UPDATE 7/20 12: 33 pm: This story has been updated to reflect a new legal filing from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis that names all 16 Republican alternative electors as targets in a criminal probe.
Sixteen key allies of former President Donald Trump have now been named as targets in a criminal probe over their roles in the 2020 election in Georgia.
The individuals represent all the local Republicans who named themselves possible alternative electors during the 2020 election, as part of a scheme that Trump’s allies were hoping could be used to reverse his defeat. In a legal filing submitted Tuesday, a group of 11 of those who received the letter stating they could be charged with a crime by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis derided the move as a “publicity stunt” and asked a judge to quash the subpoena.
All 16 would-be GOP electors received the same target letter, according to another court filing submitted by Willis’ office on Tuesday. Among those named in the filing as targets is David Shafer, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, and current candidate for Lt. Governor of Georgia Burt Jones.
The dramatic expansion of the known number of potential targets suggests that the most aggressive prosecutor in the U.S. pursuing leads related to Trump’s activities in the 2020 election is moving even more aggressively than had been previously known.
Team Trump’s plan, as revealed in the Jan. 6 committee hearings, was this: Allies in seven key states would submit false certificates of Trump’s victory, and when it came time for the electoral votes to be counted, former Vice President Mike Pence could either fail to recognize any electors from disputed states or delay certification of the election. (Ultimately, Pence didn’t fall in line, and Trump maybe wanted to hang him.)
But lawyers for Georgia’s so-called “fake electors” argued in the recent filing they had no knowledge of a larger plot and were simply getting ready to submit their votes in case a judge decided that Trump had, in fact, won the state. (He didn’t.)
In Tuesday’s court filing, eleven target letter recipients asked the judge to dismiss their “unreasonable and oppressive” subpoenas to testify before the Special Grand Jury investigating the actions of Trump’s circle relating to the 2020 election and asserts they will “reluctantly” raise their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
News that some Trump allies in Georgia could be indicted over the electors’ imbroglio was first reported by Yahoo News last week. But that initial report mentioned only three people. The group to come forward includes 10 more who were not initially mentioned, suggesting that if the Yahoo News report is indeed accurate, then a total of at least 12 pro-Trump slate of electors have been identified by the prosecutor as targets.
Jones responded to the target letter by asking a judge to have Willis be recused from the investigation on the grounds that she donated money and joined in a fundraiser with Jones’ Democratic opponent for Lt. Governor, Charlie Bailey.
Willis’ office responded that there’s no reason for her recusal and that Jones has not been treated differently from the other target-letter recipients.
“Jones is being investigated for his participation in the creation of a document that identified himself as being among the ‘duly elected and qualified Electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America from the state of Georgia,’ and the submission of that document to the National Archives,” an attorney for Willis’ office wrote.
“Each of the sixteen persons who signed the unofficial Elector Certificate ultimately submitted to the National Archives received a similar target letter, alerting that person both that his testimony was required by the special grand jury and that he was a target of the investigation.”