Potential Trump-Connected Election Crimes Revealed In Leaked Emails

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A series of email messages obtained by The New York Times that relate to the multi-state scheme after the 2020 presidential election to assemble faked electoral votes for Trump in states that Biden won reveals an awareness in the then-president’s circles of the lack of solid legal foundations for the effort.

Jack Wilenchik, an Arizona lawyer who was involved with organizing the fake electoral votes for Trump in his state, told Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn as follows in a December 8, 2020, message: “We would just be sending in ‘fake’ electoral votes to Pence so that ‘someone’ in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the ‘fake’ votes should be counted.” Epshteyn was involved with coordinating the fake electoral votes scheme; he was evidently in relatively consistent contact with an expansive array of people involved in it. Wilenchik didn’t stick with calling the Trump electoral votes “fake” — in a follow-up message to Epshteyn, he suggested calling the votes “alternative” instead.

The line of argument from the Arizona lawyer shows it wasn’t a given that those participating in the scheme were even trying to stick to the excuse they were simply working to leave legal options open for Trump. The argument’s been that these fake electoral votes were appropriate because they allowed the opportunity for counting votes for Trump in the event litigation turned out favorably for the then-president.

A key problem with that notion is there was never any good-faith reason to believe election-related litigation could’ve provided for any kind of legitimate change to the outcome. The fact that court challenges weren’t even always a focus of the conversation makes clear how they functioned as more of a smoke-screen. December 8 is before legitimate members of the electoral college even cast their votes, but it sounds as though some were essentially banking on assembling the fake votes anyway, no matter how the ensuing days turned out.

Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows were among those kept informed on certain occasions of what others involved in the electoral vote schemes were doing, and another key figure involved in coordinating the efforts was Mike Roman, another Trump campaign official. As though those participating in the electoral vote schemes were trying to check as many boxes as possible on some villainy check-list, the prospect even repeatedly came up of keeping the whole endeavor as secret as possible. Kelli Ward, the Arizona GOP chair and one of those who signed on as fake Trump electors from that state, was in favor of attempting “to keep it under wraps until Congress counts the vote Jan. 6th (so we can try to “surprise” the Dems and media with it),” according to one of Wilenchik’s messages from December 8, 2020. The fake votes plan was in development at the time.

Trump was personally involved in the fake electoral votes plan and tried to goad the Republican National Committee into participating. He called party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and had her speak with attorney John Eastman “to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors,” according to testimony from McDaniel to the House riot panel. Some of Wilenchik’s December 8 messages outline how unconcerned certain individuals sounded with basic legality. Referring to Eastman ally Kenneth Chesebro, Wilenchik said: “His idea is basically that all of us (GA, WI, AZ, PA, etc.) have our electors send in their votes (even though the votes aren’t legal under federal law — because they’re not signed by the Governor); so that members of Congress can fight about whether they should be counted on January 6th.” All of these revelations could no doubt be immensely relevant in a criminal case where prosecutors are seeking to prove somebody’s intent. Read more on the matter here.

“Big news. Emails like this are the sort of proof DOJ is looking for in its investigation of the fake electors scheme. The author of the email describing the electors as “fake” is a lawyer. He now needs a lawyer of his own,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti said of the revelations from the Times.