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COLUMN-Who are the Biden and Trump lawyers slugging it out?: Greene

Jenna Greene
·4 min read

(The opinions expressed here are those of Jenna Greene, a columnist for Reuters.)

By Jenna Greene

NOVATO, CALIFORNIA, Nov. 6 (Reuters) - When it comes to celebrity supporters, Joe Biden dominates the A List. Think Taylor Swift.

Among lawyer nerds, the same thing could be said about Biden's stand-out legal team, with former White House counsel Bob Bauer, former deputy White House counsel Dana Remus and election law giant Marc Elias at the helm.

Also on board are former solicitors general Walter Dellinger III and Donald Verrilli Jr., plus former Attorney General Eric Holder.

The Trump campaign, by contrast, has tapped less prominent lawyers in filing election-related challenges, although we can't overlook William Consovoy and Jay Sekulow, who've risen to prominence during his presidency. Also on board is Mark “Thor” Hearne II, former President George W. Bush’s national legal election counsel.

But overall, the bigger legal names are in the Biden camp.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that any attorneys aren’t up to the task at hand - or for that matter, that having lawyers who are household names is any guarantee of success.

David Boies, arguably the most famous lawyer in America, couldn’t save presidential candidate Al Gore in the court battle with George W. Bush in the 2000 election. And Elias was general counsel to Hillary Clinton, for all the good it did her when she lost the presidential election to Trump in 2016.

FILING FRENZY

For Trump’s team, while its lawyers might not be famous, they are certainly busy.

In Georgia, for example, the Trump campaign and the Georgia Republican Party on Nov. 4 sued to stop the counting of absentee ballots in Chatham County.

The suit was filed by lawyers from Robbins Ross Alloy Belinfante Littlefield as well as Taylor English Duma in Georgia. Neither is among the largest or best-known firms nationally.

However, former deputy White House counsel Stefan Passantino, now a partner at 242-lawyer Michael Best & Friedrich, adds additional muscle to the complaint.

On Thursday, Chatham County Superior Court Judge James Bass Jr. threw out the lawsuit, finding “no evidence” that local election officials failed to comply with the law.

Passantino and Vincent Russo of Robbins Ross did not respond to requests for comment.

MICHIGAN LITIGATION

In Michigan, Hearne, of four-lawyer True North Law, sued in Michigan to stop vote counting and demand greater access to the tabulation process.

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens tossed the suit on Thursday.

Hearne in an interview said the campaign would make a decision whether to appeal once they see the judge’s written decision.

In the event of a recount, he said, the key issue - to ensure “transparency and oversight and observation for the various stakeholders” - will be crucial.

I couldn't agree more.

In Nevada, the campaign on Thursday said it planned to file a federal suit to stop vote counting, citing what it called voting irregularities. An earlier suit was filed in state court by lawyers from the small firms of Marquis Aurbach Coffing, the O’Mara Law Firm and Harvey & Binnall, seeking greater access for election observers.

Keeping track of the Trump campaign litigation is general counsel Matt Morgan, a former deputy assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff to the vice president.

Included in that litigation are multiple lawsuits pending in Pennsylvania, led by perhaps the Trump campaign's biggest guns, Consovoy, of Consovoy McCarthy, and Sekulow. They've asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in a fight over counting absentee ballots that they say are "untimely and unlawful."

BIDEN RESPONSE

Biden lawyers are pushing back. Bauer told reporters on Thursday that the legal challenges were a “meritless” distraction and “part of a broader misinformation campaign that involves some political theater.”

As for Elias, who did not respond to a request for comment, post-election litigation is familiar ground.

The Perkins Coie partner previously served as lead counsel for former Democratic Senator Al Franken in the 2008 U.S. Senate election recount in Minnesota; for Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring in a 2013 recount fight and for former Senator Harry Reid in connection with his 1998 recount.

Elias came under fire in 2016 for hiring Fusion GPS on behalf of the Clinton campaign to conduct research on Trump’s ties to Russia. Fusion then hired former British spy Christopher Steele to dig up dirt.

As the Biden campaign’s litigation point person, Elias has kept up a steady stream of Tweets sharing case updates in real time. “Trump is losing in court, because his claims have no merit,” Elias tweeted on Thursday.

The Trump campaign, meanwhile, is fundraising on its website for its legal election defense fund. “We need your help to ensure we have the resources to protect the results and keep fighting even after Election Day.” (Reporting by Jenna Greene. Editing by Leigh Jones)