Wisconsin judge allows civil case against fake Trump electors to proceed

FILE - Former President Donald Trump arrives at a rally, Aug. 5, 2022, in Waukesha, Wis. A Wisconsin judge on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023 allowed a civil lawsuit filed against 10 fake electors for former President Trump and two of his attorneys to proceed, rejecting a move to dismiss the case. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin judge on Thursday allowed a civil lawsuit filed against 10 fake electors for former President Donald Trump and two of his attorneys to proceed, rejecting a move to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit is moving ahead in Wisconsin after Michigan’s attorney general filed felony charges on July 18 against 16 Republicans who acted as fake electors for Trump, accusing them of submitting false certificates that confirmed they were legitimate electors despite Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

The fake elector plan was central to the federal indictment filed against Trump earlier this month that alleged he tried to overturn results of the 2020 election. Federal prosecutors said the scheme originated in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin's Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul has signaled that he is relying on federal investigators to look into what happened in Wisconsin, while also not ruling out a state probe.

The pending civil lawsuit, filed by two Democratic electors and a voter, seeks $2.4 million from the fake GOP electors and two of Trump's attorneys, alleging they were part of a conspiracy by Trump and his allies to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential race. It also seeks to disqualify the Republicans from ever serving as electors again.

Wisconsin Republican Party Executive Director Mark Jefferson said in a statement that he was confident it will “come up short.”

He repeated the claim from the fake electors that they were acting as an “alternate slate” in order to “preserve an ongoing legal strategy.” Wisconsin Republicans were not told of any other purpose “and would not have approved any other use,” Jefferson said.

Scott Thompson, one of the attorneys who brought the lawsuit, said he was pleased with the order that will allow attorneys to “fully investigate and present our case in court.”

“Our democracy matters,” Thompson said. “So, we must seek accountability for those who attempt to undermine it.”

Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington has scheduled the case to go to a trial by jury in September 2024, two months before the presidential election.

Fake electors met in Wisconsin, Michigan and five other battleground states where Trump was defeated in 2020 and signed certificates that falsely stated Trump won their states, not Biden. The fake certificates were ignored, but the attempt has been subject to investigations, including by the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Republicans who participated in Wisconsin said they were trying to preserve Trump’s legal standing in case courts overturned his defeat.

Electors are people appointed to represent voters in presidential elections. The winner of the popular vote in each state determines which party’s electors are sent to the Electoral College, which meets in December after the election to certify the outcome.

Democrats who brought the lawsuit in Wisconsin are represented by the Madison-based Law Forward law firm and the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at the Georgetown University Law Center.

In May, Remington also revived a complaint brought by Law Forward against the fake electors filed with the Wisconsin Elections Commission. That complaint sought sanctions against the fake electors.

In that ruling, Remington said the complaint must be heard again because a commissioner who considered the complaint last time should have recused himself. That commissioner, Robert Spindell, also served as a fake elector and is one of the defendants in the lawsuit seeking damages.

President Joe Biden won Wisconsin by nearly 21,000 votes, a result that has withstood recounts, partisan-led investigations, a nonpartisan audit and multiple lawsuits.

False Electoral College certificates were submitted declaring Trump the winner of Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada and Pennsylvania.