Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn and other allies plead not guilty in Arizona

PHOENIX — Boris Epshteyn, a key adviser to former President Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to nine counts for his alleged role after the 2020 election in an effort to give the 11 Arizona’s electoral votes went to Trump, instead of the rightful winner, Joe. Biden.

Epshteyn, who remains close to Trump, convened the proceedings in Maricopa County Superior Court by telephone. It was the first time he appeared in open court for his alleged role in crafting election strategy in seven states won by Biden.

Two other co-defendants in the case brought by Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) also appeared by video to plead not guilty to the same charges Epshteyn faces, including conspiracy, fraud and forgery: Jim Lamon, a 2020 Republican voter from Arizona. who signed documents claiming Trump won the state, and Jenna Ellis, a lawyer who has made baseless allegations of widespread malfeasance in states Trump lost and is accused of spreading the voter theory .

Tuesday’s proceedings in a crowded courtroom basement mark the latest round of not guilty pleas in the Arizona voters’ case. Eighteen Republicans from Arizona and elsewhere were indicted in late April. Prosecutors have described Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator.

The Arizona case follows charges brought by prosecutors in five other states related to 2020 election strategy. The Arizona case begins just as the state and nation prepare for a likely rematch in November between Trump and Biden – with the current judicial calendar colliding with the electoral calendar.

Prosecutor Nicholas Klingerman then spoke specifically about potential plea offers, but indicated some could be offered.

“We anticipate, I think, like any other case, that we will make plea offers,” he said. “We haven’t done any yet. …But I have discussed this possibility with some defense attorneys.

Klingerman said prosecutors’ investigation was ongoing and he did not know whether they would file additional charges. He then detailed the nature of the ongoing investigation.

The state’s team of investigators and prosecutors met about a year and a half ago to review efforts to overturn or undermine Trump’s 10,457 vote loss in the state. The investigation began after Mayes won his 2022 election, in part on a promise to investigate voter strategy in a state where conspiracies and skepticism about elections and government have flourished over the past year. of the last four years. Former state Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) has not initiated criminal proceedings.

One key area that state investigators have obtained evidence on and remain interested in: pressure on local officials by the president’s top allies to either delay Trump’s loss or prevent it from happening altogether, according to two people close to the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.

In the critical period after Trump’s defeat, Epshteyn was in contact with central figures in election strategy outside Arizona — and inside, according to publicly released documents. In emails sent after Trump’s defeat, Epshteyn questioned whether pro-Trump ballot designs could be created for states Trump lost, including Arizona. Epshteyn’s work to try to overturn Trump’s loss extended into 2022, when Rusty Bowers (R), then Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, said he would was speaking with Epshteyn, who had sought unsuccessfully to build support for legislation that would have overturned Biden’s victory.

In the weeks following Trump’s defeat, Ellis joined Rudy Giuliani, then Trump’s lawyer, in making baseless allegations of widespread malfeasance in states Trump lost. She accompanied Giuliani to a meeting in downtown Phoenix, where unfounded claims of voter fraud have circulated, and was by his side at a meeting with Bowers and other state lawmakers, where they were pressed to help overturn the election results. Ellis also circulated a theory that the 2020 election results could be overturned, focusing on the counting of electoral votes in January. January 6, 2021. Giuliani was also indicted in Arizona and pleaded not guilty.

Presidential electors are empowered by the Constitution to determine the outcome of presidential elections. Usually, only electors for each state’s winning candidate meet in mid-December to vote for that candidate after the election results have been certified at the state level. But in 2020, despite Trump’s defeat, Republican voters rallied to declare him the winner of their states.

Some of the players involved in the strategy in Arizona have either said that Republican Party voter rolls would only be used if Biden’s victory is challenged in Congress in January. December 6, 2021, or that they were simply acting as loyal conservatives and doing what lawyers, Republican Party leaders, and Trump allies asked them to do.

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