US judge sceptical of Trump campaign’s Pennsylvania challenge

The Trump campaign is suing to prevent certification of results that give Joe Biden the state’s 20 electoral votes.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump rally outside the State Capitol building after news media declared Biden to be the winner of the 2020 US presidential election, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, US [Leah Millis/Reuters]

A judge on Tuesday appeared sceptical of President Donald Trump’s request to block officials from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, underscoring the difficulties the Trump campaign has faced in challenging the outcome of the US election.

Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the judge there was widespread national voting fraud but offered no evidence in the long-shot challenge to Trump’s election loss.

During the hearing, US District Judge Matthew Brann said halting certification would effectively disenfranchise all voters in the state.

“At bottom, you are asking this court to invalidate 6.8 million votes, thereby disenfranchising every single voter in the Commonwealth,” Brann said. “Can you tell me how this result can possibly be justified?”

Reuters reported that Giuliani said there was “widespread, nationwide voter fraud” in the November 3 election, as Trump has also has claimed, but offered no evidence.

Lawyers for Pennsylvania rejected Giuliani’s fraud allegations and asked Brann to throw out Trump’s lawsuit.

A loss in the case would probably 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.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, personal attorney to US President Donald Trump, speaking in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania [Eduardo Munoz/Reuters]

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.

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 claimed 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, but 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.

US President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, US [Carlos Barria/Reuters]

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar is due to certify the election results next Monday, meaning Brann is expected to rule quickly.

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.

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, citing “widespread fraud” in the election.

There is no evidence of fraud in the election.

The Trump campaign has launched a series of legal challenges alleging fraud, and many have been tossed out by judges, some within hours of their filing. None of the complaints showed any evidence that the outcome of the election was affected.

With Georgia the only uncalled state, Biden has collected at least 290 electoral votes – so 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.

People gathering as they celebrate media announcing that Democratic US presidential nominee Joe Biden has won the 2020 US presidential election, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US [Rachel Wisniewski/Reuters]

In a court filing last week, a group represented by the ACLU of Pennsylvania argued that giving the Trump campaign what it 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.

Brann indicated he would not immediately rule on the case, requesting written filings from the parties that are due in coming days.

Source: News Agencies