HOUSTON (AP) — The Texas lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate President-elect Joe Biden’s victory has quickly become a conservative litmus test, as 126 members of Congress and multiple state attorneys general signed onto the case even as some have predicted it will fail.
The last-gasp bid to subvert the results of the Nov. 3 election is demonstrating President Donald Trump’s enduring political power even as his term is set to end. While many of the signatories are far-right conservatives who come from deep red districts, the filing means that more than half of House Republicans, including their top two leaders, Reps. Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, believe the Supreme Court should set aside the will of the people.
Seventeen Republican attorneys general are backing the unprecedented case that Trump is calling “the big one” despite the fact that the president and his allies have lost dozens of times in courts across the country and have no evidence of widespread fraud. And in a filing Thursday, the Congressional Republicans claimed “unconstitutional irregularities” have “cast doubt” on the 2020 outcome and “the integrity of the American system of elections.”
To be clear, there has been no evidence of widespread fraud and Trump has been seeking to subvert the will of the voters. Election law experts think the lawsuit will never last.
“The Supreme Court is not going to overturn the election in the Texas case, as the President has told them to do,” tweeted Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. “But we are in bad shape as a country that 17 states could support this shameful, anti-American filing” by Texas and its attorney general, Ken Paxton, he said.
The lawsuit filed against Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin repeats false, disproven, and unsubstantiated accusations about the voting in four states that went for Trump’s Democratic challenger. The case demands that the high court invalidate the states’ 62 total Electoral College votes. That’s an unprecedented remedy in American history: setting aside the votes of tens of millions of people, under the baseless claim the Republican incumbent lost a chance at a second term due to widespread fraud.
Two days after Paxton sued, 17 states filed a motion supporting the lawsuit, and on Thursday six of those states asked to join the case themselves. Trump has acted to join the case, tweeting Thursday that “the Supreme Court has a chance to save our Country from the greatest Election abuse in the history of the United States.” Hours later, Trump 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 are backing the effort.
Still, some of the top state Republican prosecutors urging the Supreme Court to hear the case have acknowledged that the effort is a long shot and are seeking to distance themselves from Trump’s baseless allegations of fraud. North Dakota’s Wayne Stenehjem, among the 17 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 divided officials in some states.
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox is supporting 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 that 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 called the attempt to overturn votes “unconscionable.” Support among other leading lawyers was disturbing, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, co-chair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association, 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.
“I do think that this is a dangerous precedent to initiate.”
Trump has 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.
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.
Officials in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin say the suit is a publicity stunt. More than 20 other attorneys general from states including California and Virginia also filed a brief Thursday urging the court to reject the case.
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.”
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.