Joker: Kenneth Chesebro, Trump Co-Conspirator #5, fed false narrative driving U.S. Capitol insurrectionsists


whoever is the cause of someone becoming powerful is ruined
       – Machiavelli, The Prince


“Number of Trump Allies Facing Election Interference Charges Keeps Growing”

N.Y. Times analysis of the various state-level prosecutions, discussing the extent to which they will deter similar efforts this year:

“Republican leaders, however, have been defiant in the face of the prosecutions. “We will not be deterred by this overreach,” the Arizona G.O.P. said in a statement Wednesday after a grand jury had handed up the charges, echoing the stances of leaders in other states.

“Josh McKoon, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, said in an interview that “I don’t think that this is going to discourage the base of the Republican Party from engaging in politics,” adding, “I think what it actually does is it heightens, to an entirely new level, the importance of winning the 2024 election.”

“But a number of those who have been indicted are lawyers, which may give pause to lawyers advising the current Trump campaign.

““There will be more caution on the part of the lawyers,” said Manny Arora, who represents Kenneth Chesebro, another legal architect of the fake elector plot. Mr. Chesebro, who pleaded guilty to a felony in Georgia, has emerged as a key witness in all of the state inquiries, including one in Wisconsin, which has not yet led to charges.” [Boldface added]


“Prosecutions of Fake Electors for Trump Gain Ground in Swing States”

“Georgia, Michigan and Nevada have already brought charges against people who posed as electors for Donald Trump, and Arizona and Wisconsin have active investigations.”

Update from the N.Y. Times. 

Also this snippet:

“Mr. Chesebro, who pleaded guilty to a felony last year in Georgia, later told investigators in Michigan that he had been misled by the Trump campaign and had not known that it was “trying to create chaos in state legislatures.”

“In December, Andrew Hitt, who was head of the Wisconsin Republican Party during the 2020 election, told a local ABC affiliate that he and other fake electors “were tricked” by the Trump campaign and thought they were only acting as a contingency, in case litigation succeeded.”


Newly Released Messages Detail Roots of the ‘Fake Electors’ Scheme

Emails and texts unearthed in a lawsuit show how key figures intended their plan to create a “cloud of confusion” to help keep Donald Trump in office after his 2020 election loss.

By Luke Broadwater and Maggie Haberman

March 4, 2024


Just five days after Election Day in 2020, a conservative lawyer named Kenneth Chesebro emailed a former judge who was working for the Trump campaign in Wisconsin, James R. Troupis, pitching an idea for how to overturn the results.

Through litigation, Mr. Chesebro said, the Trump campaign could allege “various systemic abuses” and, with court proceedings pending, encourage legislatures to appoint “alternative” pro-Trump electors that could be certified instead of the Biden electors chosen by the voters.

“At minimum, with such a cloud of confusion, no votes from WI (and perhaps also MI and PA) should be counted, perhaps enough to throw the election to the House,” Mr. Chesebro wrote to Mr. Troupis, referring to the swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Mr. Troupis quickly brought Mr. Chesebro into the Trump legal team, directed him to lay out the plans in a series of memos now central to the indictment of Donald J. Trump and a month later — with the help of Reince Priebus, the former White House chief of staff — secured a meeting with Mr. Trump at the White House.

The email is the earliest known evidence of Mr. Chesebro’s involvement in what would become known as the false elector plot. It was released Monday along with a trove of more than 1,400 pages of text messages and emails belonging to Mr. Troupis and Mr. Chesebro as they settled a lawsuit against them filed in Wisconsin.

Taken together, the documents show in new detail how the Trump campaign’s litigation strategy was not designed to win in court as much as it was designed to give cover for their political efforts. And they underscore the central role that Mr. Troupis — previously a little-known figure in the effort to overturn the election — played in furthering the plans.

The messages also detail how Mr. Chesebro worked to get the false-electors documents into the hands of members of Congress, and how Mr. Chesebro — who has since pleaded guilty in Georgia to a felony conspiracy charge related to the scheme — celebrated the crowd that was gathering in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, before a violent mob stormed the Capitol.

“Enjoy the history you have made possible today,” Mr. Troupis wrote in a text message to Mr. Chesebro at 11:04 a.m. that day.

The new details come from the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the progressive law firm Law Forward and Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection against Mr. Chesebro, Mr. Troupis and the so-called fake electors in Wisconsin.

The suit was filed on behalf of legitimate Wisconsin presidential electors and voters.

The purported electors have already settled their portion of the suit, admitting that President Biden won the 2020 election.

Mr. Troupis and Mr. Chesebro agreed not to engage in similar work in the future, including not participating in a scheme to advance slates of false electors.

The settlement also included a payment to the plaintiffs of an undisclosed amount.

“As these documents show, the fraudulent electors plot originated in Wisconsin, with Trump campaign attorney James Troupis and legal adviser Ken Chesebro concocting the scheme that ultimately provided the false narrative used by the rioters to justify the attack on the Capitol,” said Mary McCord, the director of Georgetown’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection.

Mr. Chesebro’s memos were central to the federal indictment of Mr. Trump on charges of seeking to overturn the 2020 election. They are featured as evidence of how the Trump campaign’s plans shifted from legal challenges to what prosecutors describe as a criminal plot to engineer “a fake controversy that would derail the proper certification of Biden as president-elect.”

The memos also became the basis for a strategy put forward by the conservative lawyer John Eastman and Mr. Trump that a federal judge referred to as a “coup in search of a legal theory.”

In a Nov. 19, 2020, email to Mr. Troupis, Mr. Chesebro wrote that the Trump lawyers should “pursue a shot at having two bites at the apple — ligate, hoping to ultimately win by January 6, but also use delay in litigation to try to win in the state legislature on December 8.”

Several of the documents refer to a Dec. 15, 2020, meeting of Mr. Troupis and Mr. Chesebro with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office.

“Pretty clear national people realize this wouldn’t be happening if you and reince and others hadn’t pushed it!” Mr. Chesebro wrote to Mr. Troupis two days before the White House visit.

They were told to keep the meeting secret and not bring anything for Mr. Trump to sign, the messages show.

“Reince was very explicit in his admonition that nothing about our meeting with the President can be shared with anyone,” Mr. Troupis wrote to Mr. Chesebro after.

Mr. Chesebro gave his account of the meeting to state prosecutors in Michigan investigating the fake electors plot. He said Mr. Priebus had told the men not to get Mr. Trump’s hopes up about his chances for victory, but Mr. Chesebro acknowledged he had not listened to that advice.

“We had until Jan. 6 to win,” Mr. Chesebro recalled of what he told Mr. Trump in the meeting, according to audio obtained by CNN, adding: “That got me in real trouble afterwards.”

Mr. Chesebro did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Preibus declined to comment. A person familiar with his actions said that he had recommended Mr. Troupis as a lawyer in Wisconsin, his home state, to the Trump campaign, but was not involved in the day-to-day of the legal efforts.

The person said that he had merely arranged a “photo op” for the men at Mr. Troupis’s request and had not met Mr. Chesebro or known who he was until that day. The person offered a similar account of the meeting as Mr. Chesebro, who said Mr. Preibus did not want them encouraging the president to fight the election results.

Even so, after the meeting, both Mr. Troupis and Mr. Chesebro appeared to feel they had some special knowledge of Mr. Trump’s plans.

After Mr. Trump posted on Twitter that he would be holding a rally in Washington on Jan. 6 — “Be there, will be wild!” he urged his followers in a message that served as a crucial call to action for far-right groups — Mr. Chesebro wrote to Mr. Troupis: “Wow. Based on 3 days ago, I think we have unique understanding of this.”

Although the plans originated in Wisconsin, the messages show the men saw Georgia as key to furthering their goals.

“If Georgia is pending before the Supreme Court on January 6, a fairly boss move would be for Pence, when he gets to Georgia, to simply decline to open any of the Georgia envelopes,” Mr. Chesebro wrote on Dec. 26, 2020. He was referring to Vice President Mike Pence’s ceremonial role in the certification by Congress of the Electoral College results.

On the morning of Jan. 6, Mr. Chesebro said he had worked with Michael Roman, the director of the Trump campaign’s Election Day operations, and given documents for the false slates of electors a day earlier to an aide to Representative Mike Kelly, Republican of Pennsylvania. That aide took them to the Senate parliamentarian, he said.

“Excellent,” Mr. Troupis replied. “Tomorrow let’s talk about SCOTUS strategy going forward. Enjoy the history you have made possible today.”

Mr. Chesebro later sent a photo of himself with the crowd at 12:26 p.m. on Jan. 6.

Mr. Troupis responded with an emoji of hands clapping.


The Supreme Pressure Campaign

Trump Attorneys Gamed Out Which Supreme Court Justices Might Help Them Steal the Election

Donald Trump’s attorneys in 2020 thought that they had one advantage which nobody — not the Democrats, not lower-court judges, not Congress — could outmatch: the Supreme Court.

At their most feverish, attorneys for Trump believed that the Supreme Court could eventually be bullied into declaring Joe Biden the loser of the 2020 election and Trump the winner. They deployed a series of strategies, detailed in a trove of documents given to Michigan prosecutors by attorney Ken Chesebro, aimed at stoking a chaotic stalemate in Congress, thereby forcing the Court to act.

The same set of real-time emails and texts between Trump campaign officials and attorneys also shows how the group sought to influence individual justices as they filed lawsuits seeking to overturn Biden’s victory in several swing states. In the trove, attorneys game out which justices would view their claims most favorably, and speculate over how certain claims or lawsuits could create pressure to build a majority on the court.

At times, the Trump attorneys recognized that their play for the Supreme Court was a Hail Mary. It’s from that desperation, the documents suggest, that the push for chaos and delay emerged — a nearly hopeless quest to leave the Supreme Court as the only actor left standing, with Congress buckling under procedural radicalism.

But at other points, the lawyers seemed deadly serious in their speculation. John Eastman, the law professor, wrote in one email that he believed the Supreme Court would probably agree to invalidate Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions about the election, but that the justices were “likely grappling with” the question of what “remedy” to provide. Chief Justice John Roberts would want “to account for the riots angle if they go our way,” Eastman imagined.

This story largely plays out in the final weeks before Jan. 6, after the Trump campaign had finished convening slates of its own, fake presidential electors who were willing to cast ballots saying Trump, not Biden, had won their state. To the Trump campaign, that scheme, too, was a means to theorize the high court into wrenching states that it lost away from Biden. As Chesebro wrote in late November to several attorneys working on the campaign’s effort to invalidate the Wisconsin result, the point of convening fake electors would be “to benefit from an eventual U.S. Supreme Court ruling” voiding the election result, allowing the Trump electors to swoop in and replace the Biden electors from their state in the Electoral College.

But it wasn’t until mid December, after the fake electors were sworn in — and after the Supreme Court signaled that it would not help the Trump campaign, rejecting on Dec. 11 a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas — that conversations about how to exert pressure on the justices began to accelerate.

The New York Times reported on one of the emails obtained by TPM, in which Chesebro cited “wild chaos” as potentially forcing the Court to act, and another in which he stated that the question of whether to bring suits before the Court was “political.”

The trove of documents obtained by TPM paints a fuller picture. TPM obtained the documents after Michigan prosecutors with Attorney General Dana Nessel (D)’s office sent out a tranche of records provided by Chesebro as part of his cooperation with their investigation. Chesebro supplied the documents, which include emails, texts, and legal memos, to prosecutors. The records do not provide a comprehensive accounting of the Trump campaign’s entire effort to reverse the President’s loss; they reflect what Chesebro provided as he sought to avoid further prosecution.

The documents provide new details about and insights into the Trump campaign’s legal maneuvering before Jan. 6, a story we told in part I and part II of this series. They tell another story, too: how a group of attorneys for the Trump campaign, including Chesebro, sought to use lawsuits before the Court to advance their goal of reversing Trump’s loss, including by:

  • Filing lawsuits before SCOTUS challenging the results in enough states to create the impression that more electoral votes were still in play than the margin by which Trump lost
  • Forcing SCOTUS to step in by causing a stalemate in Congress on Jan. 6
  • Bringing enough lawsuits to SCOTUS so as to pressure friendly justices to act more aggressively

The story picks up in the weeks after the election, when the Trump campaign filed lawsuits across the country, seeking to invalidate or overturn the results in several states. They lost in nearly every case that they brought, and saw dozens more lawsuits dismissed. As time ran out, they had to decide: Which cases should they continue to pursue through appeals to the Supreme Court?

At first, they focused on two lawsuits, one challenging the results in Pennsylvania and another in Wisconsin.

Chesebro had entered the Trump campaign’s legal world via his work on the Wisconsin case, which the state Supreme Court dismissed on Dec. 14. On Christmas Eve 2020, Chesebro found himself trying to persuade Trump campaign officials to give the green light on asking the Supreme Court to intervene in the matter.

Bruce Marks, a lawyer and former politician from Pennsylvania, was counsel, along with John Eastman, on a lawsuit the Trump campaign had filed asking the Supreme Court to hear a case that sought to reverse the result in Pennsylvania.

Marks had his own unique background: in the early 1990s, he lost a state Senate race, only to have a federal judge overturn the result and order him into office upon a finding of massive fraud in the election.

Marks’ story became a north star of Trump’s legal efforts in 2020, serving as an example of what the courts had the power to do, if they only had the will.

On the morning of Dec. 24, Trump campaign official Justin Clark emailed Marks, Chesebro, and other attorneys with an inquiry: If they brought their cases to the Supreme Court, what did they think the odds of winning were? And how much would pursuing the Wisconsin case before SCOTUS cost?

Marks replied that he believed bringing cases from additional states — including Wisconsin — before the Supreme Court would help his Pennsylvania case.

“While it is difficult to estimate success on Cert petitions, the success of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are intertwined,” Marks wrote to the group, copying Eastman on the exchange. “Wisconsin is an important step to getting to challenging 37 electoral votes.”

“Odds?” Eastman chimed in, responding to Clark’s request. He gave them odds: 10-20 percent that the Court would take the Pennsylvania case; “having Wisconsin in probably pushes that more towards the 20% side of the range or higher.”

“Odds of the Wisconsin case getting granted? ZERO if we don’t file,” Eastman added.

It was a carpe diem approach to seeking review from the Supreme Court, and one echoed by Chesebro, who wrote 10 minutes later that “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” and that he would defer to Eastman’s “personal insight” into which justices were the most distressed by the Trump campaign’s claims.

“A campaign that believes it really won the election would file a petition as long as it’s plausible and the resource constraints aren’t too great,” Chesebro wrote.

This intersected directly with the Trump campaign’s quest to find 270 electoral votes using non-electoral means. As Eastman wrote in a message a couple of hours later, a lawsuit to overturn the results in Arizona and Bruce Marks’ suit in Pennsylvania had already been filed before the Supreme Court — 31 electoral votes out of Biden’s lead of 36. Eastman wrote that Wisconsin, with 10 electoral votes, was “the most viable option to fill this gap.”

Earlier on in the Christmas Eve exchange, Wisconsin attorney and former judge Jim Troupis had warned the group: The path to success was “unclear” and “ill-defined.” The attorneys, he wrote, should be concerned about the “obligations” that come with asking the Supreme Court to hear a case. “I have made clear from the outset that I would strongly oppose any Petition where the goal is purely political,” Troupis wrote in an attachment cited by Chesebro.

“I don’t disagree with Judge Troupis’s comments here,” Chesebro replied, before going on to sketch out a theory over several emails throughout the day, proposing a plan to pressure the Supreme Court to overturn the election: the campaign could file enough Supreme Court cases to persuade the justices that they held the power to “change the electoral outcome.”

“Why intervene if it can make no difference in the end,” he wrote, apparently channelling what he hoped enough justices would come to believe. In a separate message that same day, Chesebro suggested to the group that Trump should file the lawsuit to sway internal Court politics, saying “getting this on file gives more ammo to the justices fighting for the Court to intervene,” he wrote.

Eastman wrote that he believed the campaign was on solid legal ground, and so the odds were based not on “the legal merits, but an assessment of the Justices’ spines,” before exhorting the group to help the justices who were “willing to do their duty” by filing the Wisconsin case.

After more back-and-forth, Eastman shared the theory that Chief Justice Roberts would likely be concerned, if the Court ruled in favor of Trump, about “the riots angle” — a premonition of what might come after handing Trump an election he lost.

Clark, the campaign official, wrote in to the sprawling thread two hours after Eastman’s “riots” email with some skepticism: he said that the campaign wouldn’t pay the attorneys “unless we get some wins,” and, worse for Chesebro and Eastman, that his impression was that the odds of success in Wisconsin were zero. He also echoed Chesebro’s theory that, if the election certification in Congress could be derailed, Jan. 6 could extend for days, writing “it also sounds like Jan 6 is a hard deadline for legal recourse unless congress doesn’t count the votes one way or another.”

The campaign eventually assented. On Dec. 29, Rudy Giuliani sent a certification authorizing the attorneys to ask the Supreme Court to hear the Wisconsin case.

The Trump attorneys were also reviewing the option of Georgia. At 16 electoral votes, it was a potentially lucrative prize to be stolen; but as Eastman had written in the Wisconsin thread, the campaign’s lawsuit in the state was “stuck in a quagmire with the state trial courts not even assigning a judge” to consider it. 

The group decided to file a federal version of the Georgia lawsuit, seeing it as a way to get around what they regarded as an infuriating cold shoulder from the state judiciary. But a question continued to hang over their efforts, even as they continued into 2021: What was the point?

The attorneys had to keep themselves going — every day that the Supreme Court continued to ignore their filings was a reminder of just how unlikely their success was. Marks, the Pennsylvania attorney, wrote an email to attorneys involved in the Georgia case on New Years Eve asking if the federal judge could issue an injunction allowing the state legislature to appoint the Trump electors.

Chesebro replied within minutes that he saw an added benefit with Marks’ gambit: Georgia federal courts are in the 11th Circuit, which is overseen by Justice Clarence Thomas.

Again, Chesebro wrote, the point was to make a statement via the Court.

“Merely having this case pending in the Supreme Court, not ruled on, might be enough to delay consideration of Georgia, particularly if Pence has the legal ability and will to insert himself at least enough to win delay,” he wrote. “Realistically, our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress, is from Thomas — do you agree, Prof. Eastman?”

“I think I agree,” Eastman replied. All the Court needed to give was a “likely,” he wrote — some suggestion that a ruling which signaled some chance of winning down the line might be enough. After all, Eastman said, he was talking to Georgia lawmakers and Jan. 6 was one week away: all they needed was a small push to decertify Biden’s win in the state before the big day.

By that point, the emails suggest, even the most optimistic Trump attorneys were losing hope of a clear-cut win before the Supreme Court. In talking points for members of Congress emailed among Clark and the attorneys on New Year’s day, Eastman added rhetoric to that effect.

“The Supreme Court has made it clear that it has no intention of addressing this illegal and unconstitutional conduct,” he wrote. “So upholding the rule of law now falls to other constitutional actors who have constitutionally assigned roles.

At this point,” he concluded, “the best we can likely hope for is a strident dissent from Thomas or Alito that maps out the illegal conduct and the constitutional actors who can provide a remedy.”


Quick Note on the Chesebro Docs

The second edition of Ballot Battles has gone to press (it’s scheduled for release on May 10), and so I won’t be able to include any discussion of the newly disclosed documents. (Maybe there will be a third edition sometime, depending on what happens this year and into the future?)

Apart from the obvious awfulness of the Trump team’s effort to overturn Biden’s valid victory, which of course we already knew, what strikes me about the scenarios that Chesebro described in these documents are two points:

First, I don’t understand how he could have thought that they would be able to get Pence elected Vice President by the Senate, so that he could serve as Acting President starting on January 20 instead of Nancy Pelosi. Under the Twelfth Amendment, the election of the Vice President goes to the Senate only after the joint session completes the counting of electoral votes and the tally reveals that no candidate won a majority. But the counting of electoral votes would not be complete according to the plan that Chesebro described. Instead, the strategy was to bring the count to a standstill, to run out the clock on the two weeks between January 6 and January 20. But in that circumstance, the election of the vice president would never get to the Senate, and under the Twentieth Amendment (and the congressional statute pursuant to it) Pelosi would have had the right to become Acting President. Thinking that the Senate could have given the election to Pence seems a mistake similar to the one that the Democrats made in the Hayes-Tilden dispute thinking that by delay they could get the House to elect Tilden under the Twelfth Amendment. It didn’t happen the way the Democrats wanted then because the count of electoral votes need to be complete before the House could elect the president, and once the count was complete according to the procedures Congress adopted for the dispute (including the creation of the special Electoral Commission), Hayes ended up with a bare majority and the presidency.

Second, the most dangerous aspect of the Chesebro docs–especially looking to the future instead of the past–is the idea that either chamber of Congress would refuse to adopt the concurrent resolution that is traditionally used to embraces the procedures of the Electoral Count Act. Historically, the way that Congress has bound itself to the ECA’s procedures is by means of a Concurrent Resolution adopted at the beginning of the new Congress before the joint session occurs. Now that the ECA has been amended by the new Electoral Count Reform Act, presumably the same kind of Concurrent Resolutions will be used to put ECRA’s provisions in place for the next joint session on January 6, 2025. One must hope that there won’t be any attempt in either chamber to repudiate the bipartisan work that achieved the much-needed ECRA reforms. To think optimistically on this point, perhaps the strong sense that Chesebro’s machinations were disgraceful will help serve as a disincentive to any consideration of a similar idea in the future.

[Boldface added]

“A Fake Trump Elector in Michigan Told Prosecutors of Regret, Anger”


One of the Republicans in Michigan who acted as a fake elector for Donald J. Trump expressed deep regret about his participation, according to a recording of his interview with the state attorney general’s office that was obtained by The New York Times.

The elector, James Renner, is thus far the only Trump elector who has reached an agreement with the office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, which brought criminal charges in July against all 16 of the state’s fake Trump electors. In October, Ms. Nessel’s office dropped all charges against Mr. Renner after he agreed to cooperate.


Apology letters by Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro in Georgia election case are one sentence long

Updated December 14, 2023

ATLANTA (AP) — The apology letters that Donald Trump-allied lawyers Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro were required to write as a condition of their plea deals in the Georgia election interference case are just one sentence long.

The letters, obtained Thursday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an open records request, were hand-written and terse. Neither letter acknowledges the legitimacy of Democrat Joe Biden’s win in Georgia’s 2020 election nor denounces the baseless conspiracy theories they pushed to claim Trump was cheated out of victory through fraud.

“I apologize for my actions in connection with the events in Coffee County,” Powell wrote in a letter dated Oct. 19, the same day she pleaded guilty to six misdemeanors accusing her of conspiring to intentionally interfere with the performance of election duties.

“I apologize to the citizens of the state of Georgia and of Fulton County for my involvement in Count 15 of the indictment,” Chesebro wrote in a letter dated Oct. 20, when he appeared in court to plead guilty to one felony charge of conspiracy to commit filing false documents.

Powell and Chesebro were among four defendants to plead guilty in the case after reaching agreements with prosecutors. They were indicted alongside Trump and others in August and charged with participating in a wide-ranging scheme to illegally keep the Republican in power. The remaining 15 defendants — including Trump, lawyer Rudy Giuliani and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — have all pleaded not guilty.

Each of the four who reached a deal with prosecutors received a sentence that included probation but no jail time. They were also allowed to plead guilty under Georgia’s first offender law, meaning that if they complete their probation without violating the terms or committing another crime, their records will be wiped clean.

The letters written by the other two defendants to plead guilty — Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis and bail bondsman Scott Hall — were longer and more specific. Ellis read her letter in open court on Oct. 24, tearfully telling the judge that she looked back on her involvement in challenging the election results with “deep remorse.”

“What I did not do but should have done, Your Honor, was to make sure that the facts the other lawyers alleged to be true were in fact true,” she said. “In the frenetic pace of attempting to raise challenges to the election in several states, including Georgia, I failed to do my due diligence.”

Hall, who pleaded guilty Sept. 29, wrote in his five-paragraph letter to the citizens of Georgia, “I owe you an apology.”

“I wish I had never involved myself in the post-election activities that brought me before the court,” he wrote, explaining that he got involved after observing what he thought were some irregularities.

Powell was initially charged with felony racketeering and six other felony counts.

Prosecutors allege that she conspired with Hall and others to access election equipment without authorization and hired computer forensics firm SullivanStrickler to send a team to Coffee County, in south Georgia, to copy software and data from voting machines and computers there. The indictment says a person who is not named sent an email to a top SullivanStrickler executive and instructed him to send all data copied from Dominion Voting Systems equipment in Coffee County to an unidentified lawyer associated with Powell and the Trump campaign.

Chesebro was initially charged with felony racketeering and six other felony counts.

Prosecutors allege that he unlawfully conspired with Trump and lawyers associated with his campaign to have the group of Georgia Republicans sign the false elector certificate and to submit it to various federal authorities. He also communicated with Trump campaign lawyers and Republican leaders in other swing states won by Biden to get those states to submit false slates of electors as well, prosecutors alleged.

Ellis pleaded guilty to one felony count of aiding and abetting false statements and writings. She had been charged with violating the state’s anti-racketeering law and soliciting the violation of oath by a public officer, both felonies.

The indictment in the sweeping case details a number of accusations against Ellis, including that she helped author plans on how to disrupt and delay congressional certification of the 2020 election’s results on Jan. 6, 2021, the day a mob of Trump supporters eventually overran the U.S. Capitol. And she’s accused of urging state legislators to back false, pro-Trump electors in multiple states.

Hall pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts for his role in accessing Coffee County elections equipment.


“Exclusive: Recordings describe 2020 Oval Office photo-op where Trump was briefed on fake electors and January 6”

Marshall Cohen at CNN:

Before a group of supportive lawyers entered the Oval Office for a photo-op with then-President Donald Trump in December 2020, they were given a clear instruction, according to one attendee: Don’t get Trump’s hopes up about overturning the election.

One attorney, Jim Troupis, toed the line. He’d just finished leading Trump’s failed election challenge in Wisconsin, and bluntly told the president it was over in that state.

But when the conversation shifted to Arizona, attorney Kenneth Chesebro deviated from the plan. He told Trump he could still win – and explained how the “alternate electors” he helped assemble in Arizona and six other states gave Trump an opening to continue contesting the election until Congress certified the results on January 6, 2021.

Chesebro’s optimistic comments immediately created problems by apparently giving Trump renewed hope that he could still somehow stay in office. Former RNC chairman Reince Priebus left the meeting “extremely concerned” about the January 6 conversation. Priebus, a Wisconsin native who served as Trump’s first chief of staff, later warned Troupis and Chesebro not to tell anyone about what happened.

Amid a growing number of criminal investigations into the 2020 election, some who once cast electoral college votes for the former president say they would not do it again


Republican Party activist Ken Carroll thought he was doing the right thing when he agreed to cast an electoral college vote for Donald Trump at the Georgia Capitol on Dec. 14, 2020.

But he wouldn’t do it again.

“Knowing what I know now? No,” Carroll said. “But hindsight provides a wealth of knowledge we don’t have at the time of an event.”

Carroll was one of 84 Republican presidential electors who convened to cast votes for Trump in 2020 across seven states where Joe Biden had been declared the certified winner. And he is among the electors in six of those states who have become embroiled in criminal investigations of their actions — saddled with legal bills and in some cases facing criminal charges. Carroll says he never again wants to be involved with a criminal investigation.

In the past few months, 25 of those 84 electors have been charged with felonies, such as forgery, false statements and filing false documents. Ten more have agreed as part of a lawsuit settlement to not serve as electors in any election in which Trump is on the ballot. And 13 others in Georgia have been labeled “unindicted co-conspirators.”

Chesebro recently met with investigators in Nevada and is scheduled to meet on Monday with Arizona prosecutors. His Arizona attorney, Rhonda Neff, declined to comment. A spokesperson for the office declined to comment.

Chesebro’s value to prosecutors stems in part from his plea deal in the Georgia case, in which he agreed to lesser charges in exchange for truthful testimony. In a nearly three-hour proffer interview for Georgia prosecutors in October, Chesebro described a previously unreported White House meeting during which he briefed Trump on election challenges in Arizona and summarized a memo in which he offered advice on assembling alternate slates of electors in key battlegrounds to cast ballots for Trump despite Biden’s victories in those states.

Chesebro’s recollection could provide evidence that Trump was aware of the elector plan.

He also disclosed for the first time that he played a role transporting documents signed by Wisconsin Trump electors to Capitol Hill as part of a Trump campaign plan to present Vice President Mike Pence with competing slates of electors.

[Boldface added]

Exclusive: Pro-Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro cooperating in multiple state probes into 2020 fake electors plot

CNN — 

The pro-Trump lawyer who helped devise the 2020 fake electors plot and already pleaded guilty to the conspiracy in Georgia is now cooperating with Michigan and Wisconsin state investigators in hopes of avoiding more criminal charges, multiple sources told CNN.

In a dramatic turnaround from 2020 – when the lawyer, Kenneth Chesebro, was at the center of efforts by former President Donald Trump to subvert the Electoral College and overturn his defeat – Chesebro is now helping investigators in at least four states who are looking into the scheme.

Chesebro’s cooperation in Wisconsin is the first indication the state attorney general’s office has launched its own investigation into the false slates of pro-Trump electors. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, has not publicly announced that an investigation is underway.

Chesebro also recently testified to a grand jury in Nevada, where indictments against six fake electors were announced Wednesday by state prosecutors. Additionally, Chesebro has been in contact with prosecutors in Arizona, where he plans to sit for an interview as part of that state’s ongoing investigation into fake electors.

CNN has previously identified Chesebro as an unindicted co-conspirator in special counsel Jack Smith’s federal indictment against Trump, where the former president is charged with organizing the fake electors scheme “to disenfranchise millions of voters” and unlawfully remain in power. There is no indication Chesebro is cooperating in the federal probe, or that Smith has ruled out charges against him.

The Trump campaign targeted seven states with the scheme in 2020. Charges have been filed against fake electors in Georgia, Michigan and Nevada. Investigations are underway in Arizona, New Mexico and now, apparently, Wisconsin. The seventh state in the plot was Pennsylvania.

The Michigan inquiry, led by state Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, was the first in the nation to produce criminal charges. It now appears that the scope of Nessel’s investigation may be broader than previously known, and is looking at other figures with ties to the scheme beyond the fake electors themselves.

The Michigan attorney general’s office confirmed to CNN in an email this week that their investigation is still active.

The Wisconsin attorney general’s office declined to comment, as did Chesebro’s lawyer.

Chesebro has entered into what’s known as proffer agreements in several states, which gives him some protection from prosecution, according to multiple sources. His cooperation with investigators in Michigan and Wisconsin has not been previously reported.

But cooperating with state prosecutors does not guarantee Chesebro will avoid criminal charges in one or all of the ongoing investigations, the sources cautioned.

Another pro-Trump lawyer in Michigan

Nessel’s ongoing investigation has already produced charges against the 16 fake electors in Michigan. One agreed to cooperate in exchange for his case being dropped. The rest pleaded not guilty, and there are key hearings this month in their bid to toss the case.

Sources told CNN that Nessel has scrutinized another pro-Trump lawyer, Ian Northon, who was in contact with top Trump allies after the 2020 election and accompanied the fake electors when they tried to enter the Michigan statehouse.

In charging documents against the Michigan fake electors, prosecutors highlighted how Northon tried to persuade a state trooper to let them into the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing – but they were rebuffed. This was a key part of the plan that Chesebro and others devised: Federal law and Michigan statutes require the electors to meet in the statehouse, and Chesebro hoped the pro-Trump slate would hew to the law as closely as possible.

An attorney for Northon did not comment for this story.

After the 2020 election, Northon participated in conference calls with then-Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman where they discussed how to contest the results, according to Northon’s testimony to the House select committee that investigated the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

Northon also had a phone call with Sidney Powell, a right-wing attorney and conspiracy theorist who has pleaded guilty in the Georgia election subversion case. She asked him to join a lawsuit she was filing in Michigan about nullifying the election – he declined and filed a separate suit contesting the results. The meritless cases went nowhere.

According to his congressional testimony, Northon had no ties to Chesebro, except that a colleague forwarded to him one of Chesebro’s memos about the Electoral College after the 2020 election. Northon also said he learned from a pro-Trump state legislator that the fake electors would be meeting in Lansing.

“I was as disappointed, I think, as anybody to see what happened on January 6 at the Capitol,” Northon told the House committee in 2022. “My efforts in representing these private clients were to get people to follow the law, not to encourage people to break it.”


Trump fake elector scheme: where do seven states’ investigations stand?

October 22, 2023


A Trump ally is ready to come clean on Georgia’s fake electors. You listening, Kris Mayes?

Opinion: Prosecutors in Georgia and Michigan are putting the screws to their fake electors and election schemers. AG Kris Mayes should follow their lead.

Laurie Roberts

Arizona Republic
October 20, 2023
Well, well, well.

A key figure in the fake elector scheme took a plea deal in Georgia on Friday, agreeing to come clean about his part in the conspiracy to try to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Are you seeing this, Attorney General Kris Mayes?

Trump-aligned lawyer Kenneth Chesebro wrote memos detailing how Republicans could send false slates of presidential electors to Congress in an attempt to give Donald Trump the win or at least delay the Jan. 6, 2021, certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

According to his Fulton County, Ga., indictment, one of his memos “provides detailed, state-specific instructions for how Trump presidential elector nominees in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin would meet and cast electoral votes” for Trump, even though he lost the election in those states.

Chesebro, who is pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit filing false documents, on Friday agreed to testify at any future trials of his fellow co-conspirators. He also agreed to turn over all emails and text messages to the district attorney’s office.

What does Chesebro know about Arizona?

[Boldface added]

Have got your plane ticket to Atlanta yet, AG Mayes?

It might be interesting to see what light Chesebro can shed on Arizona’s 11 fake electors.

Specifically, how they came to be meeting at state Republican Party headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020, signing documents falsely claiming to be “duly elected and qualified” to cast Arizona’s electoral votes for the guy who didn’t win.

How these “patriots” — including two who are now state senators (Jake Hoffman and Anthony Kern), the now-former chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party (Kelli Ward) and a top executive with Turning Point USA (Tyler Bowyer) — came up with the same wild idea that just coincidentally occurred to Republicans in six other swing states won by Biden.

Or how, even as those phonies were meeting in Phoenix to cast their non-existent votes for Trump, across town a group of Republican legislators were signing a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Congress urging them to accept those “alternate” electoral votes.

Or how then-Rep. Mark Finchem, one of the state’s loudest stop the stealers, hand carried the lawmakers’ request to Washington on Jan. 5, 2021, putting it into the hands of one of Trump’s strongest acolytes on Capitol Hill, Rep. Andy Biggs.

Or how Biggs, along with Reps. Paul Gosar and Debbie Lesko, then voted the next day to reject Arizona’s legitimate electoral votes.

Where does Mayes’ investigation’ stand?

This wasn’t just 11 local Arizona rubes who decided on a whim to protest Biden’s win by casting a symbolic electoral vote for Trump.

This was a carefully planned scheme, meticulously coordinated — from the seeds of doubt deeply planted to erode trust in our elections to the fake electors who were part of a plot to steal the vote in Arizona and other swing states to the storming of the nation’s Capitol to stop Joe Biden from becoming president.

And certain Arizonans appear to be in on it up to their eyeballs.

Fake electors:Had a cast of characters helping them

Wouldn’t it be nice to hear what Chesebro might know about that?

Mayes vowed during last year’s campaign to investigate Arizona’s fake electors. She reportedly assigned a team of prosecutors to the investigation in May. Dan Barr, Mayes’s chief deputy, in July told the Washington Post the investigation was in the “fact-gathering” phase.Since then, we’ve heard nothing.

Michigan is bringing charges. What about us?

Meanwhile, in Michigan, one of that state’s 16 fake electors this week agreed to testify against his fellow phonies in return for dismissal of eight felony counts, including forgery and conspiracy to publish a false statement.

The Michigan 16, just like the Arizona 11, met at their state GOP headquarters and signed documents stating they were the state’s “duly elected and qualified electors.”

“That was a lie … and each of the defendants knew it,” Michigan prosecutors said, in their charging documents.

The Michigan fake elector whose charges were dismissed has agreed to “cooperate fully” with the AG’s office, agreeing to testify at trial and key hearings and provide investigators with “any and all relevant documents.”

Michigan in July became the first state to bring charges against the fake electors.

It shouldn’t be the last.

Simply put, Arizona’s fake electors and their co-conspirators tried to steal our vote.

There should be a penalty for that.

AG Mayes, I hear Atlanta is nice this time of year.

Mr. Chesebro, a buttoned-down Harvard lawyer, evolved from left-leaning jurist to key player in the Trump false electors scandal. What happened?

Trump co-defendant Kenneth Chesebro pleads guilty in Georgia election case

Chesebro became the second former Trump lawyer to plead guilty in as many days, following Sidney Powell on Thursday


ATLANTA — Kenneth Chesebro, a former lawyer for Donald Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty Friday to illegally conspiring to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia, striking a deal in which he will avoid jail time and agreed to provide evidence that could implicate other defendants, including Trump himself.

Chesebro was the second former Trump lawyer to accept a plea deal in the sprawling conspiracy case in as many days. The guilty plea came in just hours after jury selection began, ahead of an expected trial next month.

The charge relates to Chesebro’s role organizing slates of pro-Trump electors to meet in seven states where Joe Biden had won. According to details of the amended indictment read in open court, prosecutors allege several other co-defendants were a part of that conspiracy: Trump, four other lawyers including Rudy Giuliani, and one campaign operative. Chesebro signed the amended indictment, though it was not clear if he had offered prosecutors evidence related to the alleged role those other defendants played.

Chesebro’s guilty plea follows that of pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell on Thursday and made him the third co-defendant to admit guilt in the criminal racketeering case, which alleges Trump and 18 allies broke Georgia law when they sought to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory in the state. In addition to Powell, bail bondsman Scott Hall pleaded guilty earlier this month. All have agreed to testify against others in the case.

The plea is the latest legal victory for Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D), whose office is prosecuting the Georgia case. In addition to flipping one of the key members of the alleged conspiracy, prosecutors now avoid a trial in which they would have had to showcase much of their evidence against Trump and others, which might have offered lawyers for other defendants a legal advantage heading into their proceedings.

The potential for incriminating testimony from three of Trump’s co-defendants could have a far-reaching impact on the former president’s legal fortunes, as well as some of the other high-profile defendants, notably Giuliani, who is alleged to have been involved in Powell’s and Chesebro’s efforts to help overturn Trump’s loss.


“Analysis of the Lawfulness of Kenneth Chesebro’s Elector Plan Under Federal Election Law”

Matthew Seligman at Just Security:

his report analyzes the legal propriety of multiple slates of elector-nominees casting ballots purporting to be their state’s votes in the Electoral College. Kenneth Chesebro is one of 19 co-defendants in Georgia’s state criminal indictment related to efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump. The indictment charges Mr. Chesebro with seven criminal offenses, all of which are related to his involvement in planning and organizing for Trump elector-nominees to cast ballots purporting to be electoral votes on December 14, 2020. In several motions, Mr. Chesebro has contended that his conduct was consistent with federal election law because the Electoral Count Act contemplates Congress receiving multiple slates of electors when it convenes on January 6. Mr. Chesebro further contends that because his conduct was purportedly consistent with federal election law, it cannot be criminal under Georgia state law.

This report concludes that Mr. Chesebro’s alleged conduct was unlawful under federal election law, which therefore does not preclude prosecution of that conduct under state criminal statutes. The Twelfth Amendment, the Electoral Count Act of 1887, and related provisions of federal law contemplate the submission of certificates from multiple slates of elector-nominees from the same state only in exceptionally narrow circumstances. Multiple slates of elector-nominees are consistent with federal law only when:

  • On the date the elector-nominees must cast their ballots in the Electoral College, a good faith dispute about which slate of elector-nominees the state has lawfully appointed remains pending; and
  • The elector-nominees cast ballots that purport to be the state’s votes in the Electoral College as part of a course of conduct (1) seeking to resolve the contest through the lawful procedures established for the resolution of disputes about the appointment of electors under state law, and (2) seeking for Congress to count those electoral votes pursuant to the lawful application of the provisions of the Electoral Count Act….


“Trump electors: ‘fake’ or ‘contingent’?”


Three Republicans who cast Electoral College votes for Donald Trump after the 2020 presidential election were acting as federal officers and doing what the law allowed, defense lawyers told a federal judge on Wednesday.

The Trump electors — former Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer, state Sen. Shawn Still and former Coffee County GOP Chairwoman Cathy Latham — are charged in Fulton County with conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election. They are seeking to get their cases removed from Fulton Superior Court to U.S. District Court in Atlanta….

Attorneys for the defendants argued their clients were “contingent” electors under the federal Electoral Count Act. Among other things, the law requires states to resolve legal disputes about the outcome of elections six days before presidential electors cast their ballots — the so-called “safe harbor” deadline.

When presidential electors met on Dec. 14, 2020, Trump’s lawsuit challenging the election in Georgia was still pending. That meant Gov. Brian Kemp’s certification of Democrat Joe Biden was no longer valid, argued Shafer’s attorney, Craig Gillen….

Cross called Gillen’s arguments “novel,” “nonsense” and “fantasy.” She noted that, after correcting deficiencies, Trump refiled his lawsuit the day before the safe harbor deadline. Under the electors’ argument, that gave the court one day to resolve the dispute.

Cross said the electors had presented no case law supporting the idea “that you can file a procedurally and substantively deficient challenge and, suddenly, everything’s up in the air.” She said the Republicans did not become federal officers simply by claiming to be official presidential electors.

“They were fake electors,” Cross said. “They were impersonating electors. They were not electors at all.”


August 23, 2023


It remains unclear why the lawyer, Kenneth Chesebro, seemed to be with the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones outside the Capitol or how he came to be with Mr. Jones and his entourage.

Alan Feuer and

Photographs and videos reviewed by The New York Times suggest that Kenneth Chesebro, one of the legal architects of former President Donald J. Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, was in the crowd outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and spent part of that day closely following the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who helped lead a mob toward the building.

Mr. Chesebro did not appear to have illegally entered the Capitol, as did hundreds of other rioters, or commit any violence.

But the photographs and videos appearing to show him marching with Mr. Jones, the proprietor of Infowars, and members of his entourage — including Ali Alexander, a prominent “Stop the Steal” organizer — were the first time that one of the many aides and lawyers who helped the former president try to subvert the democratic process with controversial legal theories was also found to have had a connection to pro-Trump activists who were on the ground during the Capitol attack.

Mr. Chesebro’s presence at the Capitol was reported earlier by CNN. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

It remains unclear why Mr. Chesebro was with Mr. Jones’s group outside the Capitol or how he came to be with them. A lawyer for Mr. Jones said that Mr. Jones was unaware that Mr. Chesebro had been following his entourage that day.

Mr. Chesebro was charged this week as one of Mr. Trump’s 18 co-defendants in a sprawling racketeering indictment brought by the district attorney’s office in Fulton County, Ga. That indictment accused him of taking part in a sweeping plot to create slates of so-called fake electors pledged to Mr. Trump in several key swing states that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had won.

Mr. Chesebro also appeared as an unnamed co-conspirator in a similar federal indictment brought against Mr. Trump in Washington this month by prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith. Mr. Chesebro wrote three memos in November and December 2020, which prosecutors used to trace the evolution of the fake elector plan and an attempt to use it as part of a broader effort to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to throw the election to Mr. Trump during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

Wearing a red MAGA hat, Mr. Chesebro can be seen joining Mr. Jones’s group outside the Capitol shortly before 2 p.m. that day, according to the photographs and video reviewed by The Times. The visual evidence shows he stayed with Mr. Jones, Mr. Alexander and others — including Owen Shroyer, one of Mr. Jones’s top aides — for about an hour and a half, often filming Mr. Jones on his cellphone as the group walked around the Capitol and went partly up the stairs outside the east front of the building.

Mr. Jones and Mr. Alexander were among the first “Stop the Steal” activists to draw attention from federal prosecutors investigating the Capitol riot. As early as April 2022, Mr. Jones reached out to the Justice Department in an unsuccessful effort to secure an immunity deal in exchange for information. Mr. Alexander was subpoenaed by — and ultimately testified to — a grand jury in Washington that was looking into various aspects of the attack.

As for Mr. Shroyer, he pleaded guilty in June to a single count of illegally entering and remaining on the Capitol’s restricted grounds.

It was a remarkable turn of events that Mr. Chesebro, an obscure lawyer versed in the complexities of election law, appeared to be seen on video marching on Jan. 6 with two of the main “Stop the Steal” activists who helped lead the mob to the Capitol from Mr. Trump’s speech near the White House that day. The convergence of someone who took part in the legal attempts to keep Mr. Trump in power with those who were central to bringing the force of a crowd to bear as Congress was certifying the election results was a powerful reminder of how many mysteries remain where Jan. 6 is concerned.

Until now, there appeared to be different tentacles of the efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power that had not overlapped. But Mr. Chesebro hinted at those connections in an email exchange with John Eastman, another lawyer who was instrumental in the plan to pressure Mr. Pence with the fake elector scheme.

In late December 2020, the two lawyers discussed how to get a case before the Supreme Court. Mr. Chesebro told Mr. Eastman as they discussed filing a legal action that in terms of the highest court, the “odds of action before Jan. 6 will become more favorable if the justices start to fear that there will be ‘wild’ chaos on Jan. 6 unless they rule by then, either way.”

[Boldface added}


The ‘brains’ behind fake Trump electors was once a liberal Democrat

Kenneth Chesebro, a Harvard-trained lawyer, may be the least well known of the main players in Trump’s federal and Georgia indictments

Chesebro was among 19 people charged Monday in Georgia with a raft of crimes related to alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. A 98-page indictment secured by Atlanta-area prosecutors portrays Chesebro as central not just to the convening of sham electors but also to the “strategy for disrupting and delaying the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.” He faces seven felony charges, including conspiracy to commit forgery and conspiracy to file false documents, as well as violation of an anti-racketeering act originally aimed at dismantling organized crime groups.

In the separate federal case brought against Trump this month, Chesebro has not been charged. Prosecutors described him only as “Co-Conspirator 5,” saying he was behind “a corrupt plan to subvert the federal government function by stopping Biden electors’ votes from being counted and certified.”


Trump, allies charged with racketeering scheme over bid to subvert election in Georgia

The former president and 18 allies were indicted for what prosecutors described as a wide-ranging criminal enterprise.


A grand jury in Georgia has indicted former President Donald Trump and 18 allies on racketeering charges for a sweeping attempt to corrupt the 2020 election by subverting Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis leveled the charges Monday night after a two-year investigation that also tagged Trump with allegations that he conspired to derail the Electoral College process, marshaled the Justice Department to bolster his scheme, pressured Georgia officials to undo the election results and repeatedly lied about fraud allegations to ratchet up pressure.

In addition to Trump, Willis charged former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and attorneys Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, Jeff Clark, Ken Chesebro and Jenna Ellis, key figures in Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election.

The 98-page indictment tracks several well-known aspects of Trump’s conduct in the chaotic weeks that followed his defeat in the Nov. 3, 2020, election, many of which were aired by the House Jan. 6 select committee and, more recently, in a federal indictment obtained by special counsel Jack Smith.


Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson

August 9, 2023


New York Times journalists Maggie Haberman, Charlie Savage, and Luke Broadwater yesterday reported that in a memo dated December 6, 2020, Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro laid out a plan to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election that he acknowledged was “a bold, controversial strategy” that he believed the Supreme Court would “likely” reject.

Still, he presented the plan—while apparently trying to distance himself from it by writing “I’m not necessarily advising this course of action”—because he thought it “would guarantee that public attention would be riveted on the evidence of electoral abuses by the Democrats, and would also buy the Trump campaign more time to win litigation that would deprive Biden of electoral votes and/or add to Trump’s column.”

The plan was essentially what the Trump campaign ultimately tried to pursue. It called for Trump-Pence electors in six swing states Biden had won to meet and vote for Trump, and then to make sure that in each of those states there was a lawsuit underway that “might plausibly” call into question Biden’s victory there. Then, Vice President Mike Pence would take the position that he had the power not simply to open the votes but also to count them, and that the 1887 Electoral Count Act that clarified those procedures was unconstitutional.

Key to selling this strategy, Chesebro wrote, was messaging that constructing two slates of electors was “routine,” and he laid out a strategy of taking events and statements out of context to suggest support for that messaging.

This was, of course, a plan to deprive American voters of their right to have their votes counted, as the federal grand jury’s recent indictment of former president Trump charged, but Chesebro concluded: “it seems advisable for the campaign to seriously consider this course of action and, if adopted, to carefully plan related messaging.”

Three days later, Chesebro wrote specific instructions to create those fraudulent electors, and they were off to the races.

Chesebro is identified as Co-Conspirator 5 in the grand jury’s recent indictment of Trump.

It is an astonishing thing to read this memo today.


‘Co-Conspirator 5’: Ken Chesebro and the evolution of Donald Trump’s Jan. 6 strategy

Read the documents that formed the rough draft of Trump’s scheme to stay in power.

The memos and emails reveal the underpinnings of a desperate strategy to assemble slates of fraudulent electors. 



Attorney John Eastman is often credited as the architect of Donald Trump’s last-ditch attempt to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election.

But the work of lesser-known attorney Kenneth Chesebro — identified as “Co-Conspirator 5” in special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment — may have been more instrumental in stoking the chaos that ultimately unfolded.

The House Jan. 6 select committee helped unearth several key documents drafted or contributed to by Chesebro that would become Trump’s strategy at crucial moments in the weeks following his loss to Joe Biden. The special counsel team unearthed another — an internal campaign memo referenced in the 45-page indictment last week and first revealed publicly Tuesday by The New York Times.

The memos and emails reveal the underpinnings of a desperate strategy to assemble slates of fraudulent electors, first to preserve legal options and later to foment a conflict on Jan. 6, 2021, that might lead to Trump retaining the presidency. Along the way, Chesebro concocted methods for avoiding unfavorable court rulings, enlisting friendly allies in Congress to grease the skids and ultimately counting on Mike Pence to take “bold” steps to derail the impending Biden presidency. (Chesebro, through his lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

Here’s a chronology of Chesebro’s key documents and proposals, which show how his thinking evolved from philosophical discussions to operational plans — and at times veered into outright fantasy.

NOV. 18, 2020 MEMO: Chesebro’s initial foray into Trump world’s upper echelons came as states prepared to certify their election results. Chesebro was advising Wisconsin-based Trump attorney Jim Troupis about a legal strategy for challenging the results there in court.

Here, Chesebro first emphasized that Jan. 6, 2021 was the real “hard deadline” for courts to rule on Trump’s election challenges. But he stressed that in order to sustain legal challenges to Wisconsin’s results, a slate of pro-Trump electors must convene on Dec. 14, 2020 and cast ballots as though they were legitimately elected.

“It may seem odd that electors pledged to Trump and Pence might meet and cast their votes on December 14 even if, at that juncture, the Trump-Pence ticket is behind in the vote count,” Chesebro wrote. “However, a fair reading of the federal statutes suggests that this is a reasonable course of action.”

Chesebro noted that if courts ruled in Trump’s favor, Congress may only be able to count electoral votes cast by the legally prescribed deadline of Dec. 14. In other words, it was a contingency plan while lawsuits were pending.

DEC. 6, 2020 MEMO: By early December, Chesebro’s thinking had shifted radically. A memo first described in the special counsel’s indictment, and publicly revealed Tuesday by The New York Times, showed that Chesebro began to view the pro-Trump electors as part of a strategy to derail the transfer of power altogether — not simply as a backup plan for the courts.

The memo, also directed to Troupis, suggested that the Trump campaign assemble alternate slates of electors in six states where legal challenges were pending.

“I’ve mulled over how January might play out, and it seems feasible that the Trump campaign can prevent Biden from amassing 270 electoral votes on January 6, and force the Members of Congress, the media, and the American people to focus on the substantive evidence of illegal election and counting activities in the six contested states,” Chesebro wrote.

He described three essential criteria: 1) Meetings of the pro-Trump elector slates on Dec. 14 in all six states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (a seventh, New Mexico, would be added later); 2) The existence of pending litigation in those states that could conceivably reverse the outcome; 3) A declaration by Pence that only he could decide which electoral votes to count on Jan. 6, 2021, when he presided over the joint session of Congress to certify the election.

“I’m not necessarily advising this course of action,” he added, describing it as a “bold, controversial strategy.”

Chesebro also used the memo to suggest that Trump’s elector slates meet secretly to avoid protest. At the same time, he wrote, the campaign should be prepared to characterize the meetings as “routine” contingency planning for potential legal victories.

DEC. 9, 2020 MEMO: Days after advising the campaign to convene its false elector slates, Chesebro provided a plan to operationalize the strategy. In a third memo to Troupis, Chesebro outlined the federal and state laws governing the meetings of the electors and how the Trump campaign could attempt to comply with those requirements in order to keep alive the chance that they would be counted by the courts or Congress.

Chesebro notes that no state legislatures had certified these alternate slates — Trump and his allies were still leaning on GOP legislators to take that step — but that the pro-Trump electors should meet anyway to cast contingent ballots. However, in some states, valid electors were required to meet in specific venues or under the guidance of specific state officials like the governor or secretary of state.

He noted the rules could make assembling alternate slates “very problematic” in Nevada and “somewhat dicey” in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

DEC. 13, 2020 NOTES TO RUDY GIULIANI: On the eve of the elector meetings, Chesebro typed up notes to Rudy Giuliani, a substitute for a memo he said he lost due to a “reboot on the hotel computer.” This document, which he forwarded to Eastman on Jan. 2, 2021, was publicly revealed last year, after a federal judge determined it constituted evidence of a likely crime.

In this memo, Chesebro laid out what he called the “President of the Senate” strategy — a reference to Pence’s role on Jan. 6, 2021. He strongly advocated that Pence take the position that he had ultimate authority to determine which electoral votes to count or ignore. Even if it couldn’t prevent Biden’s election, Chesebro reasoned, Pence’s declaration could help obtain leverage that might be used to broker some alternative outcome.

Most notably, Chesebro’s memo laid out a pre-Jan. 6 timeline that would help facilitate the plan. It began with a Jan. 3-5 plan for friendly GOP lawmakers to hold hearings highlighting the ambiguities of the Electoral Count Act — the law that has governed the transfer of power since 1887 — and the vice president’s role in counting electoral votes. The goal was to feature testimony from allied legal scholars to “buttress the substantive basis for the President of the Senate later refusing to count votes from those states, absent more needed scrutiny.”

On Jan. 6, Chesebro said, Pence would announce his recusal from presiding over the joint session of Congress, citing the unconstitutionality of the Electoral Count Act as well as a conflict of interest because of his candidacy for reelection. This, Chesebro contended, would “insulate” Pence from charges of making a self-serving decision and leave the matter ostensibly in the hands of a senior Republican senator. Then, after beginning to count electoral votes from an alphabetical list of states, that senator would refuse to count the votes from Arizona, citing the competing slates of electors. If Arizona wants to be counted, this senator would say, it would either have to “rerun” its election or allow for more judicial review of the outcome.

Chesebro predicted controversy and conflict would ensue from this step — and noted Biden could still emerge victorious if the conflict made its way to the Supreme Court. But he said the Supreme Court might refuse to step in, avoiding the clash between the political branches. In that scenario, he said, with the White House and Congress at loggerheads, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi might become acting president on Jan. 20. But another outcome, he said — one that appears even more far-fetched in hindsight — might play out: Trump could quit the race in exchange for a negotiated deal to make Pence president.

“In this situation,” Chesebro wrote, “which would be messy and unpalatable to many … it doesn’t seem fanciful to think Trump and Pence would end up winning the vote after some legislatures appoint electors, or else that there might be a negotiated solution in which the Senate elects Pence vice president and Trump agrees to drop his bid … so that Biden and Harris are defeated, even though Trump isn’t re-elected.”

DEC. 23, 2020 EASTMAN EMAIL TO BORIS EPSHTEYN: Eastman distilled his own analyses and Chesebro’s advice into a pair of memos he brought to Trump and Pence. On Dec. 23, Eastman shared a draft of one of those memos with Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn, cc’ing Chesebro on the message. Eastman signaled to Epshteyn that Chesebro had edited the memo. He also noted that he and Chesebro agreed that congressional hearings to bolster their case were no longer advisable because they could “invite counter views that we do not believe should constrain Pence (or Grassley).”

“Better for them to just act boldly and be challenged,” Eastman wrote.

This step, Eastman noted, would likely result in the Supreme Court refusing to take up the case “on nonjusticiable political question grounds” — in other words, a win for Trump by default.

DEC. 31 2020 EMAIL FROM CHESEBRO TO EASTMAN AND OTHER TRUMP LAWYERS: Chesebro was also involved in the campaign’s broader legal strategy to try to get a friendly judge to give judicial imprimatur to the notion that the election results were in doubt — especially in Georgia. While Trump worked, via Justice Department official Jeff Clark, to get the department to similarly use its institutional power to cast doubt on the results, Chesebro suggested targeting efforts at Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Thomas is the so-called “circuit justice” for Georgia and neighboring states, meaning he performs the initial review of emergency appeals arising from that part of the country.

“The point is to have the court say that probably the election was void, which should be enough to prevent the Senate from counting the Biden electoral votes from Georgia, right?” Chesebro said in an email to Eastman and a larger group of lawyers working on Trump’s post-election legal efforts.

“Possibly Thomas would end up being the key here — circuit justice, right? We want to frame things so that Thomas could be the one to issue some sort of stay or other circuit justice opinion saying Georgia is in legitimate doubt,” Chesebro wrote. “Realistically, our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress, is from Thomas — do you agree, Prof. Eastman?”

Eastman, a former Thomas clerk who had at times been in touch with his wife Ginni during the post-election period, replied: “I think I agree with this. If the court were to give us ‘likely,’ that may be enough to kick the Georgia Legislature into gear, because I’ve been getting a lot of calls from them indicating to me they’re leaning that way.”

JAN. 1, 2021 NOTES TO EPSHTEYN AND EASTMAN: Chesebro’s last known message ahead of Jan. 6 was a set of 14 talking points for congressional Republicans to challenge the limits imposed on them by the Electoral Count Act. It was his most specific and granular advice yet regarding the minutiae of Congress’ procedures.

In particular, Chesebro advocated for friendly GOP lawmakers to resist the law’s limit of just five minutes of debate per lawmaker — with a maximum aggregate debate time of two hours — during formal challenges to a state’s electors.

Chesebro reasoned that Pence could side with the objecting lawmakers and agree that debate could not constitutionally be limited without a cloture vote of 60 senators.

“It might be politically painful for a Republican to vote to cut off debate,” Chesebro contended, adding, “It could take hours of debate on each state before a filibuster is overcome.”

But Chesebro noted one huge, little-understood hurdle: Every four years — for decades — Congress has affirmatively bound itself to the strict limits of the Electoral Count Act by adopting a “concurrent resolution” agreeing to abide by the terms of the 136-year-old law. If that resolution were passed on Jan. 3, 2021, he noted, it would remove any possible challenge to the constitutionality of the procedures.

As a result, Chesebro advocated for a lawmaker — like Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) — to attempt to block the concurrent resolution, forcing a debate and vote. Chesebro said this plan would be useful to determine the whip count among Senate Republicans for challenges to the election results.

Chesebro also sought to reconcile his call for lengthy debates with his larger argument that Pence — not Congress — got to determine which electors to count. He said Pence could simply allow the debates to proceed without conceding their legitimacy, buying time for the Supreme Court or state legislatures to act.

Ultimately, no lawmaker objected to the concurrent resolution, which was adopted unanimously on Jan. 3, 2021.


Who Is Kenneth Chesebro? The Lesser-Known Trump Attorney Behind 2020 Electors Plot

Brian Bushard

Aug 9, 2023,04:06pm EDT 


As President Donald Trump faces a federal indictment over his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, a newly surfaced memo from Trump’s legal team the New York Times published Wednesday found one of his lesser-known attorneys, Kenneth Chesebro, not only helped craft the so-called fake electors scheme central to alleged efforts to overturn the election results, but doubted it would work.


In the memo, dated December 6, 2020, Chesebro laid down his brazen fake electors scheme, calling on GOP electors in six swing states to cast new ballots for Trump and send them to Washington for a January 6 congressional certification as though Trump had been elected.

According to the strategy, Trump would “force” lawmakers, the media and the public to “focus on the substantive evidence of illegal election and counting activities in the six contested states,” Chesebro wrote, while former Vice President Mike Pence would then either delay the vote count or block the confirmation of the election—which Pence refused to do.

Chesebro, however, admitted he was “not necessarily advising” that the strategy be implemented, and that “there are many reasons” why it might not work.

Chesebro, who is believed to be co-conspirator 5 in the Department of Justice’s indictment of Trump, has faced criticism over his role in the fake electors plot, though he hasn’t been charged and hasn’t faced the same fate as former Trump attorney John Eastman, the former legal scholar and so-called mastermind behind the dubious fake electors legal theory who is facing disbarment and is reportedly concerned about being criminally charged in the Department of Justice’s case against Trump.

Last March, Chesebro was subpoenaed by the House January 6 committee in its investigation into Trump’s alleged efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 election.

Chesebro was also one of five Trump aides and lawyers to receive a criminal referral last December from the committee, following its 18-month investigation—along with Eastman, Trump’s former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jeffrey Clark, as well as Trump himself.


Chesebro’s memo shows how his fake electors scheme developed quickly in the months after the 2020 election. That memo was dated one month after a previous memo to Jim Troupis—a Wisconsin attorney who challenged the results of President Joe Biden’s win in the state—in which Chesebro laid out the fake electors plan as an effort to protect Trump’s rights if he won a future court battle and was declared the winner in that state, using the fake electors’ ballots as evidence. One month later, however, Chesebro reportedly had made the scheme a central tenet of his plan to overturn the election nationally, writing in the December 6, 2020 memo obtained by the Times that “it seems feasible that the Trump campaign can prevent Biden from amassing 270 electoral votes” needed to win the presidential election during a congressional proceeding to confirm the results of the election.

Trump pleaded not guilty last week to four felony counts following the DOJ’s investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden—one of three indictments of the former president has faced since he launched his reelection bid late last year (Trump was also indicted over his alleged mishandling of classified White House documents after he left the Oval Office and for alleged hush money payments to three people in the run-up to the 2016 election). The charges levied against Trump last week by Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith included conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, conspiracy against rights and obstruction of an official proceeding—which all carry potential prison sentences if Trump is convicted. Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and slammed prosecutors for waiting until the 2024 election cycle was well underway to bring charges against him, while his legal team has argued his claims of widespread voter fraud were protected by his First Amendment right to free speech.


Washington, D.C. Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya scheduled Trump’s next hearing in the case for August 28 before federal District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who will reportedly set a trial date at that hearing.


Trump’s legal team has had significant turnover over the past three years as the former president faces a slew of legal battles. Nearly a dozen of Trump’s attorneys have departed, including Jim Trusty, who abruptly withdrew from Trump’s criminal defense team in the DOJ’s classified documents investigation in June, following the likes of John Rowley, Tim Parlatore, Rudy Giuliani, Cleta Mitchell, Sidney Powell, Bryan Hughes, Linda Kerns and John Scott.


37 percentage points. That’s the size of Trump’s early lead in the 2024 Republican presidential primaries, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll conducted late last month of likely GOP voters, with 54% of respondents saying they support Trump, over 17% for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and 3% for Pence, as well as former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.).


Trump Indicted: Ex-President Charged With These Crimes In DOJ Jan. 6 Probe—And They All Could Include Prison Time (Forbes)

Here’s How Trump’s Attorney Is Defending Him Against Jan. 6 Charges: Citing Free Speech, Blaming His Lawyers And More (Forbes)


Anatomy of a Fraud: Kenneth Chesebro’s Misrepresentation of My Scholarship in His Efforts to Overturn the 2020 Presidential Election


August 8, 2023

Anatomy of a Fraud: Kenneth Chesebro’s Misrepresentation of My Scholarship in His Efforts to Overturn the 2020 Presidential Election


Previously Secret Memo Laid Out Strategy for Trump to Overturn Biden’s Win

The House Jan. 6 committee’s investigation did not uncover the memo, whose existence first came to light in last week’s indictment.

A scheme to use false electors to keep Donald J. Trump in power was perhaps the most sprawling of the various efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

By Maggie HabermanCharlie Savage

 and Luke Broadwater

Aug. 8, 2023

A lawyer allied with President Donald J. Trump first laid out a plot to use false slates of electors to subvert the 2020 election in a previously unknown internal campaign memo that prosecutors are portraying as a crucial link in how the Trump team’s efforts evolved into a criminal conspiracy.

The existence of the Dec. 6, 2020, memo came to light in last week’s indictment of Mr. Trump, though its details remained unclear. But a copy obtained by The New York Times shows for the first time that the lawyer, Kenneth Chesebro, acknowledged from the start that he was proposing “a bold, controversial strategy” that the Supreme Court “likely” would reject in the end.

But even if the plan did not ultimately pass legal muster at the highest level, Mr. Chesebro argued that it would achieve two goals. It would focus attention on claims of voter fraud and “buy the Trump campaign more time to win litigation that would deprive Biden of electoral votes and/or add to Trump’s column.”

The memo had been a missing piece in the public record of how Mr. Trump’s allies developed their strategy to overturn Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. In mid-December, the false Trump electors could go through the motions of voting as if they had the authority to do so. Then, on Jan. 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence could unilaterally count those slates of votes, rather than the official and certified ones for Mr. Biden.

While that basic plan itself was already known, the document, described by prosecutors as the “fraudulent elector memo,” provides new details about how it originated and was discussed behind the scenes. Among those details is Mr. Chesebro’s proposed “messaging” strategy to explain why pro-Trump electors were meeting in states where Mr. Biden was declared the winner. The campaign would present that step as “a routine measure that is necessary to ensure” that the correct electoral slate could be counted by Congress if courts or legislatures later concluded that Mr. Trump had actually won the states.


Read the previously unreported memo from Dec. 6, 2020.

It was not the first time Mr. Chesebro had raised the notion of creating alternate electors. In November, he had suggested doing so in Wisconsin, although for a different reason: to safeguard Mr. Trump’s rights in case he later won a court battle and was declared that state’s certified winner by Jan. 6, as had happened with Hawaii in 1960.

But the indictment portrayed the Dec. 6 memo as a “sharp departure” from that proposal, becoming what prosecutors say was a criminal plot to engineer “a fake controversy that would derail the proper certification of Biden as president-elect.”

“I recognize that what I suggest is a bold, controversial strategy, and that there are many reasons why it might not end up being executed on Jan. 6,” Mr. Chesebro wrote. “But as long as it is one possible option, to preserve it as a possibility it is important that the Trump-Pence electors cast their electoral votes on Dec. 14.”

Three days later, Mr. Chesebro drew up specific instructions to create fraudulent electors in multiple states — in another memo whose existence, along with the one in November, was first reported by The Times last year. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot also cited them in its December report, but it apparently did not learn of the Dec. 6 memo.

“I believe that what can be achieved on Jan. 6 is not simply to keep Biden below 270 electoral votes,” Mr. Chesebro wrote in the newly disclosed memo. “It seems feasible that the vote count can be conducted so that at no point will Trump be behind in the electoral vote count unless and until Biden can obtain a favorable decision from the Supreme Court upholding the Electoral Count Act as constitutional, or otherwise recognizing the power of Congress (and not the president of the Senate) to count the votes.”

Mr. Chesebro and his lawyer did not respond to requests for comment. A Trump spokesman did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The false electors scheme was perhaps the most sprawling of Mr. Trump’s various efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. It involved lawyers working on his campaign’s behalf across seven states, dozens of electors willing to claim that Mr. Trump — not Mr. Biden — had won their states, and open resistance from some of those potential electors that the plan could be illegal or even “appear treasonous.” In the end, it became the cornerstone of the indictment against Mr. Trump.

While another lawyer — John Eastman, described as Co-Conspirator 2 in the indictment — became a key figure who championed the plan and worked more directly with Mr. Trump on it, Mr. Chesebro was an architect of it. He was first enlisted by the Trump campaign in Wisconsin to help with a legal challenge to the results there.

The ‘fake electors’ and their role in the 2020 election, explained

Pro-Trump electors are central to several of the investigations into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss.

By Amber Phillips

August 1, 2023

Download The Washington Post app.


How to Ensure Accountability for the Legal Foot Soldiers of Jan. 6

Trump-tied attorney who helped craft fake electors strategy resists grand jury subpoena

Kenneth Chesebro said he had been instructed to maintain privileges with the Trump campaign, which employed him. It’s not entirely clear if that’s true.

While former President Donald Trump has had a number of formal and semi-formal lawyers working on his behalf at various times, it’s unclear if Kenneth Chesebro ever served in an official capacity. 



An attorney who helped develop former President Donald Trump’s last-ditch strategy to subvert the 2020 election moved Thursday to block a subpoena for his testimony to an Atlanta-area grand jury investigating potential crimes connected to the effort.

Kenneth Chesebro, who helped craft a plan to use false presidential electors to undermine the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, contended that he had an attorney-client relationship with the Trump campaign, which prevented him from appearing for an Aug. 30 interview.

In a nine-page filing in Fulton County Superior Court, Chesebro contended that the Trump campaign itself had “instructed” him to “maintain all applicable privileges and confidentiality.”

“Any testimony from Mr. Chesebro would necessarily relate to Mr. Chesebro’s representation of a former client — the Trump campaign,” he argued via his attorney, Scott Grubman.

While Trump has had a number of formal and semi-formal lawyers working on his behalf at various times, it’s unclear if Chesebro ever served in an official capacity. Two senior Trump campaign officials said they could neither recall nor remember his involvement, leaving unaddressed the idea that he had been advised by the campaign to assert privilege.

According to FEC filings, Chesebro has never received any payment from any of Trump’s political committees either during the 2020 election or in the years since.

Grubman declined to answer questions about Chesebro’s formal relationship with the campaign.

“Lawyers take on clients in many different circumstances,” he said in a statement. “What is consistent in all circumstances are the professional and ethical duties lawyers owe to those clients, primarily to represent them zealously and to always maintain their confidences.”

Similar questions about representation emerged during litigation between the Jan. 6 select committee and John Eastman, another architect of Trump’s post-2020 strategy to stay in power. When a judge pressed Eastman to prove his attorney-client relationship to Trump, he filed an unsigned retainer agreement that raised additional questions.

Chesebro is asking the judge overseeing the matter to call a hearing at which District Attorney Fani Willis, the lead investigator, would “be required to identify their planned areas of inquiry so that the parties can litigate this issue before Mr. Chesebro’s grand jury appearance.”

The grand jury subpoenaed Chesebro for his testimony on July 12, at the same time it also sought appearances from several other figures in Trump’s orbit during the chaotic post-2020 election period. Those figures include Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Cleta Mitchell and Eastman, who worked closely with Chesebro to develop the elector strategy.

The probe — one of several advancing investigations into Trump — has emerged as an acute threat to the former president, focusing on his efforts to pressure state election officials to “find” enough votes to put him ahead in Georgia. Giuliani testified to the grand jury earlier this month, but it’s unclear if he asserted any privileges during the closed door session. Giuliani was recently informed by Willis that he has become a target of her probe.

In fact, it was a memo drafted by Chesebro and sent to Giuliani, describing a day-to-day plan to attempt to disrupt the transition of power to Biden during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, that a federal judge in California ruled was evidence of a likely conspiracy between Eastman and Trump.

Chesebro revealed in the filing that he had waived any challenge to the subpoena in New York, where a judge ordered him on July 25 to appear before the grand jury. He contended that as a New York-based lawyer, he is also required to maintain a duty of “confidentiality” that extends beyond attorney-client privilege.

Meridith McGraw and Caitlin Oprysko contributed to this report.


Exclusive: Trump Lawyer Kenneth Chesebro Talks About His Role In The Runup To Jan. 6

By Josh Kovensky

June 16, 2022

The attorney who reportedly suggested that “‘wild’ chaos” would prompt Supreme Court justices to be more likely to intervene in the 2020 election has spoken exclusively with TPM about his representation of the Trump campaign during its efforts to overturn the election.

Kenneth Chesebro fielded extensive questions from TPM about his representation of the Trump campaign, about how he went from a liberal cause lawyer and protégé of Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe to a Trump attorney, and about his views on the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. 

On several of the key questions that have emerged about his legal work for Trump, Chesebro was lawyerly, careful, and tightlipped in his responses. He was more forthcoming about his own background, how he came to be involved with the Trump campaign, and the criticisms that have come his way since he emerged as an early proponent of some of the Trump campaign’s most controversial strategies to overturn the 2020 election.

What emerges from hours of sitdown interviews is a picture of a man who was deeply involved at a high level in coordinating the Trump campaign’s strategy to overturn the election, who regrets the violence at the Capitol as self-defeating, and who wishes that more attention had been paid to the issues he raised.

“There was good reason to argue that under Article II, that Biden had not legitimately won the electoral votes,” Chesebro told TPM. “I’m not saying that Trump deserved to win in each state, I’m saying it was legitimate to argue under Article II that there was a problem.”

Chesebro said that he abhorred the violence of January 6, that it was “primarily a human disaster,” and that “it was the worst possible thing that could have happened in terms of lawyers that had serious concerns about the election in several states, that were never really addressed on the merits.”

Despite how well known the events between Election Day and Jan. 6 have become, Chesebro has flown largely under the radar, emerging only this year in a pair of New York Times stories as an important figure in the Trump campaign’s efforts. He plays second fiddle in the coverage to Trump lawyer John Eastman, but they knew each other before 2020, had worked together on an earlier case, and would reunite in the aftermath of Election Day. It was Chesebro who appears to have first advocated for alternate slates of electors with an eye on Jan. 6 as the make-or-break date for Trump. 

While Eastman has become a national figure, Chesebro has remained in the shadows. Until now.   

From Tribe Disciple to Trump Lawyer

While a student at Harvard Law School, Chesebro received a prestigious position as a research assistant to liberal lion Larry Tribe. Chesebro worked in that role alongside future Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and a young Jeffrey Toobin, the prominent legal journalist.

I spotted the Tribe connection on Chesebro’s Linkedin profile a few weeks ago. When I reached out to Tribe to inquire about their relationship, Tribe said he had only learned this year that his former mentee had worked for Trump after reading a series of memos published in February by the New York Times.

“I was stunned to see that Ken Chesebro had wound up as part of Team Trump,” Tribe said in a phone interview earlier this month. 

Chesebro is the earliest known example of the Trump campaign considering Jan. 6 as a target for its post-election legal efforts on paper. According to another memo obtained by the Jan. 6 Committee, he laid out in detail what Vice President Mike Pence should do to subvert the election in messages to Rudy Giuliani and Trump legal advisor John Eastman.

According to a second Times story published Wednesday evening, Chesebro told Eastman that “the odds of action before Jan. 6 will become more favorable if the justices start to fear that there will be ‘wild’ chaos on Jan. 6 unless they rule by then, either way.”

The effort to appoint pro-Trump electors is now reportedly being examined by federal prosecutors. 

Chesebro declined to comment to TPM about whether he had been contacted by federal law enforcement in relation to his activities for the Trump campaign, and declined to comment on whether he complied with a subpoena he received from the Jan. 6 Committee in March. 

When asked what kinds of events attorneys could stoke in order to get the attention of the justices after being read the Times “chaos” quote, Chesebro waved off the question, saying that of course any lawyer is concerned about how a case will play in public and with judges. 

“Fortunately or unfortunately, it seems like election integrity is another area where politicians will get involved in the messaging. It’s unfortunate that this is such a focus of attention,” Chesebro said. “Hopefully there will be compromises over the next few years and people won’t have to worry about election integrity.”

When asked why he thought election integrity had become such a high-profile issue, Chesebro told TPM, “I don’t know enough about the field to comment.” 

Contesting the Election

Chesebro told TPM that his work for Trump began with a request from an old friend of his named Jim Troupis, who contacted him on Nov. 10, 2020: Could he help out on the campaign’s litigation in Wisconsin? Troupis, a former Wisconsin judge whose law firm was hired to draw the state’s radical post-2010 gerrymander, was repping Trump in the state.

Chesebro agreed to help with a lawsuit that sought an extraordinary remedy which has now become familiar: disqualifying hundreds of thousands of ballots in the state’s two most Democratic counties.

He sent Troupis a memo laying out the alternate elector scheme for the first time on Nov. 18, per the New York Times. That memo would set the course for the Trump campaign’s post-court approach, which intensified the following month. 

The campaign, Chesebro argued in his memo, did not have to fight for victory by the so-called “safe harbor” date, or by the date when the states certified their electors — Dec. 8, 2020. Jan. 6, 2021 was the real deadline for the Trump campaign, he suggested.

And to get there, the Trump campaign needed to make sure of one thing: that multiple slates of pro-Trump electors in states that the campaign baselessly claimed it had won would be sworn in.

Chesebro’s work for Trump shied away from some of the more outlandish claims that people in Trump’s orbit were latching on to, like Hugo Chavez manipulating the election results from beyond the grave. Instead, he focused on a more staid argument: that election measures taken to run the election in Wisconsin during COVID-19 invalidated Biden’s victory.

It drives at the same result as Sidney Powell and others with more high profile roles were seeking: the election was improperly run, and so Biden’s wins in key states were illegitimate. But it allowed Chesebro to try to bring the patina of elite law to a Trump campaign struggling to find attorneys who would work on its effort to overturn the election result. 

Chesebro’s involvement also brought him back in touch with Eastman, a conservative attorney from the right-wing Claremont Institute who Chesebro worked with on a 2016 Supreme Court amicus brief that described birthright citizenship as a “vestige of feudalism.” Chesebro emphasized to TPM that he had no contact with Eastman from the time of that 2016’s case’s resolution until 2020, when he began to represent Trump, and declined to comment on whether he communicated with Eastman while representing Trump. 

The Cheese

I first reached out to Chesebro earlier this month. We ended up speaking over the phone multiple times and meeting twice in Manhattan, where he recently bought a penthouse apartment. In a Starbucks, in Central Park and on a call as late as Thursday morning, he defended his work for the Trump campaign.

Chesebro would alternately decline to discuss the content of memos released by the New York Times and Jan. 6 Committee, citing legal privilege concerns, point towards general arguments around the principles of legal advocacy, or make broader cultural points about the importance of free and open debate. 

To that last point, Chesebro portrayed his decision to join the Trump campaign’s legal efforts in Wisconsin and then at the Supreme Court to me as partly a reaction to what he saw as something that sounds suspiciously like cancel culture. He was dismayed to see Democrats pressuring companies to drop law firms who agreed to work for the campaign’s post-election efforts. 

“Plaintiffs have difficulty getting the best lawyers to push back against top lawyers who work for corporations,” Chesebro told TPM, a point that he said was impressed on him while in law school by Charlie Nesson, the Harvard Law professor. “And, in a way, it was very similar in November 2020 — the Trump campaign had difficulty getting talent to go up against the Biden team.”

Chesebro has the lawyer’s trait of speaking not in phrases or sentences, but in fleshed out paragraphs —- coupled with a flat, focused intonation that drills at his interlocutor.

When I brought up a particularly controversial moment, or pointed out that many people regard arguments in favor of Trump’s efforts to stay in power as a fundamental breach of the will expressed by American voters in 2020, he took a few tacks: one was to cite somewhat similar arguments made by liberals, like a column by Van Jones and Larry Lessig in favor of submitting alternate elector slates in Pennsylvania in case the state took weeks to count. 

Chesebro is thorough to the point of obsession —- he followed up many arguments he made during interviews by sending me multiple legal briefs and court records from his archives. 

“To the extent that I or any other attorney involved in the 2020 presidential contest, on either side, has come under criticism for identifying possible strategic options that might come into play under various scenarios that could develop, it should be kept in mind that this is what lawyers do,” Chesebro wrote in a supplementary statement he provided to me. “It is the duty of any attorney to leave no stone unturned in examining the legal options that exist in a particular situation.”

It wasn’t only his apparently central importance to how the Trump campaign formulated some of the ideas that led  to Jan. 6 that interested me. It was also that he didn’t appear to fit the profile of a Trump lawyer. 

While Eastman has his Federalist Society and Claremont Institute credentials, Chesebro was a mentee of Tribe. He continued to work with Tribe on liberal cause litigation after graduation, throughout the 1990s. He lacks political experience, but brings many of the standard elite credentials that were missing from nearly all of the Trump 2020 legal team. 

“Ah, The Cheese,” Toobin told me with a chuckle, recalling a law school nickname for Chesebro, a Wisconsin native. 

“The people who worked for Larry were by and large ideologically sympatico with Larry, and his politics were well known,” Toobin remarked, saying he recalled running into Chesebro working in the Harvard Law school library in the years after graduation. “That’s why it’s so surprising to see Ken in this role. I just sort of assumed that he was some kind of a Democrat.” 

At a hearing in the Wisconsin case, the New York Times reported, one justice remarked that the lawsuit had focused on two counties — the “most nonwhite, urban” areas — while seeking to invalidate votes statewide. Another told Troupis that the case “smacks of racism.” 

Chesebro and the team of Trump attorneys ultimately lost that bid to block Biden’s win in the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Dec. 14 in a 4-3 ruling, the end of the line for Chesebro’s efforts to push the alternate elector scheme through the courts.

But another plan was already in place. Five days earlier, the New York Times reported, Chesebro had authored a memo for the Trump campaign laying out the steps that pro-Trump electors in each state that Biden had won would need to take in order to serve as potential alternates on Jan. 6. 

When Dec. 14 and Trump’s loss in the state came around, the electors were ready. Wisconsin’s Republican electors met and cast votes for Trump — per Chesebro’s memo, ready for the state to go back and transmit the Trump, and not Biden, electoral votes to Congress. 

“If you don’t know for sure the final result by December 14, it can be prudent to have multiple electors cast the ballot,” Chesebro told TPM.

“That kind of — as I would call it, Alice in Wonderland or off-the-wall theory shocked me because of its willingness to trash democracy, but not because of its weirdness,” Tribe told me. “Ken would come up with weird ideas from time to time, quite weird ideas, and seem to lack judgment about whether they were sound or not, and didn’t really care about whether they were legitimate.”  

Chesebro maintains that “material deviations from the state statutes’ ‘ in Wisconsin’s 2020 election cast the result into serious doubt. But by that point, courts around the country had thrown out similar arguments. Wisconsin wasn’t going to put Trump ahead. 

By that time, Tribe told me, “it was quite clear that claims Trump really had won the election were quite wild and not to be accepted by courts.” 

The Aftermath

Federal investigators are now reportedly examining the effort to install pro-Trump electors. The Jan. 6 Committee issued Chesebro a subpoena in March, and has obtained at least some of the memos and emails that he wrote for the campaign. 

The arguments were nothing if not creative. One, released in litigation involving Eastman, shows Chesebro telling Rudy Giuliani on Dec. 13 that Pence should recuse himself because he has a “conflict of interest” due to his being on a ticket whose defeat Trump had refused to concede. 

From there, he argued that the president of the Senate, acting in Pence’s place, should assert the right to make judgments about what to do in the case of “conflicting votes” as a way to gain “leverage” for further scrutiny of the election. 

I asked Chesebro about criticism around these moves — weren’t they going beyond the will of the voters? 

“If there is a non-frivolous argument concerning the meaning of the Electoral Count Act or its constitutionality, it’s legitimate to press that and let the courts decide,” Chesebro replied. “We have a system where the courts ultimately resolve these issues, and people can live with how the courts resolve them.”

Chesebro declined to comment on his contacts with Trump himself or members of his inner circle. He told TPM that he had never had any contact with Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who is under scrutiny for her activism to push the alternate elector scheme. 

Tribe and Chesebro are no longer close. Tribe said that the most recent substantial contact the two had had was Chesebro offering to get Tribe involved in Bitcoin investments in 2019. 

Before the Bitcoin suggestion, Tribe said, Chesebro had assisted him on Bush v. Gore in 2000. 

Tribe characterized Chesebro as something of a legal nihilist — someone with a penchant for helping “the little guy,” but who remained focused on the “gamesmanship” aspect of the law. 

“I doubt that he cared whether the arguments were sound or not as long as that goal could be met of helping Trump to win the election,” Tribe said. “That’s probably why I wasn’t too surprised to learn that he became very involved with Bitcoin.” 

Given a chance to respond to Tribe’s criticisms, Chesebro told me in a statement, “Lawyers have an ethical obligation to explore every possible argument that might benefit their clients. In my work for the Trump-Pence campaign, I fulfilled that ethical obligation.”

When I mentioned to Chesebro that Tribe had told me about his work on Bush v. Gore, Chesebro jumped on it. 

Chesebro provided TPM with a memo he wrote, dated November 2000, for Gore’s legal team, in which he argued that the Electoral Count Act had the potential to put Al Gore in a tricky position on Jan. 6, 2001: If Gore won the Supreme Court case and, as vice president, presided over the tallying of Florida’s electoral votes, certified by then-Gov. Jeb Bush (R), he would find himself “casting the deciding vote, to break a tie.” 

“This is the kind of wargaming that attorneys do,” Chesebro told TPM, suggesting that his work for the Trump campaign and for Gore sprung from the same well of zeal and curiosity. 

It was a surreal reflection, in Chesebro’s telling, of the Trump campaign’s position pre-Jan. 6, and one that conveniently overlooked the 537-vote margin that Bush won Florida by in 2000, compared to the seven states that Trump was contesting. 

“That’s on the face of it, bullshit,” Tribe told me. “Not to parse words too closely, all of that was well before — all of that was prior to the electoral vote. What Ken is doing in the current situation is trying to unsettle the electoral vote counting process.”

I asked Chesebro what he made of arguments that letting a debate about unsound ideas go on in Congress legitimized them. 

“I understand the concern,” he replied. “But as a lawyer I have to think, the more debate the better, and that usually the side with the better argument will end up winning, at least over the long term.”

Did the side with the better argument win in 2020?

“Not in Wisconsin.”

Josh Kovensky is an investigative reporter for Talking Points Memo, based in New York. He previously worked for the Kyiv Post in Ukraine, covering politics, business, and corruption there.


“Democracy is based upon the conviction there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.”

— Harry Emerson Fosdick