LANSING, Mich. (AP) — President Donald Trump's personal lawyer urged Michigan Republican activists on Wednesday to pressure, even threaten, the GOP-controlled Legislature to “step up” and award the state's 16 electoral votes to Trump despite Democrat Joe Biden's 154,000-vote victory.
Rudy Giuliani made baseless claims of “massive fraud, all over the country," which he later restated to a Republican-led legislative committee while pressing legislators to intervene. Just a day before, Attorney General William Barr declared the Justice Department had uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.
GOP legislative leaders have said they will not try to replace Michigan's electors.
Giuliani said the U.S. Constitution empowers legislatures to appoint electors directly, even though the Legislature long ago passed a law allotting them to the popular vote winner. Biden won the state by 2.8 percentage points. The result was certified by the state's bipartisan election board last week.
“They're the ones who should have the courage to step up,” Giuliani said of lawmakers during a virtual event hosted by the Michigan Republican Party. “You have state legislators who are so frightened that they have a hard time focusing on it. You have got to get them to remember that their oath to the Constitution sometimes requires being criticized. Sometimes it even requires being threatened."
Later, he told the House Oversight Committee in a 4 1/2-hour evening hearing that lawmakers can “take back the power” to select electors. “It's your responsibility to stand up.” The electors will meet on Dec. 14.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who was among GOP lawmakers who attended an extraordinary meeting with Trump at the White House less than two weeks ago, reiterated Tuesday that the Legislature will not undermine the voters' will.
“We will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors,” he tweeted. “Assertions that Michigan legislators have authority different from what is expressly found in state law are inaccurate.”
In a highly unusual step, the Republican chairman of the panel, Rep. Matt Hall, ceded the meeting to Giuliani — who in turn began calling and questioning witnesses. The first was Jessy Jacob, a furloughed Detroit worker who was temporarily assigned to the city clerk's office.
She repeated claims in her affidavit that was submitted in a lawsuit in which GOP poll challengers unsuccessfully sought to stop the certification of votes in the Democratic stronghold of Wayne County, home to Detroit. She said, for example, that she saw other workers coaching voters to cast ballots for Biden and she was instructed not to ask voters for photo ID.
A judge denied the suit, ruling that the interpretation of events by the plaintiffs — who ascribed “sinister, fraudulent motives' to the city and its election workers — was “incorrect and not credible.” Trump’s legal team and his allies have lost repeatedly in courts in Michigan and other states.
Giuliani made wild claims of “massive cheating,” particularly by Detroit Democrats, that he said resulted in 500,000 to 700,000 “illegal” votes. Despite Republicans' questioning of vote counting in the city, nothing was amiss statistically, though.
Biden won 240,936 votes to Trump's 12,889. Four years ago, Hillary Clinton received 234,871 votes to Trump's 7,682.
Biden’s victory was powered by gains in big, vote-rich counties such as Oakland near Detroit and Kent, which includes Grand Rapids — amid a record 5.5 million people casting ballots. Biden won Oakland by 14 points, besting Clinton’s 8-point edge in 2016. He carried Kent by almost 6 points after Trump netted it by 3 points four years ago.
Democrats blasted the hearing. In a tweet, state Attorney General Dana Nessel called it “a state-sponsored disinformation campaign geared toward undermining our electoral system.” House Minority Leader Christine Greig said in a statement: “The fact that we are even entertaining any more of these conspiracy theories after the election was certified is damaging to our nation.”
There is no evidence of wholesale fraud in the election. In fact, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities. None of the legal challenges, like GOP challengers being unable to scrutinize the counting of absentee ballots in Detroit, have shown evidence that the election outcome was impacted.