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Betsy Woodruff Swan

Top Nevada GOP officials charged with felonies for posing as pro-Trump 2020 electors

In December 2020, Donald Trump’s allies convened slates of false electors in seven states that Joe Biden won. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images
UPDATED: 06 DEC 2023 04:42 PM EST

A Nevada grand jury indicted the six Republicans who falsely pledged the state’s electoral votes to Donald Trump in 2020 as Trump sought to reverse his loss to Joe Biden in the state.

The so-called alternate electors, one of whom is the head of the Nevada Republican Party, are each charged with two Nevada felonies related to the documents they signed purporting to be the state’s legitimate electors. The charges are for “offering a false instrument for filing” and “uttering a forged instrument.”

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, announced the grand jury’s indictment on Wednesday. POLITICO first revealed last month that Ford was overseeing a criminal probe into the electors.

In December 2020, Trump’s allies convened slates of false electors in seven states that Biden won. The pro-Trump electors, consisting of Republican activists and operatives, signed certificates falsely claiming to be the proper representatives of the states’ voters in the Electoral College.

Some of the electors said they took this step because lawyers advised them it was a lawful way to keep Trump’s options open if he won court challenges in the states where he was defeated, and documents signed by false electors in Pennsylvania and New Mexico explicitly said they were contingent on the outcome of lawsuits. But even after Trump’s lawsuits failed, his close allies used the existence of the false slates of electors to oppose Congress’ certification of the results on Jan. 6, 2021.

Nevada is the third state to bring criminal charges against false electors; the others are Michigan and Georgia. Attorneys general in Arizona and New Mexico are also investigating Trump allies’ efforts to reverse the 2020 results in those states.

“We cannot allow attacks on democracy to go unchallenged,” Ford said in a press release. “Today’s indictments are the product of a long and thorough investigation, and as we pursue this prosecution, I am confident that our judicial system will see justice done.”

The defendants include Michael McDonald, the chair of the Nevada Republican Party; and Jim DeGraffenreid, its national committeeman. Jesse Law, the chair of the Clark County Republican Party, also faces charges. The other three defendants are Eileen Rice, Durward James Hindle III, and Shawn Meehan.

The indictment accuses the six defendants of signing fake elector certificates “with the intent to defraud” U.S. government officials.

DeGraffenreid and McDonald both sat for interviews with the House Jan. 6 select committee and responded to some questions by pleading the Fifth. CNN reported in June that both men also testified before special counsel Jack Smith’s federal grand jury in exchange for limited immunity.

The Nevada Republican Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Meehan declined to comment. The other defendants did not immediately respond or could not be reached.

The indictments list five witnesses, including Kenneth Chesebro, a Trump lawyer who was an architect of the fake elector scheme. He pleaded guilty in Georgia in October for that work.

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