Trump campaign lawyer in Philadelphia withdraws from federal election suit

Linda Kerns speaks to reporters in this 2017 file photo taken of the lawyer as she represented the Philadelphia Republican Party,  which was then suing to invalidate the results of a special election in the 197th legislation district. (Katie Colaneri/WHYY)

Linda Kerns speaks to reporters in this 2017 file photo taken of the lawyer as she represented the Philadelphia Republican Party, which was then suing to invalidate the results of a special election in the 197th legislation district. (Katie Colaneri/WHYY)

Shortly before Donald Trump’s legal surrogates took the stage at a press conference to promote the president’s still unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, a Philadelphia lawyer who briefly helmed the campaign’s main election lawsuit in Pennsylvania withdrew from the case.

Linda Kerns, a local GOP election lawyer and longtime voter ID proponent, managed a string of legal challenges on behalf of the campaign, and worked on the federal suit seeking to overturn the state’s election results. That suit, filed in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, broadly seeks to invalidate Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the Keystone State on procedural grounds.

Kerns sought to withdraw as counsel shortly after Pittsburgh-based firm Porter Wright Morris & Arthur abandoned the case last week. Harrisburg attorney Marc Scaringi and Rudolf Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and Trump’s personal lawyer, replaced the firm.

Judge Matthew Brann initially denied Kerns’ request on the grounds that it was critical to have a plaintiff’s attorney that had been present since the suit’s initial filing. This week, Scaringi and Giuliani repeatedly amended the suit, “inadvertently” removing and then re-inserting language alleging –– without hard evidence –– pervasive voter fraud.

The attorneys also called for a “statistical sampling” of some 1.5 million mail ballots cast in Democratic-leaning counties in order to detect irregularities, and rebutted a separate decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that rejected Trump claims alleging that its observers had been obstructed by county election officials.

In a Thursday press conference in Washington D.C., Giuliani expanded those claims made in the amended suit, declaring without evidence that a substantial number of voters from New Jersey had voted in Philadelphia.

“It happens all the time. It’s about as common as people getting beaten up at a Philadelphia Eagles basketball, football game,” Giuliani said.

Not long after the duo made their mark on the case, Brann granted Kern’s request.

Kerns had notably also filed a motion earlier this week calling for sanctions after she received an “abusive” voicemail from a lawyer at the Washington D.C. office of a law firm that is representing Pa. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, but is not involved in this case. In the campaign’s amended complaint, it also states that “Kerns herself has been the subject of threats of harm, to the point at which the involvement of police and U.S. Marshals has been necessary to provide for her safety.”

A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department could not immediately provide more details. Kerns did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Trump campaign has indicated Kerns will stay on for other state-level court challenges.

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