Federal judge casts doubt on Trump’s Wisconsin lawsuit

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Melania Trump, Donald Trump, Joe Biden

FILE – President Donald Trump, left, remains on stage as then-Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, right, walks away Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. President Trump’s extraordinary effort to overturn Joe Biden’s win in Wisconsin returns to the courtroom on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020 with hearings in federal and state lawsuits seeking to invalidate hundreds of thousands of ballots and give the GOP-controlled Legislature the power to name Trump the winner. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, file)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A federal judge Thursday cast doubt on President Donald Trump’s lawsuit that seeks to overturn Joe Biden’s win in Wisconsin, declaring it “incredible” that Trump didn’t raise the issues before the election and that siding with him would be “the most remarkable ruling in the history of this court or the federal judiciary.”

Trump is pursuing extraordinary attempts to overturn Biden’s win with a pair of lawsuits in Wisconsin, in federal and state courts. In the state case, Trump wants to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots and in the federal case he wants to give the GOP-controlled Legislature the power to name Trump the winner.

U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig, a Trump appointee, marveled at the president’s request at Thursday’s hearing. Ludwig said he hoped to rule in the next couple of days.

Trump’s attorneys are urging the courts to act quickly so he can appeal any adverse ruling before members of the Electoral College meet on Monday and cast Wisconsin’s 10 votes for Biden.

“It’s not lost on me that this is a political case, obviously, and that the relief that’s been requested, if that relief were granted, this would be a most remarkable proceeding and probably the most remarkable ruling in the history of this court or the federal judiciary,” Ludwig said.

Ludwig had previously called the Trump request “bizarre” and “very odd.” On Thursday, he asked Trump’s attorneys why the lawsuit wasn’t filed before the election.

“The response that I heard today was the plaintiffs had too much going on, they couldn’t pay attention to what issues were being raise in the state of Wisconsin,” Ludwig said. “That strikes me as incredible.”

Trump’s attorney Bill Bock said some of the issues they were challenging, such as the installation of ballot drop boxes, didn’t happen until mid-October.

“These are last-minute changes that could not have been addressed,” Bock said.

Bock argued that the election wasn’t run properly and that the risks of voter fraud were increased because ballot drop boxes were not staffed, voting by mail was widely used and voters who said they were indefinitely confined were allowed to cast absentee ballots without showing a valid photo ID.

“In what area of American life is it more important that the rules be followed and the playing field be level than in an election for president of the United States?” Bock said.

Jeff Mandell, attorney for Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, said the request to overturn the election was unheard of, without merit, and should be dismissed.

“What President Trump seeks here is profoundly anti-democratic and unconstitutional,” Mandell said. “This court should reject it.”

Attorneys for Evers and the Wisconsin Elections Commission asked Ludwig to dismiss the case, arguing it belonged in state court, not federal. Ludwig called that issue “very challenging, interesting and unique.”

Biden won Wisconsin by about 20,600 votes. Those certified results, which came after a Trump-ordered recount in the state’s two largest Democratic counties, were then challenged by Trump in the two lawsuits he filed in Wisconsin.

Trump would like to disenfranchise all 3.3 million voters but that particularly targeted Black voters who predominantly live in Milwaukee and Dane counties, the only counties where Trump sought a recount, said Jon Greenbaum, an attorney for the NAACP in Wisconsin.

Of the roughly 50 lawsuits filed nationwide contesting the Nov. 3 vote, Trump has lost more than 35 and the others are pending, according to an Associated Press tally.

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Wisconsin dismissed another lawsuit filed by the chairman of the La Crosse County Republican party that argued there was massive fraud that warranted the court declaring Trump the winner.Similar lawsuits, all filed by Trump’s former campaign attorney Sidney Powell, have been dismissed in Arizona, Georgia and Michigan.

Powell appealed the Wisconsin ruling on Thursday to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A hearing in Trump’s state lawsuit, originally scheduled for Thursday, was pushed until Friday morning because the arguments in federal court had not concluded. Noting the Monday Electoral College vote, Judge Stephen Simanek said the hearing will happen Friday, come “hell or high water.”

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