Sixteen Michigan Trump loyalists face felonies in ‘false elector’ scheme
- Felony charges filed against 16 Trump supporters who falsely claimed he’d won Michigan’s electoral votes
- Among those charged: ex GOP state chair Meshawn Maddock, Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden, Shelby Township Clerk Stanley Grot and Wyoming Mayor Kent Vanderwood.
- Each defendant faces eight felony counts apiece; most charges carry 14-year sentences
July 27: Former Michigan GOP co-chair pleads not guilty to false elector charges
July 20: Michigan GOP officials defend Trump electors as court dates set
July 19: Michigan electors scheme: What to know about the 16 Trump backers charged
Felony charges have been issued for 16 so-called false electors who aided former President Donald Trump's attempt to overturn his 2020 election loss, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Tuesday.
Among those charged are Meshawn Maddock, who was co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party in 2020; Kathy Berden, Michigan's Republican national committeewoman; Shelby Township Clerk Stanley Grot and Wyoming Mayor Kent Vanderwood.
They are accused of falsely filling out paperwork that asserted Trump won Michigan, even though Democrat Joe Biden won by 154,188 votes. The document purported to be an official certificate awarding the state’s presidential electors to Trump in what Nessel said was an attempt to keep him in the White House.
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The certificate falsely claimed that pro-Trump electors convened in the Michigan Capitol on Dec. 14, 2020. In reality, they met in the basement of Michigan GOP headquarters in Lansing.
In a statement, Nessel said their actions “undermined the public’s faith in the integrity of our elections and, we believe, also plainly violated the laws by which we administer our elections in Michigan.”
“Where there is overwhelming evidence of guilt in respect to multiple crimes, the most political act I could engage in as a prosecutor would be to take no action at all,” said Nessel, a Democrat, who reopened the case in 2023 after federal officials didn’t bring charges.
One of those charged Tuesday, Ionia County Republican activist Ken Thompson, said Nessel is “playing a very poor political game, and it’s a shame all right.”
“She’s supposed to be the attorney general of the state, and she's not: she’s a political apparatchik,” said Thompson, 68, of Orleans.
Thompson said he and others who were involved “have a right to petition, to address our position.” He called Nessel’s decision a “political attack” and an abuse of authority.
Earlier this year, Maddock criticized Nessel’s efforts in the case, telling Bridge “I never expected that modern political witchhunts would be led by literal witches.”
Today, @MIAttyGen @dananessel announced felony charges against 16 Michigan residents for their role in the alleged false electors scheme following the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Read more ➡️ https://t.co/ODhkAQfXNP /1 pic.twitter.com/u5riNpTD5I— Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (@MIAttyGen) July 18, 2023
Each defendant faces eight felony counts including ranging from conspiracy and election law forgery to forgery and uttering and publishing. Most of the charges are punishable by up to 14 years in prison, while others are five-year felonies.
- William (Hank) Choate, 72, of Cement City, a dairy farmer and former chair of the Jackson County Republican Party
- Amy Facchinello, 55, school board member in Grand Blanc who faced efforts and protests in 2021 on claims of supporting QAnon conspiracies
- Clifford Frost, 75, of Warren, a real estate agent who ran for state House in 2020
- John Haggard, 82, of Charlevoix, who told a local paper that he signed a document as an elector but “did I read it? Hell no.”
- Mari-Ann Henry, 65, of Brighton, who has served as the Oakland County Republican Party treasurer
- Timothy King, 56, of Ypsilanti, a retired tool and die worker and Republican activist who has spoken out against utilities use of smart meters at public meetings
- Michele Lundgren, 73, of Detroit who ran for state House in 2022 and told a TV station she only signed an attendance sheet. “I didn’t even know what an elector was, let alone a fake elector,” she told WDIV-Channel 4 last year.
- James Renner, 76, of Lansing, a former precinct delegate
- Mayra Rodriguez, 64, of Grosse Pointe Farms, a lawyer and House candidate in 2020. In a deposition to Congress, she repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination when asked about the electors document.
- Rose Rook, 81, of Paw Paw, a retired realtor and former Van Buren County Republican Party chair
- Marian Sheridan, 69, of West Bloomfield, who is co-founder of the Michigan Conservative Coalition and has served as director of the Lakes Area Tea Party
Several have denied wrongdoing. In a January 2022 interview with The Charlevoix Courier, Haggard said it’s “awful” that his and other electors’ actions were “being viewed as anything other than service.”
All defendants will be arraigned in 54-A District Court in Ingham County, and no court dates have yet been set.
‘Insane and inappropriate’
In testimony, former GOP Chair Laura Cox said the fake electors plotted to sleep in the Michigan Capitol in hopes of complying with state law requiring they meet in the state Senate chambers on Dec. 14, 2020.
She testified to the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol that aides for the Trump campaign were aware of the efforts.
"I told him in no uncertain terms that that was insane and inappropriate,” Cox told the committee.
Trump’s fake electors scheme also included six other states he lost that would have swung the 2020 election to him, including Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Nevada and Wisconsin, the panel was told.
Multiple Trump campaign attorneys told investigators they refused to participate in the elector scheme but said it was pushed by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and fellow lawyer John Eastman.
Also testifying before Congress about the plot, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, a Michigander who previously led the state party, said the Trump campaign took "the lead" on what she called an effort to "gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing changes the result of any of the states."
Before the Electoral College met, Trump summoned top legislative Republicans from Michigan to the White House — including then-Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and then-House Speaker Lee Chatfield — urging them to block or delay the awarding Michigan’s votes to Biden.
The Michigan contingent refused.
‘Accountability is critical’
Democrats and progressives praised the charges on Tuesday.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a social media statement that the named defendants “sought to undermine the integrity of our elections and undo the will of Michigan voters.”
“Accountability is critical to ensuring these attempts are not made again,” she continued.
Sam Inglot, executive director of Progress Michigan, said in a statement that the defendants’ actions amounted to a “quiet insurrection” and they should be held to equal accountability as those who rioted at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Nessel’s decision to pursue charges and the polarized political reaction “shows we’re not getting past the 2020 election” anytime soon, said Matt Grossmann, a professor of political science and the director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University.
“We all have known the details for years now, in terms of what occurred,” he said. “All of these details are going to keep coming back up…we’re still fighting about the same issues, three years later.”
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