The law firm leading President Donald Trump’s challenge to the United States presidential election results in Pennsylvania is backing out of a federal case it filed on Monday.
Porter Wright Morris & Arthur has abruptly withdrawn from Trump’s effort to challenge votes from Philadelphia and other Democratic-leaning counties where Democrat Joe Biden has been declared the winner, according to a court filing first reported by The New York Times.
The move reflects the difficulty facing Trump as he tries through litigation to reverse his defeat in the US presidential election.
“In all of these cases, the law firms are faced with an ethical dilemma,” said John Hardin Young, an election lawyer in Washington, DC and former counsel to the Democratic Party.
“They run up against” federal rules of procedure that require “a complaint be based in law and fact”, Young told Al Jazeera.
“All of these complaints are looking for facts which is the exact opposite of the ethical obligations. These lawsuits are political statements that have nothing to do with the technicalities of law and fact,” Young said.
Earlier this week, in Arizona, the firm of Snell & Wilmer withdrew from representing Republicans in the so-called “Sharpie-gate” case, alleging a conspiracy by poll workers to give Republican voters permanent-ink markers that would spoil their ballots.
Claims of widespread fraud and corruption in the handling of ballots in Philadelphia by Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have not been borne out in court [Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters]Lawyer Ronald L Hicks Jr, a partner in the Pittsburgh office of Porter Wright and co-chair of the firm’s election law practice had been tapped by the Trump campaign to lead its effort to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania.
Hicks did not immediately return a request for comment from Al Jazeera on Friday. Porter Wright has earned more than $700,000 in legal fees from the Trump campaign this year, according to Federal Election Commission records.
A report in The New York Times on Monday had revealed internal tensions at the firm about its work for Trump in Pennsylvania.
The Democratic National Committee has moved to dismiss Trump’s case in the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
“Plaintiffs and Porter Wright have reached a mutual agreement that the plaintiffs will be best served if Porter Wright withdraws,” the firm said in a federal court.
“Cancel culture has finally reached the courtroom,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement.
A third firm, Jones Day, is facing a public backlash for its work on a case that could disqualify tens of thousands of late-arriving mail ballots in Pennsylvania.
The Lincoln Project, a group of “never Trump” Republicans that campaigned for Biden, has started a social media and advertising campaign targeting Jones Day.
Defend your democracy:
1. Created a LinkedIn account.
2. Message someone who works at @JonesDay or @PorterWright.
3. Ask them how they can work for an organization trying to overturn the will of the American people. https://t.co/Q3NR5xM4tjhttps://t.co/65DOcAUHYb
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) November 10, 2020
Jones Day has issued a rare statement saying that, while it is not representing Trump or his campaign in the Pennsylvania mail ballots case, it would not withdraw from the matter.
“Jones Day is not representing President Trump, his campaign or any affiliated party in any litigation alleging voter fraud,” the firm said in a statement on November 10.
At issue in the Jones Day case is an order by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court giving counties an extra three days to collect and count mail ballots that were postmarked by Election Day but arrived late. The case is likely headed to the US Supreme Court for review. It could potentially invalidate thousands of mail ballots in Pennsylvania but would not reverse the outcome for Biden.
“The Republican Party of Pennsylvania, through Jones Day, has sought review in the United States Supreme Court on the ground that the order is unconstitutional because it usurped the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s plenary authority to determine election procedures including the deadline for absentee ballots,” the Jones Day statement said.
While Jones Day is not technically representing Trump in the Pennsylvania case, the firm is closely tied to the president who has tweeted about the case, advocating the Pennsylvania ballots be thrown out.
Former White House counsel Don McGahn, a Jones Day partner, rejoined the firm in 2019 after serving in the Trump White House. McGahn refused to comply with a subpoena from Democrats in the House of Representatives seeking his testimony about allegations Trump sought to obstruct Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Lehigh County workers count ballots in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has been declared the winner [Mary Altaffer/AP Photo]