Newsletter: Accountability for Architects of 2020 Election Interference

With the election denial movement still working to undermine confidence in U.S. democracy before this November, accountability for those who sought to overturn the last presidential election has seemed slow in coming. But this week saw several steps forward on that front, from NBC News’ reversal of its decision to hire former RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel to legal proceedings against major players in the plot to reverse Trump’s 2020 loss.

Perhaps this week’s most significant instance of accountability came Wednesday, when a judge in California ruled that John Eastman, the Trump-allied lawyer who outlined the six-step scheme to block the congressional certification of President Biden’s 2020 victory, is ineligible to practice law and should be permanently disbarred.

After the 2020 election, Eastman penned a memo with a plan to keep former President Trump in power, which relied on Trump supporters from seven states submitting fake electoral certificates to dispute Biden’s victory in those states.

  • The plan was a key element in the Justice Department’s indictment of Trump for election interference, which implicates Eastman as “Co-conspirator 2.”
  • Judge Yvette Roland found this week that Eastman’s repeated lies violated rules of professional ethics. “Eastman exhibited gross negligence by making false statements about the 2020 election without conducting any meaningful investigation or verification of the information he was relying upon,” Roland wrote in her 128-page ruling.

The ruling against Eastman is a landmark win for accountability that comes as others who aided and abetted the effort to upend U.S. democracy also face consequences for their roles.

  • The disciplinary trial for Jeffrey Clark — the former Justice Department lawyer who sought to use the power of the department to advance Trump’s 2020 election lies — also began this week. 
  • Clark was implicated in the federal election interference indictment against Trump as “Co-conspirator 4″ and now faces potential disbarment for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 results.
  • American Oversight previously uncovered records that shed light on Clark’s post-election scheme to falsely tell state officials that the Justice Department was investigating “significant concerns” that could change the 2020 results. 
  • We also uncovered emails Clark sent after the Jan. 6 insurrection, as he was preparing to leave the Trump administration, in which he apparently betrayed no qualms about his actions.

Also this week, Mike Roman — the director of Election Day operations for Trump’s 2020 campaign — was subpoenaed in the Arizona attorney general’s investigation of the fake elector scheme. Roman, like Eastman and Clark, had been indicted in the Georgia election interference case.

  • American Oversight obtained documents that show that Roman was involved in conversations about the Arizona Senate’s partisan “audit” of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results. We also uncovered records in which Roman’s name appeared on a list of employees retained for the sham review by subcontractor Wake TSI, the firm that led the hand count of ballots until mid-May 2021. 

On the Records

Wake TSI’s emails with Fulton County, Pennsylvania

In an article published this week about our lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s Fulton County for records related to its own post-2020 election ballot reviews, the Chambersburg Public Opinion newspaper cited an email we obtained that shows Gene Kern, executive vice president of audit firm Wake TSI, tried to set up a private communication chain with conservative county officials in January 2021. 

  • In July 2023, a court ordered Wake TSI to produce records related to the review. Those records have not yet been released, and American Oversight’s lawsuit against Fulton County and Wake TSI remains in the discovery phase.
  • “We anticipate our lawsuit against the county and Wake TSI will pry loose audit-related information they have long withheld,” American Oversight Deputy Executive Director Chioma Chukwu stated. “As we approach yet another election, it is critical that Pennsylvania voters have access to records that shed light on their elected officials’ attempts to subvert their will.”
Experts Discuss the Campaign to Dismantle ERIC

On Tuesday, American Oversight hosted a virtual event that drew renewed attention to how the election denial movement and far-right misinformation pushed nine states to reject the nonpartisan Electronic Registration Information Center. 

Experts from All Voting is Local, the Brennan Center, the Campaign Legal Center, and American Oversight examined the anti-voter networks pushing the withdrawals from ERIC and the grave impact that exodus presents for voting rights and election administration during this year’s election. The virtual event built upon our in-depth investigation and our comprehensive report “The Campaign to Dismantle ERIC.”

  • The discussion emphasized that the attacks on ERIC were launched by the same people who tried to undermine faith in the results of the 2020 election. 
  • Experts also talked about ERIC’s effectiveness, and concerns about states no longer being able to benefit from the system. 
  • Meanwhile, election denial activists have been pushing dubious systems as replacements, which present alarming implications for voting rights ahead of the 2024 election. 

One of these flawed “alternatives” is EagleAI, which has entered a controversial agreement with Georgia’s Columbia County.

  • Earlier this month, we joined the Campaign Legal Center in sending a letter to Georgia officials, asking for investigation into whether that agreement violates state election law — you can read more about that letter in the Atlantic Journal-Constitution.
  • And read more about the event — including a full transcript — here.

Other Stories We’re Following

Election Denial and Threats to Democracy
  • Federal officials say 20 have been charged for threatening election workers (Washington Post)
  • Fearing political violence, more states ban firearms at polling places (Stateline)
  • Overworked, underpaid, under attack: on the frontlines in a US election office (Guardian)
  • Was the 2020 election stolen? Job interviews at RNC take an unusual turn. (Washington Post)
  • Kari Lake asks court to decide damages in Maricopa County official’s defamation case (Votebeat)
  • Dallas-area Republican asks for a recount in statehouse race, claiming ‘irregularities’ (KERA North Texas)
  • Former Shasta County Elections Commissioner resigns, claiming it was a waste of time and money (Chico-Redding Action News Now)
  • Shasta County Election Commission discusses alleged errors in primary ballot count (KRCR Redding)
  • Vos: Gableman, leader of failed 2020 election probe, should be ‘disbarred’ (Wisconsin Public Radio)
Voting Rights
  • South Carolina to use congressional map deemed unconstitutional (Washington Post)
  • Georgia Senate votes to allow fewer voting machines and put ballots online (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • North Carolina elections board finalizes results from primary marked by new voter ID rules (Associated Press)
  • Court rejects claim challenging North Carolina map for diluting Black vote (Washington Post)
  • Federal court upholds DeSantis-backed congressional map (Politico)
  • New Michigan House map approved ahead of election to decide which party controls chamber (Detroit Free Press)
  • Wisconsin ballot questions on election administration are too vague, officials say (Votebeat)
  • GOP wants to scrap Arizona early voting. The plan is 1 vote away from the November ballot (Arizona Republic)
In the States
  • Texas AG Ken Paxton makes deal to avoid felony securities trial (Washington Post)
  • How the criminal case against Texas AG Ken Paxton abruptly ended after nearly a decade of delays (Associated Press)
  • Arizona House GOP forms panel to investigate AG Kris Mayes for ‘weaponization’ of office (Arizona Republic)
  • Police oversight in Florida is already weak. The state is about to gut it further. (Bolts)
  • DeSantis tourism board, Disney reach settlement to end legal feud (Washington Post)
  • How central Virginia’s mail delivery imploded (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
  • Judge rules Georgia Republican Party’s vice chairman voted illegally (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
LGBTQ Rights
  • ACLU of Ohio files lawsuit against gender-affirming care ban for transgender minors (Ohio Capital Journal)
  • Texas district judge blocks Ken Paxton’s demands for PFLAG gender-affirming care records (Austin American-Statesman)
  • Transgender middle schooler files federal lawsuit against Elkhorn School District (Wisconsin Public Radio)
  • Kansas Republicans send strict ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors to Kelly (Kansas City Star)
  • Idaho governor signs law to ban Medicaid, state insurance coverage for transgender gender care (Idaho Capital Sun)
Abortion and Reproductive Rights
  • The group behind Dobbs does not want to talk about what comes next (Politico)
  • Abortions outside medical system increased sharply after Roe fell, study finds (Washington Post)
  • Supreme Court signals it is likely to reject a challenge to abortion pill access (NBC News)
  • Erin Hawley: The woman arguing against the abortion pill (New York Times)
  • Bill requiring abortion providers to ask patients their reason heads to KS Gov. Kelly (Kansas City Star)
  • Kansas Senate opts to not debate in-vitro fertilization protections after Alabama ban (Topeka Capital-Journal)
  • State lawmaker told to ‘knock it off’ after urging ministers to stand against abortion initiative (Nebraska Examiner)
  • Knudsen rewrites abortion initiative ballot statement; proponents ask Supreme Court to reject it (News from the States)
  • Auditor Rob Sand criticizes AG Brenna Bird’s decision to pause emergency contraception payments (Iowa Capital Dispatch)
Threats to Education
  • Montgomery County directs citizen board to review, and potentially remove, library books (Texas Tribune)
  • Youngkin administration reviews race, DEI syllabi for VCU, George Mason courses (News from the States)
Civil Rights
  • Why did more than 1,000 people die after police subdued them with force that isn’t meant to kill? (Associated Press)
  • Federal watchdog to examine DOJ law enforcement task forces after NBC News report (NBC News)
Government Transparency and Public Records Law
  • Arkansas Corrections Board plays fast and loose with open meetings law (News from the States)
  • Close call for open records law as panel un-adopts mass exemptions for Kentucky elected officials (Kentucky Lantern)
  • Lawmakers pass bill allowing digital news sites to post public notices (Roanoke Star)
  • California law enforcement agencies have hindered transparency efforts in use-of-force cases (Associated Press)
  • The courts blocked SB4. Texas soldiers threatened to deport migrants under it anyway. (Houston Chronicle)
  • DeSantis wants more power to arrest migrants in Florida amid Haiti crisis (Miami Herald)
  • Gov. Kim Reynolds deploys National Guard, law enforcement to U.S. southern border in Texas (Iowa Capital Dispatch)
Trump Accountability and Jan. 6 Investigations
  • Judge imposes gag order on Trump in Manhattan criminal trial (New York Times)
  • Trump ally Jeffrey Clark was adamant about fraud in 2020 election despite evidence, superior said (Associated Press)
  • Big Republican donor Jeff Yass owned shares in Trump Media merger partner (New York Times)
  • Judge forges ahead with pretrial motions in Georgia election interference case (Associated Press)
  • Trump escalates solidarity with Jan. 6 rioters as his own trials close in (Washington Post)
  • Trump’s social media company opens new avenue for conflicts of interest (New York Times)
  • Many GOP billionaires balked at Jan. 6. They’re coming back to Trump. (Washington Post)