'Pathetic' Trump denounced over Krebs firing as campaign presses for recounts

By Maanvi Singh in Oakland, Sam Levine and Martin Pengelly in New York and Joan E Greve in Washington

Donald Trump was condemned by opponents on Wednesday for firing the senior official who disputed his baseless claims of election fraud, as the president pressed on with his increasingly desperate battle to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.

The president’s election campaign team continued to press for recounts and investigations in battleground states where Biden has already been declared the winner, including a new request in Wisconsin for a partial recount.

And there was uproar over his decision late on Tuesday, announced by tweet, to fire a federal official in charge of election security who dismissed his claims of widespread voter fraud.

The firing of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (Cisa) director, Christopher Krebs, was “pathetic and predictable from a president who views truth as his enemy”, senior House Democrat Adam Schiff said.

Officials have declared 3 November’s contest between Trump and Biden the most secure US election ever.

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania supreme court dealt a blow to Trump’s efforts in a state Biden won by nearly 73,000 votes, saying officials did not improperly block the Trump campaign from observing the counting of mail-in ballots, as the president has claimed.

In another lawsuit, led in federal court in the state by the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has not argued a case in federal court since the early 1990s when he was a prosecutor, the campaign accused Democrats of a nationwide conspiracy to steal the election. No such evidence has emerged in the two weeks since the polls closed.

Lawyers for the Democratic Pennsylvania secretary of state, the city of Philadelphia and several counties said the Trump campaign’s arguments lacked any constitutional basis or were rendered irrelevant by the state supreme court decision.

They asked US district judge Matthew Brann to throw out the case, calling the allegations “at best, garden-variety irregularities” that would not warrant invalidating Pennsylvania results.

The next day, the Trump campaign requested a partial recount in Wisconsin, which Biden won by around 20,000 votes, while in Georgia, which the Democrat won by around 15,000, a hand recount continued towards a midnight deadline.

CNN, for one, has declared Biden the winner in Georgia.

Neither state was thought likely to flip – and even if they did, their 26 electoral votes combined would not be enough to keep Trump in the White House, requiring a further reverse in Pennsylvania, a big prize with 20 votes, and equally unlikely to be achieved.

Biden won the electoral college by 306-232, the same margin by which Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, a victory he insisted on calling a landslide. Candidates require 270 electoral college votes to win. Trump is also fighting on in Nevada.

By continuing to refuse to concede, Trump is holding up transition processes including funding for Biden to build his administration, even as the US flounders amid a coronavirus surge.

In a statement announcing the request for recounts in Wisconsin, Trump campaign counsel Jim Troupis said: “The people of Wisconsin deserve to know whether their election processes worked in a legal and transparent way. Regrettably, the integrity of the election results cannot be trusted without a recount in these two counties and uniform enforcement of Wisconsin absentee ballot requirements.”

The Wisconsin elections commission confirmed it had received $3m from the Trump campaign for the partial recount.

A full recount would reportedly have cost nearly $8m. Trump continues to seek donations for recount efforts, though it has been widely reported that much such money is being used to pay off campaign debt and to stoke a political action committee formed to tighten Trump’s grip on the Republican party after he is obliged to leave the White House in January.

Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud have been rubbished by officials from both parties and mainstream observers, as all moves to stall Biden’s march to victory have failed.

In Michigan, Republican officials backed down amid cries of outrageous racism after threatening to block certification of results in Wayne county, the large, majority African American county that incorporates Detroit. Trump praised their blocking attempt on Twitter.

After an election race is called for a projected winner in a state, such as by the Associated Press, results still have to be officially certified by state officials.

Biden won Michigan by around 346,000 votes.

Dave Wasserman, US House editor of the non-partisan Cook Political Report, said: “It’s time to start calling baseless conspiracies what they are: libellous attacks on the 500,000-plus heroic poll workers and election administrators in every corner of the US who pulled off a successful election amid record-shattering turnout and a global pandemic.”

Reverberations also continued from the president’s decision to fire Krebs, one of his own federal appointees.

In a statement last week, Cisa, Krebs’s agency, said: “The 3 November election was the most secure in American history. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

In his tweet firing Krebs, Trump claimed the statement was “highly inaccurate”.

Schiff, the Democratic House intelligence committee chair, called the firing “pathetic and predictable from a president who views truth as his enemy”.

Angus King, an independent Maine senator, said: “By firing [Krebs] for doing his job, President Trump is harming all Americans.”

Krebs said: “Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomorrow. #Protect2020