This brings us the Texas AG Ken Paxton’s reply–or, rather, replies, as there are multiple filings, including a motion to enlarge the word-count limit, a supplemental declaration dated today from Charles Cicchetti, and a new affidavit prepared yesterday from one Lisa Gage.
The first reply brief focuses on rebutting the factual and legal claims made by the four defendant states. The brief starts with the facts, and AG Paxton’s choice of emphasis here is quite interesting, as the brief leads with an extended defense of statistical stupidity contained in the initial filing and the Cicchetti declaration (hence the newly drafted supplemental declaration which is attached). Here, the Paxton brief argues “Dr. Cicchetti did take into account the possibility that votes were not randomly drawn in the later time period but, as stated in his original Declaration, he is not aware of any data that would support such an assertion.” In other words, because he does not know anything about the two sets of voters, it was okay to assume they were identical for purposes of assessing the statistical likelihood that they would vote differently. That this is the lead argument in the reply tells you most of what you need to know. (Well, perhaps not, as other parts of the factual discussion misrepresent claims made by defendant states or repeat claims that were considered and rejected in other suits over the past month.)
On the law, the Texas reply essentially argues that the handful of attorneys in the Texas AG’s office who were willing to sign on to the brief know more about the election laws of Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania than do the Attorneys General and Secretaries of State of those various states. It further argues that although state legislatures have “plenary” authority to set the manner in which states select electors, this somehow does not include the authority to authorize the involvement of courts and election agencies, and that the U.S. Supreme Court, not the supreme courts of the respective states, should be the final authority on the meaning of relevant state laws and constitutional provisions. (Yay federalism!)
The other Texas filing, styled as a reply in support of Texas’s plea for emergency injunctive relief, is not much better. It does, however, deploy a powerful use of capitalization in the Table of Contents (“Texas IS likely to prevail”). Note that Texas does not have to worry about any of the defendant states responding in kind (“Texas IS NOT likely to prevail”) because this is the last brief to be filed.
In this brief, Texas argues that it is not seeking to disenfranchise voters. Rather, Texas argues, “Defendant States’ maladministration of the 2020 election makes it impossible to know which candidate garnered the majority of lawful votes.” Of course, to the extent this were true, Supreme Court intervention would not be necessary. If the relevant state legislatures concluded that the results of the elections within their states were indeterminate–that the voters had failed to select electors on election day–they could act, but they have not. Here Texas repeats its arguments that federalism requires the Supreme Court ordering state legislatures to act and possibly even hold new elections because Texas does not like how other states have run their elections.
It’s already time for some tweets.
Well if you put it in all caps like that, it settles the matter.
— Jonathan H. Adler (@jhadler1969) 9:26 AM – 11 December 2020
I can imagine a person running for state AG in some states largely on a Supreme Court original jurisdiction platform: They’ll promise to sue the liberal states directly in the Supreme Court for harboring antifa, violating the 1st Am by allowing cancel culture, etc. Fun times.
— Orin Kerr (@orinkerr) 1:35 PM – 11 December 2020
One possible way to avoid that outcome is for SCOTUS to shut this shit down hard.
The easy thing for the Supreme Court to do is simply deny Texas permission to file the complaint (and deny the motions to intervene as moot) and be done with it. No fuss, no muss.
But the court should do more. It is perfectly ordinary and appropriate for the justices to write an opinion explaining the various reasons why they are rejecting Texas’ request. Indeed, the minority of justices who think that the court is required to accept original actions like Texas’ may well write short opinions of their own or note that they think the case was properly filed. So there is nothing overreaching if a majority of the court explains why the case is meritless.
The justices’ decision whether to do that needs to account for this extraordinary, dangerous moment for our democracy. President Donald Trump, other supportive Republicans, and aligned commentators have firmly convinced many tens of millions of people that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. If that view continues to take hold, it threatens not only our national politics for the next four years but the public’s basic faith in elections of all types that are the foundations of our society.
A simple five-page per curiam opinion genuinely could end up in the pantheon of all-time most significant rulings in American history. Every once in a long while, the court needs to invest some of its accumulated capital in issuing judgments that are not only legally right but also respond to imminent, tangible threats to the nation. That is particularly appropriate when, as here, the court finds itself being used as a tool to actively undermine faith in our democratic institutions — including by the members of the court’s bar on whom the justices depend to act much more responsibly.
In a time that is so very deeply polarized, I cannot think of a person, group or institution other than the Supreme Court that could do better for the country right now. Supporters of the president who have been gaslighted into believing that there has been a multi-state conspiracy to steal the election recognize that the court is not a liberal institution. If the court will tell the truth, the country will listen.
I’m not so sure I share the optimism, but I agree it would be the best thing that SCOTUS could do.
More Republicans have lined up to join Paxton on his lemming suicide bomber dive, including some who are seemingly claiming their own elections are also tainted.
Maybe the most ridiculous thing about this ridiculous moment, is that among the 126 Republican House members who have signed on to a document that they know to be not just false in its content, but malicious in its intent, are 19 from states that are the subject of the suit.
So Representatives like Doug Collins and Barry Loudermilk in Georgia are arguing that their own elections were fraudulent. Except, of course, they’re not making that argument. They’re not making any argument. They’re just hoping to gain “street cred” from adding their signatures to a list of people who support Trump rather than America.
You know who else is on Team Dictatorship? Dan Crenshaw, that’s who. This Dan Crenshaw.
U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw told Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie that a woman who reported sexual assault at a VA hospital had filed frivolous complaints when she and Crenshaw served in the same Navy command, according to testimony by several senior officials in a report by the agency’s watchdog.
Investigators said they were troubled by the way Wilkie and his agency handled the outcry of the woman, who is now a Democratic aide in the House of Representatives.
The Houston Republican’s link to matter, first reported by Newsweek magazine, was included in a report released by the agency’s inspector general on Thursday. The report details a number of apparent problems with the agency’s handling of complaints filed by the veteran, Andrea Goldstein, who alleged a VA hospital contractor “bumped his entire body against mine and told me I looked like I needed a smile and a good time.”
Senior VA officials told investigators that Crenshaw passed along information about Goldstein to Wilkie, the report says, which both Crenshaw and Wilkie have denied.
The report points to an email Wilkie sent Chief of Staff Pamela Powers and Brooks Tucker, assistant secretary congressional and legislative affairs, after a fundraiser that he and Crenshaw both attended. It said: “Ask me in the morning what Congressman Crenshaw said about the Takano staffer whose glamor (sic) shot was in the New York Times.”
While Wilkie told investigators that Crenshaw approached him at the December 2019 fundraiser and brought up the veteran, he claimed that Crenshaw merely told him they served together. When investigators asked Wilkie why that information was enough to merit the email he sent after the fundraiser, he responded, “Well, I don’t remember. I have no idea.”
Both Powers and Tucker, however, told investigators they recalled Wilkie making comments about the veteran’s reputation “based on information they understood he received from Congressman Crenshaw.”
The report also says Deputy VA Secretary Jim Byrne told investigators that Wilkie had “verified with Congressman Dan Crenshaw that the veteran had previously filed frivolous complaints when the two were serving in the same command in the Navy.”
Crenshaw and his staff refused to answer VA investigators’ questions about the matter, the report says. Crenshaw’s office did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.
The Newsweek story is here. Remember Crenshaw’s craven refusal to answer questions about this the next time he tweets some garbage about how “all cases should be heard, all investigations should be thorough”. As a reminder, the Chron endorsed Crenshaw for re-election. The Orlando Sentinel has apologized for endorsing Rep. Michael Waltz, one of Crenshaw’s fellow members of the Sedition Caucus. I await the Chron taking similar action; merely excoriating Ken Paxton and Ted Cruz, without even mentioning Crenshaw for his role in this debacle, is insufficient.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock has observed, as part of his own amicus filing against the Paxton mess, that Texas did not include his state as a defendant even though Montana made the same kind of changes that Georgia et al did that Paxton finds so objectionable. Of course, Trump carried Montana, so it’s totally different. Governor Bullock also knows how to bring the snark:
Oh, it continues onto the next page
— Akiva Cohen (@AkivaMCohen) 9:44 AM – 11 December 2020
SCOTUS may act on the Texas case even before I finish drafting this post, so let me wrap up while the outcome is still unknown. First, a few words from Adam Serwer about why Trump has so many rats following behind his rancid Pied Piper act:
To Trump’s strongest supporters, Biden’s win is a fraud because his voters should not count to begin with, and because the Democratic Party is not a legitimate political institution that should be allowed to wield power even if they did.
This is why the authoritarian remedies festering in the Trump fever swamps—martial law, the usurpation of state electors, Supreme Court fiat—are so openly contemplated. Because the true will of the people is that Trump remain president, forcing that outcome, even in the face of defeat, is a fulfillment of democracy rather than its betrayal.
The Republican base’s fundamental belief, the one that Trump used to win them over in the first place, the one that ties the election conspiracy theory to birtherism and to Trump’s sneering attack on the Squad’s citizenship, is that Democratic victories do not count, because Democratic voters are not truly American. It’s no accident that the Trump campaign’s claims have focused almost entirely on jurisdictions with high Black populations.
From Elizabeth Dye at Above the Law:
But perhaps we shouldn’t get waylaid in Constitutional and procedural niceties, lest we distract ourselves from the point that THIS IS BATSHIT. The state of Texas has filed a facially nonsensical suit purporting to vindicate the rights of the Defendant states’ legislatures from unconstitutional usurpation by overweening governors and state courts, a usurpation which supposedly violates the Elections Clause. And the proposed solution is for the Supreme Court itself to violate the Elections Clause by postponing the electoral college vote, thus usurping Congress’s power to “determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”
And instead of saying, “Slow your roll, Ken Paxton! We’ve been banging the drum about states’ rights for two hundred years now. It’s kind of our thing, you know?” the intervenor states are all in on this Frankenstein hybrid of vote dilution and anti-federalism. Rather than acknowledging the reality of Trump’s loss, these attorneys general would rather attach their names to a complaint which claims that it’s just mathematically impossible for Biden to have won those four Defendant states because, ummm, Clinton lost them. Don’t ask how Trump was able to flip Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan after Obama won them in 2012 and 2008 — that formula is still being calculated.
Never mind that Texas’s governor Greg Abbott extended early voting by a week, the same dastardly usurpation of legislative prerogative which supposedly voids the election in the Defendant states. Pay no attention to the fact that Mississippi also allows votes to be counted if they arrive within three days of the election, which Paxton argues is patently illegal. Or that Utah conducted this election entirely by mail, which is, according to the complaint anyway, prima facie evidence of intent to allow vote fraud. IOKYAR.
The Trump motion to intervene is little more than a cleaned up version of the president’s Twitter feed, drafted by John Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University who is nonetheless confused about birthright citizenship and recently penned a racist Newsweek editorial wondering if Kamala Harris was eligible to run for president.
Mentioning this John Eastman character brings us to the final tweets, because all good blog posts about election theft end with tweets. These two are embedded in that ATL article:
According to the metadata, Trump’s legal intervention wasn’t written by John Eastman, the Counsel of Record. It was written by someone else: Lawrence Joseph.
— Arieh Kovler (@ariehkovler) 3:35 PM – 09 December 2020
As noted before, Lawrence Joseph is the outside counsel Ken Paxton hired for his lawsuit, since the Solicitor General declined to come on board. Wheels within wheels, y’all.
And finally, nothing could sum up this entire experience better than this:
Welp, we now have states that don’t even *exist* filing amicus briefs in #SCOTUS in Texas’s overturn-the-election suit:
I think we’ve officially jumped the Kraken.
— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) 11:04 AM – 11 December 2020
From the neighborhood of New Heights in the city of New Houston and the state of New Texas, I wish you all a happy weekend. CNN has more.
UPDATE: Didn’t have to wait long, as it turns out.
The US Supreme Court on Friday rejected Texas’s unprecedented last-ditch effort to challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, and Wisconsin by suing those four states in the high court.
At least a majority of the justices concluded that Texas lacked standing to bring the case at all, a threshold the state had to clear before the case could go any further.
“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections,” the court wrote in the brief order.
No justice noted that they had dissented from the decision to knock out Texas’s case from the start. It would have taken at least five justices to agree to hear the case, but the justices don’t have to individually indicate how they voted, so there’s no way to know the vote breakdown for certain. Justice Samuel Alito Jr., joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote that they believed the court had to allow Texas to file its lawsuit, but they wouldn’t have granted any other relief that the state requested.
It was a significant loss not only for Texas, but for President Donald Trump, who had asked to intervene in the case and spent the the past two days tweeting about why the justices should effectively hand him an election that Biden won. The court denied all of the other motions filed in the case as moot once it decided Texas couldn’t bring the case at all, which ended Trump’s bid to get before the justices.
There’s plenty more stories out there – go to Google News or Trending on Twitter if you haven’t come across any others. The Electoral College meets on Monday, and after that it really is over, though one presumes the delusions will continue. I’m going to finish with some more tweets. You should go outside and enjoy the day.
Folks are asking what Justice Alito was saying. He is saying he thinks Texas has the right to file papers but that it wouldn’t matter because if they did he wouldn’t rule for them anyway.
It is a strong 9-0 loss for Trump. It’s impossible to lose more.
— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) 5:58 PM – 11 December 2020
Every lawyer who signed any of those briefs should be treated with total disdain. I’m sorry. I am not a harsh person. But this litigation was so far beyond the pale, so outrageous, so disloyal to the Constitution. Incredible.
— Raffi Melkonian (@RMFifthCircuit) 6:10 PM – 11 December 2020
Rep. Bill Pascrell asks Pelosi to refuse to seat the 126 Republican representatives asking SCOTUS to overturn the election. (He is obviously right.) https://pascrell.house.gov/uploadedfiles/qualifications_letter_revised_version2.pdf
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) 1:41 PM – 11 December 2020
Not sure how I feel about this. It’s right there in the Constitution, but it’s also overturning the will of the voters, which is what the Sedition Caucus was trying to do. I am happy to have a discussion about this, however. Let these bastards explain why they haven’t violated the Constitution.
Speaking of bastards and being in opposition to the Constitution:
.@TexasGOP Chair @AllenWest reacts to #SCOTUS’ rejection of the Texas-led attempt to overturn election results in 4 battleground states: “Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution.”
— Jasper Scherer (@jaspscherer) 6:11 PM – 11 December 2020
Yeah, I don’t even know what to say to that. But I would very much like to know what every elected Republican thinks about it. Let’s get them all on record, shall we? Rick Hasen has more.