‘Bats--t insane.’ Florida attorney general’s own lawyers gave early warning of worse to come | Editorial

·3 min read

It was strangely refreshing to hear the words that appellate lawyers in the office of Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody used, in newly released emails, to describe the desperate attempt by the Texas attorney general to overturn the results of the 2020 election by suing four swing states in 2020.

“Weird,” said one.

“Bats--t insane,” wrote another.

Honesty. Wow. We’d forgotten what that sounds like in Florida, with Ron DeSantis as our governor and his patron, Donald Trump, lurking in the wings.

Not that the lawyers were offering those assessments publicly. They were discussing the case in emails that wouldn’t have seen the light of day except that they were obtained by American Oversight, a progressive-leaning group that requests public records from governments, and then published by the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau.

And not that their words made any difference at the time. A day after the lawyers had that discussion, Moody signed Florida up to support that very same lawsuit. Because no claim is too extreme, no lawsuit too ridiculous for Florida if there’s the potential for a GOP win or a chance to placate Trump.

Overturn the election

The suit was filed on the flimsiest of legal grounds. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in December 2020 claiming that voting “irregularities” in those states had harmed Texas. He wanted the legislatures in the four states — all Republican controlled, of course — to decide how their state voted in the Electoral College. (Joe Biden won all four states.)

The suit immediately got national attention — and was just as quickly called a waste of tax dollars. The lawyers in Moody’s office — they worked for the solicitor general, within the Florida attorney general’s office — were alerted to it by an email from Evan Ezray, deputy solicitor general. He said it was “interesting” that the case didn’t appear to be coming from Texas’ solicitor general’s office.

Christopher Baum, senior deputy solicitor general in Florida, called the case “bats--t insane, which is why [Texas’ solicitor general] is not on it.”

Another lawyer, Chief Deputy Solicitor General James Percival, wondered how one state could make that kind of claim against another — that they are being harmed by another state’s “unconstitutional” vote. Couldn’t that open up all sorts of election litigation, Baum wondered: “So Massachusetts has standing to sue Mississippi for illegally gerrymandered districts?”

You can almost hear them shaking their heads in disbelief.

Court rejects case

It’s unclear if Moody consulted with the lawyers but if she did, she ignored them. The next day she co-signed a brief, with 16 other Republican attorneys general, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Texas’ case. She tweeted with great solemnity and, apparently, a straight face: “The integrity and resolution of the 2020 election is of paramount importance.”

But two days after Moody signed on, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

This week, Moody spokesperson Lauren Cassedy dismissed the comments, published in a Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times story, as “water cooler conversation by a few employees.” She also insisted there was “strong legal analysis” to support the need for a Supreme Court hearing.

Nice try. And yet the Supreme Court apparently didn’t agree. And neither did those lawyers who, we should note, made their comments even before supporters of Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in a much worse and more horrifying attempt to overturn the election. In retrospect, their words look like an early warning system we should have heard.

“Bats--t insane?” Oh yes, and then some.