HOUSTON — The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a lawsuit backed by President Donald Trump to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory, ending a desperate attempt to get legal issues rejected by state and federal judges before the nation’s highest court.
The court’s order was its second this week rebuffing Republican requests that it get involved in the 2020 election outcome and overturn the will of voters as expressed in an election regarded by both Republican and Democratic officials as free and fair. The justices turned away an appeal from Pennsylvania Republicans on Tuesday.
The Electoral College meets Monday to formally elect Biden as the next president.
Trump had called the lawsuit filed by Texas against Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin “the big one” that would end with the Supreme Court undoing Biden’s substantial Electoral College majority and allowing Trump to serve another four years in the White House.
In a brief order, the court said Texas does not have the legal right to sue those states because it “has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections.”
Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, who have said previously the court does not have the authority to turn away lawsuits between states, said they would have heard Texas' complaint. But they would not have done as Texas wanted pending resolution of the lawsuit, and set aside those four states' 62 electoral votes for Biden.
Three Trump appointees sit on the high court. In his push to get the most recent of his nominees, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed quickly, Trump said she would be needed for any post-election lawsuits. Barrett appears to have participated in both cases this week. None of the Trump appointees noted a dissent in either case.
Eighteen other states won by Trump in last month’s election, 126 GOP members of Congress and Trump himself joined Texas in calling on the justices to take up the case that sought to stop electors from casting their votes for Biden.
The four states sued by Texas had urged the court to reject the case as meritless. They were backed by another 22 states and the District of Columbia.
Republican support for the lawsuit and its call to throw out millions of votes in four battleground states based on baseless claims of fraud was an extraordinary display of the party’s willingness to subvert the will of voters. The House members backing the suit included House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
“This lawsuit is an act of flailing GOP desperation, which violates the principles enshrined in our American Democracy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a message to Democrats on Friday.
A few Republicans have expressed concerns about the case. Many others have remained silent even as Trump endlessly repeated claims that he lost a chance at a second term due to widespread fraud.
“Texas is a big state, but I don’t know exactly why it has a right to tell four other states how to run their elections. So I’m having a hard time figuring out the basis for that lawsuit,” Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander told NBC’s Chuck Todd in an interview for “Meet The Press” that will air Sunday.
To be clear, there has been no evidence of widespread fraud.
The Texas complaint repeated false, disproven and unsubstantiated accusations about the voting in four states that went for Trump’s Democratic challenger. The high court had never before been asked for such a dramatic remedy.
Two days after Paxton filed his suit, Trump jumped into the high court case. Hours later, the president held a meeting at the White House, scheduled before the suit was filed, with a dozen Republican attorneys general, including Paxton and several others who backed the effort.
“If the Supreme Court shows great Wisdom and Courage, the American People will win perhaps the most important case in history, and our Electoral Process will be respected again!” he tweeted Friday afternoon. Trump had spent the week relentlessly tweeting about the Texas case with the hashtag “overturn” and claiming, falsely, that he had won the election but was robbed.
Still, some of the top state Republican prosecutors who urged the court to get involved acknowledged that the effort was a long shot and sought to distance themselves from Trump’s baseless allegations of fraud. North Dakota’s Wayne Stenehjem, among the attorneys general supporting the case, said North Dakota is not alleging voter fraud in the four states at issue.
“We’re careful on that,” said Stenehjem, who noted that his office has received thousands of calls and emails from constituents asking the state to support the suit. “But it’s worth it for the Supreme Court to weigh in and settle it once and for all,” he said.
The case has inflamed already high tensions over the election. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said his office staff received two death threats Thursday after he signed onto the brief supporting the case.
The lawsuit has also divided officials in some states.
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox supported Texas’ case, even though he said the suit was “belated” and its chances “are slim at best.” Fox said the case raised “important constitutional questions about the separation of powers and the integrity of mail-in ballots in those defendant states.”
But Gov. Steve Bullock, D-Mont., urged the court to reject the case. He said the fact that Texas is not suing Montana, which Trump won, even though the state similarly used mail-in ballots underscores that “this action is less about election integrity than it is about attempting to overturn the will of the electorate.”
The litigation rankled Democratic attorneys general. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, co-chair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association, called the attempt to overturn votes “unconscionable.” Support among other leading lawyers was disturbing, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, who’s also co-chair of the Democratic attorneys general group, told The Associated Press.
“I do think that these individuals are kowtowing to a president who has implemented some level of control and authority over the duly elected attorneys general in their states in a way that is unfortunate,” he said.
Many of the attorneys general supporting the case have shown greater political ambitions.
In Kansas, Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is considering a bid for governor in 2022, announced that he would back the effort only hours after former Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer — another potential candidate for governor — tweeted that Schmidt’s office should.
Despite the political pressure, Idaho’s Republican attorney general chose not to join Texas.
“As is sometimes the case, the legally correct decision may not be the politically convenient decision,” Lawrence Wasden said in a statement. “But my responsibility is to the state of Idaho and the rule of law.”
Merchant reported from Houston and Richer reported from Boston. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers David Pitt in Des Moines, Iowa; John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas; Amy Beth Hanson in Helena, Montana; James MacPherson in Bismarck, North Dakota, Keith Ridler in Boise, Idaho; Michelle Price in Las Vegas and Sophia Eppolito and Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City.