Trump's Failed Efforts to Overturn the Election Have Fractured the Republican Party

With just two days until the Electoral College makes Joe Biden's win official, President Donald Trump is still living—at least publicly—in an alternate universe.

Trump's refusal to concede to his Democratic challenger is only dividing the Grand Old Party, acting as a test for who is most loyal to an outgoing president that will likely maintain a powerful grasp on his party vs. who is grounded in reality.

On one side were 126 House Republicans and 18 Republican state attorneys general who backed a failed endeavor—but was nonetheless an extraordinary plea to the Supreme Court—that would have undermined American democracy and subverted the will of millions of voters. This group refuses to acknowledge Trump's loss at the ballot box from 39 days ago, claiming—without evidence—that the election was "rigged."

On the other side was a refusal by GOP lawmakers to associate themselves with the lawsuit—and in some cases, offered searing condemnation—even among the Republicans who've yet to recognize Biden as president-elect.

On Friday evening, the Supreme Court dealt a major and final blow to the Trump campaign, refusing to even consider a case led by the Texas attorney general that sought to overturn the election by tossing out millions of ballots in four pivotal states Biden won: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The justices, including the three Trump appointees, said it lacked legal standing.

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump walks out after speaking at the Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit on December 8 in Washington, DC. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty

"Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections," the court's opinion said.

In a flurry of tweets since the ruling, Trump has continued to rage online while all but ignoring the fact that his legal options have been exhausted.

"WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT!!!" Trump tweeted. Another post read: "The Supreme Court really let us down. No Wisdom, No Courage!"

But make no mistake about it: even as the Electoral College prepares to vote on Monday and cement Biden's victory, the battle among Trump's allies over who won will rage on for weeks, as an effort unfolds behind the scenes among congressional Republicans for Congress to contest the certification of the outcome.

The divide represents the intraparty dilemma that Republicans will face on Jan. 20 and beyond, when Trump is no longer in the White House. Will GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill continue to fear the Twitter wrath of a man who no longer holds office, or will they seek to install a new unofficial leader of the party?

"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," Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said in a statement Friday following the Supreme Court's ruling. "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."

The ruling came as no surprise to legal experts. Still, 126 out of 196 House Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and 17 Republican state attorneys general chose to sign onto a longshot lawsuit led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R).

McCarthy, who initially laughed off questions about whether he supported the endeavor, and 25 other Republicans later signed onto the lawsuit after they said a "clerical error" mistakenly left them off. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) solicited support for the lawsuit, sending an email to his GOP colleagues asking to join and that Trump was "anxiously awaiting the final list."

Several Republicans on the other side of the Capitol in the Senate shook their heads in disapproval.

Trump's concession refusal fracturing GOP
Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on December 11 in Washington, DC. More than 100 Republicans in the House of Representatives voiced their support for a pro-Trump election lawsuit in Texas as the state calls for the Supreme Court to delay the certification of election results in four battleground states that Vice President-elect Joe Biden won. Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty

"I'm never surprised about the House of Representatives," Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) labeled the suit "just simply madness."

"The idea of supplanting the vote of the people with partisan legislators is so completely out of our national character that it's simply mad," the former GOP presidential nominee said. "Of course, the president has the right to challenge results in court, to have recounts. But this effort to subvert the vote of the people is dangerous and destructive of the cause of democracy."

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a leadership member, called the lawsuit led by his state's attorney general "unprecedented."

"I do not understand the legal theory," he said. "I don't want other states having the chance to change Texas law based on a similar effort."

"Really surprised and disappointed," is how Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) portrayed her feelings about the bid to invalidate so many legally cast votes. "Even more so, I was really disappointed that this is continuing in this way."

Many of those who backed the Texas-led lawsuit would privately admit the effort was futile. But many also truly believed the election was laden with fraud, despite the campaign failing to prove such a claim in dozens of post-election lawsuits.

There was a clear divide on Capitol Hill, with more than 60 percent of Republicans in the House formally backing the lawsuit while senators steered clear. Notably, few GOP lawmakers in the upper chamber, a body that often conducts itself with more civility, told reporters they supported the idea.

"My guess is," predicted Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who felt it was the Supreme Court's duty to at least adjudicate the case in some manner, "it's just nobody here sort of rounded up the troops."