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Final defendants arraigned in Arizona fake elector case

Two attorneys for former President Donald Trump and a Republican elector pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, fraud and forgery charges.

PHOENIX (CN) — Two of Donald Trump’s attorneys and a former U.S. Senate candidate for Arizona pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning in connection to the 2020 Arizona fake elector scheme.

The trio was the last of 18 defendants accused of conspiracy, fraud and forgery in an apparent scheme to overturn Arizona’s 2020 election results and hand the presidency to former president and recently convicted felon Donald Trump. Most of the defendants, including Trump attorney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, pleaded not guilty in May.

The three arraigned Tuesday were Boris Epshteyn, attorney and advisor to the Trump campaigns in both 2016 and 2020; Jenna Ellis, an attorney for Trump who worked closely with Giuliani, made claims of widespread election fraud in Arizona and six other states and encouraged the Arizona Legislature to change the election outcome; and James Lamon, a Republican state elector who signed his name to a fraudulent document stating Trump won the election.

Epshteyn helped organize Republican electors to submit votes in the seven most contested states in the election. Ellis was present for a Dec. 1, 2020, legislative committee meeting put together at the request of Giuliani, who told lawmakers he had proof the election was stolen but never produced it. Lamon refused to rescind his vote after no legal challenges to the election proved successful.

None of the three offered any comment to the court Tuesday morning. 

A state grand jury indicted 11 Republican-nominated electors who convened at the Arizona GOP headquarters in Phoenix one month after the 2020 election to sign a fraudulent certificate handing Arizona’s electoral votes to Trump, who lost Arizona to Joe Biden by more than 10,000 votes. The signers identified themselves as certified state electors, even though state officials had already certified the Democratic Party’s nominations as the rightful electors after the Democratic ticket won the popular vote.

Among those indicted are active state Senators Jake Hoffman and Anthony Kern, the latter of whom is under FBI investigation for his participation in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

Following the lead of the former president and other Republicans across the country, the defendants peddled baseless theories of election fraud, claiming that Trump was the true winner in 2020. The theories were aimed at pressuring election officials to change the outcome of the 2020 election, reads the indictment. Those ideas inspired “fake elector” schemes in Arizona and six other states, including Nevada and New Mexico.

Trump is listed as a conspirator in the indictment — though his name is redacted — but he wasn’t charged. State attorney Nicholas Klingerman declined to comment when asked whether the state will reconsider charging Trump, who was indicted on similar charges in Georgia last year.

Outside a Maricopa County courthouse, Klingerman said that no plea deals have been discussed yet, though he expects that offers will be made.

Before each presidential election, both the Democratic and Republican parties in each state select one elector for each congressional seat that state has. Arizona has 11. Once the popular vote in the state determines a winner, the governor certifies the electors chosen by the winning party, who then cast their votes in alignment with the popular vote.

The 11 indicted “fake electors” were chosen by the Republican Party, but weren’t certified because the candidate on the Republican ticket lost. Thus, they lacked authority to sign the certificate claiming to be electors and giving Arizona’s votes to Trump.

As the case proceeds, the defendants are permitted to travel between states, but are not allowed to communicate with one another. A trial scheduling conference is set for Nov. 14. A defense attorney indicated last week that the trial likely won’t commence until late 2025 or beyond.

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Categories / Courts, Criminal, Elections, Regional

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