LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nearly three years after a slate of Nevada Republican Party electors submitted fake electoral certificates, claiming former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election, Democratic state Attorney General Aaron Ford confirmed potential prosecution is not off the table.
“I’ve never said that we’re not going to prosecute,” Ford told 8 News Now Investigator David Charns. “It is not that I’ve said that I can do nothing. What I have said, and I’ve been precise with my wording on purpose, is we don’t have statutes in this state that directly address the issue.”
The Nevada Republican Party’s six electors, including party chair Michael McDonald, signed paperwork signaling their support for Trump in a symbolic ceremony devoid of any legal merit and coinciding with the official state-sanctioned tally on Dec. 14, 2020.
“Our brave electors standing up for what is right and casting their electoral votes for @realDonaldTrump,” the state party’s Twitter account, the platform now called X, later posted. “We believe in fair elections and will continue the fight against voter fraud in the Silver State!”
That same day as the Republican elector ceremony, then-Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, oversaw the state-sanctioned electoral ceremony where Nevada Democrats’ electors signed certificates, sending them to Washington. In presidential elections, voters actually vote for party electors and not a presidential candidate.
No widespread voter fraud was ever discovered in Nevada. The state supreme court denied the Trump campaign’s request to overturn the state’s election results and proclaim the then-president the winner. Biden won Nevada by more than 33,000 votes, a result the court certified that November. Several Republicans, including Cegavske and then-Attorney General William Barr, said there was no evidence of any widespread fraud.
The Nevada GOP repeatedly denied requests from 8 News Now to review their evidence throughout the fall of 2020. At a news conference on Nov. 5, 2020, where surrogates from the Trump campaign announced a federal lawsuit, speakers told reporters to find the evidence for themselves. That lawsuit was later dropped. During the sole hearing in that case, a lawyer provided no evidence of fraud and did not verbally bring up any evidence to the federal judge.
As the 8 News Now Investigators reported in December 2021, the certificate sent by Nevada Republicans and received by the National Archives looks much different than the official state-sealed one and reads, “We, the undersigned, being the duly elected and qualified electors for president and vice president of the United States of America from the State of Nevada, do hereby certify six electoral votes for Trump.”
In a statement after the document signing, McDonald said the party’s electors convened in Carson City due to ongoing legal battles seeking to overturn the election results. At that point in mid-December 2020, no legal case remained open in Nevada.
Ford remained quiet about the electors until last year.
“With it on our radar, we ascertained that current state statutes did not directly address the conduct in question,” Ford said at a legislative hearing last spring.
Senate Bill 133 would have penalized anyone who conspires and who transmits a fake elector certificate in Nevada. The bill passed along party lines. Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo then vetoed it, saying its penalties were too harsh.
“That bill passed,” Ford said. “It was vetoed and that’s unfortunate.”
Since then, prosecutors in Michigan and Fulton County, Georgia, have charged some Republican electors for transmitting phony electoral certificates.
“What’s your reaction to the prosecution of those fake electors in other states that you’ve seen?” Charns asked Ford.
“I wouldn’t say I have a reaction,” Ford said. “I don’t draw comparisons in that regard because state laws are different, and that’s just a fact.”
The Jan. 6 committee interviewed both McDonald and Republican elector Jim DeGraffenreid. Both men invoked their Fifth Amendment rights repeatedly — McDonald more than 200 times. Neither has returned repeated requests for comment.
Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed special counsel Jack Smith last fall to oversee the department’s investigations into the former president and the lead-up to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection. Last summer, FBI agents seized McDonald’s phone, reportedly as part of the investigation into the fake elector scheme.
In August, a federal grand jury indicted Trump on charges connected to his alleged attempts to overthrow the election results and the leadup to Jan. 6.
Ford made it clear the issue was not political.
“What I don’t do though — and I want to be very clear about this — I don’t make prosecutorial decisions based on partisan or political preferences,” he said. “Never have.”
The Nevada GOP did not return a request for comment.