Trump campaign allegedly asks GOP lawmakers to illegally reverse election results

By: - December 2, 2020 5:24 pm

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to guest gathered at Fountain Park during a campaign rally on March 19, 2016 in Fountain Hills, Arizona. | Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Outgoing Republican President Donald Trump’s campaign appears to be attempting to talk Michigan GOP leaders into breaking state election laws, but Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) is not having it.

“There have been reports of calls coming from the Trump campaign regarding Michigan’s electors,” Shirkey tweeted Wednesday. “We do not know if these calls are legitimate, but we do know for certain that we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors.”

In a followup tweet, Shirkey added that any change to the state’s current election process “would require intervention by our courts.”

The state’s 16 electors are set to cast their votes on Dec. 14 for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who won Michigan’s popular vote by about 154,000 votes. The election was certified last week. Michigan is a winner-take-all state.

The Trump campaign appears to be attempting a last-ditch effort to illegally turn Trump’s loss in Michigan into a win by requesting legislators to draft a resolution to appoint pro-Trump electors instead.

Shirkey, House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and other GOP lawmakers flew to D.C. last month to meet with Trump, amid much speculation that the president would ask them to overturn Michigan’s election for him. Shirkey and Chatfield insisted afterward that the meeting was primarily to ask Trump for more COVID-19 relief funds and barely touched on the election, but Trump claimed on social media that the meeting was “much different than reported by the media” and “massive voter fraud will be shown.”

As the Advance previously reported, the Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society filed suit last week asking for the Michigan Supreme Court to invalidate election results. In one possible scenario, the right-wing group also suggests that the Legislature would appoint its own electors.

According to MLive, a spokesperson for Chatfield and an unnamed Republican state representative were also contacted and received the same requests from the campaign.

Technically, the move Trump is banking on would be legal under the U.S. Constitution. Article Two, Section One gives state legislatures discretion in how they can appoint electors for their state.

But chapter four of Michigan Election Law makes clear that the process in Michigan is much different. There is effectively no role for lawmakers in the process, as the state’s election mechanisms are driven by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

An attempt by lawmakers to evade Michigan law and step in where they are not prohibited could lead to criminal consequences.

“Folks would have to essentially decide that the rule of law no longer applies in Michigan,” Steve Liedel, former chief counsel to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, told the Advance in October about the scenario.

“We would effectively be talking the equivalent of a state-level coup, because powers that are vested in other officials would be illegally assumed by legislators acting.”

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, is set to appear before the House Oversight Committee in person Wednesday evening to testify about voter fraud claims that have yet to be proven. Trump gave his endorsement of the hearing on Twitter and also has tweeted out several videos of the seven-hour Senate Oversight Hearing Tuesday that entertained election conspiracy theories from GOP activists who were not under oath.

U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr announced Tuesday that the Justice Department has found no instances of widespread election fraud.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. 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.