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‘Fake electors’ in Wis. settle claims from 2020 election

Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu.Harm Venhuizen/Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. — In a legal settlement Wednesday, the 10 Republicans who signed official-looking paperwork falsely purporting that Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2020 have agreed to withdraw their inaccurate filings, acknowledge Joe Biden won the presidency, and not serve as presidential electors in 2024 or in any election where Trump is on the ballot.

Wednesday’s civil settlement marks the first time pro-Trump electors have agreed to revoke their false filings and not repeat their actions in the next presidential election. It comes as Republicans in two other states face criminal charges for falsely claiming to be presidential electors, and investigations are underway in three additional states.

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Documents released as part of the settlement revealed one of the Wisconsin Republicans appeared to refer to the attempt to install Trump for a second term as a “possible steal.” That Republican expressed skepticism about the plan but told others he was going along with it in part because he feared he would face blowback from Trump supporters if he didn’t.

The lawsuit, filed last year by two of the state’s rightful electors, alleged the Republicans had taken part in a conspiracy to defraud voters and sought up to $200,000 from each Trump elector. No money is being exchanged as part of the settlement.

Meanwhile, A Nevada grand jury on Wednesday indicted six Republicans who submitted certificates to Congress falsely declaring Trump the winner of the 2020 presidential election in their state, making Nevada the third to seek charges against so-called fake electors.

“We cannot allow attacks on democracy to go unchallenged,” Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford said in a statement Wednesday. “Today’s indictments are the product of a long and thorough investigation, and as we pursue this prosecution, I am confident that our judicial system will see justice done.”

The fake electors — involved in the state GOP or Clark County GOP — have been charged with offering a false instrument for filing and uttering a forged instrument. Those two categories of felonies have penalties that range from one year up to either four or five years in prison.

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In December 2020, the six Republicans signed certificates falsely stating that Trump won Nevada and sent them to Congress and the National Archives, where they were ultimately ignored. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol looked into the role these fake electors in key battleground states took in Trump’s attempt to cling to power after his 2020 defeat.

Michigan’s Attorney General filed felony charges in July against 16 Republican fake electors, who would face eight criminal charges including forgery and conspiracy to commit election forgery, though one had charges dropped after reaching a cooperation deal. The top charge carried a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Among the fake electors is Nevada GOP chairman Michael McDonald, who has pushed to bypass the state-run presidential primary to nominate a Republican presidential nominee, instead opting for a party-run caucus, which would require voter ID and paper ballots.

He has remained a staunch ally of Trump, opening for the former president at a rally in Las Vegas by saying, “You give us a fair election, I’ll give you the next president of the United States — Donald J. Trump.” Trump and his attorneys also had a direct hand in the planning and execution of the fake elector scheme, including a conference call with McDonald, transcripts released last year show.

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Globe wire services

Colo. justices question whether they can exclude Trump from ballot

DENVER — Colorado Supreme Court justices on Wednesday sharply questioned whether they could exclude former president Donald Trump from the ballot in a case that seeks to upend his bid for a second term by claiming the Constitution’s insurrection clause bars him from another run for the White House.

At issue is the wording of the Civil War-era clause itself, whether the courts have a right to intervene at this stage if Trump has met the basic requirements to appear on Colorado’s 2024 primary ballot and whether Trump had indeed incited an insurrection when his supporters violently stormed the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The language of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment has come under scrutiny because of the way it defines who is barred from holding office if they have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.” While it refers to the US House and Senate, it does not specifically refer to the person who is president, instead saying “elector of President and Vice President,” along with civil and military offices.

“If it was so important that the president be included, I come back to the question, Why not spell it out?” Justice Carlos A. Samour Jr. said. “Why not include president and vice president in the way they spell out senator or representative?”

Jason Murray, attorney for the petitioners, argued that the clause “applies to any office,” which he said would include the presidency. He cited a law dictionary from the era and and exchanges between lawmakers debating the amendment at the time to underscore the point.

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The oral arguments came after both sides appealed a ruling last month from a district court judge in Denver who found that while Trump engaged in insurrection by inciting the violent attack, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment doesn’t apply to the office of president so he can remain on the ballot. The liberal group that sued on behalf of six Republican or unaffiliated voters appealed the ruling to the state’s high court.

Trump also appealed a different part of the ruling — the judge’s finding of his culpability in the Capitol attack — and whether a state court judge can legally interpret the meaning of the clause’s somewhat obscure two sentences. The provision was added to the Constitution to keep former Confederates from returning to their government offices after the Civil War.

Associated Press

Biden warns of risk to democracy

President Biden told campaign donors in Boston Tuesday that he wasn’t sure he’d be running for reelection if Donald Trump wasn’t also in the race, warning that democracy is “more at risk in 2024″ and that the former president and his allies are out to “destroy” democratic institutions.

The president was using a trio of fund-raisers to caution against what might happen should his predecessor again claim control of the White House, noting that Trump has described himself as his supporters’ “retribution” and has vowed to root out “vermin” in the country.

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“We’ve got to get it done, not because of me. ... If Trump wasn’t running, I’m not sure I’d be running. We cannot let him win,” Biden said, hitting the last words slowly for emphasis.

Biden’s forceful rhetoric came as Trump, the current GOP front-runner, who tried to overturn the 2020 election he lost and is facing criminal charges connected to those efforts, attempted over the weekend to turn the tables by calling Biden the “destroyer of American democracy.”

Trump on Tuesday was asked by Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity to promise he “would never abuse power as retribution against anybody.”

“Except for day one,” Trump responded. “I want to close the border and I want to drill, drill, drill.”

“After that I’m not a dictator,” Trump added.

Biden’s campaign quickly seized on the comments with an email that read, “Donald Trump: Day One Dictator.” Later, Biden was asked by reporters whether he would be running if Trump wasn’t and gave a slightly different comment, saying, “I expect so, but look, he is running and I have to run.”

He was asked if he would drop out if Trump did and said, “No, not now.”

Biden, who said he is not alone in sounding the alarm over Trump, noted that Trump is the “only losing candidate” in US history to not accept the results. Biden also said that on Jan. 6, 2021, as Trump supporters violently stormed the US Capitol in a failed attempt to stop the certification of the election results, Trump sat in his dining room just off the Oval Office, “watching them threaten his own vice president.”

Biden also highlighted recent warnings about Trump from former representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, calling her a “powerful voice.”

“American democracy, I give you my word as a Biden, is at stake,” the president said at the first of three campaign fund-raisers in the Boston area. Drawing some laughter from donors, Biden also mused: “He didn’t even show up at my inauguration. I can’t say I was disappointed, but he didn’t even show up.”

The warnings by Biden are increasingly part of his pitch to donors: that democracy is at stake if Trump were to win again and he must be defeated. The president is pushing to raise money for his reelection effort before the end of the year, appearing at seven events through Monday — with more to come. The events in Boston on Tuesday benefit his campaign and the broader Democratic Party.

Associated Press