A Denver attorney representing Donald Trump has filed a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit by Electoral College members who are trying to stop Trump from becoming president.
A court hearing is set for 3 p.m today in U.S. District Court in Denver.
Chris Murray, who also represents the Colorado Republican Party in the same suit, filed the motion on behalf of Trump today as part of a broader appellate strategy, since the lawsuit could lead to an effort that blocks the president-elect from taking office. Similar lawsuits from electors in Washington and California are also in the works.
If judges in those suits rule differently, appeals would wind up in separate federal jurisdictions. That creates a path to the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump likely wants to get in at the District Court level in those states where there are lawsuits so he has an early voice in the cases should they go up the legal chain toward the High Court.
A group calling themselves Hamilton Electors is seeking to free electors from state laws requiring them to vote for whomever won their state. In addition to Colorado, 28 states have such laws on the books.
The Hamilton Electors’ larger strategy is to persuade enough of the 538 electors nationwide to cast their votes for someone other than Trump to keep him from the White House. Though Democrats, these electors are willing to cast their votes for a Republican if it means keeping Trump from becoming president. So far the effort counts four Democratic electors in Colorado, and a few in Washington state and California. A Republican elector in Texas is also on board.
One of the Colorado electors who filed the lawsuit, Bob Nemanich, a math teacher in Colorado Springs, sees a silver lining in Trump’s intervention in the suit. He hopes it will open the real estate mogul and businessman to broad discovery and access to records Trump has not made public during his campaign.
“I hope that we get all his tax returns,” Nemanich said. “I hope we get all the info regarding his international investments that entangle him personally with international governments and international organizations.”
Also on the top of his wish list: Any potential communication between Trump and Russian entities, since the C.I.A. concluded with “high confidence” that Russian hackers sought to influence the U.S. election in favor of Trump.
That’s an unlikely possibility, though, say attorneys who are not involved in the case but have been following it.
“They can ask for whatever they want in discovery, but the chances that they get it are probably minimal,” says Mario Nicolais, an attorney and campaign finance expert who advises candidates and organizations. “I think that a court is going to look at it and they are going to do the usual review that they do for discovery requests and the relevance of the documents and how much it would add to their their case or not. And I think a court is going to find that’s beside the point.”
Luis Toro, an attorney for Colorado Ethics Watch, said the issue at the heart of the lawsuit is a purely legal one and wouldn’t open Trump up to broad discovery as, say, a defamation case would.
Regardless, Trump’s involvement today in the Colorado case is a big signal that a broader strategy within a small group in the Electoral College to block his presidency is on Trump’s radar.
Photo by Daniel Huizinga, Creative Commons, Flickr.