President Trump's ongoing assault on Pennsylvania's electoral results came to yet another screeching halt Friday, as a federal appeals court brutally smacked down the campaigns lawsuit challenging the fairness of the state's handling of the recent presidential election.
In a opinion authored by Third Circuit judge Stephanos Bibas — notably, a Trump appointee to the bench — the president's attempts to cry foul over how Pennsylvania counted its ballots are dismissed as "vague and conclusory," while asserting that "voters, not lawyers, choose the president" — perhaps a not-so-subtle dig at the president's attorneys, Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, whose legal challenges against a number of states have largely been rejected with a measure of enthusiasm equal to that with which they were filed.
Bibas wasted no time getting to the crux of the Third Circuit's dismissal of the Trump campaign's case, writing:
Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. 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.
The Trump Presidential Campaign asserts that Pennsylvania’s 2020 election was unfair. But as lawyer Rudolph Giuliani stressed, the campaign “doesn’t plead fraud ... [T]his is not a fraud case.” [Mot. to Dismiss Hr’g Tr. 118:19–20, 137:18.] Instead, it objects that Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State and some counties restricted poll watchers and let voters fix technical defects in their mail-in ballots. It offers nothing more.
As Bibas noted, Giuliani, Ellis, and Trump's public bluster about supposed election fraud was not actually the core of the case. Rather, the rejected petition actually focused on the very limited question of whether a district judge had unlawfully refused to allow the Trump campaign to file an amended version of their suit, as well as whether or not to grant an injunction to stop Pennsylvania from certifying the election results (which the state ultimately did earlier in the week). But, in the opinion, the court makes clear that "the campaign has already litigated and lost many of these issues in state courts" and has since failed to justify why the appeals court should consider taking up the issue.
"Seeking to turn those state-law claims into federal ones, the campaign claims discrimination," Bibas writes. "But its alchemy cannot transmute lead into gold."
The Campaign never alleges that any ballot was fraudulent or cast by an illegal voter. 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.
In response to the ruling, Ellis — last seen holding up her phone to a microphone so the president could remotely pontificate with abandon during a hearing of Pennsylvania's republican lawmakers — decried the "activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania" (again, Bibas is a Trump appointee) and continued to push "allegations of massive fraud" despite the court having made extremely clear that its ruling was about something completely different.
Friday's decision is just the latest in a long string of ignominious developments in the president's seemingly doomed attempt to litigate his way into the electoral victory he could not achieve on his own.