Fake Electors Now Facing Consequences

[ Posted Wednesday, December 6th, 2023 – 16:54 UTC ]

December 14th will mark the third anniversary of the "fake electors" in seven states attempting to overturn the will of the people by fraudulently claiming that Donald Trump had been elected president. This is a more important anniversary than you might think, since in some states the statute of limitations for the crimes committed that day will run out. This means if the fake electors haven't faced formal charges before that date, they will never be prosecuted. Which is why today Nevada announced charges against six Republicans who pretended to be valid presidential electors in 2020 and submitted official-looking fraudulent paperwork (with their signatures on it) to the Senate and the National Archives, claiming Donald Trump had won their state (even though they knew this was completely false):

Wednesday's indictment had been widely anticipated this month because the statute of limitations for levying certain charges was due to expire on Dec. 14 -- three years to the day since electors met in every state capital in the country to cast their ballots for the candidate who won their respective states. The felony charges facing each elector are offering a false instrument for filing, a category C felony, and uttering a forged instrument, a category D felony. The first carries a penalty of one to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The penalty for the second is one to four years and a fine of up to $5,000.

[Nevada Attorney General Aaron D.] Ford's office said in a press release that the charges stem from the false electors' actions in December 2020, when they submitted a "false instrument" titled "Certificate of the Votes of the 2020 Electors from Nevada" to the president of the U.S. Senate; the archivist of the United States; the Nevada Secretary of State; and the United States District Court for the District of Nevada.

Fake electors tried to commit this election fraud on a grand scale in six other states as well: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In five out of these seven, the fake electors are being called to account for their actions in one way or another.

In the other two -- Pennsylvania and New Mexico -- the fake electors were smarter (or their lawyers were smarter, take your pick) than their counterparts in other states. Rather than just signing the boilerplate document provided to them from Team Trump, they inserted a clause stating that the document would only be considered valid if any of the court cases Trump was attempting turned out to be successful. In other words, they placed the whole document behind a sort of "break glass only in emergency" shield. This was a very smart thing to do, since they can now point to that clause and plausibly claim: "We weren't trying to defraud anyone, this was all a 'just in case' exercise, only to be used if the courts ruled for Trump."

The Pennsylvania attorney general decided not to investigate or prosecute the fake electors based on this "get out of jail free" clause. The New Mexico attorney general referred the matter to federal prosecutors, but the article today about Nevada included a vague line stating that an investigation of the fake electors is "underway" in New Mexico (it's unclear if they mean a state-level investigation or not). Either way, it is likely no case will be brought, because of the inclusion of the escape clause.

In the other five states, no such escape clause was inserted. The document the fake electors signed stated in unequivocal language that they were the official presidential electors and they were submitting the votes for their state for Donald Trump -- even though Joe Biden had won more votes in each of them. These were, to be blunt, forged documents. They were fraudulent. They were part of an attempt to overthrow an American presidential election.

Michigan's attorney general charged sixteen fake electors with forgery and conspiracy and other alleged crimes (eight felony counts for each of them) back in July. One of the fake electors has now flipped and will cooperate with the prosecutors in exchange for the charges being dropped. Preliminary hearings will take place through January, although no court date has been assigned yet.

In Georgia, a sweeping RICO case was filed against not only fake electors but also those on Team Trump who dreamed up and pushed the entire idea. Trump himself was also indicted, but as of yet there is no court date for the trial (the prosecutor has suggested next August, but the judge has yet to rule). Four of the nineteen people charged have already turned state's evidence. One in particular is being helpful not only in the Georgia case but in other fake elector cases in other jurisdictions:

A separate probe of the elector strategy by Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) also remains focused on Republicans within the state who helped carry out the plan, according to people familiar with the probe. Her investigative team is scheduled to meet on Monday in Arizona with former Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro, according to a person familiar with the scheduled conversation who requested anonymity to discuss the planned conversation. Prosecutors hope the conversation could lead to his testimony, should Mayes seek criminal charges.

Chesebro, who pleaded guilty in the Georgia case to a single felony count of participating in a conspiracy to file false documents, had been charged primarily in relation to his 2020 role in organizing the slates of pro-Trump state electors. As part of his pleading, Chesebro avoided prison time but must testify in that case. Apart from those proceedings, prosecutors in Nevada and Arizona approached Chesebro in the hopes that he could help advance their criminal inquiries. Chesebro traveled to Nevada last week, when the grand jury was examining the case.

Which means Arizona could be filing charges soon as well, obviously.

In Wisconsin, the electors faced not criminal charges but a civil court case. This case was brought by the real electors in the state, and was just resolved in humiliating fashion for the fake electors:

In a legal settlement Wednesday, the 10 Republicans who signed official-looking paperwork falsely purporting Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2020 have agreed to withdraw their inaccurate filings, acknowledge Joe Biden won the presidency and not serve as presidential electors in 2024 or in any election where Trump is on the ballot.

Wednesday's civil settlement marks the first time pro-Trump electors have agreed to revoke their false filings and not repeat their actions in the next presidential election.

. . .

In addition to agreeing to not serve as presidential electors in 2024 or in any election in which Trump is on the ballot, the 10 Republicans said they would not assist with any attempts to submit false electoral paperwork in any election.

. . .

In the settlement, the Wisconsin Republicans acknowledged Biden won the 2020 election and said they were not the state's true electors, as they had claimed in the paperwork they filed three years ago.

"We oppose any attempt to undermine the public's faith in the ultimate results of the 2020 presidential election," they said in a statement included in the settlement. "We hereby withdraw the documents we executed on Dec. 14, 2020, and request that they be disregarded by the public and all entities to which they were submitted."

This isn't quite the same as being charged with criminal felonies, but it's at least an acknowledgement of the wrongdoing they did. Once again, this was an attempt at election fraud on a grand scale.

Donald Trump, of course, won't be able to even attempt what he did the last time around. If Joe Biden beats him again, the vice president who will preside over the Senate for the certification of the presidential election on January 6th, 2025 will be his own: Kamala Harris. She's not going to suddenly decide to accept any fake electors for Trump, obviously. So even if Trump were to throw another major hissy fit after the 2024 vote counts are announced, and even if his henchmen were to convince some Republicans in battleground states to act as fake electors again, there's no endgame for such a scheme. In 2021, Trump was relying on Mike Pence to magically make him president. He didn't, and Kamala Harris is certainly not going to either.

But even if Trump did attempt such a scheme, my guess is that it'll be a lot harder for him to talk Republican politicians into joining in. Things aren't faring so well for the ones who did so last time. And with another year gone by, some of these fake electors may actually be sitting in jail cells. Their trials will likely take place beginning early next year, and some of the felonies charged carry weighty prison terms as a possible punishment.

Or to put it another way: finally, the "fake elector" chickens are coming home to roost.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


3 Comments on “Fake Electors Now Facing Consequences”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Then there's the elephant in the room: what happens in all these cases if Trump wins? Who's going to explain to him that the president's pardon power doesn't go for state level convictions?

  2. [2] 
    Bleyd wrote:

    I'd imagine that Trump wouldn't care enough about any of the fake electors to make a real effort to get their charges dropped. I mean, they failed at helping Trump, so why should he help them?

  3. [3] 
    Kick wrote:


    Who's going to explain to him that the president's pardon power doesn't go for state level convictions?

    Good question, which deserves a serious answer:
    A. Person
    B. Woman
    C. Man
    D. Camera
    E. TV
    F. It... doesn't matter because he's dumber than a barrel of hair.

    Answer: F. It...

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