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Trump campaign drops lawsuit, arguing Wayne County didn't certify election results

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

President Donald Trump's re-election campaign withdrew its federal lawsuit challenging Michigan's election results Thursday morning, saying it already achieved its goals when the Wayne County Board of Canvassers initially refused to certify the election — even though the board later approved them.  

"This morning we are withdrawing our lawsuit in Michigan as a direct result of achieving the relief we sought: to stop the election in Wayne County from being prematurely certified before residents can be assured that every legal vote has been counted and every illegal vote has not been counted," Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, said in a statement.

Two Republican members of the Wayne County canvassers agreed to certify the results on Tuesday, but have signed affidavits saying they regret their votes and would like to rescind them. Those affidavits were included in the Trump campaign's filing to withdraw the lawsuitState election officials say that the results have already been approved and that it's not possible to backtrack.

President Donald Trump

"There is no legal mechanism for them to rescind their vote," said Tracy Wimmer, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. "Their job is done, and the next step in the process is for the Board of State Canvassers to meet and certify."

Attorneys for the city of Detroit asked the court Thursday to strike the canvassers' affidavits and the Trump attorneys' "immaterial, impertinent and false language" from the filing announcing the withdrawal. 

"The Wayne County Board of Canvassers voted to certify the election results, and there is no legal mechanism for that action to be rescinded by affidavits," the attorneys wrote, adding that the law "does not allow them to use a Notice of Dismissal to spread disinformation."

David Fink, lead counsel for the city of Detroit, told The Detroit News Thursday that the multiple election-related suits that have been dropped in recent days are an indication that the Trump campaign and its allies' voter fraud claims are meritless.

"It's no surprise to us that these cases are being voluntarily dismissed because every time one of their cases gets to a judge, their baseless conspiracy theories have been rejected," Fink said. "They can try to spin the reason that they're dismissing these cases. But they're dismissing these cases because they're afraid to let another judge rule on their frivolous claims."

Michigan law gives county canvassers 14 days to certify their election results, a deadline that ended on Tuesday night. The Board of State Canvassers is scheduled to meet Monday.

The lawsuit in the Western District of Michigan federal court contended that GOP poll challengers were harassed and excluded from the absentee ballot counting center at TCF Center in Detroit on Election Day. It also alleged numerous ballot counting irregularities that state and city officials deny, arguing the suit is based on a lack of understanding of the absent voter counting process. 

Attorneys for the Trump campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for further comment.

The case was based on poll challenger accounts and detail issues that have been rejected in other lawsuits for a lack of credibility.  

Wayne County Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny denied Friday a request to stop the canvassing and certification of Wayne County's election results, noting that Detroit officials "offered a more accurate and persuasive explanation of activity" within the TCF Center in Detroit. 

The judge cast doubt on the affidavits of several GOP poll challengers who were present during the absentee counting process, writing that they had not attended an Oct. 29 walk through of operations at TCF Center and "did not have a full understanding" of the process.

A Michigan Court of Appeals panel rejected an emergency appeal of the case filed by the Great Lakes Justice Center.

On Wednesday, two Michigan Republican voters who asked the same federal court to stop the state from certifying the November election results also voluntarily dropped their lawsuit. 

Angelic Johnson of Macomb County and Sarah Stoddard of Wayne County initially filed suit on Sunday, alleging voter fraud at the TCF Center and elsewhere on Election Day.

Their claims were similar to those in other unsuccessful lawsuits filed in Michigan since the election. However, they made some new claims, including allegations that the Democratic Party was allowed to campaign within 100 feet of polling places and that the city of Detroit didn't properly secure certain ballot drop boxes.

Robert Muise, an attorney for the plaintiffs with the American Freedom Law Center, said they decided to drop the case because there's a similar case in the same court assigned to the same judge — the Trump campaign lawsuit that was dropped Thursday morning.

"We made the strategic decision it was best to use our resources in another battle, which we are working on right now," Muise told The Detroit News Thursday, but declined to say more about what it is. 

Johnson and Stoddard had asked the court to declare Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's decision to send out absentee ballot applications to Michigan voters illegal; appoint a special master to investigate fraud claims in Wayne County; and stop the state from making Michigan's election results official until an independent audit could be conducted.

rbeggin@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @rbeggin