Joe Duhownki

PHOENIX (CN) — Donald Trump allies Rudy Giuliani, former chief of staff Mark Meadows, and others were indicted Wednesday on fraud and conspiracy charges alongside several Republican leaders who signed a document claiming to be Arizona’s certified presidential electors and cast their "votes" for the former president in the 2020 election.

The announcement comes more than a year after Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat elected in 2022, initiated an investigation into the so-called “fake electors.”

The state grand jury indictment includes the names of 11 Republican-nominated electors who convened at Arizona GOP headquarters in Phoenix one month after the 2020 election to sign a fraudulent certificate handing Arizona’s electoral votes to Trump, who lost Arizona to Joe Biden by more than 10,000 votes. The signers identified themselves as certified state electors, even though state officials already certified the Democratic Party's nominations as the rightful electors.

“I will not allow American Democracy to be undermined,” Mayes said in a video statement released alongside the indictment. “We’re here because justice demands an answer to the efforts the defendants and unindicted co-conspirators allegedly took to undermine the will of Arizona's voters during the 2020 election.”

Among those indicted are active state Senators Jake Hoffman and Anthony Kern, the latter of whom is under FBI investigation for his participation in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.

Former Arizona state Senator and Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward, her husband Michael Ward, and Turning Point Action chief operating officer Tyler Bowyer are also named as defendants.

The remaining six “fake electors” charged are:

  • Nancy Cottle, former chair of the Arizona Electoral College
  • James Lamon, former U.S. Senate candidate for Arizona
  • Robert Montgomery, former chair of the Cochise County Republican Committee
  • Samuel Moorhead, former leader of the Gila County Republican Party
  • Lorraine Pellegrino, secretary of the Arizona Trump Electors
  • Gegory Safsten, former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party

Those mentioned in the indictment, following the lead of the former president and other Republicans across the country, peddled baseless theories of election fraud, claiming that Trump was the true winner in 2020. The theories were aimed at pressuring election officials to change the outcome of the 2020 election, according to the indictment. Those ideas inspired “fake elector” schemes in Arizona and six other states, including Nevada and New Mexico.

“These defendants deceived the citizens of Arizona by falsely claiming that those votes were contingent only on a legal challenge that would change the outcome of the election,” Mayes said. “None of the legal challenges filed in Arizona state and federal courts regarding the 2020 election were remotely successful at any stage of the case.”

The indictment also includes redacted names of seven other “conspirators,” who will be revealed as soon as possible, according to an attorney general spokesperson. But the mystery characters are already apparent. The document makes reference to Rudy Guiliani as a Trump attorney often identified as “the mayor,” and Mark Meadows as Trump’s chief of staff in 2020.

Based on the descriptions of the remaining five, they appear to be Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, John Eastman and Christina Bobb, Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn and former campaign aide Mike Roman.

Trump is listed as a conspirator — his name is redacted — but he isn’t charged.

The nine charges against all 18 defendants include fraud, forgery, and conspiracy — class 2, 4, and 5 felonies.

Before each presidential election, both the Democratic and Republican parties in each state select one elector for each congressional seat that state has. Arizona has 11. Once the popular vote in the state determines a winner, the governor certifies the electors chosen by the winning party, who then cast their votes in alignment with the popular vote.

The 11 indicted “fake electors” were chosen by the Republican Party, but weren’t certified because the candidate on the Republican ticket lost. Thus, they lacked authority to sign the certificate claiming to be electors and giving Arizona’s votes to Trump.

Discussions to use Republican electors to change the election outcome began as early as Nov. 4, 2020, according to the indictment, which details memos drafted by the Trump administration that advocate for Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania to “send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS.”

Texts from Trump suggest that states should have refused to seat Democrat electors, regardless of the election outcome. Attorneys for Trump eventually decided that the strategy was “legally unsound,” but Trump’s campaign continued to fight anyway, according to the indictment.

By early December, Ward was put in charge of organizing the 10 other Republican electors to convene to cast their votes.

The electors defended their actions to reporters in the following weeks.

“In unprecedented times, unprecedented action has occurred,” Hoffman said in January 2021.