WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. >> President-elect Donald Trump said Sunday it’s “sad” Hillary Clinton is joining an effort to force recounts of votes from the Nov. 8 election in up to three crucial states.
Trump tweeted part of Clinton’s concession speech, when she told supporters they must accept that “Donald Trump is going to be our president,” and snippets from her debate remarks, when she assailed the Republican nominee for refusing to say in advance that he would accept the Election Day verdict.
And it came on top of his saying it was a “scam” that Green Party nominee Jill Stein was revisiting the vote count in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Trump won Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and as of Wednesday, held a lead of almost 11,000 votes in Michigan, with the results awaiting state certification Monday.
Clinton leads the national popular vote by close to 2 million votes, but Trump won 290 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232, not counting Michigan. It takes 270 to win the presidency, and the three states in question could tip the electoral balance to Clinton in the remote event that all flipped to her in recounts.
Wisconsin officials said Friday they were moving forward with the first presidential recount in state history. Clinton joined the effort Saturday, with her campaign attorney Marc Elias saying, “We intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides.”
Elias said Clinton would take the same approach in Pennsylvania and Michigan if Stein were to follow through with recount requests in those states.
Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway noted that the president-elect hadn’t ruled out the possibility of pursuing a criminal investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, even if Trump indicated he’d rather move past the issue.
“He’s been incredibly gracious and magnanimous to Secretary Clinton at a time when, for whatever reason, her folks are saying they will join in a recount to try to somehow undo the 70-plus electoral votes that he beat her by,” Conway said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Clinton rival during the Democratic primary turned ally during the general election, defended the recount effort, telling CNN that leaders in both parties commonly request them. “No one expects there to be profound change, but there’s nothing wrong with going through the process,” he said.
He also suggested he would support a change to the nation’s electoral college system, which allowed Trump to win the presidency despite lagging in the popular vote.
“We have one candidate who got 2 million more votes than the other candidate and she is not going to be sworn in as president,” Sander said. “And I think on the surface that’s a little bit weird.”
Trump had been paying little if any attention to the recount push by Stein, who has raised millions of dollars for the effort since drawing a mere 1 percent of the vote nationally. But Clinton’s stance changed his tune.
“Hillary Clinton conceded the election when she called me just prior to the victory speech and after the results were in,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. “Nothing will change.”
He quoted from her concession speech — “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead” — and he concluded: “So much time and money will be spent – same result! Sad.”
Trump, who repeatedly challenged the integrity of the U.S. election system before his win, earlier called the recount push “a scam by the Green Party for an election that has already been conceded.”
Trump was expected to return to New York on Sunday after spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend at his West Palm Beach estate. His transition team said the president-elect had scheduled a series of meetings Monday with prospective administration hires.
Among the jobs Trump has still yet to fill: secretary of state.
Internal division over the position again spilled out into the open on Sunday as Conway said she had personal concerns with the possibility of Mitt Romney serving as the nation’s top diplomat. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker are among other prospects.
Conway noted that Romney and his allies regularly attacked Trump during the campaign.
“I’m all for party unity, but I’m not sure we have to pay for that with the secretary of state position,” she said.
Trump’s incoming chief of staff, GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, acknowledged that a Romney pick would represent “a team of rivals concept.”
That possibility, Priebus told “Fox News Sunday,” should tell the public that Trump wants to “put the best possible people together for all Americans, no matter who you are, what your religion — whatever your opinion is, he wants to move forward looking through the windshield and not the rearview mirror.”