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Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

The Rudy Giuliani ‘circus’ has left Lansing. The reviews are bad.

One witness confessed she thinks “all Chinese look alike” and finds it odd that retinal scans aren’t required of voters.

Another was shushed for challenging the credibility of a Republican representative, after speculating without proof that food trucks were used to transport thousands of illegal ballots for Democrat Joe Biden in Detroit.

And the star of the show, Rudy Giuliani, and witnesses that a judge has ruled “simply not credible” were given 4 ½ hours on the floor of  a Michigan House committee to advance conspiracy theories about stolen elections.

One day after a hearing about unproven claims of voter fraud, legislators on both sides of the aisle are decrying the proceeding as a disgrace and shame to Michigan.

The Wednesday hearing broke standards for conduct and timing, as Giuliani, president Trump’s personal lawyer, was allowed to ask more questions than House Oversight Committee members. 

That prompted criticism of committee chair Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall, who only allowed members to ask one question of witnesses, overruled requests to swear them in and frequently slammed his gavel to silence colleagues who objected.

U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, who is retiring this month, wondered why Republican leaders allowed testimony he said was “driving the party into this ditch”. 

“Please JUST STOP!” he implored on Twitter.

Former state Rep. Martin Howrylak, a Republican from Oakland County, said he was “embarrassed” by the hearing. He said if the committee cared about election integrity, members would wait until after the state’s 16 electors vote for the president when the Electoral College meets Dec. 14.

“There’s no need to have this now,” he said, saying Hall injected the committee into a “political fistfight.”

Former state Sen. Ken Sikkema, a Republican, said “the way the committee was run was atrocious.”

He said that witnesses, like Giuliani, don’t typically get to ask other witnesses questions. 

“That’s just unheard of,”  said Sikkema, who is now a consultant but served as a legislator from 1987 to 2006. [Sikkema serves on the steering committee of The Center for Michigan, Bridge’s nonprofit parent.]

Giuliani “had more standing than a committee member,” Sikkema said. 

The meeting left committee vice chair Cynthia Johnson, D-Detroit, shaken. 

Hall repeatedly slammed his gavel down to stop her from talking, as she tried to defend Detroiters from Giuliani’s claims that the city is among the nation’s most corrupt.

Johnson was repeatedly jeered by Trump supporters who packed the hearing. She warned that Hall best not repeat the gaveling.

“The next time something like that happens he’s going to have to break the [expletive] gavel,” Johnson told Bridge Michigan.

House officials are investigating “really threatening” email and social media attacks on Johnson and intend to forward information to the Michigan State Police, according to a recording shared by Johnson with Bridge from David Dickson, chief sergeant-at-arms for the House.

“I have never in my entire life seen such a hearing like that where the chair hands the gavel over,” Johnson said.

Hall did not respond to an email from Bridge seeking comment.

Other Democrats criticized the hearing, as Attorney General Dana Nessel  challenged Republicans to bring proof of their claims of fraud to law enforcement or stop making “baseless, debunked attacks on our elections.”

Nessel was relentless on Twitter, calling out the easily debunked allegations for getting into the record: “This hearing is a state-sponsored disinformation campaign geared toward undermining our electoral system. Shameful.”

Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, labeled the hearing a “circus” in part for not swearing in those who testified. When he held hearings on the Flint water crisis, every witness was sworn in, he said

“We swore every witness in on the Flint Water bicameral committee but that issue was real and important ... You don’t swear in folks at the circus. You just laugh at the clowns.”

Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, is also conducting hearings into accusations of voter fraud. He declined an invitation from Giuliani to appear before his oversight committee.

GOP consultant John Sellek said Republicans accommodated Giuliani because they are afraid of alienating the base of Trump, who insists widespread fraud cost him the election, even though he lost to Biden by more than 154,000 votes in Michigan. 

“So much focus is on Trump himself, but even after he is gone from D.C., Michigan’s Republican elected officials will be left with a significant part of their base believing fraud took place, people who are looking for Republicans to hold responsible for `not doing anything about it’,” Sellek said in an email to Bridge. 

“So, legislators are under great strain at home and are trying to `hear them out.’ But, short of actually trying to overturn an election, which is not on the Legislature’s agenda, will it ever be enough?”

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