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Ultimate Resource For Trumps Failed ‘Far-Fetched’ Claims Of Voter Fraud

Attorney General William Barr has authorized Justice Department officials to open inquiries into potential irregularities in the presidential election, while acknowledging there’s no conclusive evidence. Ultimate Resource For Trumps Failed ‘Far-Fetched’ Claims Of Voter Fraud


Related: Here’s A Run-Through Of The Litigation The Trump Campaign Has Filed So Far

Barr issued a memo on Monday evening allowing U.S. attorneys across the country, as well as his top lieutenants, to “pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities prior to the certification of elections in your jurisdictions in certain cases.”

“While serious allegations should be handled with great care, specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries,” Barr wrote. “Nothing here should be taken as any indication that the department has concluded that voting irregularities have impacted the outcome of any election.”

After the memo was released, Richard Pilger, who led the Justice Department’s Election Crimes branch, resigned from that post on Monday night.

His decision was reported by the New York Times and confirmed by his email announcing it, which was tweeted out by Vanita Gupta, who headed the department’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama

In the email, Pilger said he was stepping down because Barr’s new policy “abrogated the forty-year-old non-interference policy for ballot fraud investigations in the period prior to elections becoming certified an uncontested.”

Barr has been one of the most ardent and aggressive supporters of President Donald Trump, and his message comes as Trump and his legal team make so far unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.

A Justice Department official said that neither Trump nor anyone at the White House had asked Barr to take the action, although some Republican lawmakers have urged him to intervene.

Before the election, Barr had echoed Trump’s unsupported claims that widespread use of mail-in ballots was subject to fraud, including ballots that might be cast by foreign adversaries seeking to influence the election. But the attorney general had remained silent in the days just before and after last week’s election, until now.

Bob Bauer, a top lawyer for the Biden campaign, responded in a statement that “it is deeply unfortunate that the Attorney General Barr chose to issue a memorandum that will only fuel the ‘specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims’ he professes to guard against.

Those are the very kind of claims that the president and his lawyers are making unsuccessfully every day, as their lawsuits are laughed out of one court after another.”

Barr indicated that in authorizing the inquiries he broke with department policies, which he said require consultation with the agency’s public integrity officials in some instances.

He argued that time was of the essence, as those officials generally counsel that overt investigative steps shouldn’t be taken until the election outcome has been concluded.

‘Prudent’ To Probe

That’s “never been a hard and fast rule,” he said, and “such a passive and delayed enforcement approach can result in situations in which election misconduct cannot realistically be rectified.”

Barr said it “will likely be prudent to commence any election-related matters as a preliminary inquiry, so as to assess whether available evidence warrants further investigative steps.”

After his announcement, Gupta tweeted: “Let’s be clear — this is about disruption, disinformation, and sowing chaos.”

“Trump is furious, demanding all ‘his’ lawyers take action,” she wrote. “They have no evidence so they’ll push the PR. Doesn’t change the result.”

Earlier Monday, Barr met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the Capitol. Barr left without making any comments to reporters when asked what they had discussed and whether it pertained to election inquiries.

Afterward on the Senate floor, McConnell defended Trump’s right to challenge ballot counts in pivotal states.

”We have the system in place to consider concerns, and President Trump is 100% within his rights to look to allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” McConnell said.

The Justice Department official declined to say if Barr discussed his plan to allow voting probes with McConnell.

Trump’s campaign has filed a flurry of legal challenges to vote counts in battleground states after projections by the Associated Press and all the major television networks showed that Democrat Joe Biden has won.

Several of the lawsuits allege that the Trump campaign wasn’t given sufficient access or a close enough view to monitor vote counting and catch any fraudulent ballots.

Democrats have called the lawsuits baseless efforts to muddy the election outcome. Throughout the campaign, Trump claimed without evidence that the increased use of mailed-in ballots because of the pandemic would lead to widespread voter fraud and suggested the election would have to be decided in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Barr’s Gambit Opens Path To Tarring Biden Win Without Undoing It

ttorney General William Barr’s directive expediting election-fraud probes might please President Donald Trump, but it’s unlikely to produce evidence that could change the outcome, according to former federal prosecutors.

For Trump’s supporters, Barr’s effort at intervention may provide ammunition in a long-shot effort to delay Joe Biden’s certification as president while they try to push a legal challenge up to the Supreme Court. It could also undercut public support for Biden even after he takes office Jan. 20.

The directive is particularly troubling because it could be interpreted by some federal prosecutors “to shoot first and ask questions later,” said Gregory Brower, a former U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada.

Barr issued an unprecedented memo on Monday authorizing U.S. attorneys across the country to open inquiries into potential irregularities in the presidential election, even while acknowledging there’s no conclusive evidence.

“While serious allegations should be handled with great care, specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries,” Barr wrote. “Nothing here should be taken as any indication that the department has concluded that voting irregularities have impacted the outcome of any election.”

That suggested a high threshold for action because affecting the outcome of the presidential election could require overturning the vote results in enough states to make a difference.

After Barr’s memo was released, Richard Pilger, who led the Justice Department’s Election Crimes branch, resigned from that post.

In an email to colleagues, Pilger said he was stepping down because Barr’s new policy “abrogated the forty-year-old non-interference policy for ballot fraud investigations in the period prior to elections becoming certified and uncontested.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, said in a statement Tuesday that Barr’s move is “unlikely to open new legal avenues for the Trump campaign but speaks to Barr’s dangerous and irresponsible impulse to pander to the president’s worst instincts.”

The question is what federal prosecutors will do in response to the directive. The Justice Department didn’t immediately provide details. The office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which covers Philadelphia, declined to comment.

“The goal is to stir up as much ruckus as possible in battleground states, where the vote’s still being counted, by whatever means,” said William Weld, a former Republican governor of Massachusetts, ex-federal prosecutor and past Trump opponent. “That’s not a noble goal,” he said.

Practically, Barr’s directive shouldn’t affect the certification of election results because federal prosecutors are bound by rules preventing them from talking about ongoing investigations, said Brower, the former U.S. Attorney in Nevada, who is also a former FBI official and now a shareholder at the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP.

But Brower and other former officials said they can’t rule out that normal rules might not be followed by U.S. attorneys who are loyal to Trump and Republicans.

Possible Leaks

“There’s an old saying that the power to indict is the power to destroy,” Brower said. “I’ve come around to believe that the power to investigate is the power to destroy if the prosecutor is willing to leak the facts of an investigation.”

Indications of potential misconduct could be blown up by Republicans to further sow doubt about the election even if there’s no firm evidence, said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“It’s hard not to see this as part of a coordinated campaign to delay the certification of election results,” said Clarke, who is also a former Justice Department official. “The memo runs the risk of causing a fishing expedition by federal prosecutors in states.”

Barr has been one of the most ardent and aggressive supporters of Trump, and his message comes as Trump and his legal team continue to make so far unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.

Barr acknowledged that in authorizing Justice Department inquiries he broke with policies that he said require consultation with the agency’s public integrity officials in some instances.

He argued that time was of the essence, as those officials generally counsel that overt investigative steps shouldn’t be taken until the election outcome has been concluded.

Bob Bauer, a top lawyer for the Biden campaign, said in a statement that “it is deeply unfortunate” that Barr “chose to issue a memorandum that will only fuel the ‘specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims’ he professes to guard against. Those are the very kind of claims that the president and his lawyers are making unsuccessfully every day, as their lawsuits are laughed out of one court after another.”

Updated: 11-12-2020

Trump’s Main Obstacle In Flipping Georgia Vote Is Republican

By most measures, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, should have been taking a bow this week. Record numbers voted in a pandemic. Lines, after early hiccups, were measured in minutes, not the hours endured in the chaotic primary.

Instead, Raffensperger is fending off attacks from his own party, including calls that he resign, egged on by President Donald Trump’s campaign to discredit election returns. On Wednesday, Raffensperger responded, announcing an unusual hand recount of the more than 5 million votes — and then told CNN the audit will confirm Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.

Georgia has until Nov. 20 to complete the recount before state law requires the secretary of state to certify the results.

The tight timeline, which Raffensperger called a challenge, has raised questions about what happens if the count isn’t finished in time. A state judge can push back the deadlines, but it’s unclear whether that would strengthen or weaken Trump’s hand in challenging Georgia’s vote.

At a news conference Thursday, the state elections infrastructure manager, Gabriel Sterling, said the decision to audit the presidential race was made to increase public confidence in the integrity of the results. He said election officials decided to do all the ballots because it is easier than identifying an adequate sample.

On Wednesday, Raffensperger, 65, waved off questions about whether he’d caved to the Trump campaign, which had requested a hand count a day earlier, as well as the call for his resignation Monday from the state’s two U.S. senators, fellow Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. He said the tight margin, with Trump trailing by 14,111 votes, justified the extra effort.

“This race has national significance, national importance,” said Raffensperger, who has consistently said he’s seen no credible evidence of widespread fraud. “We get that.”

The secretary of state’s office confirmed Thursday that Raffensperger is being tested for Covid-19 and will work from home following a positive test for his wife. The staff in his Capitol office have all been advised to get tested and work from home. The county-conducted election audit of every ballot will continue on schedule.

Peach State Crucible

The audit — and Trump’s push to discredit his loss in Georgia — comes less than two months before runoff elections for Loeffler and Perdue and their Democratic challengers that will decide control of the U.S Senate.

The man at the center of the fray is an engineer, chief executive officer of a Georgia contracting firm and former member of Georgia’s House of Representatives. Raffensperger became the state’s top elections official in 2019, replacing his more controversial predecessor, Brian Kemp, now the governor. Democrats had accused Kemp of throwing voters off the rolls and closing polling places to ensure a favorable electorate for his party.

Although Raffensperger has drawn complaints — about culling voting lists, his choice of new voting equipment, and the disastrous June primary — his tenure has been more peaceful and less openly partisan than Kemp’s.

In March, for instance, he negotiated with Democratic leaders on how to approach the primary, enraging other Republican leaders. And he sent absentee ballot applications to all active voters, even as Trump was tarring mail voting as ripe for fraud.

He has also placated critics in his own party: In response to Republicans’ outcry over his mail-ballot initiative, Raffensperger announced a voter fraud task force made up of prosecutors and police.

He delayed the presidential primary twice, and it was a mess when it finally took place. A shortage of poll workers and technical expertise at the precinct level as well as the new voting machinery all contributed to hours-long lines.

Leaping Hurdles

Efforts to avoid a repeat began immediately.

The result wasn’t perfect. In the first two days of early voting for the general election, a database of voter registrations was overwhelmed, repeatedly crashing and causing hours-long lines again. But the problem was fixed, and the lines quickly shrank. Average wait time on Election Day: three minutes.

Then Trump lost Georgia and its 16 electoral votes and declared he had actually won there. Illegal voters, he said, were the reason.

Most of the party’s top office holders have now made statements condemning supposed illegal voters. Evidence was anecdotal, fueled by social media rumors and the Trump campaign. Raffensperger held twice-daily news conferences to update and defend the integrity of the tally.

His staff laboriously debunked rumors, including that the voting machines were to blame for Trump’s loss, or that ballots had been thrown in a dumpster in rural Georgia. Then there was the one about a supercomputer named Hammer and a software program named Scorecard changing votes — a “flat-out hoax,” said a top elections official in Raffensperger’s office, Gabriel Sterling.

Internecine Warfare

Raffensperger became a target. On Monday, Loeffler and Perdue put out a statement harshly rebuking their fellow Republican and calling for him to step down.

”The management of Georgia elections has become an embarrassment to our state,” it began. “We believe when there are failures they need to be called out — even when it’s in your own party.”

Raffensperger responded by saying he wasn’t resigning and that he felt their pain.

“I know emotions are running high,” he said in a statement. “Politics are involved in everything right now. If I was Senator Perdue, I’d be irritated I was in a runoff. And both Senators and I are all unhappy with the potential outcome for our President.”

The next day, the Trump campaign and the Republican Party sent him a letter detailing what they claimed were examples of voter fraud and demanding — among other things — a hand recount. The examples ranged from Republicans who were unable to watch all of the count to a voter who showed up at the polls and said she was told her vote had already been cast.

Count, Count Again

The secretary’s office’s initial response was to reiterate that all credible complaints were being investigated — and that only a court could order a hand recount.

The process Raffensperger announced Wednesday is essentially a workaround.

It’s a so-called risk-limiting audit, which typically means a by-hand review of samples of ballots and isn’t subject to the law that requires a court order for a hand count. Because the margin is so tight in the presidential race, though, the state is saying its sample size will be all ballots.

A handful of Republicans have stood up for Raffensperger, including Lieutenant Governor Duncan Cox and at least one state legislator, both of whom said they had not seen credible evidence of fraud.

As for politicians who are playing along, “I think this is all just a reflection of people’s relationship with President Trump and what they feel they need to do to keep his support and his supporters’ support,” said Andra Gillespie, an Emory University political scientist. “Attacking Brad Raffensperger is a short-term strategy to do that.”

Millions of Votes At Risk Because Trump ‘Upset,’ Judge Told

Republicans are trying to illegally scrap 6.75 million votes in Pennsylvania because President Donald Trump is “upset” about his loss in the state, the Democratic National Committee told a federal judge.

A lawsuit filed this week by Trump’s campaign seeking to block Pennsylvania from certifying the election result “not only violates state law, it obliterates the constitutional rights of voters and candidates and improperly inserts this court into issues of state law and election administration minutia,” the DNC said in a filing Wednesday evening seeking to intervene in the case.

The campaign argues Pennsylvania should set aside every vote statewide — or only be allowed to certify the result if it doesn’t count more than 680,000 mail-in and absentee ballots from a pair of counties, including Democratic-leaning Philadelphia, that allegedly failed to allow observers to get close enough to the ballot-counting process.

Trump and his GOP allies have made the ballot observation process a central element of their unsubstantiated claim that rampant fraud involving mail-in ballots went unnoticed because observers weren’t allowed to watch properly in Pennsylvania and Michigan. It’s all part of a legal effort to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s election win.

Pennsylvania’s top election official is expected to ask the judge to dismiss the suit on Thursday, and oral arguments in the case are set for Nov. 17.

In a related lawsuit filed earlier by Trump’s campaign in state court, lawyers for Philadelphia asked Pennsylvania’s top court to reverse a ruling allowing observers to get within six feet of the ballot-counting process, arguing a state law designed for transparency includes no such requirement. The campaign had touted the ruling as a major victory.

The state’s election code only requires that party and candidate representatives “be permitted to remain in the room” where mail-in and absentee ballots are processed, lawyers for the heavily Democratic city said in a filing Wednesday evening in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

“The election code does not say that representatives have the right to be able to read the language written on each ballot declaration or otherwise to make their own determinations of declaration sufficiency with respect to individual ballots,” the city said in the filing. “No such right exists.”

A ruling favoring the city would hurt Trump’s chances in that case. During a hearing this week, a judge told lawyers to provide him a copy of the appeals court decision “the moment it issues.”

Trump’s campaign on Wednesday evening also filed a series of targeted appeals in Pennsylvania challenging decisions by Philadelphia’s elections board to count sets of ballots that Republicans argue shouldn’t be tallied.

They include more than 4,466 ballots signed and dated by voters but missing printed names and addresses; 1,259 ballots that are missing the date next to the signature; and 860 ballots that have all information except the voter’s printed name.

Biden is ahead in the state by more than 50,000 votes.

Updated: 11-14-2020

Federal Prosecutors Push Back On Barr Memo On Voter Fraud Claims

The prosecutors, assigned to monitor this month’s elections, said they had found no evidence to back any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities.

Career Justice Department prosecutors pushed back this week against a memo by Attorney General William P. Barr that opened the door to politically charged election fraud investigations, saying in a pair of messages that Mr. Barr thrust the department into politics and falsely overstated the threat of voter fraud.

The protests were the latest rebuke of Mr. Barr by his own employees, who have in recent months begun criticizing his leadership both privately and publicly. They argued that Mr. Barr has worked to advance President Trump’s interests by wielding the power of the department to shield his allies and attack his enemies.

On Friday, 16 federal prosecutors across the country who were assigned to monitor elections for signs of fraud wrote to Mr. Barr that they had found no evidence of “substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities.”

They also asked him to rescind the memo, saying it thrust the department into partisan politics and was unnecessary because no one has identified any legitimate suspicions of mass voter fraud.

The memo “is not based in fact,” the monitors wrote.

Issued Monday amid the president’s efforts to falsely claim widespread voter fraud, the memo allows prosecutors to investigate “substantial allegations” of fraud before the results of the presidential race are certified, disregarding longstanding department policies intended to keep law enforcement investigations from affecting the outcome of an election.

“It was developed and announced without consulting nonpartisan career professionals in the field and at the department,” the prosecutors wrote of the memo. “The timing of the memorandum’s release thrusts career prosecutors into partisan politics.” The Washington Post earlier reported their letter.

On Thursday, a top career prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington said in an email sent to Mr. Barr via Richard P. Donoghue, an official in the deputy attorney general’s office, that the memo should be rescinded because it went against longstanding practices, according to two people with knowledge of the email.

The prosecutor, J.P. Cooney, also said that the fact that Richard Pilger, a longtime department employee who oversees election fraud crimes, chose to step down from that position over the memo was deeply concerning, the people said.

In response, Mr. Donoghue told Mr. Cooney that he would pass on his complaint but that if it leaked to reporters, he would note that as well. Given that the email was born out of a concern for integrity, Mr. Donoghue said in his reply that he would assure officials “that I have a high degree of confidence that it will not be improperly leaked to the media.”

A department spokeswoman declined to comment about Mr. Cooney’s message. Asked about the prosecutors’ letter to Mr. Barr, she said that his memo directed prosecutors to “exercise appropriate caution and maintain the department’s absolute commitment to fairness, neutrality and nonpartisanship.”

Others inside the department pointed out that Mr. Barr’s memo was carefully worded and contained caveats that made it unlikely that a prosecutor could meet the threshold to open a case and begin investigating.

“Specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries,” Mr. Barr wrote in his memo. “Nothing here should be taken as any indication that the department has concluded that voting irregularities have impacted the outcome of any election.”

Department lawyers often engage in heated debates over policies, investigations and prosecutions, but they rarely put their criticisms in writing and then send them to top officials.

But Mr. Barr’s memo churned up rancor among prosecutors who work on election fraud, in large part because Mr. Trump himself was making false claims about widespread voter fraud. Even the specter of such an investigation into votes for the presidential race could shade the integrity of the election.

Mr. Pilger, the prosecutor who oversees election fraud at the department’s headquarters in Washington, stepped down from his supervisory role in protest a few hours after it was issued; and other lawyers affected by the memo began to devise plans for how to push back on Mr. Barr’s authorization and what to do should a U.S. attorney announce an election-related investigation, according to three people with knowledge of these discussions.

Even as the department’s officials and career prosecutors argued about the memo, Mr. Trump’s legal cases related to the election began to unravel on Friday. A state judge in Michigan rejected an attempt by Republicans to halt the certification of the vote in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, pending an audit. And lawyers for Mr. Trump withdrew election-related lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Arizona.

Updated: 11-19-2020

Georgia Secretary of State Says Biden Likely To Maintain Lead After Recount

President-elect is ahead by 12,781 votes in state; audit results expected Thursday.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Wednesday he doesn’t expect the state’s hand recount of presidential votes will reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s lead there.

“I don’t believe at the end of the day it will change the total results,” Mr. Raffensperger, a Republican, said on CNN. Asked if he thinks Mr. Biden will be declared the winner in Georgia, he said, “I believe that’s the way it will turn out.”

The secretary of state’s office plans to release the audit results around noon Thursday, said Gabriel Sterling, voting-system implementation manager at the secretary of state’s office.

Georgia counties hustled to meet a deadline Wednesday to finish manually retallying five million votes cast in the presidential race. President Trump and his supporters have disparaged the recount process and Mr. Raffensperger, who is overseeing it.

Mr. Biden’s lead over Mr. Trump dipped to 12,781 votes, as some counties identified votes not previously tallied in the results, Mr. Sterling said during a video news conference. Before the audit, Mr. Biden was leading by a little more than 14,000 votes.

Election officials are under a tight schedule. The state told counties to complete their hand review, which officially began Friday, by midnight Wednesday. Mr. Raffensperger is required to certify the Nov. 3 election results by Friday.

So far, 112 counties out of the state’s 159 counties reported deviations in the single digits or fewer from their initial vote counts, including 58 counties that found zero changes, Mr. Sterling said.

Nearly 4.97 million ballots out of five million have been manually reviewed so far, Mr. Sterling said. Larger counties still needed to complete final checks.

Mr. Raffensperger, who began isolating last week after his wife tested positive for Covid-19, has clashed with Mr. Trump and his supporters, who have alleged widespread irregularities. “The Georgia recount is a joke,” Mr. Trump said in a tweet Wednesday.

Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, both of whom are facing Jan. 5 runoffs that will determine control of the U.S. Senate, called for Mr. Raffensperger’s resignation last week.

Mr. Raffensperger has defended the election process as secure and transparent.

“I understand that we live in polarized times, that half the people are going to be happy with these results and half the people are going to be sad,” he said on The Journal podcast Tuesday. “My job as secretary of state is to have 100% of people have confidence in the accuracy of the vote.”

The Associated Press hasn’t called the race because it said the tight margin means it could be subject to a post-certification recount under Georgia rules.

The audit caught some errors, which election officials attributed to human mistakes. That included Republican-leaning Fayette County, where 2,755 votes on a memory card initially hadn’t been uploaded, the secretary of state’s office said. The batch included 1,577 votes for Mr. Trump and 1,128 for Mr. Biden.

GOP stronghold Floyd County identified about 2,600 votes that initially weren’t counted, the secretary of state’s office said, which provided a net increase of 778 votes for Mr. Trump.

Democratic-leaning Douglas County found a memory card with previously untallied votes, which contained 156 votes for Mr. Biden, 128 for Mr. Trump, seven for Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen, and ballots from two voters who didn’t vote for president, Mr. Sterling said.

In Walton County, which heavily favored Mr. Trump, election workers discovered roughly 280 votes which hadn’t been uploaded from a memory card, Mr. Sterling said. The batch provided a net increase of 176 votes for Mr. Trump, he said.

There still could be a post-certification recount. Under Georgia law, after an election is certified, a candidate can request a recount if the margin of victory was less than 0.5%. If campaigns request a recount after certification, under Georgia rules such a recount wouldn’t be by hand, but instead would be a re-scanning of ballots through machines.

A recount in Georgia must be requested within two business days of certification, which would be by Tuesday, if results are certified Friday.

There is little time before the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs. Counties must mail absentee ballots to military and overseas voters for the Jan. 5 runoffs by Saturday, according to federal law.

Updated: 11-21-2020

Trump Campaign Loses Pennsylvania Suit To Halt Certification

A federal judge in Pennsylvania threw out a lawsuit by President Donald Trump’s campaign that aimed to block certification of the state’s election results unless it tossed out tens of thousands of mail-in ballots, rejecting the “startling” request due to a lack of evidence.

The state’s motion to dismiss the suit was granted Saturday by U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, freeing election officials to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s projected victory as soon as Monday.

Major media outlets have declared Biden the winner of Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes with a lead of more than 80,000 votes.

In response, the Trump campaign said in a statement that it would seek an “expedited appeal” to the Third Circuit as a means to ultimately have the Supreme Court, and its 6-3 conservative majority, consider the case.

Trump didn’t specifically reference Pennsylvania in a tweet late Saturday, but said he hopes “Courts and/or legislatures” will take action — a direct reference to efforts to persuade Republican state lawmakers that they should appoint their own electors in states that Biden won.

The president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, personally argued against the state’s motion to dismiss before Brann on Tuesday, making wild claims of a vast Democratic conspiracy to steal the election. In reaching his conclusion, Brann said the campaign was not “formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption” needed to win such a case.

“This court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence,” the judge wrote. “In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state.”

It’s the latest and perhaps highest-profile courtroom defeat for Trump since the U.S. election Biden won by 6 million ballots.

Suits filed by the campaign and its GOP allies have failed in Michigan, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona as judges declined to toss out millions of votes based on vague assertions by lawyers and sworn affidavits from voters who interpreted perceived irregularities as evidence of a Democratic conspiracy.

Georgia certified its results on Friday and Michigan and Pennsylvania are both likely to do so on Monday, leaving the president an uncertain path to flip enough electoral votes to reverse his defeat.

Pennsylvania, the largest of the six battleground states, was a particular focus of the Trump campaign’s legal challenges, with suits filed in both state and federal courts.

“These claims were meritless from the start and for an audience of one,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement. “The will of the people will prevail. These baseless lawsuits need to end.”

Venezuela, Cuba

While Tuesday’s hearing was steeped in conspiratorial rhetoric, Giuliani and other campaign lawyers made even more outlandish accusations at a press conference two days later, describing a scheme involving child voters, dead voters and secretive overseas ballot tabulation directed by George Soros and “communist money” from Venezuela and Cuba.

But the actual claims in the campaign’s lawsuit were always narrower than its public allegations. The suit’s most consistent claim was that certain Democratic-led counties had more lenient rules in accepting “defective” ballots or letting voters “cure” such ballots than Republican-led ones, which the campaign claimed violated the Constitution’s due process and equal protection guarantees.

The state denied those claims and also said the campaign’s proposed remedy of disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters was implausible.

Pressed by Brann on Tuesday if he was actually alleging voter fraud, Giuliani acknowledged that he was not. The judge said in his decision that while Pennsylvania law doesn’t explicitly allow for election officials to let voters cure their ballot errors, it also doesn’t forbid it, and the state’s highest court declined to clarify the issue.

Republican Observers

The campaign has also suggested that hundreds of thousands of ballots in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh should be invalidated because they were allegedly counted without proper oversight by Republican observers, exposing them to potential fraud.

Claims tied to such allegations were left out of an amended complaint filed on Sunday but partially reinstated in a second revised complaint filed on Wednesday.

“That plaintiffs are trying to mix-and-match claims to bypass contrary precedent is not lost on the court,” Brann wrote.

Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, and Pennsylvania county officials argued GOP observers were present while all ballots were canvassed, and that the pre-election “cure” of some ballot deficiencies was allowed under state law.

The second amended complaint also added a proposal that Brann declare the entire Pennsylvania vote “defective” and let the Republican-controlled state legislature decide the election in favor of Trump. Civil rights groups on Friday evening blasted the argument and urged the judge to dismiss the case, saying it was based on an “incoherent conspiracy theory.”

Updated: 12-02-2020

Trump Reasserts Fraud Claims Despite Lack of Evidence, Losses in Court

In White House address, the president again said he won the election, even as states move forward certifying Joe Biden’s victory.

President Trump delivered a lengthy speech from the White House on Wednesday in which he insisted that he won the election and again declined to concede to President-elect Joe Biden less than two months before Inauguration Day.

The address—which wasn’t on Mr. Trump’s public schedule and which he called “maybe the most important speech I’ve ever made”—marked the latest rhetorical escalation by the president as he continues to contest the results of an election he lost.

Mr. Biden, meanwhile, is moving forward with planning for the White House. He has announced key cabinet officials and his team has begun coordinating with the Trump administration. Mr. Biden’s transition team didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“If we are right about the fraud, Joe Biden can’t be president,” Mr. Trump said in the 46-minute recorded speech from the White House Diplomatic Reception Room as he ticked through a slew of statements that have been proved false or that his campaign hasn’t substantiated in court.

Mr. Trump asserted that he won the election “without question,” even though the Associated Press said Mr. Biden would receive 306 Electoral College votes, well over the 270 needed to secure the presidency. The six most hotly contested battleground states have all certified their results for Mr. Biden, and Mr. Biden’s lead in the national popular vote currently stands at nearly seven million.

No evidence of widespread voter fraud has surfaced, and homeland-security officials in early November called the 2020 contest “the most secure election in U.S. history.”

Federal officials also have agreed with state election authorities that they have seen no evidence that voting systems were tampered with. Multiple federal judges—including some appointed by Mr. Trump—have dismissed Trump campaign complaints, saying they lacked proof backing up allegations of fraud. Mr. Trump is pushing forward with legal claims attempting to reverse the results in a handful of states.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” Attorney General William Barr told the AP on Tuesday.

Mr. Trump said he is prepared to “accept any accurate election result, and I hope Joe Biden is as well.” But he made clear he had no plans to concede. Aides to Mr. Trump say he is likely to never formally concede the race, but leave office contending the election was stolen from him. He has discussed running for another term in 2024.

“This is not just about my campaign, although it has a lot to do with who’s going to be your next president,” he said. “This is about restoring faith and confidence in American elections.” He said he was representing 74 million people who voted for him and “all of the people that didn’t vote for me.”

The White House didn’t allow reporters to observe Mr. Trump’s speech. Aside from an interview with Fox News and a brief exchange with journalists on Thanksgiving, Mr. Trump has largely avoided taking questions from the press since Mr. Biden was declared the winner of the election.

On Facebook, where Mr. Trump’s speech was posted, a note was appended to the video explaining that Mr. Biden was the projected winner of the election. It was also posted on Twitter, which added the disclaimer: “This claim about election fraud is disputed.”

The president’s rhetoric has drawn sharp complaints from Democrats, who say it is damaging faith in elections, and it is increasingly making Republicans nervous heading into January runoff elections in Georgia that will decide control of power of the Senate.

“This election was rigged. Everybody knows it,” Mr. Trump said during his speech. “I don’t mind if I lose an election, but I want to lose an election fair and square. What I don’t want to do is have it stolen from the American people. That’s what we’re fighting for.”

Updated: 12-02-2020

Pennsylvania Republicans Say Supreme Court Could Yet Upend Vote

Pennsylvania Republicans who sued to block additional steps to certify the state’s election results claim there’s a “reasonable possibility” the U.S. Supreme Court will take up their long-shot appeal and a “fair prospect” the justices will rule in their favor.

Republican plaintiffs led by U.S. Representative Mike Kelly on Wednesday asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to grant an emergency delay of its ruling allowing state officials to complete their certification of results in favor of President-elect Joe Biden and other candidates. They said the status quo needed to be preserved while they try to appeal their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Though President Donald Trump has often mused that the Supreme Court and its 6-3 conservative majority could deliver the election to him, legal experts doubt the court will get involved in any election disputes, especially since Biden’s electoral vote lead is large enough that no one case would change the results.

Pennsylvania has argued that certification of Biden’s victory over Trump is complete, but the plaintiffs claim there are several steps that remain. The Electoral College vote to certify the presidential election results doesn’t take place until Dec. 14.

The lawsuit claimed that a 2019 expansion of mail-in voting in the state was illegal under the state constitution. A Pittsburgh judge initially granted them an injunction, but the state supreme court overturned that decision and threw the case out on Saturday.

The case is Kelly v. Commonwealth, Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 68-MAP-2020.

Trump Trying To Seize Wisconsin Electors, Governor Says

President Donald Trump is trying to “seize” Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes through a bogus lawsuit after losing the state to President-elect Joe Biden, Governor Tony Evers said in a court filing hours after being sued.

Trump and his re-election campaign have asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reverse the certification of Biden’s victory in the state, claiming that more than 200,000 mail-in ballots were illegally counted. The attempt to overturn the will of the voters is an “assault on democracy,” Evers, a Democrat, said in a filing responding to the suit late Tuesday.

The governor urged the state high court to reject the case or force Trump to re-file it in a lower court.

The suit by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence alleges state officials and election boards in Democratic-leaning Milwaukee and Dane counties failed to follow proper procedure for issuing mail-in ballots and also accepted tens of thousands that should have been rejected based on various errors. Biden won Wisconsin by around 20,000 votes.

‘Technical Violations’

“By focusing on alleged technical violations in only two counties, he has made plain that his intent is not to fairly determine who Wisconsinites voted for to lead our country,” Evers’ filing said. “He is simply trying to seize Wisconsin’s electoral votes, even though he lost the statewide election.”

Trump’s Wisconsin suit echoes similar claims by the president and his GOP allies that have failed in other states, particularly Pennsylvania. A fresh round of suits was also filed in recent days be former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell, who has pushed wild claims about an election-rigging conspiracy involving voting-machine software from Venezuela.

Trump filed a separate suit Wednesday in federal court in Milwaukee, targeting the entire mail-in voting system put in place for the pandemic and seeking to let the state legislature review the apportionment of electors to the Electoral College.

He also asked for a hearing within 48 hours.

The Electoral College is scheduled to meet Dec. 14.

The governor pointed out that Biden’s lead over Trump only increased after the president paid for recounts only in Milwaukee and Dane counties. “Neither recount uncovered any evidence of fraud or of any vote-counting systematic issues that even theoretically could have impacted the results in the statewide presidential election,” Evers said.

Even if Trump somehow wrested away Wisconsin, Biden would still have 296 electoral votes, well above the 270 needed to win the White House.

 

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