Consequences Keep Coming For Those Who Tried to Overturn 2020 Election

Trump Fake Electors Papers

Paperwork filed by fake electors for former President Donald Trump in Wisconsin. (Graphic by Pat Kreitlow)

By Pat Kreitlow

July 18, 2023

Trump reveals receiving a letter from special counsel Jack Smith informing the former president he is the target of an investigation that has included interviews with Wisconsin election officials.

Tuesday was a busy day with regards to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. 

Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe acknowledged having been interviewed by FBI and US Department of Justice officials in April as part of special counsel Jack Smith’s probe into the 2020 election and Trump’s effort to overturn the results. Election officials in Milwaukee and Madison recently reported similar interviews with investigators.

The news from Wolfe came hours after Trump posted on social media about receiving a letter from Smith indicating that the former president is a target in the investigation—meaning that evidence has been gathered that could tie him to a crime, though that does not mean criminal charges will be filed. The notice is often seen as an invitation to appear before the special counsel or a grand jury to offer evidence to his defense prior to any charges being filed.

Finally, just a few short hours later, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel charged 16 Michigan residents for their role in Trump’s fake electors scheme to overturn the 2020 election results. The Michigan residents face charges that include Election Law Forgery, Conspiracy to Commit Election Law Forgery, and other counts with maximum penalties ranging from five to 14 years in prison.

Trump’s campaign—led by Rudy Giuliani—helped organize a similar slate of fake electors in Wisconsin. The false electors, including current Wisconsin Elections Commission member Robert Spindell, signed multiple certificates stating they were the “duly elected and qualified electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America for the State of Wisconsin.”

Fraudulent ballots from the Wisconsin and Michigan slates were in the office of Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021—the day a joint session of Congress was scheduled to formally certify the electoral ballots from all the states and declare Biden the winner of the election. 

A Johnson staffer informed a member of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff, Chris Hodgson, that Johnson had been asked to hand the papers to Pence, but Hodgson responded emphatically that Johnson was to not make that delivery. The joint session was later interrupted by a violent and deadly insurrection as Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol. Congress ultimately successfully certified the actual results later that evening, but the fall-out of the events of Jan. 6 continue to this day.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul has indicated federal investigations of the fake electors should run their course. As for Kaul’s counterpart in Michigan, Nessel made clear Tuesday that accountability was essential and that trying to illegally overturn the will of Michigan’s voters deserved punishment.

“The false electors’ actions undermined the public’s faith in the integrity of our elections and, we believe, also plainly violated the laws by which we administer our elections in Michigan,” Nessel said in a statement. “My department has prosecuted numerous cases of election law violations throughout my tenure, and it would be malfeasance of the greatest magnitude if my department failed to act here in the face of overwhelming evidence of an organized effort to circumvent the lawfully cast ballots of millions of Michigan voters in a presidential election.”

“The evidence will demonstrate there was no legal authority for the false electors to purport to act as ‘duly elected presidential electors’ and execute the false electoral documents,” Nessel continued. “Every serious challenge to the election had been denied, dismissed, or otherwise rejected by the time the false electors convened. There was no legitimate legal avenue or plausible use of such a document or an alternative slate of electors. There was only the desperate effort of these defendants, who we have charged with deliberately attempting to interfere with and overturn our free and fair election process, and along with it, the will of millions of Michigan voters. That the effort failed and democracy prevailed does not erase the crimes of those who enacted the false electors plot.”

Courier Newsroom National Correspondent Keya Vakil contributed to this report.


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

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