By Nov. 12, former President Donald Trump's team of election lawyers knew he had lost his re-election bid, that despite Trump's tweets and public comments, "there was no substantial evidence of election fraud, and there were nowhere near enough 'irregularities' to reverse the outcome in the courts," The New York Times reports. But their protestations just made Trump turn to allies telling him what he wanted to hear, so Nov. 12 was also the day "Trump's flimsy, long-shot legal effort to reverse his loss turned into something else entirely — an extralegal campaign to subvert the election, rooted in a lie so convincing to some of his most devoted followers that it made the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol almost inevitable."
Trump's experienced legal team either quietly faded away or was sidelined by Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and other lawyers "ready to push forward with propagandistic suits that skated the lines of legal ethics and reason," the Times reports. That eventually included "the vast majority of Republican attorneys general, whose dead-on-arrival Supreme Court lawsuit seeking to discard 20 million votes was secretly drafted by lawyers close to the White House."
Before Thanksgiving, Trump's allies — including Kris Kobach, a voting restrictions activist who previously led Trump's "election integrity" commission; former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin; and Lawrence Joseph, a lawyer who had worked to shield Trump's tax returns — started working on a new lawsuit that while "short on legal or factual merit" was "rich in the sort of sensational claims" sure to spread across conservative media, the Times reports. The argument was that Trump states could ask the Supreme Court to throw out 20 million votes in certain states President Biden won because, they claimed, those Biden states effectively cheated.
"Only one type of lawyer can take a case filed by one state against another directly to the Supreme Court: a state attorney general," the Times reports. "The president's original election lawyers doubted that any attorney general would be willing to do so," but Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton jumped at the chance. When the Texas solicitor general refused to be involved in the suit, Paxton hired Joseph as a special outside counsel, not disclosing to the court that Joseph and other outside Trump advisers had written the brief. Read more about Trump's extralegal campaign at The New York Times.