Trump’s lawyers had a ‘law school 101 discussion’ about explaining to him how the Supreme Court works, book says

Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File
  • Trump’s lawyers had to explain to him that being upset about the election wasn’t enough cause to file a lawsuit, a new book says.
  • “Why don’t we just get up to the Supreme Court directly?” he asked, per the book. “Like, why can’t we just go there right away?”
  • That prompted a “tense, basic, law school 101 discussion” about how to explain the Supreme Court to Trump.
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As President Donald Trump realized last year that he was on the brink of losing the November election, his lawyers had to explain to him that being angry about the results was not enough of a reason to file lawsuits, a new book says.

The conversation took place on November 6, three days after Election Day and the day before major news outlets and television networks projected Joe Biden as the winner. At one point, the discussion took a more elementary turn as the president’s lawyers tried to figure out the best way to explain to him the basics of how the Supreme Court works.

That’s according to “Peril,” by The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, an early copy of which Insider obtained.

Trump’s lawyers started by telling him it wouldn’t be easy to bring cases alleging voter fraud because they’d need to demonstrate standing – a legal principle stipulating that a party must prove the laws or actions it’s challenging have caused it harm or injury – to get before a judge.

They specified that being upset about the election results did not constitute legal standing, the book said. Trump then took a different route.

“Well, why don’t we just get up to the Supreme Court directly?” he asked, according to the book. “Like, why can’t we just go there right away?”

The president’s advisors explained to him that there’s a specific legal process to follow to get before the Supreme Court. Trump instructed them to go figure that process out, the book said.

What followed was what Woodward and Costa described as a “tense, basic, law school 101 discussion” between the lawyers “about what they should tell Trump.”

“They knew they could never go straight to the Supreme Court,” the book said. “Trump would have to file in district courts, then get a federal appeals court to hear the case, then file for the Supreme Court. It would take time.”

Trump said frequently and publicly on the campaign trail that he was banking on the Supreme Court to hand him the election if he lost the Electoral College to Joe Biden.

After Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last September, leaving a vacancy on the high court, TIME reported that Trump allies were weighing which potential Supreme Court picks would help him win the November election.

On September 23, Trump made the groundless claim that Democrats were trying to rig the election against him and that he wanted a conservative majority on the Supreme Court that would agree with him.

“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court,” he said. “And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.” He eventually nominated, and the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed, Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the court, cementing a 6-3 conservative majority.

In the following months, Trump publicly urged the court to rule in favor of a longshot lawsuit filed by the state of Texas asking the justices to throw out the election results in four battleground states that Biden won: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

But in December, the Supreme Court threw out the case, with all three of Trump’s nominees – Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch – voting to dismiss it over a lack of standing.

The decision, which came in the form of an unsigned order, infuriated Trump who tweeted the next day, “The Supreme Court really let us down. No Wisdom, No Courage!”

Two days later, the Electoral College met and certified Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.