Rep. James DeSana (R- Carleton). | Kyle Davidson
A group of eight Republican state representatives on Thursday introduced a resolution bringing articles of impeachment against Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel that has little chance of being adopted.
State Reps. James DeSana (R-Carleton), Neil Friske (R-Charlevoix), Joseph Fox (R-Fremont), Rachelle Smit (R-Martin), Matt Maddock (R-Milford), Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers), Josh Schriver (R-Oxford) and Angela Rigas (R-Caledonia) brought forth the resolution, accusing Nessel of malfeasance of office, malicious prosecution, violating her oath of office and corruption. All are members of the House Freedom Caucus.
“The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeaching civil officers for corrupt conduct in office. Attorney General Nessel has clearly breached the ethical standards of conduct of the office of attorney general,” DeSana said in a statement.
Nessel, who was reelected to a second term in 2022, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Republicans also threatened in 2019 to impeach Nessel — but never followed through — over comments she made vowing not to enforce Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban, which was still on the books, if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Last year, the high court did reverse course on the landmark law legalizing abortion, but Michigan voters a few months later approved Proposal 3. That guarantees the right to an abortion in Michigan’s constitution, overriding the 1931 ban.
HR 165 has been referred to the House Government Operations Committee, where legislation traditionally goes to die. Democrats have a 56-54 majority in the House. House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) has said that Democrats will maintain control of the chamber under House rules even after two Democratic House members are expected to resign their seats next week after winning their mayoral elections, bringing the chamber to a 54-54 tie until special elections are held.
Members of the Michigan House can vote to impeach civil officers for corrupt conduct in office, or for crimes and misdemeanors with a majority vote, but two-thirds of the state Senate must then vote in favor to convict and remove that officer. The Senate is led by Democrats, who have a 20-18 majority.
In the articles, the Republicans argued Nessel violated her oath of office for failing to charge individuals tied to a large number of irregular voter registration forms submitted in Muskegon.
A statement from the Michigan State Police, which investigated the irregularities alongside the Attorney General’s Office, Michigan Department of State and the Muskegon Police Department said “none of the irregular voter registrations in Muskegon resulted in voters receiving absentee ballots, any resulting registrations have been voided, and there is no expected impact on any election.”
The investigation was turned over to the FBI in 2021, according to a report from Bridge Michigan. It remains unclear whether the investigation is ongoing or has concluded without charges, with Nessel spokesman Danny Wimmer telling Bridge the decision to prosecute fraud lies with the FBI.
The articles also allege that the charges filed against 16 Republicans tied to an effort to submit false electoral votes for former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election, were brought as a political attack.
Democratic President Joe Biden defeated the former president by more than 154,000 votes, winning all 16 of Michigan’s electoral votes.
However, 16 Republican individuals allegedly signed documents in December 2020 that falsely asserted their status as duly elected and qualified electors, in addition to claiming they met in the state Capitol.
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.
“Attorney General Nessel through her own public statements indicated that her motives behind her prosecution of these individuals was malicious and political and thus an abuse of her position as Attorney General,” DeSana said. referencing comments Nessel made at an event where she said the 16 individuals charged had been ‘brainwashed’ and that they ‘really believe Trump won the election.’”
While the attorney for one of the individuals charged — Mari-Ann Henry — asked Judge Kristen Simmons to dismiss the case against Henry due to the attorney general’s comments. Simmons determined last month that Nessel’s comments were not sufficient to determine whether the case should be dismissed.
“I think most of what you played is speculation or maybe what that person making that statement believes, but that’s not something that the court, I think, can use as a consideration as to whether or not the case can be dismissed,” Simmons said.
The final article alleges Nessel violated an internal isolation wall established within the department preventing Nessel from influencing an investigation of Traci Kornak, treasurer of the Michigan Democratic Party. The allegations in the third impeachment article mirror accusations published in a Detroit News opinion column by columnist Charlie LeDuff, who was later fired for calling Nessel a c–t.
Nessel released a statement following the publication of the column, alongside a letter sent to Detroit News Editor and Publisher Gary Miles.
In the letter, Linus Banghart-Linn, the department’s acting chief legal counsel, responded to LeDuff’s claim that the attorney general “subtly pressured her staff to close the investigation” into Kornak.
“The isolation wall’s purpose is not to prevent any and all communications between the Attorney General and her staff related to the investigation .… None of the communications between Attorney General Nessel and her staff violated any rule of professional conduct,” Banghart-Linn wrote in the letter.
“Emails provided to LeDuff, author of the opinion piece, pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, show the Attorney General electronically received reports of an investigation after its conclusion,” Banghart-Linn said. “These emails correctly state the file was not yet closed, but this does not mean that the investigation was open or active.”
Miles defended LeDuff’s column, saying that upon reviewing the article for errors, Detroit News staff found none, and the letter sent from the Attorney General’s Office contained factual errors of its own.
“Worthy of additional scrutiny is a postscript, of sorts, on the press release. It asserts that pieces published in the Opinion section are “not held to a news standard of accuracy and are not required to be grounded in any facts,” Miles wrote in his “From the Editor” column.
“I don’t know whose editorial standards Nessel’s office was citing, but it certainly wasn’t citing ours. We do expect commentary to be grounded in facts,” Miles wrote.
The Detroit News does not appear to have published any news reporting following up on LeDuff’s column.
DeSana told the Advance his office has filed a FOIA request regarding the same documents obtained by LeDuff and referenced in his column.
In recorded remarks sent to the media, DeSana maintained that 56 members of the House voting to impeach Nessel was a “very realistic possibility.”
While DeSana told the Advance on Thursday that there are several Democrats concerned about Nessel’s conduct, he declined to say which members.
“I know that there’s several Democrats we’ve been talking to that are very concerned about what Nessel has done, so we may be able to get 56 people that would vote to bring in the investigation into the House,” DeSana said.
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