Adam Laxalt, the co-chair of the Trump campaign in Nevada, is fighting ferociously against his state’s decision to reward its six electoral votes to President-elect Joe Biden, alleging widespread voter fraud and hyping litigation to overturn Biden’s victory.
But a nonprofit ethics and transparency group affiliated with Laxalt, Nevada’s former attorney general, has already conceded Biden’s victory and is looking ahead to the new administration.
“It’s become clear that we’re going to be having a Biden team and a Biden administration in 2021,” said Caitlin Sutherland, the executive director of Americans for Public Trust, in an interview on Tuesday. The new administration is “what we will remain focused on going into next year.”
Sutherland stressed that Laxalt’s work with the Trump re-election campaign, and his efforts to invalidate Biden’s win in Nevada, were entirely separate from his work with APT, a tax-exempt nonprofit that’s barred by law from engaging in political or partisan activity. “That is something he does in a personal capacity outside his role in APT,” Sutherland said. “As a 501c3, we, and Adam when he works with us, do not engage in anything with a partisan or political bent.”
But Laxalt maintains his position as APT’s outside counsel and frequent spokesman even as he works with the Trump team in a personal capacity. And the fact that the group he works with is planning for a reality he refuses to concede underscores just how great a divergence has developed within the broader conservative movement. One faction appears unable to acknowledge the reality of Joe Biden’s win—perhaps for fear of offending Trump. Another doesn’t want to get caught flat-footed for when that reality comes about.
Illustrating the political complications that these two pulls can create for the president’s political allies, Sutherland followed up on her initial interview with The Daily Beast to clarify her statement—and hedge her view on the outcome of the election. “As Biden is working to build out his team, APT will provide transparency and scrutiny, even as litigation on the election results are ongoing,” she wrote.
As a leading Trump campaign official in Nevada, Laxalt has been a face of the campaign’s efforts to overturn the state’s presidential contest. Last month, he appeared at a news conference in North Las Vegas—alongside former Trump intelligence chief Ric Grenell and GOP lobbyist Matt Schlapp—to level allegations of widespread voter fraud and preview a lawsuit demanding that a state court declare Trump the winner, despite trailing by more than 33,000 votes.
As part of that lawsuit, the campaign submitted a list of thousands of voters who it said had cast ballots in Nevada despite living out of state. Many of those voters turned out to be military servicemen and their families stationed outside of Nevada, but who are permitted by law to cast ballots in the state.
Like nearly all of the Trump campaign’s election-related lawsuits over the past month, the Nevada effort has so far fallen short. Last week, Nevada’s Supreme Court certified Biden’s win in the state. The campaign’s efforts persist nonetheless, and the president and his attorneys continue to gripe about a nonexistent conspiracy against him perpetrated by high-level government officials—including Republicans—and voting machine companies with nebulous ties to foreign dictators.
Those voting machine conspiracy theories, which largely focus on the company Dominion Voting Systems, have not extended to Nevada, or Laxalt's efforts there. But on Tuesday, the president hailed a Nevada court ruling allowing both presidential campaigns to inspect voting machines used in the state’s largest county. In a tweet on the ruling, Trump tagged Grennell, Schlapp, and Laxalt.
Founded this year, APT uses open records requests and other transparency tools to root out apparent conflicts of interest and ethical breaches among government officials and interest groups. APT is a conservative-leaning group, though Sutherland, a former research director at the National Republican Congressional Committee, said it has and will continue to investigate Republicans and Democrats alike.
“We have demanded accountability and transparency from a variety of groups and politicians from both sides of the aisle. That momentum will not change as we head into a Biden administration,” she said.
APT has already begun to file open records requests for documents related to incoming Biden administration officials, Sutherland said. “We are taking a look at each individual that will be nominated to the cabinet, and who President-elect Biden is surrounding himself with, what that network has done in the past, and what they would mean in a Biden administration.”