MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A judge hearing President Donald Trump's federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's win in Wisconsin said Friday that the president's request to “remand” the case to the GOP-controlled Legislature to pick new electors was “bizarre.”
The federal case is one of two Trump has in Wisconsin making similar arguments. He filed another one in state court, which the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear before it first goes through lower courts.
Hearings on both lawsuits were scheduled for Thursday, with the judges noting the importance of resolving the legal battles before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14.
Trump, who argues that hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots cast in accordance with state guidelines were illegal, wants a federal judge to give the Republican-controlled Legislature the power to determine who won the election.
“It’s a request for pretty remarkable declaratory relief," said U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig during a conference call to set deadlines and a hearing date. Ludwig, who said it was “an unusual case, obviously,” also cast doubt on whether a federal court should be considering it at all.
“I have a very, very hard time seeing how this is justiciable in the federal court,” Ludwig, a Trump appointee, said. “The request to remand this case to the Legislature almost strikes me as bizarre.”
The judge questioned why Trump wasn't going directly to the Legislature if he wants lawmakers to get involved with naming electors. Bill Bock, the Trump campaign attorney in the federal lawsuit, said Trump needed the court to rule that the election was “invalid" so the Legislature could get involved. He also said that the term “remand,” which is typically used to describe when one court sends a case to a lower court, was “inartful.”
Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke cast serious doubt in the week on whether the Legislature might change the state's electors from Biden to Trump backers. Steineke tweeted a clip of actor Dana Carvey playing President George H.W. Bush saying, “Not gonna do it.”
In his state lawsuit, Trump is seeking to disqualify 221,000 ballots he claims were cast illegally. Judge Stephen Simanek, who is hearing that case after the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to take it initially, said Friday he would rule from the bench following next week's hearing that's scheduled to start hours after the one in federal court.
Jim Troupis, Trump's attorney in the state lawsuit, argued his case should take precedent over the federal lawsuit, where Troupis is not the attorney.
“I’m not trying to put people in a tough spot," Troupis said. "I’m in a tough spot in terms of deadlines.”
The high court also declined Friday to hear a lawsuit brought by Wisconsin Voters Alliance over Trump's loss. Two others filed by Trump allies — one in federal court and one in state court — remain. Trump has lost multiple lawsuits in other battleground states as part of a longshot effort to overturn Biden's victory. Even if he were to prevail in Wisconsin, the state's 10 Electoral College votes would not be enough to hand him reelection.