Arizona's Trump supporters refuse to detail creation of an alternate slate of electors

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  • Donald Trump
    Donald Trump
    45th President of the United States

One said he felt justified declaring himself an elector and attempting to throw Arizona’s votes to former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election because of the unprecedented questions surrounding how ballots were cast and counted.

Another said she thought that signing the documents empowering herself to cast Arizona’s Electoral College votes for Trump was merely a backup plan.

A third said he was fulfilling his duty as an elector.

But none would detail exactly how they and the other official Trump electors came to sign a document that was sent to Congress with a false avowal that they constituted Arizona’s official vote in the Electoral College.

That document, and recent revelations from the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, raise new questions about how the group was organized and how the false document came to exist.

Interviews and text messages previously obtained by The Arizona Republic have detailed how White House officials and Trump campaign officials extensively pressured Republican leaders in Arizona to take other steps to dismiss the results of the general election after Joe Biden's win.

A Republic report in December documented how Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani repeatedly spoke with Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and asked him, in vain, to replace the state's electors — the people who were bound to certify Biden's win.

For subscribers: White House phone calls, baseless fraud charges: Origins of Arizona's partisan election review

But new questions emerged this week about whether efforts in various states, including Arizona, to create slates of fraudulent electors were similarly coordinated.

On Dec. 14, 2020, a group of prominent Republicans, including the party's chair, Kelli Ward, former lawmaker Anthony Kern and incoming legislator Jake Hoffman signed a document declaring themselves the state's electors, in favor of Trump.

All 11 people were listed on the general election ballot as the would-be electors for Trump.

But Trump had lost Arizona. Gov. Doug Ducey had certified the election results in late November. By state statute, the only electors who mattered were those pledged to cast their votes for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, as they did Dec. 14, 2020, at noon.

The document the Republicans signed, obtained from the National Archives last year by the group American Oversight, overlooked that detail.

It described the “undersigned” as the “duly elected and qualified Electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America from the State of Arizona …”

The vote was sent to Congress, the state Republican Party said at the time. It was accompanied by a letter, signed by 22 Republican state lawmakers, that asked the Trump slate be accepted as the official votes — or, in the alternative, that no votes be accepted until the completion of a forensic audit.

A news release from the Arizona Republican Party on the day of the signing said the Trump electors met to "cast their votes and send them to Congress where they are to be opened and counted beginning on January 6."

In a video posted to the Arizona Republican Party’s YouTube page on Dec. 15, 2020, Ward, the party chair, told viewers that the “true electors for the presidency” had met the previous day to cast their votes.

“We believe that we are the electors for the legally cast votes here in Arizona," she said.

Other documents similarly listing would-be Trump electors were filed with the federal government by groups from other states at the same time.

A congressional resolution last month holding former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt for failing to cooperate with the committee included texts and emails showing Meadows encouraged lawmakers in certain states “to send alternate slates of electors to Congress.”

One member of Congress, according to the report, described the plan as “highly controversial.” Meadows responded, the report said, with a message that said: “I love it,” and later, "Have a team on it."

Opposed: Arizona's Andy Biggs rejects contempt charge vs. Trump's chief of staff

On "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC on Wednesday, the host highlighted that portion of the congressional report about Meadows.

Congressional investigators have already interviewed Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, and Politico reported this week that the committee was scrutinizing how certain states had submitted unsanctioned slates of electors.

False electors' answers

One of the signees to the document proclaiming an alternate slate of electors was Tyler Bowyer, chief operating officer of Turning Point USA, a group that aims to energize Trump support among younger voters.

For subscribers: How Turning Point's conservative gathering in Phoenix seeks to shift politics to the right

He said during a brief phone interview on Thursday that he was in his right to sign the document.

“I was an elector,” he said. “I want to make sure we’re clear here. I was an elector for the Republican Party.”

Another would-be Trump elector, Rep. Hoffman, a Republican from Queen Creek, on Wednesday said that he felt empowered to declare himself an elector because of what he saw as the singularly unique questions about the 2020 elections.

State Rep. Jake Hoffman speaks during a breakout session focusing on Arizona elections during the second day of AmericaFest 2021 hosted by Turning Point USA on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, in Phoenix.
State Rep. Jake Hoffman speaks during a breakout session focusing on Arizona elections during the second day of AmericaFest 2021 hosted by Turning Point USA on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, in Phoenix.

“In unprecedented times, unprecedented actions occur,” he said.

Hoffman said that the election was being litigated at the time the electors met at Arizona Republican Party headquarters. He said there was no case law or rules about what would happen if the result remained in doubt.

“Which is why we felt it appropriate to provide Congress and the vice president with dueling options,” Hoffman said.

However, Hoffman would not say how the plan came together or whether the electors received advice on how to word the document. He also would not say who told him where to be on Dec. 14 to cast the alternate elector vote.

Video footage of The Republic’s interview with Hoffman, captured by KPNX-TV, Channel 12, was replayed across cable TV news Wednesday and Thursday.

Similar documents in other states

The documents submitted to Congress by five states had similar formats, wording and fonts.

Two states, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, inserted conditional language about the standing of the electors. New Mexico’s declaration said that “it might be determined” that the Trump electors were the true electors. Pennsylvania’s document said that the Trump electors would only be official following a “final non-appealable” court order.

Arizona’s document contained no such wiggle room.

Loraine Pellegrino, another Trump elector, said that she understood the paperwork to be only a backup plan should the election be called into question.

“That was in case there was a change in the decision here in the state,” Pellegrino said. “Things were up in the air for a while.”

Pellegrino, who has been a state delegate at the past three national Republican conventions, rejected the idea of calling what she and her fellow electors did as creating an alternate slate of electors. She said they were “just electors,” nothing more.

Pellegrino said the electors were simply doing what they had expected to do after a Trump victory. In her mind, she said, only the venue changed. Rather than a ceremony at the state Capitol, it was a quieter affair at the headquarters of the Arizona Republican Party.

“We signed exactly the paperwork we would have signed had we been at the Capitol,” she said.

Pellegrino said she scrutinized the document closely before signing it. She said she didn’t understand why there was a question about why she would sign a document avowing her position as an official elector.

“We were electors for Trump and we were hoping things would change,” she said “Just in case, we signed our paperwork to be ready in the event that something was overturned.”

Among the other Trump electors who signed the document were:

  • Kern, a former state lawmaker who lost his seat in the 2020 election. Kern was spotted at the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. He also briefly was among the volunteers counting ballots in the Arizona Senate-ordered review of the ballots cast in Maricopa County.

  • Jim Lamon, a businessman and current candidate for U.S. Senate.

  • Kelli Ward, the chair of the Arizona Republican Party.

The other electors who signed were Robert Montgomery, the head of the Cochise County Republican Party, Nancy Cottle, Sam Moorhead, Greg Safsten and Mike Ward, husband of Kelli Ward.

On Dec. 14, the day both the actual and alternate slates of electors met, Stephen Miller, a Trump adviser, said on Fox News Network that he knew that alternate slates of electors were casting votes in certain states.

“As we speak, today, an alternate slate of electors in the contested states is going to vote and we are going to send those results up to Congress,” Miller said.

Miller said that the administration would ensure that the alternate slates would be “sent up side-by-side to Congress.”

Another group of 11 Republicans, saying they were representing the “sovereign citizens of the Great State of Arizona” also met in December to appoint themselves electors and cast votes for Trump. It also sent its notarized documents to the National Archives.

But, in response to a Republic story about that effort, the Arizona Republican Party decried that group of alternate electors as frauds. The party posted a picture of its 11 alternate electors on Twitter calling it “the only slate of 11 you need to worry about — ignore the ‘others.’”

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Rep. Jake Hoffman, other Arizona Trump electors draw renewed scrutiny

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