Nearly two weeks ago, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s legal point man in his effort to reverse the result of the 2020 election, virtually broke the Internet when he held a press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, a yard-care business situated next to a sex shop, in a North Philadelphia mini-mall. For his latest public outing, which came on Thursday, he chose a different location: the headquarters of the Republican National Committee, on Capitol Hill. But if the setting for this Giuliani event was more salubrious than the last one, its content was even more bizarre. As the former New York mayor stood under the television lights for about forty minutes and accused the Biden campaign of orchestrating an elaborate nationwide voter-fraud scheme, he sweated like a sumo wrestler in a sauna. At one point, he was forced to dab away with a handkerchief two streams of what appeared to be hair dye that were running down each of his cheeks. When he finally ceded the lectern to Sidney Powell, another member of Trump’s legal dream team, he immediately cracked open a water bottle and gulped down its contents like a camel happening upon an oasis.
By that stage, Giuliani had earned the twenty thousand dollars a day he had reportedly requested for representing Trump in a crusade that even many of the lame-duck President’s Republican defenders privately regard as a lost cause. (Did he not see Lindsey Graham giving Kamala Harris a fist bump on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday?) Barely stopping to draw a breath, Giuliani claimed that Biden operatives, working in cahoots with big-city Democratic machines, corrupt judges, and a voting-software company tied to Communist governments abroad (I kid you not), contrived to reverse the early leads that Trump held on Election Night in states such as Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. “What I am describing to you is a massive fraud,” Giuliani insisted at one point. At another, he said that the evidence he and his colleagues had gathered was “enough to overturn any election.”
And what is that evidence? Giuliani claimed that Trump’s legal team had gathered hundreds of affidavits from poll watchers and election officials alleging perfidious acts. But when reporters asked him to release these documents, he replied, “I can’t do it. I can’t put a witness’s life in jeopardy.” Much of the evidence Giuliani did point to has already been discredited, including claims from Republican poll watchers of malfeasance in Wayne County, Michigan, which includes the city of Detroit. Last week, a Wayne County judge dismissed the case to which these witnesses’ affidavits were attached. He said that the witnesses did not attend a session on the ballot-counting process hosted by election officials and their statements were “rife” with speculation.
Giuliani also claimed that in Pennsylvania more than six hundred thousand mail-in ballots weren’t inspected—which rendered them “null and void.” This claim was based on another dubious allegation from the Trump camp: that Republican poll watchers weren’t allowed to get close enough to the vote counters. To back it up, Giuliani invoked Joe Pesci’s performance in the 1992 film “My Cousin Vinny.” Aping a scene in which Vinny, a Brooklyn lawyer, gets a key witness to acknowledge that she might not have seen what she thought she did, the former mayor held up two fingers and said, “How many fingers do I got up?” He went on, “These people”—the poll watchers—“were further away than my cousin Vinny was from the witness. They couldn’t see a thing.”
Giuliani didn’t mention that Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has already dismissed this argument out of hand. In an important ruling handed down last week, it said that poll watchers don’t have the right to inspect individual signatures. Having failed in state court, Giuliani is now fronting a case in federal court, but that isn’t going well, either. Turning to Georgia, he claimed that thousands of ballot signatures weren’t properly matched with voter-registration records and that, as a result, such votes should not be counted. Election officials, including Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state, have already explained that Georgia has an electoral law that was specifically designed to separate signature matching from vote counting in order to insure that votes are kept secret.
“Give us an opportunity to prove it in court, and we will,” Giuliani declared at one point. The truth is that Trump’s legal team has suffered a long series of legal setbacks, including three on Thursday alone: in Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. Virtually none of their claims have been substantiated. Despite all this, Giuliani persisted with his tale of a grand conspiracy against Trump, even claiming that Joe Biden himself was involved in putting it together. “The logical conclusion is this is a common plan, a common scheme—it comes right directly from the Democratic Party, and it comes from the candidate,” he said. “That’s the reason why he probably didn’t have to go out and campaign. He had to have known what they were going to do.”
What’s really going on here? Trump and Giuliani are surely aware that their allegations have no basis. Their game is to delay the vote certifications and rile up the maga base, which can then be mobilized to put pressure on Republican state legislatures to usurp the voters and appoint slates of Trump loyalists to the Electoral College. As part of this strategy, Trump has invited Republican lawmakers from Michigan to the White House on Friday, reports on Thursday afternoon said.
This outlandish, anti-democratic venture has no antecedent in modern American history, but Trump and Giuliani gave up caring about precedent long ago. Just as with Ukraine, they will push their foul scheme as far as they can, secure in the knowledge that every day it lasts is another day of fund-raising for the Trump election-defense fund; another day of legal fees for Giuliani; and another day in which Trump doesn’t have to acknowledge that he’s a loser. And so the circus will go on—until the courts, or the calendar, or the American people bring it to a conclusion. (The Republican Party? As the location of Giuliani’s press conference demonstrated, it is part of the scheme.)
Toward the end of his clammy peroration, Giuliani declared, “We cannot allow these crooks—because that is what they are—to steal an election from the American people.” He was right about that, anyway. He is one of the ringleaders.