Second state attorney general refers fake Trump electoral certificate to federal prosecutors

Second state attorney general refers fake Trump electoral certificate to federal prosecutors
President Donald Trump pauses during the 9/11 Observance Ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Sept. 11, 2017. During the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, 184 people were killed at the Pentagon. To the left is first lady Melania Trump, and to the right are Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. (DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

After Republicans in several states forged documents claiming Donald Trump had won their states and submitted the documents to the federal government, the attorney general of a second state has made a referral to federal prosecutors. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel was the first to do so last week, but late Friday, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said he had done the same.

“Election laws are the foundation of our democracy and must be respected,” Balderas, a Democrat, said in a statement. “While review under state law is ongoing, we have referred this matter to the appropriate federal law-enforcement authorities and will provide any assistance they deem necessary.”

The New Mexico Republicans who created alternate paperwork awarding the state’s electors to Trump—who lost by 11 percentage points, nearly 100,000 votes—fudged a little, claiming that their move was made “on the understanding that it might later be determined that we are the duly elected and qualified Electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America from the State of New Mexico.”

Republicans in Pennsylvania used similar language in their fake “Trump won” documents, but Republicans in Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada did not qualify their claims, instead submitting documents claiming that they were the “duly elected and qualified electors.” Which they were not.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has said that because of the language admitting that the fake electors were being named for a possible future in which Trump would be named the winner, the documents don't meet the standard for forgery. New Mexico’s Balderas appears to disagree. But either way, there are five states where that language wasn’t included and Republicans unambiguously tried to present themselves as electors and Trump as the winner despite his losses in those states.

This was not a case of Republicans in different states independently coming up with the same idea. “The fake documents had identical formatting, spacing, fonts, and phrasing, leaving little doubt that there was a template for Republicans to follow in each of these states,” Steve Benen writes, linking reports in Pennsylvania and Michigan in which local Republicans point to Trump campaign lawyers as the source of the plan. A participant in the Arizona documents said she had met with Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows, who was then the White House chief of staff, exchanged text messages about the plan with members of Congress. No one was freelancing here. This plan came from the top.

These documents, which tried to replace the legitimate electors of five states with fakes awarding the election to the loser, with provisional attempts in two more states, have to be seen as part of a broader coup attempt. “[A]t the same time he was urging his MAGA hat-wearing supporters toward insurrection, Trump was engaged in an extensive coup plot that involved attempts to strong-arm local officials, enlist state legislators, subvert the Department of Justice, and instruct Republicans in Congress on how they could support the end of American democracy. That plot included a series of memos from Trump attorneys creating a false legal pretext for the coup and a PowerPoint briefing for Republicans in Congress filling them in on next steps,” Mark Sumner has written. “The fake electoral certificates were a key part of this effort. They were the props Republicans were to turn to—the bloody shirt to be waved—as ‘proof’ that the election remained undecided. As such they played a central role in a conspiracy to interfere with counting the electoral votes in a U.S. election.”

Donald Trump attempted a coup, with the eager participation of Republicans in positions of power in multiple states and the U.S. Congress. This is something we should continue to be very alarmed about.

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