The documents contain the signatures of Trump supporters who claimed to be the rightful electors from seven states that President Joe Biden won. But these rogue slates of electors didn’t have the backing of any elected officials in the seven states — like a governor or secretary of state, who are involved in certifying election results — and they served no legitimate purpose.
The documents were first posted online in March by the government watchdog group. But they received renewed attention this week, as the January 6 committee ramps up its investigation into Trump’s attempted coup, including how his allies tried to stop states from certifying Biden’s victory, in part, by installing friendly slates of electors who would overturn the will of the voters.
Rogue slates of electors
As part of the Electoral College process, governors are required to sign a formal “certificate of ascertainment,” verifying that the statewide winner’s slate of electors are the legitimate electors. These electors then sign a second certificate, formally affirming their votes for president.
These documents are sent to the National Archives in Washington, DC, which processes them before they are sent onto Congress, which formally counts the electoral votes on January 6.
Some of the fake certificates with pro-Trump electors were sent to the National Archives by top officials representing the Republican Party in each state, according to the documents.
Installing slates of “alternate electors” was an integral part of the ill-fated plan conceived by Trump allies to usurp power on January 6 by pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to throw out the pro-Biden electors that had been chosen by voters. The idea was promoted by Trump advisers inside and outside the White House, including controversial right-wing lawyer John Eastman.
In truth, no state actually had two slates of competing electors. The pro-Trump electors were merely claiming without any authority to be electors, as documented in the fake certificates sent to the National Archives. The certificates were essentially an elaborate public relations stunt.
“They used this fake seal to make it look official, which is not a legal activity,” Hobbs said.
Key focus for January 6 panel
The fake certificates and accompanying emails that were also obtained by American Oversight were sent in mid-December 2020, while Team Trump was aggressively pushing false claims about widespread voter fraud in an effort to overturn the election. Weeks later, pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol in a violent bid to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.
Their pressure campaign against election officials in many of these battleground states is now a key area of focus for the House select committee that is investigating the January 6 attack.
An entire team of investigators, known as the “gold team,” is dedicated to unpacking that pressure campaign. The panel has spoken to numerous election officials from states where Trump falsely claimed there was evidence of fraud, and in some cases traveled to those states.
All of the testimony and information the committee has gathered from these election officials about the pressure campaign will materialize in its first set of hearings, potentially in primetime hours, which is set to debunk the “Big Lie” that the election was stolen. Some of the state election officials that the committee has interviewed in private could even appear as witnesses.
Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the Democratic chairman of the committee, told CNN ,”We’ve gone to Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania. We have reviewed 60-odd lawsuits that had been filed in federal various courts, and obviously dismissed. We’ve talked to people who conducted elections in areas where people say those elections are fraudulent.”
In addition to Benson, the committee has also interviewed Chris Thomas, a former longtime Michigan director of elections who was brought in during the 2020 election to oversee absentee ballot processing at the TCF Center in Detroit.
“I think it’s important that in our body of work, we try to make sure we cannot say what beyond a shadow of a doubt that elections will honest, conducted fairly, and the elections being certified was the right thing to do,” Thompson said.