Donald Trump faced an instant backlash after delivering a rambling address at the White House littered with lies about election fraud and winning the vote.
Using the pomp of the White House briefing room as his backdrop, the US president made a series of statements – sometimes incomprehensible – as his chances of re-election were in peril.
“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” Trump falsely claimed, adding without evidence that there had been “historical interference from big media, big money and big tech”.
Some major TV networks in the US immediately cut their coverage as Trump raised non-specific issues with postal voting. He referred to “a pipe burst”, “people are using binoculars” and “paper on all of the windows”.
Condemnation came immediately. CNN’s Anderson Cooper likened Trump to “an obese turtle on his back flailing in the hot sun”.
On the same channel, Rick Santorum, a Republican who once stood to be president, said the statement was “not factual” and “not something any elected official should say”.
He said: “Democrats voted by mail, that’s why (Trump’s) lead went away… it’s very disappointing, shocking at times, to hear the president say the things he’s said.”
Referring to legally permissible observers, the US president claimed that when observers arrived, they were told to be “100 feet away” from the count.
“When the observers got there, they wanted them 60, 70 feet away, 80 feet, 100 feet away, or outside the building, to observe people inside the building”, he told reporters.
On the postal vote system, Trump added: “I’ve been talking about mail-in voting for a long time. It’s really destroyed our system, it’s a corrupt system.”
The press conference was the first for Trump since early Wednesday, when he addressed the media as the first wave of election results was being reported.
Trump at the time baselessly declared victory and falsely claimed he’d already won several states in which a clear winner had yet to be determined. He also, without evidence, suggested that the ongoing counting of votes amounted to “fraud” and should be halted.
Since then, the Trump campaign has filed lawsuits in several states to halt vote counting and disqualify ballots. Judges in at least two states have ruled against his campaign.
Other Republicans swiftly moved to distance themselves from their president.
Mitt Romney, who lost to Barack Obama in the 2012 race, said: “Counting every vote is at the heart of democracy. That process is often long and, for those running, frustrating.
“The votes will be counted. If there are irregularities alleged, they will be investigated and ultimately resolved in the courts.
“Have faith in democracy, in our Constitution, and in the American people.”
The presidential election remains too close to call after polls closed on Tuesday, but former vice-president Mr Biden remains the favourite after winning three key battleground states.
Pennsylvania was expecting to announce its result by the end of the day. If it goes to Mr Biden, so would the White House.
Biden, the former vice president, was chipping away at the Republican incumbent’s leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia even as he maintained narrow advantages in Nevada and Arizona, moving closer to securing the 270 votes in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner.
In three of the four states, the margins between the two men had tightened since Wednesday, as results from counting centers trickled in and anxious Americans waited for clarity after an exhausting and deeply vitriolic election.
In Pennsylvania, Trump’s lead had shrunk from 319,000 on Wednesday afternoon to 74,000 a day later, while his margin in Georgia fell from 68,000 to fewer than 4,000. Those numbers were expected to continue to move in Biden’s favor, with many of the outstanding ballots from areas that typically vote Democratic, including the cities of Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Biden, meanwhile, saw his lead in Arizona contract from 93,000 to 65,000; he was ahead in Nevada by only 11,000 votes.
Most major television networks gave Biden a 253 to 214 lead in Electoral College votes, which are largely determined by state population, after he captured the crucial battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday.
Biden would become the next president by winning Pennsylvania, or by winning two out of the trio of Georgia, Nevada and Arizona. Trump’s likeliest path appeared narrower - he needed to hang onto Pennsylvania and Georgia while overtaking Biden in either Nevada or Arizona.