Trump cancels trip to GOP fraud “hearing” at Pennsylvania Wyndham after Giuliani exposed to COVID-19

The campaign said similar "hearings" were planned in Michigan and Arizona, but that was news to GOP officials there

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published November 25, 2020 1:03PM (EST)

Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump scrapped plans to join attorney Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday for a public "hearing" by the Pennsylvania Republican Party on unfounded voter fraud allegations at a Wyndham hotel.

Trump directed aides to make plans for him to travel to Gettysburg, the famed Civil War battle site, for the hearing, according to CNN and The New York Times. Some advisers were "kept in the dark" about the plans, while others "tried" to tell the president that the trip was a "mistake," according to New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.

"Among other things, Trump is likely to announce a 2024 campaign soon and this is brand building," Haberman wrote on Twitter.

But the trip was ultimately scrapped after Giuliani was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, CNN reported. 

The site of the event — a Republican gathering at a Wyndham Hotel in Gettysburg rather than the capital of Harrisburg — drew mockery on the heels of Giuliani's ill-fated news conference at the Philadelphia Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

"Do you remember when the Trump folks had their big press conference in Philadelphia? And the president said it was at the Four Seasons, but it turned out it was actually in the parking lot of the Four Seasons Landscaping company out by the crematorium and the porn store? Well, same kind of thing here," quipped MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. "They're calling this like, 'The Pennsylvania Legislature's investigating the election.' No, people are going to go eat rolled-up sandwiches on a catering plate while they listen to Rudy Giuliani say the things that he said on Lou Dobbs."

The event was the latest attempt by Trump and his Republican allies to sow doubt in the results of the election. Both there have been no credible reports of voter fraud, according to both Democratic and GOP state officials. A federal judge ripped Giuliani's bid to throw out legal ballots, writing over the weekend that the campaign provided only "strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations" that were "unsupported by evidence." The Pennsylvania Supreme Court also rejected the campaign's claims that its poll observers had been blocked from monitoring the counting of ballots.

Pennsylvania certified its votes on Tuesday. The Trump campaign announced the hearing by state senators on the same day, claiming that it would feature "testimony from witnesses who have filed affidavits attesting to 2020 election fraud" and a "feature a presentation from former New York City Mayor and personal attorney to President Trump, Rudy Giuliani."

"It's in everyone's interest to have a full vetting of election irregularities and fraud," Giuliani said in the news release. "And the only way to do this is with public hearings, complete with witnesses, videos, pictures and other evidence of illegalities from the Nov. 3 election."

The release suggested that the hearing was part of the Trump team's effort to convince Republican-led state legislatures to appoint electors who would overrule the will of the voters in states lost handily by Trump. 

"State legislatures are uniquely qualified and positioned to hold hearings on election irregularities and fraud before electors are chosen," the campaign said. "As established in Article 2, Section 1.2 of the United States Constitution, state legislatures have the sole authority to select their representatives to the Electoral College, providing a critical safeguard against voter fraud and election manipulation."

The Pennsylvania GOP said the hearing of the Senate Majority Policy Committee would be held at the request of state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who called for the resignation of Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, citing unspecified reports of "irregularities" already dismissed by courts.

The state's Republican leaders previously rejected suggestions that they appoint electors who would overturn the will of the voters.

"The Pennsylvania General Assembly does not have and will not have a hand in choosing the state's presidential electors or in deciding the outcome of the presidential election," state Sen. Jake Corman and state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff said ahead of the election and reiterated after Trump's defeat.

Trump lost the state by more than 80,000 votes.

The campaign's statement said similar hearings were planned in next week in Michigan and Arizona. Michigan certified its votes on Monday in spite of pressure from Trump allies to block the vote. Aaron Van Langevelde, one of two Republicans on the Michigan State Board of Canvassers, joined the panel's two Democrats to certify the results.

Michigan Republicans denied that there would be a hearing.

"The president's legal team has been invited to submit written testimony instead," a spokesman for state Hous Speaker Lee Chatfield told ABC News.

Republican state legislative leaders met with Trump at the White House last week but said they would "follow the normal process regarding Michigan's electors." They "have not been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election," the added. 

The Trump team's complaints about Michigan are particularly strange given that the election in the state was not particularly close. Biden won the state by about 3%, or more than 150,000 votes.

After enough states certified their results to put Biden over 270 electoral votes, General Services Administration head Emily Murphy signed paperwork allowing the presidential transition to formally begin.

Arizona, where Biden won by fewer than 12,000 votes, is expected to certify its results by next week. Despite the campaign's announcement, Arizona Republicans said there is no hearing planned.

"News to me," state Senate President Karen Fann told The Arizona Republic.

State House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Republican, said he had not seen any evidence of fraud.

"I do not see, short of finding some type of fraud — which I haven't heard of anything — I don't see us in any serious way addressing a change in electors," he told the Associated Press. "They are mandated by statute to choose according to the vote of the people."

The Biden campaign dismissed Trump's attempts to subvert the election.

"Trump did everything he could to disenfranchise voters and stop the results from being certified in Pennsylvania . . . most recently producing one of the more embarrassing courtroom performances of all time, with the judge in the case ruling that their arguments were 'without merit' and 'unsupported by evidence,'" campaign attorney Bob Bauer said in a statement to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Trump did not succeed in Pennsylvania and he will not succeed anywhere else."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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