President Donald Trump and his legal allies earned a platinum sombrero Friday, striking out five times in a matter of hours in states pivotal to the president’s push to overturn the election results — and losing a sixth in Minnesota for good measure.
It was another harsh milestone in a monthlong run of legal futility, accompanied by sharp rebukes from county, state and federal judges who continue to express shock at the Trump team’s effort to simply scrap the results of an election he lost. Several of the most devastating opinions, both Friday and in recent weeks, have come from conservative judges and, in some federal cases, Trump appointees.
The losses included a rejection in Wisconsin from the state Supreme Court, where the majority was gobsmacked at the effort by a conservative group to invalidate the entire election without any compelling evidence of voter fraud or misconduct.
“The relief being sought by the petitioners is the most dramatic invocation of judicial power I have ever seen,” said Brian Hagedorn, a conservative elected justice, in a concurring opinion. “Judicial acquiescence to such entreaties built on so flimsy a foundation would do indelible damage to every future election. Once the door is opened to judicial invalidation of presidential election results, it will be awfully hard to close that door again. This is a dangerous path we are being asked to tread.”
An Arizona county judge, similarly, tossed a suit brought by state GOP chair Kelli Ward. "The court finds no misconduct, no fraud and no effect on the outcome of the election." Ward has vowed to appeal that ruling.
A Nevada judge issued a point-by-point rejection of every claim lodged by the Trump team, emphasizing that the facts they presented were sparse and unpersuasive. Carson City District Judge James Russell’s opinion repeatedly emphasized their case would not have succeeded “under any standard of proof.”
“There is no credible or reliable evidence that the 2020 General Election in Nevada was affected by fraud,” Russell wrote.
Jesse Binnall, the lead lawyer in the challenge brought by would-be Trump electors in Nevada, said: “We disagree with the order. The case and evidence we presented was compelling and overwhelming. We have noted our appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.”
In one of the most prominent cases — a suit in Georgia brought by controversial lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood — a federal appeals court dismissed an appeal seeking to expand a restraining order a district court judge issued Sunday barring any alterations to voting machines in three Georgia counties.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal without even hearing oral arguments from the litigants.
Judge Andrew Brasher, a Trump appointee, suggested the appeal was a strategic mistake because the lower-court judge was on the verge of holding a hearing that might have resulted in Powell and Wood being able to designate experts to inspect voting machines in some Georgia counties.
“The plaintiffs would not take the district court’s ‘yes’ for an answer. They appealed instead. And, because they appealed, the evidentiary hearing has been stayed and the case considerably delayed,” wrote Brasher, in an opinion joined by Clinton-appointed Judge Charles Wilson and Obama-appointed Judge Robin Rosenbaum.
Brasher also suggested the matter wasn’t quite as urgent as some of the cases the GOP lawyers cited. “The plaintiffs here are not in the same position as an inmate about to be executed or a patient removed from life support,” he wrote.
The appeals judges did not knock the Powell-led challenge out altogether, but the result of the detour to the appeals court is that the Trump backers have lost a week when they might have been inspecting voting equipment or trying to convince the district court judge to freeze more of the state’s voting gear.
Shortly after the appeals court ruling emerged, Judge Timothy Batten set a hearing for Monday morning on the GOP's request to inspect machines in 10 Georgia counties. Powell and Wood did not respond to a request for comment.
In Michigan, a state appeals court tossed an effort by the Trump campaign to block certification of Michigan’s results. The judges who issued the 2-1 ruling noted that while the Trump lawyers delayed their latest round of filings for weeks, the state had gone ahead and certified the election, making the legal challenge moot.
In Minnesota, a state Biden won easily but that had been on Trump’s radar ahead of Nov. 3, the state Supreme Court rejected Republicans’ proposal for a full statewide recount and chided them for failing to serve their complaint on the county officials they called out in their filings.
And Trump allies' losing streak continued Saturday when the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a suit brought by Wood over absentee ballots and recount procedures just hours before the president was scheduled to campaign there ahead of the state's Senate runoffs. The majority opinion was written by Chief Judge William Pryor, who is considered one of the most conservative George W. Bush appointees on the appellate bench.