Former deputy AG, GOP leaders respond to charges against 16 'false electors'

“... there are strong arguments on both sides of the coin here"
Posted at 11:40 PM, Jul 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-20 05:43:12-04

CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — During a last-minute press conference convened Wednesday at the Macomb County Republican Party headquarters, party members and leaders lashed out at Attorney General Dana Nessel after she announced charges against 16 people alleged to be false electors in the 2020 election.

"Dana Nessel is a thug,” Michigan State Rep. Josh Schriver, R-Oxford, said.

“This is a witch hunt designed to prosecute and punish citizens who are duly elected to perform major functions in presidential elections,” Macomb County GOP Chairman Mark Forton said.

Nessel alleges the 16 members worked in a coordinated effort to award Michigan’s electoral votes to former President Donald Trump in 2020, signing a document claiming to be the qualified electors.

“They were legally elected under Michigan law at convention to represent the Republican party as electors,” Forton said.

Forton argues the 16 people were alternate electors who were simply doing their duty in case the state election was awarded to Trump, especially in light of legal challenges ongoing at the time.

“The idea of alternate electors is not new," Forton said. "It’s happened many times in American history by both Democrats and Republican in contested elections.”

Matthew Schneider is a former U.S. attorney and the former deputy attorney general, who now serves as the leader of Investigations and White Collar defense at Honigman Law Firm.

“How unique of a case, of a situation is this," 7 Action News reporter Brett Kast asked Schneider.

"Many people are saying they've never heard of anything like this happen before," Schneider said.

Schneider says Forton's argument is exactly what the defense will likely argue, especially since at the time, legal challenges on the results were underway.

“It's not too surprising people would come up with their own slate of electors in case the legal winds turned in their direction,” Schneider said. “The problem that theory has is — where the case for the prosecution is fairly strong — is there was a document in which these people signed, and that document said we met in the state Capital on December 14, and that did not happen.”

In her recorded message Tuesday, Nessel pushed back against claims the charges are political.

“Undoubtedly, there will be those who claim these charges are political in nature, but where there is overwhelming evidence of guilt in respect to multiple crimes, the most political act I can engage in as a prosecutor would be to take no action at all,” she said.

In the end, Schneider says it’s the legal arguments and not political accusations that matter in the court of law, where the case will ultimately be decided.

“As I've indicated, there are strong arguments on both sides of the coin here," Schneider said. "So, the defense likely will put up a vigorous argument and we’ll have to see how that all plays out in court.”

All 16 defendants will be arraigned individually in Ingham County. The date has yet to be announced.