“They didn’t even allow Republican Observers into the building to watch. A terrible insult to our Constitution!”

— President Trump, in a tweet, Nov. 18, 2020

Trump is in overdrive, tweeting one absurd falsehood after another to delegitimize the election he lost.

One repeated theme is that Republican observers were not allowed inside the room as election workers counted mail ballots in Philadelphia. Fraud thrives under cover of darkness, Trump warns.

But, in fact, Trump’s own lawyers have attested in court that his campaign was granted access and observed the process, both in Philadelphia and in other cities, and has found no evidence of fraud.

The Facts

President-elect Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes, a better showing than Trump’s 44,000-vote margin in 2016.

The Trump campaign has filed lawsuits seeking to throw out 680,000 mail ballots in the state, split almost evenly between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

At first, the campaign argued the ballots should be chucked because Trump observers were not allowed to monitor the counting. If true, that would have been a violation of Pennsylvania’s election code, which says that “one authorized representative of each candidate in an election and one representative from each political party shall be permitted to remain in the room in which the absentee ballots and mail-in ballots are pre-canvassed … [and] canvassed.”

The Trump campaign had at least one representative inside the Philadelphia Convention Center as the city’s 350,000 mail ballots were being processed, and the allegations that the campaign was denied access were later deleted from one of Trump’s lawsuits.

However, Trump and his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani keep repeating this false claim. Giuliani told a federal court Tuesday that the allegations were still active, before conceding they had been deleted and then adding they would be restored. An amended lawsuit filed Wednesday asserts that “it was physically impossible to view the envelopes or ballots” and that “in Philadelphia County, poll watchers and canvass representatives were denied access altogether.”

Who knows what legal maneuver or about-face is coming next? But Trump’s tweet is demonstrably false.

He wrote, “They didn’t even allow Republican Observers into the building to watch,” and then appended another tweet from a reporter quoting from a court opinion.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled against Trump in a 5-2 decision Tuesday, finding that local election officials legally exercised their power in setting up a waist-high barrier and buffer zone of 15 to 18 feet between the campaign observers and the election workers inside the Philadelphia Convention Center.

Had Trump read the tweet he was quoting, he would have seen language from the Supreme Court opinion stating that these conditions “allowed candidate representatives to observe the Board conducting its activities as prescribed under the Election Code.”

Had Trump read the opinion itself, or inquired with his own campaign, he would have learned that a lawyer, Jeremy A. Mercer, was representing him inside the room and monitoring the election workers’ activities in Philadelphia.

Had Trump tuned in to another court case in Pennsylvania, he would have heard a campaign lawyer telling a federal judge that Trump had “a nonzero number of people in the room.”

“According to Attorney Mercer’s candid testimony, which the trial court accepted as credible, from his vantage point, he could view the entirety of the pre-canvassing and canvassing process,” the state Supreme Court opinion says.

“Clearly, then, Attorney Mercer had the opportunity to observe the mechanics of the canvassing process. Specifically, Attorney Mercer witnessed Board employees inspecting the back of ballot envelopes containing the voter’s declaration, before sending them on for processing; witnessed ballots being removed from their secrecy envelopes, and naked ballots which had been delivered to the Board without a secrecy envelope being segregated from ballots which arrived within such envelopes; saw that the ballot processing methods utilized by the Board were not destroying the ballot envelopes containing the voter’s declaration; and perceived that the ballot secrecy envelopes were being preserved during their processing.”

Mercer stated that he could not see everything, however, and the Trump campaign argued that he couldn’t “meaningfully” observe the proceedings. Although observers could walk freely behind the barrier, the first row of tables was 15 to 18 feet away. Each of the three rows had 15 tables, so that the farthest were about 100 feet away from the observation area.

A lower court in Pennsylvania had reduced the buffer to 6 feet, but that decision was overturned by the state Supreme Court.

The court indicated that Mercer could see enough to monitor the process, as Pennsylvania law allows, but not enough to challenge individual ballots, which he could not legally do: “Although Attorney Mercer related that he could not view the actual declarations on the ballot envelopes, nor examine individual secrecy envelopes for improper markings … this information would only be necessary if he were making challenges to individual ballots during the pre-canvassing and canvassing process … [but] such challenges are not permissible under the Election Code.”

The two justices in the minority did not rule for Trump. They said the case was moot because the vote count had almost concluded.

A spokesman for the Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Mercer did not reply to emailed questions. His law firm, Porter Wright, last week filed and then abruptly withdrew from one of Trump’s Pennsylvania lawsuits, which alleges voter “irregularities” across the state, and one lawyer at the firm quit in protest over its Trump work during the summer, according to the New York Times. (“Leftist mobs descended upon some of the lawyers representing the president’s campaign and they buckled,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in response.)

The Pinocchio Test

Absurd, false, corrosive and contradicted by the very tweet he quoted, the court ruling he was citing and his own lawyers, Trump’s claim easily deserves Four Pinocchios.

A Trump campaign representative gave granular testimony about what he was able to see and not see inside the Philadelphia Convention Center as mail ballots were being processed. We note that Trump has made the same allegation about other cities, such as Detroit, where Republicans also had access and monitored the count.

Four Pinocchios

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