Baltimore Sun

Emails illuminate fake electors plot

Messages offer peek into bid to overturn vote before Jan. 6

- By Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater

Previously undisclose­d emails provide an inside look at the increasing­ly desperate and often slapdash efforts by advisers to former President Donald Trump to reverse his election defeat in the weeks before the Jan. 6 attack, including acknowledg­ments that a key element of their plan was of dubious legality and lived up to its billing as “fake.”

The dozens of emails among people connected to the Trump campaign, outside advisers and close Trump associates show a particular focus on assembling lists of people who would claim — with no basis — to be Electoral College electors on his behalf in battlegrou­nd states he had lost.

In emails reviewed by The New York Times and authentica­ted by people who had worked with the Trump campaign at the time, one lawyer involved in the detailed discussion­s repeatedly used the word “fake” to refer to the so-called electors, who were intended to provide Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s allies in Congress a rationale for derailing the congressio­nal process of certifying the outcome. And lawyers working on the proposal made clear they knew that the pro-Trump electors they were putting forward might not hold up to legal scrutiny.

“We would just be sending in ‘fake’ electoral votes to Pence so that ‘someone’ in Congress can make an

objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the ‘fake’ votes should be counted,” Jack Wilenchik, a Phoenix-based lawyer who helped organize the pro-Trump electors in Arizona, wrote in a Dec. 8, 2020, email to Boris Epshteyn, a strategic adviser for the Trump campaign.

In a follow-up email, Wilenchik wrote that “‘alternativ­e’ votes is probably a better term than ‘fake’ votes,” adding a smiley face emoji.

The emails provide new details of how a wing of the Trump campaign worked with outside lawyers and advisers to organize the elector plan and pursue a

range of other options, often with little thought to their practicali­ty.

The emails show that participan­ts in the discussion­s reported details of their activities to Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, and in at least one case to Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff. Around the same time, according to the House committee investigat­ing Jan. 6, Meadows emailed another campaign adviser saying, “We just need to have someone coordinati­ng the electors for states.”

Many of the emails went to Epshteyn, who was acting as a coordinato­r for people inside and outside the

Trump campaign and the White House and remains a close aide to Trump.

Epshteyn, the emails show, was a regular point of contact for John Eastman, the lawyer whose plan for derailing congressio­nal certificat­ion of the Electoral College result on Jan. 6, 2021, was embraced by Trump.

Epshteyn not only fielded and passed along to Giuliani the detailed proposal for Jan. 6 prepared by Eastman; he also handled questions about how to pay Eastman and made the arrangemen­ts for him to visit the White House on Jan. 4, 2021, the emails show.

That was the day of the

Oval Office meeting in which Trump and Eastman unsuccessf­ully pressured Pence to adopt the plan — an exchange witnessed by Pence’s two top aides, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, both of whom testified last week to the federal grand jury investigat­ing the assault on the Capitol and what led to it.

The emails highlight how much of the legwork of finding ways to challenge Trump’s losses in the battlegrou­nd states was done by Mike Roman, director of Election Day operations for Trump’s campaign.

Epshteyn and Roman, the emails show, coordinate­d with others who played roles in advising Trump. Among them were lawyers Jenna Ellis and Bruce Marks; Gary Michael Brown, who served as the deputy director of Election Day operations for Trump’s campaign; and Christina Bobb, who at the time worked for One America News Network.

The emails were apparently not shared with lawyers in the White House Counsel’s Office, who advised that the “fake electors” plan was not legally sound, or other lawyers on the campaign.

Some of the participan­ts also expressed approval in the emails for keeping some of their activities out of the public eye.

On Dec. 8, 2020, Wilenchik wrote that Kelli Ward, one of the Arizona Republican­s participat­ing in the fake electors plan, recommende­d trying “to keep it under wraps until Congress counts the vote Jan. 6th (so we can try to ‘surprise’ the Dems and media with it) — I tend to agree with her.”

The House committee investigat­ing the Jan. 6 riot has produced evidence that Trump was aware of the electors plan. Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, said in a deposition to the panel that Trump had called her and put Eastman on the phone “to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors.”

The panel has also heard testimony from Jacob, who was Pence’s counsel in the White House, that Eastman admitted in the Jan. 4 Oval Office meeting — with Trump present — that his plan to have Pence obstruct the electoral certificat­ion violated the Electoral Count Act.

 ?? ADRIANA ZEHBRAUSKA­S/THE NEW YORK TIMES ?? Trump backers protest in Phoenix on Nov. 5, 2020, two days after Election Day.
ADRIANA ZEHBRAUSKA­S/THE NEW YORK TIMES Trump backers protest in Phoenix on Nov. 5, 2020, two days after Election Day.

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