Donald Trump has been dealt a new setback in his effort to overturn the United States’s November 3 election results as a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by his campaign that sought to throw out millions of mail-in votes in the state of Pennsylvania.
US District Court Judge Matthew Brann ruled on Saturday that Trump’s campaign had failed to demonstrate there had been widespread voting fraud in the vote, which the incumbent president lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
“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,” the scathing opinion said. “Our people, laws, and institutions demand more.”
The lawsuit before Brann was filed on November 9 and had alleged inconsistent treatment by county election officials of mail-in ballots. Some counties notified voters that they could fix minor defects such as missing “secrecy envelopes” while others did not.
“This claim, like Frankenstein’s Monster, has been haphazardly stitched together,” wrote Brann.
Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and the seven Biden-majority counties that the campaign sued had argued Trump had previously raised similar claims and lost.
They told Brann the remedy the Trump campaign sought – to throw out millions of votes over alleged isolated issues – was far too extreme, particularly after most of them have been tallied.
“There is no justification on any level for the radical disenfranchisement they seek,” Boockvar’s lawyers wrote in a brief filed on Thursday.
Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who spearheaded the lawsuit, said he was disappointed with the ruling.
“Today’s decision turns out to help us in our strategy to get expeditiously to the US Supreme Court,” he said in a statement, adding that the the Trump campaign will now ask the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to review the ruling on an accelerated timetable.
The Biden and Trump campaigns also did not immediately respond to queries.
Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Washington DC, cast doubt on the Trump team’s ability to win an appeal, however.
“This particular decision was notable for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s a federal judge, a very senior judge. Secondly, the language with which he rejected the case was extremely harsh and extremely critical of the attempt to reverse the election result,” Hanna said.
“The very tenor of this judge’s decision is very unlikely to give them any grounds for an appeal whatsoever.”
Giuliani, who made his first courtroom appearance in 30 years for a hearing in the case on Tuesday, floated a variety of conspiracy theories at a news conference on Thursday as they alleged that the election was marred by widespread voter fraud. But they have had little success in court.
Democrats said Saturday’s scathing verdict was further proof that those charges are false.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, tweeted shortly after Brann’s ruling, saying, “Another one bites the dust.”
Marc Elias, a Democratic election lawyer, said Trump and his allies have now lost 34 cases and won only two of them. The Pennsylvania verdict “is what a complete ass-kicking of the president’s legal effort looks like,” Elias, who was involved in the case, wrote on Twitter.
“As far as litigation goes, I believe this is the end of the line for them,” said Benjamin Geffen of the Public interest Law Center, who was also involved in the case.
Trump is seeking to invalidate or change the election results through recounts and direct pressure on legislators in several states. He would need to prevail in at least three states to prevent Biden from being sworn in as president on January 20.
Trump’s critics have called the effort an unprecedented push by a sitting president to subvert the will of the voters.
In the state of Michigan, Republicans wrote to state authorities on Saturday asking them to wait 14 days to certify Biden’s victory to allow for an audit of ballots in Wayne County, which includes the majority-Black city of Detroit. The letter cited allegations of “irregularities” that have not been substantiated. Biden won 154,000 more votes than Trump in Michigan.
That effort faces long odds. A spokesperson for Michigan’s top election authority said state law does not allow for audits before the vote is certified, which is due to take place on Monday. Allegations of widespread fraud have been found to be baseless, the spokesperson said.
Two leading Republican Michigan legislators 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.
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 Christenson told reporters.
A manual recount and audit in Georgia confirmed Biden on Friday as the winner in the southern state, the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia in nearly three decades.
The Trump campaign has two business days to request a recount in Georgia. Trump’s legal team has also said it plans a lawsuit in the state, but has not provided specifics.
Meanwhile, Trump’s accusations have continued to inflame his hard-core Republican base.
Hundreds of supporters gathered at the statehouse in Atlanta on Saturday, 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.
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 January 20.
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.
Biden, who has denounced Trump’s attempt to reverse the election results as “totally irresponsible”, spent Saturday meeting with transition advisers and attending church.
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.