On Tuesday, Donald Trump was indicted for the first time for his attempts to nullify the results of the 2020 United States presidential election, attempts backed by six Republican co-conspirators who helped draft, promote, and carry out that plan.
The specifics of the plan were laid out in gory detail in the 45-page indictment: Trump and his allies promoted hoaxes meant to convince the public that the election results were illegitimate, and the co-conspirators knew that their claims were false even as they made them. The hoaxes were then used to justify the creation of supposed "alternative" electoral slates in multiple states Trump lost, slates that were to be presented to Congress as legitimate electors. Republican allies in the House and Senate were to use the fraudulent electoral slates to challenge the legitimacy of the real ones. The plan envisioned the real electoral slates in the targeted Joe Biden-won states being thrown out, bending the Electoral College results to Trump's favor.
But there were, of course, more than six co-conspirators. The very premise of the plan hinged on Republican allies in Congress using the conspiracy-produced hoaxes to throw the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress into disarray, after which those same Republican lawmakers would provide the votes to nullify the election's result. And we know the names of the seven Republican senators and 130-plus House Republicans who acted as Trump's co-conspirators on Jan. 6, because they made speeches. They attempted to carry out their part of the conspiracy, and their resulting votes are a matter of public record.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Sen. Josh Hawley acted as co-conspirator. Sen. Ted Cruz acted as co-conspirator. Sens. John Kennedy and Rick Scott were co-conspirators. Each of them publicly boosted the conspiracy's hoaxes, and each objected to the electoral slates from Arizona, from Pennsylvania, or both based on false claims of impropriety that had already been tossed from courtrooms nationwide—claims so egregiously false that they would later result in legal sanctions and co-conspirator status for the Trump lawyers who promoted them. By Jan. 6, there was simply no question that the claims of a "rigged" election in Arizona were fraudulent; even Trump's own inner circle was sure of it. The same was true in Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, but Trump's Republican allies in the House and Senate continued to promote the lies even in the hours after Trump's plan had led to an attack on the Capitol and their own scrambled evacuation.
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin was and remains a co-conspirator. The indictment spells out the plan to smuggle fraudulent slates of electors to then-Vice President Mike Pence before or during the joint session. On Jan. 6, Johnson was the conspirator who was designated to do it.
A top aide to Sen. Ron Johnson attempted to arrange a handoff of false, pro-Trump electors from the senator to Mike Pence just minutes before the then-vice president began to count electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021.
The aide, Sean Riley, told Pence’s legislative director Chris Hodgson that Johnson wanted to hand Pence lists of the fake electors from Michigan and Wisconsin for Pence to introduce during the counting of electoral votes that certified Joe Biden’s win. The attempt was revealed in text messages obtained by the Jan. 6 select committee during its fourth public hearing on Tuesday.
Johnson's office knew the "electors" to be fraudulent. Johnson knew he was attempting to erase Trump's election loss based on false pretenses, and that he would be presenting fraudulent documents created for the sole purpose of sabotaging the electoral count—documents prepared by the co-conspirators numbered 1 through 6 in Trump's indictment. Johnson volunteered to be part of that criminal scheme.
The indictment is silent on the lawmakers who actually carried out their part of the conspiracy. It focuses only on Trump, though the details suggest that indictments of the six unnamed co-conspirators may very well drop next. But it was the Republicans of the House and Senate who were the key to the whole scheme, and on Jan. 6, well over 100 of them carried out their part of the conspiracy even after rioters attacked police, lawmakers and their staff members barricaded themselves in their offices, and Trump's vice president narrowly escaped execution at the hands of a violent mob Trump had gathered as part of that very same conspiracy.
Six Republican senators and 121 House Republicans objected to Arizona's electoral count, carrying out their part of the planned coup only hours after the violence had subsided. Seven Republican senators and 138 House Republicans objected to Pennsylvania's electoral votes.
There were over 100 willing co-conspirators in Congress on Jan. 6, 2021. They were aware of Trump's plan to use hoaxes to falsely contest the election's results. They were aware that the courts had already thrown out his claims as fraudulent. They promoted the false claims of "fraud" that Trump and his co-conspirators had rallied behind, and even after the violence they carried out their assigned roles in the attempted coup.
They also were plainly aware of the public reaction that would transpire if the plan succeeded. Trump's administration allies were themselves preparing for it. Warned that nullifying the election results through congressional slate-swapping would probably result in nationwide protests and likely violence, on Jan. 3, 2021, the Trump-backing Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Clark told a critic of the plan: "That's why there's an Insurrection Act."
The conspiracy is ongoing. The same Republican conspirators who carried out Trump's plan to throw out electors on Jan. 6 then conspired to block investigations of the coup attempt, and of their own actions, from the moment the conspiracy failed. They refused congressional subpoenas rather than provide testimony about their own interactions with Trump's team. They continue to defend Trump even today, and many of them continue to promote the same hoaxes that have now resulted in Trump being indicted on four felony counts.
The indictment may be silent on the complicity of House and Senate Republicans in the conspiracy, but the rest of us shouldn't be. These officials played a greater role in Trump's criminal scheme than any of the six unnamed co-conspirators in the indictment did. Trump's legal team could only draft the plan; it relied on Republican lawmakers to accept it, promote it, and try to carry it out—and they did.
From the indictment:
74. That afternoon, the Defendant calJed the Acting Attorney General and Acting Deputy Attorney General and said, among other things, "People tell me [Co-Conspirator 4] is great. I should put him in." The Defendant also raised multiple false claims of election fraud, which the Acting Attorney General and Acting Deputy Attorney General refuted. When the Acting Attorney General told the Defendant that the Justice Department could not and would not change the outcome of the election, the Defendant responded, "Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen."
In Congress, individual states, and Republican Party offices, the willing co-conspirators to Trump's plan likely number in the thousands. And that is a conspiracy too big to even be called a crime: It is an attempted erasure of democracy itself.
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