A Nevada grand jury has charged six Republicans who claimed to be presidential electors in 2020 and submitted certificates to Congress falsely asserting that former president Donald Trump had won the election in their state.
Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford (D) launched an investigation this fall, making his the third state after Georgia and Michigan to seek charges against the pro-Trump activists who met and cast ballots for the then-president on Dec. 14, 2020, despite Joe Biden’s victory.
“When the efforts to undermine faith in our democracy began after the 2020 election, I made it clear that I would do everything in my power to defend the institutions of our nation and our state,” Ford said in a statement Wednesday. “We cannot allow attacks on democracy to go unchallenged. Today’s indictments are the product of a long and thorough investigation, and as we pursue this prosecution, I am confident that our judicial system will see justice done.”
In all, Trump electors met in seven states that Biden had won that year, with investigations into electors also underway in Arizona and New Mexico. The electors sent official-looking, signed documents to the Senate and National Archives, and Trump’s allies used them to try to prevent the certification of the election on Jan. 6, 2021, before and after Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol that day.
So far, the Nevada grand jury, as in Michigan, has limited its charges to the electors themselves, although it’s unknown if additional charges are possible. The indictments, which the grand jury foreperson and Ford signed on Tuesday, were filed on Wednesday with the clerk of the court in Clark County, home of Las Vegas, where the case will proceed.
That contrasts with Georgia, where Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) alleged in August that the Dec. 14, 2020, gathering in Atlanta of 16 pro-Trump presidential electors was part of a vast conspiracy to unlawfully overturn the 2020 election result.
In addition to the electors, the Georgia indictment charges several lawyers with helping to plan the meeting of the electors. And it accuses Trump himself of leading the conspiracy, one of four criminal cases in which the former president is a defendant.
The Nevada probe is also on a separate track from a broader election-interference investigation into Trump and his allies conducted by special counsel Jack Smith for the U.S. Justice Department, in which only Trump has been indicted so far. In June, Smith provided limited immunity to two Nevada Republican electors, Michael J. McDonald and Jim DeGraffenreid, according to CNN. Both McDonald and DeGraffenreid were indicted in Nevada, along with Jesse Law, Durward James Hindle III, Shawn Meehan and Eileen Rice.
None of the six defendants immediately responded to requests for comment.
The indictments had been widely anticipated this month because the statute of limitations for levying certain charges was due to expire on Dec. 14 — three years to the day since electors met in every state capital in the country to cast their ballots for the candidate who won their respective states. The felony charges facing each elector are offering a false instrument for filing, a Category C felony, and uttering a forged instrument, a Category D felony. The first carries a penalty of one to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The penalty for the second is one to four years and a fine of up to $5,000.
Ford’s office said in a press release that the charges stem from the false electors’ actions in December 2020, when they submitted a “false instrument” titled “Certificate of the Votes of the 2020 Electors from Nevada” to the president of the U.S. Senate; the archivist of the United States; the Nevada secretary of state; and the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.
Only three of the 16 Georgia electors were charged in the case brought in Fulton County. A key element of their defense, which their lawyers have argued several times in court, is that federal law — as well as the U.S. Constitution — expressly allows states to send more than one slate of electors in the event of a contested election. When they convened, voted and signed electoral certificates that were then sent to Washington, they were acting within the law to preserve Trump’s legal remedies while a lawsuit contesting the Georgia election made its way through court, their lawyers said.
There was no such pending litigation in Michigan — nor in Nevada, where the state Supreme Court rejected a Trump appeal on Dec. 9, 2020.
A separate probe of the elector strategy by Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) also remains focused on Republicans within the state who helped carry out the plan, according to people familiar with the probe. Her investigative team is scheduled to meet on Monday in Arizona with former Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro, according to a person familiar with the scheduled conversation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the planned conversation. Prosecutors hope the conversation could lead to his testimony, should Mayes seek criminal charges.
Chesebro, who pleaded guilty in the Georgia case to a single felony count of participating in a conspiracy to file false documents, had been charged primarily in relation to his 2020 role in organizing the slates of pro-Trump state electors. As part of his pleading, Chesebro avoided prison time but must testify in that case. Apart from those proceedings, prosecutors in Nevada and Arizona approached Chesebro in the hope that he could help advance their criminal inquiries. Chesebro traveled to Nevada last week, when the grand jury was examining the case.
Chesebro is listed as a witness in the Nevada indictments, along with officials with the National Archives, the Nevada secretary of state, the Nevada attorney general’s office and the U.S. Postal Service.
Earlier on Wednesday, 10 pro-Trump electors in Wisconsin settled a lawsuit brought by two rightful electors, agreeing to withdraw their inaccurate filings, acknowledge Biden won the presidency, and not serve as presidential electors in 2024 or in any election where Trump is on the ballot. It marked the first time pro-Trump electors agreed to revoke their false filings and not repeat their actions in the next presidential election.
Ford planned to hold a news conference on the indictments on Thursday.