Trump Team Defends Amended Pennsylvania Lawsuit, Which Legal Experts Say Won't Block Biden Win

The Trump campaign has defended its shift in legal tack in Pennsylvania after several counts were cut from its key election lawsuit in the state, with further questions arising as to whether such action will have any impact on the outcome.

Donald Trump's team has launched a number of legal efforts taking issue with counts in several states, with the president insisting foul play facilitated Joe Biden's success—including that in Pennsylvania, which networks called his way.

On Sunday, an amended version of its lawsuit in Pennsylvania's Third Circuit Court of Appeals was issued in which several counts were cut—with those remaining shifting these to focus on the issue of cured ballots, where voters were allowed to correct issues on those which had been submitted early.

Previously, there had been counts targeting what the campaign claims to have been more than 680,000 votes tabulated without what it deemed sufficient external scrutiny throughout and the alleged illegality of this. While this issue is still raised within the complaint, counts directly relating to it have been removed.

"We are still making the strong argument that 682,479 ballots were counted in secret," Tim Murtaugh, director of communications for the Trump 2020 campaign, said in a statement shared with Newsweek.

"Our poll watchers were denied the legal right to meaningful access to vote counting and we still have that claim in our complaint. We reserved our rights to make that argument."

The campaign is arguing now predominantly its contention that the state's Equal Protection Clause has been followed, which "requires every county in the Commonwealth to enforce and apply the same standards and procedures for an election."

Murtaugh and Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have argued against media reports, taking particular issue with The Washington Post, which said the argument over the observation of ballots had been ditched.

Giuliani said, in a statement released through the campaign, that it was "routine for attorneys to file amended complaints to tighten the claim."

The release containing these quotes also suggested the campaign had "strategically tried to restructure its lawsuit." It referred to a ruling in an unrelated Third Circuit Court of Appeals case which it said impacted its tactic.

While the comments regarding these allegedly unobserved votes remain in the complaint, Douglas Spencer, professor of law and public policy at UCONN School of law, who teaches election law, told Newsweek that the counts now only refer to the curing of ballots and discrepancies between counties.

He added that this means despite the allegations of a lack of observation over vote counts remaining, the court will not be able to rule on this point.

"The only legal allegations remaining in Pennsylvania are related to Secretary Bookvar's inconsistent messaging on curing ballots and the disparate approach between counties with respect to curing defective absentee and mail-in ballots," Spencer said.

"'Counts' in a civil case are akin to 'charges' in a criminal case. Regardless of what is said out of court on Twitter, or even in the amended complaint's description of the facts, the court can only rule on the merits of the alleged counts."

In further comments to Newsweek, Murtaugh said: "We preserved our right to make those arguments at trial."

Each of the remaining counts began with "plaintiffs incorporate each of the prior allegations in this complaint."

Joshua A. Douglas, Ashland, Inc-Spears Distinguished Research Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky, said from a recent submission from the plaintiffs it appeared they would be focused on the ballot curing issues predominantly. He had not fully reviewed the amended complaint.

Commenting on the Trump campaign's legal strategy more widely, he said: "As a general matter, the Trump campaign's media rhetoric has not matched its actual claims in court."

He added that in his opinion it does not appear any of the actions could actually change the final election outcome.

"But I think the overall point is that there's no merit to these lawsuits and we shouldn't be reporting on them as if they have any chance at changing the outcome," he said.

"The only goal is to undermine people's faith in the legitimacy of the election and to raise money to pay of the Trump campaign debt."

The campaign has launched a raft of legal action, with Trump insisting foul play has led to Biden's electoral success. Trump for the first time acknowledge Biden as victorious over the weekend, though said this was only due to the election being rigged. He has insisted that if only the votes he deems to have been made legally are counted, he will be victorious.

Newsweek has contacted Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Bookvar for comment.

Attorney for the President, Rudy Giuliani, speaks at a news conference in the parking lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping on November 7, 2020 in Philadelphia. The Trump team has defended its legal actions as it pushes back against tabulations of results in the 2020 election. Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts