What the GOP Meant When It Called Jan. 6 “Legitimate Political Speech”

Here’s a look at how fake voters figured into Trump’s effort and why the National Republican Party’s claim that they were engaging in “legitimate political speech” is more telling than it first appears. departure.

Who are the GOP’s “false voters”?

Ahead of each November presidential election, the two parties spend the spring and summer naming voter rolls in all 50 states and D.C. The winner of each state’s popular vote on Election Day determines which voters will meet later to officially choose the president, as required by the Constitution.

In 2020, GOP voters were a hodgepodge of state and local party leaders, prominent activists, state lawmakers and close allies of Donald Trump. The party paid more attention than ever to its constituents after a chaotic 2016, when anti-Trump activists filled many often overlooked positions.

One Michigan Republican voter in particular, Kathy Berden, is at the forefront of the RNC’s attempt to define “legitimate political speech” after it became a national controversy. McDaniel referenced the case of Berden – the latter woman was subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 select committee for her role as a false voter for Trump – in explaining the rationale for choosing the “legitimate” wording in the party resolution. .

Berden, a longtime McDaniel ally and member of the RNC, served as a “substitute voter … with clear legal precedent,” the party chairman said in an op-ed last week amid censorship fury Cheney- Kinzinger was bursting. “Now she could face expensive legal fees even though she was nowhere near the Capitol on January 6 and had nothing to do with the violence that occurred.”

On December 14, 2020, Berden oversaw a meeting of illegitimate Trump voters in Michigan despite his certification for Biden the previous month. She also signed documents certifying that Trump had won the state that were turned over to Congress, the National Archives and a federal judge.

McDaniel confessed, according to The Washington Post, that the recently widowed Berden is the victim of an overzealous investigation by a select committee targeting “ordinary citizens” who were doing what the Trump campaign demanded.

Several other RNC members were also subpoenaed by the select committee to lead meetings of Trump voters who claimed to represent states Biden won, including Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald, Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer and Nevada RNC committee member Jim DeGraffenreid.

Another RNC member who signed fake voter certificates is Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward, whose phone records were searched by the Jan. 6 committee, although she was not directly summoned to appear.

Asked to comment, an RNC spokesperson highlighted McDaniel’s public comments on the episode, including last week’s editorial.

What did the fake voters do?

Federal law known as the Voter Count Act requires lawful voters to meet on the “first Monday after the second Wednesday in December” in each state’s capitol, as well as in D.C. This date, in 2020, was Dec. 14 — the same day Trump’s losing GOP electoral slates also rallied in five Biden-winning states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin.

Illegitimate voters acted as if Trump had been victorious in their states, signing certificates claiming to be “duly elected and qualified” to represent their home regions.

This, they noted at the time, had precedent. In 1960, Hawaii Democrats made a similar decision in a close race between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Nixon had been certified as the state’s winner, but amid an ongoing recount, his three Democratic voters met and signed certificates that went to Washington. The recount later confirmed them.

Today, Republican leaders are relying on Hawaii precedent to say their actions in 2020 were reasonable.

The largest plot

Unlike in 1960, Trump voters tried to overturn races that weren’t particularly close by modern standards. Biden was ahead of Trump by tens of thousands of votes in each of the contested states, and the legal system had rejected almost every attempt by the defeated president and his allies to reverse the result.

But Trump still needed his allies to cast their fake election votes for a different reason: They preserved his last attempt to void the Jan. 6, 2021, election. That’s the day Congress met and counted. electoral votes submitted by states, as required by law.

The law also requires that when states submit multiple voter lists, Congress chooses which ones to count, if any. In Trump’s view, a position rejected by most historians and legal scholars, Vice President Mike Pence (who chaired the count) had the authority to refuse to count Biden voters in disputed states. Part of this justification rested on the existence of fake voters lists, including Berden’s.

John Eastman, a lawyer advising Trump on this strategy, laid it out in a two-page memo that specifically cited the existence of “multiple voter lists.”

This scenario depended on creating a false conflict for Pence, who as president could have attempted to recognize illegitimate voters. Pence, of course, decided to ignore this effort and only recognize legitimate Biden voters as approved by a state government authority.

In the year since Pence’s move, the Trump campaign’s outsized role in crafting the legal strategy behind the bogus voter scheme has become clearer to the select committee. State parties at the time cited the Trump campaign as the source of the decision to hold illegitimate voter meetings in states Biden won.

And Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has publicly pressed state legislatures to certify bogus voter rolls to give them more legal weight.

Electoral college dropouts

When Trump voters convened on Dec. 14, 2020, 15 of the GOP’s top voter picks were absent from the proceedings. This forced those who remained to appoint replacements.

Among the absent Trump voters: Terri Lynn Land, the former Michigan secretary of state; former Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino; and John Isakson, son of the late Georgia senator.

POLITICO reached out to a dozen dropouts at the time to ask why they hadn’t participated in the Trump-backed effort. Marin declined to comment. Another, Patrick Gartland of Georgia, said his absence was the result of a personal matter as well as a recent appointment to a local election board that presented a conflict of interest. The others did not respond to requests for comment on why they declined to support Trump’s plan.

Marino’s replacement, GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Gerow, said it was his idea — devised with several other attorneys involved in the process — to include Pennsylvania’s caveat that voters of Trump would only be counted if the courts ruled in their favor.

“We used the contingent language, quite bluntly, because me and several other people in the room who were lawyers insisted on it,” Gerow said.

About Timothy Ball

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