Donald Trump’s assault on his country’s electoral system has taken another strange turn as he was called into a hearing held at a hotel ballroom to again make election complaints while his lawyer held the phone up to a microphone.
The president was hinted to be attending the event on Wednesday (local time) organised by loyal Pennsylvania Senate Republicans to air further claims of voter fraud, despite a lack of any meaningful evidence.
But any such plans for the president to attend were reportedly scuttled after a member of his legal team Boris Epshteyn announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Not one to disappoint his supporters, the president called in to the hearing to the cheers and applause of some in the room.
As the phone was held up to a microphone, Trump made false claims he won the election before going on a rambling diatribe while on speaker phone.
At one point he talked about “an elderly woman” who tried to vote and was allegedly told her ballot was already cast as he made unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud that were “all for Biden”.
In the background, some in the room could be seen laughing as Trump railed against “the bad people, the horrible people” as the phone began beeping with an incoming call.
In what Politico described as a conspiratorial public hearing, the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani pushed testimony from conservative poll watchers and other members of the public.
In its attempts to subvert the election, Trump’s lawyers have largely sought to rely on sworn statements from poll watchers and the voting public which have in most cases been systematically debunked or proven unworthy to proceed in court by numerous judges on the grounds of being hearsay.
To date, Trump and his allies have lost 36 post-election cases brought before the courts in battleground states.
Pennsylvania has already certified its results and awarded its 20 electors to Democrat Joe Biden.
Nonetheless, Giuliani is leading legal challenges to the balloting in Pennsylvania and other states as Trump seeks to maintain his base of supporters and keep his options open for opportunities post-presidency.
Following the hearing, the president pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump panned for ‘new levels of sad’
The latest hearing spectacle was widely panned on social media as one journalist described it as “indistinguishable from parody”.
Jon Favreau, a political commentator and the former head speech writer for former president Barack Obama, summed it up in a rather biting manner, saying the Trump team has reached “new levels of sad and pathetic”.
“The president is deranged”, remarked Vox journalist Aaron Rupar, while sharing clips on Twitter of the phone call.
Many saw the funny side of it while veteran journalist and writer for The Atlantic, Edward-Isaac Dovere, said the bizarre moment provided a unique snapshot of the Trump presidency.
“A portrait of Trump now: sitting in the Oval Office, frothing conspiracy theories and repeatedly asking, ‘Why wouldn’t they overturn the election?’ into a phone held up to a microphone for a show event he didn’t go to because of coronavirus concerns he isn’t addressing.”
What it’s come to: Trump phones in to cry about fake fraud to a fake hearing in a state that’s already certified a win and a slate of electors for Joe Biden.
New levels of sad and pathetic.
— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) November 25, 2020
Trump: But they’re bad people
Jenna’s Phone: Beep Beep pic.twitter.com/PJcMbSIlAO
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) November 25, 2020
I will admit it's amazing this does not read to his supporters are utterly pathetic. (It is utterly pathetic.) https://t.co/tmvzhbCjxK
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) November 25, 2020
The election has been certified in several key states. Ascertainment has been made and transition begun to the Biden administration. But the president is talking at this event as if this election is still ongoing.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 25, 2020
Pennsylvania judge orders halt to further vote certification
A broad coalition of top government and industry officials have described the November 3 election as “the most secure in American history.”
Giuliani claimed in a Wednesday (local time) interview with New York radio station AM 970 illegal votes were cast, especially in Philadelphia, that he wants to see disqualified.
Earlier Wednesday, a Pennsylvania state court judge issued an order halting further certification of election results statewide ahead of another hearing scheduled for Friday.
The Republicans are seeking to challenge about 2.5 million mail-in ballots that were predominantly cast by Democrats by arguing that the Republican-controlled state legislature failed to follow proper procedure when they voted last year to expand mail-in voting.
Similar efforts by the Trump team have already failed.
The latest legal Hail Mary comes a day after state governor Tom Wolf said he had certified Democrat Joe Biden as the winner and the order appears unlikely to have an impact on the state’s presidential certification.
By the current count, Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 6 million votes.
As the Pennsylvania hearing was taking place, president-elect Joe Biden gave a Thanksgiving-eve address to the nation.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.