President Trump has opened up new lines of contact with Republican state and local officials in Michigan as he seeks to invalidate the state’s results and subvert the national election.
With Inauguration Day exactly two months away, Trump plans to meet today at the White House with the Michigan Legislature’s Republican leadership. And he called at least one local Republican elections official this week amid the party’s challenge to the results in Detroit.
Michigan’s Senate majority leader, Mike Shirkey, and its speaker of the House, Lee Chatfield, both Republicans, are scheduled to visit Trump this afternoon, according to a person close to the situation. It’s unclear what exactly they plan to discuss.
Observers said that Trump appeared to be aiming at having Republican legislatures intervene and appoint pro-Trump electors in states Joe Biden won, throwing the Electoral College to the president when it meets on Dec. 14. But the effort to overturn the election results is all but certain to fail, and has been subject to defeat after defeat in the courts.
Both Shirkey and Chatfield have said that whichever candidate has the most votes after the results are certified will receive Michigan’s 16 electoral votes. And Shirkey said this week that Trump’s team was “not going to” succeed in persuading state lawmakers to overturn the election result.
The Trump campaign yesterday dropped the last of its federal lawsuits challenging the election results in Michigan, even as it signaled that it would seek to revive a Republican effort to invalidate the ballots coming from Detroit.
The Wayne County Board of Canvassers’ two Republican members, Monica Palmer and William Hartmann, initially voted against certifying the results on Tuesday, citing small discrepancies in the vote count from certain precincts. Palmer suggested at one point that votes in suburban precincts could be certified while votes from Detroit, which is predominantly Black, would be declared invalid.
They dropped their opposition after a torrent of blowback from Democratic officials and citizens, and the Board of Canvassers approved Wayne County’s results later that day. But on Wednesday night, after Trump called Palmer, it emerged that she and Hartmann had signed affidavits stating that they had been intimidated into approving the results and wanted to rescind their votes.
Democratic state officials said the ship had sailed. “There is no legal mechanism for them to rescind their vote,” said Tracy Wimmer, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office. “Their job is done and the next step in the process is for the Board of State Canvassers to meet and certify.”
But yesterday, as it withdrew a lawsuit in Michigan, the Trump campaign pointed to Palmer and Hartmann’s affidavits. The deadline in Michigan to certify results is Monday.
Trump has also asked aides what Republican officials he could call in other swing states as he tries to stop results from being certified in battlegrounds where Biden won, advisers said.
The Trump campaign suffered other legal setbacks yesterday, as judges rejected its arguments in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
In Arizona, Judge John Hannah refused to order a re-audit of Maricopa County’s ballots, citing a partial audit that found no irregularities. He also invited the state to ask the G.O.P. to pay the state’s legal fees, pointing to a state law that lets defendants pass their costs on to plaintiffs when a lawsuit is deemed baseless.
A Trump-appointed federal judge in Georgia rejected a lawsuit brought by a Republican supporter of the president, saying he had no grounds to sue and calling the relief he was seeking “quite striking.” The plaintiff had wanted to block the certification of election results based on his perception of fraud. (In other Georgia news, the secretary of state there announced last night that the state’s hand recount had not significantly altered Biden’s margin of victory.)
And in Pennsylvania, a county judge shot down the Trump campaign’s effort to invalidate more than 2,000 absentee ballots for technical reasons.
Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, said yesterday that the campaign would be announcing more lawsuits in Georgia, and possibly others in Arizona and New Mexico. He said he had evidence of a “centralized” plot of widespread fraud, but provided none.
In 2018, Scott Pruitt, the ally of the fossil fuel industry whom Trump tapped to run the Environmental Protection Agency, resigned amid a cloud of ethics investigations — including allegations of profligate spending and first-class trips on the public dime.
Now, as Trump’s time in office nears its close, Pruitt’s replacement, Andrew Wheeler, is under scrutiny as well. Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who had previously served as Pruitt’s deputy, is planning to take two costly trips overseas in the weeks before his job runs out — one to Taiwan and another to four Latin American countries.
The taxpayer-funded Taiwan trip alone could cost roughly $300,000. That trip is part of an initiative “to collaborate on issues including the Save our Seas initiative and marine litter, air quality, and children’s health,” a spokesman for Wheeler said.