Supreme Court refuses quick action on last-ditch Trump election lawsuits


People listen to speakers during a Stop the Steal rally in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Kent Nishimura | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected efforts by President Donald Trump and his allies to get the court to quickly consider challenges to President-elect Joe Biden‘s victory in the November election. The move effectively shut the door on the president’s last-ditch legal strategy to overturn his defeat.

The court released an order in the morning denying expedited consideration to suits filed by Trump’s campaign challenging election procedures in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

It similarly denied requests from the conservative conspiracy theorists L. Lin Wood and Sidney Powell to expedite challenges to the elections in Michigan and Georgia, as well as other suits filed by Trump supporters.

The action by the court was widely expected and was not accompanied by any explanation or opinion, as is typical in such denials. There were no noted dissents from any of the court’s nine justices.

The court could still theoretically agree to take cases related to the election, but likely would not hear arguments before October, well into Biden’s first year in office.

The justices returned from their winter recess to convene for a private conference on Friday. The order list released on Monday is the first since the D.C. riot last week in which a mob of Trump supporters sought to delay the confirmation of Biden’s victory over Trump in the Electoral College.

The court had made it clear that it would not process the cases on the schedule Trump asked for even before issuing the order.

For instance, in Trump v. Boockvar, one of the cases challenging the Pennsylvania election procedures, the president’s attorney, John Eastman, urged the court in a December brief to take up the case before Jan. 6, when Congress met to finalize the Electoral College tally.

Eastman wrote that if the court did not act before Jan. 20, when Biden will be inaugurated, “it will be impossible to repair election results” that included ballots that he alleged were cast unlawfully based on rules approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Trump has furiously contested his loss to Biden in a manner unprecedented in modern U.S. history.

On Monday, Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced an impeachment article based on his actions at a rally ahead of the Capitol siege, in which he urged supporters to “fight” and his attorney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, called for “trial by combat.”

The legal challenges that the Supreme Court refused to expedite included a challenge from Kelli Ward, head of the Arizona Republican Party, to the Electoral Count Act; a challenge from Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., to no-excuse mail-in voting in his state; and two conspiracy-theory-laden complaints brought by ex-Trump attorney Powell regarding the elections in Michigan and Georgia.

Powell, who has claimed falsely among other things that deceased Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez was in on a plot to rig the 2020 contest, was hit with a $1.3 billion defamation suit on Friday by Dominion Voting Systems, a voting machine supplier. The lawyer, whom Trump has reportedly floated as a potential special counsel to investigate election fraud, has not returned CNBC’s requests for comment.

Wood and Powell both had their Twitter accounts suspended last week amid a crackdown on those spreading lies connected to the QAnon conspiracy theory.

The court also refused to expedite three cases filed by the Trump campaign — two challenges to mail-in ballot rules in Wisconsin and one challenge to eased voting rules in Pennsylvania. Those suits argued that the changed rules increased the likelihood of voter fraud.

While Trump has baselessly argued that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, his Department of Justice has said that there exists no evidence for such claims. The Department of Homeland Security similarly rejected claims that the election was infiltrated by foreign governments.

The Supreme Court has previously turned back a number of election challenges, including earlier versions of some of the suits it rejected to consider quickly on Monday. In one of the most high-profile instances, the court in December rejected a suit brought by the state of Texas that sought to undo Biden’s wins in the swing states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

More than a dozen states and 120 GOP members of Congress supported Texas’ push at the time. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the suit “election subversion that imperils our democracy.”

The rejection by the Supreme Court marks a coda to Trump’s long-running hope that he would be able to game the election via the courts.

Ahead of Election Day, Trump predicted that the Supreme Court would decide the contest, and pushed to have the Senate confirm his third nominee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, onto the bench in time to do so.

During Barrett’s confirmation process, Democrats warned that the conservative former federal appeals court judge would side with the president who appointed her. Barrett refused to commit to recusing herself in election cases, but said she would treat the concerns seriously as she weighed whether to do so.

Trump and his allies have lost more than 60 election lawsuits in court, according to a tally maintained by Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias.

The Trump campaign and the Biden transition team did not immediately return requests for comment.

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