The federal indictment against former President Donald Trump, concerning his efforts to remain in office despite losing the election, details actions Trump and his co-conspirators allegedly took to get state officials to change legitimate electoral votes. The indictment says the pressure campaign involved knowingly making false claims of voter fraud — many of which we’ve written about before.
“Despite having lost, the Defendant was determined to remain in power,” the indictment says. “So for more than two months following election day on November 3, 2020, the Defendant spread lies that there had been outcome-determinative fraud in the election and that he had actually won. These claims were false, and the Defendant knew that they were false. But the Defendant repeated and widely disseminated them anyway to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, create an intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and erode public faith in the administration of the election.”
Trump “launched his criminal scheme” shortly after Election Day, the indictment charges, saying the conspiracy initially targeted Arizona, which Joe Biden won by a margin of 10,457 votes; Georgia, an 11,779 vote-margin; Michigan, a 154,188 vote-margin; Pennsylvania, 80,555 votes; and Wisconsin, 20,682.
Here, we explain what the indictment says about those five states.
Arizona: False Claims of Noncitizens Voting
Arizona was a pivotal state in Trump’s conspiracy to persuade state officials to change electoral votes, the indictment says. Senior staffers on his campaign had told him on Nov. 7, 2020, that he had at most a 10% chance of winning the election and that he would have to win Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin, where vote counts or litigation were continuing. Five days later, on Nov. 12, several TV news networks called Arizona for Biden, so by his own campaign’s assessment, Trump had lost the election.
On Nov. 13, Trump campaign lawyers discontinued one lawsuit contesting votes in the state.
“So the next day, the Defendant turned to Co-Conspirator 1, whom he announced would spearhead his efforts going forward to challenge the election results,” the indictment says, referring to Rudy Giuliani. “From that point on, the Defendant and his co-conspirators executed a strategy to use knowing deceit in the targeted states to impair, obstruct, and defeat the federal government function.”
The indictment alleges that Trump and two of his co-conspirators — whom we have identified as Trump lawyers Giuliani and John Eastman — repeatedly pressured the Republican speaker of the Arizona House, who was Russell Bowers, to use the state Legislature to disrupt the certification of state electors or to replace the legitimate electors.
On Nov. 13, Trump’s campaign manager told Trump that a claim about noncitizens voting in sizable numbers in Arizona was false, the indictment says. (As we’ve written, Giuliani repeatedly made this claim, saying 32,000 or even a “few hundred thousand” of noncitizens had voted in the election. A New York court cited that example, among other false and misleading claims about voter fraud, in suspending Giuliani’s law license in the state in 2021.)
On Nov. 22, before the state had certified the election results, Trump and Giuliani called Bowers and “made knowingly false claims of election fraud,” including “that a substantial number of non-citizens, non-residents, and dead people had voted fraudulently in Arizona,” the indictment says. When Bowers asked for evidence, the indictment says, Giuliani said he would provide it — but “never did so.”
Trump and Giuliani asked Bowers to “call the legislature into session to hold a hearing based on their claims of election fraud,” which Bowers said he wouldn’t do “without actual evidence of fraud.” They also asked Bowers to use the Legislature to replace the legitimate electors for Biden with a new slate for Trump. “The Arizona House Speaker refused, responding that the suggestion was beyond anything he had ever heard or thought of as something within his authority,” the indictment says.
On Dec. 1, Giuliani met with Bowers, who again asked the lawyer for evidence of voter fraud. Giuliani responded with words to the effect of, “We don’t have the evidence, but we have lots of theories,” according to the indictment.
Three days later, Bowers issued a statement, saying in part: “As a conservative Republican, I don’t like the results of the presidential election. I voted for President Trump and worked hard to reelect him. But I cannot and will not entertain a suggestion that we violate current law to change the outcome of a certified election.” In that statement, Bowers said that Trump representatives, including Giuliani and lawyer Jenna Ellis, had made that “breathtaking request” of the Legislature.
“I and my fellow legislators swore an oath to support the U.S. Constitution and the constitution and laws of the state of Arizona. It would violate that oath, the basic principles of republican government, and the rule of law if we attempted to nullify the people’s vote based on unsupported theories of fraud,” Bowers said.
But the following month, on Jan. 4, Eastman tried again, calling Bowers “to urge him to use a majority of the legislature to decertify the state’s legitimate electors.” Those electors had already sent their votes for Biden to Congress, which would count them on Jan. 6. Eastman “conceded that he ‘[didn’t] know enough about facts on the ground’ in Arizona,” when told by Bowers there had been no evidence of significant fraud, but Eastman said Bowers should do as he asked and “let the courts sort it out,” the indictment says. Bowers again refused.
On Jan. 6, Trump “repeated the knowingly false claim that 36,000 non-citizens had voted in Arizona,” the indictment says, a reference to Trump’s speech to his supporters before the attack on the U.S. Capitol. (We wrote about this claim that day in “Trump’s Falsehood-Filled ‘Save America’ Rally.”)
Georgia: False Claims About Voting Machines and More
In the weeks after the election, Trump directed campaign attorneys to include allegations about voting machine problems in a lawsuit, and on Nov. 25, 2020, campaign attorney Sidney Powell did just that in a 104-page lawsuit filed in Georgia alleging that “massive election fraud” swung the state to Biden.
The lawsuit claimed the election software and hardware from Dominion Voting Systems Corp. was where the “massive fraud begins.” It alleged that together with election technology company Smartmatic, which the lawsuit claimed was developed in Venezuela, the voting machines were rigged to create votes for Biden. (In April, Fox News agreed to pay $787 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Dominion that accused the network of promoting false information about the company. The settlement came after Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis had issued a ruling that found, “The evidence developed in this civil proceeding demonstrates that it is CRYSTAL clear that none of the statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true.”)
Trump promoted the lawsuit on social media, the indictment says, even though when Trump talked about Powell’s claims about Dominion “in private with advisors, the Defendant had conceded that they were unsupported and that Co-Conspirator 3 [Powell] sounded ‘crazy.'” That anecdote was shared by Trump aide Hope Hicks in testimony before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.
The lawsuit was dismissed on Dec. 7. (We also wrote about these false claims in “Baseless Conspiracy Theory Targets Another Election Technology Company,” Nov. 25, 2020, and “Trump Repeats Baseless, False Claims About the Election,” Nov. 30, 2020.)
On Dec. 3 of that year, the indictment alleges, Giuliani “orchestrated a presentation to a Judiciary Subcommittee of the Georgia State Senate, with the intention of misleading state senators into blocking the ascertainment of legitimate electors.”
During that presentation, a member of the Trump team “falsely claimed that more than 10,000 dead people voted in Georgia.” According to the indictment, a senior adviser to Trump later that day texted Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, to say the claim was “not accurate.”
Another member of the Trump team during the presentation “played a misleading excerpt of a video recording of ballot-counting at State Farm Arena in Atlanta and insinuated that it showed election workers counting ‘suitcases’ of illegal ballots,” the indictment states. (As we wrote at the time in “Video Doesn’t Show ‘Suitcases’ of Illegal Ballots in Georgia,” that was a bogus claim.)
On Dec. 3, the indictment states, Trump “issued a Tweet amplifying the knowingly false claims made in [Giuliani’s] presentation in Georgia.”
The following day, Gabriel Sterling, who oversaw Georgia’s voting system, publicly debunked the president’s claims. “The 90 second video of election workers at State Farm arena, purporting to show fraud was watched in its entirety (hours) by [Georgia secretary of state] investigators,” Sterling wrote on social media. “Shows normal ballot processing.”
The indictment says a “Senior Campaign Advisor” who spoke daily with Trump told him that “various fraud claims were untrue” and “expressed frustration” that many of the claims made by Giuliani and his legal team “could not be substantiated.” Among them was Trump’s false claims about “a large number of dead voters in Georgia.”
Referring to the false claims about manufactured votes at the State Farm Arena, the adviser wrote in an email, “When our research and campaign legal team can’t back up any of the claims made by our Elite Strike Force Legal Team, you can see why we’re 0-32 on our cases. I’ll obviously hustle to help on all fronts, but it’s tough to own any of this when it’s all just conspiracy shit beamed down from the mothership.”
The indictment notes that on Dec. 10, 2020, Giuliani “played the State Farm Arena video again” before a Georgia House committee “and falsely claimed that it showed ‘voter fraud right in front of people’s eyes’ and was the ‘tip of the iceberg.'” The indictment says Giuliani “cited two election workers by name, baselessly accused them of ‘quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they are vials of heroin or cocaine.'” The indictment says the two election workers subsequently received numerous death threats. Although unnamed in the indictment, the two election workers are Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, who are suing Giuliani for defamation. As we have written, they did nothing wrong.
A day after Attorney General Bill Barr resigned on Dec. 14, 2020, after publicly parting with Trump over allegations of widespread voter fraud, Trump summoned incoming Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and incoming Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue to the Oval Office to discuss election fraud.
“During the meeting, the Justice Department officials specifically refuted the Defendant’s claims about State Farm Arena, explaining to him that the activity shown on the tape Co-Conspirator 1 [Giuliani] had used was ‘benign,'” the indictment states.
The indictment also details numerous false election fraud claims made by Trump during a phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican. During the call, the indictment says, Trump “lied to the Georgia Secretary of State to induce him to alter Georgia’s popular vote count and call into question the validity of the Biden electors’ votes, which had been transmitted to Congress weeks before.” Raffensperger and his team pushed back on several of the president’s claims.
Trump raised allegations regarding the State Farm Arena video, but Raffensperger told Trump the video in question had been “sliced and diced” and was used “out of context.” When Raffensperger offered a link to a video that would disprove Giuliani’s claims, Trump responded, “I don’t care about the link, I don’t need it. Brad, I have a much better link.”
When Trump claimed 5,000 dead people voted in Georgia, Raffensperger responded, “Well Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong. … The actual number were two. Two. Two people that were dead that voted. So that’s wrong.”
Trump plowed forward and “claimed that thousands of out-of-state voters had cast ballots in Georgia’s election, which the Georgia Secretary of State’s Counsel refuted, explaining, ‘We’ve been going through each of those as well, and those numbers that we got, that [ Defendant’s counsel ] was just saying, they’re not accurate. Every one we’ve been through are people that lived in Georgia, moved to a different state, but then moved back to Georgia legitimately … they moved back in years ago. This was not like something just before the election.”
Raffensperger’s counsel told Trump that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was looking into all of Trump’s various election fraud claims and was “finding no merit to them,” the indictment states.
The indictment notes that Trump “said that he needed to ‘find’ 11,780 votes.” Trump then “insinuated that the Georgia Secretary of State and his Counsel could be subject to criminal prosecution if they failed to find election fraud as he demanded.”
The following day, Trump claimed on social media that Raffensperger was “unwilling, or unable” to answer his questions about voter fraud.
Raffensperger responded, “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.”
Nonetheless, the indictment says, during his rally on Jan. 6, 2021, Trump “publicly repeated the knowingly false insinuation that more than 10,300 dead people had voted in Georgia.” We wrote about that, too.
Michigan: False Claims of a ‘Vote Dump’
Two days after Election Day, Trump began to make a baseless claim about illegal voting in Detroit and did not relent even when he was told it was false.
“In Detroit, there were hours of unexplained delay in delivering many of the votes for counting,” the indictment quotes Trump as saying in a speech from the White House. “The final batch did not arrive until four in the morning and — even though the polls closed at eight o’clock. So they brought it in, and the batches came in, and nobody knew where they came from.”
(We wrote about this claim and his speech in “Trump’s Wild, Baseless Claims of Illegal Voting,” on Nov. 6, 2020.)
The indictment details how Trump and Giuliani were repeatedly told by top Michigan officials of both parties that there was no evidence that would warrant overturning the state’s election results.
Despite this, Trump and Giuliani repeatedly made the false claim of illegal voting in Detroit, and Giuliani used the bogus claim to pressure state Republican leaders to block the state’s certification of Biden electors:
Nov. 20, 2020: In an Oval Office meeting, Trump raised his claim about a “vote dump” in Detroit with Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House of Representatives Speaker Lee Chatfield. “In response, the Michigan Senate Majority Leader told the Defendant that he had lost Michigan not because of fraud, but because the Defendant had underperformed with certain voter populations in the state,” the indictment says. After the meeting, the two Republican state leaders issued a joint statement saying: “We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors.”
Dec. 1, 2020: Trump brought up his claim about the Detroit “vote dump” in a meeting with state Attorney General Dana Nessel, the indictment said. Nessel, a Democrat, told Trump “that what had occurred in Michigan had been the normal vote counting process and that there was no indication of fraud in Detroit,” the indictment said.
Dec. 2, 2020: Despite what he had been told by Democratic and Republican state leaders, Trump “made a knowingly false statement,” claiming in a speech from the White House that “[a]t 6:31 in the morning, a vote dump of 149,772 votes came in unexpectedly. We were winning by a lot. That batch was received in horror. Nobody knows anything about it. … It’s corrupt. Detroit is corrupt,” the indictment says.
(We wrote about this false claim in “Trump’s ‘Most Important’ Speech Was Mostly False,” Dec. 3, 2020.)
Dec. 4, 2020: Giuliani sent a text message to Chatfield “reiterating his unsupported claim of election fraud and attempting to get the Michigan House Speaker to assist in reversing the ascertainment of the legitimate Biden electors,” the indictment said. Giuliani wrote that Georgia “may well … change the certification” of Biden as the winner. He added, “Help me get this done in Michigan.”
Dec. 7, 2020: According to the indictment, Giuliani emailed Shirkey, the state Senate majority leader, saying, “So I need you to pass a joint resolution from the Michigan legislature that states that, *the election is in dispute,* there’s an ongoing investigation by the Legislature, and *the Electors sent by Governor Whitmer are not the official Electors of the State of Michigan and do not fall within the Safe Harbor deadline of Dec 8 under Michigan law.”
Dec. 14, 2020: On “the day that electors in states across the country were required to vote and submit their votes to Congress,” the indictment said, Shirkey and Chatfield — the state’s two top Republican elected officials — issued a joint statement saying: “[W]e have not received evidence of fraud on a scale that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan.” According to the indictment, Chatfield issued a statement that read, “I can’t fathom risking our norms, traditions and institutions to pass a resolution retroactively changing the electors for Trump, simply because some think there may have been enough widespread fraud to give him the win.”
Jan. 6, 2021: “[T]he Defendant publicly repeated his knowingly false claim regarding an illicit dump of more than a hundred thousand ballots in Detroit.” That appears to be a reference to Trump’s speech on the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Pennsylvania: False Claims of Illegal Ballots
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf certified Biden’s election win on Nov. 24, 2020. But the indictment says that the following day, Giuliani, at an event with state legislators in Gettysburg, began making the false claim that Pennsylvania election officials had mailed 1.8 million absentee ballots to voters but got back 2.5 million ballots.
Internally, however, Trump campaign workers acknowledged that the claim was “just wrong” and indefensible, the indictment says.
More than a month later, on Dec. 31 and Jan. 3, Trump alleged to Rosen and Donoghue, the acting attorney general and acting deputy attorney general, that Pennsylvania had 205,000 more votes than voters — another claim Justice Department officials told Trump was false, according to the indictment. Trump then repeated that bogus claim in his Jan. 6 address. (We debunked that claim in our write-up of his speech.)
The indictment also says that Trump called Republican state legislators who said they couldn’t overturn the election results “cowards,” and that Trump “publicly maligned a Philadelphia City Commissioner for stating on the news that there was no evidence of widespread fraud in Philadelphia,” causing that commissioner, Al Schmidt, a Republican, to receive death threats.
Wisconsin: False Claims of ‘More Votes Than Voters’
Trump’s election loss in Wisconsin was confirmed by a Nov. 29, 2020, recount that was requested and paid for by Trump’s campaign. Then, according to the indictment, on Dec. 21, 2020 — one week after the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected the Trump campaign’s election challenges — Gov. Tony Evers signed a certificate of final determination, declaring Biden the winner and recognizing Biden’s slate as Wisconsin’s rightful electors.
But Trump continued making false claims about the election.
The indictment says that the day Evers signed the certification, Trump tweeted that he defeated Biden and demanded that state legislators overturn the election results in Trump’s favor. Days later, in a Dec. 27 conversation with Rosen and Donoghue, Trump made another false claim about Wisconsin having “more votes than voters” — a claim that Donoghue told Trump was inaccurate. (We also debunked that claim more than once, as early as Nov. 4, 2020, in “Viral Posts Misreport Data on Registered Voters in Wisconsin.“)
Then, on Jan. 6, 2021, Trump “publicly repeated knowingly false claims that there had been tens of thousands of unlawful votes in Wisconsin,” the indictment says.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org does not accept advertising. We rely on grants and individual donations from people like you. Please consider a donation. Credit card donations may be made through our “Donate” page. If you prefer to give by check, send to: FactCheck.org, Annenberg Public Policy Center, 202 S. 36th St., Philadelphia, PA 19104.