Trump lawyer Giuliani claims voter 'fraud' in long-shot Pennsylvania challenge
By Jan Wolfe and Brad Heath (Reuters) - Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told a judge on Tuesday in the president's suit seeking to block President-elect Joe Biden from being certified as the victor in Pennsylvania that there was widespread national voting fraud but offered no evidence in the long-shot challenge to Trump's election loss.
By Jan Wolfe and Brad Heath
(Reuters) - Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told a judge on Tuesday in the president's suit seeking to block President-elect Joe Biden from being certified as the victor in Pennsylvania that there was widespread national voting fraud but offered no evidence in the long-shot challenge to Trump's election loss.
Lawyers for Pennsylvania rejected Giuliani's fraud allegations and asked U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann in a federal court hearing in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to throw out Trump's lawsuit.
A loss in the case would likely doom Trump's already-remote prospects of altering the election's outcome.
As the hearing unfolded, Pennsylvania's highest state court issued a ruling against Trump's campaign in a separate lawsuit that could hobble his case before Brann.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the elections board in Philadelphia, the state's largest city, acted reasonably in keeping Trump campaign observers behind barricades and 15 feet (4.5 meters) away from counting tables, rejecting an appeal from Trump's campaign.
During the federal court hearing, Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and senior federal prosecutor who has not been a courtroom regular for decades, told Brann there was "widespread, nationwide voter fraud" in the Nov. 3 election, but provided no evidence to back up that claim.
Daniel Donovan, a lawyer for Pennsylvania's top election official, said Trump's campaign did not allege irregularities that would change the outcome in the state. Donovan called the state's handling of the election during a pandemic a success. Donovan argued that Trump's campaign was asking a federal court to "micromanage" routine differences in county practices.
Giuliani said there was a history of voter fraud in large U.S. cities, adding, without offering evidence, that the expansion of mail-in voting in 2020 allowed officials to take advantage of a public health crisis, the coronavirus pandemic.
Donovan said the Trump campaign's alleged injuries are "speculative" and "cannot give them standing in federal court."
The Trump campaign on Sunday narrowed the case to focus on a claim that voters in the state were improperly allowed to fix ballots that had been rejected because of technical errors such as missing a "secrecy envelope."
Pennsylvania officials have said a small number of ballots were fixed. Trump's campaign, however, is asking Brann to halt certification of Biden's victory in the state. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar is due to certify the election results next Monday, meaning Brann is expected to rule quickly.
Trump's campaign said Democratic-leaning counties unlawfully identified mail-in ballots before Election Day that had defects so that voters could fix, or "cure," them. Pennsylvania officials said all of the state's counties were permitted to inform residents if their mail-in ballots were deficient, even if it was not mandatory for them to do so.
Biden, due to take office on Jan. 20, is projected to have won the state by more than 70,000 votes, giving him 49.9% of the state's votes to 48.8% for Trump.
Hours before the hearing, Brann allowed Giuliani to formally appear in the case. Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday that Giuliani was spearheading a new team to pursue the campaign's legal fight.
Trump, the first U.S. president to lose a re-election bid since 1992, has called the election "rigged," has made unsubstantiated claims of widespread voting fraud and has falsely claimed victory. State election officials around the country have said they have found no such fraud.
Biden clinched the election by winning Pennsylvania to put him over the 270 state-by-state electoral votes needed. Biden, a Democrat, won 306 Electoral College votes overall to the Republican Trumps 232, Edison Research said on Friday.
Brann at one point paused the hearing due to technical problems with an audio feed by telephone of the proceedings.
The Trump campaign has had difficulty retaining legal counsel to take on its post-election challenges including the Pennsylvania case. On Monday, three lawyers representing the campaign asked to withdraw from the case, saying the campaign consented to the move but offering little explanation. Brann allowed two of the three to drop out.
The campaign and Trump supporters have filed lawsuits in multiple states that legal experts have said stand little chance of changing the election outcome. A senior Biden legal adviser has dismissed the litigation as "theatrics, not really lawsuits."
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe abd Brad Heath; Additional reporting by Tom Hals and Nate Raymond; Editing by Will Dunham, Lincoln Feast, Howard Goller and Noeleen Walder)
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