The Slatest

Appeals Court Shoots Down Trump Election Challenge in Pennsylvania: “No Merit”

Supporters of President Donald Trump gather on November 25, 2020 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Supporters of President Donald Trump gather on November 25, 2020 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

A federal appeals court strongly dismissed an effort by President Donald Trump’s campaign to revive its challenge of the election results in Pennsylvania. In a blistering decision, the three-judge panel said the Trump campaign’s “claims have no merit.” The appellate court fully affirmed the ruling from last week that denied a call to block the state from certifying that President-elect Joe Biden won the election. “Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy,” Judge Stephanos Bibas, who was appointed by Trump, wrote on behalf of the panel. “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.”

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Pennsylvania certified its election results on Tuesday, and on Friday the three GOP-appointed judges issued a decision that amounts to a full rejection of the effort to contest the results of the election in that state. “Voters, not lawyers, choose the President. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections,” Bilbas wrote. In many ways the ruling reads like a denunciation of the tactics by Trump’s lawyers who are quick to allege fraud in public but then don’t actually make that claim in court. “The Campaign never alleges that any ballot was fraudulent or cast by an illegal voter,” Bilbas wrote. “It never alleges that any defendant treated the Trump campaign or its votes worse than it treated the Biden campaign or its votes. Calling something discrimination does not make it so.”

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Shortly after the ruling was made public Friday afternoon, Jenna Ellis, one of Trump’s lawyers, confirmed they would be appealing to the Supreme Court. “The activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania continues to cover up the allegations of massive fraud,” Ellis said. “We are very thankful to have had the opportunity to present proof and the facts to the PA state legislature.”

The way in which the case was so fully dismissed in a unanimous ruling by the appeals court suggests it is unlikely to get a friendly reception from the Supreme Court. Still, even if the Supreme Court does decide to side with the Trump campaign on this one, the appeal is so narrow that it wouldn’t achieve much beyond allowing it to file another complaint with the lower court judge.

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