Jan. 6 investigators subpoena 14 in probe of false pro-Trump electors

L.E. Baskow, File/AP Photo
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The Jan. 6 select committee on Friday subpoenaed central players in the GOP effort to submit illegitimate presidential electors in 2020, a push that became a key component of Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn his defeat.

The select panel investigating the Capitol riot is seeking documents and testimony from two pro-Trump electors each from seven battleground states — all won by Joe Biden — in which Republicans sought to deliver their own slate of electors to Congress.

"We believe the individuals we have subpoenaed today have information about how these so-called alternate electors met and who was behind that scheme," Chair Bennie Thompson said in a statement. "We encourage them to cooperate with the Select Committee’s investigation to get answers about January 6th for the American people and help ensure nothing like that day ever happens again.”

Among those subpoenaed were David Shafer, who is currently the chair of the Georgia Republican Party; Michael McDonald, the chair of the Nevada Republican Party; and Michigan RNC Committeewoman Kathy Berden.

The subpoenaed individuals have two weeks to provide documents to the committee and are asked to appear for a deposition by late February.

“As was said publicly at the time, Wisconsin Republican electors were advised by legal counsel to keep legal options open by meeting and signing papers in support of President Trump should lawsuits on appeal ultimately be successful,” Wisconsin Republican Party Chair Paul Farrow said in a statement.

Although the false-electors effort was public at the time, it’s drawn new interest from investigators as they examine the involvement of Trump’s White House and campaign. CNN andThe Washington Post have reported Trump lawyer Rudy Giulani oversaw the gatherings of pro-Trump electors.

The GOP drive to submit alternative electors in Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia was viewed as a sideshow in December 2020 amid Trump’s broader attempts to subvert the election.

And their operations were conducted in plain sight: As Democratic electors in those states met to formally cast their votes for Biden, the Republicans gathered informally to submit their own slate. Each GOP gathering elected a chair and secretary to preside over the proceedings.

The select committee is subpoenaing those chairs and secretaries, seeking details about their participation in the meetings of alternate electors. At issue is their decision to sign certificates that falsely declared themselves the “duly elected and qualified” electors for their states.

POLITICO reported earlier this month that Michigan and Arizona had turned over copies of the alternate certificates of ascertainment along with correspondence between the National Archives and state officials about the documents.

The production to the committee also included emails from a National Archives inspector general official indicating the office was pursuing a case of potential fraud against a second slate of would-be Trump electors in Arizona who identified themselves as “sovereign citizens.”

The move comes after Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco signaled in a CNN interview that federal prosecutors are also scrutinizing the issue.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, indicated in a recent interview that some of those GOP electors may have been duped into signing the election certificates, exposing themselves to potential legal repercussions, by more powerful Trump allies.

“What has manifested … a number of people who were deceived by those coordinating this effort at the highest level … I think it's heartbreaking to see individuals who were lied to and perhaps acted in furtherance of those lies put themselves in a position where they could potentially be legally culpable,” Benson said. “And in that way, complicit in real, actual election fraud.”

Republicans who were involved in the effort claimed they were acting on a precedent set in Hawaii in 1960, when three Democratic electors submitted an alternative slate in support of John F. Kennedy. At the time, Republican Richard Nixon had narrowly won and been certified as the victor in Hawaii, but an active recount was underway. Ultimately, the recount showed Kennedy prevailed by less than 150 votes on his way to winning the White House; the Democratic slate was later certified and counted.

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