Yesterday, Bennie Thompson (D-MS) announced that a week from today, Sept 28, the J-6 Committee has scheduled another televised hearing (1 pm, ET), possibly the last in the series. Thompson didn’t announce the theme or the witnesses, just the date and time. Meanwhile, NBC reported this morning that dozens of the coup plotters— phony electors— are still in top Republican Party jobs around the country, instead of in prison.
Some of them have been forced to testify behind closed doors to the J-6 committee and Natasha Korecki and Kaitlyn Francis reported that “The FBI has visited many of their homes delivering grand jury subpoenas and, in at least one case, seizing a cellphone… [but] Law enforcement activity has not pushed these false electors from their political perches. Instead, with just two months until the midterms, more than two dozen of the individuals who served as phony electors still hold some of the highest-ranking political posts in their state parties. They’re also interwoven into the GOP infrastructure across seven battleground states that will determine the balance of Congress in November and the next presidential race two years later.”
The Trump effort, which even his own White House counsel said was not “legally sound,” according to Jan. 6 committee testimony, was ultimately unsuccessful. But the committee has presented testimony that members of Trump’s team plotted the scenario in advance of what ultimately led to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. A Trump spokesman declined to comment.
Now, at least four false electors are running for public office and have already won their Republican primaries this year, including for lieutenant governor in Georgia. Two others are serving as paid campaign staffers for major Republicans like Arizona U.S. Senate nominee Blake Masters and Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. In Nevada, one fake elector is the chief election official of his county, while another in Wisconsin, Bob Spindell, serves on the state’s elections commission, a panel that makes critical decisions around election fraud. After the elector scheme came into fuller view last year, the Wisconsin state senate’s majority leader reappointed Spindell to a five-year term, calling him a “fighter” when “election integrity is on the line.”
Three of those who submitted their names on a slate of false electors are the chairs of their respective state Republican parties. Michael McDonald, Nevada’s GOP chair and a staunch Trump supporter, had his cellphone seized by the FBI in June, a source familiar with the investigation confirmed to NBC News. Arizona’s Republican chair, Kelli Ward, and her husband have been served with grand jury subpoenas and are fighting the panel’s request for her phone records. And Georgia GOP Chair David Shafer was subpoenaed by the Department of Justice.
False electors remain in influential posts and retain their political bully pulpits, which could be used to continue perpetuating theories of false election results and encouraging attempts to upend the next round of elections, said Sarah Longwell, a longtime Republican and executive director of the Republican Accountability Project, a group that opposes Trump.
Longwell argued the false electors are an extension of what’s become a litmus test in the Republican Party: election denialism.
“When it’s tolerated by the entire party, and in fact, the vast majority of the party is pushing the same lie, it creates an environment in which accountability is very difficult,” Longwell said. “The only way for anybody to end the collective illusion is for Republicans to say, ‘This is nonsense.’ We basically need 20 other Liz Cheneys in the Republican Party.”
…All told, 23 of those false electors hold positions of power within their Republican parties. Beyond that, at least two fake electors hold leadership posts in their state legislatures and three are currently running for state legislative seats. Then there are additional actors that didn’t serve in the slate of false electors themselves but were instrumental in the scheme. In the case of 2020 election denier Doug Mastriano, he is now the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania. Mastriano was reportedly Trump’s point person on the fake elector scheme in Pennsylvania and was also outside the Capitol on Jan. 6.
…“It’s really distressing that many of them are still heavily involved,” said Jeff Mandell, who is the lead attorney in a Wisconsin civil case challenging the actions of electors, in what he called the first lawsuit of its kind. “These people violated the most fundamental idea of how our democracy works, and there shouldn’t be a place for them at this point in our political life and the public square.”
That lawsuit targets Wisconsin’s 10 false electors, saying they signed false documents asserting they were the duly elected electors in their state even though legal remedies to overturning the state’s election outcome had been exhausted. The lawsuit describes the electors as the necessary agents in a scheme to steal the 2020 election, culminating with a violent mob storming the Capitol.
“Once these fraudulent votes were cast, Trump and his allies would pressure Pence to count them on January 6, 2021, and to reject the votes of the duly elected presidential electors from each State,” the lawsuit contends. “The schemers believed that, if Pence were to count the fraudulent electoral votes from each swing state rather than the votes duly cast by the elected presidential electors, Trump would win the Electoral College and be inaugurated.”
…Perhaps the most notable fake elector in Georgia is Gov. Brian Kemp’s running mate— state Sen. Burt Jones, who is the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. Others hold positions of power within the state GOP, including Shafer, who is chair; Joseph Brannan, state GOP treasurer; Vikki Consiglio, the state party’s assistant treasurer; and Ken Carroll, the assistant secretary.
Nine of the fake electors in Michigan currently work for the state Republican Party. One of those electors, Michele Lundgren, told the Detroit Free Press in June that she had been subpoenaed and met with members of the FBI and the Justice Department.
Last night, Ryan Reilly and Zoë Richards reported that 5 members (“Groypers” Joseph Brody, Gabriel Chase, Paul Lovley, Thomas Carey and Jon Lizak) of an American fascist group, America First, have been arrested because off their roles in the J-6 insurrection. 23 year old Brody (circled in red) of Springfield, Virginia, “faces felony charges of assaulting, resisting or impeding law enforcement officers, causing bodily injury, interfering with a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding.”
More than 850 people have been arrested in connection with the Capitol attack, and more than 350 have been convicted.
Last week, a Jan. 6 rioter who wore a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt inside the Capitol was sentenced to 75 days in prison, while another supporter of Trump admitted dragging an officer down the stairs of the Capitol and telling other officers they were "gonna die tonight." Three other defendants were convicted of felony charges.
Hundreds more could face charges but haven’t yet been arrested.
Hopefully they’ll all be losing their right to vote and their right to run for office. But since they’re white… who knows! And with a possibility that the voters are going to hand control of Congress back to the Republicans, the entire thing could very well be swept under the rug. The new YouGov poll asked registered voters if they think people who participated in the insurrection should be barred from holding public office. 55% said yes and 32% no. As you would guess, among Republicans, that's reversed. Only 28% of Republicans think insurrections should be barred from office; 55% say they should not be. In the next post, I plan to take a look at some of the dynamics that will come into play if the GOP wins the midterms.