Trump Endorses ‘Big Lie’ Supporters for State Election Positions


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NEW YORK (AP) – Ahead of winning Donald Trump’s coveted support in his race to become Arizona’s top election official, Mark Finchem received several calls from people close to the former president making it clear that they endorsed the work he was doing to challenge the results of the 2020 Election.

“They said I had been noticed,” said Finchem, a state official who was outside the United States Capitol during the Jan. 6 uprising and was one of the main supporters of a widely circulated partisan poll in Arizona. In subsequent conversations, he said, Trump praised his work and expressed hope he continued.

As Trump contemplates another presidential race in 2024, he has shown a similar interest in important but relatively obscure races on other critical battlefields, lending his support to candidates who have not only perpetuated the election lie of 2020 were stolen, but in some cases also actively tried to reverse the results. The measures reflect Trump’s desire to exert influence at all levels of the Republican Party and to install allies in critical roles in states that may be more likely to help him corrupt future election results.

“President Trump’s unsuccessful attempts to reverse the results and the will of the people were really just the beginning,” said Jena Griswold, Secretary of State for Colorado, who chairs the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State , a group dedicated to electing Democrats to the positions.

While contests for secretary of state and attorney general have historically been overshadowed by high profile contests, offices hold significant power. Attorneys General are the primary law enforcement officials in their states, while Secretaries of State serve as Chief Electoral Officers, overseeing efforts such as voter registration and the distribution of postal ballots. , depending on the state.

Rick Pildes, professor of constitutional law at New York University School of Law, said Trump’s focus on positions had changed the type of candidates they attracted, with “many more partisan activists “who were interested in it.

“It’s an extraordinary thing for a former president who could very well seek to represent himself to weigh on the offices of the secretary of state. I don’t know if we’ve seen this before, ”Pildes said.

Despite a lack of credible evidence to back up Trump’s claims of massive voter fraud, the former president continued to push the “big lie,” turning it into a litmus test for GOP candidates. Trump remains very popular with Republican voters, a majority of whom continue to believe the election was stolen, despite dozens of state and local election officials, numerous judges, and Trump’s own attorney general claiming that President Joe Biden won fairly.

Highlighting this power, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting a Capitol insurgency announced last week that he would retire rather than having to face what needed to be done. be a murderous primary against a Trump-endorsed challenger.

“1 down, 9 to go! Trump sang.

Trump is now pushing his way down the ballot and has so far endorsed three candidates for secretary of state, all in states that could play a major role in determining the outcome of the 2024 presidential election and where officials have pushed back his efforts to undo the results last. year.

Its employees are open to strategy.

“Our top priority is to support powerful fighters who care about the integrity of the elections,” Trump spokeswoman Liz Harrington said. “He notices when people are fighting for the truth about the November election results. “

In Arizona, which has emerged as a key front in the Republicans’ war of disinformation, Trump last week backed Finchem, a staunch supporter of the state’s partisan review of the 2020 vote count in Maricopa County. Election experts cited many flaws in the review, from biased and inexperienced entrepreneurs to conspiracy-seeking backers and bizarre and unreliable methods.

Finchem believes the results in the state should be decertified, and he played a key role in efforts to undermine confidence in the vote, including bringing Rudy Giuliani and other Trump attorneys to Phoenix to spread bogus allegations of fraud.

Democrats pushed unsuccessfully to evict Finchem from Arizona House after he was photographed outside the United States Capitol on January 6, when Trump supporters stormed the building, trying to stop the certification of Biden’s victory. Finchem said he was in the area to speak at an authorized rally and was unaware the Capitol was violated until hours later.

In the race for Michigan secretary of state, Trump endorsed Kristina Karamo, who had backed an unsuccessful Texas lawsuit that tried to prevent Michigan and three other states from voting for Biden. For Georgian Secretary of State, Trump backed U.S. Representative Jody Hice, a loyalist who voted against certification of election results and is running to overthrow Republican candidate Brad Raffensperger, who backed the election results in Georgia and rejected Trump’s pleas to “find” more votes. , enraging the former president.

Trump sent Raffensperger a letter on Friday asking him to “start the process of revoking the election, or whatever remedy is appropriate, and announce the real winner.”

In addition to the Secretary of State for Racing, Trump last week endorsed Matt DePerno, a Michigan attorney running for state attorney general who made rebutted statements about the ballot counting machines in the election. of 2020 in Michigan. A Republican-controlled Michigan Senate report found no evidence of the fraud alleged by DePerno and recommended that the current attorney general investigate those who profit from election misinformation.

DePerno has since bragged about raising more than $ 400,000 to help fund his trial and separately paying $ 280,000 to fund the Arizona election review.

Griswold, Colorado’s Democratic Secretary of State, said the stakes in 2022 were high, with elections coming up in five swing states – Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Michigan and Georgia – as well as countless races at the counties.

“Democracy will be on the ballot in 2022,” said Griswold, who is seeking re-election. “We need to see people who believe in democracy and the will of the people in these roles. “

Trey Grayson, a Republican who served as Kentucky’s secretary of state from 2004 to 2011, said Trump’s endorsement would likely be a powerful force in the races, but choosing candidates on the basis of loyalty and l Joining the “big lie” was probably not the best way to win the general election and get good people into office.

And he lamented the message that could send if, for example, Raffensperger ended up losing in Georgia.

“The message he sends is that if you do the right thing, you are going to be punished,” he said. “And that bothers me – it really bothers me – as a person who cares a lot about democracy and someone who cares a lot about the Republican Party.”

Pildes said that when it comes to election administration, even the perception of partisan intervention can be damaging.

“The concern is heightened if these elected officials feel that they owe their political success to a particular candidate,” Pildes said.

Finchem, for his part, said Trump made no mention of 2024 in their appeals.

“As far as the president’s plans and his strategy go, it’s way above my pay level… and, frankly, I don’t want to know. Once a secretary of state is elected, once that choice is made, ”he said,“ you really have a responsibility to be as impartial as possible. “

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Associated Press writer Nicholas Riccardi in Denver contributed to this report.

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