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Trump's legal fight targets Black Americans

President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE's efforts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election through legal action have become increasingly focused on throwing out votes in cities in key electoral battlegrounds, a development that would impact significant Black populations.

The efforts have prompted a strong pushback, particularly in Michigan, a center of this week’s fight.

“You could see the racism in the behavior last night,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan (D) said Wednesday morning after two GOP Trump allies on the Board of Canvassers for Wayne County — home to Detroit, the country’s largest predominantly Black city — had initially refused to certify the county’s election results, claiming widespread voting fraud in Motor City.

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Trump lauded the move, tweeting, “Wow! Michigan just refused to certify the election results! Having courage is a beautiful thing. The USA stands proud!”

The deadlock was ultimately short-lived, with the GOP members of the board agreeing to certify the results later Tuesday night. Another twist emerged Wednesday with the GOP board members putting out affidavits in an attempt to rescind their certification of votes.

After the release of the affidavits, the Trump campaign withdrew its lawsuit against Wayne County Thursday morning, saying that the goal of holding up the certification was achieved, though Michigan election officials have said that the certification can’t be reneged.

The remaining active lawsuits the Trump campaign has in Michigan involve either Wayne County or Detroit.

But the Trump campaign has also launched attacks on Philadelphia, another city with a large Black population. Trump personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiHow Trump's election lawsuits became his worst nightmare Michigan voter fraud hearing goes viral for alleged flatulence, unruly witness Trump hits Barr over voter fraud remarks: 'He hasn't looked' MORE at a Thursday press conference casually suggested that there was routine cheating in the city by people who traveled from Camden, N.J., to vote in Pennsylvania. As with other allegations, Giuliani offered zero hard evidence for the charge.

To critics, the message was dog-whistle racism.

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“Really the themes that we see, that persist, are this: Black people are corrupt, Black people are incompetent and Black people can’t be trusted,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said last week after the Trump campaign filed its lawsuit against Wayne County.

“That's a very dangerous and wrong narrative to put forth for this country,” Lisa Cylar Barrett, policy director for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, told The Hill.

It’s also not entirely clear that some huge, disproportional turnout by Black voters in Philadelphia or Detroit doomed Trump.

Detroit and Philadelphia are the most populous cities in Michigan and Pennsylvania, respectively. Nearly 80 percent of Detroit’s population is Black, while over 40 percent of Philadelphia’s is Black.

According to an initial analysis done by the Voter Participation Center (VPC), approximately 1 million more Black Americans across the country cast ballots in 2020 than in 2016, an increase of 1 percent in terms of Black voter turnout rate. Per the VPC, not only did more Black, Indigenous, people of color vote, but they also made up a larger percentage of total votes cast this election cycle. As a result, voters of color pushed Biden’s margin of victory by 1.8 percent, Black voters accounting for 0.5 percent of that.

“The margins that they voted for Biden over Trump make very clear that African American voters specifically, and people of color more broadly, had … a significant impact on this election,” Tom Lopach, CEO of the VPC, told The Hill.

However, election results signal that the increase of Black voter turnout didn’t come from either city.

In fact, the president did better in both Detroit and Philadelphia this election cycle than in 2016, aligning with exit polls that show Trump’s support among Black voters grew.

In Detroit, Biden received nearly 1,000 votes fewer than Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary and Chelsea Clinton to host series based on their book 'Gutsy Women' Democrats see spike in turnout among Asian American, Pacific Islander voters Biden officially announces ex-Obama official Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE received in 2016, while Trump increased his vote total in the Motor City by almost 5,000. A similar story played out in Philadelphia. 

Biden did receive more votes than Clinton — the city had its highest voter turnout since 1984 — but his share of the city’s vote actually fell by a point. Trump’s vote total was more than in 2016 and his share of the vote increased.

China Dickerson, Forward Majority’s national political director, told The Hill that while the intent of Trump’s lawsuits might not be to disenfranchise Black voters by invalidating their votes, their impact would be to do so.

“No one is surprised by these lawsuits, which is why I think a lot of the people aren’t taking them seriously,” Dickerson said. “Trump is the master of distraction, the master of storyline. He has one here, so he is capitalizing on it.”

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has already rejected the campaign’s argument that poll observers in Philadelphia weren’t allowed to stand close enough to the ballot counting and has fast-tracked appeals of five complaints filed by the campaign that challenges batches of votes from the city that were turned away by a lower court in the state.

Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser for the Trump campaign, told The Hill the goal of the lawsuits “has and will always be to protect the vote not only of Black Americans, but of every legal voter by defending the integrity of our election results and ensuring that no American is robbed of their fundamental right to cast their ballot in a free and fair election.”

However, Cylar Barrett used the term “surgical precision” when talking about the lawsuits, referencing language that was used by a North Carolina court in 2016 to describe a state voting ID law it struck down that was explicitly targeted towards Black Americans.

“I see this in the same vein, in terms of where the lawsuits are being filed in the cities and counties that are being targeted, that it's targeted at Black people,” Cylar Barrett said.

Updated at 6:48 p.m.