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Second Major Law Firm Representing Trump in Election Lawsuits Abandons Ship

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 30: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Briefing Room of the White House July 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day Trump suggested in a tweet that November’s general election should be postponed, citing his unsubstantiated assertions of widespread mail-in voter fraud amid the coronavirus pandemic.

For the second time in one week, a major law firm has abandoned their client President Donald Trump’s moribund political campaign, right before they were set to head to court and defend the wild claims of electoral shenanigans that they filed on paper.

Late on Thursday, attorneys Ronald Hicks and Carolyn McGee withdrew their white shoe firm Porter Wright from a lawsuit seeking to invalidate some 6.5 million votes in Pennsylvania after voters there decisively chose President-elect Joe Biden, putting him across the 270-elector threshold for the first time. Although Biden has been adding to his victory ever since, Trump’s campaign has elected to flail in virtual courtrooms across the country.

Major law firms helping the lame-duck president in this effort have been discovering there is a cost to representing departing President Trump’s last-gasp legal crusades to overturn electoral results that made him a one-term, impeached president. The New York Times had already reported that one Porter Wright lawyer called it quits. The Times also reported that another major firm, Jones Day, had been coping with dissension in the ranks of partners queasy about contributing to a legal offensive that they feared would weaken election integrity in the United States.

State and local authorities across the country believe Trump’s efforts can have that effect too. Pennsylvania called the lawsuit Porter Wright filed “radical, anti-democratic, and overbroad.” Seven Keystone State counts described it as a “transparent and premeditated attack on our electoral system.” The Democratic National Committee stated flatly: “That is not how democracy works.”

Porter Wright cut ties with the Trump campaign without explanation save for the vague assertion that the client’s interests “will be best served” by their withdrawal. The only attorney currently remaining is Linda A. Kerns, a Philadelphia-based divorce lawyer whom the City of Brotherly Love’s local NPR station described as a “dog lover, conservative media commentator, and go-to legal volunteer for the city’s beleaguered GOP.”

Kerns will be facing off against an armada of legal might: among them, white-shoe firm Perkins Coie, the billion-dollar multinational Dentons, and Kirkland & Ellis, which has been described as the largest law firm in the world by revenue. Attorney General Bill Barr formerly worked at Kirkland & Ellis.

Earlier this week, Arizona’s largest law firm Snell & Wilmer disarmed its legal firepower from Trump’s cavalry, after its lawsuit earned national punchlines for pushing the discredited “Sharpiegate” conspiracy into a court of law—and then giving it a rebranding. The Phoenix-based firm was founded in 1938, and it quietly withdrew from the case on Tuesday.

A media representative from the firm’s Phoenix office did not return a voicemail request for comment on why they left the case, before a hearing on Thursday where a judge refused to introduce a stack of hundreds of dodgy affidavits into evidence.

Trump’s remaining lawyers admitted that users filed numerous false sworn statements in an online form. The lawyers did not claim that they authenticated any of the complaints. They authenticated that the people existed. A CAPTCHA weeded out bots, and the legal team eyeballed the complainants at their house: that was the extent of their investigation. As for the statements they could not disprove? The Trump campaign’s lawyer Kory Langhofer unsuccessfully tried to get them their day in court. He even admitted at one point during the hours-long hearing that he’d called a business partner as a witness.

At the hearing, Langhofer retreated from his complaint’s meritless conspiracy theory that poll workers gave Trump supporters markers—knowing that those markers would bleed through ballots and that the ballots would not be counted, and all to help Joe Biden win Arizona. The hypothesis was widely derided as “Sharpiegate”—the same name given to the censorship scandal that emerged when Trump lied about Hurricane Dorian’s trajectory by crudely scribbling on a map to match government scientists’ projections to his freewheeling riffs.

In Pennsylvania, Arizona and elsewhere, Trump and his loyalists invoked the specter of mass voter fraud—a phenomenon international experts report does not exist in the United States—as a reason to challenge their emphatic electoral defeat.

Variations of the word “fraud” appear in the Middle District of Pennsylvania’s lawsuit 33 times, mostly in the context of rare prosecutions related to other elections. The only suspected instances of voter fraud cited in the complaint occurred in two Keystone State counties where Trump led by double-digits: Fayette and Luzerne, but even these suspected instances are murky. The investigations they sparked have not led to criminal action.

Langhofer acknowledged on Thursday that he wasn’t even alleging fraud.

“This is not a fraud case,” Langhofer said, instead styling the lawsuit as quest to expose voting irregularities. “It is not a stealing-the-election case.”

Another lawyer made a similar admission in a Pennsylvania case.

Read Porter Wright’s motion to withdraw below:

[image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]

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Law&Crime's senior investigative reporter and editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks.