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A confederacy of dunces
The Trump campaign and its allies have filed dozens of cases seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election. None, however, appeared more important to the Trump campaign than its federal case in Pennsylvania. That was the only case where Rudy Giuliani, who is in charge of the campaign's legal effort, appeared personally to present his arguments in court.
It did not go well. On Saturday evening, Judge Matthew W. Brann dismissed the case in a scathing decision:
In this action, the Trump Campaign and the Individual Plaintiffs seek to discard millions of votes legally cast by Pennsylvanians from all corners – from Greene County to Pike County, and everywhere in between. In other words, Plaintiffs ask this Court to disenfranchise almost seven million voters...One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption, such that this Court would have no option but to regrettably grant the proposed injunctive relief despite the impact it would have on such a large group of citizens. That has not happened. Instead, this Court has been presented with 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.
This was not a decision written by a liberal activist. Before his nomination by President Obama, Brann "was involved in Republican politics, the NRA and the Federalist Society." He was nominated on the recommendation of Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA).
After the decision, Toomey issued a statement saying that, although he voted for Trump and wanted to see him reelected, Biden had won. "President Trump should accept the outcome of the election and facilitate the presidential transition process," Toomey said. On Sunday, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who helped Trump prepare for his debates against Biden, said that "the conduct of the President's legal team has been a national embarrassment." Christie said that evidence of fraud, long-promised by Trump's lawyers, "does not exist."
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R), who is among the small group of Republicans recognizing Biden's win, said Sunday that he was "embarrassed that more people in the party aren't speaking up."
Toomey, Christie, and Hogan, however, are in a distinct minority. The overwhelming majority of national Republican officials, particularly those in elected positions, are backing the president's efforts and refusing to acknowledge that Biden is the President-elect.
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign's legal team is embracing increasingly bizarre conspiracy theories.
Trump campaign alleges massive conspiracy involving Georgia's Republican Governor, Venezuela, the CIA, and Bernie Sanders
Trump is angry with Fox News, which has reliably produced hours of pro-Trump propaganda every day of his presidency, for declaring Joe Biden the winner. Trump has promoted Newsmax, an obscure website and TV network owned by his friend Christopher Ruddy, as an alternative. Since Election Day, Newsmax has reliably parroted Trump's claims of massive voter fraud.
On Saturday night, Sidney Powell, one of the top attorneys on Trump's legal team, appeared on Newsmax and alleged a massive conspiracy involving thousands of people to rig voting machines against Trump. The scandal, Sidney Powell said, is "so big no one wants to wrap their heads around it."
The scheme, according to Powell, has been in the works for "multiple decades" and was initially created by Hugo Chavez with technology he obtained from the CIA. She claims that Dominion voting machines are set up so that people can "literally drag and drop hundreds of thousands of votes wherever they want them."
All of this is false. Dominion machines have no connection to Chavez or Venezuela. There is one company involved in voting technology with Venezuelan founders, Smartmatic. But it is a separate company, and Dominion told The Dispatch that “no Smartmatic software has ever been used by the company.” Claims that Dominion machines were found shifting votes from Trump to Biden were also definitively debunked.
Powell said that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), two outspoken Trump supporters, were part of the scheme to steal the election for Biden. This scheme also involved, according to Powell, "thousands" of other people, including "the people running the machines at each of the polling centers."
Why would Kemp and Raffensperger conspire to steal an election from a president they both support? Powell suggested, without providing any evidence, that they were paid off. "The state bureau of investigation ought to be looking into the financial benefits received by Mr. Kemp and the Secretary of State's family," she said.
Powell also said that Hillary Clinton stole the 2016 primary from Bernie Sanders by rigging the same machines. Sanders was told what happened but stayed quiet in exchange for "money to buy another fabulous house."
Powell promised a "biblical" new legal filing in Georgia next week that will "blow up" the state. She's also not worried about the fact that the election results in Georgia were already certified in Georgia and elsewhere. "I could wait a month to file the fraud case, and everyone would have to undo their certifications because it's so bad," Powell said.
Powell suggests the Georgia Senate election was rigged for Kelly Loeffler
Notably, in the Newsmax interview, Powell claimed that, on Election Day, the voting machines were rigged in favor of Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), who will face Raphael Warnock in a January run-off election. Powell said that the "real vote" would show that Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA) would have won and face Warnock.
We don't know who bought their election... I'm sure it crosses party lines... I'm reasonably certain [the Republican nominee for Senate in Michigan] John James was ripped out of his seat, and he was entitled to have won that election by the real vote, and the same thing is true for Doug Collins in Georgia.
Popular Information highlighted these comments on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, and the information went viral. A Loeffler victory in Georgia is critical for the Republican effort to maintain their Senate majority. Now Powell is suggesting that Loeffler cheated to advance to the run-off.
Four hours later, the Trump campaign issued a statement claiming that Powell is "practicing law on her own" and is "not a member of the Trump legal team."
This is false. On November 14, Trump tweeted that Powell was part of his legal team.
Last Thursday, Powell spoke at an official Trump campaign press conference with Rudy Giuliani and other members of the Trump campaign legal team.
And Powell has repeatedly appeared on television as a representative of the Trump campaign.
QAnon takes center stage
The Republican electorate has been primed to accept the Trump campaign's wild claims of voter fraud through the QAnon conspiracy — the belief that Trump is in the process of taking down a cannibalistic pedophile cult run by Democrats and Hollywood elites.
An October survey found that 52% of Trump supporters believe "President Trump is working to dismantle an elite child-sex trafficking ring involving top Democrats." A November survey found that "Fifty-two percent of Republicans said that Trump 'rightfully won'" the election.
Powell has promoted QAnon. She has "retweeted major QAnon accounts, including that of Tracey Diaz, identified by NBC as one of the three people who helped take QAnon from the obscure 4chan message board to a more mainstream audience." Powell has also "tweeted '#TheStormIsComing' and '#TheStorm,' phrases regularly used by QAnon supporters." She was a lawyer for former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who "posted a video of himself and his family on Independence Day pledging allegiance to the movement by reciting the QAnon oath."
With a few exceptions, Republican elected officials have adopted the posture of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). McConnell says that Trump is “100 percent within his right” to pursue litigation and refuses to acknowledge that Biden won.
But Trump isn't pursuing a rational legal strategy. Judges have repeatedly rejected Trump's claims as baseless — as a matter of fact and law. Those are the arguments that McConnell and most other elected Republicans are still legitimizing. And if they continue to do so, things will continue to deteriorate.