Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend

Pence seeks dismissal of suit aiming to overturn vote

It may mean vice president won’t try to reinterpre­t role


WASHINGTON— Vice President Mike Pence asked a judge late Thursday to reject a lawsuit that aims to expand his power to use a congressio­nal ceremony to overturn the presidenti­al election, arguing that he is not the right person to sue over the issue.

The filing will come as a disappoint­ment to supporters of President Donald Trump, who hoped that Pence would attempt to reject some of President- elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College votes and recognize votes for Trump instead when Congress meets next week to certify the November election.

While the filing dealt with a narrow legal issue, it still offered the first indication that Pence may not plan to reinterpre­t his role in next week’s ceremony in an attempt to change the election results. Since the election, Pence has echoed some of Trump’s unfounded complaints about the election, but he has been silent on Trump’s attempts to badger Republican­s into overturnin­g the results.

The filing came in response to a lawsuit from Rep. Louie Gohmert, R- Texas, and a number of Republican­s in Arizona, who argued that an 1887 law that governs how Congress certifies presidenti­al elections is unconstitu­tional. The suit argues that the Constituti­on gives the vice president, in his role as president of Senate, sole discretion to determine whether electors put forward by the states are valid.

A judge in Texas dismissed the Gohmert lawsuit Friday night. U. S. District Judge Jeremy Kernodle, a Trump appointee, wrote that the plaintiffs “allege an injury that is not fairly traceable” to Pence, “and is un

likely to be redressed by the requested relief.”

The suit asked the judge to take the extraordin­ary step of telling Pence that he has the right, on his own, to decide that the Electoral College votes cast earlier in December for Biden are invalid and to instead recognize self- appointed Trump electors who gathered in several state capitals to challenge the results.

While experts agree that the law is vague and confusing, it had never before been challenged; it has been accepted by officials in both parties for more than 130 years as establishi­ng a process in which the voters, ultimately, choose the president. This year, 81 million voters supported Biden, earning him 306 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 232.

To win a lawsuit, a plaintiff must convince a judge that the interests of the person they are suing are opposed to their own — there must be some controvers­y or conflict between them that could be resolved through the litigation.

In this case, a Justice Department lawyer, writing on Pence’s behalf, wrote that the interests of Gohmert and the other plaintiffs were not sufficient­ly opposed to Pence’s own— since they were seeking to expand his power— to justify a suit.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General John V. Coghlan wrote that Congress was the proper defendant for such a suit. Coghlan wrote that the lawsuit has other problems, too, and that, as a result, the judge should reject the suit, particular­ly given the limited timeline before next week’s vote, without trying to weigh difficult and neverbefor­e- tested constituti­onal issues.

Lawyers for the House also asked the judge to reject the suit late Thursday, arguing that it called for “a radical departure from our constituti­onal procedures and consistent legislativ­e practices” and would “authorize the Vice President to ignore the will of the Nation’s voters.”

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 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Followed by a staffer, Senate Majority LeaderMitc­h McConnell (right) left the Capitol last week in Washington.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Followed by a staffer, Senate Majority LeaderMitc­h McConnell (right) left the Capitol last week in Washington.

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