Election denials go to court as Jan. 6 fallout brings action: The Note

Kari Lake will get the hearing she has demanded.

December 21, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It might be fitting that on the very day the House Jan. 6 committee issues its final report and Congress moves to change the law in response to what happened that day, the final legal action of the 2022 election cycle will start to play out in an Arizona courtroom.

Defeated gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake will get the hearing she has demanded, in a two-day trial that starts Wednesday. She'll have a chance to prove explosive allegations for which she has so far offered no evidence -- including one claiming that ballot printer issues in the state's largest county were intentionally interfered with in a way that swung the election.

The judge in the case is signaling skepticism about whether anything Lake is alleging would have changed the outcome. Her 17,000-vote defeat was certified and signed off on by the state's outgoing Republican governor earlier this month.

Lake herself tweeted in advance of the trail that "this is far from over," though her legal team is backtracking on plans to call her opponent, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, as a witness. Over the weekend, Lake labeled herself "a proud election-denying deplorable" and issued a vague mixed metaphor of a threat against officials in Maricopa County: "I'm not just gonna knock that house of cards over. We're gonna burn it to the ground."

Meanwhile, in Washington, the Jan. 6 committee's final written report lands while Congress is set to approve a year-end spending bill that includes reforms to the Electoral Count Act.

The reforms are relatively narrow, and applicable only to presidential elections in the particular kind of circumstances that were relevant in November 2020. Finality in court and even clarity in legislation only go so far, as Lake's vow to fight on makes evident.

PHOTO: Kari Lake, Arizona Republican candidate for governor, speaks to supporters at the Republican watch party in Scottsdale, Ariz., Nov. 8, 2022.
Kari Lake, Arizona Republican candidate for governor, speaks to supporters at the Republican watch party in Scottsdale, Ariz., Nov. 8, 2022.
Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., will lead House Democrats' campaign arm, as the party eyes taking back the majority in 2024.

The congresswoman, a moderate, was appointed by incoming House Democratic leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. It came after a rule change that allows the leader to choose the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rather than a caucus vote on the role.

"She is the right leader, with the right experience and the right demeanor to meet this pivotal moment," Jeffries said in a statement Monday. He later added, "In the last decade, Rep. DelBene won a tough seat as a red-to-blue candidate, held a tough seat as a front-line candidate and then put that tough seat out of reach."

The Washington state congresswoman was the former chair of the New Democrats Coalition, a moderate group of Democratic lawmakers, and she previously worked with the DCCC to help vulnerable Democrats keep their seats. She's also considered a strong fundraiser. Her experience offers a peek into the path Democrats may take as they aim to win more seats in the next election cycle.

DelBene's district is considered solidly Democratic. It's an advantage that her predecessor, outgoing Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., who lost his race, didn't enjoy. That could allow her to focus on election efforts without an arduous battle to keep her own seat.

PHOTO: Rep. Suzan DelBene, speaks during a news conference, Aug. 10, 2022, in Washington.
Rep. Suzan DelBene, speaks during a news conference, Aug. 10, 2022, in Washington.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Two of the nation's most high-profile governors are likely anticipating a major legal faceoff in the new year after a federal judge blocked California's gun law from going into effect, which mirrored the legal contours of Texas' law restricting abortion access. The outcome was what California Gov. Gavin Newsom intended from the outset.

California's Senate Bill 1327 would allow private citizens to pursue legal action against manufacturers of illegal guns, while Texas' SB 8, which is backed by Gov. Greg Abbott, allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or those seeking an abortion.

Judge Roger Benitez -- who was appointed by former President George W. Bush and delivered the ruling -- has disagreed with Newsom on issues surrounding guns before and quoted the California governor's comments about Texas' law in his ruling this week.

"'It is cynical.' 'It is an abomination.' 'It is outrageous and objectionable.' 'There is no dispute that it raises serious constitutional questions.' 'It is an unprecedented attempt to thwart judicial review,'" Benitez wrote.

Benitez went on to describe how SB 1327 could create a slippery slope for other well-established amendments to be put under legal challenge. In return, Newsom thanked Benitez for his assessment.

"I want to thank Judge Benitez. We have been saying all along that Texas' anti-abortion law is outrageous. Judge Benitez just confirmed it is also unconstitutional," Newsom said in a statement. "The provision in California's law that he struck down is a replica of what Texas did, and his explanation of why this part of SB 1327 unfairly blocks access to the courts applies equally to Texas' SB 8. There is no longer any doubt that Texas' cruel anti-abortion law should also be struck down."

The law could be on its way to reaching the Supreme Court, whose potential rulings have already been on Newsom's radar. Last year, the governor said the Supreme Court, which carries a conservative majority, would be "complete and abject hypocrites and frauds" if they rejected California's bill while backing that of Texas.

PHOTO: Hon. Roger T. Benitez, U.S. federal judge in the Southern District of California.
Hon. Roger T. Benitez, U.S. federal judge in the Southern District of California.
U.S. Courts/CASD

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. "Start Here" begins Wednesday morning with the latest on whether House Democrats will release former President Donald Trump's tax returns to the public. ABC's Will Steakin leads us off. Then, ABC's Shannon Crawford reports on the Taliban's decision to suspend university education for women in Afghanistan. And, ABC's Devin Dwyer breaks down an Illinois law this is set to eliminate cash bail in early 2023. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the White House at 2 p.m. ET. They will hold a bilateral meeting and do a joint press conference.
  • Later in the day, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address a joint session of Congress.

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