Team McAuliffe emails reveal effort to 'kill this' Fox News story

'Can we try to kill this,' a spokesperson asked

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Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe's campaign raised eyebrows by spending nearly $60,000 to hire a high-profile attorney known for masterminding election-related legal challenges. When Fox News sent the campaign a request for comment, the McAuliffe campaign scrambled to "kill" the story, according to emails mistakenly sent to Fox News.

Less than a month before Election Day, McAuliffe's campaign spent $53,680 on the services of the Elias Law Group, a firm that Marc Elias started earlier this year, Fox News previously reported. 

When Fox News reached out to the McAuliffe campaign for comment, McAuliffe spokesperson Christina Freundlich responded to the email with a message apparently meant for colleagues, not for Fox News.

"Can we try to kill this," Freundlich wrote. 

McAuliffe campaign email to Fox News

McAuliffe campaign email to Fox News (Tyler O'Neil, Fox News)

"To dispute the challenges of the election," she clarified, ostensibly responding to an email that did not go through to Fox News.

The McAuliffe campaign did not give any response to Fox News on the record.

McAuliffe campaign email to Fox News

McAuliffe campaign email to Fox News

Elias had formerly worked as a partner at the law firm Perkins Coie, which the Hillary Clinton campaign hired in 2016 in order to conduct opposition research on Donald Trump – research that included the infamous Christopher Steele dossier. Republicans have accused Elias of lying to hide the Clinton campaign's role in funding the dossier.

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Elias has represented Democrats in efforts to contest elections. Going into the 2020 election, he represented Democrats challenging a Texas law barring "straight-ticket voting." 

House Republicans accused Elias of having a "serious conflict of interest" when he represented Iowa Democratic candidate Rita Hart in her effort to overturn the results of her extremely narrow loss to Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. GOP members House Administration Committee said that Elias had a conflict because he and Perkins Coie – where he still worked at the time – also represented half of the Democratic committee members who would be deciding the case. 

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley wrote that McAuliffe hiring Elias is an "astonishing move." 

"There are a host of election lawyers but McAuliffe selected an attorney accused of lying to the media, advancing rejected conspiracy theories, and currently involved in a major federal investigation that has already led to the indictment of his former partner," Turley wrote. 

"McAuliffe may be preparing to challenge any win by Republican Glenn Youngkin," he wrote on Twitter

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Both McAuliffe and his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, have pledged to "absolutely" accept the results of the election once certified.

Yet Turley raised concerns because McAuliffe has embraced Stacey Abrams' claims about the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race.

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"She would be the governor of Georgia today had the governor of Georgia not disenfranchised 1.4 million Georgia voters before the election," McAuliffe said as he introduced Abrams at a campaign event earlier this month. "That's what happened to Stacey Abrams. They took the votes away."

President Joe Biden, right, reacts after speaking at a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, in Arlington, Va. McAuliffe will face Republican Glenn Youngkin in the November election. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Joe Biden, right, reacts after speaking at a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, in Arlington, Va. McAuliffe will face Republican Glenn Youngkin in the November election. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

McAuliffe had previously nodded along as Abrams repeated what some have described as her "Big Lie" about the 2018 election. Fact-checkers with PolitiFact and USA Today found "no proof" and "little empirical evidence" that Brian Kemp, who served as Georgia's secretary of state while running against Abrams, stole the election. 

A Youngkin campaign spokesperson responded to McAuliffe's remarks by suggesting the Democrat may not accept the results of the election. 

"McAuliffe's continued claims that multiple elections were stolen raise serious doubts about whether he will accept his own impending defeat and concede when he loses to Glenn Youngkin," the spokesperson told Fox News at the time.

Recent events suggest the McAuliffe campaign is struggling. The Democrat drew tiny crowds to recent campaign events despite bringing in the big guns of the Democratic Party to help, including President Biden, former President Barack Obama, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Stacey Abrams. A Fox News poll released Thursday found Youngkin ahead by 8 points among likely voters, with 53% to McAuliffe's 45%.

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The Youngkin campaign did not respond to Fox News' request for comment by press time.