Pennsylvania Certifies Biden as Winner, Driving Stake in Trump’s Legal Effort

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Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty
Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty

Authorities in Pennsylvania put an official seal on President-elect Joe Biden’s victory there Tuesday—and rammed a stake through President Donald Trump’s attempts to resurrect his dreams of a second term through legal challenges.

Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar finalized the result while Team Trump still had an appeal of its last federal court loss pending.

Legal experts told The Daily Beast the Pennsylvania certification has likely rendered that suit moot. Gov. Tom Wolf announced he has now signed off on the panel of electors, who will cast their votes for Biden at the Electoral College next month.

“It's a constitutional act, and once it takes place, it takes place—you can't undo it,” Stuart Gerson, a top Department of Justice official under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, said in an interview.

Gerson said Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani, who is heading the campaign’s nearly winless legal effort, and the rest of the “elite strike force” of lawyers might yet unleash a few more zombie lawsuits on the judiciary.

But he gave them small odds of success, given Saturday’s scathing ruling from U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann on the most recent suit in Pennsylvania—as well as a decision from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the remaining challenge awaits action, on a separate Pennsylvania election case. Gerson intends to file a friend-of-the-court brief, urging the appeals bench to reject the Trump campaign’s request to “stay the effect of the certification,” a legally nebulous phrase.

“The group of lawyers that has been representing the plaintiffs [the Trump campaign] has taken such unusual and shifting positions, as Judge Brann described in detail, that they very well might try to concoct a new theory somehow justifying a stay,” said Gerson. “The whole action is without merit and a recent Third Circuit opinion, also discussed by Brann, likely dooms the case there.”

Charles Fried, a Harvard law professor who served as President Ronald Reagan’s solicitor general, agreed.

"I suppose they can always say it's an unlawful certification or something like that,” Fried told The Daily Beast. "We are in a very weird world.”

But Fried predicted the case would be dead-on-arrival in the Third Circuit, as did Penn State Harrisburg Professor Daniel Mallinson, a longtime expert on state politics and policy.

“I know of no situation where a certification has been overturned. It seems highly unlikely that Trump campaign’s cases will get traction,” Mallinson said. “It looks like this is proceeding to its normal conclusion.”

Pennsylvania’s move came a day after certification by Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers, following Trump’s abandonment of the last federal lawsuit in the Midwest battleground. Georgia signed off on Biden’s triumph there last week, and Nevada is scheduled to do so today. Arizona and Wisconsin will finalize their results on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, respectively.

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