Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes’ office is investigating the transmission of an alternate list of electors by Trump allies to be included in the congressional electoral vote count on January 6, 2021, he told Thursday. NBC News a source familiar with the investigation.
A second source familiar with the matter said prosecutors in Mayes’ office have had direct discussions with legal counsel for several people who acted as surrogate electors, including former Arizona GOP chairwoman Kelli Ward.
NBC News has reached out to an attorney for Ward for comment.
Mayes, a Democrat who narrowly defeated a 2020 election denier last November, had vowed to investigate the fake voter scheme that was designed to challenge President Joe Biden’s election victory in Arizona.
“We have to make sure that it is clear to everyone that it is unacceptable to try to steal an election, to undermine and overthrow an election, and that is what happened,” Mayes said. msnbc at the beginning of this year. «We have to make sure that what happened in 2020 never happens again.»
Mayes’s predecessor, Republican Mark Brnovich, did not investigate the voters’ scheme, but had agents from the state attorney’s office spend more than 10,000 hours investigating the GOP’s allegations of voting irregularities and allegations of illegal voting. Mayes’s office said in a news release earlier this year.
TO summary prepared by the attorney general’s Special Investigations Section in September showed that agents had not found any evidence to support the GOP claims, but Brnovich did not make that information public, Mayes’ office said.
He Washington Post first reported on Thursday that an investigation into so-called fake voters by Mayes’ office was now in full swing.
Biden’s victory in Arizona was widely disputed by then-President Donald Trump and his allies. Arizona was one of seven states where «alternate» voters signed documents falsely claiming that Trump had won that state.
Special counsel Jack Smith is investigating the broader ballot plan, while Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat, has been investigating the effort in Georgia.
Mayes’s investigation is not believed to be as advanced as Willis’s investigation into election interference in Georgia, which has been going on for more than two years. Willis is expected to seek indictments in that case in the coming weeks.
The fake voters effort, and Arizona’s involvement, was a focus of the Democratic-led House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
“The existence of these alleged alternate voters was used as justification for delaying or blocking the certification of the election during the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021,” committee chair Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, wrote in a statement. from Mississippi. letter from last year.
The false voters met on the same day that the true voters cast their votes in the Electoral College. While Electoral College votes are typically ceremonial events that formalize the results of a presidential election, the December 14, 2020 vote came as Trump refused to accept the election results and urged legislatures in the states of battlefield won by Biden to disqualify Biden’s voters. .
Trump’s legal counsel, John Eastman, argued at the time that then-Vice President Mike Pence could use the existence of surrogate electors to appoint Trump the winner of the elections while presiding over the electoral vote count in Congress on January 6.
Eastman wrote in a memo: “At the end, he announces that due to ongoing disputes in the 7 states, there are no electors who can be considered validly appointed in those states. … Right now there are 232 votes for Trump, 222 votes for Biden. Pence then declares President Trump re-elected.»
Pence rejected the idea and Trump criticized him on Twitter during the riots on January 6, saying he showed «no courage.»
When the joint session of Congress had to be temporarily adjourned due to violence on Capitol Hill that day, Ward, an organizer for the fake election effort in arizona, tweeted: “Congress rises. Send the voter’s choice back to the legislatures.»