Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told a judge on Tuesday in the president’s suit seeking to block President-elect Joe Biden from being certified as the victor in Pennsylvania that there was widespread national voting fraud but offered no evidence in the long-shot challenge to Trump’s election loss.
Lawyers for Pennsylvania rejected Giuliani’s fraud allegations and asked US District Judge Matthew Brann in a federal court hearing in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to throw out Trump’s lawsuit.
A loss in the case would likely doom Trump’s already-remote prospects of altering the election’s outcome.
As the hearing unfolded, Pennsylvania’s highest state court issued a ruling against Trump’s campaign in a separate lawsuit that could hobble his case before Brann.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the elections board in Philadelphia, the state’s largest city, acted reasonably in keeping Trump campaign observers behind barricades and 4.5 metres (15 feet) away from counting tables, rejecting an appeal from Trump’s campaign.
During the federal court hearing, Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and senior federal prosecutor who has not been a courtroom regular for decades, told Brann there was “widespread, nationwide voter fraud” in the November 3 election, but provided no evidence to back up that claim.
Daniel Donovan, a lawyer for Pennsylvania’s top election official, said Trump’s campaign did not allege irregularities that would change the outcome in the state. Donovan called the state’s handling of the election during a pandemic a success. Donovan argued that Trump’s campaign was asking a federal court to “micromanage” routine differences in county practices.
Giuliani said there was a history of voter fraud in large US cities, adding, without offering evidence, that the expansion of mail-in voting in 2020 allowed officials to take advantage of a public health crisis, the coronavirus pandemic.
Donovan said the Trump campaign’s alleged injuries are “speculative” and “cannot give them standing in federal court.”
The Trump campaign on Sunday narrowed the case to focus on a claim that voters in the state were improperly allowed to fix ballots that had been rejected because of technical errors such as missing a “secrecy envelope.”
Pennsylvania officials have said a small number of ballots were fixed. Trump’s campaign, however, is asking Brann to halt certification of Biden’s victory in the state. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar is due to certify the election results next Monday, meaning Brann is expected to rule quickly.
Trump’s campaign said Democratic-leaning counties unlawfully identified mail-in ballots before Election Day that had defects so that voters could fix, or “cure,” them. Pennsylvania officials said all of the state’s counties were permitted to inform residents if their mail-in ballots were deficient, even if it was not mandatory for them to do so.
Brann scheduled the hearing to discuss the campaign’s request for a temporary restraining order, as well as the defendants’ request to have the case dismissed.
After Pittsburgh lawyers dropped out of representing Trump’s campaign on Friday, Philadelphia election lawyer Linda Kerns and two Texas lawyers also withdrew Monday.
Lawyer Mark Scaringi, from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, a losing candidate in the 2012 Republican US Senate primary, notified the judge he was stepping in, but did not get the delay he sought.
The Associated Press has declared Biden the winner of the presidential contest, but Trump has refused to concede and is blocking Biden’s efforts towards a smoother transition of power. With Georgia the only uncalled state, Biden has collected at least 290 electoral votes – just enough that overturning Pennsylvania’s result would not open an avenue for a second term for Trump.
Biden’s margin in the state is now nearly 70,000 votes.
There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. In fact, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities.
The issues Trump’s campaign and its allies have pointed to are typical in every election: problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost. With Biden leading Trump by wide margins in key battleground states, none of those issues would have any effect on the outcome of the election.
Trump’s campaign has also launched legal challenges complaining that its poll watchers were unable to scrutinise the voting process. Many of those challenges have been tossed out by judges, some within hours of their filing; and again, none of the complaints showed any evidence that the outcome of the election was affected.
In a court filing last week, a group represented by the ACLU of Pennsylvania argued that giving the Trump campaign what he is seeking would create its own constitutional problems.
“That would mean not only that Pennsylvania does not participate in the Electoral College, but that Pennsylvania would send no Representatives to the US House in January, and as of December 1, the Commonwealth would have only 25 state senators and zero state representatives,” they told Brann.