Democrats declared victory in the second Georgia Senate race on Wednesday morning, a move that gives them control of the upper chamber of Congress.
Jon Ossoff declared himself the winner of his contest with Republican Senator David Perdue despite networks not yet making the call, a claim quickly backed up in statements from Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
His will be the second victory – the Rev. Raphael Warnock was first win of the night, beating Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler – and would give Democrats complete control on Capitol Hill for the next two years.
‘It is with humility that I thank the people of Georgia for electing me to serve you in the United States senate. Thank you for the confidence and trust you have placed in me,’ Ossoff said in a video posted to Twitter.
He led Perdue by more than 17,000 votes, which is just shy of a 0.5 percent threshold to avoid a recount. Most outstanding votes were from Democratic-leaning areas.
Gabe Sterling, the Voting System Implementation Manager for Georgia, said Wednesday morning there is ‘no evidence of any irregularities’ in last night’s election. ‘The biggest thing we’ve seen is from the president’s fertile mind of finding fraud where none exists,’ he noted.
He also said he expects Ossoff to garner enough votes from the more than 60,000 outstanding to avoid an automatic recount.
Schumer – likely to be the chamber’s next majority leader – praised the two Democratic Senate candidates in Georgia for their wins and vowed to bring aid to the American people.
‘For too long, much-needed help has been stalled or diluted by a Republican-led Senate and President Trump. That will change with a Democratic Senate, Democratic House, and a Democratic President,’ he said in a statement Wednesday morning. ’We will work every day to reward the faith that the American people have placed in us.’
He also said he had spoken to President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, Biden was more cautious in his statement on the contests, which were the most expensive Senate races in history.
‘I congratulate Reverend Warnock on his groundbreaking win last night and I am hopeful that when the count is complete, Jon Ossoff will also be victorious,’ he said.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who is watching his power to set the agenda in the upper chamber fade away, had no comment to reporters on the situation when he arrived on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning.
Schumer told reporters on Capitol Hill he hasn’t spoken to McConnell yet Wednesday.
‘I look forward to sitting down with Leader McConnell. We have a lot of things to discuss,’ he noted.
He said he learned of the results while at home in Brooklyn. ‘This is not the path we chose to get here, but we’re here,’ he said.
The victory declaration comes as Congress prepares to convene for a constitutionally-mandated Joint Session to certify the electoral college results in the presidential race.
Joe Biden’s victory is all but certain even as President Donald Trump launched a last-minute attempt to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election results, asking him for ‘extreme courage’ in the day ahead.
Pence will preside over what is expected to be a long day as Trump allies on Capitol Hill prepare to object to the results. But their efforts are expected to be for naught. A majority of Republican senators vowed to support Biden’s win, leaving the president with few options.
Trump kept the pressure on, however.
‘States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!,’ he tweeted Wednesday morning.
Pence does not have the power to overturn the election. His role in the day’s proceedings is largely ceremonial.
The president also is scheduled to address his supporters outside the White House on Wednesday morning – shortly before the joint session convenes – in a day that expected to feature protests throughout the city and fears of violence.
The National Guard has been called into help patrol the streets and Washington D.C. police announced they will arrest anyone who brings in a fire arm, as some Trump supporters have threatened to do.
‘Buckle up,’ Schumer warned in a tweet Wednesday morning. The Joint Session is expected to go into the early hours of Thursday.
Meanwhile, Trump used his party’s losses in Tuesday’s special election in Georgia as part of his case to stay in the White House.
‘THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, OUR COUNTRY, NEEDS THE PRESIDENCY MORE THAN EVER BEFORE – THE POWER OF THE VETO. STAY STRONG!,’ he tweeted in all caps.
However, later in the morning, the president changed his tune, claiming Perdue’s loss was because of a ‘rigged election’ – a false claim he has made about his own electoral loss.
‘These scoundrels are only toying with the @sendavidperdue (a great guy) vote. Just didn’t want to announce quite yet. They’ve got as many ballots as are necessary. Rigged Election!,’ Trump tweeted.
The dual Democratic victory in Georgia was a blow to Republicans and gives the incoming president-elect complete control on Capitol Hill as he prepares to nominate judges and Cabinet officials along with pushing his legislative agenda.
Republicans have starting blame Trump for the losses. The president campaigned for the two Republican senators in Georgia but used those campaign rallies to slam the state’s GOP governor for not helping him with the presidential race.
‘Well, It turns out that telling the voters that the election is rigged is not a great way to turn out your voters,’ Republican Senator Mitt Romney told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
Jon Ossoff declared victory in his Senate race – despite the contest not being officially called – a move that gives Democrats control of the upper chamber of Congress
The Rev. Raphael Warnock victory was first win of the night in Georgia’s two special Senate contests
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer declared victory on Wednesday morning as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t respond to questions about the Georgia Senate race
The congressional certification on Wednesday is the final act in completing the presidential election.
Trump has put heavy pressure on Pence to act illegally and keep him in office, even issuing a statement late Tuesday night denying a report that the vice president had told him he could not give him a second term.
The president issued a statement after the New York Times reported that Pence had told him over lunch that he had no constitutional power to ‘decertify’ states’ slates of electors when he presides over Congress to certify the election result.
But Trump called that ‘fake news’ then outlined an extraordinary plan to either get Republican state legislatures to send Trump electors – or turn the election to Congress under the 12th Amendment, which could then vote for Trump.
ABC News’ White House Correspondent Jon Karl reported that Trump was ‘prepared to go after Pence and go after him hard’ if he does not get in line and act as he wishes in the Joint Session.
Trump gave a suggestion of his public fury in his statement Tuesday night.
‘Decertifying’ the results would plunge the country into a constitutional crisis but Trump claimed that Pence was in ‘total agreement’ that he ‘has the power to act.’
Trump’s statement publicly turned the heat up on Pence after a pressure campaign which has been going on in private for weeks and exploded into the public on Monday night at Trump’s Georgia rally, then on Twitter Tuesday.
‘The New York Times report regarding comments Vice President Pence supposedly made to me today is fake news,’ Trump said in a statement issued by the White House. It was dated 2020.
‘He never said that. The Vice President and I are in total agreement that the Vice President has the power to act.
‘The November 3rd election was corrupt in contested states, and in particular it was not in accordance with the Constitution in that they made large scale changes to election rules and regulations as dictated by local judges and politicians, not by state legislators. This means that it was illegal.
Delivering bad news: Mike Pence was spotted at the White House Tuesday after Trump had tweeted that the vice president could disqualify Electoral College votes. Pence was on his way to tell Trump that he could not
Trying to lighten the blow: Mike Pence told Trump he might attempt to ‘acknowledge’ his claims of fraud – partly driven by his own fear that confirming Joe Biden’s victory will be used against him
Trump’s tweet is false and Pence does not have the power to reject slates of electors
‘Our Vice President has several options under the U.S. Constitution. He can decertify the results or send them back to the states for change and certification.
‘He can also decertify the illegal and corrupt results and send them to the House of Representatives for the one vote for one state tabulation.’
Significantly, however, the statement was not signed by Pence – and the legal claims Trump made appeared to be in line with plans outlined by Rudy Giuliani, not the Senate Parliamentarian who has advised Pence that his powers are limited to confirming the Electoral College votes read out on the floor of Congress.
During the Joint Session, if a member of the House and Senate both object to one of the state’s slates of electors, the two chambers split to debate the objection for two hours – with Pence presiding over the Senate.
That is when he could offer some ‘acknowledgment’ of Trump’s claims about fraud to ameliorate both the blow to his boss, and the potential for the president to turn on his ultra-loyal deputy in the dying days of the administration, and beyond.
Pence is said to be particularly concerned that his certification of Biden’s victory could be weaponized against him on social media.
The low down on how Congress certifies the Electoral College vote
At 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Senators and Representatives will gather in the House chamber for a Joint Session of Congress to count and certify the electoral college ballots.
Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump by 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.
But the constitution calls for Congress to certify the results, in a process that has become largely procedural. It is very difficult to over turn an election and it has never happened in American history.
Republicans, however, have vowed to object to the electoral college results, dragging out the certification process and putting on a grand display of theater that will likely please the president.
Here’s how the day will play out:
The process is presided over by the president of the Senate, which is Vice President Mike Pence.
Pence will open the states’ sealed certificates in alphabetical order and hand them them to one of four ‘tellers’ — a Republican and a Democrat from each chamber of Congress – who will announce how each state voted.
As each state’s result is read, Pence will ask whether any member of Congress wishes to raise an objection.
At least one member of the House and one member of the Senate must object for the objection to stand. The law also states the objection must be in writing.
If the objection is recognized, the lawmakers go to their respective chambers to debate the matter for up to two hours.
Then the House and Senate each votes on whether to sustain the objection – which would dismiss the state’s votes – or reject the objection.
For a state’s results to be dismissed, majorities of both chambers have to vote to sustain the objection. If one chamber votes to sustain the objection and the other doesn’t, the objection is dismissed and the state’s electoral college results stand.
The Democratically-controlled House is unlikely to support sustaining an objection, meaning the states’ results will stand and Biden will ultimately be declared the winner.
Additionally, the Republican-controlled Senate isn’t likely to vote in favor of an objection, either. The GOP has a slim margin in the upper chamber and a number of Republican senators have voiced their objections to the objection process.
After the objection is voted on by each chamber, the joint session reconvenes and continues with the count. If there’s another objection to a different state’s vote, the process is repeated.
President Trump’s allies are looking at challenging three states: Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, which could go into the early morning hours of Thursday.
‘At the end of the day, which could be the middle of the night, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be officially declared the next President and Vice President of the United States,’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to Democratic House members on Monday.
After the votes are recorded from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the vice president declares who has received the requisite majority of electoral college votes. That announcement finalizes the election.
WHAT IF THE OBJECTIONS ARE SUSTAINED?
If, by some remote chance, an objection is sustained, Trump and his allies hope that will result in the electors being thrown out, ultimately bringing Biden’s electoral count below the 270 needed to win.
If all three state challenges are successful, Biden would have 259 electoral votes, throwing the election to the House of Representatives to select the next president.
Under the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, each state congressional delegation gets one vote.
While Democrats control the House, Republicans control the majority of state delegations, which is how Trump hopes to be ‘elected.’
Sources: NBC News, Washington Post, New York Times
Meanwhile, Democrats are celebrating their return to power with Biden coming into the White House and their majorities in both chambers of Congress, thanks to the double wins in Georgia’s runoff Senate elections.
Democrat Reverend Raphael Warnock was the first victory of the night in Georgia, winning his race against Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler and becoming the first black Senator in the state’s history.
Ossoff led Republican incumbent David Perdue into the early hours before he finally declared himself the victor.
President Trump tweeted bitterly throughout Wednesday night as dawn broke on the likelihood of a split Senate 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote.
‘Looks like they are setting up a big ‘voter dump’ against the Republican candidates. Waiting to see how many votes they need?’ The president tweeted amid a slew of unsubstantiated voter fraud claims.
Georgia has become a political focal point since the November general election as the Republicans sought desperately to retain their crucial Senate majority in a traditionally red state after losing the White House.
But the state has elected its first Democrat senators for 20 years in a stinging rebuke of the GOP.
Warnock told supporters: ‘Because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator.’
When Loeffler gave her remarks earlier, she refused to concede, while Purdue’s campaign said: ‘This is an exceptionally close election that will require time and transparency to be certain the results are fair and accurate and the voices of Georgians are heard.’
Warnock told supporters proudly of his deep roots in Georgia and about his family members, including his mother. He also quoted scripture and Martin Luther King Jr, who once preached at his Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
‘We have a choice to make,’ he said. ‘Will we continue to play political games as people suffer?’
He said he hoped his story would be an inspiration to some young person looking for the American dream.
‘So Georgia I am honored in the faith that you have shown to me,’ Warnock said. ‘I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia.’
Warnock will become the state’s first black senator while the 33-year-old Ossoff would be Georgia’s first Jewish senator if he wins.
The critical races drew an estimated 4.5 million voters – a record for a runoff – along with nearly half a billion dollars in advertising spending since November 3 and visits on Monday by Trump and Biden.
Perdue is a former Fortune 500 executive who has served one Senate term. Loeffler, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, was appointed a year ago to fill the seat of a retiring senator.
Biden’s narrow statewide win over Trump in the general election – the first victory for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 – gave the party reason for optimism in a state dominated by Republicans for decades.
The head-to-head runoff elections in Georgia, a quirk of state law, became necessary when no candidate in either race drew more than 50 percent of the vote in November’s general election.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said election officials would take a break overnight but resume counting on Wednesday morning. ‘Hopefully by noon we’ll have a better idea where we are,’ he said.
Late reporting from DeKalb County put the Democrats in a more formidable position.
Trump predicted that – tweeting around 10.30 pm that their wins would be products of more voter fraud.
‘Looks like they are setting up a big ‘voter dump’ against the Republican candidates,’ Trump wrote. ‘Waiting to see how many votes they need?’ the president tweeted.
Later on he continued: ‘Just happened to have found another 4000 ballots from Fulton County. Here we go!’
The president has since been retweeting baseless theories from right-wing commentator Tomi Lahren who claimed, ‘The steal is in the making in Georgia. Wait for it,’ and ‘Democrats scrounging up votes from mystical places again.’
Democrat Raphael Warnock claimed victory in Tuesday’s Senate run-off race early Wednesday morning over Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler
Loeffler spoke to supporters in Atlanta and refused to concede. She attacked Warnock for ‘moving the country toward socialism’
Stacey Abrams tweeted her congratulations to Rev. Raphael Warnock before the race was called for him by the networks
Before Trump’s tweets, the Drudge Report and other secondary outlets called the race for Warnock. The New York Times said it was ‘very likely’ Warnock and ‘pretty likely’ for Ossoff. By midnight, the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman predicted both Democrats would win.
Former Georgia House of Representatives minority leader and failed gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams tweeted her congratulations to Warnock before his win was called by the networks.
Abrams’ get out the vote efforts are largely credited for the state going to Biden in the November 3 election.
‘Congratulations to our next U.S. Senator, @ReverendWarnock. Last January, I endorsed my dear friend in his quest to serve. Soon, he will walk those august halls & cast votes as a leader with courage, justice and integrity. God bless you and keep you in your service to us all,’ Abrams wrote.
At an election night party in Atlanta, Loeffler attacked Warnock saying he was moving the country toward socialism, even as he cut ads to reach out to suburban voters and called for unity.
‘It was very obvious my opponent campaigned on a platform of high taxes, socialism, government control of our health care,’ she said. ‘Stopping our school choice for our children. My campaign’s about saving our country. Fighting for the American dream. You know? That’s right,’ she said to a smattering of cheers.
She vowed to fight on, and suggested she would stick to her declaration Monday that she would back election challenges on behalf of Trump.
‘So you know it’s worth it for this election to last into tomorrow,’ she continued. ‘We’re going to make sure every vote is counted. That’s right. Every legal vote will be counted. And I’m not going to stop working.’
U.S. equity market index futures were broadly weaker as the results turned in favor of the Democrats, signaling stocks could open on the soft side on Wednesday morning.
The benchmark S&P 500 e-mini futures contract was down 0.6%, while futures tracking the tech-heavy Nasdaq were off by 1.3 percent.
The campaign’s final days were overshadowed by Trump’s efforts to subvert the presidential election results.
On Saturday, Trump pressured Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, on a phone call to ‘find’ enough votes to reverse Biden’s victory, falsely claiming massive fraud.
Trump’s bid to undo his loss – with some Republicans planning to object to the certification of Biden’s win when Congress meets on Wednesday to formally count the presidential vote – have split his party and drawn condemnation from critics who accuse him of undermining democracy.
At a rally in Georgia on Monday night, Trump again declared the November vote ‘rigged,’ an assertion some Republicans worried would dissuade his supporters from voting on Tuesday.
His attacks appear to have undermined public confidence in the electoral system. Edison’s exit poll found more than seven in 10 were very or somewhat confident their votes would be counted accurately, down from 85% who said the same in a Nov. 3 exit poll.
As the Democratic Senate hopefuls looked poised to jump ahead, President Donald Trump again alleged fraud, suggesting that there would be a ‘voter dump’ against the GOP candidates, which is why Dekalb County was taking so long to report
President Donald Trump’s campaign sent out a fundraising tweet on behalf of the president around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night as returns were coming in, repeating his unfounded claims of voter fraud
Fulton County, Georgia election workers process absentee ballots Tuesday in the nail-biter race
Georgia Republicans await election results on Tuesday night at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia
Georiga Gov. Brian Kemp addresses an audience of Republican supporters of Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue Tuesday night in Georgia. President Donald Trump turned on Kemp after losing Georgia in the November general election
Warnock is a reverend and the senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where MLK once preached.
Ossoff was watching the results with his election team while his wife, an OBGYN was working the overnight shift, receiving updates from her patients, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
His campaign put out a statement once he overtook Perdue in votes, predicting he’d be successful.
‘When the votes are counted we fully expect that Jon Ossoff will have won this election to represent Georgia in the United States Senate. We look forward to seeing the process through in the coming hours and moving ahead so Jon can start fighting for all Georgians in the U.S. Senate,’ the statement read.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump was already claiming voter fraud, floating a theory that Dominion voting machines were malfunctioning.
And as midnight neared, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted out a conspiracy theory that Democrats were up to something in Chatham County, where the stronghold of Savannah is.
‘Why are they stopping the vote count in Democrat Chatham county, Georgia?’ McEnany wrote. ‘This sounds familiar!’
Earlier Tuesday Trump posted to his Twitter, ‘Reports are coming out of the 12th Congressional District of Georgia that Dominion Machines are not working in certain Republican Strongholds for over an hour.’
‘Ballots are being left in lock boxes, hopefully they count them. Thank you Congressman @RickAllen!’ he continued, directing his gratitude to Georgia’s 12th district Rep. Rick Allen.
As returns were coming in Tuesday night, Trump sent out a fundraising text to supporters trying to raise money off the allegations.
‘Pres Trump: Is it true that voting machines ‘stopped working’ earlier in Georgia today? Are Dems trying to STEAL this Election? FIGHT BACK! Act,’ the text said, linking to page asking for donations.
The claim from Trump of voter fraud appears to have come from Perdue, who is running for reelection in the runoff, and John Fredericks, who appeared on former Trump White House strategist Steven Bannon’s podcast Tuesday.
‘We’ve got another problem with Dominion machines,’ Fredericks told Bannon on his podcast War Room. ‘I know this is going to shock your viewers today. But Dominion machines in several – get this, not one or two – I heard, three of the largest Republican precincts at 10:00 a.m. are down.’
‘People have been told that they cannot scan their ballots… because the machines don’t work,’ he continued. ‘In the meantime, they have to make their ballot out and put it in an envelope and the pole workers are saying ‘When it’s fixed we’ll scan it for you.’
‘So there’s all kinds of red flags right there,’ Fredericks said. ‘Of course, these are happening in Republican areas. You can extrapolate that, it could be happenstance.’
Also on Tuesday, Perdue told the Todd Starnes Show there were voting ‘anomalies’ involving Dominion machines in three different counties in Georgia.
The president’s tweet about the claims of irregularities and malfunctions comes as reports emerge of small lines at polling places and low in-person Election Day turnout – a bad sign for Republican incumbents Loeffler and Perdue.
Karl Rove, who served as George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff and now is financial chair of the Georgia Battleground Fund, said in a private conference call Monday that the two campaigns’ models show at least 1 million Georgians need to show up on Election Day for Republicans to win.
Lines in Georgia have been much shorter than expected all day Tuesday as voters turn out on Election Day to cast their ballots in the two Senate runoff elections
Incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler (left) waves at supporters going to vote in Sandy Springs, Georgia as her Democratic opponent Reverend Raphael Warnock (right) speaks at a canvassing kick off event in Marietta, Georgia on Election Day
Immediately after news of smaller-than-expected Election Day turnout emerged, Trump sent an inevitable claim via tweet that Dominion voting machines were malfunctioning – the same claim he uses to assert he actually won Georgia in the presidential contest in November
Republican Georgia Senator David Perdue – who is running for reelection – is still quarantining after being diagnosed with coroanvirus. His Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff (pictured) visited Dunbar Neighborhood Center on Election Day in Acworth, Georgia
Voters started lining up at the crack of dawn to cast their ballots in the two consequential runoff races. The lines, however, are quite short, with some claiming it took them a total of 5 minutes between showing up and leaving their polling places