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Michigan AG, police to probe false election fraud claims after GOP report

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LANSING—Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and state police will investigate allegations that unnamed individuals are making false claims about the 2020 election for personal profit, as requested by the Republican-led Senate Oversight Committee.

After reviewing the report prepared by Sen. Ed McBroom and colleagues, the department of attorney general “has accepted” the committee’s invitation to investigate, Nessel spokesperson Lynsey Mukomel told Bridge Michigan on Thursday. 

The Michigan State Police “is also assisting in the matter,” she added.

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The criminal investigation follows a nearly eight-month probe into election claims by the Senate Oversight Committee, which found no evidence of widespread systematic fraud in the Michigan election, contradicting claims by former President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Instead, the GOP-led committee urged Nessel, a Democrat, to investigate “those who have been utilizing misleading and false information about Antrim County to raise money or publicity for their own ends.”

Despite a hand recount of paper ballots, Antrim County continues to figure heavily in conspiracy theories about the 2020 election after a human and computer programming error skewed initially reported results in favor of Democratic President Joe Biden. 

The Senate Oversight Committee did not name any individuals who it believes have spread false claims about Antrim County. McBroom, R-Vulcan, has declined to specify. 

But the report spent considerable time debunking allegations by attorney Matthew DePerno and former state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, leading figures in a pro-Trump effort to discredit the election.

Both men have blasted the Senate Oversight report, and Colbeck this week launched an online petition urging the Michigan Republican Party to “censure” Sens. McBroom, Lana Theis of Brighton and John Bizon of Battle Creek. 

In particular, DePerno and Colbeck have accused the committee members of trying to impinge on their constitutional right to free speech, a charge McBroom has scoffed at.

"No one has free speech if they’re committing a crime, and committing fraud is a crime," McBroom told Bridge Michigan last week at his Upper Peninsula farm, where he responded to subsequent attacks from Trump and his allies.

“We found circumstantial, but substantial, evidence that some people were committing fraud and extorting people for money,” McBroom said. “It’s possible that we’re wrong, but we didn’t have the tools, the expertise or the mechanisms to explore that issue further.”

DePerno, who lost a recent Antrim County lawsuit and has raised more than $384,000 for an “election fraud defense fund,” did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Nessel’s investigation.

Colbeck said Thursday he has not been contacted by the attorney general’s office or state police, but he accused Republicans on the Oversight Committee of  “weaponizing the government against those who disagree with their assessment of election fraud.”

Colbeck charges a monthly fee for access to some of the content on his website, where he has documented his election claims, and he has helped organize related events that the public must pay to attend. 

But he disputed the suggestion he is profiting off the work, telling Bridge Michigan he’s grossed around $30,000 from his website, with about half of that going towards expenses. 

“That's what I was living off of for seven months,” said Colbeck. “We want to get some truth out about this election.”

The Senate Oversight Report dug deep into conspiracy claims that have spread online for months, concluding there is no proof of dead voters or “fractional voting,” no evidence of a fraudulent “ballot dump” in Detroit and no proof any Michigan precincts had more than 100 percent voter turnout.  

"Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan," the report concluded. 

“The committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain.”

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