Wisconsin fake electors acknowledge actions were used to overturn Biden election

Molly Beck
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MADISON — Ten Wisconsin Republicans who posed as electors for Donald Trump in 2020 despite the former president's election loss have acknowledged their actions were part of an attempt to overturn an election.

The statement was made Wednesday as part of a settlement in a lawsuit filed against the Republicans by Democratic electors for Joe Biden that sought $2.4 million in damages.

It comes as Trump is the leading candidate in the 2024 Republican primary for president.

Wisconsin Republicans meet in a state Capitol hearing room on Dec. 14, 2020 to sign paperwork claiming to be electors for Donald Trump despite his election loss.

As part of the settlement, the Republicans agreed not to serve as electors in the future or participate in the transmission of such documents again, among other terms. The defendants are no longer facing paying damages as well.

More:Here are the 10 people who participated in Wisconsin's fake elector scheme in 2020

In the statement released by the false Trump electors, the Republicans wrote they met in the Wisconsin State Capitol to sign paperwork falsely claiming to be electors to be "in compliance with requests from the Trump campaign and Republican Party of Wisconsin."

"The Elector Defendants took the foregoing action because they were told that it was necessary to preserve their electoral votes in the event a court challenge may later change the outcome of the election in Wisconsin. That document was then used as part of an attempt to improperly overturn the 2020 presidential election results," the Republicans wrote.

"We oppose any attempt to undermine the public’s faith in the ultimate results of the 2020 presidential election. We hereby withdraw the documents we executed on December 14, 2020, and request that they be disregarded by the public and all entities to which they were submitted."

Andrew Hitt, who was chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin at the time and signed elector paperwork, said Wednesday he won't support Trump in 2024.

"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," Hitt said."I will not be supporting Trump in 2024. We have serious problems facing this country and we need a President who will not repeat 2020 and will focus on tackling those difficult issues." Hitt also said he was been cooperating with the state Department of Justice since December 2022.

Former Republican Party of Wisconsin chairman Andrew Hitt signs paperwork on Dec. 14, 2020 claiming to be an elector for Donald Trump. The meeting took place in the Wisconsin State Capitol.

The 10 Republicans will no longer be part of the lawsuit because of the settlement, according Jeff Mandell, who represents the plaintiffs in the case. But attorneys Jim Troupis and Kenneth Chesebro will continue to stand trial in September, Mandell said.

“Americans believe in democracy and the idea that the people choose their leaders through elections. The defendants’ actions violated those bedrock principles," Mandell, partner at Stafford Rosenbaum LLP and Law Forward board president, said in a statement. “This settlement agreement provides one piece of that accountability and helps ensure that a similar effort to subvert our democracy will never happen again.” 

Biden beat Trump by about 21,000 votes in Wisconsin. Trump sought recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties, which confirmed Biden's win. Trump sued and the state Supreme Court upheld the results on a 4-3 vote on Dec. 14, 2020. 

Trump campaign attorney James Troupis speaks during a Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to discuss election security and the 2020 election process on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Less than an hour later, Democrats met in the state Capitol to cast the state's 10 electoral votes for Biden.

At the same time, the fake electors gathered in another part of the Capitol to fill out paperwork claiming Trump had won. They submitted their filings to Congress, the National Archives, a federal judge and then-Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette.

At the time, the fake electors said they held the meeting to ensure the state's electoral votes were cast for Trump if a court later determined he was the true winner of the state. 

The plan was spelled out by Chesebro in a memo dated Nov. 18, 2020 — the same day Trump asked for recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties.

Chesebro sent the memo to Troupis, the attorney who oversaw Trump's post-election legal strategy in Wisconsin and is also a defendant. It's unclear whether Chesebro worked for Trump or someone else. Chesebro sent a second memo on the matter on Dec. 9, 2020, after state officials certified Biden as the victor in Wisconsin. 

Lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, appears before Judge Scott McAfee during a motions hearing on Oct. 10, 2023, in Atlanta. Chesebro has pleaded guilty to a felony just as jury selection was getting underway in his trial on charges accusing him of participating in efforts to overturn Donald Trump's loss in Georgia's 2020 election. Chesebro was charged alongside the Republican ex-president and 17 others with violating the state's anti-racketeering law.

In Wisconsin, the group of 10 Republicans who signed the paperwork included then-Republican Party of Wisconsin chairman Andrew Hitt and Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Bob Spindell.

Mark Jefferson, Republican Party of Wisconsin executive director, said in August "all action taken to produce an alternate slate was only done to preserve an ongoing legal strategy and only to be used in the event a court of law gave the alternate slate meaning."

"We were not informed of any use of the alternate electors contrary to preserving the legal strategy and would not have approved any other use," he said.

The filings from the fake electors in Wisconsin and elsewhere helped Trump and his allies argue the results were in dispute as they tried to prevent Congress from finalizing them.

Ten Wisconsin Republicans signed paperwork on Dec. 14, 2020 claiming to be electors for Donald Trump despite his election loss.

Republicans in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Nevada also signed documents purporting to be electors. Republicans in New Mexico and Pennsylvania filled out paperwork saying they should be considered electors if courts found Trump had won their states. 

Michigan’s attorney general filed felony charges in July against 16 Republicans who acted as fake electors for Trump, accusing them of submitting false certificates that confirmed they were legitimate electors despite Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

Trump has been indicted over his actions leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection − charges that focus heavily on the fake elector strategy.

The 10 Republicans who served as fake electors

Robert Spindell, an appointee to the Wisconsin Elections Commission and current chairman of the 4th Congressional District GOP.

Andrew Hitt, then-chairman of state Republican Party, now a partner at Michael Best Strategies.

Kelly Ruh, current chairwoman of the 8th Congressional District GOP.

Carol Brunner, former vice chairwoman of the 1st Congressional District GOP.

Scott Grabins, former chairman of the Dane County Republican Party.

Bill Feehan, current chairman of the 3rd Congressional District GOP.

Kathy Kiernan, current second vice chairwoman of the state Republican Party.

Darryl Carlson, former chairman of the 6th Congressional District GOP.

Pam Travis, former vice chairwoman of the 7th Congressional District GOP and former staffer for Sen. Ron Johnson’s 2022 reelection campaign.

Mary Buestrin, former national committeewoman for state Republican Party.

Molly Beck can be reached at molly.beck@jrn.com.