President Trump’s attorneys withdrew from a case in Pennsylvania on the eve of oral arguments to challenge more than 600,000 votes in Pennsylvania and keep alive his hopes of reversing a projected win of presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden.
His new counsel from Scaringi Law petitioned a federal court judge Monday evening to ask for a postponement of oral arguments, which were scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
The move was designed to put former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani at the front of the legal fight.
“The president announced Saturday that he has asked Mayor Rudy Giuliani to lead the national legal team, along with local counsel. Our substitution of local counsel is consistent with routine managing of complex litigation,” said Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis.
Mr. Trump’s attorneys and campaign team have argued that Pennsylvania election officials caused a constitutional crisis with the disparate treatment of Republican and Democratic voters.
Keeping Mr. Biden out of the White House come Jan. 20 is an uphill legal battle, but any shot at succeeding depends on a court victory for Mr. Trump in Pennsylvania, where he trails in the unofficial results by about 69,140 votes.
The crux of the Trump team’s case is that election workers in heavily Democratic counties notified voters whose mail-in ballots had errors, allowing time for the ballots to be corrected or “cured” before Election Day. In heavily Republican counties, voters whose mail-in ballots had problems were denied opportunities to cure them.
At issue is more than 600,000 ballots from Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia County. The campaign claims the ballots were counted unlawfully. Those included some mail-in ballots that were opened before Election Day, in violation of state law.
“We are still arguing that 682,479 ballots were counted illegally, in secret,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said. “Our poll watchers were denied meaningful access to watch the vote counting, and we still incorporate that claim in our complaint.”
Attorneys for the Democratic Party say the number of ballots contested is lower than the roughly 70,000-vote margin that separates Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden.
“The numbers aren’t even close to the margin between the two candidates, not even close,” Cliff Levine, a lawyer representing the Democratic National Committee, told The Associated Press.
Mr. Trump’s attorneys filed court papers Sunday to head off an attempt by Pennsylvania officials to have the case dismissed. The amended complaint argued that unlawful ballots were counted and the state used different processes to tally votes in various counties.
The complaint says unlawful actions violate the Constitution’s framework for elections and the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law.
“This Court should hear it and grant … a remedy that vindicates their right to have their vote ‘correctly counted,’” the complaint said.
Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar denied wrongdoing. She argued in court papers that the president’s legal team presented “repeatedly rejected legal theories” with “no evidence.”
She has asked the court to dismiss the president’s case.
Last week, a judge in Arizona dismissed a Trump campaign case disputing ballots in Maricopa County.
The Arizona Republican Party still has an active lawsuit seeking a hand audit of the ballots. Unlike other legal battles launched by the Trump campaign, the litigation is not in federal court.
Mr. Trump’s attorneys also have a federal lawsuit pending in Michigan before Judge Janet T. Neff, who was appointed by President George W. Bush.
Similar to the Pennsylvania challenge, the Michigan case presents equal protection claims. Trump attorneys say mail-in ballots were not able to be reviewed for errors, and they are asking the court to postpone the certification of the results until the president can present the evidence of fraud his legal team has gathered.
The president’s attorneys also asked the court for an opportunity to inspect software in Michigan after Dominion Voting Systems ballot scanners switched 6,000 votes from Mr. Trump to Mr. Biden in Antrim County, though the mix-up was caught and corrected. The company denies any malfunction, and state officials attributed the problem to human error.
At this juncture, the most likely path to victory for Mr. Trump would be through Pennsylvania.
Matt Morgan, general counsel for Trump 2020, said the goal is to keep Pennsylvania from certifying election results before the campaign can prove that officials counted illegal votes. He said the target is to reach an automatic recount in the state, which would be triggered if the candidates were 0.5 percentage points apart in the vote tally. The current margin is 1 percentage point.
If Mr. Trump succeeds in nullifying Mr. Biden’s projected win in Pennsylvania, he would then have to do the same in Arizona or Nevada and win the still too-close-to-call race in Georgia in order to clinch a second term.
Georgia officials started a hand recount of the results Friday. Republican observers will be able to object to ballots that they consider erroneous. The president trails Mr. Biden by 0.3 percentage points in Georgia’s unofficial results as tabulated by AP.
The president is not part of a federal case in Nevada, where a voter and Republican candidates are claiming fraud and irregularities in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.
The lawsuit claims thousands of nonresidents voted in the state illegally.
Mr. Trump trails by about 33,596 votes in Nevada.