'Dangerous precedent': Jan. 6 committee trains its sights on false pro-Trump electors

Capitol attack investigators are zeroing in on the involvement of Donald Trump's White House and campaign operations, as they dig into efforts by state-level Republicans to send Congress "alternative" slates of 2020 presidential electors.

The Republicans who would have been Trump's electors in several states that Biden won gathered to cast unofficial votes as the presidential electors gathered in December 2020 to affirm his victory. In five states, the electors signed certificates claiming they were elected and qualified to represent their states.

The National Archives and Congress received those certificates. Democrats say that the Trump network's role in that strategy may have amounted to a crime.

The fraudulent activity that was contained in the preparation of the fake Electoral College certificates should be looked at by the Capitol riot committee. We want to see if this was part of a plan to overthrow the 2020 election.

The National Archives is expected to give the select committee more documents related to the false-electors inquiry. Thompson described the Trump political or governing apparatus's apparent involvement in the certificates as a concern, as the Archives confirmed it was gathering materials on the matter.

The submission of the electoral certificates was a dangerous precedent, according to Rep. Pete Aguilar.

The false-electors push was well-known at the time, but it has drawn fresh scrutiny amid indications that the select committee has received documents from multiple states. Dana Nessel, the top prosecutor in Michigan, suggested she was investigating the submission of illegitimate GOP electors.

This is a crime. Nessel told reporters that this is election fraud. It's many other crimes, as well, at the state and federal level.

Some members of the Jan. 6 select committee say the signed documents could have broken the law.

The full extent of the law should be used to prosecute anyone trying to fudge documents, said Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), one of the Jan. 6 panel members.

After states certify their presidential balloting, the winning candidate's electors are required to meet in their state capitals on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. In 2020, it was December 14. Republicans who would have been electors if Trump had won gathered as well.

If Trump won any of his court cases, the sideline pro-Trump gatherings were meant to preserve legal options. According to The Washington Post and CNN, Rudy Giuliani organized the efforts.

In addition to the five states where GOP officials claimed to be the true electors, Trump supporters in Pennsylvania and New Mexico also signed certificates. The Republicans said their votes should only be counted if Trump won.

The matter has been referred to federal prosecutors by the New Mexico attorney general. The Pennsylvania attorney general's office said the documents didn't meet their standard for forgery because of a caveat.

Records obtained by POLITICO show that National Archives investigators pursued a case of potential fraud against a second slate of would-be Trump electors in Arizona. An Archives inspector general official said the agency wouldn't comment on ongoing work.

The decision to deploy illegitimate electors highlights the deliberation of Trump's allies in their attempts to keep the election alive. Stephen Miller, an adviser to the president, made clear that the White House was following the slate of electors in real time.

According to several state parties, the Trump campaign directed them to hold theirelector meetings in order to preserve the defeated president's legal options as he fought doomed court battles to overturn the results.

The final outcome of the electoral process is still pending in the courts, so the Republican electors met today in accordance with statutory guidelines to preserve our role in the electoral process.

When the court battles failed, other Trump allies, like attorney John Eastman, suggested that then-Vice President Mike Pence, tasked with presiding over the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021, could introduce the unofficial pro-Trump electors to cast Biden's victory into doubt.

Former Vice President Mike Pence is speaking to a crowd.

In recent interviews, Nessel has said that the evidence points to a coordinated effort to convene GOP electors in multiple states that Trump lost. She noted that the forms the electors used in different locations were nearly the same.

She said that it was clear that this was not an independent, rogue actors that were doing the same thing as they had done in other states.

The factor is Hawaii.

Republicans said that their decision to hold unsanctioned votes had a precedent. In 1960, three Democratic electors from Hawaii met to cast votes for John F. Kennedy even though the election results showed that Richard Nixon had narrowly prevailed in the state. With a recount underway, the pro-Kennedy electors met to cast their votes and submitted their results to Congress and the National Archives.

Kennedy had won by less than 200 votes, and the governor certified the Democratic slate as well. Nixon was the vice president when the Democratic electors were counted by Congress.

Ward pointed to that episode when describing her decision to deliver GOP electors to Congress.

In a statement this week, the Wisconsin GOP pointed to Hawaii's electors in 1960 and said it had received legal advice to assemble GOP electors in case Trump found a way to prevail.

Democrats from some of the states where Republicans submitted false elector slates seized on the issue. Mark Pocan wrote a letter to Attorney General Garland, urging him to investigate the "attempted fraud" and promised to introduce legislation that would create penalties for Electoral College-related deception.

In the chaotic days after Trump's defeat, a handful of other GOP electors indicated in interviews that they saw merit in the emerging strategy to send alternative electors to Washington in an effort to undermine Biden's victory.

At the time, Michigan GOPelector Meshawn Maddock said she had been researching legal options. She said in an email that what she might want to do can be completely different from what we are legally capable of doing.

Maddock was one of many Michigan Republicans to sign the unofficial certificates. Maddock and other GOP electors joined a lawsuit by Gohmert to prevent Biden from being elected. The lawsuit failed, and Pence declined to do so.

In late 2020, Latham refused to say if she would support sending alternative electors to Washington. She said in an email that she was going to respond to you. You do not know GA law. The Constitution should be read.

She said that she was a Republican elector for Trump. I serve for the pleasure of the President and the GAGOP. I will cast my vote when called.