Trump’s hopes sputter to end in Michigan. ‘It’s over, and they know it.’

President Donald Trump, shown at a Battle Creek rally in December, sued, spread false conspiracy theories and suggested Michigan lawmakers overturn the popular vote. All failed, and President-elect Joe Biden won the state decisively. (Max Elram / Shutterstock.com)

LANSING — After three weeks of sound and fury in all-caps tweets, Republican President Donald Trump’s flailing bid to overturn his Michigan election loss came to a quiet close on Wednesday afternoon.

The Trump campaign failed to request either a full or partial ballot recount by Michigan’s 4:34 p.m. deadline, according to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office. 

A recount would have been a long-shot unlikely to change the results, but experts say it was the campaign’s last obvious legal option to challenge a race Democrat Joe Biden won by 154,188 votes.

“It’s over, and they know it,” said John Sellek, a Republican strategist with Harbor Strategic Public Affairs in Lansing.

“The end game is for there to be no end, really, and I think that's mostly because President Trump's thing is to never admit that he lost. I would not expect that to change.”

While Republican legislators have placated Trump by launching an inquiry into the election, none has backed the president’s false claim he won Michigan, and a growing number have now congratulated Biden as the president-elect.

The GOP-controlled Legislature also politely declined campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani’s request to come to Michigan and testify before an election oversight committee next week. 

“We considered it, and we determined that logistically, it wasn’t going to work,” House Oversight Committee Chair Matt Hall, R-Marshall, told Bridge Michigan. 

It’s the second rebuff in as many weeks from GOP leaders in the state Legislature, some of whom met with Trump in the White House on Friday but say they made clear to him that Michigan law would not allow them to appoint electors to anyone who did not win the popular vote. 

Trump and Giuliani have spent weeks perpetuating conspiracy theories about unproven widespread voter fraud, touting Michigan lawsuits already lost or withdrawn and disputing results certified in a Monday vote that thrust Republican canvasser Aaron Van Langevelde into the national spotlight.

Trump has sparked a “wildfire” that’s led GOP activists to confuse election administration mistakes with voter fraud, said state Rep. Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis, who told Bridge he was “horrified” by some of Giuliani’s recent claims.

“Biden won the state,” Miller said. “It shouldn’t be politically controversial for a Republican to say, but sadly it is. He did it by well over 140,000 votes, and we ought to respect that even if we don’t like it.”

Republican state canvasser Aaron Van Langevelde earned praise for voting to certify Michigan’s election results despite heavy pressure from party leaders to delay a vote. (Screenshot of canvassers meeting)

With the end near, the Trump campaign on Tuesday boasted that Legislatures in three battleground states where the president is contesting losses – Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan – would hold public hearings “in an effort to provide confidence that all of the legal votes have been counted and the illegal votes have not been counted in the November 3rd election.”

The Senate Oversight Committee is slated to meet next week for a hearing on absentee ballot counting at the TCF Center in Detroit, but that is “not in response to, or coordinated with, Trump or his campaign,” said GOP spokesperson Amber McCann. 

The House House Oversight Committee, which has held joint hearings with the Senate, does not plan to meet next week, according to Hall. 

Instead of granting Guiliani’s request for a public audience, which would have turned into a national media spectacle, Hall said the committee is inviting the former New York mayor to submit written testimony that the panel could consider at a later date. 

“All kinds of people are listening to what he says, and then they’re calling my office and telling me that there’s all this fraud,” Hall said. “So we want him to provide that evidence, or if there is no evidence, then move on.”

Legal losses pile up

Monday’s vote certification triggered a 48-hour window for Trump to request a recount, his last legal option to fight an election, but one that experts say would have been expensive and unlikely to succeed given Biden’s margin, which was roughly 14 times larger than the 10,704 votes Trump won by here four years ago. 

A full statewide recount could have cost the Trump campaign close to $1 million, a deposit that would only be refunded if the outcome changed. Past recounts revealed only minor discrepancies. In a 2016 hand recount of more than 2 million Michigan ballots requested by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Democrat Hillary Clinton picked up a total of 103 votes on Trump.

“It’s kind of the end of the road,” said Steven Liedel, a Democratic attorney who served as legal counsel to former Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Detroit Clerk Janice Winfrey and others defended the integrity of Michigan elections during a state Board of Canvassers meeting Monday that featured sharp questions from GOP canvasser Norm Shinkle. (Screenshot of canvassers meeting)

“Unless there's some sort of evidence they have of fraud that affects the results of the election, which they've yet to present to anyone, judge or otherwise, there really are no other avenues.”

U.S. Senate candidate John James, who officially lost to incumbent Democratic Sen. Gary Peters by 92,335 votes, on Tuesday conceded the race, a step the president hasn’t made despite allowing the official transition process to begin this week. 

Related stories:

Trump is effectively out of legal options in Michigan, where his campaign last week withdrew a federal lawsuit on the false premise that the Wayne County Board of Canvassers had failed to certify local election returns, including absentee votes from Detroit, an African American-majority city and Democratic stronghold that Republicans fixated on. 

Wayne County canvassers actually did certify those results, and while Republican challengers Monica Palmer and William Hartmann later filed affidavits expressing a desire to rescind their votes, they had no legal mechanism to do so. 

The voluntary dismissal was the latest in a string of legal blunders from the Trump campaign, which had erroneously filed its Michigan lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which only hears monetary claims against the U.S. government, and failed to submit proper paperwork to appeal a state court loss.

“Early on, I described it as throwing nothing against the wall and hoping something sticks, and I think that proved to be the case,” Liedel said of the Trump campaign’s legal strategy. 

The Michigan Supreme Court on Monday declined to immediately reconsider a case brought by Trump allies in Wayne County, where Republican-appointed Judge Timothy Kenny rejected an attempt to halt certification in Wayne County, calling affidavits from several GOP poll challengers “incorrect and not credible.”

Conservative Justices Brian Zahra and Stephen Markman joined the 6-1 majority in declining to immediately hear the case, but they urged Kenny to continue to vet the underlying allegations in an expedited fashion. 

“I am cognizant that many Americans believe that plaintiffs’ claims of electoral fraud and misconduct are frivolous and obstructive, but I am equally cognizant that many Americans are of the view that the 2020 election was not fully free and fair,” Zahra wrote in a concurring opinion. 

“The latter is a view that strikes at the core of concerns about this election’s lack of both ‘accuracy’ and ‘integrity’ – values that [the Michigan Constitution] appears designed to secure.”

A certification heard ‘round the world

Trump’s longshot bid to overturn the Michigan election results made the typically obscure Board of State Canvassers must-watch TV on Monday as partisan appointees completed what is usually a routine affair: confirming results that had already been certified by all 83 counties. 

Citing second thoughts from two Wayne County GOP canvassers, Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis urged state canvassers to block certification, claiming that if they did, “the Republican state legislator will select the electors,” which would be a “huge win” for Trump.

But Van Langevelde, a Republican attorney who works for the House GOP caucus, said at the outset that he believed Michigan law was clear: The board had a “duty” to certify results and did not have authority to do much else. 

“We’re not a court here,” he said. “We don’t have judicial power. We don’t have the authority to conduct a trial on whether election fraud occurs.”

Van Langevelde avoided the spotlight for weeks, unlike fellow Republican canvasser Norm Shinkle, who told Bridge and national publications he had doubts about the results and ultimately abstained from certifying the election.

Both Republicans were lobbied heavily by activists and political officials, including Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and Michigan GOP Chair Laura Cox, who urged delay.

But speaker after speaker on Monday defended the integrity of the election, with Detroit Clerk Janice Winfrey and other clerks saying that claims of fraud were actually minor mistakes that didn’t affect the outcome.

“As humans, we all make mistakes,” Winfrey said. 

Less than two hours after Van Langevelde joined two Democratic colleagues in certifying the election, Trump acknowledged that the General Services Administration had authorized the presidential transition process. (He later disputed the agency’s characterization that Biden is the “apparent winner” of the election.)

Van Langevelde’s vote made him a folk hero in some circles but a target of scorn among some Republicans and die-hard Trump supporters. 

Incoming state House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Clare, told The Detroit News the GOP caucus will continue to employ Van Langevelde as a policy advisor next session, calling him a “very valued member of this team.”

Republicans who worked with Van Langevelde in the House rose to his defense amid attacks from conservative social media. 

“He’s going to look at the letter of the law and do the right thing, no matter what his opinion is,” said Miller, the Sturgis Republican who is serving his third and final term. “The man definitely does his homework, which is why I knew Aaron Van Langevelde was going to be a steady pair of hands on the steering wheel.”

It was clear he “didn’t want to make a circus out of this and he just wanted to do his job,” said Martin Van Howrylak, a former Republican state lawmaker from Troy who served on two committees that Van Langevelde staffed.

“That’s what we’re used to with Aaron: Just no frills and get the job done and be honest and even-keeled and even-handed,” Howrylak said. “It’s just good to see somebody like him in a position where he’s really to apply the law, and nothing more and nothing less.”

Van Langevelde is a former Branch County assistant prosecutor who knows Michigan election law well, according to Miller, who last session chaired the House Elections Committee that Van Langevelde staffed as a policy adviser.

In that capacity, they spent time together analyzing Senate GOP bills that would have shifted campaign finance oversight to a new political commission, a proposal critics feared would weaken enforcement by making it a partisan process. 

“We really did not feel good about them,” and ended up killing the bills in the House, Miller recalled. 

“I have every reason to trust Aaron’s conscience. He’s an extremely honorable person who has demonstrated time and time again that he is all about doing the right thing. In advocating for policy, his conscience is loud and clear there too.” 

The popular vote will prevail

Michigan lawmakers have heard Giuliani’s fraud claims before, including Friday in the Oval Office, where Trump met with a Republican delegation that included Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake, House Speaker Lee Chatfield of Levering, Wentworth, Rep. Jim Lilly of Park Township, Sen. Tom Barrett of Charlotte and Sen. Dan Lauwers of Brockway Township.

With state legislators seated in a semi-circle around Trump’s desk, Giuliani phoned into the meeting and gave them a “repeat” performance of prior night’s press conference with Sidney Powell, a fellow attorney the Trump campaign cut ties with two days later in an unexplained move, according to Shirkey.

Trump has openly encouraged Legislatures to appoint their own electors in states he is contesting, and Shirkey said Michigan legislators were “expecting” he might ask them to interfere in the state election but were “delighted” when “all he did was inquire about our processes.”

There are still many unanswered questions about the meeting, including why Trump would summon seven GOP legislators to Washington D.C. just to inquire about Michigan law, which clearly mandates that all 16 electors go to the winner of the statewide popular vote. 

But that’s what happened, according to Shirkey: “He inquired about Michigan election law, and we explained to him how they work, and he was convinced that there’s nothing we can do,” he said Tuesday in a radio interview. “The law is the law, and we made it very clear we were going to follow it.”

While they faced national criticism for even taking the meeting, Shirkey and Chatfield sought to squash speculation by immediately reiterating their plans to honor the popular vote. 

“We will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election,” they said in a joint statement shortly after the meeting.

Democrats expect Trump will continue to try and exert pressure on Michigan lawmakers to overturn the election. But at least so far, the system has survived an unprecedented attack by a sitting president who refuses to concede. 

“The president and his team were kicking the tires of some of the institutions that exist to keep democratic elections on track,” said Adrian Hemond, a Democratic strategist with the Grassroots Midwest Consulting firm in Lansing. 

“The system seems to have survived a stress test, but the election wasn’t all that close... In a situation where there had been a couple of tipping point states that were close, I’m not sure that we would have performed as well.”

The Trump resistance came in phases, said Sellek, the GOP strategist: First, rhetoric and protests. Then, lawsuits. And when that failed, a push for Republcan Legislatures to overturn results by appointing electors themselves. 

“That phase looks like it’s already over,” Sellek said. “The groundwork he’s laying right now is for permanent opposition to everything that comes next, and only time is going to be able to tell us if the movement gets more splintered as other voices come forward."

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Comments

KJMC
Thu, 11/26/2020 - 10:00am

Thank you, to all the Michigan GOP leadership who upheld our democracy. You had a chance to send us on a darker path, and you didn't take it. Unlike some, your honor is intact. We'll continue to disagree on a lot of things, but you deserve our thanks in this case, and respect for doing what was right.

middle of the mit
Sat, 11/28/2020 - 11:22pm

I will agree with this. I feel that it is...........abhorrent that this is something that could have happened........but none the less, make no mistake, it could have happened. It has happened in other places. Let us make sure it doesn't happen here.

It's just the sad fact, we have to look to one party......to not be insane, while they are telling people like me that I want a Government shoe factory.

THAT IS NOT WHAT I WANT! Stop listening to them! NO ONE wants that! WE want to be Free, while having a Country that looks after the least of these! If you don't know...........that IS a Christian Nation!

LOL
Mon, 11/30/2020 - 1:40am

By "all", you mean one: Van Langevelde. Thanks, Van Langevelde. You set a hopeful example for the future of the party and for your own future in politics. Cheaters should not prosper. The Trump era is over.

Hail to Chief r...
Tue, 12/01/2020 - 8:48am

You want funny? Check this out, businessman and Republican governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, on live TV ignoring Trump's call to interfere in the election as he officially certifies the votes:
https://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/arizona-certifies-election-resul...
I think, at Notre Dame, they call Trump's move a "Hail Satan". Today God looks with favor upon Gov Ducey. That's all it takes, GOP. Trump isn't as powerful as all you all think. Grow a pair and denounce Trump. Remember your baptismal vows! Repent. It's not too late.

Bill
Fri, 11/27/2020 - 3:52pm

Another biased and misleading headline and article by the "nonpartisan" BridgeMi.

Trumps claims may be "unproven" but that doesn't mean they're false. What it does mean is that those who are charged with certifying/validating the election gave in to a group of terrorists who were threatening them if they didn't.

The same group of people who claim that enforcing election laws and security amounts to disenfrancisement (with no proof to support their claim) but then deflect from their cheating by labeling it "errors". At what point does widespread and repeated "errors" stop being "errors".

The very same group of people who also obstructed every effort to verify the integrity of the election. People with nothing to hide, who know they're in the right, don't obstruct efforts to prove them right. People with something to hide do.

Rick
Sat, 11/28/2020 - 9:40am

You sound like Trump and his ace lawyers: lots of allegations but nothing specific, nothing that offers any evidence. 'Unproven' means there's no evidence or facts to support what is said. Just saying something with no evidence or facts to support it doesn't make it true.
There's certainly a lot of evidence the head of the US Postal Service tried to obstruct and delay mail in votes - we were astonished how much the mail slowed down. He took out and destroyed sorting machines. He should be prosecuted for election fraud but you just watch: he'll get a pardon from Trump. If he'd succeeded and Trump had won he'd get a Presidential Medal of 'Freedom'. Long lines to vote - why? Only one mail in drop box in a huge county (Texas) - efforts to make it hard to vote.

Carry on
Mon, 11/30/2020 - 1:42am

Bill is like Don, give him time. LOL None of us coddle our toddlers the way these grownass men want to be coddled.

CMAC
Sat, 11/28/2020 - 6:22pm

This must be Bill Schuette, frustrated that all his pandering and idolatry of Trump again blew up in his face.

Go check the facts... facts are that people want to demonize Detroit, black, democratic voters and claim there was some deep conspiracy to steal votes. But, if you look at the numbers based on basic logic, this is nonsense. While Michigan as a whole had voter turnout of around 71% statewide, up from 63% in 2016, Detroit only went up about 1%, from ~48% to ~49%. Biden actually had less total votes in Detroit than H. Clinton, because Trump actually got the most votes of any Republican in the city for decades. Voting percentages and raw numbers in the city were down quite a bit from the 2012/2008 Obama years.

Thus, the only anomaly in Detroit is that Trump over-performed relative to historical averages for Republican presidential candidates.

Sorry dude, you lost. I know you're bummed, but there's simply no substance to the overblown argument that somehow Detroiters were cooking the books at the TCF. The raw data shows this is clearly not true.

middle of the mit
Sun, 11/29/2020 - 12:00am

Just a few words.............in a sentence.............disgruntled employee.

That is the first thing your side runs to, when someone is hurt on the job. Isn't it?

When do we receive the same rules for injured employees........that we get for voting?

My bet? You don't want to go there.................And I am going to be the one that makes you do it.............if you ever will.

If there is nothing to hide..................why don't you FEAR the Patriot ACT? And why don't you worry about ALL the PRIVATE CORPORATIONS that are selling your information all day.......every day? While telling you they respect your 4th amendment to NOT wear a mask?

Hypocrisy is calling.

Jim tomlinson
Sun, 11/29/2020 - 10:16am

Election integrity has been examined , exhaustively and repeatedly by scholars of all stripes and some infinitesimal fraction of 1% of ballots have been found to be inaccurate (feel free to google it) until this election. So odd that this election is where accusations of this sort have become some sort of orthodoxy. The gop self indulgence knows no bounds.

MW
Mon, 11/30/2020 - 9:02am

--"At what point does widespread and repeated "errors" stop being "errors"."

As much as Trump is trying to claim the opposite, there weren't widespread and repeated errors.

J.
Mon, 11/30/2020 - 9:24am

Trump and his cronies have yet to offer a single shred of proof. To date, Trump is 1 win, 39 loses in post-election litigation. Trump lost by a very large margin. He paid $3M on a recount in WI which yielded yet more votes for Biden than were identified the first time around. It is clear at this point that Trump is literally trying to subvert American democracy and install his brand of fascism. Which side are you on?

Rosy McDaniel
Tue, 12/01/2020 - 8:40am

That's not my real name, but I hope you can understand how important it is for some of us to stick with the dolt. My job is on the line if I admit the truth. I come from money, but I need the job and the prestige. So stop hating on me and people like me. We compromise our values and ethics, not because we are bad people. We just happen to like the finer things in life and hold those things very dear to us. Also power can be addicting. We believe above all that greed is good. So we are the true American revolutionary patriots. Trump over party, Trump over country, Trump over scruples, Trump over God. God bless twitter.

Arjay
Sun, 11/29/2020 - 4:40am

Way to many suspect things happening to not call fraud. Trump way ahead in many democratic cities when all of a sudden vote counting stopped. When started a few hours later, Trump losing. Sworn affidavits of stacks of ballots being brought in while the counting stopped. Piles of ballots with no down ballot voting, again with sworn affidavits. Sightings of election officials with USB devices being plugged into Dominion voting machines, again with affidavits. Why plug a USB device into the tabulator in the middle of an election? The foreign tabulator company Suddenly closing the US offices, and personal returning home.

Did I personally see this? No, but neither did many who claim no fraud see. The things that make them claim no fraud. And how did a candidate who did little campaigning get more votes than a well loved predecessor who got record votes, even after Donald Trump chipped away and set records within the Democratic supposed base of blacks and Latinos?

This election stinks of fraud all over. It stinks so bad that 3 Supreme Court Justices are already looking into it. If Joe Biden is elected, he will probably not last long, and his VP, who dropped out of the primaries herself before the first vote, and is classified as the most extreme liberal, will become POTUS, completing a Democratic dream to change America, maybe forever.

Wrong again Arjay
Tue, 12/01/2020 - 9:05am

Um, Trump ahead in Democratic cities, UNTIL all the absentee votes were counted, all the Democrats that voted en masse because of the pandemic as soon as possible to get rid of dangerous Trump ASAP, without leaving ANYTHING to chance. Heeding warnings of Trump destroying the USPS, depositing votes directly in city clerk ballot boxes.

GOP Kabuki
Mon, 11/30/2020 - 1:37am

It's all just GOP Kabuki Theatre.

Anonymous
Mon, 11/30/2020 - 8:03am

More like, "With the end near, the Trump campaign on Tuesday ROASTED Legislatures in three battleground states where the president is contesting losses – Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan – would hold public hearings"

Ba ByeDons!
Mon, 11/30/2020 - 8:22am

“All kinds of people are listening to what he says, and then they’re calling my office and telling me that there’s all this fraud,” Hall said. “So we want him to provide that evidence, or if there is no evidence, then move on.”

John Willis
Mon, 11/30/2020 - 11:47pm

Looks like there is no reason to vote for any Republicans in this State! We elect them to represent us and if they don’t think the shenanigans that went on in downtown Detroit vote counting fiasco deserve an investigation than they are not representing us!

Michelle Berger
Tue, 12/01/2020 - 11:16pm

Dont count Trump out yet....He may just surprise all of you! Trump knows voter fraud happened. All of us will have to wait and see what happens.