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Nessel: Trump election lawsuits aim to delegitimize Biden

Erik Larson
Bloomberg News

The Trump campaign’s flurry of lawsuits seeking to overturn his election loss are probably intended to undermine President-elect Joe Biden’s administration rather than achieve a courtroom victory, Michigan’s top law enforcement officer said.

President Donald Trump wants to sow doubt about Biden’s victory “right from the get go” so that he and his “aiders and abettors” can use unfounded claims of fraud to challenge Biden’s policy proposals and legislative priorities, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Saturday.

Attorney General Dana Nessel answers questions from reporters during a press conference Feb. 21 in Lansing.

Nessel, a Democrat who was elected in 2018, is helping defend against a Trump campaign lawsuit in federal court that seeks to block the battleground state from certifying Biden’s victory, on the grounds that the ballot-counting process was plagued by irregularities and that GOP observers were intimidated.

“None of those claims are true, and the margin of victory is going to be enormous, with both the popular vote and the Electoral College,” Nessel said.

“But by bringing these claims, as unsuccessful as they are, it allows Trump and his minions to hold on to that narrative that he was robbed of his second term.”

The campaign filed the federal suit in Michigan on Wednesday seeking to stop Trump from officially losing a race in which he trails Biden by more than 146,000 votes.

A similar request filed by Trump supporters was denied on Friday by a Michigan state court judge, who criticized poll-watcher affidavits filed in that case as “not credible” and “rife with speculation and guess-work about sinister motives.”

The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The Democratic National Committee on Saturday filed a motion to intervene in the Trump campaign suit, saying the allegation that GOP observers weren’t able to watch the ballot counting process in Detroit is contradicted by clear evidence that more than 100 Republican election challengers were present for vote tabulation in the city on Election Day.

“Despite unprecedented levels of observation and supervision, tall tales of phantom fraud have spread widely in the week since Election Day,” the DNC said. The suit is “yet another baseless attempt to disrupt the democratic process.”

The day after the election, Republican observers outnumbered Democrats and in most cases were “intentionally interfering with the work of the elections inspectors so as to delay the count of the ballots and to harass and intimidate election inspectors,” according to the filing.

Trump’s campaign filed a similar suit in Pennsylvania in a bid to stop that state’s certification of Biden’s victory. The judge is set to hold a Nov. 17 hearing on the state’s motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that it has no viable legal claims.

Republican suits alleging various ballot irregularities have failed in recent days, including one in Arizona that the Trump campaign walked away from on Friday. Election experts say the suits are doomed to fail because they lack evidence.

Nessel said it’s always possible that a judge could “throw everything off” by ruling for Trump and upending the state’s certification of the election result as the cases progress, but she doesn’t think that’ll happen. Michigan’s certification deadline is Nov. 23.

“If you would have asked me a week ago I would have been a lot more apprehensive, but we’ve seen the trajectory of these cases,” she said. “I know these elections were well run and I have great faith in their accuracy and transparency.”

Trump continues to complain on Twitter, including a comment Saturday about how the manual recount of all of Georgia’s ballots – overseen by a Republican Secretary of State – is being conducted, calling it a “waste of time.”