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The Fake Electors Scheme, Explained

The Trump plan began with an effort to persuade Republican officials in the targeted states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — to help draft, or to put their names on, documents that declared Mr. Trump to be the victor.

That effort was largely led by lawyers close to Mr. Trump, like Rudolph W. Giuliani and John Eastman, who sometimes communicated directly with local points of contact in the state, or by lawyers who worked in the states themselves and dealt with Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Eastman or with Mr. Trump’s campaign aides.

Their stated rationale was that Mr. Biden’s victories in those states would be overturned once they could establish their claims of widespread voting fraud and other irregularities, and that it was only prudent to have the “alternate” slates of electors in place for that eventuality.

But, as Mr. Trump had been told by his campaign aides and eventually even his attorney general, there were no legitimate claims of fraud sufficient to change the outcome of the race, and the seven states all certified Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory on Dec. 14, 2020. Mr. Trump and his allies barreled ahead with the electors plan nonetheless, with an increasing focus on using the ceremonial congressional certification process on Jan. 6 to derail the transfer of power.

Ultimately, several dozen of Mr. Trump’s allies in the states signed false slates of electors, and most were unequivocal in their contention that Mr. Trump had won. But in Pennsylvania and New Mexico, local officials who drafted the documents included a caveat, saying that they should only be considered if Mr. Trump prevailed in the many lawsuits he and his allies had filed challenging the election, and was legally the winner.

Once the false pro-Trump slates had been created, Mr. Trump and his allies turned to the second part of the plan: strong-arming Mr. Pence into considering them during the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6. The point was to persuade Mr. Pence to say that the election was somehow flawed or in doubt.

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