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Supreme Court Rejects Republican Attack on Biden Victory

FILE - The Supreme Court building is seen under stormy skies in Washington, June 20, 2019.
FILE - The Supreme Court building is seen under stormy skies in Washington, June 20, 2019.

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 that state and federal judges had rejected before the nation's highest court.

In a brief order, the court said Texas does not have the legal right to sue Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin 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.

No dissent from Trump appointees

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.

The court's order was its second this week rebuffing Republican requests that it get involved in the 2020 election outcome. The justices turned away an appeal from Pennsylvania Republicans on Tuesday.

The Electoral College meets Monday to formally elect Biden as the next president.

More than half of House Republicans, including their top two leaders, backed the lawsuit in an extraordinary display of the party's willingness to subvert the will of voters.

Seventeen Republican attorneys general and 126 members of Congress joined Texas and Trump in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out millions of votes in four battleground states based on unsubstantiated claims of fraud. On Friday, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana signed onto a brief backing the long-shot bid, demonstrating Trump's remarkable political power even as he spreads false claims that many Democrats and others fear risk deeply damaging democracy.

"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.

'Hard time' understanding case

A few Republicans expressed concerns about the case. Many others remained silent.

"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 Senator Lamar Alexander told NBC's Chuck Todd in an interview for "Meet the Press" that will air Sunday.

The lawsuit filed against Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin repeated false, disproven and unsubstantiated accusations about the voting in four states that went for Trump's Democratic challenger. The case demanded 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 because of 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 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 backed the effort.

Still, some of the top state Republican prosecutors urging the Supreme Court to hear the case acknowledged that the effort was a long shot and were 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 was not alleging voter fraud in the four states at issue.

'We're careful'

"We're careful on that," said Stenehjem, who noted that his office had 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.

Officials in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin said the suit was 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.