President’s desperate efforts include pleas to Republican state lawmakers as states certify election results
Donald Trump listens during a news conference at the White House on 20 November.
Donald Trump listens during a news conference at the White House on 20 November. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP
Sat 21 Nov 2020 20.46 GMT
Desperate efforts by Donald Trump and his Republican allies to overturn the result of the American election are facing an ever narrowing range of options as court cases and recounts have repeatedly failed to make any dent in the convincing victory of Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Now that states are certifying their election results, it appears the president’s last-ditch efforts will entail desperate pleas to Republican state lawmakers in hopes they will ignore their state laws and somehow skew the election to favor his reelection in the all-important electoral college.
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It has been two weeks exactly since Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election, and since then, Republicans and Trump’s campaign have made multiple attempts to take the election results to the courts and woo state Republican officials into helping them subvert the votes of their constituents.
But the effort has largely failed to make meaningful headway with any of the lawsuits in key swing states, and state officials have mostly stuck by the original counts. In just the past few days, Trump’s dream of overturning the results of the election has significantly narrowed after results were certified in Georgia and Arizona’s largest county in Biden’s favor on Friday.
The states were two of six that the Trump campaign and Republicans were targeting in efforts to push slim margins that favored Biden over Trump. Their haphazard plans have fallen apart as judges across the country halted legal challenges that cried fraud in an election that experts and public officials have said showed no evidence of widespread fraud.
Three other swing states, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania, are set to join Georgia in certifying their results as their certification deadlines approach next week. Arizona and Wisconsin, the last of the state’s targeted by the Trump campaign, have certification deadlines the week after.
On Saturday the Trump team said it was filing a petition for a full recount in Georgia, but its efforts suffered another blow when a federal judge ruled that Pennsylvania officials could certify election results that showed Biden winning the state by more than 80,000 votes.
US middle district judge Matthew Brann in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, turned down the request for an injunction by Trump’s campaign, spoiling the incumbent’s hopes of overturning the results of the presidential contest.
“This Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations,” Brann wrote.
Brann added that he “has no authority to take away the right to vote of even a single person, let alone millions of citizens”.
After the judgement, Pennsylvania attorney general, Josh Shapiro, said on Twitter: “I’ve been telling everyone who will listen: these suits are baseless.”
Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said Trump had “exhausted all plausible legal options” to challenge the result in Pennsylvania. He called on Trump to concede the election and congratulated Biden on his victory.
Trump’s lawyers said they would appeal the ruling, with the hopes of quickly reaching the US supreme court.
“We are disappointed we did not at least get the opportunity to present our evidence at a hearing. Unfortunately the censorship continues,” Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said in a statement.
Faced with such realities, Trump’s effort seems to be pivoting to try and persuade Republican politicians in some states to ignore the verdict of the popular vote and send electors for Trump, not Biden, to the electoral college, which is the body that actually selects the new president.
Sidney Powell, one of Trump’s lawyers, told Fox Business Network that “legislatures should make sure that the electors are selected for Trump”.
As states move closer to certify their election results, the legal pathways that even the most impassioned state lawmakers have to meaningfully change the results in their state are slim. Nor are there many signs that local officials are willing to go along with changes to normal practices in regards to the electoral college.
That fact was highlighted by a statement from Michigan’s top two Republican lawmakers who visited Trump at the White House on Friday.
“As legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors,” wrote Mike Shirkey, the leader of the state’s senate, and Lee Chatfield, the speaker of the state’s House of Representatives.
They also said that they have “not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election”, a blow to Trump showing that, despite consistently claiming the election was rigged against him, at least some Republicans believe the evidence of the claim is slim.
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All Michigan’s counties have certified the results, so it is up to the state’s board of canvassers to certify the results for the entire state. The board, made up of two Democrats and two Republicans, is set to meet on Monday. While one of the Republican board members suggested that the state should conduct an audit of the election, the board’s power is narrow and election lawyers in the state have said the path to fighting certification is complicated.
Trump may attempt to invite other Republican state lawmakers from the targeted swing states.
The White House is undergoing discussions on inviting Pennsylvania state legislators to the Oval Office, likely in attempts to court their support in sidestepping the people’s vote, CNN reported Saturday morning. Pennsylvania’s counties need to certify their election results by Monday, after which it will go to the Democratic secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar.
While Trump’s closest allies are making public appearances decrying the results of the election and calling for an overturn of its results, Trump has largely kept out of the public eye, seemingly sulking as his loss becomes an unshakeable reality.
But in a possible sign that some Republican resolve might be shifting Elizabeth Cheney, a senior figure and the party and congresswoman from Wyoming, issued a statement calling on Trump to prove his allegations of fraud or accept that he has lost.
“If the president cannot prove these claims or demonstrate that they would change the election result, he should fulfil his path to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States by respecting sanctity of the electoral process,” Cheney said.