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Gus Bilirakis explains (sort of) his support of Texas lawsuit to overturn election results

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis wouldn’t answer questions about why he signed on to a brief in support of the Texas lawsuit, but put out a statement that asserted he wanted to “restore confidence” in the electoral process.
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor.
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Dec. 11, 2020
Updated Dec. 12, 2020

UPDATE: The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a Texas lawsuit backed by President Donald Trump and Republicans across the country to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory.

Rep. Gus Bilirakis is one of more than 100 Republican members of Congress who have signed a legal brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a Texas lawsuit to overturn the presidential election results.

Bilirakis, of Palm Harbor, was one of 10 Florida members of Congress who are joining in the last-ditch attempt to subvert Joe Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump in November.

Outgoing Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, also signed the “friend of the court” brief.

Also supporting the Texas litigation are 17 Republican attorneys general, including Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Related: Florida to U.S. Supreme Court: Hear Texas lawsuit to overturn Biden win

The Texas lawsuit, based on unsubstantiated or debunked allegations of election fraud and what experts say are flimsy legal arguments, seeks to overturn the election results in four battleground states – Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – that among them carry enough electoral votes to reverse the Nov. 3 outcome.

Filed by Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, it asks the Supreme Court to allow state legislatures in those four states to pick slates of Electoral College electors instead of those chosen in the election.

Many of the lawsuit’s allegations of fraud in vote counting or mail-in voting have been thrown out of state and federal courts where the Trump campaign or supporters challenged election results in individual states.

The lawsuit also brings up the baseless conspiracy theory that voting machines by Dominion Voting Systems were part of a scheme originated by deceased Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez to rig elections.

Dominion systems were used in numerous states. In Florida, 15 of the 17 counties that used Dominion machines voted for Trump, according to Politico.

In a statement to the Times, Bilirakis said he signed the amicus brief “to help restore confidence in the fact that our electoral process is fair and transparent,” and said the brief does not address the legitimacy of the claims of voter fraud.

“Many Americans are disturbed by multiple reports of voter irregularities and what some feel are unconstitutional changes to various states’ mail-in voting procedures,” he said in the statement emailed through a staff member.

“All allegations of election irregularities (should) be thoroughly investigated and claims of unconstitutional conduct (should) be examined as quickly as possible.”

Whether the Texas lawsuit is allowed to proceed “will be the decision of an impartial jurist” of the U.S. Supreme Court “and I will respect the decision of the (U.S. Supreme Court) in this matter,” he said.

Bilirakis didn’t address specific questions from the Times, including whether he signed the brief out of loyalty to Trump or political expediency; why the lawsuit doesn’t seek to overturn election results in Trump-voting states that also used expanded mail-in voting; whether results should be thrown out in Florida counties that used Dominion voting systems.

In a statement last week, elections Supervisor Brian Corley of Pasco County, which is part of Bilirakis’s district, called the attacks on the election results “duplicitous” and said, “With every deep state conspiracy and illegitimate claim of fraud our democracy sinks deeper and deeper into divisiveness” and “risk(s) the peaceful and orderly transition of power in favor of propagating unfounded claims of ‘rigged elections.’”

Related: ‘Stop the destructive rhetoric’: Pasco election chief rips Trump’s ‘baseless’ voting conspiracies

Spano, who is leaving office after losing in a Republican primary to newly elected Rep. Scott Franklin, R-Lakeland, didn’t respond to the Times’ inquiry.

The brief argues that election procedures and rules in several states were changed in the months before the election by means other than legislative action, including actions by governors to expand mail-in voting during the pandemic.

But that, the brief says, violates the constitutional provision that legislatures determine how to chose electoral college electors.

“Due in large part to those usurpations, the election of 2020 has been riddled with an unprecedented number of serious allegations of fraud and irregularities,” it says.

It asks the Supreme Court to hear the Texas case “to provide an objective review of these anomalies and to determine for the people if indeed the Constitution has been followed and the rule of law maintained.”

The nine Florida Congress members who signed the brief supporting the Texas lawsuit constitute a majority of the state’s Republican House members.

In addition to Bilirakis and Spano, the other seven were Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, Neal Dunn of Panama City, Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, John Rutherford of Jacksonville, Greg Steube of Sarasota, Michael Waltz of St. Augustine, Dan Webster of Clermont and Ted Yoho of Gainesville.

According to CBS News, the amicus brief was circulated this week for signatures among Republican House members by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., who told them Trump called him Wednesday morning “to express his great appreciation for our effort” and that Trump said “he will be anxiously awaiting the final list (of signers) to review.”

The Associated Press, meanwhile, reported last month that Texas Attorney General Paxton is under federal investigation over allegations of bribery and abuse of office.

In a statement Friday, state Democratic Party Terrie Rizzo called it “disgraceful” that Florida Republicans signed the brief and said, “It is their duty to protect our democracy and with this they are doing the exact opposite.”

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com