As recently as this summer, Trump had talked to right-leaning legal counselors about the feasibility of laying the groundwork for various post-election “audits” of mailed ballots — inspired partly by a shambolic Arizona audit following the 2020 election — in parts of the United States that have historical track records of so-called problems, two sources present for these casual discussions recall.
There are few people more central to Trump’s plans than Cleta Mitchell, the lawyer pushing the secretaries of state to pull out of ERIC at that D.C. meeting. As recently as September, Trump privately praised Mitchell’s work, saying she is going to be “very important” for the next election and beyond.
Once a member of the old-school Republican mainstream, Mitchell has become the most ardent of election deniers. Along with participating in Trump’s 2021 call with Raffensperger, she stunned a Fox News host on-air in November 2020 when she challenged the election results days after the network had already called the election for Biden.
That embrace of Trump dogma has given her staying power in the former president’s network of influential allies. But, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation, it irks some of Trump’s top attorneys working on his various criminal cases — many of which grew out of schemes to overturn the 2020 election. “Cleta is too militant, even for me,” one such lawyer says.
Mitchell sent a lengthy email in response to our reporting, which included insisting that ERIC “is a way to accomplish one of the left’s objectives, and to do so at taxpayer expense: register more people” to vote, “not removing bad registrations.” Mitchell offered up a number of her recurring criticisms of ERIC, Soros, and ERIC co-founder Becker, and noted: “I am proud of the work that we are doing and have been doing for the past three years and, yes, I think that what we are doing to try to restore the rule of law in elections is very important.” She also accused Rolling Stone of participating in “attacks” on “election integrity” activists, and also “me specifically.”…
CONFUSION HAS FOLLOWED in the states Mitchell has persuaded to pull out from ERIC. Former member states have found themselves suddenly deprived of accurate voter-registration data and have scrambled to try to re-create a version of ERIC through side agreements with their neighbors still in the network, says Schmidt, the Pennsylvania secretary. He’s seen some states frantically search to find the most rudimentary public voter-registration data. “All you need is $20 and the ability to use Excel to do the analysis they’re doing,” he says.
But absent the kind of very specific personal information that’s only available through ERIC, “the data is going to be garbage and potentially result in voters being disenfranchised,” according to Schmidt. “You cannot just use, for example, name and birthday to go about taking steps to remove a voter,” he says. “That will result in a terrific number of false matches.”…