NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — With his return to New York, President-elect Donald Trump faces a pressing need to set more of the foundation blocks of his presidency in place by filling vacancies for secretary of state and other top posts.
Distraction looms, however, much of it created by the president-elect himself, whose extraordinary claims of widespread voter fraud during a 12-hour Twitter offensive on Sunday cast a shadow over the legitimacy of an election that he actually won.
“I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump tweeted in the afternoon before alleging in an evening tweet “serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California.”
Trump’s transition team did not respond to questions seeking evidence of the claims.
The charges come amid a recount of presidential votes in up to three battleground states, an effort joined by Hillary Clinton despite decidedly tamped-down expectations that the election’s outcome will not change. Wisconsin election officials are expected to meet Monday to discuss a possible timeline for a recount of that state’s presidential votes; recounts are possible in Pennsylvania and Michigan as well.
There’s been no evidence of widespread tampering or hacking that would change the results; indeed, Clinton’s team said it had been looking for abnormalities and found nothing that would alter the results.
Trump narrowly won Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and, on Monday, he was officially named the winner in Michigan with a lead of almost 11,000 votes. All three would need to flip to Clinton to upend the Republican’s victory, and Clinton’s team says Trump has a larger edge in all three states than has ever been overcome in a presidential recount.
Still, Trump and his lieutenants assailed the effort led by the Green Party’s Jill Stein, calling it fraudulent, the work of “crybabies” and, in Trump’s view, tweeted from Florida, “sad.” Clinton leads the national popular vote by close to 2 million votes, but Trump won 290 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232, not counting Michigan.
Trump was mostly silent on the brewing recount effort until it became known that Clinton would join it, at least in Wisconsin. On Saturday, a day after Wisconsin officials said they would conduct the first presidential recount in the state’s history, Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias said: “We intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides.”
Elias said Clinton would take the same approach in Pennsylvania and Michigan if Stein were to follow through with recount requests in those states.
That launched Trump’s Twitter storm.
“Hillary Clinton conceded the election when she called me just prior to the victory speech and after the results were in,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Nothing will change.”
He quoted from her concession speech: “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead” and he concluded: “So much time and money will be spent – same result! Sad.”
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said Stein, “the Hillary people” and others supporting recounts have to decide whether they are going to back a peaceful transition “or if they’re going to be a bunch of crybabies and sore losers about an election that they can’t turn around.”
“The idea that we are going to drag this out now, where president — the president-elect has been incredibly magnanimous to the Clintons and to the Obamas, is pretty incredible,” Conway said.
Clinton’s lawyer said her team has been combing through the results since the election in search of anomalies that would suggest hacking by Russians or others and found “no actionable evidence.” But “we feel it is important, on principle, to ensure our campaign is legally represented in any court proceedings and represented on the ground in order to monitor the recount process itself,” he said.
Trump beat Clinton in Wisconsin by fewer than 22,200 votes, less than 1 percent of votes cast. He won Pennsylvania by some 70,600 votes, just more than 1 percentage point over Clinton.
As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, the Wisconsin recount could begin on Thursday, and there will be a push to complete it due to a federal deadline of Dec. 13.
“They are confident that they are going to be able to do it,” said CBS News Senior Political Editor Steve Chaggaris. “They are also confident that the results are not going to change.”
And for Clinton to win, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania would all have to flip.
Meanwhile, Trump scheduled a series of meetings in New York on Monday with prospective administration hires, after spending Thanksgiving weekend at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate.
As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, it appears another contender interviewed for the job of Secretary of State on Monday. Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus is believed to be in the running.
Petraeus resigned in 2012 after admitting to an extramarital affair with his biographer and mishandling classified information. But Trump has been a fan of the general.
“We had a very good conversation,” Petraeus said.
Petraeus walked into a seeming civil war in the Trump camp. In an unusual public airing of internal machinations, Conway warned Sunday that the president-elect’s supporters would feel “betrayed” if he tapped former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as secretary of state. Romney, until recently a fierce Trump critic, was “nothing but awful” to him for a year, she said.
The spectacle of close aides who speak frequently with Trump in private being so explicit about their views in public raised the possibility, at least, that Conway was acting at Trump’s behest by suggesting the president-elect was being generous by considering his former political rival. Romney denounced Trump in scathing terms during the campaign, prompting Trump to call him a “choker” who “walks like a penguin.”
Romney has his defenders on Capitol Hill.
“If he says he’s going to be committed to the administration, he’s going to be loyal,” said U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
And in spite of the sparring, Romney is coming back for a second job interview on Tuesday. Experts said it could be a grand strategy between Trump and Conway.
“What is entirely likely here given how the Trump team operates is that Donald Trump is essentially telling her to denigrate one of the candidates in a way to add drama to the process,” said CBS News contributor Mark Leibovich.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) is also set to meet with Trump. He is considered a longshot in the Secretary of State sweepstakes.
People involved in the transition process said Trump’s decision on his secretary of state did not appear to be imminent. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and John Bolton, a former ambassador to the U.N., have also been under consideration.
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