“‘Fake’ elector plot raised concerns over legal peril, indictment shows”


The allegation that campaign officials sought to prevent electors in other states from learning about the language used in Pennsylvania is a key new revelation in the four-count, 45-page federal indictment, which accuses Trump of a sprawling effort to “retain power” illegally with the help of six co-conspirators.

Trump’s defenders have long insisted that the elector scheme was legal because the slates met as mere placeholders, to be activated only if the campaign won in court. Prosecutors now charge that Trump, Giuliani and others intended all along to use the electors to falsely claim the outcome of the election was in doubt, facilitating an effort to obstruct the certification of Biden’s victoryin Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

Legal experts said proving that Trump and his co-conspirators were lying when they said the electors were meeting just in case will be a central challenge of winning a conviction. Especially important may be the experience in Pennsylvania, where new interviews by The Washington Post reveal the extent of discomfort with the plan by Trump electors.

In five other states, Republicans did not hedge. Instead, they signed paperwork claiming to be electors for the president and casting their votes for Trump, even though he had lost their states. Electors in a seventh state, New Mexico, included contingency language similar to that in Pennsylvania. The Trump campaign then moved ahead with plans to use all the certificates to pressure Congress not to certify the electoral college count for Biden….

Included in the evidence special counsel Jack Smith offers is the fact that several of those campaign officials fretted internally about the legitimacy of the scheme. The indictment also cites a memo from Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro outlining a plan to falsely present the Trump elector slates as an alternative to Biden electors on Jan. 6.

The indictment describes how no election challenges remained in New Mexico on Dec. 14, 2020, but the campaign filed a new lawsuit at 11:54 a.m., six minutes before the noon deadline for the electors to vote, presumably to give the Trump electors a rationale for meeting. And it documents how officials wanted to keep the Pennsylvania contingency language under wraps.

What the indictment does not say is whether all the doubts it documented about the legality of the elector plan were conveyed to Trump or if Trump had ever acknowledged that possibility. It alleges that his false claims of election fraud were “integral to his criminal plans” to obstruct certification. And it emphasizes his deep interest in the elector scheme, describing his demands for updates and for a public statement the day before the electors convened.

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