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Arizona grand jury indicts 11 Republicans who falsely declared Trump won the state in 2020

Former U.S. president Donald Trump waits for the start of proceedings in Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in New York. (Yuki Iwamura / AP Photo, Pool) Former U.S. president Donald Trump waits for the start of proceedings in Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in New York. (Yuki Iwamura / AP Photo, Pool)
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PHOENIX -

Eleven Republicans who submitted a document to Congress falsely declaring that Donald Trump beat Joe Biden in Arizona in the 2020 presidential election were charged Wednesday with conspiracy, fraud and forgery, marking the fourth state to bring charges against “fake electors.”

The defendants include the former chair of the Arizona Republican Party, a 2022 U.S. Senate candidate and two sitting state legislators. The grand jury indictment also describes an unindicted co-conspirator who is clearly Trump.

The 11 people who had been nominated to be Arizona’s Republican electors met in Phoenix, Ariz. on Dec. 14, 2020, to sign a certificate saying they were “duly elected and qualified” electors and claiming that Trump carried the state. A one-minute video of the signing ceremony was posted on social media by the Arizona Republican Party at the time. The document was later sent to Congress and the National Archives, where it was ignored.

Seven others were indicted, but their names were blacked out of records released by Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes. Her office said the names will be released after those people are served with the charges.

“I will not allow American democracy to be undermined,” Mayes said in a video released by her office. “It’s too important.”

Biden won Arizona by more than 10,000 votes. Of the eight lawsuits that unsuccessfully challenged Biden’s victory in the state, one was filed by the 11 Republicans who would later sign the certificate declaring Trump as the winner.

Their lawsuit asked a judge to de-certify the results that gave Biden his victory in Arizona and block the state from sending them to the Electoral College. In dismissing the case, U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa said the Republicans lacked legal standing, waited too long to bring their case and “failed to provide the court with factual support for their extraordinary claims.”

Days after that lawsuit was dismissed, the 11 Republicans participated in the certificate signing.

The Arizona charges come after a string of indictments against fake electors in other states.

In December, a Nevada grand jury indicted six Republicans on felony charges of offering a false instrument for filing and uttering a forged instrument in connection with false election certificates. They have pleaded not guilty.

Michigan’s Attorney General in July filed felony charges that included forgery and conspiracy to commit election forgery against 16 Republican fake electors. One had charges dropped after reaching a cooperation deal, and the 15 remaining defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Three fake electors also have been charged in Georgia alongside Trump and others in a sweeping indictment accusing them of participating in a wide-ranging scheme to illegally overturn the results. They have pleaded not guilty.

In Wisconsin, 10 Republicans who posed as electors settled a civil lawsuit, admitting their actions were part of an effort to overturn Biden’s victory. There is no known criminal investigation in Wisconsin.

Trump also was indicted in August in federal court over the fake electors scheme. The indictment states that when Trump was unable to persuade state officials to illegally swing the election, he and his Republican allies began recruiting a slate of fake electors in battleground states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — to sign certificates falsely stating he, not Biden, had won their states.

In early January, New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez said that state’s five Republican electors cannot be prosecuted under the current law. In New Mexico and Pennsylvania, fake electors added a caveat saying the election certificate was submitted in case they were later recognized as duly elected, qualified electors. No charges have been filed in Pennsylvania.

In Arizona, Mayes’ predecessor, Republican Mark Brnovich, conducted an investigation of the 2020 election, but the fake elector allegations were not part of that examination, according to Mayes’ office.

n another election-related case brought by Mayes’ office, two Republican officials in a rural Arizona county who delayed canvassing the 2022 general election results face felony charges. A grand jury indicted Cochise County Supervisors Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby in November on one count each of conspiracy and interference with an election officer. Both pleaded not guilty.

The Republicans facing charges are Kelli Ward, the state GOP’s chair from 2019 until early 2023; state Sen. Jake Hoffman; Tyler Bowyer, an executive of the conservative youth organization Turning Point USA who serves on the Republican National Committee; state Sen. Anthony Kern, who was photographed in restricted areas outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack and is now a candidate in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District; Greg Safsten, a former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party; energy industry executive James Lamon, who lost a 2022 Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat; Robert Montgomery, chairman of the Cochise County Republican Committee in 2020; Samuel Moorhead, a Republican precinct committee member in Gila County; Nancy Cottle, who in 2020 was the first vice president of the Arizona Federation of Republican Women; Loraine Pellegrino, president of the Ahwatukee Republican Women; and Michael Ward, an osteopathic physician who is married to Kelli Ward.

None of the 11 responded to either phone, email or social media messages from The Associated Press on Wednesday seeking comment.

Associated Press writers Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix, Kate Brumback in Atlanta and Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.

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