Trump’s legal team lights a fuse beneath its remaining credibility

But even as they were doing so, the legal team was repeatedly doing its best to torpedo what was left of its credibility. In the course of doing so, it offered a series of bizarre conspiracy theories — including that the election was undone by a communist plot — and logical inconsistencies, all of which validated the extremely skeptical coverage of their claims.

Early in the news conference, for example, Giuliani sought to account for the Trump campaign pulling its big lawsuit in Michigan. It was because it had achieved its goal, he assured — not because its claims were falling apart.

Giuliani described it as “a case that we dismissed today because that case was attempting to get the Wayne County Board of Supervisors to decertify [its election results]. Well, they did; they decertified.”

In fact, Wayne has not decertified its results. Two Republican canvassers initially voted not to certify on Tuesday night, but then voted to do so, making the vote unanimous. The next day, after speaking to President Trump, they moved to rescind those votes, but as The Post has reported, that has no legal bearing since the certification has already been sent to the state.

Some of the wildest claims came after Giuliani was finished with his opening remarks, when Trump lawyer Sidney Powell stepped forward to offer an exponentially more conspiratorial argument: that this was actually some kind of communist plot.

“What we are really dealing with here and uncovering more by the day is the massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba and likely China in the interference with our elections here in the United States,” Powell claimed.

At one point, she even linked the alleged plot to former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. She said the software used was meant initially to rig elections in Chavez’s favor. Then she suggested United States intelligence and law enforcement agencies might have turned a blind eye because of their involvement in using such software.

“Why our government has not taken them seriously is beyond my comprehension, unless they have — some of the three-letter agencies — have used them themselves in other parts of the world,” Powell said.

But as The Post’s Glenn Kessler has fact-checked, the connection to Venezuela — much less Chavez — is tenuous, at best. Smartmatic notes its technology was founded and incorporated in the United States in 2000 and is now based in London.

Giuliani later assured viewers that nobody on the stage was a conspiracy theorist. But what Powell was describing can’t be described as anything but. She was detailing a whopper of one that allegedly reached to the highest levels of the U.S. government.

It’s worth noting that Chavez died in 2013. It’s even more worth noting that Trump himself this week declared the election to be “virtually impenetrable by foreign powers.”

That is virtually impossible to square with what his legal team now alleges.

Another common theme of the news conference was the idea that the media should be more interested in these allegations, in the name of assuring the election’s integrity. Ellis repeatedly returned to this idea.

Let’s set aside for the moment the fact that giving voice to baseless claims can undermine democracy — in other words, that this isn’t some harmless exercise even if it remains as unproven as it is right now — and focus on what the Trump campaign is actually arguing. In the news conference, Giuliani raised the prospect that many legal votes could be thrown out. He approvingly alluded to the idea that votes in Wayne County would be excluded altogether.

“So you see it changes the result of the election in Michigan, if you take out Wayne County,” Giuliani said, “so it’s a very significant case.”

Guiliani’s comments echo what Trump tweeted the night that the GOP canvassers in Wayne County momentarily declined to certify the results, when he suggested he should be considered to be in the lead in Michigan because Wayne County didn’t count.

What’s more, the Trump campaign has sought to throw out nearly 700,000 votes in Pennsylvania because of a supposed lack of scrutiny — a universe that undoubtedly includes a vast majority of valid votes. It’s the same in Las Vegas-based Clark County, where the Trump campaign is asking to throw out 130,000 votes — nearly 10 percent of all votes in Nevada — because of supposedly faulty signature-matching technology. Altogether, Trump and its allies have sought to exclude 1 out of every 7 votes in the states in which it has filed large-scale lawsuits.

There can be no question the Trump campaign is seeking to throw out many valid votes alongside potentially fraudulent ones, making its claim that this is truly only about fraudulent votes ring hollow.

Lastly, Ellis tweeted shortly after the news conference that Giuliani and Powell had “RELEASED THE KRAKEN!” — borrowing Powell’s repeated intonations about what evidence the legal team had.

Repeatedly in the news conference, Ellis had also said that this was merely an “opening statement” — rather than an unleashing of massive evidence. Giuliani said that the campaign couldn’t disclose all of its evidence because of concern about those who signed affidavits allegedly being targeted.

“This is an opening statement,” Ellis said. “This is something where we have told you what the evidence will show, and we have given you a brief description. That happens in a courtroom all the time, where that’s not the fact-finding process; that is just an overview.”

It undoubtedly takes time to build a legal case, but we’re now 16 days into the post-election period. Judges have repeatedly and overwhelmingly shut down the Trump campaign’s legal arguments. Localities and states are certifying their results, making it significantly more difficult to challenge the winner of those states. To say this is now the “KRAKEN” while not offering much in the way of actual detail (and botching many of the details you do provide) doesn’t really suggest a strong hand.

Giuliani bristled, calling it “completely unfair to say we’re dragging it out.” Yet this was an outlet which has repeatedly promoted Trump’s most baseless claims. When even it is skeptical, you’re in a bad place.

And it was all very diplomatically enunciated by former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove, who appeared on Fox News after the news conference. Rove, who has said the election is effectively over because of the margins of Trump’s defeat, made it clear he was very skeptical of the claims — particularly Powell’s conspiracy theory — and their substantiation.

“They’ve got an obligation to go to court and prove these, or the American people will have every reason to question their credibility,” Rove said, adding: “Mayor Giuliani may be right that people who signed those affidavits don’t want their names exposed. But by God, you cannot make an accusation like that without following it through by going to court and trying to prove it. If it’s left out there, it will be both unfair to the president if it’s true and unfair to the American people if it’s false.”

That credibility is indeed very questionable this point.

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