'Let's end this': Judge urged to throw out Pennsylvania case

Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Reuters
Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Reuters
A lawyer for Pennsylvania officials has urged a judge to dismiss President Donald Trump's lawsuit seeking to block President-elect Joe Biden from being certified as the winner in the state, saying it was time to end the legal wrangling over the US election and tackle the "real business of the country."

During a hearing in federal court in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told US District Judge Matthew Brann there was "widespread, nationwide voter fraud" in the November 3 election, as the Republican president also has claimed, but offered no evidence.

The hearing centred on one of a flurry of long-shot Trump lawsuits filed in various states where he lost - many already dismissed - aimed at contesting Biden's victory. A loss in the case would likely doom Trump's already-remote prospects of altering the election's outcome.

Mark Aronchick, a lawyer representing several Pennsylvania counties, sounded exasperated with Giuliani's claims and said that the former New York mayor was "living in a fantasy world."

"Dismiss this case so we can move on to the real business of this country," Aronchick told Brann. "Let's end this."

The case initially included claims that Republican observers were denied access to ballot-counting. But Trump's campaign on Sunday narrowed it to focus on a claim that some voters were improperly allowed to fix ballots that had been rejected due to technical errors such as missing an inner "secrecy envelope."

During the hearing, Giuliani, a former senior federal prosecutor who has not been a courtroom regular for decades, made sweeping claims despite the campaign's earlier narrowing of the case. Giuliani said election officials in the state only let "their little mafia" look at the ballots, but provided no evidence to back up that claim.

Trump, the first US president to lose a re-election bid since 1992, has called the election "rigged" and has falsely claimed victory. State election officials around the country have said they have found no evidence of the widespread fraud that Trump claims.

Daniel Donovan, a lawyer for Pennsylvania's top election official, called the state's handling of the election during the coronavirus pandemic a success. Donovan argued that Trump's campaign was asking a federal court to "micromanage" routine differences in county practices.

Pennsylvania officials have said a small number of ballots were allowed to be fixed. Trump's campaign, however, asked Brann to halt certification of Biden's victory in the state. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar is due to certify the election results next Monday, meaning Brann is expected to rule quickly.

Biden, due to take office on January 20, is projected to have won Pennsylvania by more than 70,000 votes, giving him 49.9% of the state's votes to 48.8% for Trump.

Trump's campaign said Democratic-leaning counties unlawfully identified mail-in ballots before Election Day that had defects so that voters could fix, or "cure," them. Pennsylvania officials said all of the state's counties were permitted to inform residents if their mail-in ballots were deficient, even if it was not mandatory for them to do so. The pandemic led to a surge in mail-in voting.

Biden clinched the US election by winning Pennsylvania to put him over the 270 state-by-state electoral votes needed. Biden, a Democrat, won 306 Electoral College votes to Trump's 232.

The Trump campaign has had difficulty retaining legal counsel to take on its post-election challenges including the Pennsylvania case. On Monday, three lawyers representing the campaign asked to withdraw from the case, saying the campaign consented to the move but offering little explanation. Brann allowed two of the three to drop out.

The campaign and Trump supporters have filed lawsuits in multiple states that legal experts have said stand little chance of changing the election outcome. A senior Biden legal adviser has called the litigation "theatrics, not really lawsuits."

As the hearing unfolded, Pennsylvania's highest state court issued a ruling against Trump's campaign in a separate lawsuit that could hobble his case before Brann.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the elections board in Philadelphia, the state's largest city, acted reasonably in keeping Trump campaign observers behind barricades and 15 feet (4.5 meters) away from counting tables, rejecting an appeal from Trump's campaign. 

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