Trump allies plead 'not guilty' to Arizona indictment over alleged 2020 'fake electors' scheme

 May 22, 2024

In late April, 18 allies of former President Donald Trump were criminally indicted in Arizona for their roles in an alleged "fake electors" scheme to keep Trump in office in the aftermath of the disputed 2020 election.

Eleven of those 18 indicted co-conspirators were arraigned on Tuesday and all pleaded not guilty to multiple felony charges including forgery, fraud, and conspiracy to overturn the election, Axios reported.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in October but the Arizona Attorney General's Office acknowledged that the trial date could be pushed back by the litigation of various pre-trial motions filed by the prosecution and defendants.

Trump's allies and attorneys indicted

On April 23, an Arizona grand jury returned a criminal indictment against 18 allies and attorneys of former President Trump that charged each individual with nine felony counts including conspiracy, fraudulent schemes and artifices, and forgery for their roles in organizing an alternate slate of Republican electors in support of Trump's 2020 re-election bid.

The defendants included the 11 "fake" electors plus seven advisers and attorneys for Trump and the Trump campaign, including Rudy Guiliani, John Eastman, Boris Epshteyn, Jenna Ellis, Christina Bobb, Michael Roman, and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

The former president himself is not specifically named in the indictment but rather is repeatedly referred to as "Unindicted Co-conspirator 1."

The document outlines some of the post-2020 election legal disputes over alleged election fraud in Arizona and other states and the organization of an alternate slate of Republican electors to be presented to Congress in case Vice President Mike Pence, in his role as president of the U.S. Senate, agreed to cooperate with demands that he reject Democratic elector slates from disputed states, or if pending legal challenges against the reported election results proved successful.

Electors allegedly falsely claimed they were "duly elected and qualified"

A key sticking point in the Arizona indictment -- and why alternate electors in some other contested states aren't facing similar criminal charges -- is that the "fake" electors in Arizona falsely asserted in certification documents that they were "duly elected and qualified" to serve as presidential electors.

Indeed, according to the Associated Press, no criminal investigations have been launched or charges filed against Republican alternate elector slates in Pennsylvania and New Mexico because those "fake" electors added specific language to their certification filings that noted that their status as electors was contingent upon being later recognized by a court as being "duly elected and qualified" -- language that was considered but excluded by the Arizona alternate slate.

However, similar criminal charges have been filed against three Republican alternate electors in Georgia, 15 electors in Michigan, and six in Nevada.

"A complete embarrassment to the American legal system"

According to Axios, eleven of the 18 indicted co-conspirators pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, including former Trump attorney Rudy Guiliani, and all were released on their own recognizance except for Guiliani, who was ordered to post a $10,000 bond because of the alleged difficulties the Arizona Attorney General's Office experienced in attempting to serve him with the indictment in New York City.

He was accused by prosecutors of "quite frankly mocking the justice system in Arizona" by making it difficult to be served with the indictment, but he insisted during the hearing that he hadn't been in hiding, noted his cooperation in other legal cases, and said, "I do consider this indictment a complete embarrassment to the American legal system, but I've shown no tendency not to comply. I show up at every court appearance.

Former Trump attorney John Eastman previously pleaded not guilty during an arraignment last week, and the remaining six co-defendants are expected to be arraigned and enter pleas within the next few weeks.

It is unclear what sort of punishment, including potential fines and prison sentences, the co-defendants may face if convicted on all counts in what appears to be a politically motivated prosecution against the former Republican president's allies by a partisan Democratic attorney general in Arizona.

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