Advocates for Arizona’s ‘fake electors’ plan had legal doubts: new report finds

By Ronald J. Hansen | Arizona Republic

Some of those involved in submitting presidential electors for President Donald Trump in Arizona after he had lost the state in 2020 knew their plan was legally dubious and want to keep its low public profile as long as possible, according to a report published Tuesday.

Citing previously undisclosed emails, the New York Times painted the picture of an effort in key swing states, including Arizona, the closest contest in the country, that was both desperate and probably wouldn’t pass legal scrutiny. 

Their plan was to submit papers to Congress suggesting Trump won the states, even though certified results showed then-President-elect Joe Biden had won them. Trump’s allies hoped the dual slates of electors would serve as a justification for slowing or reversing the Jan. 6, 2021, certification of Biden’s victory.

After Vice President Mike Pence refused to consider the “fake electors,” a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, halting the process for hours. 

Long before then, those pushing the long shot plan knew they stood on shaky ground, the Times reported. People familiar with the plan at the time have told The Arizona Republic that while the strategy was legally questionable, they didn’t view their activity as criminally wrong.

“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,” wrote Jack Wilenchik, a Phoenix lawyer who helped convene the Trump electors for Arizona.

The Dec. 8, 2020, email went to Boris Epshteyn, an adviser to Trump’s campaign who served as a bridge between the Trump campaign and John Eastman, a California law professor who helped devise the legal strategy.

In a follow-up email, Wilenchik wrote that “‘alternative’ votes is probably a better term than ‘fake’ votes,” the Times reported Tuesday.

Wilenchik also seemed to acknowledge in an email that they should submit the fake electors “even though the votes aren’t legal under federal law — because they’re not signed by the governor.”

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