Trump campaign drops claim that GOP poll observers weren't allowed to watch Pennsylvania vote count

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Rudy Giuliani
Rudy Giuliani

Attorney for the President, Rudy Giuliani speaks to the media at a press conference held in the back parking lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping on November 7, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The press conference took place just minutes after news networks announced that Joe Biden had won the presidency over Donald Trump after it was projected that he had won the state of Pennsylvania. Chris McGrath/Getty Images

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President Donald Trump's campaign has dropped the allegation from its federal lawsuit challenging the results of Pennsylvania's election which claimed that hundreds of thousands of ballots in the key swing state had been illegally counted without Republican poll observers present.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani had vowed the lawsuit would overturn the results of the election, presumably by invalidating the votes of hundreds of thousands of citizens. The lame-duck president and his personal attorney repeatedly claimed that more than 600,000 ballots in Pennsylvania had been improperly processed without Republican poll observers present.

Republican election officials confirmed they were allowed to monitor the process and denied any irregularities. Independent fact-checkers have likewise found no evidence to corroborate the Trump Team's allegations.

The campaign quietly dropped the accusation from its lawsuit on Sunday. And Porter Wright, the law firm which filed the legal challenge, withdrew from the case entirely, the campaign's lawyers confirmed in a court filing.

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Even though the allegation was struck from its lawsuit, the Trump campaign denied that it had dropped its argument.

"We are still making the strong argument that 682,479 ballots were counted in secret," campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told The Washington Post. "Our poll watchers were denied the legal right to meaningful access to vote counting and we still have that claim in our complaint. We have preserved our rights to make these arguments."

But the amended complaint filed by the campaign showed that its lawyers had redlined the allegation in its lawsuit, allowing the public to see exactly what claims it was "abandoning," according to Reuters reporter Jan Wolfe.

The lawsuit now focuses on complaints that "Democratic-heavy" counties made it easier to fix mail-in ballot mistakes like missing signatures, while "Republican-heavy counties" did not.

The claim would affect an "insignificant number of ballots," noted Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. It now focuses on the fact that many Republican-leaning counties "didn't choose to provide the same ballot-curing opportunities as larger," Democratic-leaning counties.

Cliff Levine, a lawyer for the Democratic National Committee, told the Associated Press that the number of ballots which could potentially be affected by the lawsuit was minimal — and not enough to impact the nearly 70,000-vote margin in the state.

"The numbers aren't even close to the margin between the two candidates," he said. "Not even close."

The Trump lawsuit claims that Republican-heavy counties "followed the law and did not provide a notice and cure process, disenfranchising many." However, Levine pointed out that there was not a state law barring counties from allowing voters to fix their ballots.

"They really should be suing the counties that didn't allow (voters) to make corrections," he said. "The goal should be making sure every vote counts."

Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, called on the judge to dismiss the lawsuit in a court filing, arguing that the amended complaint "materially narrows the pending allegations to a single claim."

Trump refuses to concede, even though he would need to overturn the popular vote in at least three states to change the outcome of the presidential election. The Republican has vowed to prove the contest was stolen from him, but election officials across the country in his own party have said there was no evidence at all of widespread voter fraud or irregularities.

Not only has Trump's team failed to show any evidence of widespread fraud but also their lawsuits have been legally dubious. So far, the Trump campaign has lost 12 of 13 cases, according to Politico.

In Pennsylvania, a lawyer for the Trump campaign admitted that the team had a "nonzero number of people" observing vote counting. The admission prompted a judge to ask, "Then what is your problem?" NBC News correspondent Pete Williams noted that the Trump campaign and the Republican Party were now 0 for 5 in their Philadelphia lawsuits alone.

Republicans have also alleged there were improprieties in the ballot-counting in Michigan but lost both times in court after failing to provide any evidence of wrongdoing.

Trump's campaign also filed a lawsuit in Georgia targeting a small number of ballots which it alleged might have been submitted after polls closed. A judge rejected the suit after finding "no evidence" of impropriety.

Along with the Pennsylvania suit, the campaign also dropped multiple complaints in Arizona and Nevada, where it targeted a small number of ballots which would fall well short of the number needed to change the results.

Barry Richard, a longtime Republican lawyer who was a key part of the 2000 George W. Bush recount case, told Politico that the Trump legal team's strategy was par for the course.

"This is just purely outlandish stuff," he said. "But we have an outlandish president, so I guess this makes sense."

Ted Olson, who represented Bush in the Bush v. Gore case, and David Boies, who represented Al Gore, penned a joint op-ed in The Washington Post over the weekend refuting that the "outcome of this election is somehow in doubt, as it was in 2000."

While the 2000 case was centered on just more than 500 votes in Florida, the margins are in the tens of thousands in the states that Trump would need to flip. There has "simply" not been any "evidence of system or widespread fraud or miscounting in those states," the lawyers wrote.

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The idea that the Republican secretary of state in Georgia is part of a vast conspiracy is "ludicrous" and "wrong," they said, adding that election officials and poll workers around the country "worked tirelessly and conscientiously to count all legal votes fairly" and "deserve praise and gratitude — not to be the targets of unsupported attacks on their integrity."

"Political candidates . . . have an obligation not to inflame passions and undermine the public's faith in democracy with unsupported charges of fraud and malfeasance. And the lawyers who represent those candidates have an obligation to the courts, of which they are officers, not to make frivolous claims or arguments," they added. "The sooner that Trump and his supporters accept the election result, the better it will be for the nation."