Two of Trump’s 2020 Wisconsin lawyers now face felony charges in the fake electors scheme

WI GOP Fake Electors Mtg

This photo of fake electors for former President Donald Trump gathering in the Wisconsin state Capitol in December 2020, first published by the Washington Post, is included in Dane County Circuit Court records of a civil lawsuit settlement in which the fake electors rescind their false claims about the 2020 presidential election.

By Pat Kreitlow

June 4, 2024

Kenneth Chesebro and Jim Troupis worked out a strategy to try to steal Wisconsin’s vote by using fake ballots that made their way to Sen. Ron Johnson’s office on January 6.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul announced Tuesday that the state Department of Justice is filing felony charges of forgery against two attorneys and an aide for their role in former President Donald Trump’s fake electors scheme to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 election campaign.

Kenneth Chesebro, a Wisconsin Rapids native, and Jim Troupis, a former Dane County judge who was acting as a the Trump campaign’s attorney in Wisconsin, have previously acknowledged their roles in helping to create, organize, and execute a plan to offer up “alternative electors” to the rightful ones won by President Joe Biden—with the intent that Congress or the courts would cast doubt on the actual election results and take steps to unlawfully award the election to Trump. Also charged was Mike Roman, who served as Trump’s election day director of operations.

The charges are the first to come in Wisconsin—and follow criminal charges filed by officials in Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia related to the fake electors plot. Facing pressure because of action in the other states, Kaul repeatedly stated he could not comment on an ongoing investigation or if an investigation was even being conducted.

“Our approach has been focused on following the facts where they lead,” said Kaul at a news conference on the steps of the state Capitol in Madison. He did not rule out filing more charges, including against the 10 fake electors, as the investigation is ongoing.

Two of Trump’s 2020 Wisconsin lawyers now face felony charges in the fake electors scheme

(Left) Trump campaign attorney Jim Troupis speaks during a Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Dec. 16, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP, File); (Right) Lawyer Kenneth Chesebro is sworn in during a plea deal hearing, Oct. 20, 2023, at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Electors are people appointed to represent voters in presidential elections. The winner of the popular vote in each state determines which party’s electors are sent to the Electoral College, which meets in December after the election to certify the outcome. The 2020 results from those state-based races were read before a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021—a process interrupted by a violent and deadly attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters.

As previously reported in early March, Troupis and Chesebro worked out a strategy rationalizing the legal possibility of fake electors—which in Wisconsin included Robert Spindell, who was and remains a member of the Wisconsin Election Commission. Troupis and Chesebro drafted false certificates for the fake electors and discussed ways to influence public opinion on talk radio and elsewhere.

During the investigation by a select congressional committee into the January 6 insurrection, a timeline emerged of how the fake electors’ ballot was on the verge of being delivered to Vice President Mike Pence by Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, as planned by Chesebro, Troupis, and Roman.

Roman, a Philadelphia native who had previously worked for the Koch brothers political network, arranged for Alesha Guenther, a law student working part-time at the Republican Party of Wisconsin, to fly to Washington, DC and deliver the paperwork to Chesebro on Jan. 5, 2021.

From Chesebro, the fake ballots from both Wisconsin and Michigan went to Roman and then to the office of Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Kelly, then to Johnson’s office. Investigators say Troupis communicated with Johnson about getting the fake ballot to Pence on the floor of the Senate. Johnson has said he had no idea what the paperwork was about, but Roman said he told Johnson’s chief of staff Sean Riley about their contents.

Riley texted Pence staffer Chris Hodgson on January 6, “Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS please advise.”

“What is it?” Hodson asked.

“Alternate slate of electors for MI and WI because [national] archivist didn’t receive them,” Riley texted back.

“Do not give that to him,” Hodgson responded. The full exchange lasted less than a minute.

Fake ballots text

In this image from video released by the Select January 6 Committee on June 21, 2022, text messages are displayed in an exchange between Sean Riley, the chief of staff to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) and Chris Hodgson, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, on Jan. 6, 2021. (House Select Committee via AP)

Asked later about his potential role in being a “mule” for fake Trump ballots, Johnson alternately blamed his staff or Kelly’s office and denied any awareness of the plot. But in documents released as part of Chesebro’s lawsuit settlement, Chesebro emailed Troupis on Dec. 8, 2020 that he discussed the plan with Johnson the night before.

“I spoke to Senator Johnson late last night about the Pence angle at the end,” Chesebro wrote. “Just wanted to take his temperature.”

Days later, Johnson and Troupis had an email exchange that included the senator offering to edit some of the testimony Troupis was set to deliver on December 16 to a committee chaired by Johnson, a hearing riddled with conspiracy theories designed to undermine public confidence in Biden’s narrow victory.

Last December, the fake Wisconsin electors settled a civil lawsuit by agreeing to admit their actions in December 2020 — which took place in the Capitol on the same day that the rightful electors met in the governor’s office — were part of an effort to overturn Biden’s rightful victory in the state.

Troupis continues to serve as a judicial ethics advisor for the Wisconsin Judicial Conduct Advisory Committee, a post to which he was reappointed in 2023 by conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Ziegler, even after reports first surfaced of how Troupis was accused of trying to undermine the results of a completed election.

“Jim Troupis has disqualified himself from ever holding a place of public trust in Wisconsin,” said Mike Browne, deputy director of the progressive advocacy group A Better Wisconsin Together. “He has time and again schemed to undermine our freedom to choose who governs in our name. That he now has been formally charged at a felony level for his schemes yet continues to advise on judicial ethics in Wisconsin is wholly unacceptable. Chief Justice Ziegler has no excuse not to finally do right by Wisconsinites and immediately remove Troupis.”

Author

  • 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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