Campaign officials described the episode as disastrous, saying it scared off many of the lawyers they spent months recruiting, who now no longer wanted to be involved. With the campaign already facing exceedingly long odds in its recount efforts, there are widespread concerns within Trumpworld and GOP circles that Giuliani’s antics are thwarting the president’s legal machinery from within.
“I can’t imagine that a rational person” in the general public “wouldn’t be adversely affected by the way he conducts himself,” said Barry Richard, who represented George W. Bush in the 2000 Florida recount.
Yet Giuliani is taking on a heightened role. The president on Friday appointed him to oversee any new post-election litigation. The move, which was first reported by the New York Times, has distressed top campaign officials and other advisers, who worry Giuliani’s Hail Mary ploys will damage Trump’s reputation and potentially harm his future political aspirations.
Giuliani’s promotion also threatens to complicate a legal apparatus that has been in the works since June. The campaign began assembling a team of lawyers in swing states and counties where recounts might take place. The effort since the election has been overseen by Citizens United President David Bossie, who was tapped because of his conservative street cred and connections to pro-Trump activists around the country.
The Republican National Committee member from Maryland has also served as a bridge between the campaign and RNC, which had at times clashed during the final months of the race. He has been working the phones from home after testing positive for the coronavirus early this week.
Bossie has joined a regular 9:30 a.m. conference call with general counsel Matt Morgan, as well as top campaign officials Bill Stepien, Justin Clark and Jason Miller, to discuss the day’s agenda. The group has also been holding daily conference calls with on-air surrogates to go over messaging, and with legal and political operatives in the half-dozen states with slim margins.
They have been meeting regularly with the president, allowing him to poke and prod at their ideas while presenting him with a menu of options. The group — which has told the president that he’s facing an uphill path — has outlined to him how they view each state as a mini-campaign governed by different laws.
Looking to buttress its infrastructure, the campaign has shifted staffers from Florida to neighboring Georgia, which is conducting a hand recount.
Much of the focus, however, has been on crafting lawsuits in three states that zero in on specific allegations of voting irregularities. In Arizona, the campaign has drawn attention to issues with voting machines. In Michigan and Pennsylvania, it is complaining about not having adequate observation at voting sites.
The Pennsylvania suit also revolves around the idea that voters in Democratic-heavy Philadelphia had more of an opportunity to “cure” improperly cast ballots than those in the more conservative parts of the state. While the Arizona case was dropped Friday, the Michigan and Pennsylvania cases are pending.
Campaign officials describe it as an incremental approach aimed at chipping away at Biden’s leads and creating margins that are small enough to force recounts. While they concede their lawsuits are unlikely to succeed, they insist they’re not frivolous.
But their strategy has resulted in a clash with Giuliani, who has advocated for more of a damn-the-torpedoes approach. The former New York City mayor has been working independently of the Trump legal apparatus. He’s gone on Fox News and made allegations of widespread voter fraud. Early on, he ordered lawsuits to be filed without the consent of the campaign’s legal team.