On Friday evening, the Supreme Court handed President Donald Trump his latest defeat in his campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, which was won five weeks ago by President-elect Joe Biden. In an unsigned order, the Court rejected for lack of standing a Texas lawsuit attempting to reverse the election results in four swing states, all of which Biden won.
“Texas,” the Court wrote, “has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections. All other pending motions are dismissed as moot.”
Since Friday, Trump has been coping with this loss by sending more than a dozen tweets or retweets complaining about the ruling, and spreading disinformation.
“It is a legal disgrace, an embarrassment to the USA!!!” Trump tweeted in the early hours of Saturday morning, citing a lie from Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick claiming that no court has judged any legal challenge to the election “on its merit.” In reality, courts have found these challenges to be meritless.
“We’ve not gotten any court to judge this (the vote) on its merit.” @DanPatrick of Texas. It is a legal disgrace, an embarrassment to the USA!!!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2020
Later the same morning, the president falsely characterized the Friday decision as “a great and disgraceful miscarriage of justice. The people of the United States were cheated, and our Country disgraced. Never even given our day in Court!”
“Justices Alito and Thomas say they would have allowed Texas to proceed with its election lawsuit.” @seanhannity This is a great and disgraceful miscarriage of justice. The people of the United States were cheated, and our Country disgraced. Never even given our day in Court!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2020
Trump also amplified baseless voter fraud allegations, incorrectly claiming, “I WON THE ELECTION IN A LANDSLIDE, but remember, I only think in terms of legal votes, not all of the fake voters and fraud that miraculously floated in from everywhere!” Biden, of course, not only won the Electoral College vote by 74 votes, but won the popular vote by more than 7 million votes. And election officials — including those who have conducted several recounts — have found no evidence of any widespread fraud.
And the president attacked GOP governors in states won by Biden, calling them “RINOs” — shorthand for “Republicans in Name Only” — and telling supporters to vote Republican governors Brian Kemp of Georgia and Doug Ducey of Arizona out of office.
The Supreme Court made it clear it’s not going to illegally hand Trump another term
Needless to say, Trump’s Saturday Twitter rampage is more or less entirely disconnected from reality. First and foremost, the president has had his day in court. In fact, he’s had many days in court.
Specifically, Friday’s order marks the second Supreme Court defeat for Trump this week, and according to Democratic voting-rights lawyer Marc Elias, Trump and his Republican allies are now 1-57 in post-election lawsuits, including Friday’s Supreme Court order.
Additionally, a statement in Friday’s order by Justice Samuel Alito — joined by fellow conservative Justice Clarence Thomas — made it clear that Trump should give up hope that the Supreme Court might decide to overturn the election’s result.
Trump, who retweeted a message thanking Alito and Thomas on Saturday, doesn’t quite appear to have figured this out yet.
“The Supreme Court had ZERO interest in the merits of the greatest voter fraud ever perpetrated on the United States of America,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “All they were interested in is ‘standing’, which makes it very difficult for the President to present a case on the merits. 75,000,000 votes!”
But in the order, Alito goes out of his way to specify that though he believes the Court lacks discretion to deny standing to the Texas lawsuit, he “would not grant other relief” beyond allowing a motion to file the complaint.
That’s likely because, as has been pointed out at great length by Republicans and Democrats alike, the Texas lawsuit — described by Pennsylvania in a court filing as “legally indefensible and ... an affront to principles of constitutional democracy” — was flat-out ridiculous.
So ridiculous, in fact, that two nonexistent “states” — “New California” and “New Nevada” — filed an amicus brief supporting the Texas lawsuit.
As the Washington Post’s Philip Bump puts it: “Taking Paxton’s lawsuit literally, on the other hand, is nearly impossible, given how many dubious assertions it makes. ... Experts are generally of the opinion that Texas has no basis to sue, lacks the evidence necessary to sustain its claims, relies on faulty rhetoric and analysis and won’t have its lawsuit heard by the court. Otherwise, it’s swell.”
But while the lawsuit itself is nonsensical, its defeat is important, as it further erodes the possibility that the GOP will find a way to subvert democracy and install Trump to an unelected second term.
Republicans chose Trump over democracy
For all its scant legal merit, however, the Texas lawsuit found major traction within the Republican Party. More than 60 percent of the House Republican Conference — 126 lawmakers, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — signed onto an amicus brief in support of the Texas lawsuit, as did 17 state attorneys general.
The House Republicans just updated their SCOTUS brief to make clear that it's not actually 107 Republican House members who want the Supreme Court to overturn Trump's defeat by discarding millions of votes.— Brad Heath (@bradheath) December 11, 2020
(Almost 2/3 of the GOP caucus.) https://t.co/OJVaVEPK4k pic.twitter.com/Sdghb4VO76
Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives — one of the states targeted in the suit — also joined in.
This sparked considerable outrage, for obvious reasons. Even though the Texas lawsuit had little chance of succeeding it marked a staggering, unprecedented attempt by a major party to subvert democracy in service of a president who lost reelection by more than 7 million votes.
In remarks on the Senate floor Friday, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut described the effort as “the most serious attempt to overthrow our democracy in the history of our of country.”
“Those who are pushing to make Donald Trump President, no matter the outcome of the election, are engaged in a treachery against their nation,” Murphy said.
“Right now, the most serious attempt to overthrow our democracy in the history of our of country is underway.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) December 11, 2020
Those who are pushing to make Donald Trump President, no matter the outcome of the election, are engaged in a treachery against their nation.” pic.twitter.com/FE7K91nlSD
The political calculus for many Republicans, though, is clear: Better treachery than face a Trump-backed primary challenger in their next election.
Trump has long made a habit of tearing into Republicans he views as insufficiently loyal to him personally, and if anything, that habit has only escalated since losing reelection.
For example, Trump on Saturday targeted the Republican governors of two key states that he lost — and whose election results Texas sought to overturn.
“Who is a worse governor, @BrianKempGA of Georgia or @dougducey of Arizona???” Trump tweeted. “These are two RINO Republicans who fought against me and the Republican Party harder than any Democrat. They allowed states that I won easily to be stolen. Never forget, vote them out of office!”
And rather than be excommunicated by tweet, vast swaths of the Republican establishment chose to back a dangerous, undemocratic, but almost certainly doomed to fail lawsuit to overturn the will of the people rather than break with Trump.
It’s a grim statement about the status of American democracy, but it won’t save Trump’s flagging legal efforts, which for all practical purposes fizzled out long ago.
On Monday, the Electoral College will meet and formally elect Joe Biden president, 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232. In at least one state, Michigan, electors have been offered police protection on the way to cast their votes because of concerns about protesters.
After that, on January 6, Congress will meet to officially count the Electoral College votes, closing out the process. As Vox’s Andrew Prokop has explained, there’s a good chance that won’t go smoothly thanks to challenges by congressional Republicans, but “there’s no plausible way for a challenge to succeed.” Two weeks later, on January 20, Biden will be sworn into office.
Despite all this, Trump tweeted on Saturday that “WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT!!!”
But that too misses the reality of the situation. The election is over. He lost, and Biden will be the next president of the United States.