Report shows Arizona voters were aware of legal doubts over ‘fake elections’

Some of those involved in bidding presidential voters to President Donald Trump in Arizona after he lost the state in 2020 knew their plan was legally dubious and wanted to keep his public profile low-key for as long, according to a report on Tuesday. as possible.

Citing previously undisclosed emails, The New York Times painted the picture of an effort in major swing states, including Arizona, the nation’s closest contest, that was both desperate and would not pass. probably not the legal review.

Their plan was to submit documents to Congress suggesting Trump had won the states, even though certified results showed then-President-elect Joe Biden had won them. Trump allies hoped the dual voters list would serve as justification to slow down or rescind the Jan. 6, 2021, certification of Biden’s victory.

After Vice President Mike Pence refused to consider “fake voters”, a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol, interrupting the process for hours.

Video:Governor Doug Ducey with Karrin Taylor Robson and former Vice President Mike Pence

Long before that, those defending the long-term plan knew they were standing on shaky ground, the Times reported. People familiar with the plan at the time told The Arizona Republic that while the strategy was legally questionable, they did not consider their activity criminally wrongful.

“We would just be sending ‘fake’ electoral votes to Pence so that ‘someone’ in Congress can object when they start counting the votes and start arguing that the ‘fake’ votes should be counted,” he said. writes Jack Wilenchik, a Phoenix attorney who helped convene Trump voters for Arizona.

The December 8, 2020 email was addressed to Boris Epshteyn, a Trump campaign adviser who served as a bridge between the Trump campaign and John Eastman, a California law professor who helped craft the legal strategy.

In a follow-up email, Wilenchik wrote that “‘alternative’ votes are probably a better term than ‘fake’ votes,” The Times reported on Tuesday.

Wilenchik also appeared to acknowledge in an email that they should submit the fake voters “even if the votes are not legal under federal law — because they are not signed by the governor.”

Pence and his legal team rejected the surrogate voter legal strategy even before January 6, 2021.

Wilenchik and Epshteyn declined to comment on the case to The Times and The Republic.

Wilenchik has ties to key figures involved in the Arizona Republican Party’s efforts to overturn the results of the state’s 2020 presidential election.

He represents Cyber ​​Ninjas, the company hired to lead the Senate’s partisan review of ballots in Maricopa County, in a months-long battle to prevent the public release of thousands of documents.

Wilenchik also represented State Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, an election denier who led “Stop the Steal” rallies and was outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot.

Christina Bobb, an attorney and former reporter for the conservative One America News Network, wrote an email four days after Wilenchik’s, saying that Doug Mastriano, the man leading the proxy voter effort in Pennsylvania, had been informed that their plan may have been illegal, the Times reported.

Mastriano is now the GOP gubernatorial candidate in that state.

The Times also reported that correspondence regarding the fake voters had not been shared with the White House legal counsel’s office, which had previously dismissed the idea as legally unfounded.

Wilenchik wrote in a Dec. 8, 2020 email that Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward wanted to “keep it a secret until Congress counts the vote on Jan. 6 (so we can try to “surprise” the Democrats and the media with) – I tend to agree with her.

Ward did not immediately respond to The Republic’s request for comment. Last month, she and her husband, Michael, were subpoenaed by the US Department of Justice under the Substitute Voters Plan, according to Politico.

Paul Bender, a law professor at Arizona State University who worked as a deputy solicitor general in the Clinton administration, said Wilenchik’s emails were troubling.

“If they’re submitting documents that they know are fake in order to delay Congress doing something, … it’s clearly unethical for a lawyer to do that,” Bender said.

“It’s different from making invalid arguments,” he said. “If you submit a document that you know is not what it claims to be, that strikes me as not only unethical, but probably criminal.”

Potential Trump voters in Arizona met at the state’s GOP headquarters and signed documents to submit to Congress on Dec. 14, 2020. They tweeted about their efforts, which included a video of their participation.

All Republican voters in Arizona participated in the effort.

They included:

Tyler Bowyer, senior executive of Turning Point USA and committee member of the Republican National Committee; Nancy Cottle, who chaired the Arizona Trump voters; Jake Hoffman, a state representative; Anthony Kern, former State Representative currently running for State Senate; Jim Lamon, candidate for the United States Senate; Cochise County Republican Committee Chairman Robert Montgomery; Samuel Moorhead, Second Vice Chairman of the Gila County Republican Party; Loraine Pellegrino, the Arizona Trump voters secretary; Greg Safsten, Executive Director of the Arizona Republican Party; Ward, the state GOP chairman; and Michael Ward, Kelli Ward’s husband and a GOP activist.

Republic reporter Robert Anglen contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Ronald J. Hansen at [email protected] or 602-444-4493. Follow him on Twitter @ronaldjhansen.

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