In late October, Kenneth Chesebro pleaded guilty to one felony count of “conspiracy to commit filing false documents” in the Fulton County election subversion case. Chesebro, an attorney who helped devise former President Donald Trump’s fake elector scheme, reportedly agreed to assist prosecutors and provide them with documents. However, the extent of Chesebro’s cooperation is unclear.
“I think this plea absolutely shows and proves that he was not and never was the architect of any sort of fake elector plan and anything like that,” Scott Grubman, an attorney for Chesebro, said afterward. Grubman added that Trump should “not be worried,” because Chesebro had “implicated himself,” and no one else, in one “particular charge.”
Grubman’s comments are curious. Chesebro’s role in orchestrating the fake elector scheme is well-established by the public record. Chesebro’s own emails show that he personally drafted the fake electoral documents and sent them, along with instructions for filing, to the parties responsible for overseeing the scheme across seven states. Chesebro also authored a series of memos and emails in which he explained how the fake electors could be used during the congressional certification on January 6, 2021 to delay or deny Joe Biden’s victory.
As part of his plea deal, Chesebro discussed at least some of this evidence and other details during a recorded proffer with Georgia prosecutors. But we do not know what, exactly, Chesebro said about much of the evidence – or if his testimony corroborates Grubman’s sweeping claims.
Last week, the Washington Post reported on parts of Chesebro’s statement, as well as excerpts of the proffers recorded for three of his co-defendants – Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell and Scott Hall – all of whom pleaded guilty to charges in Fulton County as well. The Post’s account is based on leaked “portions” of their statements – not their full proffers, which haven’t been released to the public. A lawyer for a fifth defendant in the Fulton County case admitted that he gave the video evidence to the media.
After the leaked proffer recordings received significant media attention, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee issued a protective order preventing defense attorneys and prosecutors from providing sensitive evidence to the public. Therefore, we may not be able to review Chesebro’s full statement to prosecutors anytime soon.
The Post’s reporting on portions of Chesebro’s proffer raises a series of questions. Chesebro provided Fulton County prosecutors with some intriguing new details. He revealed, for example, that he personally met with then President Trump in the White House on Dec. 16, 2020. But based on what was reported in the Post, Chesebro’s description of that meeting, as well as other details, may have downplayed some important aspects of his role in the conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Below, we examine the Post’s account of Chesebro’s testimony concerning: his meeting with Trump, his editing of a key memo authored by another lawyer (John Eastman), his description of the role played by other lawyers working for Trump and, finally, his claim that he did not witness any violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Chesebro’s Dec. 16, 2020 meeting with Trump and others in the Oval Office warrants additional scrutiny.
A revelation that raises more questions than it answers
According to the Post, Chesebro admitted for the first time in his proffer that he met with Trump in the Oval Office on Dec. 16, 2020. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Trump’s social media guru Dan Scavino and several attorneys were also in attendance. Chesebro’s revelation is significant – it places the former president in the room with the man who was a chief architect of the fake electors scheme.
However, this meeting deserves more scrutiny – especially because the account attributed to Chesebro is suspiciously innocuous in the context of relevant publicly available facts. You’d never know from the Post’s summary of Chesebro’s proffer that he was seeking to use the fake electors to obstruct the joint session of Congress. In the federal indictment of Trump, Special Counsel Jack Smith describes Chesebro as “an attorney who assisted in devising and attempting to implement a plan to submit fraudulent slates of presidential electors to obstruct the certification proceeding” and whose “memoranda evolved over time from a legal strategy to preserve [Trump’s] rights to a corrupt plan to subvert the federal government function by stopping Biden electors’ votes from being counted and certified.” Indeed, Chesebro’s memoranda and emails show that he had already developed much, if not all, of this plan prior to the Oval Office meeting. Yet, judging by the Post’s summary, it appears that Chesebro did not fully discuss his scheme with Fulton County prosecutors.
According to the Post, Chesebro claims that the Oval Office meeting was merely a “photo op,” even though its participants included several lawyers who were helping Trump challenge the election’s results – that is, overturn the election. “Near the end of the photo op, I had a back and forth with President Trump when the matter of Arizona came up,” Chesebro is quoted as saying in his proffer. “I briefed him on what my understanding was of what was happening in Arizona,” he added. Chesebro explained that he “piped up” because he had the “most relevant information” from his communication with an attorney who had been leading the Trump campaign’s litigation efforts in Arizona.
That lawyer is likely Jack Wilenchik. According to the federal indictment, Chesebro called Wilenchik on Dec. 8, 2020. Wilenchik then summarized his conversation in an email that same day. The New York Times first reported on Wilenchik’s email, which is also quoted at length in the federal indictment. Wilenchik wrote of Chesebro’s “fake” electors plan:
I just talked to the gentleman who did that memo, [Chesebro]. His idea is basically that all of us (GA, WI, AZ, PA, etc.) have our electors send in their votes (even though the votes aren’t legal under federal law –because they’re not signed by the Governor); so that members of Congress can fight about whether they should be counted on January 6th. (They could potentially argue that they’re not bound by federal law because they’re Congress and make the law, etc.) Kind of wild/creative –I’m happy to discuss. My comment to him was that I guess there’s no harm in it, (legally at least) –i.e. we would just be sending in “fake” electoral votes to Pence so that “someone” in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the “fake” votes should be counted.
In other words, Wilenchik knew from Chesebro that the Trump electors were not “legal under federal law” because they lacked a certificate of ascertainment from the states’ governors. But Chesebro wanted to submit them anyway so that “members of Congress” could decide whether to count the fake electors. In a subsequent email, also obtained by the Times, Wilenchik wrote that “‘alternative’ votes is probably a better term than ‘fake’ votes” and added a smiley face emoji.
The federal indictment cites an additional piece of evidence concerning Chesebro’s contacts with Wilenchik. On Dec. 11, 2020, Giuliani, acting “through” Chesebro, “suggested that the Arizona lawyer [Wilenchik] file a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court as a pretext to claim that litigation was pending in the state, to provide cover for the convening and voting of [Trump’s] fraudulent electors there.” That is, Giuliani and Chesebro allegedly knew that the litigation in Arizona was merely a “pretext” for the fake electors to cast their votes. According to the Times, Wilenchik himself wrote in an email that the Supreme Court filing was “to give legal ‘cover’ for the electors in AZ to ‘vote.’”
Some of the Trump electors were concerned that without ongoing litigation, their votes could be criminal. In an email that same day (Dec. 11), Chesebro wrote that two people who were slated to serve as fake electors were “concerned it could appear treasonous for the AZ electors to vote on Monday if there is no pending court proceeding that might, eventually, lead to the electors being ratified as the legitimate ones.” That likely explains why Wilenchik filed a cert petition before the fake electors would cast their illegitimate votes. This was just five days before Chesebro’s meeting with Trump in the Oval Office.
What exactly did Chesebro say to Trump about the litigation in Arizona? We don’t know. But we do know that the evidence shows the litigation was part of the allegedly criminal fake electors’ scheme. Accordingly, some skeptical questioning of Chesebro’s account is in order.
According to the Post, Chesebro told Fulton County prosecutors that Trump asked “four or five questions” and that he (Chesebro) summarized a Nov. 18, 2020, memo he had written to James Troupis, a lawyer who was working for the Trump campaign in Wisconsin. In that memo, Chesebro described Jan. 6, 2021 as the “the real deadline for a finding by the Wisconsin courts (or, possibly, by its Legislature)” that could flip the state from Biden to Trump. Chesebro argued that Trump’s electors should meet and cast their votes “at the Wisconsin Capitol on December 14,” so that they could still be valid for counting during the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress. The Post reports “it was unclear whether Trump reacted to his analysis.”
Chesebro’s description, as reported by the Post, raises a key question: Did Chesebro discuss any of the arguments made in his other memos with Trump? At least some of Chesebro’s other writings prior to the Dec. 16 meeting included allegedly criminal aspects of the fake electors scheme.
His Nov. 18, 2020 memo was the first in a series of memoranda and emails he wrote – and it is the least inculpatory document in this series. His fake elector proposal evolved dramatically in the weeks that followed to include a plan for delaying the joint session of Congress. That included incriminating Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 memos that were written prior to the encounter with Trump in the Oval Office. It is hard to understand why Chesebro would not reference them and why he would only reference the earliest memo, which was specific to Wisconsin, when he was purportedly discussing Arizona with Trump.
Were the Dec. 6 memo or its contents discussed?
Consider the Dec. 6, 2020 memo, which Chesebro sent to Troupis. The Special Counsel explains that it “marked a sharp departure from” the Nov. 18, memo, as Chesebro was “advocating that the alternate electors originally conceived of to preserve rights in Wisconsin instead be used in a number of states as fraudulent electors to prevent Biden from receiving the 270 electoral votes necessary to secure the presidency on January 6.”
Whereas Chesebro’s Nov. 18 memo was limited to Wisconsin, his Dec. 6 analysis called for the Trump electors to meet and cast their votes “in all six contested States,” including Arizona (and Chesebro stated that he discussed Arizona with Trump during their Dec. 16 meeting).
Moreover, Chesebro’s plan shifted from one involving contingent electors in his Nov. 18 memo to an allegedly criminal fake electors scheme in his Dec. 6 memo. In his Nov. 18 memo, Chesebro advised that the Trump electors should meet and cast their votes on Dec. 14 “so that any state judicial proceedings which extend past that date, working toward resolution of who has won Wisconsin’s electoral votes, are entirely compatible with federal law provided that they are completed by January 6.” That is, as of Nov. 18, Chesebro’s electors plan was contingent on the courts (or the Wisconsin state legislature) granting the Trump electors’ legal legitimacy “by January 6.” In his Dec. 6 memo, however, Chesebro dropped this contingency altogether, writing that “at least one lawsuit” should be “pending, on January 6, in each of the six States.” He wrote that “ideally by then Trump will have been awarded one or more of the States” – but it was not necessary for his plan to move forward. Matthew Morgan, the Trump Campaign’s General Counsel, detected this “shift” in the plan for the electors. Morgan had supported the “contingent” electors plan but took his “responsibility to zero” after Chesebro’s plan “shift[ed].”
Chesebro added another key element to his Dec. 6 memo. Chesebro argued that Vice President Pence, while “presiding over the joint session,” could take the “position that it is his constitutional power and duty, alone, as President of the Senate, to both open and count the votes, and that anything in the Electoral Count Act to the contrary is unconstitutional.” Chesebro did not explain, in detail, what he would have Pence do next. And Chesebro offered a brief caveat, writing that he was “not necessarily advising this course of action, and the Vice President need not make a decision on how to proceed until January 6, and obviously there are many factors that will come to bear on how he proceeds.” Chesebro himself acknowledged in the memo that he was suggesting “a bold, controversial strategy.”
But Chesebro seemingly envisioned a scenario in which Pence refused to count Biden’s certified electoral votes from several states, such that Biden would never reach the 270 electoral votes necessary to be declared the winner at that stage. He wrote:
My point here is that it is important that the alternate slates of electors meet and vote on December 14 if we are to create a scenario under which Biden can be prevented from reaching 270 electoral votes, even if Trump has not managed by then to obtain court decisions (or state legislative resolutions) invalidating enough results to push Biden below 270.
I believe that what can be achieved on January 6 is not simply to keep Biden below 270 electoral votes. It seems feasible that the vote count can be conducted so that at no point will Trump be behind in the electoral vote count unless and until Biden can obtain a favorable decision from the Supreme Court upholding the Electoral Count Act as constitutional, or otherwise recognizing the power of Congress (and not the President of the Senate) to count the votes.
This is obviously very different from the plan Chesebro offered in his Nov. 18, memo. Are we really to believe none of this came up with Trump? That Chesebro failed to explain to the president (after the Electoral College meetings on Dec. 14 had passed) his revised plan and discussed instead only his now-outmoded Nov. 18 memo?
Were the Dec. 13 memo or its contents discussed?
Nor does the evidence raising questions about exactly what transpired between the two men in the Oval Office stop there. In a subsequent memo emailed to Giuliani on Dec. 13, Chesebro offered his “Brief notes on ‘President of the Senate’ strategy.” In it, Chesebro again argued that the “President of the Senate” could refuse to count Biden’s certified electoral votes from the six states with false electors. Chesebro proposed that Sen. Chuck Grassley, as president pro tempore of the Senate, or another Republican senator could stand in for Vice President Pence as the President of the Senate, should the Vice President recuse himself from the proceeding. Chesebro argued that this senator could then refuse to count Biden’s certified electoral votes.
The bottom line is I think having the President of the Senate firmly take the position that he, and he alone, is charged with the constitutional responsibility not just to open the votes, but to count them – including making judgments about what to do if there are conflicting votes – represents the best way to ensure:
1. that the mass media and social media platforms, and therefore the public, will focus intensely on the evidence of abuses in the election and canvassing; and
2. that there will be additional scrutiny in the courts and/or state legislatures, with an eye toward determining which electoral votes are the valid ones.
(emphasis in original)
In his own words, Chesebro’s Dec. 13 plan offered a “way to create delay and pressure for further action,” even as it “would seem messy and unpalatable to many” because it created uncertainty over who would become president even after Jan. 6, 2021.
Important questions remain about Chesbro’s meeting with Trump
In sum, Chesebro’s Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 memos were written prior to his encounter with Trump in the Oval Office. Why would he not reference them, especially when they included significant shifts from his earlier plans?
As the above excerpts make clear, his Nov. 18 memo – which, according to the Post’s account, appears to be the only memo Chesebro told prosecutors he discussed with Trump – is rather benign when compared to the memos and emails that followed. Prior to the Dec. 16 Oval Office meeting, Chesebro had already offered the Trump team a strategy for subverting Biden’s legitimate victory during the joint session of Congress.
All of this raises a series of questions about Chesebro’s meeting with Trump: Who were the other lawyers present? Was it really just a “photo op,” or did they discuss their political strategy for the joint session of Congress? Did Chesebro really only discuss his Nov. 18, memo with Trump, even though it had been superseded by his subsequent writings before their meeting? Or did Chesebro explain how he thought Biden’s victory could be delayed or even denied, and the role of the fake electors in that effort? Did Chesebro discuss with Trump the role of the Vice President during the joint session? He had, by that time, already put forth the idea that Pence could refuse to count Biden’s certified electors. Trump himself pressured Pence to do just that in the weeks that followed.
Chesebro is trying to distance himself from his co-defendant John Eastman, and Eastman’s allegedly criminal activities, even though Chesebro edited one of Eastman’s memos, wrote it was “Really awesome,” and made similar arguments in his own writings.
According to the Post, Chesebro has produced to prosecutors his “red-lined” version of a Dec. 23, 2020, memo that was principally authored by John Eastman. In that two-page document, Eastman argued that Vice President Pence could hand Trump the election during the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021. Chesebro admitted to editing Eastman’s Dec. 23 memo and, as Georgia prosecutors pointed out, described it as “Really awesome” in an email to Eastman that day. These facts seem to indicate that he agreed with Eastman’s position at the time.
However, according to the Post, Chesebro “repeatedly said he didn’t recall his reaction to Eastman’s legal theories at the time” and he also downplayed his role in drafting the “substance” of the memo. During his disbarment hearing in California, Eastman described Chesebro’s edits as “one or two minor word choice suggestions.” When confronted with the email, Chesebro “insisted” that his praise (“Really awesome”) “wasn’t an endorsement of Eastman’s ideas.” The Post quotes Chesebro as saying: “It was a really great brainstorm document. I didn’t mean it as I agreed.”
The Post does not report what part(s) of Eastman’s memo Chesebro disagreed with, if any. It is certainly possible that Chesebro furnished that information to prosecutors , and that portion of his proffer was not provided to the press, or the Post did not report his full explanation.
But Chesebro’s attempt to distance himself from Eastman’s arguments was reported and warrants additional scrutiny. A California judge preliminarily found Eastman culpable in a bar disciplinary case for ethics violations related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Another judge found that Trump and Eastman “launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history” and described their campaign as “a coup in search of a legal theory.”
It is clear that Eastman’s plan built on Chesebro’s work – namely, the fake electors scheme. And both men argued that the Vice President could exercise unconstitutional powers during the joint session of Congress.
Eastman’s memo began with a falsehood: “7 states have transmitted dual slates of electors to the President of the Senate.” That was not accurate. Each of the seven states transmitted only a single valid slate of electors who voted for Joe Biden. A false second slate was filed by the Trump campaign and lacked any legitimacy.
Chesebro certainly knew this – as evidenced by the fact that he subsequently pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to commit filing false documents” in Fulton County. Chesebro’s emails show that he personally drafted the fake electoral documents and sent them, along with instructions for filing, to the parties responsible for overseeing the fake elector campaign in each of the seven states. The states did not transmit dual slates of legitimate electors; the Trump campaign’s fake electors and associates did. During his disbarment hearing in California, Eastman claimed that he later realized the first line in his memo “could be misread as suggesting that I thought … seven state governments had submitted [the dual slates of electors], which was not my intent.” Eastman claimed that he “clarified” this point in a subsequent, six-page memo he authored. In that memo, Eastman wrote: “There are thus dual slates of electors from 7 states.”
Nevertheless, in his Dec. 23 memo, Eastman continued his proposal based on this false premise. Eastman claimed that the Vice President, acting in his role as the President of the Senate during the joint session of Congress, was the “ultimate arbiter” of election disputes and could decide which slates of electors to count – or discard. Eastman offered two scenarios to ensure that Trump was “re-elected.”
In the first, the Vice President would reject Biden’s certified electors, claiming that “because of the ongoing disputes in the 7 States, there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed in those States.” As a result, neither candidate would receive the 270 electoral votes needed for victory. Regardless, Eastman claimed that because Trump would have a majority of the remaining electoral votes, Pence could “gavel President Trump as re-elected.”
In Eastman’s second scenario, Pence would again reject Biden’s certified electors from the seven states. But in this case, the Vice President would send the matter to the House for a vote. “Republicans currently control 26 of the state delegations, the bare majority needed to win that vote,” Eastman wrote. “President Trump is re-elected there as well.”
As explained above, Chesebro made a similar argument in his Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 memos regarding the Vice President’s supposed powers. Chesebro also wrote a version of this argument in a January 1, 2021, email to John Eastman and Boris Epshteyn, a Trump advisor and attorney. Chesebro wrote that Biden “was not legitimately elected” and that the certified Biden-Harris electoral votes “are not legitimate.” He offered a strategy to prevent Biden from “claim[ing] victory” and “to find a way to prevent the Biden camp from concluding the vote on Jan. 6.” Chesebro again advised that the Vice President could refuse to count Biden’s certified electoral votes from the “contested states,” writing:
One way around the Act is for the VP to take the approach of Thomas Jefferson in 1801, and take the position that as President of the Senate, it is his responsibility to count the votes and, in so doing, resolve any disputes concerning them. If he did this, he would not necessarily count the contested States in favor of him and Trump — he might merely say that none of these States can be counted until either the Supreme Court or state legislatures act on pending objections. This would pressure the Supreme Court and state legislatures to act, particularly if he refused even to open the envelopes containing the electoral votes until there was further action on the objections (under the 12th Amendment, only the President of the Senate may open the envelopes.)
There is a difference between Chesebro’s position, stated above, and the plan set forth in Eastman’s Dec. 23 memo. In his own memos and emails, Chesebro did not argue that Pence should “gavel President Trump as re-elected” or orchestrate a vote in the House to help Trump steal the election. But he did claim that the Vice President had the power to deny Biden’s legitimate victory on Jan. 6, 2021.
Ultimately, Eastman and Chesebro relied on the same false theory of the role played by the President of the Senate during the joint session of Congress. They both declared the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to be unconstitutional and grossly misrepresented a single line in the 12th Amendment of the Constitution. As documented by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Vice President’s own legal counsel and others concluded that this theory had no basis in law, history, or the U.S. Constitution. Matthew Seligman, the State Bar of California’s expert witness in the disciplinary proceeding against Eastman, agrees in a thorough analysis for Just Security.
We are left to wonder what, if anything, Chesebro disagreed with in Eastman’s Dec. 23 memo. As the above analysis makes clear, their arguments were similar.
Moreover, Chesebro directly tried to facilitate the scheme involving the Vice President on Jan. 6. According to the Post, Chesebro personally assisted the Trump campaign’s effort to get the fake electoral votes from Wisconsin to Vice President Pence. The Post writes: “Chesebro also disclosed for the first time that he played a role transporting documents signed by Wisconsin Trump electors to Capitol Hill as part of a Trump campaign plan to present Vice President Mike Pence with competing slates of electors.” This does not make sense unless Chesebro remained committed to the idea that Pence had the power to, at a minimum, delay Congress’s recognition of Joe Biden’s legitimate victory.
Chesebro seemingly downplayed his co-defendant Giuliani’s role, even though his contemporaneous emails reveal that he was reporting to Giuliani.
The Post reports that “a prosecutor asked Chesebro who he thought was ‘quarterbacking’ the Trump campaign’s legal efforts — Giuliani, Eastman or Epshteyn.” Chesebro “replied that it appeared to be Epshteyn,” who “declined to comment.” The Post adds:
Chesebro claimed that he talked to Giuliani just two or three times and that most of the memos and legal advice he was offering were sent to the campaign through Boris Epshteyn, an attorney and longtime Trump adviser.
There is no doubt that Epshteyn played a leading role in the fake electors scheme, or that Chesebro was in contact with him. Still, Chesebro’s contemporaneous emails indicate that Giuliani, whose New York bar license was suspended and who may lose his D.C. bar license as well, was in charge. For example, Chesebro wrote that Epshteyn requested the Dec. 13 memo “on behalf of the Mayor.”
In emails to those responsible for carrying out the fake elector scheme, Chesebro repeatedly referred to Giuliani as the man in charge – not Epshteyn. In a Dec. 10 email to David Shafer (the “Chairman” of Trump’s fake electors in Georgia), Chesebro wrote at the outset: “I spoke this evening with Mayor Giuliani, who is focused on doing everything possible to ensure that [sic] that all the Trump-Pence electors vote on Dec. 14. He is hopeful that the Georgia electors will go along with this strategy.”
In a Dec. 10 email to Thomas W. King III, General Counsel of the Pennsylvania GOP, Chesebro wrote that he and Giuliani were aware that Pennsylvania law (as in Georgia) required the governor to ratify any substitute electors. Giuliani “understands the potential hurdle posed by the statute requiring that Gov. Wolf give notice to any substitute electors, and he indicated he will make efforts to encourage all 20 Pennsylvania electors to do what they can to make it to the meeting.” Chesebro added that, “as a precaution,” he had “taken the liberty of drafting papers to use to fill in vacancies, and give notice to Governor Wolf.”
Similarly, in a Dec. 10 email to Jim DeGraffenreid of Nevada, Chesebro wrote: “Mayor Giuliani and others with the Trump-Pence campaign (including Justin Clark and Nick Trainer) asked me to reach out to you and the other Nevada electors to run point on the plan to have all Trump-Pence electors in all six contested States meet and transmit their votes to Congress on Monday, Dec. 14.” DeGraffenreid responded, “Nevada is on board.” Chesebro replied that Giuliani “was glad to hear of your agreement with this strategy.”
As discussed above, the federal indictment also points to contacts between Giuliani and Chesebro on Dec. 8, 2020 concerning the “pretext” litigation in Arizona, and the two being on a joint conference call with Pennsylvania’s fake electors on Dec. 12 in which Giuliani “falsely assured them that their certificates would be used only if [Trump] succeeded in litigation.”
The recording of Chesebro’s full proffer, which has not been produced to the public, may provide more context for his discussion of the roles played by Giuliani, Epshteyn and others. But Chesebro’s own emails in late 2020 make clear that he portrayed Giuliani as overseeing the fake elector scheme, which is consistent with the January 6th Select Committee’s final report and findings.
Chesebro claimed he met InfoWars host Alex Jones by “coincidence” on Jan. 6 and did not personally witness any violence at the U.S. Capitol.
In August, CNN first reported that Chesebro met up with Alex Jones, the notorious InfoWars conspiracy theorist and extremist, on Jan. 6. Chesebro walked with Jones and his entourage onto the grounds of the U.S. Capitol during the attack. According to the Post, Chesebro told Fulton County prosecutors that “he did not know Jones and had not previously spoken to him and that their simultaneous arrival” at the Capitol “was mere coincidence.”
The Post quotes Chesebro as saying that he “wandered” around the Capitol for “an hour, an hour and a half.” Yet, Chesebro also “repeatedly said he did not know what was happening on Capitol Hill, including that Trump supporters had violently breached the Capitol building” and he saw “nobody entering the building and saw no violence.”
As with other aspects of Chesebro’s reported testimony, his description of his time at the U.S. Capitol with Jones warrants additional scrutiny. There was violence all around the Capitol during Jones’ and Chesebro’s time on its grounds. CNN reported that videos show Chesebro with Jones beginning “around 1:40 p.m.” The outer security barriers of the Capitol were breached nearly an hour earlier, at 12:53 p.m., when the Proud Boys and their associates overran a small police presence stationed near the Peace Circle. At 1:49 p.m., nine minutes after Chesebro reportedly arrived, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) declared a riot at the Capitol. MPD and U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officers were battling rightwing extremists and rioters at multiple locations around the Capitol at the time. At 2:13 p.m., the Capitol building itself was breached for the first time when Dominic Pezzola, a member of the Proud Boys, smashed a Senate Wing window with a stolen police riot shield.
Perhaps Chesebro somehow did not see any of this or other violence – but that should be scrutinized. According to CNN, Chesebro was “front and center recording Jones” as the InfoWars host gave a speech “on the West Lawn of the Capitol grounds urging supporters not to fight police and to make their way to the other side of the Capitol where they have a permit.” Jones, then, seemingly knew that rioters were battling the police. “As Alex Jones and his entourage leave,” CNN added, “the West side of the Capitol is breached.”
According to CNN, videos “show Chesebro with Jones in two sections of the restricted area around the Capitol” – that is, two areas of the Capitol’s grounds that were overrun by rioters. Chesebro and others in the entourage made “their way halfway up the steps of the Capitol Building before heading down.” The mob breached the doors at the top of those steps, on the east side of the Capitol, shortly after Chesebro and the others left.
Despite all of the violence occurring at the Capitol, the Post reports that Chesebro only “realized the full extent of the attack” after he returned to the Trump hotel (emphasis added). “It was the worst possible thing that could happen,” Chesebro reportedly told prosecutors, speaking of the riot at the Capitol. Here too, close examination of Chesebro’s account is called for.
It is unlikely that the public will be able to assess Chesebro’s full proffer in the near future. But that should not stop us or anyone involved from subjecting what is known about his testimony to further scrutiny. We may be sure of this much: the Special Counsel’s office will do that as it prepares to prosecute Trump. The federal indictment lists Chesebro as an unindicted co-conspirator based upon this very conduct.
Editor’s note: Readers may also be interested in Tom Joscelyn and Norman L. Eisen, Kenneth Chesebro: A Chief Architect of the False Elector Scheme: A comprehensive analysis of his words and known conduct in the efforts to overturn the 2020 election, Just Security, November 28, 2023