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Michigan lawmakers who met Trump stand by election outcome

Two Michigan lawmakers who met with Donald Trump amid the president’s effort to overturn the state’s decisive vote for Joe Biden said they haven’t yet seen any reason to alter the result.

“We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan,” Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, both Republicans, said in a joint statement on Friday. “We will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors.”

They added that allegations of fraud “should be taken seriously” and “thoroughly investigated,” but that certifying the Michigan vote “should be a deliberate process free from threats and intimidation.”

Trump responded to the lawmakers in a pair of Saturday morning tweets asserting his team would show “massive” voter fraud. Thus far, more than two weeks after Election Day, Trump’s lawyers haven’t provided evidence that widespread irregularities occurred.

Also Read | Trump tweets about voter ‘Fraud’ during G-20 opening meeting

The lawmakers’ meeting with Trump on Friday came after a bipartisan backlash against the president and his lawyers, who’ve discussed trying to persuade legislatures to appoint electors to vote for Trump, even though Biden won.

Trump’s team is focused on Michigan, even though Biden leads the president there by roughly 156,000 votes, or 2.8 percentage points. The state has yet to certify its results. Trump won Michigan in 2016 by 0.3 points, or less than 11,000 votes.

Longshot bids

The effort in Michigan is part of a series of long-shot bids Trump and his allies are using in a bid to reverse his defeat. The president’s legal advisers have also suggested that state legislators in Pennsylvania could ignore the popular vote and choose pro-Trump electors. They’ve pressured state and local officials in Arizona and Georgia not to certify their election results, though Georgia on Friday brushed aside those pleas and moved forward with certification.

Democrats and some Republicans, along with election lawyers and Biden’s aides, say efforts to overturn the Democrat’s victory don’t stand a chance of succeeding and are merely the result of Trump’s refusal to accept he lost. But they’ve warned that the president’s legal and public relations onslaught could inflict long-lasting damage on the nation’s democratic system and shake the public’s confidence in elections.

Before the meeting with the Michigan lawmakers, Trump repeated his false claim that he defeated Biden. “I won, by the way. But, you know, we’ll find that out,” the president said during remarks Friday to reporters on prescription-drug pricing.

Arranging meeting

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney who’s leading the campaign’s legal push, was involved in arranging the Friday meeting, according to a person familiar with the matter.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters earlier Friday that “this is not an advocacy meeting” and that nobody from the campaign would be there.

“He routinely meets with lawmakers from all across the country,” McEnany said of Trump. In fact, it’s rare for Trump to host state lawmakers at the White House, and the president has largely remained out of sight since losing to Biden.

Earlier Friday morning, as Shirkey left Detroit for Washington, he was surrounded by demonstrators at the airport who chanted “protect our votes.” Chatfield defended his decision to attend, tweeting earlier Friday: “No matter the party, when you have an opportunity to meet with the President of the United States, of course you take it.”

Shirkey and Chatfield had both earlier dismissed the idea of overruling voters to overturn Biden’s victory.

“That’s not going to happen,” Shirkey told news outlet Michigan Bridge earlier this week.

Chatfield said in a Nov. 6 tweet that “whoever gets the most votes will win Michigan! Period. End of story.”

History will judge’

Michigan’s Democratic congressional delegation said in a joint statement on Thursday evening that “history will judge” Shirkey and Chatfield “on whether they choose to acknowledge the results of the election and defend our democracy, or simply be loyal to one man.”

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said Friday on CNN that the state’s election was secure. “The voters have spoken and there’s a procedure now that we’re going through to certify those results,” she said. “Any attempts to interfere or obstruct that process is, you know, at the very least improper.”

Benson said the state board of canvassers is expected to meet Monday to certify the results, telling CNN that every county in Michigan has submitted its certification to the state.

Trump’s legal team had sought to stop Michigan from certifying the results, citing irregularities in Detroit, but dropped its lawsuit Thursday morning.

Giuliani claimed in a statement that the campaign had already accomplished its goal, after two Republican members of the canvassing board in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, sought to rescind their votes certifying the election results. But Benson said they couldn’t reverse their decision, and the next step would be for the state canvassing board to certify Michigan’s election results.

Giuliani asserted at a news conference in Washington on Thursday that without Detroit’s votes, Trump would have won the state of Michigan.

Biden response

Bob Bauer, senior adviser to Biden, told reporters on Friday that such a move to flip the outcome in Michigan “can not be done.”

“The Constitution does not permit a state legislature to do what Donald Trump wants the state legislature to do,” Bauer said.

Democrats and some Republicans in Washington have widely condemned Trump’s efforts to subvert the will of the voters in swing states to flip the election in his favor.

“It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President,” said Utah Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican who’s been critical of Trump.

Nebraska GOP Senator Ben Sasse also issued a critical statement after Giuliani staged a bizarre, 90-minute news conference on Thursday. Giuliani alleged without evidence that there was a “massive fraud” in Michigan, but Sasse countered that the president’s legal team has “refused to actually allege grand fraud” in court.

“So no, obviously Rudy and his buddies should not pressure electors to ignore their certification obligations under the statute. We are a nation of laws, not tweets,” Sasse said.

James Karl

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