2020 presidential election

Federal Judge Smacks Down Trump’s Effort to Overturn Election Result in Pennsylvania

Rudy fails again, spectacularly. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Trump campaign’s last-ditch, extra-desperate attempt to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania was demolished by a conservative federal judge on Saturday night. Trump’s legal team, led by the increasingly hapless Rudy Giuliani, had tried to block the certification of the results in the state on bafflingly thin legal grounds, and as the Washington Post reports, the effort crashed and burned in court:

U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann granted a request from Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar to dismiss the suit, which alleged that Republicans had been illegally disadvantaged because some counties allowed voters to fix errors on their mail ballots.

The judge’s decision, which he explained in a scathing 37-page opinion, was a thorough rebuke of the president’s sole attempt to challenge the statewide result in Pennsylvania.

Following the ruling, Pennsylvania Republican senator Pat Toomey released a statement explaining that “with today’s decision by [Judge Brann], a longtime conservative Republican whom I know to be a fair and unbiased jurist, to dismiss the Trump campaign’s lawsuit, President Trump has exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the result of the presidential race in Pennsylvania.” That being the case, he also announced that, “I congratulate President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala D. Harris on their victory.”

It was the last major legal challenge the Trump campaign had left — and one of dozens that have failed to gain even the slightest traction in court following the election.

In dismissing the case, Judge Brann said that the Trump campaign was attempting to “disenfranchise almost 7 million voters”:

This Court has been unable to find any case in which a plaintiff has sought such a drastic remedy in the contest of an election, in terms of the sheer volume of votes asked to be invalidated. One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption, such that this Court would have no option but to regrettably grant the proposed injunctive relief despite the impact it would have on such a large group of citizens.

That has not happened. Instead, this Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence. 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. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more. 

Election-law expert Rick Hasen summarizes the rest:

The court had many problems with the complaint, but this goes to the heart of the merits: “Granting Plaintiffs’ requested relief would necessarily require invalidating the ballots of every person who voted in Pennsylvania. Because this Court has no authority to take away the right to vote of even a single person, let alone millions of citizens, it cannot grant Plaintiffs’ requested relief.”

The court first held that both the individual plaintiffs and the Trump campaign lacked standing to raise the equal protection complaint in the lawsuit. Among other thing, the court remarked: “Neither of these orders would redress the injury the Individual Plaintiffs allege they have suffered. Prohibiting certification of the election results would not reinstate the Individual Plaintiffs’ right to vote. It would simply deny more than 6.8 million people their right to vote.“

Hasen explains that “this is a total loss for the Trump campaign and a dead end. The campaign can try to appeal this to the Third Circuit and even to the Supreme Court, but this is such a dog of a case I cannot see any chance of success there, even before the most sympathetic judges.”

“[Giuliani] had truly participated in the worst piece of election litigation I have ever seen, both in terms of the lawyering and the antidemocratic nature of what the lawsuit attempted to do,” he added.

Giuliani and fellow Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis have already announced that they will appeal Judge Brann’s ruling, but as Hasen noted, it’s likely dead on arrival. It is now just a matter of time until Pennsylvania certifies Biden’s win in the state.

Judge Rebukes Trump Effort to Overturn Pennsylvania Election