Donald Trump’s legal team stages press conference to make unsubstantiated accusations of vote rigging
Donald Trump’s legal team led by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani gave a remarkable press conference on Thursday afternoon making sweeping and unsubstantiated allegations of election corruption.
Addressing the media for more than an hour, Mr Giuliani and his fellow Trump legal representatives made a slew of outlandish claims while providing little evidence to back them up.
At one point Mr Giuliani alleged – without proof – that Joe Biden, the former Democratic presidential candidate now US president-elect, had known of a plot to steal the election from Mr Trump.
At another attorney Sidney Powell claimed US adversaries from Venezuela, Cuba and China had meddled in the election through a voting system that, she alleged, systematically robbed Mr Trump of votes.
Ms Powell went as far as claiming the president, who clearly lost the election on current vote counts, had actually won a “landslide” but the result had been reversed by nefarious forces.
Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump
Credit: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
There were also repeated, heated attacks on the media for not passing on the claims to the American people, with Mr Giuliani alleging an “outrageous iron curtain of censorship”.
The press conference at times tipped into the comic, with a sweating Mr Giuliani at one point wiping away a drip of what appeared to be his hair dye from his face.
But the blizzard of unproven claims were no laughing matter, being made by the US president’s legal representatives in the headquarters of the Republican National Committee in Washington, DC.
Many figures in the US political and media establishment expressed shock at the breadth of the allegations being made with such little evidence presented to back them up.
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Critics have framed the Trump team’s claims as an assault on the act at the heart of US democracy, voting, while the president’s supporters argue the opposite, that he is in fact defending that act.
The press conference, which comes more than two weeks after election day, escalates Mr Trump’s refusal to concede to Joe Biden despite the latter’s leads in battleground states.
Mr Biden was pushed over the all-important 270 electoral vote line by multiple states with winning vote margins of thousands or tens of thousands of votes.
That is very different from the infamous contested 2000 US election where the two presidential candidates were separated by just around 500 votes in a single state, Florida.
Chris Krebs, who was America’s top election security official as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency until his sacking by Mr Trump on Tuesday, issued fierce criticism.
He tweeted: "That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history. And possibly the craziest. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re lucky."
Throughout the press conference Mr Giuliani, now in charge of Mr Trump’s legal team contesting election results, spoke of “fraud”, “corruption”, “mass cheating” and “crooks” who got “caught”.
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"I know crimes, I can smell them. I don’t have to smell this one. I can prove it in 18 different ways,” Mr Giuliani, a former prosecutor, claimed at one point.
Amid the flurry of allegations, most unprovable in the immediate aftermath of the press conference, a few claims which have already been discussed were aired.
One was that close to 700,000 ballots cast in Pennsylvania, a swing state which Mr Biden won, were invalid because Republican poll watchers had not been able to see them being counted.
That line of argument, that poll watchers were not given full access to counts, has been disputed in places. It is also not evidence of the mass voter fraud being alleged.
Mr Giuliani claimed “logic” showed that alleged evidence of wrongdoing in different states was part of a wider coordinated election conspiracy.
No proof for that claim was offered. He also provocatively alleged that Mr Biden was aware of the plot, a serious allegation to make about a president-elect.
Again, no proof was offered to support it. Ms Powell, a lawyer for Mr Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn, went further, claiming the voting system Dominion was rigged to add votes for Mr Biden.
Ms Powell claimed: “President Trump won by a landslide, we are going to prove it.”
She also claimed Dominion executives were linked to figures in Venezuela, Cuba and even China, indicating – without offering evidence – that those countries somehow meddled in vote counts.
A Dominion representative last week said the company “categorically denies any claims about any vote switching or alleged software issues with our voting systems”.
US government officials involved in election security recently released a statement saying this year’s vote was the "most secure" in US history, a conclusion Mr Trump has contradicted.
On Thursday, it also emerged that Mr Trump directly called a Republican official on an election board in a county in Michigan after she initially refused to certify the result.
The Trump campaign, with many of its early election lawsuits rejected by the courts, appears to be putting focus now on local officials who can stop certification of results.
Mr Biden on Thursday expressed frustration with Mr Trump’s fortnight-long refusal to concede the election and instead launch legal challenges.
"It is hard to fathom how this man thinks. It’s hard to fathom. I’m confident he knows he hasn’t won," Mr Biden told reporters.
He described the US president’s behaviour as "totally irresponsible", adding: "It sends a horrible message about who we are as a country".
Mr Biden would not rule out launching legal action to counter Mr Trump’s false claims of election victory, while insisting he was not taking that route yet.
He also revealed he had selected his Treasury secretary, another sign of moving forward with his transition preparation despite Mr Trump’s stance.
Mr Biden said he would name the individual either just before or after Thanksgiving on November 26 and predicted the nominee would be "accepted by all elements" in the Democratic Party.
Mike Pence, the US vice president, yesterday refused to take questions at the end of a briefing about the administration’s response to Covid-19 when he likely would have been asked about the president’s refusal to concede.