Advance Notice: Briefs

Trump ditches former US attorney pick, endorses election conspiracist for Michigan AG instead

By: - September 17, 2021 7:53 am

Former President Donald Trump (left) and Matthew DePerno (right)

Former President Donald Trump continues to wade into Michigan politics, this time endorsing Kalamazoo-based attorney Matthew DePerno, who has gotten national attention for pushing election fraud conspiracies in Michigan and Arizona following Trump’s loss in the 2020 election.

The election was not close, with now-President Joe Biden defeating Trump by more than 7 million votes and winning the Electoral College 306-232. In Michigan, Biden beat Trump by 154,000 votes.

DePerno, who Trump called a “Super Lawyer” in a typically hyperbolic statement on Wednesday, could face state Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.), who has declared for AG in 2022. Former state House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt), the 2018 GOP nominee who lost to Democratic now-Attorney General Dana Nessel, has also been lining up establishment support and has been expected to jump in. Leonard also was Trump’s pick for U.S. Attorney of Michigan’s Western District.

The 2022 GOP attorney general nomination will be decided at an April convention of Michigan Republican Party activists — so Trump’s blessing gives DePerno a boost. The GOP nominee will square off against Nessel, who challenged many Trump actions in court, including on environmental, immigration, LGBTQ+ and reproductive health issues.

“Super Lawyer Matthew DePerno is running for Attorney General in the Great State of Michigan. He has defended the Constitution for 20 years, and has been on the front lines pursuing fair and accurate elections, as he relentlessly fights to reveal the truth about the Nov. 3rd Presidential Election Scam,” Trump said.

On Twitter, DePerno responded that it was “an absolute honor to have the blessing and full endorsement of the 45th President!”

Speaker Tom Leonard gives his goodbye speech to the Michigan House as Gov. Rick Snyder looks on, Dec. 20, 2018 | Michael Gerstein

Given DePerno’s history of spreading “misleading and irresponsible” misinformation about the election, per the GOP-led Michigan Senate Oversight Committee report this summer showing no credible evidence of election fraud, he would seem a logical fit for Trump’s endorsement.

Last week, Trump endorsed two Michigan GOP candidates who also have pushed baseless election fraud arguments. There’s state Rep. Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers), who wants an Arizona-style so-called election “audit,” and is running against U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), and Secretary of State candidate Kristina Karamo, who went to Arizona for said “audit” and this week also earned the endorsement of disgraced Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who had been scheduled to headline a QAnon conference in Las Vegas. The GOP nominee would face Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in 2022.

However, there’s a twist in the AG race that’s been overlooked, as Trump did nominate Leonard for a prestigious U.S. attorney post in August 2019.

“Since becoming a prosecutor in Genesee County, my heart has been to work with law enforcement to keep our citizens safe. I look forward to working with the White House and the Senate as we work through the confirmation process,” Leonard wrote on Facebook at the time.

But Leonard was never confirmed. Michigan’s two U.S. senators, Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) and Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.), declined to meet with him, essentially blocking the nomination. Both had expressed “strong concerns” about his record and qualifications.

Now Leonard seems to be the odd man out again for the 2022 AG race, with Trump picking DePerno even before the former speaker ever formally declared his campaign.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 22-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ+ people, the state budget, the economy and more. She previously served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 90 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 5,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 80 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two kids along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.