State Attorneys General Face Ethics Complaint for Supporting Trump’s Election Fraud Claims

September 23, 2022 by Tom Ramstack
State Attorneys General Face Ethics Complaint for Supporting Trump’s Election Fraud Claims
Outside the Trump International Hotel in New York. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s mounting legal problems are spreading this week to pull in state attorneys general who supported him in his failed effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The legal watchdog group The 65 Project filed complaints against 15 state attorneys general Wednesday to get their local bar associations to hold them accountable. If the legal ethics officers in each state agree, the attorneys general could be fined, suspended or disbarred.

The attorneys general subject to the ethics allegations represent states where the majority of voters voted for Trump.

The 65 Project is named after the 65 lawsuits that sought to overturn the 2020 election, some with the help of the attorneys general listed in the complaints.

None of the lawsuits succeeded. Most were dismissed before they reached court hearings.

Fox television commentator Sean Hannity said during a broadcast as Trump sought supporters to overturn the election, “Let’s be clear. No state’s attorney general … would ever put their name or reputation on the line over a case that lacks merit on the law or without a strong constitutional basis.”

The 65 Project filed complaints against the attorneys general of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.

“Lawyers take an oath to stand as officers of the court and must follow a code of conduct and ethical requirements,” Michael Teter, managing director at The 65 Project, said in a statement. “That obligation does not end when holding public office. Just the opposite. State attorneys general have an even greater responsibility to abide by the rules of our profession. These lawyers tried to help Trump cling to power by spreading falsehoods and lies in court filings. They must be held accountable.”

The 65 Project also recommended to the state bar associations that they investigate the Republican Attorneys General Association and its fundraising arm, the Rule of Law Defense Fund. They are accused of assisting in The Big Lie — a common term for Trump’s allegations that voter fraud tilted the election in favor of Joe Biden.

The 65 Project consists of about 10 prominent attorneys associated mostly with the Democratic Party.

The group says on its website that it “will serve to protect democracy from the threat posed through abuse of the legal system by holding accountable the lawyers who bring fraudulent lawsuits seeking to overturn legitimate election results or who otherwise violate their professional responsibilities to undermine our democracy.”

In previous ethics complaints, The 65 Project has sought disbarment against about 100 attorneys.

A typical complaint the group filed this week was against Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch.

She was one of the attorneys general who participated in a December 2020 amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in Texas v. Pennsylvania that supported Trump’s voter fraud allegations. It sought to prevent the election results from being certified as valid.

The attorneys general explained their motivations in the brief when they wrote, “The states have a strong interest in preserving the proper roles of state legislatures in the administration of federal elections, and thus safeguarding the individual liberty of their citizens.”

The attorneys general, along with the state of Texas, lost in their Supreme Court challenge. The 65 Project argues the case never should have been filed.

“Although many attorneys participated in this scheme, Ms. Fitch played an important role — lending the legal profession’s credibility to the destructive cause and using public office to amplify false assertions and frivolous claims that lacked any basis in law or fact,” the complaint to the Mississippi Bar says.

The complaints to the state bar associations coincide with a bad week of legal troubles for Trump and others associated with him.

On Wednesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against Trump accusing him and his family of fraud in the way they operated their real estate business.

He remains under investigation by the Justice Department for taking classified information from the White House and for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol.

Tom can be reached at [email protected] and @TomRamstack

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