WASHINGTON (AP) — She's fended off protesters who made a run at her husband. She's moved him farther from reporters during the coronavirus pandemic. She's supported his presidential ambitions again and again — except in 2004, when she deployed a novel messaging technique to keep Joe Biden from running. “No,” Jill Biden, then clad in a bikini, wrote in Sharpie across her stomach and then marched through a strategy session in which advisers were trying to talk her husband into challenging Republican President George W. Bush. Protecting Joe stands out among Jill Biden's many roles over their 43-year marriage, as her husband's career moved him from the Senate to the presidential campaign trail and the White House as President Barack Obama's vice president. She's a wife, mother, grandmother and educator with a doctoral degree — as well as a noted prankster.Now, with her husband on the brink of becoming the 46th president, Jill Biden is about to become first lady and put her own stamp on a position that traditionally is viewed as a model of American womanhood — whether that means hewing to old ways or finding new, activist ones, in the manner of Eleanor Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, for example.She intends to keep working as a college professor, which would make her the only first lady to keep her day job outside the home. And if four decades in the public eye are any indication, she'll continue being Biden's chief protector.The role isn't completely unfamiliar territory for Jill Biden. She's been a political wife the entire time she's been married to Joe Biden. Plus, she had a bird's-eye view of what a first lady does during Obama's two terms. But the scrutiny level will change. And all eyes are on the incoming Biden administration to deliver what both Joe and Jill have promised — getting the coronavirus pandemic raging across the country under control.Myra Gutin, a professor at Rider University and the author of several books about first ladies, recalled Barbara Bush telling her: “You know, when I was second lady, I could say anything I wanted, and no one really paid much attention. But the minute I became first lady, everything became newsworthy.”Still, Jill Biden won’t have the learning curve most other new first ladies faced. “She’s been in the public eye for a long time," Gutin said. “She’s going in eyes wide open.”The coronavirus has killed more than 260,000 Americans and upended much of daily life. The Bidens offered themselves as agents of comfort at a time of loss and grief, experiences they know well particularly after their son Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015.Jill Biden entered her husband's life as a comfort. Joe Biden's first wife and young daughter were killed in a car accident in 1972. Jill Biden helped raise his surviving young sons, Beau and Hunter, before giving birth to their daughter, Ashley, in 1981. She refers to all of them as her children.As Joe Biden commuted from Delaware to Washington while serving as a senator, Jill Biden built a career as a teacher, ultimately earning two master’s degrees and then a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware in 2007. Throughout, Jill Biden's protective streak was notable. There she stood at his side, when Joe Biden withdrew from his first presidential bid under accusations of plagiarism. She says she emulated her mother's stoic style. Jill Biden's mother, she said, didn't even cry when her own parents died. She saw that as strength. “I decided early that I would never let my emotions rule me,” she wrote in her memoir, ”Where the Light Enters.”“As a political spouse, I’ve found that my stoicism often serves me well,” Jill Biden wrote. “In 1988, when Joe’s first presidential campaign started to look bleak, people were constantly looking for cracks in our team. We all felt scrutinized, but I refused to show weakness.”It showed early in the 2020 race when several women accused Biden of inappropriate touching. The candidate denied acting inappropriately but acknowledged that social norms had changed. He pledged that he would change, too. Jill Biden defended him.“I think what you don’t realize is how many people approach Joe — men and women, looking for comfort or empathy,” she told ABC’s ”Good Morning America." “But going forward, I think he’s gonna have to judge — be a better judge — of when people approach him, how he’s going to react. That he maybe shouldn’t approach them.”She recalled a time in her life when she had been treated inappropriately and didn't speak up.“I can remember specifically — it was in a job interview," Jill Biden said. "If that same thing happened today, I’d turn around and say, ‘What do you think you’re doin’?” She's quick to rally to her husband's side, sometimes physically.In New Hampshire in February, a man tried to cross into the roped-off area near Joe Biden. In a flash, Jill Biden crossed behind her husband and put her arms around the man, turned him around and helped push him away. A month later in Los Angeles, she similarly blocked one protester, then a second one, who had stormed the stage while Joe Biden was delivering his Super Tuesday victory speech. When the first one approached waving an anti-dairy sign and yelling, Jill Biden stepped between the protester and her husband. She did the same with the second one, this time putting her arms up to block the intrusion.Both were removed without coming in contact with the candidate. After the 27-second confrontation, Jill turned around saying, “We're okay,” and encouraged Joe to keep the event going. The Bidens then said it might be time for Secret Service protection, and they got it soon after. “I worry about Jill,” Joe Biden said.She's been protective during the pandemic. On Oct. 5 at New Castle Airport in Delaware, she moved her husband back from members of the media as he spoke outside his campaign plane before a trip to Miami.Like many American families, the Bidens spent Thanksgiving differently this year. They stayed at their house in Rehoboth, Delaware, rather than their usual “Nana-tucket,” as her grandchildren have called the Massachusetts island where the Bidens started going early in their marriage to establish a new holiday tradition.In 2020, instead of the usual sprawling family tableau, their daughter and her husband were the only Biden visitors to the house in Delaware. A Zoom call with the larger group was on the evening's agenda. Look, too, for Jill Biden to try to keep things light. “She's not your average grandmother,” granddaughter Naomi said on a video shown at the Democratic National Convention, recalling that Jill Biden once woke her up at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning to go “soul cycling.”“She’s a prankster, she’s very mischievous,” Naomi added with a grin. “When she goes on a run, sometimes she'll find, like, a dead snake and she’ll pick it up and put it in a bag and use it to scare someone.”—-Follow Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's highest court on Saturday night threw out a lower court's order preventing the state from certifying dozens of contests on its Nov. 3 election ballot in the latest lawsuit filed by Republicans attempting to thwart President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the battleground state.The state Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, threw out the three-day-old order, saying the underlying lawsuit was filed months after the law allowed for challenges to Pennsylvania's expansive year-old mail-in voting law.The state's attorney general, Democrat Josh Shapiro, called the court's decision “another win for Democracy.”The week-old lawsuit, led by Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of northwestern Pennsylvania, had challenged the state's mail-in voting law as unconstitutional. As a remedy, Kelly and the other Republican plaintiffs had sought to either throw out the 2.5 million mail-in ballots submitted under the law — most of them by Democrats — or to wipe out the election results and direct the state's Republican-controlled Legislature to pick Pennsylvania's presidential electors.Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, elected as a Republican in 2009, had issued the order Wednesday to halt certification of any remaining contests, including apparently contests for Congress. A day earlier, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said he had certified Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election in Pennsylvania. Biden beat President Donald Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania, a state Trump had won in 2016.Wolf had appealed McCullough's decision to the state Supreme Court, saying there was no “conceivable justification” for it.___Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/timelywriter
WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Trump campaign associate who was the target of a secret surveillance warrant during the FBI's Russia investigation says in a federal lawsuit that he was the victim of “unlawful spying.”The suit from Carter Page alleges a series of omissions and errors made by FBI and Justice Department officials in applications they submitted in 2016 and 2017 to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to eavesdrop on Page on suspicion that he was an agent of Russia.“Since not a single proven fact ever established complicity with Russia involving Dr. Page, there never was probable cause to seek or obtain the FISA Warrants targeting him on this basis,” the lawsuit says, using the acronym for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.The complaint largely echoes findings from a Justice Department inspector general report that found significant problems with the four applications. Former FBI and Justice Department leaders who were involved in signing off on the secretive surveillance have since testified they wouldn't have done so had they known of the extent of the issues, and the FBI has initiated more than 40 corrective steps aimed at improving the accuracy and thoroughness of applications to the court.In the lawsuit, filed Friday in Washington's federal court, Page accuses the FBI of relying excessively for information on Christopher Steele, a former British spy whose research during the 2016 campaign into Donald Trump's ties to Russia was funded by Democrats. It says the FBI failed to tell the surveillance court that Steele's primary source had contradicted information that Steele had attributed to him, or that Page had denied to an FBI informant having “any involvement with Russia on behalf of the Trump campaign.”The complaint also accuses the FBI of having misled the surveillance court about his relationship with the CIA, for whom Page had been an operational contact between 2008 and 2013. A former FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, pleaded guilty in August to altering an email by saying that Page had not been a source for the CIA. The suit names as defendants the FBI and the Justice Department, as well as former FBI Director James Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and additional officials who were involved in the Russia investigation.Despite the problems with the warrant applications, Page accounted for only a narrow portion of the overall investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The same inspector general report that detailed problems in the applications also concluded that the FBI had a legitimate basis for opening the Russia investigation, and did not find evidence of political bias by the officials who conducted it.
As vice president in 2012, Joe Biden endeared himself to many LGBTQ Americans by endorsing same-sex marriage even before his boss, President Barack Obama.Now, as president-elect, Biden is making sweeping promises to LGBTQ activists, proposing to carry out virtually every major proposal on their wish lists. Among them: Lifting the Trump administration’s near-total ban on military service for transgender people, barring federal contractors from anti-LGBTQ job discrimination, and creating high-level LGBTQ-rights positions at the State Department, the National Security Council and other federal agencies.In many cases the measures would reverse executive actions by President Donald Trump, whose administration took numerous steps to weaken protections for transgender people and create more leeway for discrimination against LGBTQ people, ostensibly based on religious grounds.In a policy document, the Biden campaign said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “have given hate against LGBTQ+ individuals safe harbor and rolled back critical protections.”Beyond executive actions he can take unilaterally, Biden says his top legislative priority for LGBTQ issues is the Equality Act, passed by the House of Representatives last year but stalled in the Senate. It would extend to all 50 states the comprehensive anti-bias protections already afforded to LGBTQ people in 21 mostly Democratic-governed states, covering such sectors as housing, public accommodations and public services.Biden says he wants the act to become law within 100 days of taking office, but its future remains uncertain. Assuming the bill passes again in the House, it would need support from several Republicans in the Senate, even if the Democrats gain control by winning two runoff races in Georgia. For now, Susan Collins of Maine is the only GOP co-sponsor in the Senate.Critics, including prominent religious conservatives, say the bill raises religious freedom concerns and could require some faith-based organizations to operate against their beliefs. The Equality Act “is a dangerous game changer” in its potential federal threat to religious liberty, said the Rev. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican, tried to strike a compromise last year that would have expanded LGBTQ rights nationwide while allowing exemptions for religious groups to act on beliefs that could exclude LGBTQ people. His proposal won support from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Seventh-day Adventist Church but was panned by liberal and civil rights groups. “Anti-equality forces are trying to use the framework of religious liberty to strip away individual rights,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ-rights organization.Among the actions that Biden pledges to take unilaterally, scrapping Trump’s transgender military ban would be among the most notable.Jennifer Levi, a Massachusetts-based transgender-rights lawyer, said it’s clear Biden has the authority to do so after taking office.Nicolas Talbott, a transgender man whom Levi has represented in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban, called that “a huge relief.”“I look forward to being allowed to re-enroll in ROTC so I can continue to train, keep up my fitness to serve, and become the best Army officer I can possibly be,” Talbott said via email. Some of Biden’s other promises:— Appoint an array of LGBTQ people to federal government positions. There’s wide expectation that Biden will nominate an LGBTQ person to a Cabinet post, with former presidential contender Pete Buttigieg among the possibilities.— Reverse Trump administration policies carving out religious exemptions allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people by social service agencies, health care providers, adoption and foster care agencies and other entities. — Reinstate Obama administration guidance directing public schools to allow transgender students to access bathrooms, locker rooms and sports teams in accordance with their gender identity. The Trump administration revoked this guidance.— Allocate federal resources to help curtail violence against transgender people, particularly transgender women of color. Rights groups say at least 38 transgender or gender-nonconforming people have been killed in the U.S. this year.— Support legislative efforts to ban so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors.— Bolster federal efforts to collect comprehensive data about LGBTQ people in the U.S. by adding questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to national surveys.— Ensure that LGBTQ rights are a priority for U.S. foreign policy and be prepared to use pressure tactics, including sanctions, against foreign governments violating those rights.Whatever happens in Washington, some activists worry that Republican-controlled state legislatures may push anti-LGBTQ bills, such as curtailing the ability of transgender youth to access certain medical treatments or participate in school sports. They are also concerned that an influx of conservative federal judges appointed by Trump might lead to rulings allowing religious exemptions.Earlier this month the Supreme Court — now with a solid conservative majority — heard arguments on whether a Catholic social services agency in Philadelphia should be able to turn away same-sex couples who want to be foster parents, while still receiving local government funding.Tim Schultz, a religious freedom advocate, outlined two potential paths for the debate over the Equality Act: “ongoing legislative gridlock, regulatory trench warfare and judicial decisions, which will happen independently of what the president does,” or active engagement by Biden for a new strategy that can win bipartisan support in the Senate. The first path would provide only “temporary satisfaction,” given that regulatory moves can be undone by future presidents, said Schultz, president of the nonprofit 1st Amendment Partnership. Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, cited Biden’s campaign-trail appeals for unity — and his commitment to faith outreach — as positive signs for more engagement on the issue next year. “He and his team will be very well-positioned to broker compromise if they want to, to get this done,” said Diament, who has advised both the Trump and Obama administrations.___Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through the Religion News Foundation. The AP is solely responsible for this content.
WASHINGTON (AP) — From the get-go, President Donald Trump has miscast or exaggerated the military's role in his administration's crash program to accelerate the...
WASHINGTON (AP) — The oldest prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center went to his latest review board hearing with a degree of hope, something that has been scarce during his 16 years locked up without charges at the U.S. base in Cuba.Saifullah Paracha, a 73-year-old Pakistani with diabetes and a heart condition, had two things going for him that he didn't have at previous hearings: a favorable legal development and the election of Joe Biden.President Donald Trump had effectively ended the Obama administration's practice of reviewing the cases of men held at Guantanamo and releasing them if imprisonment was no longer deemed necessary. Now there's hope that will resume under Biden.“I am more hopeful now simply because we have an administration to look forward to that isn’t dead set on ignoring the existing review process," Paracha's attorney, Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, said by phone from the base on Nov. 19 after the hearing. “The simple existence of that on the horizon I think is hope for all of us." Guantanamo was once a source of global outrage and a symbol of U.S. excess in response to terrorism. But it largely faded from the headlines after President Barack Obama failed to close it, even as 40 men continue to be detained there.Those pushing for its closure now see a window of opportunity, hoping Biden's administration will find a way to prosecute those who can be prosecuted and release the rest, extricating the U.S. from a detention center that costs more than $445 million per year.Biden's precise intentions for Guantanamo remain unclear. Transition spokesman Ned Price said the president-elect supports closing it, but it would be inappropriate to discuss his plans in detail before he's in office. His reticence is actually welcome to those who have pressed to close Guantanamo. Obama's early pledge to close it is now seen as a strategic mistake that undercut what had been a bipartisan issue. “I think it’s more likely to close if it doesn’t become a huge press issue,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch.The detention center opened in 2002. President George W. Bush's administration transformed what had been a sleepy Navy outpost on Cuba's southeastern tip into a place to interrogate and imprison people suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. U.S. authorities maintain the men can be held as “law of war” detainees, remaining in custody for the duration of hostilities, an open-ended prospect. At its peak in 2003 — the year Paracha was captured in Thailand because of suspected ties to al-Qaida — Guantanamo held about 700 prisoners from nearly 50 countries. Bush announced his intention to close it, though 242 were still held there when his presidency ended.The Obama administration, seeking to allay concerns that some of those released had “returned to the fight,” set up a process to ensure those repatriated or resettled in third countries no longer posed a threat. It also planned to try some of the men in federal court. But his closure effort was thwarted when Congress barred the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo to the U.S., including for prosecution or medical care. Obama ended up releasing 197 prisoners, leaving 41 for Trump. Trump in his 2016 campaign promised to “load” Guantanamo with “some bad dudes,” but largely ignored the issue after rescinding Obama's policies. His administration approved a single release, a Saudi who pleaded guilty before a military commission. Of those remaining, seven men have cases pending before a military commission. They include five men accused of planning and supporting the Sept. 11 attacks. Additionally, there are two prisoners who were convicted by commission and three facing potential prosecution for the 2002 Bali bombing. Commission proceedings, including death penalty cases related to the Sept. 11 attacks, have bogged down as the defense fights to exclude evidence that resulted from torture. Trials are likely far in the future and would inevitably be followed by years of appeals.Defense attorneys say the incoming administration could authorize more military commission plea deals. Some have also suggested Guantanamo detainees could plead guilty in federal court by video and serve any remaining sentence in other countries, so they wouldn't enter the United States.Detainee advocates also say Biden could defy Congress and bring prisoners to the U.S., arguing that the ban wouldn't stand up in court.“It’s either do something about it or they die there without charge,” said Wells Dixon, a lawyer for two prisoners, including one who has pleaded guilty in the military commission and is awaiting sentencing. The remaining detainees include five who had been cleared for release before Trump took office and have languished since. Advocates want the Biden administration to review the rest, noting that many, had they been convicted in federal court, would have served their sentences and been released at this point.“Whittle it down to the folks who are being prosecuted and either prosecute them or don’t, but don’t just hang on to them,” said Joseph Margulies, a Cornell Law School professor who has represented one prisoner. “At great expense, we walk around with this thing around our necks. It does no good. It has no role for national security. It’s just a big black stain that provides no benefit whatsoever.” Over the years, nine prisoners have died at Guantanamo: seven from apparent suicide, one from cancer and one from a heart attack.Paracha's attorney raised his health issues, which include a heart attack in 2006, at his review board, speaking by secure teleconference with U.S. security and defense agencies. She also raised an important legal development. Paracha, who lived in the U.S. and owned property in New York City, was a wealthy businessman in Pakistan. Authorities say he was an al-Qaida “facilitator” who helped two of the Sept. 11 conspirators with a financial transaction. He says he didn't know they were al-Qaida and denies any involvement in terrorism. Uzair Paracha, his son, was convicted in 2005 in federal court in New York of providing support to terrorism, based in part on the same witnesses held at Guantanamo that the U.S. has relied on to justify holding his father. In March, after a judge threw out those witness accounts and the government decided not to seek a new trial, Uzair Paracha was released and sent back to Pakistan. Had his father been convicted in the U.S., his fate might have been the same. Instead, it will likely be in Biden's hands and, Sullivan-Bennis said, time is of the essence. “It could be a death sentence.”
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — The first phase of local civic polls opened in Indian-controlled Kashmir Saturday amid tight security.Nearly 6 million voters across the disputed region’s 20 districts are eligible to elect 280 members of District Development Councils in a staggered eight-phase process that ends Dec. 19. Authorities deployed tens of thousands of additional soldiers in the already highly militarized region to guard the vote. Government forces laid razor wire and erected steel barricades on roads around many of the 2,146 polling stations set up for the first phase.Election Commissioner K.K. Sharma appealed to residents to cast their vote and “participate in the biggest festival of democracy.”The elected members will have no legislative powers and would be solely responsible for economic development and public welfare of the region.India says the polls are a vital grassroots exercise to boost development and address civic issues. Separatist leaders and armed rebel groups that challenge India’s sovereignty over Kashmir have in the past called for a boycott of elections, calling them an illegitimate exercise under military occupation.Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party has fiercely campaigned for the election in the Muslim-majority region in a bid to replace local Kashmiri pro-India parties that had formed an alliance. It has vigorously opposed Modi’s government after it revoked the region’s semi-autonomous status in August last year, annulled its separate constitution, split the area into two federal territories — Ladakh and Jammu-Kashmir — and removed inherited protections on land and jobs.The Indian government imposed sweeping restrictions, ranging from curfews to communications blackouts, and enacted new laws in measures that triggered widespread anger and economic ruin. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both rivals claim the region in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.New Delhi calls Kashmir militancy Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris call it a legitimate freedom struggle.Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.
ATLANTA (AP) — A panel of U.S. advisers will meet Tuesday to vote on how scarce, initial supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine will be given out once one has been approved.Experts have proposed giving the vaccine to health workers first. High priority also may be given to workers in essential industries, people with certain medical conditions and people age 65 and older.Tuesday's meeting is for the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The panel of experts recommends who to vaccinate and when -- advice that the government almost always follows. The agenda for next week's emergency meeting was posted Friday. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have asked the Food and Drug Administration to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Moderna Inc. is expected to also seek emergency use of its vaccine soon.FDA's scientific advisers are holding a public meeting Dec. 10 to review Pfizer's request, and send a recommendation to the FDA.Manufacturers already have begun stockpiling coronavirus vaccine doses in anticipation of eventual approval, but the first shots will be in short supply and rationed.
The Trump administration moved forward Friday on gutting a longstanding federal protection for the nation's birds, over objections from former federal officials and many scientists that billions more birds will likely perish as a result.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published its take on the proposed rollback in the Federal Register. It's a final step that means the change — greatly limiting federal authority to prosecute industries for practices that kill migratory birds — could be made official within 30 days. The wildlife service acknowledged in its findings that the rollback would have a “negative” effect on the many bird species covered by the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which range from hawks and eagles to seabirds, storks, songbirds and sparrows.The move scales back federal prosecution authority for the deadly threats migratory birds face from industry — from electrocution on power lines, to wind turbines that knock them from the air and oil field waste pits where landing birds perish in toxic water.Industry operations kill an estimated 450 million to 1.1 billion birds annually, out of roughly 7 billion birds in North America, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and recent studies. The Trump administration maintains that the Act should apply only to birds killed or harmed intentionally, and is putting that “clarifying” change into regulation. The change would “improve consistency and efficiency in enforcement,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said.The administration has continued to push the migratory bird regulation even after a federal judge in New York in August rejected the administration’s legal rationale. Two days after news organizations announced President Donald Trump’s defeat by Democrat Joe Biden, federal officials advanced the bird treaty changes to the White House, one of the final steps before adoption. Trump was “in a frenzy to finalize his bird-killer policy,” David Yarnold, president of the National Audubon Society, said in a statement Friday. ”Reinstating this 100-year-old bedrock law must be a top conservation priority for the Biden-Harris Administration" and Congress.Steve Holmer with the American Bird Conservancy said the change would accelerate bird population declines that have swept North America since the 1970s.How the 1918 treaty gets enforced has sweeping ramifications for the construction of commercial buildings, electric transmission systems and other infrastructure, said Rachel Jones, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers.Jones said the changes under Trump would be needed to make sure the bird law wasn’t used in an “abusive way.” That’s a longstanding complaint from industry lawyers despite federal officials’ contention that they bring criminal charges only rarely.It’s part of a flurry of last-minute changes under the outgoing administration benefiting industry. Others would expand Arctic drilling, favor development over habitat protections for imperiled species and potentially hamstring future regulation of environmental and public health threats, among other rollbacks.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — President Donald Trump’s legal team suffered yet another defeat in court Friday as a federal appeals court in Philadelphia roundly rejected its latest effort to challenge the state’s election results. Trump’s lawyers vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court despite the judge’s assessment that the “campaign’s claims have no merit.”“Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” Judge Stephanos Bibas wrote for the three-judge panel.The case had been argued last week in a lower court by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who insisted during five hours of oral arguments that the 2020 presidential election had been marred by widespread fraud in Pennsylvania. However, Giuliani failed to offer any tangible proof of that in court. U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann had said the campaign's error-filled complaint, “like Frankenstein’s Monster, has been haphazardly stitched together” and denied Giuliani the right to amend it for a second time.The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called that decision justified. The three judges on the panel were all appointed by Republican presidents. including Bibas, a former University of Pennsylvania law professor appointed by Trump. Trump’s sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, sat on the court for 20 years, retiring in 2019.Friday's ruling comes four days after Pennsylvania officials certified their vote count for President-elect Joe Biden, who defeated Trump by more than 80,000 votes in the state. Nationally, Biden and running mate Kamala Harris garnered nearly 80 million votes, a record in U.S. presidential elections. Trump has said he hopes the Supreme Court will intervene in the race as it did in 2000, when its decision to stop the recount in Florida gave the election to Republican George W. Bush. On Nov. 5, as the vote count continued, Trump posted a tweet saying the “U.S. Supreme Court should decide!”Ever since, Trump and his surrogates have attacked the election as flawed and filed a flurry of lawsuits to try to block the results in six battleground states. But they’ve found little sympathy from judges, nearly all of whom dismissed their complaints about the security of mail-in ballots, which millions of people used to vote from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.Trump perhaps hopes a Supreme Court he helped steer toward a conservative 6-3 majority would be more open to his pleas, especially since the high court upheld Pennsylvania’s decision to accept mail-in ballots through Nov. 6 by only a 4-4 vote last month. Since then, Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett has joined the court.“The activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania continues to cover up the allegations of massive fraud,” Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis tweeted after Friday's ruling. “On to SCOTUS!”In the case before Brann, the Trump campaign asked to disenfranchise the state’s 6.8 million voters, or at least the 700,000 who voted by mail in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and other Democratic-leaning areas.“One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption,” Brann wrote in his scathing ruling on Nov. 21. “That has not happened.”A separate Republican challenge that reached the Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week seeks to stop the state from further certifying any races on the ballot. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is fighting that effort, saying it would prevent the state’s legislature and congressional delegation from being seated in the coming weeks.On Thursday, Trump said the Nov. 3 election was still far from over. Yet he offered the clearest signal to date that he would leave the White House peaceably on Jan. 20 if the Electoral College formalizes Biden’s win.“Certainly I will. But you know that,” Trump said at the White House, taking questions from reporters for the first time since Election Day.Yet on Friday, he continued to baselessly attack Detroit, Atlanta and other Democratic cities with large Black populations as the source of “massive voter fraud.” And he claimed, without evidence, that a Pennsylvania poll watcher had uncovered computer memory drives that “gave Biden 50,000 votes” apiece.All 50 states must certify their results before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14, and any challenge to the results must be resolved by Dec. 8. Biden won both the Electoral College and popular vote by wide margins.