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Monday, November 30, 2020

Pennsylvania Judge Throws Out Trump Campaign Lawsuit

A federal judge on Saturday dismissed the Trump campaign’s lawsuit in Pennsylvania seeking to invalidate millions of votes, rejecting the “startling” request due to a lack of evidence and ruling that the state can move forward with certifying its election results. U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew Brann, an Obama appointee, ruled that the campaign presented “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations” that were “unsupported by evidence.”

The ruling is a major blow to the Trump campaign’s efforts to overturn election results, with Biden leading Trump by more than 81,000 votes in Pennsylvania.

“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. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more,” the judge wrote.

Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani personally argued against the state’s motion to dismiss before Brann on Tuesday, arguing that the commonwealth should not certify its results and making 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.

The suit’s core 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.

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.

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.”

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

“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.”

The ruling is the highest-profile courtroom defeat for Trump in his attempt to overturn the election outcome. 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.

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

Trump will now likely petition the Supreme Court: as Bloomberg notes, 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. The Trump campaign has suggested it will appeal, and Giuliani has said he sees the case as a “vehicle” to get the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority to decide the election.

In other words, it’s all up to the Supreme Court now.


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