Vote, then court

As Trump threatens legal action, team Biden also marshals its lawyers

Election 2020 Legal Challenges AP

Stop the Count!’ was the clarion call from President Donald Trump as the US elections drama played out with no clear ending in sight. The razor-thin margins and the yet to be counted mail-in ballots, which generally favour Democrats, were changing the scenario for Trump who prematurely declared victory. For him, on November 5, the road to the White House seemed to be through a maze of litigation.

“All of the recent Biden claimed states will be legally challenged by us for voter fraud and state election fraud,” he tweeted.

It is not exactly the reassuring message you expect from the leader of the free world. Minutes later, he tweeted again: ‘Stop the Fraud!’

It is a sign of the times that Twitter put a disclaimer on many of Trump’s pronouncements.

“They are finding Biden votes all over the place—in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. So bad for our country!” complained Trump, not acknowledging that votes were not being “found” for Biden but were legitimate votes that need to be counted.

As millions of Americans and spectators worldwide watch this nail-biting drama play out and thousands of hardworking poll-workers try to get the results to the electorate, Trump has taken his army of lawyers to challenge the outcome in different states.

According to CBS News, “Mr Trump and the Republican Party have not been shy about attempting to wield the judiciary as a weapon in their battle for the White House, filing dozens of lawsuits in state and federal courts in the run-up to the election, seeking to block changes to election rules that made it easier to vote during the pandemic.”

Some Republicans do not agree with this strategy. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine told Fox News, “We count the votes. We believe in the rule of law. I am for Trump, but if it ends up being Biden, all of us will accept that... Every vote has to be counted. We as a country accept election results.”

According to Neal Katyal, Supreme Court lawyer and law professor at Georgetown University, “Optics of this are not good for Trump. His lawyers are marching into state after state, trying to stop votes from being counted. Biden’s lawyers by contrast are in court saying all votes should be counted.”

He tweeted, “Trump’s best litigation hope in Pennsylvania is to try to toss out ballots that arrive after election day (even though Penn Supreme Court said they would count through Friday). Key problem for him, if trends continue, is that Biden will not even need any of them to win.”

Adam Liptak, who covers the Supreme Court, wrote in The New York Times: “The first statement was premature. The second did not make sense. The Supreme Court decides actual disputes, not abstract propositions, and then only after lower courts have made their own rulings.”

As the count progressed and Trump continued to threaten legal action, the Biden-Harris team was also marshalling its lawyers and had launched the Biden Fight Fund. “[It is] to stand up the biggest and most comprehensive legal effort ever assembled,” said Jen O’Malley Dillon, campaign manager of Biden for President. “The Biden Fight Fund will fund election protection efforts for Joe Biden and Democrats up and down the ballot. If he (Trump) makes good on this threat, our legal team is standing by. And they will prevail.”

As Biden had said at a drive-in rally in Delaware, “Donald Trump does not decide the outcome of this election. Joe Biden does not decide the outcome of this election. The American people decide the outcome of this election. And the democratic process must and will continue until its conclusion.”