In a closely watched decision the U.S. Supreme Court late Friday denied an attempt by the state of Texas, supported by a large number of Republicans, to overturn the election results and President-elect Joe Biden's victory in four states. Judy Woodruff spoke with John Yang, Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor to discuss.
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In a closely watched decision, the U.S. Supreme Court tonight has denied an attempt by the state of Texas, supported by a large number of Republicans, to overturn the election results and Joe Biden's victory.
Here to help us understand what the justices decided and more, our Lisa Desjardins, our Yamiche Alcindor, and our John Yang.
So, John, let me start with you.
What was the court being asked to do? And tell us what they have ruled.
Texas wanted the court, Judy, to say that the elections in four states that Joe Biden turned from Republican to Democrat, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, that the elections in those states were unconstitutional.
They wanted them to — the court to bar those states from using the results of the elections to determine the electoral votes, and instead order the state legislatures in those states, all, by the way, controlled by Republicans, to determine the electoral votes that those states would cast.
But the justices said that — essentially, that what — the election laws in the other states were none of Texas' business, that Texas was not qualified to bring this suit.
In the words of the order: "Texas has not demonstrated an interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections."
So, John, I was just reading the very short decision. There was only — it was only a matter of a couple of paragraphs.
But what did we learn in there about the thinking on the part of the nine justices?
Not a lot, Judy.
As you note, it's a very short — short order. In these sorts of orders, we don't even know the vote breakdown.
We do know that, in this case, Justices Thomas and Alito, on very technical procedural grounds, said they would have let this lawsuit go forward. They would not have done what Texas wanted them to do, bar the states from using the election results for the electoral votes.
And they would not say how — they would not offer any views about how they would have decided this case after they heard the arguments from the — from Texas and the other states, so not a lot of visibility here on exactly what the thinking was.
Yes, so many eyes on this, and trying to understand every word in this decision.
So, to Yamiche now.
Yamiche, as we know, President Trump signed on to this lawsuit by Texas. So many Republicans joined in. Attorneys general from something like 17 states joined in, 160-some Republican members of the House.
What — how important was this suit to President Trump and his campaign and their attempt to overturn election results?
This case that the Supreme Court just ruled on was incredibly important to President Trump and to the Trump campaign.
The president called it the big one. He said that this case possibly was the most important election case in the history of the United States. And, tonight, the Supreme Court, effectively, is ending the president's efforts to try to have the election overturned through the courts.
The president had said over and over again, throughout the election, even before people voted, that the Supreme Court was his backup plan if he lost. He said he would only be able to lose if there was some sort of election rigging. There is no evidence that any of the things that the president said happened happened, in terms of no mass voter fraud.
Courts after court have told the president that he needs to show actual evidence.
And, tonight, what's really striking about this decision is that the three Supreme Court justices who President Trump put on the Supreme Court bench, they are not saying anything here. They're not dissenting with this decision. So, this also was in line with other Trump-backed judges not siding with the president when it comes to his efforts to do this.
Now, critics of the president say he's essentially trying to use the courts to steal an election here. We should remind people that Joe Biden is at this point leading in the popular vote by some seven million votes. And it seems very clear tonight that, in 40 days, Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. This court here — this court decision makes that even more of a possibility.
Another thing I should note, I have been texting with people that are close to the president and White House aides. Right now, we're not hearing anything, but the feeling is very solemn. And they're very angry at the idea that the president is going to have to — even if he doesn't concede, have to leave office.
So, it does look like the end of the road for this court case. We do know they're still trying to overturn decisions in state legislatures as recently as today.
But I do want to quickly get to Lisa, because, Lisa, as John reported, two-thirds of the Republican members of the House had signed on to this case.
Tell us about what they were thinking, what the motivation was here, and where they stand on all this.
Some of them argue the substance that John was talking about, that state election officials went too far.
But others, Judy, were arguing that they wanted clarity on the election itself. And it does seem, in rejecting this lawsuit, the Supreme Court is offering that kind of clarity.
I'm looking for reaction from those House Republicans. I haven't seen it yet. I have gotten some reaction from other Republicans, one of them telling me, frankly, they're relieved that this is actually, in their view — and this is a Republican aide — something that backs up our institutions of governance.
As for leaders in the House and Senate, Nancy Pelosi sent out a letter earlier today saying that the lawsuit was an act of flailing GOP desperation.
I went back to her office after this happened just in the past few minutes. Her spokesman, Drew Hammill, texted me back reaction, two words: "As expected."
And, Lisa, just quickly, though, it was the House Republican leadership that was involved in this, correct?
That's correct. That's right.
Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, and Steve Scalise, his deputy, both of them signed on to this lawsuit. It will be interesting to see what they say.
McCarthy is not just the House leader, which is a prominent position for the Republicans. He is also a very close confidant and adviser to President Trump himself.
All right, a very important decision by the Supreme Court, one that we have been waiting to see.
And thank you, all three, for your reporting on this, Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor, John Yang.