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Wisconsin attorney general files felony charges against attorneys, aide who worked for Trump in 2020

Jun 4, 2024, 7:42 AM | Updated: 11:22 am

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul filed felony forgery charges Tuesday against two attorneys and an aide who helped submit paperwork falsely saying that former President Donald Trump had won the battleground state in 2020.

The state charges are the first to come in Wisconsin and follow separate charges brought in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Georgia related to the fake electors scheme.

The Wisconsin charges were filed against Trump’s attorney in the state, Jim Troupis, 62, attorney Kenneth Chesebro, 62, who was advising the campaign and Mike Roman, 51, who was Trump’s director of Election Day operations. Roman allegedly delivered Wisconsin’s fake elector paperwork to a Pennsylvania congressman’s staffer in order to get them to then-Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6, 2021.

All three are due in Dane County Circuit Court on Sept. 19, according to court records. They each face one felony count punishable by up to six years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

Troupis and Chesebro did not return voicemail messages left Tuesday. Roman’s attorney, Kurt Altman, said he just learned of the charges Tuesday morning and was in the process of reviewing them.

Kaul, a Democrat, didn’t rule out filing more charges, including against the 10 fake electors, saying that the investigation is ongoing.

“Our approach has been focused on following the facts where they lead,” he said at a news conference.

Wisconsin Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson called the charges “outrageous.”

“Now Democrats are weaponizing Wisconsin’s judiciary,” Johnson posted on X. “Apparently conservative lawyers advising clients is illegal under Democrat tyranny. Democrats are turning America into a banana republic.”

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers offered a one-word response to news of the charges being filed: “Good.”

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.

The fake elector efforts are central to an August federal indictment filed against Trump alleging he tried to overturn results of the 2020 election. Federal prosecutors, investigating his conduct related to the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot, have also said the scheme originated in Wisconsin. Trump also faces charges in Georgia and has denied wrongdoing.

Chesebro and Roman were among the 18 people indicted along with Trump in August in a sprawling racketeering indictment in Georgia. They’re accused of participating in a wide-ranging scheme to illegally overturn the 2020 election in that state.

Chesebro in October pleaded guilty to one felony charge of conspiracy to commit filing false documents after reaching a deal with Georgia prosecutors. Roman has pleaded not guilty to racketeering and conspiracy charges related to a plan to have Republican electors meet and cast Electoral College votes for Trump even though Biden had won Georgia.

Roman also faces nine felony charges in Arizona related to the fake electors scheme there, including conspiracy, fraud and forgery.

The 10 Wisconsin electors, Chesebro and Troupis, who was Trump’s attorney in Wisconsin, all settled a civil lawsuit that was brought against them last year.

Documents released as part of those settlements showed that the strategy in Wisconsin replicated moves in six other swing states.

The complaint goes into detail largely citing those documents, interviews and testimony given to Congress about how the fake elector scheme was hatched.

The complaint details how Chesebro emailed a memo on Nov. 18, 2020, to Troupis and others arguing that electors representing Trump should meet on Dec. 14, 2020, to preserve the Trump-Pence electoral slate in case a court or Legislature would determine them to be the winners.

Chesebro argued in a subsequent memo that the Trump electors could be counted by Congress if court challenges to his loss were still pending. Troupis sent both memos to the Trump White House, according to the complaint.

On Dec. 9, 2020, Chesebro emailed Troupis a memo with instructions for the Dec. 14, 2020, elector meetings. Two days later, Chesebro emailed Trump aide Roman details of the plan, the complaint said.

During or around the time of the Dec. 14, 2020, meeting, Chesebro sent a message to Troupis and Roman that said, “WI meeting of the ‘real’ electors is a go!!!,” the complaint said. Troupis responded with a “thumbs up” emoji, the complaint said.

The complaint also details how the fake elector slate was delivered to Chesebro from Wisconsin to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5, 2021, by Alesha Guenther, a law student working part-time at the Republican Party of Wisconsin. Roman told Guenther to deliver the paperwork only to Chesebro.

“5 mins until I make the drop,” Guenther texted at one point, according to the complaint. “I feel like a drug dealer.”

Once Chesebro was given the documents, he emailed Roman to let him know he had them.

Roman then arranged for a congressional staff member to meet Chesebro and take the document. Chesebro sent Roman a message confirming that it had been done, the complaint said.

Trump lost Wisconsin to Biden, a Democrat, by fewer than 21,000 votes. Trump carried Wisconsin by a similar margin in 2016.

Government and outside investigationshave uniformly found there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could have swung the 2020 election. But Trump has continued to spread falsehoods about the election, particularly in Wisconsin.

___

Associated Press writer Kate Brumback in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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Wisconsin attorney general files felony charges against attorneys, aide who worked for Trump in 2020