Clinton Campaign: 'We're Joining Recount Effort'

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a fundraising event in autumn 2016. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Updated 5:50 p.m. Saturday

Officials with Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign announced Saturday they will participate in a recount of ballots in Wisconsin, ordered Friday after a formal request and fundraising drive by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and stand ready to take part in similar efforts in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Clinton leads the national popular vote by more than 2.2 million votes, but Republican Donald Trump won an apparent Electoral College victory with 290 votes to Clinton's 232, with Michigan still too close to call. It takes 270 to win, and Clinton would need to take all three of the disputed states to prevail.

Trump issued a statement Saturday blasting Stein and the recount.

Clinton counsel Mark Elias said in a Saturday post on Medium that the campaign would participate in the recount "to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides."

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He added that if Stein succeeds with recount petitions in Michigan and Pennsylvania, the Democratic campaign would take part in those proceedings also.

Elias said the decision was made after campaign officials received "hundreds of messages, emails, and calls urging us to do something, anything, to investigate claims that the election results were hacked and altered in a way to disadvantage Secretary Clinton."

But Elias also noted that the campaign had itself analyzed the election results, an effort that he said involved bringing in data scientists to look for evidence of hacking, meeting with outside experts to hear their findings on the vote, probing "every theory that has been presented to us within our ability to do so," and staffing post-election canvasses across the country.

"Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned" to ask for a recount, Elias said.

He added that the campaign was "fully aware that the number of votes separating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the closest of these states  —  Michigan  —  well exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount."

Trump issued a statement later Saturday denouncing Stein's effort as "a scam."

"This recount is just a way for Jill Stein, who received less than 1 percent of the vote overall and wasn’t even on the ballot in many states, to fill her coffers with money, most of which she will never even spend on this ridiculous recount," the statement said. "All three states were won by large numbers of voters, especially Pennsylvania, which was won by more than 70,000 votes."

Trump added a tweet that also directed scorn at the Democratic Party:

As of midday Saturday, Trump was leading in Michigan by 10,704 votes, or .2 percent; in Wisconsin by 22,525 votes, or .8 percent; and in Pennsylvania by 66,030 votes, or 1.1 percent.

Those thin margins prompted a wave of calls on social media for audits or recounts in those states and perhaps several others where the race was not so close, including the swing states of North Carolina and Florida.

Those calls were fueled in large part by the observation of some election data analysts that the reported results in those states were markedly different from Election Day exit polls.

Activists and Clinton supporters also pointed to the hacking of Democratic Party and Clinton campaign emails and reports that hackers breached voter registration systems in Arizona and Illinois and targeted systems in as many as 18 other states.

Agitation for a recount gained momentum at midweek when University of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman, who reportedly met with Clinton campaign officials, publicly called for a recall in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Halderman said he believed it unlikely that cyberattacks altered the outcome of this year's election. But he argued that the recount would calm concerns about the result and perhaps pave the way for future improvements in U.S. voting systems.

"Examining the physical evidence in these states  —  even if it finds nothing amiss  —  will help allay doubt and give voters justified confidence that the results are accurate," Halderman wrote. "It will also set a precedent for routinely examining paper ballots, which will provide an important deterrent against cyberattacks on future elections. Recounting the ballots now can only lead to strengthened electoral integrity."