Lawyers write Hageman on election falsehoods; she deems it a threat

·5 min read

Sep. 23—CHEYENNE — A few dozen lawyers from Wyoming have written the likely next member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the state, criticizing her for promoting falsehoods about the 2020 election.

In an unusual move, the candidate who was the subject of the letter, Republican Harriet Hageman, may have been the one who made public the several-page correspondence. Her campaign did not immediately say whether this indeed was the case, when it was queried by the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on Thursday night.

In their Sept. 12 letter, the legal practitioners from across the state wrote that "Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election. The facts are that Joe Biden received over 81 million votes, and he defeated Mr. Trump by more than seven million votes."

The letter writers "feel compelled to express our deep concern and disappointment that in recent weeks you have chosen to lend your credibility as a Wyoming lawyer to the myth that the 2020 presidential election was stolen." They went on to note that, according to the Casper Star-Tribune, Hageman on Aug. 3, at an event in Casper, described the election as having been "rigged."

Hageman, who as the letter notes is herself an attorney, described the missive as being threatening. She also took a rhetorical shot at her primary rival for the U.S. House seat from Wyoming, fellow Republican and outgoing U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney. Hageman won the GOP primary by a landslide and is expected to win the general election, too.

In her public response posted on her website Thursday, Hageman said the lawyers are threatening her because she has "a different opinion of the 2020 election than they do. The lawyers barely disguised their threat to file a bar complaint against Hageman if she does not stop exercising her 1st Amendment right to free speech."

Different opinion

Hageman contended her own "different political opinion" is "shared by a majority of Wyoming voters." In a poll by the University of Wyoming that was released shortly before last month's primary election, Wyomingites appeared to be split on whether there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

Cheney's allies and the political left "attempt to threaten, intimidate, and cancel anyone who doesn't see the world the way they do," when it comes to Trump's backers and conservatives, Hageman said in her statement. "The letter appears to be part of a larger national collusive effort by leftists and political insiders to target Republican lawyers who have concerns about the 2020 election, with the65project.com possibly providing the template for the letter sent to me."

Well outside of business hours, the65project.com did not respond right away to an email seeking comment.

Of those who signed the letter to her, her campaign website alleged, those "lawyers barely disguised their threat to file a bar complaint against Hageman if she does not stop exercising her 1st Amendment right to free speech."

In their letter to Hageman, the Wyoming attorneys said her primary opponent "believed she was personally unsafe campaigning in Wyoming." Although the letter did not identify Cheney by name in this instance, the description matches her. As the letter went on to state, Cheney's "vocal opposition to Mr. Trump's persistent election denialism was at the root of the safety concerns that so dramatically impacted her campaign activity." Cheney's spokesperson did not have an immediate response as to whether the lawmaker supports the overall thrust of the letter.

Regarding Hageman's membership in the Wyoming State Bar, the attorneys said they "do not suggest" that "results in the loss of your rights to freely express your ideas and opinions under the 1st Amendment." The correspondence went on to note that "in a variety of contexts, courts have approved bar regulations placing limitations on lawyer's speech when necessary to protect the public."

Letter's signers

The WTE was unable to immediately determine which signers of the letter organized it; almost all of the signatories did not comment right away on this or other questions.

The one signatory who had responded to the WTE's query on Thursday evening was Ken Barbe. An online biography at the Welborn Sullivan Meck & Tooley law firm lists him as a shareholder, which often is the equivalent of a partner.

In his email to the WTE, Barbe wrote that he has "been practicing in Wyoming for almost 40 years and have lived in Wyoming all my life. I signed the letter because I support the sentiment" expressed in the document.

"Every court that looked at the issues did not find a legal reason to overturn the outcome" of the election, Barbe wrote. "As lawyers, I think we are duty bound to accept the courts' rulings, regardless of our politics or the outcome we may have wanted. I think it is dangerous to claim the election was rigged because that undermines the courts and the rule of law."

Barbe is listed in the letter as being from Casper, where several other of the letter's backers also hailed from.

Locally, Pat Crank, Mike Golden, Catherine Reeves, Ben Rowland and Rhonda Woodard are listed as from Cheyenne. Crank is a shareholder at Crank Legal Group P.C. He previously was Wyoming's attorney general.

Additional people from Casper listed in the letter included Stuart Day, who is described on his online bio at Williams, Porter, Day and Neville P.C. as being a shareholder. Also from Casper are Pat Holscher from Schwartz, Bon, Walker & Studer LLC, the same firm where fellow signatory Judy Studer works, along with fellow signatories Peter Timbers and Cam Walker.

Among others also from Casper are Anna Reeves Olson and Craig Newman. Just this past week, the Wyoming State Bar announced Reeves Olson was elected to be its president in 2023-24. Olson is described as a partner at Park Street Law Office.

At least one former judge appears to be listed among those who signed on: Tim Day from Jackson. In December, the office of Gov. Mark Gordon announced Gordon appointed Melissa Owens to succeed the retiring Day as a judge in the 9th Judicial District serving Teton County.

Jonathan Make is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's assistant managing editor and editor of the Wyoming Business Report. He can be reached at jmake@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3129. Follow him on Twitter @makejdm.