Emmer, Stauber, Hagedorn back bid to get Supreme Court to overturn Biden's win

Three republican representatives in a photo illustration
GOP Reps. Tom Emmer (left), Pete Stauber and Jim Hagedorn have sign on to a last-gasp bid to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the presidential election.
Images by Evan Frost, Tony Saunders and Jerry Olson | MPR News file

Updated: Dec. 11, 3:20 p.m. | Posted: Dec. 10, 6:25 p.m.

Minnesota Republican U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer, Pete Stauber and Jim Hagedorn have signed on to a last-gasp bid to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the presidential election.

The three are among more than 100 House Republicans who joined an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Emmer's name was on a list of signatories released Thursday. Stauber tweeted Friday that his name was left off due to a clerical error and that it would be added. Hagedorn then issued a statement saying he had signed it, too.

The last-gasp bid to subvert the results of the Nov. 3 election is demonstrating President Donald Trump’s enduring political power even as his term is set to end. And even though most of the signatories are far-right conservatives who come from deep red districts, the filing meant that roughly one-quarter of the U.S. House believes the Supreme Court should set aside election results.

Seventeen Republican attorneys general are also backing the unprecedented case that Trump is calling “the big one" despite the fact that the president and his allies have lost dozens of times in courts across the country and have no evidence of widespread fraud. And in a filing Thursday, the Congressional Republicans claimed “unconstitutional irregularities” have “cast doubt” on the 2020 outcome and “the integrity of the American system of elections.”

To be clear, there has been no evidence of widespread fraud and Trump has been seeking to subvert the will of the voters. Election law experts think the lawsuit will never last.

“The Supreme Court is not going to overturn the election in the Texas case, as the President has told them to do," tweeted Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. "But we are in bad shape as a country that 17 states could support this shameful, anti-American filing" by Texas and its attorney general, Paxton, he said.

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The lawsuit filed against Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin repeats false, disproven, and unsubstantiated accusations about the voting in four states that went for Trump's Democratic challenger. The case demands that the high court invalidate the states' 62 total Electoral College votes. That's an unprecedented remedy in American history: setting aside the votes of tens of millions of people, under the baseless claim the Republican incumbent lost a chance at a second term due to widespread fraud.

If the high court takes the case, Electoral College votes in key states could be called into question. Emmer said there were too many workarounds in the election held during a global pandemic. That alone, he said, is worth Supreme Court scrutiny.

"But if they do anything, they really have to reestablish the constitutional principle that the states and specifically the legislative branch of government in each of the states is solely responsible for our election laws,” Emmer told MPR News Friday.

Emmer wouldn't say if he’d join other Republicans in challenging the Electoral College outcome in Congress if the case doesn’t advance. Minnesota’s DFL Attorney General Keith Ellison said the Supreme Court should reject the case, calling it an “unprecedented” and “unfounded” attempt to override millions of properly cast votes.

Two days after Texas Attorney General Paxton sued, 17 states filed a motion supporting the lawsuit, and on Thursday six of those states asked to join the case themselves. Trump has acted to join the case, tweeting Thursday that “the Supreme Court has a chance to save our Country from the greatest Election abuse in the history of the United States.” Hours later, Trump held a meeting at the White House, scheduled before the suit was filed, with a dozen Republican attorneys general, including Paxton and several others who are backing the effort.

Still, some of the top state Republican prosecutors urging the Supreme Court to hear the case have acknowledged that the effort is a long shot and are seeking to distance themselves from Trump’s baseless allegations of fraud. North Dakota's Wayne Stenehjem, among the 17 attorneys general supporting the case, said North Dakota is not alleging voter fraud in the four states at issue.

“We’re careful on that,” said Stenehjem, who noted that his office has received thousands of calls and emails from constituents asking the state to support the suit. “But it’s worth it for the Supreme Court to weigh in and settle it once and for all,” he said.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox called the lawsuit “belated” and said its chances “are slim at best.” But Fox supported Texas because he said the case raised “important constitutional questions about the separation of powers and the integrity of mail-in ballots in those defendant states.”

Suits brought by Trump and his allies have failed repeatedly across the country, and the Supreme Court this week rejected a Republican bid to reverse Pennsylvania’s certification of Biden’s victory.

Trump looked straight past the high court loss, claiming it didn’t matter because his campaign wasn’t involved in the case, though it would have benefited if the case had continued. He has spent the week relentlessly tweeting about the Texas case with the hashtag “overturn” and claiming, falsely, that he had won the election but was robbed.

Many of the attorneys general supporting the case have shown greater political ambitions.

In Kansas, Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is considering a bid for governor in 2022, said the Texas case presented “important and potentially recurring constitutional questions.” Schmidt’s announcement that Kansas would back the effort came only hours after former Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer — another potential candidate for governor — tweeted that Schmidt’s office should join the Texas litigation.

The case has stirred Republican infighting in Utah, where GOP Gov. Gary Herbert and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who will become governor in January, blasted Attorney General Sean Reyes for deciding to join the suit.

“The Attorney General did not consult us before signing on to this brief, so we don’t know what his motivation is,” they said in a joint statement. “Just as we would not want other states challenging Utah’s election results, we do not think we should intervene in other states’ elections.”

Officials in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin say the suit is a publicity stunt. More than 20 other attorneys general from states including California and Virginia also filed a brief Thursday urging the court to reject the case.

“Since Election Day, State and Federal courts throughout the country have been flooded with frivolous lawsuits aimed at disenfranchising large swaths of voters and undermining the legitimacy of the election. The State of Texas has now added its voice to the cacophony of bogus claims," Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, wrote in the state's brief.

Despite the political pressure, Idaho’s Republican attorney general chose not to join the Texas suit. Lawrence Wasden said he has concerns about "supporting a legal argument that could result in other states litigating against legal decisions made by Idaho’s legislature and governor.” Idaho's two congressmen, Republicans Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher, joined the legal brief from GOP House members supporting Paxton’s effort.

“As is sometimes the case, the legally correct decision may not be the politically convenient decision,” Wasden said in a statement. “But my responsibility is to the state of Idaho and the rule of law.”

MPR News reporter Brian Bakst contributed to this story.