LANSING — President Donald Trump’s personal attorney on Wednesday alleged a global conspiracy to swing the election for Democrat Joe Biden and urged Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature to try to overturn statewide results.
In a 4 1/2-hour hearing that concluded about 10:30 p.m. and was often tense and theatrical, Rudy Giuliani implored Michigan House members to “have the courage to say that certification that was done by your state is a complete phony.”
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Giuliani at times commandeered the meeting, presenting his own witnesses and then questioning them about what he claimed with little evidence was “massive cheating” and a “con job” at the absentee ballot counting board in Detroit.
Committee Chair Matt Hall, R-Marshall, allowed lawmakers to ask each witness a single question, with no follow-ups. He gavelled down and shut off microphones for Democratic legislators who challenged that rule, and repeatedly urged the pro-Trump crowd not to shout or cheer during the testimony.
Here are some highlights:
State law specifies that Michigan’s 16 presidential electors go to the winner of the popular vote, and both House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Mike Shirkey have made clear that will not change this year.
But Giuliani and Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis urged GOP lawmakers to reconsider, arguing they have a constitutional “obligation” to pick electors themselves if they do not trust the results of the election that the president and his allies have sought to undermine.
“That this is your plenary, meaning absolute, power,” Ellis said.
Giuliani bashed the State Board of Canvassers for certifying statewide election results last week, apparently unaware that Aaron Van Langevelde, who cast the deciding vote, is a well-respected staffer for House Republicans.
“The people who certified your election, what are they worth? The piece of paper is a lie,” Giuliani said.
Hall, the committee chair, refused Democratic requests to have the witnesses – and Giuliani – sworn in to testify under oath, drawing protests from lawmakers.
“You’re allowing people to come in here and lie, and I know they’re lying,” said Rep. Cynthia Johnson, D-Detroit.
But many of Giuliani’s witnesses noted they have already filed affidavits, under the penalty of perjury, in various Michigan election lawsuits.
None of those suits have been successful. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kennedy, a Republican appointee, last month dismissed claims from several of Giuliani’s witnesses as “incorrect and not credible.”
Among them was Mellissa Carone, who worked at the TCF Center in Detroit as a temporary contractor for Dominion Voting Systems. She claimed Wednesday that she saw as many as 30,000 ballots fed through voting machines and counted multiple times.
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Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, noted that counting that many ballots multiple times would have led to huge deviations from poll books that tally the number of voters, which election experts say would have surely been noticed and remedied.
Carone attacked the GOP legislator in response: “I know what I saw. And I signed something saying that if I’m wrong, I can go to prison. Did you?”
Carone claimed that Democrats have ruined her life because she’s spoken out about election fraud and she’s had to delete her social media accounts. An hour later, she changed her Facebook profile photo to a portrait of her and Giuliani.
Several lawmakers asked Giuliani why the Trump campaign did not request a hand recount of paper ballots in Michigan, given the president’s unsubstantiated allegations that voting machines changed tallies for Biden.
“You have 48 hours after the vote certification to request the recount,” said Johnson, the Republican legislator. “We never got that. So instead what we hear is a lot of talk, a lot of thoughts, a lot of allegations.”
Giuliani offered conflicting explanations.
“There would be no reason to ask for a recount because you just recount the same fraudulent ballots,” he said, suggesting without evidence a Democratic plot to “steal” the election through mail-in ballots.
Later, Giuliani appeared confused about what a Michigan recount would actually entail — an examination of paper ballots — suggesting that “doing a recount of the machines is not going to give us anything but the same false results.”
A Dominion conspiracy
Phil Waldron, who did not list any professional credentials beyond military experience but was presented by Giuliani as an expert data analyst, alleged a global anti-Trump conspiracy involving Dominion Voting Systems machines used in parts of Michigan and dozens of other states.
He and Giuliani both repeated debunked claims about Antrim County, where the GOP clerk has admitted human error — not voting equipment — was responsible for an initial reporting error that attributed Trump votes to Biden.
Waldron raised red flags about what he called vote “spikes” in Kent, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties the morning after the election, which is not unusual or evidence of wrongdoing because local communities report results in full or in batches, not immediately when each ballot is counted.
He told lawmakers his analysis was based on Dominion data from those four counties, but neither Oakland nor Macomb counties use Dominion equipment.
Detroit election worker Jessy Jacobs testified for more than an hour, running through a litany of complaints she had over the city’s election administration while suggesting she was treated “like a criminal” when she voiced concerns.
Jacobs claimed supervisors told her to “back date” ballots at the TCF Center, a directive city officials have said was a routine step to correct clerical errors made at satellite clerks offices.
She also appeared confused on some issues, saying she was alarmed that voters were not required to fill out affidavits to spoil previously issued absentee ballots and get new ones in the run-up to the election, which is not actually required.
Giuliani asked whether that led to “totally illegal ballots,” but Jacobs said she had marked those initial ballots as spoiled in the state’s qualified voter file, which means those voters could not have voted twice.
“I really don’t know what happened, whether they shredded those ballots or they trashed it,” Jacobs told Giuliani. “I don’t know, but it was not returned to the satellite sites.”
Several speakers said they noticed irregularities at the TCF Center, and lawmakers said they were concerned by some accusations, including disputed claims that GOP challengers were denied meaningful access and forced to abide by a six-foot distancing rule that courts had rejected.
But Giuliani claimed there should be no mistake.
“Don’t scratch your head about what happens in Detroit. They steal elections in Detroit,” he said, adding it is one of the “most corrupt” cities in the nation.
“Democrats were smart enough to pick 10 cities they could get away with [fraud] and find a hack judge who will let them get away with anything they want,” he added, referencing Democratic-run cities in other states Trump lost like Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin.
That was too much for Johnson, the Detroit Democrat, who noted “there is no one in this room to represent Detroiters.”
She was gavelled out of order repeatedly by Hall, including once for asking Guiliani if he and Trump are honest, even though other lawmakers were allowed to make short statements.
Guiliani also sparred with Rep. Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstown Township, who asked the attorney about reports that he is seeking a preemptive pardon from Trump before he leaves office.
“I will ask that he be disciplined for that,” Guiliani told Hall, the committee chair. “ First of all, what he said is untrue. Second of all, that is a defamation of my professional character. Do you allow that to happen in your legislature?”
Camilleri wasn’t disciplined.