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Since election day, President Trump’s legal team, as well as surrogates and down-ballot candidates, have filed more than 50 lawsuits in state and federal courts challenging the conduct of the election in six swing states. The cases range from allegations of violations of the U.S. Constitution to the failure of local election officials to grant poll-watchers “meaningful access” to observe ballot-counting.

These cases have two things in common: (1) They have, to date, been uniformly unsuccessful, and (2) pundits, commentators, and some politicians have hysterically claimed the lawsuits undermine our democracy. Let’s take a closer look at that second claim.

Actions that undermine democracy are serious and should be taken solemnly. Preserving the grand experiment in freedom and self-rule that is America is the grave responsibility of every generation. So let’s see if that is what is going on here.

The Great ‘Witch Hunt’ of 2016

Traditionally, our court system resolves challenges to allegedly illegal or improper conduct, whether by private parties or public officials. Those who claim to have suffered an injury at the hands of another, whether the injury is physical, economic, or an infringement of protected rights, bring the case to independent courts to resolve. Our democracy has replaced the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral with litigation as the preferred means of resolving our disputes.

To appreciate the value of our judicial dispute resolution mechanism and its role in preserving democracy, one need only compare the 2016 election to the 2020 election.

Even before the ballots were cast in 2016, actors within federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies and contractors sought to secretly gather information on people associated with then-candidate Trump’s campaign. Claiming that certain campaign advisers were controlled by Russia, the FBI filed unverified and demonstrably false information in the secret intelligence court to secure surveillance warrants to review and monitor communications of certain Trump campaign associates.

Unlike Trump’s court filings in the challenge to the 2020 vote, these court filings were not public documents and were unknown even to the subject of the warrants. Later investigation established serious misconduct by senior federal law enforcement officials in securing these warrants.

After the 2016 votes were counted, Democrats, Never-Trumpers, mainstream media outlets, and their allies launched an all-out effort to obstruct the new administration and to remove the president from office. Hillary Clinton did not file public challenges in the courts; instead, she launched the resistance movement.

The Obama administration doubled down on its improper use of federal law enforcement powers to hamstring the incoming Trump administration. From setting up retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the incoming national security adviser, for a process crime, to renewing the improperly obtained FISA warrants, to embedding Obama loyalists in the federal bureaucracy, the Trump resistance hunkered down for the long haul.

None of these efforts, however, involved filing legal challenges in open court to be adjudicated by an established dispute resolution mechanism supervised by an independent judiciary. Instead, the Resistance relied upon the maneuverings of federal law enforcement officials to secure the appointment of a special counsel to investigate whether the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russia in securing victory in 2016.

This investigation consumed millions of dollars and more than two years to produce what the instigators knew all along: There was no collusion. Furthermore, no one associated with the Trump campaign was ever charged, much less convicted, of any offense related to Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 campaign.

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Trump complained long and loud about what he termed a “witch hunt,” but he also provided unprecedented cooperation in the special counsel’s investigation. His waiver of attorney-client privilege subjected his White House counsel, Don McGahn, to hours of interrogation by the special counsel’s attorneys.

At the same time, bureaucrat holdovers from the Obama administration’s national security team illegally leaked the substance of private phone calls between the president and foreign leaders in an effort to embarrass his administration and, eventually, to set up a partisan impeachment process that some had been urging since before he was inaugurated.

The Many Lawsuits of the 2020 Election

Fast-forward to 2020. As far as we know, Trump has not weaponized federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies to surveil, monitor, or hamstring the incoming Biden administration. He has not sent FBI agents to conduct a pretextual interview of high-level Biden administration potential appointees. His subordinates have not altered documents and filed them in secret courts to secure warrants to eavesdrop on people associated with the Biden campaign or the incoming administration.

Rather, seemingly following Clinton’s advice to Biden to “not concede under any circumstances,” Trump and others have filed complaints in state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court, challenging the manner in which some state officials conducted the election. All the pleadings and papers have been available for public scrutiny. All the legal arguments have been made in open court.

All the decisions have been rendered by judges duly elected or appointed to their positions as members of an independent judiciary. Appeals have been filed in some cases, and those have also been available for public scrutiny and inspection.

One can disparage the wisdom of the Trump legal strategy. Indeed, the litigation has to this point been unsuccessful — but at least it has been filed in open court. The pleadings, arguments, and asserted basis for the challenges have been open to public scrutiny. Unlike the outgoing Obama administration, the outgoing Trump administration has not used secret courts, intelligence community assets, and a politicized federal law enforcement structure to undermine the effectiveness of a new president.

To answer the question posed at the outset, yes, challenges to the outcome of elections can undermine democracy. The American people, however, are smart enough to determine what sort of challenges to election outcomes are the greatest threat to our democracy: legal challenges filed in open court or surreptitious challenges using politicized intelligence and law enforcement assets.

Professor Woodruff is a retired Army lawyer and retired law professor. He served 22 years on active duty in the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps and taught law for over 25 years at Campbell University School of Law in Raleigh, North Carolina.



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Convicted fundraiser who tried to work his way into Biden’s inner circle sentenced to prison

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Amajor Democratic bundler, who raised large sums for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and consorted with Joe Biden, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for what prosecutors said was a “mercenary” political influence scheme.

Imaad Zuberi, a Californian businessman was sentenced Thursday for schemes to funnel foreign money into U.S. political campaigns, then take millions of dollars for himself.

The Los Angeles Times reported that U.S. Assistant Attorney Daniel J. O’Brien said Zuberi was “purely a mercenary, funneling money to whomever he believed would do his bidding.”

Among the many unsealed court records, Zuberi was seen photographed with Joe Biden and Barack Obama when they were Vice President and President. He was also pictured with former President Bill Clinton and former presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. He took pictures with former Republican Rep. Paul Ryan when he was speaker of the House as well as the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Also included in the Times report was a hacked email chain released on WikiLeaks. Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook messaged colleagues saying, “I’m OK taking the money and dealing with any attacks.” Jennifer Palmieri responded saying, “Take the money!”

He also attended Hillary Clinton’s election night party in New York City in 2016 as well as serving as a co-chair of The Trump Presidential Inauguration Committee.

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Zuberi made more than $950,000 in unlawful donations to the political committees of Obama, Clinton, McCain and others. Zuberi’s activities extended as far as a recent attempt to work his way into the Biden circle, according to Politico.  

In addition to the money he made, Zuberi also raised $270,000 for Hillary Clinton and $1.3 million for President Obama.

Zuberi, 50, pleaded guilty to a “three-count information charging with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)” for making false statements on a FARA filing as well as tax evasion and illegal contributions to political campaigns. He also pleaded guilty in a separate case earlier in June 2020 to a count of obstruction of justice.

“Zuberi turned acting as an unregistered foreign agent into a business enterprise,” Assistant Attorney General for National Secretary John C. Demers said in a Department of Justice news release.

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Cruz responds to pictures of him on Mexico flight, with Texas struggling from deadly winter storm

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Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz confirmed Thursday that he flew earlier this week to Mexico with family members, following the emergence of pictures appearing to show him in an airplane cabin and at a check-in counter, as fellow residents to recover from a deadly winter storm.

Cruz said in a statement that he accompanied his daughters on a flight Wednesday night to Mexico because they had the week off with school canceled.

“Wanting to be a good dad,” said Cruz, who also stated he is returning to Texas on Thursday afternoon.

The storms has been connected to at least seven deaths in Texas and knocked out power to as many as 2.5 million residents. The number of residents without electricity as of Thursday morning was down to less than 1 million, officials said.  

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“My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas,” Cruz also said. “We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm.”

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South Carolina House passes bill that would prohibit most abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected

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The South Carolina House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 79-35 to pass legislation that would prohibit most abortions. 

The bill must pass through a procedural vote in the House on Thursday prior to heading to GOP Gov. Henry McMaster who has indicated that he will sign it, according to the Associated Press. Two Republicans voted against the legislation while two Democrats voted for it. The state Senate passed the measure last month. 

The bill requires doctors to carry out an ultrasound to check for a fetal heartbeat and if a heartbeat is identified an abortion can only be performed in certain circumstances.

The legislation would not penalize a woman for obtaining an unlawful abortion, though the individual responsible for performing the abortion could face consequences.

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The outlet reported that other states have approved similar or even more stringent abortion prohibitions which could be implemented if the Supreme Court throws out the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. All of the other states’ abortion bans are currently entangled by court challenges and if the South Carolina bill is approved it will likely face litigation that prevents it from going into effect, according to the AP.

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