Photo: AP

Update, 7:20 pm: A Richmond court judge has order Shaun Brown off the ballot in what he referred to as a case of “out and out fraud,” according to the Washington Post. Five of Rep. Scott W. Taylor’s staffers pled the fifth in court, refusing to answer questions about their involvement in collecting forged signatures. The judge granted a motion that will allow Taylor to skirt his subpoena, under a state law that protects members of Congress from being forced to testify in civil suits while the House is in session. A seperate criminal investigation into the case is still ongoing.

Original story continues here:

Virginia Congressman Scott W. Taylor, who is currently running for re-election, is under investigation by a special prosecutor in a complex scandal involving forged signatures. Two of Taylor’s former staffers are accused of faking signatures on a petition to get an opponent of Taylor’s on the ballot. Taylor and those staffers were subpoenaed and are slated to appear in a Richmond court to testify on the matter today, according to the Washington Post.

Taylor, who represents the coastal district that includes Virginia Beach, is a former Navy SEAL who has been in the House of Representatives since 2017. This November, he’ll go up against Elaine Luria, a Democrat, and Shaun Brown, an independent deeply embroiled in her own scandal. Brown ran as a Democrat against Taylor in 2016, losing by 22 points. Since then, she’s been the subject of a federal fraud investigation and didn’t receive support from any party to run again. Taylor and his team came to the rescue, gathering 600 signatures for their would-be opponent Brown to meet the 1,000 needed to get her the ballot.

But now many of the signatures Taylor’s team collected have been called into question. “Some belonged to dead people, many signed in similar handwriting. Even the name of local Republican Del. Glenn R. Davis Jr. was apparently forged, and his name misspelled,” the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

Virginia’s 2nd District is one of the major focuses of Democratic efforts to win back the House. The scandal has given a boost to Taylor’s competitor Luria, the Democratic challenger trying to flip the district. Luria is also a Navy veteran and was polling six points behind Taylor in April.

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As the Post reports, local news station WHRO aired a story about Taylor’s collecting signatures for Brown back in August. Lindsey Terry, a local resident, began looking over the released lists of names and noticed that one of her neighbors was among the signatures. He’d moved away years before. She posted about her finding on social media and immediately heard from Taylor.

“He seemed frantic,” Terry told the paper. “He definitely was trying to intimidate me to take it down.”

After Terry’s accidental discovery, a local newspaper found more than 59 fraudulent signatures, along with the names of four dead people. The Democratic Party of Virginia then sued to take Brown’s name off the ballot.

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Some of the signees for Brown came from a Republican breakfast club. Others came from the sheriff’s office.

From the Post:

“I’m of the belief that anybody who wants to run should be able to run,” [Sheriff Ken] Stolle said. He added that having multiple candidates on the ballot often helps the incumbent but said he doubted that Taylor was behind his campaign’s effort to help Brown.

“Scott would not have made the decision to do that,” Stolle said. He said he had asked Taylor about it and that he blamed overzealous campaign aides. “He said he didn’t know anything about it, and he was in D.C. when this took place.”

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But it’s unclear if Taylor was really in D.C. when the signatures were collected. Social media posts show him in Virginia on those days, according to the Post.

In the days after the initial report from WHRO, Taylor posted a video on Facebook explaining his side of the story.

“So here’s the deal: There were people who volunteered to get Shaun Brown on the ballot,” he said in the video, as quoted by the Post. “You have my word, that if anyone in my campaign did anything that was wrong that was illegal or inappropriate or something like that, I would fire them in a second.” A few days later, he fired his campaign manager and a campaign consultant. The video has since been taken down.