Trump hits out at Republican election official whose work on tackling fraud his campaign previously praised

Al Schmidt’s work was praised in May when a Democrat former judge of elections, Domenick Demuro, pleaded guilty to election fraud

Harriet Alexander
Wednesday 11 November 2020 19:57
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Philadelphia's Republican city commissioner praises the 'most transparent and secure election' in city history
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The Philadelphia election official accused by Donald Trump of having “refused to look at a mountain of corruption and dishonesty” was previously praised by Republicans for his work rooting out voter fraud.

Al Schmidt, the only Republican among Philadelphia’s three city commissioners, who run elections, on Wednesday morning described the vote as being “the most transparent and secure election in the history of Philadelphia”.

He said there had been no credible allegations of voter fraud at all — his team even checked a list circulating on Twitter of dead people who were supposed to have voted — and said he was dismayed by the deluge of baseless accusations.

Mr Trump attacked Mr Schmidt on Wednesday morning, tweeting that he was ignoring evidence.

“A guy named Al Schmidt, a Philadelphia Commissioner and so-called Republican (RINO), is being used big time by the Fake  News Media to explain how honest things were with respect to the Election in Philadelphia. He refuses to look at a mountain of corruption & dishonesty. We win!” Mr Trump said.

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Yet Mr Schmidt’s work before the election in cleaning up voter rolls and ironing out previous issues was cited by Republicans as exemplary.

He investigated after the number of votes cast on voting machines exceeded the number of voters who signed into the registers at polling places on Election Day.

“Starting in 2012, my office started doing a post-election audit, where we would compare the number of votes on the voting machine to the number of voters who signed the poll book,” he said at the time. 

“What you’ll find is many, many discrepancies.

"That doesn’t necessarily mean people in all those places are crooked. It simply means that these numbers are significant and it would be worthwhile to take a look.”

Mr Schmidt’s work helped secure, in May, the guilty plea of Domenick J. Demuro, 73, a Democrat and the former Philadelphia judge of elections.

“Democrats have a clear and blatant history of committing voter fraud in Pennsylvania," said Melissa Reed, a spokesperson for the RNC and Trump’s campaign. 

His work has also meant that, over the course of the election, instances of fraud have been hugely reduced.

“If evidence of widespread fraud — or any fraud at all — is brought to our attention, we take a look at it and refer it to law enforcement, as we do in every election," he said on Wednesday, speaking to CNN. 

"I have seen the most fantastical things on social media, that have no basis in reality at all,” he said.

Mr Schmidt, who has been one of the three city commissioners since November 2011, previously worked as a senior analyst at the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, and held top security clearance. 

He said he understood people were upset at the result, but was shocked at how many believed outright lies.

“One thing I can’t comprehend is how hungry people are to consume lies, and to consume information that is not true,” he said. 

"There was a long list of people who they said were dead people. So we took a break, between everything else we are doing, and we looked it up to see what their vote history. Not a single one of them voted in Philadelphia after they died.

“It’s one of those things that bounces around. Someone heard something which they thought could have been X, Y or Z. And it’s really impossible to keep up with.”

Mr Schmidt said that, as of Wednesday morning, they had 18,000 mail-in ballots left to count, and 18,000 provisional ballots left to count.

Mr Biden currently has a lead of over 47,000 votes in the state.

Mr Schmidt and his team have been receiving death threats from angry Trump supporters.

“It’s important we all stay focused on our job, which is counting votes, cast on election day, by eligible voters,” he said.

“It’s really important for us here at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where our election operations are centred, to remain focused on our job.”

He said “a constellation of agencies” were protecting them. 

“It’s not easy for any of us here. There’s a real disconnect between the job that we are doing, which is a good thing,” he said.

“We just had the most transparent and secure election in the history of Philadelphia. And the people here work night and day to do our job, and count those votes.” 

On Sunday Mr Schmidt told 60 Minutes that he had been taken aback by the “deranged” accusations of fraud in his state.

“From the inside looking out, it feels all very deranged,” he said. 

“At the end of the day we are counting eligible votes, cast by voters. The controversy surrounding it is something I don't understand.”

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