U.S. Supreme Court rejects challenge to Michigan election; Trump assails justices, 'no wisdom, courage'
The U.S. Supreme Court denied Texas's lawsuit to overturn election results in Michigan and three other battleground states, leveling a crushing blow Friday to President Donald Trump's efforts to reverse his loss to President-elect Joe Biden.
Texas lacked standing to bring the suit, the court said in a brief order issued Friday evening, as Trump's campaign continued to raise unsubstantiated claims of election fraud three days before presidential electors are to meet.
"Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections," the Supreme Court's order said.
Featuring three justices nominated by Trump himself, the high court’s decision appears to end any chance that the Republican incumbent could use the courts to win in those states, including Biden's certified 51%-48% victory in Michigan.
The court's rejection of the Texas challenge clears the way for electors from Michigan to cast their 16 votes on Monday for Biden, who will win the national vote with an expected vote of 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232.
Trump responded hours later on Twitter, recapping his troubles in court and writing, "The Supreme Court really let us down. No Wisdom, No Courage!"
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel had described Texas's lawsuit as "unprecedented" in a media briefing earlier Friday. If Texas had been successful, it would have marked the "end of democracy" in the United States, the Plymouth Democrat said.
"Today’s Supreme Court decision is an important reminder that we are a nation of laws, and though some may bend to the desire of a single individual, the courts will not," Nessel said after the court's decision.
Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said Friday night that the legal fight will continue. During an an appearance on Newsmax, Giuliani said the case was rejected on standing, so the next step would be to bring the case in federal district court where the campaign believes it has standing.
"These facts need to be heard because this kind of voter fraud can continue to go on if it’s not nipped in the bud," he said. "We're not finished, believe me."
In the Friday order, conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas said they would have allowed the filing by Texas but "would not grant other relief."
The three justices who've been appointed by Trump — Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — didn't sign on to Alito's statement, apparently joining the majority in deciding Texas lacked standing to file its complaint against the other states. One of the core arguments against the Texas suit had been whether one state could legally challenge whether another state followed its own election laws.
What court's ruling means
The high court’s rejection of the Texas suit should be the end of the road for Trump’s attempts to overturn the results in court, said Richard Primus, an expert in constitutional law at the University of Michigan Law School.
"But this lawsuit was completely absurd to begin with, and nothing stops the president or his supporters from continuing to file absurd lawsuits. So they might keep trying," Primus said.
"The electoral result is legal, and the result is that Biden wins," he added. "The question is just whether there will ever come a point when President Trump accepts that fact, or a point where most Republican public officials accept it even if he doesn’t.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a GOP supporter of the president, sued Tuesday on allegations that Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia used the pandemic to make unlawful changes to mail-in voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The suit was supported in court by four of Michigan's six Republican congressmen. Fifteen GOP state lawmakers from Michigan urged the court to stall Monday's electoral vote and allow the state's Legislature to certify results by Jan. 5 — before a scheduled Jan. 6 meeting of Congress about the Electoral College results.
Paxton said it was unfortunate that the Supreme Court decided not to take the case and "determine the constitutionality of these four states’ failure to follow federal and state election law."
"I will continue to tirelessly defend the integrity and security of our elections and hold accountable those who shirk established election law for their own convenience," Paxton added.
The state of Michigan and the city of Detroit filed briefs in opposition to the Texas lawsuit, with Nessel and her aides arguing against the U.S. Supreme Court's involvement. For the nation's high court to intervene would be an "intrusion" on the state's sovereignty, the filing said.
"The election in Michigan is over," they wrote. "Texas comes as a stranger to this matter and should not be heard here."
Claims of widespread fraud in Michigan's election have been repeatedly rejected by courts. Nessel said in a Monday interview Monday there was not even credible evidence yet of isolated fraud that was successfully carried out.
The Board of State Canvassers certified Michigan's elections results on Nov. 23. Before then, bipartisan boards of canvassers signed off on tallies in all 83 of the state's counties.
Electoral College vote looms
Still, Trump's supporters have attempted to discredit the results with the president's personal attorney, Giuliani, calling Michigan's election "a con job" during a Michigan House Oversight hearing on Dec. 2.
Michigan's 16 presidential electors are scheduled to officially cast their votes for Biden and his running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, on Monday inside the state Senate's chamber. The Michigan Capitol will be closed to the public during the event, said State Police Lt. Brian Oleksyk.
There have been frequent but small demonstrations outside the Capitol this fall as supporters of Trump have claimed the election was stolen from him.
After the Supreme Court's decision, U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, L-Cascade Township, a Trump critic and former Republican, tweeted that “the election fraud hoax will go down as one of the most embarrassing and dishonorable episodes in American political history, and countless Republican officials went along with it and promoted it.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, who's also been critical of the president's push to overturn the election, said the U.S. Supreme Court decision was what he "expected."
"Can our leadership decide it is time to govern not play politics? Will the weavers of conspiracies give it up? To do otherwise is so damaging to America!” said Mitchell, who's retiring from Congress at the end of the year.
From the other side of the aisle, U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, said the Supreme Court decision put a nail in the coffin of the "shameful campaign to overturn the clear will of the people."
"Democracy will not die on our watch!" Levin tweeted.
In Michigan, the Texas suit contended Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson sidestepped Michigan law by mailing unsolicited absentee ballot applications to all of Michigan’s registered voters, a move that was subsequently challenged and upheld by two state courts. The suit also questions Benson's decision to allow electronic absentee ballot applications that didn't require signatures but required other forms of verification.
The modifications "resulted in a number of constitutionally tainted votes that far exceeds the margin of voters separating the candidates in Michigan," the Texas lawsuit said.
Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled in August that Benson had the authority as the state's chief elections officer to issue absentee ballot applications and, in September, the state Court of Claims upheld Stephens in a 2-1 ruling. In addition, several groups around the state sent unsolicited absentee ballot applications, including the state Democratic and Republican parties.
Benson announced a new online platform for voters to digitally submit their absentee voter ballot application in June. Supreme Court.Voters previously had been able to submit an application by scanning and emailing their signed form to clerks.
In a Friday night tweet, Benson declared, "Democracy has prevailed."
Staff Writer Riley Beggin contributed.