As Barr finds no widespread election fraud, Mich. GOP leaders lift up conspiracy theories at 7-hour hearing

By: - December 1, 2020 7:24 pm

Pro-Trump protesters at Detroit’s TCF Center | Ken Coleman photo

A full seven hours of testimony from GOP activists before the Senate Oversight Committee Tuesday led to no real action or votes, but did give a public platform to an assortment of false, misleading and conspiratorial theories about the Michigan election that Republican lawmakers have yet to disavow.

The meeting, which convened at 10:15 a.m.,  carried on into the evening, even as U.S. Attorney General William Barr told the Associated Press Tuesday that the Justice Department has not uncovered any evidence of widespread election fraud.

Barr’s comments were a significant break from the rhetoric coming out of the White House and many in Republican leadership, as outgoing President Donald continues his attempts to subvert the results of the Nov. 3 election. State GOP legislators have repeated many of his claims and sowed doubt in the state’s election process.

President-elect Joe Biden won Michigan by more than 150,000 votes. The state certified election results last week.

Despite Michigan’s ever-worsening COVID-19 outbreak, no virtual testimony was allowed before the committee Tuesday — so those wishing to speak before the GOP-led committee had to do so in person. Speakers sat for hours in the enclosed room, some without masks, in chairs less than six feet apart.

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Only those who were in Detroit’s TCF Center during the tabulation process were allowed to speak. Scores of GOP challengers used their three minutes of time to relay baseless claims of voter fraud in Detroit, including repeated arguments that there were not enough Republican vote challengers present during the process.

Among the assortment of unverified claims were allegations that dead people were allowed to “vote,” election workers had received poor training, ballots for Trump were converted to ballots for Biden, many ballots came in suspiciously late, GOP challengers were boxed out of the process, GOP challengers were “harassed” by workers, and some complaints about the challengers being turned away for not wearing their masks properly.

None of the claims were backed up with evidence showing fraudulent behavior or misconduct. After being pushed on why some speakers didn’t go to law enforcement with their claims, many stated their distrust in the government.

In response, Attorney General Dana Nessel made it clear on Twitter that “any and all credible claims of election/voter fraud” are investigated by her department. Nessel questioned why none of the speakers alleging fraud went to the many law enforcement outlets available throughout the state.

Several challengers also complained about seeing a number of people wearing “Black Lives Matter” apparel inside the center.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan released a statement Tuesday condemning the hearing for allowing misinformation to spread.

“The Nov. 3 Election in Michigan was secure and accurate, and every eligible vote cast has been counted. Today’s state Senate Oversight hearing only sows distrust in our electoral system,” the statement reads. “…The people of Michigan have made their voices heard loud and clear: The outcome of the election has been decided.”

During Tuesday’s hearing, the Trump campaign filed an appeal brief in the lawsuit he lost on Nov. 6 that had challenged Michigan’s election process — despite the state’s election results already having been certified last week.

An hour later, Trump retweeted several videos of the Senate livestream from the right-wing conspiracy theory network OAN (One America News).

Trump also tweeted: “Michigan voter fraud hearing going on now!”

On Wednesday, the House Oversight Committee will hear in-person testimony from Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

State Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), a member of the Senate panel, tweeted Tuesday that there is “NO validity” to the claims being pushed by speakers and released a statement slamming Republicans for the meeting.

“The election is over. The voters have decided, and investigations have repeatedly revealed that we had a safe and secure voting process,” Santana said, adding that Wayne County elected President-elect Joe Biden by a margin 14 times larger than Trump’s in 2016.

“Just imagine how many lives could have been saved by now had this same amount of effort been put into a pandemic response. It is past time we move on and work to make sure our families get the care and support they need so that, together, we can tackle the alarming spike of COVID cases and casualties.” Santana continued.

The hearing was also accompanied by a large crowd of right-wing protesters outside the windows. At one point, Chair Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) threatened to adjourn if the crowd didn’t quiet down.

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Randy Bishop, a right-wing talk show host and two-time felon from Antrim County, volunteered to take a lie detector test and begged lawmakers to complete an audit before the election is certified — even though the election has already been certified.

Bishop also seemed to ask legislators to ignore Michigan Election Law and respond to a “higher law” instead when making decisions on how to move forward.

“We are learning nothing new. We should not continue to provide people the platform to espouse harmful and wrong conspiracy theories about the way majority-Black communities conduct their elections,” Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said in a statement.

“We have very real problems that this Legislature must be focused on solving. Listening to the unsubstantiated cries of fraud from folks who don’t like the election results should not be on that list,” Ananich added.

The committee hearing finally adjourned shortly before 5:30 p.m. McBroom said the panel plans to call former Michigan Bureau of Elections director Christopher Thomas to speak at another time.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).