Trump Georgia defendants push 2020 fraud claims as another election looms

Unproven allegations of a stolen election revived in Georgia case against former president and co-defendants
Harrison Floyd, a leader in the organization Black Voices for Trump, appears during a bond hearing in Fulton County Superior Court in November. Floyd's defense strategy in Fulton's election interference case against him is to maintain that the 2020 election was rife with fraud. In an attempt to make his case, he has requested terabytes of information from election officials, including copies of all 528,777 Fulton County ballots cast that November. Pool Photo by DENNIS BYRON / AP

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Harrison Floyd, a leader in the organization Black Voices for Trump, appears during a bond hearing in Fulton County Superior Court in November. Floyd's defense strategy in Fulton's election interference case against him is to maintain that the 2020 election was rife with fraud. In an attempt to make his case, he has requested terabytes of information from election officials, including copies of all 528,777 Fulton County ballots cast that November. Pool Photo by DENNIS BYRON / AP

Harrison Floyd says the 2020 election was rife with fraud, and he’s found a new venue to help him prove it: the Georgia election interference case.

For his defense against three felony counts, Floyd — the former head of Black Voices for Trump — has requested terabytes of information from election officials, including copies of all 528,777 Fulton County ballots cast that November. He plans to scrutinize and recount the votes to prove — against all evidence to the contrary — that fraud cost Donald Trump the presidential election.

If Trump actually won, Floyd’s actions were justified, his attorney, Chris Kachouroff, argued at a court hearing in November. He said Fulton County prosecutors made the election outcome relevant when they accused Floyd and 18 others — including Trump — of “willfully and knowingly” trying to overturn a valid election.

“They all knew, the DA says, that Trump lost the election,” Kachouroff told Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee. “So, if it turns out that Trump won, I think it’s pretty relevant that we get this information so we can prove that.”

Floyd isn’t the only one citing discredited voting fraud claims in an attempt to fend off legal consequences.

Trump and key supporters now face criminal charges, defamation lawsuits and disbarment proceedings to hold them accountable for trying to overturn the election. In Georgia, California and Washington, D.C., some of them are using those very proceedings to argue they were right to contest Joe Biden’s victory, including fellow defendants Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman.

They’re not likely to succeed — at least at proving much fraud. Every alleged “smoking gun” for massive voting fraud has evaporated under scrutiny.


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State and federal investigators and Trump’s own campaign have found no counterfeit ballots, noncitizen voters or shady ballot-collection schemes. Absentee ballots were cast in the names of four dead Georgians, not thousands. Election workers double-scanned more than 3,000 ballots in Fulton’s recount, investigators found this month, but there’s no evidence the error benefited Biden or changed the outcome.

Still, true believers continue to relitigate 2020, hoping that this time they’ll win — or at least avoid convictions or disbarment.

Their efforts are further evidence that America cannot move beyond that bitterly contested 2020 presidential election, even as voters prepare for the next one.

“People need to understand what happened in 2020,” said Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who defended the accuracy of the results.

Raffensperger said it wasn’t fraud that cost Trump the election; it was the loss of support of tens of thousands of Republican voters.

“More than anything else, there were over 30,000 Republican voters that voted on the general primary day, then did not come back and vote at all in the fall,” Raffensperger said. “We’re fighting every day to let people know we have fair, honest and accurate elections.”

Floyd’s gambit

Ruby Freeman had endured weeks of threats and harassment when she found herself at a Cobb County police station, talking with Floyd during a speakerphone call.

Credit: AJC File/Fulton County Jail

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Credit: AJC File/Fulton County Jail

Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, were election workers who had been falsely accused of counting illegal ballots on election night 2020 at State Farm Arena. At a Georgia Senate hearing in December, Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, unveiled excerpts of security footage that he called a “smoking gun” for fraud.

It wasn’t. State and federal investigators quickly debunked Giuliani’s claims. They reviewed all the security footage, interviewed workers and witnesses and concluded the video showed only normal ballot counting.

So, when a “crisis manager” named Trevian Kutti came to her door on Jan. 4, 2021, Freeman agreed to meet her at a local police precinct. An officer watched and recorded their conversation on a body camera.

“You are a loose end for a party that needs to tidy up,” said Kutti, a former publicist for rapper Kanye West.

Then Kutti offered to connect her by speakerphone to Floyd, a “Black progressive crisis manager” who could “get you protection that you need.” Kutti didn’t say Floyd had been executive director of Black Voices for Trump.

The police video didn’t clearly capture much of the hourlong conversation among Freeman, Kutti and Floyd. In court documents, Fulton prosecutors say Kutti tried to obtain a false voting fraud confession from Freeman, who allegedly was threatened with jail time during the call.

Floyd and Kutti now are charged with racketeering, influencing witnesses and conspiracy to solicit false statements and writings. They have pleaded not guilty.

Floyd believes he can defend himself against the charges by proving the election was fixed.

“Georgia lied about the 2020 election,” Floyd wrote on X in March. “WH, DOJ, & GA RINOS want me kept silent because I know the truth.”

Floyd wouldn’t necessarily even need to prove Trump won, his attorney, Kachouroff, argued at the November hearing.

Government lawyers rejected his arguments. They said it’s unreasonable to demand all the records Floyd seeks: It would cost too much and take too much time to produce them. Besides, they said, if Floyd can argue he’s innocent regardless of the outcome of his recount, he doesn’t need to rerun the election.

“If Mr. Floyd’s position is that ‘it does not matter what the evidence will show, I’m still not guilty,’ I don’t see how it’s relevant,” Fulton County attorney Chad Alexis argued at the November hearing.

That caught the judge’s attention.

“Heads you win, tails you win,” McAfee told Kachouroff. “Why do you need the data?”

Kachouroff said Floyd has the right to information that can shape his defense. And he said prosecutors opened the door to Floyd’s request by accusing him and the other defendants of “willfully and knowingly” trying to overturn an election they believe was stolen.

If Floyd’s recount shows it’s not clear who won the election, Kachouroff said the state can’t prove Floyd tried to solicit false statements because it’s unclear whether the statements were false. And if the recount shows Biden won? Then the lawyer said Floyd could use a “mistake of fact” defense — in essence, Floyd was wrong but didn’t intend to commit a crime.

“They’re coming back and saying, ‘no, Trump lost,’ ” Kachouroff told the judge. “We have a right to rebut that.”

In an interview last week, Kachouroff said he has not received any of the documents subpoenaed from Fulton County and only part of what he’s requested from the secretary of state. McAfee has not ruled on Fulton County’s motions to quash Floyd’s subpoenas. He’s scheduled a Tuesday hearing on the matter.

While Floyd seeks to rerun the election, Freeman and Moss have been pursuing defamation claims against those who spread false voting fraud accusations.

Two years ago, they reached an undisclosed settlement with One America News Network. In December, a federal jury ordered Giuliani to pay the election workers $148 million in damages, and this week Giuliani settled a second defamation lawsuit by agreeing to stop accusing them of fraud. Last month the Gateway Pundit filed for bankruptcy as Freeman and Moss seek damages from the right-wing website.

Their attorney, Von DuBose, issued a statement in response to Floyd’s gambit.

“Harrison Floyd was indicted based upon his conduct targeting Ruby Freeman — an election worker doing her job and serving her community — as part of a broad, coordinated conspiracy to undermine the results of the 2020 presidential election,” DuBose said.

“Georgia investigations have demonstrated over and over that Ms. Freeman did nothing wrong,” DuBose said, “and no evidence Floyd could gather would show otherwise.”

Fraud defense against disbarment

At a recent hearing, Clark listened while an attorney for the District of Columbia Bar detailed the reasons he should lose his law license.

Clark was an assistant U.S. attorney general who, in the waning days of the Trump presidency, sought to pressure the Georgia General Assembly to consider invalidating the election. Clark wanted to send Georgia officials a letter saying the Justice Department had serious concerns about voting fraud. But the department had no such concerns.

When Clark’s superiors refused to send the letter, Trump considered naming Clark acting attorney general so he could carry out his plan. But Trump backed down when senior Justice Department officials threatened to resign.

Now Clark is fighting two felony charges in the Fulton County election interference case. He also faces disbarment.

“This was an attempt to use the authority of the Department of Justice to overturn the results of the election based on no factual support, based on a lie,” said the D.C. Bar counsel, Phil Fox, according to a transcript of disbarment proceedings. “There were no concerns that the department had … that there were evidence of fraud that would have affected the results of the election. And Mr. Clark didn’t have any either.”

Clark brought an unusual cast of characters to his defense: conservative election skeptics from Georgia.

Credit: NYT

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Credit: NYT

Clark’s witnesses supported his defense that his concerns about fraud were legitimate, repeating the same claims they’ve been making for years about alleged “ballot trafficking,” voting machine “malfunctions” and ballots “injected” into the vote count. None of those allegations has ever been substantiated across repeated investigations.

Garland Favorito of the Georgia group VoterGA repeated innuendo from the conservative conspiracy film “2000 Mules,” which hypothesized that Democratic-affiliated nonprofits schemed to cast illegal absentee ballots in drop boxes. The Republican-controlled State Election Board dismissed a case based on “2000 Mules,” and the movie’s backers refused to produce substantiating evidence.

“When you’re outdoors in the middle of the night, no one can see what you’re putting in the box,” Favorito testified at Clark’s disbarment hearing.

Suzi Voyles, a Republican who participated in a manual audit of all ballots cast in 2020, swore she saw “pristine” absentee ballots without any fold marks in Fulton, which she interpreted as a sign that they weren’t legitimate ballots.

And did Voyles know that election investigators couldn’t find any ballots that fit her description, a fact that the Georgia attorney general’s office told a judge in an earlier court case?

“I have not recanted,” Voyles said. “I never heard back from the investigators; I never heard back from anyone else.”

Despite the lack of evidence to back up suspicions of fraud, Clark’s attorney said it was reasonable for him to believe the election was stolen, and therefore his actions were justified.

“There’s an opinion and judgment about what evidence exists or does not exist regarding election irregularities,” said Harry MacDougald, an attorney for Clark. “Mr. Clark did nothing wrong in having a different opinion.”


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Clark isn’t the only lawyer trying to save his license by relitigating the election.

Eastman, a former lawyer for Trump, is considered by prosecutors to be one of the masterminds of the nationwide effort to undermine the election. A former chairman of the Federalist Society, a conservative lawyers organization, Eastman is accused in the Fulton case of orchestrating an alternate slate of Republican electors to award Georgia’s votes to Trump.

Like Clark, he also faces disbarment. In public statements and in court filings, Eastman continues to claim the election was fraudulent. He argues he was obligated to represent Trump zealously, and his statements about fraud are protected by the First Amendment.

“Dr. Eastman ... spoke out publicly about the illegality and outright fraud that he uncovered during the course of his investigations, or that he had ample reason to believe existed,” his lawyer, Randall Miller, wrote in the filing.

But Eastman knew all along there wasn’t any actual evidence of enough fraud to change the outcome of the election, according to a March 27 decision by the California Bar seeking to revoke his law license. The decision cited Eastman’s own words.

His statistical extrapolations — for example, that Trump would have won if election officials had rejected absentee ballots at the same rate as in 2016 — lacked any concrete proof, he told fellow attorney Cleta Mitchell, who is also a prominent Trump supporter.

“The statistical analyses that have been done might get you there, but it would be nice to have actual hard documented evidence of fraud,” Eastman told Mitchell on Nov. 29, 2020, a conversation cited in a decision by the State Bar Court judge overseeing Eastman’s case, Yvette Roland.

Roland found Eastman went far outside the bounds of ethical and legal constraints.

“In sum, Eastman exhibited gross negligence by making false statements about the 2020 election without conducting any meaningful investigation or verification of the information he was relying upon,” Roland wrote. “He never verified the accuracy of the information received from others; rather, he simply accepted it as valid.”

Consequences of unproved claims

Three and a half years after the 2020 election, election skeptics are still perpetuating the same voting fraud debates — with lasting consequences.

Nearly two-thirds of Republicans in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll last summer said they still believe there was widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Those doubts have led the Republican-controlled General Assembly to pass laws restricting the use of ballot drop boxes, imposing new voter identification requirements and making it easier to challenge the eligibility of hundreds of thousands of voters.

Trump himself still perpetuates the myth of a stolen 2020 election even as he seeks to unseat Biden this year.

His March campaign rally in Rome kicked off with a recording of the “Star Spangled Banner” sung by the J6 Prison Choir — men jailed for alleged offenses during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Trump calls them “hostages.”

As he has for months, Trump dismissed the Georgia charges against him as a “witch hunt.”

“We did nothing wrong,” he said, “other than we challenged the honesty of this election. This election was rigged.”

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Many fraud claims raised in court are based on misrepresentations or information that simply isn’t true, said Justin Grimmer, an election researcher and political science professor at Stanford University who was an expert witness in Eastman’s disbarment proceedings.

When court evidence shows there’s insufficient evidence to support the allegations, defendants rarely acknowledge they were incorrect, he said.

“The big consequence is that it leads to mistrust among voters who have an intuition that something was wrong in the 2020 election,” Grimmer said. “An institution that usually is pretty well trusted now has quite a bit of skepticism around it.”