Tracking Viral Misinformation About the 2020 Election

Here’s what you need to know


At a rambling news conference on Thursday, Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, mixed misleading statements, wild conspiracy theories and outright fabrications as he attempted to suggest that Mr. Trump still had a viable pathway to winning the election.

Over and over again, Mr. Giuliani and other members of the president’s legal team suggested that Mr. Trump had evidence to prove that “massive fraud” had been committed in swing states across the country. But Mr. Giuliani himself had undercut that accusation in one high-profile case, telling the federal judge overseeing a suit in Pennsylvania, “This is not a fraud case.”

Mr. Giuliani, speaking at the Republican National Committee’s headquarters in Washington, claimed that Mr. Trump would prevail in the election if only he could get his day in front of a judge.

“Give us a chance to prove it in court and we will,” he said.

The problem? In many of the instances that Mr. Giuliani mentioned, the Trump campaign has already had its chance in court — and failed.

For example, Mr. Giuliani quoted a Detroit poll worker named Jessy Jacob, who submitted an affidavit in the case Costantino v. City of Detroit. Ms. Jacob claimed that she had witnessed poll workers in Detroit, a heavily Democratic city, encouraging voters to cast their ballots for Joseph R. Biden Jr., and that while she was working at “a satellite location” she was instructed by her superiors not to ask for voters’ identification.

On Friday, however, that case was dismissed by a Michigan circuit judge, Timothy M. Kenny, who said that several of the charges it contained were “rife with speculation and guesswork.” Judge Kenny specifically addressed Ms. Jacob’s accusations, saying they were “generalized” and asserted “behavior with no date, location, frequency or names of employees.”

Mr. Giuliani also cited an affidavit in the case from Melissa Carone, a contractor for Dominion Voting Systems, to claim that trucks intended to transport food instead brought “thousands and thousands of ballots” to Detroit. But Judge Kenny had also rejected that story, saying that Ms. Carone’s description of the events at a vote counting center in Detroit “does not square with any of the other affidavits” and that her “allegations simply are not credible.”

In referring to other cases brought by the Trump campaign, Mr. Giuliani made even vaguer accusations and provided no evidence to support them. He claimed that he had more than 100 affidavits alleging voting improprieties in a federal lawsuit the campaign filed in Michigan, Donald J. Trump for President Inc. v. Benson. But the campaign’s own lawyers voluntarily dismissed that suit just hours before Mr. Giuliani held his news conference.

Mr. Giuliani further said that the Trump campaign had affidavits proving that nearly 700,000 mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania had been tainted. But no such affidavits have been filed in the campaign’s federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania that is seeking to halt the certification of the vote there. Moreover, Mr. Giuliani never mentioned the affidavits when he personally appeared at a hearing in the case on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr. Giuliani also claimed that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. admitted a few days before the election to “have the best voter fraud team in the world.” This was a reference to a deceptively edited video that spread on social media. In his original remarks, Mr. Biden was referring to efforts to protect against voter fraud.

Sidney Powell, another lawyer for Mr. Trump, baselessly warned of “massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba and likely China and the interference with our elections here in the United States.” She claimed that tabulating software used by Dominion and Smartmatic, two voting machine companies, was “created by Hugo Chavez.”

Ms. Powell cited a partially redacted affidavit from an unnamed former military official in Venezuela that accused Smartmatic of helping to rig that country’s elections. But Smartmatic did not provide technology to any battleground state in this year’s presidential election in the United States, nor has it sold any software or hardware to Dominion, which is a competitor. Electronic voting security experts told The New York Times that the affidavit contained no evidence of a rigged election in the United States.

Software made by Dominion was used to count votes in several swing states, and the company has been a target of misinformation from Mr. Trump’s allies, but there is no evidence that the software improperly changed any vote tallies.

Ms. Powell also wrongly claimed that a British baron named Mark Malloch-Brown was one of the “leaders of the Dominion project” as well as the billionaire George Soros’s “No. 2 person” in the United Kingdom. Mr. Malloch-Brown is Smartmatic’s chairman and sits on the board of Mr. Soros’s Open Society Foundations. Mr. Soros has been the target of numerous conspiracy theories propagated on the right, some of them with anti-Semitic overtones.

The Trump campaign has not yet included allegations about Dominion machines in any of its more than 30 lawsuits where the accusations would have to be proven in front of a judge.

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