Right-wing media figures popularized and defended the Trump team’s last-ditch effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election through a scheme to nullify the election results, which is now under investigation by a special counsel — and some of the fake electors have reportedly already testified to a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C.
The scheme, cooked up by former Trump lawyers John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani, sought to create “alternate” slates of electors in favor of former President Donald Trump in seven swing states that voted for Joe Biden. At the time, several right-wing media figures supported the scheme to undermine the 2020 election, with some calling for key states to appoint their own alternate electors. Other right-wing media figures such as One America News host Christina Bobb and “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander were directly involved in engineering the fake elector scheme.
Special counsel Jack Smith has compelled at least two Republican fake electors to testify to a federal grand jury in Washington in recent weeks by giving them limited immunity, part of a current push by federal prosecutors to swiftly nail down evidence in the sprawling criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The testimony, described to CNN by people familiar with the situation, comes after a year of relative dormancy around the fake electors portion of the investigation and as a parade of related witnesses are being told to appear before the grand jury with no chance for delay.
That activity could signal that investigators are nearing at least some charging decisions in a part of the 2020 election probe, sources added.
Now that the special counsel investigation is well underway and a related jury trial over the fake electors scheme in Wisconsin is set to begin, Fox News’ Mark Levin remains a vocally adamant defender of the scheme. On his radio show earlier this month, Levin claimed that “there’s no such thing as fake electors” and that the probe is “another novelty in the law that’s created by another Democrat prosecutor.”
Levin's continued defense of Trump's fake elector scheme is just one example of a yearslong campaign by right-wing media outlets to sow distrust in our elections process — and their consistent refrain that investigating Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election is political persecution has also primed conservative audiences to view the upcoming 2024 election with skepticism.
Right-wing media supported the fake electors scheme and presented it as a legitimate “remedy” for Trump’s 2020 loss
- Right after Election Day and two days before the 2020 election was called in Biden’s favor, Fox host Sean Hannity suggested on his radio show that “the remedy” to a Trump loss would be state electors going against the popular vote. Hannity said that to his “understanding,” electors are “not required to vote in accordance with whatever the state popular vote is, if they think there is fraud that is taking place they do have the power to stop that in these states.” [Premiere Radio, The Sean Hannity Show, 11/05/20]
- Mark Levin appealed directly to state lawmakers, tweeting on November 5, 2020, “Reminder to the Republican state legislatures, you have the final say over the choosing of electors, not any board of elections, secretary of state, governor, or even court.” (He would later claim in a November 12, 2020, tweet, “Again and again, I have to explain that I never said electors should be chosen by the legislatures.”) [Twitter, 11/05/20]
- Writing for The Blaze on November 5, 2020, Daniel Horowitz stated that “state legislatures can have their revenge and have the final say” in the 2020 election. Horowitz also echoed Levin’s support of the scheme, adding, “Mark Levin reminded his audience today that state legislatures are the ones who choose the electors who directly vote for president in each state.” [The Blaze, 11/05/20]
- In a November 21, 2020, tweet, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton claimed that a Pennsylvania court decision against the Trump campaign was a “miscarriage of justice and nakedly political.” Fitton also claimed that “under the Constitution, it is ultimately up [to] the Pennsylvania legislature to protect election integrity and appoint a clean slate of electors.” [Twitter, 11/21/20]
- Christina Bobb argued on the December 14, 2020 episode of her OAN show that by “having the GOP electors cast their votes in these states, it preserves the legal remedy should Donald Trump win, either in court or in a state legislature, in the future.” She also defended the use of alternate electors because of the supposed “possibility that this state could flip or turn because there’s enough election fraud in here that it’s still contested.” [OAN, 12/14/20]
- On the same day, OAN reporter Pearson Sharp showed a misleading video of Trump’s fake electors being denied entry to the Michigan Capitol, which he said was evidence that “official state electors are being barred from performing their constitutional duties.” Sharp claimed that “that video is all you need to see to understand the lengths being taken to undermine the election.” [OAN, 12/14/20]
- Former Fox Business host Lou Dobbs legitimized the efforts of the fake electors on the December 14, 2020, episode of Lou Dobbs Tonight. Dobbs uncritically reported that “Republican electors in Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Georgia [are] meeting separately today to cast their own votes for President Trump — a procedural move that keeps all of President Trump's legal options open.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 12/14/20]
- Speaking with Bobb on December 15, 2020, former Arizona state Sen. Kelly Townsend claimed on OAN that the scheme was “absolutely legal and it’s not unprecedented.” Townsend would go on to defend the scheme further, claiming, “So it’s not treason. Some people are saying, ‘Oh, it’s treasonous, it’s seditious.’ It’s not any of that, it’s constitutional.” [OAN, 12/15/20]
- On the July 31, 2022, edition of Fox News’ Life, Liberty, and Levin, host Mark Levin passionately defended Trump's fake electors scheme, arguing that ,“you might think it's weird, you might think it's unethical, but it's not a crime.” [Fox News, Life, Liberty, and Levin, 7/31/22]