MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has been doing a great deal of reporting on MAGA Republicans who, after the 2020 presidential election, circulated fake "Electoral College" documents in states that Joe Biden won and falsely claimed, on those documents, that Donald Trump won the states in question. In an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on January 17, attorney Philip Rotner argues that those fake electors deserve to face criminal prosecution in federal court.
Rotner isn't the only one making that argument. During a January 13 appearance on Maddow's show, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel — who is part of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration — told the host, "Under state law, I think clearly you have forgery of a public record, which is a 14-year offense, and election law forgery, which is a five-year offense."
But while Nessel was mainly talking about Michigan during that January 13 conversation with Maddow, Rotner points out that MAGA Republicans circulated fake Electoral College documents in multiple states.
"While the story of phony electoral certificates submitted to Congress by Republican officials in five states as part of a failed attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election has caught on in a big way over the last week, it isn't new," Rotner explains. "The phony certificates were submitted nearly a year ago, and as early as March 2, 2021, American Oversight published the documents themselves after obtaining them through the Freedom of Information Act."
Rotner adds, "Actually, there weren't just five states in which, despite Biden having won there, Republican pseudo-electors submitted Electoral College certificates in support of Trump. There were seven. The Republicans in two of those states, however, hedged their bets."
Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.
The two states where Trump supporters "hedged their bets," Rotner notes, were New Mexico and Pennsylvania. The other five — the ones Maddow specifically discussed on her show —were Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and, of course, Michigan.
"The submissions from (New Mexico and Pennsylvania) deserve the benefit of the doubt," Rotner writes. "They can and should be read as contingent, belt-and-suspenders backup plans to make sure that Trump electors were identified in the event, however unlikely, that the courts reversed the election results in their states. Not so the other five states. The phony Trump electors from each of the other five states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin — certified that they were, in fact, the 'duly elected and qualified Electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America' from their respective states. Those representations were lies."
Rotner continues, "Biden, not Trump, had won the elections in each of those states. In each of those states, Biden's victory had been certified by the officials given clear statutory authority to do so…. In short, the individuals who signed the documents certifying that they were the 'duly elected and qualified' electors from their states were not. Their certificates were fraudulent, full stop. No doubt or ambiguity about it."
According to attorney Rotner, those "phony GOP state certifications" were "not just deplorable political acts of subversion — they are criminal acts."
"The signing and transmission of the phony certificates were also stand-alone crimes in and of themselves, committed in broad daylight and easily prosecuted," Rotner writes. "State and federal law enforcement should have been all over this for almost a year now. Worse, even for those inclined to think 'better late than never,' it's still not clear that they are on it now…. The real action here is — or should be — at the federal level. These phony certifications were not isolated, one-off events. They were highly coordinated."
More stories like this: