Home Part of States Newsroom
Wisconsin AG Kaul files felony charges against Trump associates in fake elector scheme


Wisconsin AG Kaul files felony charges against Trump associates in fake elector scheme

Jun 04, 2024 | 11:30 am ET
By Henry Redman
Wisconsin AG Kaul files felony charges against Trump associates in fake elector scheme
Attorney General Josh Kaul speaks with reporters outside the Wisconsin Supreme Court in February 2023. (Wisconsin Examiner photo)

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul filed felony forgery charges against three people involved in the scheme to cast false Electoral College votes for former President Donald Trump after the 2020 election. 

The charges filed on Tuesday are the first time anyone involved in the plan in Wisconsin has faced criminal consequences. In other states where false electoral votes have been cast, many of the figures involved have been charged with crimes. In Wisconsin, Kaul had so far held off  filing charges against the attorneys and state Republicans involved in developing the plan. 

The 10 Republicans who cast the votes and the attorneys involved in making the plan have previously settled civil lawsuits against them. 

In December of 2020, the 10 Republicans followed the plan created by former Trump attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and Jim Troupis to meet in the state Capitol to secretly cast votes for Trump even though the former president had lost the state. After the fact, those involved said they were just trying  to keep Trump’s chances alive in the hopes that the state Supreme Court would overturn the results. However earlier on the same  day they cast their fraudulent electoral ballots the Wisconsin Supreme Court had voted against taking that drastic step. 

The false votes from Wisconsin and other states played a major role in the series of events that led to the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

On Tuesday, Kaul filed charges against Chesebro, a Wisconsin native who was the architect of the plan, Troupis, a former Dane County judge who represented Trump in court following the election, and Mike Roman, a former Trump aide who is alleged to have delivered Wisconsin’s false Electoral College paperwork to a Pennsylvania congressman in order to get them to former Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6. 

The 10 Republicans who cast the false votes included then-Republican Party of Wisconsin Chair Andrew Hitt and Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Robert Spindell. 

At a news conference outside the state Capitol Tuesday afternoon, Kaul refused to provide much detail on why the charges were only filed against the trio and not the full slate of electors or Trump himself. He repeatedly said that there was still an ongoing investigation into the scheme. 

Kaul also said that now is an “appropriate time” to bring the charges — even though the next presidential election is just months away — because his office was focused on getting the facts and law right and not on speed. 

“We feel confidence in the charges we’ve brought,” he said, while referring any questions about the details of the Department of Justice’s investigation to the criminal complaint. 

The complaint alleges that Chesebro, Troupis and Roman were instrumental in coming up with the plan to have false slates of electors vote for Trump. According to the complaint, the trio worked together on drafting the exact language electors would use on the certificates filed with state and federal officials in multiple states and on getting state party and Trump campaign officials on board with the plan. 

The complaint quotes emails that show Chesebro was telling people at the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee that Troupis was responsible for coming up with the idea. 

According to the complaint, the group discussed adding contingent language to the false electoral certificates that the electors “might later be determined” as the “duly elected and qualified” electors. That language was added in other states, but the complaint notes it wasn’t added to the documents signed and transmitted to Wisconsin’s 10 false electors. 

Chesebro, Troupis and Roman were then further involved in the planning between White House, Trump campaign and Republican officials over how to use the slates of false electors on Jan. 6, with Troupis and Chesebro attending a meeting in the Oval Office. In an email about that meeting, Troupis told Chesebro “nothing about our meeting with the President can be shared with anyone,” according to the complaint. 

The complaint also states that a number of individuals involved in the scheme, including Republican Party of Wisconsin leadership, said they were told the votes would only be used if a court ruled in Trump’s favor — even as Chesebro, Troupis and Roman were discussing ways to have the votes interrupt the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 the entire time.

Following the announcement of the charges, Gov. Tony Evers said, in a one word statement, “good.” 

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, celebrated the charges, noting that Trump and his presidency have been surrounded with criminal prosecutions.

“At what point are we going to ask, ‘Is there anyone associated with Donald Trump who isn’t a criminal?’” Pocan said in a statement. “I applaud AG Kaul for bringing these three democracy lawbreakers to justice.”

Law Forward, a progressive voting rights-based legal organization, had regularly called for the people involved in the scheme to be held criminally liable. The firm brought the civil lawsuit that resulted in the 10 false electors agreeing to not serve as electors for Trump ever again and making a public statement that Trump had lost the 2020 election to President Joe Biden. 

In a statement on Tuesday, Law Forward President Jeff Mandell said the charges were an important step in protecting Wisconsin’s democracy. 

“In America, most of us share a belief in our democracy and the importance of ensuring that those who attempt to undermine the will of the people are held accountable,” Mandell said. “The fake elector scheme was conceived in Wisconsin and was then deliberately spread across the country. Wisconsin voters have been waiting for accountability for more than three years, seeking to hold responsible for their actions both the fake electors and those who helped them perpetrate this scheme. This coordinated and deliberate effort to subvert democratic votes must not happen again. Today is a good step towards protecting our democracy and ensuring accountability.”

In Wisconsin, forgery is a class H felony, which is the least serious felony classification in state law. The charge carries a maximum sentence of six years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. 

Court records show Chesebro, Troupis and Roman are set to make their first appearance in court on Sept. 19.

This story has been updated