Two Arizona Republicans recruited by allies of former President Donald J. Trump to join an effort to keep him in office after he lost the 2020 election grew so concerned about the plan that they told lawyers working on it that they feared their actions could be seen as treason, according to emails reviewed by The New York Times.
Kelli Ward, the chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party, and Kelly Townsend, a state senator, were both said to have expressed concerns to Mr. Trump’s lawyers in December 2020 about participating in a plan to sign on to a slate of electors claiming that Mr. Trump had won Arizona, even though Joseph R. Biden Jr. had won the state.
The scheme was part of a broader bid — one of the longest running and most complicated that Mr. Trump undertook as he sought to cling to power after losing the 2020 presidential election — to falsely manufacture a victory for him by creating fake slates of electors in battleground states who would claim that he had been the true winner.
Some of the lawyers who undertook the effort doubted its legality, and the emails, which have not been previously reported, were the latest indication that other key players also knew they were on shaky legal ground, and took pains to fabricate a rationale that could justify their actions.
Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer working for Mr. Trump’s campaign, wrote in a Dec. 11, 2020, email to other members of the legal team that Ms. Ward and Ms. Townsend had raised concerns about casting votes as part of an alternate slate of electors because there was no pending legal challenge that could flip the results of Arizona’s election.
“Ward and Townsend are concerned it could appear treasonous for the AZ electors to vote on Monday if there is no pending court proceeding that might, eventually, lead to the electors being ratified as the legitimate ones,” Mr. Chesebro wrote to the group, which included Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer.
Mr. Chesebro wrote the word “treasonous” in bold.
Ms. Ward, who pushed for the electors plan to be kept secret, ultimately joined the effort and signed a document that purported to be a “certificate of the votes of the 2020 electors from Arizona” and claimed that Mr. Trump had won the state’s 11 Electoral College votes.