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After Supreme Court Defeat, Trump's Backers In Congress Are Quiet On What Comes Next

President Trump saw the effort to overturn last month's election all but snuffed out Friday night by the Supreme Court.
Tasos Katopodis
Getty Images
President Trump saw the effort to overturn last month's election all but snuffed out Friday night by the Supreme Court.

For weeks, President Trump's push to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election has soldiered on despite an ever-lengthening string of legal defeats. But that effort, already sputtering, now appears all but exhausted after the Supreme Court on Friday rejected Texas' challenge to President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

The justices' one-page order is about as definitive an answer as one could expect, with Electoral College delegates set to cast their ballots for president Monday. But for the president and his GOP supporters, the decision fails to answer one simple question: What next?

In a series of tweets posted early Saturday, Trump made clear his disgust with the Supreme Court, which in dismissing the widely derided case said that Texas lacked standing to challenge the results in four battleground states that swung for Biden — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The president protested that the lawsuit, which he had previously hyped as "the big one," had been so quickly "thrown out and gone, without even looking at the many reasons it was brought."

The outgoing president vowed to "fight on!" He did not, however, immediately explain how he and his supporters would proceed, with a heap of courtroom losses in the rear-view mirror and his remaining legal options diminishing by the day.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, too, expressed his disappointment with the Supreme Court decision. Paxton had led the failed effort, joined by 17 other GOP state attorneys general. In a statement Friday night, without offering details, Paxton promised "to tirelessly defend the integrity and security of our elections and hold accountable those who shirk established election law for their own convenience."

Perhaps the more complex conundrum, though, awaits Trump's supporters in Congress — most of whom, unlike Trump, won their elections and will still be in office after Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20. Of the 196 Republicans in the House, 126 signed on to a brief supporting the lawsuit before it was tossed. Among those who joined that effort were the top two Republicans in the House — Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

Unlike Trump and Paxton, the Twitter feeds of the House Republicans who had signed the brief largely remained silent about Friday's decision. The offices of McCarthy and Scalise did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

One exception to the prevailing silence was Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, who, in a statement, said that the Supreme Court had effectively "closed the books on challenges to the 2020 election results."

"The only milestone left in completing the election process will be Congress counting the [Electoral College] votes on January 6," Westerman said.

The Democratic speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, condemned her colleagues across the aisle for focusing on "election subversion" in the midst of a pandemic that has killed nearly 300,000 people in the U.S.

"The 126 Republican Members that signed onto this lawsuit brought dishonor to the House," Pelosi said in a statement. "Instead of upholding their oath to support and defend the Constitution," she said, "they chose to subvert the Constitution and undermine public trust in our sacred democratic institutions."

Unlike their colleagues in the House, several Republican senators had expressed theirskepticism about the lawsuit, or outright criticism. After its rejection, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., emphasized that he was not sorry to see it go.

"Since Election Night, a lot of people have been confusing voters by spinning Kenyan Birther-type, 'Chavez rigged the election from the grave' conspiracy theories," Sasse said in a statement, "but every American who cares about the rule of law should take comfort that the Supreme Court — including all three of President Trump's picks — closed the book on the nonsense."

Meanwhile, most Republicans across the country have followed the broader party line in questioning the results of the presidential election, despite there being no evidence of widespread voter fraud. In a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released earlier this week, just a quarter of Republicans surveyed say they trust the election's outcome.

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Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.