By Jan Wolfe and Tom Hals
President Donald Trump on Tuesday took his long-shot bid to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the election to a court in Pennsylvania, where another legal setback would likely doom his already-remote prospects.
District Judge Matthew Brann began hearing arguments in Williamsport in a lawsuit that the Trump campaign brought on Nov. 9, six days after Election Day. Pennsylvania officials have asked the judge to toss out Trump’s lawsuit.
Trump’s campaign, after narrowing the scope of the suit, is focusing 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.
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 Trump’s personal attorney, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, to formally appear in the case. The Republican president wrote on Twitter on Saturday that Giuliani was spearheading a new team to pursue the campaign’s legal fight.
Giuliani at the outset of the hearing asked the judge if he was approved to argue. The judge responded: “You’re good to go.”
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 have said they have found no such fraud.
On Monday, three lawyers representing the Trump 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 challenging the Nov. 3 election result but have yet to overturn any votes. Any remote hope of reversing the election’s outcome hangs on Pennsylvania.
Legal experts have said the lawsuits stand little chance of changing the outcome. A senior Biden legal adviser has dismissed the litigation as “theatrics, not really lawsuits.”
The Trump campaign has had difficulty retaining legal counsel to take on its post-election challenges. Last week, lawyers at the firm of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur withdrew from representing the campaign in the Pennsylvania suit.
Another firm, Snell & Wilmer, withdrew on Tuesday from a lawsuit alleging that Arizona’s Maricopa County incorrectly rejected some votes cast on Election Day.
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 Trump’s 232, Edison Research said on Friday.
In the Pennsylvania lawsuit, the Trump campaign alleges Democratic-leaning counties unlawfully identified mail-in ballots before Election Day that had defects so that voters could fix, or “cure,” them.
Pennsylvania officials have sought to have the lawsuit thrown out, saying 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.