Republicans In At Least Three States Filed Forged Elector Letters.
Rachel Maddow shares reporting from Politico of Republicans in Michigan and Arizona
creating fake elector letters pretending to certify Donald Trump and Mike Pence the winners
of their states even though Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won them both, with the Michigan
letter markedly similar to a previously reported forged Wisconsin etter.
Published: Jan 10, 2022
Trump campaign officials, led by Rudy Giuliani, oversaw efforts in December 2020 to put forward illegitimate electors from seven states that Trump lost, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the scheme.
The sources said members of former President Donald Trump's campaign team were far more involved than previously known in the plan, a core tenet of the broader plot to overturn President Joe Biden's victory when Congress counted the electoral votes on January 6.
Giuliani and his allies coordinated the nuts-and-bolts of the process on a state-by-state level, the sources told CNN. One source said there were multiple planning calls between Trump campaign officials and GOP state operatives, and that Giuliani participated in at least one call. The source also said the Trump campaign lined up supporters to fill elector slots, secured meeting rooms in statehouses for the fake electors to meet on December 14, 2020, and circulated drafts of fake certificates that were ultimately sent to the National Archives.
Trump and some of his top advisers publicly encouraged the "alternate electors" scheme in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico. But behind the scenes, Giuliani and Trump campaign officials actively choreographed the process, the sources said.
One fake elector from Michigan boasted at a recent event hosted by a local Republican organization that the Trump campaign directed the entire operation.
"We fought to seat the electors. The Trump campaign asked us to do that," Meshawn Maddock, co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, said at a public event last week that was organized by the conservative group Stand Up Michigan, according to a recording obtained by CNN.
Maddock was also one of the 16 Trump supporters from Michigan who served as fake electors and signed the illegitimate certificate that was sent to the National Archives.
"It was Rudy and these misfit characters who started calling the shots," a former Trump campaign staffer said. "The campaign was throwing enough sh*t at the wall to see what would stick."
Integral to the Jan 6 plan
The scheme was integral to Trump's plan to get then-Vice President Mike Pence to throw out Biden's electors and replace them with the GOP electors on January 6 when Congress counted the electoral votes. It has also come under renewed scrutiny by the January 6 select committee and state attorneys general, raising questions about the involvement of Trump's campaign and whether any laws were broken.
Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi told reporters Thursday the panel is looking into whether there was a broader conspiracy or involvement from the Trump White House in the creation or submission of these fake electors.
"That's a concern" Thompson said.
In its subpoena letter sent to Giuliani on Tuesday, the House committee specifically references his efforts to convince state legislatures to overturn election results. The document cites Giuliani's comments from December 2020 in which he publicly urged lawmakers in Michigan to award the state's electoral votes to Trump.
One of the pro-Trump electors from Pennsylvania, Sam DeMarco, told CNN there was a last-minute dispute, where the state's GOP electors pushed Trump campaign officials to add legal caveats to the fake certificate to say they were only electors-in-waiting, if Trump's legal challenges prevailed.
The fake documents from Pennsylvania and New Mexico ultimately contained these caveats, but the documents from the other five states explicitly claimed, falsely, that the pro-Trump electors were the rightful electors.
It's not clear that any of the fake electors themselves participated in strategy sessions with top Trump campaign brass. But both Maddock from Michigan and DeMarco from Pennsylvania have said they were in direct contact with members of the Trump campaign.
Many of the players involved in the scheme, including Maddock, stand by their actions and are still pushing the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. Giuliani, a Trump spokesperson and a representative from Stand Up Michigan did not respond to CNN's requests for comment.
Advancing the lie that the election was stolen
After Trump failed to stop battleground states from certifying Biden's victory, Trump campaign officials, led by Giuliani, launched its parallel effort to disrupt and undermine the Electoral College process. This included publicly promoting false claims of fraud, while quietly exploring the fast-diminishing avenues to overturn the results.
Trump hoped Republican legislators from the seven battleground states would replace Biden's authentic electors with the rogue GOP slate, and that Pence would seat those electors during the joint session of Congress on January 6.
A source familiar with the situation told CNN that Pence was concerned about the possibility of "alternate electors," and his team carefully worded what he said that day during the Electoral College certification to recognize only the legitimate electors.
One of the sources with direct knowledge of the scheme, a former Trump campaign staffer, told CNN that Giuliani worked closely on the seven-state stunt with Christina Bobb, a correspondent for the pro-Trump propaganda network One America News.
Many of Giuliani's unhinged conspiracies about the 2020 election found a home at OAN. And in a deposition last year as part of a civil lawsuit, Giuliani said Bobb was "very active in gathering evidence" as "part of the legal team" working for Trump's campaign during the presidential transition.
Bobb reached out to a top Arizona legislator about supposed voter fraud, according to emails obtained by the government oversight group American Oversight through a public records request. In the December 4, 2020, email Bobb said she was sending the message on Giuliani's behalf. The emails flesh out how Trump's team was trying to press state legislatures to overturn the results.
Bobb didn't respond to messages seeking comment about the pro-Trump electors.
"They were all working together. Rudy, John Eastman, and Christina Bobb, in tandem, to create this coverage for OAN, to advance the Big Lie," the former Trump campaign staffer told CNN.
While mainstream news outlets covered the Electoral College proceedings, which cemented Biden's position as President-elect, OAN focused on the rogue electors and voter fraud myths.
The Washington Post first reported new details about the role of Giuliani and Bobb.
Republicans in Michigan were central to the effort to try and overturn the election results and Meshawn Maddock -- along with her husband State Rep. Matt Maddock -- were instrumental to the effort inside the state.
The Maddocks have deep ties to Trump. The former president has endorsed Matt Maddock in his bid to be Michigan House leader. Maddock tweeted a photo last year of an article written about his campaign that Trump had signed, and added, "Matt, I am with you all the way."
In the months leading up to January 6, Matt Maddock consistently pushed Trump's lie about the election. In early December 2020, Matt Maddock and other state GOP lawmakers in Michigan held a series of hearings seeking to validate unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud -- prompting a personal visit from Giuliani.
When the effort to convince state legislators in Michigan to block Biden's electors ultimately failed, Maddock was among the GOP lawmakers from five states who sent a letter to Pence on January 5, urging him to delay certification of the electoral votes. Pence refused to go along with the plan.
Meshawn Maddock is equally close to Trump and is still peddling the lie that the election was stolen.
Along with being an elector, she also helped organize buses to take GOP activists to Washington for protests around January 6 and took part in the march to the US Capitol. She later disavowed the violence that came after the march.
Maddock was named co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party one month after January 6. But as she is gaining prominence, her role as a fake elector is also attracting legal scrutiny.
"Under state law, I think clearly you have forgery of a public record, which is a 14-year offense, and election law forgery, which is a five-year offense," Michigan Attorney general Dana Nessel, a Democrat, told MSNBC last week, about the fake certificates signed by pro-Trump electors.
No one, including Meshawn Maddock, has been charged with any crimes related to the scheme.
"This is nothing more than political prosecution of convenience led by Dana Nessel," said Gustavo Portela, MIGOP Communications Director, when asked about Maddock's comments and role as a fake elector.
Hedged language in Pennsylvania
The documents from Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada explicitly stated, falsely, that the GOP electors were the rightful electors, representing 59 electoral votes.
But the documents from Pennsylvania and New Mexico contained clauses saying that the Trump supporters were electors-in-waiting, in case a court or some other proceeding later ruled that they were the "duly elected and qualified electors."
If anything, this provided a veneer of legal protection for Trump supporters who were trying to exploit the Electoral College process to overturn an election.
Demarco, who was one of the state's pro-Trump electors, and is the chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Committee, told CNN he and other alternate electors signed the certificate at the Trump campaign's request but first demanded the language be changed to make clear it was not intended to contest the will of voters in that state who voted for Biden.
The hedging language was included at the last moment as the Trump campaign had concerns, and questioned whether the change was appropriate in the immediate lead-up to December 14, according to a Trump campaign staffer with knowledge of the matter.
Ultimately the Trump campaign acquiesced. But the internal debate shows that even some of Trump's strongest allies were concerned about the attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
The office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, said in a statement that they looked into the matter but concluded that the fake certificate was not an illegal forgery.
"These 'fake ballots' included a conditional clause that they were only to be used if a court overturned the results in Pennsylvania, which did not happen," the statement said. "Though their rhetoric and policy were intentionally misleading and purposefully damaging to our democracy, based on our initial review, our office does not believe this meets the legal standards for forgery."
Concerns about democracy
Democratic lawmakers, state officials, and Biden himself have roundly condemned the fake electors plot. Biden brought it up at a news conference Wednesday when asked about his stalled voting-rights bills in Congress.
"I never thought we would get into a place where we were talking about... what they tried to do this last time out -- Send different electors to the state legislative bodies to represent who won the election, saying that I didn't win but the Republican candidate won," Biden said. "I doubt that anyone thought that would happen in America in the 21st century, but it is happening."
The coordinated nature of these fake elector efforts and the rising power of Big Lie-promoters in Republican circles has concerned voting rights organizations across the country.
Nancy Wang, executive director of the Michigan-based Voters Not Politicians, said her group was founded in 2016 to address redistricting and voting access, but Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 election spurred her group to focus on countering anti-democratic efforts at large.
"This is existential. This about the very fundamental institutions of our government - whether we can vote at all, whether we have any power whatsoever," Wang said. "It is a completely different time that we are facing in 2020 and 2022. It really feels urgent. It is a battle of a completely different kind. It is massive, it is coordinated at a national level. It is much more threatening."
Previously undisclosed emails provide an inside look at the increasingly desperate and often slapdash efforts by advisers to President Donald J. Trump to reverse his election defeat in the weeks before the Jan. 6 attack, including acknowledgments that a key element of their plan was of dubious legality and lived up to its billing as ‚Äúfake.‚ÄĚ
The dozens of emails among people connected to the Trump campaign, outside advisers and close associates of Mr. Trump show a particular focus on assembling lists of people who would claim ‚ÄĒ with no basis ‚ÄĒ to be Electoral College electors on his behalf in battleground states that he had lost.
In emails reviewed by The New York Times and authenticated by people who had worked with the Trump campaign at the time, one lawyer involved in the detailed discussions repeatedly used the word ‚Äúfake‚ÄĚ to refer to the so-called electors, who were intended to provide Vice President Mike Pence and Mr. Trump‚Äôs allies in Congress a rationale for derailing the congressional process of certifying the outcome. And lawyers working on the proposal made clear they knew that the pro-Trump electors they were putting forward might not hold up to legal scrutiny.
‚ÄúWe would just be sending in ‚Äėfake‚Äô electoral votes to Pence so that ‚Äėsomeone‚Äô in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the ‚Äėfake‚Äô votes should be counted,‚ÄĚ Jack Wilenchik, a Phoenix-based lawyer who helped organize the pro-Trump electors in Arizona, wrote in a Dec. 8, 2020, email to Boris Epshteyn, a strategic adviser for the Trump campaign.
In a follow-up email, Mr. Wilenchik wrote that ‚Äú‚Äėalternative‚Äô votes is probably a better term than ‚Äėfake‚Äô votes,‚ÄĚ adding a smiley face emoji.
The emails provide new details of how a wing of the Trump campaign worked with outside lawyers and advisers to organize the elector plan and pursue a range of other options, often with little thought to their practicality. One email showed that many of Mr. Trump‚Äôs top advisers were informed of problems naming Trump electors in Michigan ‚ÄĒ a state he had lost ‚ÄĒ because pandemic rules had closed the state Capitol building where the so-called electors had to gather.
The emails show that participants in the discussions reported details of their activities to Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump‚Äôs personal lawyer, and in at least one case to Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff. Around the same time, according to the House committee investigating Jan. 6, Mr. Meadows emailed another campaign adviser saying, ‚ÄúWe just need to have someone coordinating the electors for states.‚ÄĚ
Many of the emails went to Mr. Epshteyn, who was acting as a coordinator for people inside and outside the Trump campaign and the White House and remains a close aide to Mr. Trump.
Mr. Epshteyn, the emails show, was a regular point of contact for John Eastman, the lawyer whose plan for derailing congressional certification of the Electoral College result on Jan. 6, 2021, was embraced by Mr. Trump.
Mr. Epshteyn not only fielded and passed along to Mr. Giuliani the detailed proposal for Jan. 6 prepared by Mr. Eastman, he also handled questions about how to pay Mr. Eastman and made the arrangements for him to visit the White House on Jan. 4, 2021, the emails show.
That was the day of the Oval Office meeting in which Mr. Trump and Mr. Eastman unsuccessfully pressured Mr. Pence to adopt the plan ‚ÄĒ an exchange witnessed by Mr. Pence‚Äôs two top aides, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, both of whom testified last week to the federal grand jury investigating the assault on the Capitol and what led to it.
The emails highlight how much of the legwork of finding ways to challenge Mr. Trump‚Äôs losses in the battleground states was done by Mike Roman, director of Election Day operations for Mr. Trump‚Äôs campaign.
Mr. Epshteyn and Mr. Roman, the emails show, coordinated with others who played roles in advising Mr. Trump. Among them were the lawyers Jenna Ellis and Bruce Marks; Gary Michael Brown, who served as the deputy director of Election Day operations for Mr. Trump‚Äôs campaign; and Christina Bobb, who at the time worked for One America News Network and now works with Mr. Trump‚Äôs PAC.
The emails were apparently not shared with lawyers in the White House Counsel‚Äôs Office, who advised that the ‚Äúfake electors‚ÄĚ plan was not legally sound, or other lawyers on the campaign.
Some of the participants also expressed approval in the emails for keeping some of their activities out of the public eye.
For instance, after Mr. Trump hosted Pennsylvania state legislators at the White House in late November to discuss reversing the election outcome, Mr. Epshteyn celebrated when news of the meeting didn‚Äôt quickly leak. ‚ÄúThe WH meeting hasn‚Äôt been made public, which is both shocking and great,‚ÄĚ he wrote to Ms. Ellis.
On Dec. 8, 2020, Mr. Wilenchik wrote that Kelli Ward, one of the Republicans in Arizona participating in the fake electors plan, recommended trying ‚Äúto keep it under wraps until Congress counts the vote Jan. 6th (so we can try to ‚Äėsurprise‚Äô the Dems and media with it) ‚ÄĒ I tend to agree with her.‚ÄĚ
Mr. Epshteyn, Mr. Wilenchik, Mr. Roman, Mr. Eastman, Ms. Bobb and James Troupis, another lawyer involved in the plan, either declined to comment or did not respond to emails or calls seeking comment.
Mr. Marks, in an email, disputed that there was anything inappropriate or improper at work.
‚ÄúI do not believe there was anything ‚Äėfake‚Äô or illegal about the alternate slates of delegates, and particularly Pennsylvania,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThere was a history of alternate slates from Hawaii in 1960. Nothing was secret about this ‚ÄĒ they were provided to the National Archives, as I understand the procedure, and then it was up to Congress to decide what to do.‚ÄĚ
Mr. Marks added: ‚ÄúI had no involvement with Professor Eastman‚Äôs advice regarding the vice president‚Äôs role, which I only learned about after the fact, and do not support.‚ÄĚ
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has produced evidence that Mr. Trump was aware of the electors plan. Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said in a deposition to the panel that Mr. Trump had called her and put Mr. Eastman on the phone ‚Äúto talk about the importance of the R.N.C. helping the campaign gather these contingent electors.‚ÄĚ
The panel has also heard testimony from Mr. Jacob, who was Mr. Pence‚Äôs counsel in the White House, that Mr. Eastman admitted in the Jan. 4 Oval Office meeting ‚ÄĒ with Mr. Trump present ‚ÄĒ that his plan to have Mr. Pence obstruct the electoral certification violated the Electoral Count Act.
The emails show less than lawyerly precision at times. Mr. Marks repeatedly referred to Cleta Mitchell, another lawyer helping Mr. Trump, as ‚ÄúClita‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúClavita,‚ÄĚ prompting Mr. Epshteyn to reply: ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs Cleta, not Clavita.‚ÄĚ
Another time, Mr. Epshteyn wrote to Mr. Marks: ‚ÄúDo you mean Arizona when you say Nevada???‚ÄĚ
By early December, Mr. Epshteyn was seemingly helping to coordinate the efforts, conferring repeatedly with Mr. Marks and others. Mr. Wilenchik told his fellow lawyers he had been discussing an idea proposed by still another lawyer working with the campaign, Kenneth Chesebro, an ally of Mr. Eastman‚Äôs, to submit slates of electors loyal to Mr. Trump.
‚ÄúHis idea is basically that all of us (GA, WI, AZ, PA, etc.) have our electors send in their votes (even though the votes aren‚Äôt legal under federal law ‚ÄĒ because they‚Äôre not signed by the Governor); so that members of Congress can fight about whether they should be counted on January 6th,‚ÄĚ Mr. Wilenchik wrote in the email on Dec. 8, 2020, to Mr. Epshteyn and half a dozen other people.
‚ÄúKind of wild/creative ‚ÄĒ I‚Äôm happy to discuss,‚ÄĚ Mr. Wilenchik continued. ‚ÄúMy comment to him was that I guess there‚Äôs no harm in it, (legally at least) ‚ÄĒ i.e. we would just be sending in ‚Äėfake‚Äô electoral votes to Pence so that ‚Äėsomeone‚Äô in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the ‚Äėfake‚Äô votes should be counted.‚ÄĚ
As they organized the fake elector scheme, lawyers appointed a ‚Äúpoint person‚ÄĚ in seven states to help organize those electors who were willing to sign their names to false documents. In Pennsylvania, that point person was Douglas V. Mastriano, a proponent of Mr. Trump‚Äôs lies of a stolen election who is now the Republican nominee for governor.
But even Mr. Mastriano needed assurances to go along with a plan other Republicans were telling him was ‚Äúillegal,‚ÄĚ according to a Dec. 12 email sent by Ms. Bobb that also referred to Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City.
‚ÄúMastriano needs a call from the mayor. This needs to be done. Talk to him about legalities of what they are doing,‚ÄĚ she wrote, adding: ‚ÄúElectors want to be reassured that the process is * legal * essential for greater strategy.‚ÄĚ
The emails showed the group initially hoped to get Republican state legislatures or governors to join their plans and give them the imprimatur of legitimacy. But by December, it was clear no authorities would agree to go along, so the Trump lawyers set their sights on pressuring Mr. Pence, who was scheduled to preside over a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.
On Dec. 7, Mr. Troupis, who worked for the Trump campaign in Wisconsin, wrote to Mr. Epshteyn that there was ‚Äúno need for the legislators to act.‚ÄĚ He cited Mr. Chesebro‚Äôs legal analysis that the key to Mr. Trump‚Äôs hopes was not blocking state certification of the electors on Dec. 14, but creating a reason for Mr. Pence to block or delay congressional certification of the Electoral College results on Jan. 6.
‚ÄúThe second slate just shows up at noon on Monday and votes and then transmits the results,‚ÄĚ Mr. Troupis wrote of organizing Republican slates of electors to cast ballots for Mr. Trump on Dec. 14. ‚ÄúIt is up to Pence on Jan 6 to open them. Our strategy, which we believe is replicable in all 6 contested states, is for the electors to meet and vote so that an interim decision by a Court to certify Trump the winner can be executed on by the Court ordering the Governor to issue whatever is required to name the electors. The key nationally would be for all six states to do it so the election remains in doubt until January.‚ÄĚ
The documents also demonstrated the legal team had relied on widely debunked information to point to broad claims of election fraud. On Dec. 17, Mr. Epshteyn wrote to Mr. Giuliani that a document on election fraud created by Mr. Trump‚Äôs trade adviser, Peter Navarro ‚ÄĒ which has been discredited in public reporting, by state officials and courts ‚ÄĒ ‚Äúappears to be the most comprehensive summary of voter fraud from this election season.‚ÄĚ
The lawyers were aware their legal efforts were being ridiculed. On Dec. 23, Mr. Marks wrote: ‚ÄúYou folks are getting killed in the media on litigation strategy, even on Fox and among conservatives.‚ÄĚ
But they were undeterred.
By Christmas Eve, Mr. Eastman seemed to want to harness the power of Mr. Trump‚Äôs millions of supporters.
At 8:04 p.m. that night, Mr. Eastman sent Mr. Epshteyn an email that he had received in which a woman implored him to ask Mr. Trump ‚Äúto put out what he would like his 74 million followers to do to help.‚ÄĚ She added: ‚ÄúWe need to be one voice, with laser focus, SPEAKING AS 74 MILLION STRONG.‚ÄĚ
In his email to Mr. Epshteyn, Mr. Eastman wrote, ‚ÄúThought I‚Äôd forward this. 74 Million strong. Let‚Äôs figure out a targeted way to deploy them. Rolling thunder? One legislature at a time? The others can see it coming.‚ÄĚ
Days earlier, Mr. Trump had told his supporters to descend on Washington on Jan. 6 for a ‚Äúprotest‚ÄĚ that he promised would ‚Äúbe wild.‚ÄĚ
On Dec. 27, Mr. Epshteyn wrote that Mr. Trump ‚Äúliked‚ÄĚ an aggressive approach being proposed by the lawyers, and that Mr. Eastman would be the ‚Äúface of the media strategy‚ÄĚ along with Mr. Giuliani.
‚ÄúWe need one voice out there,‚ÄĚ Mr. Epshteyn wrote of Mr. Eastman, saying he‚Äôs ‚Äúalready been out/liked by POTUS.‚ÄĚ
Jan. 6 was just days away.