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Right-wing media hope to use Trump's third indictment to relitigate failed election lawsuits

Judges have already found in many cases that claims of fraud were without merit

Following disgraced former President Donald Trump’s most recent federal indictment regarding his efforts to stay in power, right-wing media spun the upcoming criminal trial as an opportunity to relitigate the 2020 presidential election. Conservative media figures, alongside their guests with connections to the Trump administration and 2020 reelection campaign, have promoted this talking point as a more positive spin on the news of Trump facing an historic third (but likely not final) criminal indictment.

This talking point does not entirely ignore the many previous failed litigation attempts by Trump’s campaign team, but asserts that some pro-Trump arguments were not heard. Trump's right-wing apologists would have their audiences believe that, with the upcoming criminal trial, Trump will have the subpoena and cross-examining power necessary to prove his false election claims in court. In many 2020 election cases, judges denied challenges from the Trump team and their allies due to a lack of standing.

  • Right-wing media rally to “relitigate the 2020 election” (again)

    • Fox News host Jesse Watters: Trump can now “relitigate the 2020 election in federal court.” Watters said on his Fox program: “I don't think the Biden administration realizes what it's done here. It's going to give Donald Trump the opportunity to relitigate the 2020 election in federal court. This is what Donald Trump's been dying to do for the last two and half years. He's going to have subpoena power. He's going to cross-examine witnesses. He's going to put his own witnesses. He's going to go out and prove or try to prove there was election fraud in Philly, Vegas, Arizona, Detroit. And the federal government is going to have to prove that it was clean in those deep blue counties. That's going to be a fun one to follow.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 8/1/23]
    • Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon: “We get to adjudicate the 2020 election in a federal court with –– what do you call it –– facts, witnesses, participants, all of it.” On his podcast, Bannon continued: “We're going to go on offense. Trump's defense is going to be pure offense — to put forth before the people and the world in a federal court, the evidence of the stealing of the 2020 election.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room with Steve Bannon, 8/2/23]
    • Conservative radio host and Washington Post columnist Hugh Hewitt: Trump attorney “Lauro made clear this one --if it begins-- is going to explore every corner of the 2020 election with former President Trump empowered to subpoena everyone who can help prove his innocence.” [Twitter/X, 8/2/23]
    • Comedian Roseanne Barr: “It allows Trump to bring in discovery, which is what we all want, because every court in this country has turned down anything that anybody’s brought to that court to prove election fraud.” Barr continued: “This indictment of Trump will allow Trump to bring up all the facts that have been buried by those Obama courts. And he’s allowed to bring in discovery so, once again, I think it’s going to boomerang on them big time.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 8/2/23]
    • Trump operative Roger Stone claimed the trial presents the Trump team with an opportunity “to lay out the whole broader question of election fraud.” During an interview with Infowars, Stone boasted, “I do think it’s possible here that the president and his lawyers and his supporters may have a chance, a canvas as it were, to lay out the whole broader question of election fraud. Something they never really had an opportunity to do previously." [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 8/2/23]
    • Trinity Broadcasting Network host Mike Huckabee: Trump will be able to present evidence of election fraud. On TBN, Huckabee said: “Nobody got to look at the evidence because courts shut it down. Under this scenario, Donald Trump will have every legal right to demand those records and he'll have to get them. So the Democrats need to be a little careful of what they're pushing for.” [Trinity Broadcasting Network, Centerpoint, 8/4/23]
    • Trump adviser Kash Patel: “The DOJ has just awarded him the one thing he has wanted for years: to re-litigate to the American public and the world the results of the 2020 election.” [OutKick, Tomi Lahren is Fearless, 8/2/23]
    • Newsmax host Greg Kelly told Trump attorney John Lauro he’s “so grateful” that Lauro is prepared to relitigate the 2020 election. On his Newsmax program, Kelly said to Lauro: “You know, you seem prepared, and I'm so grateful, quite frankly, because our entire culture says you can't talk about the election of 2020. But listening to you over the past couple of days, I know President Trump has concerns, you have concerns, I have concerns about the fairness of that election. … You’re prepared to go there.” [Newsmax, Greg Kelly Reports, 8/3/23]

    Trump and his allies filed many court cases seeking to overturn election results — and lost all of them

    In dozens of already-litigated cases challenging the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, the Trump team’s accusations faced crushing legal defeats, were thrown out of court, or even withdrawn by the campaign. The 2020 presidential election was exhaustively litigated and the results have been upheld: Joe Biden was fairly elected and Donald Trump lost. Below are many examples of failed lawsuits in states specifically listed in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s August 1, 2023, indictment of Trump.

  • Arizona

    • Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward’s lawsuit seeking to overturn her state’s election results was repeatedly rejected, with judges ruling that she failed to prove claims of fraud. Arizona radio station KTAR reported that after a Maricopa County judge ruled that she “failed to prove fraud” and that “evidence presented at trial wouldn’t reverse Trump’s loss,” Ward appealed to both the state and U.S. Supreme Courts. The state Supreme Court concluded that “she hadn’t presented any evidence of misconduct in her challenge of ballots in Maricopa County,” and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected her appeal of that ruling. [KTAR, 2/22/21]
    • Trump legal adviser Sidney Powell’s Arizona lawsuit pushing bogus conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems was rejected, with a judge ruling that her claims of fraud were “sorely wanting of relevant or reliable evidence.” Forbes reported that the judge also wrote in her ruling that “the hundreds of pages of affidavits and declarations the plaintiffs submitted as evidence of fraud were ‘only impressive for their volume.’” [Forbes, 12/9/20]
  • Georgia

    • A Trump campaign legal challenge which “made baseless allegations of widespread fraud in Georgia’s presidential election” was rejected due to incompetent filing. The Associated Press reported that Trump’s appeal to the state supreme court was rejected because the campaign failed to show that the court had jurisdiction. [Associated Press, 12/13/20
    • A federal judge denied Trump’s attempt to de-certify Biden’s win in Georgia. According to Bloomberg, the judge wrote in his ruling that Trump had “failed to cite any law or case ‘that provides for any mode of challenging electoral votes’ that have already been certified and counted by the Electoral College,” other than objections in Congress. [Bloomberg, 1/5/21]
  • Michigan

    • A lawsuit by Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Kristina Karamo baselessly alleging “corruption” in the Michigan election was found to be “frivolous,” and those behind the lawsuit were ordered to pay legal fees. The Detroit Free Press reported that the judge found that the lawsuit “failed to provide evidence” for their claims of fraud. [Detroit Free Press, 6/13/23]
    • Multiple lawsuits alleging fraud and misconduct at the TCF Center in Detroit, citing sworn affidavits, were withdrawn or rejected. These lawsuits, relying on “numerous affidavits from election challengers who paint a picture of sinister fraudulent activities” whose “interpretation of events is incorrect and not credible” were rejected in one case, and withdrawn in two other cases, including by the Trump team. [Detroit Free Press, 12/11/20
  • Nevada

    • A Trump campaign challenge to election results in Nevada that alleged voting machine problems and illegal voting was denied for a lack of evidence. The judge ruled that the campaign “failed to meet their burden to provide credible and relevant evidence,” and that the “expert testimony provided by the contestants was of little to no value.” [KTNV, 12/4/20
    • A request by an election fraud group tied to former U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle asking to nullify Nevada election results and order a new election was rejected. According to The Nevada Independent, the judge ruled that the group’s voter fraud claims lacked sufficient evidence and called their request to throw out the election results a “shocking ask.” [The Nevada Independent, 11/20/20]
  • New Mexico

    • The Trump campaign dropped a lawsuit promoting the Dominion Voting Systems conspiracy theory. The AP reported that “similar allegations by the Trump campaign about Dominion vote-counting have been rejected as without evidence by the federal agency overseeing election security.” [Associated Press, 1/12/21]
  • Pennsylvania

    • A judge denied a Trump campaign appeal attempting to invalidate 2,117 absentee ballots in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, after a lower court had ruled against it. The judge explained in his ruling that even the Trump campaign had “specifically stipulated” that “there exists no evidence of any fraud, misconduct, or any impropriety with respect to the challenged ballots.” [WHYY, 11/19/20]
    • A case requesting a new slate of electors for Pennsylvania was dismissed by the state’s Supreme Court on the grounds that the challenge came too late. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), who brought this challenge, further appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court only to be unanimously rejected with no comment. [NPR, 12/8/20]
  • Wisconsin

    • The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected Trump’s lawsuit challenging Biden’s victory in the state. Two of the justices noted in their opinion that Trump’s lawsuit “failed to point to even one vote cast in this election by an ineligible voter,” yet Trump was attempting to have more than 220,000 ballots thrown out. They added: “The circuit court, whose decision we affirm, found no evidence of any fraud.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/14/20]
    • A Federal court rejected Powell's suit promoting the Dominion Voting Systems conspiracy theory and claimed her request was “outside the limits” of the court and Constitution. According to Bloomberg, the judge further stated, “Federal judges do not appoint the president in this country.” [Bloomberg, 12/10/20]
    • A judge referred to Trump as “a sitting president who did not prevail in his bid for reelection” when rejecting his campaign’s lawsuit accusing Wisconsin state officials of not following state laws when concluding the election. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the judge “concluded Wisconsin officials had followed state laws when they conducted” the presidential election and dismissed the lawsuit. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/12/20]

    Research contributions from Isabel Shepherd