Settlement documents reveal new details about how Wisconsin was ground zero in fake Trump elector plot

NOW: Settlement documents reveal new details about how Wisconsin was ground zero in fake Trump elector plot

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Emails exchanged between a pair of lawyers aligned with former President Donald Trump offer a clearer view of Wisconsin's central role in a Republican push to submit fake presidential electors from seven states after the 2020 presidential election.

The communications between Kenneth Chesebro and Jim Troupis became public Monday as a condition of a settlement the two men reached in a civil lawsuit that had been filed by multiple liberal legal groups.

In December, 10 Wisconsin Republicans who filed an alternative slate for Trump settled their portion of the lawsuit. As a condition, they acknowledged their actions were used in an effort to overturn President Joe Biden's victory.

The released documents include nearly 1,500 pages of emails exchanged between Chesebro, Troupis and a series of other prominent Republicans, included former state Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly, who was serving as counsel for the state GOP and a key senior advisor to Trump's national campaign.

Chesebro spearheaded the push to bring the fake electors scheme to other swing states while Troupis represented Trump in the 2020 recount and subsequent push to throw out more than 200,000 absentee ballots cast in Wisconsin's two most populous counties, Milwaukee and Dane.

Scott Thompson, a staff counsel for one of the firms behind the lawsuit, Law Forward, pointed to a November 8, 2020 email Chesebro sent Troupis. 

"It just shows that this scheme was part of the Wisconsin Trump legal community's thinking very early on," Thompson said.

Chesebro's email outlined concerns about cities using private funds to support ballot collection events, as well as the observation process for the recount. Chesebro used those concerns as reasons Republicans should submit their own electoral votes for Trump.

"At minimum, with such a cloud of confusion, no votes from WI (and perhaps also MI and PA) should be counted, perhaps enough to throw the election to the House [of Representatives,]" Chesebro wrote.

One month later, on December 8, Chesebro outlined why it was important to have Republicans in five other states submit a slate of electoral votes for Trump. Chesebro reasoned that would allow then-Vice President Mike Pence to delay certifying the election on January 6.

"If all six of the contested states on Jan. 6 have alternative slates of electors, it totally makes sense for Pence to insist that those states be treated separately," Chesebro wrote.

That email ended with Chesebro writing, "The prospect of extending the fight into January is exciting!"

One day later, Boris Epshteyn, a senior advisor to Trump's national campaign, asked Troupis if he could draft a sample elector ballot for Wisconsin.

"If the answer is yes, how would you feel about preparing same sample ballots for PA, Georgia, Michigan, AZ, Nevada and New Mexico?" Epshteyn asked Troupis.

Troupis forwarded the request to Chesebro, who enthusiastically replied, "Oh, absolutely!!!"

"What the documents reveal is that although Mr. Chesebro may have had the legal memos, it appears that it was Mr. Troupis' political connections that really allowed the scheme to morph outside of our state," Thompson said.

Wisconsin Republicans have maintained they filed the Trump elector slate as a contingency in case the U.S. Supreme Court eventually overturned Biden's win in Wisconsin. While Republicans in Pennsylvania and Nevada included similar language on their actual elector slates, the Wisconsin records did not have such a disclosure.

State GOP leaders have instead pointed to a press release they issued in December 2020 outlining their reasoning. 

The documents included previously unreleased video showing the Wisconsin Trump electors casting their votes in the state Capitol on December 14 before breaking out in applause.

Thompson declined to say whether he felt the revelations in these communications meant Troupis should face criminal charges. A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Justice said the agency does not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation with the exception of instances related to public safety.

Attorney General Josh Kaul has, for months, declined to say whether state investigators are looking into whether anyone involved with the GOP electors scheme broke Wisconsin law.

Chesebro pleaded guilty in October to a charge in Georgia of conspiracy to commit filing false documents. He was fined, as well as sentenced to probation and community service.

Chesebro is also widely believed to be one of Trump's unnamed co-conspirators in the federal charges brought by special prosecutor Jack Smith.

Troupis issued a statement Monday through his own lawyer, Matthew Fernholz.

"Nothing in today’s settlement constitutes an admission of fault, nor should it," Troupis said. "It is the duty of lawyers to vigorously represent their clients, regardless of their popularity, within the bounds of the law."

As a condition of the settlement, Troupis paid an undisclosed amount to the lawsuit's plaintiffs, Democratic voters Khary Penebaker, Mary Arnold, and Bonnie Joseph.

Thompson said even though Troupis and Chesebro did not have to admit to any wrongdoing, the payout, conditions limiting when Troupis could help draft or transfer a state's electoral votes and the release of his communications was a significant outcome.

"These folks are gonna say whatever they want to say," Troupis said. "The truth is in the documents."

Ron Johnson's collaboration with Troupis

Within the emails was a brief message from a private email account belonging to "Ron Johnson."

On December 16, 2020, Troupis appeared before the Senate's homeland security committee. He testified about his concerns over how the election was run in Wisconsin.

The emails revealed a message sent from "Ron Johnson" on December 13.

"Would you mind if we suggested a few edits?" Johnson asked Troupis, who replied, "Please do."

Johnson has repeatedly downplayed his role in the GOP electors plot. His chief-of-staff tried to get Wisconsin's fake Trump electors slate to Pence on January 6 but was rebuffed.

Last December, Johnson told CNN that Democrats have a history of submitting alternate slates of electors. When pressed on those claims at an event in Oshkosh, Johnson acknowledged he was "slightly wrong."

Johnson then compared Republicans' 2020 alternative electors idea to the 1960 presidential election in Hawaii, but in that state, a recount swung the election.

"There's really nothing like the efforts of the fake electors in 2020," UW-Madison Political Science Professor Barry Burden told CBS 58 in December. "That was an orchestrated effort across multiple swing states, including Wisconsin, to present false electors on behalf of the party that had lost in every one of those states."

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