Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, speaks during an event in Gettysburg to formally announce a run for governor on Jan. 8, 2022. (Screenshot)
It was a perfect setup for Donald Trump.
After he lost the 2020 presidential race to Joe Biden, Trump set about filing lawsuits across the nation. Trump was asking the courts to overturn the election, claiming it had been stolen from him.
Citing no evidence of his claims, the courts refused to give him the victory he sought.
However, one of the lawsuits was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Williamsport, contending that registered Democratic voters in Pennsylvania were treated more favorably than Republican voters.
The suit was filed in the heartland of Trump Country. Trump had crushed Biden by a 70 percent to 30 percent margin in Lycoming County, where Williamsport is located.
The lawsuit asked the court to prevent the state, Philadelphia and six counties from certifying the results of the election. It also sought to block them from counting mail-in ballots that weren’t witnessed by a Trump campaign representative when they were processed.
Hearing the case was Judge Matthew Brann, who had been a regional Republican Party chairman in Pennsylvania for about a decade before being nominated to the bench in 2013.
In addition, he had been a longtime member of the Federalist Society, which advocates for conservative views among judges, politicians and scholars. It’s one of the most influential legal groups in the country with 70,000 lawyers among its members. The Associated Press reported that 43 of Trump’s 51 appellate court nominees were members of the Federalist Society.Brann is also a longtime member of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
What more could Trump want? A conservative judge in a conservative county would certainly lead to overturning the 2020 election, right?
Well, Judge Brann would have none of it. In a scalding opinion, he dismissed Trump’s argument.
“This claim, like Frankenstein’s Monster, has been haphazardly stitched together,” wrote Brann. “It is not in the power of this court to violate the Constitution … [T]his Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations unsupported by evidence. In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state.”
Trump appealed the ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which consisted of three Republicans, including Judge Stephanos Bibas, who was appointed by Trump. He lost there too.
“Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy,” wrote Bibas, who was joined in his opinion by his fellow Republicans on the bench.
“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,” Bibas wrote.
“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,” he continued. 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.
“Voters, not lawyers, choose the President,” Bibas added. “Ballots, not briefs, decide elections.”So, how is it that despite Trump’s claims being dismissed by Republican judges, many GOP voters and candidates still believe that the presidential election was stolen from him.
In Pennsylvania, most of the seven candidates seeking the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate and nine candidates for governor in next week’s election have supported Trump in one way or another.
While not all the candidates said outright that the election was stolen, Senate candidate Carla Sands, a former Trump foreign ambassador, was clear about her feelings.
“As a matter of fact, we know that the election of 2020 was stolen,” Sands told a debate audience recently..
The AP noted that such a position puts her on the fringe of not only the Senate, which voted 92-7 to certify, but the Senate’s Republican caucus, including the man they hope to replace, retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
In the governor’s race, every GOP candidate has vowed to repeal Pennsylvania’s 2-year-old law that established no-excuse mail-in voting.
Banning drop boxes and expanding Pennsylvania’s voter identification requirement are also being pushed by many Pennsylvania Republican candidates for governor on the campaign trail.
The GOP’s leading candidate for governor, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, maintains the election was skewed by fraud against Trump and proposed a plan in the Legislature to overturn it.
Mastriano said, if elected, he would require voters to “re-register. We’re going to start all over again.”
This all comes despite the fact that prosecutors identified just one case in the 2020 election of in-person voting fraud and zero evidence that drop boxes were a conduit for fraudulent ballots, according to the Associated Press.
A review by the Associated Press found that despite claims about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, there were fewer than 475 instances of potential voter fraud in the six states disputed by Trump — a number that would have made no difference in the election.
So, will Republicans ever come to their senses and admit that were wrong about Trump? Probably not. There’s an old saying that,
“A lie repeated many times becomes the truth.” While there’s a lot of doubt about who originated the quote, it’s very accurate and unfortunately describes what’s happening in the U.S. today.
Trump’s lies have become the truth for far too many Republicans and their candidates.
Opinion contributor Mark O’Keefe is the former editorial page editor of the Uniontown Herald-Standard. His work appears biweekly on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.
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