As Merrick Garland explained in his big speech earlier this month, the way to dismantle a criminal conspiracy is to start at the bottom and work up. It’s a slow process, but it can be devastatingly effective.
That’s why the fifty-nine Republicans who cast fake electoral votes are a gift to investigators seeking to understand Trump’s role in the plot to overturn the 2020 election. These pseudo-electors impersonated public officials in a bid to overturn a presidential election.
They signed forged paperwork and sent it to the government. It’s an open-and-shut case, but investigators could parlay this into something much bigger than prison terms for a few dozen local GOP operatives.
In a group of nearly 60 people facing serious prison time, at least some of them will be willing to implicate the higher ups to save themselves.
“Once those individuals see that they could possibly be facing prison time, I do think we’re going to see some people flip and we’ll get some further information as to who orchestrated this in the first place,” Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel told MSNBC viewers last week, adding that, “It may go all the way to the top.”
Nessel noted that under Michigan law, those who signed the fake certificates could face up to 14 years in prison for forging a public record and five years for election law forgery.
The AG said she’s prepared to prosecute if she has to, but said the federal government is better suited to handle what is clearly a sprawling conspiracy orchestrated across state lines. Wisconsin's Attorney General Josh Kaul agrees this is a case for the feds.
They’re not wrong.
The fake certificates come from seven states, but they have nearly identical verbiage and formatting. Real certificates of ascertainment all look slightly different because there’s no standardized form. Yet the fake ones all look alike. The question: Who supplied the template?
Trump’s inner circle was obsessed with the fake electors scheme. Memos by Trump lawyer John Eastman show that he assigned these fake electoral votes a starring role in his procedural coup. It was these fake votes he hoped Mike Pence would count instead of the real ones.
Weeks before the electoral vote, Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows was texting about how much he loved a plan to seat fake electors. Trump advisor Steven Miller even went on television to describe the plan to present congress with “alternative” electoral votes. US Rep. Mo Brooks led an effort to throw out the electoral votes of the Biden swing states, reportedly with Trump’s blessing.
US Rep. Louie Gohmert teamed up with some of the pseudo-electors to sue Mike Pence in a doomed bid to force the VP to count the phony votes. The connection between the fake electors and that lawsuit was reported well ahead of J6.
“[The fake electors] are counting on Pence and congressional Republicans to treat those informal votes as equal to the slates certified in those states where Trump was defeated,” Kyle Cheney of Politico wrote on Dec 28.
The pressure is on, and the cracks in the facade are spreading.
Arizona state Rep. Jake Hoffman refused to answer a reporter’s question about how he came to cast a fake vote for Trump, nervously referring all questions to “the party chair.”
The chair of the Arizona GOP is Dr. Kelli Ward, who was not only a fake elector but also Gohmert’s co-plaintiff. A number of the fake electors are high-ranking officials in their state parties. Wisconsin’s fake votes were even submitted by the state party’s chair on Wisconsin GOP letterhead.
Pennsylvania’s fake electors are already distancing themselves from their co-conspirators, stressing they refused to sign the electoral vote paperwork unless they could include a proviso that they weren’t the lawful electors unless a court recognized them as such.
“We were not going to sign unless the language was changed to say ‘if,’ fake elector Sam DeMarco told a local paper. “This was in no way, shape or form us trying to go around the election.”
The fact that Pennsylvania and Nevada felt it necessary to include a disclaimer makes the states that didn’t look even worse, like they were trying to, well, go against the election.
On Thursday, CBS News' Scott MacFarlane reported that federal prosecutors are urging a judge to deny pretrial release to Stewart Rhodes, longtime leader of the far-right paramilitary group the Oath Keepers, and order him into pretrial detention, ahead of a hearing on the matter scheduled for Monday.
"A grand jury has found probable cause to charge Rhodes with initiating and leading a conspiracy to forcibly oppose the lawful transfer of power in the United States," said the court filing. "It is difficult to imagine conduct that poses a graver risk to our society."
\u201cIt is difficult to imagine conduct that poses a graver risk to our society\u201d\n\nFeds file motion seeking pretrial detention for OathKeepers founder Stewart Rhodes in seditious conspiracy case. Hearing Monday\n\nFeds \u201cRhodes set in motion his co-conspirators attack on the Capitol\u201dpic.twitter.com/1GsgKERxIz— Scott MacFarlane (@Scott MacFarlane) 1642725774
The Oath Keepers are a group consisting mainly of current and former law enforcement and military, who swear an "oath" to uphold an extremist view of the Constitution and refuse to follow orders they consider unlawful. They were heavily involved in the planning for the January 6 insurrection, and are a key focus of prosecution for the attack, with Rhodes and 10 others charged with seditious conspiracy.
The recommendation of pretrial detention for Rhodes comes on the same day that another high-level Oath Keepers defendant, Edward Vallejo, was also denied release.
Rhodes' estranged wife, Tasha Adams, has described him as a "complete sociopath" and a "dangerous man" in interviews.
Former President Donald Trump's one-time "fixer," attorney Michael Cohen, is calling on state and federal prosecutors — as well as Democrats in Congress — to speed up their investigations into his old boss.
Appearing on MSNBC on Thursday night, Cohen reacted to a letter from the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol insurrection to Ivanka Trump, in which congressional investigators detailed the former first daughter's efforts to get her father to call off his supporters on Jan. 6.
Asked by host Joy Reid whether Ivanka Trump had enough influence over her father to "talk him down," Cohen responded, "Absolutely not."
"People overestimate Ivanka's — we'll call it control — over Donald," he said. "Nobody has control over Donald, not even Donald himself, and so the notion that just Ivanka sitting there in the dining room off the Oval Office saying 'Daddy, daddy this needs to stop, somebody's going to get killed.' We already know this to be true."
Cohen added that the Select Committee has taken testimony from more than 300 people.
"We already know all this stuff," he said. "We have the text messages. We have the emails. You have the verbal depositions of these individuals. I understand the point about taking this investigation slow, making sure that it sticks, making sure that Donald and his cohorts don't get a chance to slip away, that it needs to be rock solid, but ... we'd like to see it move a tad bit faster."
Cohen also predicted that Ivanka Trump will refuse to testify before the committee.
"How many more people do we have to listen to when we already know?" he said. "We saw it with our own eyes, we heard it with our own ears. People died, they attacked the Capitol, they attacked the police officers. This was a coup. Anyone who doesn't think that it was a coup is a kook."
Cohen went on to say that he's more optimistic about investigations of his former boss by New York Attorney General Letitia James, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, and the Fulton County, Georgia prosecutor.
"It's my true belief that that's where we're going to finally see that no one is above the law, where we're going to see justice be had," he said. "We can all blame (Attorney General) Merrick Garland. This one is really on (President) Joe Biden, it's on (Vice President) Kamala Harris. They're the ones that need to be speaking to Merrick Garland and to really push this thing a little bit faster."
"I'm not for these expedited hearings, these expedited indictments, I'm all for methodical," Cohen added. "But again, we've now spoken to 300-plus people.
"They all have the goods," he said. "(Letitia) James has the goods on (the) Trumps, so does the (Manhattan) district attorney, so does the Georgia (prosecutor), and so does the federal government. And it's really time to start to act."
Watch below in two parts.
MSNBC 01 20 2022 19 04 52 www.youtube.com
MSNBC 01 20 2022 19 13 52 www.youtube.com