Do Trump’s lawyers actually have a point?
If you tuned in to the news at all yesterday, you are probably already aware of the extraordinary press conference held by Donald Trump's legal team.
The President's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani appeared alongside colleagues Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis, and claimed to have enough evidence to "overturn" the election.
That is no small task. It would require the campaign to wipe out Joe Biden's lead in multiple states, all of which he has won by at least 10,000 votes.
We're talking about proving fraud on an unprecedented scale, far beyond anything seen before in US history. And we're talking about a legal effort that has suffered a string of defeats in court since the election.
Nevertheless, Mr Giuliani was adamant.
The internet being the internet, there was plenty of chatter about the former prosecutor's physical appearance yesterday, as streaks of what appeared to be hair dye ran down his face in the middle of the media conference. As a fellow profuse sweater, I sympathised.
Ultimately though, that strange spectacle only distracted from the substance of the event. Mr Giuliani's choice of hair product doesn't matter. The claims he and his colleagues made do.
So let's run through them. What, exactly, did Mr Trump's lawyers allege, and do their claims have merit?
I've done my best to pick out the key claims and examine them. Settle in, because this might take a while.
1. Mr Biden's comeback in some key states was inherently suspicious
Mr Giuliani started by bringing up the fact that Mr Trump led by large margins in some states on election night, only for Mr Biden to come back and win them in the subsequent days.
"The President was way ahead on election night, 700,000 or 800,000 (votes) in Pennsylvania. Somehow he lost Pennsylvania," he said.
"We have statisticians willing to testify that that's almost statistically impossible to have happened in the period of time that it happened."
I cannot speak to the opinions of these unnamed statisticians. Perhaps their claims will be tested in court. What I can do is explain why the vote count unfolded the way it did.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, an unusually high number of Americans chose to vote by mail this year. And those voters were overwhelmingly Democratic, partly because the President explicitly told his own supporters they should vote in person on election day.
Mail-in ballots always take longer to count, in every election. To help deal with that, some American states allow their officials to start counting the mail vote before election day. Others do not.
Among those who don't are the Rust Belt states Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, all of which are now being targeted by the Trump campaign.
On election night, we saw Mr Trump build significant early leads in all three states. Why? Because the election day vote, which favoured him, got counted and reported first. Then, in the subsequent hours, the mail vote totals started to trickle in, and Mr Biden caught up.
By the morning after the election, it was reasonably clear that Mr Biden would win Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, though the news networks waited a few more days for more of the vote to come in before calling them.
None of this was remotely surprising. Election experts predicted it months ahead of time.
I should note that we actually saw the phenomenon happen in reverse in some other states, such as Florida and North Carolina, which did allow officials to count the mail vote before election day.
Mr Biden leapt to an early lead in those states, because the Democrat-leaning mail vote was reported first. Then, as the election day vote came in, Mr Trump eventually surged ahead and won them.
2. Republicans were not allowed to observe the vote count in Philadelphia
One of Mr Trump's more frequent complaints is that his campaign's election observers were not allowed in the room as officials counted the vote in Philadelphia, which was Mr Biden's strongest source of votes in Pennsylvania.
That claim is false, and his lawyers have had to admit as much in court.
They are actually making a slightly more subtle argument - that Republicans were not allowed to properly observe the counting of about 680,000 ballots because they were too far away to see anything.
"In Pennsylvania, the margin of victory now for Biden - which is not a victory, it's a fraud - is 69,140 votes," said Mr Giuliani.
"The reality is that we are now at a count of 682,770 ballots for which we have affidavits that there was no inspection of that ballot at the time that it was entered in the vote."
He argued all of those votes should now be "null and void" and "removed from the vote".
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on this issue earlier in the week, concluding election officials in Philadelphia did not violate the law.
It said the rules were "based on (Philadelphia's) careful consideration of how it could best protect the security and privacy of voters' ballots, as well as safeguard its employees and others who would be present during a pandemic".
The law here requires observers from both sides to be allowed inside the room as votes are counted, but it does not specify how far away they should be from the election workers. It does not give observers the right to inspect or challenge individual ballots.
3. Georgia's recount did not check voters' signatures
Yesterday, shortly after the Trump team's press conference, Georgia finished recounting all of its votes by hand. That recount confirmed Mr Biden had won the state, with a final margin of about 12,000.
"The recount being done in Georgia will tell us nothing, because these fraudulent ballots will just be counted again. Because they wouldn't supply the signatures to match the ballots," Mr Giuliani said.
"So it means nothing to have counted these ballots."
This, too, is one of the President's favourite complaints. Mr Trump labelled the recount in Georgia "fake" earlier this week because "they are not allowing signatures to be looked at and verified".
Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has pointed out that voters' signatures are actually verified twice before a mail-in ballot is accepted and counted.
Under the state's electoral laws, absentee ballots are not sent to everyone - voters have to request them. That request is signed, and the signature is then compared to the one in voter registration files. That happens before the person in question is even sent a ballot.
Then, when the ballot is returned, the voter is required to sign the outer envelope in which it's enclosed. Again, that signature is checked against the voter registration files.
Thus, no mail-in ballot is counted in Georgia without the signature being verified twice.
When the ballot is finally counted, the outer envelope is discarded to preserve the voter's privacy, which is why it's impossible to check the signatures again during a recount. The ballot and its envelope are no longer together.
4. Democrats 'minimised' votes in Republican areas
Mr Giuliani went after Democrat-leaning counties in Pennsylvania, such as the ones encompassing Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, for giving voters the chance to "cure" technical problems with their mail-in ballots.
For example, if a voter sent their ballot in the wrong type of envelope, officials would contact that voter to let them know. The voter in question could then show up and cast a provisional ballot to replace the rejected one.
The day before the election (also the day before officials could start canvassing mail-in ballots), Pennsylvania sent a directive to each county's election officials saying they should take steps to alert voters that their ballot had been rejected.
A number of counties, most of them Republican-leaning, chose not to.
"If you've made a mistake in that ballot and you lived in Philadelphia or in Pittsburgh, you were allowed to fix the mistake. But, if you lived in what would be considered more Trump parts of the state, you were given no such right," Mr Giuliani said.
"One of our plaintiffs, Mr Henry, cast a absentee ballot, and he failed to put it in the secure envelope inside. He just put it in open, naked. That ballot was cast aside because it was invalid, because that breaks the privacy of the vote.
"In Pittsburgh and in Philadelphia, if they noticed that there wasn't an inner envelope, they'd contact the voter and allow them to vote again. Or, if he didn't fill it out completely, or if he made a mistake and didn't sign his full name, he was allowed to cure it.
"There is no such provision under the law of Pennsylvania. The Democrat Secretary of State made that up in order to maximise the votes in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and to minimise the votes in the other parts of the state.
"Clearly illegal, clearly voter fraud, easily provable, hundreds of witnesses, maybe thousands."
This argument is currently the central element of a case before federal court in Pennsylvania, so we'll have a judge's opinion on it soon enough.
The core question is who should be blamed for some counties' decisions not to let voters cure their mail-in ballots.
Mr Giuliani's argument is that the Republican-leaning counties were simply following the law, and Democratic ones were contravening it.
The campaign has cited a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to back up its case, though the ruling in question does not forbid counties from alerting voters to problems with their ballots - it merely says there is no requirement that they do so.
"The Election Code contains no requirement that voters whose ballots are deemed inadequately verified be apprised of this fact. Thus, unlike in-person voters, mail-in or absentee voters are not provided any opportunity to cure perceived defects in a timely manner," the full quote from the court's judgment reads.
Pennsylvanian election officials argue the blame lies with the Republican counties. In court arguments earlier this week, Judge Matthew Brann seemed to agree, asking Mr Giuliani why he wasn't suing the Republican counties instead of the Democratic ones.
Anyway, we'll see how the case shakes out.
5. Democratic bosses 'instructed' people to vote illegally
On a related subject, Mr Giuliani also cast suspicion on thousands of Pennsylvania's provisional ballots.
"We have 17,000 provisional ballots cast in Pittsburgh," he said.
"You walk in and you say, 'I'm here to vote today.' 'Oh, Mr. Giuliani, you already voted.' 'I did? I don't remember voting.' 'Oh, yes. Yes. You cast an absentee ballot.' 'No, I didn't.' 'Yes, you did.' 'No, I didn't.' 'Yes, you did.'
"Why did it happen 15,000 times, that people in Pittsburgh walked in to vote and they had already voted, according to the Democrat election machine? Did they forget? That many people with bad memories in Pittsburgh?
"Or is the following correct, that, as witnesses will testify, they were instructed by the Democrat bosses, when they had a ballot in which there was no one registered, just assign it to somebody, just assign it to Rudy Giuliani.
"So, maybe Rudy Giuliani won't show up to vote. And, if he does show up to vote, we'll give him a provisional ballot. That is what we call circumstantial evidence of the fraud."
The high number of provisional ballots cast is directly linked to the previous point about the curing of mail-in ballots.
In places like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, election officials alerted voters whose mail-in ballots had been rejected due to technical errors, allowing them to show up on election day and cast a provisional ballot instead.
Due to the high rate of mail voting, caused by the pandemic, there were more than usual.
We have yet to hear from the unnamed witnesses Mr Giuliani mentioned. Again, if they ever testify in court, we'll be able to get a better read on their allegations.
In the meantime, this remains one of those areas in which the Trump campaign has persistently promised bombshell evidence without actually producing any.
6. Affidavits show the Democrats cheated in Michigan
Now we shift from Pennsylvania to Michigan, a state Mr Biden leads by 156,000 votes.
This time we're dealing with allegations that have already come before court. Several people signed affidavits alleging fraudulent activity had occurred in Detroit, which is the biggest source of Democratic votes in Michigan.
Mr Giuliani spoke at some length about one of the affidavits, from a woman named Jessy Jacob. At first he called her "an honest Democrat", though later he said he didn't know which party she supported.
"There was an honest Democrat who said they were cheating. And we'll show you her affidavit, because I know you keep reporting falsely that we have no evidence, that we have no specific acts of fraud," said Mr Giuliani.
"That's because the coverage of this has been almost as dishonest as the scheme itself. The American people are entitled to know this. You don't have a right to keep it from them. You don't have a right to lie about it. And you are.
"I mean, you don't report to them that a citizen of this country, a very fine woman who was willing to allow me to give you her name. I can't give you all these affidavits. Because, if I do, these people will be harassed. They'll be threatened. They may lose their job. They will lose their friends.
"But Jessy Jacob is an adult citizen and a resident of the state of Michigan. She's been an employee of the City of Detroit for decades. She was assigned to voting duties in September, and she was trained by the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan. She was basically trained to cheat.
"She said that, 'I was instructed by my supervisor to adjust the mailing date of these absentee ballot packages to be dated earlier than when they were actually sent in. The supervisor made that announcement for all workers to engage in that fraudulent practice.'
"That's not me saying that. That's this American citizens saying that under oath. I don't know. Maybe you could say she's lying, but you can't say there's no evidence. This is what we call evidence. This is direct evidence, not circumstantial."
As I mentioned, this has already been dealt with in court. Ms Jacob's affidavit was among those considered by Judge Timothy Kenny.
He ruled on it a week ago, concluding Ms Jacob and the other people put forward "did not have a full understanding" of the vote-counting process and their "interpretation" of events was "incorrect and not credible".
"Ms Jacob's information is generalised. It asserts behaviour with no date, location or frequency, or names of employees. In addition, she offers no indication of whether she took steps to address the alleged misconduct or to alert any supervisor about the alleged voter fraud," Judge Kenny wrote.
"Ms Jacob only came forward after the unofficial results of the voting indicated former vice president Biden was the winner in the state of Michigan."
He went on at greater length. You can read his full judgment here.
7. A mysterious truck delivered thousands of Biden ballots
Mr Giuliani moved on to another allegation, which he said "would have been on the front page of all your newspapers" if not for the "pathological hatred" the news media apparently has for the President.
This one was largely based on an affidavit from Melissa Carone, which has also been tested in court and dismissed as "simply not credible".
"At 4:30 in the morning, a truck pulled up to the Detroit centre where they were counting," Mr Giuliani said.
"A truck pulled up to the Detroit centre where they were counting ballots. The people thought it was food, so they all ran to the truck. Wasn't food. It was thousands and thousands of ballots. And the ballots were in garbage cans, they were in paper bags, they were in cardboard boxes, and they were taken into t`he centre.
"They were put on a number of tables. At that time, they thought all the Republican inspectors had left - all but two had.
"Here's what they jointly swear to, that every ballot that they could see, everything they could hear, these were ballots for Biden. When they saw a ballot, these were ballots only for Biden, meaning there was no down-ticket. Just Biden.
"Many of them didn't have anything on the outer envelope, because these ballots were produced very quickly, very swiftly and there are estimated to be a minimum of 50,000, maximum of 100,000.
"Many of them were triple-counted, which means they were put into the counting machine this way. Once, twice, three times."
Mr Giuliani's version of the affidavit in question is actually quite a bit more sensational than what Ms Carone herself said.
"I never saw any food coming out of the vans. Coincidentally, it was announced on the news that Michigan had found over 100,000 more ballots, not even two hours after the last van left," she testified.
So some vans showed up, Ms Carone never personally witnessed food being taken out of them, and later she learned Michigan had counted 100,000 more mail-in ballots on the news. That is the extent of her testimony regarding the truck.
She went on to say she witnessed "nothing but fraudulent actions take place" inside the vote counting centre.
"Ms Carone's description of the events does not square with any of the other affidavits. There are no other reports of lost data, or tabulating machines that jammed repeatedly every hour during the count," Judge Kenny said.
"Neither Republican nor Democratic challengers, nor city officials, substantiate her version of events. The allegations simply are not credible."
8. A case was withdrawn in Michigan because Trump won
A nice, quick one for you here.
Mr Giuliani claimed the Trump campaign had withdrawn one of its lawsuits in Michigan because it got what it wanted.
"That case was attempting to get the Wayne County Board of Supervisors to de-certify. Well they did. They de-certified," he said.
This is incorrect. The board initially split down the middle along party lines, with two Democratic officials voting to certify the county's results and two Republicans voting against it. A few hours later, the Republicans changed their minds and voted to certify the results.
The next day, after speaking to Mr Trump, the Republicans said they wanted to rescind their votes. That is no longer possible.
The truth here is that the campaign withdrew the case for the same reason it has withdrawn so many others across the country - it was going nowhere.
9. Tens of thousands of votes should be tossed in Wisconsin
Under Wisconsin's electoral laws, voters must request mail-in ballots (i.e. they're not sent to every registered voter, as they are in some other states).
The Trump campaign has been claiming, without any evidence, that tens of thousands of ballots arrived to be counted without voters requesting them beforehand.
"There are 60,000 ballots in Milwaukee County and 40,000 ballots in Madison that as far as we can tell - and this is why we are auditing, because we have very good information that numbers are going to come out here - that don't have applications," he said.
"Under the law of the state of Wisconsin, already decided, if there's no application for an absentee ballot, the absentee ballot is thrown away."
The campaign has shared none of this "very good information". Baffled county officials have asked it to come forward with any proof it might have.
Mr Giuliani also repeated his complaint about Republican observers not being given proper access to watch election workers.
"Republicans (were) shut out in the city of Milwaukee and also in Madison. Republicans almost uniformly shut out from the absentee process. Not allowed to inspect, not allowed to look at the ballots," he said.
Observers were not "shut out", and as was the case in Pennsylvania, they did not have any legal right to "inspect" individual ballots.
10. Venezuela, Cuba, China, George Soros and the Clintons are involved
Mr Giuliani eventually handed over to Ms Powell. And hooooo boy, did she have some things to say. I'm going to throw an extended quote at you and then we'll get stuck in.
"What we are really dealing with here, and uncovering more by the day, is the massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China in the interference with our elections here in the United States," Ms Powell said.
"The Dominion voting systems, the Smartmatic technology software and the software that goes in other computerised voting systems here as well - not just Dominion - were created in Venezuela at the direction of Hugo Chavez to make sure he never lost an election after one constitutional referendum came out the way he did not want it to come out.
"We have one very strong witness who has explained how it all works. His affidavit is attached to the pleadings of Lin Wood in the lawsuit he filed in Georgia. It is a stunning, detailed affidavit.
"He was with Hugo Chavez when he saw it operate to make sure the election came out his way. That was the express purpose for creating this software. He has seen it operate and as soon as he saw that multiple states shut down the voting on the night of the election, he knew the same thing was happening here, that that was what had gone on.
"Now, the software itself was created with so many variables and so many back doors that can be hooked up to the internet or a thumbdrive stuck in it or whatever, but one of its most characteristic features is its ability to flip votes.
"It can set and run an algorithm that probably ran all over the country to take a certain percentage of votes from President Trump and flip them to President Biden, which we might never have uncovered had the votes for President Trump not been so overwhelming in so many of these states that it broke the algorithm that had been plugged into the system, and that's what caused them to have to shut down in the states they shut down in.
"That's when they came in the backdoor with all the mail-in ballots, many of which they had actually fabricated. Some were on pristine paper with identically matching perfect circle dots for Mr Biden. Others were shoved in in batches, they're always put in in a certain number of batches, and people would rerun the same batch.
"Notably, the Dominion executives are nowhere to be found now. They are moving their offices overnight to different places. Their office in Toronto was shared with one of the Soros entities, one of the leaders of the Dominion Project overall is Lord Malloch-Brown, Mr. Soros' number two person in the UK, and part of his organisation.
"There are ties of the Dominion leadership to the Clinton Foundation and to other known politicians in this country."
OK, you get the idea.
Dominion Voting Systems is a Canadian company which sells the software some of America's counties use for their elections. It is not connected to the Clinton Foundation, nor to George Soros (a billionaire who donates to the Democrats and frequently features in right-wing conspiracy theories).
Mr Trump has repeatedly claimed Dominion's software cancelled votes cast for him and replaced them with votes for Mr Biden, specifically in Georgia and Michigan.
As I mentioned earlier, Georgia has done a full recount by hand. It found no evidence at all of such vote-flipping. Either this Dominion technology can magically flip paper ballots from Mr Trump to Mr Biden as well, or nothing untoward happened.
The President's own Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, has concluded there is "no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised".
Smartmatic is a company which builds electronic voting systems. It was founded in the United States, and is currently headquartered in England.
It did provide its technology to Venezuela for several years, but stopped operating there in 2018 after publicly accusing the government of committing election fraud. A few years earlier, in 2015, its systems were used as Venezuela's opposition party won a parliamentary majority.
Smartmatic says its technology was used in Los Angeles County, and nowhere else, for this year's election. California is not a swing state and is not subject to any litigation from the Trump campaign.
Dominion and Smartmatic say they are competitors, and have denied using each other's technology in any way. The only discernible connection between them is that, in the mid-2000s, Dominion bought assets from a third company three years after it had been sold by Smartmatic.
Ms Powell has posted screenshots from the affidavit she mentioned on social media, though the images do not include the person's name.
11. Smartmatic had 'control' of counting the vote
This next quote is from Mr Giuliani.
"You couldn't possibly believe that the company counting our vote, with control over our vote, is owned by two Venezuelans who were allies of Chavez, are present allies of Maduro, with a company whose Chairman is a close associate and business partner of George Soros - the biggest donor to the Democrat party, the biggest donor to Antifa, and the biggest donor of Black Lives Matter," he said.
"My goodness, what do we have to do to get you to give our people the truth?"
He was conflating the two technology companies there, but the fundamental point to make is that Smartmatic, which he claimed was in control of counting America's votes, was not used in a single one of the swing states Mr Trump is trying to contest.
As for the Soros stuff, Smartmatic's parent company is SGO, whose chairman is Mark Malloch-Brown. He's also on the board of Open Society Foundations, which is owned by George Soros and does donate to Black Lives Matter.
12. Critics don't understand the legal process
At one point, Ms Ellis hit out at the Trump campaign's critics in the media for suggesting it had not offered evidence to back up its claims.
"Your question is fundamentally flawed when you're asking, 'Where's the evidence?' You clearly don't understand the legal process," she said.
"What we have asked for in the court is to not have the certification of false results. And so to say, 'Hold on a minute, we have evidence that we will present to the court.' We haven't had the opportunity yet to present that to the court."
OK, here's how the legal system works. If you go to court and ask a judge to halt the certification of election results, potentially disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters, that judge is going to ask you why you're demanding such an extreme judicial intervention.
When you say, 'Because the votes were fraudulent,' he or she is going to ask for evidence that the votes were, indeed, fraudulent.
There is a reason Mr Trump and his supporters have swiftly lost dozens of their post-election lawsuits - they haven't offered that evidence.
Mr Giuliani, Ms Powell and Ms Ellis are asking Americans to believe they have the evidence, but have thus far held it back in court for some reason, even though it would presumably help them win cases (instead of getting their backsides handed to them by exasperated judges over and over again).
13. America's votes are counted in Germany and Spain
"You should be more astounded by the fact that our votes are counted in Germany and in Spain, by a company owned by affiliates of Chavez and Maduro," Mr Giuliani told the room of reporters.
America's votes are not counted in Germany or Spain.
While we're talking about Germany, Ms Powell was asked whether a mysterious and nefarious piece of hardware, "probably a server", had been picked up in Germany.
"That is true. It is somehow related to this, but I do not know whether good guys got it or bad guys got it," she responded.
That exchange was a reference to posts circulating on social media, which have been amplified by One America News and Newsmax, two right-wing networks known for spreading conspiracy theories.
The debunked theory claims the US Army raided a Spanish software company in Germany and seized its servers, which supposedly contained evidence of wrongdoing by Dominion.
The company in question, Scytl, does not have any offices in Germany, and the Army has explicitly denied the claim.
"Those allegations are false," a spokesman told The Associated Press.
14. Trump actually 'won in a landslide'
I'll leave you with this statement from Ms Powell, which brims with confidence.
"We are not going to back down. We are going to clean this mess up now. President Trump won by a landslide. We are going to prove it, and we are going to reclaim the United States of America for the people who vote for freedom," she said.
As things stand, Mr Biden has won six million more votes than Mr Trump, and has 306 electoral votes to 232. Quite the landslide for a sitting president.
Originally published as Do Trump's lawyers actually have a point?