Lincoln Project Targets Law Firms Working For Trump And At Least Two Withdraw Voter Fraud Cases
A conservative group that gained prominence on Twitter for its ads opposing President Donald Trump is targeting two law firms that are helping Republicans in their legal battle over the Nov. 3 election. Lincoln Project Targets Law Firms Working For Trump And At Least Two Withdraw Voter Fraud Cases
The Lincoln Project sent a tweet on Tuesday to its 2.7 million followers, encouraging them to contact employees of Jones Day and Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP through LinkedIn and “ask them how they can work for an organization trying to overturn the will of the American people.” It encouraged employees of the two firms to “resign in protest.”
Donald Trump’s encouragement of harrassment of American democracy is undemocratic, potentially dangerous, and counterproductive. Whatever you think of the Administration’s legal arguments, targeting the sanctity of our elections is immoral & ineffective. https://t.co/b51wTDs21o
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) November 10, 2020
The group has vowed to spend $500,000 on its pressure campaign against the two firms.
Jones Day said in a statement that it isn’t representing the president or his campaign in any case alleging voter fraud. The firm is representing the Republican Party of Pennsylvania in a case seeking to block the counting of mail-in ballots that arrived after Election Day that the U.S. Supreme Court is considering taking up.
Founded in Cleveland more than a century ago, Jones Day is the 10th-biggest U.S. law firm, with 2,500 attorneys and gross revenue of more than $2 billion, according to data the firm reported to The American Lawyer, a trade publication. Its clients have included Walmart, Fox News Network, Chevron, RJ Reynolds, JPMorgan Chase and Experian Information Solutions.
As of last month, the firm had received $2.9 million in legal fees from the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee combined, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Porter Wright, of Columbus, Ohio, is representing the Trump campaign in a suit to block certification of the Pennsylvania election results and seeking to disqualify hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots from the Democratic-leaning cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia on the grounds that campaign workers weren’t given enough access to monitor them for possible fraud.
The firm didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the group’s media campaign.
The Lincoln Project, founded late last year by former Republican operatives to thwart the president’s re-election effort, became known for its irreverent, sometimes mocking ads.
Its aggressive media forays have included a giant billboard in New York’s Times Square showing a smiling Ivanka Trump next to a grim array of U.S. Covid-19 fatality statistics and Jared Kushner above a long line of body bags. It had to take down a tweet that included the phone numbers of two lawyers, violating Twitter rules.
A law firm representing the Trump campaign in its challenges to the Pennsylvania election results gave notice that it’s withdrawing from one of the cases.
Lawyers with Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP submitted a filing late Thursday stating they were withdrawing as counsel in a federal suit seeking to block Pennsylvania from certifying its vote. No reason was given. In a statement issued Friday, the firm confirmed the filing but did not say why it was exiting the case.
“We’ve committed to the court to fulfill our obligations as required to ensure transition to substitute counsel and so as not to cause material adverse effect on the client’s interest,” Porter Wright said. “We will have no further comment.”
Porter Wright is one of two law firms targeted by the Lincoln Project — a group of Republicans who oppose President Donald J. Trump — for their work on lawsuits challenging the election results. The campaign included encouraging people to email the lawyers on the cases.
Defend Your Democracy:
1. Created a LinkedIn account.
2. Message someone who works at @JonesDay or @PorterWright.
3. Ask them how they can work for an organization trying to overturn the will of the American people. https://t.co/Q3NR5xM4tjhttps://t.co/65DOcAUHYb
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) November 10, 2020
While the filing stated that Trump consented to the withdrawal, a campaign spokesman blamed “cancel culture” for Porter Wright’s exit.
“Leftist mobs descended upon some of the lawyers representing the President’s campaign and they buckled,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the campaign. “If the target were anyone but Donald Trump, the media would be screaming about injustice and the fundamental right to legal representation. The President’s team is undeterred and will move forward with rock-solid attorneys to ensure free and fair elections for all Americans.”
A hearing on the state’s motion to dismiss the suit in federal court in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, is scheduled for Tuesday.
Another attorney who doesn’t work for Porter Wright will remain on the Williamsport case, according to the filing. The suit claims the state’s election results are suspect because the campaign wasn’t given adequate access to observe the vote-counting in Democratic-leaning counties.
Porter Wright has also been representing the campaign in a case heading to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court similarly challenging vote tallies based on poll observers’ access to the counting process. It additionally filed several county-level challenges seeking to disqualify ballots it claimed were defective. It’s unclear if Porter Wright also intends to withdraw from those representations.
The firm’s work for the campaign was led by Ronald Hicks, a partner in the firm’s Pittsburgh office and co-chair of its election law practice. He didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Jones Day has also been criticized for representing the Pennsylvania Republican Party in seeking to exclude from the state’s count ballots that arrived after Nov. 3 even if they were mailed before Election Day.
The group’s founders include George Conway, the husband of former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway.
Trump Cries Voter Fraud. In Court, His Lawyers Don’t
Pressed by judges, some attorneys representing Trump back away from claims.
President Trump has claimed widespread fraud was at play in the presidential election. Several of his lawyers have told judges in courtrooms across the country that they don’t believe that to be true.
The Trump campaign or Republican allies have brought lawsuits in several battleground states contesting election results that favored President-elect Joe Biden, seeking to stop the certification of results or have ballots thrown out.
Under questioning from judges handling the cases, at least two of Mr. Trump’s lawyers have backed away from suggestions that the election was stolen or fraudulent.
In other instances, attorneys representing Mr. Trump or other Republicans have said under oath they have no evidence of fraud. Lawyers also have struggled to get what they say is evidence of fraud admitted into lawsuits, with judges dismissing it as inadmissible or unreliable.
On Friday, a state judge in Michigan denied a bid by a conservative legal group to block the certification of election results and force an independent audit of votes in Detroit, calling the allegations of misconduct and voter fraud “incorrect and not credible.”
A coalition of organizations representing secretaries of state, federal agencies and other top election officials said Thursday there wasn’t evidence that voting systems were compromised during the election.
Election-law experts say many of Mr. Trump’s legal claims amount to citations of common irregularities or unintentional errors by voters or administrators rather than election fraud, or intentional efforts to subvert the election. They say that fraudulent acts do occasionally happen, but they typically affect relatively few ballots.
Disputes over procedures or errors are usually resolved by invalidating disputed ballots—typically a limited number that doesn’t alter the result—or modifying counting procedures. Courts only very occasionally have taken extraordinary steps such as ordering a new election.
In an Arizona case the Trump campaign largely sought to dismiss on Friday, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers said during a Thursday hearing that fraud wasn’t an issue in its allegations that some in-person votes cast in Maricopa County were improperly rejected.
“We are not alleging fraud in this lawsuit. We are not alleging anyone stealing the election,” Kory Langhofer, a Trump campaign attorney, said at the start of the hearing. Instead, he said the case was about good-faith errors made in the tabulation of some ballots that might have unfairly resulted in votes not being counted.
In a Friday filing, Mr. Langhofer told the Arizona state court: “Since the close of yesterday’s hearing, the tabulation of votes statewide has rendered unnecessary a judicial ruling as to the presidential electors.”
In a Pennsylvania lawsuit over several hundred disputed ballots in Montgomery County, a state judge Tuesday repeatedly asked lawyer Jonathan Goldstein if he was alleging that fraud took place.
Mr. Goldstein at first declined to answer, saying “everybody is coming to this with good faith.”
Judge Richard Haaz pressed: “I understand. I am asking you a specific question, and I am looking for a specific answer. Are you claiming that there is any fraud in connection with these 592 disputed ballots?”
“To my knowledge at present, no,” Mr. Goldstein said.
The exchange illustrated the difference between Mr. Trump’s public-relations strategy around the election and what can be raised in court, where strict rules govern what attorneys can say within the bounds of their professional responsibilities and what evidence is deemed admissible.
“I think that there’s a huge difference between the kind of cheap talk that the president can engage in on Twitter and the way that lawyers need to present evidence in court,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor and election-law specialist at the University of California, Irvine.
“Not only are lawyers subject to sanctions if they file frivolous lawsuits or provide false information to the court, but claims are also subject to the rules of evidence,” Mr. Hasen added.
The Trump campaign said that it didn’t need to argue fraud in every lawsuit. In addition, it pointed to affidavits it had submitted to courts as evidence of fraud.
“When we have eyewitness affidavits alleging that stacks of ballots were counted multiple times, as an example, that’s fraud. When ballots were cast with fatal errors, we don’t have to argue fraud because the ballots are defective on their faces,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said. “Every action we take is meant to either move the ball forward or gain more information. This is a methodical process and every filing is a step along the path.”
In Nevada, representatives for the Trump campaign have claimed alleged fraud in news conferences and public appearances, including that they found instances of dead people voting. None of the claims, however, has made it into court filings there.
Adam Laxalt, the state’s former attorney general and a co-chairman of the Trump campaign in Nevada, told a crowd last weekend that he had presented “evidence of voter fraud.” But a six-page GOP-backed lawsuit alleged one voter said she was told her ballot had already been cast by mail when she went to vote in person.
Much of the lawsuit alleged that Clark County, the state’s most populous, wasn’t legally allowed to use a machine to match signatures on some mail-in ballots and that observers weren’t given meaningful access to the counting process.
Lawyers for Mr. Trump, in a letter sent Nov. 5 to Attorney General William Barr, said they found instances of “criminal voter fraud” in Nevada. The letter said more than 3,000 people appeared to have moved out of state but still voted.
A few hundred of those voters appeared to be military members, who are legally allowed to vote while out of state, as are students and some who are working elsewhere but have plans to return to Nevada. That allegation hasn’t made it into court.
Other claims of fraud have struggled to be admitted into evidence.
The Trump campaign has filed two lawsuits in Michigan since the Nov. 3 election, both alleging failures by state and local officials to enforce laws intended to prevent election fraud. In one of the cases, the campaign produced an affidavit from a Republican poll watcher alleging she heard from another person that Detroit poll workers were changing the dates the ballots were received.
The judge described the affidavit as “obviously hearsay,” and last week denied the campaign’s request to halt the counting of ballots, a ruling now under appeal.
Witnesses can’t offer statements based on information from third parties, with limited exceptions.
In the second Michigan lawsuit, the Trump campaign submitted affidavits from poll watchers who alleged they were excluded from the absentee-ballot counting process or witnessed poll workers mishandle votes. The suit seeks to stop the state from certifying any vote tally that includes “fraudulently or unlawfully cast ballots.”
The poll-watcher affidavits, however, primarily contained anecdotes of people feeling threatened or excluded at the ballot-counting center along with reports that workers were fixing ballots in ways that state officials have explained are standard.
In the lawsuit heard Thursday in Arizona, a judge also expressed concern about the way that the Trump campaign was gathering evidence.
Judge Daniel Kiley struck from the record hundreds of declarations the Trump campaign had gathered from people who filled out an online form soliciting voter irregularities.
Mr. Langhofer, the lawyer representing Mr. Trump, said the campaign had removed any declarations it believed unreliable and had put security measures in place to prevent automated bots from filling out the form—including a measure designed to test whether a computer user is human.
“How is that a reliable process of gathering evidence?” said Judge Kiley, later adding, “The fact that you can’t disprove what’s asserted doesn’t mean what’s asserted is in fact true.”
Jones Day Attorneys Voice Dismay About Election Suit On Calls
Lawyers in the Washington office of Jones Day voiced discontent as the firm held conference calls Friday to discuss its controversial role in an election-related lawsuit.
Kevyn Orr, the office’s partner-in-charge, acknowledged that people were unhappy, according to call participants who asked not to be identified discussing internal communications.
But Orr defended the firm’s involvement in a Pennsylvania lawsuit that challenged a rule change extending the time for mail-in ballots to arrive. He drew a distinction between that case, filed prior to Election Day on behalf of the state’s Republican Party, and flimsier lawsuits alleging widespread fraud.
Orr said the firm wouldn’t get involved in any additional litigation related to the 2020 election. A second call had to be scheduled when the first one ran so long that no time was left for questions, one person said. Toward the end of the second call, lawyers said they understood where Orr was coming from but thought that Jones Day’s involvement was contributing to delegitimizing the election.
Orr declined to comment and a representative for the law firm didn’t respond to a voicemail and email seeking comment. Jones Day released a statement on Tuesday saying the Pennsylvania lawsuit presents important questions about the law and it won’t withdraw from the case.
The Trump campaign and Republican supporters have filed numerous lawsuits seeking to block election results and suggesting widespread fraud, without providing evidence. Jones Day is one of two law firms that have been targeted by the Lincoln Project for working on election-related lawsuits. The other firm, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP, late Thursday withdrew from one of the cases it’s involved in in Pennsylvania, a decision the Trump campaign blamed on “leftist mobs.”
Jones Day, the 10th-largest U.S. law firm, has more than 200 attorneys in its Washington office, according to its website. The New York Times reported on the calls earlier Friday. Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, is a Jones Day client.
Trump Hints At His Election Loss But Still Withholds Concession To Biden
President Donald Trump suggested for the first time since Election Day that he might not have won another term but stopped short of conceding the race to Joe Biden.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden on Friday about coronavirus vaccines, Trump vowed his administration would not “lock down” the country again but said another president could.
“This administration will not be going to a lockdown. Hopefully, the — whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be, I guess time will tell, but I can tell you this administration will not go to a lockdown,” he said.
The event marked the president’s first public comments since Nov. 5. He has remained mostly out of public view since news networks projected Biden as the winner last Saturday, but has tweeted a steady stream of unfounded claims that the election was “rigged” and that he was the real winner.
Trump’s reclusion has triggered a fresh round of criticism that he has failed to lead on the pandemic as cases surge nationwide.
More than 10.6 million people in the U.S. have contracted the virus and more than 243,000 have died, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg.
The president’s failure to concede has also affected Biden’s transition planning, with advisers to the Democrat barred from making official contact with government health experts about their efforts.
That interaction will not be allowed to take place until the administrator of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, makes an ascertainment that Biden is the president elect.
In his comments, Trump recapped milestones in the race for a vaccine but offered little new information. Earlier this week, Pfizer Inc., said its shot was 90% effective in a late-stage trial while Moderna Inc. said it reached a key study benchmark and would soon have data on its vaccine’s effectiveness.
The president indicated that regulators would quickly authorize the shots, and that Americans would have broad access to them by spring.
Trump criticized New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, apparently over concerns he has raised about the vaccine. Cuomo, a Democrat, had said the state would independently review any vaccine out of concern the approval process was tainted by politics.
Trump said: “He wants to take his time with the vaccine he doesn’t trust where the vaccine is coming from.” The president added, “We can’t be delivering it to a state that can’t be giving it to its people immediately.”
Cuomo rejected Trump’s assertion in a subsequent interview on CNN. “There will be no delay — as soon as they get the drug we are ready to distribute it,” the governor said.
Trump didn’t take questions from reporters, who asked why he has not conceded to Biden.
‘Whatever the Outcome’
After Trump’s event, Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that the legal challenges over balloting would continue. But he allowed that he and Trump might not prevail. “Whatever the outcome: We Will Never Stop Fighting to Make America Great Again!”
The president suffered a series of major setbacks earlier Friday in his bid to overturn Biden’s victory. News networks called Georgia for the Democrat and legal challenges for Trump crumbled in three other key states.
The president’s lawyers moved toward dropping an Arizona lawsuit after Biden’s lead in the state widened enough to be insurmountable. National news outlets Wednesday joined the Associated Press and Fox News in calling the Arizona race for Biden.
“Since the close of yesterday’s hearing, the tabulation of votes statewide has rendered unnecessary a judicial ruling” in Arizona’s presidential election, wrote the campaign’s lawyer, Kory Langhofer. Two down-ballot races remain that may still be affected by the litigation, he added.
At least one GOP-led legal challenge remains. The Arizona Republican Party filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging how that state’s largest jurisdiction, Maricopa County, audits votes via hand counts. And Republican state lawmakers continue to call for an audit of the results to unearth any irregularities.
Taken together, the developments on Friday significantly narrowed Trump’s options to swing the race back in his favor. While the president has repeatedly argued the election results have been tainted by widespread fraud, his legal teams have failed to produce evidence of that, and federal and state officials have called the contest the most secure in the nation’s history.
Georgia Secretary of State Certifies Biden’s Victory After Audit
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger certified Joe Biden’s win in the state Friday, a day after completing a hand audit of more than 5 million ballots, starting the clock for electors to be named and any further recount demand from President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Biden won Georgia by a margin of 12,670 votes, or about 0.3 percentage point, marking the first time a Democrat has carried the state since 1992.
“Numbers don’t lie. As secretary of state, I believe the numbers that we have presented today are correct,” Raffensperger said in a press conference ahead of the certification. “The numbers reflect the verdict of the people.”
Republican Governor Brian Kemp lamented the discrepancies found by the audit, but said he would sign off on the results as required by state law. He noted that the move paves the way for any further legal challenges.
Because the margin is less than 0.5 percentage point, Trump has until Tuesday to request a recount. Absent a court order, any recount would only require counties to feed ballots through scanners again instead of the more time-consuming process of tallying them by hand.
The Trump campaign has not said if it will request such a count, but Thursday night said it intends “to pursue all legal options to ensure that all legal ballots are counted.”
The Associated Press called the state for Biden when the audit was complete.
Certification is an important legal milestone because it’s the state’s official declaration of who won unless a court intervenes, and it also triggers the appointment of state electors to the Electoral College.
The president’s efforts to reverse the results of the election have launched lawsuits and demands for recounts in several states. A federal district court denied a Trump supporter’s bid to delay certifying the results in Georgia on Thursday.
In Georgia, the election and its aftermath have pitted Republican against Republican, including a call for Raffensperger to resign from Republican U.S. Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both of whom face competitive run-off elections in January.
Raffensperger has defended the integrity of the vote. In an interview on Tuesday, he criticized what he called “a campaign of misinformation, disinformation and outright lies about the process in Georgia.”
Michigan Lawmakers Who Met With Trump Stand By Election Outcome
Two Michigan lawmakers who met with Donald Trump amid the president’s effort to overturn the state’s decisive vote for Joe Biden said they haven’t yet seen any reason to alter the result.
“We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan,” Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, both Republicans, said a joint statement Friday. “We will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors.”
They added that allegations of fraud “should be taken seriously” and “thoroughly investigated.”
The lawmakers’ meeting with Trump on Friday came after a bipartisan backlash against the president and his lawyers, who have discussed trying to persuade legislatures to appoint electors who would vote for Trump even though Biden won.
Trump’s team is focused on Michigan, even though Biden leads the president there by roughly 156,000 votes. The state has yet to certify its results.
The effort in Michigan is part of a series of longshot bids Trump and his allies are using to reverse his defeat. The president’s legal advisers have suggested that state legislators in Pennsylvania could ignore the popular vote and choose pro-Trump electors.
They have pressured state and local officials in Arizona and Georgia not to certify their election results, though Georgia on Friday brushed aside those pleas and moved forward with certification.
Democrats and some Republicans, along with election lawyers and Biden’s aides, say efforts to overturn the Democrat’s victory don’t stand a chance of succeeding and are merely the result of Trump’s refusal to accept he lost.
But they have warned that the president’s legal and public relations onslaught could inflict long-lasting damage on the nation’s democratic system and shake the public’s confidence in elections.
Before the meeting with the Michigan lawmakers, Trump repeated his false claim that he defeated Biden. “I won, by the way. But, you know, we’ll find that out,” the president said during remarks to reporters on prescription-drug pricing.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney who is leading the campaign’s legal push, was involved in arranging the Friday meeting, according to a person familiar with the matter.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters earlier Friday that “this is not an advocacy meeting” and that nobody from the campaign would be there.
“He routinely meets with lawmakers from all across the country,” McEnany said of Trump. In fact, it is rare for Trump to host state lawmakers at the White House, and the president has largely remained out of the spotlight since losing to Biden.
Earlier Friday morning, as Shirkey left Detroit for Washington, he was surrounded by demonstrators at the airport who chanted “protect our votes.” Chatfield defended his decision to attend, tweeting earlier Friday: “No matter the party, when you have an opportunity to meet with the President of the United States, of course you take it.”
Shirkey and Chatfield had both dismissed the idea of overruling voters to overturn Biden’s victory.
“That’s not going to happen,” Shirkey told news outlet Michigan Bridge earlier this week.
Chatfield said in a Nov. 6 tweet that “whoever gets the most votes will win Michigan! Period. End of story.”
‘History Will Judge’
Michigan’s Democratic congressional delegation said in a joint statement on Thursday evening that “history will judge” Shirkey and Chatfield “on whether they choose to acknowledge the results of the election and defend our democracy, or simply be loyal to one man.”
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said Friday on CNN that the state’s election was secure. “The voters have spoken and there’s a procedure now that we’re going through to certify those results,” she said. “Any attempts to interfere or obstruct that process is, you know, at the very least improper.”
Benson said the state board of canvassers is expected to meet Monday to certify the results, telling CNN that every county in Michigan has submitted its certification to the state.
Trump’s legal team has sought to stop Michigan from certifying the results of the election, citing irregularities in Detroit, but dropped its lawsuit Thursday morning.
Giuliani claimed in a statement the campaign had already accomplished its goal, after two Republican members of the canvassing board in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, sought to rescind their votes certifying the election results. But Benson said they could not rescind their decision and the next step would be for the state canvassing board to certify Michigan’s election results.
Giuliani asserted at a news conference in Washington on Thursday that without Detroit’s votes, Trump would have won the state of Michigan.
Bob Bauer, senior adviser to Biden, told reporters on Friday that such a move to flip the outcome in Michigan “can not be done.”
“The Constitution does not permit a state legislature to do what Donald Trump wants the state legislature to do,” Bauer said.
Democrats and some Republicans in Washington have widely condemned Trump’s efforts to subvert the will of the voters in swing states to tip the election in his favor.
“It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President,” said Utah Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican who has been critical of Trump.
Nebraska GOP Senator Ben Sasse also issued a critical statement after Giuliani staged a bizarre, 90-minute news conference on Thursday. Giuliani alleged without evidence that there was a “massive fraud” in Michigan, but Sasse countered that the president’s legal team has “refused to actually allege grand fraud” in court.
“So no, obviously Rudy and his buddies should not pressure electors to ignore their certification obligations under the statute. We are a nation of laws, not tweets,” Sasse said.
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