November 7, 2020

Trump Vows to Beat Biden in Court. Meet His Legal Team.

Trump Vows to Beat Biden in Court. Meet His Legal Team.

The major news organizations today called the election for Joe Biden, and the Biden team is moving ahead with the transition and serious plans to fight the pandemic, rebuild the economy, and address other challenges. But Donald Trump insists “this election is far from over…. Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court….” 

Trump has, bizarrely, placed pugnacious non-lawyer political consultant David Bossie in charge of his legal effort, which already has engaged in litigation in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Nevada but seems at this point disjointed and disorganized, with Jared Kushner reportedly struggling, at this late stage, to find a “James Baker-like figure.” Assembled under Bossie are a gaggle of Trump sycophant lawyer-operatives like Rudy Giuliani and Pam Bondi. And then below them a collection of politically conservative corporate and election lawyers committed to the MAGA cause. 

Good luck. In 2000, the Bush-Gore contest came down to the winner of a single state, Florida, so both sides could focus its resources there, and ultimately on convincing the U.S. Supreme Court about that state’s dispute. Biden appears to be on track to winning the electoral college 306-232 (the same margin by which Trump won in 2016), which means the Trump team would have to win enough legal fights to overturn the results in multiple states. And Trump’s lawyers have yet to articulate a serious argument affecting a significant number of votes in any state. 

So who are the lawyers who are actually heading to court in pursuit of, at best, an effort to soothe Trump’s vanity and raise funds from the MAGA faithful, and, at worst, a component of an elaborate assault on our democracy? 

This week, we told you about Stefan Passantino, a key leader of the Trump campaign legal team. His record is troubling: As a White House attorney charged with overseeing ethics, Passantino was embroiled in at least two scandals involving his own ethics, plus a dustup over Kellyanne Conway and Ivanka Trump. As a private lawyer, his firms have advised new QAnon congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, COVID lockdown protestors, and an activist aiming a James O’Keefe-style sting on voting rights groups. Representing the Trump Organization, he’s resisted subpoenas to turn over Trump tax returns. For the Trump campaign, he’s joined Giuliani in peddling dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Read all the details here.

Here’s another one: Jonathan D. Crumly Sr., a lawyer at the Atlanta-based corporate firm Taylor English. Crumly argued and lost a motion, also signed by Passantino, presented in Georgia state court on Thursday regarding the Trump campaign’s unsupported claim that 53 ballots arrived late at a polling place in the Savannah area.

In the past, Crumly frequently retweeted the Alliance Defending Freedom, a self-styled religious liberty organization that has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group; you might recall the name because Amy Coney Barrett spoke to the group multiple times and claimed at her confirmation hearing that she was not aware of its efforts to recriminalize homosexuality.

Trump Vows to Beat Biden in Court. Meet His Legal Team.

On his now-deleted personal blog, Crums of Truth, Crumly railed against “political hit squads being deployed throughout the country to stop any effort at protecting religious freedom.” Crumly also represented a former Atlanta fire chief in a suit claiming religious discrimination when the city fired him after he published and distributed at work a book he self-published that condemned homosexual acts as “vile,” “vulgar,” and “inappropriate.”

In his corporate lawyer role, Crumly has represented Atlanta professional sports teams seeking immunity from liability for workers and patrons contracting COVID-19; the Georgia AFL-CIO called the state bill that Crumly pushed a threat to worker health and safety. Crumly also boasts on his law firm website that he “assisted in the representation of a national multi-family developer in defending the first ever class action lawsuit arising from mold inhalation claims by residents.” Congrats on that. 

On this week’s election day, November 3, Crumly wrote on his Facebook page, “to my Democrat friends and family, don’t forget to get to the polls on November 4.” Facebook apparently removed Crumly’s post — a riff on an old election dirty trick generally associated with the GOP — as election-related false information. Crumly subsequently posted, “Let’s see if FB will take this down a THIRD TIME. PS – for all my Democrat friends and family, I am kidding. Remember when we all had a sense of humor?????”


Trump Vows to Beat Biden in Court. Meet His Legal Team.

I love humor; I’ve even made jokes in this vein, although not around election day. And so I do remember when we all had more of a sense of humor about politics, before we had a mostly humorless president who called a Black former White House political appointee a “dog,” and said four women of color who are members of Congress should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” and called the 2020 Democratic nominee for vice president a “monster” and falsely questioned her eligibility for the White House because her parents were immigrants.

We had a better sense of humor before we had a president who withheld US military aid to try extorting Ukraine into smearing a political rival (now the president-elect), a president who on Thursday walked into the White House press room and told a series of lies about the election, aimed at undermining our democracy:

If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us….

It’s a corrupt system. And it makes people corrupt even if they aren’t by nature, but they become corrupt; it’s too easy. They want to find out how many votes they need, and then they seem to be able to find them. They wait and wait, and then they find them…. We’ll not allow the corruption to steal such an important election or any election, for that matter….

And this is a case where they’re trying to steal an election, they’re trying to rig an election, and we can’t let that happen. Detroit and Philadelphia — known as two of the most corrupt political places anywhere in our country, easily — cannot be responsible for engineering the outcome of a presidential race — a very important presidential race.

I’m happy if, despite the raging pandemic and economic collapse made much worse by this president’s dishonesty and incompetence, and despite all the other immense challenges Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will inherit, we can try to get all of our sense of humor back now. But first Crumly, Passantino, and the rest are going to insist on grimly fighting the inevitable in court.