Growing Number of Trump Allies Face Election Interference Charges

Fifty-three people who tried to keep former President Donald J. Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election have now been criminally charged.

The indictments have been brought in four swing states that will be crucial to the upcoming election, most recently on Wednesday in Arizona, where Kris Mayes, the Democratic attorney general, said that she could “not allow American democracy to be undermined.” The message she and other prosecutors are sending represents a warning as Mr. Trump and his supporters continue to spread election conspiracy theories ahead of another presidential contest: that disrupting elections can bear a heavy legal cost.

Mr. Trump’s own legal complications are also growing. On Wednesday, he was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in election interference investigations in both Arizona and Michigan. He has already been charged in Georgia while facing two federal prosecutions and a criminal trial in Manhattan related to hush money payments made to a porn star.

What’s more, Mr. Trump’s top legal strategist, Boris Epshteyn, was indicted in Arizona on Wednesday.

There remains a possibility that Mr. Trump’s aides and allies will be put on trial for manipulating an election on his behalf, while he is not. If he is re-elected president in November, the federal courts, or even Congress, could shield him from having to face trial in the Georgia election interference case, at least while he is in office, on the grounds that a president sitting in an Atlanta courtroom for weeks or months would be unable to carry out his constitutional duties.

He could also use his executive powers to halt the two federal cases against him.

“I assume, should these constitutional concerns about putting Trump on trial while president play out, there would be efforts to sever the other defendants, and no reason for the trials as to those defendants not to proceed,” said Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Columbia University.

Democrats are leading all of the state prosecutions, though they have moved slowly. None of the cases are likely to come to trial before the election, a reality that has frustrated many on the left. While Fani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., has been investigating since early 2021, her racketeering case has been slowed by its scope and complexity, and by efforts to disqualify her.

Ms. Willis brought charges last August against Mr. Trump and 18 of his allies and advisers, laying out a number of ways she said they had conspired to overturn the former president’s 2020 election loss in the state.

Cases in Michigan and Nevada have focused solely on the Republicans whom the Trump campaign deployed as fake electors in those states. Having slates of people claiming to be electors for Mr. Trump was an integral part of the effort to keep him in office after his loss at the polls in 2020.

Ms. Mayes charged all 11 people who served as fake Arizona electors, and seven Trump advisers. Four of those advisers now face charges in both Georgia and Arizona: Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer; Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff; Mike Roman, a former Trump campaign operative who played a leading role in the fake electors scheme; and John Eastman, a legal architect of the elector plan.

Jenna Ellis, a former Trump lawyer who had been one of his staunchest defenders, was also charged in both states; she pleaded guilty to a felony last year in Georgia. During a tearful court appearance in Atlanta, she said, “If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump.”

Republican leaders, however, have been defiant in the face of the prosecutions. “We will not be deterred by this overreach,” the Arizona G.O.P. said in a statement Wednesday after a grand jury had handed up the charges, echoing the stances of leaders in other states.

Josh McKoon, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, said in an interview that “I don’t think that this is going to discourage the base of the Republican Party from engaging in politics,” adding, “I think what it actually does is it heightens, to an entirely new level, the importance of winning the 2024 election.”

But a number of those who have been indicted are lawyers, which may give pause to lawyers advising the current Trump campaign.

“There will be more caution on the part of the lawyers,” said Manny Arora, who represents Kenneth Chesebro, another legal architect of the fake elector plot. Mr. Chesebro, who pleaded guilty to a felony in Georgia, has emerged as a key witness in all of the state inquiries, including one in Wisconsin, which has not yet led to charges.

“While we all agree that there’s no chance in the world the cases will be resolved prior to the election,” Mr. Arora said, “it would be nice to have the cases resolved so we can have some clear guidance as to what does and what doesn’t cross the line.”

No evidence has emerged to support Mr. Trump’s stolen election claims. The defense teams in the state election cases are generally not challenging the evidence prosecutors have put forth, instead making arguments on First Amendment or procedural grounds.

If nothing else, the cases have created divisions among the many defendants.

Some have renounced what took place after the 2020 election; others, including state-level party leaders who acted as Trump electors, have dug in.

Some of the fake electors were local party activists, like James Renner, a Michigan state trooper; charges against him were dropped after he reached a cooperation agreement last year. He expressed regret at what had taken place, telling state investigators that he “felt that I had been walked into a situation that I shouldn’t have ever been involved in.”

Nick Somberg, a Republican congressional candidate in Michigan, is representing Meshawn Maddock, a former co-chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, who is among those charged. In a social media post that recently surfaced, Mr. Somberg referred to Mr. Renner as the state’s “star snitch.”

That led Kristen D. Simmons, the judge presiding over pretrial hearings in Michigan, to issue a warning this week, saying she did not want “to be taking time away from my judicial duties to address comments made on Facebook posts.”

She added, “It’s juvenile, and it’s ridiculous.”

Mr. Somberg defended his comments in an interview and said he worried about the chilling effects of the case. “Are people going to be so outspoken, seeing what happened to these Republicans?” he said.

But he added, “I don’t think the election was stolen.”

Alexandra Berzon and Nick Corasaniti contributed reporting.

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