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North Dakota's Wrigley pushed for recounts in contested states after 2020 election, book says

The Republican attorney general said he's very confident he "did not and would never advocate for anything other than strict adherence" to state and federal laws.

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North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley speaks at a press conference in Fargo in September 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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BISMARCK — North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley, then serving as a federal prosecutor, allegedly advocated for a "last ditch effort" to demand vote recounts in contested states after the 2020 election, according to a new book about the lead-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Wrigley's idea eventually made it to former President Donald Trump's right-hand man, former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman writes in "The Breach."

The book published Tuesday, Sept. 27, says U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., forwarded a message from Wrigley about possible recounts to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows as Trump and his legal team disputed the results of the November 2020 election. Riggleman argues Meadows was at the epicenter of a fight to overturn the election.

Trump lost the election to Democratic challenger Joe Biden, but the former Republican president has continuously made unsupported claims that mass voter fraud occurred in the 2020 election.

Wrigley and Cramer say they acted properly after the election and were not part of any effort to overturn its result, but critics say they are complicit in an attempt to dismantle the American democratic process.

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Riggleman, who worked as a staffer on a House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, writes:

North Dakota senator Kevin Cramer forwarded Meadows a note from that state’s US attorney, Drew Wrigley, who felt “the Trump legal team has made a joke of this whole thing” and had his own idea for a “last ditch effort” in crucial states.

“Demand state wide recount of absentee/mail-in ballots in line with pre-existing state law with regard to signature comparisons. Legislative leaders could pledge to abide by the results, no matter what. If state officials refuse that recount, the legislature would then act under the constitution, selecting the slate of electors,” Wrigley explained.

Wrigley suggested a rejection of the demand for a recount would “call into question the vote itself” and lend “credibility” to any alternate electors.

The book does not indicate when Wrigley wrote the note, but Wrigley and Cramer said it would have been after the Nov. 3 election and before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters.

Wrigley said he cannot recall crafting the message to Cramer and has not located record of the correspondence, but he does not dispute the characterization of his advocacy for "integrity in voting and compliance with state and federal law."

The Republican attorney general, who was appointed to the post in February after the death of Wayne Stenehjem, said he's very confident he "did not and would never advocate for anything other than strict adherence" to pre-existing state and federal laws.

Wrigley said once state legislatures in Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia did not find evidence of mass fraud, the election was settled and Biden was the legitimate winner.

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Cramer said he does not recall passing along Wrigley's note to Meadows and could not find any related text messages in his phone, but he did not deny receiving or forwarding the note.

The Republican senator said he doesn't understand why his or Wrigley's actions would be considered dubious, adding that Wrigley was simply "stating obvious end-of-the-rope legal and constitutional measures.”

“At the end of the day, the evidence was overwhelming there wasn’t anything illegal (with the election)," Cramer said. "My thinking was let's just make sure we cross every 't,' dot every 'i' and make sure we do what we can to give confidence to people that everything’s been done that can be done to count every vote. And that’s what we did."

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U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., speaks at a rally in support of President Donald Trump in Bismarck on Saturday, Nov. 7.
Kyle Martin / Forum News Service

Cramer, along with all but six of his Republican Senate colleagues, voted to certify that Biden won the election following the Jan. 6 riot.

Democratic-NPL Chairman Patrick Hart said the allegations of Wrigley's post-election suggestion of unnecessary recounts are damning. Hart said Wrigley was "definitely not staying in his lane” by involving himself in national politics while serving as a federal prosecutor.

“In my opinion, (Wrigley) was working to push forward a coup that we saw on the national level," Hart said. "There was violence at the Capitol, and when we have the discussion about who was involved in that, all of a sudden it’s our now-attorney general.”

The Democratic chairman is not a lawyer and said he didn't want to evaluate Wrigley's action through a legal lens, but noted that "illegal and unethical are two different things, and when we talk about the ethics of what happened, I definitely think he got his feet a little wet.”

Hart called on Wrigley to release any record of his messages to Cramer in the wake of the election, noting that the attorney general recently expressed disappointment over the deletion of Stenehjem's email account by a former staffer.

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Republican Gov. Doug Burgum said through a spokesman he was not aware of the alleged exchange between Wrigley and Cramer, and he declined to comment on the matter. Burgum appointed Wrigley as attorney general.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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