Last month, a group of lawyers sent Trump-endorsed Republican nominee for U.S. House Harriet Hageman a letter imploring her to refrain from claiming the 2020 presidential election was “rigged.”
Following her vitriolic public response to that letter — which she characterized as “threatening” — the group decided to send Hageman another.
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The second memo, delivered on Friday, had 52 signatories — including former Wyoming GOP Chairman Jack Speight, former attorney general Patrick Crank and three past presidents of the Wyoming State Bar.
“As was your right, you chose not to respond to us directly but to instead publish our letter on your campaign website and to characterize it as a threat, presumably to garner further support from election deniers for your political campaign,” it says. “While we were pleased to see that you did not repeat your false statement that the 2020 Presidential election was ‘rigged,’ we were disappointed that you continue to make vague statements about its legitimacy.”
In August, Hageman said publicly for the first time that she believed the 2020 presidential was “rigged to make sure that President Trump could not get reelected.”
“What happened in 2020 is a travesty,” she said. “It should never happen again. We need to make sure our elections are free and fair.”
Hageman went on to beat the incumbent Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney by nearly 40 points in a closely-watched primary election. Cheney’s vote to impeach Trump, as well as her role on the Jan. 6 committee, made her a target of the former president. Hageman was Trump’s choice to oust Cheney from Wyoming’s lone House seat.
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Last month, 41 lawyers signed and sent a letter to Hageman telling her that these comments “serve to undermine public confidence in the outcome of our last presidential election” and were “contrary to at least the spirit, if not the letter” of the oath take when admitted to the Wyoming bar.
The lawyers asked that Hageman distance herself from election deniers and refrain from making any more statements questioning the 2020 election.
“We hope that you will take our concerns to heart, and that all your actions in the days ahead will serve to uphold the Rule of Law and its cousin — Fact-based Truth — in accordance with the very highest standards of a Wyoming lawyer,” the first letter said.
In a public response to the letter posted to her campaign website, Hageman said the lawyers “barely disguised their threat to file a bar complaint” against her for “exercising her 1st Amendment right to free speech.”
The second letter to Hageman addresses this point, saying that the previous message was neither sent to the the State Bar’s disciplinary counsel nor meant as a threat to do so.
“But exercising our freedom of speech and taking a position publicly, challenging what she did and what she said, let’s the people make the ultimate decision,” Speight, who was chairman of the Wyoming GOP in the ’70s, told the Star-Tribune.
Speight didn’t sign the first letter but decided to join the group for the second letter after Crank, the former attorney general, asked him if he would be interested in doing so. He noted that he doesn’t speak for the perspectives of other lawyers who signed the letter. The Star-Tribune reached out to multiple other signatories but did not hear back from them by deadline.
The Wyoming State Bar did, however, decline in July to investigate a complaint against Hageman filed by attorney Darby Hoggatt, Wyofile reported. That complaint cites a televised June debate between Hageman and Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney where Hageman appeared to “support the Coup that former President Trump attempted on January 6, 2021,” per the words of Hoggatt.
“If a Wyoming attorney supports the overthrow of our democracy, how can she maintain her license to practice law?” he questioned in the complaint.
The complaint, as well as the September letter sent by the group of lawyers to Hageman, point to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose license to practice law in New York was suspended for similar claims that the 2020 presidential election was “rigged.”
There’s an important distinction between Hageman and Giuliani’s situation, however; Giuliani made those claims in court while he was acting in his capacity as a lawyer. Hageman, on the other hand, was speaking at a campaign event. That was also the only instance to date where Hageman made those claims in public.
University of Utah law professor Bob Keiter, an expert on the Constitution, previously told the Star-Tribune that “courts have been very protective of what they call political speech.”
In her statement denouncing the first letter, Hageman took a different tone than her August remarks.
Instead of asserting that the election was “rigged,” Hageman said in her statement that there “remain serious questions about that election, including hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Mark Zuckerberg to commandeer local elections offices in Democrat precincts, and the fact that a Pennsylvania court ruled that their state’s mail-in voting law is unconstitutional.”
The recent letter notes that courts found the more than 60 lawsuits filed across the country attempting to overturn the 2020 elections to be “factually or legally insufficient,” and that the judges presiding over those cases followed legal processes for coming to that conclusion.
“Irrespective of who the judges were, there was a process the judges were required to follow, there were laws that the judges were required to apply, and there was proof that had to be made,” it says.
“When that process was followed, and all of the evidence was presented, and all of the arguments were made on both sides of the issues, and all of the laws were applied, and all of the appeals had been taken, all courts, acting independently of each other, reached the same conclusion—which was there were no violations of election laws or fraud that caused the election results to be wrong or would require the election to be voided or require voting to be conducted all over again.”
The letter also says the lawyers were “taken aback” by Hageman’s statement that their views were those of “leftist elites,” as the group is made up of people from “different political parties” who have “switched affiliations over the years” as their views and political parties have evolved. It points out that Hageman has also changed politically over the years; she was not always a Trump supporter, and actually backed his main rival for the GOP nomination Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2016 presidential primaries. Hageman was also once a Cheney ally.
Speight, who identifies as a conservative Republican, said that political leanings are “certainly not” what the lawyers in the group have in common and that, in fact, it was an unusual group to come together.
“This is the first time I’m aware of that I’m seeing a group of professionals with varying political persuasion take issue with a candidate’s honesty,” he told the Star-Tribune.
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