The Thomas Much more Culture verified her partnership to the team but stated she is taking part in no part in its election-relevant activities.
On the other hand, her affiliation with the group — as properly as other hyperlinks between Trump’s crew and the conservative group — counsel a coordinated effort and hard work to flood the nation’s courts with repetitive litigation that permits the president to assert the election success continue to be contested.
The very first glimpse of the Amistad Venture came late this summer months, when the new lawful outfit popped up in courts across the country, striving to halt county election officers from getting grants to bolster their operations amid the pandemic.
A lawyer who will work with the group was also spotted encouraging Republican observers to challenge the absentee ballot depend at Detroit’s TCF Centre on Election Day.
Past month, the Amistad Task introduced in a news release that the Trump marketing campaign would join the team on “a scenario-by-scenario basis” in hard election outcomes across the state. The assertion, which has given that been taken offline, quoted Trump’s personalized lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani calling Amistad “a partner in the battle to make certain the integrity of our elections.”
Amistad lawyers also drew up a draft criticism to file jointly with the president’s marketing campaign in Michigan, in accordance to a document posted on a website used by Amistad to raise funds and publish its authorized briefs. Ian Northon, an Amistad lawyer named on the temporary, informed The Washington Write-up that there was no this kind of joint effort and hard work and that the draft was posted by oversight.
The Thomas A lot more Modern society, a Chicago-based nonprofit regulation organization centered on religious liberty concerns, has stated the Amistad Challenge is “dedicated to election integrity” in the public curiosity.
“As a tax-exempt organization, the Thomas More Modern society does not guidance or endorse candidates, but when our election rules and even our constitution are less than attack, we choose action,” the team said in an Oct announcement.
Ellis is a Thomas Extra Modern society particular counsel and is stated as part of the “Leadership and Advisory Board” on the web page applied by Amistad.
The group’s practices have complemented the president’s legal and general public relations strategy, and its do the job has been promoted by Trump and his influential allies in the conservative media.
Amistad’s lawsuits have requested courts to let the Republican-controlled legislatures in battleground states to appoint presidential electors — a technique Trump and his lawful group have urged condition lawmakers all-around the state to embrace. Amistad sought to justify the strategy in a paper printed Friday that railed in opposition to the carry out of election officials in “urban Democrat strongholds.”
In response to concerns from The Post, Thomas Much more Culture President Thomas Brejcha wrote in an e-mail that Ellis “has no affiliation or involvement with our Amistad efforts” and that the team was not “at all related with the Trump Marketing campaign.”
Ellis claimed in a assertion despatched by way of Trump’s marketing campaign that she had “no affiliation or get the job done with the Amistad Project” and that she had been bundled on the web page utilized by the challenge “without my permission.” Her Thomas Far more Society biography was lately up to date to state that she is not functioning with Amistad.
Tony Shaffer, a retired protection intelligence official who sits on the Trump campaign’s advisory board, appeared at an Amistad news conference in Virginia previous Tuesday as the group’s “lead investigator” in its hunt for voter fraud.
A spokesman for Shaffer mentioned the Trump marketing campaign and the Amistad Undertaking were “not related,” but he did not respond when requested whether or not Shaffer had facilitated any conversation or cooperation between them.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh did not answer to many requests for comment about the campaign’s relationship with Amistad.
Philip Hackney, a previous IRS formal and professor in nonprofit law at the University of Pittsburgh, claimed the Thomas A lot more Society was “putting its tax-
exempt status at risk” by partnering with partisan figures though bringing election litigation.
“It definitely raises the problem of whether or not they have engaged in a way that the IRS could uncover violated the regulation,” he mentioned. But Hackney cautioned that tax officials would discover it tricky to decisively contradict the group’s statements to be performing in the wider general public interest.
In response, Brejcha known as that idea “at finest ludicrous,” stressing that Ellis is not included with the group’s election get the job done.
“These election concerns are neutral and non-partisan but obviously our labors in that winery might by the way inure to the gain of 1 get together or yet another in provided conditions,” he stated.
“The Trump Campaign is not and has not been our ‘partner,’ in any perception of that term, whilst we have experienced some overlapping considerations about selected election integrity problems — issues shared by several other Americans,” Brejcha extra.
The tiny team of attorneys supporting to generate the Amistad energy involve a previous Kansas lawyer common barred from working towards regulation for the reason that of qualified misconduct and a Minnesota legal professional who has advocated guidelines these types of as limiting the range of People in america w
ho are not Christian or Jewish.
Doing the job in conjunction with a group of former Trump campaign data analysts, Amistad also has claimed to have shared its conclusions with the FBI. The Justice Division declined to remark. Lawyer Typical William P. Barr said previous week that the section has discovered no proof of prevalent voter fraud.
The group’s lawsuits searching for to overturn the election success have been criticized by Democrats as a zombielike job that refuses to die even as President-elect Joe Biden’s decisive win has been accredited by condition just after point out.
“What we are observing is the loss of life rattle of an totally unsuccessful lawful tactic by the president and his allies, and it’s just not heading to perform,” stated Norman Eisen, a veteran Democratic legal professional who is checking the election problems for the bipartisan Voter Defense Venture.
The Wisconsin Supreme Courtroom late Friday declined to hear a circumstance submitted by the group, with a conservative justice on the 7-member elected panel crafting that he located its lawsuit involved “glaring flaws that render the petition woefully deficient.”
Justice Brian Hagedorn issued a stern rebuke to the group’s attempt to get the courtroom to overturn the presidential election, which he termed “the most remarkable invocation of judicial power” he experienced at any time witnessed.
“This is a hazardous path we are currently being requested to tread,” he wrote.
For Trump, the Amistad Job has served a crucial job in serving to to continue to keep alive his baseless promises that fraud corrupted the 2020 presidential race. The group’s efforts provide as a 3rd entrance in the assault versus the election success, along with Trump’s own authorized worries and lawsuits submitted by legal professional Sidney Powell.
At very last Tuesday’s news conference, Amistad presented two gentlemen it styled as whistleblowers, who produced imprecise allegations about mail ballots most likely owning been mishandled when they worked for Postal Services subcontractors this fall. Neither presented evidence of fraud, but Trump and his marketing campaign posted about their allegations a dozen times on Twitter, and highlighted Amistad’s claims in a online video that aired at Trump’s rally in Valdosta, Ga., on Saturday.
Expanding its mission
The Thomas A lot more Culture was founded in Chicago in 1997 by Brejcha, a former enterprise lawyer who grew to become embroiled in the abortion discussion by defending on free-speech grounds antiabortion protesters who had been sued by a nationwide women’s team.
Throughout the previous two a long time, the firm has joined the conservative movement’s fights towards abortion, same-sexual intercourse marriage and mandates for companies to deliver health insurance policies covering contraceptives. It took in additional than $6 million in contributions in 2018, in accordance to its most current readily available tax return.
In an email, Brejcha explained the team just lately amended its bylaws to include work similar to “election integrity” to its mission, anxious that state and area officers were being utilizing the pandemic to violate spiritual freedom and other constitutional protections.
In August this year, it launched the Amistad Task beneath the management of Phillip Kline, a previous Kansas legal professional standard who is now a professor at Liberty University, a conservative Christian college in Lynchburg, Va., led until finally this 12 months by Trump ally Jerry Falwell Jr.
Kline was earlier represented by the Thomas A lot more Modern society when he tried to overturn the indefinite suspension of his law license by the Kansas Supreme Court docket, which ruled in 2013 that Kline violated principles governing lawyers’ conduct although pursuing investigations of abortion companies as a prosecutor.
A spokeswoman for Kline claimed he was as well hectic to talk. He did not respond to various requests for comment.
The web-site Bought-Independence.org, which promotes Amistad, functions a sequence of on line video clips hosted by Kline’s daughter, Liberty graduate Jacqueline Timmer. In them, she recycles untrue statements created by Trump, which includes that the abrupt additions of votes from big cities to point out counts on election night time ended up essentially “dumps” of phony ballots. Timmer did not react to a request for comment.
Till Thanksgiving, the web page used by Amistad shown as “partner organizations” two offshoots of the Position Creators Community, a conservative advocacy group that has received funding from significant Trump donors, such as the billionaire Residence Depot founder Bernie Marcus. Its logos were being eliminated from the site right after The Article built inquiries.
Elaine Parker, a senior Work Creators Network formal, stated that the business experienced not furnished any funding to either the Amistad Venture or the Thomas Extra Modern society, and that its logos really should not have been utilised on the website.
As the election approached, Amistad embarked on a lawful marketing campaign aimed at blocking grants to election authorities from the Middle for Tech and Civic Existence, a nonprofit operating to increase voter turnout, whose donors include things like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
Proclaiming the center was making an attempt to boost turnout only in Democratic strongholds, Amistad argued that it was component of the nation’s “dark historical past of voter suppression” and filed federal lawsuits throughout the nation claiming that it was illegal.
The satisfies have been filed on behalf of purported grass-roots groups with names this sort of as the Pennsylvania Voters Alliance and the Wisconsin Voters Alliance, as effectively as similar incarnations in Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, South Carolina and Texas.
Most of the teams ended up not formally included and experienced minimal or no general public existence over and above the legal motion. None of the lawsuits succeeded, just one staying rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court docket.
Amistad was represented in the lawsuits by Erick G. Kaardal, a Minnesota-primarily based Thomas Extra counsel, who over the past ten years worked on election lawsuits for a team in his dwelling condition known as the Minnesota Voters Alliance. In 2018, Kaardal and the team gained a U.S. Supreme Court docket ruling that a state law banning political clothing at polling spots violated the First Modification.
Kaardal, who did not answer to an interview request, is now symbolizing Amistad in its issues of the election in Arizona, Ga and Wisconsin. He has also co-authored a collection of self-revealed textbooks advocating a “Christian neopopulist” agenda and endorsing the president’s assault on the media and other institutions.
“We ought to engage in an unrelenting assault on naive secular tradition, the establishment and its politics,” Kaardal and his co-
creator wrote in a 2013 e-book. They proposed modifying the Structure to prohibit any immigration policy that “threatens the Christian cultural heritage of the United Sovereign States by making it possible for the portion of the populace practicing non-Jewish or non-Christian faith to exceed 10% of the citizenry.” Kaardal’s proposal was 1st claimed by the Zephyrus of Edina, Minn.
Kaardal also earlier represented the rapper Kanye West this year as West tried out unsuccessfully to get on Wisconsin’s presidential ballot, court records present. West’s effort, which was backed by GOP operatives in at minimum 5 states, was commonly found as a bid to draw minority guidance from Biden.
A connection to Trump
As it well prepared its lawful marketing campaign towards election authorities this summer season, the Thomas More Society announced Ellis as a exclusive counsel at the corporation, providing it with a link to Trump’s marketing campaign.
While Ellis, a 36-year-previous Colorado native, expenses herself as a constitutional law firm, the bulk of her litigation working experience has been as a junior prosecutor and a prison defense attorney. She is also a fellow at a Liberty University imagine tank in which Kline is also involved.
Brejcha informed The Put up that Ellis had “brought clients” to the Thomas Extra Society in Los Angeles and Oregon.
In August, Ellis joined a Thomas A lot more legal team symbolizing a Los Angeles megachurch pastor who violated pandemic prohibitions on indoor products and services, courtroom documents demonstrate. In a court docket submitting that requested for permission to be a part of the circumstance, Ellis noted that she was a “private counsel to the President of the United States.”
Since Election Day, Ellis has risen to countrywide prominence as section of what she terms an “elite strike force” of legal professionals contesting Trump’s decline. She has promoted baseless theories about voter fraud alongside Giuliani, the president’s individual legal professional, at news conferences and public meetings with state legislators. But she has not converted her allegations into legal briefs or appearances in courtroom, wherever building fake statements could have severe implications.
Ellis’s registration with Colorado’s Supreme Court docket lists her deal with not at a legislation place of work but at the Leesburg, Va., headquarters of ProActive Communications, a general public relations enterprise led by veteran Republican operative Mark Serrano.
ProActive handles media for the Amistad Challenge. Previous thirty day period, it also issued statements on behalf of two Detroit-area Republican officials who sought to rescind their vote to certify the election final results in Wayne County.
Amistad attorneys such as Tim Griffin, an adjunct professor at Liberty University, ended up engaged with the Republican officers as they ready affidavits to rescind their votes, according to individuals common with the gatherings.
William Hartmann, one particular of the Wayne County Republicans who sought to rescind his guidance for certification of the county’s vote, explained he selected Thomas Extra Society legal professionals to assistance draft his affidavit simply because “they are a non-partisan corporation.”
Griffin declined to comment on his involvement with the Wayne County officials, referring inquiries to Serrano and ProActive, which did not answer to requests for comment.
ProActive has received additional than $2.4 million from Trump’s reelection campaign for communications consulting and movie creation, campaign finance experiences exhibit.
Independently, Ellis has been compensated extra than $172,000 by Trump’s campaign, the filings exhibit.
Ellis claimed in a statement that she experienced not gained “any Trump campaign money compensated to ProActive.”
Trump questioned Brad Parscale, then his marketing campaign manager, to hire Ellis on a monthly retainer previous year after remaining amazed by how effectively she defended him in a Television visual appeal that he saw, according to a particular person common with the events.
Immediately after joining Trump’s crew, Ellis flew with the president on Air Drive A single and indulged demands from him that some other White Property and campaign attorneys judged as unwise, these kinds of as submitting defamation lawsuits from main information corporations.
“The president would get in touch with her when the other legal professionals would tell him no,” a senior administration official mentioned.
For the duration of the campaign, she was not concerned in the campaign’s legal technique meetings, but she had direct obtain to the president and was consistently angling to safe Television appearances, in accordance to indi
viduals acquainted with her part. Immediately after Election Day, Ellis told other attorneys she and Giuliani had been in cost, they explained.
Two officials explained Ellis offered the president with untrue proof of voter fraud throughout the technique to the election and encouraged his politically harming rhetoric against the integrity of mail ballots. A rambling 46-moment speech about the election that Trump filmed in the White Property past 7 days was “a Jenna production,” one of the officials mentioned, incorporating that communications staffers and other offices were not involved.
An adviser who frequently speaks with Trump said that for the duration of discussions with the president, Ellis has exaggerated the significance of the public-hearing-type meetings that she has held with Giuliani, providing him a bogus sense that they could actually support to overturn the election outcome.
“She’s keen to say anything at all. Even as Rudy will come up with lawful theories that are not equipped to be executed, she will consider of a way to talk about it on television,” explained an formal who was included in the president’s lawful hard work until finally just lately.
Ellis declined to remark on her conversations with the president.
A flurry of court exercise
Amistad was active on the ground in battleground states during the days all over the election, filing unexpected emergency lawsuits in excess of the safety of ballot fall bins, requesting to critique safety footage of the drop containers and sending monitors to observe votes being counted. Griffin, the Amistad legal professional and Liberty adjunct professor, was at Detroit’s TCF Middle on Election Working day, where by he was advising Republicans on how to lodge worries in opposition to ballots.
“We want all votes to be counted and want serious difficulties identified,” Griffin mentioned as GOP activists approached him with issues.
Immediately after Trump’s defeat, Amistad filed a flurry of lawful complaints in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (On Monday, the group voluntarily dismissed its suit complicated the effects in Arizona.)
The undertaking has attempted to bolster its lawsuits with authorized statements geared up by Matt Braynard, a veteran of Trump’s 2016 marketing campaign, who heads a separate Virginia-primarily based business named the Voter Integrity Fund, which has invested new weeks examining voter information in search of fraud.
Kline wrote in a tweet previous month that Amistad “retained Matt Braynard and workforce just after Nov 3 to acquire details examination to cultivate as proof to assistance election integrity lawsuits in battleground states.”
Braynard — whose staff features the federal government’s main information and facts stability officer, who reported he took family vacation time to do the job on the venture — quickly raised additional than $670,000 final month for his initiative by means of crowdfunding. In Amistad’s write-up-election authorized actions in Arizona, Ga and Wisconsin, Braynard has disclosed to each court that he was becoming compensated a flat payment of $40,000 to serve as an skilled witness.
In an electronic mail, Braynard declined to comment on how the charges would be employed. He reported any leftover money raised by his group would be supplied again to donors or applied to fund “a ideal-wing voter registration and anti-voter fraud firm.”
Braynard’s court filings current statistical analyses centered on samples of voters surveyed by his crew. He claims the conclusions show that countless numbers of voters were being despatched mail ballots in spite of not requesting them and that thousands extra voted inspite of no extended being residents.
Amistad’s lawsuit that was dismissed in Wisconsin argued that election clerks violated state legal guidelines in how they acknowledged mail-in ballots — the similar claim the Trump marketing campaign produced in a different lawsuit that the Wisconsin Supreme Court docket declined to listen to last 7 days.
Writing for a four-justice vast majority, Hagedorn cast doubt on Braynard’s assessment, declaring the group’s petition rested “almost solely on the unsworn professional report of a former marketing campaign staff that provides statistical estimates dependent on call center samples and social media analysis.”
Emma Brown and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.