The jeers have begun in the wake of this week’s grand jury indictment of Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald, national committeeman James DeGraffenreid and four other GOP loyalists in the Silver State edition of Donald Trump’s fake elector scandal.
For proof of the catcalls, read a few of the more than 100 comments in reaction to The Indy’s story on the charges. Reporter Tabitha Mueller nailed the news coverage, but those still dreaming of a Trump coup saw it as just another example of the Democrats, and especially Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, attempting to ruin the republic and prevent their fearless leader from making America one big, creepy “Father Knows Best” episode.
Surprise, surprise, surprise.
The sneers are sure to continue, but the indictment carries a serious message that transcends its charges: offering a false instrument for filing or record, and uttering forged instruments by forgery.
Don’t believe me? Just check the witness list. In addition to representatives from the National Archives, U.S. Postal Service, Nevada secretary of state elections office and a state attorney general’s criminal investigator, one name jumps out. It belongs to Kenneth Chesebro, the pro-Trump attorney who has admitted his role in helping forward the former president’s fake-elector fraud scheme.
As one of 18 defendants in the Georgia fake-electors case, the 62-year-old Chesebro was charged with seven felony counts, including racketeering. One of the memos Chesebro wrote in support of the re-election scheme, according to the Georgia indictment, “provides detailed, state-specific instructions for how Trump presidential elector nominees in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would meet and cast electoral votes” for Trump despite the fact he lost to Joe Biden in those states. Biden won Nevada by more than 33,000 votes.
Chesebro pleaded guilty on Oct. 20 to a single felony count of conspiracy to commit filing false documents. As part of his plea agreement, he will serve five years of probation, pay restitution, cooperate with investigators and testify at trial.
With his name on the witness list in the Nevada indictment, Chesebro is showing he’s taking his plea agreement seriously. Few were as close as Chesebro to the plot to derail the 2020 presidential election result in what has been more politely called “The President of the Senate Strategy.” Investigators consider him “central to the plan” that broke ethics rules and had no basis in legal fact after he produced three post-election memos.
That means Nevada’s six false electors are in for some real heat. And it now appears they might soon have company. Chesebro’s also speaking with officials in Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan, according to CNN.
Evidence gathered by the House Jan. 6 committee and federal investigators has shown that Trump’s scheme involved Chesebro, Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows and was aided by Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, certain members of Congress and willing GOP stooges in seven states.
Nevada’s part was simple and very public. On Dec. 14, 2020, in front of the state legislative building in Carson City, McDonald led a signing ceremony for the fake slate of electoral college electors, then forwarded the document to the National Archives. Just prior to the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, riot by hundreds of Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol, Trump himself telegraphed the strategy when he told the crowd that “[w]e have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated.”
If you still doubt the gravity of the indictment and Chesebro’s importance to it, check your political calendar and note that the McDonald-led state GOP has scheduled a “First in the West Nevada Caucus” for Feb. 8, 2024, designed exclusively as a Trump showcase.
Of course, people who imagine that something as understated as a pair of unprecedented felony charges brought by the Clark County Grand Jury against six GOP party loyalists would magically deprogram Nevada’s Trump cult are kidding themselves. That’s more than a little scary, but that’s another reason why the indictment is important.
One parting thought. Do you know who I heard from after news of the indictment broke? Just a smattering of Democrats.
I also received email and texts from Republicans, people I’ve known for years whom I consider sincere and dedicated conservatives. They have spent decades as volunteers, precinct captains and elected officials. To a person, they expressed relief that someone was finally calling McDonald and his cohorts to account for their scofflaw shenanigans.
I suspect those Republicans won’t be attending the Trump caucus.
John L. Smith is an author and longtime columnist. He was born in Henderson and his family’s Nevada roots go back to 1881. His stories have appeared in Time, Readers Digest, The Daily Beast, Reuters, Ruralite and Desert Companion, among others. He also offers weekly commentary on Nevada Public Radio station KNPR.