Cleta Mitchell, one of a handful of lawyers who attempted to get the 2020 presidential election overturned on behalf of then-President Donald Trump in part by making baseless allegations of fraud, is now working with right-wing organizations to recruit an “army of citizens” in order to monitor elections, The New York Times detailed in a report Monday.
Through what is called the Election Integrity Network, Mitchell is working with groups like the Tea Party Patriots and the Republican National Committee, according to the report. The Election Integrity Network is part of the Conservative Partnership Institute, where former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is a senior partner. Save America PAC, Trump’s political action committee, gave the institute $1 million in 2021.
The nature of Mitchell’s work “promote[s] particularly aggressive methods — with a focus on surveillance — that appear intended to feed on activists’ distrust and create pressure on local officials, rather than ensure voters’ access to the ballot,” the report states. Her organizing efforts in Virginia, for instance, have supported a coalition that includes a group that favors the hand-counting of ballots. That group, Virginians for Americans First, was financed by Patrick Byrne, a major figure in Trump allies’ fundraising schemes based off false election fraud claims.
Speaking to more than 150 activists in Pennsylvania recently, Mitchell described the motivations for her work: “We are taking the lessons we learned in 2020 and we are going forward to make sure they never happen again.”
When asked about her efforts at this event, Mitchell declined to speak to the Times, but later emailed a glossy statement saying, “The American election system envisions citizen engagement and we are training people to assume the roles outlined in the statutes.”
Mitchell has worked on activist outreach with Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, through the Council for National Policy, a conservative networking group, the report notes. Thomas herself worked to have the 2020 election results overridden, as she contacted not only the Trump White House and Republican members of Congress with pleas to ignore the will of the people, but GOP state lawmakers in Arizona as well.
It was Mitchell who, having been selected by Trump in August 2020 to lead lawsuits after the election, brought onboard lawyer John Eastman. A memo Eastman composed in which he instructed then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject electors from battleground states like Arizona where Joe Biden had won was clearly illegal, a judge ruled in March. Like Thomas, Eastman contacted state GOP legislators — this time in Pennsylvania — claiming they could just toss out valid absentee ballots.
Mitchell was also on the January 2021 phone call in which Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger to “find” enough votes to ensure that Biden did not come out on top.