The public-facing effort has been headed by Rudy Giuliani and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Trump loyalists whose credibility has been diminished among the type of elite legal talent that a presidential campaign might turn to during an election challenge.
On the legal team, Trump’s efforts to contest election results in states such as Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia and Michigan have been guided by lawyers who have been by the President’s side for years, including Jay Sekulow, the conservative lawyer who helped lead Trump’s defense in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and is helping to orchestrate some of the legal challenges filed in Pennsylvania.
“What a campaign needs to do to staff one statewide recount, let alone multiple recounts, is overwhelming,” said Benjamin Ginsberg, a top Republican election lawyer who served as national counsel to Bush’s campaigns.
“Bush v. Gore was one state. We put out a call and hundreds of lawyers, political operatives and many others responded,” Ginsberg said. “Even with that, it taxed the Party to its limits to do just one state. It is at best unproven that the Trump campaign can command the sort of infrastructure they would really need to pull this off.”
On Friday, Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s political operation sent out a “call for Republican lawyers,” saying there were ballots left to be counted and the state party “is assembling a team of highly-qualified lawyers to ensure that the process is fair and transparent.”
Republican sources say prominent conservative legal minds such as Noel Francisco, Trump’s former Solicitor General, whose firm, Jones Day, has done Trump campaign work; Emmet Flood, a Williams & Connolly partner who was Trump’s interim White House Counsel; and Cleta Mitchell, active in conservative causes including gun rights, would be among the names a GOP presidential campaign would turn to for a serious contested election legal fight.
So far, they haven’t shown up in court cases.
“The frustration that the President is expressing about the seeming unwillingness of his legal team to take certain positions is not unusual in that there are a lot of cases when clients want their lawyers to take action that the lawyers simply don’t see as viable,” said Ashley Taylor, an attorney who has represented Republican candidates in recounts and other election law issues.
Some of this could change, Republican legal sources say, if Trump can manage to make the race closer, by winning states such as Arizona and Georgia. That would allow the campaign to focus its effort on one state.
So far, Pennsylvania has been the focus of legal cases, with the Trump campaign and the GOP filing claims since before the election as a way to lay the groundwork to contest the final count.
In the 2000 election, Republicans could focus on Florida and its razor-thin margin and boil down their legal claims to challenge how canvassing boards were divining voter intent on paper ballots. That type of simple strategy hasn’t emerged in the 2020 election cases.