Federal appeals court slams Trump campaign efforts to turn tide in Pennsylvania ruling, saying 'claims have no merit'

A federal appeals court on Friday dealt the Trump campaign's effort to change the outcome of the presidential election another blow, writing in a scathing op...

Posted: Nov 27, 2020 11:10 AM
Updated: Nov 27, 2020 5:00 PM

A federal appeals court on Friday dealt the Trump campaign's effort to change the outcome of the presidential election another blow, writing in a scathing opinion that the campaign's lawsuit lacked proof and its allegations in Pennsylvania 'have no merit.'

The three-judge panel for the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals denied the campaign's effort to refile its lawsuit, saying its allegations had already been rejected by multiple state judges in Pennsylvania and the latest attempt to revive them could not be spun into a winning theory.

'Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,' wrote Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee, for the panel.

'The Campaign never alleges that any ballot was fraudulent or cast by an illegal voter,' wrote Bibas. 'It never alleges that any defendant treated the Trump campaign or its votes worse than it treated the Biden campaign or its votes. Calling something discrimination does not make it so. The Second Amended Complaint still suffers from these core defects, so granting leave to amend would have been futile.'

Leading the President's team is Rudy Giuliani, who entered the federal case last week. The lawsuit was rejected last Saturday, when a lower court judge called it 'Frankenstein's monster' for its poorly stitched together legal theories.

The President and some of his allies have been questioning the legitimacy of the election, saying without evidence that it was fraudulent and seeking to use legal battles to overturn results in key states. Most recently, a handful of Pennsylvania Republicans, alongside Giuliani, held a 'hearing' in Gettysburg on Wednesday over their baseless allegations of voter fraud.

Friday's strongly worded opinion is the latest from state and federal judges, who have swiftly and pointedly rejected the Trump legal team's arguments -- at times eviscerating it for not presenting facts to back up the allegations.

In Friday's opinion, the court also rejected the President's motion to undo Pennsylvania's certification of votes, calling it 'unprecedented' and 'breathtaking' relief where no fraud had been alleged. The Keystone state on Tuesday certified its general election results, formally awarding President-elect Joe Biden 20 electoral votes.

'The Campaign's claims have no merit. The number of ballots it specifically challenges is far smaller than the roughly 81,000-vote margin of victory. And it never claims fraud or that any votes were cast by illegal voters. Plus, tossing out millions of mail-in ballots would be drastic and unprecedented, disenfranchising a huge swath of the electorate and upsetting all down-ballot races too. That remedy would be grossly disproportionate to the procedural challenges raised,' the court found.

Biden campaign spokesperson Mike Gwin, following the federal appeals court decision, said that 'this election is over and Donald Trump lost' and argued 'meritless lawsuits' will not change the outcome.

'Desperate and embarrassingly meritless lawsuits like this one will continue to fail and will not change the fact that Joe Biden will be sworn in as President on January 20, 2021,' added Gwin.

Jenna Ellis, an attorney for Trump's campaign, said on Twitter following the ruling that 'the activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania continues to cover up the allegations of massive fraud,' and pledged to take the case to the Supreme Court.

The President's campaign had appealed the ruling last weekend, when Judge Matthew Brann threw out the lawsuit, ruling it could not be amended and refiled.

Brann compared it to 'Frankenstein's monster ... haphazardly stitched together,' and slammed the request to disenfranchise nearly 7 million voters in a complaint littered with 'strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations.'

Trump's team appealed Brann's ruling only on its ability to file an amended complaint, which would therefore limit its arguments if the Supreme Court were to hear the case.

The appeals court referenced the Trump campaign's multiple attempts to alter its lawsuit and praised Brann's handling of the matter.

'We commend the District Court for its fast, fair, patient handling of this demanding litigation,' the panel wrote.

State and local election officials have said there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and both a federal court and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court have dismissed lawsuits seeking to prevent the state from certifying the results of the election.

'The Campaign cannot win this lawsuit,' the 3rd Circuit panel found Friday. 'It conceded that it is not alleging election fraud. It has already raised and lost most of these state-law issues, and it cannot relitigate them here.'

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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