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

The Thomas Extra Society confirmed her relationship to the group however stated she is enjoying no function in its election-related actions.

Nonetheless, her affiliation with the group — in addition to different hyperlinks between Trump’s workforce and the conservative group — recommend a coordinated effort to flood the nation’s courts with repetitive litigation that permits the president to assert the election outcomes stay contested.

The primary glimpse of the Amistad Undertaking got here late this summer time, when the brand new authorized outfit popped up in courts throughout the nation, making an attempt to cease county election officers from taking grants to bolster their operations amid the pandemic.

A lawyer who works with the group was additionally noticed encouraging Republican observers to problem the absentee poll rely at Detroit’s TCF Middle on Election Day.

The Thomas Extra Society, a Chicago-based nonprofit regulation agency centered on non secular liberty points, has stated the Amistad Undertaking is “devoted to election integrity” within the public curiosity.

“As a tax-exempt group, the Thomas Extra Society doesn’t assist or endorse candidates, however when our election legal guidelines and even our structure are beneath assault, we take motion,” the group said in an October announcement.

Ellis is a Thomas Extra Society particular counsel and can be listed as a part of the “Management and Advisory Board” on a website utilized by Amistad to boost cash and publish its authorized briefs.

The group’s ways have complemented the president’s personal authorized and public relations technique, and its work has been promoted by each Trump and his influential allies within the conservative media.

Amistad’s lawsuits have requested courts to permit the Republican-controlled legislatures in battleground states to nominate presidential electors — a technique Trump and his authorized workforce have urged state lawmakers across the nation to embrace. Amistad sought to justify the plan in a paper printed on Friday that railed towards the conduct of election officers in “city Democrat strongholds.”

Final month, Amistad attorneys drew up a draft criticism to file collectively with the president’s marketing campaign in Michigan, in accordance with a doc posted on the web site utilized by Amistad. Ian Northon, an Amistad legal professional named on the temporary, advised The Washington Publish there was no such joint effort and that the draft was posted by mistake.

In response to questions from The Publish, Thomas Extra Society President Thomas Brejcha wrote in an e-mail that Ellis “has no affiliation or involvement with our Amistad efforts” and that the group was not “in any respect related with the Trump Marketing campaign.”

Ellis stated in a press release despatched through Trump’s marketing campaign that she had “no affiliation or work with the Amistad Undertaking” and that she had been included on the web site utilized by the venture “with out my permission.” Her Thomas Extra Society biography was not too long ago updated to state that she isn’t working with Amistad.

Tony Shaffer, a retired protection intelligence official who sits on the Trump marketing campaign’s advisory board, appeared at an Amistad information convention in Virginia on Tuesday because the group’s “lead investigator” in its hunt for voter fraud.

A spokesman for Shaffer stated the Trump marketing campaign and Amistad Undertaking have been “not associated,” however didn’t reply when requested if Shaffer had facilitated any communication or cooperation between them.

Trump marketing campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh didn’t reply to a number of requests for remark concerning the marketing campaign’s relationship with Amistad.

Philip Hackney, a former IRS official and professor in nonprofit regulation on the College of Pittsburgh, stated the Thomas Extra Society was “placing its tax-exempt standing in danger” by partnering with partisan figures whereas bringing election litigation.

“It definitely raises the query of whether or not they have engaged in a means that the IRS might discover violated the regulation,” he stated. However Hackney cautioned that tax officers would discover it tough to decisively contradict the group’s claims to be performing within the wider public curiosity.

In response, Brejcha known as that concept “at finest ludicrous,” stressing that Ellis isn’t concerned with the group’s election work.

“These election issues are impartial and non-partisan however clearly our labors in that winery might by the way inure to the advantage of one celebration or one other in given circumstances,” he acknowledged.

“The Trump Marketing campaign isn’t and has not been our ‘companion,’ in any sense of that phrase, though we’ve had some overlapping issues about sure election integrity points — issues shared by many different Individuals,” Brejcha added.

The small group of attorneys serving to to drive the Amistad effort embody a former Kansas legal professional normal barred from practising regulation on account of skilled misconduct, and a Minnesota legal professional who has advocated insurance policies corresponding to limiting the variety of Individuals who should not Christian or Jewish.

Working in conjunction with a team of former Trump marketing campaign information analysts, Amistad additionally has claimed to have shared its findings with the FBI. The Justice Division declined to remark. Lawyer Common William P. Barr stated final week that the division has found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

The group’s lawsuits in search of to overturn the election outcomes have been criticized by Democrats as a zombielike venture that refuses to die at the same time as Biden’s decisive win has been licensed by state after state.

“What we’re seeing is the demise rattle of an completely failed authorized technique by the president and his allies, and it’s simply not going to work,” stated Norman Eisen, a veteran Democratic legal professional who’s monitoring the election challenges for the bipartisan Voter Safety Undertaking.

The Wisconsin Supreme Courtroom late Friday declined to listen to a case filed by the group, with a conservative justice on the seven-member elected panel writing that he discovered its lawsuit included “evident flaws that render the petition woefully poor.”

Justice Brian Hagedorn issued a stern rebuke to the group’s try to get the courtroom to overturn the presidential election, which he termed “probably the most dramatic invocation of judicial energy” he had ever seen.

“This can be a harmful path we’re being requested to tread,” he wrote.

For Trump, the Amistad Undertaking has served a key function in serving to to maintain alive his baseless claims that fraud corrupted the 2020 presidential race. The group’s efforts function a 3rd entrance within the assault towards the election outcomes, alongside Trump’s personal authorized challenges and lawsuits filed by legal professional Sidney Powell.

At Tuesday’s information convention, Amistad introduced two males it styled as whistleblowers, who made imprecise allegations about mail ballots doubtlessly having been mishandled once they labored for Postal Service subcontractors this fall. Neither introduced proof of fraud, however Trump and his marketing campaign posted about their allegations a dozen occasions on Twitter, pinning one video clip to the highest of the president’s web page on Friday.

Increasing its mission

The Thomas Extra Society was based in Chicago in 1997 by Brejcha, a former enterprise lawyer who grew to become embroiled within the abortion debate by defending on free-speech grounds antiabortion protesters who have been sued by a nationwide ladies’s group.

Throughout the previous 20 years, the group has joined the conservative motion’s fights towards abortion, same-sex marriage, and mandates for employers to supply medical insurance overlaying contraceptives. It took in additional than $6 million in contributions in 2018, in accordance with its newest obtainable tax return.

In an e-mail, Brejcha stated the group not too long ago amended its bylaws so as to add work associated to “election integrity” to its mission, involved that state and native officers have been utilizing the pandemic to violate non secular freedom and different constitutional protections.

In August this yr, it launched the Amistad Undertaking beneath the management of Phillip Kline, a former Kansas legal professional normal who’s now a professor at Liberty College, a conservative Christian faculty in Lynchburg, Va., led till this yr by Trump ally Jerry Falwell Jr.

Kline was beforehand represented by the Thomas Extra Society when he tried to overturn the indefinite suspension of his regulation license by the Kansas Supreme Court, which ruled in 2013 that Kline violated guidelines governing attorneys’ conduct whereas pursuing investigations of abortion suppliers as a prosecutor.

A spokeswoman for Kline stated he was too busy to speak. He didn’t reply to quite a few requests for remark.

The web site, which promotes Amistad, contains a collection of online videos hosted by Kline’s daughter, Liberty graduate Jacqueline Timmer. In them, she recycles false claims made by Trump, together with that the abrupt addition of votes from main cities to state counts on election night time have been really “dumps” of pretend ballots. Timmer didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Till Thanksgiving, the web site utilized by Amistad listed as “companion organizations” two offshoots of Job Creators Community, a conservative advocacy group that has obtained funding from main Trump donors, together with the billionaire House Depot founder Bernie Marcus. Its logos have been faraway from the positioning after The Publish made inquiries.

Elaine Parker, a senior Job Creators Community official, stated the group had not offered any funding to both the Amistad Undertaking or the Thomas Extra Society, and that its logos shouldn’t have been used on the web site.

Because the election approached, Amistad launched into a authorized marketing campaign aimed toward blocking grants to election authorities from the Middle for Tech and Civic Life, a nonprofit working to spice up voter turnout, whose donors embody the Fb founder Mark Zuckerberg and his spouse, Priscilla Chan.

Claiming the middle was making an attempt to extend turnout solely in Democratic strongholds, Amistad argued that it was a part of the nation’s “darkish historical past of voter suppression” and filed federal lawsuits throughout the nation claiming that it was unlawful.

The fits have been filed on behalf of purported grass-roots teams with names such because the Pennsylvania Voters Alliance and the Wisconsin Voters Alliance, in addition to comparable incarnations in Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, South Carolina and Texas.

Many of the teams weren’t formally included and had little or no public presence past the authorized motion. Not one of the lawsuits succeeded, one being rejected by the U.S. Supreme Courtroom.

Amistad was represented within the lawsuits by Erick G. Kaardal, a Minnesota-based Thomas Extra counsel, who over the previous decade labored on election lawsuits for a gaggle in his residence state known as the Minnesota Voters Alliance. In 2018, Kaardal and the group received a U.S. Supreme Court ruling {that a} state regulation banning political clothes at polling locations violated the First Modification.

Kaardal, who didn’t reply to an interview request, is now representing Amistad in its challenges of the election in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin. He has additionally co-authored a collection of self-published books advocating a “Christian neopopulist” agenda and endorsing Trump’s assault on the media and different establishments.

“We should have interaction in an unrelenting assault on naive secular tradition, the institution and its politics,” Kaardal and his co-author wrote in a 2013 guide. They proposed altering the Structure to ban any immigration coverage “which threatens the Christian cultural heritage of the United Sovereign States by permitting the portion of the inhabitants practising non-Jewish or non-Christian faith to exceed 10% of the citizenry.”

Kaardal additionally beforehand represented the rapper Kanye West this yr as West tried unsuccessfully to get on Wisconsin’s presidential poll, courtroom information present. West’s effort, which was backed by GOP operatives in at least five states, was extensively seen as a bid to attract minority assist from Biden.

A hyperlink to Trump

Because it ready its authorized marketing campaign towards election authorities this summer time, the Thomas Extra Society announced Ellis as a particular counsel on the group, offering it with a hyperlink to Trump’s marketing campaign.

Whereas Ellis, a 36-year-old Colorado native, payments herself as a constitutional lawyer, the majority of her litigation expertise has been as a junior prosecutor and a legal protection lawyer. She can be a fellow at a Liberty University think tank wherein Kline can be concerned.

Brejcha advised The Publish that Ellis had “introduced shoppers” to the Thomas Extra Society in Los Angeles and Oregon.

In August, Ellis joined a Thomas Extra authorized workforce representing a Los Angeles megachurch pastor who violated pandemic prohibitions on indoor companies, courtroom information present. In a courtroom submitting that requested for permission to affix the case, Ellis famous that she was a “non-public counsel to the President of america.”

Since Election Day, Ellis has risen to nationwide prominence as a part of what she phrases an “elite strike power” of attorneys contesting Trump’s loss. She has promoted baseless theories about voter fraud alongside Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s private legal professional, at information conferences and public conferences with state legislators. However she has not transformed her allegations into authorized briefs or appearances in courtroom, the place making false statements might have critical penalties.

Ellis’s registration with Colorado’s Supreme Courtroom lists her tackle not at a regulation workplace however on the Leesburg, Va., headquarters of ProActive Communications, a public relations firm led by veteran Republican operative Mark Serrano.

ProActive handles media for the Amistad Undertaking. Final month, it additionally issued statements on behalf of two Detroit-area Republican officers who sought to rescind their vote to certify the election ends in Wayne County.

Amistad attorneys together with Tim Griffin, an adjunct professor at Liberty College, have been engaged with the Republican officers as they ready affidavits to rescind their votes, in accordance with folks conversant in the occasions.

William Hartmann, one of many Wayne County Republicans who sought to rescind his assist for certification of the county’s vote, stated he selected Thomas Extra Society attorneys to assist draft his affidavit as a result of “they’re a non-partisan group.”

Griffin declined to touch upon his involvement with the Wayne County officers, referring inquiries to Serrano and ProActive, which didn’t reply to requests for remark.

ProActive has obtained greater than $2.4 million from Trump’s reelection marketing campaign for communications consulting and video manufacturing, marketing campaign finance studies present.

Individually, Ellis has been paid greater than $172,000 by Trump’s marketing campaign, the filings present.

Ellis stated in a press release that she had not obtained “any Trump marketing campaign funds paid to ProActive.”

Trump requested Brad Parscale, then his marketing campaign supervisor, to rent Ellis on a month-to-month retainer final yr after being impressed by how nicely she defended him in a TV look that he noticed, in accordance with an individual conversant in the occasions.

After becoming a member of Trump’s workforce, Ellis flew with the president on Air Pressure One and indulged calls for from him that another White Home and marketing campaign attorneys judged as unwise, corresponding to submitting defamation lawsuits towards main information organizations.

“The president would name her when the opposite attorneys would inform him no,” a senior administration official stated.

Throughout the marketing campaign, she was not concerned within the marketing campaign’s authorized technique conferences, however she had direct entry to the president and was usually angling to safe TV appearances, in accordance with folks conversant in her function. After Election Day, Ellis advised different attorneys she and Giuliani have been in cost, they stated.

Two officers stated Ellis offered the president with false proof of voter fraud throughout the method to the election and inspired his politically damaging rhetoric railing towards the integrity of mail ballots. A rambling 46-minute speech concerning the election that Trump filmed within the White Home final week was “a Jenna manufacturing,” one of many officers stated, including that communications employees and different places of work weren’t concerned.

An adviser who incessantly speaks with Trump stated that in conversations with the president, Ellis has exaggerated the significance of the general public hearing-style conferences that she has held with Giuliani, giving him a false sense that they may really assist to overturn the election outcome.

“She’s keen to say something. Whilst Rudy comes up with authorized theories that aren’t capable of be executed, she’s going to consider a approach to speak about it on tv,” stated an official who was concerned within the president’s authorized effort till not too long ago.

Ellis declined to touch upon her conversations with the president.

A flurry of courtroom exercise

Amistad was lively on the bottom in battleground states throughout the days across the election, submitting emergency lawsuits over the safety of poll drop bins, requesting to evaluation safety footage of the drop bins and sending displays to watch votes being counted. Griffin, the Amistad legal professional and Liberty adjunct professor, was at Detroit’s TCF Middle on Election Day, the place he was advising Republicans on how one can lodge challenges towards ballots.

“We would like all votes to be counted and need critical challenges acknowledged,” Griffin stated as GOP activists approached him with questions.

After Trump’s defeat, Amistad filed a flurry of authorized complaints in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The venture has tried to bolster its lawsuits with authorized statements ready by Matt Braynard, a veteran of Trump’s 2016 marketing campaign, who heads a separate Virginia-based group named the Voter Integrity Fund, which has spent latest weeks analyzing voter information in the hunt for fraud.

Kline wrote in a tweet final month that Amistad “retained Matt Braynard and workforce after Nov 3 to develop information evaluation to domesticate as proof to assist election integrity lawsuits in battleground states.”

Braynard — whose workforce includes the federal government’s chief information security officer, who stated he took trip time to work on the venture — rapidly raised greater than $670,000 final month for his initiative by crowdfunding. In Amistad’s post-election authorized actions in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin, Braynard has disclosed to every courtroom that he was being paid a flat price of $40,000 to function an skilled witness.

In an e-mail, Braynard declined to touch upon how the charges can be used. He stated any leftover cash raised by his group can be supplied again to donors or used to fund “a right-wing voter registration and anti-voter fraud group.”

Braynard’s courtroom filings current statistical analyses based mostly on samples of voters surveyed by his workforce. He claims the findings point out that hundreds of voters have been despatched mail ballots regardless of not requesting them and that hundreds extra voted regardless of not being residents.

Amistad’s lawsuit that was dismissed in Wisconsin argued that election clerks violated state legal guidelines in how they accepted mail-in ballots — the identical declare the Trump marketing campaign made in a separate lawsuit that the Wisconsin Supreme Courtroom declined to listen to final week.

Writing for a four-justice majority, Hagedorn solid doubt on Braynard’s evaluation, saying the group’s petition rested “virtually fully on the unsworn skilled report of a former marketing campaign worker that provides statistical estimates based mostly on name heart samples and social media analysis.”

Emma Brown and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.

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