WASHINGTON: Humiliation in the courts, witnesses who provide more farce than facts and a chief lawyer battling coronavirus – Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the Nov 3 presidential election are not going well. And time is running out. The Electoral College is to meet on Dec 14 to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s victory and yesterday was the deadline for state-level challenges to be resolved.
Among the latest blows to Trump’s bid to tarnish the vote with baseless fraud claims was the announcement on Sunday that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani has been hospitalized with COVID-19. Giuliani, 76, has been leading the Trump campaign’s legal team, filing lawsuits that purport to expose ballot fraud and staging public hearings in the swing states where Trump lost narrowly.
Many of the witnesses put forward by Giuliani have strained credulity, however, and the flimsy lawsuits rely often on convoluted conspiracy theories that have been repeatedly debunked by state election officials – many of them Republican. One witness, Melissa Carone, who appeared besides Giuliani at a hearing in Michigan, was so over-the-top that she ended up going viral and being lampooned on the comedy show “Saturday Night Live”.
Carone had already been deemed “not credible” by a Michigan judge but that did not stop Giuliani from parading her before the Michigan House hearing. When the lawsuits filed by Giuliani and other Trump allies have actually reached the courts they have been tossed out by judges – sometimes in scathing terms. The latest defeat – bringing the Trump campaign’s win-loss record in court to 1-47 – came on Monday in Michigan, where Trump lost to Biden by 154,000 votes.
“The People have spoken”, wrote US District Court Judge Linda Parker. “This case represents well the phrase: ‘This ship has sailed’.” Parker said the suit seeking to overturn Biden’s victory in Michigan was “stunning in its scope and breathtaking in its reach”. “If granted, the relief would disenfranchise the votes of the more than 5.5 million Michigan citizens who, with dignity, hope, and a promise of a voice, participated in the 2020 General Election,” she said. The judge said the suit appeared to be mainly aimed at shaking “People’s faith in the democratic process and their trust in our government.”
A letter published Monday by more than 1,500 lawyers from across the country made a similar point, accusing Giuliani and other attorneys of filing “frivolous court claims” in a bid to “undermine citizens’ faith in our election’s integrity”. They noted that election security officials and the 74-year-old Trump’s own attorney general, Bill Barr, have said there was no evidence of significant ballot fraud.
“President Trump’s barrage of litigation is a pretext for a campaign to undermine public confidence in the outcome of the 2020 election, which inevitably will subvert constitutional democracy,” they said. “Sadly, the President’s primary agents and enablers in this effort are lawyers, obligated by their oath and ethical rules to uphold the rule of law.”
Nowhere has the pushback against Trump been stronger than in Georgia, where Republican officials from the governor on down have rebuffed his efforts. Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, a Republican, accused Trump on Monday of spewing “mountains of misinformation” in his bid to discredit the vote in Georgia, a once reliably Republican state where Biden won by some 12,000 votes.
Duncan told “CBS This Morning” that the Trump campaign claims of voter fraud were “literally stuff that can be debunked in 10 seconds or less”. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp rejected a Trump demand that he call a special session of the Georgia legislature to switch the state’s 16 Electoral College delegates from Biden to Trump. And last week, another Georgia official, voting system manager Gabriel Sterling, said Trump’s rhetoric could lead to violence. “Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed. It’s not right,” Sterling said.
Dozens of pro-Trump protesters, some of them armed, turned up Saturday night outside the home of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, the state’s chief election officer, shouting obscenities. “Through threats of violence, intimidation, and bullying, the armed people outside my home and their political allies seek to undermine and silence the will and voice of every voter in this state,” Benson said. “But their efforts won’t carry the day,” she said in a statement. “The will of the people is clear.”
While many state officials have pushed back, Republican members of Congress have for the most part remained silent in the face of Trump’s unfounded claims that he won the election. Biden, 78, has mostly ignored Trump’s refusal to concede, calling it “embarrassing” but pressing ahead with the formation of his cabinet and plans for his Jan 20, 2021 inauguration. – AFP