The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to block certification of the commonwealth’s election results, delivering a near fatal blow to the GOP’s long-shot bid to invalidate President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
The Supreme Court’s action is a crushing loss for Trump, who has frequently touted the high court’s potential to overturn his election loss.
Just hours before the court’s order was released, Trump made a direct appeal to state officials and members of the Supreme Court to assist him in his efforts to subvert the will of voters, as he continually and falsely suggested there was massive voter fraud during the election.
“Let’s see whether or not somebody has the courage, whether it’s legislators or legislatures or a justice of the Supreme Court or a number of justices of the Supreme Court,” Trump said. “Let’s see if they have the courage to do what everybody in this country knows is right.”
Tuesday’s one-line order was issued with no noted dissents or comment from any of the nine justices. The court is made up of six conservative justices – including Trump’s three nominees – Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – and three liberals.
The order marked Barrett’s first vote on an election-related dispute.
The quick action with no public dissents (justices may choose whether to announce their dissent) is a signal the Supreme Court may not want to get involved in the ongoing Trump challenges, said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and University of Texas Law professor.
“The fact that the justices issued a one-sentence order with no separate opinions is a powerful sign that the court intends to stay out of election-related disputes, and that it’s going to leave things to the electoral process going forward,” Vladeck said.
“It’s hard to imagine a more quietly resounding rejection of these challenges from this court,” Vladeck added.
Tuesday marks the “safe harbor” deadline for the state under federal law. That means that when Congress tallies the electoral votes in January, it must accept electoral results that were certified before the deadline.
Steep odds for Republicans
The effort from Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers faced steep odds at the Supreme Court, particularly because the dispute turned mostly on issues of state law. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed the challenge previously, holding that Rep. Mike Kelly and others bringing the suit failed to file their challenge in a timely manner.
Lawyers for Kelly argued that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court violated his “right to petition and right to due process, guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, respectively, by closing all avenues of relief for past and future harms.”
But Pennsylvania officials called the petition “fundamentally frivolous.”
“No court has ever issued an order nullifying a governor’s certification of presidential election results,” argued J. Bart Delone, the state’s chief deputy attorney general. “The loss of public trust in our constitutional order resulting in this kind of judicial power would be incalculable.”
The emergency petition from the lawmakers was addressed to Justice Samuel Alito, who has jurisdiction over the Pennsylvania courts. He referred it to the whole court, which issued the order.
Legal losses pile up
Tuesday’s action comes after weeks of desperate appeals and baseless conspiracies pushed by the President and his allies that his second term is being stolen.
“We will still win it,” the President said in Georgia Saturday evening, even though there are no means for him to do so.
To this point, the Trump campaign’s lawsuits have been dismissed or dropped at a furious pace. And even before Tuesday, there was a sense developing within Trump’s legal team that their efforts are coming to an end, multiple sources previously told CNN.
While Trump said in a 46-minute video released last week that they would continue to file lawsuits, his legal team has held fewer meetings and strategy calls in the last several days.
Still, the President’s staunchest defenders on Capitol Hill are urging him not to concede even after Biden wins the Electoral College vote next week, calling on him to battle it out all the way to the House floor in January.
This story has been updated with additional information Tuesday.