President Donald Trump’s legal team suffered yet another defeat in court Friday as a federal appeals court in Philadelphia roundly rejected the campaign’s latest effort to challenge the state’s election results.
Trump’s lawyers vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court despite the judges’ assessment that the “campaign’s claims have no merit.”
“Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” 3rd Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee, wrote for the three-judge panel, all appointed by Republican presidents.
The case had been argued last week in a lower court by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who insisted during five hours of oral arguments that the 2020 presidential election had been marred by widespread fraud in Pennsylvania. However, Giuliani failed to offer any tangible proof of that in court.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann, another Republican, had said the campaign’s error-filled complaint, “like Frankenstein’s Monster, has been haphazardly stitched together” and denied Giuliani the right to amend it for a second time.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called any revisions “futile.” Chief Judge D. Brooks Smith and Judge Michael Chagares were on the panel with Bibas, a former University of Pennsylvania law professor. Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, sat on the court for 20 years, retiring in 2019.
“Voters, not lawyers, choose the president. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections,” Bibas said in the opinion, which also denied the campaign’s request to stop the state from certifying its results, a demand he called “breathtaking.”
In fact, Pennsylvania officials had announced Tuesday that they had certified their vote count for President-elect Joe Biden, who defeated Trump by more than 80,000 votes in the state. Nationally, Biden and running mate Kamala Harris garnered nearly 80 million votes, a record in U.S. presidential elections.
Trump has said he hopes the Supreme Court will intervene in the race as it did in 2000, when its decision to stop the recount in Florida gave the election to Republican George W. Bush. On Nov. 5, as the vote count continued, Trump posted a tweet saying the “U.S. Supreme Court should decide!”
Ever since, Trump and his surrogates have attacked the election as flawed and filed a flurry of lawsuits to try to block the results in six battleground states. But they’ve found little sympathy from judges, nearly all of whom dismissed their complaints about the security of mail-in ballots, which millions of people used to vote from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump perhaps hopes a Supreme Court he helped steer toward a conservative 6-3 majority would be more open to his pleas, especially since the high court upheld Pennsylvania’s decision to accept mail-in ballots through Nov. 6 by only a 4-4 vote last month. Since then, Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett has joined the court.
“The activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania continues to cover up the allegations of massive fraud,” Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis tweeted after Friday’s ruling. “On to SCOTUS!”
In the case at hand, the Trump campaign asked to disenfranchise the state’s 6.8 million voters or at least “cherry-pick” the 1.5 million who voted by mail in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and other Democratic-leaning areas, the appeals court said.
“One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption,” Brann, a member of the conservative Federalist Society, wrote in his scathing ruling on Nov. 21. “That has not happened.”
A separate Republican challenge that reached the Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week seeks to stop the state from further certifying any races on the ballot. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is fighting that effort, saying it would prevent the state’s legislature and congressional delegation from being seated in the coming weeks.
On Thursday, Trump said the Nov. 3 election was still far from over. Yet he said for the first time he would leave the White House on Jan. 20 if the Electoral College formalizes Biden’s win.
“Certainly I will. But you know that,” Trump said at the White House, taking questions from reporters for the first time since Election Day.
On Twitter Friday, however, he continued to baselessly attack Detroit, Atlanta and other Democratic cities with large Black populations as the source of “massive voter fraud.” And he claimed, without evidence, that a Pennsylvania poll watcher had uncovered computer memory drives that “gave Biden 50,000 votes” apiece.
All 50 states must certify their results before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14, and any challenge to the results must be resolved by Dec. 8. Biden won both the Electoral College and popular vote by wide margins.
US President-elect Joe Biden’s decision to appoint a Palestinian-American to a key White House position has sparked a storm of political controversy.
Biden had announced at the start of the week that Reema Dodin will serve as one of two deputy directors of his legislative affairs team, which helps define presidential policies. The other is Shuwanza Goff, who is an African American.
The appointment of Dodin, a veteran Washington insider, adds substance to campaign promises made by Biden in his six-page “Plan for Partnership” with the Arab American community, published in August, in which he promised to repeal the Trump administration’s so-called 'Muslim ban' and recognize Arab-American rights.
“The American people are eager for our administration to get to work, and today’s appointees will help advance our agenda and ensure every American has a fair shot,” Biden said. “In a Biden administration we will have an open door to the Hill and this team will make sure their views are always represented in the White House.”
Ron Klain, Biden’s White House chief of staff, said: “President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris share a bold agenda that will build our nation back better than before. Our team will work with the president-elect and vice president-elect to implement that agenda and deliver results for American families.”
Pro-Israel groups and organizations criticized the appointment of Dodin, accusing her of attempting to justify “suicide bombings.” The allegation, which was supported by a twisting of the facts about past comments she made, is a common criticism leveled against Palestinians appointed to public office in US, based on presumed support for Palestinian rights.
The Jerusalem Post, a conservative, English-language Israeli newspaper, highlighted a comment Dodin allegedly made in 2002 in which she told an audience in Lodi, California, that “suicide bombers were the last resort of a desperate people.”
She also participated in a rally supporting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) movement, which opposes Israel’s policy of stealing land from Palestinians, setting up illegal settlements and harvesting the land for profit.
More than 26 US states, including Illinois, have passed legislation that makes support of BDS illegal and punishable in a number of ways.
Reacting to the appointment of Dodin, Arab News reported an article published on the website of anti-Arab extremist Sarah Geller said: “As predicted, the radical anti-Israel Left will have a prominent role in the potential Joe Biden administration. Palestinian American Reema Dodin, who has expressed support for suicide bombings against Israelis, will help negotiate legislation for Joe Biden.”
The pro-Israel Jewish Press also slammed Dodin in their coverage, citing claims that she is “acting as an agent of influence for the [Muslim] Brotherhood’s operations inside America.”
Dodin, who worked for many years as deputy chief of staff for Senator Dick Durbin, a moderate and popular Democrat from Illinois, immediately made her Twitter account private, apparently in an attempt to prevent critics from sifting through her past comments and using them to portray her as an extremist.
Durbin issued a statement in which he welcomed the appointment of Dodin to the Biden administration, and praised her service to his office. In a message posted on Twitter, he wrote: “Excited that my floor director, Reema Dodin, will be joining President-elect Biden’s (Legislative) Affairs team. She is smart, trusted, and has the respect of members on both sides of the aisle. Reema is just what our new president needs to help him in the Senate.”
Prominent Arab Americans and politicians rallied to Dodin’s defense.
Ziad Asali, founder of the American Task Force on Palestine, said that Dodin had “worked her way from law school to community activity to Senator Durbin’s office, all the way to the White House. Message to young Palestinian/Arab Americans: Yes you can. Belong and earn your way with competence and commitment. Meritocracy means success without waste.”
Warren David, the president of media organization Arab America said: “We are so excited about Reema’s appointment. It means so much to Arab Americans, who have been marginalized throughout the years, to see a senior official of Arab/Palestinian heritage in the White House. Hopefully, appointments such as this are not the ‘exception’ but the ‘rule’ regarding Arab Americans in public service.”
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal also welcomed the appointment, saying: “Over my 10 years in the Senate, Reema has been an invaluable source of insight and counsel. She is invariably conscientious and caring, and the Biden admin is lucky to have her. I’ll miss her on the Senate Floor but look forward to working with her in her new role.”
Dodin was born to Palestinian immigrants whose origins can be traced to Dura in Palestine, near the Israeli-occupied city of Hebron.
She has been active in Arab American circles for many years. In May 2018 she participated in the Arab American Institute’s annual Khalil Gibran Awards ceremony, during which she presented an award to Marcelle M. Wahba, the president of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington D.C. and a former US Ambassador to the UAE.
Dodin has a strong resume, having served as Durbin’s research director and an aide to his Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. She was also a volunteer voter-protection counsel on a number of political campaigns, including Obama for America.
She is a Truman National Security fellow, a New Leaders Council fellow, an Aspen Socrates alum, a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the Jenkins Hill Society, a consortium of women in politics supporting female politicians.
Originally from California, Dodin is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Nearly 90,000 COVID-19 patients are in hospitals across the United States as of Thursday, the Thanksgiving day, reaching a new all-time high for the 16th consecutive day, according to The COVID Tracking Project.
Wednesday's death toll climbed to 2,284, the highest since May 7.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicted that the number of newly reported COVID-19 deaths will likely increase over the next four weeks, with 10,600 to 21,400 new deaths likely to be reported in the week ending Dec 19.
The third wave of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities has continued, as cases increased at twice the rate of the nation's total cases, according to The COVID Tracking Project.
States across the United States reported a 50 percent increase in new long-term care cases, 46,153 new COVID-19 cases this week alone.
Long-term care facilities recorded about 3,000 new deaths in one week, a marker last passed in early June. Nearly half of these deaths occurred in the Midwest, according to the tracking project.
While the Midwest remains the epicentre of long-term care facility outbreaks, accounting for 39 percent of new cases, the crisis stretches beyond the Midwest.
As COVID-19 continued to sweep the country, each region reported their largest increase of long-term care cases in the past four months, according to the tracking project.
"With winter approaching and case numbers higher than ever before, existing safety measures will not adequately protect this vulnerable population," said a report of the project.
Public health officials have urged Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving only with members of the same household, or at least gather outdoors, to avoid further virus spread.
The CDC issued a new guidance last Friday urging Americans to stay home and not travel for Thanksgiving.
"Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year," said the guidance.
The United States has recorded more than 12.86 million cases with over 263,200 related deaths as of Thursday afternoon, according to the real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Read Also: New Covid-19 cases, deaths on the rise in Bangladesh: 37 more die in 24 hrs
President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will leave the White House if the Electoral College formalizes President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory — even as he insisted such a decision would be a “mistake” — as he spent his Thanksgiving renewing baseless claims that “massive fraud” and crooked officials in battleground states caused his election defeat.
“Certainly I will. But you know that,” Trump said Thursday when asked whether he would vacate the building, allowing a peaceful transition of power in January. But Trump — taking questions for the first time since Election Day — insisted that “a lot of things” would happen between now and then that might alter the results.
“This has a long way to go,” Trump said, even though he lost.
The fact that a sitting American president even had to address whether or not he would leave office after losing reelection underscores the extent to which Trump has smashed one convention after another over the last three weeks. While there is no evidence of the kind of widespread fraud Trump has been alleging, he and his legal team have nonetheless been working to cast doubt on the integrity of the election and trying to overturn voters’ will in an unprecedented breach of democratic norms.
Trump spoke to reporters in the White House’s ornate Diplomatic Reception Room after holding a teleconference with U.S. military leaders stationed across the globe. He thanked them for their service and jokingly warned them not to eat too much turkey, then turned to the election after ending the call. He repeated grievances and angrily denounced officials in Georgia and Pennsylvania, two key swing states that helped give Biden the win.
Trump claimed, despite the results, that this may not be his last Thanksgiving at the White House. And he insisted there had been “massive fraud,” even though state officials and international observers have said no evidence of that exists and Trump’s campaign has repeatedly failed in court.
Trump’s administration has already given the green light for a formal transition to get underway. But Trump took issue with Biden moving forward.
“I think it’s not right that he’s trying to pick a Cabinet,” Trump said, even though officials from both teams are already working together to get Biden’s team up to speed.
And as he refused to concede, Trump announced that he will be traveling to Georgia to rally supporters ahead of two Senate runoff elections that will determine which party controls the Senate. Trump said the rally for Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler would likely be held Saturday. The White House later clarified he had meant Dec. 5.
One of the reasons Republicans have stood by Trump and his baseless claims of fraud has been to keep his loyal base energized ahead of those runoffs on Jan. 5. But Trump, in his remarks, openly questioned whether that election would be fair in a move that could dampen Republican turnout.
“I think you’re dealing with a very fraudulent system. I’m very worried about that,” he said. “People are very disappointed that we were robbed.”
As for the Electoral College, Trump made clear that he will likely never formally concede, even if he said he would leave the White House.
“It’s gonna be a very hard thing to concede. Because we know there was massive fraud,” he said, noting that, “time isn’t on our side.”
“If they do,” vote against him, Trump added, “they’ve made a mistake.”
Asked whether he would attend Biden’s inauguration, Trump said he knew the answer but didn’t want to share it yet.
But there were some signs that Trump was coming to terms with his loss.
At one point he urged reporters not to allow Biden the credit for pending coronavirus vaccines. “Don’t let him take credit for the vaccines because the vaccines were me and I pushed people harder than they’ve ever been pushed before,” he said.
As for whether or not he plans to formally declare his candidacy to run again in 2024 — as he has discussed with aides — Trump said he didn’t “want to talk about 2024 yet.”
All states must certify their results before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14, and any challenge to the results must be resolved by Dec. 8. States have already begun that process, including Michigan, where Trump and his allies tried and failed to delay the process, and Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Vote certification at the local and state level is typically a ministerial task that gets little notice, but that changed this year with Trump’s refusal to concede and his unprecedented attempts to overturn the results of the election through a fusillade of legal challenges and attempts to manipulate the certification process in battleground states he lost.
Biden won by wide margins in both the Electoral College and popular vote, where he received nearly 80 million votes, a record.
President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.
“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”
The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump’s single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.
A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.
The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.
In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.
Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power,” while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn’s guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”
“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”
The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government’s position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.
That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department’s dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”
As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.
At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn’s case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.
Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.
The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department’s dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.
At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump’s inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.
Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.
The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had coordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.
Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.
But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.
It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI’s broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.
Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller’s investigation and provided such extensive cooperation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.
But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behavior from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue cooperating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.
After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller’s investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.