The New York Times is reporting that a former attorney that worked with Donald Trump is now cooperating with authorities in prosecutions of so-called “fake electors.”
Twenty-four of the alleged “fake” Trump electors are now facing criminal charges in three different states, and Kenneth Chesebro, one of the legal architects of the plan to deploy them, has surfaced as a witness in all of the cases.
Chesebro, a Harvard-educated lawyer, was instrumental in developing a strategy to have Republicans in battleground states declared as won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2020 record themselves as alternate slates of electors backing Donald Trump. The proposal was part of an attempt to have Congress prevent or postpone the certification of Mr. Biden’s Electoral College win on January 6, 2021.
Earlier this week, a Nevada grand jury indicted six former Trump electors, including prominent Republican Party officials in the state, on accusations of fabricating and submitting false paperwork.
In August, an Atlanta grand jury indicted former President Donald J. Trump and 18 associates, including three alternate Georgia electors. In July, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel charged all 16 Republicans in her state who acted as Trump electors. (In exchange for his help, she dismissed charges against one of them, James Renner, in October.)
In the case of Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis filed charges against so-called “fake electors” over the 2020 election in Georgia, despite possessing exonerating evidence that their intentions were entirely lawful and in accordance with the United States Constitution.
In her indictment issued on August 14, Willis claimed that the presence of Republican electors for Trump constituted an illicit “conspiracy” aimed at overturning Georgia’s 2020 election results. Those charged in this alleged “conspiracy” included David Shafer, one of Georgia’s 2020 Republican electors, and Ray Smith, who served as one of Trump’s attorneys during the contest.
Willis specifically contended that Shafer and other alternate electors “unlawfully falsely held themselves out” as Georgia’s “duly elected and qualified” presidential electors. She further asserted that these electors, with Smith’s assistance, deliberately sought to “mislead” figures such as then-Vice President Mike Pence and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger “into believing that they actually were such officers.”
However, among the documents gathered during Willis’s lengthy investigation of Republicans was a transcript of a meeting that contradicted her allegations.
A transcript of the December 14, 2020, meeting of Georgia Republican electors, obtained by The Federalist, clearly reveals that the intent behind appointing alternate electors was not to impersonate public officials, as Willis claimed, but rather to legally preserve Trump’s challenge to the state’s election results. At the outset of the meeting, Shafer explicitly stated that he and his fellow Republicans were acting as “Republican nominees for Presidential Elector,” not as “duly elected and qualified” presidential electors.
“[President Trump] has filed a contest to the certified returns. That contest — is pending [and has] not been decided or even heard by any judge with the authority to hear it,” Shafer said. “And so in order to preserve his rights, it’s important that the Republican nominees for Presidential Elector meet here today and cast their votes.”
Michigan’s Democratic Attorney General, Dana Nessel, filed charges in July against 16 individuals who allegedly attempted to act as electors for the Electoral College in favor of then-President Donald Trump.
After the November 3, 2020 election, Trump asserted that electoral fraud was the reason for his defeat both nationally and in Michigan, where he lost to Joe Biden by a narrow margin of 2.78%. In an effort to dispute the state’s results, some high-ranking Republican officials signed documents claiming they were Electoral College members and recorded their intention to cast their votes for Trump, which led to forgery charges by Nessel’s office.
According to Michigan law, the state’s Electoral College electors must gather in the state Senate chamber after the election and vote for the party nominee who appointed them, after which the state sends the vote’s certificate to Congress, per the U.S. Constitution. These steps were reportedly not followed by the accused false electors, who are said to have met in the Michigan Republican Party’s office basement.
Kenneth Chesebro’s profile grew after he pleaded guilty in October to a single felony conspiracy charge in Georgia and was sentenced to five years probation. He was initially charged with seven crimes, including one under state racketeering statute.
“Everything happened after the plea in Georgia,” said Manny Arora, one of Mr. Chesebro’s lawyers in Georgia. “Everyone wants to talk about the memos and who he communicated with.”
The lawyer was alluding to memoranda produced by Mr. Chesebro after the 2020 election that described what he called “a bold, controversial strategy” that the Supreme Court was sure to reject. Mr. Chesebro has been examined in Detroit by Ms. Nessel’s office since his plea bargain in Georgia, according to Mr. Arora, and he was also named as a witness in the Nevada indictment this week.
When asked if Chesebro had agreements in place to avoid prosecution in the various jurisdictions, another of his attorneys, Robert Langford, said, “that would be a prudent criminal defense, that’s typically what you do,” adding that he did not “want to comment on anything happening in any of the states.”
Chesebro is also scheduled to visit Arizona next week, where the state’s attorney general, Kris Mayes, has been conducting her own investigation into the slates of electors plan for some months, according to individuals familiar with the investigation. (CNN and The Washington Post previously reported on Chesebro’s performances in Michigan and Arizona.)
Chesebro worked for Vice President Al Gore during the 2000 presidential election recount dispute before supporting Trump. He and another lawyer, John Eastman, are widely regarded as the chief legal architects of Trump’s plan to utilize alternate slates of electors in battleground states.
The ‘fake electors’ controversy has been criticized as being misleadingly portrayed in the American media as an insidious plot, instead of a controversial practice that has been applied without criminal actions taken against alternate electors in some instances in U.S. history.
The popular pundit and investigator Kanekoa pointed to examples of Democrat supporters encouraging electors to reject Donald Trump, even if he should win the popular vote in state elections, in the 2016 election.
THREAD: In 2016, Democrats, Hollywood celebrities, and corporate news outlets urged electors to vote against President-elect Donald Trump.
Lawrence Lessig's article in The Washington Post on November 26, 2016, argued that Republican electors had the constitutional right and… pic.twitter.com/0pElja0zuR
— KanekoaTheGreat (@KanekoaTheGreat) July 19, 2023
“In 2016, Democrats, Hollywood celebrities, and corporate news outlets urged electors to vote against President-elect Donald Trump,” he wrote. “Lawrence Lessig’s article in The Washington Post on November 26, 2016, argued that Republican electors had the constitutional right and duty to switch their votes from Trump to Hillary Clinton. This sparked a movement supported by figures like Michael Moore, John Podesta, Keith Olbermann, Rosie O’Donnell, and several Hollywood celebrities. While they only convinced a few electors, it’s important to recognize the double standard of justice in the treatment of Democrats and Republicans when objecting to elections.”
As Lessig argued, “The framers believed, as Alexander Hamilton put it, that ‘the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the [president].’ But no nation had ever tried that idea before. So the framers created a safety valve on the people’s choice. Like a judge reviewing a jury verdict, where the people voted, the electoral college was intended to confirm — or not — the people’s choice. ”
Kanekoa added that, “Liberal activists like Chris Hayes, Norm Eisen, Laurence Tribe, and George Takei urged electors to vote against President-elect Donald Trump in 2016.”
He also pointed to editorials at liberal news outlets: “The Daily Beast: “It’s not too late for electors to change history.” Slate: “Will enough electors go rogue to stop Trump?” Vox: “Let conscientious electors do their jobs.” Time: “Electors against Trump are faithful not faithless.”
The question of whether anyone should face criminal prosecution related to the submission of alternate slates of pro-Trump electoral votes in 2020 merits comparison to historical instances. The case of the 1876 election involving South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana illustrates the complexities of such electoral disputes. The differing situations in these states illustrate the issue; particularly, Democratic candidate Samuel Tilden’s weak position in South Carolina.
Despite this, Tilden’s electors in South Carolina cast their votes for him, though their status as the state’s official electors was unanimously rejected by the Electoral Commission. Interestingly, despite their unfounded claims, these individuals were not criminally charged.
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