Two Republicans in Arizona worried a plan by then-President Donald Trump’s lawyers to create a slate of fake electors to keep him in office would be “treasonous,” according to emails obtained by The New York Times.
Kelli Ward, chair of Arizona’s Republican Party, and state Sen. Kelly Townsend (R) both were recruited by Trump allies as part of a sweeping plan to overturn the then-president’s 2020 defeat. Trump lost the election to Joe Biden, but his allies plotted to create slates of alternative electors in battleground states that could then falsely claim he had won.
“Ward and Townsend are concerned it could appear treasonous for the AZ electors to vote on Monday if there is no pending court proceeding that might, eventually, lead to the electors being ratified as the legitimate ones,” Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer working for the Trump campaign, wrote in a Dec. 11, 2020, email to a group of the president’s attorneys. The group included Rudy Giuliani, a key figure in Trump’s efforts to cling to power.
The word “treasonous” was in boldface, the Times reported.
Chesebro sent additional emails to Trump’s legal team saying the Arizona officials worried the fake elector plot could be seen as treason without a lawsuit challenging the election results and seeking to install the alternate electors.
The emails demonstrate how some of the electors recruited by the Trump campaign in the aftermath of his loss knew the effort was legally fraught. The Times has previously reported on other emails that show the hectic effort in the weeks after the November election.
Ward, who joined the fake elector plan in Arizona, was subpoenaed by the Justice Department in June. Townsend, who did not go along with the plan but echoed Trump’s lies that he was the true winner of the election, was also told to appear.
The elector strategy, which included a pressure campaign on Vice President Mike Pence to delay the certification of the Electoral College vote, has become central in the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into Trump’s effort to remain in power and the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the Capitol. Pence refused to go along with the plan.
Grand juries convened by the DOJ have issued subpoenas to top White House aides in recent days, including former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Mike Pence’s longtime chief of staff Mark Short. Prosecutors have reportedly been homing in Trump’s role in the electors effort, asking witnesses detailed questions about his behavior and any meetings he held as he sought ways to overturn the 2020 election.