beliefs he wants and should stand by them rather than cynically trying to woo the Christian vote ahead of May 7,” wrote an associate editor of the Catholic Herald.