Jan. 6 hearing: 'Fake electors' coordinated by Trump campaign

During a hearing on Tuesday, the Jan 6. House select committee presented a video of witness interviews and other evidence regarding efforts to convene unofficial electors to cast Electoral College votes for former President Donald Trump in states that he had lost in the 2020 election. According to the testimony, the efforts were coordinated by members of the Trump campaign despite objections from several members of the Trump campaign's legal team.

Video transcript

CASEY LUCIER: My name is Casey Lucia. I'm an investigative counsel for the House select committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol. On November 18, a lawyer working with the Trump campaign named Kenneth Cheseboro wrote a memo arguing that the Trump campaign should organize its own electors in the swing states that President Trump had lost. The select committee received testimony that those close to President Trump began planning to organize fake electors for Trump in states that Biden won in the weeks after the election.

- Who do you remember being involved in those early discussions around the Thanksgiving time regarding having alternate electors meet?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: Mr. Giuliani. Several of Mr. Giuliani's associates. Mr. Meadows. Members of Congress. Although it's difficult to distinguish if the members I'm thinking of were involved during Thanksgiving or if they were involved as we progressed through December.

CASEY LUCIER: At the President's direct request, the RNC assisted the campaign in coordinating this effort.

- What did the President say when he called you?

RONNA ROMNEY MCDANIEL: Essentially, he turned the call over to Mr. Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any of the states. I think more just helping them reach out and assemble them but the. My understanding is the campaign did take the lead. And we just were helping them in that role.

CASEY LUCIER: As President Trump and his supporters continued to lose lawsuits, some campaign lawyers became convinced that convening electors in states that Trump lost was no longer appropriate.

JUSTIN CLARK: I just remember I either replied or called somebody saying, unless we have litigation pending that's in these states, I don't think this is appropriate, or this isn't the right thing to do. I don't remember how I phrased it. But I got to do a little bit of a back and forth-- and I think it was with Ken Cheseboro-- where I said, all right. You just get after it. I'm out.

MATT MORGAN: At that point, I had Josh Findley email Mr. Chesebro politely to say, this is your task. You are responsible for the electoral college issues moving forward. And this was my way of taking that responsibility to zero.

CASEY LUCIER: The committee learned the White House counsel's office also felt the plan was potentially illegal.

- And so to be clear, did you hear the White House counsel's office say that this plan to have alternate electors meet and cast votes for Donald Trump in states that he had lost was not legally sound?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: Yes, sir.

- And who is present for that meeting that you remember?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON: It was in our office. It was Mr. Meadows, Mr. Giuliani, and a few of Mr. Giuliani's associates.

CASEY LUCIER: The select committee interviewed several of the individual fake electors as well as Trump campaign staff who helped organize the effort.

ROBERT SINNERS: We were just kind of useful idiots or rubes at that point. A strong part of me really feels that it's just kind of as the road continued and as it was failure, failure, failure, that that got formulated, as what do we have on the table? Let's just do it.

CASEY LUCIER: And now after what we've told you today about the select committee's investigation about the conclusion of the professional lawyers on the campaign staff, Justin Clark, Matt Morgan, and Josh Findley about their unwillingness to participate in the convening of these electors, how does that contribute to your understanding of these issues?

ROBERT SINNERS: I'm angry. I'm angry because I think in a sense no one really cared if people were potentially putting themselves in jeopardy.

CASEY LUCIER: Would you have not wanted to participate in this any further as well?

ROBERT SINNERS: I absolutely would not have had I known that the three main lawyers for the campaign that I had spoken to in the past and were leading up were not on board. Yeah.

ANDREW HITT: I was told that these would only count if a court ruled in our favor. So that would have been using our electors. But it would have been using our electors in ways that we weren't told about and we wouldn't have supported.

CASEY LUCIER: Documents obtained by the select committee indicate that instructions were given to the electors in several states that they needed to cast their ballots in complete secrecy. Because this scheme involved fake electors, those participating in certain states have no way to comply with state election laws like where the electors were supposed to meet. One group of fake electors even considered hiding overnight to ensure that they could access the state capitol as required in Michigan.

- Did Mr. Norton say who he was working with at all on this effort to have electors meet?

LAURA COX: He said he was working with the President's campaign. He told me that the Michigan Republican electors were planning to meet in the Capitol and hide overnight so that they could fulfill the role of casting their vote per law in the Michigan chambers and I told him in no uncertain terms that was insane and inappropriate.

CASEY LUCIER: In one state, the fake electors even asked for a promise that they campaign would pay their legal fees if they got sued or charged with a crime. Ultimately, fake electors did meet on December 14 2020 in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wisconsin. At the request of the Trump campaign, the electors from these battleground states signed documents falsely asserting that they were the, quote, "duly elected electors from their state" and submitted them to the National Archives and to Vice President Pence in his capacity as President of the Senate.

Here is what some of the fake elector certificates look like as compared to the real ones. But these ballots had no legal effect. In an email produced to the select committee, Dr. Eastman told a Trump campaign representative that it did not matter that the electors had not been approved by a state authority. Quote, "the fact that we have multiple slates of electors demonstrates the uncertainty of either. That should be enough."

He urged that Pence act boldly and be challenged. Documents produced to the select committee show that the Trump campaign took steps to ensure that the physical copies of the fake electors electoral votes from two states were delivered to Washington for January 6. Text messages exchanged between Republican Party officials in Wisconsin showed that on January 4, the Trump campaign asked for someone to fly their fake electors documents to Washington. A staffer for Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson texted a staffer for Vice President Pence just minutes before the beginning of the joint session.

This staffer stated that Senator Johnson wished to hand deliver to the Vise President the fake electors votes from Michigan and Wisconsin. The Vice President's aide unambiguously instructed them not to deliver the fake votes to the Vice President. Even though the fake elector slates were transmitted to Congress and the executive branch, the Vice President held firm in his position that his role was to count lawfully submitted electoral votes--

MIKE PENCE: Joseph R Biden Jr. of the state of Delaware has received 306 votes. Donald J Trump of the state of Florida has received 232 votes.

CASEY LUCIER: --which is what he did when the joint session resumed on January 6 after the attack.

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