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Trump’s narrowly focused election suits unlikely to make any difference

Biden lawyer calls lawsuits ‘meritless’

Members of the Georgia Tech women's basketball team hold signs outside of McCamish Pavilion, which served as a polling place on Election Day in Atlanta on Tuesday.
Members of the Georgia Tech women's basketball team hold signs outside of McCamish Pavilion, which served as a polling place on Election Day in Atlanta on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A flurry of postelection legal action from President Donald Trump’s campaign focuses so far on small numbers of ballots or basics like observing ongoing counts, moves that likely would affect the outcome only if states have extremely close vote tallies.

The lawsuits and announcements of actions in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia pit Trump and his backers against not only Democratic challenger Joe Biden but also social media sites like Twitter that have flagged their statements about election challenges as potentially misleading.

Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller tweeted Thursday that they scored a “Massive legal victory in Philly just now,” complete with two red sirens emojis.

Twitter put a warning on Miller’s tweet, as well as on a Trump tweet that said, “ANY VOTE THAT CAME IN AFTER ELECTION DAY WILL NOT BE COUNTED!”

But the victory appeared far from pivotal to the race for the White House, although Justin Clark of the Trump campaign told reporters that he “can’t stress enough how big a victory this is.”

A state court guaranteed that Trump campaign observers could watch the counting of ballots in Philadelphia — a “corrupt place, that is known for its shenanigans on Election Day and after,” Clark said. “And we’re going to demand that we’re able to review all the things that they’ve done to date.”

“We’re going to continue to fight to make sure that every legal vote is counted, and we’re going to continue to fight to make sure that they’re not counting votes that came in after Election Day,” Clark added. “We’re in this fight, we’re going to stay in it.”

Bob Bauer, the top Biden campaign lawyer, said Thursday that the lawsuit is about an “utterly immaterial” matter.

Currently, Trump holds a lead in the Keystone State, but some experts predict Biden could overtake him as mail-in ballots are counted in Philadelphia and other Democratic strongholds.

The Trump administration is also seeking to join a Republican lawsuit at the Supreme Court that focuses only on ballots that arrive in the three days after Election Day, an extension that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed.

It’s still unclear how many ballots that might be, and whether the margin of victory in Pennsylvania would be so thin that those votes could affect the outcome, as well as which candidate wins the Electoral College vote.

Also in Pennsylvania on Thursday, Kathy Barnette, the Republican challenger who lost to Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean, pulled back on an effort in federal court to have Montgomery County election officials set aside some mail ballots. In the motion, Barnette cited a state court hearing Friday over a separate case that may decide the issue.

The Trump campaign on Thursday was also in a Georgia court on a lawsuit that focuses on 53 late absentee ballots they say were illegally added to a stack of on-time absentee ballots in Chatham County. A judge dismissed the case.

Trump holds a narrow lead in the Peach State, where votes continue to be counted in Democratic strongholds such as the Atlanta area. Republicans in that state are contemplating more lawsuits as the tally tightens, The New York Times reported.

The Trump campaign, in a Michigan courtroom on Thursday, also pressed a lawsuit about observer access to counting. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has called the lawsuit “frivolous.” A judge denied the campaign’s effort to halt voting.

And the Trump campaign announced Thursday it would file a federal lawsuit on mail-in ballots later Thursday in Nevada, where Biden leads and election officials are still counting in a tight race.

“We have heard a number of reports about voter fraud, a number of reports and concerns regarding these mass unsolicited ballots that were sent out to culinary workers that no longer even live in the state of Nevada,” Miller said.

“So we will literally be going through every single ballot that this clubhouse governor sent out to people, whether they’re in the state or not,” Miller added.

Clark said the campaign would launch a website Thursday to give voters another way to report “fraud and abuse they’re seeing with their own two eyes.”

Bauer said Thursday that the lawsuits are “meritless” and intended only to give the Trump campaign an opportunity to argue that vote counting should stop.

“For their purposes, these lawsuits don’t have to have merit, that’s not the purpose. It’s not to bring bona fide claims before the courts,” Bauer said. “It is to create an opportunity for them to message falsely about what’s taking place in the electoral process.”

Bauer said the Georgia lawsuit demands that state election officials separate late-arriving ballots from ballots that arrived on time, which is something Georgia law already requires.

“This strategy of disrupting the vote count is doomed to fail, but in the background the noise is fraud, irregularity and the like,” and the lawsuits are for that purpose, Bauer said.

Michael Macagnone contributed to this report.

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