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Trump's attempts to challenge the election results suffer more setbacks in court


President Donald Trump's faltering legal efforts to challenge the results of the election hit additional hurdles Friday as Republicans contended with setbacks in courtrooms in Michigan and Arizona and another major law firm withdrew from a case.

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A state judge in Michigan rejected a request by two Republican poll watchers to delay the certification of the vote count in Detroit, saying he saw no convincing evidence of election fraud at the center where election workers tallied absentee ballots.

Judge Timothy Kenny said the allegations of misconduct, made by the GOP poll watchers and one Detroit election official, were "not credible." He said the plaintiffs' demand for an outside audit of the election in Michigan could delay the process so long that the state's electors might not be selected in time to vote in the electoral college in mid-December, when the president is formally elected. President-elect Joe Biden now leads in Michigan by about 148,000 votes.

To grant the plaintiffs' request, Kenny said, "would undermine faith in the Electoral System."

The ruling is the latest in a string of defeats for Trump and his allies, who have sought to undo - or at least delay - Biden's electoral victory with long-shot lawsuits claiming election irregularities. In Michigan alone, state judges have rejected several efforts to delay certification of the vote count.

A similar suit filed by the Trump campaign in federal court Tuesday is still pending.

State Republicans have also continued to press efforts to question the vote-counting process in Michigan. Two Republican state senators wrote a letter to the state's secretary of state late Thursday requesting that the results be audited before they are certified.

And Trump remained defiant about his unfounded claims that results around the country were tainted by massive ballot fraud, even after federal and state government officials issued a joint statement Thursday saying this year's election "was the most secure in American history."

The president countered in a tweet Friday: "This Election was Rigged."

Hours later, Edison Research projected that Biden won in Georgia and Trump was victorious in North Carolina, the last states to be called in the race. Biden is now projected to have won 306 electoral votes, matching Trump's 2016 electoral college victory. 

Election officials in Georgia began Friday the laborious process of recounting by hand every one of the nearly 5 million ballots cast in the state's presidential election. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has said that the election was fair and transparent and that he expects the recount to confirm the results, which have Biden ahead by more than 14,000 votes.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, the Trump campaign acknowledged to a judge in a court filing Friday that its lawsuit there would make no difference to the result of the presidential election.

The campaign maintained that two down-ballot races "remain at issue": a Board of Supervisors seat and a state Senate seat. But attorneys for the Arizona secretary of state, a defendant in the case, said that all claims were almost certainly moot, pending 3 p.m. local time Friday, when Maricopa County expected to finish counting all its ballots.

The suit by the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and the state Republican Party had said that "up to thousands" of allegedly mishandled ballots in the state's most populous county, Maricopa, would "prove determinative" in the presidential election, and sought to delay certification of Arizona's results until there could be a hand recount of affected votes.

But the scope of the campaign's legal action was steadily whittled down this week in court, particularly after county officials said fewer than 200 votes for president were at stake. Biden leads by 11,000 votes in Arizona.

In its latest filing Friday, Trump's team acknowledged that its suit would have no bearing on the outcome of the presidential election in the state, writing that "the tabulation of votes statewide has rendered unnecessary a judicial ruling as to the presidential electors."

The new filing came a day after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge held a day-long hearing in the matter, in which the judge refused to admit some of the evidence gathered by the campaign, indicating that he found it untrustworthy. 

During the hearing, an attorney for the president's campaign, Kory Langhofer, emphasized that the campaign was not alleging that any fraud took place in the state,a sharp contrast with the "stop the steal" protests that outraged Trump supporters have held in Arizona.

"We're not alleging that anyone was stealing the election," Langhofer said, adding later, "The allegation here is that, in what appears to be a limited number of cases, there were good-faith errors in operating machines that should result in further review of certain ballots."

The Trump campaign's lawsuit had alleged that poll workers pressed or told voters to press a button on a tabulating machine to cast their ballots, even after those tabulators flagged an apparent "overvote," in which the machine believed a voter marked two candidates in the same race. If the machine reads two votes in the same race, it will not count a vote for any candidate in that contest.

Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, said in a statement, "We continue to explore President Trump's options in Arizona."

"Every state has different laws and therefore different legal approaches," he added regarding the campaign's broader legal setbacks. "We are still determined to ensure that every legal vote is counted and every illegal vote is not."

The courtroom losses came as some prominent law firms have backed away from Trump's legal efforts.

Porter Wright Morris & Arthur - a large firm headquartered in Columbus, Ohio - had been leading the Trump campaign's efforts in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania. But two lawyers from the firm filed a motion late Thursday to withdraw from a federal suit challenging the results, just days after the action was initiated.

"Plaintiffs and Porter Wright have reached a mutual agreement that Plaintiffs will be best served if Porter Wright withdraws," attorneys Ronald Hicks and Carolyn McGee said in their motion.

The firm said Trump's campaign was "in the process of retaining" other attorneys to represent it. Linda Kerns, a Philadelphia lawyer who is representing Trump in a flurry of lawsuits in Pennsylvania courts, will remain on the case.

Trump's federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania seeks an emergency injunction preventing state authorities from certifying the election results. It alleges that hundreds of thousands of votes cast in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are invalid because Trump's campaign was unable to observe them being counted, which election officials deny.

Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar on Thursday asked the court to dismiss the case, describing it as a "desperate and unfounded attempt to interfere" with the election process.

This week, the Phoenix-based law firm Snell & Wilmer withdrew from representing the Republican National Committee in Arizona. With more than 450 lawyers in 15 cities, the firm is one of the largest in the western United States.

And Jones Day, a prominent Washington-based firm that has represented the Trump campaign since the 2016 election, put out a statement this week emphasizing that it is not representing the campaign in its election challenges. 

Instead, the firm has been acting on behalf of the Pennsylvania Republican Party in a case that began before Nov. 3 dealing with the narrow issue of ballots that were postmarked by Election Day but received during a two-day window after the election, as allowed by a state court ruling. 

Boockvar has said about 10,000 such ballots were received - too few to affect the outcome of the election in the state, where Biden leads by more than 59,500 votes. 

Murtaugh, of the Trump campaign, said in a statement, "Cancel culture has finally reached the courtroom." 

"Leftist mobs descended upon some of the lawyers representing the President's campaign and they buckled," he said, adding, "The President's team is undeterred and will move forward with rock-solid attorneys to ensure free and fair elections for all Americans."


 

Published : November 14, 2020

By : The Washington Post · Hannah Knowles, David A. Fahrenthold, Rosalind S. Helderman · NATIONAL, POLITICS, COURTSLAW