LANSING, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani 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.
A charge he reiterated several times only to then walk back when asked by a Republican representative who was among House Oversight Committee members who listened to more than four hours of testimony focused primarily on the TCF Center in Detroit, which acted as the city’s absentee voter counting board.
The term “testify” has long been used to explain someone speaking before a legislative committee. Legislators have the power to swear in a person prior to speaking in a hearing, though an attempt to do that Wednesday by Rep. Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstown Twp. was shot down by oversight chair Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall.
Tuesday, 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. Giuliani believes it’s been stolen from Pres. Trump, though.
In Michigan, he 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.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who was among GOP legislators who attended a 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. Any change would require intervention by our courts.”
It appeared Giuliani thought Wednesday’s hearing was his courtroom. The former New York mayor acting as prosecutor before legislative jurists.
Rather than give his own testimony, Giuliani questioned several people himself, many of whom senators heard from Tuesday during the Senate Oversight Committee’s own marathon meeting.
The first was Jessy Jacob, a furloughed Detroit worker who was temporarily assigned to the city clerk’s office.
She repeated claims in her sworn 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 the Democrats 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 statewide.
Biden won Oakland by 14 points, besting Hillary Clinton’s 8-point edge in 2016. He carried Kent by almost 6 points after Trump netted it by 3 points four years ago.
In all, legislators had about 50 minutes to listen to and question Giuliani directly. All other questions were directed to those who were brought in and questioned by Giuliani.
For hours before the hearing, a crowd of Trump supporters gathered outside the Lansing building where it would be held, waving Trump flags and carrying signs that said “Stop the steal,” falsely proclaiming Trump actually won the state and repeating confused or debunked claims of fraud.
Before giving testimony, Giuliani held what was described as a “legal briefing” on the fight against the results alongside Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox, who has also amplified baseless claims of widespread fraud.
“Unfortunately, I believe we are living through the worst voter fraud scandal in the history of our country,” Giuliani said during the virtual briefing.
“They’re the ones who should have the courage to step up,” Giuliani said of lawmakers during the brifing. “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.”
Thor Hearne, another of Trump’s lawyers, also spoke during the briefing.
Despite a notice asking reporters to RSVP for the virtual event, no reporters on the zoom were able to ask questions.
Specifically, News 8’s Lynsey Mukomel wanted to ask why the Trump campaign hasn’t requested a hand recount of the election. Attempts to get a response on Twitter, where both Giuliani and Cox are active, have not been successful.
During the hearing, Giuliani said a recount would not help because of the “widespread fraud” — despite a main allegation being that absentees were tabulated multiple times and thus the results outnumbered the physical ballots that can be recounted by hand under Michigan law.
Instead, Giuliani made two main requests: a forensic audit be conducted and the legislators take back their power under the Constitution.
“You want the State House and Senate in Michigan to hand the president the 16 electoral votes?” Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain asked toward the end of the hearing.
“Nope, I didn’t ask that,” Giuliani responded. “You shouldn’t decide anything based on what I gave you. It’s just a sample, it’s just a sample of things.”
Approximately 20 minutes prior to that statement, Giuliani cited the Constitution and said, “You can take that power back any time you want to. Any time, you can take it back tonight. You can take it back the day before the electors go down to Washington. You can take it back any time you want… You are the final arbiter of how honest or not your election is in your state and it’s your responsibility to stand up to that.”
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.”
The Michigan Secretary of State’s Office is conducting audits — one to assess risks that has been in the works for nearly two years and another to review local jurisdictions’ performance, which is routine. Earlier Wednesday, the office shared why more than 15,300 absentee ballots were rejected.
In mid-November, three county clerks including Kent County Republican Lisa Posthumus Lyons testified before a joint hearing of the House and Senate oversight committees, explaining the voting process and a counting problem in Antrim County that stemmed from human error while programming tabulators and was quickly rectified.
Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00
News 8’s Lynsey Mukomel contributed to this report.