MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Ten Republicans who posed as fake electors for former President Donald Trump in Wisconsin and filed paperwork falsely saying he had won the battleground state have settled a civil lawsuit and admitted their actions were part of an effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory, attorneys who filed the case announced Wednesday.
Under the agreement, the fake electors acknowledged that Biden won the state, withdrew their filings and agreed not to serve as presidential electors in 2024 or any other election where Trump is on the ballot.
The 10 fake electors agreed to send a statement to the government offices that received the Electoral College votes saying that their actions were “part of an attempt to improperly overturn the 2020 presidential election results.”
The settlement marks the first time that any Trump electors have revoked their filings sent to Congress purporting that Trump had won in seven battleground states. Fake electors were charged in Georgia and Michigan, and Trump faces charges in Georgia and in a federal investigation of his conduct related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
The settlement was announced by Law Forward, Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection and the Madison-based Stafford Rosenbaum law firm.
“Americans believe in democracy and the idea that the people choose their leaders through elections,” said Jeff Mandell, one of the attorneys who brought the case on behalf of Democratic voters, including two who served as Biden electors. “The defendants’ actions violated those bedrock principles. We brought this case to ensure that they are held accountable.”
There is no known criminal investigation ongoing in Wisconsin. Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul has signaled that he is relying on federal investigators to look into what happened in Wisconsin, while also not ruling out a state probe.
Democrats brought the lawsuit last year seeking $2.4 million in damages from 10 Republicans who submitted a document to Congress falsely declaring Trump as the 2020 election winner in Wisconsin. They also sued two of Trump’s attorneys, including one who has already pleaded guilty to other charges stemming from the 2020 election in Georgia.
The case was scheduled to go to a trial by jury in September 2024, two months before the presidential election.
Under the deal, the fake electors don’t pay any damages or attorneys fees and there is no admission of wrongdoing or liability.
The Wisconsin GOP electors have long said that they were partaking in the plan in case a court later ruled that Trump had won the state. One of the fake electors, former Wisconsin state Republican Chairman Andrew Hitt, repeated that position in a statement Wednesday.
“The Wisconsin electors were tricked and misled into participating in what became the alternate elector scheme and would have never taken any actions had we known that there were ulterior reasons beyond preserving an ongoing legal strategy,” he said. Hitt said he has been working with the Justice Department since May of 2022 and he will not be supporting Trump in 2024.
The fake elector plan hatched in seven battleground states was central to the federal indictment filed against Trump earlier in August that alleged he tried to overturn results of the 2020 election. Federal prosecutors said the scheme originated in Wisconsin.
Fake electors met in Wisconsin and six other states where Trump was defeated in 2020 and signed certificates that falsely stated Trump, not Biden, won their states. The fake certificates were ignored.
As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, one of the attorneys named in the Wisconsin lawsuit, Kenneth Chesebro, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of conspiracy to commit filing false documents after being charged with participating in efforts to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia. Chesebro was charged alongside Trump and 17 others with violating the state’s anti-racketeering law.
Under the plea agreement, he pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy for filing multiple false documents. He agreed to a sentence of three to five years of probation, and a $1,000 fine. Additionally, he would have to pay $5,000 in restitution to Georgia and serve 100 hours of community service.
Additionally, he will have to testify under oath against co-defendants in the case, if the respective cases reach trial.
The Wisconsin lawsuit cites a memo Chesebro sent to Trump’s attorney in Wisconsin, Jim Troupis, in November 2020 detailing the elector plan.
Under the settlement, the 10 fake electors promised to assist the Department of Justice with its ongoing investigation. They also agreed to help the Democrats as they continue their lawsuit against Troupis and Chesebro.
Troupis and Chesebro did not return voicemail messages seeking comment.
The fake electors also released nearly 600 pages of documents related to their scheme, under terms of the settlement.
Government and outside investigationshave uniformly found there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could have swung the election from Biden. Trump has continued to spread falsehoods about the 2020 election.
Electors are people appointed to represent voters in presidential elections. The winner of the popular vote in each state determines which party’s electors are sent to the Electoral College, which meets in December after the election to certify the outcome.
Managing Editor Steve Schuster contributed to this report.