After Trump meeting, Michigan GOP leaders say Biden’s win still stands

After Trump meeting, Michigan GOP leaders say Biden’s win still stands


A delegation of Republican state lawmakers from Michigan came to Washington on Friday as part of President Donald Trump’s Hail Mary attempt to usurp the results of the election he lost.

But when the day ended, the lawmakers were unequivocal: President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Michigan was still intact.

Trump has baselessly cast doubt on the presidential election in Michigan, which he lost Biden by approximately 150,000 votes, and has waged a campaign over the past two weeks to pressure Republicans in the state to back him in reversing the outcome. And despite White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s insistence that Friday’s gathering was “not an advocacy meeting” — and that no one from the Trump campaign would be present — several attorneys running Trump’s legal effort to overturn the election were expected to call in.

It was unclear how many GOP legislators visited the White House, but the group included Michigan state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield. Jason Wentworth, who is succeeding Chatfield as speaker, was also spotted at a D.C. airport.

After the meeting, Shirkey and Chatfield said in a joint statement they had “not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan.”

The meeting comes as some Trump loyalists have floated the far-fetched idea that GOP-controlled state legislatures could spurn the popular vote and appoint a slate of Electoral College electors favorable to Trump. Others involved in the president’s 2020 campaign have privately dismissed Trump’s allegations of widespread voter fraud, despite lending public support to his legal challenges.

“He’s running out the clock,” said one adviser to the Trump campaign. “I don’t expect any jaw-dropping developments out of today’s meeting and I certainly don’t expect the results to change between now and January.”

Still, it was expected that Friday’s meeting would include at least some members of Trump’s legal team — raising questions about what they might say to the Michigan delegation.

Rudy Giuliani, who recently took over the campaign’s legal battles, told a New York City Fox affiliate Friday morning that he would be on hand at the meeting to answer any questions from Trump or the state lawmakers about the situation in Michigan “because I probably know the case better than anyone else.”

And attorneys working on the president’s effort to overturn the election were similarly expected to join via teleconference. The attorneys were isolating after Giuliani’s son Andrew, a public liaison official inside the White House, announced a positive diagnosis for Covid-19. The younger Giuliani attended a press conference on Thursday featuring several key members of Trump’s legal team, including his father.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether the attorneys would attend.

Within the White House, a number of the president’s top aides were expected to skip the late-afternoon huddle, including representatives from the White House Counsel’s Office. Also not attending was Ronna McDaniel, a former head of the Michigan Republican Party who chairs the Republican National Committee, according to an RNC spokesperson.

McEnany — who herself has doubled as a campaign surrogate, blurring the line between the two — downplayed the significance of the president summoning the state legislators.

Trump “routinely meets with lawmakers from all across the country,” McEnany said at a press briefing on Friday, her first since Oct. 1. “This is not an advocacy event.”

Shirkey and state Sen. Tom Barrett were met by a throng of protesters and reporters outside Reagan National Airport upon their arrival Friday. The pair passed through the airport without talking to the media. Earlier this week Shirkey told Bridge Michigan, a nonprofit news outlet, that the idea the legislature would defy the voters is “not going to happen.”

Shirkey confirmed the sentiment after the meeting in his joint statement with Chatfield.

“We will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election,” they said. “Michigan’s certification process should be a deliberate process free from threats and intimidation.”

The lawmakers said they also presented Trump with a letter at the meeting requesting additional federal funds to assist the state in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans and Democrats have failed for months to pass an additional round of Covid relief money, despite a bipartisan agreement that more financial assistance is needed.


The Trump campaign on Thursday dropped its final federal lawsuit in Michigan and falsely declared victory after local election officials briefly declined to certify the results in the county that includes Detroit. Those election officials quickly relented, voting unanimously to certify the county’s results.

The president and his allies have repeatedly come up short in their legal challenges in Michigan and elsewhere, and so have hunted for alternative avenues to pursue their claims that the election was stolen from them. With their legal avenues largely blocked, the president has instead pushed political strategies to forestall the certification of election results in Michigan — which is expected to happen Monday — and in other states.

Shirkey and Chatfield said “allegations of fraudulent behavior should be taken serious, thoroughly investigated, and if proven, prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” But, they added, “the candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan’s electoral votes. These are simple truths that should provide confidence in our election.”

Bob Bauer, an attorney for the Biden campaign, accused Trump and his attorneys of “ripping at the fabric of democracy any way they can” on a call with reporters.

“The fabric is not tearing; it is holding firm,” he said. “No state legislature in our country’s history has ever done what Donald Trump is apparently agitating for the Michigan state legislature to do.”

Experts and election officials said Friday that Trump’s gambit is legally dubious and has little chance of prevailing.

“It is my thought that in the end, the election [in Michigan] will be certified,” Jonathan Kinloch, the Democratic vice chair of the Wayne County, Mich., Board of Canvassers, said on CNN Friday morning. “We’re talking about a lame-duck president, and I do not think anyone wants to revisit what occurred in 2016 by being a co-conspirator to any campaign that’s trying to disenfranchise or to basically hijack the votes in this election.”

Trump’s extraordinary attempts to overturn the electoral outcome have drawn pushback from some corners of the Republican Party.

“While the president has the right to legitimate legal challenges, responsible citizens cannot let the reckless actions by him and his legal team stand,” tweeted former Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who was a periodic thorn in the president’s side before retiring last year. “Republicans have an obligation when the subject is of such importance to challenge demagoguery and patently false statements.”

And a group of nine former Trump-era administration officials said the president is fomenting a threat to national security by casting doubt on November’s election and other recent actions, such as a shakeup of senior leadership at the Pentagon. The statement was signed by some of his most prominent critics on the right, including Miles Taylor, Elizabeth Neumann and Olivia Troye.

“We call on the President to cease any and all activities intended to undermine the legitimacy of the election, to refrain from dismissing or reassigning national security officials without cause, and to ensure an orderly and peaceful transfer of power to his democratically elected successor,” the statement reads.

Daniel Lippman and Zack Stanton contributed to this report.

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