Critics took jabs at President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani after dark liquid was seen dripping down his face during a press conference. USA TODAY
A Michigan Senate committee will meet next week to discuss vote counting in Detroit, an announcement that comes one day after a news release from the campaign of President Donald Trump touted legislative hearings examining election results in several states across the country.
As of Wednesday morning, no hearings had been scheduled, despite a release Tuesday from Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis that touted a legislative meeting scheduled for next Tuesday.
Although the chairman of a House committee reviewing election operations said Wednesday a hearing won’t work next week, the Senate Oversight Committee on Wednesday scheduled a hearing to discuss vote-counting operations in Detroit.
The only item on the agenda is “testimony regarding absentee ballot counting at the TCF Center.”
It’s unclear whether this hearing was previously planned, or comes in response to the Trump campaign announcement. Earlier in the day, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said the committee “will continue on with its hearing schedule after Thanksgiving.”
“The chairman has no plans for the Trump campaign to participate in those hearings,” McCann said in the statement.
Michigan already certified its election results. The Trump campaign has until 4:34 p.m. Wednesday to request a recount in Michigan; election results were certified at 4:34 p.m. Monday, and campaigns have 48 hours after certification to formally request a recount for a statewide race. Such a request is unlikely, given Trump trails President-elect Joe Biden by roughly 154,000 votes.
In its news release, the Trump campaign repeated misleading and inaccurate statements to argue the meetings are a necessary way to examine what they call proof of fraud and election irregularities. Neither the Trump campaign, nor anyone else, has presented any proof of widespread fraud or misconduct in Michigan or any other state.
On Wednesday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Matt Hall, R-Emmett Township, said he’d tried to work out a meeting that Giuliani could attend, but the scheduling proved difficult.
“We were trying to get him to appear in person to testify. We couldn’t logistically make it work. I’ve asked him to submit his written testimony, and we’ll review it,” Hall said.
Hall, who also chairs a legislative committee focused on the state’s COVID-19 response, said he and other lawmakers have received thousands of calls from citizens concerned about the Michigan election. Many of them likely heard Giuliani’s allegations of fraud and his assertions that he has evidence, Hall said. Any report Giuliani submits will be reviewed and publicly released, Hall said.
“The time is running out for him to make that case. So if he has that evidence, which he says he does, then he should bring it to the committee,” Hall said.
After Election Day, Michigan Senate and House leaders did announce that the legislative oversight committees would work together to review election procedure. Democrats argued the hearings feed in to conspiracy theories that allege widespread fraud, exacerbating Trump’s efforts to undermine election results. Republicans say they’re necessary to shore up any issues that erode confidence in the electoral process.
Many of the allegations of irregularities from the Trump campaign and others focus on Detroit and TCF. Republicans argue they were not allowed appropriate access to watch vote counting, that election equipment was improperly connected to the internet and other broad allegations of problems.
While the campaign filed a federal lawsuit more than 100 affidavits from people making these allegations, the accounts do not show any evidence of fraud or misconduct. The campaign eventually withdrew the lawsuit.
State and local election officials say they show people do not understand standard election operations. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny dismissed a separate lawsuit earlier this month that offered similar allegations of misconduct at TCF, calling the interpretation of events at the center “incorrect and not credible.”
The information from the Trump campaign on the Michigan legislative hearing came several days after Chatfield, Shirkey and other lawmakers met with the president at the White House. While some speculated the president would try to persuade the lawmakers to intervene in Michigan’s electoral process, both Chatfield and Shirkey have denied such a request was made.
On Monday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers certified state election results that showed Biden defeated Trump in the state. In recognition of that certification, Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James formally conceded Tuesday to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters. James lost to Peters by roughly 94,000 votes, less than the margin Trump trails Biden.
None of this has stopped the president and some of his legal team from proclaiming there were problems and the election is not over.
“We are pleased that the state Legislatures in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan will be convening hearings to examine the November 3rd presidential election,” Ellis said in the news release.
“There were serious irregularities, we have proof of fraud in a number of states, and it is important for all Americans to have faith in our electoral process.”
Giuliani went further in the release, arguing there is “evidence of illegalities” that should be examined. He and his partners on the Trump legal team have not presented this evidence in courts across the country, one of the reasons the campaign has not found success through any of its lawsuits filed in Michigan or elsewhere.
Lawmakers in Arizona appear to have been caught unawares by the Trump announcement, according to the Arizona Republic.
“News to me,” Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, told the Republic replied when asked about plans for a hearing.
It appeared that a hearing may happen in Pennsylvania, as soon as Wednesday. Axios and others report Trump planned to go with Giuliani to the meeting; the hearing will not change the results of the election in the state, won by Biden.
Although the White House press pool had planned to accompany Trump to Pennsylvania, pool reports Wednesday morning indicated the trip wacancelled.
The House and Senate oversight committees previously issued subpoenas to the Michigan Secretary of State, asking for documents related to the administration of the election. While the secretary’s office has stated it believes the inquiry is unnecessary, the office has provided more than 1,100 pages to date. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has also already pledged to conduct a post-election performance audit in Wayne County.
Since 2018, the House and Senate elections committees have met at least 30 times, according to legislative records. During many of these hearings, local clerks asked legislators to give them more time to process and count absentee ballots.
After an election where the time needed to count absentee ballots in Detroit allowed for the rampant spread of misinformation, legislative leaders appear more open to giving clerks additional time.
Chatfield told Politico this week that the state “mishandled” the regulations for absentee ballots this year, and should have allowed for earlier processing. In February, Shirkey said he was “very opposed” to early counting and processing of ballots, telling the Associated Press, “if I had to choose between early voting, early counting versus late reporting, I’ll take late reporting all day long.”
But in a statement Wednesday, McCann indicated he is open to improvements.
“The majority leader does have an interest in improving the process and security regarding absentee ballots and elections processes overall. He looks forward to the continued work by the oversight committee and expects that process to yield suggestions for policy changes,” McCann said.
Last week, at a joint hearing of the Senate and House oversight committees, lawmakers heard the same thing from clerks working on Kent and Ingham counties. While county clerks do not administer the day-in, day-out operations of elections, both Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons, a Republican, and Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum, a Democrat, said there are legislative changes needed that would help prevent confusion and ensure trust ahead of the next election.
One change many clerks have asked for is more time to count and process absentee ballots ahead of Election Day. Current Michigan law only allowed the state’s largest cities to prepare to count — but not actually count — ballots one day before the election. The provision only applied to the 2020 election as well, and is set to expire soon.
Given the onslaught of absentee ballots because of the COVID-19 pandemic and essentially no restrictions on who can request these ballots, the numbers surged this fall. The majority of the roughly 5.5 million votes cast in the general election came via absentee ballot.
Benson and others warned the numbers and law would mean final results would definitely be delayed. She and others have pointed to regulations in different states, including those with Republican-controlled legislatures such as Florida, where clerks are allowed to count and process absentee ballots ahead of Election Day.
Contact Dave Boucher at [email protected] or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.
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