How GOP lawyer Cleta Mitchell joined Trump’s lamentable team in arguing his bogus allegations of voter fraud


Mark Meadows was on the other line. The Republican congressman turned Trump’s White House chief of staff wanted to know if Mitchell could travel to Georgia, where Trump’s political operation braces to turn to the courts as Trump’s path to victory unfolds was shrinking, Mitchell explained last week in a recently launched podcast on voter fraud.

“I was just putting in the coordinates to get directions to get to Bozeman Airport to get home, and I got a call from Mark Meadows,” Mitchell said on his podcast, “Who Matters?”

Meadows’ appeal led to a series of events that now place Mitchell at the heart of Congressional efforts to investigate the events leading up to the Jan.6 attack on the United States Capitol.

Mitchell is one of three people a new Senate report selects for further consideration, highlighting his involvement in Trump’s efforts to convince both the Justice Department and state officials to back his claims of fraud.

After the election, Mitchell worked as a volunteer legal advisor for Trump’s Georgia campaign, helping to file a December 2020 lawsuit in the state aimed at invalidating the presidential election results by alleging widespread voter fraud. In early January, Mitchell took part in Trump’s infamous phone call in which he asked Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes for him to win.

Fallout from the appeal cost Mitchell her job at his law firm, which was unaware she was helping Trump’s campaign. The appeal is now a key part of the Fulton County District Attorney’s criminal investigation into Trump’s attempts to overturn the state’s 2020 election results.
In the months that followed, as Trump doubled down on his lies about the election and vowed revenge on Republicans who crossed paths with him, Mitchell remained at the forefront of a group of lawyers and Congressional allies echoing his allegations of electoral fraud.
Mitchell was hired earlier this year by conservative rights groups to help pass laws restricting voting in several states. She also helped funnel money to groups working on the partisan scrutiny of the Arizona poll that Trump and his allies twisted to further their false narrative. And she continued to raise doubts on the outcome of the 2020 election, making allegations about missing or duplicate ballots that have been repeatedly debunked.
“One of the great benefits of resigning from my law firm is that I can devote all of my time to something that I love,” Mitchell Recount The Associated Press in an interview in March.

Mitchell declined CNN’s requests to be interviewed for this story.

From Democrat to staunch Trump supporter

Mitchell worked as a lawyer on elections and campaign finance issues in Republican politics for several decades in Washington, although her political career began as a Democrat. Mitchell won a seat in the Oklahoma state legislature in 1976 and served for eight years. She launched an unsuccessful bid as Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in 1986.

A decade later, Mitchell became a then registered Independent Republican. She has worked as an election lawyer for the National Republican Party, as well as for conservative groups like the National Rifle Association.

She was known for many years as one of the conservative wing’s foremost voices alleging electoral fraud, even before Trump’s 2020 campaign.

Mitchell quietly joined Trump’s post-election efforts in Georgia, helping prepare for the Trump campaign trial in December to challenge the Georgian presidential election results, claiming debunked that there were “literally dozens of thousands of illegal votes ”in Georgia.

“We called ourselves the deplorable ones on the team,” she said on her podcast.

Emails obtained by Democrats of the Senate Judiciary Committee show how Mitchell also participated in the White House’s efforts to convince the Justice Department of his fraud allegations. On December 30, she sent Meadows a copy of the case against Raffensperger and offered to provide the Department of Justice with 1,800 pages of exhibits.
Georgia Secretary of State Ben Raffensperger holds a press conference on the state of ballot counting on November 6, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Meadows forwarded the email to Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. “Can you ask your team to look at these allegations of wrongdoing. Only the suspected fraudulent activity,” he asked.

The exchange is now part of what is seen as a larger and more persistent push by Trump and his entourage to co-opt the Justice Department leadership to support his accusations of electoral fraud.

A fateful phone call

Mitchell remained under the radar outside of Washington circles until the audio of Trump’s hour-long call with Raffensperger leaked – and it was brought into the spotlight.

Trump insisted on the call that there had been tens of thousands of fraudulent votes in Georgia, repeatedly turning to Mitchell for the backup, while telling Raffensperger to find the number of votes he needed for win the state. Raffensperger and state prosecutors have repeatedly debunked Trump’s widespread fraud plots.

Also on the call, Mitchell discussed the campaign lawsuit to remove Georgia’s certification from results, and she pushed state officials to give the campaign access to voter data.

“We don’t have the records that you have. And one of the things we’ve been suggesting formally and informally for weeks now is that you make the records available to us that would be needed,” Mitchell told Raffensperger.

The repercussions were swift. The law firm Folley & Lardner, of which Mitchell was a partner, was taken by surprise by its work for Trump’s campaign supporting his bogus fraud claims. On January 5, two days after the appeal went public, the company and Mitchell went their separate ways.

Mitchell blamed her departure on “a massive campaign of pressure over the past few days mounted by leftist groups” against her, according to an email she sent to friends.

Back in the fight

It didn’t take long for Mitchell to resume fighting for the 2020 election and Republicans’ efforts to restrict the vote.

She joined the government’s limited rights group FreedomWorks in March to lead its “National Election Protection Initiative,” intended to help pass restrictive election laws and purge voter lists in battlefield states where Trump claimed to have been defrauded, according to the Conservative newspaper. Newsmax.
In this February 2014 file photo, Cleta Mitchell testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

She also joined the Conservative Partnership Institute of former South Carolina GOP Senator Jim DeMint as a senior legal researcher focused on election integrity. DeMint’s organization, which he launched in 2017 after being ousted from the conservative Heritage Foundation, added Meadows as a lead partner after Trump’s tenure ended. The organization hosts Mitchell’s new podcast.

Mitchell helped fund the Arizona poll’s partisan scrutiny of the 2020 Maricopa County election, according to documents published by the Arizona Senate in response to a lawsuit and published by transparency group American Oversight.

They include Mitchell’s July email correspondence arranging electronic payments from an escrow account totaling $ 1 million to three contractors working with the Cyber ​​Ninjas, the group that conducted the scrutiny of the ballot. partisan.

Cyber ​​Ninjas spokesperson Randy Pullen, told the Republic of Arizona last month that he had known Mitchell for 20 years and helped her “indirectly” get involved in auditing. Pullen said Mitchell had solicited donations on the account.

In the emails, Mitchell wrote that the funding for the contractors came from the American Voting Rights Foundation, although it was not clear what the organization or its affiliations were. Thomas Datwyler, whom she cited as the group’s treasurer, told the Republic that the organization was formed in June and that he could not speak about the work of the foundation.

Through a spokesperson, Mitchell did not respond to a request for comment on the funding. Pullen and Datwyler did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.

In walking Interview with the Associated Press, Mitchell declined to detail his conversations with Trump about pushing to restrict voting laws, but noted, “I’m in contact with the president quite frequently.”

In her first podcast episode, she pledged to support her efforts to support state election candidates who embrace her lies about election theft. “We’re going to take over these polling stations,” Mitchell said, “and we need you to help us.”

CNN’s Katelyn Polantz and Stephanie Giambruno contributed to this report.

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