Supreme Court Punctures Trump Dream of Overturning Election Loss
U.S. President Donald Trump wears a protective mask while paying respects to late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg outside the Supreme Court. (Photographer: Alex Brandon/AP Photo/Bloomberg)

Supreme Court Punctures Trump Dream of Overturning Election Loss

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The U.S. Supreme Court sounded the legal death-knell for President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the election results, rejecting a Texas lawsuit he had christened as “the big one” and clearing the path for Joe Biden to become the 46th president.

In an effectively unanimous order late Friday, the justices barred Texas from filing suit directly at the high court to challenge Biden’s wins in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. The order ensures those states can cast their votes for Biden in the Electoral College on Monday.

“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections,” the court said.

No justice publicly dissented from that conclusion or said he or she would block the states from casting their votes. Trump’s three Supreme Court appointees -- Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett -- gave no suggestion they disagreed with the unsigned order.

The decision dashes Trump’s oft-expressed dream of vindication at the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority thanks to his appointments. Barrett’s nomination was rushed through the Senate confirmation process, with Trump saying her vote would be needed to resolve any election disputes.

Earlier Friday, the president called on the nation’s top court to show “great Wisdom and Courage.” But in a late-night tweet after the decision he wrote, “The Supreme Court really let us down. No Wisdom, No Courage!” He followed with another Tweet calling the lack of legal relief an “embarassment to the USA.”

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito said they would have let Texas file the suit, pointing out that they’ve long maintained the Supreme Court has no choice but to let one state sue another. They indicated they wouldn’t have blocked the electors from voting, though, saying they “would not grant other relief.”

‘The Big One’

Michael Gwin, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said in a statement that the court “decisively and speedily rejected the latest of Donald Trump and his allies’ attacks on the democratic process.”

Appearing on Fox News Friday night, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tried to cast the court’s rejection of the lawsuit as a procedural move.

“There’s no way to say it other than they dodged,” McEnany said. “They hid behind procedure, and they refused to use their authority to enforce the Constitution.”

The first sentence of the court’s order explicitly mentioned Article III of the Constitution and alluded to the limits it places on the federal judiciary’s power.

Trump has spent months trying to shake the nation’s faith in the integrity of its voting systems, repeatedly forecasting before Nov. 3 that the election would be rigged because of the expanded use of mail-in ballots, and then saying afterward it had been, without ever producing evidence in court to back up those claims.

Dozens of lower courts rejected cases pressed by Trump and his allies. Members of the Trump administration, including Attorney General William Barr, have said they haven’t found any instances of widespread fraud.

Texas, with Trump’s support, sought an extraordinary last-minute intervention by the high court. Texas claimed its rights were violated because the four states unconstitutionally expanded mail voting, opening up their elections to fraud and irregularities.

Bush v. Gore

The court’s apparent unanimity created a contrast with the 2000 Bush v. Gore ruling, a 5-4 decision that sealed Republican George W. Bush’s election and stopped recounts that might have swung the pivotal state of Florida to Al Gore, the Democratic nominee.

More than half of the Republicans in the U.S. House and GOP attorneys general from 17 states backed Texas at the Supreme Court. But Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, praised the decision.

“Every American who cares about the rule of law should take comfort that the Supreme Court -- including all three of President Trump’s picks -- closed the book on the nonsense,” Sasse said in an emailed statement.

The Supreme Court had already suggested it had little patience for efforts to overturn Biden’s victory. In a one-sentence rebuff on Tuesday, the court rejected a request from Trump’s allies to nullify Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania. A group led by a Republican congressman argued that the state’s legislature exceeded its power by allowing universal mail-in voting for the first time.

Original Jurisdiction

Texas tried to invoke the court’s so-called original jurisdiction, which lets states sue one another directly at the Supreme Court as if it were a trial court.

“It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court decided not to take this case and determine the constitutionality of these four states’ failure to follow federal and state election law,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in an emailed statement.

The four states being sued said the court hears those types of claims only when they implicate core sovereign interests.

The four states said Texas lacked standing to sue in any court because it hasn’t suffered the type of concrete injury that would let it press a case. They also said Texas waited so long to sue -- 34 days after the election -- that its claims became legally moot.

“The U.S. Supreme Court saw through this seditious abuse of the judicial process, and its swift denial should make anyone contemplating further attacks on our election think twice,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in an emailed statement.

Although other election challenges remain in the legal pipeline, Texas’s suit was the only one that attempted -- in an unprecedented way -- to nullify Biden victories in enough states to potentially flip the outcome. Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College advantage means Trump would have to somehow reverse the results in at least three contested states to retain the presidency.

But Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in an interview on Newsmax that since the case wasn’t rejected on its merits, the president can refile the lawsuit in federal court where he would have standing.

“We’re not finished, believe me,” Giuliani said with a chuckle.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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