Trump will appeal Pa. federal court decision dismissing attempt to block Pa. vote certification

U.S. President Donald Trump stands in the colonnade as he is introduced to speak at the White House on Jan. 19, 2018. Photo by Mark Wilson | Getty Images

(*This story was updated at 8:12 p.m. on 11/21/20 with additional comment)

A federal judge in Williamsport on Saturday delivered what could be a fatal blow to President Donald Trump’s legal efforts to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s victory on Election Day, according to a published report.

Trump said in a tweet later Saturday night that he intends to appeal the decision. But in a statement, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said he believed the president had “exhausted all plausible legal options” to challenge the result in Pennsylvania.

In a 37-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann dismissed Trump’s effort to block the certification of election results, calling the litigation a “Frankenstein’s Monster” of legal claims, that sought an “unhinged” remedy that would, if successful, have resulted in the disenfranchisement of voters statewide, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Saturday evening.

“One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption,” Brann wrote, according to the Inquirer. “Instead, this court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations … unsupported by the evidence.”

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Bran continued: “This cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters in its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws and institutions demand more,” the Inquirer reported.

Trump’s campaign brought the suit against Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and seven Pennsylvania counties, seeking to block certification because some counties contacted and permitted voters to fix mistakes with their mail ballot declarations while others did not. County election boards in Philadelphia, Allegheny, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Northampton, and Centre counties also were named as defendants.

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The federal case had been the one legal challenge on which the campaign had pinned its remaining hopes of stopping the state from approving its final vote tally before the Monday deadline for counties to report their results to state election administrators.

The case’s dismissal leaves only one other lawsuit that the campaign is still actively pursuing in Pennsylvania — a fight before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court over roughly 8,300 challenged mail ballots from Philadelphia.

Trump’s campaign also has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a challenge to the state’s extended deadline for accepting mail-in ballots. But the high court has not yet indicated if it intends to do so. And on Saturday night, a group of Republican lawmakers, led by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16th District, filed suit in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, arguing that the state’s mail-in ballot system was unconstitutional.

The federal lawsuit case made nationwide headlines when Trump’s lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, took the lead in oral arguments. Giuliani’s first appearance in a courtroom in nearly 30 years was so disjoined that an attorney representing the counties named as defendants in the case described it as a “disgraceful,” CNBC reported last week.

Trump and his surrogates have continued to claim, without evidence, that widespread fraud led to Biden’s victory two weeks ago.

*A coalition of good government groups that intervened in the case hailed the ruling on Saturday night as a victory for the democratic process.

All voters deserve to have their voices heard and their ballots counted,” Suzanne Almeida, elections advisor for Common Cause Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “This lawsuit was a blatant attempt to change the rules after the election was over and silence the voices of the people. Voters in Pennsylvania and around the country have made a clear decision. It’s time for the results of this election to be accepted and the will of the people honored.”

The ruling “should put the nail in the coffin on any further attempts by President Trump to use the federal courts to rewrite the outcome of the 2020 election,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement. “The court could not be any clearer in underscoring the baseless and meritless nature of the claims presented in this case. Voters across the commonwealth overcame tremendous obstacles to register their voice, and this suit sought to disenfranchise them without a scintilla of evidence.”

Capital-Star Staff Reporter Stephen Caruso contributed to this story

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press