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Trump Addresses Nation As States Continue Ballot Counting

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Trump addressed the nation this evening as his path to the presidency, a second term, narrows. He made false claims about stolen votes. He touted wins in states like Ohio and Florida. To go over what the president has claimed at the White House tonight and how his speech contrasts with one earlier today from former Vice President Joe Biden, I want to bring in three of our NPR correspondents - our White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe, also Scott Detrow and Miles Parks.

Welcome back, all three of you.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good evening.

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Thanks.

KELLY: Ayesha, I'm going to start with you. I want to start by fact-checking something. Trump came out - he came out swinging right at the top of this and said, and I quote, "if you count the legal votes, I easily win." I just want to note that is false. There are states - they are still counting hundreds of thousands of legitimate ballots. This is the normal, legal course of action in an election. This is how things are supposed to unfold. Is the president - is his campaign offering any evidence for these claims they're making about - that the election is being stolen, that there's voter fraud?

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: No, they're not offering any evidence. They're making accusations and saying things should be looked into, but they are not offering any concrete evidence of what they view as illegal or improper or widespread malfeasance. We just haven't seen anything from them like that.

KELLY: OK. Scott Detrow, let me bring you in here. We're going to fact-check a few more things that we heard tonight. But would you speak to the tone, the message that you heard from President Trump and then contrast it to what we heard earlier from Joe Biden?

DETROW: Sure. I think in terms of the message, it was defiance. There were a lot of things that the president said that are just false statements or gross misrepresentations of the facts at the moment. Joe Biden has made several appearances over the last few days. And I'd say there's really three main themes that he keeps repeating to. First of all is confidence. He said yesterday, I am not here to declare that I won. I'm here to report that when the count is finished, I believe I will be the winner. Biden is also repeatedly urging Americans to have patience and to wait for votes to be counted. He said today each ballot must be counted. That's what's going on now. And he added, Democracy is sometimes messy, and sometimes it requires a little patience. And I think the last thing I'd briefly add is that there's an overwhelming theme of unity and saying it's time to lower tensions now. And that's a lot different than what we're hearing from the president.

KELLY: I just want to note that as the day is and now the evening is unfolding, we are hearing from state officials, elections officials, secretaries of state and governors and so on, all discussing the process unfolding in their state. Let me give just a little sample of what we're hearing tonight from Pennsylvania. This is Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KATHY BOOCKVAR: I can tell you that I will do everything in my power to make sure that every voter, every candidate and every party have access to a fair, free, safe and secure election. And I don't care what their background is, and I don't care what my background is. That's what we do at the Department of State.

KELLY: Let me let you respond to that and just fill in a few holes for us, Miles Parks, because you cover election security and just what is actually happening with the ballots at polling stations, counting stations now across the country.

PARKS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think there's just increasingly a big disconnect right now between the language that President Trump is using and the language we're hearing from Republican and Democratic election officials across the country. Basically, if you talk to anyone who studies elections, elections experts or the people who are actually running this, people are incredibly, pleasantly surprised, basically, with how well this election has run. We're seeing the highest turnout election in potentially 100 years. And in a way that basically people were able to - some people were able to vote by mail. Some people were able to vote in person. And the vote-counting process is actually moving along. We knew that this was going to take a few days because of some of the rule changes that didn't happen in these swing states that would have made this process go faster. So basically, President Trump is really frustrated. But if you talk to Republicans and Democrats who are actually familiar with the process, this is exactly what they were expecting, and they seem to think it's going really well.

KELLY: Scott Detrow, fact-check that for us. Is it going well? And just give us a sense of what you are looking for as this evening unfolds, now two days past the actual election - votes being cast in person on Election Day.

DETROW: Sure. In terms of the nuts and bolts of it, Miles is the expert on this conversation. But I will say it is going, in Pennsylvania in particular, as planned, as forecasted, as reported. State officials said it was going to take through possibly Friday to count these votes because they weren't able to start counting votes until Tuesday. And because Pennsylvania has never had widespread vote by mail, early voting before, this was new. This was unprecedented. There is a pandemic. Very quickly, I will say, there were pushes in the statehouse in Harrisburg to allow counties to begin counting these ballots earlier, and they were held up. There was never an agreement.

KELLY: All right. Just for people who are just joining us, we have just heard from the president at the White House. He came out and gave some remarks with - in the press briefing room. We heard earlier tonight from Joe Biden, and I'm going to play a little bit of that. He spoke tonight in Wilmington, Del.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: Democracy is sometimes messy. It sometimes requires a little patience as well. But that patience has been rewarded now for more than 240 years with a system of governance, and that's been the envy of the world.

KELLY: A statement there that I think many people might agree with tonight - democracy is sometimes messy. Here we are in the messiness of it as votes continue to be counted. Ailsa Chang, I know you're listening in, too. Do you want to throw a question to our panel?

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Well, yes. Scott Detrow, you've been covering the Biden campaign. How has the Biden campaign been characterizing or framing all the litigation that has happened leading up to the election and now after the election, these allegations of voting irregularities and voting problems?

DETROW: They've been very dismissive. Joe Biden himself has not weighed in on these as much. But his campaign manager, Jen O'Malley Dillon, and other top staffers have been holding regular briefings. They are dismissing these essentially as messaging, as attempts to influence the conversation, the public opinion, on these, and less so any attempt to stop voting or sway voting in a legitimate way.

CHANG: All right, that is NPR's Scott Detrow, Ayesha Rascoe, and we also had NPR's Miles Parks.

Thanks to all three of you.

DETROW: Thank you.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.