Politics

Trump campaign loses 3 cases challenging ballots after dropping its lawsuit in Michigan

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump's reelection campaign saw losses in three lawsuits challenging ballots related to President-elect Joe Biden's projected election victory.
  • The losses came hours after the Trump campaign dropped its own federal suit in Michigan that sought to block the certification of Detroit-area ballots.
  • Biden's campaign blasted Trump for making basless claims of voter fraud.
Wayne County Board of Canvassers Chair Monica Palmer, left, talks with Vice Chair Jonathan Kinloch before the board's Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020 meeting in Detroit.
Robin Buckson | Detroit News | AP

President Donald Trump's reelection campaign on Thursday saw losses in three lawsuits challenging ballots related to President-elect Joe Biden's projected election victory, hours after it dropped its own federal suit in Michigan that sought to block the certification of Detroit-area ballots.

Th trio of defeats came on the same day as Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani claimed at a press conference, without evidence, that widespread fraud had denied Trump a victory in the election.

The losses make it even more unlikely that Trump can overcome already long odds of invalidating enough votes, in enough states, to overturn Biden's win in the race for the White House.

In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign lost its appeal in the Court of Common Pleas of a decision by the Bucks County Board of Elections to allow the count of certain mail-in ballots there.

In Arizona, the Maricopa County Court dismissed a lawsuit by the state Republican Party that had sought to expand an audit of Arizona's election results, and also denied a bid to have Maricopa County barred from certifying its election results.

And in Georgia, the attorney L. Lin Wood saw a federal judge, who was appointed by Trump last year, reject his request to block the state from certifying its vote tally, which Biden is projected to win, as in Pennsylvania and Arizona.

Judge Steven Grimberg said he was unwilling to block the certification of millions of votes in Georgia, saying it "would breed confusion and potential disenfranchisement."

Grimberg said the claims from the campaign had "no basis either in fact or law," according to a New York Times reporter covering the hearing.

The 0-3 result for Trump's campaign on Thursday came on the heels of its decision to drop the federal lawsuit in Michigan, which had sought to stop the certification of ballots in Wayne County, Michigan.

And it came after the campaign and its allies had already lost or withdrew 29 other post-election legal cases, according to the Democracydocket.com, which is tracking such cases.

"Numerous courts, election officials from both parties, and even officials within Trump's own administration, have all reaffirmed that claims of widespread voter fraud are categorically false," said Biden campaign spokesman Michael Gwin.

Gwin decried the "absurdity of Donald Trump's thoroughly discredited claims of voter fraud."

Biden is projected to win 306 votes in the Electoral College, 36 more than needed to win the presidency. Trump would have to invalidate the projected popular votes of several states to reverse the Democrat's victory. Legal observers say there is not evidence of enough improper ballots in even a single state to overturn its current results.

A lawyer for Trump's campaign said the Michigan case was being withdrawn because that county's board of canvassers "met and declined to certify the results of the presidential election."

But that statement is false: The board voted to certify the results, after an outcry over Republican members who initially voted not to certify.

Those two GOP members now say they want to rescind their votes. But state officials say that is not possible, and that the certification is official.

Giuliani said the withdrawal came "as a direct result of achieving the relief we sought: to stop the election in Wayne County from being prematurely certified before residents can be assured that every legal vote has been counted and every illegal vote has not been counted."

But David Fink, a lawyer for the city of Detroit in the lawsuit, told CNBC, "They can put whatever spin they want on it. They dismissed the case because they were going to lose."

"The so-called rescission of those votes has absolutely no legal significance," Fink said. "The canvassing board made its decision and the votes will now be reviewed by the state canvassing board."

Trump claimed in a tweet later Thursday that his campaign withdrew the suit because "we won!" even though the campaign did not win.

The Trump campaign's federal lawsuit had attempted to stop Wayne County, which contains the city of Detroit, from certifying its election results until swaths of ballots were cut from the final tally. Those would include "unlawfully cast ballots" and certain mail-in ballots received after Election Day, as well as votes tabulated solely using the Dominion software program.

Wayne County is the most populous area in Michigan, and voted overwhelmingly for Biden over Trump — 68% to 31%, respectively.

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Michigan is one of several battleground states that Trump narrowly won in 2016 — delivering his victory in the Electoral College over Hillary Clinton — and which Biden won this year. Ballot tallies in the Wolverine State show Biden beating Trump by more than 150,000 votes.

The county's board of canvassers has become a major focus ahead of the national certification of election results next month. Two Republican members of the board initially refused to certify Wayne County's vote, before reversing themselves earlier this week following widespread criticism.

Shortly thereafter, both members reversed their positions again. As of Wednesday, the canvassers were calling to rescind their votes to certify, and signed affidavits that were included in the Trump campaign's notice of withdrawal Thursday.

Media outlets reported that the canvassers had been contacted by Trump directly on Tuesday evening.

One of them, Monica Palmer, told NBC News that she and Trump did not discuss her decision to rescind her vote "or anything like that."

"My conversation with the President was about threats coming from the public and my safety — not about rescinding my vote," Palmer told NBC.

The other GOP canvasser, William Hartman, in his affidavit wrote that he was "enticed to agree to certify based on the promise that a full and independent audit would take place."

"I would not have agreed to the certification but for the promise of an audit," Hartman wrote.

Palmer wrote in her own affidavit, "I fully believe the Wayne County vote should not be certified."

A spokeswoman for Michigan's secretary of state Jocelyn Benson, however, said the fight is over.

"There is no legal mechanism for them to rescind their vote. Their job is done and the next step in the process is for the Board of State Canvassers to meet and certify," press secretary Aneta Kiersnowski told NBC News.

The City of Detroit filed a motion later Thursday to strike from the court record the GOP officials' affidavits, "as well as the immaterial, impertinent and false language in the Notice itself."

The Trump campaign's notice "falsely claims that the Wayne County Board of Canvassers 'met and declined to certify the results of the presidential election,'" the city's motion said.

"In fact, as has been reported publicly, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers voted to certify the election results, and there is no legal mechanism for that action to be rescinded by affidavits."

The city's lawyers went on to say, "The affidavits and the impertinent text in the Notice were submitted for an improper purpose: to make a gratuitous, public statement about their purported reason for voluntary dismissal, before the Court could reject their baseless claims of election fraud."

A similar federal lawsuit challenging the vote counting in Wayne County, which was filed by two women, Angelic Johnson and Sarah Stoddard, was voluntarily dismissed by those plaintiffs on Thursday, according to court records.

Ian Northon, a lawyer for Johnson and Stoddard, told CNBC that "we voluntarily dismissed because there was similar action filed by the Trump campaign, making similar accusations, in the same court, with the same judge."

"As a practical matter ... we have limited sources. We pulled that case to focus on a different" lawsuit, which Northon said he expects to file soon.

When told that the Trump campaign had dismissed its own lawsuit on Thursday, Northon said, "That's news to me."

Fink, the lawyer for the city of Detroit, said, "It is not surprising that all of these case are being voluntarily dismissed. Every time one of their cases has gotten to a judge, their baseless conspiracy theories have been rejected."

Fink added, "With the margin of over 150,000 votes in Michigan they still have not documented a single vote that was fraudulently cast."