Rudy Giuliani’s debut performance for the Trump campaign in federal court on Tuesday afternoon looked like his freewheeling press conference at the Four Seasons Landscaping Company. He recapped the same baseless allegations of voter-fraud—only this time, in front of a judge in a riff that bore little resemblance to his lawsuit.
“They stole an election,” Giuliani claimed in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, in one of the many inflammatory remarks alleged in neither the 85-page original complaint nor the redlined amended version that struck broad swaths from the original suit.
Just like other Trump campaign lawyers before him, Giuliani would later candidly admit to the judge of the election lawsuit: “This is not a fraud case,” but not before packaging it otherwise in an evidence-addled opening argument.
At the start of the hearing, the former mayor of New York City alleged that 1.5 million votes had been illegally counted, without explaining how he arrived at that number. He falsely claimed that Republican observers had not been allowed to watch the ballot-count, an assertion he soon undercut by asserting that they were kept too far away from the action. He submitted an exhibit that he described as someone wearing binoculars to observe the count.
Pressed on whether one of his exhibits was from Philadelphia County, Giuliani said: “I was told that.”
Giuliani promised to correct himself later if he learned that was not true. He never revisited the topic one way or the other.
Saving most of his venom for the majority-Black Philadelphia, Giuliani depicted the City of Brotherly Love as a hotbed of corruption and ground zero of the airy shenanigans that he alleged.
“This doesn’t happen in an honest place,” Giuliani fumed. “This is an outrage, your honor, to do this to people.”
Just what “this” is has little definition in the actual complaint, which alleges precisely two suspected instances of fraud in Fayette and Luzerne County. The Trump campaign did not sue either of those counties (which voted overwhelmingly for him), opting instead to attack seven Democratic counties.
Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar’s (D) counsel Daniel Donovan, from the powerhouse law firm Kirkland & Ellis, noted those discrepancies in his opening statements.
“Counsel on the side of the aisle focused on allegations that aren’t in the complaint,” Donovan said.
Splashing cold water on the wild allegations of voter fraud, Donovan added: “There is no claim in the complaint that any Pennsylvania voter cast more than one ballot.”
Indeed, Trump attorneys previously disavowed voter-fraud allegations before judges in three separate separate jurisdictions: two state courts in Pennsylvania and one county court in Arizona.
“This is not a fraud case,” the Trump campaign’s lawyer Kory Langhofer told a Maricopa County judge last week. Giuliani repeated that line verbatim in the late afternoon session, of the Middle District of Pennsylvania lawsuit.
The campaign’s other lawyers made similar remarks before state judges in Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties.
The federal Pennsylvania lawsuit argues that different practices across the Keystone State’s various counties amount to an equal-protection violation. Some counties gave mail-in voters the opportunity to cure defective ballots, and others did not.
“The plaintiffs don’t actually allege vote denial,” Donovan noted.
That would have required the two Pennsylvanian voters joining the Trump campaign in the lawsuit to have sued their home counties Fayette and Lancaster County, which did not happen.
Both of those counties voted double-digits for Trump.
Mark Aronchick, counsel for the Allegheny County Board of Elections, also pilloried the former mayor’s opening.
“Mr. Giuliani is talking about another case,” Aronchick said. “Not the case before your honor.”
“This is just disgraceful,” Aronchick added, calling Giuliani’s remarks unbecoming of a U.S. federal court.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann also pressed Giuliani on the gulf between his opening remarks and his pleadings.
“So it’s correct to say you’re not alleging fraud in your amended complaint,” Brann said.
Peppering Giuliani with pointed questions, Brann appeared to catch Giuliani flubbing basic questions of law—and the English language.
“I’m not sure what ‘opacity’ means,” Giuliani said at one point. “It probably means you can see.”
“It means you can’t,” Brann responded.
When Judge Brann asked what standard of scrutiny he should apply to the case, Giuliani replied: “The normal one,” appearing not to understand the ways in which courts analyze government actions. Brann then asked whether he should apply “strict scrutiny,” considering his clients allege equal protection violations. Giuliani conceded he did not know what “strict scrutiny” meant.
Giuliani reportedly requested $20,000 a day for his legal representation.
The equal protection claim relates to the Fayette and Lancaster County residents joining the Trump campaign as co-plaintiffs. The men, Lawrence Roberts and David John Henry, claim their votes were not counted because of defects in their mail-in ballots that they did not have an opportunity to cure, unlike certain residents of other Pennsylvania counties.
The Trump campaign characterizes the expansion of ballot access in other counties as a sort of constitutional violation, rather than blaming their clients’ Republican-heavy counties for not assisting mail-in voters.
Aronchick, the attorney for the counties the Trump campaign chose to sue, said this turns equal-protection “upside down” to favor a “race to the bottom” in terms of ballot-access.
Giuliani’s courtroom performance on Tuesday followed a hemorrhaging of the Trump team’s legal talent after major law firms like Porter Wright pulled out from the case amid public pressure.
The ex-mayor’s co-counsel Linda Ann Kerns reported receiving harassing phone calls, messages Giuliani claimed would force her to require “protection.”
Judge Brann, who had been informed about the harassing calls, called them “regrettable” but said they were hardly threatening.
“The word I would use would be ‘mockery,'” he said.
Daylong arguments ended without resolution, as Brann gave each side an opportunity to submit more court papers before issuing his final rulings. Proceedings ended after the judge gave the lawyers extensive restaurant recommendations in the courthouse’s roughly 140,000-population city of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, whose culinary offerings he said far outpaced a place of its modest size.
“He’s a character,” Giuliani, who is known for being rather colorful himself, could be heard saying of the judge as the remote line for the hearing adjourned.
[Image via BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images]
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