Rudy Giuliani, personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.(Photo Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Well, that was nuts.Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s top campaign lawyer, laid out a string of baseless charges Thursday afternoon claiming that Joe Biden’s campaign had rigged the election in state after state, spinning out conspiracy theories that have already fallen apart in numerous court cases as he called for Biden’s clear election wins to be overturned in multiple states.“It’s a common plan, it’s a common scheme, it comes directly from the Democrat Party and it comes from the candidate,” Giuliani claimed, arguing “mass cheating in this election” after accusing local officials from Atlanta, Detroit, Madison, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and other cities of rigging the election in a coordinated conspiracy with Biden.
This wide-ranging conspiracy theory has fallen apart when actually tested in the courts, however. Trump’s campaign has failed to produce any actual evidence of widespread voter fraud in any of the states where they’re trying to overturn the election results. And they’ve lost more than two dozen cases, while scoring just one partial victory in a case that had to do with just a few hundred ballots. Giuliani tried to brush by that losing streak, claiming all the judges were biased against the campaign too, even though both Democratic and GOP-appointed judges have thrown out the Trump campaign’s arguments.“Unfortunately they have some friendly judges that will issue ridiculously irrational opinions just to come out in their favor,” he said.Giuliani was dripping with sweat by the end of his extended diatribe, with the sweat appearing to take his hair dye with it in a dribble down his cheek.
But he was singing a different tune earlier this week. Giuliani said in court on Tuesday that the Trump campaign has no evidence of voter fraud in Philadelphia.“This is not a fraud case,” he admitted after pointed questioning from the judge.Giuliani’s claim that election officials had rigged the votes in multiple cities is facially farcical and has already been rejected by multiple judges. Trump actually did better in some of those places in 2020 than in 2016—his vote margin out of Philadelphia improved this time around, for instance, and he did just about as well in Milwaukee. If Democrats were rigging the election, one would think Biden would have done much better in those places.
The hour-plus press conference featured so many falsehoods and half-truths that have been knocked down in court that to fact-check the entire event would be fruitless. But some of Giuliani’s specific claims were just obvious lies. He claimed that 15,000 Pittsburgh provisional votes proved that officials were allowing Democrats to vote twice. “Why did it happen 15,000 times that people in Pittsburgh walked in to vote and they’d already voted according to the Democrat election machine?” he claimed.Many provisional ballots were cast by voters who requested mail ballots but decided to vote in person instead, and then were verified to make sure they did not vote twice.“Give us an opportunity to prove it in court, and we will,” Giuliani said about the bevy of accusations, some of which have already been tossed out in the courts.
He demanded reporters look at the actual evidence—but then said he wouldn’t present it all.“I can’t give you all these affidavits, because if I do, these people will be harassed, they will be threatened, they may lose their jobs,” Giuliani said.It’s worth noting that the Trump campaign specifically called out Joe Biden’s Nevada electors by name in Nevada, a needless legal move that only served to doxx them publicly. Those electors included a homeless veteran.The Trump team’s wild claims are highly unlikely to withstand much legal scrutiny, but they’re dangerous nonetheless. The biggest risk is that the Trump team uses these wild claims to keep Republicans in line and try to get GOP-controlled state legislatures to overturn their states’ elections and attempt to appoint their own electors to the Electoral College. That would take multiple states doing this, local Republicans have so far been resistant to this plan and it’s unclear if it’s even legal, but it’s clear that’s where they’re headed: Trump summoned the GOP leaders of Michigan’s legislature for a meeting on Thursday.
Even if this all falls apart legally and Biden becomes the next president, which is the likely result, Trump’s team still will have created a poisonous narrative that’s undermining the country’s faith in democratic institutions, using flimsy evidence to damage democracy itself and damage Americans’ trust in the system.Giuliani wasn’t the only Trump lawyer making insane claims. Sidney Powell followed up by echoing the baseless conspiracy theory that voting machines used in multiple states that were produced by Dominion Voting Systems were purchased because of their “ability to flip votes,” echoing a conspiracy theory pushed by QAnon and Breitbart News that has been widely debunked.“I want the American public to know right now that we will not be intimidated. American patriots are fed up with the corruption from the local level to the highest level of our government and we are going to take this country back,” she said. “We are not going to be intimidated, we are not going to back down. We are going to clean this mess up now. President Trump won by a landslide and we are going to prove it. And we are going to reclaim the United States of America for the people who vote for freedom.”“All of your fake news headlines are dancing around the merits of this case,” Trump adviser and attorney Jenna Ellis claimed about the dozens of cases that Trump has lost, before slamming the cable news networks for having cut away from the unhinged press conference. CNN and MSNBC stopped carrying the lie-packed conference early on, though Fox News stuck with it.“We have given you an overview but recognize this is not a court of law,” Ellis said, arguing that the Trump campaign would prove the election was “irredeemably compromised.”But the goal is not a court victory; they aim to poison Americans’ trust in democracy — and potentially set up an attempt for Republican state legislators in multiple states to overturn the will of their voters and reinstall Trump for a second term.