- Trump waited earnestly for updated results from Wisconsin on election night, per a forthcoming book.
- White House attendees thought there was a “delay” in the election results from the Midwestern state.
- The campaign didn’t account for the time zone difference, with Wisconsin being an hour behind eastern time.
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In the early hours of November 4, after one of the most tumultuous presidential elections in US history, then-President Donald Trump rattled off the states that were called in his favor, which included the key electoral prizes of Florida, Ohio, and Texas.
He was optimistic about his chances in swing states like Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin, highlighting election day vote leads that he felt would endure.
However, in a nationally-televised White House speech that he envisioned as a rousing victory message, Trump alleged voter fraud and vowed to go to the Supreme Court to “stop” the counting of additional ballots.
After the speech was over, the president walked into the Map Room, with family members and a tight circle of advisors that soon followed, according to a forthcoming book by Michael Wolff.
It was almost 3:30 a.m., and the campaign began to look hard at Wisconsin, a swing state that Trump narrowly won in 2016 and hoped to put back in his column in 2020.
Trump and then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden had been competitive in the Badger State all night, but the president hoped to put the race away with updated numbers from a 3:30 a.m. data release.
The campaign team wanted the new Wisconsin numbers to provide them with some momentum, but the unfolding situation only left them frustrated, which Wolff describes in “Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency.”
At 3:30 a.m. eastern time, Wisconsin did not report any updated figures.
“Everybody waited, without much to say, anxiety ramping up, the president muttering: Why the delay? What was happening? Had they stopped counting? What was going on?” Wolff wrote.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, insisted that the “delay” confirmed his suspicions of electoral wrongdoing.
“They now knew how many Biden votes they needed to offset Trump votes, and they were producing them! That’s what the delay was about,” Wolff wrote in describing Giuliani’s line of thinking.
Trump stuck around for twenty minutes, but eventually became “agitated” and “angry” by the situation before heading to the White House Residence.
Election lawyer Matt Morgan, who was in the Map Room for much of the night, left the White House at 4 a.m.
As Morgan drove home, he realized that Wisconsin is in the central time zone, meaning it was an hour behind the East Coast.
The so-called “delay” was actually a failure to account for the time zone difference, and the updated data was released that morning.
Biden went on to defeat Trump in Wisconsin by roughly 20,000 votes out of nearly 3.3 million ballots cast.
Milwaukee County, the state’s most populous jurisdiction and a longtime Democratic stronghold, gave Biden a hefty 183,000-vote margin over Trump, ensuring his victory in the Midwestern presidential battleground.
The Trump campaign, which questioned the results, last year spent $3 million on recounts in Milwaukee County and Dane County, another Democratic stronghold, only to see Biden pick up 132 votes in Milwaukee.