A North Carolina donor who gave $2.5 million to a group promising to help President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the general election is now suing to get his money back.
Fred Eshelman, who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans in 2020, according to Federal Election Commission data, says in his lawsuit that the organization True the Vote had not fulfilled the conditions of his monetary gift.
The organization disputes the lawsuit’s claims as “not accurate.”
According to the suit filed Wednesday, Eshelman allegedly wired $2 million on Nov. 5 and an additional $500,000 on Nov. 13 that was intended to be put toward True the Vote’s “Validate the Vote” strategy.
The initiative was designed to investigate and litigate claims of voter fraud and “solicit whistleblower testimonies,” “build public momentum,” “galvanize Republican legislative support in key states,” “analyze data to identify patterns of election subversion” and “file lawsuits … with the capacity to be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States.”
True the Vote dropped lawsuits in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin on Nov. 16.
Trump has pushed baseless claims that there was widespread voter fraud and has called for President-elect Joe Biden’s victory is several states to be overturned. But experts have said the 2020 general election was one of the most secure in the nation’s history.
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The Trump campaign and its allies have faced repeated court defeats in election cases. They have filed lawsuits, demanded recounts and protested procedures in several states to try and throw out ballots and block certification of results in Michigan, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, key battlegrounds that went to Biden.
However, the Trump campaign’s lawsuits did not allege widespread fraud, despite public claims to the contrary. The failed court efforts have undermined the president’s continued, baseless claims of fraud, and some top Republican donors have shifted focus to Republican efforts to win the Georgia Senate runoffs.
Eshelman said in his lawsuit that True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht told him she believed Validate the Vote was necessary because of “significant evidence that there were numerous instances of illegal ballots being cast and counted in the 2020 general election.”
What Eshelman’s lawsuit says
Eshelman’s lawsuit alleges that True the Vote’s “consistent delay and inability to make progress on the goals … suggested that many of those goals might not be met since many important deadlines relating to state election results were rapidly approaching.”
Engelbrecht and the organization were “vague” and unresponsive to requests by Eshelman for updates on their progress in the days after Election Day, he claimed.
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True the Vote says on its website that it aims to “empower and equip citizens to ensure that our election process is protected from fraud and exploitation.”
“While we stand by the voters’ testimony that was brought forth, barriers to advancing our arguments, coupled with constraints on time, made it necessary for us to pursue a different path,” Engelbrecht wrote in a statement on Nov. 17.
The lawsuit also states that an attorney for the group, Jim Bopp, said $1 million would be returned if Eshelman agreed not to sue.
Engelbrecht said in a statement to USA TODAY that the funds were used for the goals of the Validate the Vote initiative, and that those efforts are ongoing despite the lawsuits being dropped.