Former White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Friday after a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay found him guilty of seditious conspiracy, the lesser of two charges leveled against him. A portly Klain appeared alongside counsel—a veteran criminal defense attorney and senior partner of a prestigious New York City law firm–who identified himself as Jeremy Bartholomew and said he would speak for Klain for the duration of the tribunal. He immediately requested a mistrial, saying Klain could not be found guilty of treason or conspiracy to commit election fraud because his client, though chief of staff and a senior advisor to the Biden campaign, was a powerless, ineffectual puppet whose titles were ceremonial. Klain, he said, had “diminished intelligence” and was mentally incapable of hatching plots that could influence the outcome of a presidential election.
“First, I reject this tribunal, or commission, as you call it as unconstitutional. Any evidence against my client, which I haven’t seen since military court apparently doesn’t believe in discovery, is specious. I have prepared a proffer asking for a mistrial,” Bartholomew said.
Vice Adm. Darse E. Crandall glanced at the document. “Request denied. You can argue evidence after its presented.”
“This is improper, admiral. How can I possibly refute evidence I haven’t had an opportunity to review in depth?”
Adm. Crandall glossed over the question. “You say detainee Klain is intellectually handicapped, yet he’s a lawyer himself—from Harvard, no less, class of 1982. Graduated top of his High School class and was on the school’s Brain Game team. He coached Obama on how to debate in 2008 and 2012. He has a long list of intellectual accomplishments.”
“My client is ‘book smart,’ admiral, and he has a photographic memory. There’s a difference between being able to recite names, dates, and places and the ability to devise complex conspiratorial plots like you’re accusing him of,” Bartholomew argued.
“We’ll see,” the admiral said.
He called his only witness, Rufus Gifford, who from 2013 to 2017 served as the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark. Prior to that, he was on the senior leadership team of President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. He was also a senior staff member of the Democratic National Committee.
Under direct examination, Gifford testified that he had retired from politics when Klain in mid-2018 approached him with a proposition. Biden had appointed Klain senior campaign advisor, and Klain was seeking loyal underlings to help Biden unseat Trump by any means necessary.
“Ron Klain offered me $50,000 /month to join the team. He said, and these are his exact words, ‘Biden will be President in 2020 even though he doesn’t have a snowballs chance in hell of beating Trump.’ I declined, but he insisted I hear him out, and he told me a fantastical tale about how easy it was to exploit the voting system. How, if Biden was losing, he’d have people on standby to pump fraudulent ballots into the system at what he called ‘magic hour.’ Magic hour was a few hours, actually, between 2:00-5:00 a.m..”
Bartholomew interrupted the testimony, strenuously objecting that he hadn’t been given an chance to vet the witness.
“Relax, Mr. Bartholomew. You can cross if you want—when I’m finished,” Vice Admiral Crandall said.
Klain, Gifford continued, was so proud of his idea that he couldn’t contain his hubris and felt compelled to elaborate on how he planned to hire thousands of “mules”—to stuff drop boxes in swing states with fake absentee ballots.
“I told him thanks but no thanks,” Gifford said. “It was insane.”
“But that wasn’t the last time you saw him, was it, Mr. Gifford?”
“No, he called me two weeks afterward, asking to meet again. He wouldn’t say why over the phone.”
“And did you meet?” Vice Adm. Crandall asked.
“I did. Only because I feared he might try to implicate me in something for refusing him. This time I switched my phone on before we met for dinner. It was in my breast pocket and didn’t capture video, but the audio was recorded,” Gifford said.
Vice Adm. Crandall played the audio for the panel. On it, Klain discussed hiring thousands of ballot stuffers to alter the outcome of the election in Biden’s favor, if needed, saying, too, that the country was rife with “broke people” and “sympathizers” who would gladly accept five or ten dollars in exchange for each stuffed ballot. Klain said he wanted Gifford to set up non-profit organizations through which the mules would get paid, and Gifford could be heard politely refusing the offer, saying the risk was not worth the reward.
“Do you have any clue, Mr. Gifford, why he reached out to you instead of someone else?”
“I honestly don’t know. We knew each other in the Obama White House, but we were never good buddies or pals,” Gifford said.
“Maybe your client is a stupid as you say, Mr. Bartholomew,” Vice Adm. Crandall said. “You may question the witness if you wish.”
Bartholomew stood. “Where are these mules? Do you have any proof my client paid any one of them? Are they here to testify today? Mr. Gifford, did you witness my client pay anyone?”
“No further questions,” Bartholomew said.
“Mr. Gifford, prior to these proceedings we asked you to watch the film 2000 Mules. Have you reviewed it? And if so, does it accurately depict election fraud as described to you by the defendant?”
“I have, and it does,” Gifford said.
“Let the record reflect that the panel has also viewed the film. I submit burden of proof has been met, that detainee Klain not only conspired to commit election fraud but carried out his plan, which fits the definition of treason and is punishable by death,” the admiral said.
But the panel disagreed. They found Klain guilty of seditious conspiracy but not guilty on the count of treason, and sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment at GITMO’s Camp Delta. The admiral expressed disappointment with the verdict but said he’d abide the panel’s recommendation.
Bartholomew said he would appeal the verdict to the highest authority, without specifying an individual or a group.