WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — President Donald Trump’s campaign on Tuesday sought to add some star power to its flailing legal effort to contest the election results, deploying former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to this small central Pennsylvania city to argue that the state’s election tallies should be thrown out because they’re tainted by fraud.
Arriving to cheers from a band of Trump supporters gathered in a mall parking lot across the street, Giuliani strode into the modest, four-story federal courthouse for hearing on a bid by Pennsylvania officials to dismiss a lawsuit the Trump campaign filed last week to try to block certification of President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the state’s 20 electoral votes.
“The best description of this situation is it’s a widespread, nationwide voter fraud,” Giuliani said during a half-hour-long opening statement at the court session. “This is a part of the reason I’m here, Your Honor, because it is not an isolated case.”
Taking the helm of the Trump campaign’s legal team after days of chaos and tumult, the former mayor put forward a double-barreled argument: that the election in Pennsylvania was deeply flawed because hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots were processed with inadequate access by Republican observers, and because some counties allowed voters to fix or “cure” mail-in ballots that didn’t follow state requirements.
Giuliani argued that the Democratic machine in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as other cities, took advantage of the flood of mail-in votes to count ballots that should have been disqualified.
“It’s almost like putting them in the candy store,” Giuliani said. He said the effort required excluding Republicans and other observers during the vote-counting process, so they and others were put far away.
“It has been not violated in this case — it’s been trashed. It’s been stepped all over. It’s been disregarded here and in some other places in an eerily similar pattern,” Giuliani added. “The places it happened just happened to be big cities controlled by Democrats.”
Giuiliani showed the court images of election-observing arrangements in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. He complained that in many cases observers were kept so far away that they couldn’t see anything on the ballots.
“We’re not bringing up a frivolous argument here, Your Honor,” Giuliani insisted to U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann. “This happened. This is happening in all these places.”
Daniel Donovan, an attorney for Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, said the campaign and the voters have a forum to litigate their objections, but not in a federal court.
“They do have an avenue. If there are challenges from voters or campaigns, there’s a path, but it’s state court, not federal court,” Donovan said in his rebuttal to Giuliani.
Donovan also argued that the suit was fatally flawed because the campaign and the two Pennsylvania voters who are also plaintiffs in the case lacked the “particularized injury” to pursue a federal court case. Donovan repeatedly cited a ruling from a Trump-appointed federal judge in Pittsburgh last month that the campaign lacked standing to challenge the use of drop boxes to collect absentee ballots.
While Giuliani portrayed mail-in voting as a boon for Democrats, Donovan noted that the changes to Pennsylvania law broadening access to absentee ballots passed the Republican-controlled legislature before being signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat.
Brann is an appointee of President Barack Obama, but was selected by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). The judge was courteous to Giuliani, referring to him as “Mayor,” but did not pepper him or Donovan with questions during the first part of the hearing.
After a little more than an hour, the session was interrupted because of the failure of phone lines the court had set up for the media and the public to listen in.
The hearing in this city of about 28,000 residents, about an hour and a half drive north of the capital, Harrisburg, drew a raucous crowd of Trump supporters, who chanted, prayed and sang before and during the court session.
Cries of “Stop the steal!” ”Dead people can’t vote!” and “Four more years!” went on for hours, occasionally punctuated by honking horns from passersby in this solidly red county, where voters went for Trump over Biden, 70 percent to 29 percent.
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