Morning Brief

Trump Mounts Legal Challenge to Election Results as Ethiopia Fighting Escalates

Thin margins in key states remain as the United States begins another day of vote counting.

U.S. President Donald Trump supporters gather to protest the election results at the Maricopa County Elections Department office on November 4, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona.
U.S. President Donald Trump supporters gather to protest the election results at the Maricopa County Elections Department office on November 4, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: the 2020 U.S. presidential election is still undecided, Ethiopian government forces clash with Tigrayan forces in the country’s north, and Brexit talks still have “serious divergences.”

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As Biden Closes In, Trump Brings In The Lawyers

Vote counting in the U.S. presidential election continues this morning. While Democratic candidate Joe Biden has a clearer path to victory after the AP called races in Wisconsin and Michigan in his favor, some key states have yet to provide definitive results. Nevada, Georgia, and Pennsylvania all expect to publish full results today, according to state election officials.

Into that uncertainty has stepped U.S. President Donald Trump, who has made good on his promise to mount legal challenges to ensure his victory. The Trump campaign is seeking a recount in Wisconsin (where Biden leads by 20,000 votes) and is attempting to halt vote counting in Michigan (where Biden leads by more than 130,000 votes). The campaign is also joining a suit in Pennsylvania that challenges the extension of ballot deadlines while also disputing the counting of absentee ballots in Georgia.

Across the country, protests by Trump supporters and his opponents have already begun. In Arizona, a few hundred Trump-supporting protesters—some armed—surrounded a vote-counting center in Phoenix. Rather than attempt to disrupt the count, protesters pounded on windows, urging election officials to keep counting the vote, which they continue to do. Two news organizations, Fox News and the Associated Press, have already called the state for Joe Biden, even as the margin between the two candidates remains tight with less than 14 percent of votes still to be reported.

Although Joe Biden has not yet declared victory, his campaign team appears to be moving quickly. An official website for his White House transition team has already been created.

It’s Trump’s America. Foreign Policy Editor in Chief Jonathan Tepperman looks ahead to a future of “self-perpetuating dysfunction,” no matter who ultimately wins the White House.

If Biden wins, that still doesn’t mean a return to order, he argues, given that Trumpism has shown such resilience among the U.S. electorate. “While Biden may seek to change the tone in Washington, the years of Barack Obama’s presidency showed that despite Biden’s lifelong dedication to bipartisanship, so long as Republicans remain the party of no, the chances of achieving it are close to zero,” Tepperman writes.

The other numbers. While the focus has been on vote counts, the United States has continued to post record numbers of coronavirus cases. On Wednesday, over 100,000 cases were reported in the country, the highest number since the pandemic began. On top of that statistic, another that has almost become routine: 1,200 people died of the disease on Wednesday alone.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Laurie Garrett warns of what’s to come if the likely outcome of a divided White House and Senate becomes reality: A COVID-19 pandemic “unfettered by any robust federal action and only slowed in a few states where governors are determined to adhere to their public health guidance.”

Follow along with FP. We’re continuing our round-the-clock election live blog today, with reporting from our correspondents and analysis from around the world. Join us.


What We’re Following Today

Heavy fighting in Ethiopia. Ethiopian federal forces are reported to have engaged in heavy fighting with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the ruling party in the country’s northern region. Addressing Ethiopians on state television, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said “The army not only repulsed the attacks but has managed to control important and key locations” in Tigray.

The information war—made more difficult by a region-wide internet blackout—is ongoing: TPLF sources say that the army’s northern command, stationed in Tigray, has defected to their side. The Ethiopian government denies any defection has taken place, and said that it would conduct “more operations in the coming days.”

Tom Gardner reports from Addis Ababa on the escalating confrontation and explains how it could lead to civil war.

Arce’s opponents go on strike in Bolivia. Conservative opponents of Bolivian President-elect Luis Arce will begin a two-day strike today in the department of Santa Cruz, home to Bolivia’s largest city, in order to voice their opposition to the results of October’s presidential election. Governor Ruben Costas has asked Bolivia’s electoral tribunal to audit the result, but the tribunal rejected the request, citing the election’s certification by outside groups such as the Organization of American States (OAS). Arce is set to be inaugurated as president on Sunday.

West Bank village razed. Israeli forces have demolished a Palestinian village in the West Bank, leaving 73 people homeless, in what the United Nations reported as the largest demolition operation in years. The demolition brings to 689 the number of structures demolished across the West Bank, the highest number since 2016. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said the mass demolition was likely an opportunistic move by the Israeli government while the eyes of the world were focused on the U.S. election.

Austria missed tip-off before attack. Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer admitted that in July Slovak authorities had tipped off Austrian intelligence services about the threat posed by the gunman in the Nov. 2 attack in Vienna but that “something went wrong with communications.” Nehammer has called for an independent commission to investigate why exactly the failure occurred.


Keep an Eye On

Brexit talks. With less than 10 weeks to go before Britain ends its Brexit transition period, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that “very serious divergences” still remain between the two sides after two weeks of talks. His counterpart David Frost has also acknowledged that “wide divergences” still exist around fisheries, a level competitive environment for companies, and other governance issues. In a veiled suggestion that the EU would accept a no-deal outcome, Barnier tweeted that “The EU is prepared for all scenarios.”

Chinese trawlers. Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru have banded together to “to prevent, discourage and jointly confront” illegal fishing in their territorial waters, according to a joint statement issued on Wednesday. Although not named in the statement, the alliance is a challenge to China, whose large fishing fleets in the region have led to complaints from the South American countries in the past. As part of the new arrangement, the four countries plan to increase “cooperation and real-time exchange of information” to stop illegal fishing.

Coronavirus mink mutation.
Denmark will cull 17 million minks after a mutated version of the coronavirus that is transmissable to humans was found on a farm in the country. It’s the third time a mink cull has been ordered Europe after coronavirus scares in Spain and the Netherlands. The move is likely to damage Denmark economically, as the country is the world’s number one mink fur producer.


Odds and Ends 

North Korea’s legislature has banned smoking in some public spaces in an effort to give its citizens “hygienic living environments.” The ban applies to political and ideological education centers, theaters and cinemas, and medical and public health facilities, North Korean state media has reported. The move is likely to have an outsize impact on social behavior in the country: roughly 44 percent of North Korea’s male population are smokers, according to World Health Organization figures.


That’s it for today.

For more from FP, visit foreignpolicy.com, subscribe here, or sign up for our other newsletters. Send your tips, comments, questions, or corrections to morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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