WHITE HOUSE - U.S. President-elect Joe Biden assailed the president Thursday for refusing to concede the November 3 election and preventing his transition team from accessing key government information about the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's hard to fathom how this man thinks," Biden said of President Donald Trump. "I'm confident he knows he hasn't won; he's not going to be able to win, and we're going to be sworn in on January 20th. Far from me to question his motive. It's just outrageous what he's doing."
Biden spoke to reporters after meeting over a video link with 10 governors from both the Democratic and Republican parties.
The former vice president noted that hospitals across the country are seeing a surge of COVID-19 cases ahead of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, putting "huge pressure" on medical facilities and health care workers and "taking a massive, massive new toll on your economy."
Biden told the executive leadership of the National Governors Association: "You need help, and I want you to know I will be your partner in the White House."
Hundreds of thousands of new infections are being recorded in the United States daily, and the death toll has passed a quarter million, the most in any country, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Immediately after Biden, in Wilmington, Delaware, concluded his remarks, members of the White House coronavirus task force entered the briefing room of the White House.
Vice President Mike Pence and other members of the group expressed optimism about coming vaccines.
"Help is on the way," Pence said.
"Hang in there with us," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said. "There is light at the end of the tunnel."
Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator on the task force, had a more immediate message as millions of Americans prepare to travel for next week's Thanksgiving holiday.
"This is really a call to action for every American to increase their vigilance," she said. Birx noted there are more cases spreading more rapidly "than what we had seen before."
Dozens of public health experts Thursday urged the Trump administration to allow the presidential transition process to officially start to confront the pandemic, giving incoming Biden officials access to information the government has compiled about medical supplies and the vaccines that are being developed.
The health officials' letter was sent to Emily Murphy, administrator of the General Services Administration, who has yet to sign paperwork declaring Biden the apparent winner, which would allow the transition to officially start.
Trump has yet to concede to Biden. As a result, Trump has kept Biden, who is poised to become the 46th U.S. president, from seeing government intelligence about national security threats the country might be facing or granting Biden aides access to a long list of government agencies.
Trump is clinging to the long-shot hope that Republicans can overturn the results in a handful of battleground states that Biden won.
Georgia on Thursday night announced that Biden had won its state's 16 electoral votes, giving him a total of 306 electoral votes nationwide, and Trump 232. A candidate needs a 270-majority in the 538-member Electoral College to win the presidential election.
Biden also won the national popular balloting by about 6 million votes.
A team of Trump campaign lawyers, describing themselves as "an elite strike force," claimed Thursday nationwide vote fraud is resulting from what they characterized as a conspiracy among Democrats, a voting machine company in Canada, Venezuelan socialist leaders, Cuban and Chinese communists, antifa and philanthropist George Soros.
"We cannot allow these crooks, that's what they are, to steal an election from the American people," former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said.
The lawyers produced no evidence to support their statements. Unless one counts an excerpt from one Michigan affidavit. Giuliani said he can't release the evidence yet.
Even some conservative Republicans quickly expressed skepticism.
These are "serious, somewhat strange allegations," said Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff in the George W. Bush administration.
"They better come up with proof" or withdraw the claims, Rove said on Fox News.
Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, on Fox News Radio, called the Trump lawyer's insinuations of collusion "offensive" and an "absolutely outrageous" attempt to confuse voters about the truth and undermine faith in the political system.
The news conference, featuring Giuliani and two other lawyers, "was the most dangerous 1 hour 45 minutes of television in American history. And possibly the craziest," said Chris Krebs, whom Trump fired this week as the head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency after it declared the November 3 election was the "most secure in American history."
Trump has seen numerous legal filings dismissed or withdrawn that alleged irregularities with the balloting and vote counting while final tabulations are upholding Biden's victories in key states.
The president, mostly remaining in the White House or golfing since the election, has continued to assert on Twitter he is the winner.
Certification by states of the vote is also being targeted by the Trump campaign, which is trying to delay the process in an attempt to overturn Biden victories.
The top two leaders of the Republican-controlled Michigan state legislature are to visit the White House on Friday, according to media reports. Trump also has personally contacted representatives on one local certification board in the Detroit area of Michigan, according to the board member.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, a former governor and presidential candidate, tweeted late Thursday that "Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election. It is difficult to imagine a worse, undemocratic action by a sitting American President."
The Reuters news agency says multiple Trump campaign officials have told it the president's strategy is to persuade state legislatures to do what their voters did not and declare him the winner by seating different electors.
"He's poisoning the well with his actions and trying to influence the outcome" and erode confidence in the election, according to Akron University Political Science Professor David Cohen.
"If state legislatures overturn the results of their elections, people may be more willing to accept their anti-democratic actions," Cohen, a presidential scholar, told VOA. "Overturning the clear will of the voters to keep Trump in power would be a coup; if that were to happen our great democratic experiment would be over."