Fraud allegations aimed at keeping Trump faithful
WASHINGTON — According to top officials, campaign assistants and associates who speak to The Associated Press, the Trump campaign 's plan to file a barrage of litigation opposing President-elect Joe Biden 's victory is all about presenting President Donald Trump with an off-ramp for a defeat he can't yet understand and less about altering the election results.
Trump vowed legal action in the coming days when he declined to give Biden his defeat, giving donors an ambitious pitch to help fund the court battle. Trump and his campaign leveled allegations of large-scale electoral fraud in Pennsylvania and other states that broke for Biden without evidence.
But evidence isn't the issue, people said. The AP consulted with 10 senior Trump leaders, campaign aids, and supporters who were not allowed to address the matter publicly and spoke on anonymity.
Trump advisors and associates have secretly agreed that court battles would — at best — forestall the unavoidable, and others had serious doubts about the president's efforts to weaken trust in elections. But they said Trump and a small group of supporters aimed to keep his loyal fan base by his side even in defeat.
In recent memory, there was no presidential election involving such systematic fraud. The nearest was the 1960 election when Democrat John F. Kennedy defeated Republican Richard Nixon, although sporadic claims that bribery helped Kennedy win.
Moments after the AP called Biden's race, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani stood in front of a campaign banner tapped over a landscaping company's garage door in Philadelphia, wedged between a cremation center and an adult book shop called "Fantasy Island," with a couple of vote watchers, and declared that they were too far away to search for any inaccuracies. Anything fishy happened, he said.
"We don't know and we've been given the right to review ballots," he said.
Partisan poll watchers are named by a political group or campaign to report their concerns. They're not poll workers who really count votes. Monitoring polling sites and election offices is permitted in most jurisdictions, although laws differ, and there are limitations to prevent abuse or coercion. They are not permitted to intervene with election actions and are usually expected to pre-register with local election office.
This year, owing to the coronavirus that killed over 230,000 people around the country, there was lawsuits in a few states, including Pennsylvania, where poll watchers could stand to ensure social distance.
Lawyers could theoretically contend that the vote count could be set aside on fraud found by poll watchers, but to win the case they would require solid facts, not just claims that monitors could not see well enough. Judges are loath to disenfranchise any electorate and there has to be substantial evidence that bribery has harmed the count to be set aside. And it can happen through several states.
Democratic poll watchers, even granted fair access, did not pose questions. Giuliani called the press conference proof of deception. He said he would bring suit in state court, but the matter was already before judges.
A federal judge in Philadelphia directed both parties to hammer out a compromise on the number of vote watchers and how close they could be to counting. The judge also expressed fears over poll workers ' safety during the pandemic if poll watchers were permitted to look over their heads.
On Fox News Channel's "Sunday Morning Futures" Sunday, Giuliani said two separate cases were being prepared in response to ongoing Pennsylvania litigation.
By this week's end, Giuliani said the campaign will have filed "four or five" lawsuits, with a total of 10 likely. Republican attorneys scheduled Monday's press conference to announce more lawsuits.
Voter fraud is very unlikely, because when it does, people are normally caught and convicted because it doesn't affect the electoral results. Usually, it concerns somebody that needs to fulfill a loved one 's desires who passed recently and then intentionally or not performing a felony while filling out the vote.
Trump campaign officials have alleged more than 21,000 were cast in Pennsylvania 's death name. The allegations stem from the litigation of a conservative legal organization against the Secretary of State, accusing her of misincluding about 21,000 reportedly deceased people on voting lists.
The federal judge who has the lawsuit, John Jones, said he doubted the allegations. He said the Public Interest Law Foundation that brought the charges was urging the court to agree that there were dead people on polling lists, and called for evidence and asked if they had refused to bring suit until the "eleventh hour."
"We can't and won't take the plaintiff's word for it — in an election where every vote counts, we won't disenfranchise potentially qualified electors based purely on private foundation claims," he wrote in an Oct. 20 decision.
But even though those 21,000 votes were cast away, according to AP results, Biden would still lead the state by more than 20,000 votes.
Trump's own administration fought back on the allegations of systematic voter fraud and fraudulent voting, though Trump wasn't the one making the claims. The Cybersecurity and Technology Protection Department, the government agency overseeing U.S. election management, has noted local election offices have identification mechanisms that "make it very hard to commit fraud by counterfeit ballots."
Top election officials in the battlefield states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Nevada — both Republican and Democrat — have both said they don't see significant electoral violations, big bribery or criminal activity.
Meanwhile, Saturday, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien urged them to be able to continue advocating for Trump, including standing by for marches and protests. Others explained what they argued were count anomalies.
And Republicans sticked to the notion of counting all "valid" votes — the rhetoric freighted with a strong inference that Democrats want counted fraudulent votes, an argument for which there is no proof.
It's a delicate mix for Trump's allies as they continue to help the president — and stop causing more fallout — but face the vote count truth.
According to one Republican given anonymity to discuss private conversation, Republicans on Capitol Hill allowed Trump the space to consider his legal choices, allowing the procedure to take place.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn't made any comments yet — either congratulating Biden or joining Trump 's concerns about the outcome.
"I'm not sure his stance will have improved from yesterday — count all the votes, adjudicate all the arguments," said Scott Jennings, a Kentucky Republican strategist associated with McConnell. "My sense is there won't be tolerance beyond what statute requires. Tolerance for what the legislation requires.
Several other Republicans didn't accept or oppose the outcome, echoing it.
"Nothing I've seen about the election poses a successful legal problem. There's none there, "said Barry Richard, who led George W. Bush in Florida's 2000 recount that concluded before the U.S. Supreme tribunal. "When those cases are filed, it causes disrespect for the whole justice system," he added.