Georgia Says Ex-Trump Lawyer Suit Could Hinder Senate Runoff
(Bloomberg) -- Georgia Governor Brian Kemp told a federal judge that a temporary restraining order granted in a suit by former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell threatens to disrupt the state’s Jan. 5 runoff election that will determine control of the U.S. Senate.
The order seeks to preserve data from the Nov. 3 election in three counties while Powell pushes for a forensic audit of Georgia’s Dominion Voting Systems Inc. machines. But restrictions in the order mean the “run-off election will be significantly hindered if not practically precluded altogether,” unless the order is altered soon, Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans, said in a filing late Thursday in federal court in Atlanta.
The state officials said the order will disrupt plans for recalibrating and testing the accuracy of the machines and will lead to long lines when voting in the crucial runoff contest starts next month.
Powell claims that Dominion machines played a central role in a vast and election-fraud conspiracy involving hundreds of corrupt Democratic election officials in cahoots with Iran and China. She claims both nations infiltrated U.S. voting machines that were originally financed by “foreign oligarchs” to prop up the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.
Other lawsuits by the Trump campaign and allies challenging the November election results are being pressed in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, though many of the claims have been tossed out due to lack of evidence, or withdrawn.
President Donald Trump, who has blasted Kemp and Raffensperger over the unproven fraud claims in Georgia, is due to visit the state Saturday for a rally with Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both of whom face Democratic challengers in the runoff.
Republicans must win only one of the two races to keep the majority. If Democrat Raphael Warnock defeats Loeffler and Jon Ossoff beats Perdue, the Senate would have a 50-50 split, but Democrats would control the chamber since Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would cast tie-breaking votes.
Powell, who has discouraged Georgians from voting in the runoff until they can be sure their ballots are “secure,” ultimately seeks a court order reversing Georgia’s certification of the election.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten issued the order on Nov. 29, barring Georgia “from altering, destroying, or erasing, or allowing the alteration, destruction, or erasure of any software or data on any Dominion voting machine” in Cobb, Gwinnett and Cherokee counties. The judge stayed the proceeding after Powell filed an appeal, arguing the TRO didn’t go far enough.
On Friday evening, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta rejected Powell’s appeal, ruling it’s not possible to challenge such a preliminary ruling unless there’s a true risk of irreparable harm.
“The plaintiffs have not demonstrated that the alleged harm is imminent -- that the defendants would have wiped all these machines county-by-county, destroying all the data they contain, unless the district court had granted broader relief on Sunday night,” Judge Andrew Brasher, a Trump appointee, wrote for the court. “In fact, the district court’s order was specifically designed to avoid this consequence.”
Georgia argues the data aren’t at risk anyway. In its filing, the state said the data has already been securely stored more than once, as have the associated printed ballots and mail-in ballots. Early voting starts Dec. 14.
“All of this data is required by Georgia law to be retained, even in the absence of the TRO,” the state said.
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