“Trump Cries Election Fraud. In Court, His Lawyers Don’t.”


President Trump has claimed widespread fraud was at play in the presidential election. Several of his lawyers have told judges in courtrooms across the country that they don’t believe that to be true.

The Trump campaign or Republican allies have brought lawsuits in several battleground states contesting election results that favored President-elect Joe Biden, seeking to stop the certification of results or have ballots thrown out. Under questioning from judges handling the cases, at least two of Mr. Trump’s lawyers have backed away from suggestions that the election was stolen or fraudulent.

In other instances, attorneys representing Mr. Trump or other Republicans have said under oath they have no evidence of fraud. Lawyers also have struggled to get what they say is evidence of fraud admitted into lawsuits, with judges dismissing it as inadmissible or unreliable. A coalition of organizations representing secretaries of state, federal agencies and other top election officials said Thursday there wasn’t evidence that voting systems were compromised during the election.

Election-law experts say many of Mr. Trump’s legal claims amount to citations of common irregularities or unintentional errors by voters or administrators rather than election fraud, or intentional efforts to subvert the election. They say that fraudulent acts do occasionally happen, but they typically affect relatively few ballots.

Disputes over procedures or errors are usually resolved by invalidating disputed ballots—typically a limited number that doesn’t alter the result—or modifying counting procedures. Courts only very occasionally have taken extraordinary steps such as ordering a new election….

Mr. Goldstein at first declined to answer, saying “everybody is coming to this with good faith.”

Judge Richard Haaz pressed: “I understand. I am asking you a specific question, and I am looking for a specific answer. Are you claiming that there is any fraud in connection with these 592 disputed ballots?”

“To my knowledge at present, no,” Mr. Goldstein said.

The exchange illustrated the difference between Mr. Trump’s public-relations strategy around the election and what can be raised in court, where strict rules govern what attorneys can say within the bounds of their professional responsibilities and what evidence is deemed admissible.

“I think that there’s a huge difference between the kind of cheap talk that the president can engage in on Twitter and the way that lawyers need to present evidence in court,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor and election-law specialist at the University of California, Irvine.

“Not only are lawyers subject to sanctions if they file frivolous lawsuits or provide false information to the court, but claims are also subject to the rules of evidence,” Mr. Hasen added.


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