Republican Congress members held another of their many, many rage-filled hearings on Thursday. This one had the stated purpose of propping Republican-supported spoiler candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in front of the cameras so that he could spew his racist, antisemitic, anti-scientific conspiracy theories while crying to a worldwide audience that he was being censored.
But of course, that wasn’t the sole purpose of the hearing. Republicans also used the time to spread their own elaborate conspiracy theories and talk about America’s most crucial issues: Hunter Biden’s laptop, Hunter Biden’s laptop, and Hunter Biden’s laptop. At least this time around they did not choose to illustrate their points with revenge porn.
As Republicans rolled on through the day, tossing their own brand of woo woo onto the heaping pile of ugly and harmful nonsense that Kennedy carried into the chamber, one thing about all this began to make sense: Republicans should believe in an elaborate scheme involving thousands of individuals and hundreds of officials cooperating to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Because that’s exactly what happened.
NPR has been keeping a handy database of those involved in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. As of July 14, a total of 1,064 people have faced charges in connection to the failed insurrection. Of those, 617 have pleaded guilty. Another 124 have faced trials. Only two have been acquitted.
Estimates of those who battered their way into the Capitol on Jan. 6 put the number at over 2,000. In addition, hundreds more pro-Donald Trump rioters battered police, damaged structures, and violated D.C. weapons laws. So it’s likely that all the numbers above will continue to grow as more of those involved are identified and arrested.
But these people are, for the most part, just foot soldiers. Sure, among them were members of the Oath Keepers who were convicted of seditious conspiracy and sentenced to years in federal prison, but even these guys were way down in the pecking order. They are the followers.
This week, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel charged 16 false electors who signed certificates alleging that Donald Trump had won the 2020 election with eight felonies each, including conspiracy to commit election law forgery. Each of these charges has a maximum sentence of 14 years. Since the 16 false electors range in age from 55 to 81, they may want to rethink their retirement plans.
But Michigan isn’t the only state that had slates of false electors, or the only state where they may face charges. Wisconsin has been considering charges against the 10 false electors there, and a lawsuit is moving ahead that seeks $2.4 million in damages from the electors and from the Trump lawyers who advised them. False electors in other states have been connected to subpoenas from the FBI and meetings with the office of the special counsel, suggesting that federal charges may soon be filed by Jack Smith.
In all, there are 84 of these false electors scattered across Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. As the AZ Mirror reports, the group includes:
Georgia’s current lieutenant governor.
A former Republican candidate for Senate in Arizona.
A county councilman from Pennsylvania.
Two former Republican candidates for governor of Pennsylvania.
An alderperson from Wisconsin.
A former member of the Wisconsin Election Commission.
In Michigan, those already charged include a Republican National Committee member, the clerk of Shelby Township, a former co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, and the mayor of a small city.
The full list is rotten with the names of Republican county chairs, co-chairs, treasurers, and others with authority in the party. More names come from the heads of Republican-aligned think tanks, institutes, and foundations. The false elector list reads like a who’s who of Republicans in each state.
These 84 people aren’t just mid-level officers in the insurrection: They’re people who absolutely knew better. They weren’t people picked off the street, or even volunteers from a Trump rally. They were insiders. Those who showed up at the Capitol to scream and break windows may have been ignorant enough to believe Trump and the angry rhetoric flying their way. These false electors were fully aware they were lying when they signed their names to fake certificates while claiming to be duly appointed representatives of their state’s voting results.
They were knowledgeable, willing participants in a scheme to overturn the outcome of a free and fair election for president of the United States.
The false electors were far from alone in that knowledge. Dozens, if not hundreds, more Republican officials and politicians were involved. This includes people like attorney Robert Cheeley, who met with Georgia state legislators and showed them video clips edited to make it seem like election workers were involved in fraud. Or Sen. Ron Johnson, who not only had a hand in organizing false electors in Wisconsin, but handed Mike Pence a list of false electors in the middle of the chaotic and violent events on Jan. 6.
At the top of the pyramid were Donald Trump, Mark Meadows, John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark, Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and others who weren’t just involved in the false elector scheme: They were the authors. They weren’t taking orders. They were creating the strategy and tactics that resulted in the outreach to those false electors, the lies told to legislators, and the rallies that kept Trump voters riled up and ready to march.
Keeping Trump in power was the goal of the scheme, but Trump wasn’t alone. There were literally hundreds of Republicans who were aware of what was going on and took part in the efforts to defeat the outcome of a democratic election. They should believe in conspiracies. Because they’re conspirators.
And they’re excited about giving it another try.