According to a new book, when President Donald Trump knew he was on the verge of losing the November election, his lawyers had to explain to him that being upset about the results was not enough of a justification to bring lawsuits.
On November 6, three days after Election Day and one day before major news sites and television networks projected Joe Biden as the winner, the two men had a chat. The conversation took a more fundamental turn at one point, as the president’s lawyers tried to figure out the best way to explain how the Supreme Court worked to him.
That’s according to Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Washington Post’s “Peril,” which Business Insider acquired an early copy of.
To get before a judge, Trump’s lawyers told him it wouldn’t be easy to launch cases alleging voting fraud because they’d have to prove standing – a legal tenet requiring a party to prove the laws or actions it’s challenging have caused it to harmm or injury.
They specified that being dissatisfied with the election results did not give them legal standing, according to the book. Trump then went in a different direction.
“Well, why don’t we just get up to the Supreme Court directly?” he asked, according to the book. “Like, why can’t we just go there right away?”
The president’s advisers emphasized to him that getting before the Supreme Court requires following a precise legal procedure. According to the book, Trump told them to figure out how to do it.
The lawyers then had a “tense, basic, law school 101 discussions” between the lawyers “about what they should tell Trump,” according to Woodward and Costa.
“They knew they could never go straight to the Supreme Court,” the book said. “Trump would have to file in district courts, then get a federal appeals court to hear the case, then file for the Supreme Court. It would take time.”
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On the campaign trail, Trump stated again and openly that if he lost the Electoral College to Joe Biden, he expected the Supreme Court to deliver him the election.
Following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September, which left a vacancy on the court, Trump’s supporters were debating which potential Supreme Court nominees might help him win the November election.
Trump claimed on September 23 that Democrats were attempting to rig the election against him and that he wanted a conservative Supreme Court majority that would agree with him.
“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court,” he said. “And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.” Judge Amy Coney Barrett was eventually nominated and confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, giving the court a 6-3 conservative majority.
In the months since, Trump has publicly lobbied the Supreme Court to declare in favor of a longshot case brought by the state of Texas, which asks the justices to overturn the results in four battleground states that Biden won: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.
The lawsuit was dismissed in December by the Supreme Court, with all three of Trump’s nominees — Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch — voting to dismiss it due to a lack of standing.
Trump was enraged by the decision, which came in the form of an unsigned order and tweeted the next day, “The Supreme Court really let us down. No Wisdom, No Courage!”
The Electoral College gathered two days later and declared Biden the winner of the 2020 election.