The US Supreme Court dealt a sharp blow to President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results, rejecting a request by some of his Republican allies to nullify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania.
The one-sentence rebuff Tuesday came without explanation and with no noted dissents. It marks the first time the full high court has weighed in on efforts by Trump and his supporters to reverse Biden’s victory.
The order is a symbolic as well as substantive setback for Trump, who has claimed without foundation that he lost the election because of widespread fraud. Trump has predicted he would be vindicated at the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority and three justices he appointed. He and his supporters have suffered repeated losses at lower courts.
“Dozens of courts have rejected Trump and his allies’ debunked and meritless claims, and now the highest court in the land has joined them — without a single dissent — in repudiating this assault on the electoral process,” Biden campaign spokesman Michael Gwin said. “This election is over. Joe Biden won and he will be sworn in as President in January.”
The newest justice, Trump appointee Amy Coney Barrett, took part in the court’s consideration of the case. During her confirmation hearing in October, Democrats had called on Barrett to say whether she would disqualify herself from any Trump-related election litigation.
Earlier in the day, Trump spoke wistfully about the possibility the court would intervene. “Let’s see if they have the courage to do what everybody in this country knows is right,” he said at the White House.
Trump also retweeted a photo that depicted Barrett with light emanating from her eyes.
In the Supreme Court case, lawmakers led by Republican U.S. Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania contended that the state’s legislature exceeded its power by allowing universal mail-in voting for the 2020 election.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected that argument, saying Republicans waited too long to sue and were advocating the “extraordinary proposition that the court disenfranchise all 6.9 million Pennsylvanians who voted in the general election” and throw the decision to the state legislature.
Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis tried to minimize the significance of the high court order, saying the underlying appeal by the Kelly and the other lawmakers was still pending. “The Supreme Court only denied emergency injunctive relief,” she tweeted.
Under the court’s normal practices, it could be months before the justices say whether they will hear the appeal — far too long to help Trump in the election contest.
The lawsuit was a “nonstarter,” said Edward Foley, director of the election law program at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law.
“I just cannot see the U.S. Supreme Court wanting to overturn the state’s own determination of what their popular vote was,” Foley said. “Right or wrong that’s a decision for the states to make.”
The justices sent a message that they “still care about the law and are not going to bend the rules to help Trump, Republicans, or anyone else,” said Jonathan Adler, a constitutional law professor at Case Western Reserve University.
Biden would win the presidency even if Republicans had somehow nullified his Pennsylvania victory. Trump still would be at least two states short of securing a majority in the Electoral College, which will formally select the next president on Dec. 14. Biden won 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.
The order came on the day of an important election milestone for Biden, the so-called safe-harbor deadline. Under federal law, if by Tuesday a state appoints its electors and the loser has had a chance to challenge the results, Congress must consider the electors “conclusive” when it meets in a joint session on Jan. 6 to tally the votes.
The order also came hours after Texas filed an equally long-shot Supreme Court bid to reverse Biden’s victories in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia and Michigan.