Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Judge sets trial in fake electors lawsuit

Will take place weeks before 2024 election

- Molly Beck

MADISON – A trial in a Wisconsin lawsuit over the actions of 10 Republican­s who posed as electors for Donald Trump in 2020 despite his election loss will take place just weeks before the next presidenti­al election.

Dane County Judge Frank Remington set the trial for September 2024, just before Democrats and Republican­s must submit lists of electors to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Two of Wisconsin’s presidenti­al electors filed the lawsuit last year seeking to fine the group of Wisconsin Republican­s who posed as members of the Electoral College after Trump lost to Joe Biden.

The Democrats who brought the lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court are also seeking to punish two attorneys who worked on the effort. They want a judge to award all involved up to $200,000 apiece in damages to ensure the losing side in future elections doesn’t file official-looking paperwork with Congress claiming to be the winner.

The lawsuit asks a judge to find the Republican­s engaged in a conspiracy aimed at defrauding voters and bar the participan­ts from becoming electors in the future. The filing argues the Republican­s helped fuel the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, when a proTrump mob tried to prevent Congress from finalizing Biden’s victory.

It argues the fake electors and the attorneys violated laws that determine who can participat­e in Electoral College meetings and bar people from acting as if they hold public offices they don’t actually hold. It contends the false electors illegally interfered with official proceeding­s, counterfei­ted public records, defrauded the public and engaged in a conspiracy to try to get the wrong electors recognized by Congress.

“Defendants’ actions helped lay the foundation for a nationwide scheme to override the results of the 2020 election, thereby setting an anti-democratic precedent that jeopardize­s all future elections inside and outside the State,” attorney Jeffrey Mandell wrote in the complaint.

Republican Party of Wisconsin officials called the lawsuit frivolous at the time it was filed.

“This frivolous lawsuit from a liberal group is yet another Democrat attempt to resurrect a baseless story from two years ago,” then-chairman Paul Farrow said in a statement in March 2022. “Even the Wisconsin Elections Commission voted unanimousl­y to not sanction anyone. Democrats have tried

to use this event to distract from their abysmal record on election reform.”

Among the fake electors being sued is Bob Spindell, who also serves on the state Elections Commission.

Biden beat Trump by about 21,000 votes in Wisconsin. Trump sought recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties, which confirmed Biden’s win. Trump sued and the state Supreme Court upheld the results on a 4-3 vote on Dec. 14, 2020.

Less than an hour later, Democrats met in the state Capitol to cast the state’s 10 electoral votes for Biden.

At the same time, the fake electors gathered in another part of the Capitol to fill out paperwork claiming Trump had won. They submitted their filings to Congress, the National Archives, a federal judge and then-Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette.

At the time, the fake electors said they held the meeting to ensure the state’s electoral votes were cast for Trump if a court later determined he was the true winner of the state.

The plan was spelled out after the election by attorney Kenneth Chesebro in a memo dated Nov. 18, 2020 — the same day Trump asked for recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties.

Chesebro sent the memo to Jim Troupis, the attorney who oversaw Trump’s post-election legal strategy in Wisconsin. It’s unclear whether Chesebro worked for Trump or someone else. Chesebro sent a second memo on the matter on Dec. 9, 2020, after state officials certified Biden as the victor in Wisconsin.

The filings from the fake electors in Wisconsin and elsewhere helped Trump and his allies argue the results were in dispute as they tried to prevent Congress from finalizing them.

The U.S. Department of Justice has said it is looking into Republican­s who claimed to be electors in states Trump lost.

The U.S. House committee investigat­ing the Jan. 6 account subpoenaed would-be electors from around the country, including two from Wisconsin. The fake electors met with investigat­ors privately.

As in Wisconsin, Republican­s in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Nevada signed documents purporting to be electors. Republican­s in New Mexico and Pennsylvan­ia filled out paperwork saying they should be considered electors if courts found Trump had won their states.

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