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Michigan AG backtracks ‘co-conspirator’ claim in fake electors probe

Laura Cox with people in the background
The Michigan Department of Attorney General says ex-Michigan GOP Chair Laura Cox is not an ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ in the state’s ongoing investigation into 15 so-called Republican fake electors. (Bridge file photo)
  • Michigan attorney general walks back claim former state GOP Chair Laura Cox is an ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ in false electors case
  • Cox is actually a ‘cooperating witness’ in the case, a spokesperson says
  • The department isn’t saying whether an investigator misspoke when he named other co-conspirators in the case

LANSING — Attorney General Dana Nessel is walking back claims former Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox is an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a plot to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election results.

But Nessel’s office isn’t saying whether her investigator, who named Cox last week in court, made other mistakes when he identified other co-conspirators, including former President Donald Trump and other state officials.


Kim Bush, a spokesperson for Nessel, told Bridge Michigan in an email late Monday that the department “considers Laura Cox to be a cooperating witness in the case.”


Cox “has fully cooperated with our staff throughout the course of the investigation and prosecution of this matter,” she added. 

Bush did not respond to questions asking if investigator Howard Shock made any other errors in his testimony. 

Shock last week said the state considered several high profile Republicans “unindicted co-conspirators” in the state’s case against 15 so-called fake electors, including former Michigan GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock and former Republican National Committee member Kathy Berden.

Howard Shock sitting down in a courtroom
Department of Attorney General special investigator Howard Shock. (Bridge photo by Jordyn Hermani)

Co-conspirators Shock named include Trump and his former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, along with attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis.

Trump is already facing federal charges for his alleged role in the plot to overturn his 2020 election loss. His colleagues are facing charges for similar alleged fake elector schemes in Arizona and Georgia. 

But Shock turned heads when he also named former state-level officials including Cox, former Michigan GOP legal counsel Stu Sandler, former Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard and Leonard’s wife, Jenell, who owns the Marketing Resource Group firm in Lansing.

Many of those named expressed outrage and confusion over being listed as an unindicted co-conspirator — like Cox, who’d served as a state witness in a preliminary examination of six of the 15 accused last December.

“Howard Shock has not been indicted for stupidity, but he should be,” Cox said last week.

Shock did not explain why the state considered Cox and others as unindicted co-conspirators, but by naming them, he indicated that Nessel’s office believed they participated in the fake electors scheme to benefit Trump. 

Cooperating witness James Renner testified in February that Jenell Leonard, who at the time served as chair of the Clinton County GOP, contacted him a day or two before the 2020 elector meeting and asked him to attend as replacement for a nominee who had canceled. 

It’s unclear, however, how Tom Leonard factors into the case. In a message to Bridge last week, he said he hoped the Nessel’s office would “move swiftly, as ethically required” to correct Shock’s testimony, which he called “false and derogatory.”

As of Tuesday, that had not publicly happened, and Nessel’s office had not responded to multiple questions about Leonard. 

Assistant Attorney General LaDonna Logan, a prosecutor arguing on behalf of the state, told Cox’s team last week via voicemail she is not considered an unindicted co-conspirator, according to The Detroit News.

Cox did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday and efforts to reach Logan were met with an automatic response indicating she would be out of the office until May 6.

Prosecutors alleged the 15 false electors charged in the case knowingly forged documents claiming then-President Donald Trump won Michigan in 2020 despite Joe Biden, a Democrat, winning the state by 154,188 votes. 


The accused, who have all pleaded not guilty, face forgery-related charges punishable by up to 14 years in prison and election law charges punishable by up to five years in prison. 

Cox in February testified about an alleged plan for the Republican electors to camp out in the Michigan Capitol in an effort to comply with a state law requiring electors meet in the state Senate chambers on Dec. 14, 2020. 

Cox said she did not support the plan and instead proposed an alternate “ceremony” to honor elector nominees and a document pledging they would cast Electoral College votes for Trump “if the election was overturned.” 

Sandler allegedly helped her craft that document, Cox added, after discussions with both the Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and Trump campaign attorney Thor Hearne.

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