Monthly Archives: November 2020

“Judge: ‘Precious little proof’ in Georgia election fraud suit”

Josh Gerstein for Politico:

A judge handling an election-fraud lawsuit brought by allies of President Donald Trump said the case was backed by “precious little proof,” but went on to issue a restraining order aimed at blocking three Georgia counties from making any changes to their voting machines as he considers whether to permit a forensic examination of those systems, according to court records.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten Sr. made the comments during an hour-long Sunday night court hearing on a lawsuit filed last week by Sidney Powell, a firebrand attorney who briefly joined Trump’s legal team in recent weeks before being dismissed from it.

The hearing was held via Zoom and not announced in advance on the court’s docket or accessible to the press or public, but it was transcribed by a court reporter who provided the transcript to POLITICO on Monday evening.

The transcript shows that Batten repeatedly wavered on whether to grant any relief to the Republican plaintiffs in the case, before settling on the narrow relief limited to three counties.

Powell and her colleagues initially wanted all voting machines in the state impounded pending further court action, but the state’s lawyers said that would present a slew of problems, including preventing some local elections set for this week and potentially interfering with the pair of U.S. Senate runoff elections set for Jan. 5.

“What the plaintiffs are seeking is basically going to take certain voting equipment out of the equation for the election scheduled to take place this Tuesday, as well as the election scheduled to take place on January 5th, because plaintiffs are wanting us to hold and basically mothball and preserve these machines at the county level — not in our possession, not in our custody and control,” Assistant Attorney General Russ Willard Sr. told Batten.

“In terms of a currently underway election, it is going to be throwing sugar in the gas tank and gumming up the works.”

Batten seemed open to the plaintiffs conducting what he called “a quick inspection” of the machines, with Powell initially asking to scrutinize the machines from 10 counties. She said “the bulk” of the inspections could be conducted within three days.

When called on by the judge, Powell aired her startling claim that the machines from Dominion Voting Systems were impacted by an algorithm that markedly increased votes for the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, and decreased them for Trump….

Powell also asserted that Dominion was doing the handiwork of late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. “It was conceived and created by Mr. Chavez’s regime for the very purpose of ensuring that he won future elections — as corrupt as it could possibly be,” she said.

Powell’s statements grew even more extreme on Monday, as she retweeted a Twitter message that called on Trump to declare an insurrection, halt the planned convening of the Electoral College in each state in Dec. 14 and use “military tribunals” to investigate alleged fraud related to the just-completed election.

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Pennsylvania and PA Democratic Party File Opposition to Cert. Briefs in Supreme Court Over Extension of Ballot Deadline; Both Argue Case is Now Moot

PA Brief.

PA Dems’ Brief.

This is the case involving the PA Supreme Court’s decision to accept ballots arriving up to three days after election day. PA Republicans claim this violates the right of the state legislature to set the rules for federal elections. Twice the Supreme Court refused to intervene early in this case.

The Court could now take this up the cert. petition at any time, but given that it hasn’t acted yet it probably will consider this now in the ordinary course by deciding in an upcoming conference whether to deny cert. or set the case for briefing and argument.

The dispute involves only 10,000 ballots, not nearly enough to affect the outcome of the 2020 election.

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“Supreme Court Skeptical of Trump’s Plan to Not Count Unauthorized Immigrants in Redistricting”

Adam Liptak for the NYT:

A skeptical Supreme Court on Monday reacted with frustration and some confusion to President Trump’s plan to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the calculations used to allocate seats in the House.

While there was some discussion about whether the plan was lawful, the more immediate questions for the justices were where the administration stood in its efforts to identify and count the unauthorized immigrants and what role the court should play if substantial numbers were not identified.

Removing undocumented immigrants from the census would most likely have the effect of shifting congressional seats and federal money to states that are older, whiter and typically more Republican.

But if the Census Bureau cannot provide Mr. Trump with specific information about a large enough number of unauthorized immigrants in the coming weeks, he will not be able to exclude enough of them from the reapportionment to change the way House seats are allocated. That would leave the justices without a concrete dispute to decide.

“The situation is fairly fluid,” Jeffrey B. Wall, the acting United States solicitor general, told the justices, conceding that the Census Bureau may not be able to supply Mr. Trump with much data on unauthorized immigrants. “There is a real prospect that the numbers will not affect the apportionment,” he said.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said that put the court in an odd position.

“I find the posture of this case quite frustrating,” he said. “It could be that this is much ado about very little.”

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“As Trump Attacks Georgia Republicans, Party Worries About Senate Races”


President Trump’s sustained assault on his own party in Georgia, and his repeated claims of election fraud in the state, have intensified worries among Republicans that he could be hurting their ability to win two crucial Senate runoff races next month.

The president has continued to claim without evidence that his loss in the new battleground state was fraudulent, directing his ire in particular at Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both conservative Republicans, whom he has accused of not doing enough to help him overturn the result.

Over the weekend, he escalated his attacks on Mr. Kemp, saying he was “ashamed” to have endorsed him in 2018, and on Monday he called Mr. Kemp “hapless” as he urged him to “overrule his obstinate Republican Secretary of state.’’

Mr. Trump’s broadsides have quietly rattled some Republicans in the state, who fear that concerns about the fairness of the presidential election could depress turnout for the Senate races, which will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the chamber.

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“GOP senators’ strategy on Trump’s election fraud claims: Keep quiet and carry on”


A wide range of Republican senators are shrugging off President Donald Trump’s evidence-free claims that mass voter fraud cost him the election, ignoring their party leader’s relentless attacks against a foundation of American democracy amid their growing expectation that the matter will be resolved within two weeks — without their involvement.

As they watch Trump torch local Republicans and governors who refuse to try to overturn the election results, many have remained silent as more states certify Joe Biden’s victory and more of the President’s legal challenges collapse. A central factor around the GOP’s decision to stay quiet: The two critical Georgia Senate runoffs where Trump can play a key role in turning out their base to help keep the chamber in Republican hands next Congress. Infuriating Trump now will only undercut their efforts to lean on a President who holds enormous sway with their core voters, Republican sources said Monday.

In the meantime, some prominent senators on Monday dismissed the idea that they have much of a role to play in pushing back on Trump’s unfounded claims as the legal and state certification process plays out — as powerful Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remained silent after saying little about the President’s weeks-long campaign to undermine faith in the elections.

McConnell walked by reporters in the Senate hallways Monday without responding to a question about Trump’s actions or if he considers Biden to be the President-elect.

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“Trump raises more than $150 million appealing to false election claims”


President Trump’s political operation has raised more than $150 million since Election Day, using a blizzard of misleading appeals about the election to shatter fundraising records set during the campaign, according to people with knowledge of the contributions.

The influx of political donations is one reason Trump and some allies are inclined to continue a legal onslaught and public affairs blitz focused on baseless claims of election fraud, even as their attempts have repeatedly failed in court and as key states continue to certify wins for President-elect Joe Biden.

Much of the money raised since the election is likely to go into an account for the president to use on political activities after he leaves office, while some of the contributions will go toward what’s left of the legal fight.

The surge of donations is largely from small-dollar donors, campaign officials say, tapping into the president’s base of loyal and fervent donors who tend to contribute the most when they feel the president is under siege or facing unfair political attacks. The campaign has sent about 500 post-election fundraising pitches to donors, often with hyperbolic language about voter fraud and the like.

“I need you now more than ever,” says one recent email that claims to be from the president. “The Recount Results were BOGUS,” another email subject line reads….

According to the fine print in the latest fundraising appeals, 75 percent of each contribution to the joint fundraising committee would first go toward the Save America leadership PAC and the rest would be shared with the party committee, to help with the party’s operating expenses. This effectively means that the vast majority of low-dollar donations under the current agreement would go toward financing the president’s new leadership PAC, instead of efforts to support the party or to finance voting lawsuits….

The leadership PAC could be spent, for example, to pay for events at his own properties, or to finance his travel or personal expenses. There are very few limitations on how money going to the group can be spent….

Leadership PACs do not face the same restrictions on “personal use” expenses as candidate committees do. They were established to allow members of Congress to raise money for their allies on Capitol Hill through fundraising vehicles separate from their campaign committees. The money is often used for what is called donor cultivation: feting wealthy supporters in the hopes that they will write big checks back to the leadership PAC and other committees.

Over the years, leadership PACs have become must-have accessories on Capitol Hill, as well as among former elected officials who want to retain their political influence by helping other candidates raise money or by raising money on their behalf.

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“Trump campaign lawyer says former cybersecurity chief should be ‘shot'”

Despicable and grounds for bar disciplinary proceedings if not more:

An attorney for President Donald Trump’s reelection efforts said on Monday that Chris Krebs, the former head of U.S. cybersecurity, should be “shot” for going against the president’s conspiracy theories and declaring the 2020 elections as secure.

“Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs who used to be the head of cybersecurity,” said Trump campaign lawyer Joe DiGenova, “that guy is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.”

DiGenova made the remarks on a Monday episode of the “The Howie Carr Show,” which has a history of showcasing Trump’s claims and allies. During the show, DiGenova also listed a number of allegations of mass election irregularities — a phenomenon that elections officials in states across the country agreed was not an issue — in his team’s improbable effort to extend the Trump presidency.

What happened to this guy?

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“Wisconsin and Arizona make it official as Trump fails to stop vote certification in all six states where he contested his defeat”


Wisconsin and Arizona on Monday became the last two of six states where President Trump has contested his defeat to finalize their vote counts, dealing a fresh blow to his quest to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory as a chorus of Republicans and Democrats offered support for the election’s integrity.

Trump and his allies vowed to continue pressing legal claims challenging the election results in several states, but such efforts have met with resounding failures in the courts across the country. Monday’s certifications brought to a close a key period in which Trump and his advisers had said they would be able to derail Biden’s win.

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“Republicans Hold Razor-Thin Leads In Two House Races”

Political Wire:

Cook Political Report: “There have only been three federal elections in the last 100 years decided by fewer than 20 votes… But in an insult to injury for House Democrats, who have already lost a dozen incumbents to the GOP, Democrats are currently trailing by a scant six votes in Iowa’s 2nd CD and 12 votes in New York’s 22nd CD as both races head for lengthy legal fights.”

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“James Baker’s masterful legal strategies won George W. Bush a contested election – unlike Rudy Giuliani’s string of losses”

There’s an excellent new biography out of James A. Baker III, by Peter Baker (no relation) and Susan Glasser. Some call Baker the most important non-elected figure in Washington in the last half of the 20th Century. He ran five presidential campaigns, was WH Chief of Staff to two Presidents, and was Secretary of State and of Treasury.

I have a new essay out on the chapter concerning Baker’s masterminding of the 2000 election litigation over Florida, which ended with George W. Bush becoming President. To me, at least, the book has three major new revelations about the 2000 election litigation. An excerpt:

The book’s first revelation comes immediately: 45 minutes after being briefed on the situation that morning of Nov. 8, when Bush’s lead in Florida stood at 1,784 votes out of nearly 3 million cast – and before even a machine recount had taken place that would cut that lead by two-thirds – Baker told others: “We’re heading to the Supreme Court.”

A series of Florida newspapers with headlines saying it wasn't clear who won the 2000 election.
James Baker had a sophisticated understanding of what would happen in the contested 2000 presidential election. Peter Cosgrove/AP Photos

When they expressed surprise, Baker followed up by saying: “It’s the only way this can end.”

Baker’s acumen here was stunning. At this stage, and even later in the saga, a large majority even of election law and Supreme Court experts were highly skeptical that the court would get involved at all.

The widely shared view was that the process of recounts would be resolved completely under Florida law and through Florida’s administrative processes and courts. That’s how election challenges, even in federal elections, had always been handled. Baker’s first choice to lead the litigation effort, former Senator John Danforth of Missouri, reflected this common view.

Danforth told Baker, “I just can’t conceive that a federal court’s going to take jurisdiction over a matter relating to state election law … I just can’t believe that.”..

The second revelation in the book is highly disturbing, if accurate.

Litigating the outcome of the 2000 election began with the Gore campaign filing requests under Florida law for manual recounts in four counties. Two weeks after Election Day, the litigation made its first appearance before the Florida Supreme Court. Just before the argument was about to begin, Baker was reportedly handed a note from an intermediary who somehow knew that the Florida justices had already decided among themselves that they were going to rule against Bush and had written a draft opinion to that effect.

Once they got this note, Bush’s lawyer for the argument, Michael Carvin, asserts they decided “to lose and lose big,” in order to bait the Florida Supreme Court into a broad decision that would make U.S. Supreme Court intervention more likely.

Whether Carvin’s self-serving strategic claim is accurate or not, that’s exactly what happened. The Florida Supreme Court approved a manual recount and ordered the deadline for certifying the outcome extended by 12 days. The U.S. Supreme Court – to the surprise of many – agreed to hear the case. …

The third revelation involves an issue that has swirled around the current election: the possible role of state legislatures in directly appointing presidential electors, rather than permitting the will of the voters to determine who has won the presidential election – and hence the electors – in that state.

Federal law permits a state legislature to appoint electors if the election has “failed” in that state – a term whose meaning the law does not clarify. …

The closest the U.S. has ever come to that happening is Florida in 2000. After the Florida Supreme Court decision that the Bush campaign lost, Baker asserted to the press that the Florida court had changed the rules after the election, by approving a manual recount and extending the deadline for certifying the election by 12 days.

Then Baker threatened: “So one should not now be surprised if the Florida legislature seeks to affirm the original rules.”

And indeed, in early December, the Florida legislature announced it would convene a special session to discuss appointing Florida’s electors itself.

That much is a matter of public record. But what the new biography reveals is that, while Baker wanted this to be seen as a threat, he did not want Florida’s legislature to go through with it….

Some Democrats will never forgive Baker, nor the Supreme Court, for their roles in ending the recount before all the ballots were counted – though a consortium of major newspapers later determined that if the recount had been completed, Bush would have won under 21 of 24 possible standards for what constituted a valid vote.

But Democrats involved in the litigation battles knew the other side had the more effective leader. Indeed, the new Baker biography claims that when Baker was put in charge of the Florida contest, his “reputation was so formidable that Democrats knew they would lose the moment they heard of his selection.”

I can confidently say that thought did not cross the mind of any Democrat when Rudy Giuliani was put in charge this time around.

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Must-Read from AP: “‘Mercenary’ Donor Sold Access for Millions in Foreign Money”


As an elite political fundraiser, Imaad Zuberi had the ear of top Democrats and Republicans alike — a reach that included private meetings with then-Vice President Joe Biden and VIP access at Donald Trump’s inauguration.

He lived a lavish, jet-setting lifestyle, staying at fine hotels and hosting lawmakers and diplomats at four-star restaurants. Foreign ambassadors turned to Zuberi to get face time in Congress. A CIA officer called him the “best connected person I know,” marveling at the depth of his Rolodex.

He was a charming networker and an inveterate namedropper. His Facebook account was filled with pictures of him next to the powerful and famous: having dinner with Hillary Clinton and Robert De Niro and rubbing shoulders with Trump’s then-chief of staff Reince Priebus outside Mar-A-Lago. Zuberi raised huge amounts for Clinton in the 2016 election before becoming a top donor to the Trump Presidential Inauguration Committee.

But federal prosecutors say Zuberi’s life was built on a series of lies and the lucrative enterprise of funding American political campaigns and profiting from the resulting influence.

“Everyone wants to come to Washington to meet people,” Zuberi said in a 2015 email obtained by The Associated Press, seeking a meet-and-greet between the president of Guinea and a powerful congressman. “We get request(s) for meeting(s) from all scumbag of the world, warlords, kings, queens, presidents for life, military dictators, clan chiefs, tribal chiefs and etc.”

Prosecutors describe Zuberi as a “mercenary” political donor who gave to anyone — often using illegal straw donor cutouts — he thought could help him. Pay to play, he explained to clients, was just “how America work(s).”

Zuberi’s story underscores how loosely regulated campaign finance and foreign lobbying laws are and raises an embarrassing question: How does such a cynical fraudster find favor with so many officials at the highest levels of the U.S. government?

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“A Democratic Stress Test — The 2020 Election and Its Aftermath”

Bright Line Watch:

The 2020 election and its aftermath presented severe challenges to U.S. democracy. The election was conducted during a pandemic that required fundamental changes in how Americans cast and counted ballots. The incumbent president refused to commit in advance to a peaceful transition of power if he lost, and continues to refuse to recognize that defeat as legitimate (though he has finally relented to letting the transition begin and signaled that he would accept an Electoral College defeat). During this process, many GOP leaders have endorsed the president’s baseless claims of electoral fraud, even publicly suggesting that state legislatures could override the popular vote in awarding electors. Yet the election ultimately succeeded in ways few dared hope. Most notably, polling places and mail balloting operated effectively and mostly uneventfully under unprecedented conditions. And despite a barrage of accusations and litigation, no evidence has surfaced of systematic malfeasance or mismanagement. 

To assess the importance and consequences of these events, Bright Line Watch fielded parallel surveys of political science experts and of a representative sample of Americans to assess the importance and magnitudes of these events. In this post-election survey, which was fielded from November 12–25, we asked our public sample questions about the legitimacy of the election results, their confidence that votes were cast and counted fairly, their beliefs about voter fraud, and their willingness to condone political violence. We asked our experts to rate the likelihood of 23 scenarios related to the November election and the transition to a new administration that could produce political crises, and to evaluate a number of recent events related to the election. As in previous surveys, we asked both groups to assess the quality of U.S. democracy overall and to rate performance on 30 distinct democratic principles. 

We report a number of key findings below from both the public and the experts we surveyed:


  • Compared to before the election, confidence in the election process and the legitimacy of the outcome became much more polarized between supporters and opponents of President Trump.
  • Most notably, confidence in the national vote count plummeted among Trump supporters, declining from 56% before the election to 28% afterward.
  • Similarly, belief polarization about voter fraud grew still wider — in particular, even larger majorities of Trump supporters now believe that fraud is rampant compared to before the election.
  • More encouragingly, willingness to condone political violence declined slightly after the election.


  • Expert forecasts in October correctly identified the six nightmare scenarios that did actually transpire as among the eight that they forecast as most likely, but generally overestimated the probability of outcomes seen as somewhat or not very likely (none of which actually took place).
  • Experts believe it is highly likely that President Trump will continue to refuse to recognize Biden’s presidency and to obstruct the transition, and that the President will take actions to protect himself and those around him from legal exposure after leaving office. They regard problems with the Electoral College and the formal recognition of Biden’s presidency as unlikely.
  • Large majorities of experts regard Trump’s attacks on U.S. elections and the press as serious or grave threats to American democracy. By contrast, experts do not consider mail balloting to pose a threat to democracy and are divided over Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court appointment.

We present our results in three parts. First, we review the public’s perception of various aspects of the November election. We then describe experts’ assessments of the election and events in its immediate wake. Finally, we step back to gauge how both the public and the experts rate the performance of American democracy both overall and across thirty core democratic principles.

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“The Paranoid Style of American Politics—Presidential Election Edition; Trying to counter viral election fraud claims is like playing whack-a-mole.”

Jonathan Adler at Volokh:

It is nearly a month since election day and yet discredited and debunked claims of election fraud or “irregularities” continue to go viral on social media platforms. Even some otherwise reputable commentators seem to get sucked in. What is particularly frustrating is that so many of these claims are easy to check, and yet so few bother to make the effort.

So, for example, various sites breathlessly report about thousands of absentee ballots in Pennsylvania and Michigan that were returned on the same day they were requested. How could this be?!? In both states, voters were allowed (and often encouraged) to request and return absentee ballots in person at local election offices. Indeed, in both states early in-person voting was conducted just this way. The voter goes to their local election office, requests an absentee ballot, receives it and fills it out on the spot, and then returns it, all in one visit (as both the PA and MI Secretary of State sites make clear). These were technically “absentee” ballots—and recorded as such—though used for early in-person voting.

Powerline posted on an allegedly anomalous voter turnout spike in Wisconsin that vanishes upon examination: The spike was caused by comparing turnout as a percentage of eligible voters for 2016 with turnout as a percentage of registered voters in 2020. The apples-to-apples comparison shows turnout increased slightly—as one would expect given the stakes of the election and how much easier early and absentee voting was this year—and the alleged spike disappears.

These are hardly the only easy-to-check claims that got spread before folks bothered to check the facts. Through a link on Instapundit, I found this American Thinker piece that is emblematic of the claims that purport to show “election theft”—and illustrative of how weak these claims are….

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