Six of the 16 GOP electors charged: (clockwise) Kent Vanderwood, Meshawn Maddock, Marian Sheridan, Kathy Berden, Stanley Grot and Clifford Frost
After Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced charges Tuesday against 16 Michigan residents tied to a scheme to submit false electoral votes in support of former President Donald Trump, elections experts and GOP officials are responding to the charges.
“My department has prosecuted numerous cases of election law violations throughout my tenure, and it would be malfeasance of the greatest magnitude if my department failed to act here,” Nessel said in a statement released Tuesday.
According to an affidavit in support of the charges filed by Howard Shock, a special agent investigator with the Michigan Department of Attorney General, 14 out of 16 individuals identified to the state as Republican Party candidates for elector allegedly met at the Michigan Republican party headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020.
The 14 electors, alongside Kenneth Thompson and James Renner, who were chosen to replace the absent elector candidates Terri Lynn Land, a former secretary of state, and Gerald Wall are believed to have signed a number of documents as the “duly elected and qualified Electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America from the State of Michigan,” including a document submitting 16 electoral votes for former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence.
Neither Land nor Wall signed these documents.
According to the affidavit, the individuals who signed the documents falsely asserted their status as duly elected and qualified electors, in addition to claiming they met in the state Capitol.
Instead, the lawfully designated electors met in the Capitol in Lansing on Dec. 14, 2020, following state and federal law, and cast their votes unanimously for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who won the state by more than 154,000 votes.
Here are the 16 people charged:
Kathy Berden, 70, of Snover: A Michigan Republican national committeewoman.
William (Hank) Choate, 72, of Cement City: Served as chairman of the Jackson County Republican Party.
Amy Facchinello, 55, of Grand Blanc: A trustee on the Grand Blanc Board of Education who ran on right-wing values and has posted QAnon content on social media.
Clifford Frost, 75, of Warren: Ran for the 28th District seat in the state House of Representatives in 2020, but lost in the Republican primary.
Stanley Grot, 71, of Shelby Township: A GOP powerbroker in Macomb County, serving on the Shelby Township Board of Trustees. as well as the township clerk. In 2018, he ran for secretary of state but abruptly dropped out of the race, which became the center of an alleged payoff scandal that resulted in then-Michigan Party Chair Ron Weiser paying a $200,000 state fine for violating campaign finance law.
John Haggard, 82, of Charlevoix: A plaintiff in a case against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Mari-Ann Henry, 65, of Brighton: As of June 29, 2022, Henry’s LinkedIn listed her as the treasurer of the Greater Oakland Republican Club.
Timothy King, 56, of Ypsilanti: A plaintiff in a case against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Michele Lundgren, 73, of Detroit: Ran for the 9th District seat in the state House of Representatives in 2022, but lost in the general election.
Meshawn Maddock, 55, of Milford: Former co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party and vocal proponent of Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. She attended a pro-Trump event on Jan. 5, 2021, in Washington, D.C., the day before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. She is the co-owner of A1 Bail Bonds, a bail bondsman company, along with her spouse, GOP state Rep. Matt Maddock.
James Renner, 76, of Lansing: Served as a precinct delegate in 2020 for Watertown Township.
Mayra Rodriguez, 64, of Grosse Pointe Farms: Ran for the 2nd District seat in the state House of Representatives in 2022 as a Republican, but lost to nowHouse Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit).
Rose Rook, 81, of Paw Paw, a former Van Buren County GOP chair who also served on the executive committee of the county party.
Marian Sheridan, 69, of West Bloomfield: Co-founder of the Michigan Conservative Coalition, a right-wing group founded by the Maddocks. Sheridan was also a plaintiff in a case to decertify the 2020 election in Michigan.
Ken Thompson, 68, of Orleans: An Ionia County Republican who served as a precinct delegate and as the chair of Ionia County Republican Party’s August convention in 2022.
Kent Vanderwood, 69, of Wyoming: Mayor of Wyoming and vice president of the Timothy Group, which advances Christian organizations.
On Jan. 5, 2021, the National Archivist of the United States reportedly received the certificate casting votes for Trump and Pence. According to the affidavit, the return address on the envelope holding the document had “Kathleen Berden, Chair of the Michigan Republican Electoral College” listed as a return address. A copy of the document was sent to the Michigan Department of Attorney General.
Investigators reviewed another document retained by the United States Senate Archives, where Berden was also listed as the return address. The Document was signed by 16 people identifying themselves as “the duly elected and qualified Electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America from Michigan.”
The investigators later confirmed that two envelopes had been mailed from the East Lansing Post Office on Dec. 15, 2020, with Berden’s name, address and title printed on the envelope.
The affidavit also said Michigan State Police Forensic Scientist Mckenzie Weyh confirmed Berden, Choate, Vanderwood, Frost, Henry, Rook, King and Renners’ signatures on the false certificate of votes.
According to Shock, Lundgren reportedly confirmed she signed the document, and had signed it with Facchinello.
In a tweet posted on Aug. 23, 2022, Lundgren said she “attested to nothing” posting a page filled with signatures from the accused electors alongside an image of certificate of votes for president and vice president from Michigan casting electoral votes for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the 2008 election.
Shock also cited multiple instances where Maddock and Sheridan admitted to casting their votes for Trump and Pence alongside the 14 other candidates for elector.
The affidavit also notes that Grot allegedly told Detroit Free Press reporter M.L. Elrick that he had signed the document in support of Trump. Thompson also allegedly admitted to signing in an interview with Daily News reporter Elisabeth Waldon.
In response to the charges, the Michigan Republican Party issued an unsigned statement saying the charges “sparked valid concerns regarding the possible misuse of power” by Nessel’s office. It also accused Nessel of “defending systemic election corruption,” and seeking to deconstruct the influence of the Republican Party’s activists and leaders through fear of prosecution.
The Michigan GOP is chaired by Kristina Karamo, a Republican former secretary of state candidate who rose to prominence for denying the results of the 2020 election Trump lost to Biden. Karamo also refused to concede her 2022 defeat to Benson, again making unproven allegations of voter fraud.
Norman Eisen, executive chair of the States United Democracy Center, said that Nessel did the right thing in issuing charges. Eisen previously served as special counsel and special assistant to former President Barack Obama for ethics and government reform from 2009 through 2011.
“No one in Michigan should be able to forge election related documents with impunity,” Eisen said. “The [attorney general] and her office have often charged others who have created false and fraudulent documents, including Democrats.”
When election security is assaulted, the electoral system will respond, Eisen said.
“Those who want to attack the election system in any way will have to think twice after [Attorney General] Nessel’s charges yesterday,” Eisen said.
Alongside Michigan, New Mexico, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are looking into groups who reportedly submitted false documents claiming Trump won the 2020 election.
Eisen said Nessel’s decision puts wind in the sails of other state law enforcement officials.
“Every state will have to look at its laws… but that’s OK. The [attorney general] has done her job here. And every state will learn from it and benefit from it and make their own decisions,” Eisen said.
“Others need to know in the future that they are not going to be able to forge election related documents or participate in conspiracies to overturn the lawful results in Michigan or as a part of, as here, a nationwide game,” he said.
After charges were announced, two West Michigan state representatives called on Vanderwood to step down from his responsibilities as mayor of Wyoming.
“Among the Republicans accused of attempting to overturn the results of those free and fair elections is Wyoming Mayor Kent Vanderwood. I strongly believe that in light of these extremely serious allegations, the right thing for the mayor to do is resign,” said Rep. Phil Skaggs (D-East Grand Rapids) in a statement.
Rep. John Fitzgerald (D-Wyoming) also issued a statement calling for Vanderwood to recuse himself from his duties until a verdict has been issued on the charges against him.
“These allegations — attempting to overturn Michigan’s lawful election — not only demonstrate poor judgment, but they also describe actions that are un-American, dangerous and wholly inappropriate for any person in a position of public trust to perpetrate,” Fitzgerald said.
“Every resident of Wyoming deserves to have trust in our local institutions and leaders. While these charges move through the courts, I do not believe that our city, nor its residents, are best served under the leadership of an indicted mayor,” Fitzgerald said.
The city of Wyoming also issued a statement about the charges against Vanderwood.
“We are aware of the charges against Kent Vanderwood. These actions did not take place in his capacity as a city official. With any charges, there is a legal process that needs to be followed.”
No one in Michigan should be able to forge election related documents with impunity. The (attorney general) and her office have often charged others who have created false and fraudulent documents, including Democrats.
– Norman Eisen, executive chair of the States United Democracy Center
Vanderwood did not respond to requests for comment. Maddock, Grot, Sheridan and Lundgren also did not respond to requests to comment about the charges they were facing.
In a report from FOX-2 in Detroit, Maddock responded to charges, denying any wrongdoing.
“We didn’t do anything wrong. We know we didn’t do anything wrong. We’re not fake electors. I was a duly elected Trump elector. There was no forgery involved,” Maddock said.
Maddock and the other 15 individuals charged are scheduled to appear in District Court 54-A in Lansing on Thursday, Aug. 10 according to the court’s calendar. Nessel is listed as the prosecutor.
Advance reporter Anna Liz Nichols contributed to this report.
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