Republican and Democratic state elections officials are rebutting former President Donald Trump’s fraud claims in his Jan. 6 rally speech, which is now the centerpiece of his Senate impeachment trial beginning Tuesday.
Mr. Trump pumped up the crowd by saying he was robbed of the presidency by nearly 40 instances of fraud among thousands of ballots in six battleground states. He told the “Stop the Steal” rally that 66,000 underage voters cast ballots in Georgia. The state asserted to Congress that a subsequent audit showed not a single underage vote.
After Mr. Trump’s speech, he directed protesters to head to the nearby U.S. Capitol, where Congress was holding a joint session to certify the Electoral College vote for Joseph R. Biden. A mob from the rally invaded the building and ignited a riot that left five people dead, offices trashed, police officers assaulted and property missing.
The Democratic-controlled House impeached Mr. Trump on Jan. 13 on a charge of inciting the violence. Law enforcement has brought criminal charges against more than 170 people in connection with the riot.
After Election Day on Nov. 3, Mr. Trump spawned the Stop the Steal movement with repeated claims that the election was stolen and that he had won in a landslide.
His constant refrain is that he was ahead that night and then lost battleground states in the ensuing hours and days as ballot counting continued.
“That election, our election was over at 10 o’clock in the evening,” Mr. Trump told the protesters. “We’re leading Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, by hundreds of thousands of votes. And then late in the evening, or early in the morning, boom, these explosions of bulls—-.”
The election was a socially distanced event that ushered in procedures designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. A dramatic increase in ballots that were mailed were put into authorized drop boxes or carried to precincts. The Pew Research Center estimates that 70 million Americans voted by mail, about double the number in 2016.
State elections officials said vote counting was expected to take longer because opening envelopes, verifying ballots and counting by hand is more time-consuming than machine tabulation from in-person votes. Georgia counted 246,621 mail-in ballots in 2016 and 1.32 million in 2020.
Democrats pushed mail-in ballots as a way to increase votes for their candidates. In Pennsylvania, a Democratic-dominated state Supreme Court and Democratic governor, attorney general and secretary state rewrote state elections laws on the run. They extended eligible ballots three days past Election Day and diminished signature verification requirements.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky at first endorsed Mr. Trump’s right to challenge election results in court. But as evidence of significant fraud, not untested anecdotal affidavits filed in court, failed to materialize, he recognized Mr. Biden as the winner in December. He rebuked Mr. Trump in January.
“The mob was fed lies,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor after the riot. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence.”
Mr. Trump relied heavily on his personal attorney, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has leveled a number of unfounded conspiracy claims and is now being sued for defamation. One of his claims was that Dominion Voting Systems, used in nearly 30 states, was found to rig elections.
As Mr. Trump pressed the Justice Department to find fraud, Attorney General William Barr told the press he had not seen sufficient wrongdoing to overturn the election. He then abruptly resigned.
Because Mr. Trump’s Jan. 6 speech led to impeachment and will be the focus of his trial, The Washington Times performed a fact check, comparing his claims with official government responses. Mr. Trump contended that six states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — were soaked in election fraud.
The Times looked at the three states that have posted audit rebuttals.
On Jan. 6, Mr. Trump kept up his attacks on Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who oversees state elections. Mr. Trump lost Georgia by 11,779 votes.
“These people are crooked,” Mr. Trump said. “They’re 100%, in my opinion, one of the most corrupt, between your governor and your secretary of state. And now you have it again last night. Just take a look at what happened. What a mess.”
He was referring to two U.S. Senate races on Jan. 5 lost by Republicans. Some Republicans blame Mr. Trump because he depicted Republicans as corrupt, driving a wedge between his backers and the party. Some of his supporters urged conservatives to boycott the race.
The scorecard for Georgia:
⦁ Trump claim: 48 counties had no rejected ballots.
Secretary of state’s response: Twelve small Republican-leaning counties had no rejections. Four counties collectively had about 2,000 total, most of which the voters were allowed to correct. The rejection rate for faulty signatures was about the same in 2020 as in 2016.
⦁ Claim: 10,300 dead voters.
Response: There were two whose family likely mailed the ballots. Some of the people Trump backers claimed to be dead emerged to say they were alive.
⦁ Claim: 5,550 unregistered voters.
Response: No unregistered person cast a ballot.
⦁ Claim: 2,500 felons voted.
Response: Unconfirmed evidence suggests that 74 voted.
⦁ Claim: 88,000 registrations were backdated.
Response: There is no evidence to support this. It may be that Trump supporters looked at the roster of registered voters at the end of an Oct. 5 deadline and compared that to a subsequent list. In practice, it took a number of days to add registered voters post-deadline, so the number grew.
⦁ Claim: More than 66,000 ballots cast were from underage voters.
Response: “Our office compared the list of people who voted in Georgia to their full birthdays to determine this. 4 voters requested a ballot prior to turning 18, and all 4 turned 18 prior to the November 3 election.”
Mr. Trump’s attorneys made allegations concerning Dominion Voting Systems’ scanning machines. Mr. Raffensperger commenced two recounts: first a machine rescanning of each ballot and then a county-by-county hand count. He reported that the machine ballot numbers matched both recounts, eliminating allegations of fraud.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission, which comprises three Republicans and three Democrats, issued a postelection report validating the Nov. 3 results of Mr. Trump’s loss by 20,682 votes.
“There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in this or any other Wisconsin election,” the commission said. “Wisconsin has many systems in place to deter and detect illegal voting, but there will always be small amounts of voter fraud in any election.”
Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, at first talked of widespread election fraud and planned to challenge the results on Jan. 6 unless some type of commission was appointed to investigate. He later backed away from those plans.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Jan. 3, Mr. Johnson said, “Vice President Joe Biden has won by 20,000 votes, but there were also issues in Wisconsin.”
The Wisconsin Elections Commission issued a report to rebut fraud claims.
The scorecard for Wisconsin:
⦁ Trump claim: The U.S. Postal Service was instructed to backdate 100,000 ballots. This claim comes from Ethan Pease, a temporary driver for United Mailing Services, a privately owned and operated postal services company in the state. He testified that a U.S. Postal Service employee told him that the agency was missing 100,000 ballots. The driver said another USPS employee told him that the service was “ordered” to backdate ballots.
Commission response: The driver said he worked for a USPS contractor, but the company said it is not. The company said it picked up absentee ballots only for employees at companies it serves and delivered at most a total of 30 ballots to USPS.
“The driver testified that he has submitted a sworn affidavit to the US Postal Inspectors Service, so we will await the results of any investigation as to whether it actually occurred,” the commission said.
In any event, the commission said, ballots had to be in drop boxes or in the hands of election officials by 8 p.m. Nov. 3, so “backdating” is irrelevant.
“Only ballots received by the clerk by 8 p.m. on Election Day were counted,” its report said. “Municipal clerks did not consider postmarks on return ballots because they are irrelevant.”
⦁ Claim: 500 illegal unsecured drop boxes collected 91,000 votes.
Response: Wisconsin law does not outlaw drop boxes and gives elections clerks latitude to decide how paper ballots are collected. The commission issued guidance on securing each box and maintaining chain of custody.
The commission quoted Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch in an Oct. 26 opinion: “Returning an absentee ballot in Wisconsin is also easy. … Until Election Day, voters may, for example, hand-deliver their absentee ballots to the municipal clerk’s office or other designated site, or they may place their absentee ballots in a secure absentee ballot drop box.”
Justice Gorsuch made the comment to bolster the 5-3 majority decision to reject Democrats’ bid to extend absentee ballot acceptance six days past the Nov. 3 deadline. On Nov. 3, Wisconsin stopped accepting mail-in ballots at 8 p.m.
⦁ Claim: 170,000 absentee ballots were distributed without applications from voters.
Response: “Absolutely not.” After 2010, the state simplified the process for obtaining a ballot by combining the application form with the certifying form for in-person voting.
“A person voting in-person simply completes the voter information and signs the certification,” the commission said. “The elector votes the ballot, seals the ballot in the envelope, and the municipal clerk or clerk staff signs as witness and provides his or her address. All in-person absentee voters are also required to provide their photo ID before receiving a ballot. It is false to claim that there are no applications on file for these absentee ballots.”
A statewide recount in late November reaffirmed Mr. Biden’s win.
Mr. Trump was not impressed. He said in a Twitter post: “The Wisconsin recount is not about finding mistakes in the count, it is about finding people who have voted illegally, and that case will be brought after the recount is over, on Monday or Tuesday. We have found many illegal votes. Stay tuned!”
The state Supreme Court voted 4-3 to reject the Trump’s team’s bid to throw out more than 200,000 votes because of the ballot application argument.
Mr. Trump made eight fraud claims on Jan. 6 against Michigan, a state he lost by 154,188 votes after having won there by 10,000 votes in 2016.
The state has a Democratic governor, attorney general and secretary of state, whose office oversees elections. Republican majorities control the Senate and House.
Michigan successfully defended the results in court and went further by moving to seek disbarment of some Trump-supporting attorneys.
“The 2020 general election was the most secure in our nation’s history, and these lawyers abused their authority by filing meritless, frivolous lawsuits for the sole purpose of undermining public faith in the election,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “They must be held accountable for this unprecedented attack on our democracy and prevented from replicating such harm in the future.”
She issued a report rebutting the Trump team.
The scorecard for Michigan:
⦁ Trump claim: Wayne County, which includes Democrat-dominant Detroit, had 174,000 absentee votes not tied to registered voters.
Official response: David Fink of the firm Fink Bressack, the city’s lead attorney in the election fight, told The Washington Times that “every single one was tied to a registered voter before it was delivered” to the central counting center.
⦁ Claim: Detroit’s turnout among registered voters was 139%.
Response: The official turnout was 51%.
⦁ Claim: “At 6:31 a.m. in the early morning hours after voting had ended, Michigan suddenly reported 147,000 votes,” Mr. Trump said. “An astounding 94% went to Joe Biden, who campaigned brilliantly from his basement.”
Response: Michigan law limits vote counting before Election Day. Batches of votes, some large and some small, were announced after they were tabulated.
The secretary of state said: “Because President Trump had encouraged his voters to vote in person at polling places, early returns that did not include many absentee ballots showed him in the lead, and that lead diminished and was overcome as absentee ballots, which favored President-elect Biden, were counted and reported.”
In Detroit, 97% voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016; 95% voted for Mr. Biden in 2020.
Thousands of absentee ballots were rejected for arriving after 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.
⦁ Claim: Tens of thousands of ballots arrived without envelopes.
Response: “There isn’t a shred of evidence to support that claim,” Mr. Fink said.
⦁ Claim: 17,000 dead voted.
Response: Activists circulated lists of supposed dead voters, the secretary of state said. The state sampled names and found that no dead had voted.
⦁ Claim: Michigan violated state law by mass-mailing ballot applications.
Response: Ms. Benson authorized the mailing that survived court challenges. Any registered voter in Michigan can vote absentee.
To rebut the court challenges filed by Trump attorneys, Detroit filed a sworn affidavit by Christopher Thomas. He was a 40-year state elections official, including director of the Michigan Bureau of Elections under Republican and Democratic administrations. He was there when Mr. Trump won the state.
Having retired in 2017, Mr. Thomas served as an adviser to the city clerk’s office for 2020 and was present during absentee ballot counting at tables in the downtown TCF Center on Election Day and afterward.
“It is clear from the affidavits attached to the [Trump] Complaint that these challengers do not understand absent voter ballot processing and tabulating,” Mr. Thomas said. “It is clear also that they did not operate through the leadership of their challenger party, because the issues they bring forward were by and large discussed and resolved with the leadership of their challenger party. The leadership on numerous occasions would ask me to accompany them to a particular counting board table to resolve an issue.”
He said some of the ballot flaws identified by Republican challengers as fraud were simply clerical errors that were corrected.
“I can conclude based upon my own knowledge and observation that Plaintiffs’ claims are misplaced and that there was no fraud, or even un-rectified procedural errors, associated with processing of the absentee ballots for the City of Detroit,” Mr. Thomas said.
Trump-supporting lawyers Sidney Powell of Texas and Lin Wood of Georgia filed the challenge on Nov. 25.
Their lawsuit contains this assertion: “As explained and demonstrated in the accompanying redacted declaration of a former electronic intelligence analyst under 305th Military Intelligence with experience gathering SAM missile system electronic intelligence, the Dominion software was accessed by agents acting on behalf of China and Iran in order to monitor and manipulate elections, including the most recent US general election in 2020.”
Dominion has repeatedly denied any conspiracy. Its attorneys say in a lawsuit against Ms. Powell that the witness has backed off the testimony.
U.S. District Judge Linda V. Parker, a Barack Obama appointee, on Dec. 7 rejected the Trump complaint, which asked her to overturn the election and declare Mr. Trump the winner.
“With nothing but speculation and conjecture that votes for President Trump were destroyed, discarded or switched to votes for Vice President Biden, Plaintiffs’ equal protection claim fails,” Judge Parker said.
Mr. Fink told The Times: “It’s an echo chamber of corrupt liars who were trying to tell a phony story about the election.”
The Navarro report
Perhaps the most vehement champion of voter fraud theories is Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s White House trade adviser and a strong voice for confronting communist China. To support the claim of a stolen election, he published a three-volume argument based largely on sworn affidavits filed by Trump supporters in scores of legal challenges across the country.
He posted all three volumes on Twitter with the note: “There may be those who dispute the content and we in America should welcome such a dispute and an appropriate discussion therein. We do not belong in a world of censorship. The Republic is at stake.”
Mr. Navarro responded to a pre-election tweet from New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg, who said he spent five months “investigating how Trump and Republicans are sowing disinformation and creating panic about supposedly widespread voter fraud.”
Said Mr. Navarro on Feb. 1: “You are the real sower of disinformation. I’ve read more pages of records than you apparently as you seemed to have ignored over 1,000 affidavits addressing widespread voter issues.”
Mr. Navarro sought to bolster his argument with this assertion: “Atlanta suitcases stuffed with enough illegal ballots alone to tip election.”
This claim relates to vote counting on election night for Democrat-rich Fulton County at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
One of the most ballyhooed fraud stories goes like this: At 10:30 p.m., ballot counters lied to moderators and the press by telling them they were done for the night. They had packed ballots in “suitcases.” After the contingent left, staff pulled the containers from under tables, and some type of fraud commenced.
Mr. Raffensperger and his investigator, who filed a sworn affidavit, say the story is false.
Their account: The county elections chief told the crew they could go home and resume counting on Nov. 4. The secretary of state’s office found out and called Fulton County to tell vote counters to finish. The county then called relayed the message. Out from under the table came special coded ballot containers. They finished counting about 2,000 ballots.
The entire day, 14 hours, is on closed-circuit TV, which was scrutinized by Mr. Raffensperger’s staff, who also interviewed ballot counters.
Mr. Raffensperger told Congress: “While the president and his allies have used snippets of that video to imply untoward activity, review of the entire surveillance tape by both law enforcement officers with my office and fact checkers has shown that no untoward activity took place — election officials simply scanned valid ballots as they had been doing all night. The entire video has been made available by my office so that people can confirm this fact for themselves.”
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