We've reached a turning point in our quest to ensure consequences for those who willfully seek to undermine our democracy: Michigan's Attorney General, Dana Nessel, indicted 16 Republican leaders in his state Tuesday for their role as bogus voters working to overturn the 2020 election results. The accusations, which come on the heels of news that special counsel Jack Smith had told Donald Trump that he was the target of a Justice Department investigation into the Capitol riot, mean we are witnessing a new and necessary phase in this quest for accountability, in which federal and state justice wheels work to hold people accountable. not only for the violence on January 6 but also for what led us there: the alleged scheme to disrupt the transfer of power.
The accusations in Michigan are sure to be met with criticism from all sides. Some would say that the case is not broad or courageous enough that Mr Trump and other accused national group leaders should also be prosecuted. Others will say Ms. Nessel cast a net too wide, attracting low-level party officials who didn't know any better. We think the critics misunderstood. Miss Nessel did right, prosecuting crimes firmly within her jurisdiction while paving the way for federal authorities to catch a bigger fish.
Ms. Nessel brought the same eight charges against the 16 defendants. The offenses included conspiracy to commit forgery, as the defendants are accused of signing documents certifying that they were eligible electors (they were not), and issuing false documents by circulating this material to federal and state authorities. On paper, penalties for violations range from five to 14 years, but the sentence in this case will probably be less than that maximum.
To date, there have been no allegations centered on a fake voter plot. For that reason alone, Michigan's actions bring a needed sense of responsibility to those who fanned the passion of the rioters ahead of January 6 by spinning a false narrative of a stolen election.
Michigan saw some of the most outrageous fake voter certificate appeared during the period leading up to the Capitol riots. Unlike the counterfeit certificates in Pennsylvania and New Mexico, the Michigan documents do not include a disclaimer that they will only be used in litigation cases. What's more, the document contains much more false statements than simply stating that the signatories are legitimate electors of the winning candidate.
For example, they stated that voters “assembled and organized at the State Capitol,” when, according to the attorney general, they were hidden in the basement of Republican state headquarters. (Apparently fake voters included this lie because Michigan law requires presidential voters to meet in the Capitol — a requirement and legal issue that Trump campaign legal counsel Kenneth Chesebro has flagged in his book. secret memo set schema.)
In proving these cases, build intention will be key. Here, there are several indicators that the defendants may have been aware of the illegitimate nature of their meeting. According to congressional testimony from then-state Republican Party chair Laura Cox, the group originally planned to meet inside the Capitol and hide overnight, so they could vote in the building the next day. Ms Cox said she told an attorney who worked with the Trump campaign and allegedly organized fake voters “unequivocally that it was crazy and inappropriate” and “a very, very bad idea and potentially illegal.”
As he said, Ms. Cox was “very uncomfortable” with facilitating a fake voter group meeting and said so at the time, according to his lawyers. He even urged the group to put together a much more measured document simply “stating that if something might happen in court, they are willing and able to vote from Michigan to Donald Trump.” His advice was not followed.
When fake voters meet to allegedly falsify their paperwork, they should know state officials have done it certified election results for Joe Biden; Formerly National And country news. At that time, there was no prospect of changing the outcome through litigation or legislative action. The day prosecutors said the fake voters met, two of the state's strongest Republicans admitted it. Mike Shirkey, majority leader in the State Senate, and Lee Chatfield, Speaker of the House, statement issued declared the presidential election over. Mr. Shirkey said that “Democratic voters in Michigan should be able to continue their duties” without threats of harassment or violence.
Fake voters were told they weren't allowed to take their phones to a meeting at Republican headquarters that day, according to testimony one of which gave congressional investigators. They were instructed to maintain confidentiality and not share any details about what was going on. The secrecy shows that they know what they are doing is wrong.
Former Michigan secretary of state Terri Lynn Land, who has been named a Trump elector, refused to participate in the process, proverbaccording to the testimony of Ms. Cox, he doesn't feel comfortable doing it.
Given these facts, it would be unthinkable for the state's attorney general to choose not to sue Michigan 16. Ms. Nessel has regularly have brought prosecution, some of which were against fellow Democrats, centered on fake documents relating to the election. The case of voter fraud is far more egregious than most: The defendants here are politically engaged individuals who should have known about the election results, as well as flat rejection by the courts and the Michigan Legislature of Trump's campaign claims of voter fraud.
To be sure, some critics of the case may still think that the Michigan attorney general should have gone after Trump and his top lieutenant, who helped organize fake voters. But prosecutors have the first responsibility to pursue such people within their jurisdiction. By focusing solely on the characters who acted in Michigan, Ms. Nessel wisely shielded his case from accusations he overreached.
Of course, a wider prosecution could still be warranted. Reporting show that the Fulton County, Ga. district attorney, Fani Willis, may be considering a different type of case, involving the state's RICO crimes. In contrast to the Michigan prosecution, the case may focus on Mr. Trump's direct attempts to pressure state election officials — efforts captured on tape — and Rudy Giuliani's efforts to provide state officials with false statements about election fraud.
If a broad-based indictment finally emerges from Georgia and is supported by facts and the appropriate law, then we'd welcome that. It is part of the genius of American democracy: The states, which are responsible for administering our elections, are laboratories for democracy and accountability.
Ms case Nessel also paved the way for Mr. Smith. He had avoided prosecuting the high-level individuals that Mr. Smith. If anything, the case provides Mr Smith with a greater platform for action, and he looks set to follow through. If Ms. Nessel can move against these people in Michigan, Mr. Smith can and should do the same with ringleaders. Together, they can hold their soldiers and organizers accountable for their actions leading up to the Capitol riot.
Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee on the impeachment and first trial of Donald Trump. Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University, is co-editor of the Just Security website.
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