US election 2020: Fact-checking Trump's speech on election night

By Reality Check team
BBC News

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Image source, Getty Images

President Trump prematurely claimed victory - at a point when many votes in key states were yet to be counted - in the US election and made unproven claims about voter fraud.

Democratic rival Joe Biden responded: "It's not my place or Donald Trump's place to declare the winner of this election. It's the voters' place."

We've fact-checked what the president said in his speech delivered from the White House on Wednesday at around 07:30GMT.

Trump: "We already have won it"

President Trump claimed he had already won the US election despite many uncounted votes in battleground states that could tip the balance.

"We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election," he said.

At the time he spoke, roster of tightly-fought states including Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan were yet to be called. Large numbers of votes, particularly postal ballots and votes in urban centres that favour the Democratic candidate, were still being counted.

Pennsylvania in particular has been hotly contested. With a high turnout and large numbers of postal ballots, the counting is expected to go on for days.

"Most importantly, we're winning Pennsylvania by a tremendous amount of votes," said Trump. "We're coming into good Pennsylvania areas where they happen to like your president."

At the time President Trump made his speech, he had a significant lead in Pennsylvania. However, only around half of the vote had been counted in Philadelphia, the largest city which leans heavily in Mr Biden's favour.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Counting in Pennsylvania

It was the same picture for the Midwestern states Michigan and Wisconsin which have been on a knife-edge.

"We're winning Michigan," said Mr Trump. "We're winning Wisconsin."

At the time he said this, counting in Detroit, the largest city in Michigan, was far from over.

In Wisconsin, the Democratic-leaning city of Milwaukee reported a significant number of votes after Mr Trump's speech, tipping in the state towards Mr Biden.

Trump: "They [the Democrats] said let's go to court"

In his speech President Trump said he'd be going to the US Supreme Court and said of the Democrats: "They knew they couldn't win, so they said let's go to court."

During the campaign, President Trump had been a vocal proponent of the use of litigation. Speaking at a rally in North Carolina on Sunday he said: "We're going to go in the night of, as soon as that election is over, we're going in with our lawyers."

Mr Biden did not talk during the campaign about using lawyers in the aftermath of the election.

But, like President Trump, Mr Biden has a legal team on standby, led by former White House Counsel Bob Bauer, and has fundraised in anticipation of a lengthy legal battle.

According to the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections project there were already 437 election-related lawsuits in the run-up to the election. This legal action, some of which is ongoing, has been undertaken by both Democrats and Republicans.

Trump: This "is a fraud on the American public"

This claim about the election was also made by President Trump during his speech.

He said: "We'll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop."

First of all, at the time the president spoke, there were millions of legitimate votes in battleground states that remained uncounted, with the potential to swing the election.

On the allegation of fraud, President Trump did not give any specific examples and studies done on previous elections have shown that voter fraud is extremely rare.

He has frequently made the claim that postal ballots - being used extensively this time due to the pandemic - are subject to widespread fraud. This is not the case, and we've looked into the issue here.

The only other complaints of fraud that we've seen for this election have been unsubstantiated rumours on social media.

In late September, FBI director Christopher Wray said they had not seen "any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election."