On Friday evening, the Supreme Court handed President Donald Trump his final campaign defeat to discard the 2020 presidential election results, won by President-elect Joe Biden five weeks ago. In an unsigned order, the court denied a Texas lawsuit seeking to reverse election results in four swing states, all of which Biden won.
"Texas," the court wrote, "has shown no judicial interest in the way another state conducts its elections." All other pending requests are dismissed as in dispute. "
Since Friday, Trump has dealt with that loss by sending more than a dozen tweets or retweets complaining about the verdict and spreading disinformation.
"It's a legal shame, an embarrassment for the US !!!" Trump tweeted in the early hours of Saturday morning quoting a lie from Lt. Dan Patrick of Texas, who claimed no court judged a legal challenge to the election "on the merit of it". In reality, the courts have found these challenges unfounded.
"We didn't get a court to judge this (the vote) on its merit." @ DanPatrick of Texas. It is a legal shame, an embarrassment for the US !!!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2020
Later that morning, the president mistakenly described Friday's decision as "a major and shameful mistake by the judiciary". The people of the United States have been betrayed and our country has fallen from grace. Never given our day in court! "
"Justices Alito and Thomas say they allowed Texas to go ahead with its campaign." @ Seanhannity This is a great and shameful mistake of justice. The people of the United States have been betrayed and our country has fallen from grace. Never given our day in court!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2020
Trump also reinforced baseless allegations of electoral fraud, falsely claiming, "I won the election in a landslide, but remember, I only think in terms of legal votes, not all fake voters and fraud miraculously from everywhere came in! "
Of course, Biden not only won the electoral college with 74 votes, but also the popular vote with more than 7 million votes. And election officials – including those who performed multiple recounts – have found no evidence of widespread fraud.
And the president attacked GOP governors in states won by Biden, calling them "RINOs" – an abbreviation for "Republicans only in their name" – and called on supporters to remove Republican governors Brian Kemp from Georgia and Doug Ducey from Arizona from office to choose.
He also had harsh words for his own attorney general, angry for following the Justice Department's procedure to keep the investigation of Biden's son Hunter Biden quiet until after the election.
The Supreme Court has made it clear that Trump will not illegally receive another term
Needless to say, Trump's Twitter rampage on Saturday is more or less completely disconnected from reality. First and foremost, the president had his day in court. In fact, he had many days in court.
In particular, Friday's ruling marks the second Supreme Court defeat for Trump this week. Democratic voting lawyer Marc Elias said Trump and his Republican allies are now in litigation after the election, including the Supreme Court ruling on Friday, between 1 and 57.
A statement in Judge Samuel Alito's order on Friday – along with Conservative colleague Clarence Thomas – made it clear that Trump should give up hope that the Supreme Court might decide to dismiss the election result.
Trump, who retweeted a message to Alito and Thomas on Saturday, doesn't seem to have quite figured this out yet.
"The Supreme Court had ZERO interest in the merits of the largest electoral fraud ever committed in the United States," Trump tweeted on Saturday. “They were only interested in 'standing' which makes it very difficult for the President to bring a case on the matter. 75,000,000 votes! "
In the order, however, Alito goes out of his way to clarify that, although he believes the court lacks discretion to deny the Texas lawsuit, he "would provide no other relief" than a motion to file the complaint to allow.
This is likely because, as Republicans and Democrats have extensively pointed out, the Texas lawsuit, which in a lawsuit identified Pennsylvania as "illegally defensible and … a violation of the principles of constitutional democracy," was downright ridiculous .
So ridiculous, in fact, that two non-existent "states" – "New California" and "New Nevada" – filed an amicus letter backing the Texas lawsuit.
As Philip Bump of the Washington Post puts it, "Taking Paxton's lawsuit literally is next to impossible given the many dubious allegations. … Experts generally believe that Texas has no plea, does not have the evidence necessary to uphold his claims, relying on faulty rhetoric and analysis, and not taking his case to court. Otherwise it will swell. "
While the lawsuit itself is nonsensical, its defeat is important as it further undermines the possibility that the GOP will find a way to undermine democracy and install Trump for an unelected second term.
Republicans voted for Trump over democracy
Despite all of its minor legal advantages, the Texas lawsuit was well received within the Republican Party. More than 60 percent of the House Republican Conference – 126 lawmakers, including minority leader Kevin McCarthy – and 17 attorneys general signed an amicus letter in support of the Texas lawsuit.
House Republicans have just updated their SCOTUS letter to make it clear that it is not 107 members of the House of Representatives who want the Supreme Court to overturn Trump's defeat by rejecting millions of votes.
(Almost 2/3 of the GOP caucus.) Https://t.co/OJVaVEPK4k pic.twitter.com/Sdghb4VO76
– Brad Heath (@bradheath) December 11, 2020
Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives – one of the states against which the lawsuit was directed – also joined.
This sparked considerable outrage for obvious reasons. While the lawsuit had little chance of success in Texas, it was a staggering, unprecedented attempt by a large party to undermine democracy in the service of a president who lost re-election by more than 7 million votes.
In a speech in the Senate on Friday, Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy described the effort as "the most serious attempt to overthrow our democracy in our country's history."
"Those who push for Donald Trump to be named president are implicated in treason against their nation regardless of the election result," Murphy said.
“At the moment the most serious attempt to overthrow our democracy in the history of our country is underway.
Those who push for Donald Trump to be named president are implicated in treason against their nation regardless of the election result. “Pic.twitter.com/FE7K91nlSD
– Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) December 11, 2020
For many Republicans, however, the political rationale is clear: better betrayal than facing a major Trump-backed opponent in their next election.
Trump has long made a habit of penetrating Republicans whom he personally considers to be insufficiently loyal, and if anything, that habit has only increased since losing re-election. He did so again on Saturday when he targeted Kemp and Ducey – both Republican governors of swing states he had lost and whose states were targeted by the Texas lawsuit.
"Who's a worse governor, @BrianKempGA from Georgia or @dougducey from Arizona ???" Trump tweeted. “These are two RINO Republicans who fought harder against me and the Republican Party than any Democrat. They allowed states that I had easily won to be stolen. Never forget to vote for them! "
And instead of being excommunicated through a tweet, large swaths of the Republican establishment chose to support a dangerous, undemocratic, but almost certainly doomed, lawsuit to overthrow the will of the people rather than break with Trump.
It's a grim statement about the status of American democracy, but it will not save Trump's dwindling legal efforts that practically stalled long ago.
On Monday, the electoral college will meet and officially elect Joe Biden for president, 306 votes to Trump's 232. In at least one state, Michigan, voters have been offered police protection on the way to vote because of concerns about protesters.
Thereafter, Congress will meet on January 6th to officially count the votes of the electoral college and complete the process. As Vox's Andrew Prokop explained, there's a good chance it's not going smoothly thanks to the challenges posed by Congress Republicans, but "there is no plausible way to make a challenge succeed." Two weeks later, on January 20th, Biden will take office.
Despite all of this, Trump tweeted on Saturday that "we just started fighting !!!"
But even that overlooks the reality of the situation. The choice is over. He lost, and Biden will be the next President of the United States.
Are you helping keep Vox free for everyone?
Understanding has enormous power. Vox answers your most important questions and gives you clear information to help you understand an increasingly chaotic world. A financial contribution to Vox will help us continue to provide free explanatory journalism to the millions who rely on us. Please consider contributing to Vox today, starting at $ 3.