Connoisseurs of Trump attorney Ken Chesebro – cheeseheads, if you will – may remember that his work for the former president went beyond the fake electors scheme. Emails and memos from December 2020 and January 2021 showed that Chesebro also pitched an uncanny plan: that on Jan. 6 then-Vice President Mike Pence should “mak[e] judgements” about which electoral votes he was constitutionally obligated to open and count.
But in a newly leaked portion of the proffer he made to Atlanta District Attorney Fani Willis, Chesebro seemed to back away from and downplay his role in the scheme to pressure Pence – even though messages from the time point towards Chesebro having a critical early role in the idea.
To catch you up a bit: ABC and The Washington Post published on Tuesday excerpts of proffer sessions from erstwhile Trump allies who pleaded guilty in the Georgia RICO case brought by. The Post published a section of Chesebro’s session.
There are interesting details from what Chesebro told prosecutors but first, a word of caution: These are excerpts. The full proffer session recordings have been provided to defense attorneys in the RICO case; the sections that were not released may cast events in a different light. Chesebro pleaded guilty last month to one felony count of conspiracy to commit filing false documents stemming from his involvement in organizing the fake electors scheme.
What jumps out from the Chesebro excerpt is when he seems to be downplaying his role in developing the idea that Pence had unilateral power to toss electoral votes on Jan. 6. More on that in moment.
Chesebro revealed in the proffer that he and Trump spoke directly about the fake electors scheme during a Dec. 16 meeting at the White House, which he purportedly attended with Wisconsin attorney James Troupis. Chesebro told TPM last year in an exclusive interview that he joined the Trump campaign as an attorney via Troupis’ lawsuit challenging the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin. Chesebro, per the proffer, later had a role in ferrying the fake electors slate from Wisconsin to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).
From there, the Washington Post reported, the conversation with prosecutors moved on to the John Eastman memo. A conservative lawyer, Eastman articulated the idea that Pence, on Jan. 6, should unilaterally reject elector slates.
Chesebro, from the report, seemed to distance himself from the scheme, purportedly saying in the proffer that he merely offered to edit the memo. Chesebro also purportedly remarked that he was “happy to express [Eastman]’s ideas more clearly.”
The timeline here is interesting. Per the Post, Chesebro said that he didn’t begin to speak with Eastman until late December. The memo itself was released to the Trump campaign on Dec. 23.
But as I mentioned above, Chesebro was pitching a very similar idea to Rudy Giuliani 10 days before. In a memo which was revealed by Eastman’s lawsuit attempting to withhold emails from the House Jan. 6 committee, Chesebro told Giuliani on Dec. 13 that Pence should “firmly take the position that he, and he alone, is charged with the constitutional responsibility not just to open the votes, but to count them — including making judgments about what to do if there are conflicting votes.” The bolds are Chesebro’s.
Chesebro followed that up by saying that having Pence judge which votes were countable would help the Trump campaign in two respects: (i) draw media attention to “abuses in the election;” and (ii) cause “additional scrutiny in the courts and/or state legislatures” with a view towards having either of those two bodies decide “which electoral slates are the valid ones.”
Again, the context and timing here are critical.
Chesebro sent this email on Dec. 13, one day before the Trump-backed fake elector slates cast their ballots. From then on, the game for the Trump campaign was to figure out how to use the fake electors – by persuading a judge to recognize them as the real electors, having a state legislature intercede and “certify” the fake electors as legitimate or, finally, having Pence unilaterally declare the Biden electors fake and the Trump ones “real.”
Chesebro later forwarded that message to Eastman on Jan. 2.
Chesebro may be downplaying his role in the Pence scheme, but that didn’t stop him from engaging in some light condescension towards Eastman in his proffer. When prosecutors asked Chesebro why he replied to an edit of the Eastman memo with “really awesome,” the attorney said only that he thought “it was a really great brainstorm document. I didn’t mean it as I agreed.”