Wisconsin attorney general charges three former Trump associates in plot to overturn 2020 election

<span>Kenneth Chesebro speaks in Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, on 20 October 2023.</span><span>Photograph: Alyssa Pointer/AP</span>
Kenneth Chesebro speaks in Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, on 20 October 2023.Photograph: Alyssa Pointer/AP

Wisconsin’s attorney general, Josh Kaul, filed felony charges on Tuesday against three men who played a key role in the effort to appoint fake electors in the state as part of Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the election.

Kenneth Chesebro, Jim Troupis and Michael Roman were each charged with one felony count of forgery, according to court documents. The crime is a class H felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to six years in prison.

Chesebro was the architect of the fake elector plan. Five days after the election, he emailed Troupis, a retired judge who was leading the Trump campaign’s legal efforts in Wisconsin, to muse about the possibility of throwing out Joe Biden’s win in Wisconsin and appointing a Trump slate of electors. The two developed the scheme over the next few months. Chesebro would later work with Roman to coordinate the efforts across states and to get the slates of fake electors to Washington.

Chesebro pleaded guilty to conspiracy to filing false documents for his role in the scheme in a separate case in Georgia earlier this year. Roman faces charges in Georgia and is also a defendant in an Arizona case.

This is the first time Troupis, who sits on a judicial ethics panel in Wisconsin, has been charged.

Wisconsin governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, released a one-word statement praising the charges. “Good,” he said.

The Wisconsin complaint lays out how Chesebro, Troupis and Roman – a Trump campaign aide – coordinated to draft false electoral certificates to be signed by swing state Republicans for Trump and the former vice-president, Mike Pence. The men debated the language to be used on the false elector certificates, considering adding language to qualify that the unofficial slate of electors were contingents in the event that somehow the election results in those key swing states changed before the election was certified.

In Wisconsin, the complaint notes, the false elector documents contained “no qualifying language” and presented the Trump-Pence electors as duly elected.

On 14 December, the day that the Wisconsin false electors convened, Chesebro celebrated in messages to Troupis and Roman: “WI meeting of the *real* electors is a go!!!”

Even as Wisconsin’s slate of false Trump electors submitted their electoral certificates, their chances of reversing the results of the 2020 election appeared increasingly slim. By a narrow 4-3 ruling, the Wisconsin supreme court on 14 December tossed Trump’s lawsuit attempting to overturn the election, accusing the campaign of “challenging the rulebook adopted before the season began”.

Chesebro and Troupis were not ready to give up.

In the days after the Wisconsin Trump electors met to submit their unofficial certificates, the two men flew to Washington DC to meet with Trump.

On 17 December, Chesebro acknowleged in a message to Roman that the scheme was looking “less plausible”. Still, he argued, the Electoral Count Act could be “weaponized” to deliver Trump the election.

The charges in Wisconsin come after prosecutors in four other swing states – Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Michigan – have filed criminal charges against those involved in the fake elector plot.

Unlike his counterpart in the other states, Kaul did not file charges against the fake electors themselves. Earlier this year, Wisconsin’s 10 fake electors reached a settlement in a civil suit in which they agreed to never serve as presidential electors again in an election involving Trump. They also acknowledged Biden’s win.

The indictments come as Trump has successfully maneuvered to delay the two criminal cases he faces for subverting the 2020 election until after November.