President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election stretched into a more desperate phase on Wednesday as he phoned into a conspiratorial public hearing on voter fraud headlined by Rudy Giuliani and Republicans in Gettysburg, Pa.
The remarks from the president came virtually, as Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis — seated beside Giuliani in a Wyndham hotel ballroom — raised her phone to the microphone at their witness table, allowing Trump to participate in the hearing from the Oval Office.
The president was greeted by cheers from the constituents assembled for the meeting, organized by Pennsylvania Senate Republicans and featuring testimony from conservative poll watchers and other members of the public.
Giuliani, the leader of the Trump campaign’s legal fight, appeared to have arranged the list of witnesses, who mostly leveled anecdotal allegations about inadequate access to watching the vote-counting on Election Day.
Trump, who was reported earlier Wednesday to have wanted to attend the hearing in person, said via speakerphone that he had been following along with the proceedings on the right-wing One America News Network.
“I really appreciate being asked to speak,” Trump said, going on to falsely state that he had “easily” won a second term, that the White House race was “rigged,” and that the election’s outcome “has to be turned around.”
Although Trump’s campaign has produced no evidence of widespread voter fraud and has lost numerous legal challenges to reverse the election results in key swing states, the president nevertheless heaped praise on his personal attorney on Wednesday.
“I want to thank Rudy Giuliani for having the courage to do this. There were other lawyers who backed down because they were being screamed at,” Trump said, adding that the former New York mayor’s work on his behalf “is going to be your crowning achievement.”
After Trump left the line, the crowd again broke out into applause and cheers of the president’s name — prompting one of the presiding Republican lawmakers to make a particularly bold prediction.
“I think what you’ve just heard,” he said, “guarantees that 100 years from now, that this is the most important public hearing ever held by this Senate committee.”
Earlier Wednesday morning, a Pennsylvania state court judge issued an order halting further certification of election results statewide.
It did not immediately appear likely that the directive from Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough would affect the certification on Tuesday of Biden as the winner of the presidential race in Pennsylvania. However, McCullough’s order put on hold the certification of any winners in other elections there.
The judge said she was barring “any further action to perfect the certification” in the presidential and vice presidential contest, but it was not clear whether any further steps were required beyond those Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and Gov. Tom Wolf announced on Tuesday.
McCullough’s order was a precursor to an evidentiary hearing set for Friday on claims by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Republican congressional candidate Sean Parnell and other GOP voters that the mail-in voting process authorized by the Pennsylvania legislature last year violates the state constitution.
A spokesperson for Wolf did not immediately respond to a request for comment on McCullough’s order or to questions about whether all the steps Wolf must take to appoint electors for Biden are complete. However, Attorney General Josh Shapiro filed a quick appeal of the judge’s ruling.
“This order does not impact yesterday’s appointment of electors,” Shapiro said in a statement.
At around the same time as the Gettysburg hearing on voter fraud, President-elect Joe Biden delivered a markedly different speech from Wilmington, Del., drawing an unsubtle contrast with Trump’s refusal to concede.
“In the middle of a pandemic, more people voted this year than have ever voted in the history of America. That is simply extraordinary,” Biden said.
“In America, we have full and fair and free elections, and then we honor the results,” he continued. “The people of this nation and the laws of the land won’t stand for anything else.”
Josh Gerstein and Nick Niedzwiadek contributed to this report.