Ford quieter than AG peers on possibility of charges against Nevada’s 2020 fake electors

By: - January 6, 2023 1:49 pm

The U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford continues to decline to comment on the possibility of an investigation into the illegitimate election certificate submitted by a group of Republicans following the 2020 presidential election, even as his AG peers in other states acknowledge their own investigations and as the public digests the trove of evidence released to the public last month by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“We do not comment on investigations,” Ford said on a press call arranged by the Democratic Attorneys General Association on Friday when asked for comment on the possibility of state action against the fake electors.

As he has done previously, Ford only reiterated that his office is cooperating with the federal government in their investigation and said the issue is “on our radar.”

“To explain my rationale for not commenting one way or the other, I don’t comment in general on any investigation, whether it’s elder abuse, child abuse or in this case fake electors,” said Ford. “The moment I decide I comment on fake electors, someone’s going to say this is a partisan investigation because I comment on nothing else anyway so why would I comment on this.”

He continued, “I know that it’s an unsatisfactory answer for a lot of folks, but I will not jeopardize anything that we are doing, or that we may do by commenting on whether we are investigating in this area.

Ford’s position of declining to confirm the existence of any state investigation into the high-profile national event is, if nothing else, consistent. He said as much one year ago, in January 2022, when news broke that the House’s Jan. 6 committee was planning on looking into the phony certificates. The actions of fake electors in Nevada and other states were a central component of Donald Trump’s failed plan for Congress to decline to certify Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, 2021.

But Ford’s peers in other states have acknowledged their investigations or intent to investigate.

“I’ll be blunt about it,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on the same call in response to a question about the lack of charges being filed against her state’s 16 fake electors. “Yes, I’m a little worried about it. Over a year has passed (since she and other AGs referred their investigations to federal investigators). What we’d seen from the January 6 committee is an overwhelming amount of evidence.”

She added that even before the complete findings from the House committee were made public she believed there “was already a substantial amount of evidence.”

Nessel confirmed her office is reopening its own investigation “because I don’t know what the federal government plans to do. Perhaps they are going to move forward. I hope that they do, but I think it is important that … there be some accountability.”

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, who was sworn into office this week, said it was “not clear” whether her predecessor, Republican Mark Brnovich, looked into their state’s fake electors, but she confirmed she will.

“I will be directing my office to initiate an examination, investigation into that here in Arizona,” she said. “We certainly do not want to interfere with the federal investigation and will work with them, but I do think that this is not the kind of thing that can go unexamined. We cannot allow a situation that clearly involved an attempt to undermine our democracy go uninvestigated.”

Meanwhile, in Georgia, significant steps have already been taken to hold accountable those who attempted to interfere with 2020 elections in the state. In July 2022, nearly a dozen of the fake electors there were subpoenaed by a Fulton County grand jury.

The Brookings Institute surveyed laws in the seven states where fake electors convened and found that “Nevada state law makes it illegal to falsify ‘any record.’ Nevada laws also prohibit individuals from performing the duties of public officials without authorization and legitimate public officials from ‘mak[ing]…a false certificate.’”

Brookings characterized Georgia as “the most advanced example of a state investigation” but noted that Nevada and three other states (Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin) “may offer comparable circumstances for state investigations to be developed.”

The final two states — New Mexico and Pennsylvania — added qualifying language making their documents’ validity contingent upon the outcome of Trump’s election lawsuits or the discoverance of mass voter fraud. For this reason,  “those cases are not as strong,” the authors noted.

“The fact that the federal government is investigating the false electors’ scheme is no reason for local and state prosecutors not to,” concluded Brookings. “Parallel state and federal investigations are common, as seen in the ongoing investigation in Georgia. If 2023 brings a series of investigations in these states it will deal one more blow to the election denier movement, especially as it impacts presidential elections.

Nessel on the Democratic attorneys general call Friday acknowledged the same thing.

“I don’t want to interfere with anything going on federally,” she said, “but there are many times where there are parallel tracks that are run, where the state and the federal government will charge in a similar set of circumstances. That may end up being the case of what happens here in the state of Michigan.”

The Wisconsin Examiner reported last month that a case study conducted by online democracy protection outlet Just Security concluded that false electors in the Badger State possibly violated a number of state laws and in doing so committed crimes that carry penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment.

After that report was released, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, suggested he may be deferring, for now, to federal investigations.

“I’d say the federal government is investigating this, and I believe they’re going to conduct a full and thorough investigation,” WKOW reported Kaul saying. “They will follow the facts where they lead. That doesn’t preclude state action, but again, what happens is gonna depend on the facts, and ultimately, what comes of what we’re seeing play out with the federal investigation.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article misidentified the former attorney general of Arizona. The former attorney general is Mark Brnovich.

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, three children and one mutt.

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