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Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's frantic post-election challenges are having the opposite effect of what he intended: He's documenting his demise through a series of court fights and recounts showing Joe Biden's victory to be all the more obvious and unassailable.

Why it matters: The president’s push to overturn the election results is dispelling the cloud of corruption he alleged by forcing states to create a verified — and legally binding — accounting of his election loss.

  • "Each loss further cements Biden's win," says election law expert Richard Hasen.
  • "History shows that any leader who constructs a major myth, that is later shown to be false, will eventually fall," says Harvard science historian and "Merchants of Doubt" author Naomi Oreskes. "The risk is that he takes his country down with him."

Reality check: In Georgia, the largest hand recount in U.S. history is underway, with some counties finding exactly the same vote tallies they reported two weeks ago.

  • In Michigan, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers certified Detroit's election results on the last day possible, after initially deadlocking in a party-line vote.
  • In Wisconsin, the Trump campaign paid $3 million this week for recounts in two counties. State law required it to pick up the tab because Biden’s overall winning margin was greater than one-quarter of a percentage point.
  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Philadelphia did not violate the law by restricting poll observers’ proximity to ballots.
  • Last week, the law firm Porter Wright announced it was dropping representation of the president in Pennsylvania after his team had heralded its hiring.
  • In Arizona last week, the campaign's lead lawyer acknowledged the vote count was not affected by fraud but "good-faith" errors, and the tally did not approach Biden's 11,000-vote margin of victory.

The big picture: Defeats have been so clear that none of the cases is on a path to reach the president's preferred venue, the Supreme Court.

  • The smooth election has also prompted praise for the work of local election officials amid the pandemic — and for those state officials and national figures who have protected election integrity and placed public service above partisan pressure.

Be smart: Al Gore’s magnanimity is still cited today, 20 years after he conceded to George W. Bush when the Supreme Court let stand a Florida recount showing the Texas governor ahead by 537 votes.

  • A private recount later found Gore had lost by an even larger margin than it appeared on Election Day, but that's not what many people remember most when they think back to 2000.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Off the Rails

Episode 6: Last stand in Georgia

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer, Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 6: Georgia had not backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 and Donald Trump's defeat in this Deep South stronghold, and his reaction to that loss, would help cost Republicans the U.S. Senate as well. Georgia was Trump's last stand.

On Air Force One, President Trump was in a mood. He had been clear he did not want to return to Georgia, and yet somehow he'd been conscripted into another rally on the night of Jan. 4.

Off the Rails

Episode 8: The siege

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 8: The siege. An inside account of the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 that ultimately failed to block the certification of the Electoral College. And, finally, Trump's concession.

On Jan. 6, White House deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger entered the West Wing in the mid-afternoon, shortly after his colleagues' phones had lit up with an emergency curfew alert from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.