Trump dispatches Giuliani to Pennsylvania to stop vote counting as his lead evaporates

President’s lawyer appears in Pennsylvania to make unfounded allegations of election violations

Richard Hall
Thursday 05 November 2020 02:38
'Count Every Vote' protest in Philadelphia

Donald Trump’s hopes for re-election may rest on a handful of lawsuits filed by his campaign across the Midwest, as his opponent Joe Biden took the lead in several key swing states.

The Trump campaign has filed two legal challenges in Michigan and Pennsylvania, the former of which has already been called for Mr Biden. The lawsuits allege that election observers were not given proper access to ballot counting sites.

A separate lawsuit was filed in Wisconsin, where Mr Biden has also been declared the winner, which demands a recount of votes in the state.

On Wednesday afternoon, the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Eric Trump arrived in Philadelphia to announce that the campaign was suing Pennsylvania to stop counting ballots, citing a lack of “transparency” in the process.

Follow live: US election 2020 results, updates and analysis

In a chaotic few hours, Mr Giuliani first called a press conference outside the Pennsylvania Convention Centre in downtown Philadelphia — where a small crowd of Trump supporters gathered — before abruptly cancelling 10 minutes before it was due to begin. He and Eric Trump eventually rescheduled at an airport on the edge of town.

Mr Giuliani alleged without evidence that “rampant corruption” had occured in Philadelphia and claimed that campaign officials were blocked from watching ballot counts.

“We have no idea if they really are ballots, if they are signed, if they are postmarked properly, if it isn’t just the same person who submitted one hundred thousand ballots, they all got counted. This is the way they intend to win,” Mr Giuliani said.

Eric Trump alleging that Democrats are trying to “cheat” by committing mass voter fraud

Simultaneously, several campaign members also unilaterally declared victory in Pennsylvania in statements to the press, with more than 20 per cent of ballots yet to be counted — a move which is both unprecedented and without legal basis.

Mr Biden said the count should continue in all states, adding, "No one's going to take our democracy away from us — not now, not ever."

Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor Tom Wolf slammed the legal attempt to stop counting ballots, saying it “goes against the most basic principles of our democracy.”

“These attempts to subvert the democratic process are simply disgraceful. We’re going to fight every single attempt to disenfranchise voters,” he added.  

The legal moves reflect a growing panic in the White House over Mr Trump’s prospects, and his opponent won several key races throughout the day. Mr Biden was declared the winner in Michigan and Wisconsin, and was closing in on Mr Trump’s early lead in Pennsylvania.

As the day began in Pennsylvania, the president held a lead of around 700,000, with around 1.4 million mail-in ballots yet to be counted. The vast majority of those uncounted votes were ballots from Democratic areas, and fell heavily for Mr Biden. By Wednesday evening, Mr Trump’s lead was at 250,000 and was expected to fall further.

If those ballots continue to fall along the same party lines they have so far, Mr Biden would garner enough votes to overtake Mr Trump, win the state’s 20 electoral votes, and in all likelihood the presidency.

In the months running up to election day, Mr Trump has made frequent unsubstantiated claims that mail-in ballots are vulnerable to fraud, and singled out Pennsylvania as a target. Democrats vote by mail in far greater numbers than Republicans, so any interference with their counting would benefit the president.

Many had anticipated that the president might try to take advantage of what election observers call a “red mirage” in Pennsylvania — a term that describes a temporary lead fuelled by the order in which ballots are counted. That appears to be the motivation behind the Trump campaign’s legal action to stop counting on Wednesday.

Election officials also knew long before today that they would not be able to post results on the night. The state received more than three million requests for mail-in ballots — an unprecedented number for a state where most people usually vote in person. They had warned that it would take around three days to count every vote.

Mr Trump has already indicated that he plans to go to the Supreme Court to block the counting of ballots in Pennsylvania.

Precisely because of the state’s importance to both campaigns this year, Pennsylvania has already been subjected to a litany of lawsuits related to how it conducts this election.

The Trump campaign, and the Republican Party, have filed eight lawsuits in an attempt to limit the use of mail-in ballots. The Republican-controlled legislature also blocked efforts to begin processing those ballots before election day — a move that would have averted today’s delay.

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