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Election observers demand access to counting room in Detroit. Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump and his allies are setting the stage to claim a Joe Biden presidency would be illegitimate, baselessly questioning everything from how ballots are counted to whether "fake" polls suggesting blue waves that never came are tantamount to voter suppression.

Why it matters: Arguing that he was wrongfully removed from office could give Trump a face-saving way to explain a possible election loss. It also could distract from a Biden presidency in transition.

  • Trump said today in a statement from his campaign: "If you count the legal votes, I easily win the election! If you count the illegal and late votes, they can steal the election from us."

Driving the news: The hashtag #stopthesteal is going viral among fringe and more mainstream conservatives, says Bryce Webster-Jacobsen of GroupSense, a cyber threat intelligence firm.

  • Groups on Facebook are starting to organize real-world protests.
  • Inside QAnon, people are spreading a conspiracy theory that there are watermarks on legitimate ballots and that illegitimate non-watermarked ballots are being injected in states that are turning blue.
Via Twitter

What they're saying ... Don Jr. tweeted: "You didn't see all of these games, statistical impossibilities and magic ballots in 2016 because the Democrats figured they had it in the bag and wouldn't have to break out all the stops."

  • Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said on a campaign call: "The Democrats are lying, cheating and stealing. It’s happening all over this country."
  • Rudy Giuliani, Eric Trump and other surrogates have been holding news conferences and appearing on Fox News shows to discuss plans for litigation.

Reality check: Ben Ginsberg, a Republican election lawyer who has been critical of Trump's tactics, told Axios: "This just smacks of a little bit of desperation."

The bottom line: Close elections are common, and there’s no proof of widespread irregularities. But as Trump has shown over and over, he can quickly get 40% of the public to believe him, and elected GOP officials to fall in line.

Go deeper

Updated Nov 30, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Wisconsin, Arizona certify Biden's victories

Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Arizona and Wisconsin officials confirmed the presidential election results in their states, formalizing President-elect Joe Biden's victories in the key battlegrounds.

Why it matters: The moves deal yet another blow to President Trump's efforts to block or delay certification in key swing states that he lost. 

4 mins ago - World

Israeli parliament opts for early elections in preliminary vote

Netanyahu (C) arrives in parliament today. Photo: Alex Kolomiensky/Pool/AFP via Getty

After six months of a dysfunctional power-sharing government, Israel is headed for its fourth elections in less than two years, most likely at the end of March.

Driving the news: The Knesset voted 61-54 today to approve the preliminary reading of a bill to dissolve the parliament and call new elections. Benny Gantz's Blue and White party supported the bill while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud and the rest of the coalition voted against.

1 hour ago - Sports

The end of COVID’s grip on sports may be in sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Packed stadiums and a more normal fan experience could return by late 2021, NIAID director Anthony Fauci said yesterday.

Why it matters: If Fauci's prediction comes true, it could save countless programs from going extinct next year.