A right-wing lawyer and activist, Cleta Mitchell is the secretary of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and a senior legal fellow at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), where she chairs its Election Integrity Network (EIN). She also chairs the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a nonprofit that has backed restrictions on voting—including limiting mail-in voting during the 2020 election—and is on the board of the Council for National Policy (CNP), a right-wing Christian political lobbying network.
Despite playing a central role in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, Mitchell has so far escaped prosecution. When Fulton County, Georgia’s District Attorney Fani Willis unveiled her sprawling RICO case against Trump and his co-conspirators, Mitchell was not among those charged—despite the grand jury’s recommendation that she be held accountable. Given that she seems to have risen above the law, she remains one of the most effective players in ongoing efforts to undermine American democracy.
“Cleta Mitchell played this key role in trying to overturn the 2020 election and is now working to shape the rules and practices in 2024 and beyond,” notes Brendan Fischer, deputy executive director of Documented. “She’s in a place where she’s connected with the election-denying grassroots, continues to have an open door with elected officials, and can move significant financial resources toward backing the latest election conspiracy projects.”
Mitchell, a former president of the Republican National Lawyers Association, has served as counsel to several conservative organizations, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Mitchell actively advised Trump in his failed attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and participated in the infamous post-election phone call in which the president urged Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” enough votes for him to claim victory in the swing state. After The Washington Post broke the news about the call, she was forced to resign as a partner at the law firm Foley & Lardner.
January 6, 2021
- In December 2021, Mitchell challenged a House Select Committee subpoena seeking her phone records—yet she ultimately provided testimony in late spring 2022. Several other figures in Trump’s inner circle followed her lead and fought subpoenas issued by the House committee, including former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, conspiracy theorist and talk radio host Alex Jones, and Trump attorney John Eastman.
- “On Dec. 30,  Cleta Mitchell wrote to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and offered to send some 1,800 pages of documents purporting to support claims of election fraud,” The Washington Post Magazine reported in October 2021.
- On Dec. 10, 2020, metadata from a letter posted by CNP offshoot the Conservative Action Project showed that Mitchell wrote a letter signed by right-wing activists that called on “legislators to throw out the collective 25.5 million presidential votes cast by the residents of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—a total that represents roughly 16% of all votes cast in the presidential race,” as the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reported.
- On November 13, 2020, Mitchell participated in a panel at the CNP meeting in McClean, Virginia led by longtime voter suppression activist J.Kenneth Blackwell titled, “Election Results and Legal Battles: What Now?,” an agenda obtained by CMD detailed. Also on the panel were PILF President J. Christian Adams and Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative at The Heritage Foundation.
- “Action Steps” from the November 2020 panel discussion obtained by CMD showed that CNP members were asked to “create public demand for state legislators to get involved in the process, with states calling other states to amplify that ‘We the people’ say it is [state legislators’] duty to appoint electors to the Electoral College, in states where constitutional rights have been violated and evidence of substantial fraud has been established.”
- On August 21, 2020, Mitchell participated in two panels at the CNP meeting in Arlington, Virginia facilitated by Judicial Watch President Thomas Fitton on “election integrity,” as CMD reported. The first focused on “securing the ballot box” and included Adams and Spakovsky. The second focused on action steps and included the four mentioned above, along with National Review columnist John Fund and Capital Research Center President Scott Walter.
The Big Lie
- According to a video obtained by Documented, at CNP’s February 2020 meeting Mitchell was identified as one of three conservative lawyers developing “action items that legislators can take to question the validity of an election.” The disclosure came up in a talk by Lisa Nelson, CEO of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
- In the days following the 2020 presidential election, Mitchell made a series of public appearances and posts on social media denying that Biden had won and spreading disinformation about the vote count.
- On Nov. 7, Mitchell appeared on Fox News claiming that the election could not yet be called and spreading unfounded rumors: “We’re already double checking and finding dead people having voted. We’re going to be finding people have voted across state lines, voted in two states, illegal voting, noncitizens and that sort of thing.”
- “GA. Recount Is A FAKE!!!” she tweeted on Nov. 13. On the same day, she tweeted, without any evidence, that the Cobb County hand recount was “a sham. Total sham. It is cover for the SOS.”
- Mitchell sits on the board of the Council for National Policy (CNP), which has extensive ties to the so-called #StopTheSteal movement that followed the 2020 presidential election.
- Mitchell has worked with FreedomWorks on initiatives to restrict voting rights. FreedomWorks, a right-wing nonprofit, promoted so-called “Protect the Vote” rallies on Nov. 6, 2020.
- On Jan. 2, 2021, Mitchell participated in a call with Trump, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and Raffensperger’s legal counsel. During the call, which lasted about an hour, Trump repeatedly urged Raffensperger to alter Georgia’s presidential election result. Meadows told others on the call that Mitchell was “not the attorney of record but has been involved.”
- During the call, Trump claimed that “250 to 300,000 ballots were dropped mysteriously into the rolls” and suggested that Raffensperger “find” forged ballots: “I just want to find 11,7800 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”
- Mitchell, meanwhile, repeatedly cast doubt on the Georgia vote count. “The people of Georgia and the people of America have a right to know the answers. And you have data and records that we don’t have access to,” she said. “You can keep telling us and making public statements that you investigated this and [there’s] nothing to see here. But we don’t know about that. All we know is what you tell us.”
- According to reporting by Documented, Mitchell continued to promote election falsehoods in the months following Biden’s inauguration, including calling Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger a “pathological liar” and claiming that “there are more illegal votes included in the certified results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia than the margin of victory between President Trump and Joe Biden.” She made these remarks on a talk radio show hosted by Jim Blasingame.
- Documents obtained by The Arizona Republic showed Mitchell and other pro-Trump Republicans pushing the Arizona state legislature to conduct an investigation of the election there.
- According to Mitchell’s emails, she arranged for the donation of $1 million to three companies subcontracted by Cyber Ninjas, the partisan auditor hired by Arizona Republicans to review the 2020 Maricopa County presidential election results.