US election: Trump camp's lawsuit struck down in Pennsylvania

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US election: Trump camp's lawsuit struck down in Pennsylvania
Published3 hours ago
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The campaign, which I won, by the way": Trump falsely claims election win
A judge in Pennsylvania has dismissed a lawsuit from the Trump campaign that sought to invalidate millions of mail-in votes in the battleground state.
Judge Matthew Brann said the suit, which rested on allegations of irregularities, was "without merit".
The move paves the way for Pennsylvania to next week certify Joe Biden's win - he leads by more than 80,000 votes.
It is the latest blow to Donald Trump, who is trying to overturn his loss in the 3 November presidential election.
He has refused to concede and made allegations of widespread electoral fraud, without providing any evidence.
The lack of a concession has upended the process that normally follows a US election.
Mr Biden is projected to defeat President Trump 306 to 232 in the US electoral college, which determines who becomes president - far above the 270 he needs to win.
The Trump campaign has lost a slew of lawsuits contesting results from the election, and its latest efforts focus on stopping the swing states that handed Mr Biden his win certifying the results - an essential step for the Democrat to be formally declared victor.
Pennsylvania judge gives scathing verdict
In the ruling Judge Brann wrote that the Trump campaign had tried to "disenfranchise almost seven million voters".
He said his "court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations".
"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," the judge wrote.
The Trump campaign argued that the state had violated the US Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law as some Democratic-run counties allowed voters to fix errors on their ballots while Republican-run counties did not.

media captionHow to move on after the US election
But in his ruling Judge Brann dismissed the claim, saying "like Frankenstein's Monster" it had been "haphazardly stitched together". He said even if it was the basis for a case then the Trump campaign's solution went too far.
Few Republicans have called on the president to concede, but following the judge's ruling Republican Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey said Mr Trump had exhausted all legal options in the state and urged him to accept the result.
President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said in a statement he would appeal against the ruling: "Today's decision turns out to help us in our strategy to get expeditiously to the US Supreme Court."
What's the situation in other battleground states?
Also on Saturday the Trump campaign called for another recount in Georgia, a day after a by-hand recount confirmed Mr Biden's win in the state.
The campaign said it "has to include signature matching and other vital safeguards".
In another swing state won by Mr Biden, Michigan, Republican officials wrote to the state's electoral board to request a two-week delay in certifying the results.
They called for an audit of the presidential vote in the largest county, home to Detroit, after it was contested by the Trump camp.
But the Michigan Department of State said delays and audits were not permitted by law.
In Wisconsin, election officials accused Trump supporters of obstructing the state's recount of votes. They said observers for Mr Trump were in some cases challenging every single ballot to deliberately slow down proceedings.
If the recount is not concluded by 1 December - the deadline for Wisconsin to certify its votes - the way is open for the Trump camp to pursue a lawsuit.
Mr Biden has a lead of more than 20,000 in the state.
Why is election certification important?
When Americans vote in a presidential election, they are actually voting in a state contest, not a national one.
They are voting for state electors who will then cast one vote each for president. These electors usually follow the will of the electorate - in Michigan, for instance, they should all vote for Joe Biden because he won the state.

media captionGeorgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger expressed disappointment his party lost, but said "numbers don't lie"
The states get a varying number of votes, equivalent to the number of their representatives in the US Congress - the House and the Senate.
Many world leaders have already congratulated Mr Biden based on his protected victory, as is customary in every US election.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is one of the few holdouts. "I want to assure you: there is no subtext here. It is not that we like or dislike someone - we are just waiting for the [US} domestic political stand-off to end," he told state television channel Rossiya 1 in an interview.
After the 2016 US election, President Putin congratulated Mr Trump the morning after voting day.
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Formality or undue significance?
Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter

What is typically a mere formality during normal elections - the bipartisan certification of state vote totals - has become the latest battleground in the president's attempts to maintain power for the next four years.
Could Trump actually be successful? It's not impossible, but the chances are very, very slim. First of all, the president would have to overturn the results in multiple states, where Biden's leads range from tens of thousands of votes to more than a hundred thousand. This isn't 2000, when everything came down just to Florida.
What's more, many of the states Trump's legal team is targeting - Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania - have Democratic governors who are not going to sit idly by while all of this takes place.
That doesn't mean Biden's supporters aren't worried, however. While the odds of this happening are along the lines of the earth being hit by a giant meteor or someone getting struck by lightning while winning the lottery, having victory snatched away at this point would be such a cataclysmic political event that the remote prospect of such a possibility is enough to give Democrats cold sweats.
Read more on Trump's options
 

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A Republican judge just tore into Trump’s election lawyers for their incompetence
Trump’s lawyers asked a judge to disenfranchise nearly 7 million voters. It ended badly for Trump.

By Ian Millhiser
https://www.vox.com/2020/11/22/21589195/trump-rudy-giuliani-judge-matthew-brann-incompetence-boockvar-pennsylvania



Last Tuesday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared in federal court for the first time in 30 years, representing the Trump campaign in its efforts to prevent Pennsylvania from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in that state.
It was a disaster for Giuliani. The one-time mayor and senior federal prosecutor struggled to articulate what, exactly, was the basis of Trump’s legal claims. And he admitted that he was unfamiliar with basic legal terms such as “strict scrutiny,” one of the rudimentary vocabulary terms taught to every law student during their introduction to constitutional law.

On Saturday evening, Judge Matthew Brann released his opinion in this suit, Donald J. Trump for President v. Boockvar, and the judge did not pull punches. Brann didn’t just reject the Trump campaign’s legal arguments, he mocked the campaign for its inability to present a coherent argument — or to provide any legal support whatsoever for crucial elements of their claims.

Referring to the Trump campaign’s primary legal argument, Brann writes that “this claim, like Frankenstein’s Monster, has been haphazardly stitched together from two distinct theories in an attempt to avoid controlling precedent.” And that’s just one of many scathing lines from a judge who is clearly frustrated with the incompetent lawyering on display in his courtroom.
It’s worth noting that, while Brann was appointed to the federal bench by Democratic President Barack Obama, the judge held multiple leadership positions within the Republican Party. Obama frequently had to strike deals with Republican senators to appoint GOP judges, in order to prevent those senators from blocking Obama’s other nominees.
Indeed, one person who appears particularly impressed with Brann’s conservative street cred is Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who released a statement shortly after Brann’s decision was handed down congratulating President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. “With today’s decision by Judge Matthew Brann, a longtime conservative Republican whom I know to be a fair and unbiased jurist, to dismiss the Trump campaign’s lawsuit,” Toomey said in his statement, “President Trump has exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the result of the presidential race in Pennsylvania.”

Trump could potentially appeal Brann’s decision, and claims that he will. But, given the weakness of his campaign’s arguments, which Brann repeatedly points out, such an appeal is unlikely to prevail.

Trump wanted to disenfranchise millions of voters

The Trump campaign’s main argument challenges an email that Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar sent to county-level voting officials, encouraging those officials to “provide information to party and candidate representatives during the pre-canvass that identifies the voters whose ballots have been rejected,” so that those voters can be notified that they made an error while submitting those ballots, and will have the opportunity to cure that error.
As it turns out, not all counties took this advice. The Trump campaign claims that Philadelphia, a Democratic stronghold, notified voters that they needed to cure errors in their absentee ballots, while county officials in Republican-leaning counties did not. Thus, the campaign claims, absentee ballots cast in Biden-friendly Philadelphia were more likely to be counted than ballots cast in more Trump-friendly regions of the state — and this discrepancy amounts to unconstitutional discrimination.
But the campaign seeks an extreme remedy for this alleged violation: It asked Judge Brann to forbid the state from certifying the results of its 2020 election. Because some small number of Trump voters allegedly had a harder time voting than some Biden voters, the Trump campaign effectively asks Brann to disenfranchise the entire state of Pennsylvania —something Brann explicitly refuses to do.
As Brann writes, “Prohibiting certification of the election results would not reinstate the Individual Plaintiffs’ right to vote. It would simply deny more than 6.8 million people their right to vote.”
If the Trump campaign was correct that Pennsylvania violated the Constitution by only notifying some voters of the need to cure errors in their absentee ballots, then the proper remedy is to give all voters who needed to cure their ballots an opportunity to do so. It’s not to disenfranchise millions. “The answer to invalidated ballots,” Brann writes, “is not to invalidate millions more.”

Brann’s opinion repeatedly slams Trump’s lawyers for incompetence

Judicial opinions are typically staid documents that avoid direct criticism of legal advocates — both as a professional courtesy and because judges typically want to avoid giving the impression that their disregard for a particular lawyer may have influenced their decision. But Judge Brann clearly believes that Trump’s lawyers behaved egregiously in his courtroom, and that this conduct is worth noting repeatedly in his opinion.

Early in his opinion, Brann summarizes the lawsuit in ten damning words: “Plaintiffs ask this Court to disenfranchise almost seven million voters.” The mere fact that Trump’s lawyers would even request such a thing is audacious. As Brann notes, “this Court has been unable to find any case in which a plaintiff has sought such a drastic remedy in the contest of an election, in terms of the sheer volume of votes asked to be invalidated.”

And yet, Trump’s lawyers did not come to court with any evidence or legal authorities that could justify such a result. “One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption,” Brann writes. But “that has not happened. Instead, this Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence.”

Brann also spends an entire section of his opinion describing the game of musical chairs that Trump’s lawyers appeared to play while they were actively litigating the Boockvar case. “Plaintiffs have made multiple attempts at amending the pleadings, and have had attorneys both appear and withdraw in a matter of seventy-two hours,” he writes. On the eve of oral arguments, Trump attempted to replace his entire legal team. Giuliani was added to the team on the same day as the hearing where the former New York City mayor appeared unfamiliar with basic aspects of the case.

At other points in his opinion, Brann calls out the Trump legal team’s inability to explain essential parts of their legal argument. In order to bring a case in federal court, for example, a plaintiff must show that they were injured in some way by the defendant — a requirement known as “standing.” Yet, as Brann writes, “the standing inquiry as to the Trump Campaign is particularly nebulous because neither in the [campaign’s amended complaint] nor in its briefing does the Trump Campaign clearly assert what its alleged injury is.”
That led Judge Brann to “embark on an extensive project of examining almost every case cited to by Plaintiffs to piece together the theory of standing as to this Plaintiff — the Trump Campaign.”

Thus, despite the harsh rhetoric in his opinion, Brann was extraordinarily generous to the Trump campaign and its lawyers. Rather than simply taking the incompetent arguments that were presented to him and rejecting them out of hand, the judge took the time to construct a coherent version of Trump’s lawyers’ arguments — and then he rejected that better version.

I could continue to beat this horse, but it’s already dead. Election law professor Rick Hasen said of Giuliani’s appearance in Brann’s courtroom, I’ve never seen worse lawyering in an election law case in my life.” And Brann’s opinion makes it clear just how bad the Trump campaign’s lawyering was.






WHAT'S AT STAKE? FOR YOU BLACK NON VOTERS & WHY THEY (CACS) DON'T WANT YOU TO VOTE



 
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