Published Aug 15, 2023 01:43AM ET Updated Aug 15, 2023 06:01PM ET
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speaks to reporters following a television interview, outside the White House in Washington, U.S. October 21, 2020. REUTERS/Al Drago/File Picture/File Photo
By Sarah N. Lynch and Jacqueline Thomsen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump again stands accused of illegally trying to overturn the 2020 election results to stay in power. But for the first time some allies and closest advisers also face criminal charges for their roles in the alleged scheme.
Already charged by a federal grand jury in Washington with orchestrating a plot to overturn the election, Trump is the lead defendant in a parallel case in Georgia now, charged with racketeering and other crimes along with aides, associates and others listed below.
Not listed are six lesser-known people, including some Georgia officials, charged with additional crimes ranging from perjury to conspiracy to commit computer theft in addition to racketeering.
Mark Meadows, who went from being one of Trump’s top Republican allies in the U.S. House of Representatives to his White House chief of staff, attended White House meetings related to attempts to undo Trump’s election defeat.
The indictment alleges he helped to fuel the conspiracy by making false statements about the election and conspired with Trump to develop a plan to disrupt and delay the congressional certification of the electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021.
It also alleges he tried to pressure a chief investigator in the Georgia secretary of state’s office, Frances Watson, to speed up the Fulton County signature verification and that he took part in a phone call in which Trump pushed Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to reverse his narrow loss in the state. Raffensperger declined to do so. An attorney for Meadows did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump’s former personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, played a prominent public role in the Trump campaign’s efforts to push false claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. The former New York City mayor was involved in litigation that was rejected by courts and falsely claimed in testimony at local hearings in Georgia that he was in possession of evidence proving election fraud.
The indictment alleges he made numerous false statements about election fraud, including to officials in other states like Arizona and Pennsylvania, in a failed bid to convince them to approve an alternative slate of electors to keep Trump in power. He and other Trump allies are also accused of making false statements to Georgia lawmakers about the election, including claims about vote counting errors by Dominion voting machines. Giuliani’s attorney declined to comment.
Attorney John Eastman represented Trump in a long-shot lawsuit to overturn voting results in four states Trump lost in 2020. He has been under scrutiny by both U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office and state prosecutors in Georgia for penning a series of legal memos which claimed that former Vice President Mike Pence could reject electors from certain states to deny Democrat Joe Biden a majority of Electoral College votes. The indictment in Georgia alleges he was part of a plot to appoint fake electors.
Eastman will challenge the indictment “in any and all forums available to him,” his legal representative said, adding that the indictment was an effort to criminalize lawful political speech.
JEFFREY BOSSERT CLARK
Jeffrey Clark is a former high-ranking Justice Department official. In the waning days of the Trump administration, Clark sought to persuade Trump to oust Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen so that he could take over the department and help pursue Trump’s false claims by opening an investigation into voter fraud in Georgia and other swing states. The federal indictment brought by Smith against Trump also appears to refer to Clark as a co-conspirator. Monday’s indictment cites Clark’s efforts to persuade Rosen to submit a letter to Georgia falsely claiming the Justice Department had detected voting irregularities there.
Rachel Cauley, a spokesperson for Clark’s employer Center for Renewing America, said in a statement that Clark “was simply doing his job in 2020, and he doesn’t deserve to be subjected to this naked political lawfare.”
Attorney Sidney Powell played a leading role in promoting false fraud claims after the 2020 U.S. election. She was part of a team that filed unsuccessful lawsuits seeking to overturn election results and was sanctioned by a Michigan judge in one of those cases. She became an adviser to Trump on fraud claims after the election. The indictment accuses her of tampering with electronic ballot markers and tabulators in Coffee County, Georgia, computer theft and unlawfully possessing ballots. She could not be immediately reached for comment.
Kenneth Chesebro is a Trump campaign attorney accused in the indictment of helping to devise a plan to submit fake slates of electors for Trump to obstruct U.S. congressional certification of the election results. The indictment alleges he wrote a memo that provided instructions for how alternate slates of electors in states including Georgia should proceed to meet and cast votes for Trump. An attorney for Chesebro did not respond to a request for comment.
Attorney Jenna Ellis was part of the Trump campaign’s legal team that falsely claimed widespread voter fraud in 2020. The indictment alleges that Ellis was part of an effort to get false electors appointed by state lawmakers in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The court papers assert that she wrote legal memos for Trump on how Pence on Jan. 6, 2021, could delay the certification of Biden’s election win. Ellis in March agreed to be censured by a Colorado court after admitting to making false claims about voter fraud. In a social media post on Tuesday, Ellis accused the Fulton County district attorney of “criminalizing the practice of law.”
The indictment alleges that David Shafer, who served as Georgia Republican Party chairman, played a key role in organizing and executing the plan to submit an alternate slate of electors. Shafer is among those charged with mailing a fake certificate of the so-called Trump electors to a federal courthouse, as well as other offenses tied to the fake elector plot. He is also charged with making false statements to Fulton County investigators.
In a statement, lawyers for Shafer said their client is “totally innocent” of the charges. “His conduct regarding the 2020 presidential election was lawful, appropriate and specifically authorized by the U.S. Constitution,” they added.
Michael Roman, who worked for Trump’s 2020 campaign, is alleged to have played a role in orchestrating the fake elector plot. The indictment claims he was in touch with those organizing a meeting of the fake Trump electors in Georgia. He could not be immediately reached for comment.
Reuters reported that Trevian Kutti, a publicist, traveled to Georgia days before the Jan. 6, 2021, riot and showed up uninvited at the door of Ruby Freeman, an election worker in Georgia’s Fulton County. Kutti told Freeman she was sent by a “high-profile individual,” whom she didn’t identify, to deliver Freeman a message: Freeman was in unspecified danger, “due to the election,” and had just 48 hours to “get ahead of the issue” before unknown people were going to show up at her home.
In an Instagram post after that article was published, Kutti denied pressuring Freeman to falsely admit fraud.
In a follow-up article, Reuters reported that Trump campaign aide Harrison Floyd, executive director of a group called Black Voices for Trump, told the news organization he had recruited Kutti to meet with Freeman. Floyd said he then participated by phone in a meeting Kutti held with Freeman at a police station in Georgia’s Cobb County.
Floyd told Reuters he was asked if he’d be willing to set up the meeting by a man he described as a chaplain with “connections” in federal law enforcement. He declined to name the clergyman or to detail his connections. Floyd said he arranged the meeting to help Freeman.
In September 2022, Reuters identified Stephen Lee, an Illinois-based former police officer, as the man who sought Floyd’s help with Freeman, drawing on police bodycam footage and other reporting. In December 2020, Reuters reported Lee had visited Freeman’s house himself but was turned away by the frightened election worker. Lee, in a brief interview at his home in Montgomery, Illinois, did not dispute that he visited Freeman but declined to discuss why or whether someone had sent him.