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Meet the Jewish Trump lawyer who grew up attending socialist summer camp

In the 1970s, Ron Coleman was growing up ina solidly Democratic household and attending a Jewish-socialist summer camp in upstate New York.

These days, he is part of President Donald Trump campaign’s legal team in Pennsylvania looking to overturn the election results. Coleman has also been in the news for representing the far-right Proud Boys group and Hasidic communities in New York opposed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 restrictions.

While there is no evidence of any widespread problems with the vote count in Pennsylvania or any other state, Coleman, 57, is confident that Trump was reelected.

“He’s going to be shown as having won the election,” Coleman said during a phone call as he traveled home to New Jersey for Shabbat.

Born in Brooklyn, Coleman attended a secular Yiddish school until he was nine, when his family moved to New Jersey. He spent his summers growing up at Camp Hemshekh, which was founded by immigrants who were active in the Eastern European Jewish Labor Bund..

“The Bundist summer camp was rather apolitical actually,” Coleman said. “It didn’t inculcate any particular political values other than this sort of symbolic trade unionism … that class solidarity thing that makes for good Jewish Democrats.”

Coleman’s grandfather was a Bundist who read The Forverts, the Yiddish democratic-socialist precursor to the Forward, but Coleman said politics was seldom discussed at home. When it came up, loyalty toward the Democratic Party was paramount.

“I remember my father in 1980 saying he thought Ronald Reagan had a lot to offer but he couldn’t imagine, as a Jew, voting for the Republican Party,” Coleman said.

Being Jewish didn’t stop Coleman himself, though. He gravitated to conservative politics at Princeton as an undergraduate. While attending law school at Northwestern University, he joined the right-wing Federalist Society. All the while, he grew more observant in his Jewish practice and eventually became Orthodox.

“As I became more observant it seemed that my political and ethical outlook were more consistent with conservative values and it re-enforced my existing current conservative values,” Coleman said.

Coleman was one of the Trump campaign supporters denied entry to the Philadelphia convention center where votes were being tallied last week, and he also fielded hotline calls and helped prepare legal documents for the campaign.

Coleman did not specify how the election results could change enough to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s victory but said that the courts or a “recount process” could play a role.

He said that Republican voters in battleground states had suffered the equivalent of racist voter suppression and offered as an analogy a scenario in which white people who blocked Black voters in their driveways on Election Day or otherwise prevented them from coming to the polls.

“Nobody would say, ‘That’s a terrible thing and we need to make sure that doesn’t happen again but the vote is the vote and what can you do — easy come, easy go,’” Coleman said. “We would know a terrible injustice had been done and some kind of remedy was needed.”

The Trump campaign’s legal arguments, however, have focused not on allegations that Republican voters were intimidated but rather on barring the counting of ballots that arrived after Election Day. They have also charged that more Republican observers should have been allowed to watch ballot counting.

Legal experts have said that even if the Trump campaign succeeded in these legal challenges, many of which have already been dismissed by judges, it would not change the outcome of the election.

Coleman said he and his legal partner Harmeet Dhillon are taking a step back from legal work for the campaign and pivoting toward helping make Trump’s case to the public.

“Our contribution has probably shifted more into messaging,” Coleman said.

One place Coleman is helping spread the campaign’s message is on Twitter, where he is a prolific user, accusing Democrats of voter fraud and responding to legal inquiries.

“No sorry,” Coleman replied to a woman who asked if she could start a class action lawsuit against the Arizona secretary of state for demeaning the character of Trump supporters.

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