'Dress rehearsal for 2024': Donald Trump plans to challenge Senate race results before votes are cast
Former President Donald Trump is already laying the groundwork to challenge the results of the Pennsylvania Senate race, viewing the election as a "dress rehearsal for Trump 2024," according to Rolling Stone.
Trump last month met with Republican allies at Trump Tower to demand they "do something" about the Senate race between Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Republican challenger Mehmet Oz, claiming that there was a "scam" happening in Philadelphia and elsewhere around the state.
"During our briefing, he was concerned that 2020 is going to happen again in 2022," Michael Caputo, a former Trump administration official who attended the meeting along with Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko and retired CIA officer Sam Faddis, told Rolling Stone. "Our team encouraged him to be concerned … [Furthermore], I'm advising Republicans to recruit and train election observers and a team of attorneys to oversee historically problematic precincts," Caputo said.
The meeting was one of several in which Trump has discussed plans to challenge the 2022 midterm results, and not just in Pennsylvania, four sources told the outlet, discussing "scorched-earth legal tactics they could deploy."
TrumpWorld is planning "aggressive court campaigns" if there is any hint of doubt about the results, according to the report. Trump himself has been briefed on plans in multiple states, including in Georgia, but he has been particularly fixated on the Pennsylvania race. If Oz does not win or the results are close, sources told Rolling Stone, Trump and other Republicans are already planning to "wage a legal and activist crusade against the 'election integrity' of Democratic strongholds such as Philly," according to the report.
One source told the outlet that Trump is particularly focused on Pennsylvania because he sees the Senate race as a "dress rehearsal for Trump 2024."
Trump during the September meeting urged GOP allies to work to limit mail-in voting in the state, pushing debunked claims that the 2020 election was stolen in Philadelphia and demanding officials focus on the heavily Democratic and diverse area, according to the report. Trump has asked several advisers what Republicans are doing to prevent Democrats from "steal[ing] it in Philadelphia [like] they did last time," sources told the outlet.
Numerous Trump allies are ready to help wage another campaign to stoke doubt in election results before any votes are even cast.
"It's important to prepare for legal fights that will inevitably arise," Hogan Gidley, a former Trump White House spokesman who now works at the America First Policy Institute, told Rolling Stone. "The effort that the Center for Election Integrity is focused on started at the beginning of this year…We've been seeding efforts across the country in important states…[because] having people on the ground locally is key to these efforts — because if you're not at the table, you're on the menu."
MyPillow founder Mike Lindell, who has spent millions pushing lies that voting machines flipped votes from Trump to President Joe Biden, also vowed to fight over the 2022 results.
"No matter what happens, I'm not giving up on getting rid of those voting machines … I will not stop until the machines are gone," Lindell, who is facing a $1 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, told Rolling Stone.
Patrick Byrne, the former Overstock CEO who has likewise poured his own money into the "Big Lie" crusade, has teamed with former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn to form the so-called America Project.
"We have made proper preparations for post-election challenges if necessary, but our overwhelming focus is on having a clean, transparent election, which obviates the need for post-election legal scuffles," Byrne told the outlet.
The Republican National Committee is already involved in the race, pushing the state to stop counting mail-in ballots that are missing handwritten dates.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year ruled that tossing such ballots would result in "disenfranchising otherwise qualified voters" over a "meaningless requirement" that does not affect the voters' eligibility. The Supreme Court last week tossed the court's decision but did not rule on whether the ballots are required to be counted. A state court previously ruled that undated ballots can be counted and the state's Supreme Court in 2020 ruled that such ballots should be counted that year but not in future elections.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman issued guidance urging counties to count the undated ballots but the RNC and a group of Pennsylvania Republicans sued last week, asking the state Supreme Court to rule that the undated ballots should not be counted. The lawsuit is led by attorneys Kathleen Gallagher and john Gore, who previously represented Pennsylvania Republicans in their attempt to overturn the 2020 results over late-arriving mail-in ballots.
It's a trend that could play out across the country as numerous election deniers seek midterm wins, including Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and New Hampshire Senate candidate Don Bolduc. And pro-Trump media has boosted the message.
"If it is fair, Kari Lake's going to win," Fox News host Tucker Carlson said recently.
Pro-Trump radio host Mark Levin accused Democrats of "trying to steal the election for Fetterman," citing the dispute over the undated ballots.
The Rolling Stone report noted that Trump's obsession with bolstering the Republican legal infrastructure to challenge the election stands in stark contrast with the "relatively small sums" he has poured into the campaign to boost Oz's chances. His super PAC has spent just $770,000 on TV ads for Trump, compared to $34 million from the Senate Leadership Fund, which is allied with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Some Republicans have taken notice.
"There's a lot of people that were Trump supporters, who backed him through thick and thin," a Pennsylvania Republican attorney told Rolling Stone. "That's not lost on them."
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