DETROIT (WXYZ) — As the House committee investigating the January 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol continues its hearings, former U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider is speaking about the role he played in debunking election lies in Michigan pushed by Donald Trump.
“What’s surprising to me is that people are unwilling to accept what is evidence and what is truth,” Schneider said from his offices at the Honigman lawfirm, where he now works. “They hold these beliefs really based on no experience. It’s based on what they’ve learned in the media or heard from other people.”
Schneider, who served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan from 2018 until January 2021, was appointed by Trump in 2018.
“My job is and always has been to look into things and investigate and find out whether it’s true," he said.
18 months since the attacks of January 6, Schneider agreed to speak with 7 Action News only now that his former boss, former Attorney General Bill Bar, had testified before the select committee.
"I wasn't planning on ever talking about this in public," Schneider said.
In the days after the election, Barr fielded calls from President Trump who claimed he had iron-clad proof that the election was stolen.
Much of fraud he was alleging involved Detroit, where Schneider was US Attorney.
“I’m at home, Attorney General Barr called me,” Schneider recalled. “One of the first things he wanted to know about was these ballot dumps.”
Trump had claimed repeatedly, in interviews and at rallies, that “big massive dumps” of ballots in Detroit hours after polls closed were inexplicable and, therefore, evidence that he was the victim of election fraud.
'They weren't believing the explanation'
But Schneider, who’d worked on campaigns dating back to former Governor John Engler’s in the 1990s, knew that this wasn’t unusual in Detroit, where the ballots aren’t counted at the precincts but brought to what was then the TCF Center and counted throughout the night.
“I explained that to Attorney General Barr, that I’ve seen this before and it’s not unusual and he accepted that,” Schneider said. “And it wasn’t too long after that that he called back and it was very apparent that he was explaining this to the White House or to the President and they weren’t believing the explanation.”
Working from home during the pandemic, Schneider was fending off false claims in real time from the President of the United States.
“The President had been tweeting out about: how is it possible that Joe Biden got 96% of the vote, or whatever, in Detroit? How is that possible?” Schneider recalled. “And I thought, that was very possible considering what I had learned in the past.”
On his home computer, Schneider pulled up vote totals from the last two elections, telling Barr that Trump actually did better in Detroit than 2016.
Barr shared it with the President.
‘I said did anyone point out to you, did all the people complaining to you point out that you actually did better in Detroit than you did the last time?” Barr said in testimony released this month. “There’s no indication of fraud in Detroit.”
Over the course of weeks, Schneider would field several calls from Barr where he helped dispel rumors about vote switching in Antrim County and other myths.
“I remember at one point in the evening, I got a call from the attorney general’s chief of staff who said: ‘Expect a call from the President any minute.’ And so what I thought was, evidently, the President hadn’t been convinced by Attorney General Barr at that point, and he wanted to hear I directly from someone in the field who was doing the work,” Schneider said.
But the call never came.
“And that’s a good thing," Schneider quipped, "because otherwise I’d be testifying in Washington DC about this.”
But 18 months later, the lies Schneider worked so hard to snuff out still burn, and not just in small corners. Election deniers have are running for Governor in Michigan, and the party's nominees for Secretary of State and Attorney General both claim falsely that the election was stolen.
In his own party, Matthew Schneider has become an outlier, but he says he can live with that.
As he reminded us, he swore an oath to the constitution not to Donald Trump.
“This should never happen again,” he said of January 6. “People should not go to the US Capitol and inflict violence, destroy property and harm people because of their political agenda.”
Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (248) 827-9466.