HARRISBURG, Pa. — A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Saturday threw out a lawsuit filed by President Donald Trump’s campaign, dismissing its challenges to the battleground state’s poll-watching law and its efforts to limit how mail-in ballots can be collected and which of them can be counted.
Elements of the ruling by U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan could be appealed by Trump’s campaign, with barely three weeks to go until Election Day in a state hotly contested by Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Trump’s campaign wanted the court to free county election officials to disqualify mail-in ballots where the voter’s signature may not match their signature on file and to remove a county residency requirement in state law on certified poll watchers.
It also wanted the court to bar counties from using drop boxes or mobile sites to collect mail-in ballots that are not “staffed, secured, and employed consistently within and across all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties.”
The lawsuit was opposed by the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, and the state Democratic Party.
The decision comes as Trump claims he can only lose the state if Democrats cheat and, as he did in 2016′s campaign, suggests that the Democratic bastion of Philadelphia needs to be watched closely for election fraud.
As the nation grapples with tensions over cases of police brutality, a small Miami company says its found a successful niche selling pro-law-enforcement “challenge coins” and pins online.
The company, LEO Challenge Coins, hawks collector-type coins that depict police badges and emblems from agencies from around the country, plus body armor, rifles, American flags, President Donald Trump in heroic poses and even Baby Yoda wearing a coronavirus mask.
But one coin depicting a Virginia trooper — who earned online notoriety for cursing and preening to the camera during a video-recorded traffic stop — is drawing heat, including from the state itself. Virginia’s Secretary of the Commonwealth this week issued a cease-and-desist order to the Miami company, threatening fines and even jail time because the coin displays the state seal.
“As keeper of the Seals, I request that you cease such usage and remove any representation of the seal of the commonwealth of Virginia,” Secretary Kelly Thomasson wrote in a letter, which threatened a fine of up to $100 or up to 30 days in jail.
The company’s owner, Louis Gregory, a music producer and former high-ranking South Florida U.S. Department of Homeland Security official, says he has no intention of stopping sales.
“This is hand painted pop art,” Gregory, 43, wrote back in an email to the secretary. “This coin is a parody and by no means conveyed in any other means.”
In an interview, Gregory said he now plans to donate all the proceeds from sales of the coin to a charity benefiting children of slain officers.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic and they have nothing better to do?” said Gregory, who retired last year as the director of planning and programming at Miami’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
There has been intense scrutiny on law-enforcement tactics — and the portrayal of police officers in media, TV and movies — since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May. Unprecedented protests against police brutality and racism took place across the country, leading to some civil unrest, clashes with pro-police groups in the streets and political furor fueled by President Trump.
The coin depicts Virginia State Trooper Charles Hewitt, who went viral after video surfaced him of cursing and playing to the camera while pulling a Black motorist from his car during a traffic stop in 2019.
The video showed Hewitt, who is white, ordering motorist Derrick Thompson to get out of the car, smiling to the camera and saying “watch the show,folks.” This month, a Virginia prosecutor said while Hewitt “could have used a more appropriate demeanor,” the trooper did not break the law in arresting the man.
The challenge coin features phrases from the video — including “How do you like that motherf***er?” and “I’m a f***ing specimen right here buddy” — as well as a stylized image of Hewitt pointing at the driver.
The creation of the coin flabbergasted Thompson’s attorney, who called it “outrageous” and said it celebrates a
The Trump administration’s transition team, which has also begun preparing for a potential transfer of power should they lose in November, did not respond to multiple inquiries from POLITICO on how they are navigating the remote work environment.
Forming a new government is hard enough in the best of circumstances. During a global pandemic, when it’s potentially lethal for staffers to huddle in government offices to vet candidates and plot out an agenda for the first 100 days of the new administration, it would present an unprecedented challenge for Biden should he win in November.
Transition team veterans say the amount of planning that gets done before Inauguration Day can determine how much a president accomplishes across his or her entire term, and especially during the first 100 days in office. The already tight window of roughly 70 days between the election and inauguration could also be cut shorter this year if the results are not final for days — or even weeks — after polls close on Nov. 3, as some analysts anticipate.
The remote setup has already upended one defining characteristic of past transitions, in which eager would-be appointees angle for a position by tracking down transition officials around town or hanging out in coffee shops near the transition offices.
One aide for a previous transition team said he would often run into people downtown who were interested in getting involved.
“If I went to a Hill meeting or a social gathering on Capitol Hill, I would see a lot of people there, and they’d say, ‘Hey, you’re working on the transition — what’s it like? Can we grab coffee? Here’s my résumé. A friend of mine is looking to work in Commerce or in Treasury.’ Something like that,” the aide said. “You’d see that a lot.”
That sort of inside-the-Beltway networking is now a lot harder to come by.
Biden transition team members, meanwhile, are already facing the same challenges as much of the country in the pandemic era — juggling work and family while schools are closed, trying to build team camaraderie online, and dealing with the fatigue that comes from back-to-back video calls.
Some of the starkest logistical challenges, however, will come after the election, should Biden win, when transition teams typically balloon in size. Members of the team will have to go in person to secure rooms in government buildings to review sensitive national security information — a situation where it’s difficult to maintain social distance, and one that can’t be replicated remotely.
“You’re not doing classified briefings on Zoom,” said John Podesta, who helped lead transition efforts for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Speaking at an event Friday hosted by the Center for Presidential Transition at the Partnership for Public Service, Podesta added, “That gives a whole other layer and dimension of difficulty to operate in a classified environment when homes haven’t been built for that.”
In the past, hundreds of transition officials have also begun visiting federal agencies and meeting with