TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump looks on after delivering an update on "Operation Warp Speed" in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on November 13, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Trump backs Texas lawsuit seeking to invalidate millions of votes
02:19 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: David Axelrod, a senior CNN political commentator and host of “The Axe Files,” was senior adviser to President Barack Obama and chief strategist for the 2008 and 2012 Obama presidential campaigns. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his. View more opinion on CNN.

CNN  — 

In the final days of his desperate, dishonest campaign to upend last month’s election, President Donald Trump tossed off a particularly audacious and offensive challenge aimed at those he somehow thinks can change the outcome.

“Let’s see if they have the courage to do what everybody in this country knows is right,” he said.

With time running out, his blatant hope was to intimidate and bait state legislatures or the Supreme Court into overturning a vote of the people, by legislative or judicial fiat.

Trump’s perverse definition of “courage” and “right,” of course, amounts to a willingness to bend truth to his will and prize his continuation in office over American democracy.

Yet against this madness, we have witnessed many acts of genuine courage. Of people of both parties bravely doing right.

Secretaries of state and election authorities in the contested states, Republicans and Democrats, have weathered death threats and vows of political retribution simply for doing their jobs and counting, recounting and certifying the vote. They have shown enormous courage and deserve our gratitude and respect.

Thousands of everyday Americans worked around the clock – in the midst of a pandemic and sometimes with the din of howling mobs in the background – to count and recount the votes. These patriotic Americans showed inspiring courage.

So, too, did the governors who loyally campaigned for Trump but refused to bow to his threats and intimidation after the election.

Yes, they were simply doing what the law required and democracy demands by certifying the vote in their states. But these officials acted knowing that in the hothouse of Trump’s Republican Party, doing their duty now could cost them their jobs in primaries later.

Dozens of judges – some appointed by Trump – have summarily dismissed his ferocious, groundless assault on the election results. They have shown gratifying fidelity to the law.

Trump has made clear from the very start of his presidency that he believed that every branch, every person in government, should be beholden to him before the law and their oaths of office.

He told us before the election, in rushing through the Supreme Court confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, that he wanted nine justices to rule on election disputes. His implication was clear: My justices. My way.

But this very conservative Supreme Court would not (so far, at least) be enlisted in the profane and unconstitutional mission of overturning an election on his behalf.

As they and other federal judges have lifetime appointments, perhaps it took less courage than it did for those elected officials who have risked their careers – and even their lives – to stand by the rule of law. But the justices deserve credit, too, for firmly and unanimously rejecting the absurd lawsuits Trump and his loyalists have pushed their way.

Courageous, too, have been those handful of elected Republicans who have acknowledged the results, congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and urged a peaceful, orderly transition of power.

But if we have seen acts of courage, we also have seen cowardice.

Rudy Giuliani and the Trump legal team have debased themselves, our legal system and democracy by filing one frivolous lawsuit after another, crying fraud on TV – but not in the courtroom, where evidence is required.

And too many Republican officials, fearful of getting sideways with Trump’s base, have dutifully echoed his dishonest charges of vote fraud.

A group of Republican state attorneys general lined up in support of a preposterous eleventh-hour filing from the attorney general of Texas, asking the Supreme Court to overturn the results in four states Trump lost.

The suit was filed without standing, supporting evidence or a colorable argument. Nonetheless, Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana circulated an email among his Republican House colleagues urging them to sign an amicus brief in support of this outrageous folly. Trump is “anxiously awaiting the final list” to see who signs on to the amicus brief, Johnson wrote, implying dire consequences for anyone who failed join.

Within 24 hours, more than 100 House Republicans complied.

Supporters of Trump have gone so far as to argue that Republicans may stage a battle on the House floor to reject the Biden electors from contested states, a symbolic gesture that would fail but set a chilling precedent.

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    Almost as egregious have been the many Republican members of the House and Senate who have refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory and countenanced weeks of delay in the transition.

    Through their silence, they have given credence to Trump’s blatant lies, which have now gained traction among a large majority of Republicans nationally.

    It’s crazy, authoritarian stuff. If it were occurring anywhere else, Americans would condemn it as an appalling attempt to undermine democracy.

    History will scorn the cowards who meekly complied with Trump’s scheme to tarnish and overturn the election – and honor the many who showed courage and fidelity to the rule of law during this time of trial.