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Transition Highlights: Judge Dismisses Trump Lawsuit in Pennsylvania


Credit…Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Saturday night dismissed a lawsuit by the Trump campaign that had claimed there were widespread improprieties with mail-in ballots in the state, ending the last major effort to delay the certification of Pennsylvania’s vote results, which is scheduled to take place on Monday.

Some fellow Republicans have already begun to signal their desire to move on. Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, a Republican, said in a statement released Saturday night that with the decision, President Trump “has exhausted all plausible legal options” to challenge the results in Pennsylvania. He added that the outcome of the challenge and others “confirm that Joe Biden won the 2020 election.”

Mr. Toomey congratulated President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory and urged Mr. Trump to “accept the outcome” for his own legacy and “to help unify our country.”

In a tweet, Mr. Trump hit back at Mr. Toomey, calling him “no friend of mine” and adding in a later tweet that he would appeal the decision.

In that decision handed down on Saturday, Judge Matthew W. Brann wrote that Mr. Trump’s campaign, which had asked him to effectively disenfranchise nearly seven million voters, should have come to court “armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption” in its efforts to essentially nullify the results of Pennsylvania’s election.

But instead, Judge Brann complained, the Trump campaign provided only “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations” that were “unsupported by evidence.”

After legal defeats in nearly all of the key swing states — Michigan, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona and Wisconsin — Mr. Trump’s path to overturning the results of the election through the courts has all but vanished.

With his chances diminishing, Mr. Trump on Saturday night made his most explicit call yet for state legislatures to intervene with the aim of reversing the result, once again relying on false claims of fraud. “Hopefully the Courts and/or Legislatures will have the COURAGE to do what has to be done to maintain the integrity of our Elections, and the United States of America itself,” he wrote on Twitter.

The Pennsylvania lawsuit, filed on Nov. 9, accused its secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar, and several counties with largely Democratic populations of unfairly handling mail-in ballots, which were used in unprecedented numbers during this year’s election.

The suit claimed that under Ms. Boockvar’s guidance, the Democratic counties gave voters who had submitted mail-in ballots with minor flaws an opportunity to “cure” or fix them while counties with mostly Republican populations did not alert voters about faulty ballots.

That, according to the Trump campaign, violated the equal protections clause of the United States Constitution.

Judge Brann, a former Pennsylvania Republican Party official and a member of the conservative Federalist Society, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, rejected this argument, likening it to Frankenstein’s monster, which, he noted, had been “haphazardly stitched together.” He ruled that the Trump campaign, lacking standing to make the claim, could not prove that it had suffered any harm if some counties, anticipating a deluge of mail-in ballots, helped their voters to file proper ballots while others did not.

Credit…Tami Chappell/EPA, via Shutterstock

Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, a Republican who is campaigning in a high-stakes runoff election that could determine control of the Senate, is isolating after testing positive for the coronavirus on Friday evening and then receiving an inconclusive result on Saturday, a campaign spokesman said.

Ms. Loeffler has worn masks while interacting with people, but was indoors and unmasked among unmasked crowds at an event on Thursday. She wore a mask while greeting voters who lined up to meet her.

On Friday morning, she took two coronavirus tests, according to her campaign spokesman, Stephen Lawson.

One of those was a rapid test, which came back negative, and Ms. Loeffler “was cleared to attend” events on Friday, including a rally with Vice President Mike Pence and Senator David Perdue of Georgia, Mr. Lawson said. But the second test, a polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., test — which is considered more accurate — came back with a positive result after her events on Friday evening, he said.

Ms. Loeffler, 49, was tested once again on Saturday morning and received an “inconclusive” result on Saturday evening, Mr. Lawson said.

The senator followed C.D.C. guidelines by notifying those with whom she had had sustained contact while she awaits further test results, he said.

Ms. Loeffler has held recent events with prominent Republicans, including Mr. Pence, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mr. Perdue, who is also engaged in a runoff election that could determine control of the Senate.

“She has no symptoms and she will continue to follow C.D.C. guidelines by quarantining until retesting is conclusive and an update will be provided at that time,” Mr. Lawson said in a statement.

Ms. Loeffler, a businesswoman who is the Senate’s richest member, was temporarily appointed to her Senate seat late last year. She faces the Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, a Democrat, in an election on Jan. 5, when Georgia voters will also decide between Mr. Perdue and his opponent, Jon Ossoff, a Democrat.

Astead W. Herndon contributed reporting.

Credit…Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

In an alternate universe where there was no coronavirus pandemic, President Trump might have been ending his presidency by attending the Group of 20 summit in the same city he visited on his first foreign trip as president: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Instead, the coronavirus has turned the global meeting into a V.I.P. webinar — and left the president to pursue his more regular weekend routine, tweeting and going to the golf course.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump briefly participated in a virtual Group of 20 summit from the Situation Room. But he was not listed as a participant at a sideline event at the conference on “Pandemic Preparedness and Response.” Speakers at the event included Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, and Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany.

Instead, Mr. Trump continued the postelection weekend routine he has settled into. He sends out a tweet with a new, empty promise of “fraud” revelations and then heads to his Virginia golf course. It was the third weekend in a row that he has done so.

“Big voter fraud information coming out concerning Georgia. Stay tuned!” Mr. Trump tweeted on Saturday morning.

In reality, Georgia Republicans on Friday delivered a blow to his attempts to undo the election results. The secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, announced that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. had defeated Mr. Trump by 12,670 votes. Gov. Brian Kemp, also a Republican, said he would sign the certification. Mr. Trump has been furious at Mr. Kemp for not helping him in his attempt to undo the election results in his state.

Since the election, Mr. Trump has taken no questions from reporters. But he has played golf on Nov. 7, 8, 14, 15 and 21.

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

The leaders of the Republican National Committee and the Michigan Republican Party have asked the state Board of Canvassers to delay the certification of Michigan’s election results for 14 days.

The request from Ronna McDaniel, the national party chairwoman, and Laura Cox, the state chairwoman, was sent to the board on Saturday. On Monday, the board, which is split between two Republicans and two Democrats, is scheduled to meet to consider certifying the results.

And while election law experts have said that the board’s job is a perfunctory task to review the results already certified by the state’s 83 counties, Republicans and the Trump campaign have been lobbying to stop the certification. The letter came the day after President Trump met with seven Michigan lawmakers, led by the Republican leadership of the State Senate and the House of Representatives, who said afterward that they have seen nothing yet that would change the outcome in Michigan.

Both Ms. McDaniel and Ms. Cox, as well as Mr. Trump, have repeatedly raised questions, without providing evidence, of widespread voting issues, especially in Wayne County and its biggest city, Detroit. There were minor discrepancies with roughly 350 ballots in the city, out of more than 250,000 votes cast.

On Saturday, multiple state legislators from Michigan were photographed departing the Trump International Hotel in Washington after a meeting with the president on Friday.

Several lawmakers including Mike Shirkey, the leader of the State Senate; Lee Chatfield, the House speaker; and State Senator Tom Barrett were known to have traveled to Washington to attend the meeting. State Senator Aric Nesbitt also appeared to have been seen leaving the hotel. Photos of Mr. Chatfield and others having drinks in the Trump hotel lobby Friday night were shared on Twitter on Saturday.

If the board deadlocks on certifying the election results, Democrats will most likely take the matter to the State Court of Appeals with a request to order the Board of Canvassers to do its statutory duty and certify the results. If the board still deadlocks, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could act to remove the board members for failing to do their jobs.

A spokesman for Jocelyn Benson, the Michigan secretary of state, said that Republicans could request a recount after certification of the vote, but there was no evidence to corroborate Ms. McDaniel’s claims of irregularities in the election.

“At this time, no evidence of widespread misconduct or fraud has been reported, and judges initially appointed by both Republicans and Democrats have found allegations of widespread fraud to be wholly meritless,” the spokesman said.

The Trump campaign asked on Saturday for a full recount in Georgia, a day after Mr. Biden’s victory there was certified following a recount that affirmed the president-elect had won the most votes. That recount, initiated by the state, was technically referred to as an “audit,” and the Trump campaign had the right to request another recount.

Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. continued to overcome President Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results on Friday, as only a few Republican lawmakers started to break ranks and acknowledge Mr. Biden’s electoral victory.

Georgia became the first contested state to certify Mr. Biden’s victory, a move that likely seals the state’s 16 electoral votes for the former vice president, although Mr. Trump could still demand a machine recount.

Georgia’s certification is the first of a series of battlegrounds that could officially declare Mr. Biden the winner in the coming days, with Michigan and Pennsylvania facing a certification deadline on Monday and Nevada on Tuesday.

Though Mr. Biden won Michigan decisively, the outcome of the state’s 16 electoral votes was a source of intense focus on Friday, as top Republican lawmakers from the state visited the White House at the president’s invitation. After the meeting, the lawmakers said that they would “follow the normal process” in certifying the state’s vote tally and honor the electoral outcome, dealing a blow to one of the president’s most brazen attempts to subvert the electoral process.

More Republican lawmakers on Friday also publicly acknowledged Mr. Trump’s loss. Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, referred to Mr. Biden and his running mate Senator Kamala Harris as “president-elect” and “vice president-elect” in an interview on ABC News. Representative Kay Granger, Republican from Texas, said on CNN that she had “great concerns” about Mr. Trump’s efforts to the upend the election, saying, “It’s time to move on.”

And Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee became the most prominent Republican lawmaker to press Mr. Trump to start the transition process, saying on Friday that it looks like Mr. Biden had a “very good chance” of winning. Late Friday night, a spokeswoman for Ms. Blackburn said the senator “misspoke.”

Mr. Biden met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, during the first in-person gathering of the Democratic leaders since the election.

They said the meeting was focused on the need for Congress to pass a coronavirus aid package in the coming weeks, rather than waiting for Mr. Biden to take office in January.

Credit…Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The Trump administration has scheduled the executions of three more federal inmates on death row for the final weeks and days of President Trump’s term.

The executions are scheduled to occur shortly before President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has signaled his opposition to the death penalty, enters the White House in January.

With the announcement on Friday, the Justice Department plans to execute a total of six inmates during the presidential transition. The first, Orlando Cordia Hall, was put to death on Thursday night.

Press officers at the Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Trump administration revived the federal death penalty last summer after a nearly two-decade hiatus. Since July, the federal government has executed eight prisoners.

Those scheduled to die find themselves just weeks away from the start of an administration that has signaled it would not seek to carry out their death sentences. Mr. Biden has promised to work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level and incentivize states to follow suit.

In its announcement, the Justice Department said that the three men scheduled to die — Alfred Bourgeois, Corey Johnson and Dustin John Higgs — were convicted of brutal murders. Mr. Bourgeois’s execution is scheduled for Dec. 11. Mr. Johnson and Mr. Higgs are scheduled to die less than a week before Mr. Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

In three separate statements, lawyers for the men objected to the move to execute their clients. Lawyers for Mr. Johnson said his intellectual disability should prohibit his execution from being constitutionally carried out. A lawyer for Mr. Bourgeois similarly argued that his client had an intellectual disability, and that the Constitution and the Federal Death Penalty Act barred his execution.

A lawyer for Mr. Higgs claimed that his client “did not kill anyone.” Rather, he asserted, the sole gunman in Mr. Higgs’s case was his co-defendant, who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.

Additionally, two other federal inmates are scheduled to die before the end of Mr. Trump’s term. Lisa M. Montgomery’s execution is scheduled for Dec. 8, although a federal judge enjoined the government from doing so before Dec. 31. The execution of Brandon Bernard is scheduled for Dec. 10.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

While President Trump is still contesting the election results, corporate America — along with much of the rest of the world — is moving on. In recent days, companies including Boeing, CVS Health and McDonald’s have said they recognized President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and believe the election was free and fair.

On Friday and Saturday, the chorus of chief executives calling for an orderly transition continued to grow.

“The election is over and we expect a smooth transition,” said Ajay Banga, the chief executive of Mastercard. “That’s the hallmark of American democracy.”

Many companies were already offering to work with the Biden administration on efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic and kick-start the economy.

“The country needs political stability,” said Michael Dell, the chief executive of Dell Technologies. “We are eager to progress forward and work with the new administration and Congress on pandemic response and recovery and other critical priorities including education, infrastructure and the environment.”

Julie Sweet, the chief executive of Accenture, congratulated Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Nov. 8, the day after most major news media organizations called the election. On Friday, Ms. Sweet called for the Trump administration to cooperate with the transition.

“We have work to do as a country — defeating the pandemic, ending the digital divide, rebuilding the economy and so much more,” she said. “A peaceful, lawful transition must be permitted to move forward.”

Among the companies effectively calling on the Trump administration to concede defeat were many major government contractors, including Cisco.

“We had a free and fair election, and it was encouraging to see the record number of Americans who exercised their right to vote,” said Chuck Robbins, the chief executive of Cisco. “Now we must move forward with the transition process so we can take the steps needed to recover from the pandemic.”

Carlos Gutierrez, the former Commerce secretary, who is now the chairman of EmPath, a private company, and was previously the chief executive of Kellogg, said that beyond disrupting the handoff to the Biden administration, Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede was eroding America’s standing in the world.

“The absence of a normal transition, and a president determined to make some kind of a mark in his last 60 days, has created uncertainty and a worldwide sense of confusion,” Mr. Gutierrez said.

Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, tested positive for the coronavirus at the beginning of the week and has been isolating since Monday, a spokesman for Mr. Trump said on Friday.

He added that Mr. Trump has shown no symptoms and is following virus protocols.

Mr. Trump is the latest person close to the president who has tested positive for Covid-19. Barron Trump, the president’s youngest son, tested positive last month. Melania Trump, the first lady, also tested positive in October. In July, Mr. Trump’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, had tested positive for the virus.

President Trump tested positive for the virus in October and was hospitalized as his symptoms worsened. The president underwent a series of invasive therapies typically reserved for people seriously sick with Covid-19.

Donald Trump Jr.’s announcement comes hours after Rudolph W. Giuliani’s son, Andrew Giuliani, a special assistant to the president, announced on Twitter that he had tested positive. This week, two Republican senators, Rick Scott of Florida and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, also said they had the virus.

After an exposure to the virus, symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear, if they ever appear at all. In that time, the virus can still spread from person to person.

According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mr. Trump should isolate for at least 10 days following his positive test. The spokesman did not indicate which test Mr. Trump had taken.

In recent months, Mr. Trump has questioned the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, saying in a Fox News interview that since deaths from the virus had dropped to “almost nothing” the outbreak had come under control. That day deaths in the United States topped 1,000.

Mr. Trump’s diagnosis, reported earlier by Bloomberg, comes as the virus is surging across the nation. As of Friday, at least 1,947 new coronavirus deaths and 198,537 new cases were reported in the United States.

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Biden Transition Pushes Ahead Despite Trump’s Obstacles

Yohannes Abraham and Jen Psaki, spokespeople for the Biden-Harris transition team, told reporters on Friday that the delayed presidential transition might have a harmful effect on the country.

“As Jen mentioned, the G.S.A. administrator has yet to ascertain the results of the election despite an overwhelming consensus that Joe Biden is the winner of the election, therefore, the president-elect. And as Jen also mentioned, we continue to move forward in the absence of an ascertainment decision for the non-ascertainment does place limits on the resources available to the transition, and most importantly, our access to federal agencies. This isn’t a game — who gets to talk to whom. Our inability to start a formal agency review process has the potential to have real impacts on families across the country. Earlier this week Dr. Fauci said that the lack of ascertainment would delay vaccine distribution, leading medical groups, including the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the American Nurses Association also wrote a letter urging the Trump administration to coordinate with the Biden transition on Covid-19 planning.” “Our teams can’t speak with or engage with administration officials because the ascertainment has been delayed. And we would certainly love to have that engagement, and love to be discussing with the — and people who have been experts on a range of issues from foreign policy to health policy, you know, preparations to take over Jan. 20. But our team has been very careful, of course, about following those rules and guidelines and we’ll have to abide by that until ascertainment happens.”

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Yohannes Abraham and Jen Psaki, spokespeople for the Biden-Harris transition team, told reporters on Friday that the delayed presidential transition might have a harmful effect on the country.CreditCredit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

The Biden-Harris transition team is moving “full speed ahead,” a spokeswoman told reporters on Friday, even as its concern grows that the delayed presidential transition might have a harmful effect on the nation.

In a virtual briefing, two spokespeople for the transition renewed the team’s pressure on the General Services Administration chief, Emily W. Murphy, to approve paperwork giving President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his staff access to federal resources, data and personnel. Ms. Murphy has declined to do so amid President Trump’s continuing refusal to accept Mr. Biden’s presidential election victory.

“This isn’t a game,” said Yohannes Abraham, a spokesman for the transition. He noted that growing number of business groups and leaders, including the heads of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, called in recent days for the transition process to begin.

Asked whether the Biden team has had unpublicized contact with Trump administration officials, as some reports have indicated, Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman, said, “We certainly would love to have that engagement.” But she said the transition team “has been very careful, of course, about following those rules and guidelines and we’ll have to abide by that until ascertainment happens.”

Ascertainment is the term applied when the G.S.A. concludes that the election has produced a winner and a transition can begin.

Underscoring the strange limbo Mr. Trump has created for Mr. Biden’s team, Mr. Biden tweeted on Friday a plea for private donations to fund his transition activities. “Here’s the deal: Because President Trump refuses to concede and is delaying the transition, we have to fund it ourselves and need your help,” Mr. Biden wrote. Clicking the link leads to a form hosted by the Democratic ActBlue network which suggests donations ranging from $15 to $5,000, though users can give any amount.

The officials offered no specifics about when the transition might announce further personnel appointments, including Mr. Biden’s first cabinet nominees.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

With election challenges faltering across several states, President Trump has looked to Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor who has also served as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, to coordinate a number of lawsuits across the country, and even represent the Trump campaign personally in court.

The results have been disappointing.

The president’s win-loss record in court cases alleging election fraud or other irregularities now stands at 2 to 32, according to a tally maintained by Marc Elias, a Democratic election lawyer. Mr. Elias updated his score on Friday afternoon after a court in Nevada rejected a Republican effort to request a new election. Nevada went for Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Trump’s campaign keeps getting routed in case after case. Challenges keep getting tossed out by exasperated judges. Entire legal teams have quit en masse. Claims better suited to random Twitter feeds (or the president’s) have been laughed out of court after court.

“Working as an engineer throughout my life, I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie,” Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, said at a news conference on Friday. He reiterated this while confirming Mr. Biden’s victory in the state after a hand recount of ballots.

In a Pennsylvania courtroom on Tuesday, Mr. Giuliani made his first appearance as a lawyer before a federal judge in nearly three decades. The time off showed.

“I have to say, it’s been strange,” said Mark Aronchick, a veteran Philadelphia lawyer who is representing four Pennsylvania counties against the Trump campaign’s challenge. “We have a robust legal system where we’re trained to focus on evidence and precedent. And then you go into a court of law and suddenly Rudy Giuliani is talking like he’s in the driveway of Four Seasons Total Landscaping.”

Credit…Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

For more than a week, a former federal prosecutor named Sidney Powell made the rounds on right-wing talk radio and cable news, facing little pushback as she laid out a conspiracy theory that Venezuela, Cuba and other “communist” interests had used a secret algorithm to hack into voting machines and steal millions of votes from President Trump.

So it came as most unwelcome news to the president’s defenders when Tucker Carlson, the host of a Fox News show and a confidant of Mr. Trump, dissected Ms. Powell’s claims as unreliable and unproven.

“What Powell was describing would amount to the single greatest crime in American history,” Mr. Carlson said on Thursday night, his voice ringing with incredulity in a 10-minute monologue at the top of his show. But, he said, when he invited Ms. Powell on his show to share her evidence, she became “angry and told us to stop contacting her.”

The response was immediate, and hostile. The president’s allies in the conservative media and their legions of devoted Trump fans quickly closed ranks behind Ms. Powell and her case on behalf of the president, accusing the Fox host of betrayal.

The backlash against Mr. Carlson and Fox for daring to exert even a moment of independence underscores how little willingness exists among Republicans to challenge the president and his false narrative about the election he insists was stolen.

.

Mr. Carlson is no ordinary Trump critic. He has been one of the president’s most aggressive defenders in prime time, especially when it came to standing up for Mr. Trump.He has also generally bought into the disproved notion that voter fraud is a widespread problem — a popular position with Mr. Trump and on Mr. Carlson’s network.

Mr. Carlson, no doubt aware that many in his audience, including possibly the president himself, would not like what they were hearing, walked a fine line on Thursday night. He insisted that he and his producers “took Sidney Powell seriously.”

He also tried to reassure his audience that he was on their side after all, explaining how he always kept an open mind about alleged cover-ups like the one Ms. Powell has promoted. “We don’t dismiss anything,” he said. “We literally do U.F.O. segments.”



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