By Stump Connolly

 

     The denouement of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign came fittingly in the Four Seasons Total Landscaping parking lot outside Philadelphia, between a crematorium and an adult bookstore, at roughly the same time the TV networks were proclaiming Joe Biden the winner. Thus making Donald Trump the loser.

     Rudy Giuliani, the captain of Trump’s legal team, was at the helm when the ship went down. Trump was on the golf course.

     Giuliani was there promising the Trump campaign would be filing “maybe 10” lawsuits to overturn the election outcome. They would all be based on “troubling irregularities” in states Biden won by narrow margins: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia.

     And the most troubling thing, he said, was that he couldn’t see them.

The Evidence

     He had affidavits, sworn affidavits signed under penalty of perjury, from poll watchers who witnessed various misdeeds. The greatest travesty took place in the warehouse-size counting centers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Set up to handle the millions of anticipated mail-in ballots – in the middle of a Pandemic –Election officials kept Trump’s poll watchers at least six feet away from the people actually doing the work. Giuliani was outraged.

     “Those mail-in ballots could have been from anybody. Those mail-in ballots could have been for anybody they wrote in,” he said. “Those mail-in ballots could have been written the day before by the Democratic Party hacks that were all over the Convention Center.”

     “If you have nothing to hide with these mail-in ballots, you allow inspection. I mean, this is common knowledge, common practice,” he went on. “You take out the absentee ballot, you open it up, the Republican looks at it, the Democrat looks at it. If nobody objects, you put it in the pile. If either objects, you put it aside.”

     Leave aside for a minute your skepticism about how much longer it would have taken to process Pennsylvania’s 2.5 million mail-in ballots this way.

     “That is unheard of. It’s illegal, it’s unconstitutional, and we will be bringing an action challenging that,” he said.

How to Steal an Election

     The real culprit is the Democratic machine in Philadelphia with a long history of stealing elections. “You’re in a city in which voter fraud is professional,” he said. “Some places may be amateurs at voter fraud. Philadelphia is a professional place for voter fraud because you have a decrepit Democrat machine that you have had in power for 60 years.”

     As an old reporter in Chicago, I have some experience with stolen elections. I was a poll watcher for Project Leap assigned to an Uptown polling site in 1972.  Precinct captains chaperoned enfeebled old residents of a senior public housing project into busses to get them to the polls, and yes, I saw them enter the sanctity of the polling booth to “assist” them pulling the lever.

     I’ve seen winos vote in a West Side flophouse, campaign workers tear down yard signs and ward bosses hand out cheat sheets with the party’s favorite candidates, or, to make things simple, urge voters to PUNCH 10 to vote a straight Democratic ticket.

     This was the Chicago Way, and pretty much the way elections were conducted for decades in Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, and other big cities with a Democratic machine.

     But there are no machines left these days. You can’t stuff a ballot box, because there are no boxes left to stuff. It’s all computer touchscreens, early voting, mail-in voting, inter-connected eligibility rolls –– all supervised by tens of thousands of volunteers, Republicans and Democrats, trying to make democracy work as it was intended.

Buzzwords for the Mill

     Giuliani is, if anything, a creature of this storied past. The former mayor of New York knows all the buzzwords. But apparently he hasn’t been in a polling place for years, and I’m guessing it’s been a while since he tried a case in court.

     His buzzwords are grist for Trump’s twitter mill, which has been grinding them out constantly since the polls closed. Half are incomprehensible gibberish, the others carry warning signs: This message is false.

     They are having the intended effect. Seventy percent of Republicans now believe the election was not “free and fair,” according to a Politico/Morning Call poll. This would be alarming, if 90 percent of Republicans didn’t think Trump was doing a great job, even in the darkest days of his administration.

     The most alarming part of this is how the Vichy Republicans in Washington have reacted. Not just the Trump sycophants. No one in the Republican leadership will come right out and say it. Trump lost. They are afraid of his wrath, his retribution, and the lies he may tweet about them someday if they become a target.

     In private, they are confident there will be a smooth transition. They just want to give the president’s bruised ego time to a little time to heal. But their public pronouncements – “The President has every right to make every vote count” –– are the most mealy-mouthed abdication of responsibility I can imagine.

     (Okay, maybe Trump’s denial of responsibility for the Coronavirus crisis is another. How about Mitch McConnell in the Senate? Mike Pence in hiding? There are so many people abdicating responsibility in Washington these days, it’s hard to imagine them all.)

The Devil is in The Details

     So how are Trump’s lawsuits coming? Seven have been dismissed out of hand. In the battleground states, here’s where we are now:

     * Michigan. Biden leads in Michigan by 145,000 votes. State judges have dismissed two attempts to delay certification of the results.

     “This court finds that while there are assertions made by the plaintiffs that there is no evidence in support of those assertions,” one judge ruled.

     “On this factual record, I have no basis to find there’s a likelihood of success,” said the other.

     Those rulings, of course, didn’t deter the Trump legal team from filing a federal suit in the friendlier U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids Tuesday claiming vote fraud on the other side of the state in Detroit.

     * Arizona. Biden leads in Arizona by 14,000 votes. One judge has already rejected a Trump lawsuit claiming that Sharpies in a polling place bled through and ruined ballots. Another is weighing whether poll workers pressed a button to cancel an “overwrite” of a Trump voter. I’ll bet that really keeps him up at night.

     “This is just a stalling tactic to delay the official canvass,” said Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. “They are grasping at straws.”

     That didn’t keep hundreds of Trump supporters from rallying Saturday in downtown Phoenix to call Biden’s election a “coup” and denounce the media for being in a conspiracy to steal it.

     * Georgia. Biden leads in Georgia by 14,000 votes. Georgia is headed to an automatic recount.

     Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both in a hotly contested runoff to save their seats, have called for the Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, another Republican, to resign because of his “failures” managing the election.

     “The voters of Georgia hired me, and the voters will be the one to fire me,” Raffensperger shot back. “They ought to focus on their runoff.”

     * Wisconsin. Biden leads by 20,000 votes.

     The morning after the election, Trump tweeted that his people were “finding Biden votes all over the place–– in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.” Giuliani elaborated on the charge that afternoon.

     “In Wisconsin, mysteriously at 4 in the morning, 120,000 ballots appeared” He called it a “ballot dump” in Milwaukee County, a Democratic stronghold. “Here come these ballots. Well, we have no idea if they really are ballots.”

     They were. Around 3:30 AM, the AP reported a 143,124 spike in Biden’s Milwaukee County vote total, versus 23,642 for Trump. The results came from various tabulating sites in Milwaukee County, which, under Wisconsin law, reports all its returns in one lump sum.  Election Commissioner Claire Woodall-Vogg said she would have given out partial returns earlier but wanted “to avoid this dramatic narrative that’s completely false.” Wisconsin is also headed to a recount.

     * Nevada. Biden leads by 12,000 votes.

     Trump’s legal team put a new twist on frivolous lawsuits when they sent a letter to Attorney Gen. William Barr asking him to investigate “criminal voter fraud” in Nevada.

     “Nevada is turning out to be a cesspool of Fake Votes,” Trump tweeted Monday, “absolutely shocking!”

     The Nevada challenge is based on 3,000 voters who, according to an online change-of-address website, lived out of state. Election officials say it is more likely recent arrivals, military personnel on duty, or out-of-state students.

     * Pennsylvania. Biden leads by 47,000 votes. Giuliani has so muddied the waters with his gibberish lawsuits, there’s not enough space here to explain all the state cases that judges have tossed out.

     But Trump’s last, spindly thread to the Supreme Court may be a challenge the Trump campaign filed before the election to a Pennsylvania law allowing election workers to count mail-in ballots received up to 3 days after the election.

     The law was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature in the panic over the pandemic this summer and upheld by the Republican-controlled state Supreme Court.

     The U.S. Supreme Court twice refused to review the state court decision. But Justice Samuel Alito, hearing late night emergency appeals, threw Republicans a lifeline.

     Ballots postmarked before the election but received after Election Day had to be segregated off, in case Republicans wanted to file a follow-up case.

     The 25,000 ballots at issue will not be enough to overcome Biden’s lead.

Time is Running Out

     If any of the Trump legal team’s other lawsuits wind their way up to the Supreme Court, it’s unlikely the justices will consider them before December 8, the last day states have to certify their results. And the Electoral College meets six days later on December 14 to cast the official votes.

     This gives the Trump legal team 27 days to wade through the cesspool in Nevada, test the Sharpies in Arizona, kick around the ballot dumps in Wisconsin, and tell the politician in Georgia to shut up and run. Then they have to come up with some other evidence of the “widespread vote fraud” they allege. Then prove it. Then show why it makes a difference.

     I don’t think democracy can wait for that. This isn’t Bush v. Gore.

     This is Donald Trump throwing a hissy fit. Because he’s a loser.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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