Washington — A Republican congressional ally of President Trump solicited more than 100 of his fellow GOP lawmakers to sign on to a brief with the Supreme Court in support of a long-shot lawsuit filed by Texas seeking to delay certification of presidential electors in four battleground states won by President-elect Joe Biden.
Congressman Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, circulated an email, obtained by CBS News, from his personal account to GOP members Wednesday that asked them to join a friend-of-the-court brief to be filed in support of the effort spearheaded by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Johnson was a vocal defender of Mr. Trump during impeachment proceedings.
“The simple objective of our brief is to affirm for the court (and our constituents back home) our serious concerns with the integrity of our election system,” Johnson wrote. “We are not seeking to independently litigate the particular allegations of fraud in our brief (this is not our place as amici). We will merely state our belief that the broad scope of the various allegations and irregularities in the subject states merits careful, timely review by the Supreme Court.”
A total of 105 House Republicans joined Johnson in his brief backing Texas’ case on Thursday, which argued governors, state courts and election officials usurped the constitutional authority of state legislatures in changing election rules.
“Due in large part to those usurpations, the election of 2020 has been riddled with an unprecedented number of serious allegations of fraud and irregularities,” the Republicans said.
Johnson said Mr. Trump called him Wednesday morning “to express his great appreciation for our effort” to file the brief.
“He said he will be anxiously awaiting the final list to review,” the Louisiana Republican said of the president.
Johnson said in a statement that most of his fellow House Republicans and their constituents have “serious concerns with the integrity of our election system.”
“The purpose of our amicus brief will be to articulate this concern and express our sincere belief that the great importance of this issue merits a full and careful consideration by the court,” he said.
One House Republican, Congressman Chip Roy of Texas, publicly denounced the effort and said he would not participate, calling the case “a dangerous violation of federalism and sets a precedent to have one state asking federal courts to police the voting procedures of other states.”
“I cannot support an effort that will almost certainly fail on grounds of standing and is inconsistent with my beliefs about protecting Texas sovereignty from the meddling of other states,” Roy said in a series of tweets. “Our remedy must be, from this day forward, to decline to allow the usurpation of our authority as people — through our states — to govern ourselves in all respects.”
Paxton, the Texas attorney general, filed his lawsuit directly with the Supreme Court on Monday, alleging officials in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan unlawfully changed their voting laws, leading to election irregularities and skewing the results of the election.
He is asking the Supreme Court to delay the December 14 Electoral College vote and block the four states from casting their votes in the Electoral College for Mr. Biden. The president-elect won the popular vote in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan, and they all have certified their election results, formalizing Mr. Biden’s victory over Mr. Trump.
In a Supreme Court filing in response to the suit, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called the efforts from Texas to overturn the election results “legally indefensible” and “an afront to principles of constitutional democracy.”
“Texas’s effort to get this Court to pick the next President has no basis in law or fact,” he wrote. “The court should not abide this seditious abuse of the judicial process, and should send a clear and unmistakable signal that such abuse must never be replicated.”
Shapiro told the court Texas waited to request an injunction to invalidate Pennsylvania’s election results “because all of the other political and litigation machinations of petitioner’s preferred presidential candidate have failed.”
“The Trump campaign began with a series of meritless litigations. When that failed, it turned to state legislatures to overturn the clear election results. Upon that failure, Texas now turns to this Court to overturn the election results of more than 10% of the country,” he continued. “Texas literally seeks to decimate the electorate of the United States.”
Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan also filed their respective responses to the suit and urged the Supreme Court to reject Texas’s requests.
“The novel and far-reaching claims that Texas asserts, and the breathtaking remedies it seeks, are impossible to ground in legal principles and unmanageable,” Georgia officials wrote in their filing. “This court has never allowed one state to co-opt the legislative authority of another state, and there are no limiting or manageable principles to cabin that kind of overreach.”
A group of attorneys general from 17 states filed their own friend-of-the-court brief in support of Texas, while the president filed a motion with the Supreme Court asking the join the case. Six more states — Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Utah — requested Thursday to join Texas in the case, while the state of Ohio told the Supreme Court it does not support Paxton’s proposed relief.
Ordering state legislatures to appoint its own electors would violate the Constitution, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a Republican, and Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers told the court.
“Federal courts, just like state courts, lack authority to change the legislatively chosen method for appointing presidential electors. And so federal courts, just like state courts, lack authority to order legislatures to appoint electors without regard to the results of an already-completed election,” they argued. “What is more, the relief that Texas seeks would undermine a foundational premise of our federalist system: the idea that the states are sovereigns, free to govern themselves.”
Paxton’s lawsuit was scorned by election officials from the four states named as an unserious effort and waste of taxpayer dollars. It has also been met with skepticism from some GOP lawmakers, including from the very states that support Texas’s attempt to block certification of the Electoral College vote.
Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas told reporters Wednesday the lawsuit was “unprecedented” and expressed skepticism the attempt by his state’s attorney general would be successful.
“States handle their own election laws and voting, and you can make claims of constitutionality in that state in lawsuits. But I’ve never seen something like this,” he said. “So I don’t know what the Supreme Court is going to do.”
GOP Senator Mitt Romney of Utah called the effort “simply madness.”
“The idea of supplanting the vote of the people with partisan legislators is so completely out of our national character that it’s simply mad,” he told reporters. “Of course the president has the right to challenge results in court, to have recounts. But this effort to subvert the vote of the people is dangerous and destructive of the cause of democracy.”
Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.