In a wild, tangent-filled and often contentious press briefing led by President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, the Trump campaign’s legal team laid out its case for widespread voter fraud in the election. The roughly 90-minute briefing was overflowing with falsehoods and conspiracy theories.
At no point did Trump’s legal team offer any proof for their allegations of widespread fraud. Jenna Ellis, a legal adviser for the campaign, said the group was laying out an “introductory statement” with more to come, and called the team an “elite strike force.” Also working for the campaign, attorney Sidney Powell made extreme, baseless claims about communist Venezuela and George Soros supposedly interfering in the US election. Giuliani on multiple occasions made allegations citing individuals he said couldn’t be revealed for their own safety and wellbeing.
Many of their specific claims have already been refuted by federal election security experts and a wide, bipartisan array of election administrators across the country.
Giuliani said the Trump campaign withdrew one case in Michigan because its goal was to get the Wayne County board to decertify and they did.
Two Republican members of the Board initially deadlocked the vote but then reversed their decision and voted to certify Tuesday night. They have since sent in affidavits to rescind their vote but have not filed any lawsuits to try to force the county to call a new meeting. Since the deadline has passed, the certification still stands.
Democratic Vice Chair Jonathan Kinloch said Thursday that board members’ votes cannot be changed after the fact.
— Tara Subramaniam and Annie Grayer
“One of the reasons why the Republicans did not certify in Wayne County, Michigan, was because the over-vote was so high,” Giuliani claimed. He added, “what I’m describing to you is a massive fraud.”
Facts First: This is false.
What Giuliani called an over-vote is often referred to as an imbalance where the number of ballots tabulated does not equal the number of people signed in to vote at a specific polling location.
Past elections in Michigan with larger imbalances have been certified without issue, including in 2016 when Trump won the state, according the Michigan Secretary of State.
“They certified the vote in 2016 with 80% of Detroit precincts out of balance. And yet today, 42% were out of balance and yet it didn’t get certified, so clearly there is no valid point here,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said.
Benson told CNN it’s “quite common” for precincts to be out of balance but “it doesn’t indicate there’s any malfeasance,” adding “it’s more of a bookkeeping, clerical issue.”
There are many reasons a precinct could be out of balance and have a discrepancy between the number of ballots cast and the number of people registered into the poll book, according to Chris Thomas who served as a senior adviser to the Detroit City Clerk. Thomas, who has built a decades-long career serving both Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State, told CNN that in general, through his many years of experience, an imbalance should be viewed as clerical mistakes and not fraud.
— Tara Subramaniam and Annie Grayer
Giuliani claimed that more than 600,000 ballots in Pennsylvania “weren’t inspected which renders them ballots that are null and void.”
Facts First: This is false. Nothing is illegitimate about those ballots.
A Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice decided that the Philadelphia County board of elections complied with the law in how it allowed observers access to the canvassing process.
The law allows the observers to be present, the judge wrote, but they do not have the right to inspect or look over the shoulders of the workers counting the ballots. The judge ruled canvas watchers in Philadelphia cannot challenge ballots and don’t need to inspect each individual signature.
— Tara Subramaniam
Giuliani falsely claimed that mail-in ballots are “prone to fraud.”
Facts First: Election experts have told CNN time and time again that mail-in ballots are a safe form of voting and not subject to widespread fraud.
— Holmes Lybrand
At one point Giuliani suggested that US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito intervened in Pennsylvania and told the state that, “any ballot that comes in after 8 o’clock on November 3, 2020 had to be put aside and not opened.”
Facts First: It’s false for Giuliani to claim Alito ordered counties not to open ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day. Instead, Alito directed the county boards of election to follow the guidance issued by Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State, which called for segregating ballots arriving November 4-6, and to keep them separate even if they were counted.
On November 6, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania asked the US Supreme Court to order Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar to “log, to segregate, and otherwise not to take any action related to any ballots that arrive” after Election Day.
Alito said he would refer the application to the court. The justices have yet to rule on the Republicans’ petition that “no action” be taken on the ballots.
Alito, who has jurisdiction over the Pennsylvania region, issued an order November 6 that directed that “all county boards of election” are ordered to “comply with” the guidelines put forward by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, essentially maintaining the status quo.
— Ariane deVogue and Tara Subramaniam
Ellis, a senior legal adviser for the Trump campaign, claimed that Wayne County, Michigan, was not going to certify its results “because 71% of counties have inconsistent data.”
Facts First: This is misleading.
While Ellis did not specify what she meant by inconsistent data, it’s likely she was referring to precincts that are out of balance, where the number of voters recorded in the poll book doesn’t match the number of ballots cast.
According to the Michigan Secretary of State’s office, 71% of the absentee ballot-counting locations in Detroit, which is part of Wayne County, didn’t balance. However, the total number of precincts that did not balance in the city overall was much lower. Including in-person ballots, 42% of the total precincts in Detroit did not balance.
Imbalances were part of the reason two Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers temporarily blocked certification of the county’s results. The results were ultimately certified after an agreement which stipulated in part that Michigan’s Secretary of State would be called on to do a comprehensive audit on the specific precincts in Detroit that did not balance.
Clerical errors resulting in these imbalances have not stopped past certifications in the county. In the August primary, Wayne County certified its results when 72% of absentee counting boards in Detroit and 46% of the total precincts in the county did not reconcile.
For this election the Wayne County Board of Canvassers has not officially released their final report that will include which precincts in the county did not balance.
— Tara Subramaniam and Annie Grayer
Powell claimed that widely used voting machines from the election technology company Dominion Voting Systems featured software created “at the direction” of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to swing his own election results, and that the company has ties to the Clinton Foundation and Soros.
Facts first: None of this is true. Dominion has no corporate ties with Venezuela, the Clinton Foundation or Soros.
Powell and other Trump allies have tried to tie Dominion, which sells election technology that was used in more than two dozen states, to another voting company called Smartmatic. During the 2020 election, Smartmatic’s technology was used only in Los Angeles County, and not in any swing states, a spokesperson for the company told CNN.
Smartmatic was founded in Florida by two Venezuelans, and did provide election technology to the Venezuelan government. Powell has posted on social media a purported affidavit from an unnamed Venezuelan official claiming Smartmatic software was used to change votes in the country. But those claims have no evidence, and there’s no reason to believe the company’s software was created to make sure Chavez “never lost an election,” as Powell claimed. The company actually spoke out to accuse the Venezuelan government of voter fraud in 2017.
The bigger issue with this claim is that there is no evidence that Dominion machines used Smartmatic software, as Powell suggested — and thus zero connection between Venezuela and the company whose voting machines were actually used in the swing states Trump is focusing on. Both Dominion and Smartmatic have said that they are competitors with no corporate links.
The origin of the claim linking the companies seems to be a convoluted corporate transfer: In 2005, Smartmatic acquired a company called Sequoia Voting Systems, but sold it in 2007 after questions from members of Congress over the acquisition by a company linked to Venezuela. Three years later, Dominion, which was founded as a Canadian company but is now majority owned by Americans, acquired Sequoia. In addition, Smartmatic licensed Dominion machines for use in the Philippines in 2009, but the contract ended in a lawsuit, Dominion said in its statement.
Neither Dominion nor Smartmatic have corporate ties to the Clintons or Soros, a major Democratic donor. While Dominion did agree to donate its technology to “emerging democracies” as part of a program run by the Clinton Foundation in 2014, according to the foundation’s website, Dominion said in its statement that it has “no company ownership relationships” with the foundation. And while the chairman of the board of Smartmatic’s parent company is also on the board of a foundation run by Soros, Open Society Foundations, Soros himself is not involved in either company.
In one of the most outlandish claims of the press conference, Powell also said that the software used by Dominion “can set and run an algorithm that probably ran all over the country to take a certain percentage of votes from President Trump and flip them to President Biden.”
Facts first: There is absolutely no evidence of this happening. Federal officials have said there was no widespread fraud or irregularities during the election, and most states use paper ballots that can be audited to double-check the vote totals.
Experts have said that those ideas are devoid of factual backing. Notably, states are able to review and recount paper ballots, which can validate vote totals. And a joint group of federal, state, local and private election officials called the 2020 election the most secure in American history last week.
While there were a few isolated issues reported with Dominion technology on Election Day and Election Night, there have been no credible reports that any problems with the company’s machines affected vote counts.
To allege the possibility of hacking, Powell appeared to cite research by Princeton University professor Andrew Appel, who has warned about potential vulnerabilities in voting machines from Dominion and other companies and has demonstrated the potential that exists to hack those machines. But Appel argued this month that the election results can be trusted due to the paper trail supporting the vote counts.
“Vulnerabilities are not the same as rigged elections, especially when we have paper ballots in almost all the states,” Appel wrote on his blog last week. “The U.S. mostly uses paper ballots now, and that’s how we can trust the election results even though there are some computer vulnerabilities.”
— Casey Tolan