Dismaying that NOBODY is covering this crucial lawsuit!

I realize the “news” under our vulgar distractor-in-chief is a constant torrent of diarrhea coming at us through high-powered spray hoses and at this point most of us reflexively turn away from it. Still, the news media has not been following what several of them have fairly characterized as a crucial election 2020 story, teasing a federal ruling– by a Trump appointee– on the virtual non-existence of frequently claimed voter fraud.

I should make a separate category for this case so you can have my many posts on it all in one place. I’ll do that now. OK, click the link to view my several posts in order HERE.

The Trump campaign and the RNC brought a federal lawsuit in key swing state Pennsylvania to stop the expansion of absentee voting, which included provisions for the widespread use of drop boxes for mail-in ballots. The lawsuit was filed on June 29, 2020. There were hundreds of documents filed in this case, (410 as of last filing) you can see them all here. Click on any entry to read the public filing (any news service, incidentally, could do the same).

You can, for example, read the judge’s entire short August 13 order to Plaintiffs, granting Defendants’ motions to compel the production of actual evidence of the RNC/Trump campaign’s claims. JUDGE RANJAN’S ORDER IS HERE and at the bottom of this post for your scrolling convenience [1].

You will notice, if you read the judge’s order, that he orders Plaintiffs to produce specific, responsive evidence and that “if there are no responsive documents, Plaintiffs must state as much.” The judge details exactly what specific evidence (or admission they have none) Plaintiffs must provide in section 2) of his order.

He gives them until the close of business the following day, August 14th, to provide the evidence (which has never been produced anywhere) of the massive voter fraud and abuse they predict, or admit they don’t have evidence.

Reading the order I at first believed I may have been seeing another encouraging judicial profile in courage: a judge, appointed by Trump, telling him that his case would not go forward without evidence. Then the media went silent on this case.

I did my own research (tip of the hat to my old friend from law school who provided me the link to the docket). In light of further reading, Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan does not appear to be performing any kind of profile in courage, as I will explain in a moment.

The bold-faced type below is from the August 14 New York Times report of the order. Facing that is a section of the August 23 Reuters account of the same thing, phrased not as an “order” but as the judge asking the campaign to do something they simply declined to do, assuring the judge they’d win the case without evidence.

Both of these reports can’t be true. The judge’s order of August 13 was clear and explicit. It was actually an order, and not a polite ask the party could politely decline by telling the judge their case would be just fine without the evidence. You can see for yourself below [1] or on the actual docket of the case (above) that the “ask” narrative is ridiculous. How does a mainstream news organization make that kind of rookie blogger error?

Reviewing the filings on the online docket, we can see that Plaintiffs filed nothing on August 14, in spite of being ordered by the judge. Contempt of court? They don’t seem to have filed anything responsive to the judge’s order after August 14th either, which is surprising and confusing, since the only two stories updating the progress of the case (Reuters and this one, from the Intercept) cited their submission of hundreds of pages (“over 300 documents”, “524 pages”) of non-responsive documents containing no evidence of voter fraud.

Judge Ranjan writes well, and his analysis of the applicable law appears to be sound. He appears to be a qualified judge, unlike some of his recently appointed extreme-right ideologue colleagues (some deemed unqualified by the non-partisan American Bar Association). Yet he crafted a few beautifully tell-tale lines in his opinions in this case which suggest he may not be as dispassionate in this matter as his August 13 order might make him appear. Here are two.

The first is from his August 13 order to Trump 2020 and the RNC to produce evidence (addressing defendants’ request for attorneys fees for being forced to fight a lawsuit brought without evidence, to suppress the vote):

4) Pursuant to Rule 37(a)(5)(A)(ii), the Court finds that Plaintiffs’ positions were substantially justified, and so will not award reasonable expenses or attorneys’ fees.

That might be fair enough, if that subsection of Rule 37 states some legal ground for presuming a lawsuit “substantially justified” until proven otherwise or something like that. On the other hand, if the cited rule is not so generous, Judge Ranjan summarily concludes that the RNC/Trump positions were “substantially justified” even without seeing any of the evidence he ordered them to produce. In that case — hmmmm… 

As to Trump’s “substantially justified” lawsuit, this next bit is as close to analysis as we get from the judge. The audacity of this amazingly supple sentence would make legalistic wordsmith and prose contortionist Robert Mueller III blush and fall on the floor:

In the context of recently analyzing why the law compels him to “stay” the case until the resolution of related state law cases, he crafts this wonder of a sentence, which I have carved up a bit, for emphasis and ease of appreciation:

while Plaintiffs do assert one facial constitutional challenge and allege a few violations of statutory provisions 

that are probably not ambiguous,

these claims are intertwined with those that are less clear.  [2]

Dig it, I’m not saying every one of these assertions are necessarily legally ambiguous, a few of them are probably not, one is arguably an actual constitutional claim, but those claims that are probably not ambiguous are freely mixed in and entangled with claims for which we have even less confidence of their probable unambiguity, if you know what I’m sayin’.

I read that abortion of a sentence, the truth of what I was actually reading hit me hard and my heart sank. The words that came into my mind next were these, uttered recently to a cheering audience in red MAGA hats by the innocent and heroic non-perjurer Michael Flynn (and much in the news lately as well):

Where we go one, we go all.

[1]

ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO COMPEL [ECF 366, ECF 368]

After considering the parties’ submissions on the motions to compel, the Court hereby ORDERS as follows: 

1) As to the motion to compel filed by the Democratic Party Intervenors [ECF 366], Plaintiffs shall respond fully to the Democratic Intervenors’ Interrogatory Nos. 1-9 and Document Requests Nos. 1-4 and 9 with specific information or documents requested and/or specifically identify by Bates number which document(s) produced are responsive to each Document Request and Interrogatory. If there are no responsive documents, Plaintiffs must state as much.

2) As to the motion to compel filed by the Sierra Club Intervenors [ECF 368], the Court finds that instances of voter fraud are relevant to the claims and defenses in this case, particularly since Plaintiffs are reserving their right to introduce such evidence or retain an expert regarding the same. Plaintiffs shall produce such evidence in their possession, and if they have none, state as much. More specifically, Plaintiffs must respond fully to the Sierra Club Intervenors’ Document Request Nos. 1 and 15, “as narrowed to include documents, data, analysis and communications relating to allegations Case 2:20-cv-00966-NR Document 374 Filed 08/13/20 Page 1 of 2 2 in the Amended Complaint concerning potential or actual fraud or voter misconduct,” including as relates to: a) “non-uniform procedures concerning drop boxes in Pennsylvania”; b) “fraudulent voting resulting from the use of drop boxes, absentee ballots, or vote-by-mail in Pennsylvania”; c) “fraud resulting from the use of third-party groups to collect absentee or mail ballots in Pennsylvania”; d) “the existence and/or prevalence of fraud, ballot harvesting, ballot manipulation or destruction, or duplicitous voting in Pennsylvania”; and e) “the prevalence and/or counting of absentee or mail ballots in Pennsylvania that lack a secrecy envelope, whose envelope contains any text, mark, or symbol which reveals the elector’s identify, political affiliation, or candidate preference, or whose envelope does not include on the outside envelope a completed declaration signed by the elector.” 

3) Plaintiffs shall provide supplemental responses and documents consistent with the foregoing no later than August 14, 2020. 

4) Pursuant to Rule 37(a)(5)(A)(ii), the Court finds that Plaintiffs’ positions were substantially justified, and so will not award reasonable expenses or attorneys’ fees.

[2] Judge Ranjan concludes:

Thus, the state court’s resolution of the uncertain questions could narrow even these claims, or at least cause Plaintiffs to present them in a different posture. Under these exceptional circumstances, the mandatory elements of Pullman abstention are satisfied.

Both of these things cannot be true

A federal judge ordered Trump to produce evidence by August 14th, a judge politely asked Trump if he felt like producing evidence.   Both cannot be true.

President Trump, as part of his open national effort to suppress the “Democrat” vote, has gone to court to challenge the use of drop box voting in Pennsylvania.   He won that key state’s twenty electoral votes in 2016 by a whopping 0.7 percentage points, 44,292 votes.   The more people he stops from casting ballots, the better his chance to win the Electoral College votes of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

Trump knows that his best, likely his only, chance of re-election lies in motivating his diehard base by constantly stoking their anger, their most extreme fears, driving them to the polls in their full 40% numbers, and making sure large numbers of voters for the other party do not get to vote.   He is also setting things up to contest the results of another “rigged” election if he loses.  He will do this in court and by “Second Amendment” means, if necessary.  Those who believe Trump is fighting a cabal of Satanic pedophile cannibals will take up arms, as they did recently against the tyranny of a “Democrat” governor who attempted to force them to wear masks during an extremely infectious pandemic.

Trump’s legal team in the Western District of Pennsylvania made explosive claims about widespread voter fraud, claims they offered no evidence to support.   As Bill Barr has said when questioned about what proof he has of voter fraud: “it’s obvious!”.    The judge in the Pennsylvania case was appointed by Trump and McConnell.   It seemed Trump might have another Neomi Rao, the loyally partisan DC District Court of Appeals appointee, overseeing his claims that to allow widespread absentee voting in Pennsylvania would inevitably lead to massive “Democrat” fraud.

On August 13 the federal judge in that case ordered the Trump campaign and the RNC to submit evidence of fraud or admit it had none.   As reported the following day in the New York Times:

Screenshot_20200815-003724_Messages

Though this order appeared to be a do-or-die profile in courage by this 42 year-old Trump appointee, drawing a line in the federal court sand against the president’s constant abuse of the court system to delay and bully (in cases he almost always loses in the end), there was no media follow up on this case. Over the following days I wrote to news directors at several outlets, was in communication with the news director at WESA, the public radio station in Pittsburgh, where the district courthouse is. The only article I saw was published on the Intercept website. It is headlined:

TRUMP COMES UP EMPTY WHEN PRESSED FOR EVIDENCE OF ELECTION FRAUD IN COURT:

The Trump campaign’s 524-page response to a discovery demand turned up precisely zero instances of mail-in vote fraud.

WESA published this piece earlier today.

This morning a friend sent me this Reuters piece which contains this, eh, analysis:

The Trump campaign says the ballot drop box invites fraud. The federal judge asked the campaign to provide evidence of actual fraud, but the campaign declined, arguing it did not have to do so in order to win the case.

The upshot of the Reuters update is that federal judge Ranjan put the federal lawsuit on hold to allow state lawsuits to resolve the state law issues. Presumably, on the advice of his superiors, the new judge chose to “stay” the case rather than dismiss the complaint outright as a flagrantly political stunt submitted in bad faith and without any evidentiary basis. Reuters reports:

The Republican president has repeatedly and without evidence said that an increase in mail-in ballots would lead to a surge in fraud, although Americans have long voted by mail.

There is perhaps no more consequential lawsuit than the one in Pennsylvania, which Trump won by less than 1 percentage point in 2016 and is considered essential to his re-election effort.

J. Nicholas Ranjan, U.S district judge for western Pennsylvania, said the federal case brought by the Trump campaign would not move forward until similar lawsuits in state courts are completed or unless they are delayed.

But what’s with Reuters’ ridiculously anodyne statement of Trump’s apparent defiance of a court order?

but the campaign declined, arguing it did not have to do so in order to win the case.

The federal judge didn’t “ask,” he ordered the campaign and the RNC to produce evidence or state that they had none, according to every report I read a week earlier.  A judge does not ask when issuing a court order. That’s why it’s called an “order”. 

The powerful plaintiffs respectfully disagreed with the judge’s “request” and said they’d win even without evidence, like in the rigged Senate “impeachment” “trial”.   

What the fuck, man, is everybody asleep?

Update on Trump 2020-RNC filing of evidence of vote-by-mail fraud!

In granting a motion in the case Trump 2020 and the RNC brought to restrict alternatives to live, in-person voting in Pennsylvania, Judge Ranjan ordered Trump’s lawyers to submit evidence of mail-in voting fraud or admit that it has no evidence.    Never ones to be put in a corner, or back down, or admit their claim was based on nothing but a desire to win at any cost, the Trump campaign chose a third option:   they submitted 524 pages of what purported to be evidence of fraud. 

Did they offer any actual evidence that allowing voters to submit mail-in ballots at drop boxes (to get around Trump mega-donor Louis DeJoy’s multi-pronged slowdown of US Postal Service mail delivery): “provides fraudsters an easy opportunity to engage in ballot harvesting, manipulate or destroy ballots, manufacture duplicitous votes, and sow chaos.”???

No.

Did they admit that they had no proof?

No.

524 pages, your honor, some of it redacted.   Read it and weep, chumps.  One of the parties in the lawsuit had this comment after reading it all.

“Not only did the campaign fail to provide evidence that voter fraud was a widespread problem in Pennsylvania, they failed to provide any evidence that any misconduct occurred in the primary election or that so-called voter fraud is any sort of regular problem in Pennsylvania,” said Suzanne Almeida, interim director of Common Cause PA, one of the parties in the lawsuit. The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

source

Did Trump 2020 and the RNC submit evidence of mail-in voting fraud late Friday afternoon?

As the president throws bloody Trump steaks to his hungry base, calling moderate, longtime compromiser (sometimes in the worst sense of the word) Joe Biden a “puppet of the radical left” and fomenting against “left wing fascists” (why not just call us by our proper name — liberal cucks?) his reelection campaign filed papers Friday, as ordered by federal Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan, with evidence of mail-in voting fraud or an admission that they don’t have squat.

The papers were filed in the District Court of Western Pennsylvania where the Trump campaign and the RNC are trying to block the expansion of mail-in voting in one of a handful of swing states, a state whose 20 electoral votes Trump took last time by a whopping 0.7% of votes cast [1] — a state whose electoral votes went to the Democratic presidential candidate in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012. 

I know that Trump 2020 and the RNC filed papers late Friday only because someone at the Pittsburgh Public Radio station, WESA, returned my email to tell me so.   Otherwise, the news of what was filed remains unreported– anywhere.   THE FILINGS ARE APPARENTLY ON-LINE RIGHT NOW.  (More about that shortly — eh, I’ll drop a footnote [2])

I followed up with the guy at WESA just now (the only news service I contacted that got back to me):

Any update on this story?   It’s odd to me that there has been ZERO follow-up in the media, anywhere.   The outcome of this federal lawsuit could radically change the voting landscape in Pennsylvania and in every other “battleground” state.   I learned (from Wikipedia) that the case is scheduled for oral arguments on September 22, but not a peep about the Friday filing… whether Trump 2020 and RNC presented evidence of mail-in voting fraud or admitted they have none — a little disquieting.     I believe the documents should be currently available on PACER.

A few hours later, this update from the news director, Patrick:

There’s an entry in PACER suggesting exhibits were filed yesterday, but the link doesn’t have any materials. We’ll continue to follow.

to which I replied:

Thanks, Patrick.  

The plot thickens?  Does it strike you as odd that this is not a national story?

 

 

 

[1]

According to the final tallies, Trump won Pennsylvania by 0.7 percentage points (44,292 votes), Wisconsin by 0.7 points (22,748 votes), Michigan by 0.2 points (10,704 votes). If Clinton had won all three states, she would have won the Electoral College 278 to 260.     source

 

[2]  I haven’t used PACER for years, certainly not since retiring from the practice of law several years ago.   Don’t remember my log-in.   The PACER website did not send me the email it told me was on the way, a code that would only be active for 15 minutes.  Ten minutes on hold did not connect me to anyone at their live desk– a robot eventually came on to recite, in an uncanny impersonation of Stephen Hawking, the bit about experiencing longer than usual wait times. 

At a federal agency that only fields calls from people, who forgot their log-in info, looking for help getting on the federal database of court filings.   It is what it is.  

 

first email to local news director

The National Public Radio station in Pittsburgh (site of the federal court where Trump v. Boockvar — the president’s lawsuit to restrict mail-in voting in Pennsylvania —  is being battled out)

Patrick,
 
I’m writing from NYC, concerned that an important news item about the upcoming election, federal Judge Ranjan’s Thursday’s order to Trump 2020 and the RNC to produce evidence of mail-in voting fraud or state they have none, is not being followed up by any news outlet that I can find. 
Google produces no results for updates on what happened when the judge’s Friday deadline came and went.   
 
I thought your station reported on the order yesterday, but, as I didn’t find anything recent about the case on your website, I seem to have been wrong.   Here is the troubling issue in a nutshell.
 
The NY Times reported on Friday afternoon:
 
Screenshot_20200815-003724_Messages
a few hours later, a search of the NYT online edition, even using parts of the quoted article, yielded zero results — nothing found — the article itself, not found.   
CNN, UPI, Bloomberg and others also reported on the story when the judge made his order, it’s a potentially huge federal lawsuit for the future of our democracy — no follow up?
 
I know things are crazy now in the USA, but have we actually entered the Twilight Zone, Patrick? 
only “update” I’ve been able to find online today, from the J. Nicholas Ranjan Wikipedia page:
In August 2020, Ranjan ordered the Trump campaign to produce evidence of voter fraud in Pennsylvania by Friday, August 14. The Trump campaign must answer questions from Democratic groups, or admit to having no proof of election fraud. A hearing about the evidence is set for late September.[9]
 
I’d be grateful for a little light on this important case,

What happened to this fairly important news story?

I read a short piece in the New York Times this afternoon that contained these eye-popping lines, which I texted to a friend:

Screenshot_20200815-003724_MessagesDistrict Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan was appointed by President Trump in 2019, presumably off of the list of Federalist Society vetted judges that all of McConnell’s judicial appointments are drawn from.  The judge basically ordered the plaintiffs, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee most prominent among them, to provide some proof of their allegations or admit that they had no proof of widespread fraud in mail-in voting.  A rather remarkable development, I thought, and one of great public interest and concern during a pandemic, at a time when an utterly fictitious fear of massive vote-by-mail fraud is being constantly stoked by the president, his AG and all of his other surrogates.

As Bloomberg reported:

The Trump campaign and Republican National Committee sued Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and local election boards on June 29 over their plan for mail-in balloting for the November 3 elections. Trump’s team claimed the plan “provides fraudsters an easy opportunity to engage in ballot harvesting, manipulate or destroy ballots, manufacture duplicitous votes, and sow chaos.”…

… “Plaintiffs shall produce such evidence in their possession, and if they have none, state as much,” said Ranjan, who took his seat on the bench in August 2019. He gave the campaign until Friday.

source

This evening I followed up on the story, since reporting the judge’s order the news media (UPI and CNN as well as CBS local in Pittsburgh all reported the story) has been unanimously silent about this case.   

A search for the story a few hours later, on the NY Times website where I’d read the piece hours earlier (using their own quote — which turned up nothing) as well as multiple searches on Google, YouTube and elsewhere, provided no update.   It was almost as if the federal judge had not ordered a party to comply in a case of great national importance, involving the right to safely vote in the presidential election, by the end of business today. 

As CNN reported yesterday:

The judge’s order, in a high profile case about vote-by-mail in the battleground state, essentially forces the Trump campaign to try to back up President Donald Trump’s false claims about massive voter fraud in postal voting. 

source

A high profile case?  Seems that way to me, though it’s keeping a pretty low profile so far, for such a high profile case.  

Plaintiffs DONALD J. TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT, INC.; REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE; et al sued the Attorney General of Pennsylvania and the elections board of every county in the state, making a passionate argument for limiting mail-in voting in Pennsylvania.  Here is a taste of the serious allegations made by lawyers for Mr. Trump, from their rip-snorting 75 page complaint:

The result is that a significant portion of votes for elections in Pennsylvania are being cast in a fashion that denies any procedural visibility to candidates, political parties, and the public in general, thereby jeopardizing the free and fair public elections guaranteed by the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions. The most recent election conducted in this Commonwealth and the public reaction to it demonstrate the harm caused by Defendants’ unconstitutional infringements of Plaintiffs’ rights. The continued enforcement of arbitrary and disparate policies and procedures regarding poll watcher access and ballot return and counting poses a severe threat to the credibility and integrity of, and public confidence in, Pennsylvania’s elections.

full amended complaint here

“Denies procedural visibility?”   No idea.  The judge ruled Thursday that horrible, arbitrary, disparate and unconstitutional as all that may sound, he would need a few shreds of evidence of actual voter fraud to support the case, to allow it to go forward as if it were an ordinary federal lawsuit, brought in good faith, during normal times, by parties that were not rabidly litigious. What happened at the end of business today when the evidence was due?

Did the plaintiffs simply have a senior Federalist Society judge call Judge Ranjan and tell him to get the hell back in line?   

Did they provide the evidence of massive mail-in voter fraud that he ordered to be produced?   

Did they go over his head to the appellate court and seek a writ of mandamus to force him to do his job as a political appointee serving at the pleasure of the president, obey the “presumption of regularity” and not try to illegally usurp the legitimate powers of the Executive branch and the campaign arm appurtenant thereto?  

What happened at five pm today when the federal court closed for business in Western Pennsylvania?   What the hell?  I guess I’ll be calling some newsrooms tomorrow.

In other news, Georgia governor Brian Kemp quietly dropped his baseless political theatre case against the Atlanta mayor for mandating the wearing of face masks in public during the pandemic.   Check out this peach of a news item from the good state of  Georgia.