PHILADELPHIA: As they frantically searched for ways to save President Donald Trump’s failed reelection bid, his campaign continued a dizzying game of legal hopscotch in six states centered on the biggest prize of all: Pennsylvania.
The strategy may have worked well in front of television cameras and on the radio. But it turned out to be a disaster in the courts, where judges uniformly dismissed their allegations of electoral fraud and found the legal work of the amateur campaign.
In a ruling on Saturday night, U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann, a Republican and Federalist Society member from central Pennsylvania, compared the campaign’s legal arguments to Frankenstein’s Monster, concluding that Trump’s team was not proposing only speculative accusations, “not proof of rampant corruption.
Now, as the legal doors close on Trump’s attempts to get the courts to do what voters wouldn’t do on election day and issue him a second term, his efforts in Pennsylvania show just how ready he is to push. the baseless theories of widespread electoral fraud.
It was led by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, who descended on the state on Saturday after the Nov. 3 election as the count dragged on and the president played golf. Summoning reporters to a dilapidated and remote corner of Philadelphia on November 7, he showed up at a site that would soon become legendary: Four Seasons Total Landscaping.
11:30 am. the press conference was doomed from the start.
At 11:26 a.m., news outlets had begun calling Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential contest. The race was over.
Trumps’ plan to overturn the election through litigation and howls of fraud, the same tactic he had used to avoid losses in business, was heating up. And it would soon spread far beyond Pennsylvania.
Some of the ballots looked suspicious, Giuliani, 76, said of the vote count in Philadelphia as he stood behind a chain link fence next to a sex shop. He decried the city as being run by a decrepit Democratic machine.
Those ballots could have been written the day before, by Democratic Party hacks who were all over the convention center, Giuliani said. He has promised to file a new round of lawsuits. He wandered.
This is a very, very solid case, he said.
Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School specializing in electoral law, called the lawsuits against Trump dangerous.
It’s a side show, but it’s a harmful side show, ”Levitt said. It’s a toxic spectacle. The continued unsubstantiated claims and no alternative fact evidence actually have an effect on a substantial number of Americans. They create the conditions so that elections no longer work in the future.
Not a single court agreed with the strength of the case, but that hasn’t stopped Trump’s team from launching nearly two dozen court challenges against Bidens’ victory in Pennsylvania, including a morning polling day lawsuit brought by a formerly jailed lawyer.
Lawyers for the president objected to the three-day grace period for mail-in ballots to arrive. They complained that they were not allowed to observe the vote count. They said Democratic counties unfairly let voters correct errors on their voting envelopes. Everywhere they turned, they said, they sniffed fraud.
I sensed insidious fraud, said Lisette Tarragano, a Philadelphia poll observer, when Giuliani called her at the mic at the landscaping company.
In fact, a Republican heads the city’s electoral council and said his office received death threats as Trump’s protests over the election intensified. No judge has ever found evidence of electoral fraud in Pennsylvania or any other state where the campaign was carried out, not Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada or Georgia.
Instead, Trump’s lawyers found themselves backing down when pressed in court to get admissible evidence, or giving up when accused of helping to derail the democratic process. .
I ask you as a member of the bar of this tribunal, do people represent Donald J. Trump for the presidency (campaign) in this room? U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond asked in an after-hours hearing on Nov. 5, when Republicans called on him to stop the vote count in Philadelphia for their alleged ban.
There is a non-zero number of people in the room, replied lawyer Jérôme Marcus.
The Earl continued to Philadelphia. Trump’s losses kept coming. On Friday, November 6, when a state appeals court dismissed a Republican complaint about provisional ballots and a Philadelphia judge refused to reject 8,300 mail-in ballots they were contesting, Biden was up about 27,000 votes.
Nationally, the race had not yet been called. But it was becoming clear that a victory for Biden in Pennsylvania, with his 20 electoral votes, was imminent.
When that happened, Trump quickly turned to litigation. It did not go well.
A U.S. appeals court has found Pennsylvania’s three-day extension for mail-in ballots laudable, given the disruption and mail delays caused by the pandemic. Judges in Michigan and Arizona, finding no evidence of fraud, refused to block certification of the counties in the counties. Law firms representing the campaign began to be criticized and pulled out.
This left Giuliani, who had not argued a case in court for three decades, responsible for the effort to overturn the election.
You can say a lot about it in an alley (press conference). … When you go to court, you can’t, said attorney Mark Aronchick, who has represented election officials in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and elsewhere in several of the lawsuits in Pennsylvania. I don’t really care about gossip until I see a legal brief.
On Tuesday, Giuliani entered the courtroom. He was a late addition to the role after election lawyers for Porter Wright Morris & Arthur stepped down the weekend before. He had an entourage in tow, a show of force that had anything but a convincing legal argument.
Giuliani asked Brann to delay state certification of 6.8 million ballots on two Republican voters whose mail-in ballots were cast because of technical errors.
I sat in awe of listening, said Aronchick, an experienced lawyer.
We were ready to discuss the one chief. Instead, he gave us an even larger version of his Total Landscaping press conference, Aronchick said. It had nothing to do with the real case.
Giuliani, admired by some for his harsh speech as Manhattans’ chief prosecutor and his leadership as New York’s mayor during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, struggled to answer even the most basic legal questions.
But he spoke of a supposed conspiracy to rig state elections.
The best description of this situation is widespread election fraud nationwide, argued Giuliani. During questioning, however, he admitted that their complaint no longer included a claim for fraud.
And then, just like at Four Seasons, reality came crashing down on him, when news broke in the courtroom that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had dismissed the campaign’s appeal for observer access to Philadelphia. It was one of the last remaining demands of the campaign.
Even the dissent was overwhelming.
The idea that presumed valid ballots cast by the Pennsylvania electorate would be ignored due to isolated procedural irregularities that have been corrected … is wrong, Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor wrote for the minority in decision 5-2.
Brann, who sits in Williamsport, let the federal court hearing drag on beyond lunchtime and gave both sides time to file additional motions. Campaign repositories were filled with typos, misspellings, and even an erroneous reference to a Second Amendment complaint instead of a second amended complaint.
The campaign took the opportunity to answer one of the most puzzling questions raised by its election challenge: it only wanted the presidential election results to be overturned, not votes on the same ballots for others. offices. The briefs were filed by Giuliani and co-counsel Marc Scaringi, a conservative local radio host who, prior to being hired, questioned the merits of the Trump litigation, saying he would not reverse this election.
Aronchick recoiled from the fundamental premise of the campaign that local election workers possibly working for the Mafia, as Giuliani suggested, had plotted to spoil Trump’s victory.
Are you going to suggest that some of them are in a plot? How it works? Asked Aronchick. WHO? Or? When? How? ‘Or’ What?
Brann, in his ruling, said he expected the campaign to present tremendous evidence of rampant corruption as it sought to overturn millions of votes. Instead, he said, the campaign presented strained unfounded legal arguments and speculative accusations.
Trump could appeal the decision to the Third Court of Appeals for the U.S. Circuit in Philadelphia, but that court may have let it go. In its decision of November 13, the court called it “indisputable in our democratic process: the legally expressed vote of every citizen must count.”
Biden’s advance in the state extended to more than 80,000 votes.
Our system depends on whether you lose a fair competition. If that possibility doesn’t exist, you don’t have a democracy, said Levitt, the law professor. There are countries that work like this. It just doesn’t describe America.
___ Follow Maryclaire Dale on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Maryclairedale.
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