Trump indictment, Wisconsin Biden elector decries 'fraud' scheme

Wisconsin played a central role in the latest federal charges filed Tuesday against former president Donald Trump.

Federal prosecutors alleged a fake electors plan started in Wisconsin. Now, it could lead to Trump being locked up. 

On Dec. 14, 2020, when electoral college members cast their votes in state houses around the country, Wisconsin Democrats met at the Wisconsin Capitol to cast their official votes for Joe Biden.

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"People kept emailing me saying, ‘You need to switch your vote to Donald Trump, and if you don’t, you should be hanged for it, you are a traitor to this country for not voting for Donald Trump,’" said Biden elector Khary Penebaker of death threats he received after he cast his vote.

Penebaker cast that electoral vote for Biden at the same time Republicans met at the Wisconsin Capitol. On Republican Party of Wisconsin letterhead, ten Republicans affirmed Trump won the state, when he in fact lost by 20,000.

2020 electoral college ballot

"They chose to engage in a scheme here to defraud the folks of Wisconsin, that’s not something we should stand for," Penebaker said. "They engaged in fraud, and they should be held accountable for that."

On that day, Republicans announced they were meeting, and said the reason was in case courts ruled in favor of the Trump campaign. Earlier on Dec. 14, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against the Trump campaign challenge of the election. The campaign then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Andrew Hitt was the Wisconsin GOP chairman during 2020 and the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack questioned him.

"I was told that these would only count if a court ruled in our favor. So that would’ve been using our electors, well it would’ve been using our electors, in ways that we weren’t told about, and we wouldn’t have supported," Hitt said in testimony from Feb. 28, 2022.

According to the indictment, a Trump campaign attorney drafted a memo Nov. 18 that stated Trump supporters should meet and cast electoral college votes for him in case lawsuits were successful. Prosecutors said that Wisconsin plan later grew and changed, found in a Dec. 6 memo, to include other battleground states, with the goal to stop Biden from getting the needed 270 electoral votes.


Read the full DOJ indictment against former President Donald Trump

Read the full U.S. Department of Justice indictment of former President Donald Trump over the 2020 presidential election that was handed down on Aug. 1.

"The defendant and co-conspirators organized fraudulent slates of electors in seven targeted states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin), attempting to mimic the procedures that the legitimate electors were supposed to follow under the constitution and other federal and state laws," stated the indictment against Trump.

The indictment added: "some fraudulent electors were tricked into participating based on the understanding that their votes would be used only if the defendant succeeded in outcome-determinative lawsuits with their state." 

Republican sources wouldn't talk on the record, but pointed to that passage. FOX6 called Wisconsin Republicans who took part on the Dec. 14, 2020 meeting, but none were willing to talk themselves.

"As the Wisconsin electors have consistently said, all action taken to produce an alternate slate was only done to preserve an ongoing legal strategy and only to be used in the event a court of law gave the alternate slate meaning. We were not informed of any use of the alternate electors contrary to preserving the legal strategy and would not have approved any other use.  Yesterday’s Trump indictment does not allege that the Wisconsin electors took any steps whatsoever to knowingly join a conspiracy," said Mark Jefferson of the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

"These are people who knew better, and they knew it was a lie," countered Penebaker.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, has not said if the state will charge the Republicans.

"We remain focused on following developments as they happen, and we’re going to make decisions based on our best judgment about what the law provides, what the facts show and what’s in the best interest," said Kaul.

After recounts, random voting machine audits and lawsuits, the election results still showed Trump lost. 

However, the president kept up discussions, prosecutors alleged. "On December 27 [2020], the Defendant raised with the Acting Attorney General and Acting Deputy Attorney General a specific fraud claim – that there had been more votes than voters in Wisconsin. The Acting Deputy Attorney General informed the Defendant that the claim was false," the indictment disclosed.

The indictment also discussed a situation involving U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), but the document does not use his name:

"On the morning of January 6 [2021], an agent of the Defendant contacted a United States Senator to ask him to hand-deliver documents to the Vice President. The agent then facilitated the receipt by the Senator's staff of the fraudulent certificates signed by the Defendant's fraudulent electors in Michigan and Wisconsin, which were believed not to have been delivered to the Vice President or Archivist by mail. When one of the Senator's staffers contacted a staffer for the Vice President by text message to arrange for delivery of what the Senator's staffer had been told were '[alternate slate[s] of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn't receive them,' the Vice President's staffer rejected them."

When the official electoral votes were being counted on that day, rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol and interrupted the counting. 

"It’s a shame. This is a sad moment in our country that has lasted for more than 3 years, just about," said Penebaker. "And I’m glad that justice is coming forward now."

Penebaker has a civil lawsuit against the Republican fake electors that will be in court next year – another election year in battleground Wisconsin.