• Wed. May 22nd, 2024

Michigan AG charges participants in 2020 fake elector plot

Michigan AG charges participants in 2020 fake elector plot





CNN
 — 

Sixteen fake electors who signed certificates falsely claiming President Donald Trump won Michigan in the 2020 election have been charged with multiple felonies, state Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Tuesday.

This is the first time any of the fake electors have been charged with a crime related to the scheme, versions of which took place in multiple states.

All 16 individuals were each charged with eight felonies: Two counts of forgery, one count of conspiracy to commit forgery, two counts of election law forgery, one count of conspiracy to commit election law forgery, one count of publishing a counterfeit record and one count of conspiring to publish a counterfeit record.

The group of fake electors from Michigan includes current and former state GOP officials, the Republican National Committee member, a sitting mayor, a school board member and Trump supporters who were the plaintiffs in a frivolous lawsuit that tried to overturn the 2020 results.

“This plan, to reject the will of the voters and undermine democracy, was fraudulent and legally baseless,” Nessel said in a video released Tuesday.

Nessel, a Democrat, initially referred the matter to federal prosecutors at the Justice Department, but she reopened the state probe in January. Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith is also actively investigating the fake electors plot, and some fake electors have testified to his grand jury.

CNN has reached out to the defendants seeking comment.

Michigan was one of the seven battleground states where the Trump campaign put forward slates of “fake electors” as part of their plan to undermine the Electoral College process, and potentially disrupt Congress’ certification of the 2020 election results on January 6, 2021.

The 16 fake GOP electors from Michigan met in Lansing on December 14, 2020, and signed certificates falsely proclaiming that Trump won the state and they were the rightful electors. They were rebuffed by police when they tried to enter the statehouse to deliver the papers, according to videos of the interaction, which took place while the real group of Democratic electors were meeting inside the building. President Joe Biden defeated Trump by a little more than 154,000 votes in the 2020 election.

In the view of the Trump campaign, these were “alternate” electors who could have somehow replaced Biden’s electors when Congress counted the electoral votes on January 6, 2021, handing Trump a second term. However, a wide array of legal experts, including many inside the Trump White House and Trump campaign, thought this plan was unconstitutional and possibly illegal.

The charged individuals are former Michigan GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock; current Michigan GOP vice chair Marian Sheridan; RNC committeewoman Kathy Berden; Wyoming, Mich., Mayor Kent Vanderwood; Shelby Township clerk Stanley Grot; Grand Blanc school board member Amy Facchinello; local GOP officials Rose Rook and Mary-Ann Henry; pro-Trump lawsuit plaintiffs John Haggard and Timothy King; unsuccessful GOP candidates Clifford Frost and Michele Lundgren; as well as Hank Choate, James Renner, Mayra Rodriguez and Ken Thompson.

CNN has previously reported that Trump campaign officials, led by the former president’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, oversaw efforts to put forward fake slates of electors in seven key states, including Michigan.

An audio recording obtained by CNN early last year captured one of the now-charged fake electors from Michigan boasting that the Trump campaign directed the entire operation.

“We fought to seat the electors. The Trump campaign asked us to do that,” Meshawn Maddock, then the co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, said at a public event at the time that was organized by the conservative group Stand Up Michigan, according to the recording.

The House January 6 committee uncovered evidence that Trump knew about the plan and that he spoke directly about it with RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who is from Michigan. She testified that Trump and his allies told her the electors’ plan was important, and that the RNC later helped the Trump campaign assemble the slates of GOP electors.

Federal investigators from the special counsel’s office have asked key witnesses in their separate investigation about the role of higher-level Trump officials in the fake electors scheme, CNN has reported.

In the video released Tuesday alongside the charges, Nessel once again shot back against allegations that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent, saying that the election in her state “was procedurally the same as in every previous modern presidential election.”

“These defendants may have believed the now long-debunked myths of vote tampering or ballot dumps,” Nessel said. “They may have felt compelled to follow the call to action from a president they held fealty to. They may have even genuinely believed that this was their patriotic duty.”

She continued, “But none of those reasons or feelings provide legal justification to violate the law and upend our Constitution and our nation’s traditions of representative government, self-determination, and a government by the people.”

Nessel also said that her office will continue to investigate efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and “has not ruled out potential charges against additional defendants.” She also pre-empted attacks that will surely come from Trump allies, who may claim the indictments are politically motivated.

“There will be those who claim these charges are political in nature. But when there is overwhelming evidence of guilt in respect to multiple crimes, the most political act I could engage in as a prosecutor would be to take no action at all,” Nessel said.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.



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