Former Trump Chief of Staff Pleads Not Guilty in Arizona Election Case

Former Trump Chief of Staff Pleads Not Guilty in Arizona Election Case


Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff, was arraigned and pleaded not guilty on Friday in an Arizona election interference case, the latest development in the criminal prosecutions playing out in five battleground states over efforts to keep former President Donald J. Trump in power in 2020.

Arizona is the second state, after Georgia, to charge Mr. Meadows in connection with his conduct after the 2020 election. He is accused of taking part in an effort to reverse Mr. Trump’s loss in Arizona, and, like other defendants, faces charges of conspiracy, fraud and forgery.

Another former Trump aide, Michael Roman, was also arraigned on Friday in Arizona and pleaded not guilty. Mr. Roman worked for the 2020 Trump campaign and played a major role in the effort to deploy fake electors in swing states lost by Mr. Trump. He was also charged this week in Wisconsin over a fake electors plot there, along with two other former Trump advisers.

Fifty-two people now face charges related to election interference in five states. They include Mr. Trump, who has been charged in Georgia, though that case is on hold after a ruling on Wednesday from the state Court of Appeals. None of the cases are expected to go to trial before the November election. Mr. Trump also faces federal charges over election interference.

The swing state cases are all led by Democratic prosecutors, though they have taken different approaches.

In Michigan, the attorney general, Dana Nessel, has charged a group of Republicans who signed a certificate that falsely presented them as the “duly elected and qualified electors” after President Biden won. But during pretrial hearings this week in Lansing, the judge appeared open to defense claims that at least some of the fake electors were misled by Trump advisers about what was taking place.

The judge, Kristen D. Simmons, also raised concerns about the credibility of the state’s lead investigator — “We’re not getting a great presentation,” she said of his testimony — and pressed for answers as to why Mr. Trump’s advisers had not been charged.

In Wisconsin, Attorney General Josh Kaul did not charge any of those recruited as fake electors for Mr. Trump, but instead focused on Trump aides who put the elector plan together. They include Kenneth Chesebro, a legal architect of the plan; he has already pleaded guilty to a felony in Georgia.

The Arizona case was brought by the state attorney general, Kris Mayes. Both Mr. Meadows and Mr. Roman appeared virtually on Friday during a brief court proceeding in Phoenix.

George J. Terwilliger III, Mr. Meadows’s lead lawyer, did not return a request for comment. Kurt Altman, a lawyer for Mr. Roman, said in an email that Mr. Roman’s “inclusion as a defendant in this indictment is quite frankly baffling.”

Both men have been vigorously fighting charges brought against them last year in Georgia, where Mr. Meadows has sought unsuccessfully to move his case to federal court.

The Arizona indictment says that Mr. Meadows “was involved in the many efforts to keep” Mr. Trump in power “despite his defeat at the polls.” The indictment references the 2022 congressional testimony of Mr. Meadows’s aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, who said that Mr. Meadows told her in early January 2021 that Mr. Trump “knows it’s over, he knows he lost, but we’re going to keep trying,” adding, “I want to pull this off for him.”

Mr. Meadows personally took a number of steps to challenge the election results, most prominently in Georgia, where he took part in a call that Mr. Trump made to pressure the state’s top election official. Mr. Meadows was also in contact with Arizona officials in the weeks after the election, his text messages and other records have shown, as the campaign exerted pressure there.

Mr. Roman did a lot of the logistical work organizing the fake electors in a number of states. And he resisted efforts to add language to the documents they signed that would have said they were acting only as a contingency, in case Mr. Trump should succeed at challenging the election results in court, his emails and texts show.

His profile in the Georgia case was elevated this year, when one of his lawyers there, Ashleigh Merchant, brought to light a relationship between Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, and a lawyer she hired to manage the case, leading to an ongoing effort to disqualify Ms. Willis.

In addition to the federal and Georgia charges, Mr. Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Arizona and Michigan cases. He also faces federal charges related to the mishandling of classified documents. And last month, a Manhattan jury convicted him on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to silence a porn star. He is set to be sentenced on July 11.



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