Giuliani’s ‘donkey show’: How fake electors and coercion allegations may doom ‘America’s mayor’

Giuliani’s ‘donkey show’: How fake electors and coercion allegations may doom ‘America’s mayor’

As overlapping criminal investigations bear down on former President Donald Trump, one potential — and prominent — co-conspirator could face particularly pitched legal jeopardy as a key participant in the multi-state, multi-stage effort to overturn the 2020 election.

Rudy Giuliani — the former mayor of New York City, former federal prosecutor, and one of the former president’s most loyal advocates — figures prominently in an alleged scheme to install fake Trump presidential electors, which appears to be the focal point of anticipated charges by both Special Counsel Jack Smith and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

Giuliani’s promotion of a debunked conspiracy theory about two election workers falsely accused of mishandling Fulton County ballots also implicates him in an infamous phone call from Trump to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — also a focal point of Willis’ investigation. During the phone call, Trump tried to pressure the state’s chief election officer into flipping the election in the former president’s favor.

“He’s in the thick of it,” Kevin O’Brien, a former federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York with experience trying public corruption cases, told Raw Story. “I don’t know how his lawyers are going to argue to get him off the hook if the day comes when they tell him he’s a target and he’s going to be indicted. What is their response to all this evidence? I don’t know, except to say he was confused, or he was impaired.

“But I don’t know if Giuliani would ever agree to that,” O’Brien added.

A Giuliani spokesperson did not respond before publication time to questions specifically about Giuliani’s involvement in the fake electors scheme, his potential legal jeopardy in the special counsel and Fulton County investigations or Trump’s phone call to Raffensperger.

‘They can’t anonymously stand behind this garbage’

Raw Story reviewed several text exchanges and email chains obtained by the January 6 committee, as well as a lawsuit brought against Giuliani by two Georgia election workers. Taken together with separate court depositions, the records provide a clear picture of Giuliani’s role in the pro-Trump effort to overturn the 2020 election.

Giuliani’s centrality to the fake electors scheme — reportedly the focus of charges contemplated by Smith’s team for conspiracy to defraud the United States and violations of a civil rights statute that has been used prosecute election fraud — is documented through texts from senior-level Trump aides that were turned over to the U.S. House’s January 6 select committee.

The Giuliani fake elector drama and its A-list cast of MAGA characters begins in earnest at 9:41 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2020, a Sunday morning.

It was then that Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the 2020 Trump reelection campaign, reported to three other Trump lieutenants — White House lawyer Eric Herschmann, deputy campaign manager and senior counsel Justin Clark and campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh — that he had “just got a call from Rudy.”

Miller reported that Boris Epshteyn, a strategic adviser for the Trump campaign and a member of Giuliani’s legal team, “has been coordinating state elector whip effort,” adding that Giuliani told him he should “connect with” Epshteyn and Christina Bobb, another member of the Giuliani legal team.

Bobb, herself a lawyer, had worked as a news anchor but took a leave of absence from the pro-Trump One America News Network to help Giuliani.

“All I know is tomorrow is Elector Voting Day and that train you hear coming down the track isn’t Burlington Northern” Miller said.

Miller asked the other senior-level Trump aides for input on the best way to “proceed tomorrow so we don’t look like a donkey show, particularly on the Comms/media front.”

Murtaugh, in turn, shared some text that Clark had recommended: “As contests continue in states the only prudent course was to have electors vote in those places to preserve the campaign’s rights.”

The only problem was none of Trump’s senior aides wanted to put their names on the statement.

Clark suggested that the statement be credited to Giuliani, Epshteyn and Jenna Ellis, also a member of the Giuliani legal team.

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But to do that, they would have to lift a ban on campaign statements from Giuliani and Ellis.

“I’m not sure where the ban came from,” Clark said. “But they can’t anonymously stand behind this garbage.”

As previously reported by Raw Story, the decision to launch the fake electors scheme — an orchestrated effort to assemble Republican electors in states won by Joe Biden and present the Trump elector slates to Congress in contest with the legitimate Biden electors — was made by Trump himself.

Responsibility for executing an “electors whip operation” was delegated to Mike Roman, officially the campaign’s director of election day operations.

What would ensue, according to communications turned over to the January 6 select committee, was a closely coordinated operation to assemble Trump electors in six states narrowly won by Joe Biden and collect their votes in bogus slates.

Roman asked an assistant to set up a spreadsheet to log efforts to confirm that the appointed Trump electors would attend the meetings in the respective state capitals. On Dec. 12, members of Roman’s team joined a conference call to report their progress.

Bobb, from the Giuliani legal team, wrote up a summary of the call, broken out for each state, including a note that they were waiting to hear from Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano’s office “about getting a room” at the state legislature in Harrisburg. She added that the “Mayor” — a reference to Giuliani — “may need to make a call.”

On the eve of the fake electors meetings in the state capitals, the Giuliani legal team workshopped a statement of their own that was significantly more aggressive than the cautious version prepared by the president’s senior-level advisers. Rather than defend the action of assembling Trump electors in states won by Biden, it attacked the Biden electors as illegitimate.

Bobb emailed the first draft to Epshteyn at 6:02 p.m. on Dec. 13.

The draft read: “On December 14th, the states of Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia are appointing Democrat electors to cast their votes for Biden. Each one of these states has clearly demonstrable evidence of voter fraud significant enough to change the outcome of the election.”

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As support for the claim of voter fraud in Georgia, the draft stated that “Georgia has video evidence of 30,000 illegal ballots cast after the observers were removed.” (That claim had been debunked by media reports and an investigation by the Georgia Office of the Secretary of State a week earlier.)

The draft statement explicitly called on Congress — scheduled to meet on Jan. 6, 2021, to certify the election — to set aside the Biden electors.

This was a remarkable assertion in any context, but particularly so because it veered dramatically from the understanding of Trump’s senior-level advisers, and even many of the Trump electors themselves, who believed the effort was merely a contingency to preserve the campaign’s rights in the unlikely event that federal courts reversed the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“Any statement signed by Democrat electors from these six states claiming that they are properly appointed to cast a vote for Biden in the Electoral College is a false statement and Congress should not accept them,” the draft statement concluded.

Epshteyn forwarded the statement to Giuliani. Responding 37 minutes later, Giuliani wrote, “Looks good to me.” He copied Miller on the message.

Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The following day, as the Trump electors were meeting, Epshteyn emailed Miller: “Hey my man – Mayor going to discuss with POTUS and if they decide it should go, thinking we’ll put it out as we have other statements?”

Miller flagged Epshteyn’s Dec. 14, 2020 email for Herschmann, Clark and Murtaugh.

“Please see below,” Miller wrote. “Statement on hold until further notice, pending Rudy’s talk with the President.”

Reached by phone, Epshteyn declined to comment and referred Raw Story to Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for Donald Trump. Emails to Cheung went unreturned. Messages left for Bobb on her voicemail for this story went unreturned.

‘It really can’t be allowed to stand’

Instead of litigating election challenges in courts of law after Nov. 3, 2020, Giuliani mostly prosecuted Trump’s case in the court of public opinion.

Giuliani thrust himself into media appearances on Fox News and its far-right competitor, One America News Network. He pressed wildly absurd and unsubstantiated claims about election fraud, while simultaneously heading up a campaign to pressure Republican lawmakers in the six battleground states to suspend Biden’s electoral votes.

With varying levels of success, Giuliani’s team also sought to convene legislative hearings in some of the battleground states to present bogus evidence of fraud.

Giuliani’s team appeared with a slate of purported witnesses and experts at a hearing held by friendly state lawmakers in a Wyndham hotel ballroom in Gettysburg, Pa. on Nov. 25 and then at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Phoenix on Nov. 30.

In Georgia, they were able to arrange a hearing before a subcommittee chaired by a state senator at the state capitol in Atlanta on Dec. 3.

The day after the Gettysburg hearing, Giuliani and Ellis left a voicemail for Bryan Cutler, the Republican speaker of the Pennsylvania state House.

Giuliani’s appeal to Cutler, which mentioned that he had also reached out to Senate President Pro Tem Jake Corman, suggested that the Republican-controlled legislature should overturn the election, which had been certified for Biden two days earlier.

“I’d like to see if there’s some way maybe we can get together quietly, and I could show you what we have,” Giuliani said. “Because I think you’d be very surprised at the amount of fraud that went on in your state — really exercising the delegated power that you gave to these people, and they really made a mockery of it. And it really can’t be allowed to stand; otherwise, this’ll become the norm.”

A couple days later, Trump himself joined Giuliani on a call with Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers asking for the same thing.

After refusing a request from Trump to allow an official committee to hold a hearing to look at “evidence” and “take action” at the Arizona state capitol, Bowers testified to the January 6 select committee that he asked Trump to explain his ultimate objective.

“Well, we have heard by an official high up in the Republican legislature that there is a legal theory or a legal ability in Arizona that you can remove the electors of President Biden, and replace them,” Trump said, according to Bowers. “And we would like to have the legitimate opportunity through the committee to come to that end and remove that.”

Arizona state Speaker Russell Bowers testifies to Jan. 6 committee

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During the subcommittee hearing at the Georgia state capitol on Dec. 3, Ray S. Smith III, the lead counsel for the Trump campaign in Georgia, made the same appeal.

“The actual results of legal ballots cast in the Nov. 3, 2020 election, in compliance with the Georgia election code, cannot be known, ever,” Smith said. “Not by the secretary of state, not by the governor downstairs, not by the voting public, and not by this Georgia legislature. That is why the election must be vacated, and cannot be allowed to stand.

“And that is why the Georgia legislature must exercise and fulfill its duties under the United States Constitution, the Georgia constitution and Georgia law,” Smith continued. “The Georgia legislature must appoint the presidential electors to meet on December 14th, 2020. That is your duty to the people of Georgia and to the United States. You must determine the presidential election — electors.”

Prosecutors reportedly questioned witnesses last summer about Giuliani’s appearances before the state legislative panels in late 2020. The questioning reported took place during a special purpose grand jury that laid the groundwork for the Fulton County district attorney’s anticipated indictments.

‘Suitcases of ballots’

Following Smith’s remarks during the Dec. 3, 2020 hearing in Atlanta, a Republican volunteer named Jacki Pick presented an edited video featuring two election workers, Ruby Freeman and Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss. The two women were working at the State Farm Arena vote-counting center on Election Night.

Pick told the state lawmakers during a televised hearing that Republican observers had been told to leave the arena, and that the election workers had counted 18,000 hidden, fraudulent ballots. Those ballots, Pick said, had been retrieved from “suitcases of ballots under a table, under a tablecloth.”

None of it was true.

And the truth came quickly and abundantly in the form of news reports, a press conference by the Secretary of State’s office and an affidavit by a state investigator that quickly refuted the claims that observers were thrown out of the arena and that the election workers were doing any nefarious in the course of counting legitimate ballots.

But that didn’t appear to matter to Giuliani. He continued to fire accusation after accusation at the two African-American women in his quest to delegitimize the election. As they’d testify months later before the January 6 select committee, the lies caused an onslaught of harassment, including death threats.

“There’s a video recording in Fulton County, Georgia of what is obviously, without any doubt, the theft of votes,” Giuliani said on his “Common Sense” podcast on Dec. 23, 2020. “You have to be a naïve child or a completely dishonest partisan not to realize that the observers are being thrown out of the room. A phony excuse of a water main break was used. They still were thrown out of the room, didn’t want to leave. Once they were all left and a last check was done around the hall, the workers for Atlanta — for Fulton County — the five, or six, one of whom has a history of vote fraud participation, Ruby Freeman, uh, they scurry under these desks.”

Flash forward more than 2 ½ years: Giuliani has now conceded that his statements about Freeman and Moss were false and defamatory, doing so in a stipulation filed Tuesday in response to a federal civil lawsuit by the two women in D.C. federal court.

Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, former Georgia election worker, becomes emotional while testifying as her mother Ruby Freeman watches during the fourth hearing held by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol on June 21, 2022 in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC. Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

The stipulation states that “defendant Giuliani, for the purposes of this litigation only, does not contest that, to the extent that the statements were statements of fact and otherwise actionable, such actionable factual statements were false.”

Ted Goodman, a spokesperson, told Raw Story that Giuliani “did not acknowledge that the statements were false but did not contest it in order to move on to the portion of the case that will permit a motion to dismiss,” while characterizing the content of the stipulation as “a legal issue, not a factual issue.”

‘Greatest hits’ of ‘election fraud’

But the false claims about Freeman and Moss would remain a centerpiece of Giuliani’s efforts to delegitimize the 2020 election as the nation drew closer to what would become one of the most infamous days in U.S. history: Jan. 6, 2021.

Private communications between members of Giuliani’s team show that he promoted the false claims to Trump.

This set the stage for the former president’s Jan. 2, 2021, call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, where Trump demanded Raffensperger flip the election result in Georgia, which Biden had narrowly won.

Phone texts obtained by Freeman and Moss through legal discovery show Giuliani aide Boris Epshteyn writing on Dec. 7: “Urgent POTUS request. Need best examples of ‘election fraud’ that we’ve alleged that’s super easy to explain. Doesn’t necessarily have to be proven, but does need to be easy to understand. Is there any sort of ‘greatest hits’ clearinghouse that anyone has for best examples?”

“The security camera in Atlanta alone captures theft of a minimum of 30,000 votes which alone would change result in Georgia,” Giuliani replied. “Remember it will live in history as the theft of a state if it’s not corrected by State Legislature.”

On Dec. 4, Giuliani also instructed Bobb to send a copy of the video to Bowers, the Arizona House speaker.

The false claim would also feature prominently in the draft statement distributed by the Giuliani team on Dec. 14, 2020, to attack the legitimacy of the lawful Biden electors in the six battleground states.

During Trump’s hour-long phone call with Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, he mentioned Freeman’s name 18 times, linking the purported vote fraud to his request that Raffensperger “find” 11,780 votes to cancel Biden’s win in Georgia.

“We won very substantially in Georgia,” Trump told Raffensperger on the call. “We had at least 18,000 — that’s on tape we counted very painstakingly — 18,000 voters having to do with Ruby Freeman. She’s a vote scammer and hustler, Ruby Freeman. That was the tape that’s been shown all over the world that makes everybody look bad — you, me, and everybody else.

“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state,” Trump added. “And flipping the state is a great testament to our country because — ’cause you know, this is — it’s a testament that they can admit to a mistake or whatever you want to call it.”

Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump. Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons

Disputing Trump’s claims during the call, Raffensperger specifically called out Giuliani for his leadership role in promoting the hoax.

“You’re talking about the State Farm video,” Raffensperger said, referring to the arena where votes were being counted. “And I think it’s extremely unfortunate that Rudy Giuliani or his people, they sliced and diced that video and took it out of context.”

Prosecutors in the investigation overseen by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis have reportedly reviewed the phone call.

Citing both the call to Raffensperger and the fake electors scheme, a Brookings Institution analysis concluded that Trump and others could be charged under Georgia state law with various crimes, including solicitation to commit election fraud, intentional interference with performance of election duties, and conspiracy to commit election fraud. The New York Times has reported that Giuliani was informed last year that he is a target of the Fulton County investigation.

The campaign to pressure officials — including Raffensperger, Cutler and Bowers — into reversing the results of the election in their respective states is difficult to disentangle from the fake electors scheme, according to many legal observers.

Giuliani’s own account of his efforts during the post-election period isn’t far off from the case that investigators appear to be building.

Sitting for a deposition for the lawsuit brought by Freeman and Moss in a law office in New York City in March, Giuliani described working eight-hour days with his team in a “war room” at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., in late December 2020 and early January 2021.

“It was called a ‘war room’ because — they tried, they tried to suggest we had something to do with January 6, whatever, speech and rally — and what our war room was about was gathering evidence of voter fraud so that the legislatures could develop a vote on whether the election was — election results were accurate,” Giuliani said.

He continued: “Because we thought our best last chance was — that one thing that you could certainly say in these states, whether you could say Trump won or not, that the vote was inaccurate…. That was our major function.”