Another shake-up on Trump campaign legal team

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The game of musical chairs among lawyers pursuing President Donald Trump’s court challenges to the election results continued on Monday evening, as the entire team handling the campaign’s federal lawsuit seeking to block certification of Pennsylvania’s results was apparently replaced.

A court filing said Marc Scaringi, a Harrisburg, Pa., attorney, conservative talk radio host and former Senate candidate, was taking over the case. The move came just hours before a potentially make-or-break court hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon on motions by Pennsylvania state and county officials to dismiss the lawsuit.

The latest tumult in the Trump campaign’s legal lineup came after a rapid-fire series of similar switches in recent days. Just four days ago, an Ohio-based law firm handling the suit — Porter, Wright Morris & Arthur — begged off the case under pressure from Trump opponents who regard his lawsuits as frivolous and divisive.

A campaign spokesman said last week that those lawyers “buckled” under the liberal onslaught and would be replaced with “rock-solid attorneys.”

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann approved the addition of two Texas lawyers to represent the campaign — John Scott and Douglas Hughes. But Scott and Hughes lasted only a few days, as they are among the trio of lawyers who asked to bow out of the case on Monday. The third attorney exiting, Linda Kerns, is a Philadelphia-based solo practitioner.

The court filing making the formal request to swap out the legal team offered only a terse phrase to explain the move, saying that the Trump campaign, two individual voters who joined in the suit and the departing lawyers had “reached a mutual agreement that Plaintiffs will be best served” by the shift.

A lawyer and spokeswoman for the campaign, Jenna Ellis, sought to paint the last-minute transition as routine.

“The President announced Saturday that he has asked Mayor Rudy Giuliani to lead the national legal team, along with local counsel,” Ellis said in a statement, referring to Trump’s personal lawyer. “Our substitution of local counsel is consistent with routine managing of complex litigation.”

Asked how the ouster of two Texas-based attorneys could be described as part of a “substitution of local counsel,” Ellis told POLITICO she was referring to the teams handling litigation for the campaign in each state.

The move also came less than a day after the suit drew headlines over the filing of a revised complaint that withdrew legal claims relating to the alleged exclusion of Republican election observers from ballot counting rooms in Pennsylvania’s Democratic strongholds. The revision left as the central claim in the federal case the fact that some counties tried to notify voters who botched their mail-in ballots about the foul-ups so they could correct them, while other counties did not.

It is unclear whether the streamlining of the suit led to the ouster of the legal team, but Giuliani stressed on Sunday night that the complaint still mentioned the exclusion of the observers. He did not explain why the legal claims about them were dropped, although one case related to that issue is pending at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and challenges to other parts of the election process are pending in other state courts.

Scaringi ran for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2012, finishing fifth out of five candidates. Tom Smith, a former Democrat and local official, won the Republican nod but was defeated by incumbent Sen. Bob Casey Jr., 54 percent to 45 percent.

Scaringi served as a campaign aide to then-Rep. Rick Santorum when he first won election to the Senate in 1994. Scaringi was elected as delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2016 on the Trump slate, and won the same position this year, although without the endorsement of the campaign.

In a Facebook post early this year, the lawyer pledged his fealty to Trump.

“When asked then, as now, I will vote for Donald J. Trump on the first ballot, the second ballot and on every ballot until he is nominated President of the United States,” Scaringi wrote.

In addition to Scaringi, another attorney at his small Harrisburg firm, Brian Caffey, entered an appearance in the case on Monday.

The requested departure of the existing legal team is subject to court approval, but the judge, Brann, put up no resistance to the exit of the Porter Wright firm last week.

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