We’ve reached a turning point in the effort to ensure there are consequences for those who deliberately attempt to undermine our democracy: Michigan’s attorney general, Dana Nessel, charged 16 Republican leaders in her state on Tuesday for their role as fake electors working to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The charges, coming on the heels of news that the special counsel Jack Smith has informed Donald Trump that he’s a target of the Department of Justice’s investigation into the Capitol riot, mean we are witnessing a new and necessary phase in this quest for accountability, one in which the federal and state wheels of justice work to hold people accountable not only for the violence on Jan. 6 but also for what got us there: the alleged scheme to interfere with the transfer of power.
The charges in Michigan will surely meet criticism on all sides. Some will say the case is not broad or bold enough, that Mr. Trump and the other accused national ringleaders should have been charged as well. Others will say Ms. Nessel cast too wide a net, pulling in low-level party functionaries who did not know better. We think those criticisms are misconceived. Ms. Nessel got it just right, prosecuting crimes firmly within her jurisdiction while opening the way for federal authorities to net even bigger fish.
Ms. Nessel brought the same eight counts against all 16 defendants. The offenses include conspiracy to commit forgery, since the defendants are accused of signing documents stating they were the qualified electors (they were not), and publishing forged documents by circulating these materials to federal and state authorities. On paper, the penalties for the offenses range from five to 14 years, but sentencing in this case would presumably be lower than that maximum. [Continue reading…]