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Nevada GOP ‘fake electors’ indicted for falsely claiming Trump won state’s 2020 election

The six Republicans are accused of falsifying records and each face two felony charges.
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Election 2020Government
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Nevada GOP Chairman Michael J. McDonald, right, introduces then-President Donald J. Trump during the Nevada Republican Party Convention inside the Suncoast Hotel and Casino on Saturday, June 23, 2018. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent).

A Nevada grand jury has indicted the six Republicans — including the chair of the Nevada Republican Party — who falsely pledged Nevada’s electoral votes to Donald Trump following the 2020 election despite President Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, announced the indictments Wednesday of state party chair Michael McDonald, national committeeman Jim DeGraffenreid, Clark County Republican Party chair Jesse Law (who announced plans to run for state Assembly on Wednesday), state party vice chair Jim Hindle III, Shawn Meehan and Eileen Rice. 

In a press release, the attorney general’s office said all six individuals had been indicted on two felony charges — offering a false instrument for filing and uttering a forged instrument by submitting fraudulent documents to state and federal officials. The charges carry penalties of category C and D felonies, respectively, with punishments up to a maximum of four and five years in prison and a minimum of one year in prison. A grand jury in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County indicted the six Republicans.

“When the efforts to undermine faith in our democracy began after the 2020 election, I made it clear that I would do everything in my power to defend the institutions of our nation and our state,” Ford said in a statement. “We cannot allow attacks on democracy to go unchallenged. Today’s indictments are the product of a long and thorough investigation, and as we pursue this prosecution, I am confident that our judicial system will see justice done.”

Ford’s office had scheduled a press conference for Wednesday afternoon but postponed it because of an active shooter situation on UNLV’s campus. A spokesman for Ford declined an interview request, saying the press conference would be held later.

Rice, McDonald and Law did not immediately respond to phone calls or voicemails. Hindle and Degraffenfield did not respond to emailed requests for comment, and Meehan declined an emailed interview request, saying, “no comment.”

Attorney General Aaron Ford speaks during a joint press conference with Treasurer Zach Conine, Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) and Secretary of State Francisco Aguilar during a press conference on the Capitol steps on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

News of a Nevada-based probe into the actions of the fake electors first emerged in mid-November and escalated after reports that a former attorney for Trump had agreed to meet with officials conducting the investigation.

Under Nevada law, any charge for filing false documents must come within three years of the offense — meaning that any charges brought under that law would need to be filed by Dec. 14, the three-year anniversary of the fake electors meeting in Carson City.

On that day, the six electors held a symbolic ceremony outside the state Legislature to “cast” their electoral votes for Trump, coinciding with the day that the state’s actual electoral votes were cast for Biden. This group of unauthorized electors submitted fraudulent election documents to the National Archives, a coordinated move with slates of fake electors in other states and Trump’s presidential campaign as they tried to block Congress’ certification of the election results on Jan. 6, 2021.

The Nevada fake electors referred to themselves as the “duly elected and qualified electors” in paperwork submitted to the National Archives, while at least two groups of people who cast fraudulent electoral votes in other states (New Mexico and Pennsylvania) included caveats in their paperwork, saying the votes would only count if they won trials surrounding the 2020 election. 

Information surrounding the grand jury was not made public until the indictment because grand jury proceedings are secret, allowing witnesses to speak freely without fear of retribution. 

During a grand jury, a prosecutor presents evidence to the jury members via witnesses and documents. Defendants usually do not testify during the process or respond to the evidence provided and jury members decide via a majority vote whether or not to issue an indictment. Typically, grand jurors hand out an indictment, but the law does require members to find probable cause that a crime was committed.

The indictments are Ford's first formal move to bring a case to trial surrounding the so-called “false electors,” a deviation from his previous stance that state statute “did not directly address the conduct in question.” 

In the 2023 legislative session, Ford urged state lawmakers to support SB133, a bill that would have established felony criminal penalties for anyone who participated in “creating a false slate of presidential electors, serving in a false slate of presidential electors or conspiring to create or serve in a false slate of presidential electors.”

The bill passed out of the Legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Joe Lombardo, who wrote in his veto message that he agreed with the bill’s efforts to secure elections but objected to the severity of punishment. 

At least two other states (Georgia and Michigan) where Republicans submitted fake elector slates for Trump have seen prosecutors bring charges against the proponents. Arizona’s Democratic attorney general is investigating those who participated in its fake elector plot.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

This story was updated on 12/6/2023 at 12:48 p.m. to include an update about the postponed press conference and a copy of the indictment. It was again updated at 1:06 p.m. to include details about responses to interview requests.

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