President Donald Trump’s campaign filed a new lawsuit in federal court in Michigan in an attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s win—but experts say it won’t get much farther than a Chevy Vega.
The filing follows a string of legal losses for Team Trump as it falsely claims the election was stolen. One of the campaign’s law firms withdrew this week from a lawsuit filed in Arizona amid growing public outrage.
The Trump team, whose previous brief in the Rust Belt battleground got thrown out by the state Court of Claims last week, filed the new action in federal court for the Western District of Michigan on Wednesday morning.
The 350-page complaint and appended affidavits rehash a litany of a grievances familiar not only from the last case, but also from legal actions the campaign has lodged in multiple states with little success.
In picayune detail, it alleges that the campaign’s official observers—called “challengers” in Michigan—did not have sufficient access to the count, were mistreated by elections employees, witnessed the addition of new names to voter rolls during the tabulation, and believed for unclear reasons that certain ballots had been tampered with or counted twice.
“I talked with several of these independent lawyers/law students at length in casual, friendly conversation,” reads one statement. “Based upon their answers to basic questions about the news it was evident that EVERY single one of the lawyers/law students that I talked to was ideologically far-left, supporting things like CHAZ/CHOP in Seattle and condoning the crime skyrocketing around the country or wanting to work in Brooklyn because they support ‘progressive’ changes to law to ‘not prosecute rioters,’ etc. Yet, they all claimed to be independent.”
The campaign's lawyers did not reply to a request for comment. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, tweeted Tuesday night that the suit would be sufficient to capsize Biden’s 146,000-vote lead in Michigan and reinstall Trump in the White House next year.
But attorneys The Daily Beast spoke with said the suit lacks the juice to turn over its own engine, let alone the election results. Michigan law does not guarantee unlimited numbers of challengers unlimited access to counting facilities, and it permits people to register to vote all the way up until Election Day, leaving workers to add their names to the poll book during the tally. These legitimate scenarios alone may account for a number of the issues the Trump challengers claimed were evidence of election tampering.
Further, the experts said that even if some of the objections the Trump challengers raised—often without concrete proof—have merit, it’s unlikely they would account for Biden’s six-figure lead.
"It's a lot of insinuations, a lot of assumptions, but there's no hard evidence of anything that would change the outcome of the election,” said Sam Bagenstos, a law professor at the University of Michigan and veteran of the Clinton and Obama Justice Departments. “When you push on them, they aren't really based on hard evidence or hard allegations even, and couldn't come close to impugning the margin.”
Bagenstos speculated that the Trump campaign filed its suit in the Western District of Michigan, even though Detroit—where the improprieties purportedly occurred—is in the Eastern District, because of its more conservative reputation. But he was doubtful it would find a receptive bench even in the Western District, and suspected that the suit was less about trying to fulfill Trump’s repeatedly expressed ambition that the Supreme Court would decide the race’s victor, and more about political public relations.
“I don't think there's a strategy where this winds up in front of the Supreme Court and they decide the outcome of the election,” he said. “I think the point of this is to throw up a lot of allegations to delegitimize the election, but to create some kind of miasma of fraud.”
Mary Massaron, of the bipartisan law firm Plunkett Cooney, similarly noted the scale of Biden’s lead in the state and nationwide. Recalling Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ 2018 rejoinder to Trump’s 2018 complaints about a so-called “Obama judge”—which emphasized the importance of an “independent judiciary”—she expressed optimism that federal jurists of all persuasions would reject the president’s attempts to invalidate the results in Michigan.
“Our country has historically had a strong commitment to the rule of law, our constitutional structure is predicated on the rule of law, and the judges who take their oath of office take an oath to uphold the rule of law,” said Massaron, who has supported Democratic candidates and causes in the past but is also a member of the conservative Federalist Society. “I believe and hope that they will decide these cases in accord with the rule of law, recognizing the overwhelming vote and recognizing the awesome responsibility to preserve our democratic electoral process.”
The two are not alone in their assessment of the Trump legal strategy and its prospects. Multiple veteran Republican attorneys described his lawsuits as “garbage” and “absurd” in interviews with The Daily Beast last week, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied his request to stop the count of late-arriving ballots in Pennsylvania on Friday.
Reuters reported on Wednesday that a judge in Maricopa County, Arizona, allowed the firm Snell & Wilmer to drop out as counsel for the Republican National Committee in a suit alleging some votes weren’t properly counted. Law firms helping Trump challenge the election outcome have faced public scorn for their role.