Confident in victory, Biden appeals for national unity
Joe Biden, inching closer to victory after a bitter presidential election, appealed on Friday to Americans to turn the page on divisions as a seething Donald Trump warned him not to declare victory.
As trickling returns from Pennsylvania and three other states made Trump's path to a second term increasingly unlikely, Biden repeated that he believed he would win but said he would wait for the process to complete.
Instead, Biden delivered a late-night address with the tone of a president-elect and vowed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic as new cases on Friday hit a new high of more than 127,000 cases.
"We must put the anger — and the demonization — behind us. It's time for us to come together as a nation and heal," Biden said in his home city of Wilmington, Delaware, accompanied by his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris.
"My responsibility as president will be to represent the whole nation," he said, drawing a stark contrast with Trump's nearly four years of rule by provocation.
Biden spoke as US media began reporting that White House chief-of-staff Mark Meadows, 61, had contracted the virus — underscoring the criticism directed at the president for months over his administration's handling of the crisis.
Meadows first tested positive on Wednesday, a day after the election, according to The New York Times.
Biden said he and Harris had already been meeting experts on how to control the "skyrocketing" cases of COVID-19, which has claimed more than 230,000 lives in the United States, more than in any other country.
"I want everyone to know that on Day One, we are going to put our plan to control this virus into action, Biden said.
"That can't save any of the lives that have been lost, but it will save a lot of lives in the months ahead."
Edging toward win
After Biden's campaign said he would address the nation, speculation grew that he would make a formal declaration of victory but he appeared to be waiting for confirmation of an unassailable lead and said he would speak again on Saturday.
Biden's lead grew inexorably in Pennsylvania, which would hand him the keys to the White House if he secures its 20 votes in the Electoral College that determines presidential races.
By late Friday he had an advantage of almost 29,000 votes over Trump, although that was still within the narrow margin that would likely trigger a recount.
Biden was also ahead in Arizona and Georgia — two states that have not voted for Democrats in the 21st century — as well as Nevada, while Trump held a slim lead in North Carolina.
Georgia said it was ordering a recount due to the narrow margin and the southern state will also have runoff races in January for both its Senate seats, which will likely determine if Democrats wrest control of the upper chamber and give Biden a wider path to legislative victories.
Trump has several times prematurely named himself the winner, refusing to accept the data showing Biden headed for victory.
In his latest broadside, he warned on Twitter that "Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the President. I could make that claim also."
Trump's campaign has filed lawsuits around the country alleging fraud but made little headway, with no evidence produced to back up supposed ballot tampering or other significant incidents.