In the weeks after the 2020 election, then-President Donald Trump's allies sent fake certificates to the National Archives declaring that Trump won seven states that he actually lost. The documents had no impact on the outcome of the election, but they are yet another example of how Team Trump tried to subvert the Electoral College -- a key line of inquiry for the January 6 committee.
The fake certificates were created by Trump allies in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico, who sought to replace valid presidential electors from their states with a pro-Trump slate, according to documents obtained by American Oversight.
The documents contain the signatures of Trump supporters who claimed to be the rightful electors from seven states that President Joe Biden won. But these rogue slates of electors didn't have the backing of any elected officials in the seven states -- like a governor or secretary of state, who are involved in certifying election results -- and they served no legitimate purpose.
The documents were first posted online in March by the government watchdog group. But they received renewed attention this week, as the January 6 committee ramps up its investigation into Trump's attempted coup, including how his allies tried to stop states from certifying Biden's victory, in part, by installing friendly slates of electors who would overturn the will of the voters.
Politico and MSNBC were first to report on the documents this week.
As part of the Electoral College process, governors are required to sign a formal "certificate of ascertainment," verifying that the statewide winner's slate of electors are the legitimate electors. These electors then sign a second certificate, formally affirming their votes for president.
These documents are sent to the National Archives in Washington, DC, which processes them before they are sent onto Congress, which formally counts the electoral votes on January 6.
The real certificates, which have been posted to the National Archives website, correctly stated that Biden won the seven battleground states. They also list the legitimate group of electors from each state, rather than the rogue pro-Trump slate included on the unofficial documents.
Some of the fake certificates with pro-Trump electors were sent to the National Archives by top officials representing the Republican Party in each state, according to the documents.
They sent these fake certificates after Trump himself failed to block governors from signing the real certificates. Specifically, Trump encouraged Republican governors in states like Georgia and Arizona not to certify the election results, and falsely claimed the elections were fraudulent. But these GOP officials ignored Trump, followed the law, and awarded the electors to Biden.
Installing slates of "alternate electors" was an integral part of the ill-fated plan conceived by Trump allies to usurp power on January 6 by pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to throw out the pro-Biden electors that had been chosen by voters. The idea was promoted by Trump advisers inside and outside the White House, including controversial right-wing lawyer John Eastman.
Eastman, who has been subpoenaed by the January 6 committee, authored a memo outlining a six-step plan for Pence to overturn the election and award Trump a second term. The plan included throwing out results from seven states because they allegedly had competing electors.
In truth, no state actually had two slates of competing electors. The pro-Trump electors were merely claiming without any authority to be electors, as documented in the fake certificates sent to the National Archives. The certificates were essentially an elaborate public relations stunt.
The new documents weren't the only fake certificates sent to the National Archives. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, told CNN's Don Lemon that a second group called the "Sovereign Citizens of the State of Arizona" sent a rogue document to the National Archives in 2020, and she said they improperly used the Arizona state seal on their fake certificate.
"They used this fake seal to make it look official, which is not a legal activity," Hobbs said.
Stewart Rhodes — founder and leader of the extremist group Oath Keepers, whose members are accused of being key players in the Jan. 6 attack on Congress — has been indicted and arrested, officials said Thursday.
The 56-year-old, who was at the Capitol that day but has said he did not enter the building, is the most high-profile person charged in the investigation so far. He is charged with seditious conspiracy, along with 10 other Oath Keepers members or associates, officials said.
Most of those individuals were previously arrested, but one, 63-year old Edward Vallejo of Phoenix, Arizona, is also facing charges as part of the case against the Oath Keepers for the first time. Officials said Rhodes was arrested this morning in Little Elm, Texas, and Vallejo was taken into custody in Phoenix.
A federal grand jury in the District leveled the new charges focusing on what prosecutors say is a core group of Oath Keepers adherents who allegedly planned for and participated in obstructing Congress on the day lawmakers certified President Biden’s 2020 election victory.
The indictments unsealed Thursday mark the first time anyone has faced charges of seditious conspiracy for the Jan. 6 attacks, though prosecutors have long signaled they were considering using that rarely-applied section of federal law.
In interviews with The Washington Post over the past year, Rhodes — a former Army paratrooper and Yale Law graduate who has become one of the most visible figures of the far-right anti-government movement — has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
He said he was communicating with members of his group on Jan. 6, 2021 in an effort to “keep them out of trouble,” and emphasized that Oath Keepers associates who did go into the Capitol “went totally off mission.”
An attorney for Rhodes, Jonathan Moseley, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
An earlier indictment charged 19 of alleged Oath Keepers adherents with conspiracy and aiding and abetting the obstruction of Congress. Two of those individuals have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with investigators. The rest have pleaded not guilty and are preparing for trials later this year.
In cases in which people have pleaded guilty, defendants acknowledged they were among a group that forced entry through the Capitol’s East Rotunda doors after marching single-file in tight formation up the steps wearing camouflage vests, helmets, goggles and Oath Keepers insignia.
Some defendants also admitted to stashing guns in a nearby Arlington, Va., hotel for possible use by what they called a “Quick Reaction Force.”