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The Republican Party’s top lawyer called election fraud arguments by Trump’s lawyers a ‘joke’ that could mislead millions

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 7/12/2021 Josh Dawsey

The Republican Party’s top lawyer warned in November against continuing to push false claims that the presidential election was stolen, calling efforts by some of the former president’s lawyers a “joke” that could mislead millions of people, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post.

Justin Riemer, the Republican National Committee’s chief counsel, sought to discourage a Republican Party staffer from posting claims about ballot fraud on RNC accounts, the email shows, as attempts by Donald Trump and his associates to challenge results in a number of states, such as Arizona and Pennsylvania, intensified.

“What Rudy and Jenna are doing is a joke and they are getting laughed out of court,” Riemer, a longtime Republican lawyer, wrote to Liz Harrington, a former party spokeswoman, on Nov. 28, referring to Trump attorneys Rudolph W. Giuliani and Jenna Ellis. “They are misleading millions of people who have wishful thinking that the president is going to somehow win this thing.”

The email from Riemer to Harrington, which came about six weeks before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, shows key figures in the party were privately disturbed by the false claims being made about the election by Trump and his supporters — even if they did not say so publicly.

[Giuliani’s N.Y. law license suspended in connection with efforts to overturn 2020 election]

Riemer said Ellis and Giuliani were damaging a broader Republican Party push on “election integrity” issues, according to the email. Riemer had led the party’s legal efforts for months ahead of and after the November election, particularly limiting the expansion of mail-in ballots. But Riemer was skeptical internally of some of the most conspiratorial theories and did not believe many of the claims from Giuliani and others about fraud, according to people who talked to Reimer and, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

Some Trump allies, including Giuliani, sought to have Riemer fired after learning of the email, according to people familiar with the matter, but he remains employed at the RNC.

“I led the RNC legal team in over 55 lawsuits on behalf of the President’s reelection, winning a majority of them, including the only successful post-election lawsuit. Any suggestion that I did not support President Trump or do everything in my power to support the RNC’s efforts to reelect President Trump is false,” Riemer said in a statement. “I will say publicly now what I then said privately: I take issue with individuals who brought lawsuits that did not serve President Trump well and did not give him the best chance in court.”

Harrington, who is now a spokeswoman for Trump, continued to push voter-fraud allegations and left the RNC at the end of 2020. As the former president’s spokeswoman, she continues to post false claims of election fraud on social media and helps draft and disseminate the former president’s false claims about the election.

“The only thing that’s a joke is the idea that Joe Biden got 81 million votes,” Harrington said when asked about Riemer’s email on Monday afternoon.

Video: GOP Goes After Republican AG Candidate For Not Dropping Out After He Lost Party Nomination (CBS Minnesota)


Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the emails. Ellis did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

In recent weeks, some Trump allies have targeted the RNC and its chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, arguing they did not do enough in the aftermath of the Nov. 3 election to help Trump overturn the results. Ellis has led many of the attacks, tweeting “#RonnaMustGo.”

[Conservative nonprofit group challenging election results around the country has tie to Trump legal adviser Jenna Ellis]

Ellis and Giuliani were brought in by Trump to handle his election challenges within two weeks of the election, amid his growing dissatisfaction with his traditional legal team. Many of those lawyers stepped back in mid-November, when Trump appointed Giuliani and others to take charge. But Giuliani and Ellis were also unable to overturn the results, and Trump has complained about both of them in recent weeks, according to multiple people familiar with the former president’s remarks. Ellis has launched a group on voting, but Trump has not yet backed it publicly.

In the days after the election, McDaniel flew to various states to raise issues about the election, and Giuliani and then-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell held a much-maligned news conference in the lobby of the party’s headquarters. The email from Riemer came days after that news conference, which discomfited senior RNC officials. McDaniel soon slowed her public appearances and did not embrace the far-flung claims of fraud.

McDaniel has urged top donors and party officials in recent weeks to focus on the 2022 midterms and has argued that focusing on re-litigating the results of the 2020 election could hurt the party going forward, according to people who have spoken with her. But people close to McDaniel said she continues to speak with Trump and has a good relationship with him.

[‘Pure insanity’: How Trump and his allies pressured the Justice Department to help overturn the election]

The RNC has also declined, according to multiple people familiar with the matter, to pay any of Giuliani’s legal bills — a point of contention among some Giuliani associates. “Rudy Giuliani has never worked for the RNC and he has never acted at our direction,” a party spokeswoman said.

Members of President Donald Trump's legal team, including former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, left, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis, speaking, attend a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters on Nov. 19. © Jacquelyn Martin/AP Members of President Donald Trump's legal team, including former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, left, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis, speaking, attend a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters on Nov. 19.

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