Two Arizona Republicans recruited by allies of former President Donald J. Trump to join an effort to keep him in office after losing the 2020 election, they were so worried about the plan that they told lawyers drafting it they feared their actions could be seen as treason, according to emails mails reviewed by the New York Times.
Kelli Ward, the chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party, and Kelly Townsend, a state senator, are said to have raised concerns with Mr. Trump’s lawyers in December 2020 about their involvement in a signature plan on a voter ballot that they claim Mr. Trump had won Arizona, even though Joseph R. Biden Jr. had won the state.
The plan was part of a broader effort — one of the longest and most complex undertaken by Mr. Trump as he tried to cling to power after losing the 2020 presidential election — to falsely engineer a victory for him by creating fake voter rolls. on The battlefield declares who would claim to be the true victor.
Some of the lawyers taking on the effort questioned its legality, and the emails, which have not been previously reported, were the latest indication that other key players also knew they were on shaky legal ground and were scrambling to construct a logic that could justify their actions.
Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer working for Mr. Trump’s campaign, wrote in a Dec. 11, 2020, email to other members of the legal team that Ms. Ward and Ms. Townsend had raised concerns about the vote as part of a alternative list of voters because there was no pending legal challenge that could overturn the results of the Arizona election.
“Ward and Townsend are concerned that it could be seen as treasonous for AZ voters to vote on Monday, if there is no pending court action that could ultimately lead to the voters being validated as legitimate,” Mr. Chesebro wrote to the group, which included Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump. personal attorney.
Mr. Chesebro wrote the word “treacherous” in bold.
Ms. Ward, who had pushed to keep the electors’ plan secret, eventually joined the effort and signed a document purporting to be a “certificate of the votes of the 2020 Electors of Arizona” and claiming that Mr. Trump had won the staff of the state. 11 electoral college votes.
A person working on the plan, Arizona-based attorney Jack Wilenchik, admitted in an email that the Electoral College votes the campaign was working to organize “are not legal under federal law” and repeatedly referred to them as “bogus,” The Times has reported.
In a later email, Mr. Wilenchik said the rush to file the documents with the Supreme Court was “to give AZ voters legal ‘cover’ to ‘vote'” on Dec. 14, 2020, the day the Electoral College was scheduled to convene and to vote.
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Ms. Townsend ultimately did not sign the documents claiming that Mr. Trump had won the state election.
Both Ms. Ward and Mrs. Townsend they have since received calls from the Justice Department asking questions about the voter fraud scheme and demanding documents detailing communications with Mr. Trump’s legal team.
Ms. Ward, Ms. Townsend, Mr. Wilenchik and Mr. Chesebro did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The push to organize fake voter panels involved hands-on work by Mr. Giuliani, who, according to the emails, spoke with Ms. Ward and Ms. Townsend as the Trump campaign apparently urged voters to vote on Dec. 14.
Mr. Chesebro sought assurances from Mr. Wilenchik that he would quickly file papers with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging an Arizona Supreme Court ruling that upheld Mr. Biden’s victory in the state.
“The reason is that Kelli Ward and Kelly Townsend just spoke to the mayor about the campaign’s request that all voters vote on Monday in all contested states,” Mr. Chesebro wrote to Mr. Wilenchik, apparently referring to a conversation with Mr. Giuliani.
He said the concern of Ms. Ward and Ms. Townsend was that activating an alternative group of voters in favor of Mr. Trump “could look treasonous” in the absence of a pending lawsuit. “Which is valid – in the Hawaii incident in 1960, when the Kennedy electors voted, a recount was pending,” Mr. Chesebro added.
He was referring to a case he and others used as the basis for their argument that they could produce fake voter rolls. In 1960, the outcome of the Hawaii election was lopsided as the Electoral College was close to session. The governor certified a list of electors in favor of Richard M. Nixon, who claimed victory as the recount continued. John F. Kennedy also formed a panel of electors.
When the votes were counted, Mr. Kennedy had won and his electoral roll was finally certified.
However, little about the 1960 incident resembled what happened in 2020. By the time the Electoral College met on December 14, 2020, the votes had all been counted, Mr. Biden had been declared the winner, and various courts had filed appeals from allies. of Mr. Trump.
In a follow-up email, Mr. Chesebro wrote that he no longer saw “cause for concern” because a legal action some of the group planned to file was “at the printer” and that the Supreme Court considers a lawsuit to be moot whenever it is in abeyance. He wrote that he would be at the post office until the Electoral College met.
Mr Wilenchik submitted the report on the same day, the records show. (The Supreme Court dismissed the petition in February 2021. )
In the weeks after the election, Mr. Chesebro wrote a series of memos outlining a plan to send so-called surrogate electors to Congress for certification. A little more than two weeks after Election Day, Mr. Chesebro sent a memo to James Troupis, another Trump campaign lawyer in Wisconsin, outlining a plan to name pro-Trump electors in that state, which also won Mr. Biden.
Mr. Chesebro also sent a Dec. 13, 2020, email to Mr. Giuliani that encouraged Vice President Mike Pence “to firmly take the position that he and he alone is charged with the constitutional responsibility not only to open the ballots, but to count them. — including judging what to do if there are conflicting votes.”
That idea became the basis for Mr. Trump’s lobbying campaign against Pence, in which the president tried to convince his vice president that he could block or delay congressional certification of Mr. Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, 2021. .
Mr. Chesebro also engaged in a Dec. 24, 2020 email exchange with John C. Eastman, the pro-Trump lawyer, about whether to file legal documents they hoped could lead four judges to agree to hear an election case from Wisconsin.
In those emails, Mr Chesebro argued that “the chances of action before January 6th will become more favorable if the judges start to fear ‘wild’ chaos on January 6th unless they decide by then”.
Their exchange came five days after Mr Trump called on his supporters to attend a protest at the Ellipse near the White House on January 6, 2021, the day Congress would certify the electoral vote count confirming Mr Biden’s victory. . “Be there. It’s going to be wild!” Mr Trump tweeted.