“The Legal Coup; New Documents Reveal How Trump Lawyers Sought ‘Chaos’ to Force SCOTUS, or Whoever Else, to Anoint Trump”

Josh Kovensky for TPM:

In late 2020, a group of conservative movement attorneys set out to build a legal pathway by which Donald Trump could stay in power, having lost the election. 

We’ve known about the outcome of their work for three years now: how it led to the violence of Jan. 6, and fed the dream of Trump’s supporters that he might continue to serve after Jan. 20, 2021.

But TPM can now reveal the ways in which their theorizing, in early stages, went even further than previously known, imagining a Jan. 6 that lasted for not hours but days, an intervention by Supreme Court justices that they presumed to be loyal to President Trump, and a vice president who upended his constitutional duties, allowing the U.S. to descend into chaos. 

A trove of documents obtained by TPM details many of the conversations among Trump campaign lawyers, and, in particular, the theories offered by Kenneth Chesebro, an attorney who worked with the campaign in the months leading up to Jan. 6. 

Within weeks of Trump denouncing the election itself and claiming that he had won, Chesebro and Trump campaign attorneys around him began to explore more exotic legal theories in which endless chaos in Congress would prove that the legislature could not certify a winner. That stalemate, they theorized, would force the Supreme Court to act. 

Chesebro, an appellate lawyer, provided a legal framework in which, he contended, Trump could still win — or at least cause enough confusion and chaos that the conservative Supreme Court would have to get involved in picking the president. His plan envisioned several gambits which have now become familiar building blocks of the legal portion of the coup attempt, and the basis for criminal charges across the country: creating slates of fake electors, having Mike Pence refuse to count Biden’s electoral votes on Jan. 6, and ultimately tossing the whole issue to the high court. 

TPM obtained the trove of documents after Ken Chesebro supplied emails, texts, and memos from his time with the Trump campaign to Michigan prosecutors in Attorney General Dana Nessel (D)’s office, which has been investigating the fake electors scheme. Multiple defense attorneys for already-charged fake electors told TPM that they had received the documents as part of the discovery process in that case. After Michigan prosecutors sent out the documents, CNN and the Detroit News reported on his Oval Office encounter with Trump and the fake electors scheme using records from the same trove obtained by TPM.

The thousands of emails, memos, and texts only represent what Chesebro experienced directly and what he chose to share. Other emails and texts among Trump lawyers from which Chesebro was excluded are not included here. The records are not comprehensive of the Trump campaign’s entire effort to reverse the President’s loss; they reflect what Chesebro provided as he sought to avoid further prosecution, and what reached TPM. 

Specifically, some of the documents not in the trove obtained by TPM include a portion of Chesebro’s communications with another Trump attorney. Chesebro also sat for a 4 and a half hour long interview with Michigan prosecutors in December 2023 as part of his cooperation and recounted his actions from three years before. He told prosecutors in the interview that many of his communications with Boris Epshteyn, the Trump surrogate and attorney who reportedly appears in Jack Smith’s D.C. Jan. 6 indictment as co-conspirator 6, took place via Signal. Those were deleted automatically, he said. …

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