There Are No Lawyers Who Can Salvage Trump’s Reelection Bid

The president appears to have lost fair and square—and there’s nothing any attorney can do about it.

Donald Trump is in deep trouble. His chances of being re-elected have basically vanished. As of this writing, he trails by substantial margins in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona—three of which he needs to win at a minimum. In the first three, his deficit will almost certainly increase with each new tally; in Arizona, he will continue to make up ground, but he has not been doing so fast enough. While the networks are still wary of calling the race, Joe Biden will almost certainly become the next president of the United States.

So Donald Trump is doing what he always does: begging for attorneys to fix his problem for him and allow him to cheat. This is, of course, how Trump has lived his whole life. He has no particular expertise in or deep knowledge of anything. He’s a trust fund playboy who inherited $400 million dollars and somehow managed to go bankrupt several times while stiffing his creditors and the IRS, only escaping the wreckage by assembling an army of accountants, lawyers, and fixers who do have expertise to save him. For much of his troubled career, the primary fixer was legendary racist sociopath Roy Cohn. When Cohn passed away, Trump turned to a series of other ne’er-do-wells from Michael Cohen to Roger Stone, but he never stopped lamenting the loss of Cohn.

In Trump’s world, no problem is insurmountable if you have a shameless and brutal enough team of sharks to fix it for you. Even if that problem is democracy itself.

But this time, there is no group of white-collar hitmen who can solve Trump’s problem, which is that he simply doesn’t have the votes. He doesn’t have a case. He doesn’t have a corrupted jury. And the system he’s up against won’t be intimidated or silenced into giving him what he wants.

It’s not for lack of trying. He escaped impeachment by ensuring total loyalty from a compromised Republican Senate. He explicitly installed Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court in a travesty of a process specifically in order to gift him the election in any potential legal challenge.

But for the Supreme Court to throw him the election, there has to be even a flimsy pretext of a case. And Trump doesn’t have one:

President Trump’s bellicose pledge to fight the outcome of the election in the courts crashed on Friday into skeptical judges, daunting Electoral College math and a lack of evidence for his claims of fraud.

On a day that began with vote tallies in Georgia and Pennsylvania tipping in Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s favor, Mr. Trump’s campaign declared, “This election is not over,” as the Republican National Committee announced it had activated “legal challenge teams” in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania. And the Trump forces named a new general to lead the effort, the hardened conservative political combatant David Bossie.

But none of the dozen or so lawsuits they had brought in battleground states appeared to be gaining any traction in the courts. And in any case, none seemed likely to give Mr. Trump the edge he would need in vote counts in the states that will determine the outcome.

The Trump plan (insofar as there was one) was to hold all the states he needed to win except Pennsylvania. Then, after working with GOP allies in the Pennsylvania legislature to ensure that mostly Democratic mail ballots would be counted last and slowly, attempt to throw doubt on the counting process itself and ask the courts to throw out any absentee ballots.

But that plan ran aground when Fox News called Arizona—a state Trump was counting on winning—for Joe Biden. The Trump team erupted in fury over the call, as it undercut their core strategy. But then the firewall also collapsed not only in Wisconsin and Michigan but also crucially in Georgia. The problem for Trump in Georgia isn’t just that he is losing due in large part to the hard work of Black organizers like Stacey Abrams—it’s that the state’s election apparatus is controlled by Republicans, which makes accusations of organized fraud much more difficult.

And Pennsylvania itself is thwarting Trump in other ways. Democrats in Pennsylvania were so wise to the Republican strategy to cheat the outcome there, that they heavily mobilized the Democratic electorate not only to vote by mail but to vote very early. That, in turn, means that the usual flood of late-arriving Democratic mail votes is barely a trickle this year. Crucially, the big fight over segregating and potentially discarding ballots postmarked before but arriving after Election Day won’t matter, because there won’t be nearly enough of them to change the outcome of the election even if Trump were to succeed in getting them thrown out.

All of this has forced Trump’s legal team, such as it is, to make small-bore, frivolous complaints about minor issues: observer access in small precincts, a handful of ballots involving registration time window issues in Nevada, etc. And in nearly all instances, even these complaints are being dismissed with force by judges for being little more than harassment or based on hearsay.

Sensing that his fixers are failing, Trump has taken to yelling for new Roy Cohns and demanding an army of better lawyers:

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reported Friday that President Donald Trump is not happy with his current legal team.

Collins told Jake Tapper that the legal team — which includes Rudy GiulianiPam Bondi, and others — isn’t exactly assuaging the president’s concerns and Trump has “questions about the effectiveness of that team.”

“He’s even told one person he wants them to find him better attorneys to put on his team,” Collins said. “Because he wants a team of what he describes to one person as ‘killers.’”

She pointed out that there’s a question of why this didn’t come up sooner, given the predictions that this election would result in legal fights even before Tuesday.

Amusingly, Jake Tapper reported on CNN earlier Friday evening that Jared Kushner had been put in charge of the search for attorneys. If true, it would be delicious karma: Kushner’s monumental incompetence driving a nail in the Trump coffin after so dramatically mismanaging the COVID crisis.

But the reality is that even a team of legal superstars wouldn’t be able to salvage this for Trump. The only thing unfair about this election was voter suppression actions by Republicans and deliberate attempts to slow down the mail, delay counting of mail ballots and then throw them out entirely.

Trump appears to have lost fair and square, and there’s not a lawyer in the land who could give even his hand-picked Supreme Court a credible opportunity to install him into a second term.

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David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.