The following is a transcript of an interview with CBS News election law expert David Becker that aired Sunday, November 8, 2020, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to take a closer look now at some of the legal questions the President’s team is raising, with CBS News Contributor and Election Law Expert David Becker. Good morning to you.
DAVID BECKER: Good morning, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You just heard the senator from Pennsylvania and his description of what’s going on in his state. What- what’s your reaction?
DAVID BECKER: Well, he’s right about a couple of things. He’s right that right now President- Vice President Biden- President-elect Biden leads by a margin outside of the recount margin. And actually that margin is likely to grow. It’s around forty one thousand right now and it’s likely to grow beyond President Trump’s victory margin of twenty sixteen of forty four thousand later today. So it’s very unlikely it’ll be an automatic recount in Pennsylvania. He’s also right that the election overall was very good for Republicans. They did very well nationwide. They held the Senate, they gained seats in the House. They did very well in state legislative races. And any baseless accusations that the election lacked integrity actually cast doubt on those results, as well as the president’s results. I think in Pennsylvania specifically, there are some claims regarding observers that are false. We know from Republican election officials in Philadelphia that observers for the Trump campaign and the Republican Party were present in the counting rooms at all times. They could see everything that was going on whenever ballots were out.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It was actually a live camera, streaming–
DAVID BECKER: Yeah, there’s a 24/7 live stream. There’s recordings of there’s- there’s extensive evidence of this. And as you noted, the ballots that arrived after Election Day have not been counted yet. They have not been reported. All of the ballots that we’re seeing right now, the vote counts in Pennsylvania. They all reflect ballots that were received on Election Day or earlier. So those ballots that were issued, those very small number of ballots, perhaps 8500 of them that have- that have been segregated pursuant to the Supreme Court’s order, they have not been counted or reported out yet. And in fact, if you’re behind, as President Trump is right now in Pennsylvania, it’s unusual that you’re not asking for those ballots to be counted because you might need more ballots to narrow the margin.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So can you help us make sense of what the Trump strategy may be here? Our reporter Nicole Sganga spoke to some members of the Trump team, and the strategy was described to her as planning to win the Georgia recount and point out irregularities in Wisconsin that still doesn’t get you to 270 electoral votes. What is the strategy?
DAVID BECKER: It’s very hard to determine a coherent strategy here because, for instance, in Arizona, you see them arguing to count more votes. In Pennsylvania, they’re saying stop the count. In Wisconsin the margin of victory for President-Elect Biden is about the same as Trump’s margin of victory in twenty sixteen, which- which a recount upheld. It’s very, very unusual. In fact, it’s- there’s no precedent in American history for a margin of thousands of votes to be overturned in a statewide race. Other guests have mentioned this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, am- am I hearing you say this is more of a PR strategy than a legal one?
DAVID BECKER: That’s what it appears to be. I mean, if you look at Florida 2000, you had two very competent teams of- legal teams. And in fact, three members of that team on the Republican side are now sitting on the Supreme Court. And they went down and collected facts for weeks and then litigated that out through the court system. What we’re seeing now is crazy allegations being thrown around on Twitter and elsewhere. And when it goes to court, they fall- they- they fall apart. There’s no- nothing there. They’ve been losing every case that has been brought post-election, the Trump campaign has. And so it does appear it might be more of a PR stunt than it is an actual cohesive legal theory.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So it- it- it- to be fair to those, because there are some big names involved in this. Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of the- the Judiciary Committee, says he has a sworn affidavit from a postal worker in Pennsylvania. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s attorney, also claims he has affidavits. Can people just lie and get away with it? Or are these affidavits actual evidence that needs to be considered at this point?
DAVID BECKER: This is why we don’t litigate cases outside of landscaping companies. This is why we actually go to court and require proof. And every time they’ve brought this proof to court, that proof has fallen apart and failed. So–
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re talking about a landscaping company because that’s where the Philadelphia press conference was held yesterday.
DAVID BECKER: Yeah, that’s right. So, I mean, it’s important you can say whatever you want on Twitter. You can say whatever you want when you’re being interviewed or at a press conference. But ultimately, you have to prove these allegations in court. And ultimately, each of these allegations has failed.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So the Trump campaign has filed suit in Nevada, Arizona. They have plans for other states, they say. Are any of these significant I mean, they’re also raising money, they say, for a recount in Wisconsin.
DAVID BECKER: So I think the recount strategy is likely to fail because the margins are just too great. We just don’t see any historical precedent for overturning margins that great. The margin is growing in Georgia. It’s over ten thousand now. The other litigation really doesn’t have a strategy, whether it’s Sharpie pens in Arizona or whether it’s observers in Pennsylvania or the late arriving ballots in Pennsylvania. We’re not seeing much there, there. And so I think it’s unlikely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: One thing I- i didn’t get to with the senator was this really troubling incident in Philadelphia, at the center where they were counting mail ballots. There were heavily armed men, arrested outside. You know, a lot of these election workers.
DAVID BECKER: Yeah.
MARAGRET BRENNAN: How concerned are they for their safety right now?
DAVID BECKER: They are very concerned. I talked to some of them yesterday. There are- these are people who have been away from their families for days. They haven’t seen the much. One of them, his son, just had a birthday and he had to miss that birthday, essentially because he was working the polls. They are getting no sleep. They’re getting death threats. Some of them include racist and anti-Semitic language. And then we hear about this threat on their lives. It’s shameful. I mean, these are public servants who are doing you know, they’re not always well-paid. They’re not really well paid at all. They don’t get a lot of recognition. Usually when we only know their names, when something goes wrong, they’re really heroes of democracy right now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And they’re working amid a pandemic. So thank you. And we thank all of them, all the election workers who helped our democracy function. We’ll be right back.
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