Trump's Fake Electors: LOL Or HFS? Actually, It Is All Of The Above.

The cosplay electors are having their day! At long last, these dress-up weirdos are getting the attention they so desperately crave, although perhaps not quite in the way they intended. Safe bet they weren't aiming to wind up the subject of a televised congressional inquiry, at least one state-level investigation, and a federal grand jury.

And, hey, full disclosure: we didn't see it coming either!

Back in December 2020, when the rejected swing state electors for Trump met to swear themselves in, we joked that they were harmless losers with a weird fetish. In our defense, it appeared at the time they were just a bunch of dead end goobers huffing the fumes off of 4chan. Turns out, not so much.


In reality, the fake electors were an integral part of Donald Trump's scheme to steal the election. And the impetus to assemble these doofuses and submit bogus electoral certificates to the National Archives was not ground-up — it was top-down, with the Trump campaign taking an active role in corralling these goons, even going so far as to install a printer in the conference room where the Georgia nutters were meeting, just in case they needed to reprint their "electoral certificates."

Trump was deeply invested in seeing these slates of fake electors come together, because they were a necessary component in the scheme to disrupt electoral certification on January 6, 2021. Indeed, Trump coup lawyer John Eastman's wackass electoral memos relied on the existence of "alternate" slates of "sworn" electors as a condition precedent for Vice President Mike Pence to reject duly certified electors from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. They were, in a sense, the secret sauce of the coup, although it's not clear the cosplay electors themselves were even aware of their role.

“From taking a lot of political science courses, I knew that if you miss a deadline for doing this, you can’t come back later and rework it,” Robert Spindell Jr., a fake Trump elector in Wisconsin told the Washington Post. “It was generally the view of the attorneys that should Trump win some of these cases, this had to be done.”

Spindell appeared to believe that the existence of the alternate electoral slates was necessary in case the courts ruled in Trump's favor, a plan that may have originated with former Texas governor and Trump Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who texted Mark Meadows on November 4, 2020, “HERE’s an AGRESSIVE[sic] STRATEGY: Why can t (sic) the states of GA NC PENN and other R controlled state houses declare this is BS (where conflicts and election not called that night) and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS.”

The next day, lockjaw fascist -- allegedly! -- Donald Trump Jr. agreed, texting Meadows that “Republicans control Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina etc we get Trump electors,” later adding that, “We have multiple paths We control them all.”

The plan quickly gained traction with Republicans pissed off that they weren't going to be able to pull off another win despite massively losing the popular vote again.

“John — what would you think of producing a legal memo outlining the constitutional role of state legislators in designating electors?” MAGA lawyer Cleta Mitchell wrote to conservative law professor John Eastman that same day. “A movement is stirring. But needs constitutional support.”

To be clear, a movement was stirring — but not among any rational legal scholars, even conservative ones. John Eastman, a former dean of Chapman University Law School, had been knocking around wingnut legal circles for years. But Eastman had shown a notable facility for results-based reasoning, as during the 2020 campaign when he wrote an opinion piece in Newsweek arguing that Vice President Kamala Harris was not an American citizen, and thus was ineligible to serve due to her parents being non-citizens when she was born. This required disregarding the Fourteenth Amendment and very clear Supreme Court precedent, which tipped off the Trump people that Eastman might be just the guy for the job.

At first Eastman suggested that state legislative certification of the alternate slates of electors was a condition precedent for Pence to reject the Biden electors, although the professor was willing to grease the skids by suggesting an "implied" constitutional right for the legislatures to call themselves into session if, as Governor Brian Kemp refused to do in Georgia, the state executive refused to play ball. When no legislature gave its blessing to the cosplay electors, Eastman revised his thesis, suggesting that the dress-up dorks needed no such imprimatur. Even after the Capitol riot, Eastman was still trying to persuade Pence to "pause" the proceeding for 10 days to allow time for state legislatures to anoint the fake electors with holy oil and make them real. Check out Just Security's excellent timeline to see a detailed tick-tock of how it all went down.

The plot is now the subject of a federal grand jury investigation, with fake electors from multiple states summoned to DC to 'splain exactly how this shit went down. There is also at least one state inquiry into fake electors, with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis empaneling a grand jury to investigate the scheme in Georgia, as well as Trump's infamous call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pressuring him to "find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.”

And, guess who's coming to breakfast with the January 6 Select Committee on live TV tomorrow? That's right, it's Raffensperger and his top deputy Gabriel Sterling. What a coincidence! And in another amazing coincidence, guess who'll be right here liveblogging for your edification and amusement? That's right, it's Wonkette's own Evan Hurst. Hooray!

Yesterday Rep. Adam Schiff, who will be running point during tomorrow's hearing, promised the committee has proof that Donald Trump was involved in the fake elector plot.

"Yes, we'll show evidence of the President's involvement in this scheme. We'll also again show evidence about what his own lawyers came to think about this scheme," Schiff told CNN's Dana Bash." "And we'll show courageous state officials who stood up and said they wouldn't go along with this plan to either call legislators back into session or decertify the results for Joe Biden."

Hey, Merrick Garland, you up?

Whether or not the January 6 Select Committee persuades Attorney General Merrick Garland to prosecute Trump for his coup attempt, it will have succeeded in laying out a very clear picture of the organized effort to subvert the will of the voters using these fake electors. The plot involved every branch of the federal government: Executive, via Trump's attempts to get the Justice Department to investigate non-existent electoral fraud as a pretext for swing state legislatures to claw back Biden electoral votes and re-cast them for Trump; Judicial, through 62 nonsense lawsuits in hopes of finding judges who'd decertify Biden's electors; and Legislative, with Pence, acting as president of the Senate and bolstered by congressional Republicans willing to pretend there was massive electoral fraud.

It also involved state legislators, whom Trump and his surrogates colluded with and bullied, depending on the audience.

“I’ve been calling state legislators for hours today and am going to spend hours doing the same tomorrow. I’m trying to figure out a path that I can persuasively defend...We need something from state legislatures to make this legitimate and to have any hope of winning. Even if they can’t convene, it might be enough if a majority of them are willing to sign a statement indicating how they would vote,” Utah GOP Senator Mike Lee texted Mark Meadows on January 3.

And it involved the mob, which Trump summoned to DC to threaten Congress to reject Biden's electors or else. None of this was an accident, and none of it was legal.

Whether it goes unpunished is an open question.

[WaPo / Just Security]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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