A Nevada state-level criminal investigation into the fake electors plot intended to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election win is ramping up with prosecutors securing the cooperation of a key witness, even as some of those who served as pro-Trump electors remain politically active ahead of the 2024 election.
Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer who helped orchestrate the fake electors plot across multiple states, has agreed to sit down with Nevada investigators in hopes of avoiding prosecution there, sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
Chesebro’s cooperation with Nevada prosecutors covers his involvement in that state leading up to January 6, 2021 – when pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s legitimate electoral victory.
In late 2020, Chesebro wrote a series of memos spelling out what the pro-Trump electors should do in their respective states. In one memo, Chesebro acknowledged that he was promoting a “controversial strategy” that even the Supreme Court with its conservative supermajority would “likely” reject.
Chesebro has already pleaded guilty in the Georgia 2020 election subversion case, where he has admitted to conspiring with former President Donald Trump to put forward slates of fake electors in multiple states.
CNN has identified Chesebro as an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal criminal case that special counsel Jack Smith brought against Trump this summer.
Nevada is among at least five states that have launched criminal investigations into efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Two of those states – Michigan and Georgia – have already brought criminal charges against some of the people who signed onto the alternative slates of fake electors, and more charges could be brought soon.
Chesebro also has been contacted by prosecutors in Arizona related to their investigation into fake electors, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The status of those talks is unclear. The Washington Post reported Thursday that Chesebro plans to meet with investigators in Arizona and Nevada and that he is expected to testify in front of a Nevada grand jury.
Several of the Nevada fake electors are still active in politics, taking part in Republican Party activities leading up to next year’s election. Two of those people under scrutiny by Nevada investigators are now crisscrossing the state to “educate” voters about the 2024 electoral process.
That has led to tensions in certain quarters of Nevada’s Republican Party. Amy Tarkanian, a former state GOP chairwoman who once supported Donald Trump but now calls MAGA a threat to democracy, said she hopes Nevada joins other states in taking action against the fake electors.
“There need to be some repercussions,” said Tarkanian, “so it will make people think, very, very hard about trying to pull this kind of garbage off ever again.”
She added: “You want to make sure that everyone sees that these people are spreading lies and it’s malicious. And that this is something that could affect the outcomes of future elections, and it has to be stopped.”
Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, is spearheading the investigation of the fake elector scheme in that state. Ford’s office declined to comment on Chesebro’s cooperation in the ongoing criminal probe.
Fake elector ‘road show’
None of the six fake electors from Nevada agreed to speak to CNN, which recently attended a self-described “road show” held by two of the 2020 fake electors – Nevada Republican party national committeeman Jim DeGraffenreid and Nevada Republican vice chairman Jim Hindle. The men have been traveling to local Republican party events explaining caucus mechanics to local Republicans.
Hindle declined to answer questions on whether he had been contacted by Nevada investigators about the fake electors plot. “I would have no comment on that one until we really know what’s going on,” Hindle said. “You’d have to contact our lawyers.”
When asked by CNN about the irony of two 2020 fake electors attempting to “educate” voters about the 2024 election process, Hindle said, “I apologize, but this is not something I will entertain.”
Asked about the impact of the Georgia case in Nevada, DeGraffenreid declined to comment in any manner, handing out a way to contact his attorney. DeGraffenreid did tell CNN he now believes Biden is the US President and won the state of Nevada in 2020.
CNN also attempted to contact Shawn Meehan, another 2020 fake elector who this fall launched a right-wing website called ‘Guard the Constitution,’ that pledges on its site to be a conservative information portal focused on action.
Meehan declined to comment about the state AG’s investigation.
The other fake electors, including Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald, did not reply to CNN’s request to do an interview.
CNN has previously reported that both DeGraffenreid and McDonald were given limited immunity in exchange for testifying before a federal grand jury in Washington, DC as part of the election interference investigation into Trump. That immunity, however, would not protect them from potential criminal charges at the state level, including any that could come from the Nevada probe.
Both DeGraffenreid and McDonald declined to answer questions in other settings, including last year before the House January 6 committee, citing their Fifth Amendment protections.
Multiple state probes
One of the sources familiar with Chesebro’s cooperation in Nevada told CNN there are indications the Nevada probe could expand beyond actions that took place in that state, similar to how prosecutors in Georgia have charged individuals for their broader involvement in Trump’s attempt to remain in power.
Chesebro’s cooperation discussions in Nevada come after the judge overseeing the Georgia case amended the terms of his plea deal allowing Chesebro to travel to Nevada, Arizona and Washington, DC, “to meet with counsel” regarding ongoing election fraud investigations, according to a new court filing Monday.
As part of his plea deal with Georgia prosecutors, Chesebro was placed on probation and agreed to cooperate in any relevant future cases, both inside and outside the state.
The federal election interference case brought by special counsel Jack Smith alleges Trump and allies orchestrated a broad, multi-state conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election results, in part by putting forward slates of fake, pro-Trump electors in seven key swing states.
As part of that plot, six Republicans in Nevada signed false Electoral College votes in December 2020 for then-President Trump, who lost the state to Biden. The scheme included similar efforts in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and New Mexico.
In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has charged multiple individuals involved in the plot to put forth fake electors in that state. Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel in September charged more than a dozen individuals who acted as fake electors.
Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes has launched an investigation into the fake elector scheme there.
The New Mexico attorney general’s office is also investigating the fake electors put forward from that state, CNN has confirmed.
Special counsel prosecutors in the federal case against Trump could still seek Chesebro’s testimony or potentially bring separate charges against him in the future.
There is no indication though that Smith’s team is in need of additional information from Chesebro to take Trump to trial in March, as currently scheduled.
This story has been updated with more reporting.
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