President Donald Trump‘s post-election legal strategy has been to file lawsuits everywhere his team believes there are votes to be found or blocked and where Joe Biden is inching ahead – even if their push in one state contradicts what they are seeking in another.
The strategy gives Trump’s lawyers multiple avenue for challenges, with vote out in several battleground states that could ultimately hand Joe Biden the presidency – although Democratic officials say it is designed to drive a ‘false narrative’ to undermine the results.
The claims come even as election observers and media organizations reported a election processes without major incidents.
Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi displays a court order granting President Donald Trump’s campaign more access to vote counting operations at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Philadelphia. The Trump campaign has filed suits in Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, and is seeking a recount in Wisconsin
‘All of the recent Biden claimed States will be legally challenged by us for Voter Fraud and State Election Fraud,’ Trump tweeted Thursday amid the nationwide blitz of court challenges. ‘Plenty of proof – just check out the Media. WE WILL WIN! America First!’
Even if the efforts don’t prevail, they are already succeeding in slowing down the voting process, and Trump’s allies are using them to claim Trump has seized an ‘overwhelming victory’ among ‘verifiable’ ballots.
Trump’s team of lawyers have filed lawsuits on multiple fronts – to try to stem the flow of presumably pro-Biden mail ballots into the system, and to try to force greater access for observers so they presumably can challenge more individual ballots.
They scored a win Thursday morning, which former Florida Secretary of State Pam Bondi, a Trump backer, brandished at a press conference.
The ruling, by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, reverses a decision by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia. It lets Trumps observers ‘be permitted to observe all aspects of the canvassing process, within 6 feet, while adhering to all COVID-19 protocols, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.’
Trump touted the ‘Big legal win in Pennsylvania!’ on Twitter.
The big battle, with a greater potential to affect the count, could come in an effort to challenge an earlier Supreme Court decision allowing the state to count mail-in ballots that come in three days after Election Day.
Conservative justices had indicated that it could get another hearing should these ballots that get counted later prove decisive. But a decisive win by Biden with votes that came in before Election Day would undercut the need for the suit – and Biden was chipping away at Trump’s lead with hundreds of thousands of ballots outstanding.
Pennsylvania Democrats, mindful of potential challenges and alarmed by reports the Republican-controlled legislature might seek to intervene, have been segregating mail-ballots that come in later to prevent the state’s entire result from being thrown out.
Pennsylvania’s Attorney General blasted the move on Thursday.
‘That question is a question of state law,’ he said, noting it was decided by the state supreme court. ‘It was decided that those ballots and they will be counted,’ he told CNN.
‘We’re following the law here in Pennsylvania here. We’re counting these legal votes,’ he said.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, personal attorney to U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks near Eric Trump and his wife Lara Trump during a news conference at Atlantic Aviation PHL private air terminal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Giuliani is assisting in Trump’s legal effort
Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum handles ballot tabulations on November 04, 2020 in Mason, Michigan. As in counties across Michigan, the Ingham County board of canvassers met to begin certifying the county’s vote tally for the state. Trump’s lawyers sought to stop the count
Temporary employees of the City Commissioner’s office wearing protective masks count votes at a convention center for the 2020 Presidential election in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. Pennsylvania has more than 1 million votes left to count, said its Governor Tom Wolf in a Twitter posting early Wednesday morning
Demonstrators march down Cedar Avenue on November 4, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Luzerne County employees open mail-in ballots to be counted at the elections board in Wilkes-Barre. Pennsylvania
In Michigan, where Biden’s lead has grown to more than 140,000 votes, Trump’s team filed a lawsuit to stop the count. That margin has ticked up since election night, when Trump held a lead in a count that began with Election Day in-person votes cast.
The suit claims that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson allowed for the counting of absentee ballots without bipartisan teams of observers that are provided for in state law to ensure the integrity of the count. The suit claims Benson, a Democrat, ‘undermined the ‘constitutional right of all Michigan voters … to participate in fair and lawful elections.’
The suit references the massive TCF Center in Detroit where votes are being sorted and tabulated. But media observers from CNN and the Associated Press who were there witnessed the teams of observers during the count, and they could be seen walking among tables where workers and volunteers went through the ballots.
Trump’s campaing accuses election officials of barring them from ‘meaningful’ opportunity to witness the count. After protesters showed up at the TCF Center and banged on windows, officials installed material to block the windows.
‘President Trump’s campaign has not been provided with meaningful access to numerous counting locations to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process, as guaranteed by Michigan law,’ said campaign manager Bill Stepien in a Wednesday statement. ‘We have filed suit today in the Michigan Court of Claims to halt counting until meaningful access has been granted. We also demand to review those ballots which were opened and counted while we did not have meaningful access. President Trump is committed to ensuring that all legal votes are counted in Michigan and everywhere else,’ he said.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson blasted the suit.
‘It does not have merit. It’s a frivolous lawsuit and it’s really an example of the type of misinformation designed to sow seeds of doubt among our voters about the integrity of our elections process,’ she told CBS.
‘They have been following every rule meticulously … doing so meticulously with people from both sides of the aisle looking on and working the process,’ she told the network. ‘It’s really designed to drive a false narrative that the process is anything other than open and completely secure,’ she said.
‘You may be thinking, why are we still waiting to hear from Michigan and why are they still counting our ballots,’ Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told CNN. ‘Well, for about 18 months election clerks and I called on the state legislature to update our laws to provide time for preprocessing of ballots … Now our legislature chose not to make that change to our laws, and here we are in Michigan where our counting process is continuing long after the polls have closed.’
She noted that in nearby Ohio, mail-in ballots did get counted early. This contributed to a mirror image of what happened in Michigan. Joe Biden seized an early lead among the initial count, only to watch Donald Trump seize a health 53 to 45 victory.
The Trump campaign is filing a lawsuit in Nevada claiming thousands of ‘illegal votes’ were cast by non-residents. The suit comes as Biden’s lead there stood at fewer than 8,000 votes Thursday morning.
The Trump team is claiming there were ‘tens of thousands’ who voted in Nevada who are no longer state residents, Fox News reported. If true, that would represent a massive fraud on a scale not seen in recent history – and would snatch away Biden’s lead if the charge was found to have merit.
Former Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell was set to announce the suit at a press conference. Grenell is a Trump loyalist and declassified information from the last days of the Obama administration beneficial to Trump during his acting role as DNI.
‘We are confident that when all legal votes are tallied — and only legal votes are tallied — President Trump will win the state of Nevada,’ Grenell told the network. He was joined at his event by former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp and state party chair Michael McDonald.
It was not immediately clear what if any evidence Trump’s team has marshaled about out-of-state votes. ‘We are asking Clark County to give us answers,’ Grenell said. ‘We have to have a system where legal votes are cast.’
A suit also seeks to challenge the software used to verify signature identification on mail ballots.
‘People getting as many as 18 ballots to their homes. To date, we still have not been able to observe these signatures,’ said Laxalt, according to a local Fox affiliate.
Team Trump filed a challenge in Georgia over just 53 ballots, even as Trump’s lead hovered under 20,000 – with new count favoring Joe Biden coming in. The suit said the ballots came in after the deadline, but did not provide evidence.
According to a lawsuit, a Republican poll watcher ‘witnessed absentee ballots that had not been properly processed apparently mixed into a pile of absentee ballots that was already set to be tabulated. The proper chain of custody for the ballots was not followed.’
The challenger said he observed absentee ballots being mixed into other ballots at a counting facility in Chatham, Georgia. He said he a worker bring ‘a stack of ballots’ and put them on a table at a processing facility. He questioned a supervisor, who said the ballots were ‘not on the manifest’ and were placed in a crate along with previously identified ballots.
A Trump campaing lawsuit claims the proper chain of custody was not followed for the group of votes. ‘Failing to ensure that absentee ballots received after the deadline are stored in a manner to ensure that such ballots are not inadvertently or intentionally counted, as required under Georgia law, harms the interests of the Trump Campaign and President,’ according to the filing. The suit claims it could lead to the ‘dilution’ of legal votes cast for Trump.
The suit cites the ‘possible counting of absentee ballots arriving after 7 pm’ – the state deadline – but the observer did not say the ballots he observed came in after the deadline.
Chatham County Superior Court Judge James Bass dismissed the suit after a hearing Thursday morning, in the county that includes Savannah. But Trump’s lawyers could seek to appeal.
Winning in a courtroom is only part of the strategy. The suits lead to an air of chaos, allow time for more disputes to emerge, and delay the time when Joe Biden could declare victory if he should win it.
‘If in the federal courts now in Nevada, Pennsylvania Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona – if we can get a fair count of verifiable certifiable legal votes, president Trump will win those,’ former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon told Fox Business Network personality Maria Bartiromo Thursday.
‘Conservatives that have strict interpretation of the Constitution control the courts, including the Supreme Court. We control the state legislatures. We control the party delegations of the House of Representatives in Nancy Pelosi’s House,’ he said – indicating hopes of forcing the race to be decided through extraordinary means.