Trump claims Dems are trying to 'steal' election, says he'll win if 'legal votes' are counted

"We will not allow corruption to steal such an important election--or any election for that matter."

President Trump on Thursday said he and his campaign will “not allow corruption to steal” the election during a press conference at the White House, while maintaining that he will win the 2020 presidential race despite a dwindling path toward reelection as votes continue to come in.

The president, speaking from the James S. Brady press briefing room at the White House on Thursday evening, said that his “goal is to defend the integrity of the election.”

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“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” the president said.

“We will not allow corruption to steal such an important election—or any election for that matter,” Trump said. “We can’t allow anyone to silence our voters or manufacture results.”

The president said many polling places wouldn’t let “legally permitted observers” watch the ballot counting.

“This is a case where they’re trying to steal an election — trying to rig an election,” he said.

Trump has claimed fraud and malfeasance on the part of Democrats in the days after Election Day. 

“We were winning in all of the key locations by a lot, and miraculously, our numbers started getting whittled away in secret,” Trump said,

The president has also continuously lambasted the mail-in voting, saying that it was ripe for fraud and, on Thursday, that it would “destroy our system.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans voted by mail to avoid gathering in crowds at polling places. Despite the president's claims, election officials and polling experts said there is very little proof that mail-in voting is any more susceptible to fraud than voting in person.

The president also referenced Pennsylvania, where he said he was ahead by “700,000 votes, and that gets whittled down to 90,000 — and the ballots — they’ll keep coming and coming. They find them all over.”

The Trump campaign has filed lawsuits in several states throughout the nation this week, seeking access for poll watching. In Pennsylvania, an appellate court judge cleared the way for the Trump campaign to more closely observe the canvassing of ballots by the Philadelphia County Board of Elections.

Poll watchers were initially required to remain at least 25 feet away from tables where people were carrying on the task of scanning mail and absentee ballots inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, but Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon issued an order requiring “all candidates, watchers, or candidate representatives be permitted to be present for the canvassing process” and “be permitted to observe all aspects of the canvassing process within 6 feet, while adhering to all COVID-19 protocols, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.”

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The order was to go into effect immediately, or no later than 10:30 a.m. ET on Nov. 5.

The city of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party appealed the ruling to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, whose justice will decide whether to grant or deny the appeal.

“They’re appealing — I wonder why they’re appealing,” Trump said. “All we want is to have people watch while they do the tabulation.”

The president added that places like "Detroit and Philadelphia cannot be responsible for engineering the outcome of a very important presidential race.”

“There is absolutely no legitimate reason why they would not want to have people watching this process, because if its straight, they should be proud of it,” Trump said. “They’re trying, obviously, to commit fraud and there is no question about that.”

Trump went on to call Philadelphia a “corrupt Democrat machine.”

Meanwhile, the president urged his Democratic rival Joe Biden to “clarify” what type of votes should be counted.

“I challenge Joe and every Democrat to clarify that they only want legal votes — they say the word votes — we want legal votes to be counted,” Trump said. “Openness and transparency, no illegal votes cast after Election Day.”

Biden, earlier in the day, said that he believed that "each ballot must be counted,” and urged supporters to stay “calm.”

“Each ballot must be counted and thats what we’re going to see going through now and that’s how it should be,” Biden said Thursday afternoon. “Democracy is sometimes messy and sometimes includes patience as well.”

Trump maintained that he and his campaign “want an honest election, we want an honest count and we want honest people working back there.”

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During his press briefing, Trump claimed he would win the presidential race, while Biden on Thursday said that he has "no doubt" he will win the election during short remarks he made from Wilmington, Del.,

"We continue to feel very good about where things stand," Biden said. "And we have no doubt that when the count is finished, Senator Harris and I will be the winners." 

The Biden campaign criticized Trump's press briefing, with one Biden staffer calling it "desperate, baseless and a sure sign he’s losing."

Two days after Election Day, neither candidate had amassed the votes needed to win the White House. Fox News projected victories for Biden in the Great Lakes states, which left him at 264 meaning he was one battleground state away from becoming president-elect.

Trump, with a projected 214 electoral votes, faced a much higher hurdle. To reach 270, he needed to claim all four remaining battlegrounds: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, and Nevada. Trump generally was projected to receive a larger in-person voter turnout on Election Day, and Biden was thought to have a larger turnaround through vote by mail. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.