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As they frantically searched for ways to salvage President Donald Trump's failed reelection bid, his campaign pursued a dizzying game of legal hopscotch across six states that centered on the biggest prize of all: Pennsylvania.

The strategy may have played well in front of television cameras and on talk radio. But it has proved a disaster in court, where judges uniformly rejected their claims of vote fraud and found the campaign's legal work amateurish.

In a ruling late Saturday, U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann ? a Republican and Federalist Society member in central Pennsylvania ? compared the campaign's legal arguments to “Frankenstein's Monster,” concluding that Trump's team offered only “speculative accusations," not proof of rampant corruption.

Now, as the legal doors close on Trump's attempts to have courts do what voters would not do on Election Day and deliver him a second term, his efforts in Pennsylvania show how far he is willing to push baseless theories of widespread voter fraud.

It was led by Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, who descended on the state the Saturday after the Nov. 3 election as the count dragged on and the president played golf. Summoning reporters to a scruffy, far-flung corner of Philadelphia on Nov. 7, he held forth at a site that would soon become legendary: Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

Just heating up was Trump’s plan to subvert the election through litigation and howls of fraud ? the same tactic he had used to stave off losses in the business world. And it would soon spread far beyond Pennsylvania.

“Some of the ballots looked suspicious,” Giuliani, 76, said of the vote count in Philadelphia as he stood behind a chain link fence, next to a sex shop. He maligned the city as being run by a “decrepit Democratic machine.”

“Those mail-in ballots could have been written the day before, by the Democratic Party hacks that were all over the convention center,” Giuliani said. He promised to file a new round of lawsuits. He rambled.

“This is a very, very strong case,” he asserted. Justin Levitt, a Loyola Law School professor who specializes in election law, called the Trump lawsuits dangerous.

“It is a sideshow, but it’s a harmful sideshow," Levitt said. “It’s a toxic sideshow. The continuing baseless, evidence-free claims of alternative facts are actually having an effect on a substantial number of Americans. They are creating the conditions for elections not to work in the future.”


The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would not grant a quick, pre-election review to a new Republican appeal to exclude absentee ballots received after Election Day in the presidential battleground state of Pennsylvania, although it remained unclear whether those ballots will ultimately be counted. The court’s order left open the possibility that the justices could take up and decide after the election whether a three-day extension to receive and count absentee ballots ordered by Pennsylvania’s high court was proper.

The issue would take on enormous importance if Pennsylvania turns out to be the crucial state in next week’s election and the votes received between Nov. 3 and Nov. 6 are potentially decisive. The Supreme Court ruled hours after Pennsylvania’s Department of State agreed to segregate ballots received in the mail after polls close on Tuesday and before 5 p.m. on Nov. 6. President Donald Trump’s campaign suggested that those ballots will never be counted.

“We secured a huge victory when the Pennsylvania Secretary of State saw the writing on the wall and voluntarily complied with our injunction request, segregating ballots received after the Nov. 3 deadline to ensure they will not be counted until the Supreme Court rules on our petition,” Justin Clark, a deputy campaign manager, said in an interview. The court, Clark said, deferred “the most important issue in the case, which is whether state courts can change the time, place and manner of elections, contrary to the rules adopted by the Legislature.”

Pennsylvania’s Department of State could not immediately say Wednesday night whether it would revise its guidance to the counties about whether to count those ballots. The Alliance for Retired Americans, which had sued in Pennsylvania state courts for an extended deadline, said the ruling means that ballots arriving during the three-day period after Election Day will be counted. “This is an enormous victory for all Pennsylvania voters, especially seniors who should not have to put their health at risk during the pandemic in order to cast a ballot that will be counted,” Richard Fiesta, the alliance’s executive director, said in a statement.

New Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not take part in the vote “because of the need for a prompt resolution of it and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings,” court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said in an email. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for three justices, indicated he would support the high court’s eventual review of the issue. But, he wrote, “I reluctantly conclude that there is simply not enough time at this late date to decide the question before the election.” Last week, the justices divided 4-4, a tie vote that allowed the three-day extension ordered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to remain in effect.



The Supreme Court, already poised to take a significant turn to the right, opened its new term Monday with a jolt from two conservative justices who raised new criticism of the court’s embrace of same-sex marriage.

The justices returned from their summer break on a somber note, following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, hearing arguments by phone because of the coronavirus pandemic and bracing for the possibility of post-election court challenges.

The court paused briefly to remember Ginsburg, the court’s second woman. But a statement from Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, underscored conservatives’ excitement and liberals’ fears about the direction the court could take if the Senate confirms President Donald Trump’s nominee for Ginsburg’s seat, Amy Coney Barrett.

Commenting on an appeal from a former county clerk in Kentucky who objected to issuing same-sex marriage licenses, Thomas wrote that the 5-4 majority in a 2015 case had “read a right to same-sex marriage” into the Constitution, “even though that right is found nowhere in the text.” And he said that the decision “enables courts and governments to brand religious adherents who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman as bigots.”

Thomas suggested the court needs to revisit the issue because it has “created a problem that only it can fix.” Until then, he said, the case will continue to have “ruinous consequences for religious liberty.”

The court turned away the appeal of the former clerk, Kim Davis, among hundreds of rejected cases Monday. Thomas’ four-page statement prompted outrage from LGBTQ rights groups and others. Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement that Thomas and Alito had “renewed their war on LGBTQ rights and marriage equality” as the direction of the court “hangs in the balance.”

With Ginsburg’s death and the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2018, only three members of the majority in the gay marriage case remain: Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Reversing the court’s decision in the gay marriage case would seem a tall order, but Thomas’ statement underscored liberals’ fears that the court could roll back some of their hardest-fought gains.

The cases the justices spent about two and a half hours discussing Monday, however, were far less prominent: a water dispute between Texas and New Mexico and a case involving a provision of the Delaware constitution that keeps the number of state judges affiliated with the two major political parties fairly even. The justices seemed prepared to uphold Delaware’s political party provision, and the argument passed without any comment about the partisan fighting over the Supreme Court’s makeup.

The justices will hear a total of 10 arguments this week and next, but the term is so far short on high-profile cases. That could change quickly because of the prospect of court involvement in lawsuits related to the election. Perhaps the biggest case currently on the justices’ docket is post-Election Day arguments in the latest Republican bid to strike down the Affordable Care Act, which provides more than 20 million people with health insurance.

The justices last heard argument in their courtroom in February and skipped planned arguments in March and April before hearing cases by phone in May. On Monday, Chief Justice John Roberts began the hearing by noting what the public has only seen in pictures: that the door to the justices’ courtroom and the section of the court’s bench in front of Ginsburg’s chair have been draped with black fabric.


The Supreme Court is holding its second week of arguments by telephone because of the coronavirus pandemic, with audio available live to audiences around the world.

The highest profile cases are up this week, including two on Tuesday involving the potential release of President Donald Trump’s  tax returns. On Monday, the justices heard two cases, including one from California about the appropriate separation between church and state.

The Supreme Court appears to be divided over how broadly Catholic schools and other religious employers should be exempt from certain lawsuits by employees.

The court heard arguments by telephone Monday because of the coronavirus. The case before the high court stems from a unanimous 2012 Supreme Court decision in which the justices said the Constitution prevents ministers from suing their churches for employment discrimination. But the court didn’t rigidly define who counts as a minister.

Attorney Eric Rassbac representing two Catholic schools sued by former fifth grade teachers who taught religion and other subjects told the justices that the women count as ministers exempt from suing. But Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a member of the court’s liberal wing, told Rassbach that he was seeking an exception that was “broader than is necessary to protect the church.”

The court’s conservatives seemed more comfortable giving broad latitude to religious institutions in defining who is a minister.

The Supreme Court has has begun hearing arguments in Monday’s second case, a dispute involving a pair of former 5th grade Catholic school teachers and whether religious schools are exempt from anti-discrimination law.

The court ruled eight years ago that religious employees of a church cannot sue for employment discrimination, but did not define exactly who would be covered.

The Trump administration is siding with the Catholic schools in California in urging the court to rule that the teachers count as religious employees and should not be able to sue for employment discrimination.


Wisconsin Supreme Court challenger Jill Karofsky suggested Tuesday that Justice Daniel Kelly is corrupt because he repeatedly rules in favor of conservative groups, saying it makes no sense that the law could be on their side all the time.

Karofsky made the remarks at the candidates’ first debate. Karofsky and Kelly used the opportunity to paint each other as partisan and the third candidate, Ed Fallone, struggling to get a word in during their exchanges.

Kelly is part of the high court’s five-justice conservative majority. Karofsky went right at him as soon as the debate began, saying it’s “amazing” that a justice is being supported by right-wing special interest groups. Twice she implied that Kelly is corrupt, questioning why he repeatedly rules in conservative groups’ favor.

“What voters see is that you get support from special interests. You ignore the rule of law and you find in favor of those special interests over and over and over again, and that feels like corruption to people in the state of Wisconsin,” Karofsky said.

Kelly shot back that Karofsky scores the outcome of cases through a political lens. He said he applies the law fairly and uses hard logic to reach his decisions.


The British government and its opponents faced off Tuesday at the U.K. Supreme Court in a high-stakes legal drama over Brexit that will determine whether new Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke the law by suspending Parliament at a crucial time ahead of Britain’s impending departure from the European Union.

As pro-EU and pro-Brexit protesters exchanged shouts outside the court building on London’s Parliament Square, the government’s opponents argued that Johnson illegally shut down Parliament just weeks before the country is due to leave the 28-nation bloc for the “improper purpose” of dodging lawmakers’ scrutiny of his Brexit plans. They also accused Johnson of misleading Queen Elizabeth II, whose formal approval was needed to suspend the legislature.

The government countered that, under Britain’s largely unwritten constitution, the suspension was a matter for politicians, not the courts.

Government lawyer Richard Keen said judges in a lower court had “nakedly entered the political arena” by ruling on the matter.

“The court is not equipped to decide what is a legitimate political consideration,” he said.

Johnson sent lawmakers home on Sept. 9 until Oct. 14, which is barely two weeks before the scheduled Oct. 31 Brexit day. A ruling against the government by the country’s top court could force him to recall Parliament.

Johnson hasn’t said what he will do if the judges rule the suspension illegal. He told the BBC on Monday he would “wait and see what they say.”

Keen promised that “the prime minister will take any necessary steps to comply with any declaration made by the court.” But he had no answer when judges asked if Johnson might recall Parliament on the court’s order, only to suspend it again.



Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Saturday she’s “alive” and on her way to being “very well” following radiation treatment for cancer.

Ginsburg, 86, made the comments at the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington. The event came a little over a week after Ginsburg disclosed that she had completed three weeks of outpatient radiation therapy for a cancerous tumor on her pancreas and is now disease-free.

It is the fourth time over the past two decades that Ginsburg, the leader of the court’s liberal wing, has been treated for cancer. She had colorectal cancer in 1999, pancreatic cancer in 2009 and lung cancer surgery in December. Both liberals and conservatives watch the health of the court’s oldest justice closely because it’s understood the Supreme Court would shift right for decades if Republican President Donald Trump were to get the ability to nominate someone to replace her.

On Saturday, Ginsburg, who came out with the book “My Own Words” in 2016, spoke to an audience of more than 4,000 at Washington’s convention center. Near the beginning of an hour-long talk, her interviewer, NPR reporter Nina Totenberg, said: “Let me ask you a question that everyone here wants to ask, which is: How are you feeling? Why are you here instead of resting up for the term? And are you planning on staying in your current job?”

“How am I feeling? Well, first, this audience can see that I am alive,” Ginsburg said to applause and cheers. The comment was a seeming reference to the fact that when she was recuperating from lung cancer surgery earlier this year, some doubters demanded photographic proof that she was still living.

Ginsburg went on to say that she was “on my way” to being “very well.” As for her work on the Supreme Court, which is on its summer break and begins hearing arguments again Oct. 7, Ginsburg said she will “be prepared when the time comes.”

Ginsburg, who was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1993, did not directly answer how long she plans to stay on the court. Earlier this summer, however, she reported a conversation she had with former Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired from the court in 2010.

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