President Trump lobbying GOP to overturn vote, deliver Michigan to him

President Donald Trump has invited Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfiled, R-Levering, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, to the White House on the eve of a planned vote to certify the state election. (Shutterstock photo by Evan El-Amin)

Update: Canvassers certify election. Joe Biden wins Michigan, its 16 electoral votes

LANSING — President Donald Trump is courting top Michigan Republicans in a bid to overturn statewide election results showing he lost to Democrat Joe Biden by more than 154,000 votes. 

As part of his long-shot effort, Trump on Tuesday appealed to GOP members on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers before they filed affidavits attempting to rescind their votes to certify results, a step legal experts say carries “zero” weight. 

And with the Board of State Canvassers set to vote Monday for possible certification of statewide election results, the president is reportedly inviting Republican leadership from the Michigan Legislature to the White House for a Friday meeting. 

Related stories:

Experts say Trump appears to be engaging in a two-pronged fight: delay the certification of Michigan election results until the Electoral College is poised to meet, and encourage the Legislature to resolve the contested election by picking presidential electors itself. 

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield of Levering and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake have publicly denied plans for an Electoral College coup, but activists are openly encouraging it as the GOP leaders head to Washington, D.C.,  for a meeting with the president. 

The Michigan 14th Congressional District Republican Committee this week circulated a draft resolution that would urge the state Legislature to "appoint a full slate of electors who are fully supportive of the re-election of President Donald J. Trump."

As of Wednesday, the resolution had not been adopted, said Bill Rauwerdink, who is a 14th District representative on the Michigan Republican Party's state central committee. He said he thinks the resolution is a “waste of time” but confirmed that leadership was considering it and suggested Chair Mayra Rodriguez would "defend" the idea. 

Rodriguez did not respond to multiple voicemails seeking comment. 

The push to appoint pro-Trump electors is the latest front in the president's push to "sow confusion and discord and to steal the election," said Mark Brewer, an attorney and former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.

"This is simply an attempt to undermine the will of the voters," he said. 

Brewer argued the Legislature has “no authority” to unilaterally change the Michigan elector selection process that has been on the books since the 1950s. “It's been amended since, but you can search high and low in the election codes and there is no role for the Legislature here."

The Trump campaign on Thursday withdrew its lawsuit seeking to block certification in Michigan, dubiously claiming that affidavits rescinding canvasser votes on Wayne County election results mean they aren’t certified.

During a news conference Thursday in Washington, the Trump campaign highlighted Michigan on a map depicting “multiple pathways to victory” for the president. Attorney Rudy Guiliani claimed the Trump campaign has identified 300,000 “illegitimate ballots” in Michigan — but provided no specifics beyond claims already rejected by courts.  

Trump’s pathways, if they exist, are closing fast: If and when unofficial results are certified in states across the country, Biden would be positioned to win 306 votes in the Electoral College, whose electors will meet Dec. 14.  That would surpass the 270 needed to win and would match Trumps’ Electoral College total from four years ago.

Biden's unofficial 154,187-vote margin in Michigan is nearly 15 times as large as Trump’s in 2016, when the first-term Republican won the state by 10,704 votes. The Trump campaign is attempting to toss all ballots from Wayne County, where voters provided Biden his margin for victory in the state with a 597,000 to 264,000-vote thumping.

"All the meetings in the world can't take away the fact that Joe Biden won Michigan by over 150,000 votes," Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday when asked about Shirkey and Chatfield’s trip to the White House.

Wayne County and Detroit, the state’s largest city, are home to a sizable African American population, fueling accusations Trump is attempting to disenfranchise Black voters there, but not in majority-white regions like Kent County, where Biden significantly outperformed 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. 

When asked during a legislative hearing Thursday why Trump is targeting Wayne County and not Kent, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum was succinct.

“Racism,” she said.

The draft resolution circulated by Republicans in the 14th District, which includes portions of Wayne and Oakland counties, alleges that state and local election officials engaged in behavior "consistent with a pattern of deliberate and illegal actions that caused irreparable harm to the integrity, accuracy and credibility of the election results."

Michigan GOP spokesperson Tony Zammit said the state party "was not involved" in the draft resolution but declined further comment.

The U.S. Constitution directs states to appoint electors “in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” The Michigan Legislature decided how to do that long ago: by awarding electors to the winner of the statewide popular vote, a rule written into state law

The 14th District resolution asks the Legislature to ignore state law and appoint the full slate of electors previously nominated by the Michigan Republican Party, saying lawmakers have an “obligation to protect the integrity and security of the vote.” 

“The Executive Committee and Officers of the 14th Congressional District Republican Party of the state of Michigan ask that you demonstrate the courage to fully execute your duties in preservation of the sanctity of the vote and the future of our free republic, and in representation of the electorate you swore to serve."

The popular vote

Before Trump’s White House invitation, Republican leaders in the Michigan Legislature said they do not plan to award any presidential electors to a candidate who does not win the popular vote.

"That's not going to happen," Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, told Bridge Michigan on Tuesday. 

House Speaker Lee Chatfield was less definitive in a Wednesday interview with Bridge, noting the GOP-led Legislature is conducting an ongoing “inquiry” into the election. 

"At the end of the day, once those investigations are done, and once the subpoenas are done and we receive that information, we're going to treat this election like we have any other election," Chatfield said. "The person with the most votes in the state of Michigan is going to get our electoral votes, plain and simple."

By visiting with Trump as the president lobbies for Michigan electors, Shirkey and Chatfield are in “dangerous territory,” said Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians, a group that led the push for the state’s new independent redistricting commission. 

“Either they are attempting to overturn the will of Michigan voters, or they are willingly engaging in political theater being orchestrated by the White House,” Wang said in a statement. “Either way, they are undermining public confidence in fair elections and doing a terrible disservice to all voters.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Holly suggested "history has come" for Chatfield and Shirkey: "These two men will soon have to choose between our democracy, and fealty to one man,” she wrote in a Thursday tweet

Several Republican legislators are on record opposing any immediate changes to the state’s electoral process. 

"The Legislature has the power to change the system for choosing electors in advance of any election," but to do so "AFTER an election would bring untold chaos to any presidential election and destroy a centuries-old trust in the Electoral College," state Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, wrote on Facebook last week. 

Bridge on Thursday asked a handful of other Republican lawmakers if they are committed to awarding Michigan’s 16 electors to the winner of the statewide popular vote.  

Some dodged the question and declined to weigh in. 

“I don’t have anything to say on that,” Sen. Pete Lucido, R-Shelby Township, said after a meeting of the joint oversight committee reviewing Michigan election results. 

“I’m committed to making sure that every legal vote is counted, and only every legal vote is counted,” said Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland. 

“No comment on that,” said Rep. John Reilly, R-Oakland Township. “I’d have to take a look at the whole situation.”

Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, said he would honor the popular vote “as soon as we find out what that is,” noting statewide certification is not complete. 

“The will of the people will be done,” LaFave said. “This election is not close in Michigan… So unless I find 150,000-plus fraudulent ballots, then Joe Biden won.” 

Finding that many votes is unlikely, he added. 

‘Conspiracy theories’

As the Trump campaign moved to dismiss its Michigan lawsuit on Thursday, attorney Mark “Thor” Hearne told a federal judge that Wayne County canvassers had “met and declined to certify results of the presidential election,” which is not true. 

The county board unanimously certified results on Tuesday night, but GOP canvassers Monica Palmer and William Hartmann released affidavits late Wednesday attempting to “rescind” those votes, which legal experts say is not possible. 

The city of Detroit asked Judge Janet Neff to strike Hearne’s claim that Wayne County declined to certify the results from the court record.

While federal law allows the Trump campaign to dismiss its complaint, it "does not allow them to use a notice of dismissal to spread disinformation,” wrote attorney David Fink. 

Fink noted the Trump campaign and GOP allies have lost a series of Michigan lawsuits. He told Bridge it is “no surprise” that others are being voluntarily dismissed, including separate federal lawsuits from conservative law firms Great Lakes Justice Center and True the Vote.

“Every time one of their cases gets to a judge, their baseless conspiracy theories are rejected,” he said. “All of these lawsuits have not documented a single vote that was fraudulently cast.”

Guiliani, in a Thursday afternoon news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters, repeated unsubstantiated claims of fraud and irregularities at Detroit’s absentee counting board, citing GOP poll challenger affidavits that Wayne County Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny, a Republican appointee, deemed “not credible” and misrepresentative.

Guiliani, the former New York mayor, also alleged a “truck” that was purportedly delivering food to the TCF Center in Detroit was actually full of ballots, exaggerating a claim from a GOP witness who has acknowledged she didn’t actually see ballots but suspected foul play because there wasn’t enough food for all the election workers. 

Guiliani also repeated a conspiracy theory that Dominion voting equipment used widely in Michigan and other states was used to rig the election for Biden. 

That theory was fueled by a human error in Antrim County, where Republican Clerk Sheryl Guy’s office misapplied a software update in a way that skewed unofficial results for Biden.

"I cannot express how very unfortunate it is that our human error has called into question the integrity of Antrim County's election process and placed it front and center at the national level,” Guy said Thursday in testimony before the Michigan Legislature. 

She noted the error was quickly corrected after voters and reporters contacted her office asking how Biden could have won the heavily Republican county. If it wasn’t discovered earlier, it “certainly” would have been flagged during the canvass, when officials review “tabulator tape” from each voting machine, Guy said. 

“I take full responsibility, but I must emphasize that the human error did not in any way, shape or form affect the official results of Antrim County,” she told lawmakers. 

— Bridge reporters Mansur Shaheen and Kelly House contributed to this report.

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Thu, 11/19/2020 - 8:06pm

Good thing there was a good potato harvest this year...huh?

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 10:44pm

The fact that these two MI GOP leaders are travelling to DC is all you need to know about their intent. They are leaving the door open to betray the State of Michigan and all its citizens. A moral leader would say "No, we will decide our election here in the state and we don't accept pressure from any interested party". Accepting this meeting is a shameful and treasonous act.

We the People
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 8:58am

YES! There are some good Republicans throughout the country that refuse to lie for Trump, but they do not live in Michigan. God help us!

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 9:16am

Remember in 2016 traitor trump had the help of the Republican SOS and the Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in destroying 75000 ballots from Detroit!!! Trump is trying it again!!!!

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 6:15am

The winner in the state should be the one to get our EC votes, but it needs to be done after a full recount and verification of the ballots. Democrats claiming no evidence while obstructing all efforts to verify their claims that there was no cheating leads reasonable people to believe they have something to hide.

Democrats really have no room to talk, not after 4 years of their advocating for faithless electors and abolishing the Electoral College and multi-state compacts to thwart the will of the voters in their states.

I call BS
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 9:00am

Where was fraud? Why not say so in court, perjury fears? Why all the talk and NONE of the walk? Why withdraw suits already filed?

John Chastain
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 10:05am

Tara, the only obstruction and cheating going on here is Michigans Trump Republican's attempt at disenfranchisement and voter suppression under the guise of investigating claims of "fraud" so unsupportable that when in court and under oath their lawyers have had to admit that they have no evidence of fraud nor are they claiming there is. Pretending that what is going on here is about "recounts" & "verification" is either deeply dishonest or misguided. They want to get ballots thrown out, period, especially the ballots of the people of Detroit which as I am sure you are aware are predominantly minorities. A tactic with its long history of racism and aggression once committed by people in white hoods and robes and now committed by conservative lawyers in suits and white people with guns. You talk of the will of the people of the state of Michigan, well the majority of the people of the state of Michigan are not Trump republicans and right now your Trump republican leadership is in D.C. offering their fealty and loyalty to Trump and his attempt to "thwart the will of the voters" of the State of Michigan. Something that people like you have no problem with as long as the desired outcome is achieved.

The second paragraph of your comment is a mishmash of exaggeration, half truth and mischaracterizations of intent so common in the bad faith arguments of republicans while defending their own ethically lacking conduct and support of Trump .

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 10:11am

What claims of no evidence? The burden of proof is on the accuser, and every time Rs have to provide that they can't. It's a shame there's no repercussions for spreading false claims repeatedly.

Jim tomlinson
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 10:27am

History reveals and as recently as 2016 voter is all but nonexistent. Until this year with full complicity of gop politics. Positively putinesk

Robert E Balwinski
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 12:24pm

Tara, the courts, not Democrats, are turning down lawsuits because there is no evidence of fraud. Saying something outside a courtroom is covered by the First Amendment. Saying something inside the courtroom needs proof and none, repeat, none has been provided.

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 12:29pm

I've seen no evidence of any attempt by anyone of obstructing efforts to verify claims that cheating happened in this election.

Please be specific. Which county in Michigan and exactly who in that county is obstructing anything.

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 3:34pm

And, yet, in 2016, when she secured more than 3 million votes nationwide over Trump, Hillary accepted the loss in Michigan......... by 10,704 votes. She didn't whine, didn't cry, didn't meet with Democratic members of the Michigan legislature, and didn't ask for a recount.

President Elect Biden has 14 TIMES as many votes in difference over Trump than Hillary had. Kind of hard to see where Democrats can be blamed.

If Donald Trump's election, with 306 electoral votes was a "landslide", where he lost by over 3 million in the popular vote, then surely Joe Biden's 306 electoral votes, with over 5 million more in the national popular vote is at least a win?

Sat, 11/21/2020 - 5:24pm

There is no fraud and the no one was willing to put their signature on an affidavit saying that there was under penalty of perjury. You people need to stop this. All your comment is doing is trying to push a fascist agenda, If this is what you want live in go another country.

Shame on S&C GOP
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 8:56am

Shirkey and Chatfield are going to the White House to LITERALLY lick Trump's "boots". This is OUTRAGEOUS! Trump, put up or shut up! Where is proof? Submit under oath!

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 9:01am

When Chatfield and Shirkey meet Trump Friday afternoon, he'll promise them endorsements and campaign funds for future elections, Federal money for their pet projects, and anything else on their wish lists - if they toss the votes of most Michiganders and give Trump the state's electoral votes. They'll do it. They're already thinking about it. If they weren't, they'd have declined Trump's invitation, like Arizona's Republican legislators already did.

George Hagenauer
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 9:22am

Watching the Republicans in Michigan brings back one of those bad flashbacks to my youth growing up in the corruption of Richard J. Daley's Chicago. What is most interesting is myself and probably hundreds of thousands or more of voters who are not Democrats or Republicans are not represented anywhere on the canvassing boards. If the anti-gerrymandering works - a logical outgrowth would be a process to create positions on the canvas and other election boards of people from neither party but committed to good clean and accurate elections. There is a need for far broader reform in the state than either party will provide.

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 9:30am

If anyone watched Rudy Giuliani and Sydney Powell present their case yesterday, it is pretty compelling that the whole vote must go to the courts. Just the Dominion voting machines and how they are operated says massive fraud was accomplished. George Soros has one of his lieutenants in a high position in that company which has just recently closed offices in the US and the leaders are leaving the country. Sworn affidavits under oath of wrongdoing, an e-mail from someone to Joe Biden saying stay low, it's in the bag for you are just a few items of evidence. What Sydney Powelll and her team has accomplished in just a few weeks is incredible. Time to wake up America, the swamp is deep.

U gotta B kidding
Sat, 11/21/2020 - 12:49pm

Are you talking about the press conference or the film "My Cousin Vinnie"? Giugliani is a CLOWN who destroyed not only all his marriages, but also his once admirable legacy.

Sat, 11/21/2020 - 12:50pm

Arjay, do you also work for Q-Anon?

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 9:32am

Lee, Mike, you shame our great state. Just say "no" to Trump! Dudes, the emperor has no clothes! Are you blind? The orange stops at the edges of his face. Look at his pasty white blubber. Stop listening to the tune of the Orange pied piper! Don't drag our state into the abyss.

Oh dear!
Sat, 11/21/2020 - 12:52pm

Picturing that makes me want to be blind in my mind's eye!

Pastor Mike
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 9:37am

Senator Shirkey, Representative Chatfield, what would Jesus do? Is He in your heart or are you possessed by the omnipresent Trump? Are you God-fearing men? Have you no conscience? The voters have spoken and we need to embrace honesty, humanity. We have to help our country deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. It's too serious to waste time trying to appease the whims of a president only concerned with himself.

Diane T
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 9:47am

Trump per se isn't the problem. His enablers are.

Worried sick
Sat, 11/21/2020 - 12:54pm

Longing for the day when Trump leaves office so we can tune him out for good. Insane to know he controls the nukes.

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 9:53am

"Dumb and Dumber" may want to have an attorney with them. To participate in a conspiracy to commit election fraud could end up in a prison term.

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 9:58am

I don't understand. Is the GOP legislature trying to install a parliamentary form of government and appoint our prime minister or do we still elect our president? What is happening?

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 10:08am

"Before Trump’s White House invitation, Republican leaders in the Michigan Legislature said they do not plan to award any presidential electors to a candidate who does not win the popular vote."

We know Trump has dirt on Lindsey Graham making him a tool, but does he have dirt on Shirkey and Chatfield? What would lead Shirkey and Chatfield to set aside any scruples they may have and cower to Trump?

Nick Ciaramitaro
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 10:52am

President Trump announced in campaign for re-election within days of his Inauguration. He spent much of the next four years campaigning to win votes in each state, particularly "battle ground" states. He repeatedly made the assertions that the only way he could lose is if the election were "rigged." Taking that to be both a warning to his followers and projection to his distractors, members of both parties began long, expensive and intense efforts to watch for any signs of fraud. There were none. So, when the President lost the popular vote in the "battleground" states needed to win an electoral college majority and lost the national popular vote, he began to assert his earlier claim with no evidence of fraud at any level. He went to court where even Republican judges pointed out his lack of evidence. He then attempted to prevent states from certifying the election by asking Republican canvassers to deny their own work. Now he is appealing to Republican legislators to ignore the will of the people who elected them and override their decision. This is only the latest attempt to undermine all legal institutions.

Sat, 11/21/2020 - 12:58pm

Just before the election a desperate Trump went to Erie, PA and said he was desperate, that he would never have gone there if he weren't worried he would lose. So why is he so surprised he lost? He KNEW he would lose and he INSULTED his own supporters who came to see him. No mystery here. Trump lost and it's no surprise.

Bill Randleman
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 11:19am

Nationwide general strike as a show of no confidence in the 2020 election the week of January 16.
No work, no purchases during the week of the presidential inauguration.

Sat, 11/21/2020 - 1:00pm

Don't worry Trump will leave.

Sat, 11/21/2020 - 1:06pm

"Bill", no confidence based on what, Q-Anon BS? Grow up!

Go figure!
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 11:42am

Giuliani asserts election fraud in public theatrics, but alleges no fraud in court. WTF?

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 12:15pm

So Shirkey and Chatfield say the legislature will not overturn the will of the people. Why, then, are they answering the summons of dear leader? These are the same people who tried to overturn the will of the people to do away with gerrymandering. Why should we believe them now?

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 12:15pm

So Shirkey and Chatfield say the legislature will not overturn the will of the people. Why, then, are they answering the summons of dear leader? These are the same people who tried to overturn the will of the people to do away with gerrymandering. Why should we believe them now?

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 12:19pm

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield of Levering and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake were summoned to the White House.

They know exactly why they've been summoned and they must know that collaborating to overturn an election and support a coup is a felony, arguably, treason. Why would they agree to this collaboration? What do they hope to accomplish?

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 12:21pm

Why are these two going to Washington if they have no intention of overriding the will of the voters? These are the same people who tried to override the will of the people on gerrymandering.

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 12:38pm

Trump is nothing but a traitor to our country and should be treated as such. Maybe they could set up the gallows on the White House lawn.

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 3:23pm

Shirkey, Chatfield, taste good?

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 3:42pm

"Shirkey, meanwhile, sang a popular worship song Friday morning at an airport in Washington, D.C. as he faced questions about whether he would attempt to intervene in the certification of Michigan's election results."

Dark side
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 3:45pm

Speaking of transparency, will Shirkey and Chatfield's meeting with exPOTUS be open to the press or under cover of darkness?

Think about it!
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 4:03pm

Democratic President-Elect Joe Biden defeated Trump in Michigan by about 154,000 votes!!!

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 4:05pm

Now Chatfield and Shirkey are opening themselves up to possible criminal investigations for election tampering and colluding with Russia. Putin will never concede.

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 4:23pm

"Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election. It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.” ~ Senator Mitt Romney last night on twitter

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 4:30pm

"At least six Michigan Republican lawmakers are participating in the trip to Washington, D.C., for the meeting with Trump, according to sources with knowledge of the plans.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, are expected to be joined at the White House by Rep. Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell; Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte; Sen. Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway Township; and Sen. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, according to sources."

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 4:36pm

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, who was the first House Republican to congratulate Biden on winning the election, criticized the effort to overturn Michigan’s vote.

“I've not seeing any evidence of fraud that would overturn 150,000 votes,” Upton told reporters Friday outside the U.S. Capitol.

Grasping at Straws
Fri, 11/20/2020 - 4:38pm

The St. Joseph Republican also noted that the Michigan Legislature doesn’t have the votes to override Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer if it were to try to change the rules regarding the appointment of electors.

“As far as I know, the governor would have to sign that too. They don't have the votes to override her. That's just a dead end,” Upton said.

He also cast doubt on the possibility the dispute over the election would end up in the U.S. House for lawmakers to decide.

“I think that's pretty much a long shot. I don't expect that to happen. I'm not a lawyer but I don't see judges overturning a certified election. Georgia is doing theirs today and they actually went back and hand counted,” Upton said. “Again, no one has shown any evidence that would overturn the margin.”

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 4:44pm

So the Republican party can't substantiate their claims and their move is to attempt to put party over people? Yup, never voting Republican again. Then again, at least we decided to act fairly to the rest of the world and attempt regime change tactics we use in foreign lands on the home turf. Great!

A. Bellows
Sun, 11/22/2020 - 8:31am

Prove there is no fraud by auditing the votes.