To steal an election: Inside Trump's circle of alleged plotters
August 2, 2023 08:50 PM
The indictment against Donald Trump over his failed bid to reverse his 2020 US election defeat lists six co-conspirators that it says were recruited to "assist him in his criminal efforts" to cling to power.
Following longstanding Justice Department policy, their names have been withheld as they have not been charged, but five have been identified by US media based on details divulged by prosecutors.
The suspect with the highest profile is undoubtedly Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer who led bogus legal challenges in swing states and was central to an effort to pressure local legislators to overturn election results.
The indictment says the former New York mayor -- feted as a national hero in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks -- "was willing to spread knowingly false claims and pursue strategies that the defendant's 2020 re-election campaign attorneys would not."
"We don't have the evidence, but we have lots of theories," Giuliani is quoted as telling an Arizona lawmaker who asked for proof of voter fraud, according to the indictment, which designates him as "Co-Conspirator 1."
Giuliani repeatedly made false fraud accusations against Georgia election workers Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman, prompting death threats against the pair, and has admitted in court that he defamed them.
- Lawyers, officials, consultants -
The one-time presidential hopeful worked closely with "Co-Conspirator 3" -- attorney Sidney Powell -- who pushed fringe theories about manipulation of voting machines that Trump allegedly acknowledged sounded "crazy" but promoted anyway.
The former federal prosecutor came to Trump's attention as a defense attorney who represented his former national security advisor, far right QAnon conspiracy theorist Michael Flynn, who lied to the FBI about contacts with Russia.
Nicknamed "The Kraken" after the movie monster from "Clash of the Titans," Powell was briefly considered by Trump for the job of special counsel to investigate the election, but was ultimately sanctioned for misconduct and sued multiple times for defamation.
The other figures identified in the indictment are more obscure but no less central to the alleged conspiracy.
John Eastman, a constitutional lawyer and one-time respected scholar, helped develop the strategy to create fake slates of pro-Trump electors to certify the victory for their candidate in states that Joe Biden had actually won.
He was central to efforts to pressure Trump's vice president Mike Pence to overturn the election on January 6, 2021, when the states' certification of the results was due to be ratified by Congress.
Jeffrey Clark, a mid-level Justice Department official described as "Co-Conspirator 4," accepted the position of acting attorney general on January 3, 2021, although Trump ultimately withdrew the job offer amid a revolt in the ranks.
Clark is accused of corruptly pressing senior officials to "open sham election crime investigations and influence state legislatures with knowingly false claims of election fraud."
Ken Chesebro, identified as "Co-Conspirator 5," is accused of leading key elements of Trump's fake elector strategy, drafting a series of memos that eventually turned into "a corrupt plan" to block certification of Biden's victory.
A sixth plotter, described as a political consultant who helped implement the fake electors scheme, has not been identified.