Richmond Times-Dispatch

Trump summons Michigan Republican leaders to White House


DETROIT— President Donald Trump summonedMi­chigan’s Republican legislativ­e leaders to the White House for an extraordin­ary meeting Friday amid a long shot GOP push to subvert the democratic process that handed the battlegrou­nd state to Democrat Joe Biden.

Two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press that Trump invited Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield.

They agreed to go, according to a state official aware of the leaders’ plans. The two officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing private conversati­ons.

It was not immediatel­y clear what the meeting would be about. Neither Shirkey nor Chatfield commented.

Trump’s campaign is openly floating the notion of trying to get friendly state legislatur­es to appoint electors who would overturn the will of the voters. TheMichiga­n Legislatur­e would be called to select electors if Trump succeeds in convincing the state’s board of canvassers not to certify Biden’s victory in the state.

Shirkey and Chatfield have indicated they will not try to overturn Biden’s win.

“Michigan law does not include a provision for the Legislatur­e to directly select electors or to award electors to anyone other than the person who received the most votes,” Shirkey’s spokeswoma­n said last week.

Asked at a Lansing news conference about the plan for legislativ­e leaders to visit Trump, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said, “I hope they wear masks, and I hope they stay safe.”

“All the meetings in the world, though, can’t take away from the fact that Joe Biden wonMichiga­n by over 150,000 votes,” Whitmer added. “That’s 14 times the margin that Donald Trump won by in 2016. ... So we will be sending a slate of electors that reflects the will of the people of Michigan at the end of this process.”

Also Thursday, state officials said Michigan’s largest county cannot revoke its certificat­ion of election results after two Republican­s who approved Biden’s local landslide wanted to revert to their initial stance of refusing to bless the vote tally.

The GOP effort to change position represente­d another complicati­on in what is typically a routine task. Monica Palmer and William Hartmann, the two Republican canvassers in Wayne County, said they voted to certify the results only after “hours of sustained pressure” and after getting promises that their concerns about the election would be investigat­ed.

“We deserve better — but more importantl­y, the American

people deserve better — than to be forced to accept an outcome achieved through intimidati­on, deception and threats of violence,” they said in a statementW­ednesday night. “Wayne County voters need to have full confidence in this process.”

State officials said the certificat­ion of the Detroit-area vote will stand. Michigan’s chief election officer said a post-election audit will be performed, though not to check “mythical allegation­s” of fraud.

“There is no legal mechanism for them to rescind their vote. Their job is done, and the next step in the process is for the Board of State Canvassers to meet and certify,” said Tracy Wimmer, a spokeswoma­n for the Michigan secretary of state.

The four-member state board, which is expected to meetMonday, is split with two Democrats and two Republican­s— the same makeup as theWayne County board.

Trump’s campaign says the latest aboutface by Palmer and Hartmann is legitimate. It withdrew a federal lawsuit challengin­g the Detroit-area results, attaching affidavits from the pair.

Palmer and Hartmann initially voted against certificat­ion Tuesday, leaving the county Board of Canvassers deadlocked at 2-2 along party lines. Palmer complained that certain Detroit precincts were out of balance, meaning that absentee ballot books did not match the number of ballots cast.

“This is not an indication that any votes were improperly cast or counted,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said.

The GOP move drew an immediate rebuke from the public and injected partisan politics into the business of an unsung panel that is supposed to confirm the will of the voters. A person familiar with the matter told the AP that Trump reached out to Palmer andHartman­n on Tuesday evening after the revised vote to express gratitude for their support.

In a statement, the pair reported being the target of threats, which they said they reported to law enforcemen­t.

Biden crushed Trump in Wayne County by a more than 2-1 margin on his way to winning Michigan by 153,000 votes, according to unofficial results.

The county canvassers later voted again and certified the results, 4-0. Then, on Wednesday, Palmer and Hartmann signed affidavits saying they believe the vote should not be certified.

Benson, a Democrat, said a post-election audit will be conducted in Wayne County and any other community with “significan­t clerical errors.”

“Audits are neither designed to address nor performed in response to false or mythical allegation­s of ‘irregulari­ties’ that have no basis in fact,” she said.

There has been no evidence of widespread voting fraud in Michigan or any other state. Federal and state officials from both parties have declared the 2020 election safe and secure. But Trump and his allies have spent two weeks raising false claims of fraud and refusing to concede to Biden.

Thursday evening, a top Georgia election official said that a hand tally of ballots cast in the presidenti­al race has been completed, and that the results affirm Biden’s roughly 12,000-vote lead over Trump.

The hand tally of about 5 million votes stemmed from an audit required by a new state law and wasn’t in response to any suspected problems with the state’s results or an official recount request. The state has until Friday to certify results that have been certified and submitted by the counties.

Thewin by Biden pads his Electoral College margin of victory over Trump. He now has 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

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