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Arizona becomes the 4th state to charge Trump allies in a fake elector scheme

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

A grand jury in Arizona has indicted 18 allies of former President Donald Trump.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

They're accused of conspiring to keep Trump in office after he lost the 2020 election with a fake elector scheme. The defendants include former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes spoke about the charges yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KRIS MAYES: I will not allow American democracy to be undermined. It's too important.

FADEL: Wayne Schutsky, with member station KJZZ, joins us now from Phoenix. Hi, Wayne.

WAYNE SCHUTSKY, BYLINE: Hello.

FADEL: So what does this indictment lay out?

SCHUTSKY: The indictment tracks with a lot of the public reporting on these fake elector schemes in Arizona and other states. It basically alleges that after Joe Biden won the popular vote in Arizona in 2020, prominent Republican leaders and Trump allies devised a plan to give Arizona's 11 electoral votes to Trump anyway. So as the elector scheme was being put together, there was a broader pressure campaign with Trump allies, like Rudy Giuliani, appearing in Arizona to pressure state lawmakers to find a way to give Trump those votes, and some of those activities are also mentioned in the indictment.

FADEL: Now, this indictment charges 18 people in total. What do we know about them?

SCHUTSKY: So first, there are those 11 fake electors who are accused of signing a document claiming that Trump won in Arizona, and then there are seven others who are not actually named in the initial indictment. Their names were redacted, but we were able to identify a few of them based on context included in the indictment. That includes people like Mark Meadows, Giuliani and another Trump lawyer, John Eastman, who have all largely defended their actions around this election, and then the indictment also names five unindicted co-conspirators, whose names are also redacted. And again, one is very easy to identify, based on the context. He is described as a former president of the United States who made false claims about the election. That's obviously Donald Trump.

FADEL: So Meadows, Giuliani, Eastman, they're in that one bucket of charges. What about the 11 people accused of being fake electors?

SCHUTSKY: They're really a "who's who" of Arizona Republicans from the Trump wing of the party, especially circa 2020. They include sitting State Senators Jake Hoffman and Anthony Kern. Photo evidence shows Kern, who was not a senator at the time, was also present in Washington on January 6. Hoffman is one of the only ones we've heard back from so far, and he says he's innocent of any crime, and that he accused Mayes of weaponizing the government against her political opponents. Some other folks named in there are former Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward, and other current and former party officials were also indicted.

FADEL: Of course, Arizona isn't the first state to bring charges like this against Trump allies accused of trying to undermine the vote. Why now in Arizona?

SCHUTSKY: We don't know exactly why, but I will say that the Attorney General, Kris Mayes, has taken heat from some folks for taking a little too long on this, but she pointed out that she came into office much later than some of the other law enforcement in other states, and that it takes time to put cases like these together. She urged patience, and now she's saying that patience is paying off. We can see that in this indictment, which clearly goes beyond just the fake electors and charges some other Trump-world figures accused of organizing the scheme, but Arizona does come after states like Georgia, Michigan and Nevada, that have already brought charges against individuals accused of participating in similar fake elector schemes in those states, and in another swing state, Wisconsin, fake electors actually admitted their roles as part of civil settlements.

FADEL: That's KJZZ's Wayne Schutsky in Phoenix. Thank you, Wayne.

SCHUTSKY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Wayne Schutsky
[Copyright 2024 KJZZ]