Michigan charges 16 Trump 'false electors' with felonies in 1st such case from 2020 election

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel
(Image credit: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images)

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) filed felony charges Tuesday against 16 Republicans who signed fake electoral certificates falsely attesting that former President Donald Trump won the state in 2020. Each of the "false electors" face eight felony counts, including forgery and conspiracy to commit election law forgery, and up to 14 years in prison on the most serious counts, if convicted.

The 16 Republicans, including Republican National Committee member Kathy Berden and former Michigan Republican Party Co-Chairwoman Meshawn Maddock, met secretly in the basement of the state GOP headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020, and signed certificates falsely attesting that they were in the Michigan Capitol and Trump had won the state, the indictment says. President Biden carried Michigan by more than 150,000 votes.

Nessel's indictment says the 16 Republicans were required to surrender their phones to ensure the event was recorded. When Maddock posted about it on Facebook later in the day, fake elector John Haggard texted Berden asking, "Was she not told at the meeting to keep quite [sic]?" according to text messages from Bergen's phone. "Yes, we all were," Berden replied.

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"The false electors' actions undermined the public's faith in the integrity of our elections and, we believe, also plainly violated the laws by which we administer our elections in Michigan," Nessel said in a statement. "My department has prosecuted numerous cases of election law violations throughout my tenure, and it would be malfeasance of the greatest magnitude if my department failed to act here in the face of overwhelming evidence of an organized effort to circumvent the lawfully cast ballots of millions of Michigan voters in a presidential election."

These are the first charges filed against fake pro-Trump electors. Similar false electoral certificates were signed by ersatz electors in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. This scheme by Trump allies to overturn Biden's victory is also part of special counsel Jack Smith's federal investigation of the 2020 election aftermath.

Prosecutors in Arizona and Georgia are investigating the fake GOP electors. Georgia's Republican Party has spent more than $520,000 in legal costs in 2023 to defend these electors amid Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis' investigation, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. At least eight of the fake electors have accepted immunity deals in exchange for their testimony.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.