Jan. 6 committee unpacks fake electors and pressure lobbed on state officials for fourth hearing

Jan. 6 committee unpacks fake electors and pressure lobbed on state officials for fourth hearing

June 21, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

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Investigators say that the “alternate elector” plot began well before Dec. 14, 2020, the deadline for members of the Electoral College to gather across the nation and officially sign certificates declaring the winner of the 2020 election in their respective states.

For weeks, the Trump campaign was focused on getting its own electors to show up on Dec. 14 in seven battleground states where Trump was losing. 

By presenting a “dueling” slate of pro-Trump electors when Congress met for the joint session on Jan. 6, the idea was to have then-Vice President Mike Pence step in and “resolve” the conflict between competing slates.

But Pence didn’t have that authority, as witnesses unpacked for the committee in the probe’s last hearing.

Members of the Trump administration—including Trump himself, the committee has said—knew Pence didn’t have the authority to resolve any disputes on Jan. 6. All he could do, according to the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act, was open the slates and recite the counts.

But Pence’s cooperation anchored the bunk elector scheme drummed up by the president’s attorneys and advisers like Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis, and others. 

Notably, a Dec. 19, 2020 email uncovered during a court battle for records between Eastman and the select committee have shown Eastman understood the Trump elector bid was doomed, but he kept pushing for it anyway. 

He described the alternate elector bid as “dead on arrival” if state legislatures wouldn’t go along with the plan, but that did not stop him from shilling the strategy to the former president or others in Trump’s circle. 

On review of documents held by Eastman, U.S. District Judge David Carter described his findings:

The previously disclosed documents indicate that Dr. Eastman and President Trump’s plan to disrupt the Joint Session was fully formed and actionable as early as December 7, 2020.

On that day, Dr. Eastman forwarded a memo explaining why January 6 was the “Hard Deadline” that was “critical to the result of this election” for the Trump Campaign,” Carter wrote. “A week later, on December 13, President Trump’s personal attorney received a more robust analysis of January 6’s significance, which was potentially ‘the first time members of President Trump’s team transformed a legal interpretation of the Electoral Count Act into a day-by-day plan of action.

Having Pence stop the count was the “ultimate goal that the legal team was working on,” Carter wrote in a ruling on June 7. 

Carter Ruling June 7 on Privilege by Daily Kos on Scribd

Text messages obtained by the committee from Trump’s former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have also shown the depth and breadth of the scheme.

Rick Perry, the former secretary of the Department of Energy under Trump, texted Meadows on Nov. 4, 2020 asking why states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and “other R controlled state houses” couldn’t “just send their own electors and then have it go to the SCOTUS.”

Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son and adviser, texted a similar message to Meadows, asking for state assemblies to send in separate slates on Nov. 5. 

Rep. Andy Biggs, an Arizona Republican and key Trump ally, made similar proposals to the White House as well, noting in a Nov. 6 text to Meadows that it would be “highly controversial” to advance the bunk electors. Biggs asked Meadows if the White House had anybody on the team researching and “lobbying” for the scheme.

“I love it,” Meadows wrote. 

When Meadows was held in contempt of Congress for his refusal to fully cooperate with the probe, it was noted in his contempt report that Meadows responded to a similar text asking about the campaign’s prep for bogus electors. He acknowledged that the White House “already [had] a team on it.”

The controversy and confusion around the electors for Trump was something that Eastman relied on when offering guidance to the 45th president and his lackeys. 

Trump’s attorney Cleta Mitchell contacted Eastman two days after the 2020 election was over asking him to develop a memo that outlined the “constitutional role” of state legislators in assigning electors. Eastman did write that memo up and shared it with other attorneys in the former president’s circle, including Ellis. 

As the campaign’s election fraud lies were demolished in court and Trump failed to gain a legal foothold to prove his conspiracy theories of widespread voter fraud, the pressure on Pence grew, his counsel Greg Jacob testified last week. 

In a report by The Washington Post published Monday, emails reviewed by the newspaper and obtained by the committee show Eastman telling Trump’s advisers that the confusion on the dueling slates would help convince Pence. 

The fact that we have multiple slates of electors demonstrate the uncertainty of either. That should be enough,” Eastman wrote. 

As noted by the Post, Eastman told Trump’s advisers he thought the scheme would be more problematic in some states over others. 

When Trump’s fake electors met in battleground states on Dec. 14, like in Georgia, emails have shown, some did it with the instruction from the Trump campaign that they should not speak to media or disclose why they were there.

In other statehouses, the president’s bunk electors were more overt in their conduct. In Michigan, Trump’s bogus electors were turned away from the statehouse, the location where they were legally required to meet when real electors submitted slates. They were turned away by a security guard and met at a Republican Party headquarters instead. 

Before, during, and after the Dec. 14 deadline, Trump’s attorneys took their show on the road, holding public hearings where they rattled off lies and conspiracy theories of widespread voter fraud, angling to get state legislatures on board. 

More and new evidence is expected to be rolled out during the hearing Tuesday. 

A special grand jury has already been convened by the Department of Justice to review whether the Trump elector slates were ginned up illegally and what laws, if any, members of the administration violated.

Subpoenas have been issued to targets of the grand jury seeking information on Giuliani, Ellis, and Kenneth Chesebro, a pro-Trump lawyer from Wisconsin who, in an email to Eastman before the insurrection, opined about the benefits of chaos reigning supreme on Jan. 6. 

Eastman told Chesebro the odds of the alternate elector scheme succeeding were “not based on the legal merits” but rather, an “assessment of the justices’ spines” at the Supreme Court should they hear a challenge. 

“I understand that there is a heated fight underway,” Eastman wrote to Chesebro before arguing that the Trump reelection campaign should get its challenge before the high court. “For those willing to do their duty, we should help them by giving them a Wisconsin cert petition to add into the mix.”

Chesebro told Eastman that he thought “the odds of action before Jan. 6 will become more favorable if the justices start to fear that there will be ‘wild’ chaos on Jan. 6 unless they rule by then, either way.”

Incidentally, Chesebro’s use of “wild” in that email came exactly five days after Trump called on his supporters to gather in D.C. on Jan. 6. He said it would be “wild.”

Raffensperger is expected to discuss his experience with Trump on Jan. 2, 2021 when the 45th president called him and asked him to “find” more than 11,000 votes so Trump could say he won the state against his opponent. 

All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said.

He “won the state,” Trump added.

Raffensperger disagreed. 

Meadows, the committee is expected to show, was instrumental in efforts to get Georgia election auditors on board with the scam, even going so far as sending “Make America Great Again” hats to auditors. 

Both Raffensperger and Sterling have testified before a grand jury in Georgia as prosecutors there explore whether Trump broke the law by pressuring state officials to overturn the results. 

Sterling was vocal about the pressure he and others experienced as a result of Trump’s incessant baseless claims of fraud. 

During a press conference, Sterling was blunt. 

It had “all gone too far.”

“All of it,” he said. 

“Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed,” Sterling said. 

Five people were killed at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 

The alternate elector scheme also played out in Arizona where Bowers told The Arizona Republic that Giuliani called him once the state’s election results had been registered, though not yet officially certified. Bowers said Giuliani told him there was a state law that gave the power to pick electors to the state legislature. 

It seemed unfamiliar, and moreover, incorrect to Bowers. 

It was “nothing but conjecture,” he said. 

“You are asking me to break my oath and commit to doing something I cannot do because I swore I wouldn’t,” Bowers said he told Giuliani. “I will follow the Constitution.”

There are also questions that swirl around Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the right-wing activist wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Emails uncovered by Carter in Eastman’s privilege fight have shown that Ginni Thomas and Eastman corresponded. Prior to that, Ginni Thomas was revealed to have emailed no fewer than 29 Arizona lawmakers urging them to accept the bunk electors for Trump even though Biden won the state’s popular vote.

Thomas also emailed Bowers asking him to choose a “clean slate of electors” and to withstand “political and media pressure.”

She told the right-wing outlet The Daily Caller she was looking forward to speaking with the committee to clear up any “misconceptions.” 

We talk to expert Brandi Buchman about everything you need to know for the Jan. 6 committee, hearings, and investigation on Daily Kos’ The Brief podcast