The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

GOP fake electors ‘targets’ in Georgia election fraud inquiry

At least a dozen of the GOP electors who falsely certified Trump as the victor of the 2020 election in Georgia are now subjects of criminal investigation

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks at a news conference in Atlanta on May 11, 2021. (Linda So/Reuters)

ATLANTA — Georgia prosecutors investigating potential criminal interference in the 2020 presidential election by Donald Trump and his allies have notified several Republicans who were part of a fake electors scheme that they are “targets” of the probe and could face charges, according to a court document filed Tuesday.

The information in the filing provides the latest insight into the fast moving and expanding investigation that’s led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis, who requested the convening of a special grand jury earlier this year. Part of the investigation now centers on the 16 Republicans who gathered at the Georgia Capitol on Dec. 14, 2020, as part of an attempt to falsely certify the state’s electoral college votes for former president Donald Trump even though Joe Biden won the state.

The group included Georgia Republican Party Chair David J. Shafer, candidate for lieutenant governor Burt Jones, county-level GOP officials, a former state lawmaker and local conservative activists.

Lawyers for 11 of those 16 Republicans, including Shafer, said in a new court filing that their clients received grand-jury subpoenas on June 1, then were notified in late June that they were considered targets of the investigation instead of witnesses. They argue in the filing that the subpoenas are “unreasonable and oppressive” and the electors will invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination after advice from legal counsel. They deemed the new designation “a publicity stunt.”

In the filing, the electors alleged they were unaware of the broader legal effort by Trump’s legal team, including Rudolph W. Giuliani and John Eastman, to use the slate of “alternate electors” to help contest the 2020 presidential election results. They further contend that prosecutors’ investigation is “political interference” resulting from “local passion and prejudice.”

This defense echoes a November 2020 legal memo from Trump legal counsel Kenneth Chesebro, who the Georgia special grand jury has also subpoenaed, that advances an unorthodox legal theory hinging on the 1960 presidential election in Hawaii when the state briefly created two alternate slates of electors while the state conducted a recount.

Jones, a state senator, received a letter informing him that he was also a target of the investigation, according to a person familiar with the documents. Yahoo News first reported that Jones and two other Republicans had received these letters.

A “target” letter is often the final step a local or federal prosecutor will take to inform an individual they are likely to be indicted before formal charges are brought. Jones has filed a motion to disqualify Willis from presiding over the case because she co-sponsored a fundraising event for Jones’s Democratic rival in the lieutenant governors race, Charlie Bailey.

In response to Jones’s motion, the district attorney’s office wrote to the court that Willis shouldn’t be disqualified because Jones “has been treated identically” to the other false electors and that none of the district attorney’s activities have “been outside the character as an officer of the law specially charged to oversee the special purpose grand jury’s investigation.”

Brandon Beach, a state senator, was also served a “target” letter last week for what prosecutors are saying was his role in facilitating communication between the fake electors and the Trump campaign, according to a person familiar with the documents. Internal communications from the campaign obtained by The Post reveal that staffers knew the effort was legally baseless and thus instructed electors to be discreet in their activities at the Georgia Capitol.

The Fulton County special grand jury began meeting in June and has identified more than 100 people of interest. The body has already heard testimony from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) and his staff, Georgia Attorney General Christopher M. Carr (R), state lawmakers and local election workers. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) is slated to supply a sworn written statement to the special grand jury next week.

In July, grand jurors issued material witness subpoenas for several members of Trump’s legal team, including Chesebro, Eastman, Giuliani, as well as lawyers Jenna Ellis, Cleta Mitchell and the conservative commentator Jacki Pick Deason.

Two members of Congress and close Trump allies have also been subpoenaed in the investigation. Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) challenged the subpoena, contesting that federal laws allowed him to move any requests for testimony to federal court.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who is of interest to the committee for phone calls he made to Raffensperger about Georgia’s election system, cited the Speech and Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution as shielding him from subpoenas. On Tuesday, Graham agreed to move any future challenges to the grand jury’s subpoena to state and federal courts in Georgia.

The Jan. 6 insurrection

The report: The Jan. 6 committee released its final report, marking the culmination of an 18-month investigation into the violent insurrection. Read The Post’s analysis about the committee’s new findings and conclusions.

The final hearing: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held its final public meeting where members referred four criminal charges against former president Donald Trump and others to the Justice Department. Here’s what the criminal referrals mean.

The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.

Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6. Here’s what we know about what Trump did on Jan. 6.