CNN’s senior legal expert Elie Honig said Friday that Kenneth Chesebro, a co-defendant in the Georgia election case, might be “poison” to prosecutors.
In October, Chesebro reached a plea agreement with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, admitting guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to file fraudulent paperwork. Prosecutors dismissed six other criminal counts against him that he had been charged on.
Chesebro recently told Michigan investigators that there was a December 2020 meeting when he allegedly informed Trump on the so-called “fake electors” plot, according to CNN, which used audio taken from the discussion between Chesebro and investigators.
“Taking into account this new reporting, what does this do? What is the impact on Donald Trump?” host Erica Hill asked.
“Kenneth Chesebro is a mixed bag for prosecutors and I guess, therefore, for Donald Trump. And mixed bags aren’t great when you’re a prosecutor and you bear the burden of proving your case not by 51% but beyond a reasonable doubt to a unanimous jury. Here’s why — Chesebro has clearly been valuable to prosecutors because he’s giving them details…It gives life to the allegations. How exactly did these ballots make their way from Minnesota or Wisconsin to Washington, D.C.? That’s important for prosecutors to know. It gives them leads,” Honig said.
“But this is important: Kenneth Chesebro will never take the stand. He will never be called to the stand by a prosecutor, by Fani Willis or Jack Smith. And here’s a line from the reporting, a crucial line from Katelyn’s reporting, I’ll read it verbatim: ‘Chesebro has maintained, then and now, that the plan … was a lawful move to preserve Trump’s legal rights.’ If he says that, and that apparently is his view, he’s poison to prosecutors. He will be what we call a Brady witness. Meaning a witness that’s helpful to the defense, based on an old case called Brady. So he’s useful investigatively. But anyone who thinks he will be the next John Dean or the smoking gun witness, absolutely not. Mark my words, no prosecutor will call him to the stand.”
Chesebro received no jail time, but was sentenced to five years probation, $5,000 in compensation, and 100 hours of community service. Sidney Powell, a co-defendant, similarly accepted a plea agreement, pleading guilty to six misdemeanor charges of conspiracy to conduct deliberate interference with the execution of election responsibilities rather than the seven felony counts mentioned in her indictment.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis filed charges against so-called “fake electors” over the 2020 election in Georgia, despite near certainly possessing exonerating evidence that their intentions were entirely lawful and in accordance with the United States Constitution.
In her indictment issued on August 14, Willis claimed that the presence of Republican electors for Trump constituted an illicit “conspiracy” aimed at overturning Georgia’s 2020 election results. Those charged in this alleged “conspiracy” included David Shafer, one of Georgia’s 2020 Republican electors, and Ray Smith, who served as one of Trump’s attorneys during the contest.
Willis specifically contended that Shafer and other alternate electors “unlawfully falsely held themselves out” as Georgia’s “duly elected and qualified” presidential electors. She further asserted that these electors, with Smith’s assistance, deliberately sought to “mislead” figures such as then-Vice President Mike Pence and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger “into believing that they actually were such officers.”
However, among the documents gathered during Willis’s lengthy investigation of Republicans was a transcript of a meeting that contradicted her allegations.
A transcript of the December 14, 2020, meeting of Georgia Republican electors, obtained by The Federalist, clearly reveals that the intent behind appointing alternate electors was not to impersonate public officials, as Willis claimed, but rather to legally preserve Trump’s challenge to the state’s election results. At the outset of the meeting, Shafer explicitly stated that he and his fellow Republicans were acting as “Republican nominees for Presidential Elector,” not as “duly elected and qualified” presidential electors.
“[President Trump] has filed a contest to the certified returns. That contest — is pending [and has] not been decided or even heard by any judge with the authority to hear it,” Shafer said. “And so in order to preserve his rights, it’s important that the Republican nominees for Presidential Elector meet here today and cast their votes.”
For context, Shafer and Trump had filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Raffensberger in Fulton County state court on December 4, 2020, alleging that tens of thousands of illegal votes were cast in the state’s presidential election. This lawsuit followed a recount requested by Trump, which confirmed Biden as the winner of Georgia’s 16 electoral votes by a margin of 11,779. Despite the recount, Raffensberger recertified the election on December 7, while Trump’s legal challenge was still pending.
On December 14, 2020, the day on which presidential elector nominees are required by federal law to meet, Trump and Shafer’s lawsuit was still pending. Consequently, Georgia’s Republican nominees, including Shafer, cast their electoral votes for Trump, while the state’s Democratic nominees voted for Biden.
During the December 14, 2020, meeting, Shafer further clarified the legal basis for appointing alternate electors in a conversation with Smith, Trump’s attorney at the time. Shafer asked Smith, “And so the only way for us to have any judge consider the merits of our complaint, the thousands of people we allege voted unlawfully, is for us to have this meeting and permit the contest to continue?”
“That’s correct,” Smith replied.
The naming of alternate Republican electors in the 2020 election closely mirrors actions taken during the 1960 presidential contest between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, the Federalist pointed out. As previously reported by The Federalist’s Margot Cleveland, a dispute over Hawaii’s electoral votes prompted both Kennedy and Nixon electors to cast their votes for their respective candidates. While Hawaii’s acting Republican governor initially certified the election for Nixon, a legal challenge and subsequent court decision awarded the state’s electoral votes to Kennedy.
Unlike Kennedy, Trump never had his day in court regarding his legal challenges to these votes and others. However, if the court had ruled in Trump’s favor, the alternate electors would have been in place to ensure the will of the Georgia people was upheld.
The revelations unearthed in the transcript raise a significant question: If Willis was in possession of the transcript prior to Aug. 14, why did she charge Shafer and Smith for allegedly partaking in a “conspiracy” to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results when the aforementioned document shows otherwise?
Fani Willis did not respond to repeated requests for comment on when her office possessed the Dec. 14, 2020, transcript prior to announcing Shafer and Smith’s indictments to the public. It is yet another revelation that will fuel valid complaints that Willis filed her charges against Donald Trump and his associates under false pretenses, which is a criminal offense.
Thus, if proven to be true that she possessed this exculpatory evidence when she filed charges, Fani Willis would ostensibly be guilty of one of the offenses that she charged Donald Trump and his associates under: Making “False declarations before a grand jury or court.”