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A fake, pro-Trump slate of 2020 electors sent their votes to Congress. Who was behind it?

  • January 15, 2022

One said he felt justified declaring himself an elector and attempting to throw Arizona’s votes to former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election because of the unprecedented questions surrounding how ballots were cast and counted.

Another said she thought that signing the documents empowering herself to cast Arizona’s electoral college votes for Trump was merely a backup plan.

A third said he was fulfilling his duty as an elector.

But none would detail exactly how they and the other official Trump electors came to sign a document that was sent to Congress with a false avowal that they constituted Arizona’s official vote in the Electoral College. 

That document, and recent revelations from the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, raise new questions about how the group was organized and how the false document came to exist.

detailed how White House officials and Trump campaign officials extensively pressured Republican leaders in Arizona to take other steps to dismiss the results of the general election after Joe Biden’s win.

A Republic report in December documented how Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani repeatedly spoke with Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and asked him, in vain, to replace the state’s electors — the people who were bound to certify Biden’s win.  

White House phone calls, baseless fraud charges: The origins of the Arizona election review

But new questions emerged this week about whether efforts in various states, including Arizona, to create slates of fraudulent electors were similarly coordinated. 

On Dec. 14, 2020, a group of prominent Republicans, including the party’s chair, Kelli Ward, former lawmaker Anthony Kern and incoming legislator Jake Hoffman signed a document declaring themselves the state’s electors, in favor of Trump.

But Trump had lost Arizona. Gov. Doug Ducey had certified the election results in late November. By state statute, the only electors who mattered were those pledged to cast their votes for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, as they did Dec. 14, 2020, at noon.

The document the Republicans signed, obtained from the National Archives last year by the group American Oversight, overlooked that detail. 

It described the “undersigned” as the “duly elected and qualified Electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America from the State of Arizona …”

The vote was sent to Congress, the state Republican Party said at the time. It was accompanied by a letter, signed by 22 Republican state lawmakers, that asked the Trump slate be accepted as the official votes — or, in the alternative, that no votes be accepted until the completion of a forensic audit.

A news release from the Arizona Republican Party on the day of the signing said the Trump electors met to “cast their votes and send them to Congress where they are to be opened and counted beginning on January 6.”

In a video posted to the Arizona Republican Party’s YouTube page on Dec. 15, 2020, Ward, the party chair, told viewers that the “true electors for the presidency” had met the previous day to cast their votes.

“We believe that we are the electors for the legally cast votes here in Arizona,” she said.

Other documents similarly listing would-be Trump electors were filed with the federal government by groups from other states at the same time. 

A congressional resolution last month holding former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt for failing to cooperate with the committee included texts and emails showing Meadows encouraged lawmakers in certain states “to send alternate slates of electors to Congress.”

One member of Congress, according to the report, described the plan as “highly controversial.” Meadows responded, the report said, with a message that said: “I love it,” and later, “Have a team on it.”

House votes to hold Mark Meadows in contempt for defying Jan. 6 committee subpoena

On “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC on Wednesday, the host highlighted that portion of the congressional report about Meadows. 

Congressional investigators have already interviewed Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, and Politico reported this week that the committee was scrutinizing how certain states had submitted unsanctioned slates of electors.  

False electors’ answers

One of the signees to the document proclaiming an alternate slate of electors was Tyler Bowyer, chief operating officer of Turning Point USA, a group that aims to energize Trump support among younger voters.

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He said during a brief phone interview on Thursday that he was in his right to sign the document.

“I was an elector,” he said. “I want to make sure we’re clear here. I was an elector for the Republican Party.”

Another would-be Trump elector, Rep. Hoffman, a Republican from Queen Creek, said on Wednesday said that he felt empowered to declare himself an elector because of what he saw as the singularly unique questions about the 2020 elections.

“In unprecedented times, unprecedented actions occur,” he said.

Hoffman said that the election was being litigated at the time the electors met at Arizona Republican Party headquarters. He said there was no case law or rules about what would happen if the result remained in doubt.

“Which is why we felt it appropriate to provide Congress and the vice president with dueling options,” Hoffman said.

However, Hoffman would not say how the plan came together or whether the electors received advice on how to word the document. He also would not say who told him where to be on Dec. 14 to cast the alternate elector vote.

appoint themselves electors and cast votes for Trump. It also sent its notarized documents to the National Archives.

But, in response to a Republic story about that effort, the Arizona Republican Party decried that group of alternate electors as frauds. The party posted a picture of its 11 alternate electors on Twitter calling it “the only slate of 11 you need to worry about — ignore the ‘others.’”

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