- Emily Bazelonauthor, staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, and a lecturer and senior research fellow at Yale Law School.
As President Trump’s unprecedented campaign to overturn the results of the presidential election drags on, over two dozen lawsuits filed by his legal team have been dismissed or withdrawn. The Trump team is now focusing on delaying or blocking the certification of the election in several states while trying to toss out votes in cities with large Black populations, including Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta. New York Times Magazine staff writer Emily Bazelon says the Trump legal team’s efforts have so far lacked real substance, with the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani “treating court as if it’s cable news.” She also says more Republican lawmakers need to stand up against Trump’s attempt to subvert democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: President Trump’s unprecedented attempt to overturn the 2020 election is continuing despite new court setbacks. On Saturday, a conservative judge in Pennsylvania dismissed a Trump lawsuit challenging Joe Biden’s victory in the state. Judge Matthew Brann accused the Trump team of trying to, quote, “disenfranchise almost seven million voters,” unquote, by using, quote, “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations … unsupported by evidence.” He went on to write, quote, “This claim, like Frankenstein’s Monster, has been haphazardly stitched together,” unquote. Trump is appealing the ruling.
Over two dozen lawsuits filed by Trump’s legal team have been dismissed or withdrawn. The Trump team is now focusing on delaying or blocking the certification of the election in numerous states while trying to toss out votes in several cities with large Black populations, including Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Michigan’s state canvassing board is scheduled to vote today on certification, but the Republican National Committee and Republicans in Michigan are seeking a delay. At least one of the Republican members of the four-person board is expected to vote against certifying the results. Michigan could face a constitutional crisis if both Republicans refuse to certify the vote.
On Friday, a group of Michigan Republican state lawmakers, including the Senate majority leader and the state House speaker, were flown to Washington, D.C., to meet with President Trump at the White House in what was widely viewed as an attempt by Trump to personally lobby the lawmakers to block Biden from being awarded Michigan’s 16 electoral votes, even though he won the state by about 155,000 votes. Some of the lawmakers were later photographed drinking an $800 bottle of Dom Pérignon Champagne at Trump International Hotel, where they were staying.
Meanwhile, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund is suing Trump on behalf of three Black Detroit residents for attempting to disenfranchise voters.
In Georgia, the Trump team has asked for a second recount even though no evidence of widespread fraud emerged during a statewide audit of the election. Biden won the state by over 12,000 votes. On Friday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp certified the state’s slate of 16 presidential electors, but he did not clearly endorse the results.
This all comes as Trump’s legal team is distancing itself from attorney Sidney Powell just days after she spread wild conspiracy theories about the election during a news conference with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C.
We begin today’s show with Emily Bazelon, staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, lecturer and senior research fellow at Yale Law School. She’s been closely monitoring Trump’s election lawsuits. She’s also author of Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration, and she’s co-host of the Slate podcast Political Gabfest.
Emily, thanks so much for joining us. So, President Trump’s team has lost or withdrawn over 30 lawsuits. But they persist. Explain the significance of the latest judge’s ruling in Pennsylvania, and then go to explain what’s happening right now in Michigan.
EMILY BAZELON: This is an important lawsuit in Pennsylvania and an important defeat for the Trump campaign, because, obviously, Pennsylvania is a key state, and they had put a lot of effort into trying to overturn the election in Pennsylvania. They were asking to throw out all of the votes in Pennsylvania because of unproven allegations not really even of fraud, but of the idea that because some voters were given a chance to fix errors on their absentee ballot, but not every county afforded that chance to voters, that that invalidated the entire election. That’s a pretty odd theory of election law, and if you are going to bring a challenge like that to the procedure, you need to bring it before the election takes place, not afterward, because of the problem of disenfranchisement. And so, that was one of the reasons, among many, that the judge in Pennsylvania dismissed that lawsuit.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about this judge and the language he used in dismissing it, the disgust he expressed.
EMILY BAZELON: Yeah, I mean, you quoted, as I think many of us are, this comparison he made to Frankenstein’s monster, because he was saying that the claims were kind of stitched together in a haphazard fashion. And, you know, I think what we saw in court at this hearing, with Rudy Giuliani representing the Trump campaign, was treating court as if it’s cable news, with the same kind of grandstanding and lack of specific proof of the allegations you’re making. And I think the judge was making it clear that that just doesn’t fly in court. That’s not what it means to practice law in court. You have to provide evidence.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the difference between what happens when Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and now the Trump attorney — when he goes into the court and says, actually, he’s not alleging fraud, and then walks out of the court, and in this, I mean, what will go down in history of this bizarre news conference, with a person that was described as Trump’s lawyer, as well, Sidney Powell, where she said the entire election should be thrown out because it’s a conspiracy between Hugo Chávez, who died years ago, the communists, antifa, George Soros and German voting in the country of Germany — I mean, the counting of the votes in Germany, that the entire election in this country should be thrown out, now Giuliani distancing himself, and his makeup, you know, leaking down his face, this bizarre moment — but what he says outside and what he says inside, for laypeople who don’t really get the difference?
EMILY BAZELON: Right. So, when you’re inside a courtroom, you have to provide some proof, especially if you’re asking a judge to do something incredibly dramatic like overturn the results of an election, right? That’s not lightly undertaken, because millions of people had voted. And so, I think what you see here is a kind of indication of desperation on the part of Giuliani and these other lawyers. If they had real proof of fraud, of some theory that could really make it possible that they could get their wish in court, they would be clearly stating that in court. They did not do that. And so, instead, you take to the airwaves, where a judge is not necessarily asking hard questions, and you can make whatever allegations you want. But the mismatch shows that you just don’t have the goods to win your lawsuit.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Governor Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey. There have been a lot of questions about why more Republicans aren’t speaking out. He denounced the lack of evidence in Trump’s election lawsuits as a, quote, “national embarrassment.” He was speaking on ABC’s This Week on Sunday.
CHRIS CHRISTIE: What’s happened here is, quite frankly, the conduct of the president’s legal team has been a national embarrassment. … They allege fraud outside the courtroom, but when they go inside the courtroom, they don’t plead fraud, and they don’t argue fraud. This is what I was concerned about at 2:30 in the morning on Wednesday night. Listen, I’ve been a supporter of the president. I voted for him twice. But elections have consequences, and we cannot continue to act as if something happened here that didn’t happen.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey. Can you talk, Emily Bazelon, about the lack of Republican voices, that are astounding in the face of all of this? I mean, if these elections were overturned, many Republicans would also have their elections invalidated.
EMILY BAZELON: Right, although the Trump campaign conveniently does not argue that in court. But logically speaking, of course, you’re correct. I think what we are seeing here is a lot of enabling. And we have seen now for years elected Republican politicians unwilling to challenge President Trump when he says things that simply aren’t true. And now it’s really going to quite an extreme, where a basic statement, like “elections have consequences, and when you lose, you have to leave office,” turns into a kind of dramatic act of heroism.
I think the Republicans have a problem acting collectively. And so, when they challenge President Trump one by one, then he gets mad at them on Twitter, and they worry that they’re losing support among their voters. I mean, Chris Christie doesn’t have to worry about that, because he’s [not] still in office, but I think a lot of current politicians who care about their political futures and feel beholden to Trump’s base are just afraid to challenge him. And the thing is, you’re not going to win unless you all get together and say, “Your time in court is over. The results of the election are clear: President-elect Joe Biden is going to be the next president.” And they just have not made that kind of collective statement.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s turn to what’s happening in Michigan right now. I mean, you have the president bringing in the heads of the state Legislature, the House and the Senate. I want to turn to last Tuesday, election officials in the state’s largest county certifying Joe Biden’s victory after a dramatic reversal. We’re going to talk with the head of the NAACP in Detroit about this, but if you can talk about what’s happened right now with one of the two state board canvassers saying that they are going to vote against certifying the vote? There are only two Republicans and two Democrats. Talk about the significance of this and what will happen.
EMILY BAZELON: Well, this is a very odd situation, because the state canvassing board clearly has what’s called a ministerial duty. And that means that the board, once it is satisfied that the votes have been tabulated and the counties have certified their results, which did happen last week in every county — once the state board sees that, they are supposed to sign off. It’s not a choice. The statute says “shall.” And so, when you have that kind of function set up for you, you are not supposed to be deciding that because you have your own suspicions, you’re supposed to call for an investigation; maybe you just prefer President Trump to President-elect Biden. That’s not your job. And so, I think there is going to be a real tension here between the clear duty of these canvassing board members to sign off and certify the election, and this kind of partisan bias or these unbased suspicions of fraud that keep simmering even though no actual fraud has surfaced.
And I should also mention, there were more than 670,000 votes cast in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, and there were questions about counting like 350 of them — a tiny percentage. And in most cases, it was pretty easy to explain what had happened. It’s a regular event in elections for the poll books to not perfectly balance, right? You can have someone who gets in line and gets marked as about to vote, who then changes their mind and leaves. There are innocent explanations for why you can have very small irregularities. And the notion that, you know, because of this, all of Detroit’s votes should be thrown out, as one of the country board members suggested, that is just really not how election law works. And it is telling when you decide not to count the votes of the mostly Black city in your state. It suggests that there’s just something else going on here.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break, and I’m going to ask you to stay with us. We’re going to speak with the head of the NAACP in Detroit, and I want to get your comments on that, as well. Emily Bazelon is staff writer with The New York Times Magazine, lecturer and senior research fellow at Yale Law School and author of Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration. We’ll be back with her and the head of the NAACP in Detroit in a moment.