On Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel brought felony charges against the state’s 16 “fake electors” who signed and submitted to Congress an alternate electoral certificate as part of the seven-state plot to overturn former President Trump’s 2020 election loss.
The charges against the Michigan fake electors are the first brought against individuals who participated in the scheme to prevent the congressional certification of the election, which is also being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department. American Oversight first obtained and published the forged certificates in the spring of 2021, and recently unearthed emails from early that year in which the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) alerted officials in several states that the fake certificates had been submitted. The emails provide a window into how state leaders — including in Michigan — were notified about the scheme.
On Jan. 8, 2021, Katerina Horska, then NARA’s director of legal affairs and policy, emailed Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s chief counsel and the director of the Michigan Bureau of Elections: “For your awareness, we received today unofficial certificates from the Republican electors who were not appointed by the Governor,” she said. “I’ve attached a scan of what we received for your information. Because this did not come from the Michigan Secretary of State’s office, we will not be adding the documents to the Electoral College website.” Whitmer’s chief counsel, Mark Totten, acknowledged receipt the same day.
Totten sent a follow-up email on Jan. 20, writing: “You mentioned receiving unofficial Certificates of Votes from the Republican electors in Michigan. Did you also receive an unofficial Certificate of Ascertainment from them or anyone else for Michigan?”
“The COV I sent you is all that we got for unofficial packages for Michigan,” Horska replied. “We also received a letter from MI House of Rep. Rendon et al. to the [U.S. Archivist] with the Governor CC’d. No other packages.” The letter from state Rep. Daire Rendon was not included in the records released to American Oversight. Rendon was also named in an ongoing state investigation into an alleged plan by prominent election deniers to access voting machines in the state.
Trump supporters in six other swing states — including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and New Mexico — also submitted certificates falsely claiming Trump had won their state. On Jan. 8, the general counsel in the Pennsylvania governor’s office wrote to Horska, “If your office received an alternative set of certificates putting forth electors for President Trump for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, would you please send me a copy?”
Horska replied with the certificate, writing, “We sent an email regarding this communication upon receipt in late December, but it appears the email inadvertently left off the PA contact.”
The chief counsel in the office of the Wisconsin governor also wrote to Horska on Jan. 8: “Do you know if any false certificates of ascertainment were filed with the National Archives for Wisconsin?” Horska forwarded him an email that she had previously sent to an official at the Wisconsin Elections Commission regarding the certificate’s submission.
The records also contain an email from the deputy elections director at the New Mexico secretary of state’s office, who in late December 2020 wrote to NARA officials to thank them for keeping the office “in the loop.” “We received a copy of these unofficial certificates as well,” the elections official wrote. “We appreciate that you will be adding only the official certificates from us to the website.”
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