On Friday’s “Real Time,” Bill Maher’s top-of-the-show interview guest was Donald Trump’s senior campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis. And befitting a Trump spokesperson, Ellis came armed with wild and often wildly dishonest talking points about Trump’s refusal to accept that he lost the 2020 election that Maher lost patience with more than once.
Throughout the conversation, Ellis again and again advanced claims about both the election and recent events that were either demonstrably false, have been repeatedly debunked, or outright thrown out of various courts. This included the unbelievably out-of-nowhere lie that Hillary Clinton never conceded the 2016 election. No, really.
The conversation remained largely civil and polite of course, something Maher complimented more than once, despite being visibly exasperated as he continually pushed back with actual facts.
But it was still a headache-inducing spectacle, summed up aptly by panel discussion guest Max brooks after it ended. When Maher asked what his panel guests thought, Brooks joked “What a lovely interview with the Black Knight from Monty Python’s The Holy Grail. I mean, that literally was that scene. ‘Your arms off!’ ‘No it isn’t!’ ‘Yes it is!’” Here’s the scene he’s referring to by the way.
Because we think it should be experienced rather than described, we’ve posted the transcript from the entire thing below. We’ve added fact checks where necessary, and will update with video as soon as it’s available.
Bill Maher: I hope we can have an honest conversation without talking points and stuff. First of all, I do admire you for coming on. This is a tough argument you have to make. Would you acknowledge that?
Jenna Ellis: Well, I think that the argument we’re making, and I appreciate you having me on because what all Americans should be concerned about is that every legal vote should count fairly and accurately.
Ellis: And so this is about the future of our presidential elections, and you’re agreeing with that and I wish that Joe Biden, and I wish the Democrats–
Maher: I mean right away we used to talking point there. The, you know, ‘legal vote.’ No one is contesting the idea that we are not wanting to count legal votes that that’s really not what’s going on.
Ellis: Joe Biden. Joe Biden. His press conference last week, he said let’s count all votes. What he hasn’t acknowledged is that he wants to count all legal votes. What he’s wanting is the late ballots. He’s wanting all of these ballots from dead, from non-residents all of those. He has not come out and acknowledged–
Fact Check: Ellis is misrepresenting several things here. First, regarding how votes in Pennsylvania were collected, state law, which has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, allowed ballots to be received and counted up until Nov. 6, three days after the election, so long as they were mailed on or before election day, Nov. 3. As a precaution in case of legal challenges, Pennsylvania’s secretary of state ordered counties to segregate all ballots that came in after Nov. 3.
Second, what Ellis says about Biden personally isn’t true — he has not at any time advocated for so-called “ballots from the dead,” the idea that people cheated by using the names of dead people to vote for Biden. And third, that simply didn’t happen. In fact, not only have investigations into alleged voting on behalf of alleged dead people proved that those voters are actually very much alive, officials in states across the country have also repeatedly said there is no evidence of such fraud.
Back to Maher…
Maher: When I say, you know, ‘Welcome to the show, please give a hand to my guests,’ I don’t have to say, ‘Please give a hand to my guests who are sitting on the panel.’ We assume certain things — when someone says ‘votes’ we assume it means legal votes. But let me ask you. Today the president was out talking about the coronavirus and he said, ‘We’re not going to talk about that,’ but in the middle of it when he was talking about we’re not going to be going into a lockdown, he said hopefully, whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be. I guess time will tell. OK, you talk to him on a daily basis, you know his mindset. I have not heard this tone since election day. What he tweeted a few days before was ‘I won this election by a lot.’ This seems to be a different tone, or are you guys admitting that maybe you lost?
Ellis: I don’t think it was a different tone at all and I met with the president, actually, right before that press conference I was in the Oval Office and, again, he is wanting to make sure not just for his own election but for every future election that we know that we have free and fair elections in this country, and so I think that he is acknowledging…
Maher: But we do know that.
Ellis: We don’t know that. We have evidence and we have lawsuits that are currently going on. We have recounts, some recounts like in Georgia with the margin that is so close it’s actually mandatory.
Maher: Your lawsuits are being laughed out of court. I mean, I’m sorry. I don’t want to make this a contentious–
Fact Check: What Maher says here is true. In fact, on Friday a lawsuit filed by Republicans in Michigan on Trump’s behalf, attempting to advance the bogus claim that Republican observers weren’t allowed in ballot counting centers, was dismissed by a judge who said that the case “asserts behavior with no date, location, frequency, or names of employees.” And in a rebuke dripping with sarcasm, the judge added “perhaps if Plaintiffs’ election challenger affiants had attended October 29 2020 walk-through… questions and concerns could have been answered.”
Back to Maher…
Ellis: Not all of them.
Maher: I’m just trying to present what is the truth in what’s going on in the courts, and also in your own administration. The Department of, this came out today, the Department of Homeland Security — now this is going to sound, I mean you work in government, you know now very very-
Ellis: I actually don’t. I actually don’t. I want to clarify that. I don’t work for the White House. I work for the campaign and for the president directly, so all the people on Twitter who were saying, hey you work for me because I’m a taxpayer, maybe they need to read my Twitter profile a little more closely.
Ellis: That’s okay, thanks.
Maher: Department of Homeland Security, that is the government.
Maher: OK, they have a branch called the cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency. This what I’m trying to say, it’s getting very bureaucratic, but that’s what government is. And by the way that’s one reason why we love government, why we’re not a third world country quite yet, is because we have people in place who are people of good will from both parties who do a tough job, as this election was, and they did it brilliantly.
In the Department of Homeland Security, under the cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency, there is a group called Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council, they came out today and said there was no fraud, no evidence of fraud, the most secure election in history. And Chad Wolfe, who is a Trump appointee, a Trump super loyalist, he would not fire the head of the security agency when he said this. When you lose Chad Wolf isn’t it time to say ‘maybe we lost this one’? It’s not a shame to lose.
Ellis: Well, you know, if we had said that if we had said that bill when everyone was telling Sidney Powell to stand down on Michael Flynn and you know, the Russia collusion hoax, and also impeachment and everything else, Trump’s lawyers, myself included, we have prevailed on all of those things and we have shown through the evidence and through the fight that we are willing to stand up against the deep state and the swamp–
Maher: Where have you prevailed?
Ellis: Where have we prevailed? In Pennsylvania…
Maher: No. No, you haven’t.
Ellis: We have.
Maher: No you haven’t!
Ellis: In Pennsylvania, we have–
Maher: No you haven’t.
Ellis: –a court order, yes we have.
Maher: You have not prevailed on any — I’m sorry, but your lawyer in Arizona–
Ellis: We actually have, so, well, now you’re switching states. If we can go back to Pennsylvania, we have prevailed on two things. One is that we have the meaningful access part of this where we got a court order from a judge that said — because this is a long-standing tradition that both Republicans and Democrats need to be able to observe the ballots being counted. That was not going on in Pennsylvania or Michigan.
Fact Check: This is not true. Observers were absolutely present in both states. Back to Maher…
Maher: Of course it was.
Ellis: A judge in Pennsylvania said, absolutely, no it was not. We actually have, there are 682,000 ballots that were counted without meaningful access from Republicans or team Trump.
Maher: Not true. Not what they say in those states even by Republicans! You’re just saying–
Ellis: No that’s not true and we have that’s the it’s 682,000 ballots…
Maher: Just stop it.
Ellis: …that were counted without meaningful access, and so that’s–
Fact Check: Ellis was referring here to the widely debunked lie that Republican observers were blocked from doing their jobs in Philadelphia. This is absolutely not true. They were present at all voting locations and kept the same distance from the ballot counting as their Democratic counterparts, originally set at 20 feet as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19, until a judge ruled the distance should be 6 feet. In fact, the city even set up livestreams of its largest ballot counting operation so that everyone could see what was happening as transparently as possible.
Back to Maher…
Maher: Just stop!
Ellis: Do you know more than this judge in Pennsylvania? Have you recently joined the court that I’m not aware of? This judge–
Maher: I’m reading what the judge, let me read you what the judge in the Pennsylvania court said. You were talking about observers. By the way, this whole idea that you need observers — there are always observers in elections! So you think that either party would go in-
Ellis: By law.
Maher: Do you think either party hadn’t thought of this before the election? Oh wow, we should maybe have our team in there looking at ballots! Of course, both parties have their people in the room looking at ballots! So this idea that you need extra observers–
Ellis: No, we’re not talking about extra, Bill. You want the facts? We are not talking about extra observers. We’re talking about meaningful access. If you have two people in the room from a hundred feet away, and they’re not able to actually observe what’s going on and they’re actually seeing that there are ballots that are being manipulated, that are counted twice, that are being changed, that the signature matching some of the envelopes are being destroyed. These, we have over 11,000 credible reports that are coming in through our election hotline..
Fact Check: The Trump campaign’s election hotline received no credible claims of fraud and, hilariously, around the same time Ellis was making these claims on “Real Time,” the Trump campaign shut down that hotline because it was overwhelmingly dominated by prank calls and mockery.
Back to Maher…
Maher: Not credible.
Ellis: That are simply fraudulent, yes, they are. again. I would ask you, yeah, and so they are credible and that is what our lawsuits are trying to do–
Maher: Again, I’m just gonna read this one more time but this is from your own homeland security cybersecurity infrastructure agency: ‘There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.’ I will tell you what the judge in Philadelphia said. He was asking, he said, ‘Are your observers in the counting room,’ which is what you care about. Your campaign said there are excuse me, let me just finish and you can answer.
Ellis: And he said ‘a non-zero number.’
Maher: Excuse me, let me just finish, and then you can answer. Your campaign guy said ‘there’s a non-zero number of people in the room.’ I’m not making that up. A non-zero number. That’s got to be a new one for Washington. Meaning there are people in the room. And then Judge Diamond said, ‘I am asking you as a member of the bar, are people representing the plaintiffs in the room?’ Trump campaign: ‘Yes.’ Judge Diamond: ‘I’m sorry, then what’s your problem?’
Fact Check: This is absolutely true. Back to Maher…
Ellis: And I will answer, Bill. Our problem, I will tell you again, yeah, a non-zero number means that we could have one or two people in there, but you know what they did in Pennsylvania? They took the court order and they said, we will move up the election observers by six feet and then they moved back the ballot counters by six feet. If you have two people in the room from a hundred feet away that’s why the term meaningful access–
Maher: Yeah I don’t know where you’re getting a hundred away. They’re reading the ballots.
Ellis: No they’re not, and that’s exactly why we are contesting this. We got the court order and we won in Pennsylvania.
Maher: But what you and your boss are contending is not what your lawyers are even fighting in court! Here is the Trump campaign lawyer in Arizona. Kory Langhofer…
Ellis: Again, now you’re switching states.
Maher: …said, ‘This is not a fraud case. We are not alleging fraud. We are not saying anyone is trying to steal the election.’
Ellis: Let me let me explain that. So of course that’s one of your talking points and I understand that. What’s going on in Arizona is that you had this ‘don’t touch the green button’ where if there was a problem with the machine that was being used, the election officials were telling the voter to touch the green button, which effectively cancelled out their vote. That is not fraud. That is a different problem in Arizona than we’re alleging in Pennsylvania or Michigan or Georgia, so when you say we’re not alleging fraud, and you’re using that as a talking point, you’re mischaracterizing what the attorney in Arizona said and you’re applying it to all of our lawsuits.
Fact Check: Trump actually has baselessly claimed that there was voter fraud in Arizona, claims that have been publicly rejected by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican.
Maher: It wasn’t a talking point. It was a quote from your lawyer.
Ellis: It’s a talking point when you’re using it in a way that is manipulating your audience. Do you want your audience to know the fact and the truth? You invited me on to explain what team Trump is doing, and I’m telling you you’re mischaracterizing that statement to apply it to other lawsuits outside of Arizona in a way that does not apply in the context of what our lawyer said in Arizona.
Maher: OK, agree to disagree.
Ellis: But again, we are alleging fraud in the other states. Arizona is very specific to the green button.
Maher: Let’s move on. I see we’re not going to come to a meeting at the minds here. Let’s move on to a more philosophical discussion of this, because the president himself has said leading up to the election repeatedly over and over again, ‘the only way I lose is if it’s rigged.’ Is that your view also? Because it seems like if you have that view in your head then you could not just accept that you might have lost. Can you accept that you might have lost?
Ellis: Of course we can accept that we might have lost. And the point of this though, Bill, let me clarify, is that we want every legal vote to count. There’s always a winner and always a loser in every election in the United States of America. What we want to make sure of–
Maher: And until this one the loser always left!
Ellis: That’s not true. Hillary Clinton still has not conceded the 2016 election.
Fact Check: Ok, this is just absolutely baffling. It’s such a blatant falsehood we almost can’t believe we have to say anything at all. But, to be absolutely clear, Hillary Clinton conceded the 2016 election just before noon on Nov. 9, 2016 in an address that was aired live on most major networks.
Again, to be clear, Hillary Clinton conceded the morning after election day, on live television.
“Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans. This is not the outcome that we wanted or worked so hard for, and I’m sorry that we did not win this election,” Clinton said in part.
Again, we are absolutely baffled as to why Ellis would tell such a blatant, easily disprovable lie.
Back to Maher…
Ellis: And let me remind you that Al Gore in 2000 had more time to contest this and have a recount in simply one state that had one very narrow issue, and it took 37 days for that to be resolved–
Maher: Because it was 500 votes in a giant state! That Bush’s brother ran!
Ellis: The issue here the issue here is that we have 682,000 votes in Pennsylvania alone that we have not been able to see how we’re counted. We have reports of election fraud and irregularities across multiple states. There are seven states that — don’t you care about free and fair elections–
Fact Check: Again, this is false. See fact checks earlier in this post. Back to Maher…
Maher: Do you care that since 2000 voter fraud has been studied by many, many organizations, including conservative ones like the Heritage Foundation, and they found out voter fraud, in-person voter fraud is not a thing. It’s just not a thing. It doesn’t happen on any kind of level that has ever affected any vote, and it hasn’t on this one! Aren’t you a little bit ashamed of how you’re denigrating– [Crowd starts to applaud, and Maher holds up his hand to them to quiet them so he can speak] Wait a second! — how you’re denigrating people who work so hard in the most difficult election in memory? They work so hard to make this come out right–
Ellis: That’s an unfair question. If they were working really hard for this then they would want to make sure that their states are certifying an accurate count.
Maher: They are! Including Republicans!
Ellis: You can’t say that! You can’t say that for sure, Bill. Don’t you want to know that this election and the result is an accurate count? How much fraud is okay with you?
Maher: Why do you think so many people on the right, including people like Rupert Murdoch, Karl Rove, Erdogan, the strongman of Turkey, the Pope, China now congratulated Biden. Why have so many people come over to this idea that, ‘OK, America had a free and fair election. We’re congratulating the new guy. That’s the way it works. You win some, you lose some. Why?
Ellis: Well, China is definitely congratulating Joe Biden because they know they can control him. Beijing Biden is something that actually really needs to be looked into.
Maher: Well I walked right into that one. Alright.
Fact Check: The New York Times has reported that Donald Trump has secret bank accounts in China and has also maintained business ties with the country throughout his presidency.
Back to Maher…
Ellis: Yeah you really did, yeah. So china congratulating Biden is not a really good thing, but we have always had contested elections through the legal channels, through the recount, and just because we have the Pope or somebody on media who is congratulating Joe Biden, no states have yet certified their results and that’s all that we’re asking is to make sure that the results that are certified are the legitimate count. And I think that that is absolutely fair and every American should agree to that just like Al Gore as a Democrat candidate did in 2000.
Maher: All right. I will ask one last question and I’il let you go. Again, I commend you for coming here, and you got to smile on your face like all you happy lawyers do. I got to admire that.
Ellis: I am a happy lawyer. It’s a great day to defend the Constitution.
Maher: [sarcastically] Oh, that’s what it’s about, yeah. For the final question let’s take a little truth serum. My guess is if I gave you truth serum, you’d say ‘yeah, I know Donald Trump lost this one but I’m with a group of people who just believe that the ideas the Democrats have are so dangerous for America.’ I think this is what you believe, that we just can’t let them take over. And so whatever we have to do. Now Trump tweeted out, retweeted Jon Voight’s tweet the other day which said, ‘This is now our greatest fight since the Civil War. The battle of righteousness versus Satan,’ which I guess makes Biden Satan.
And then he continued. ‘Yes, Satan, because these leftists are evil.’ I know you’re an evangelical. Do you believe Biden is Satan? Do you believe leftists are evil? Do you believe that it’s okay to do anything to prevent them from taking over?
Ellis: Anything? No. I am an evangelical, I’m an outspoken Christian, and I believe that we have a country that has a rule of law rather than rulers, and that’s what we’re defending.
I campaigned very aggressively and very hard for President Trump because I believe that the American people should have reelected him for four more years, but that was the campaign. On November 3rd the people cast their ballot, and what I’m fighting for now is to make sure to protect the American system which requires that every legal vote be counted fairly and accurately.
I believe in our system the separation of powers and that the judicial branch at the end of the day needs to intervene to make sure that whoever is declared the winner is the legitimate fair winner. Just like in baseball, the umpire has to call balls and strikes fairly. I am aggressively fighting for election integrity.
Maher: Well, Trump got the right girl for the job.