Trump Calls Into Pennsylvania Event, Urges Overturning Election
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump called into a meeting of Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers examining accusations of election impropriety, saying the state’s election result should be overturned and repeating his unsubstantiated claims that his loss to Joe Biden was illegitimate.
”It’s a very sad thing for our country to have this and they have to turn over the results,” Trump said, speaking through a phone held up to the microphone by one of his lawyers, Jenna Ellis. “It would be easy for me to say, ‘oh, let’s worry about four years from now.’ No. This election was lost by the Democrats, they cheated, it was a fraudulent election.”
Trump continues to insist he won, even after key states -- including Pennsylvania -- have already certified their results, essentially locking in Biden’s victory. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer who sat alongside Ellis at the hearing, has been leading the long-shot legal effort in several states to reverse the results of the Nov. 3 election.
Trump had planned to travel to the hearing in Gettysburg on Wednesday, people familiar with the matter said, but scrapped the trip earlier in the day. The visit had never been formally added to his public schedule and the White House declined comment. The hearing included a series of witnesses raising suspicions or allegations or wrongdoing, with few specifics.
Giuliani’s efforts have gained little traction – and widespread derision – and the president’s support of the work risked further tarnishing his legacy.
Trump on Wednesday ran through a series of complaints, many of which his campaign hasn’t substantiated with evidence. Trump also acknowledged that one adviser cautioned him that a judge is unlikely to simply overturn an election.
“Our very good lawyer said, well, sir, that’s a big statement for a judge to overthrow an election. I said, really?” Trump said during the hearing, later adding: “Why wouldn’t they overturn an election? Certainly, overturn it in your state, because we have other states that are just as bad.”
He said he was confident that he would be declared the winner if the case ended up before the right judge.
“We have all the evidence, we have all the affidavits, we have everything. All we need is to have some judge listen to it properly without having a political opinion or having another kind of a problem because we have everything,” Trump said.
In Pennsylvania, where Biden won by more than 80,000 votes, Trump supporters have complained that observers in Philadelphia were not allowed to be closer to workers counting the ballots, and that election workers went too far in allowing “curing,” or fixing, of minor discrepancies in mailed ballots, but have failed to present evidence of widespread fraud.
Ellis encouraged Pennsylvania lawmakers to overturn the results.
“You have a variety of options in front of you,” she said. “You can call for a special election. Still, you can direct the manner of your electors. You have a variety constitutional options, but one option should not be to ignore it and to certify a corrupted, irredeemably compromised election.”
Biden transition spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield dismissed the Gettysburg event as a stunt.
“The election is over. Virtually everyone on Earth has accepted that truth except for Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani,” she said during a call with reporters on Wednesday. “The Trump campaign has been laughed out of every courtroom with their meritless and baseless lawsuits meant to undermine the will of the American people. This is a sideshow.”
Former Pennsylvania Governor and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, a Republican, excoriated Trump on Twitter.
Last weekend, a federal judge in Pennsylvania dismissed a lawsuit that Giuliani personally argued after the other attorneys working on the campaign’s lawsuits in the commonwealth asked to be removed from the case.
Wednesday’s forum was billed as a legislative hearing, but the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee voted this week against conducting an audit of the election that the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania House called for, saying it would duplicate a Department of State review. The forum was held indoors at a hotel, with very few attendees wearing masks.
Giuliani and Trump’s allies have said about 700,000 mail-in ballots counted in Philadelphia and Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, should be discarded because Republican observers were kept too far away from the counting process to meaningfully monitor it for fraud.
But Republicans never provided evidence of actual fraud that would justify invalidating legally cast votes. While observers were kept behind barriers at a distance in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state’s elections code doesn’t specify how close they are allowed and that county officials have discretion in setting the limit.
Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican, has said Republicans were never excluded from the counting area as they alleged, and that there were no irregularities.
Trump’s lawyers presented “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations” that were not supported by evidence, U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann wrote in his opinion dismissing the lawsuit. Giuliani has pledged to appeal.
Trump has publicly struggled to accept his election loss, only this week agreeing to give Biden’s team access to government resources as part of the transition process. And he’s sought to appeal to lawmakers in Republican-controlled state governments to refuse to certify results that show him losing to the former vice president.
Last week, he invited Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, both Republicans, to the White House. But they issued a joint statement after their meeting with Trump saying they had “not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan.”
Those efforts also fell short in Georgia and Nevada, each of which progressed through the ordinary process of certifying election results. And Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, announced Tuesday that his state had certified the results and appointed representatives to the Electoral College.
Earlier this week, his campaign distanced itself from lawyer Sidney Powell after she accused Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, of having been bribed by an election systems company. Last week, tabloid newspapers and late-night television hosts mocked Giuliani for holding a press conference during which he perspired so profusely that hair dye appeared to drip down his cheeks.
“It’s in everyone’s interest to have a full vetting of election irregularities and fraud,” Giuliani said in a statement about Wednesday’s event. “And the only way to do this is with public hearings, complete with witnesses, videos, pictures and other evidence of illegalities from the November 3rd election.”
Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano said he had requested the public hearing because voters in his state “lost faith in the electoral system.”
“Over the past few weeks, I have heard from thousands of Pennsylvanians regarding issues experienced at the polls, irregularities with the mail-in voting system and concerns whether their vote was counted,” Mastriano said in a statement. “We need to correct these issues to restore faith in our republic.”
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.