AG snaps back at Republican lawmaker who asked for apology to ‘fake electors’

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican A presentation on the findings of an investigation into five “fake electors” sparked a tense exchange Wednesday between New Mexico’s top prosecutor and a GOP lawmaker. After Attorney General Raúl Torrez said the group could not be prosecuted under current law, state Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, […]

AG snaps back at Republican lawmaker who asked for apology to ‘fake electors’

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican

A presentation on the findings of an investigation into five “fake electors” sparked a tense exchange Wednesday between New Mexico’s top prosecutor and a GOP lawmaker.

After Attorney General Raúl Torrez said the group could not be prosecuted under current law, state Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, questioned whether they would receive an apology after being dragged through the mud and incurring attorneys’ fees to defend themselves.

The five Republicans were accused of participating in a nationwide scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.

“They’ve been smeared,” said Moores, who quoted from an Albuquerque Journal editorial that deemed the alleged scheme in New Mexico “fake news” and questioned where the Republican electors could go “to get their reputations back.”

“Would anyone like to apologize to these duly nominated electors?” he asked during the legislative session’s first meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Joe Cervantes, a Las Cruces Democrat who chairs the committee, said Wednesday’s hearing was neither the time nor the place.

Torrez responded nonetheless, saying he wasn’t going to apologize to the five Republican electors “for the conduct that they engaged in or the nature of the investigation.”

Torrez, a Democrat who is the former Bernalillo County district attorney, said he considers Moores a friend but was “troubled by the insinuation” the investigation was driven by a partisan agenda.

“I can assure you that whatever complaints have come from your side of the aisle are unmatched by the complaints from people inside of my party for the decision that was made based on the law and based on the facts,” he said.

“I don’t appreciate the insinuation … and I think it’s a disservice to this process and to the importance of this issue to try to turn it into that. We conducted this investigation based on professional and ethical standards,” he added.

Moores, who kicked off his remarks by saying he would never vote for Trump again, left Wednesday’s meeting early and shook Torrez’s hand on his way out. 

Torrez appeared before the committee to recommend legislative reforms he said would have resulted in charges against the Republican electors.

“Quite frankly, we didn’t think we could satisfy a burden beyond reasonable doubt under current law,” said Torrez, who is recommending expanding the prohibition against falsified election documents and creating a new law against falsely acting as a presidential elector.

“We have set forth very specific legislative proposals that, had they been in place at the time, would have allowed our prosecutors to move forward with a criminal prosecution under the facts presented in this case,” he said.

Cervantes said he held the hearing to recognize that 2024 marks another presidential election year.

“This would be the only opportunity of this Legislature to address this by legislation … to ensure that those protections are in place,” he said.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said after the presentation bills are in the works “based on the recommendations set forth in the attorney general’s report.”

She downplayed accusations by Moores that she, too, is partisan, saying the pair have a good working relationship that includes poking fun at one another.

“I took it more as that,” she said. “He’s also said in the past that I and my staff run great elections, and I understand the political nature of these kinds of hearings, but when I go into the Secretary of State’s Office and I’m asked to do my job running elections, I leave my partisan hat at the door.”

During the presentation, she offered new details about the events leading up to the filing of election certificates that falsely declared Trump the winner of the 2020 presidential race.

Toulouse Oliver said she received a text from the then-executive director of the Republican Party of New Mexico, Anissa Ford-Tinnin, on Dec. 14, 2020.

That’s the same day the Democratic Party of New Mexico’s five presidential electors convened in the state Capitol to cast their ballots for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

“She simply texted me and asked, ‘Can we come in to the meeting so that the Republican electors — quote unquote — can cast their ballots, too?’ ” she said. “I was kind of caught off guard a bit [and thought], ‘Wow, that’s really weird. I’ve never heard of anything like that.’ “

Toulouse Oliver said she “very respectfully replied” that it “wouldn’t be part of the legal process.”

Still, the five Republican electors met in the east lobby of the Roundhouse and signed certificates of votes for Trump, which were mailed to the National Archives and the president of the U.S. Senate. The certificates included the caveat the votes for Tump were “on the understanding that it might later be determined that we are the duly elected and qualified electors for President and Vice President.”

“I didn’t think a whole lot of it at the time when I received that request for a slate of Republican electors to come because it had already been such a wacky and wild election with so many unusual things that had occurred,” Toulouse Oliver said.

“I just chalked it up to, you know, this is a political stunt,” she said. “It wasn’t until later that day that we received notice that former President Trump had filed a lawsuit trying to overturn the results of the presidential election that had been certified weeks previous.”

Toulouse Oliver became aware nearly a year later “similar activities” had occurred in six other states.

“I had no idea that it was part of a bigger coordinated process, and I really scratched my head wondering why it had even occurred here in New Mexico where President Biden had won the election by over 100,000 votes,” she said.

She added it occurred to her later New Mexico was possibly included in the mix because “mastermind” John Eastman, a former attorney for Trump, lives in Santa Fe.

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