In recent months, President Donald Trump has spoken directly to his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani about overseeing a legal fight that could arise from a close or contested 2020 election, two people familiar with the situation tell The Daily Beast.
In related conversations with Giuliani and other confidants, Trump has also made clear that he wants Jay Sekulow, another personal attorney to Trump who defended the president during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation, playing a major role if the courts got involved in resolving election disputes.
“I want Jay and Rudy on this,” Trump said in one private conversation this summer, according to one of the sources.
The president has discussed the matter a number of times in recent weeks with Giuliani, who was also involved in the president’s debate prep last month. The president wanted his team of lawyers immediately ready to go with a war plan mapped out—as he’s continued to insinuate that he will turn to the judicial system to question the validity of numerous mail-in ballots. It is unclear if Trump has talked directly to Sekulow about this, however. And it remains to be seen how large such a legal team would ultimately become.
The president’s insistence on turning to Sekulow and Giuliani, nevertheless, demonstrates the degree to which he values loyalty and Trumpian political instincts over all other features when it comes to navigating the critical junctures of his presidency. The two lawyers were at the forefront of Trump’s impeachment defense efforts (or in the former New York mayor’s case, at the forefront of the Ukraine saga that ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment), and Giuliani in particular has become something of a political Buddha for Trump, whose proverbial belly he likes to rub in difficult times.
But the stakes could be far higher in a few weeks, in what could be the death knell or the salvation of Trump’s tumultuous presidency. Both Team Trump and Joe Biden’s operation are already preparing for a protracted legal battle after voting concludes.
Both Giuliani and Sekulow declined to comment on this story.
“If the election lands in the courts after Election Day, it makes perfect sense that the president would want lawyers who he trusts the most to be in charge of his case,” said Steven Groves, who previously worked as a lawyer and then spokesman in the Trump White House. “The president trusts Jay and Rudy, especially if the case should go all the way to the Supreme Court, where Jay has argued many cases. Even though Rudy doesn’t have a background in election law, it makes sense that the president would ask him to play the same role that Jim Baker played back in 2000 for George W. Bush.”
Ahead of Election Day, the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, and various conservative allies have been devoting vast resources and treasure to ad campaigns and legal challenges against the practice of mail-in voting during the coronavirus crisis. Trump in particular has insisted that the practice of voting by mail is rife with corruption, despite the absence of even modest evidence to suggest so, and despite the fact that he himself votes by mail.
The likelihood that there will be litigation around mail-in balloting has seemed to increase as the election has neared, with the Department of Justice weakening guidelines that discouraged staff from bringing election fraud cases close to Election Day. The expectation in some political circles is that the court battles could be brutal and, potentially, find their way up to the Supreme Court, where Trump is poised to have a freshly confirmed Justice.
When asked last month, President Trump refused to commit to a peaceful, orderly transition of power, saying, “We’re going to have to see what happens.” And if a case on the election outcome does make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, Trump is likely to have a new 6-3 conservative majority waiting for him there.
On a Trump 2020 conference call with reporters on Monday morning, deputy campaign manager Justin Clark said that the president’s campaign and its allies were working overtime to “aggressively” combat what he deemed “every crazy… provision” that Democrats were trying to uphold in this election.
“The president is going to continue to fight,” Clark assured reporters.