Trump’s Legal Advisers Plead Not Guilty in Arizona Election Case

Boris Epshteyn, who oversees Donald J. Trump’s sprawling legal team, pleaded not guilty to nine felony charges on Tuesday in Arizona’s election interference case, highlighting the legal risks for the advisers and allies who attempted to keep Mr. Trump in power after he lost the 2020 presidential election.

Mr. Epshteyn has held onto his baseless assertions that the election was stolen and has not wavered in his support for Mr. Trump. By contrast, he was arraigned on Tuesday along with Jenna Ellis, a lawyer and Trump adviser who was among the former president’s staunchest defenders after the 2020 election, but who has since expressed regret.

Mr. Epshteyn appeared by telephone, and his attorney, Michael Bailey, pleaded not guilty on his behalf in a courtroom in Phoenix.

An attorney for Ms. Ellis also pleaded not guilty on her behalf on Tuesday. Ms. Ellis, appearing on a video screen, stated her name and date of birth and nodded slightly as the judge read her a standard list of admonishments that she not contact any victims, witnesses or co-defendants in the case.

Ms. Ellis pleaded guilty to a felony last year, in a similar case in Georgia. When she entered her plea in an Atlanta courtroom, a tearful Ms. Ellis said, “If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these postelection challenges.” She added, “I look back on this experience with deep remorse.”

Mr. Epshteyn (pronounced EP-stine) has not commented on the case, and his lawyer has not returned requests for comment. Ms. Ellis’s lawyer has also not returned requests for comment.

The Arizona case was brought in April by the state attorney general, Kris Mayes, a Democrat. The 18 defendants have each been charged with nine counts of fraud, forgery and conspiracy. They include seven Trump advisers and 11 Republicans who claimed to be the state’s electors, even though President Biden had already been certified by state officials as the winner in Arizona.

The actions of fake electors in five states — Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Wisconsin and Arizona — are a key part of criminal prosecutions in all of those locations.

One of the fake Arizona electors, a businessman and former Senate candidate named James Lamon, was also arraigned on Tuesday.

“We intend to be very aggressive here,” said Mr. Lamon’s lawyer, Dennis I. Wilenchik, in a recent email. “There is no basis for this case in American jurisprudence.”

“Jim always understood he was asked to sign as part of an alternate slate contingent on obviously Trump winning — otherwise it would make no sense to him at all, or anyone else who was competent,” Mr. Wilenchik said, adding that “no intent to mislead or deceive was in his mind certainly. He is not an election denier.”

Mr. Wilenchik entered a not guilty plea on Mr. Lamon’s behalf on Tuesday. Mr. Lamon appeared on video, sitting at a conference room table beside another of his attorneys, his hands clasped in front of him.

The question of whether the fake electors genuinely intended to be part of a contingency plan has come up in the various cases so far. Texts and emails among Trump campaign advisers, which have surfaced in the inquiries, have shown that one of the lawyers advising the campaign pushed to insert language into the documents clarifying that the electors intended to come into play only if the courts had certified them for the 2020 election. But that idea was rebuffed by one of the Trump advisers, Mike Roman, who also faces charges in Arizona.

Fifty-two people, including Mr. Trump, have now been charged in the five state prosecutions. None of the cases are expected to go to trial before the November election. Mr. Trump also faces federal charges over election interference.

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