Mark Meadows, Rudy Giuliani and Arizona 'fake electors' charged with state crimes

A state grand jury in Arizona on Wednesday indicted Trump aides including Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows and Boris Epshteyn, as well as so-called “fake electors” who backed then-President Donald Trump in 2020, after a sprawling investigation into the alleged efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the presidential election in the state.

One month after the 2020 election, 11 Trump supporters convened at the Arizona GOP’s headquarters in Phoenix to sign a certificate claiming to be Arizona’s 11 electors to the Electoral College, though Biden won the state by 10,457 votes and state officials certified his electors. The state Republican Party documented the signing of the certificate in a social media post and sent it to Congress and the National Archives.

Trump is described as “Unindicted Coconspirator 1” in the indictment, which includes charges of conspiracy, fraud and forgery. The document also describes people who have been charged in the case but have not yet been served and whose names are redacted: Meadows, Trump’s former White House chief of staff; Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and Trump attorney; Epshteyn, a Trump campaign official and attorney; former Trump campaign and White House official Mike Roman; former Trump attorney Jenna Ellis; former Trump attorney Christina Bobb; and John Eastman, another attorney and Trump legal adviser in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

Epshteyn sat at the defense table with Trump when he was arraigned in his New York hush money case last year, though he has not appeared during the trial.

Also among those charged in Arizona is Kelli Ward, who served as chair of the Arizona GOP during the 2020 election and the immediate aftermath. She tweeted on Jan. 6, 2021, after the attack on the U.S. Capitol: “Congress is adjourned. Send the elector choice back to the legislatures.” Ward was a Trump elector and a consistent propagator of false claims that Arizona’s election results were rigged.

Others charged along with Ward as “fake electors” were: state legislators Anthony Kern and Jake Hoffman; Michael Ward, Kelli Ward’s husband; Tyler Bowyer, the Republican National Committee’s Arizona committeeman and the chief operating officer of the Trump-aligned Turning Point USA; Greg Safsten, the former Arizona GOP executive director; former U.S. Senate candidate Jim Lamon; Robert Montgomery, the former head of the Cochise County GOP; and Republican Party activists Samuel Moorhead, Nancy Cottle and Loraine Pellegrino.

Another passage of the indictment appears to describe attorney Kenneth Chesebro, one of the planners of the alleged scheme, as an unindicted coconspirator. Chesebro pleaded guilty last year in Georgia to conspiracy charges brought against him, Trump and 17 other people in the state. He is also believed to be one of the unidentified co-conspirators special counsel Jack Smith described in his federal election interference indictment of Trump last year.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat, led the investigation. She won her election to be the state’s chief prosecutor in November 2022, replacing Republican Mark Brnovich, a onetime ally of Trump who later earned his scorn for not substantiating his claims of election fraud in the state.

“We conducted a thorough and professional investigation over the past 13 months into the fake electors scheme in our state,” Mayes said in a video announcing the charges. “I understand for some of you today didn’t come fast enough. And I know I’ll be criticized by others for conducting this investigation at all. But as I’ve stated before, and we’ll say here again, today, I will not allow American democracy to be undermined.

The Arizona charges are the latest example of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election sprouting into legal cases during his 2024 bid to retake office.

Arizona was one of seven states where “alternate electors” signed paperwork falsely claiming Trump had won the states. Prosecutors have already charged “alternate electors” in Nevada, Georgia and Michigan.

Chesebro and others, including Eastman, argued in the months after the 2020 election that then-Vice President Mike Pence could use the existence of the alternate electors to name Trump the winner of the election as he presided over the electoral vote count in Congress on Jan. 6.

Eastman wrote in a memo: “At the end, he announces that because of the ongoing disputes in the 7 States, there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed in those States. … There are at this point 232 votes for Trump, 222 votes for Biden. Pence then gavels President Trump as re-elected.”

Trump lost Arizona by just under 11,000 votes. As the Republican electors sent illegitimate certifications to Washington, Trump sought to put pressure on Maricopa County officials and other Arizona Republicans, including then-state House Speaker Rusty Bowers and then-Gov. Doug Ducey.

Trump placed a phone call directly to Ducey as the governor certified the state’s election results. Ducey muted the call.

Mayes’ term as Arizona attorney general has been marked by other election cases stemming from Trump’s false claims about fraud in the 2020 election and after.

Last fall, Mayes charged two local officials who delayed the certification of midterm election results in 2022 in Cochise County. The officials voted against certifying the county’s election results by the statutory deadline after they aired baseless accusations about the integrity of the election for months. The county certified its election results only after a court ordered it to do so.

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