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Four days after a bitterly contested presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, America on Saturday still awaited definitive results, with the Democratic former vice president on the brink of winning the White House.
Biden was leading in most of the key states left in play, including Pennsylvania -- where a victory would put the veteran Democrat past the magic number of 270 votes in the Electoral College, which decides the presidency.
But Trump, whose bid for reelection looked increasingly unlikely, showed no signs of conceding, blasting off a series of morning tweets decrying what he called "illegally received" votes in Pennsylvania and other "razor thin" states.
Those tweets were flagged and masked by the messaging platform as containing potentially misleading content.
Late Friday, the 77-year-old Biden appealed to Americans for unity -- he repeated his belief that he would emerge the victor, but said the country needed to wait for the process to run its course.
"We must put the anger -- and the demonization -- behind us. It's time for us to come together as a nation and heal," Biden said in his home city of Wilmington, Delaware accompanied by his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris.
"My responsibility as president will be to represent the whole nation."
In his late-night address, Biden adopted a decidedly presidential tone, vowing to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic as new cases in the United States -- still the worst-hit nation in the world -- hit a new high of more than 127,000.
"The pandemic is getting significantly more worrisome all across the country," Biden said, noting that he and Harris had a briefing Friday on the crisis, which has claimed more than 235,000 American lives.
"Our hearts break with you. And I want everyone to know that on Day One, we are going to put our plan to control this virus into action."
US media reported that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, 61, had contracted the virus -- underscoring the criticism directed at the president for months over his administration's handling of the crisis.
Meadows first tested positive on Wednesday, a day after the election, according to The New York Times.
- Edging toward win -
Biden, however, stopped short of formally declaring victory, given that the races in Pennsylvania, Georgia and other battleground states remained undecided.
But Biden's lead steadily grew in Pennsylvania, and stood Saturday morning at more than 28,000, according to state election data.
Biden was also ahead in Arizona and Georgia -- two states that have not voted for Democrats in the 21st century -- as well as Nevada, while Trump held a slim lead in North Carolina and was expected to win Alaska.
Georgia said it was ordering a recount due to the narrow margin. The southern state will also have runoff races in January for both its Senate seats, which will likely determine if Democrats wrest control of the upper chamber from Republicans and give Biden a wider path to legislative victories.
Trump has several times prematurely named himself the winner, refusing to accept the data showing Biden poised for victory.
Trump's campaign has filed lawsuits around the country alleging fraud but made little headway, with no evidence produced to back up supposed ballot tampering or other significant incidents.
"Mr. Trump hates to lose, and no doubt he will fight to the end," The Wall Street Journal said in an editorial.
"But if defeat comes, he will serve himself and his country best by honoring America's democratic traditions and leaving office with dignity."
- Seeking court action -
Pennsylvania Republicans launched a last-ditch appeal for emergency intervention by the US Supreme Court to halt vote counting in the state as many of the late ballots have shifted the race in Biden's favor.
Justice Samuel Alito, considered a conservative, declined to order an immediate halt -- he ordered Pennsylvania to keep late-arriving ballots separate, affirming a policy already put in place by state election authorities.
He said any further response from the full court would come no later than Saturday.
Trump has now said falsely several times that ballots are being either invented for Biden or stolen from him.
But the unprecedented attacks on US election integrity by a president ignore a simple fact about the different types of ballots cast.
Votes cast in person on Election Day and counted first largely favored Trump, who has questioned mail-in ballots and urged his supporters to vote in person.
Later counting turned to the avalanche of votes mailed in by Americans who did not want to go to crowded polling stations in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic -- disproportionately Biden voters.
- Anger from Trump backers -
As Trump unleashed his offensive, his supporters vented anger outside election offices in several cities.
The protests were largely peaceful but in Philadelphia, prosecutors said they were charging two men who drove with weapons to the convention center where votes are being tabulated.
In Atlanta, an election worker went into hiding after facing death threats, with his car's license plate number exposed on the internet, after he was falsely accused of throwing out a ballot.
The worker was seen on video discarding a piece of paper, which was in fact an instruction sheet mailed back by a voter, said Richard Barron, Fulton County's elections supervisor.
Most of Trump's Republican Party stood squarely behind him.
"Far from over," tweeted Representative Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the Republican minority in the House of Representatives. "Republicans will not back down from this battle."
But several Republicans voiced alarm at the unprecedented attacks by a president on the US electoral process.
"He is wrong to say the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen -- doing so damages the cause of freedom here and around the world... and recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions," said Mitt Romney, the only Republican senator to vote to convict the president at his impeachment trial earlier this year.