Friday was a disastrous day for the Trump campaign, which has repeatedly tried and failed to overturn the presidential election results in key states. Within a span of hours, the legal teams of Trump and allied Republicans lost challenges in courts in six states.
With each defeat, Trump’s options for challenging last month’s election continued to dwindle. Sensing that the courts are a lost cause, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Fox News the campaign is now focused on sidestepping the courts and making their case directly to state lawmakers.
“I saw what the courts were doing and I wanted to go around them so the facts could get out,” Giuliani told Sean Hannity on Friday night. “The simple fact is, we don’t need courts. The United States Constitution gives sole power to the state legislature to decide presidential elections.”
Indeed, The Washington Post reports that on Saturday morning, Trump called Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to urge him to call a special legislative session to override the election results in that state and appoint electors that would vote for Trump. Kemp reportedly declined to do so.
Though the judicial opinions were roundly critical of Republicans’ ongoing attempts to overturn the election results, an opinion by Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn stands out for its gobsmacked incredulity.
In a concurring opinion joined by three other justices, Hagedorn was aghast at the proposed remedy sought by the conservative Wisconsin Voters Alliance: invalidating the entire presidential election in Wisconsin, and installing new electors chosen by the legislature.
Such a move wouldn’t just be “unprecedented in American history,” Hagedorn wrote, but would also undermine voters’ faith in the American system of free and fair elections.
“Judicial acquiescence to such entreaties built on so flimsy a foundation would do indelible damage to every future election,” he wrote. “Once the door is opened to judicial invalidation of presidential election results, it will be awfully hard to close that door again. This is a dangerous path we are being asked to tread. The loss of public trust in our constitutional order resulting from the exercise of this kind of judicial power would be incalculable.
“I do not mean to suggest this court should look the other way no matter what,” Hagedorn added. But the Republicans bringing the suit came “nowhere close” to offering any evidence that would warrant such a result, he said. “While the rough and tumble world of electoral politics may be the prism through which many view this litigation, it cannot be so for us. In these hallowed halls, the law must rule.”
But three justices dissented. “It is critical that voting in Wisconsin elections not only be fair, but that the public also perceives voting as having been fairly conducted,” wrote Chief Justice Patience Roggensack. “This is the third time that a majority of this court has turned its back on pleas from the public to address a matter of statewide concern that requires a declaration of what the statutes require for absentee voting.”
In Arizona, the state Republican Party alleged that its observers weren’t granted sufficient access on election night, and that election officials over-counted mail-in ballots with signatures that didn’t match the ones on file.
But Judge Randall Warner found that there was insufficient evidence of fraud, illegal votes, or an erroneous vote count. Although there were some mistakes, “there is no evidence that the inaccuracies were intentional or part of a fraudulent scheme,” Warner wrote. Nor did such mistakes come close to impacting the election outcome, he said.
Kelli Ward, the chair of the state GOP, said she would appeal.
In Nevada, would-be Republican electors had alleged multiple claims of voter fraud, including improperly cast provisional ballots, mismatched signatures, and improperly cast votes from deceased voters. The Republicans had sought to have the courts either declare Trump the winner in Nevada, or nullify the entire contest and have no electors from the state.
Judge James Russell rejected each allegation of fraud. The Republicans “did not prove under any standard of proof that illegal votes were cast and counted, or legal votes were not counted at all, due to voter fraud,” Russell wrote.
Nevada Republicans plan to appeal.
In Michigan, a state appeals court dismissed the Trump campaign’s attempt to block the state’s certification of the voting results. The campaign had been challenging the handling of absentee ballots in Detroit, among other issues. But in a 2-1 order, Judge Stephen Borrello said the challenge was moot.
“Michigan’s election results have been certified,” Borrello wrote. After results are certified, a candidate’s only recourse is a recount, which the campaign didn’t seek within the allotted time. Judge Patrick Meter dissented, saying the issues weren’t moot because state electors haven’t yet been seated and the Electoral College hasn’t been assembled.
In Minnesota, the state’s Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit brought by some state Republicans to stop the vote certification and to seek a statewide recount. The petition was filed late, and the remedy sought was untenable, Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea wrote, as reported by the Minnesota Star Tribune.
A full recount “would impose unacceptable burdens on voters and election officials alike,” she wrote, adding that it would also “cast an unacceptable degree of uncertainty over the election, potentially leaving Minnesotans without adequate elected representation.”
In late November, a group of Republican electors sued Georgia’s governor, alleging statistical anomalies in the vote count and vulnerabilities in the Dominion voting machines used in the state. The machines were scheduled to be recalibrated for upcoming runoff elections, but the electors asked a judge to block three counties from altering any information stored in any of the voting machines.
A lower court judge agreed to temporarily block the counties from making any changes to the machines. But, because the judge didn’t also agree to hand over the machines to the electors so they could inspect them, the electors appealed. “If the machines were not tampered with, Appellees have nothing to fear from such an examination,” they wrote in their brief.
But on Friday a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit said it didn’t have jurisdiction to review the lower court’s order. Proceedings will continue in the lower court.
Separately Friday, the Trump campaign and Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer asked a state court to invalidate the election results statewide, alleging fraud. The court has not yet ruled on that request. Biden won the election in Georgia by a count of 49.5% to Trump’s 49.3%.
And on Saturday, a federal appeals court dismissed a suit brought by conservative attorney L. Lin Wood, who was trying to block Biden’s victory in the state. The 11th Circuit ruled that Wood had no standing to sue.
“We may not entertain post-election contests about garden-variety issues of vote counting and misconduct that may properly be filed in state courts,” wrote Chief Judge William Pryor for the three-judge panel.