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Trump campaign jettisons major parts of its legal challenge against Pennsylvania’s election results

Members of the Allegheny County Return Board process the remaining absentee and mail-in ballots Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Members of the Allegheny County Return Board process the remaining absentee and mail-in ballots Thursday in Pittsburgh. (Steve Mellon/AP)
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President Trump’s campaign on Sunday scrapped a major part of its federal lawsuit challenging the election results in Pennsylvania.

Trump’s attorneys filed a revised version of the lawsuit, removing allegations that election officials violated the Trump campaign’s constitutional rights by limiting the ability of their observers to watch votes being counted.

Trump and Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal attorney, have said repeatedly that more than 600,000 votes in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh should be invalidated because of this issue.

Trump’s pared-down lawsuit now focuses on allegations that Republicans were illegally disadvantaged because some Democratic-leaning counties allowed voters to fix errors on their mail ballots. Counties have said this affected only a small number of votes.

Cliff Levine, an attorney representing the Democratic Party in the case, said on Sunday evening that Trump’s move meant his lawsuit could not possibly change the result.

“Now you’re only talking about a handful of ballots,” Levine said. “They would have absolutely no impact on the total count or on Joe Biden’s win over Donald Trump.”

In its revised lawsuit, the Trump campaign again asked U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann to block the certification of Pennsylvania’s election results. But a secondary request to block the certification of all votes where observer access was allegedly restricted was deleted in the amended suit.

The Trump campaign said late Sunday night that the revised version still contains assertions about the lack of access for observers in an introductory section.

The Post's Ashley Parker explains why some Republicans followed President Trump's lead in denying the reality of the election and the danger they're posing. (Video: The Washington Post)

“We are still making the strong argument that 682,479 ballots were counted in secret,” Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communications director, said in a statement. “Our poll watchers were denied the legal right to meaningful access to vote counting and we still have that claim in our complaint. We have preserved our rights to make these arguments.”

Currently, however, language alleging that the campaign’s constitutional rights were violated as a result of the observer issue is no longer in the part of the suit detailing the formal counts.

Kathy Boockvar, Pennsylvania’s Democratic secretary of state, submitted a court filing in response to the Trump campaign’s actions reiterating her request for the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, noting that the amended suit “materially narrows the pending allegations to a single claim.”

The shift comes amid a string of losses in the Trump campaign’s post-election legal effort, which claimed without evidence that voter fraud, irregularities and rule-breaking led to Biden’s victory. The flurry of post-election litigation has affirmed the integrity of the election: Many of the complaints have been tossed, and not a single vote has been invalidated.

Earlier in the day, Trump suggested that his legal challenges of the election results would continue.

“Many of the court cases being filed all over the Country are not ours, but rather those of people that have seen horrible abuses,” he said in a tweet. “Our big cases showing the unconstitutionality of the 2020 Election, & the outrage of things that were done to change the outcome, will soon be filed!”

But even as the campaign continued filing appeals in other Pennsylvania cases Saturday that became public on Sunday, the withdrawal of one of its most aggressive claims curtails a central part of its effort to fend off the certification of the vote in the state.

The revised filing came on a day when Trump reiterated his intention not to concede the Nov. 3 election to Biden, moments after seeming to acknowledge the results. Biden won the popular vote and was projected the winner of the race, having received 306 electoral college votes to Trump’s 232. States are still certifying the results.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is considering a case on the dispute over observers’ access to the vote count. Philadelphia authorities have asked the court to reverse a state appellate court’s order to allow Trump campaign observers to watch the count from six feet away. The Democratic Party filed a brief in support of the city. The Trump campaign alleges that Philadelphia officials kept observers behind a barrier that was too far from the counting activity in a large hall at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It claims that the officials applied an overly literal reading of a state law that every party and candidate may have a representative in the room while votes are counted.

Swaine reported from New York. Aaron Schaffer and Keith Newell contributed to this report.