By MATTHEW MOSK, ALEX HOSENBALL, and OLIVIA RUBIN, ABC News
(WILLIAMSPORT, Penn.) — In a hearing in a U.S. District Court in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Rudy Giuliani presented to a judge the case that President Donald Trump has been trying to make for weeks to the American people — claiming without evidence that the campaign could show that 1.5 million Pennsylvania ballots were, somehow, illegally counted.
But an attorney for the state’s top election official shot back that Giuliani was making an argument that was simply not supported in the court record: “There’s no claim that anyone not eligible to vote in fact voted,” said counsel Daniel Donovan. “And there’s no claim of voter fraud.”
The federal case heard Tuesday is one of at least 18 filed by the Trump campaign to try and contest the results of the 2020 presidential contest, in which Trump lost both the popular vote and appears to have lost the Electoral College vote by a significant margin to Democrat Joe Biden. And while the federal case has yet to be decided, a number of others are tilting against the president and, experts said, closing the door on any legal effort to overturn the outcome of the race.
“You are watching the last gasp of this legal effort by the president,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “This has been a flailing legal effort that hasn’t raised any real issues from the get-go. We all knew how this movie would end. If I was writing the screenplay I would end it here.”
Democratic Party attorney calls Trump case ‘nuts’
Giuliani’s appearance Tuesday only came after two other lawyers who had been handling the president’s challenge had asked to withdraw. His arguments sounded similar to the case he has tried to make in press conferences and media appearances.
Giuliani called Philadelphia “a place that is well known for cheating,” and claimed he had gathered “300 affidavits, declarations or our own statements ” that showed there were enough improper votes to “overturn the results of the election.”
Longtime Democratic Party attorney Mark A. Aronchick, representing Allegheny, Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, urged the judge to reject Giuliani’s unverified claims and refuse to throw out votes based on an argument with “no specifics.”
“Common sense, your honor, would say that you can’t do it,” Aronchick said. “Honestly your honor, I don’t use these words very much, it is disgraceful to even be asked to do that. It is nuts.”
The next step in the case is for both sides to present evidence to the judge, a hearing that is scheduled for Thursday.
State Supreme Court rejects Trump lawsuit
At the same time Giuliani was pressing Trump’s case, a state court in Harrisburg released a ruling against the campaign.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected the Trump campaign complaint centered on whether elections officials provided campaign observers “meaningful” access to monitor the counting of mail-in ballots.
The court, on a vote of 5-2, found that elections officials followed the law in providing the Trump campaign sufficient access to the elections officials who were opening mail-in ballots. There are simply no requirements that say how close the observers need to be placed to watch the process, the court found.
“These provisions do not set a minimum distance” for observers to watch the process, Justice Debra Todd wrote for the majority. “The General Assembly, had it so desired, could have easily established such parameters; however, it did not.”
And even those dissenting were not partial to the Trump campaign argument. In his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor wrote that the campaign’s request to cancel large numbers of ballots “based on isolated procedural irregularities” was “misguided.”
“I fail to see that there is any real issue,” Saylor wrote.
Conservative group drops 4 lawsuits
On Monday, the conservative nonprofit True the Vote, a Houston-based conservative advocacy group dedicated to “securing” American elections, withdrew four cases filed that supported Trump’s allegations of election improprieties.
The group’s leaders had set up a hotline and claimed to have a $1 million fund to pay “whistleblowers” with information about fraud to step forward. But on Tuesday, they released a statement acknowledging the “difficult decision to dismiss our current lawsuits in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.”
“While we stand by the voters’ testimony that was brought forth, barriers to advancing our arguments, coupled with constraints on time, made it necessary for us to pursue a different path,” the organization said.
True the Vote attorney James Bopp declined to say whether the organization was done trying to contest the outcome of the 2020 election.
“I don’t telegraph my moves,” he said.
Eliza Sweren-Becker, the voting rights and elections counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice said the move was “consistent with what we’ve seen.”
“When push comes to shove and the plaintiffs have to produce evidence, they don’t have any,” Sweren-Becker said.
Decisions coming in Michigan cases
At least three significant lawsuits challenging the outcome of the election are still active in Michigan — two from the campaign itself and another from Republican poll challengers — all three of which are currently on shaky grounds.
The Trump campaign’s federal lawsuit in the state looking to halt the certification of results is at risk of being dismissed after the campaign failed to formally “serve” the secretary of state with a copy of the complaint, according to a new filing Tuesday morning. That clerical error could have serious consequences. Judge Janet Neff gave the campaign until 5 p.m. on Tuesday to do so, noting she would have “justification” to dismiss the lawsuit if they did not.
The campaign’s second lawsuit in the state has been pending appeal for over a week after its lawsuit was denied for lack of evidence. As of Tuesday, the Michigan Court of Appeals said they still have not accepted the campaign’s appeal, a court spokesperson confirmed to ABC News, calling it “defective” because it lacked key documents. Lawyers for the campaign must resubmit the appeal with the required documents to be considered. The state deadline to certify results in Michigan is Nov. 23.
Separately, a lawyer on Tuesday appealed the poll challengers’ lawsuit seeking to halt the certification of election results in Wayne County up to the Supreme Court after it was denied by a lower court last week for lack of evidence. That ruling was appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals on Monday morning and was quickly denied just hours later. In his filing, Mark Kallman argued the lower court’s ruling was “fraught with error” and the appeals court’s ruling was “flawed.”
“We’re at the stage where things are settling out. Lawyers are leaving. The courts are denying. The writing’s on the wall,” said Myrna Perez, the director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the Brennan Center. “Did they accomplish anything constructive? No.”
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