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Trump phones into Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers’ baseless voter fraud event after canceling trip

The President had planned on appearing in-person with his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, but two sources told CNN Trump’s trip was canceled. The move came shortly after news broke that Giuliani was exposed to another person who had tested positive for coronavirus.

One of Trump’s campaign advisers, Boris Epshteyn, said Wednesday morning that he has tested positive for the coronavirus and was experiencing mild symptoms. Epshteyn appeared with Giuliani at a campaign legal team news conference in Washington, DC, six days ago.

A day after the news conference, Giuliani’s son, Andrew, announced that he had tested positive for coronavirus. And that same day, the former New York City mayor said he would be quarantining at a Washington-area hotel.

Giuliani attended Wednesday’s “hearing” in Pennsylvania, arriving at the event with a mask before briefly taking it off when he sat down. Most other people in the room were not wearing masks.

Trump had expressed strong interest in joining Giuliani for Wednesday’s event and directed aides to make plans for him to travel to Pennsylvania, multiple sources said. The trip, which would have been his first outside of the Washington area since Election Day, was not listed on the public schedule released by the White House on Tuesday night, but was being handled internally as an unannounced movement.

Speaking Wednesday as a witness via speakerphone during the event, Trump once again falsely claimed that he won the 2020 presidential election. He made unproven, unspecified allegations of voter fraud, ballot dumping and voter suppression against his supporters.

State and local election officials have said there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and both a federal court and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court have dismissed lawsuits seeking to prevent the state from certifying the results of the election. Pennsylvania officially certified the results on Tuesday, sealing Biden’s win in the key battleground state.

“In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more,” Judge Matthew Brann of the US District Court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania wrote on Saturday in a withering decision. “At bottom, Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.”

Brann, a longtime and well-known Republican in Pennsylvania, added: “It is not in the power of this Court to violate the Constitution.”

The event was the latest attempt by Trump and his allies to undermine confidence in the 2020 election and attack the legitimacy of President-elect Joe Biden.

The Trump campaign and Pennsylvania Senate Republicans announced plans for the Gettysburg event, a meeting of the Pennsylvania Senate Majority Policy Committee, on Tuesday — casting it as an effort to expose “irregularities” in the 2020 election. The meeting is being organized by the Pennsylvania state Senate GOP, which is holding it at a hotel — not at the state Capitol.

Trump and Giuliani have made baseless allegations of fraud in the election and delved into conspiracy theories alleging a plot to rig the vote, all of which have been refuted by state and local election officials across the country as well as the top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security. Trump fired that official, Chris Krebs, after he co-signed a statement declaring the 2020 election “the most secure” in US history

It was the first of three similar events the Trump campaign has scheduled in coordination with Republican state lawmakers in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan. There’s no evidence that widespread voter fraud has taken place in any of those states despite frequent claims by Trump and his allies.

The location of potential Trump visit was striking. Gettysburg is the site of the most famous battle of the Civil War, in which the Union turned back a Confederate invasion of the North. The battle culminated in a failed charge by troops under the command of Confederate Gen. George Pickett that was repelled by US forces.

Coming just two days after the General Services Administration allowed the presidential transition to proceed, Trump’s planned visit had signaled once again that he does not intend to abandon his allegations about the election or concede the race to Biden.

Trump is also considering attending a similar event in Michigan next week. The Michigan State Board of Canvassers certified Biden’s victory in that state on Monday, after Trump’s legal efforts and a pressure campaign on state and local officials collapsed.

This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.

CNN’s Kristen Holmes, Jim Acosta, Kaitlan Collins and Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.


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