Nevada attorney general is investigating false electors who aided Trump in 2020

Nevada State GOP Chairman Michael McDonald at the Nevada Republican Party Convention in Las Vegas on June 23, 2018.
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The attorney general of Nevada is quietly investigating Republican activists and operatives who falsely pledged the state’s six electoral votes to Donald Trump in 2020, despite Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

In recent weeks, investigators have questioned witnesses about the attempts of the so-called alternate electors to present themselves as viable representatives of the states’ voters, according to three people familiar with the probe. Investigators have also asked about documents those people prepared as part of the effort.

The probe, which until now has not been publicly reported, is the latest sign of potential legal jeopardy for the Republicans who, amid Trump’s bid to cling to power, posed as electors in states that Biden won. False electors in Georgia and Michigan are already facing criminal charges, and an investigation is underway in Arizona.

In Nevada, six Republicans, including state GOP chair Michael McDonald, signed fake certificates on Dec. 14, 2020, falsely declaring themselves to be the state’s duly appointed Electoral College representatives. Trump and his allies then invoked that slate of false electors, as well as similar slates in six other states, as they tried to block Congress’ certification of the election results on Jan. 6, 2021.

Joe Gloria, who was Clark County registrar of voters when Trump’s allies in Nevada tried to reverse the election, told POLITICO that a state investigator asked him questions earlier this month about the fake elector scheme. Another person who was questioned and who was granted anonymity to discuss the sensitive probe also said investigators asked for details about the fake electors and documents they prepared. And a third person briefed on the probe — also granted anonymity because of its sensitivity — confirmed it is active.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, declined to comment through a spokesperson. Of the six Nevada false electors, four did not respond to requests for comment, one declined to comment and one could not be reached.

Ford has previously sent mixed messages about the potential for a state investigation into the false electors’ actions. In May, he suggested no criminal charges were likely.

“As you all know, I have been silent on Nevada’s fake electors, except to say that the matter was on our radar,” he said in testimony to the state’s legislature. “With it on our radar, we ascertained that current state statutes did not directly address the conduct in question — to the dismay of some, and I’m sure, to the delight of others.”

In that hearing, he testified in favor of a proposal to ban people from acting as fake electors, the Nevada Independent reported. The bill passed through the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature and was vetoed in June by its Republican governor, Joe Lombardo.

Then, in September, Ford appeared to change his tune. “I’ve never said that we’re not going to prosecute,” he told 8 News Now. “It is not that I’ve said that I can do nothing. What I have said, and I’ve been precise with my wording on purpose, is we don’t have statutes in this state that directly address the issue.”

The status of Ford’s probe — including whether he will seek indictments — is unclear. It’s also not clear whether Ford is investigating anyone outside Nevada.

One of the state’s false electors, Jim DeGraffenreid, was in touch with Kenneth Chesebro — a lawyer working with the Trump campaign and a chief architect of the fake elector scheme — in the days before the activists signed the fake certificates, according to the House Jan. 6 select committee report.

“URGENT—Trump-Pence campaign asked me to contact you to coordinate Dec. 14 voting by Nevada electors,” read the subject line of an email that DeGraffenreid sent Chesebro. Chesebro pleaded guilty in Georgia last month to a single felony count after being charged alongside Trump and 17 others with a racketeering conspiracy to overturn the election.

In Nevada and in other states, the people who acted as false electors said at the time that they were doing it as part of a contingency plan because of lawsuits Trump’s team brought challenging the election outcome. But after courts rejected those lawsuits, Trump used the existence of the false electors to pressure his vice president, Mike Pence, to block the certification of the results on Jan. 6. Chesebro similarly noted that pro-Trump members of Congress could invoke the false electors as a rationale for upending the results.

On the day that the six Nevada activists met and signed the false paperwork, the state’s Republican Party praised them. “History made today in Carson City, Nevada, @McDonaldNV leads our electors in casting Nevada's 6 electoral votes for the winner of Nevada, @realDonaldTrump and @Mike_Pence!"the party tweeted on Dec. 14, 2020.

In addition to McDonald and DeGraffenreid, the other Nevada Republicans who claimed to be electors for Trump were Jesse Law, the head of the Clark County Republican Party; Durward James Hindle III; Eileen Rice; and Shawn Meehan. Meehan declined to comment. Rice could not be reached. The other four did not respond.

Beyond Nevada, Trump allies posed as electors in December 2020 in six other states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia and New Mexico. Michigan’s Democratic attorney general, Dana Nessel, brought charges against the fake electors there in July. Fani Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, charged three of Georgia’s false electors in her racketeering case. And Kris Mayes, the Democratic attorney general of Arizona, told CNN last week that she is investigating fake electors from her state.