Emails: Wisconsin prioritized by Donald Trump attorneys in effort to overturn 2020 election | Local Government

The attorney at the center of former President Donald Trump’s scheme to overturn the 2020 election discussed bringing a Wisconsin lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court as part of the plan, recently disclosed emails show.

Regarding the likelihood of the U.S. Supreme Court hearing 2020 election challenges, attorney John Eastman reportedly told Wisconsin-affiliated attorney Kenneth Chesebro on Dec. 24, 2020, “the odds are not based on the legal merits but an assessment of the justices’ spines, and I understand that there is a heated fight underway,” according to emails shared with The New York Times.

“For those willing to do their duty, we should help them by giving them a Wisconsin cert petition to add into the mix,” Eastman added, referencing making a request for the nation’s highest court to hear a Wisconsin case as the two sought to pave Trump’s way to serving a second term.

Chesebro — a pro-Trump lawyer who’s a defendant in a lawsuit for advising Republicans who posed in several states including Wisconsin as fake Trump electors — reportedly responded saying 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.”

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Chesebro did not respond to a request for comment.

Five days after Eastman’s email, Chesebro and two other Wisconsin attorneys asked the nation’s highest court to allow the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to decide the election because, they argued, Wisconsin officials wrongfully counted “at least 50,125 absentee ballots in heavily Democrat areas … more than enough to have affected the outcome of the presidential election in Wisconsin.”


Trump lawyer advised lawmaker ahead of failed resolution to 'reclaim' Wisconsin's electoral votes

That was after the Wisconsin Supreme Court turned down their election challenge, Trump v. Biden, just over a week before Eastman’s email was sent.

But that last-ditch request Chesebro made along with Trump attorneys James Troupis and R. George Burnett failed when the U.S. Supreme Court denied the request on Feb. 22, 2021. That was over a month after then-Vice President Mike Pence certified the results of the 2020 election despite pressure from Trump to do otherwise.

On Dec. 30, 2020, six days after Eastman’s first email, Trump lawyers based in Indiana asked for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a separate case, Trump v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, also alleging the counting of “tens of thousands of invalid absentee ballots” in Wisconsin. That petition was denied March 8, 2021.

“They knew from the beginning that this was all about state law, and it was all about state courts, and they only start talking about the U.S. Supreme Court after it’s clear that they lost in the state courts,” said Jeffrey Mandell, an attorney with the liberal law firm Law Forward, about the viability of the U.S. Supreme Court petitions.

“This really was not a good-faith belief that they have strong legal claims, but that this was about creating confusion about trying to subvert the outcome of an election, because this was really political,” Mandell said.


Trump's Wisconsin attorney notified of fake electors strategy weeks after 2020 election

But by the time Trump attorneys were hoping for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their cases, Mandell said, the Trump team was “at the, ‘let’s throw anything we can at the wall and see if anything sticks’ kind of phase. And so, while my guess is that their primary thinking was about the Trump v. Biden case, I’m sure that they were more than happy to use the other case as well.”

Eastman asked then-Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to be put on “the pardon list” after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, a member of the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the efforts to overturn the election revealed Thursday. Chesebro is now a defendant in a Wisconsin lawsuit for advising 10 people who signed paperwork attempting to hand Wisconsin’s Electoral College votes to Trump.

Ryan called for orderly transition

In addition, testimony provided by Marc Short, who served as Pence’s chief of staff, unveiled on Thursday by the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, reveals former House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Janesville Republican, told Short and Pence that Pence did not have the authority to block Joe Biden’s certification.

Speaking in a closed-door meeting with the committee, Short said he received a call from Ryan notifying him that Pence did not have the power to halt Biden’s certification.

“Speaker Ryan wanted to call and say you know, you don’t have any greater authority and I said to him, ‘Mr. Speaker, you know, Mike … you know he recognizes that,’” Short said in a closed-door testimony that aired Thursday. “And we sort of laughed about it and he said, ‘I get it.’ And he later spoke to the vice president to, I think, have the same conversation,” Short said.


Lawsuit filed against Wisconsin Republicans who posed as electors for Donald Trump

Wisconsin lawsuit

A handful of Democrats, including two official presidential electors, filed a lawsuit last month against the 10 Republicans who signed paperwork attempting to hand Wisconsin’s Electoral College votes to Trump, alleging that, by doing so, the individuals played a role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys with liberal law firm Law Forward in Dane County Circuit Court, alleges that the 10 Republicans and the two attorneys who advised them broke several criminal and civil laws when they met at the state Capitol on Dec. 14, 2020, to sign official-looking documents asserting that Trump won the state.

The lawsuit seeks more than $2.4 million in damages, including $2,000 fines for the Republicans and their attorneys, and up to $200,000 in punitive damages for each plaintiff. Plaintiffs in the case include lawfully elected Wisconsin electors Khary Penebaker and Mary Arnold, as well as Bonnie Joseph, who is listed in court documents as someone who “objects to Defendants’ unlawful interference in Wisconsin’s participation in the Electoral College.”

The lawsuit follows a March decision by the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission to unanimously deny a complaint filed by Mandell that sought sanctions against the 10 Republicans, including Republican commissioner Robert Spindell, who signed the official-looking documents. The lawsuit also lists Chesebro and Troupis, a former Republican-appointed Dane County judge.

The meeting of Republicans occurred following advice from attorneys with close ties to Trump. Documents have underscored efforts by those in Trump’s inner circle to circumvent the Electoral College process in several states, including Wisconsin, following the 2020 election, despite recounts and court decisions affirming that Biden defeated Trump in the battleground state by almost 21,000 votes.

The Republicans have said the meeting was to preserve their legal options amid litigation surrounding the election. Chesebro sent a memo to Troupis on Nov. 18, 2020, detailing the Republicans’ eventual plan to pose as electors.


Donald Trump appeals Wisconsin election loss to U.S. Supreme Court

The meeting took place on the same day that the Democratic slate of Wisconsin electors convened in the Capitol to deliver the state’s 10 electoral votes to Biden. It also occurred after the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Biden had won the election and a month after Wisconsin county clerks canvassed the presidential election results.

Other complaints

Law Forward also filed a complaint with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office and another with the Office of Lawyer Regulation — the agency that handles complaints against lawyers in Wisconsin — against former state GOP chair Andrew Hitt, who also signed the paperwork. The U.S. Department of Justice is also looking into the matter.

Hitt and fellow signer and 8th Congressional District GOP chair Kelly Ruh were subpoenaed earlier this year by the U.S. House committee. The committee subpoenaed individuals in six other states where similar documents were signed.

The committee is examining whether Republicans were trying to present Pence with conflicting slates of electors so that he could have thrown the election to a House vote that would have handed the election to Trump, something Pence refused to do.


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