- On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a case filed by the Trump campaign alleging that Republican observers were forced to stand too far away from ballot counting in Philadelphia. The court argued the 15-18 feet they were given was enough to do their job.
- Separately, Trump’s team also experienced another loss in Michigan after Republicans on the election board in Wayne County reversed an earlier decision to not verify ballots after massive backlash.
- Despite these and other recent losses, the Trump campaign is still moving forward with other highly questionable cases.
- After the Pennsylvania ruling, Trump’s team filed a suit in Nevada asking officials to reverse the will of the people and give the state’s electoral votes to the president.
String of Losses
After numerous legal losses in the last few days alone, President Donald Trump and his campaign are moving forward with new dubious legal challenges aimed at overturning the result of the election.
However, the president’s legal strategy of throwing everything against a wall to see what sticks is not working out too well.
“There have been something like 30 or 40 of these lawsuits filed in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and so on,” Harvard Law School professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos told CBS News on Monday. “To this point, dozens of defeats have piled up for the Trump campaign.”
Not only have major losses been piling up, but the Trump campaign has also been dropping some cases too because they have next to no chance of standing up in court
Meanwhile, lawyers and even entire law firms that have been bringing these suits for Trump are withdrawing from the legal fights, leaving the campaign scrambling to fill the spaces in key cases with the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
The Trump campaign took yet another hit in the keystone state this week after a series of defeats in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona on Friday.
On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled 5-2 to strike down a lawsuit brought against Philadelphia’s county election board. In it, the Trump campaign alleged that Republican observers watching ballots being counted in Philadelphia were kept 15-18 feet away from the election workers, which they claimed was too far away to see if there were irregularities in the process.
A lower court denied that request, the campaign appealed it, and an appeals court ruled in their favor on Nov. 5, allowing observers to stand six feet away as long as they abided by COVID-safe guidelines like wearing masks.
The election board then appealed that decision to the state’s Supreme Court, which ultimately upheld the first court’s decision and ruled that Philadelphia’s election protocols were set up with, “careful consideration of how it could best protect the security and privacy of voters’ ballots, as well as safeguard its employees and others who would be present during a pandemic for the pre-canvassing and canvassing process.”
The court also noted that observers were simply directed to observe the process — not audit the ballots for irregularities — and that they were very much able to observe election workers “performing their duties” as required at the safe 15-18 foot distance.
That ruling was also significant because of how it could play into the other lawsuits the campaign has brought in Pennsylvania, which has seen the most single filings of any state.
In fact, at the same time that Pennsylvania’s highest court made that ruling, Giuliani had just finished giving highly unusual opening arguments in a federal court case elsewhere in the state in what marked his first appearance before a judge in decades.
The case that Giuliani was arguing — though at times he appeared confused as to which of the many lawsuits he was talking about — was narrowly focused on whether election officials in Pennsylvania should have given voters the ability to fix issues with their mail-in ballots after submitting them.
Some counties in the state did allow voters to fix the issues, but others did not. The Trump campaign has argued that that is unconstitutional and is attempting to block Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State from certifying the election results.
Or at least, that’ was what they were supposed to be arguing. Instead, in his court appearance Tuesday, Giuliani made a number of wildly baseless claims entirely unrelated to the lawsuit, saying, without any evidence, that there was a massive conspiracy behind former Vice President Joe Biden’s victory.
“It’s a widespread, nationwide voter fraud,” he claimed, accusing local election officials of being part of a “little mafia.”
The president’s lawyer also claimed Republican observers had been prevented from watching the ballot counts, though he later acknowledged that the president’s legal team had dropped that claim in the lawsuit because they knew it would not hold up.
When questioned by U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann as to whether Giuliani was bringing new claims of fraud that were not mentioned in the suit at hand, he admitted that it was not a fraud case, but continued to complain about the “fraudulent process.”
“So you are alleging a fraud,” Brann responded, adding such claims would need a higher standard than just baseless suspicion to make a real case.
The Trump campaign also saw another major upset Tuesday, though this one did not stem from a legal case, but rather from a decision made by an election board in Wayne County, Michigan, which is home to Detroit.
There, the two Republican members of the election board, Monica Palmer and William Hartman, refused to certify the election results. They argued that in some precincts in the county, and specifically in Detroit, the number of recorded votes did not line up with the number of voters who were listed as having shown up to vote.
However, many people pushed back heavily against this objection, including the Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and other top officials, who pointed out that most of the discrepancies at the precincts involved a very small number of ballots.
Officials noted that these small blips likely just stemmed from easily explained situations like a voter leaving a long line, or an absentee ballot kicked out of a tabulator because a voter decided to cast their ballot in person.
Benson, who agreed to a comprehensive audit of the Detroit precincts, also specifically said that all the evidence they currently have shows that the election had been run cleanly, that there was no evidence of fraud, and that these discrepancies were just due to clerical errors.
She added that it was irresponsible for the Republicans to refuse to verify these legal votes over such a minor and normal election occurrence.
That point was echoed by other voters, activists, and community members, many of whom pointed to the fact that Palmer even argued at one point that the results should be certified in one of the predominantly white suburbs outside of the majority-Black Detroit, even though it had an even bigger variance in ballots cast to voters who turned out.
Following the massive outcry, Palmer and Hartman reversed their decision and agreed to certify the results.
New Lawsuit in Nevada
Notably, all of campaign’s many recent losses have not stopped team Trump from filing more questionable lawsuits.
Following the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday, the campaign filed another lawsuit in Nevada asking that Trump “be declared the winner of the Election in Nevada,” or for the results to at least be annulled so that no winner is certified by the elections board.
In the lawsuit, the campaign claimed, again without evidence, that “fraud and abuse renders the purported results of the Nevada election illegitimate.” Trump’s team also argued in the suit that a signature verification machine in Clark County, the most populous county in Nevada, was flawed, and that poll watchers were denied meaningful access to the ballot counting process.
A Clark County election official pushed back, and said that the Trump campaign inaccurately described both claims.
“On both of these issues, state and federal courts have already rejected their allegations,” the official said.
While the cascade of lawsuits might seem endless, there is an end in sight: Dec. 8.
Also known as the safe harbor deadline, Dec. 8 is the date by which all legal challenges and recounts must be settled and electors must be solidified by states.
Technically, Trump could still file a lawsuit after that, though it would almost certainly be tossed out immediately.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Los Angeles Times) (CBS News)
Biden Calls on Congress To Extend Eviction Moratorium
The move comes just two days before the federal ban is set to expire.
Eviction Freeze Set To Expire
President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday to extend the federal eviction moratorium for another month just two days before the ban was set to expire.
The request follows a Supreme Court decision last month, where the justices ruled the evictions freeze could stay in place until it expired on July 31. That decision was made after a group of landlords sued, arguing that the moratorium was illegal under the public health law the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had relied on to implement it.
While the court did not provide reasons for its ruling, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued a short concurring opinion explaining that although he thought the CDC “exceeded its existing statutory authority,” he voted not to end the program because it was already set to expire in a month.
In a statement Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited the Supreme Court decision, as well as the recent surge in COVID cases, as reasons for the decision to call on Congress.
“Given the recent spread of the delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”
Delays in Relief Distribution
The move comes as the administration has struggled to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental relief funds approved as part of two coronavirus relief packages passed in December and March, respectively.
Nearly seven months after the first round of funding was approved, the Treasury Department has only allocated $3 billion of the reserves, and just 600,000 tenants have been helped under the program.
A total of 7.4 million households are behind on rent according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau. An estimated 3.6 million of those households could face eviction in the next two months if the moratorium expires.
The distribution problems largely stem from the fact that many states and cities tasked with allocating the fund had no infrastructure to do so, causing the aid to be held up by delays, confusion, and red tape.
Some states opened portals that were immediately overwhelmed, prompting them to close off applications, while others have faced technical glitches.
According to The Washington Post, just 36 out of more than 400 states, counties, and cities that reported data to the Treasury Department were able to spend even half of the money allotted them by the end of June. Another 49 — including New York — had not spent any funds at all.
Slim Chances in Congress
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) urged her colleagues to approve an extension for the freeze Thursday night, calling it “a moral imperative” and arguing that “families must not pay the price” for the slow distribution of aid.
However, Biden’s last-minute call for Congress to act before members leave for their August recess is all but ensured to fail.
While the House Rules Committee took up a measure Thursday night that would extend the moratorium until the end of this year, the only way it could pass in the Senate would be through a procedure called unanimous consent, which can be blocked by a single dissenting vote.
Some Senate Republicans have already rejected the idea.
“There’s no way I’m going to support this. It was a bad idea in the first place,” Senator Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) told reporters. “Owners have the right to action. They need to have recourse for the nonpayment of rent.”
With the hands of the CDC tied and Congressional action seemingly impossible, the U.S. could be facing an unprecedented evictions crisis Saturday, even though millions of Americans who will now risk losing their homes should have already received rental assistance to avert this exact situation.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)
Mississippi Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Roe v. Wade
The Supreme Court’s decision to consider Mississippi’s restrictive abortion ban already has sweeping implications for the precedents set under the landmark reproductive rights ruling, but now the state is asking the high court to go even further.
Mississippi’s Abortion Case
Mississippi filed a brief Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade when it hears the state’s 15-week abortion ban this fall.
After months of deliberation, the high court agreed in May to hear what will be the first abortion case the 6-to-3 conservative majority will decide.
Both a district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had ruled that Mississippi could not enforce the 2018 law that banned nearly all abortions at 15 weeks with exceptions for only “severe fetal abnormality,” but not rape and incest.
If the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law, it would undo decades of precedent set under Roe in 1973 and upheld under Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, where the court respectively ruled and reaffirmed that states could not ban abortion before the fetus is “viable” and can live outside the womb, which is generally around 24 to 28 weeks.
When the justices decided to hear the case, they said they would specifically examine the question of whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”
Depending on the scope of their decision on the Mississippi law, the court’s ruling could allow other states to pass much more restrictive abortion bans without the risk of lower courts striking down those laws.
As a result, legal experts have said the case will represent the most significant ruling on reproductive rights since Casey nearly three decades ago, and the Thursday brief raises the stakes even more.
When Mississippi asked the justices to take up its case last June, the state’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch (R), explicitly stated that the petition’s questions “do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.”
But that was before the court’s conservatives solidified their supermajority with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who personally opposes abortion — following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
New Filing Takes Aim at Roe
With the new filing, it appears that Fitch views the high court’s altered makeup as an opportunity to undermine the constitutional framework that has been in place for the better part of the last century.
“The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion,” Fitch wrote in the brief, arguing that American society has changed so much that the previous rulings need to be reheard.
“Today, adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” she added, claiming the power should be left to state lawmakers.
“Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date,” she continued. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the states.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Mississippi’s sole abortion provider in the suit against the state’s law, painted Fitch’s effort as one that will have a chilling effect on abortion rights nationwide.
“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the group said in a statement Thursday. “Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country.”
The Supreme Court has not yet said exactly when during its fall term it will hear oral arguments on the Mississippi case, but a decision is expected to come down by next June or July, as is standard.
An anticipated ruling just months before the 2022 midterms will almost certainly position abortion as a top issue at the ballot box.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Politico)
Republicans Boycott Jan. 6 Committee After Pelosi Rejects Two of McCarthy’s Picks
The House Minority Leader said that unless House Speaker Pelosi reinstated the two members, Republicans will launch their own investigation into the insurrection.
Pelosi Vetoes Republicans
Republicans are boycotting the select committee to investigate the insurrection after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) rejected two of the five GOP members Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) picked to serve on the panel Wednesday.
In a statement, Pelosi cited the “statements and actions” of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) and Jim Banks (R-In.), whose nominations she said she was opposing “with respect for the integrity of the investigation.”
Jordan and Banks — both staunch allies of former President Donald Trump — have helped propagate the previous leader’s false election claims, opposed efforts to investigate the insurrection, and voted not to certify the election for President Joe Biden.
A senior Democratic aide also specifically told The Washington Post that Democrats did not want Jordan on the panel because he reportedly helped Trump strategized how to overturn the election and due to the fact he spoke to the then-president on Jan. 6, meaning there is a possibility he could be called to testify before the very same committee.
The aide also said that Democrats opposed Banks’ selection because of a statement he issued after McCarthy chose him.
In the statement, the representative compared the insurrection to the racial justice protests last summer, implied that the rioters were just normal American’s expressing their political views, and claimed the committee was a political ploy “to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”
Notably, Pelosi did say she would accept McCarthy’s three other nominees — including Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Wi.), who also voted against certifying Biden’s win.
McCarthy Threatens Separate Investigation
McCarthy, however, refused to select new members, and instead opted to remove all his appointees from the would-be bipartisan committee.
In a statement condemning the move, the minority leader said that Pelosi’s action “represents an egregious abuse of power.”
“Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility and shows the Speaker is more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth,” he said.
“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”
Pelosi defended her decision during a press conference Thursday, where she said that Banks and Jordan were “ridiculous” choices for the panel.
“When statements are ridiculous and fall into the realm of, ‘You must be kidding,’ there’s no way that they’re going to be on the committee,” she added.