For the sake of argument, let's say that in the 2020 elections Trump lost these 19 "Much more republican" states (according to this NY Times article) that he had easily won in 2016: enter image description here

According to an excerpt of this NY Times article and Tuesday's debate, it's very clear that Trump has been recently pushing to discredit the election:

President Trump’s angry insistence in the last minutes of Tuesday’s debate that there was no way the presidential election could be conducted without fraud amounted to an extraordinary declaration by a sitting American president that he would try to throw any outcome into the courts, Congress or the streets if he was not re-elected.

This is an assumption, but Trump being Trump, he will not only try to discredit the elections of all these states but he will also want to win by a huge margin (he said he wanted to win 9-0 if it went to the Supreme Court).

My question: what process would he need to go through to discredit the votes of the 19 "Much more republican" states that he had won in 2016 but lost in 2020?

In this closed question, a user mentioned that he needs to file a lawsuit in "state or federal court with jurisdiction over the state in which an irregularity was alleged". Would this be his first step of would another "entity" need to verify that his complaint merits a lawsuit?

For example, at the debate he said he found ballots in a river. Can he file a state-level lawsuit saying that there's fraud or a miscount because someone found ballots in a river? He also said that he would send his followers to the voting booths, and one of these guys says that he "saw" fraud taking place. Is that enough for a lawsuit?

And how long would all of this take? Trump being Trump, I assume he'll try to drag out as long as humanly possible.

  • I tend to agree with your speculation that DJT is laying the groundwork to contest the election, the real question is if judicial review can be prolonged sufficiently to run out the safe harbor clock, forcing the election to the House of Representatives, where he will win, regardless of the popular vote. Why he would win there is a different discussion. (this comment will self-destruct shortly).
    – BobE
    Oct 1, 2020 at 18:35
  • Please, edit the question in a way that doesn't make it so clear what your political association is. As it stands, it is more of a political rant than a bona fide question about the law. Which is not to say that there is no question about the law hiding in that rant. But your political advocacy does not belong on this site.
    – grovkin
    Oct 2, 2020 at 4:45
  • I'm rather confused by this question, as you ask different, conflicting questions. Is the question "Can any lawsuit be filed by a sitting US president at the state level?" (this one is easy: yes) Is it whether a lawsuit disputing election results can be filed at the state level? At all? Is it what the process to contest election results is?
    – Ryan M
    Oct 2, 2020 at 7:05

2 Answers 2


IANAL, however I would have to believe that a sitting president could file lawsuits at both the federal and state levels in his capacity as a citizen. I can not find any ruling that would prohibit a citizen from filing and pursuing a lawsuit in Federal or State Courts. For example, Donald J Trump filed suit against Elijah Cummings in April 2019 DJT V. Cummings

Whether a court would determine if a sitting president, acting in his capacity as a citizen, has standing before a court of course is a different matter entirely. The court would determine that.



See Bush v. Gore. George W. Bush was, at the time, the sitting President of the United States.

  • An anonymous user noted the following: George W. Bush was not President of the United States at the time of Bush v. Gore; the ruling in that case was issued (per Wikipedia) on Dec. 12, 2000, at which point Bill Clinton was still the sitting President
    – Ryan M
    Oct 6, 2020 at 12:42

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