Georgia GOP chairman says he shouldn’t face charges over 2020 election as he was following Trump’s orders

Lawyers for the chair of the Georgia Republican Party are arguing their client shouldn’t be indicted for attempting to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election in the state because he was simply following the advice handed down by members of former President Donald Trump’s legal team.

David Shafer, the Georgia GOP chair, is reportedly in jeopardy of being indicted by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis as part of an ongoing investigation into the Trump team’s efforts to steal Georgia’s electoral votes. To ward off a potential indictment, Mr Shafer appears to be trying to pin his involvement on his party’s most powerful figure.

Last week, Mr Shafer’s attorneys sent an 11-page letter to Ms Willis’ office outlining their case that their client was acting based on “repeated and detailed advice of legal counsel” when he cast a “contingent” electoral college vote for Mr Trump, despite the fact that Joe Biden won his state.

“(E)very action by Mr. Shafer as a presidential elector nominee or contingent elector in 2020 was specifically undertaken in conformity with and reliance upon the repeated and detailed advice of legal counsel, eliminating any possibility of criminal intent or liability,” Mr Shafer’s lawyers wrote in the letter, which was first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A key component of Mr Shafer’s legal claim is what happened in Hawaii during the 1960 presidential election between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. The state’s initial vote count showed that Nixon had won by less than one tenth of one percentage point, after which Democrats filed for a recount.

While the result remained unsettled, three non-certified Democratic electors cast votes for Kennedy while the certified Republican electors cast their votes for Nixon. When the recount found that Kennedy had in fact won the state by just 115 votes, the non-certified Democratic electors had their votes counted.

“Rather than suggest the uncertified Democratic electors had committed crimes, Judge [Ronald] Jamieson hailed them as heroes, describing their meeting as a critically important step that preserved their ability for their presidential ballots to be counted,” Mr Shafer’s lawyers wrote in their letter.

It will ultimately be up to Ms Willis and, potentially, a group of Georgia jurors to decide how much weight to put behind Mr Shafer’s arguments. Mr Shafer has previously said he was not aware of the extent to which the availability of alternate electors was meant to force then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the result of the election, though the existance of such a plan might be considered a key difference between the Georgia and Hawaii situations.

Ms Willis announced last summer that she was scrutinising the actions of the alternate electors in her probe into the handling of the election. She is expected to announce the charges stemming from the investigation this summer.

Mr Shafer, meanwhile, is scheduled to step down as chair of the state Republican Party in June.