Nessel to reopen investigation into fake electors scheme

By: - January 6, 2023 2:55 pm

Donald Trump Supporters march around the Michigan State Capitol Building to protest the certification of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States on January 6, 2021 in Lansing, Michigan. Trump supporters gathered at state capitals across the country to protest today’s ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. | Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images

The release of the final report by the Jan. 6, 2021 committee, and the transcripts of witnesses who testified in front of the panel, has prompted Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to reopen an investigation into a scheme to try and use false electors to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Nessel made the announcement Friday during a press call with the Democratic Attorneys General Association in which she expressed concern that federal prosecutors had so far failed to bring charges.

Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks at the Michigan Democratic Party’s Election Day watch party in Detroit on Nov. 8, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

The announcement came on the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol by an armed, far-right extremist mob who broke into congressional chambers and ransacked offices in the name of keeping former President Donald Trump in office.

Nessel originally sent a referral for an investigation in January of 2022 to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Michigan, saying at the time there was “absolutely” enough evidence to warrant charges against the 16 Michigan Republicans who signed and submitted false electoral certificates at the state Capitol on Dec. 14, 2020. 

That was the same day that the Electoral College met to certify the state’s election results. President Joe Biden defeated Trump by more than 154,000 votes to win all 16 of Michigan’s electoral votes.

Michigan GOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock was among the fake electors, as was Michigan Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden and Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grott.

Nessel said that based on the report by the House Jan. 6 select committee, there is now “overwhelming evidence” to bring charges.

“I thought there was already a substantial amount of evidence in that case,” said Nessel, who added, “I think that type of activity can’t go without any consequences.”

Nessel said the investigation by her office would take place alongside the efforts of federal authorities to look into the actions of Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election.

Revelations from committee documents this week included details that at least five Michigan Republican legislators had agreed to cooperate in some form with the plan to submit the false certificates, and that former Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox had called a plan by the fake electors to hide in the Capitol building in Lansing and then try and cast their votes as the legitimate electors “a hair-brained idea” that was “insane and inappropriate.”

On Friday, The Detroit News reported that a document created by former Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox in 2020 conflicted with the later statements made by the false electors when they signed the fraudulent certificate.

Cox’s document, which she provided to the committee prior to her interview last May, made no indication that Trump had been declared the winner of Michigan’s election. 

The certificate signed by the false electors, however, wrongfully stated that he had. It also falsely claimed they had “convened and organized” in the state Capitol, when in reality some of the electors walked several blocks to the Capitol, where they were denied access, after meeting at the Lansing headquarters of the Michigan Republican Party.

Per a Dec. 14, 2020, memo obtained by the committee, Berden sent the fake certificate to the U.S. Senate, the U.S. archivist, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Robert Jonker, chief judge of U.S. District Court for Michigan’s Western District.

Nessel previously said that the fake electors could be charged under state law for forgery of a public record, which is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, or election law forgery, which is also punishable by up to five years in prison.

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King is the Senior Reporter for the Michigan Advance and has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2022 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell.