On Thursday evening in Washington, Donald Trump repeated his unsubstantiated claim that he is being cheated out of an election victory. It was his first public outing for over 36 hours.
The US president, fighting to remain in the White House for another four years, appeared in the briefing room to deliver a diatribe with a litany of false statements, in a renewed attack on the integrity of the democratic process.
He offered no evidence for his claims, which came as the legitimate counting of mail-in ballots continued in several key battleground states. These have tended to favour Joe Biden, putting the momentum firmly with the Democratic candidate although some states remain too close to call.
Trump lashed out in what appeared to observers as a desperate rant against the turning tide.
"If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us," Trump claimed. "If you count the votes that came in late, we're looking at those very strongly".
In fact, there is no evidence that any votes cast illegally are being counted or that the process is unfair and corrupt.
The "illegal votes" the president refers to are the perfectly legal votes sent in by post, and which under state rules are now being counted.
The ballot-counting process across the country largely has been running smoothly with no evidence of widespread fraud or problems.
Trump added that he had already "decisively won" many critical states including "massive victories", naming several including Florida. This, the president said, came "despite historic election interference from big media, big money and big tech".
After delivering his statement, the president left without taking questions. It came after Trump and his allies spent a second day watching and waiting with the rest of the nation as vote totals pushed further in Biden’s direction in some key battlegrounds.
The mail-in ballots take longer to process, and the delay is to be expected.
So too is the fact that they overwhelmingly favour Democrats: the president spent months casting aspersions over postal voting, and Trump supporters were far more likely to vote in-person. Meanwhile, Joe Biden encouraged his supporters to cast their ballots by mail.
Several US TV networks stopped broadcasting the president's speech live before he had finished. ABC, CBS and NBC all cut away from Donald Trump, although Fox News and CNN continued until the end.
On Fox News, commentators said that although Trump had not alleged specific instances of irregularities, that did not mean there had not been any. But the president and his lawyers needed to present evidence, they said.
The recent barrage of Tweets by the president continued into the early hours on Friday morning, Washington time. Several were flagged by Twitter as containing content that was "disputed and might be misleading about an election", prompting another post from Trump complaining that the platform was "out of control".
Donald Trump's Tweets on Thursday appeared to assert a presidential authority he does not have.
“STOP THE COUNT!” he proclaimed. But the president has no authority over vote counting, and halting the count at that moment would have resulted in a swift victory for Biden.
“ANY VOTE THAT CAME IN AFTER ELECTION DAY WILL NOT BE COUNTED!” he later wrote. That seemed to advocate tossing out untold legally cast votes, including those from service members stationed overseas. Many states accept mail-in ballots after Election Day as long as they were postmarked by November 3.
Joe Biden has echoed fears that Trump is publicly undermining faith in the democratic process. "No one is going to take our democracy away from us. Not now, not ever," the Democratic candidate said in response to the president's outbursts. He has called on the American public to be patient in awaiting the election results.
Donald Trump's supporters are doing no such thing. On Thursday loyalists held press conferences in states where they are mounting legal challenges.
The campaign also bombarded supporters with fundraising messages warning of unsubstantiated Democratic efforts to “steal” the outcome. An anonymous source told AP the effort had raised well over $10 million (€8.45 million).
The president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., took to Twitter to accuse some Republicans of failing to speak out to defend his father, accusing them of being willing to "cower to the media mob instead".
Trump Jr., who has also been discussed as a potential future candidate, made clear the family has no interest in calmly waiting for votes to be counted.
"The best thing for America’s future is for @realDonaldTrump to go to total war over this election to expose all of the fraud, cheating, dead/no longer in state voters, that has been going on for far too long," he wrote.
"It’s time to clean up this mess & stop looking like a banana republic!"