The Trump legal team has suffered another loss in its continuing attempts to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election.
In a scathing opinion, a federal appeals court said Friday that a lower court acted properly when it threw out the Trump campaign’s challenge to the certification of the election results in Pennsylvania.
“Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy,” wrote Judge Stephanos Bibas, a former member of the Federalist Society whom Trump nominated to the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. “Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so.”
The ruling caps a tumultuous November for the Trump campaign, which has seen virtually every legal challenge to the outcome of the presidential election tossed by the courts. Friday’s decision upholds last week’s dismissal of Trump’s bid to delay vote certification in the state.
The Trump legal team has already signaled its intention to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. “The activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania continues to cover up the allegations of massive fraud,” said Trump’s attorneys Jenna Ellis and Rudy Giuliani on Twitter. “On to SCOTUS!”
But a Supreme Court challenge isn’t likely to succeed, according to former Acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal, a frequent advocate before the high court. “It’s hard to imagine a stronger smackdown,” Katyal said on Twitter. The Third Circuit “has totally destroyed Trump’s claims in Pennsylvania,” Katyal added, calling the ruling “devastating.”
“I went to school with Judge Bibas,” Katyal said. “He didn’t suffer fools gladly then. He’s very conservative, but that is the point: true conservatives see this lawsuit for what it is — a baseless attack on our democracy.”
Bibas wrote that although the Trump team publicly condemns coverups and fraud, it didn’t allege fraud in court. Rather, it objected to some restrictions placed on Republican poll watchers, as well as to the fact that some Pennsylvania counties let voters fix mail in ballots that had been filled in improperly.
And even if the Trump campaign were correct that some ballots were improperly counted, that wouldn’t offset Biden’s roughly 81,000 vote margin of victory, the court said.
“Tossing out millions of mail-in ballots would be drastic and unprecedented, disenfranchising a huge swath of the electorate and upsetting all down-ballot races too,” Bibas wrote on behalf of a panel of three judges, all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents.
Neither state nor federal law determines how close a poll watcher need be, the court said. Nor does any law dictate how election officials should react if absentee voters fail to fill in their mail-in ballots perfectly. The appeals court commended the lower court for its “fast, fair, patient handling of this demanding litigation.”
“Voters, not lawyers, choose the President,” the court wrote. “Ballots, not briefs, decide elections.”