Shirkey, Chatfield don’t announce election action, say they asked Trump for COVID-19 funding

By: - November 20, 2020 7:37 pm

Former President Donald Trump participates in a signing ceremony for H.R.266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, with members of his administration and Republican lawmakers in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC on April 24th, 2020. | Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/POOL/Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) said that the group of Michigan lawmakers who met with President Donald Trump Friday used the rare one-on-one time with the president to advocate for more federal COVID-19 funding to the state.

The White House visit came amid the Trump campaign reportedly pursuing a plan of overturning election results in key states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia won by President-elect Joe Biden. Legal experts and Democrats raised concerns about the legal and ethical implications of such a meeting.

Neither Trump nor Republicans addressed reporters after the meeting. Trump has yet to tweet or issue a statement.

While the Republican leaders didn’t share details about the conversation they had with the president on the topic of the election process in Michigan, they wrote they had “not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors.”

The Trump campaign has continued to push misinformation and conspiracy theories about the soundness of Michigan’s election, which has now been certified in all 83 counties. Biden holds a lead of about 155,000 votes.

Trump still has not conceded, even though the election has been called by media outlets for Biden since Nov. 7. 

The Board of State Canvassers, which is split evenly between two Democrats and two Republicans, will meet on Monday and is supposed to certify statewide results. However, at least one Republican, Norm Shinkle, has told media he’s leaning against certification. The other Republcian, Aaron Van Langevelde, is a policy advisor and staff attorney for the House Republican caucus run by Chatfield.

“Michigan’s certification process should be a deliberate process free from threats and intimidation. Allegations of fraudulent behavior should be taken seriously, thoroughly investigated, and if proven, prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Shirkey and Chatfield wrote. “And the candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan’s electoral votes. These are simple truths that should provide confidence in our elections.” 

However, attorney Mark Brewer, a former Michigan Democratic Party chair, who has been critical of Republicans’ post-election actions, tweeted: “Actions speak louder than words: if Speaker @LeeChatfield means what he says here, his employee who serves as 1 of 2 @migop members on the Board of State Canvassers will uphold his oath of office and do his clear legal duty by voting to certify the election results on Monday.”

Many Democrats were critical of Shirkey and Chatfield’s trip to the White House, but the two Republicans said they were proud to accept the invitation.

The President of the United States extended invitations to us on Wednesday evening. We each accepted his invitation as we would accept an invitation from any sitting President if asked to meet at the White House,” they said. “We were proud to be joined by our colleagues to represent Michigan in our nation’s capital.”

Shirkey and Chatfield were joined by other Michigan Republican legislators, though the leaders’ spokespeople did not share who was present for the meeting with Trump. 

Multiple media outlets have reported they  were joined in Washington, D.C., by House Speaker-elect. Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell), Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), Sen. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway Twp.), Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) and Rep. Jim Lilly (R-Park Twp.).

We used our time in the White House to deliver a letter to President Trump making clear our support for additional federal funds to help Michigan in the fight against COVID-19,” Shirkey and Chatfield wrote in a statement Friday evening. “We highlighted our commitment to appropriating further federal dollars to Michiganders most in need as we continue to deal with the impact of COVID-19.  We also emphasized our commitment to fiscal responsibility in the state budget as we move forward.”

However, neither of the Republican leaders signed on to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s letter to Trump Thursday asking that leaders in Washington, D.C. pass the long awaited COVID relief bill as cases climb exponentially in Michigan and around the country.

In their own letter to the president, Shirkey and Chatfield wrote that although they were asked to sign on to Whitmer’s letter, they felt it was “important to represent our position distinctly from the governor’s.”

“We regret that we were unable to endorse the governor’s correspondence in its entirety, but we are willing to work with the governor, Michigan’s congressional delegation and leaders in Washington to ensure our citizens receive the help they need to endure this difficult time in our state’s and our nation’s history,” they wrote.

The Republicans said that the state needs to avoid another “round of government-mandated shutdowns” and they would hurt businesses. They said that instead “elected leaders should work to inspire, inform and educate individuals about the importance of personal behaviors and responsibility when it comes to reducing the spread of COVID-19.”

In the letter, they requested federal aid for health care systems and frontline workers, unemployment benefits and relief for Michigan businesses. 

“We can assure you that we will do what is necessary to meet our constitutional obligations to pass a balanced state budget,” Shirkey and Chatfield wrote in their letter. 

They added that they do not believe the state will need a federal bailout to fill the state’s budget deficit due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. 

Whitmer and many Democrats have been making the case to the White House for months that Michigan needs another round of federal funding to help better address the pandemic.

In recent months, the state has seen a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases. On Friday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported a total of 295,177 Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 and 8,377 have died from the virus.  

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8.