US President Donald Trump has doubled down on unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, accusing Democrats of voting “shenanigans”.
The result of Tuesday’s election hangs in the balance, with counting still under way in several key states.
Democrat Joe Biden has a slender lead in Nevada and Arizona and is chipping away at Mr Trump’s advantage in Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Mr Biden has appealed for calm as the nail-biting count drags on.
The Democrat now has 253 electoral college votes, while Republican Mr Trump has 214. To win the White House, a candidate needs 270.
The cliff-hanger follows one of the bitterest campaigns in living memory.
What did the candidates say?
Speaking from the White House on Thursday, the president said: “If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes they can try to steal the election from us.”
Beyond allegations of irregularities, the Trump campaign has not presented any evidence of election fraud.
The president added: “We were winning in all the key locations, by a lot actually, and then our numbers started getting miraculously whittled away in secret and they wouldn’t allow legally permissible observers.”
“There’s been a lot of shenanigans and we can’t stand for that in our country,” he said.
Mr Trump actively discouraged his supporters from voting by mail, while Mr Biden urged his voters to do so, and it is these postal ballots that are now being tallied in the key states.
Election analysts also say the president’s claims of Democratic electoral corruption are undermined by the better-than-expected performance of his fellow Republicans in congressional races across the map.
Several US networks cut their feeds of Mr Trump’s speech, while numerous Republicans criticised the remarks.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan tweeted that there was “no defence” for the president’s comments “undermining” America’s democratic process.
In a brief televised address, Mr Biden appealed for calm across the country and again expressed confidence he would be declared the winner.
“Democracy is sometimes messy,” he said. “It sometimes requires a little patience as well.”
“The process is working. The count is being completed. And we’ll know very soon.”
As results gradually trickle in, protests involving both sides have been held in major cities over the vote counting.
What’s the current state of the race?
Tuesday’s presidential election yielded no immediate results in the states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and North Carolina.
Mr Biden has since been declared the winner of Michigan and likely Wisconsin, while vote counts involving razor-thin margins are continuing in the other five states.
A win in just Pennsylvania or two of the other four remaining states would be enough to confirm Mr Biden as president-elect, barring any legal challenge.
Mr Trump, meanwhile, needs to win Pennsylvania and three of the remaining four states.
Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar told a press conference that most ballots would be counted by Friday, but the race was still too tight to declare a result. Mr Trump is now leading in the state by fewer than 20,000 votes.
In Georgia, the two candidates are now virtually neck and neck, with Mr Trump’s lead cut to about 600 votes. Authorities hope to have a result later on Friday.
Mr Trump has cut the Democratic candidate’s lead in Arizona to about 7,000 votes. The BBC’s partner CBS News has categorised the state as a “likely” win for Mr Biden.
Mr Trump had a lead of more than 76,000 in North Carolina with 96% of votes tallied.
In Nevada, Mr Biden had an edge of more than 11,000 over Mr Trump. An election official there said the results from more than 51,000 postal ballots would be updated on Friday.
A senior Trump administration official told CBS that Mr Trump did not plan to concede if Mr Biden ultimately declared victory.
What legal action has the president taken?
Mr Trump has filed a barrage of lawsuits alleging irregularities and lack of transparency.
The president demanded a recount in Wisconsin, as is the right of any candidate who comes within 1% of his rival in total vote there.
But Mr Biden was leading by 20,000 votes in Wisconsin, and election analysts say previous recounts in the state have usually only altered the final tally by a few hundred votes.
Trump campaign lawsuits filed in Michigan and Georgia were tossed out by state courts on Thursday. In the Georgia case a judge found no evidence to support a claim that 53 late ballots had been improperly added to late ones.
But in Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign won a legal victory when a state appeals court judge said Republican poll-watchers must be permitted a closer look at ballot processing.
The Republican party in Nevada said it had sent a report to the US Department of Justice on what it alleged were “at least 3,062 instances of voter fraud”.
The party tweeted that thousands of individuals had been identified violating the law by casting ballots after moving out of the state.
Biden attorney Bob Bauer said the lawsuits were legally “meritless” and designed “to message falsely about what’s taking place in the electoral process”.
Embattled president lashes out
Donald Trump took to the White House press room on Thursday night in an attempt to project strength, but his comments belied the weakness of his current electoral position.
He focused on states he had won. And he talked about the leads he’d had in key swing states on Tuesday night, claiming without substantiation that they were being taken away from him now by fraud.
It was an acknowledgement, however, that those leads are vanishing – and could be gone soon.
He lashed out at pollsters, ballot-counters and Democrats and promised a flurry of lawsuits, although he presented no evidence of electoral misconduct.
He said ballots were being counted without observers present (even though they are) and attributed the late surge by Mr Biden in mail balloting to fraud (it isn’t).
Already Republican officeholders are distancing themselves from Mr Trump’s remarks, perhaps wary of tying themselves too closely to a man could be on the precipice of defeat.
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