MNGOP Chair recruiting Minnesota Republicans to amplify Trump claims of ballot fraud

In a call with local GOP activists and leaders, Chair Jennifer Carnahan said she would ask Minnesota Republicans to back Trump claims of ballot fraud

President Donald Trump in Rochester, days before Election Day. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer.

Minnesota GOP Chairperson Jennifer Carnahan told party activists on Thursday night that she would help amplify claims of ballot fraud made by President Donald Trump and national Republican leaders, even though they are baseless assertions disputed by election officials of both parties. 

Carnahan said that earlier Thursday, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel asked her and other GOP officials around the country to recruit elected Republicans to parrot the false claims of fraud.

“I’m going to be making calls tomorrow to all of our leaders asking them to help us be a voice,” Carnahan said during the call Thursday with local Minnesota GOP party officials and activists.

The call was just hours before the vote counting outfit Decision Desk projected former Vice President Joe Biden would win Pennsylvania, giving him more than the required 270 electoral votes to win the presidency, while he was also in strong contention to win Georgia, Arizona and Nevada. The Associated Press has not called the Pennsylvania race as of midday Friday, however. The Trump campaign invested heavily in Minnesota, with frequent visits by Trump, his children and other surrogates. But despite losing Minnesota by fewer than 45,000 votes in 2016, Trump lost Minnesota this week by more than 230,000 votes — seven percentage points — extending Minnesota Republicans’ 14-year run of statewide defeats.

In an invitation-only Zoom call with activists to debrief on the results, Carnahan and party political director Andy Aplikowski provided a post-election overview of their gains and losses, as well as how they would regroup. Carnahan said she had participated in calls with the Republican National Committee, which was strategizing about how it could support Trump as he tries to erroneously claim victory. 

“Regarding the field staff that we had in Minnesota, at this point, the field staff has been re-resourced or redeployed or reallocated to help out right now in Michigan, Georgia and Arizona,” she said. “We need to bring all these states home for the president; their campaign feels like we’re gonna bring all them home. So we are going to deliver this great Donald Trump another four years in this country.”

A Minnesota Reformer reporter registered for the call using his full name and work email address after a GOP activist forwarded a link to the call.

Carnahan did not immediately respond to questions or a request for comment sent by text message, and MNGOP party officials did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

A request for comment from the Republican National Committee was not returned.

Carnahan said she would also put out a fundraising call to assist in national efforts to pay for recount efforts and challenge vote totals. “If we can help push for people to donate, even if it’s just $10, $5, $25, it’s going to help with all these efforts,” she said. “That’s the biggest ask that (McDaniel) had to all of us state party chairs.”

Just hours after she finished speaking, Biden pulled ahead in Georgia tallies. His lead in Michigan had grown to nearly 150,000 votes. 

By Friday morning, Carnahan retweeted an RNC fundraising tweet, saying: “Help our President. Donate here.”

In an interview with the Star Tribune on Friday, she appeared to be executing on the effort, criticizing election law changes in states like Minnesota that expanded mail-in voting efforts amid the pandemic. “When changes like that are brought forward at a mass level in multiple states, it does raise questions, it does raise some doubt,” Carnahan said. 

Despite claims to the contrary, there’s nothing unusual or nefarious about the slow pace of election returns. Unlike Minnesota, many states do not begin processing absentee ballots until Election Day. This year, millions of Americans voted by mail — especially Democrats who did not want to be exposed to COVID-19 by voting in person. 

Mail voting is used widely in both Republican and Democratic states. As with in-person voting, voter fraud is exceedingly rare with mail ballots, according to numerous studiesTrump formed a commission headed up by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — a fervent believer in widespread voter fraud — to find evidence of voter fraud in the 2016 election, but the commission disbanded without finding any. 

Still, Trump has filed legal challenges in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia while spreading falsehoods about the election process that he is decrying as rigged. On Thursday, he issued a brief statement to reporters at the White House claiming a conspiracy by Democrats, election officials and the media to steal the election offering, though he offered no evidence.

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” Trump said.

Trump’s family is questioning why some Republican elected officials are not defending the president, particularly after other prominent GOP officials have criticized Trump’s attacks on the electoral process. “Where are Republicans! Have some backbone. Fight against this fraud. Our voters will never forget you if your sheep!” Eric Trump tweeted.

So far, at least two Republican governors have weighed in: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who tweeted that Trump “has been fighting the establishment, the mainstream media, and now rigged election systems on behalf of the American people and our way of life.”

At least one Minnesota Republican, U.S. Rep.-elect Michelle Fischbach, the former state senator and lieutenant governor who unseated DFL U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson this week, took to Fox News to sow distrust of the vote totals. 

“I believe he did win,” she said on Fox & Friends. “They didn’t win the votes of the American people, they’re just finding votes at this point.”


(The votes are not being “found.” Legally cast ballots are still being counted.) 

U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, meanwhile, declined to condemn Trump’s Thursday remarks. “I’m not a lawyer and I’m not going to play one in any conversation,” he said in an interview with the Star Tribune.

Election integrity factored heavily in Carnahan’s call with activists on Thursday, with local party leaders questioning how some local races in Minnesota appeared to be favoring Republicans as ballots were being counted but later turned out in favor of Democrats, though it was unclear which races they were referring to.

In Minnesota, Republicans managed to narrow Democrats’ majority in the state House and hold their majority in the state Senate, despite Trump’s loss.  

“Election integrity is a big deal,” one activist said during the call. “I know that we know that fraud is occurring here in Minnesota, as well as in many other places, and I think it’s time for us to drill down and see what the processes are, and be in there and observing and following up with things.”

Carnahan did little to dissuade activists who shared other concerns, including a debunked theory that the use of Sharpies to fill out ballots in Arizona had invalidated votes for Trump. 

She also said she had heard directly from the right-wing activist group, Project Veritas, about a recent report from Michigan alleging ballot irregularities. 

“I do know that I got a text today, and I’ve been a bit behind on getting back to people, from Project Veritas directly sending me a link to a tweet that they had put out,” she said. “Ronna McDaniel, RNC chair, used to be the chair in Michigan, so she’s heavily invested in that state, and I know that there’s some lawsuits that they brought forward… I don’t know the exact details, but I can certainly make some calls tomorrow and try to get some more information on it.”

The roughly hour-and-forty minute call also touched on plans to shore up the state party’s future election strategy, which was bolstered this year by Trump’s investment — resources that will likely evaporate.

“We had a fully functioning Death Star going into the state,” Aplikowski said, referring to the secret weapon of the evil Empire in the Star Wars franchise, which was destroyed by a ragtag band of virtuous heroes. “I’ve heard what it’s like when a presidential campaign targets your state and actually comes with boots on the ground, and they not only came but they stayed right up until the very end.”

Despite three visits to Minnesota by Trump in the final weeks of the campaign, his hopes to win Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes were dashed quickly on Tuesday. 

The Associated Press declared Biden won Minnesota at 11:14 p.m., just hours after polls closed in the state.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.