22 Nov 2020

Trump digs in for more battles over US election result

6:13 pm on 22 November 2020

President Donald Trump's desperate bid to overturn the US election has been dealt a new setback with a federal judge throwing out his campaign's attempt to invalidate millions of votes in Pennsylvania.

US President Donald Trump looks down during an event on lowering prescription drug prices in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC on November 20, 2020.

Donald Trump is still claiming "voter fraud' will be proved in the state of Michigan. Photo: AFP

Two weeks after Biden was declared president-elect, Trump, a Republican, has refused to concede and is seeking to invalidate or change the results through lawsuits and recounts in several battleground states. His campaign has not provided evidence for its claims of widespread and coordinated electoral fraud.

US District Court Judge Matthew Brann ruled that the Trump campaign's efforts to stop Pennsylvania officials from certifying Biden as the winner in the state was "unsupported by evidence".

"This Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations," Brann 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," he wrote.

The lawsuit sought to stop officials from certifying Biden's victory in the state, arguing that some counties wrongly allowed voters to fix errors on their mail ballots.

Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said Trump had "exhausted all plausible legal options" to challenge the result in Pennsylvania. He called on Trump to concede the election and congratulated Biden on his victory.

Few other Republicans in Congress have called on Trump to concede.

Trump's lawyers said they would appeal the ruling, with the hopes of quickly reaching the US Supreme Court.

"We are disappointed we did not at least get the opportunity to present our evidence at a hearing. Unfortunately the censorship continues," Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said in a statement.

For Trump to have any hope of overturning the election, he needs to reverse the outcome in Pennsylvania, which is scheduled to be certified by state officials on Tuesday (NZ time).

Giuliani and other Trump lawyers floated a variety of conspiracy theories at a news conference on Friday as they alleged that the election was marred by widespread voter fraud.

Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani perspires as he speaks during a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC, on November 19, 2020.

Rudy Giuliani perspires as he speaks during a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP

But they have had little success in court. Trump and his allies have now won two election-related cases and lost 34, according to Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias.

"This is what a complete ass-kicking of the president's legal effort looks like," Elias, who was involved in the Pennsylvania case, wrote on Twitter.

Democrats said today's scathing verdict was further proof that those charges are false.

"Our country will not tolerate Trump's attempt to reverse the results of an election that he decisively lost," Biden spokesman Michael Gwin said in a statement.

In Wisconsin, an official said poorly trained observers for the Trump campaign were slowing a partial recount by challenging every ballot and raising other objections.

"Observers are disruptive. They are asking question after question, telling the tabulators to stop, stop what they're doing and that is out of line, that's not acceptable," Milwaukee County Clerk George Christianson told reporters.

Audit sought in Michigan

Yesterday, the Republican National Committee and the Michigan Republican Party wrote to the state board of canvassers asking it to adjourn for 14 days to allow for an audit of ballots in Wayne County, which includes the majority-Black city of Detroit.

The letter urged a full audit of votes in the county, citing allegations of "irregularities" that have not been substantiated. Biden won 154,000 more votes than Trump in Michigan.

Two leading Republican lawmakers from Michigan who came to Washington at Trump's behest said after meeting him on Friday that they had no information that would change the outcome of the election in the state, however.

"(As) legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan's electors," Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House of Representatives Speaker Lee Chatfield said in a joint statement.

Trump said today the media were misreading the statement, in which the pair also said they had faith in a review of Michigan's election process being conducted by state lawmakers.

"Massive voter fraud will be shown!" Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump's efforts, which critics call an unprecedented push by a sitting president to subvert the will of voters, has so far met with little success in the courtroom or on the ground.

A manual recount and audit of all ballots cast in Georgia confirmed Biden as the winner in the southern state, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced on Friday. Biden is the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia in nearly three decades.

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Joe Biden is the first Democrat to carry the state of Georgia since 1992. Photo: 2020 Getty Images/ AFP

The Trump campaign now has two business days to request a recount in Georgia. Trump's legal team has already said it plans a lawsuit in the state, but has not provided specifics.

Trump's accusations have continued to inflame his hard-core Republican base.

Hundreds of supporters gathered at the statehouse in Atlanta today, with video posted online showing speakers denouncing the media for calling Biden the election winner, as well as state Republican leaders for certifying the results.

Police in riot gear were deployed to separate them from counterprotesters who gathered nearby.

Officers stand between the protesters and counter protesters as supporters of Donald Trump host a 'Stop the Steal' protest outside of the Georgia State Capital building on November 21, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Police stand guard during the protest outside the Georgia State Capital building. Photo: 2020 Getty Images

The Trump campaign's latest tactic is to convince Republican-controlled legislatures in battleground states won by Biden to set aside the results and declare Trump the winner, according to three people familiar with the plan.

The long-shot effort is focused on Michigan and Pennsylvania for now, although Trump would still need to overturn the vote in another state to vault ahead of Biden in the Electoral College.

Such an event would be unprecedented in modern US history.

Fighting back

Some groups were countering with their own legal action. Yesterday a group of Black voters in Detroit and a voting rights organisation filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing Trump and his campaign of breaching the 1965 Voting Rights Act by falsely claiming voter fraud and trying to overturn the results in Michigan and other states by pressing officials not to count or certify votes or to install pro-Trump electors.

"To effectuate this strategy, defendants are openly seeking to disenfranchise Black voters, including voters in Detroit, Michigan," said the lawsuit. More than 78 percent of Detroit residents are Black, according to US census data.

Lawyers for Detroit have also asked a judge to reprimand Trump's campaign for spreading "disinformation" in a court filing about the certification of Wayne County.

Biden, who has denounced Trump's attempt to reverse the election results as "totally irresponsible", was due to spend the day meeting with transition advisers.

Trump took part in a virtual summit of the 20 biggest world economies and then went to play golf at his club in Sterling, Virginia.

Senior Republicans have remained largely silent about Trump's unsubstantiated claims of election fraud or have defended his right to seek redress, but several voiced doubts yesterday.

Two Republican sources said Giuliani's press conference on Friday may have been a turning point for some former allies.

The General Services Administration, run by a Trump appointee, has not recognised Biden's victory, preventing his team from gaining access to government office space and funding normally provided to an incoming administration ahead of Inauguration Day on 20 January.

Critics say the delay and Trump's refusal to concede have serious implications for national security and the fight against the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 255,000 Americans.

Public health experts say more social mixing and indoor gatherings as the weather turns cold ahead of the Thanksgiving-Christmas season is fuelling a worsening contagion, straining healthcare systems already overwhelmed in some states. The single-day death toll surpassed 2000 this week for the first time since late June, according to a Reuters tally.

- Reuters

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