How Michael P. Farris Tried to Withhold the 2020 Election Result

WASHINGTON — One of the nation’s foremost religious conservative lawyers played a key role in the lawsuit that the Republican state attorney general filed in December in a final attempt to overturn President Biden’s election, documents show.

The lawyer, Michael P. Farris, is the chief executive of a group called the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is active in opposing abortion and gay rights. He circulated a detailed draft of the lawsuit, which Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton eventually submitted to President Donald J. It had filed against states including Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin in an effort to help Trump stay in office.

Mr Paxton filed suit on 7 December after making some changes, but the bulk of the draft was circulated by Mr Farris.

An additional 17 Republican attorneys general filed a brief with the Supreme Court supporting Mr. Paxton’s lawsuit. Within four days, the court dismissed the case.

But Mr Faris’s role has shed light on how religious conservatives backed Mr Trump’s failed attempts to retain power by blocking authentication of Mr Biden’s victory.

“Please find a much better version of the attached complaint,” wrote Mr. Faris in an email on November 30 to the chief deputy attorney general in South Carolina, one of several Republicans whom Mr. Faris and a team of other conservative lawyers wrote. had written. Trying to persuade him to file a lawsuit. “I’ll call you up and update you on the options.”

The email, obtained through an open records request by researchers from The New York Times and Mount Holyoke College, included a detailed 42-page legal complaint accusing states of violating the Constitution by changing rules related to absentee ballots and other election details. was alleged. Formal approval from state legislatures.

The complaint sent by Mr. Faris simply omitted the identity of the Republican Attorney General’s office, which ultimately litigation instead writing “000 Street Ave., Capital City, ST 00000, (111) 222-3333, fsurname@oag.StateA .gov, Council of Records.”

Mr Faris’s involvement, which was not previously reported, came as part of a broader push by religious conservatives to get Mr Trump re-elected. His role intensified after the pandemic hit in early 2020 and states began to loosen absentee ballot rules, which religious conservatives feared would increase the participation of liberal voters.

Mr. Faris made a name for himself in the 1980s as the founder of a legal group that successfully propelled children across the country to allow homeschooling, based on the belief that only through home-schooling , away from the secular influence in public schools, may have led to the rise of a broader Christian movement in the United States.

In the Alliance Defending Freedom, Mr. Farris has helped drive the organization’s campaign against abortion and gay rights, sued by Mr. Farris’ team, which sought to protect the rights of a Colorado cake shop. In which the wedding cake was refused to be sold. Gay Couples, a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Mr Farris declined a request for an interview, but in an email he confirmed his role in the post-election effort, saying that his participation was not part of his work at the Alliance for Defending Freedom, a non-profit organization. For-profit group that is prohibited under federal law. playing a role in a political campaign.

“While it is true that I care about the issue on a personal level, it is not something on which the ADF operates in any capacity,” he wrote. “As President and CEO, my charge is focused on the mission of the ADF, which is to defend the God-given freedoms of Americans. I hope that all Americans will take this issue seriously, on the issue of electoral integrity. Nothing to say about the way forward.

A spokesman for Mr Paxton did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr Faris was not a fan of Trump prior to his election, and publicly urged other conservative Christians to vote for another Republican candidate in 2016.

In an opinion column for the Washington Post in June 2016, Mr. Faris wrote, “His candidacy is the opposite of everything we’ve achieved.”

But Mr. Faris and other religious conservatives later told his followers that Mr. Trump was willing to support his appointments of conservative judges, his efforts to block any federal spending on abortion, and attempts to discriminate by some business owners. with them was proved wrong. Gay. This also involved a Colorado cake shop, which won the right to refuse to sell wedding cakes to gay couples – in a legal argument supported by the Trump Justice Department.

Religious groups were active in publicly challenging the outcome of the November election from the outset – even a more covert campaign was underway, involving Mr. Faris and others, such as Mark D. Martin, dean of the Regent University School of Law, a self-described Christian institution.

Mr Martin, a former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, and Mr Faris were both involved, emails obtained by The Times show, in efforts to recruit a Republican attorney general to file suit with the US Supreme Court. effort by Mr Trump’s aide.

Drafts for the trial were also sent to the Louisiana Attorney General, Jeff Landry, a Republican. But the most intense efforts have targeted South Carolina and Texas, the emails suggest, as conservative activists tried to persuade South Carolina’s attorney general, Alan Wilson, to serve as the main plaintiff.

“Mike Farris, who is the president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly the Alliance Defense Fund), will probably send the report by this evening,” Wilson said in an email dated November 27, sent by a conservative activist. and author Don Brown, referring to reports examining presidential election results and ongoing challenges.

Three days later, Mr. Faris wrote to Mr. Wilson’s office with a draft of the lawsuit he wanted Mr. Wilson to consider filing in the US Supreme Court. According to the email, Mr. Faris then spoke to Mr. Wilson about a possible lawsuit.

“We are in constant dialogue with other state AGs and state AG employees,” Mr. Wilson wrote in an email on December 3, which was also obtained via an open-record request. “Had a follow-up conversation with Mike Farris yesterday morning before flying back to Texas. Mike was very friendly and knowledgeable about the legal issues raised in the petition.”

But Mr. Wilson objected to legal arguments with Mr. Faris, he said, questioning whether one state has the right to sue another state over election procedures, or to “remedy” the Supreme Court. what could be appropriate. for such a legal dispute, given that it involved the results of the presidential election.

“There are other issues that have been raised that are difficult to address but our staff, along with other states, are still working on this issue,” Mr. Wilson said.

Not disappointed, the team of conservative activists ramped up their efforts to enlist Mr. Paxton, who went ahead with his lawsuit on behalf of the state of Texas within days.

“Our country stands at an important crossroads,” said the complaint filed by Mr. Paxton in its opening argument. Those words were verbatim omitted from the draft sent by Mr. Faris, as stated in the latter passage that “either the Constitution matters and must be followed, even if some officials consider it inconvenient or out of date.” , or is it just a piece of parchment on display at the National Archives. We ask the Court to choose the former.”

Jim Rutenberg Contributed reporting.

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