With the Trump campaign frantically attempting to challenge vote-counting procedures in several battleground states where the president's early leads have evaporated, a prominent conservative attorney and co-chair of Lawyers for Trump openly admitted in a television interview Thursday that the campaign's ultimate hope is for newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett to "come through" and decide the election.
"Republicans consider the Supreme Court their insurance policy for when they lose elections."
—Brian Fallon, Demand Justice
Harmeet Dhillon, a legal adviser to the Trump campaign, said in an appearance on Fox Business that "we're waiting for the United States Supreme Court—of which the president has nominated three justices—to step in and do something."
"And hopefully Amy Coney Barrett will come through and pick it up," added Dhillon, who parroted the president's baseless claims of suspicious activity by election officials in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. "There's no guarantee of that... so we have to fight this on the ground and make sure that we challenge in every place, and we are."
Trump campaign legal adviser: "We're waiting for the United States Supreme Court - of which the President has nominated three justices - to step in and do something. And hopefully Amy Coney Barrett will come through" pic.twitter.com/Z4bfBqsks5
— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) November 5, 2020
Dhillon's remarks were viewed as a frank admission by a Trump campaign surrogate that the incumbent, with his path to victory through the democratic process narrowing rapidly, is desperately counting on the high court—and, in particular, a justice he and the Republican Senate installed just over a week before Election Day—to intervene and secure his reelection.
Trump himself said as much in the early hours of Wednesday morning, declaring, "We want the law to be used in the proper manner. So we'll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court."
"The GOP is telling the nation, on cable television, that it installed its 6-3 Supreme Court majority in order to steal elections," tweeted Rep.-elect Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.). "Believe them."
Brian Fallon, executive director of advocacy group Demand Justice, said Dhillon's comments represented further evidence that "Republicans consider the Supreme Court their insurance policy for when they lose elections."
The problem for the Trump campaign's stated last-ditch strategy of relying on the Supreme Court, as Buzzfeed's Zoe Tillman explained Thursday, is that "the lawsuits filed by the campaign so far don't present the kind of election-defining legal questions the court would be likely to take up; plus, it wasn't clear if the one case already pending before the court would be relevant to who wins."
"Pennsylvania Republicans are challenging a state Supreme Court order that extended the deadline for election officials to accept absentee ballots, from Election Day to Nov. 6," Tillman noted. "Trump's campaign filed a request this week to join the case at the U.S. Supreme Court to back the state GOP's position. But that case would only become another Bush v. Gore... if the election comes down to Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes, and if the number of ballots that arrived between Nov. 3 and Nov. 6 are large enough to affect the final tally."
Other legal challenges the Trump campaign has brought thus far have been laughably weak, coming nowhere close to substantiating the president's claim of a sprawling Democratic conspiracy to deny him the election through mass ballot fraud.
The Washington Post summarized the outcomes of a pair of suits the campaign filed after Election Day in Georgia and Michigan:
In Georgia, a local judge in Chatham County, home of Savannah, denied the Trump campaign's effort to disqualify ballots that a Republican poll watcher claimed may have arrived after the 7 pm deadline on Election Day. In court, the poll watcher offered no evidence that the ballots had arrived late, and county election officials testified that they had arrived on time.
And in Michigan, a Court of Claims judge said she would deny the campaign's request for an emergency halt to the counting of votes in the state. She noted that the request made little sense, given that the counting has essentially been finished in the state, with former vice president Joe Biden ahead by about 150,000 votes. He has been declared the winner of the state by national news organizations. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's office described Trump's request as an "attempt to unring a bell."
On Thursday, a federal judge in Pennsylvania—where the president holds an increasingly slim lead as counting continues—dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit alleging that Philadelphia officials are not allowing Republican election observers sufficient access during the ballot tabulation process.
Judge Paul Diamond of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, a George W. Bush appointee, made little effort to hide his annoyance with the Trump campaign's flimsy complaint throughout a hearing on the suit Thursday.
When Diamond pressed a Trump campaign lawyer on whether Republican observers are currently present at the counting site, the attorney responded: "There's a non-zero number of people in the room." Asked once more to provide a clear answer, the Trump campaign attorney said, "Yes."
"I'm sorry," Diamond responded, "then what's your problem?"