Live Updates: Trump’s Allies Will Make Last Stand in Congress

Reprint – (Adapted)

Jan. 6, 2021, 1:31 p.m.

The Presidential Transition

Vice President Mike Pence told President Trump that he did not believe he had the power to block certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Congress today.

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Watch live: The House and Senate have broken into separate sessions to debate the first objection to Biden’s victory.Video Congress holds a joint session to record the votes of the Electoral College and confirm the victory of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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Republicans objected to Arizona’s electors, forcing the first challenge to Biden’s victory.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, led the objection to the Electoral College’s results in Arizona.
Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, led the objection to the Electoral College’s results in Arizona. Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

A group of congressional Republicans led by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas objected early Wednesday afternoon to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Electoral College win in Arizona, lodging the first of several extraordinary challenges to its outcome and forcing a two-hour debate in the House and Senate over President Trump’s reckless election fraud claims.

“I rise for myself and 60 of my colleges to object to the count of the electoral ballots from Arizona,” said Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona. His objection was met with widespread applause by Republicans gathered on the floor of the House of Representatives for the joint session.

Bipartisan majorities in each chamber were prepared to turn back that challenge and others and formalize Mr. Biden’s victory. But the marathon session promised to be a volatile final act of the Trump presidency, with Mr. Trump — unwilling to cede the limelight or his fantasy of victory — transforming a moment of Democratic triumph into a day of defiance by summoning supporters to his backyard for an airing of grievances.

By using the proceeding as a forum for trying to subvert a democratic election, Mr. Trump and his allies are going where no party has since the Reconstruction era of the 19th century when Congress bargained over the presidency. The effort had already badly divided the Republican Party, forcing lawmakers to go on the record either siding with the president or upholding the results of a democratic election.

The objection to Arizona was the first of at least three expected during Wednesday’s session. Republicans were also eyeing Georgia and Pennsylvania, battleground states Mr. Biden won, for likely objections.

Lawmakers anticipated possible objections for up to three additional states — Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin — although it was not clear whether they would draw the requisite backing from a member of both the House and the Senate to be considered.

Mr. Cruz, a possible 2024 presidential contender, and his allies in the Senate have said he is merely trying to draw attention to the need for an electoral commission to audit the results. But by objecting, he joined ranks with a group of dozens of House Republicans backing Mr. Trump’s attempt to toss out the will of the voters to deliver him a second term in office.

Even before it began, the session was already driving sharp wedges into the Republican Party that threatened to do lasting damage to its cohesion, as lawmakers decided to cast their lot with Mr. Trump or the Constitution. Top party leaders in the House and Senate appeared to be headed for a high-profile split. And while only a dozen or so senators were expected to vote to reject the outcome in key states, as many as 70 percent of House Republicans could join the effort, stoking the dangerous belief of tens of millions of voters that Mr. Biden was elected illegitimately.

Despite a remarkable pressure campaign by Mr. Trump to unilaterally throw out states that supported Mr. Biden, Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding as the president of the Senate, said just before the session began that he did not believe doing so was constitutional and would exercise his duties as his predecessors had. The outcome, after for years of loyal support for the president, risked his political standing in a party Mr. Trump still dominates.

“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” he wrote in a letter.

Congress’s counting process began at 1 p.m. and the session had already accepted results from Alabama and Alaska before the objection to Arizona was lodged. A member of the House and Senate must agree for any objection to having force.

Nicholas Fandos

Watch live: The House and Senate have broken into separate sessions to debate the first objection to Biden’s victory.

Video After a joint session of Congress is suspended, the House will return to its chamber to vote on an objection to certifying President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. Electoral College victor. Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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Pence rejects Trump’s pressure to block certification saying he ‘loves the Constitution.’

Vice President Mike Pence does not have the unilateral power to alter the results sent by the states to Congress.
Vice President Mike Pence does not have the unilateral power to alter the results sent by the states to Congress. Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday afternoon rejected President Trump’s pressure to block congressional certification of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the presidential election, claiming that he lacked the “unilateral authority” to decide the outcome of the presidential election.

“As a student of history who loves the Constitution and reverse its Framers,” Mr. Pence wrote in a two-page letter, “I do not believe that the Founders of our country intended to invest the vice president with unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the Joint Session of Congress, and no vice president in American history has ever asserted such authority.”

The letter was released by the White House as Mr. Trump was speaking to a group of supporters at the Ellipse, where over and over he implored Mr. Pence to have “the courage to do what he has to do.”

Mr. Pence does not have the unilateral power to alter the results sent by the states to Congress.

But Mr. Trump, listening to the advice of allies like Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer, has been convinced that the vice president could do his bidding. “If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday, claiming inaccurately that the vice president has the “the absolute right to” throw out the election results.

Mr. Pence’s defiance — the first in his four years as a differential no. 2 — created a remarkable and uncomfortable split-screen, as the president continued the public pressure campaign even as Mr. Pence arrived at the Capitol to preside over a joint session of Congress where the Electoral College vote will be certified.

On Tuesday night, after The New York Times reported that the vice president in a private meeting had informed Mr. Trump he did not have the authority to change the results of the election, Mr. Trump released a statement disputing the story. “He never said that,” the statement said. “The Vice President and I are in total agreement that the vice president has the power to act.”

The vice president’s advisers have been eager to find some middle ground where Mr. Pence could appease Mr. Trump.

On Wednesday, Kelli Ward, who chairs the Arizona Republican Party, also joined a group of far-right Republicans that petitioned the Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to grant Mr. Pence the authority to reject some state electors, after lower courts rejected the request. One of the attorneys who write the petition is Sidney Powell, a longtime member of Mr. Trump’s legal team.

Annie Karni

Trump, speaking to protesters, declares ‘we will never concede.’

“We will never concede,” President Trump said at a rally in front of the White House on Wednesday.
“We will never concede,” President Trump said at a rally in front of the White House on Wednesday. Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

President Trump pressured Vice President Mike Pence to illegally throw the 2020 election his way, excoriated Republicans, the news media, Democrats, and the U.S. electoral process in a speech before a crowd of supporters on the National Mall on Wednesday.

“We will never concede,” said Mr. Trump at a rally aimed at protesting the results of the election, in which President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. got more than seven million votes more than Mr. Trump did and received 306 electoral votes.

The rally began on an off-note when Mr. Trump started talking but his microphone wasn’t working. People in the crowd shouted that they couldn’t hear him until the microphone suddenly came to life as Mr. Trump was midway through his first of many complaints about the news media.

From there, he went on to describe nearly everything and anyone he sees as critical of him as “corrupt” in one way or another.

Mr. Trump began speaking almost exactly an hour before the start of a joint session of Congress, during which the Electoral College votes are to be certified. Mr. Pence’s Constitutionally-mandated obligation is to oversee the proceedings in a ministerial role.

“I hope Mike is going to do the right thing,” Mr. Trump said. “I hope so, I hope so, because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.” He added, “one of the top constitutional lawyers in our country,” told him Mr. Pence has “the absolute right to” throw out the election results

But he does not have the power to toss the results or alter them, despite Mr. Trump’s repeated insistence that he does. The president maintained he would be following the Constitution if he sent the results back to the states to be recertified.

In fact, there is no precedent for what Mr. Trump is demanding and Mr. Pence has made clear to the president he does not have the ability to do so, according to people briefed on their conversations.

“Mike Pence has to agree to send it back,” Mr. Trump told the crowd, prompting chants. Later, he conceded he would be “very disappointed” in Mr. Pence if he does not do so.

He insisted the country’s elections are worse than third-world nations, a statement that would be welcomed by authoritarians in countries around the globe.

He addressed the widely-criticized call with Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, which took place on Saturday and a recording of which was made public, in which the president urged Mr. Raffensperger to “find” additional votes to allow Mr. Trump to win the state. “People loved that conversation,” he said.

The Republican governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp? Mr. Trump said he should be voted “out of office, please.”

At one point during the rally, Mr. Trump conceded that the two Republican candidates in the Georgia runoffs on Tuesday, Senator Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, whose Senate term ended Sunday, had lost their races, saying they “didn’t have a shot” as he continued with baseless allegations of electoral fraud and theft.

At other points, he complained that he has no control over the three U.S. Supreme Court justices he appointed. And he complained about the former attorney general, William P. Barr, saying he had liked him, “but he changed, because he didn’t want to be considered my personal attorney.”

He also attacked Representative Liz Cheney, Republican from Wyoming and the party’s third-ranking House leader, who has criticized his efforts to undermine the election, saying she wants to keep U.S. soldiers in foreign countries. “The Liz Cheneys of the world” need to be voted out, he said.

Time and again he returned to the theme that the news media is “the biggest problem we have in this country.” He complained about polls conducted for the Washington Post several months ago, speaking with specifics about the poll he was referring to.

Talking about his inability to get his unvarnished statements into news circulation, Mr. Trump falsely declared, “That’s what happens in a communist country.”

Maggie Haberman

Trump supporters gather in Washington to protest against the certification of Biden’s victory.

Supporters of President Trump demonstrating near the Capitol on Wednesday.
Supporters of President Trump demonstrating near the Capitol on Wednesday. Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Under a dreary winter sky, defiant but downbeat Trump supporters began gathering in downtown Washington on Wednesday morning to celebrate a defeated Republican president who suffered a final humiliation in the Georgia Senate runoffs with one declared Democratic victory and the second race with the Democratic candidate maintaining his lead.

Crowds of supporters holding Trump flags marched down the streets of Washington to the elliptical park just behind the White House, where President Trump was set to speak in the late morning from a large grandstand that had been erected. As Congress prepared to conduct the final count of Electoral College votes, the scene outside the walls of Capitol Hill this week reflected the desperation within a White House resisting the transition of power.

“Some of the people here, maybe they’re willing to say Trump lost if things don’t go the way we want them to today,” said Kevin Malone, 43, who drove from Rome, Ga., through the night with two friends, arriving in D.C. looking like they had not slept. “That’s not us. We can’t lose this country. If the Democrats win, there’s not going to be another fair, legal election in this country. We won’t have a democracy.”

He said he and his friends from Northwest Georgia, now represented by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon-supporter, were on the fence about coming but decided to leave shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday when it “started looking like the Democrats were going to steal another election.”

Some of the more than 300 National Guard troops called up for the week stood in camouflage by white vans on Wednesday morning. Rows of local police were stationed on Black Lives Matter Plaza, in front of Lafayette Square after scuffles broke out Tuesday night between pro-Trump demonstrators and local police who deployed pepper spray to quell the unrest.

Tensions briefly rose at the plaza Wednesday around 10:45 a.m. Eastern as a counter-protester standing near police barricades waved for Trump supporters to move along while shouting, “Goodbye, thanks for visiting!” One man in a group of about a half dozen Trump supporters shouted back “Oh, don’t worry. We’ll be back.”

By Tuesday night, the Metropolitan Police Department recorded arrests of five people on charges of assault and weapons possession, including one person who was charged with assaulting a police officer.

Mr. Trump’s false claims of election fraud and promotion of the rallies on Wednesday have encouraged some of his more staunch allies and supporters to travel the country for Wednesday’s rally. The White House had hoped for 30,000 people but aides feared the turnout may be far smaller.

The Trump faithful tried to stay upbeat.

“We are considering this a day that will change history,” said Kevin Haag, 67, who drove about nine hours from his home in Lake Santeetlah, N.C. on Tuesday to participate in the rally. “We are excited.”

He said the road from North Carolina to Washington was dotted with cars and trucks flying Trump flags and American flags, a sign, he said, that the rally would be well-attended. The lobby of his hotel was filled with rally-goers, including Proud Boys, with “their Kevlar and boots have a whole belt full of tasers and you name it,” he said.

But he was not necessarily optimistic that Mr. Trump or his Republican allies would prevail in their efforts to overturn the election. Instead, Mr. Haag said he was hopeful that he and his friends would get some kind of closure on Wednesday. He had planned to come with a number of people, but some had to work, and others said they were worried about what might happen in Washington. His wife stayed home with a migraine. In the end, there were only three of them that made the trip.

“I think the truth will be made known,” he said. “Even if the truth is, the election went the other way,” he said, meaning if Mr. Trump had lost, “we have to hear that. If it’s over, it’s over.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Sabrina Tavernise and Matthew Rosenberg

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Democrats are ebullient as they appear headed for a Senate takeover.

“For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people.” said Senator Chuck Schumer, who would become majority leader if Jon Ossoff wins.
“For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people.” said Senator Chuck Schumer, who would become majority leader if Jon Ossoff wins. Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Democrats exulted on Wednesday morning as they appeared poised to wrest control of the Senate, a feat that would hand them unified control of Congress — albeit by razor-thin margins — as well as the White House.

With the Rev. Raphael Warnock victorious and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff leading in a pair of runoff elections in Georgia, the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, proclaimed on Twitter: “Buckle up!”

“We sure did not take the most direct path to get here, but here we are,” Mr. Schumer said at a celebratory news conference in the Capitol. “For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people.”

Should Mr. Ossoff’s lead over David Perdue hold, twin victories in Georgia would give Democrats 50 seats in the Senate and leave Republicans with the same number, handing Democrats a working majority because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be empowered to break ties?

Mr. Schumer told reporters that he had already spoken to Mr. Biden and Congress’s first order of business would be to approve $2,000 direct payments to sent to Americans struggling in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. But he declined to clarify whether Democrats would approve just the checks or seek a large package including other priorities like state and local aid or increased unemployment insurance.

On a conference call with Democrats, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, played the Ray Charles hit “Georgia on My Mind” for ebullient colleagues as they contemplated what their newfound power on the other side of the Capitol would mean as Joseph R. Biden Jr. assumes the presidency.

“We will pursue a science and values-based plan to crush the virus and deliver relief to struggling families, safeguard the right to quality affordable health care and launch a plan to build back better powered by fair economic growth,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

The Georgia victories would be a strong rebuke of President Trump, under whose leadership Republicans lost control of the House, the White House, and now the Senate.

“It turns out that telling the voters that the election is rigged is not a great way to turn out your voters,” Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah and his party’s former nominee for president, told reporters in the Capitol. “President Trump has disrespected the American voters, has dishonored the election system, and has disgraced the office of the presidency.”

Some of the Democrats’ most ambitious priorities could be blocked, however, by the legislative filibuster, which sets a 60-vote threshold for any major initiative. Mr. Schumer batted away questions about a push from the party’s left flank to change the rules to essentially kill the filibuster by lowering the threshold to a simple majority.

“We are united in wanting big, bold change, and we are going to sit down as a caucus and discuss the best ways to get that done,” he said.

Luke Broadwater and Nicholas Fandos

Biden plans to nominate Merrick Garland for attorney general.

Judge Merrick Garland was nominated by Barack Obama in 2016 to fill the position left on the Supreme Court by the death of Antonin Scalia.
Judge Merrick Garland was nominated by Barack Obama in 2016 to fill the position left on the Supreme Court by the death of Antonin Scalia. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. plans to nominate Judge Merrick Garland, whose Supreme Court nomination Republicans blocked in 2016, to be attorney general, placing the task of repairing a beleaguered Justice Department in the hands of a centrist judge, according to a person familiar with the matter.

If confirmed, Judge Garland, who has sometimes disappointed liberals with his rulings, would inherit a department that grew more politicized under President Trump than at any point since Watergate. Judge Garland will face vexing decisions about civil rights issues that roiled the country this year, whether to investigate Mr. Trump and his administration and how to proceed with a tax investigation into Mr. Biden’s son.

The nomination ended weeks of deliberation by Mr. Biden, who had struggled to make a decision as he considered who to fill for a position that he became convinced would play an outsized role in his presidency. Mr. Biden’s nominations are expected to broadly win confirmation as Democrats appear poised to take control of the Senate.

Mr. Biden, who served as the longtime top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee and chaired it from 1987 to 1995, was said by aides to have long weighed what makes a successful attorney general and put pressure on himself to make the right pick. Outside groups also pressed him during the transition to appoint someone who is a minority and would take a far more confrontational position with law enforcement.

Mr. Biden also intends to nominate Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser to President Barack Obama, as deputy attorney general; Vanita Gupta, the head of the department’s civil rights division under Mr. Obama, as the No. 3; and Kristen Clarke, a civil rights lawyer, as assistant attorney general for civil rights, which is expected to be a major focus of the department under Mr. Biden.

Judge Garland was initially considered a long shot for attorney general, in part because he is seen as politically moderate. In close cases involving criminal law, he has been significantly more likely to side with the police and prosecutors over people accused of crimes than other Democratic appointees. He also leaned toward deferring to the government in Guantánamo detainee cases that pit state security powers against individual rights.

Moreover, judges are only occasionally elevated directly to the position. The last was Judge Michael Mukasey of Federal District Court, whom George W. Bush appointed to run the Justice Department in 2007.

Mr. Biden was also said to have considered Sally Yates, the former deputy attorney general in the final years of the Obama administration; Doug Jones, the former Alabama senator; and Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts who briefly ran for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Liptak, and Michael D. Shear

A Democratic takeover of the Senate would redefine Biden’s presidency in dramatic ways.

During the primaries and general election, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. made much of his willingness to cross the aisle to revive the lost art of bipartisan deal-making.
During the primaries and general election, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. made much of his willingness to cross the aisle to revive the lost art of bipartisan deal-making. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday promoted the Senate runoffs in Georgia as an opportunity “to break the gridlock that has gripped Washington,” and his team was cautiously optimistic about the outcome.

In recent days many on his team had downplayed the idea that they would command a legislative majority in the Senate — out of superstition, several jittery Democratic aides suggested in the days leading up to the election.

But the growing possibility of one-party control has now been hurled on their doorstep.

In the most basic sense, the addition of two Democrats — the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who has won his race, and Jon Ossoff, who is maintaining a lead in his — to the Senate would redefine Mr. Biden’s approach to lawmaking, giving him more power but possibly challenging his preferred approach of broad bipartisan deal-making.

“Biden will say all the public things about how he needs to get Republican support, but the truth is that this fundamentally changes the dynamic,” said David Krone, former chief of staff to former Senator Harry Reid, the last Democratic majority leader. “Democrats now control the floor. So he can bring up all kinds of bills that would have been blocked by the Republicans, and force votes on big bills — like a major infrastructure package — that never would have seen the light of day.”

During the primaries and general election, Mr. Biden and his aides pointed out that he had developed a sturdy, if not overly warm, working partnership with the Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell. But a Senate takeover might require a shift in Mr. Biden’s compromising approach in favor of the hard-edge tactics demanded by his party’s ascendant left wing.

Embedded in the Democrats’ jubilation Wednesday was a gnawing sense of urgency.

Many in the party fear a Republican takeover of the House in 2022, and a similar possibility looms in the deadlocked upper chamber. But many in Mr. Biden’s circle believe he has two years to jam through Democratic priorities, starting with his pledge to pass a $2,000 payout to ease the economic hardship of the pandemic.

Controlling the majority offers many new opportunities. The central role of Black voters in Georgia and elsewhere virtually ensures that Mr. Biden will push civil and voting rights reform, one Democratic leadership aide said on condition of anonymity. But it also means he will have to referee fierce disagreements among Democratic factions that have already begun feuding in the House over the Green New Deal and expansion of health care.

Then there’s Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

While all eyes were on the twilight machinations of Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday, his replacement will have significantly more power.

She will play a decisive role in the 50-50 Senate on party-line votes, exercising real legislative power and positioning her as Mr. Biden’s visible partner and natural successor, especially if he chooses not to run for re-election in 2024.

Glenn Thrush

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And then there was one: Georgia Senate race between Ossoff and Perdue remains too close to call.

Jon Ossoff on Wednesday declared himself the winner of his Senate runoff election in Georgia. The Associated Press has not yet called the race.
Jon Ossoff on Wednesday declared himself the winner of his Senate runoff election in Georgia. The Associated Press has not yet called the race. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

While Democrats celebrated the election of the Rev. Raphael Warnock to the Senate, Georgia’s second Senate runoff race — which will determine which party will control the Senate — remained too close to call on Wednesday. The Democratic candidate, Jon Ossoff, was leading his Republican challenger, David Perdue, by thousands of votes with thousands more that still need to be counted, many of them from Democratic-leaning areas.

After trading leads earlier in the evening, Mr. Ossoff pulled ahead of Mr. Perdue overnight, but by just 0.4 percent — within the range that could trigger a recount. By 4 a.m. Wednesday, an estimated 98 percent of votes had been counted. Georgia elections officials said they expected to complete the count by noon on Wednesday.

Even so, Mr. Ossoff, a 33-year-old documentary film executive, declared himself the winner Wednesday morning in a video posted on Twitter. The Associated Press has not yet called the race. The news organisation called Mr. Warnock’s victory over the Republican incumbent, Kelly Loeffler, early Wednesday.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday congratulated Mr. Warnock and said he was hopeful that Mr. Ossoff would prevail when the vote count is complete.

“Georgia’s voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: They want action on the crises we face and they want it right now,” Mr. Biden said in a statement released Wednesday morning. “I congratulate the people of Georgia, who turned out in record numbers once again, just as they did in November.”

By Wednesday morning, the largest bloc of uncounted ballots in the state was the in-person vote in DeKalb County, a heavily Democratic area that includes part of Atlanta.

Mr. Ossoff’s campaign manager Ellen Foster said in a statement on Wednesday that she expected Mr. Ossoff to win. “The outstanding vote is squarely in parts of the state where Jon’s performance has been dominant,” she said.

Mr. Perdue’s campaign officials said in an early Wednesday statement that the race was “exceptionally close,” but said they believed Mr. Perdue would win and would use“every available resource and exhaust every recourse to ensure all legally cast ballots are properly counted.”

It could be some time before there is a call in the race, with thousands of late absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted. Under Georgia law, a candidate can request a recount if the margin of victory is less than half a percentage point.

Democrats benefited from a strong turnout among Black voters. According to data compiled by georgiavotes.com, Black voters made up a larger share of early voters for the runoff — nearly 31 percent — than they did in the general election when it was closer to 28 percent.

Mr. Warnock, who is the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the spiritual home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was the first Black Democrat elected to the Senate from the South. He and Mr. Ossoff ran in tandem throughout the runoffs.

Mr. Perdue, the former chief executive of Dollar General, and Ms. Loeffler, who was appointed to the Senate a year ago and was seeking a full term, had cast the race as a necessary check on Democratic power in Washington in 2021, though these efforts have been complicated by President Trump’s continued insistence, without evidence, that he won re-election.

Eileen Sullivan

You think this is chaos? The 1876 election was worse.

The inauguration of President Rutherford B. Hayes at the Capitol in Washington in 1877.
The inauguration of President Rutherford B. Hayes at the Capitol in Washington in 1877. Credit…Associated Press

A few days before the inauguration, no one knew who would actually take the oath of office as president of the United States. There were cries of fraud and chicanery as a divided, surly nation continued to debate the winner of the election many weeks after the ballots had been cast.

The election of 1876 was the most disputed in American history and in some ways among the most consequential. As Congress convenes on Wednesday to formalize President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory and dispense with Republican objections, many on Capitol Hill and beyond have been looking to the showdown nearly a century and a half ago for clues on how to resolve the latest clash for power.

The players in that drama have faded into obscurity. Few today remember the story of Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican who ultimately prevailed and served four years as a tainted President. Fewer still can name his Democratic opponent, Samuel Tilden, who lost the White House despite garnering more votes. But the system that will govern the debate on Wednesday was fashioned from that episode, and the standards that were set then are now cited as arguments in the effort to overturn President Trump’s defeat.

Allies of Mr. Trump, led by Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, have latched onto the resolution of the 1876 dispute as a model, proposing that Congress once again create a 15-member commission to decide the validity of various states’ electors. “We should follow that precedent,” Mr. Cruz and 10 other new or returning Republican senators wrote in a joint statement over the weekend.

But there are also profound differences between that battle and this one. For one, the candidate claiming to be aggrieved this time, Mr. Trump, is the incumbent president with the power of the federal government at his disposal. For another, Mr. Trump’s claims of fraud have proved baseless, universally rejected by Republican and Democratic state election authorities, judges across the ideological spectrum, and even by his own attorney general.

Still, Hayes, who was called “His Fraudulency” and “Rutherfraud B. Hayes,” never shed the stigma and did not seek another term. Congress, for its part, resolved never to go through that ordeal again. In 1887, it passed a law setting out the procedures for counting electors, rules that have proved durable ever since. On Wednesday, they will be tested as never before.

Peter Baker

Biden will outline his economic priorities as Congress moves to certify his win.

President-elect Biden speaking in November. He is expected to discuss several of his economic priorities on Wednesday.
President-elect Biden speaking in November. He is expected to discuss several of his economic priorities on Wednesday. Credit…Joshua Roberts/Reuters

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is set to deliver a speech on the economy on Wednesday afternoon, remarks that could take on greater significance given the chance that the Senate will soon be controlled by Democrats.

Mr. Biden’s speech is expected to emphasize several of his economic priorities, including reiterating his call for another round of financial aid to help people, businesses and state and local governments weather ongoing economic pain from the virus. Mr. Biden is also expected to touch on his “Build Back Better” agenda, including new government spending on clean energy, infrastructure, health care, and education.

His remarks will focus in particular on small businesses, particularly those run by Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native Americans, “who need additional resources to reopen and rebuild,” a transition spokesman said.

Mr. Biden’s speech will take place at a critical moment, as Congress moves ahead to certify the results of the 2020 vote and as a pair of Senate elections in Georgia appear headed for a Democratic win.

The president-elect’s ability to push through many of the programs and policies he campaigned on appeared more likely on Wednesday, as Democrats edged closer to gaining two Senate seats after Tuesday’s runoff election in Georgia. The Rev. Raphael Warnock was declared the winner of one seat, defeating Republican Kelly Loeffler, and Jon Ossoff, another Democrat, was leading the race against David Perdue.

If Democrats win both seats, it would give Mr. Biden’s party control of an evenly divided chamber, greatly affecting his ability to fulfill his agenda.

“Georgia’s voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: they want action on the crises we face and they want it right now,” Mr. Biden said in a written statement on Wednesday morning. “On Covid-19, on economic relief, on climate, on racial justice, on voting rights and so much more. They want us to move, but move together.”

“I have long said that the bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill passed in December was just a down payment. We need urgent action on what comes next, because the COVID-19 crisis hits red states and blue states alike,” he said.

Jim Tankersley

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Watch out for this misinformation when Congress meets to certify the election.

An audit of election ballots in Atlanta in mid-November.
An audit of election ballots in Atlanta in mid-November.Credit…Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

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As Congress meets on Wednesday to certify Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the November election, President Trump and his supporters continue to spread rumors, conspiracy theories and misinformation about the vote.

Here are six false voter fraud claims that may be repeated during the proceedings on Wednesday.

Claim: Dominion Voting Systems, which makes software that local governments around the nation use to help run their elections, deleted votes for President Trump.

Fact: There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, including the machines with Dominion software, according to the federal agency that oversees election security.

Background: In the weeks after the election, President Trump and his supporters spread baseless claims about Dominion. The claims included theories that “software glitches” changed vote tallies in several states, including Michigan and Georgia. No such changes were ever found.

Mr. Trump and his supporters subsequently claimed that Dominion had hidden evidence of voter fraud, both by destroying machines or removing parts within the machines. Mr. Trump repeated those claims during a call with Georgia’s secretary of state last weekend. Gabriel Sterling, a top election official in Georgia, said Monday of the claims of election fraud in the state, “This is all easily, provably false.”

Claim: President Trump and his supporters have claimed that absentee ballots in Georgia were rife with fraud and that state officials have not fully investigated.

Fact: Election officials have audited absentee ballots and found “no fraudulent absentee ballots.”

Background: The Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, ordered law enforcement and election investigators to conduct an audit of more than 15,000 absentee ballot envelopes in Cobb County, based on a complaint that signatures were not adequately checked there. The audit found no fraud. Mr. Raffensperger has said that he also plans a statewide audit of each county’s signature-match policies and procedures.

Georgia has already conducted two recounts, both by hand and machine, of all five million ballots cast in the state. No voting fraud was found.

Claim: In an interview on the conservative cable channel Newsmax in December, the Arizona Republican chairwoman, Kelli Ward, said 200,000 ballots were digitally changed to give the victory to Mr. Biden, and Representative Paul Gosar amplified the falsehood on Twitter.

Fact: Audits in Arizona have found no evidence of voter fraud, or changed vote tallies.

Background: While early results in Arizona showed a close race, the final count revealed that Mr. Biden had won the state by more than 10,000 votes.

Audits in Arizona’s four largest counties, which make up 86 percent of all voters in the state, turned up no evidence of systematic voter fraud.

Claim: President Trump’s supporters have pointed to a video as proof that ballots were pulled from a “suitcase” at a vote-counting center in Atlanta.

Fact: Election officials have said the surveillance video shows a normal ballot processing. It is not unusual practice for poll workers to store ballots that still need to be counted on-site at the polling center.

Background: As reported by The New York Times, late on Nov. 3, election workers in Fulton County, Ga., heard that they would be allowed to stop the vote-counting and retire for the evening. So they packed uncounted ballots into suitcases and prepared to lock up. When word came that they couldn’t leave yet, they dragged the suitcases back out and began counting the ballots again.

But that scene of election workers taking out suitcases of ballots was selectively edited and pushed by allies of President Trump as one of the many false theories purportedly proving widespread election fraud. The conspiracists also named the election worker Ruby Freeman as a specific player in this false conspiracy event.

Claim: President Trump’s campaign has claimed that Pennsylvania election officials improperly handled tens of thousands of mail-in ballots in violation of state election law.

Fact: The Trump campaign’s legal efforts to disqualify votes in Pennsylvania have been unsupported by evidence.

Background: The Trump campaign filed several claims in court seeking to invalidate Pennsylvania’s election results, and one ally of Mr. Trump, Senator Josh Hawley, has said he would challenge the results because he believed “some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws.”

But the Trump campaign has included no evidence that any vote had been cast illegally.

In a hearing on Nov. 17, President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, acknowledged he had no proof to back up his claims of voter fraud in Pennsylvania. “This is not a fraud case,” Mr. Giuliani said.

Four days later, the judge overseeing the case dismissed the lawsuit. It was also shot down last month by Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, who said in a ruling, “Calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”

Claim: Vice President Mike Pence can reject state electors in the Electoral College.

Fact: Federal law stipulates that the vice president’s role is to count Electoral College votes, not decide whether they are valid.

Background: President Trump on Tuesday falsely claimed on Twitter that Mr. Pence has the power to reject electors when the Electoral College vote is certified.

As president of the Senate, Mr. Pence is expected to preside over the pro forma certification of the Electoral College vote count in front of a joint session of Congress. The only electoral certifications available for Vice President Pence to preside over are the ones approved by each state.

Ben Decker and Jacob Silver contributed research.

Davey Alba and Sheera Frenkel

Senator Loeffler’s loss makes an awkward backdrop for her starring role in seeking to overturn Trump’s loss.
Senator Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, lost her Senate seat to the Rev. Raphael Warnock.
Senator Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, lost her Senate seat to the Rev. Raphael Warnock. Credit…Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

Senator Kelly Loeffler’s stinging loss in Georgia trained increased scrutiny on the prominent role she planned to play on Wednesday in seeking to overturn President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in her home state when Congress meets to formalize his Electoral College win.

Ms. Loeffler had announced on Monday, ahead of a pair of high-stakes Georgia runoffs that will determine Senate control, that she was planning to join the small group of senators lodging objections, and a person familiar with her thinking said Tuesday that she would “likely” focus on Georgia. But with the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, declared the winner by The Associated Press, Ms. Loeffler found herself in an awkward position: a lame-duck senator contemplating a starring role in a politically fraught fight for a president who clearly lost.

Her promise to object may have helped gin up turnout among the president’s loyal supporters in Georgia, but it does little for Ms. Loeffler now that the election has passed. In a speech to supporters late Tuesday night, she did not concede and said she still planned to travel to Washington to contest Mr. Trump’s loss.

“In the morning, in fact, I’m going to be headed to Washington, D.C., to keep fighting,” she said. “We’re going to fight for this president, so I am asking for every single Georgian, every single American: Stay in the fight with us.”

A spokesman for the senator did not respond to questions on Wednesday morning seeking to clarify her position.

Other senators could still join House members to object to Georgia’s electors, but so far, few senators have been willing to raise their hands for a job their own Republican leaders have warned will dangerously divide the party and embarrass the Senate.

If Georgia’s results go unchallenged, it could speed up the counting process by three to four hours.

Nicholas Fandos

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Jan. 6, 2021, 1:31 p.m.

The Presidential Transition

Vice President Mike Pence told President Trump that he did not believe he had the power to block certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Congress today.

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Watch live: The House and Senate have broken into separate sessions to debate the first objection to Biden’s victory.Video Congress holds a joint session to record the votes of the Electoral College and confirm the victory of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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Republicans objected to Arizona’s electors, forcing the first challenge to Biden’s victory.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, led the objection to the Electoral College’s results in Arizona.
Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, led the objection to the Electoral College’s results in Arizona. Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

A group of congressional Republicans led by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas objected early Wednesday afternoon to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Electoral College win in Arizona, lodging the first of several extraordinary challenges to its outcome and forcing a two-hour debate in the House and Senate over President Trump’s reckless election fraud claims.

“I rise for myself and 60 of my colleges to object to the count of the electoral ballots from Arizona,” said Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona. His objection was met with widespread applause by Republicans gathered on the floor of the House of Representatives for the joint session.

Bipartisan majorities in each chamber were prepared to turn back that challenge and others and formalize Mr. Biden’s victory. But the marathon session promised to be a volatile final act of the Trump presidency, with Mr. Trump — unwilling to cede the limelight or his fantasy of victory — transforming a moment of Democratic triumph into a day of defiance by summoning supporters to his backyard for an airing of grievances.

By using the proceeding as a forum for trying to subvert a democratic election, Mr. Trump and his allies are going where no party has since the Reconstruction era of the 19th century when Congress bargained over the presidency. The effort had already badly divided the Republican Party, forcing lawmakers to go on the record either siding with the president or upholding the results of a democratic election.

The objection to Arizona was the first of at least three expected during Wednesday’s session. Republicans were also eyeing Georgia and Pennsylvania, battleground states Mr. Biden won, for likely objections.

Lawmakers anticipated possible objections for up to three additional states — Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin — although it was not clear whether they would draw the requisite backing from a member of both the House and the Senate to be considered.

Mr. Cruz, a possible 2024 presidential contender, and his allies in the Senate have said he is merely trying to draw attention to the need for an electoral commission to audit the results. But by objecting, he joined ranks with a group of dozens of House Republicans backing Mr. Trump’s attempt to toss out the will of the voters to deliver him a second term in office.

Even before it began, the session was already driving sharp wedges into the Republican Party that threatened to do lasting damage to its cohesion, as lawmakers decided to cast their lot with Mr. Trump or the Constitution. Top party leaders in the House and Senate appeared to be headed for a high-profile split. And while only a dozen or so senators were expected to vote to reject the outcome in key states, as many as 70 percent of House Republicans could join the effort, stoking the dangerous belief of tens of millions of voters that Mr. Biden was elected illegitimately.

Despite a remarkable pressure campaign by Mr. Trump to unilaterally throw out states that supported Mr. Biden, Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding as the president of the Senate, said just before the session began that he did not believe doing so was constitutional and would exercise his duties as his predecessors had. The outcome, after for years of loyal support for the president, risked his political standing in a party Mr. Trump still dominates.

“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” he wrote in a letter.

Congress’s counting process began at 1 p.m. and the session had already accepted results from Alabama and Alaska before the objection to Arizona was lodged. A member of the House and Senate must agree for any objection to having force.

Nicholas Fandos

Watch live: The House and Senate have broken into separate sessions to debate the first objection to Biden’s victory.

Video After a joint session of Congress is suspended, the House will return to its chamber to vote on an objection to certifying President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. Electoral College victor. Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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Pence rejects Trump’s pressure to block certification saying he ‘loves the Constitution.’

Vice President Mike Pence does not have the unilateral power to alter the results sent by the states to Congress.
Vice President Mike Pence does not have the unilateral power to alter the results sent by the states to Congress. Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday afternoon rejected President Trump’s pressure to block congressional certification of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the presidential election, claiming that he lacked the “unilateral authority” to decide the outcome of the presidential election.

“As a student of history who loves the Constitution and reverse its Framers,” Mr. Pence wrote in a two-page letter, “I do not believe that the Founders of our country intended to invest the vice president with unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the Joint Session of Congress, and no vice president in American history has ever asserted such authority.”

The letter was released by the White House as Mr. Trump was speaking to a group of supporters at the Ellipse, where over and over he implored Mr. Pence to have “the courage to do what he has to do.”

Mr. Pence does not have the unilateral power to alter the results sent by the states to Congress.

But Mr. Trump, listening to the advice of allies like Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer, has been convinced that the vice president could do his bidding. “If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday, claiming inaccurately that the vice president has the “the absolute right to” throw out the election results.

Mr. Pence’s defiance — the first in his four years as a differential no. 2 — created a remarkable and uncomfortable split-screen, as the president continued the public pressure campaign even as Mr. Pence arrived at the Capitol to preside over a joint session of Congress where the Electoral College vote will be certified.

On Tuesday night, after The New York Times reported that the vice president in a private meeting had informed Mr. Trump he did not have the authority to change the results of the election, Mr. Trump released a statement disputing the story. “He never said that,” the statement said. “The Vice President and I are in total agreement that the vice president has the power to act.”

The vice president’s advisers have been eager to find some middle ground where Mr. Pence could appease Mr. Trump.

On Wednesday, Kelli Ward, who chairs the Arizona Republican Party, also joined a group of far-right Republicans that petitioned the Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to grant Mr. Pence the authority to reject some state electors, after lower courts rejected the request. One of the attorneys who write the petition is Sidney Powell, a longtime member of Mr. Trump’s legal team.

Annie Karni

Trump, speaking to protesters, declares ‘we will never concede.’

“We will never concede,” President Trump said at a rally in front of the White House on Wednesday.
“We will never concede,” President Trump said at a rally in front of the White House on Wednesday. Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

President Trump pressured Vice President Mike Pence to illegally throw the 2020 election his way, excoriated Republicans, the news media, Democrats, and the U.S. electoral process in a speech before a crowd of supporters on the National Mall on Wednesday.

“We will never concede,” said Mr. Trump at a rally aimed at protesting the results of the election, in which President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. got more than seven million votes more than Mr. Trump did and received 306 electoral votes.

The rally began on an off-note when Mr. Trump started talking but his microphone wasn’t working. People in the crowd shouted that they couldn’t hear him until the microphone suddenly came to life as Mr. Trump was midway through his first of many complaints about the news media.

From there, he went on to describe nearly everything and anyone he sees as critical of him as “corrupt” in one way or another.

Mr. Trump began speaking almost exactly an hour before the start of a joint session of Congress, during which the Electoral College votes are to be certified. Mr. Pence’s Constitutionally-mandated obligation is to oversee the proceedings in a ministerial role.

“I hope Mike is going to do the right thing,” Mr. Trump said. “I hope so, I hope so, because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.” He added, “one of the top constitutional lawyers in our country,” told him Mr. Pence has “the absolute right to” throw out the election results

But he does not have the power to toss the results or alter them, despite Mr. Trump’s repeated insistence that he does. The president maintained he would be following the Constitution if he sent the results back to the states to be recertified.

In fact, there is no precedent for what Mr. Trump is demanding and Mr. Pence has made clear to the president he does not have the ability to do so, according to people briefed on their conversations.

“Mike Pence has to agree to send it back,” Mr. Trump told the crowd, prompting chants. Later, he conceded he would be “very disappointed” in Mr. Pence if he does not do so.

He insisted the country’s elections are worse than third-world nations, a statement that would be welcomed by authoritarians in countries around the globe.

He addressed the widely-criticized call with Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, which took place on Saturday and a recording of which was made public, in which the president urged Mr. Raffensperger to “find” additional votes to allow Mr. Trump to win the state. “People loved that conversation,” he said.

The Republican governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp? Mr. Trump said he should be voted “out of office, please.”

At one point during the rally, Mr. Trump conceded that the two Republican candidates in the Georgia runoffs on Tuesday, Senator Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, whose Senate term ended Sunday, had lost their races, saying they “didn’t have a shot” as he continued with baseless allegations of electoral fraud and theft.

At other points, he complained that he has no control over the three U.S. Supreme Court justices he appointed. And he complained about the former attorney general, William P. Barr, saying he had liked him, “but he changed, because he didn’t want to be considered my personal attorney.”

He also attacked Representative Liz Cheney, Republican from Wyoming and the party’s third-ranking House leader, who has criticized his efforts to undermine the election, saying she wants to keep U.S. soldiers in foreign countries. “The Liz Cheneys of the world” need to be voted out, he said.

Time and again he returned to the theme that the news media is “the biggest problem we have in this country.” He complained about polls conducted for the Washington Post several months ago, speaking with specifics about the poll he was referring to.

Talking about his inability to get his unvarnished statements into news circulation, Mr. Trump falsely declared, “That’s what happens in a communist country.”

Maggie Haberman

Trump supporters gather in Washington to protest against the certification of Biden’s victory.

Supporters of President Trump demonstrating near the Capitol on Wednesday.
Supporters of President Trump demonstrating near the Capitol on Wednesday. Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Under a dreary winter sky, defiant but downbeat Trump supporters began gathering in downtown Washington on Wednesday morning to celebrate a defeated Republican president who suffered a final humiliation in the Georgia Senate runoffs with one declared Democratic victory and the second race with the Democratic candidate maintaining his lead.

Crowds of supporters holding Trump flags marched down the streets of Washington to the elliptical park just behind the White House, where President Trump was set to speak in the late morning from a large grandstand that had been erected. As Congress prepared to conduct the final count of Electoral College votes, the scene outside the walls of Capitol Hill this week reflected the desperation within a White House resisting the transition of power.

“Some of the people here, maybe they’re willing to say Trump lost if things don’t go the way we want them to today,” said Kevin Malone, 43, who drove from Rome, Ga., through the night with two friends, arriving in D.C. looking like they had not slept. “That’s not us. We can’t lose this country. If the Democrats win, there’s not going to be another fair, legal election in this country. We won’t have a democracy.”

He said he and his friends from Northwest Georgia, now represented by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon-supporter, were on the fence about coming but decided to leave shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday when it “started looking like the Democrats were going to steal another election.”

Some of the more than 300 National Guard troops called up for the week stood in camouflage by white vans on Wednesday morning. Rows of local police were stationed on Black Lives Matter Plaza, in front of Lafayette Square after scuffles broke out Tuesday night between pro-Trump demonstrators and local police who deployed pepper spray to quell the unrest.

Tensions briefly rose at the plaza Wednesday around 10:45 a.m. Eastern as a counter-protester standing near police barricades waved for Trump supporters to move along while shouting, “Goodbye, thanks for visiting!” One man in a group of about a half dozen Trump supporters shouted back “Oh, don’t worry. We’ll be back.”

By Tuesday night, the Metropolitan Police Department recorded arrests of five people on charges of assault and weapons possession, including one person who was charged with assaulting a police officer.

Mr. Trump’s false claims of election fraud and promotion of the rallies on Wednesday have encouraged some of his more staunch allies and supporters to travel the country for Wednesday’s rally. The White House had hoped for 30,000 people but aides feared the turnout may be far smaller.

The Trump faithful tried to stay upbeat.

“We are considering this a day that will change history,” said Kevin Haag, 67, who drove about nine hours from his home in Lake Santeetlah, N.C. on Tuesday to participate in the rally. “We are excited.”

He said the road from North Carolina to Washington was dotted with cars and trucks flying Trump flags and American flags, a sign, he said, that the rally would be well-attended. The lobby of his hotel was filled with rally-goers, including Proud Boys, with “their Kevlar and boots have a whole belt full of tasers and you name it,” he said.

But he was not necessarily optimistic that Mr. Trump or his Republican allies would prevail in their efforts to overturn the election. Instead, Mr. Haag said he was hopeful that he and his friends would get some kind of closure on Wednesday. He had planned to come with a number of people, but some had to work, and others said they were worried about what might happen in Washington. His wife stayed home with a migraine. In the end, there were only three of them that made the trip.

“I think the truth will be made known,” he said. “Even if the truth is, the election went the other way,” he said, meaning if Mr. Trump had lost, “we have to hear that. If it’s over, it’s over.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Sabrina Tavernise and Matthew Rosenberg

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Democrats are ebullient as they appear headed for a Senate takeover.

“For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people.” said Senator Chuck Schumer, who would become majority leader if Jon Ossoff wins.
“For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people.” said Senator Chuck Schumer, who would become majority leader if Jon Ossoff wins. Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Democrats exulted on Wednesday morning as they appeared poised to wrest control of the Senate, a feat that would hand them unified control of Congress — albeit by razor-thin margins — as well as the White House.

With the Rev. Raphael Warnock victorious and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff leading in a pair of runoff elections in Georgia, the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, proclaimed on Twitter: “Buckle up!”

“We sure did not take the most direct path to get here, but here we are,” Mr. Schumer said at a celebratory news conference in the Capitol. “For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people.”

Should Mr. Ossoff’s lead over David Perdue hold, twin victories in Georgia would give Democrats 50 seats in the Senate and leave Republicans with the same number, handing Democrats a working majority because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be empowered to break ties?

Mr. Schumer told reporters that he had already spoken to Mr. Biden and Congress’s first order of business would be to approve $2,000 direct payments to sent to Americans struggling in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. But he declined to clarify whether Democrats would approve just the checks or seek a large package including other priorities like state and local aid or increased unemployment insurance.

On a conference call with Democrats, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, played the Ray Charles hit “Georgia on My Mind” for ebullient colleagues as they contemplated what their newfound power on the other side of the Capitol would mean as Joseph R. Biden Jr. assumes the presidency.

“We will pursue a science and values-based plan to crush the virus and deliver relief to struggling families, safeguard the right to quality affordable health care and launch a plan to build back better powered by fair economic growth,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

The Georgia victories would be a strong rebuke of President Trump, under whose leadership Republicans lost control of the House, the White House, and now the Senate.

“It turns out that telling the voters that the election is rigged is not a great way to turn out your voters,” Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah and his party’s former nominee for president, told reporters in the Capitol. “President Trump has disrespected the American voters, has dishonored the election system, and has disgraced the office of the presidency.”

Some of the Democrats’ most ambitious priorities could be blocked, however, by the legislative filibuster, which sets a 60-vote threshold for any major initiative. Mr. Schumer batted away questions about a push from the party’s left flank to change the rules to essentially kill the filibuster by lowering the threshold to a simple majority.

“We are united in wanting big, bold change, and we are going to sit down as a caucus and discuss the best ways to get that done,” he said.

Luke Broadwater and Nicholas Fandos

Biden plans to nominate Merrick Garland for attorney general.

Judge Merrick Garland was nominated by Barack Obama in 2016 to fill the position left on the Supreme Court by the death of Antonin Scalia.
Judge Merrick Garland was nominated by Barack Obama in 2016 to fill the position left on the Supreme Court by the death of Antonin Scalia. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. plans to nominate Judge Merrick Garland, whose Supreme Court nomination Republicans blocked in 2016, to be attorney general, placing the task of repairing a beleaguered Justice Department in the hands of a centrist judge, according to a person familiar with the matter.

If confirmed, Judge Garland, who has sometimes disappointed liberals with his rulings, would inherit a department that grew more politicized under President Trump than at any point since Watergate. Judge Garland will face vexing decisions about civil rights issues that roiled the country this year, whether to investigate Mr. Trump and his administration and how to proceed with a tax investigation into Mr. Biden’s son.

The nomination ended weeks of deliberation by Mr. Biden, who had struggled to make a decision as he considered who to fill for a position that he became convinced would play an outsized role in his presidency. Mr. Biden’s nominations are expected to broadly win confirmation as Democrats appear poised to take control of the Senate.

Mr. Biden, who served as the longtime top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee and chaired it from 1987 to 1995, was said by aides to have long weighed what makes a successful attorney general and put pressure on himself to make the right pick. Outside groups also pressed him during the transition to appoint someone who is a minority and would take a far more confrontational position with law enforcement.

Mr. Biden also intends to nominate Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser to President Barack Obama, as deputy attorney general; Vanita Gupta, the head of the department’s civil rights division under Mr. Obama, as the No. 3; and Kristen Clarke, a civil rights lawyer, as assistant attorney general for civil rights, which is expected to be a major focus of the department under Mr. Biden.

Judge Garland was initially considered a long shot for attorney general, in part because he is seen as politically moderate. In close cases involving criminal law, he has been significantly more likely to side with the police and prosecutors over people accused of crimes than other Democratic appointees. He also leaned toward deferring to the government in Guantánamo detainee cases that pit state security powers against individual rights.

Moreover, judges are only occasionally elevated directly to the position. The last was Judge Michael Mukasey of Federal District Court, whom George W. Bush appointed to run the Justice Department in 2007.

Mr. Biden was also said to have considered Sally Yates, the former deputy attorney general in the final years of the Obama administration; Doug Jones, the former Alabama senator; and Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts who briefly ran for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Liptak, and Michael D. Shear

A Democratic takeover of the Senate would redefine Biden’s presidency in dramatic ways.

During the primaries and general election, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. made much of his willingness to cross the aisle to revive the lost art of bipartisan deal-making.
During the primaries and general election, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. made much of his willingness to cross the aisle to revive the lost art of bipartisan deal-making. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday promoted the Senate runoffs in Georgia as an opportunity “to break the gridlock that has gripped Washington,” and his team was cautiously optimistic about the outcome.

In recent days many on his team had downplayed the idea that they would command a legislative majority in the Senate — out of superstition, several jittery Democratic aides suggested in the days leading up to the election.

But the growing possibility of one-party control has now been hurled on their doorstep.

In the most basic sense, the addition of two Democrats — the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who has won his race, and Jon Ossoff, who is maintaining a lead in his — to the Senate would redefine Mr. Biden’s approach to lawmaking, giving him more power but possibly challenging his preferred approach of broad bipartisan deal-making.

“Biden will say all the public things about how he needs to get Republican support, but the truth is that this fundamentally changes the dynamic,” said David Krone, former chief of staff to former Senator Harry Reid, the last Democratic majority leader. “Democrats now control the floor. So he can bring up all kinds of bills that would have been blocked by the Republicans, and force votes on big bills — like a major infrastructure package — that never would have seen the light of day.”

During the primaries and general election, Mr. Biden and his aides pointed out that he had developed a sturdy, if not overly warm, working partnership with the Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell. But a Senate takeover might require a shift in Mr. Biden’s compromising approach in favor of the hard-edge tactics demanded by his party’s ascendant left wing.

Embedded in the Democrats’ jubilation Wednesday was a gnawing sense of urgency.

Many in the party fear a Republican takeover of the House in 2022, and a similar possibility looms in the deadlocked upper chamber. But many in Mr. Biden’s circle believe he has two years to jam through Democratic priorities, starting with his pledge to pass a $2,000 payout to ease the economic hardship of the pandemic.

Controlling the majority offers many new opportunities. The central role of Black voters in Georgia and elsewhere virtually ensures that Mr. Biden will push civil and voting rights reform, one Democratic leadership aide said on condition of anonymity. But it also means he will have to referee fierce disagreements among Democratic factions that have already begun feuding in the House over the Green New Deal and expansion of health care.

Then there’s Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

While all eyes were on the twilight machinations of Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday, his replacement will have significantly more power.

She will play a decisive role in the 50-50 Senate on party-line votes, exercising real legislative power and positioning her as Mr. Biden’s visible partner and natural successor, especially if he chooses not to run for re-election in 2024.

Glenn Thrush

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And then there was one: Georgia Senate race between Ossoff and Perdue remains too close to call.

Jon Ossoff on Wednesday declared himself the winner of his Senate runoff election in Georgia. The Associated Press has not yet called the race.
Jon Ossoff on Wednesday declared himself the winner of his Senate runoff election in Georgia. The Associated Press has not yet called the race. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

While Democrats celebrated the election of the Rev. Raphael Warnock to the Senate, Georgia’s second Senate runoff race — which will determine which party will control the Senate — remained too close to call on Wednesday. The Democratic candidate, Jon Ossoff, was leading his Republican challenger, David Perdue, by thousands of votes with thousands more that still need to be counted, many of them from Democratic-leaning areas.

After trading leads earlier in the evening, Mr. Ossoff pulled ahead of Mr. Perdue overnight, but by just 0.4 percent — within the range that could trigger a recount. By 4 a.m. Wednesday, an estimated 98 percent of votes had been counted. Georgia elections officials said they expected to complete the count by noon on Wednesday.

Even so, Mr. Ossoff, a 33-year-old documentary film executive, declared himself the winner Wednesday morning in a video posted on Twitter. The Associated Press has not yet called the race. The news organisation called Mr. Warnock’s victory over the Republican incumbent, Kelly Loeffler, early Wednesday.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday congratulated Mr. Warnock and said he was hopeful that Mr. Ossoff would prevail when the vote count is complete.

“Georgia’s voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: They want action on the crises we face and they want it right now,” Mr. Biden said in a statement released Wednesday morning. “I congratulate the people of Georgia, who turned out in record numbers once again, just as they did in November.”

By Wednesday morning, the largest bloc of uncounted ballots in the state was the in-person vote in DeKalb County, a heavily Democratic area that includes part of Atlanta.

Mr. Ossoff’s campaign manager Ellen Foster said in a statement on Wednesday that she expected Mr. Ossoff to win. “The outstanding vote is squarely in parts of the state where Jon’s performance has been dominant,” she said.

Mr. Perdue’s campaign officials said in an early Wednesday statement that the race was “exceptionally close,” but said they believed Mr. Perdue would win and would use“every available resource and exhaust every recourse to ensure all legally cast ballots are properly counted.”

It could be some time before there is a call in the race, with thousands of late absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted. Under Georgia law, a candidate can request a recount if the margin of victory is less than half a percentage point.

Democrats benefited from a strong turnout among Black voters. According to data compiled by georgiavotes.com, Black voters made up a larger share of early voters for the runoff — nearly 31 percent — than they did in the general election when it was closer to 28 percent.

Mr. Warnock, who is the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the spiritual home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was the first Black Democrat elected to the Senate from the South. He and Mr. Ossoff ran in tandem throughout the runoffs.

Mr. Perdue, the former chief executive of Dollar General, and Ms. Loeffler, who was appointed to the Senate a year ago and was seeking a full term, had cast the race as a necessary check on Democratic power in Washington in 2021, though these efforts have been complicated by President Trump’s continued insistence, without evidence, that he won re-election.

Eileen Sullivan

You think this is chaos? The 1876 election was worse.

The inauguration of President Rutherford B. Hayes at the Capitol in Washington in 1877.
The inauguration of President Rutherford B. Hayes at the Capitol in Washington in 1877. Credit…Associated Press

A few days before the inauguration, no one knew who would actually take the oath of office as president of the United States. There were cries of fraud and chicanery as a divided, surly nation continued to debate the winner of the election many weeks after the ballots had been cast.

The election of 1876 was the most disputed in American history and in some ways among the most consequential. As Congress convenes on Wednesday to formalize President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory and dispense with Republican objections, many on Capitol Hill and beyond have been looking to the showdown nearly a century and a half ago for clues on how to resolve the latest clash for power.

The players in that drama have faded into obscurity. Few today remember the story of Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican who ultimately prevailed and served four years as a tainted President. Fewer still can name his Democratic opponent, Samuel Tilden, who lost the White House despite garnering more votes. But the system that will govern the debate on Wednesday was fashioned from that episode, and the standards that were set then are now cited as arguments in the effort to overturn President Trump’s defeat.

Allies of Mr. Trump, led by Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, have latched onto the resolution of the 1876 dispute as a model, proposing that Congress once again create a 15-member commission to decide the validity of various states’ electors. “We should follow that precedent,” Mr. Cruz and 10 other new or returning Republican senators wrote in a joint statement over the weekend.

But there are also profound differences between that battle and this one. For one, the candidate claiming to be aggrieved this time, Mr. Trump, is the incumbent president with the power of the federal government at his disposal. For another, Mr. Trump’s claims of fraud have proved baseless, universally rejected by Republican and Democratic state election authorities, judges across the ideological spectrum, and even by his own attorney general.

Still, Hayes, who was called “His Fraudulency” and “Rutherfraud B. Hayes,” never shed the stigma and did not seek another term. Congress, for its part, resolved never to go through that ordeal again. In 1887, it passed a law setting out the procedures for counting electors, rules that have proved durable ever since. On Wednesday, they will be tested as never before.

Peter Baker

Biden will outline his economic priorities as Congress moves to certify his win.

President-elect Biden speaking in November. He is expected to discuss several of his economic priorities on Wednesday.
President-elect Biden speaking in November. He is expected to discuss several of his economic priorities on Wednesday. Credit…Joshua Roberts/Reuters

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is set to deliver a speech on the economy on Wednesday afternoon, remarks that could take on greater significance given the chance that the Senate will soon be controlled by Democrats.

Mr. Biden’s speech is expected to emphasize several of his economic priorities, including reiterating his call for another round of financial aid to help people, businesses and state and local governments weather ongoing economic pain from the virus. Mr. Biden is also expected to touch on his “Build Back Better” agenda, including new government spending on clean energy, infrastructure, health care, and education.

His remarks will focus in particular on small businesses, particularly those run by Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native Americans, “who need additional resources to reopen and rebuild,” a transition spokesman said.

Mr. Biden’s speech will take place at a critical moment, as Congress moves ahead to certify the results of the 2020 vote and as a pair of Senate elections in Georgia appear headed for a Democratic win.

The president-elect’s ability to push through many of the programs and policies he campaigned on appeared more likely on Wednesday, as Democrats edged closer to gaining two Senate seats after Tuesday’s runoff election in Georgia. The Rev. Raphael Warnock was declared the winner of one seat, defeating Republican Kelly Loeffler, and Jon Ossoff, another Democrat, was leading the race against David Perdue.

If Democrats win both seats, it would give Mr. Biden’s party control of an evenly divided chamber, greatly affecting his ability to fulfill his agenda.

“Georgia’s voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: they want action on the crises we face and they want it right now,” Mr. Biden said in a written statement on Wednesday morning. “On Covid-19, on economic relief, on climate, on racial justice, on voting rights and so much more. They want us to move, but move together.”

“I have long said that the bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill passed in December was just a down payment. We need urgent action on what comes next, because the COVID-19 crisis hits red states and blue states alike,” he said.

Jim Tankersley

Continue reading the main story

Watch out for this misinformation when Congress meets to certify the election.

An audit of election ballots in Atlanta in mid-November.
An audit of election ballots in Atlanta in mid-November.Credit…Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

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As Congress meets on Wednesday to certify Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the November election, President Trump and his supporters continue to spread rumors, conspiracy theories and misinformation about the vote.

Here are six false voter fraud claims that may be repeated during the proceedings on Wednesday.

Claim: Dominion Voting Systems, which makes software that local governments around the nation use to help run their elections, deleted votes for President Trump.

Fact: There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, including the machines with Dominion software, according to the federal agency that oversees election security.

Background: In the weeks after the election, President Trump and his supporters spread baseless claims about Dominion. The claims included theories that “software glitches” changed vote tallies in several states, including Michigan and Georgia. No such changes were ever found.

Mr. Trump and his supporters subsequently claimed that Dominion had hidden evidence of voter fraud, both by destroying machines or removing parts within the machines. Mr. Trump repeated those claims during a call with Georgia’s secretary of state last weekend. Gabriel Sterling, a top election official in Georgia, said Monday of the claims of election fraud in the state, “This is all easily, provably false.”

Claim: President Trump and his supporters have claimed that absentee ballots in Georgia were rife with fraud and that state officials have not fully investigated.

Fact: Election officials have audited absentee ballots and found “no fraudulent absentee ballots.”

Background: The Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, ordered law enforcement and election investigators to conduct an audit of more than 15,000 absentee ballot envelopes in Cobb County, based on a complaint that signatures were not adequately checked there. The audit found no fraud. Mr. Raffensperger has said that he also plans a statewide audit of each county’s signature-match policies and procedures.

Georgia has already conducted two recounts, both by hand and machine, of all five million ballots cast in the state. No voting fraud was found.

Claim: In an interview on the conservative cable channel Newsmax in December, the Arizona Republican chairwoman, Kelli Ward, said 200,000 ballots were digitally changed to give the victory to Mr. Biden, and Representative Paul Gosar amplified the falsehood on Twitter.

Fact: Audits in Arizona have found no evidence of voter fraud, or changed vote tallies.

Background: While early results in Arizona showed a close race, the final count revealed that Mr. Biden had won the state by more than 10,000 votes.

Audits in Arizona’s four largest counties, which make up 86 percent of all voters in the state, turned up no evidence of systematic voter fraud.

Claim: President Trump’s supporters have pointed to a video as proof that ballots were pulled from a “suitcase” at a vote-counting center in Atlanta.

Fact: Election officials have said the surveillance video shows a normal ballot processing. It is not unusual practice for poll workers to store ballots that still need to be counted on-site at the polling center.

Background: As reported by The New York Times, late on Nov. 3, election workers in Fulton County, Ga., heard that they would be allowed to stop the vote-counting and retire for the evening. So they packed uncounted ballots into suitcases and prepared to lock up. When word came that they couldn’t leave yet, they dragged the suitcases back out and began counting the ballots again.

But that scene of election workers taking out suitcases of ballots was selectively edited and pushed by allies of President Trump as one of the many false theories purportedly proving widespread election fraud. The conspiracists also named the election worker Ruby Freeman as a specific player in this false conspiracy event.

Claim: President Trump’s campaign has claimed that Pennsylvania election officials improperly handled tens of thousands of mail-in ballots in violation of state election law.

Fact: The Trump campaign’s legal efforts to disqualify votes in Pennsylvania have been unsupported by evidence.

Background: The Trump campaign filed several claims in court seeking to invalidate Pennsylvania’s election results, and one ally of Mr. Trump, Senator Josh Hawley, has said he would challenge the results because he believed “some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws.”

But the Trump campaign has included no evidence that any vote had been cast illegally.

In a hearing on Nov. 17, President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, acknowledged he had no proof to back up his claims of voter fraud in Pennsylvania. “This is not a fraud case,” Mr. Giuliani said.

Four days later, the judge overseeing the case dismissed the lawsuit. It was also shot down last month by Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, who said in a ruling, “Calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”

Claim: Vice President Mike Pence can reject state electors in the Electoral College.

Fact: Federal law stipulates that the vice president’s role is to count Electoral College votes, not decide whether they are valid.

Background: President Trump on Tuesday falsely claimed on Twitter that Mr. Pence has the power to reject electors when the Electoral College vote is certified.

As president of the Senate, Mr. Pence is expected to preside over the pro forma certification of the Electoral College vote count in front of a joint session of Congress. The only electoral certifications available for Vice President Pence to preside over are the ones approved by each state.

Ben Decker and Jacob Silver contributed research.

Davey Alba and Sheera Frenkel

Senator Loeffler’s loss makes an awkward backdrop for her starring role in seeking to overturn Trump’s loss.
Senator Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, lost her Senate seat to the Rev. Raphael Warnock.
Senator Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, lost her Senate seat to the Rev. Raphael Warnock. Credit…Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

Senator Kelly Loeffler’s stinging loss in Georgia trained increased scrutiny on the prominent role she planned to play on Wednesday in seeking to overturn President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in her home state when Congress meets to formalize his Electoral College win.

Ms. Loeffler had announced on Monday, ahead of a pair of high-stakes Georgia runoffs that will determine Senate control, that she was planning to join the small group of senators lodging objections, and a person familiar with her thinking said Tuesday that she would “likely” focus on Georgia. But with the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, declared the winner by The Associated Press, Ms. Loeffler found herself in an awkward position: a lame-duck senator contemplating a starring role in a politically fraught fight for a president who clearly lost.

Her promise to object may have helped gin up turnout among the president’s loyal supporters in Georgia, but it does little for Ms. Loeffler now that the election has passed. In a speech to supporters late Tuesday night, she did not concede and said she still planned to travel to Washington to contest Mr. Trump’s loss.

“In the morning, in fact, I’m going to be headed to Washington, D.C., to keep fighting,” she said. “We’re going to fight for this president, so I am asking for every single Georgian, every single American: Stay in the fight with us.”

A spokesman for the senator did not respond to questions on Wednesday morning seeking to clarify her position.

Other senators could still join House members to object to Georgia’s electors, but so far, few senators have been willing to raise their hands for a job their own Republican leaders have warned will dangerously divide the party and embarrass the Senate.

If Georgia’s results go unchallenged, it could speed up the counting process by three to four hours.

Nicholas Fandos

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