Trump's Legal Team Aims To Block States' Election Certifications

Nov 23, 2020
Originally published on November 23, 2020 9:29 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

As the incoming president makes personnel moves, the departing president does, too. President Trump's constantly changing legal team distanced itself from a conspiracy theorist over the weekend. Sidney Powell starred at a press conference that the president promoted last week, spinning out wild theories about George Soros and Hugo Chavez - and, of course, giving no evidence. The departing president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, introduced her at that press conference. But after the embarrassing reaction, Giuliani now says she is not part of the Trump team.

Giuliani is still part of Trump's team and suffered an embarrassment all his own. A judge rejected the lawsuit that Giuliani had argued in Pennsylvania. The president has lost virtually all court challenges, and a few more key Republicans have now abandoned the outgoing president as he tries to overturn a Democratic election.

NPR's Franco Ordoñez has been watching all of this. Hey there, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: What was the judgment against the president's legal team?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, the president's team - the campaign had sought to block the certification of Pennsylvania's election results. They had alleged that Republicans had been disadvantages - illegally, by the way - because some counties allowed voters to fix errors on their mail-in ballots. But the federal judge, as you know, dismissed the case, saying it would disenfranchise millions of other voters. And the judge wrote a really scathing decision. He wrote that you would expect such a plaintiff would, quote, "come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption." But instead, the judge wrote that the Trump team presented, quote, "strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations."

Now, the Trump campaign says it will appeal, but the deadline for Pennsylvania to certify its vote is today. And just to note, Biden won in Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes.

INSKEEP: There is a statewide elected Republican official in Pennsylvania - Pat Toomey, United States senator. What's he saying about all of this?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. Toomey released a statement after the ruling saying President Trump has exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the results in Pennsylvania. He went on to congratulate President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and suggested that Trump should move forward with the transition process in order to protect his own legacy. Again, Toomey is a Republican. He's joining a small number of Republican senators who've said Trump needs to concede. Trump actually was also criticized by Chris Christie this weekend, an ally of his. Here he is on ABC yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ABC BROADCAST)

CHRIS CHRISTIE: I've been a supporter of the president's. I voted for him twice. But elections have consequences, and we cannot continue to act as if something happened here that didn't happen.

ORDOÑEZ: Now, still, most Republicans are trying to thread the needle here, saying Biden should receive transition resources but that, also, Trump should be able to pursue all his legal avenues.

INSKEEP: The way The Washington Post put it over the weekend is that a lot of Republicans are, quote, "indulging" the president's effort to overturn a Democratic election, indulging his desires here. But isn't his incredibly narrow window growing narrower? Even if he won this lawsuit that was embarrassingly thrown out in Pennsylvania, he would - but Trump would still lose the election, right?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, he's got very little time left. In Georgia, the results have already been certified by the Republican state leadership, though, on Saturday night, Trump's campaign said its requesting a recount. This would be the third time those 5 million ballots will be counted. And I mentioned today - earlier that the certification deadline in Pennsylvania is today. Michigan's canvassing board also meets today when the election results are expected to be certified. Though Biden won by 150,000 votes in Michigan, Trump's campaign still seeks to overturn those results. And as you recall, Trump invited Michigan Republicans to the White House.

You mentioned attorney Sidney Powell, who has argued on behalf of the president. She was actually on Fox Business last week arguing that legislators should make sure that the electors are selected for Trump, a strategy that really doesn't appear to be going anywhere. And now the fact that Rudy Giuliani is saying she's not a member of Trump's legal team, it really just goes to show just how much confusion there is because Trump himself tweeted that Powell was part of his legal team before.

INSKEEP: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Thanks for keeping all the facts straight.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.