Trump Election Challenges Hamstrung by Hapless Witnesses

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Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast
Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Donald Trump’s last-ditch campaign legal efforts have centered on witnesses who allege that they witnessed voter fraud and other suspicious activity in battleground states across the country. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has brandished stacks of papers detailing what she said were hundreds of affidavits from allegedly aggrieved voters or poll-watchers in TV appearances, and the MAGA faithful have seized on the allegations as proof that Trump secretly won the election.

But when those claims actually reach a judge, the allegations collapse in often spectacular fashion—putting one more roadblock in Trump’s attempts to wrestle the election away from President-elect Joe Biden.

The latest bruising response to Trump’s voter witnesses came Friday in a state court order from Michigan. The Trump campaign had asked Chief Judge Timothy M. Kenny to block the certification of Michigan’s votes, citing a number of witnesses who alleged seeing suspicious things happening with the ballot count, mostly at Detroit’s TCF Center.

But when Kenny actually saw the witness claims, he wasn’t impressed. In his Friday opinion, Kenny rejected the Trump campaign’s request, describing one witness affidavit as “rife with speculation and guess-work about sinister motives.”

Instead of alleging voter fraud, Kenny said, many of the accusations made by witnesses in fact described routine vote-counting procedures. Had the Republican challengers only attended an optional walk-through training of the site, according to Kenny, they would not have been so alarmed.

“There is no evidentiary basis to attribute any evil activity by virtue of the city using a rental truck with out-of-state license plates,” Kenny wrote in response to one complaint.

Kenny also rejected claims of voting irregularities made by Melissa Carone, an IT contractor for Dominion Voting Systems, whose voting machines have figured into vote-theft conspiracy theories about the election that have been boosted by Trump. Carone has made appearances across right-wing media as a sort of star witness for the Trump campaign propping up the “rigged” election narrative, but Kenny decided that her allegations didn’t match any other witness statements.

Experts: Trump’s New Michigan Lawsuit Is Recycled Junk

“The allegations simply are not credible,” Kenny wrote.

Carone has run into similar problems on her tour of pro-Trump media. In a Thursday appearance on Fox Business host Lou Dobbs’s show, Carone told an odd story about pollworkers not receiving enough meals that left even Dobbs baffled.

The Trump campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Trump campaign witnesses have also run into trouble in Arizona. On Thursday, the campaign took bogus allegations about Sharpie pens being used to invalidate votes to court in Maricopa County. Once again, their alleged voter fraud witnesses failed to make the campaign’s case.

The Sharpie conspiracy theory—dubbed “Sharpiegate” by Trump allies—centers on the idea that poll workers deliberately gave Republican voters Sharpies to render their ballots uncountable. But Sharpie use wouldn’t invalidate ballots, according to election officials across the state.

Instead, many of the witnesses cited by Trump lawyers in Maricopa County were only alleging after the fact that they may have seen something suspicious—even if they couldn’t exactly say what that thing was. Some, for example, complained about poll workers who pressed various buttons, but they were unable to prove that there was anything nefarious in the button-pressing.

The Maricopa Superior Court judge also removed various Trump campaign accusations, gathered via internet forum, from the record, questioning whether soliciting “evidence” on the internet could reliably bring in credible claims. Making matters worse, a Trump campaign lawyer eventually conceded that the campaign was not alleging fraud, instead pointing out “good faith errors.”

On Friday, the judge dismissed the Arizona case, since Biden had built up such a lead that the ruling wouldn’t affect whether Biden or Trump won the state.

Even outside of courtrooms, Trump’s supposed voter fraud witnesses have failed to back up their claims. U.S. Postal Service mail carrier Richard Hopkins briefly became a star on the right in the aftermath of the election, after he alleged that postal workers in Pennsylvania were backdating ballots to meet the Nov. 3 deadline. Hopkins’ claims were championed by conservative operative James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas group, and Hopkins raised more than $100,000 on GoFundMe.

In an interview with postal investigators, though, Hopkins recanted his claims. While he later claimed in an interview with O’Keefe that he felt misled by the investigators, audio released of the interview released by Project Veritas confirmed that Hopkins had recanted at least some of his voter fraud allegations.

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