The two stories driving the news cycle last week merged into one when the president announced that he would need a fully seated Supreme Court because he is expecting a disputed election. “I think this will end up in the Supreme Court and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices, and I think the system’s going to go very quickly,” Trump said on Wednesday in a meeting with Republican attorneys general.
Though Trump did not say which candidate he thought might dispute election results, some past comments clarify who might do so in the chaotic aftermath in November. “I’m not going to just say ‘yes,’” Trump told Chris Wallace in July, when the Fox News host asked if he would commit to accepting election results. “I’m not going to say ‘no,’ and I didn’t last time, either.” Last time, Trump’s commitment to accepting the results was just as evasive. “I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters, and to all the people of the United States, that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election,” Trump said at an October 2016 Ohio rally. After pausing for dramatic effect, he added, “If I win.”
On Tuesday, speaking with reporters on the White House lawn, Trump connected the Republican push to nominate a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg with his own baseless claims about the threat of mail-in voter fraud come November. “We need nine justices. You need that with the unsolicited millions of ballots that they’re sending. It’s a scam,” Trump said.
If the election comes down to court intervention, a 6-3 conservative majority could lead to something akin to the Bush v. Gore decision in 2000, which stopped the recount of votes in Florida and handed the Electoral College victory to the Republican candidate. This time around, such an intervention and stoppage could affect mail-in ballots nationwide, which are expected to skew heavily Democratic due to the president’s constant lambasting of the mail-in vote. And as Barton Gellman at the Atlantic noted Wednesday, an attempt to stop the vote count in the courts isn’t the only way the GOP intends to contest the election. Republicans in Pennsylvania have gamed out a way to appoint Electoral College electors themselves to override the state’s popular vote if counting ballots takes too long.
Meanwhile, with Mitt Romney onboard with a Supreme Court nomination this year, the process to replace Justice Ginsburg is moving forward. Trump will announce his pick on Saturday and the Republican-controlled Senate reportedly intends to confirm the nominee on October 29, just five days before Election Day.