Targeting ‘Alternate’ Electors
Terry H. Schwadron
Jan. 20, 2022
Among speculation about possible Justice Department prosecutions arising from events leading to last year’s Jan. 6 Capitol riots, one standout issue is raising questions by itself.
Over the last few days, The Bulwark, the online site that sees itself as a politically center-right critic of all-things-Donald Trump, has outlined the legal case against those who signed and sent fake certificates to government agencies declaring themselves the rightful Electoral College electors in seven states.
Signing false sworn documents.is a crime by itself.
But, as The Bulwark points out, “the individuals who signed the documents certifying that they were the ‘duly elected and qualified’ electors from their states were not. Their certificates were fraudulent, full stop. No doubt or ambiguity about it.”
In a subsequent article, the website said, “In other words, what we have here is attempted election fraud on a massive scale.”
According to documents obtained by American Oversight, which calls itself a nonprofit and non-partisan watchdog site, the fake certificates were created by Trump’s allies in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico, who sought to replace valid presidential electors from their states with a pro-Trump slate.
The certificates went to state and federal elections officials and to the National Archives, from which they were obtained under Freedom of Information processes.
The phony certificates were submitted nearly a year ago.
Of course, those officials never were accepted by the different agencies, and the certification process arising from last November’s election moved to Congress. Then came Jan. 6, and the violent attempt to circumvent the process.
Nevertheless, a year ago today, Joe Biden became president, and Donald Trump was left with his simmering anger over would-be election fraud claims.
Examining Jan. 6
The Justice Department and the special congressional committee called to examine the events of Jan. 6 have found plenty to keep themselves busy.
As we all have followed, the House committee has interviewed more than 300 witnesses, most cooperating, and run into problems with seeking testimony from Republican congress members and Team Trump advisors about their versions of what happened between the election and Jan. 6. Public hearings loom, and the committee has said it will refer issues as appropriate to Justice for possible criminal charges.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has spoken publicly only to say that Justice and the FBI have pursued criminal cases against hundreds of actual rioters and is prepared to file charges against those who planned and coordinated the rioting — without spelling out exactly what that means.
The filing of a seditious conspiracy charge against the leader of the Oath Keepers militia was heralded as a first step in Justice advancing upwards in the Jan. 6 planning chain. Critics have complained that Justice seems to be lagging at pursuing those in Trump’s inner circle who were reported in media and new books to have been meeting to plan what amounted to legal, political and physical attempts to halt the election confirmation process over claims without evidence of widespread election fraud.
Part of that legal effort was the plot, outlined in the circulated memo by attorney John Eastman for states to declare alternative elector slates for presentation to a Congress that could halt the process and send disputed Electoral College results to the House. The outline started with the idea that Trump was unfairly denied election and worked out a strategy that might work to undo that outcome.
Following the outline would have resulted in a House vote by state to declare Trump the winner rather than Biden — overturning both the popular vote and the otherwise certified Electoral College outcome. That’s overturn, as in coup, which is, um, illegal under the Constitution and all rules that we know.
Is Justice Asking?
No one outside of Justice seems to know whether Justice is pursuing the apparently coordinated effort to present alternative elector slates.
The Bulwark notes that in at least five of the seven states, the language of certificates presented for these alternate Trump electors were virtually identical, suggesting coordination beyond individual state efforts. Certificates in New Mexico and Pennsylvania were hedged to await a final court ruling on the election.
“Some perspective: If an average voter lied on their registration forms or forged an absentee ballot, they would face criminal charges and a world of legal hurt. But this case is far worse because the forged electoral certificates were coordinated, and part of a larger conspiracy to overturn the presidential election,” said The Bulwark.
In essence, the alternate elector slate route, though less violent was key to the objectives for Jan. 6.
“The phony Trump electors from each of the other five states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin — certified that they were in fact the “duly elected and qualified Electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America” from their respective states,” said the Bulwalk, adding, “Those representations were lies.”
In each of those states, Biden’s victory had been certified by the officials given statutory authority to do so.
In Michigan, the rejected signatures include the head of the state Republican party. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said she believes there’s “absolutely” enough evidence to bring criminal charges against 16 Republicans who signed a certificate falsely claiming to be the state’s presidential electors in December 2020.
So, the question is apart from all the other possible crimes, is why both state and federal law enforcement are not pursuing criminal charges for submitting false documents?
State folks say the feds are better placed to show coordination across state lines, and the feds have had, well, nothing to say yet.
If the documents were rejected as false, the claims are illegal. It feels as if these are discrete and independent issues from overall Jan. 6 investigations. And they were coordinated. Why are we hearing all this from media outlets rather than from Justice?