U.S. President Donald Trump and 17 U.S. states on Wednesday threw their support behind a long-shot lawsuit by Texas seeking to overturn his election loss by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out the voting results in four states. The Republican Party's latest move sparking brutal criticism from critics who claim the move is part of an effort to erode American democracy.
Trump, defeated by President-elect Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election, filed a motion with the court asking the nine justices to let him intervene and become a plaintiff in the suit filed on Tuesday by Republican-governed Texas against Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
If the justices let Trump join the lawsuit, it would create the extraordinary circumstance of a sitting U.S. president asking the top American court to decide that the millions of votes cast in the four states did not count. The Republican president lost to Biden in the four election battleground states after winning them in the 2016 election.
Writing on Twitter, Trump said, "This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!"
In a separate brief, lawyers for 17 states led by Missouri's Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt also urged the justices to hear the case.
Election law experts have said the Texas lawsuit stands little chance of success and lacks legal merit.
The lawsuit, the latest in a series of election challenges brought by Trump's campaign and supporters that so far have failed in numerous courts, was brought by Ken Paxton, the Republican attorney general of Texas and an ally of the president.
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In addition to Missouri, the states joining Texas were: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia. All of the states were represented by Republican officials in the filing. All but three of the states have Republican governors.
The New York Times, quoting an unnamed source familiar with the discussion, reported that Trump has asked Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas to argue the case if the Supreme Court agrees to hear it.
Steve Schmidt, who helped run former U.S. Republican Senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, told MSNBC that Trump and the Republican Party's latest moves represent "an organized conspiracy for the purposes of maintaining power for self-interest."
Schmidt, a co-founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, added that the U.S. is "now one election away...from losing our democracy because one party doesn't believe in it."
Texas' senior Senator John Cornyn appeared to rebuke his party on CNN saying, "Number one, why would a state, even such a great state as Texas, have a say-so on how other states administer their elections?"
Cornyn continued, "We have a diffused and dispersed system, and even though we might not like it, they may think it's unfair, those (election policies) are decided at the state and local level and not at the national level."
Former George W. Bush speechwriter and political pundit David Frum called the effort, "Sinister if not so pathetic. Pathetic if not so sinister."
Trump has falsely claimed he won re-election and has made baseless allegations of widespread voting fraud. Election officials at the state level have said they have found no evidence of such fraud.
Officials from Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have called the lawsuit a reckless attack on democracy. It was filed directly with the Supreme Court rather than with a lower court, as is permitted for certain litigation between states.
"Both procedurally and substantively, it's a mess," Justin Levitt, an election law professor at Loyola Law School in California, said of the Texas lawsuit. "There's zero chance the court agrees to take the case."
The Texas suit argued that changes made by the four states to voting procedures amid the coronavirus pandemic to expand mail-in voting were unlawful. Texas asked the Supreme Court to immediately block the four states from using the voting results to appoint presidential electors to the Electoral College.
Biden has amassed 306 electoral votes - far higher than the necessary 270 - compared to Trump's 232 in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the election's outcome. The four states contribute a combined 62 electoral votes to Biden's total.
Texas also asked the Supreme Court to delay the Dec. 14 date for Electoral College votes to be formally cast, a date set by law in 1887.
The Supreme Court's 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices appointed by Trump. Before the election, Trump said he expected its outcome to be decided by the Supreme Court.
Democrats and other critics have accused Trump of aiming to reduce public confidence in U.S. election integrity and undermine democracy by trying to subvert the will of the voters.
Trump's filing with the court said the four states "conducted the elections according to unauthorized rules," adding that it was "not necessary for the Plaintiff in Intervention (Trump) to prove that fraud occurred" to have the election results thrown out.
Trump brought his motion in his personal capacity, rather than through the U.S. Justice Department or his campaign.
Trump is represented by John Eastman, a conservative legal scholar who drew criticism for falsely questioning whether Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is eligible to serve as vice president because her immigrant parents were born outside the United States.