Topeka, Kan. (AP) – A branch of the Republican Attorneys General Association sent out robocalls and organized a special “battle” to rally support for “patriots” ahead of the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. Meeting weeks before the election to discuss Trump’s strategy if he loses.
The two-day conference in September 2020 was one of more than 20 meetings held by the Legislature’s defense fund in the four months before the November election for senior aides to Republicans who are their states’ chief law enforcement officers. But like the others, it was held in person, with the group paying for attendees’ travel expenses, even as coronavirus cases continue to rise and a vaccine is still months away from being on the market.
The Defense Fund, an arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association, gained notoriety for its robocalls the day before the Jan. 6 coup. When pro-Trump protesters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to deny Joe Biden a certificate of victory.
Emails from the Republican attorney general’s offices in Kansas and Missouri show the defense fund held weekly calls for senior staff in state offices, a “virtual roundtable” with senior corporate attorneys in July and an in-person summit in September. Eight days after the election, Zoom held a Dec. 1 call to discuss “strategy sessions” and immigration policy.
A Sept. 24 email from the executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association, addressed to “the general,” called the Atlanta event a “war game” and “a series of conversations about what could happen if we lose the White House.”
“It was a fast, productive series of war games that won’t have to be used in November,” then-executive director Adam Piper said in an email the next day, again addressed to “The General.”
Five days after the violence in Washington and the defense fund robocalls, Piper resigned from the Attorney General’s Association. Call did not advocate violence or advocate an attack on the Capitol.
Together, the meetings and robocalls underscore how deeply invested elements of the Republican Party were in trying to keep Trump in office or challenge the incoming Biden administration. Seventeen Republican state attorneys general from Kansas and Missouri also joined the Texas attorney general in a separate lawsuit seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election based on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud; The Supreme Court ultimately rejected that effort.
The agenda for the Defense Fund’s Atlanta summit consists of three policy sessions and a set of breakout sessions over two days. “All policy conversations are off the record,” the defense fund’s executive director said in an email two days before the event.
While the Defense Fund allowed people to participate virtually, the email said more than 30 people attended in person.
In a written statement to The Associated Press on Thursday, RAGA spokesman Johnny Koremenos said the September 2020 meeting was “strictly focused on administrative law and building an attorney general team for a possible Biden administration or a second term for President Trump — a common practice during election seasons.” .”
Koremenos said the GOP attorney general has filed more than 40 lawsuits against Biden’s policies since taking office in January. It’s a strategy he used during the administration of former President Barack Obama — and an approach regularly used by his Democratic counterparts during Trump’s four years in office.
“We are fighting against the most radical and irresponsible agenda America has ever seen,” Chris Newell, a spokesman for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmidt, said in an email Thursday.
Koremenos did not respond to questions asked in multiple emails about whether a Defense Fund video conference last year addressed potential challenges to the election results.
Protection Fund is stated in tax payment Their mission, including the Internal Revenue Service, is to share best practices among states’ top attorneys, provide them with a forum to discuss state and federal policy issues, help them develop policy, and “engage” federal officials in the states’ interests. “
In Missouri, contacts between the defense fund under Schmidt’s office and state Solicitor General John Sauer became public. This year through a records request from the Government Transparency Group.
Schmidt said in January that he was not aware of the defense fund robocalls, and his spokesman said Thursday that he would not “rehash” the issues raised earlier this year. Schmidt is running for the US Senate in 2022.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office sent two staffers to September’s “War Games” summit — Chief Deputy Attorney General Jeff Chaney and Communications Director Clint Blais. His pre-event travel authorization form showed that defense funds would cover his expenses — as it did — and listed the purpose of his trip as “training.”
Chanay said in an email to himself and Blaes that Schmidt had concluded the program “served a legitimate state purpose and interest” and that the office would otherwise have covered their costs — making it legal under Kansas law to accept defense fund hospitality.
His involvement was first reported this week by the Kansas Reflector. who obtained 15 pages of emails through an open records request. The Associated Press also obtained the emails through an open records request.
Another email showed that Eric Montgomery, Schmidt’s chief of staff, registered for the online sessions.
Schmidt, first elected in 2010, is running for governor of Kansas in 2022. He served as a director of the Defense Fund but left its board in August 2020. After the January 6 uprising, he publicly condemned the violence, telling the Topeka Capital-Journal That he didn’t already know about the robocall.
Schmidt spokesman John Milburn said in an email that the September event was to discuss possible responses or other actions by a potential Biden administration that Schmidt was concerned could have “devastating consequences for Kansas.”
“There has been no discussion about challenging the election results, which are still six weeks away,” Milburn said.
Associated Press writer Summer Ballantine in Columbia, Missouri; Meg Kinard in Houston; and Geoff Mulvihill in Cherry Hill, New Jersey contributed to this report.
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