A federal judge on Saturday dealt a blow to Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election, dismissing a lawsuit in Pennsylvania as shoddy, without evidence and contrary to the US constitution.
The dismissal of the Trump campaign’s lawsuit, which had sought to block the certification of Joe Biden’s win in the battleground state, was the latest courtroom defeat for the president in his unprecedented effort to cling to office despite losing the election.
The ruling prompted Pat Toomey, the GOP senator from Pennsylvania, to call on the president to concede in a Saturday evening statement.
“President Trump has exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the result of the presidential race in Pennsylvania,” said Mr Toomey, adding explicitly that Mr Biden had won the election, an admission most Republicans have refused to make.
“President Trump should accept the outcome of the election and facilitate the presidential transition process,” Mr Toomey added.
The dismissal of the case was ordered by Judge Matthew Brann, a conservative appointed by Barack Obama in 2012 at Mr Toomey’s recommendation. Judge Brann wrote in an excoriating 37-page opinion that the Trump campaign had sought to disenfranchise almost seven million voters in Pennsylvania, but had presented only “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence”.
“In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more,” he added.
Judge Brann dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled. The Trump campaign said it would appeal the ruling to the Third
Circuit Court of Appeals as part of a strategy to “get expeditiously
to the US Supreme Court”.
“We hope that the Third Circuit will be as gracious as Judge Brann in deciding our appeal one way or the other as expeditiously as possible,” said Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who represents Mr Trump, and Jenna Ellis, a Trump campaign legal adviser.
The ruling came ahead of Monday’s deadline for Pennsylvania counties to submit their final certified vote totals to Kathy Boockvar, the Pennsylvania secretary of state. The milestone is one of a series that will make Mr Biden’s victory official.
On Friday, Georgia, which has a Republican governor and secretary of state, confirmed Mr Biden’s victory in the state, while two top Republican lawmakers in Michigan publicly rejected suggestions they intervene to overturn Mr Biden’s victory there. Michigan may certify its results on Monday.
The Trump campaign said on Saturday it had filed for a recount in Georgia. The recount would be conducted by machine and is not expected to change the outcome. A just completed hand-recount in Georgia did not significantly alter Mr Biden’s margin of victory.
The developments have begun to undermine Republican support for Mr Trump’s refusal to accept that he lost the election, though most GOP politicians have not acknowledged Mr Biden’s win.
On Friday, Liz Cheney, the number three top Republican in the House of Representatives, told Mr Trump to abide by his oath of office “by respecting the sanctity of our electoral process” and said he should produce any evidence of mass election fraud “immediately”.
The Trump campaign had sued Ms Boockvar, the Pennsylvania secretary of state, and several Democrat-controlled Pennsylvania counties earlier this month to prevent the state certifying its results. They were joined by two individual voters who attempted but failed to vote in counties not targeted in the case. Judge Brann had held a hearing on Tuesday where the Trump campaign was represented by Mr Giuliani after two separate teams of lawyers had withdrawn from the case.
In his opinion on Saturday, the judge cited the case’s “tortured procedural history”, noting that “Plaintiffs have made multiple attempts at amending the pleadings, and have had attorneys both appear and withdraw in a matter of seventy-two hours.”
The Trump campaign’s lawsuit alleged that guidance Ms Boockvar had issued encouraging all counties to help voters correct errors with their ballots resulted in constitutional violations because it was followed primarily by Democratic-run counties rather than those run by Republicans.
Judge Brann dismissed the claim in his opinion, writing that “like Frankenstein’s Monster” it had been “haphazardly stitched together”.
He found that while the individual voters had suffered injuries that would allow them to file a lawsuit, they sued the wrong counties and that, in any case, blocking the certification of Pennsylvania’s presidential election was the wrong remedy.
“Rather than requesting that their votes be counted, they seek to discredit scores of other votes, but only for one race. This is simply not how the Constitution works,” he wrote.
He said the Trump campaign, by contrast, had no standing to sue at all. Judge Brann wrote that Mr Trump’s lawyers had failed to “clearly assert” any injury the campaign suffered, and said its “attempt to craft a legal theory” from the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bush v. Gore in 2000 were similarly deficient. “They misapprehend the issues at play in that case,” he wrote.
Michael Gwin, a Biden campaign spokesman, said: “The judge’s ruling couldn’t be clearer: our people, laws, and institutions demand more — and our country will not tolerate Trump’s attempt to reverse the results of an election that he decisively lost.”