The Trump campaign is very angry that journalists noticed that the Trump campaign has made significant changes to a post-election federal lawsuit it filed in Pennsylvania.
President Trump himself, along with top members of his campaign and legal operations, raged on Twitter about Washington Post and Politico reports explaining how the lawsuit had been scaled down.
The Washington Post forgot to read the complaint. Fake News. Poll Watchers, and the way they were treated, are a very big deal in the complaint! https://t.co/Rhc4RY0QSF
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2020
I imagine this guy has a reading deficit. He didn’t read paragraphs 132 to 150 of the amended complaint. I guess 680,770 uninspected, unlawful mail in votes isn’t enough. Well we will find more before trial. https://t.co/HdQJx9T97C
— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) November 16, 2020
The tussle comes down to what the Trump campaign is and isn’t still claiming about the supposed lack of access its poll watchers were given to Pennsylvania’s election process.
In the original lawsuit, the campaign offered several paragraphs of claims alleging that 682,479 mail-in ballots were opened, reviewed and tabulated without proper observation by Trump campaign poll watchers. The campaign argued that this alleged lack of access amounted to violations of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment as well as its Elections Clause. In addition to requesting that the court block certification of the entirety of the Pennsylvania presidential election, campaign said that, in the alternative, the court could require that the state exclude those 682,479 mail-in ballots from the count it certified.
In the amended complaint filed Sunday morning, the campaign removed much — though not all — of its poll watching language. It is still claiming that 682,479 mail-in ballots were processed without proper poll watcher access. But the latest version of the lawsuit eliminated the three counts that were connected specifically to the poll watcher observation issue. It is also no longer requesting that the court exclude from the count that is certified that particular set of ballots.
Without those sections, it appears that the thrust of the lawsuit is focused on the other main category of claims the campaign is making in the case: that Pennsylvania counties imposed different policies for letting voters fix deficiencies with their mail-in ballots and that voters in Republican-leaning counties were more likely to see their ballots thrown out because of those deficiencies. It claims that the laxer policies that the Democratic-leaning counties were implementing were a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
If the Trump campaign were to win on that claim, it would implicate a much smaller pool of ballots than the nearly 700,000 ballots covered by the poll watcher allegations.
In Montgomery County, for instance, only 93 ballots were fixed in the county’s “cure” process that the Trump campaign is objecting to, according to Politico.
According to the latest tabulations, President-elect Joe Biden is leading Trump by more than 65,000 votes.
In a filing submitted later Sunday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said that oral arguments were not necessary in the case, given the way that amended complaint “material narrows” the pending allegations.
The episode is the latest example of the bark of the campaign’s PR messaging — led by President Trump himself — being much more aggressive than the bite of what it is presenting in court.
On Friday, the campaign backed away from its so-called “SharpieGate” lawsuit in Arizona after it became clear that the number of ballots the lawsuit was targeting was much smaller than Biden’s apparent margin of victory in the state.