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Arizona grand jury indicts 11 Republican 'fake electors'

An Arizona grand jury has indicted 11 Republicans who submitted documentation falsely claiming former President Donald Trump, not President Joe Biden, won the state’s popular vote in 2020.

According to Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a grand jury indicted the electors on nine counts, including felony fraud, forgery and conspiracy.

“The people of Arizona elected President Biden,” Mayes said in a video release. “Unwilling to accept this fact, the defendants charged by the state grand jury allegedly schemed to prevent the lawful transfer of the presidency.”

The slate of fake electors charged in Arizona includes several influential Republicans, including sitting state Sens. Jake Hoffman and Anthony Kern. Former Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward, former party Executive Director Greg Safsten and RNC Committeeman Tyler Bowyer also signed documents transmitted to the federal government. Bowyer is also an executive with Turning Point Action, an Arizona-based right wing advocacy group founded by Trump ally Charlie Kirk.

Seven other defendants were also indicted but their names were redacted in the copy of the indictment released by Mayes’ office. The indictment also mentions a number of unindicted co-conspirators, including “a former president of the United States who spread false claims of election fraud following the 2020 election" and other former members of the Arizona Legislature.

NPR was able to identify some of the redacted individuals by details in the indictment that could only apply to them. That includes Mark Meadows, the former Trump White House chief of staff, along with Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman.

Mayes later released the identities of five of the redacted individuals, including Eastman. She also named Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn, 2020 Trump campaign official Michael Roman and attorneys Christina Bobb and Jenna Ellis as defendants.

The action makes Arizona the fourth state where charges have been brought against individuals involved in so-called “fake elector” schemes that sought to undermine Biden’s victory over Trump. Prosecutors in Georgia, Michigan and Nevada have already charged individuals accused of participating in similar schemes in those states. In another swing state, Wisconsin, fake electors admitted to their roles as part of civil settlements.

The indictments mark a significant step forward in an investigation that began a year ago after Kris Mayes, a Democrat who was elected attorney general in 2022 by just 280 votes, took office in early 2023.

Some Democrats criticized Mayes over the pace of that investigation, which proceeded largely behind closed doors as grand juries in other states indicted alleged participants in the fake electors scheme.

But Mayes urged patience, pointing out that she took office after many of the officials pursuing the case in other states. Her predecessor, Republican Mark Brnovich, did not investigate the case.

“The investigators and attorneys assigned to this case took the necessary time to thoroughly piece together the details of the events that began nearly four years ago,” Mayes said.

There were signs the case was picking up steam in recent months, though. In December, the investigators met with former Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro, who was accused of being the head architect of the fake elector plot by the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 attack.

Chesebro pleaded guilty in Georgia to one felony count of conspiracy to commit filing false documents. He agreed to testify in that case and also met with prosecutors in Nevada. Chesebro also agreed to the civil settlement in Wisconsin, which required him to publish records and documents detailing interactions with the Trump campaign about the fake elector strategy.

Hoffman denied he committed any crime and accused Mayes of weaponizing the government against her political opponents.

"Before an investigation had even been conducted and with no evidence, Kris Mayes declared that she believed electors such as myself were guilty of a crime, that it was her job to get Biden re-elected, and that she would control the timing of the indictment," Hoffman said in a statement.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story has been updated to correct the name of the group Turning Point Action. 

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Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.