Officials from an international observation mission on Wednesday delivered a strong rebuke of recent comments by President Donald Trump, who has been attempting to sow doubt in the results of the 2020 presidential election.
While not addressing him by name and instead referring to him as the incumbent president, two leaders of a team from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which for weeks has been on an invited observation mission in the United States, said that Trump's comments "harm public trust in democratic institutions."
Trump early on Wednesday morning claimed electoral fraud without evidence and promised he would contest the 2020 election with the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. The president has since continued to criticize the ongoing results -- where he is losing in several states -- on Twitter, with numerous messages being flagged as misleading by the social media platform.
"Frankly, we did win this election," Trump said to supporters in the White House East Room, as votes were still being counted in several battleground states.
Michael Georg Link, the special coordinator and leader of the OSCE's short-term observer mission, described Trump's allegations as "baseless."
"We feel that allegations of systemic wrongdoings during these elections have no solid ground," added Ambassador Urszula Gacek, the head of the limited election observation mission, noting the "deliberate attempts by the incumbent president to weaken confidence in the election process."
In fact, despite the "stress test" of "significant restrictions" caused by the coronavirus pandemic which expanded mail-in voting capabilities in many states, the U.S. electoral system "held up well," added Link. He said that "Election Day itself was orderly and took place in a peaceful atmosphere," noting observers' experiences watching the counting of mail-in ballots in Michigan and finding "no indication of a problem."
"Nobody -- no politician, no elected official -- nobody should limit the people's right to vote," he said. "Coming after such a highly-dynamic campaign, making sure that every vote is counted is a fundamental obligation of all branches of government."
The two officials did note some challenges in their team's preliminary findings. Gacek described the large number of lawsuits over absentee voting in different states that have attempted to "change the rules of the game." Link noted the disenfranchisement of approximately 5.2 million U.S. citizens due to criminal convictions -- despite about half of them having already served their sentences, according to a news release. Gacek also noted the challenges of the mission itself, where her team did not get the number of staff requested, likely due to the pandemic.
The mission is not yet complete, as votes are still being counted. Gacek noted that the team normally stays for around 10 days after an election, but they are prepared to stay longer this time, possibly in certain states that might require "additional scrutiny." The OSCE has previously observed eight elections in the U.S., with the most recent being the midterm contests in 2018.
"This is definitely a different election," Gacek said. "It poses different challenges."
In January, the global risk analysis firm Eurasia Group warned that the U.S. presidential elections represented a top threat to global stability, warning that a close vote result could shake Americans' faith in their country's electoral process.
For months Trump has attacked early mail-in balloting, claiming the process is rife with potential fraud without providing any evidence. On Wednesday his reelection campaign began a series of legal actions in tightly contested battleground states, including lawsuits in Michigan and Pennsylvania to demand better access for campaign observers where ballots are being processed and counted. Trump's campaign has also requested a recount in Wisconsin, where Democratic challenger Joe Biden holds a small lead.
Born from a 1975 security conference in Finland as a Cold War-era forum to discuss issues between the East and West, the OSCE examines issues such as fair elections, freedom of the press, arms control and human rights. The organization's 57 country members include the U.S. and countries in North America, Asia and Europe.
OSCE election monitors travel to countries to determine the extent that elections honor issues such as transparency, accountability, equality and political pluralism. OSCE monitors this year have already observed elections in countries such as Romania, Poland and Azerbaijan.
Elliott Davis is a reporter mainly serving the Government Rankings team at U.S. News & World Report. He joined the company in early 2020 as an intern in the News section. He previously wrote for The Boston Globe Magazine, The Baltimore Sun, the University of Maryland's Capital News Service and his hometown newspaper, the Virgin Islands Daily News. He is a graduate of the master's program at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.