Trump allies’ sloppy, error-riddled legal effort
One error? Sure. Things happen. Except it was the third time it happened in one week.
In two lawsuits from former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell last week, she misspelled the word “district” in three different ways — all, again, on the first page of the filing.
In a case in Georgia, the court was misidentified as “THE UNITED STATES DISTRICCT COURT, NORTHERN DISTRCOICT OF GEORGIA.”
And in Michigan, the court was identified as the “UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, EASTERN DISTRCT OF MICHIGAN.”
The Trump legal effort has been plagued by losses thanks to its baseless, frequently recycled, debunked claims. But it has also been plagued by a kind of sloppiness that seems to epitomize just how little care and consideration has gone into its efforts.
At least in this case, though, the suit was filed in the correct court. In early November, a case challenging the results in Detroit-based Wayne County was filed not in Michigan, but in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. Trump’s lawyer claimed the error was in the filing system, but experts found that highly implausible.
Similarly, a lawsuit in Wisconsin sought relief in numerous ways, including the “immediate production” of two days’ worth of security camera footage from the ballot-counting at the TCF Center. The problem: the TCF Center is in Detroit, which is not in Wisconsin.
Other errors have been more minor — small typos that perhaps anyone could make:
- In one case, a “poll watcher” was identified as a “pole watcher,” which sounds like a very different sort of thing.
- In another, the second amended complaint as a “second amendment complaint,” which also sounds like something else entirely.
- A Pennsylvania lawsuit identified Gov. Tom Wolf (D) as “Governor Wolfe.”
Others have been more embarrassing.
In a proposed amended complaint in Michigan, the lawyers signed the judge’s name as if he had granted it. When it was pointed out, Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis claimed that it wasn’t an error at all — that it was done as a “courtesy” to the judge so he didn’t have to sign it and he only had to place his seal on it.
Except then the Trump campaign re-filed it without the signature — a tacit acknowledgment of its error.
In Wisconsin this week, Powell included a Republican congressional candidate as a plaintiff. But the candidate, Derrick Van Orden, soon said his name had been used without his permission.
The same case transposes President-elect Joe Biden’s margin of victory in Wisconsin with his margin in Georgia and at one point claims noncompliance with rules set “by the Georgia legislature,” which has no power over Wisconsin’s elections.
One of the most embarrassing episodes came with a much-hyped affidavit filed by L. Lin Wood in Georgia. The affiant claimed that there were more votes than registered voters in 3,000 precincts in Michigan — rising has high as 350 percent in one case. Trump’s lawyers promoted the claim in a news conference.
Except the data was entirely from Minnesota, not Michigan. What’s more, the data source cited — the secretary of state — doesn’t back up the claims. The affidavit seemed to rely upon incomplete data and misunderstand the use of “estimated voters” on the secretary of state’s website. That number was estimated voters who voted in the 2020 election, not estimated total registered voters. (Hence, many of the precincts listed were at exactly 100 percent.) Others identified as having more than 100 percent turnout didn’t actually have more votes than registered voters; the misunderstanding seemed to stem from vote totals being updated faster than the “estimated voters” numbers.
But that wasn’t even the only time the suits have misidentified locations in Michigan. Powell also filed a “decleration” — another misspelling — from someone identified as a cybersecurity expert. The witness describes alleged irregularities in Edison County, Mich. Except there is no Edison County in Michigan.
That such an error-riddled and easily fact-checked affidavit would rise to the top so quickly in the Trump team’s efforts would seem a case in point when it comes to how little due diligence it has done. The name of the game is throwing lots of stuff at the wall and hoping something sticks. It hasn’t worked in actual courts yet, though, and Trump’s lawyers have suffered other embarrassing episodes there. What’s more, Trump’s spokespeople, including White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, have repeatedly recycled claims that were debunked or failed in court weeks ago.
Does the sloppiness ultimately matter when it comes to the veracity of the claims? Of course not. But the claims themselves have also fallen apart over and over. And the myriad typos and errors reinforce how haphazard this entire effort is. It displays a certain contempt not just for the legal system, but for the people who are being asked to buy into Trump’s baseless claims.