Trump Expands Legal Fight Over Vote Counts in Close States
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg)

Trump Expands Legal Fight Over Vote Counts in Close States

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President Donald Trump’s campaign said it’s adding a lawsuit in Nevada to a flurry of legal challenges to vote counts in battleground states as the race has tilted toward Democrat Joe Biden.

The Trump campaign early Thursday said its Nevada suit would target around 10,000 ballots it claims were cast illegally by voters who live outside the state. On Wednesday, the campaign filed lawsuits in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia, challenging various aspects of ballot counts. Biden won Michigan on Wednesday and is slightly ahead in Nevada. Trump currently leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia, but the margins have narrowed as more votes are counted.

The campaign’s legal strategy swiftly hit setbacks on Thursday, as its lawsuits in Georgia and Michigan were both dismissed. The Michigan judge said the case was effectively moot because the vote count was over while the judge in Georgia determined there was no evidence to support the campaign’s claims of irregularities in the vote-counting process.

Democrats have called the lawsuits baseless efforts to muddy the election as Trump and his top aides claim the presidency is being stolen. Throughout the campaign, Trump repeatedly claimed without evidence that the increased use of mail-in ballots will lead to widespread voter fraud and suggested the election would have to be decided in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“He is laying the foundation to question the legitimacy of the democratic process -- a quest in which he will ultimately fail,” said Vanita Gupta, who led the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration. She said there was “no basis in reality” for Trump’s claims of fraud.

The Nevada suit was announced in Las Vegas at a press conference hosted by former acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell, who joined the chorus of high-profile former GOP officials accusing Democrats in a series of tweets of fixing the election. At a press conference in Philadelphia on Wednesday, the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, suggested another lawsuit could be filed in Wisconsin.

Several of the suits allege the Trump campaign was not given sufficient access to monitor the ballot counts that they claim may be rife with fraud. On Thursday, a Pennsylvania appellate court reversed the dismissal of an earlier suit filed by Republicans seeking greater access to similarly observe canvassing -- the process of opening envelopes and preparing ballots for counting. State officials are now appealing to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

It will be impossible for Trump to win the election if he does not carry Pennsylvania, and his campaign has made the state the focus of its legal efforts. Biden can win without the state if he manages to hold onto his leads in Arizona and Nevada.

The Trump campaign on Wednesday also alleged Pennsylvania’s top election official improperly reset the deadline for mail-in voters to provide missing proof of identification. The Trump team additionally tried to revive a suit pending before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging Pennsylvania’s Friday deadline for accepting mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day. Another Republican suit in the Keystone State accused election officials of illegally allowing voters to “cure” errors in mail-in ballots by using provisional ballots.

The dismissal of the Michigan suit highlights how the Trump campaign is running against the clock. With the state already called for Biden, the judge said the case, which sought a halt to vote counting until the campaign could gain greater access to monitor the process, was essentially moot.

“At this point, the essence of the count is completed, and the relief is completely unavailable,” said Judge Cynthia Stephens of the Michigan Court of Claims.

In Georgia’s Chatham County, which includes the Democratic-leaning city of Savannah, a judge tossed the suit the Trump campaign filed Wednesday asking for an order forcing election officials to separate invalid late-arriving ballots. The campaign claimed a Republican poll observer saw such ballots being illegally added to a stack of on-time absentee ballots. The judge said there was no evidence the ballots at issue actually arrived late.

The Biden team has taken steps to prepare itself for Trump’s legal onslaught. Campaign Manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement Wednesday that the campaign aims to put in place the “most comprehensive legal effort ever assembled” after Trump “threatened to go to court to prevent the proper tabulation of votes.”

Wendy Weiser, who heads a democracy program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice and isn’t involved in the election, expressed skepticism about the Trump team’s legal arguments.

“It’s very clear both by the way they’re litigating it and they way they’re talking about it that these lawsuits are part of a public relations strategy more than they are part of a legal strategy,” she said. “It’s unfortunate they’re trying to use the courts this way.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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