But now the Supreme Court delivered perhaps one final blow to Trump’s effort — thanks in significant part to Trump’s own nominees to the court.
As The Post’s Robert Barnes reported Monday, in addition to its key decision against Trump’s attempt to prevent a grand jury from getting access to his tax returns, it also declined to take up cases involving Trump’s and Trump allies’ challenges to the election results in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Arizona:
It was part of a purge of sorts. The high court formally dismissed a range of suits filed by Donald Trump and his allies in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Arizona — all states won by Democrat Joe Biden. The court’s intent in most of those had been signaled when it refused to expedite consideration of them before Biden was inaugurated as president.
While not surprising, the decisions were significant. Trump allies like House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) have pressed forward with claims that states disregarded their own election laws in 2020. And even in states in which elections officials (including Republican ones) have validated those election results, Republican-controlled state legislatures have moved to change those election laws by citing supposed improprieties.
But one of the most conservative Supreme Courts in many decades — if not ever — has now decided that the merits of those claims aren’t worth consideration. And it did so despite the pleadings of dissenting justices that such issues should be considered if for no other reason than we need clarity moving forward.
“A decision in these cases would not have any implications regarding the 2020 election,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote of a decision not to review a deadline for receiving late-arriving Pennsylvania mail ballots after Election Day. “But a decision would provide invaluable guidance for future elections.”
Added Justice Clarence Thomas: “These cases provide us with an ideal opportunity to address just what authority non-legislative officials have to set election rules, and to do so well before the next election cycle. The refusal to do so is inexplicable.”
The dissents dealt with a particular case in Pennsylvania, but the arguments contained in those dissents could just as easily be applied to the decisions not to take up cases in multiple states.
And the argument apparently wasn’t compelling enough for two Trump appointees. Alito and Thomas were joined by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch (the one Trump appointee involved) in saying that the Supreme Court had a role to play in reviewing state-court decisions — what has historically been a high bar for the Supreme Court to get involved.
But two Trump nominees — Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — declined to join with Alito’s, Thomas’s and Gorsuch’s dissents. A majority of the court isn’t required to consider a case — only 4 of 9 — but either of them could have tipped the scales in taking up any given case if Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch were on board.
It’s a bit different from when the court declined to take up a far-flung challenge initiated by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) to several states’ votes because, at the time, we had only statements from Alito and Thomas raising issues with the decision that technically weren’t dissents. In that case, their objections were procedural rather than about the merits. In the present case, though, their dissents and the addition of Gorsuch suggest this was more substantial.
But not substantial enough. The detractors still clearly didn’t amount to enough — and thanks to Trump appointees, no less. Trump allies will tell themselves this was about the proceedings being moot. But the justices they favor argued they weren’t, and that apparently wasn’t compelling enough.