In Harsh Rebuke, Appeals Court Rejects Trump’s Election Challenge in Pennsylvania

In a blistering decision, a Philadelphia appeals court ruled on Friday that the Trump campaign could not stop — or attempt to reverse — the certification of the voting results in Pennsylvania, reprimanding the president’s team by noting that “calling an election unfair does not make it so.”

The 21-page ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals was a complete repudiation of Mr. Trump’s legal effort to halt Pennsylvania’s certification process and was written by a judge that he himself appointed to the bench. “Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy,” Judge Stephanos Bibas wrote on behalf of the appeals court in a unanimous decision. “Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”

Many courts have used scathing language in tossing out a relentless barrage of lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign and its supporters since Election Day; but even so, the Third Circuit’s ruling was particularly blunt.

“Voters, not lawyers, choose the president,” the court declared at one point. “Ballots, not briefs, decide elections.”

The court accused the Trump campaign of engaging in “repetitive litigation” and pointed out that the public interest strongly favored “counting every lawful voter’s vote, and not disenfranchising millions of Pennsylvania voters who voted by mail.”

Even though Republican plaintiffs have continued filing lawsuits challenging the integrity of the elections and Mr. Trump has not let up on baselessly questioning the election results on Twitter, judges around the country — some of them appointed by Republicans — have held the line, ruling over and over that the legal actions in several swing states lack both merit and sufficient proof.

Last week, a federal judge in Atlanta appointed by Mr. Trump denied an emergency request to halt the certification of Georgia’s vote, saying that such a move “would breed confusion and disenfranchisement that I find have no basis in fact and law.”

Then there was the judge whose ruling was upheld by the Third Circuit, Matthew W. Brann of Federal District Court in Williamsport, Pa. When Judge Brann, a former Republican official and member of the conservative Federalist Society appointed by former President Barack Obama, dealt Mr. Trump’s team an initial legal defeat last Saturday, he likened the suit to “Frankenstein’s monster,” saying it had been “haphazardly stitched together.” He also noted that the suit was filled with “strained legal arguments” and “speculative accusations” that were “unsupported by evidence.”

The Pennsylvania decision came on a day of baseless tweets from Mr. Trump that the election was “a total scam,” that he “won by a lot” and that the news media “refuse to report the real facts and figures.”

Still, when asked on Thursday if he would leave the White House if the Electoral College, as expected, formalizes Mr. Biden’s victory, the president said: “Certainly I will.”

On Friday, moments after the three-judge panel from the Third Circuit handed down its ruling, Jenna Ellis, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, wrote on Twitter that she and Rudolph W. Giuliani, who is leading the president’s postelection legal campaign, planned to appeal to the Supreme Court. In her Twitter post, Ms. Ellis accused “the activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania” of covering up “allegations of massive fraud” despite the fact that all three judges on the panel were appointed by Republicans.

But even if the Supreme Court granted the Trump campaign’s proposed request to reverse the Third Circuit, it would not get much, given the narrow way in which the appeal was structured.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers had asked the appeals court only for permission to file a revised version of its original complaint to Judge Brann. If the Supreme Court abided by the strict terms of the appeal, it could do no more than return the case to Judge Brann’s court for further action.

In a letter to the Third Circuit earlier this week, lawyers for Mr. Trump had suggested that the appeals court could, on its own, reverse the certification of Pennsylvania’s vote, which took place on Tuesday when Gov. Tom Wolf signed off on the slate of 20 electors and solidified President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory there. Georgia certified its vote last week after a hand-recount of its five million ballots left Mr. Biden’s victory intact. But Mr. Trump’s lawyers stopped short of formally requesting such a move.

Still, the appeals court shot down that suggestion too, saying the campaign’s arguments for effectively undoing Pennsylvania’s election had “no merit” and would be “drastic and unprecedented.”

“That remedy would be grossly disproportionate to the procedural challenges raised,” the judges wrote.

In the initial complaint, the campaign’s lawyers had argued there were widespread improprieties with mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania and that Mr. Trump’s poll challengers were not allowed proper access to observe the vote and vote count.

But the appeals court dismissed these arguments as “vague and conclusory.”

Mr. Trump’s lawyers never alleged “that anyone treated the Trump campaign or Trump votes worse than it treated the Biden campaign or Biden votes,” the court wrote. “And federal law does not require poll watchers or specify how they may observe.”

The underlying lawsuit has been beset by legal snafus almost from the moment it began on Nov. 9.

One week after it was filed, the Trump campaign was already on its third set of lawyers. On Nov. 17, Mr. Giuliani, rushing into the matter, personally appeared at a hearing in front of Judge Brann and gave a disjointed opening statement that mentioned Mickey Mouse, former Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago and the Philadelphia mafia.

Mr. Giuliani also contradicted Mr. Trump — and his own public statements — by admitting at the hearing that no one was accusing Pennsylvania elections officials of committing fraud.

“This is not a fraud case,” he said.

The appeals court seemed to throw that statement back in Mr. Giuliani’s face in its decision.

“The Trump presidential campaign asserts that Pennsylvania’s 2020 election was unfair,” it wrote. “But as lawyer Rudolph Giuliani stressed, the campaign ‘doesn’t plead fraud.’”

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Legislature to Seek to Reclaim Power to Appoint Electors: Pennsylvania State Sen. Mastriano

Pennsylvania state Senator Doug Mastriano (R-33) said Friday the Republican controlled legislature will seek to reclaim its power to appoint the state’s electors to the Electoral College. Mastriano made his comments in an interview with former Trump administration official Steve Bannon on the War Room podcast, stating the move could take place as early as today.

Mastriano, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, said he has been working with Pennsylvania House and Senate members on a joint resolution to “grab back” their constitutional authority from the secretary of state that was ceded in 1938.

Mastriano said momentum for the resolution stemmed from the explosive hearing on Wednesday by Senate Republicans in Gettysburg that featured evidence indicating massive fraud that tipped the election for Democrat nominee Joe Biden over President Trump.

Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis appeared in person at the hearing. Trump addressed the hearing for about ten minutes via Ellis’ cellphone. Several witnesses presented allegations and evidence of fraud.

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Mastriano told Bannon he believes two of the four GOP leaders of the House and Senate already support the move to reclaim the power to appoint electors, as do over half of GOP legislators.

Video of War Room podcast cued to Mastriano:

Article will be updated.

Transcript excerpts:

Mastriano: “…So, we’re gonna do a resolution between the House and Senate, hopefully today. I’ve spent two hours online trying to coordinate this with my colleagues. And there’s a lot of good people working this here. Saying, that the resolution saying we’re going to take our power back. We’re gonna seat the electors. Now obviously we’re gonna need the support of the leadership of the House and Senate, we’re getting there on that.”

Mastriano: “…We have that power and we’re gonna take that power back because there’s so much evidence of shenanigans and fraud, we can’t stand aside and watch this unfold around us…”

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Trump Complains About Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decision After It Tosses Out His Campaign’s Lawsuit

Earlier this morning, President Donald Trump complained about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s 5-2 decision to toss out his campaign’s lawsuit alleging that officials in Philadelphia did not allow Republican observers into counting rooms.

The court ruled that election officials did not violate state law by maintaining at least 15 feet of distance between observers and those tasked with counting ballots.

“In sum, we conclude the Board did not act contrary to law in fashioning its regulations governing the positioning of candidate representatives during the pre-canvassing and canvassing process, as the Election Code does not specify minimum distance parameters for the location of such representatives,” the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled. “Critically, we find the Board’s regulations as applied herein were reasonable in that they allowed candidate representatives to observe the Board conducting its activities as prescribed under the Election Code. Accordingly, we determine the Commonwealth Court’s order was erroneous. Thus, we vacate, that order and reinstate the trial court’s order.”

The ruling dealt a significant blow to the Trump campaign and is likely to hurt their chances of contesting the results of the November 3 election in federal court.

They didn’t even allow Republican Observers into the building to watch. A terrible insult to our Constitution!” the president claimed. Given the facts, his tweet was soon flagged under Twitter’s civic integrity policy, which prohibits individuals from disseminating false information about elections.

The decision came the same day  Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani filed for court permission to appear for the Trump campaign in its lawsuit to block certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the state of Pennsylvania. Giuliani claimed during a hearing that “the Democratic machine” kept observers away from the counting rooms and asserted the move was part of “widespread nationwide voter fraud.”

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. A joint statement from the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees said that they found “no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” The statement went on to refer to the 2020 general election as “the most secure in American history.” 

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Pennsylvania Mandating People Wear Masks Inside Their HOMES

Pennsylvania’s Democrat Governor Tom Wolf has announced new COVID restrictions, including ordering people to wear masks inside their own homes.

Additionally, anyone who visits PA from another state must get tested within 72 hours before entering the state or quarantine for 14 days. Residents who traveled to other states must follow same rules when coming home.

There will be an exemption for those who commute to and from another state for work or medical treatment.

Pennsylvanians who have guests over their own homes will be required to wear masks.

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“Strengthening masking order. Masks are still required. Indoors: masks now required anytime you’re with people outside of your household, even if you’re socially distant. Applies to all indoor facilities + if you have people in your home not part of your household,” the PA Department of Health tweeted on Tuesday.

The state already has a mask order for when you leave your home, and occupancy limits on bars and restaurants.

Philadelphia has gone even further, announcing on Monday that they are banning indoor gatherings and dining as well as closing casinos, gyms, museums and libraries.

A judge ruled Wolf’s previous shutdown unconstitutional.

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Breaking New

Trump Again Boasts He Won Pennsylvania And Georgia; Twitter Slaps Him Down

President Donald Trump declared again Friday that he won the states of Pennsylvania and Georgia in the race for the presidency — but Twitter quickly slapped him down.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden has been declared the winner in both states, with his total of electoral votes reaching 306 to Trump’s 232 on Friday, after calls were made in the last two states, Georgia and North Carolina, according to multiple sources.

The president tweeted, without providing evidence, that “700,000 ballots were not allowed to be viewed” by Republican poll watchers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, which “means, based on our great Constitution, we win the State of Pennsylvania!”

Twitter flagged the message with: “Official sources called this election differently.” 

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) mockingly responded to Trump’s latest charge: “Amazing! Congratulations!”

Soon afterward, Trump tweeted a similar baseless story about Georgia — and was slapped down again by a Twitter correction.

The day after the election last week, Trump decreed in a tweet: “We have claimed, for Electoral Vote purposes, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (which won’t allow legal observers) the State of Georgia, and the State of North Carolina, each one of which has a Big Trump lead.”

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After a long night of waiting, both Georgia and Pennsylvania flip to blue

At this point, it’s possible that the the promise of Pennsylvania votes coming in “any minute” may simply be burned into the screen. And yes, it is possible to be both supportive of the volunteers who stayed at their posts overnight, flipping through mail-in ballots under the eye of watching cameras and bipartisan observers, while still being frustrated that we haven’t seen the outcome of that work.

But we should be getting more votes from Pennsylvania … any minute now.

As of 8 AM ET on Friday morning: 

Alaska: Donald Trump still leads after no new votes were reported overnight.

Arizona: Joe Biden is still holding onto a 47,052 vote advantage after a 75,000 vote update from Maricopa County and several small updates came in overnight. About 275,000 ballots are still thought to be outstanding. To win the state, Trump would have to take those votes by around 56%, which is pretty much on track with what has happened so far in post-election tallies. However, there are reasons to believe that the votes remaining are less Trump friendly. In any case, it’s likely to be close.

Georgia: Biden has pulled out to a 1,096 vote advantage. There are roughly 10,000 ballots remaining, however these might not include around 7,000 military ballots and expat ballots that could arrive as late as today. In any case, Biden’s advantage here will likely grow, but don’t expect a call on the state until things are a little more definitive.

Nevada: Biden has an edge of 11,438 votes. About 51,000 votes remaining from highly Democratic Clark County, which is why so much legal attention from Trump’s team is focused on the pretense that the voting there is somehow “illegal.” That includes an illegal use of the postal database to suggest that there are voters who have changed residence but still voted in Clark County, and the use of a woman who claims to be a victim of voter fraud, but may be the only known case of someone actually trying to vote twice in the whole state. In any case, expect Biden’s edge to grow when more votes are added around 2PM ET—at which point the state may be called.

North Carolina: No change overnight, with Trump still holding a 76,000 vote advantage. There’s no reason to believe what’s still outstanding in the state will add it to team blue, though some people are feeling more hopeful after seeing the slow trend toward Biden in Georgia.

Pennsylvania: This state is, of course, the ballgame. Biden could lose all the other remaining states if he took home Pennsylvania. With Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina, and Nevada, Biden would lock up a substantial victory that rebuilt the “blue wall,” made a foray into the South, and added a new wall across the Sunbelt from California to New Mexico. Overnight, Biden added about 43,000 votes to Trump’s 13,000. A similar ratio is expected across the remaining votes, which should easily reverse the 18,000 vote edge Trump currently holds. The status of Pennsylvania really could change … any minute now.

Meanwhile, the Secret Service has increased its protection over Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Like the FAA’s setting of a protective circle around Biden’s home, this isn’t an official confirmation. But it is a sign that behind the scenes the people who are responsible for protecting the president believe that title is going to go to Biden.

Oh, and also Donald Trump made a speech that was all lies, horribly corrosive to the nation, and openly encouraging of authoritarian actions and violence. As expected.

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Sean Hannity Calls For A Do-Over In Pennsylvania As MAGA World Melts Down

In another sign that the MAGA world is melting down as the presidency slips away from Donald Trump, Sean Hannity called for a do-over of the election in Pennsylvania.

“The only remedy I would see at that point is … a do-over in that state,” Hannity said with a straight face. “Something that has never been done in a presidential election.”

Of course, the reason a do-over “has never been done before” is that a losing candidate can’t just call for another election because they don’t like the legal results of the first one.

Hannity’s do-over suggestion is ludicrous and he knows it, but it will provide false hope to his MAGA viewers.

Biden is on the path to winning Pennsylvania

It’s no surprise that Donald Trump and his MAGA hangers-on are melting down in real time and, in Sean Hannity’s case, on live television.

At this hour, Trump’s margin in Pennsylvania continues to shrink at a rapid pace and Biden is likely on track to overtake the president.

The same thing is unfolding in Georgia, as Biden and Trump are in a virtual tie, with the Democratic nominee likely to overtake the president as more votes come in.

Deep down, Donald Trump and his loyalists know that their goose is cooked, and they’re desperately flailing to avoid what is increasingly the unavoidable: President-Elect Joe Biden.

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Democrats Are Confident Biden Has The Votes To Win Pennsylvania By 70-100K

Democrats are expressing confidence as Trump files lawsuits that Biden has the votes to win Pennsylvania by 70,000-100,000.

The numbers:

If Trump thought that he had the votes to win in Pennsylvania, he wouldn’t be filing lawsuits that are trying to toss out ballots and stop the vote count.

The way a campaign behaves toward an expected result is telling. The Biden campaign has expressed nothing but confidence that their candidate will win Pennsylvania. The Trump campaign has been screaming about fraud, filing lawsuits, and accusing Democrats of conspiring against the president.

The state’s Republican majority in the legislature is where the blame should be placed for the delayed count. State Republicans wanted to cause chaos and cast doubt on the mail-in ballots. At the time of publication, Trump’s lead has been steadily falling and now under 3 points and less than 200,000 votes.

Pennsylvania is going to be counting votes all through the night, so by late tonight or early tomorrow morning, Joe Biden could be leading Donald Trump as Pennsylvania could put the Democrat into the White House.

For more discussion about this story join our Rachel Maddow and MSNBC group.

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Gov. Tom Wolf Predicts That Joe Biden Will Win Pennsylvania

Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) explained that Pennsylvania is different than it was in 2016 as he predicted that Biden/Harris would win the state.


Gov. Wolf said when asked about Trump’s chances of winning Pennsylvania on CNN’s State Of The Union, “Anything is possible. But I think Joe Biden is going to win. Things are different now. They just feel different than they did back in 2016. Actually, your former school mate Attorney General Shapiro actually said the same thing, that there are a lot of Biden signs all over places that there never were Hillary Clinton signs back in 2016. So I think Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will do well in Pennsylvania.”

Gov. Wolf is correct. The state feels very different than in 2016.

The reason why Trump was campaigning in rural parts of Western Pennsylvania on Saturday, where he won 70%-80% of the vote in 2016, is that Biden’s support in the deep red parts of the state is higher than Hillary Clinton’s was.

Joe Biden can win Pennsylvania just by returning to Obama levels of support in the counties that Trump won handily in 2016.

Trump has created a myth about his popularity in the state. Donald Trump is popular in the conservative rural parts of the state but has not had a Pennsylvania approval rating over 50%.

Those of us who live in Pennsylvania have been approached by people who say that they voted for Trump in 2016, but this time they are voting for Biden. Campaign signs for the Democrats are popping up in places where they were not seen in 2016.

All of this suggests that Joe Biden will do well in Pennsylvania, which is why Trump is fighting to throw out ballots in the state.

Pennsylvania looks ready to go back to blue.

For more discussion about this story join our Rachel Maddow and MSNBC group.

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Pennsylvania AG Tells Trump And The Proud Boys He Won’t Let Them Steal The Election

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said on Thursday night that he will not put up with any attempts by Donald Trump or organizations like the Proud Boys to intimidate voters in his state.

“We’ve been preparing for this moment for months,” Shapiro said during an interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid. “We will not let any groups, from the Proud Boys to anyone else, step in and interfere with the election in any way.”

Shapiro said that the president’s efforts to undermine democracy in Pennsylvania are clearly rooted in a fear that, if all the votes are counted, Trump will lose.

“[Trump’s] trying to do so because he knows if there’s a straight-up vote, where all votes are counted in Pennsylvania, he’s going to come out on the short end of that,” Shapiro added. “He’s going to lose.”


Shapiro said:

We’ve been preparing for this moment for months, and we will not let any groups from the Proud Boys to anyone else, step in and interfere with the election in any way. We’re very serious about protecting the vote. And we will make sure that voters are able to vote in a safe and secure manner. Look, the real problem here, Joy, is that we have a president who’s trying to not just sow doubt in this election process but sow division in the way people vote. And he’s trying to do so because he knows if there’s a straight-up vote, where all votes are counted in Pennsylvania, he’s going to come out on the short end of that. He’s going to lose. And so first he went to court to try and make it easier to bus poll watchers in from other counties and quite literally do it in way that intimidates voters in black and brown communities. We beat him on that. And now we’re going to hold anyone accountable who shows up to the polls at President Trump’s behest or anyone else’s to try and intimidate voters at the polls, particularly in our minority communities. We simply will not allow it.

Trump’s reelection rests on the outcome in Pennsylvania

Donald Trump seems to recognize what most political forecasters do: His reelection largely rests on the outcome in Pennsylvania.

With Trump lagging further and further behind in Michigan and Wisconsin, Trump knows that a loss in Pennsylvania – where he’s also behind, but by slightly less – would send his presidency to the ash heap of history where it belongs.

Ultimately, with the election just five days away, Donald Trump seems to recognize two things.

First, he has nothing to run on as the coronavirus crisis that he failed to manage is once again raging across the country. On top of that, millions of Americans are out of work.

Second, Trump knows that if all legal votes are counted, he is going to come up short.

It’s no surprise then that in the final days of his campaign, Donald Trump is downplaying the pandemic and holding superspreader rallies while working overtime to undermine voting rights in key battleground states.

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