Rudolph W. Giuliani led President Trump’s legal team into battle in federal court Tuesday with a call for more than 600,000 Pennsylvania ballots to be tossed out, even as President Trump fired the top federal election watchdog who has repeatedly challenged his charges of electoral fraud.
The court battle being waged by Mr. Giuliani is meant to put the state back in play to the fight to overturn Democrat Joseph R. Biden’s apparent victory in the presidential election.
Mr. Giuliani said the ballots were sullied as part of massive, widespread voter fraud across in heavily populated Democratic-run cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Detroit that blocked Republican poll observers from viewing the vote count as required under state laws.
“That is the one time you can assure the validity of the ballot,” Mr. Giuliani told Judge Matthew Brann, an appointee of President Obama. “That is why so much emphasis is put on the inspection process.”
Mr. Trump himself announced by Twitter on Tuesday evening the widely anticipated firing of Christopher C. Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, after the Homeland Security agency repeatedly asserted that it had found no evidence of major voting irregularities or foreign interference in the U.S. election.
Mr. Trump’s tweet called CISA’s comments on the security of the vote “highly inaccurate,” citing against what the president said were reports of dead people voting, poll watchers being blocked, and voting machine “glitches.”
“Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated” as CISA director, Mr. Trump said.
As with many of the president’s tweets regarding the election, Twitter officials attached a label to his notice on Mr. Krebs saying the “claim about election fraud is disputed.”
The Trump legal team is up against state officials who filed a motion to dismiss the case and clear the way to certify election results that would all but guarantee Mr. Biden wins the White House.
Two weeks after the election, Mr. Trump has refused to concede or permit a presidential transition to move forward, insisting the vote and the counting were rigged against his campaign.
In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign charges that more than 680,000 votes were not reviewed and thus should be tossed. Mr. Trump currently trails Mr. Biden for the state’s 20 electoral votes by 73,832 votes or roughly 1.1%.
“These votes are way more than enough to overturn the results of the election, We have 10 times more votes than we need,” said Mr. Giuliani, the former New York mayor who now is Mr. Trump’s personal attorney and the face of his legal challenge to the election results.
Daniel Donovan, who represented the defendants, said the Trump campaign had not provided proof of an injury sufficient enough to get them into federal court on claims of widespread voter fraud.
“It’s just speculation. It should be dismissed today,” said Mr. Donovan.
After more than four hours of oral arguments, Judge Brann wrapped up by telling the parties he wouldn’t immediately issue a ruling.
“I’ve got to mull it over,” he said.
In Nevada, another battleground where the results are contested, some of Mr. Trump’s supporters filed a lawsuit in Carson City alleging irregularities and fraud. The complaint mirrored objections raised in several states to the ballot-scanning machines used to tabulate the votes.
Mr. Trump’s legal team in Pennsylvania also alleged that the state violated the Constitution by denying voters in Republican-leaning counties a chance to “cure” their absentee ballots if there was an error, while in several Democratic counties, officials allowed voters to fix any errors before Election Day.
The move was against state election law, the president’s lawyers claim, and also violated the voters’ constitutional rights.
“They are being discriminated against based on their location,” Mr. Giuliani told the judge. “That is a classic violation” of the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause.
To bolster the case, he introduced photographs into evidence showing Republican poll observers being kept between more than 15 feet away from reviewing mail-in ballots in Philadelphia and Allegheny counties.
Mr. Donovan told the court that voters who did not have the opportunity to amend their mail-in ballots should sue the counties where they live — not state officials or other Democratic counties, as in the Trump legal action.
The lawsuit named as defendants Pennsylvania’s Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar, Philadelphia and other counties.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dealt a blow to the Trump campaign in a separate case, ruling 5-2 that Philadelphia did not violate the law when it made poll observers stand a far distance from vote counting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At this juncture, the most likely path to victory for Mr. Trump would be through negating Pennsylvania’s tally. If Mr. Trump were to succeed in undoing Mr. Biden’s projected win in Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump would still have to do the same in Arizona, Nevada or Georgia.
Mr. Biden’s projected Electoral College winning margin, with all the states called by news organizations, stands at 306 to 232.
The claims of equal protection violations made in federal court in Pennsylvania are similar to a federal case pending in Michigan, where Mr. Trump trailed Mr. Biden by about 148,000 votes in unofficial results.
The Trump campaign says mail-in ballots were not able to be reviewed for errors in the Detroit area, and they are asking the court to postpone the certifying of the results until he can present the evidence of fraud his legal team has gathered.
The president’s lawyers 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 before the official count was released.
The company denies any malfunction and state officials claim the mix-up was caused by human error.
In Georgia, a hand recount of the results is underway and results are expected Friday. Republican observers can object to ballots that they claim are erroneous. During the review, two counties discovered more than 3,000 ballots that had not been tabulated. The president trails Mr. Biden by 13,977 votes.
⦁ Ryan Lovelace contributed to this report.