Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Tuesday that she has filed charges against 16 people who signed paperwork falsely claiming that President Donald Trump had won the 2020 election as part of a scheme to overturn the results.Berden and Lundgren did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Presidents are technically voted in by slates of electors from each state who cast their votes for the candidates selected by their states’ popular votes. In December 2020, as Trump tried to overturn the results of the election, his allies readied alternative slates of electors in several states.
They appear to be the first charges filed against fake electors.
The announcement came the same day Trump said he has been notified that he is the target of an investigation by a Washington-based grand jury examining the Jan. 6, 2021, riot and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The 16 people being charged in Michigan allegedly met in the basement of the state's Republican Party headquarters and signed multiple certificates claiming they were “the duly elected and qualified electors for president and vice president of the United States of America for the state of Michigan,” Nessel said in recorded remarks.
“That was a lie. They weren’t the duly elected and qualified electors, and each of the defendants knew it,” she said.
Some of the electors tried to deliver the false documents to the state Senate but were turned away, she said; the documents were later sent to the U.S. Senate and the National Archives "with the intent that Vice President Pence would overturn the results of the election, using the false electoral slate," she said.
Nessel said the "false electors" are being charged with eight felony counts each, including forgery.
"The false electors' actions undermine the public's faith in the integrity of our elections and not only violated the spirit of the laws enshrining and defending our democracy, but we believe also plainly violated the laws by which we administer our elections in Michigan and peaceably transfer power in America," she said.
The 16 people include state GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock and state Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden. Michele Lundgren, who was also charged, has told NBC affiliate WDIV of Detroit that she thought she was signing an attendance sheet for a meeting.
"I didn't even know what an elector was, let alone a fake elector," she told the station
When reached for comment, Maddock called the charges "political persecution," saying the country and judges would "put a stop to this to restore our judicial system."
"The democrats know they can’t beat Trump in 24 so they have to use lawfare to try to imprison their opponents," Maddock wrote in an email to NBC News.
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Trump and the GOP were all watching Georgia and DC when it came to his legal troubles, but people should have been paying attention to Michigan.
It's one thing to see Trump indicted again and for Republicans to respond with "Boring, nobody cares".
It's entirely another thing to see other Republicans go down because of Trump. I figure the same will happen in Georgia very, very soon, and let's remember that Jack Smith has been looking into possible federal charges for months now. Felony fraud charges may just be the beginning.
I hope there's a lot more coming.
The federal judge overseeing Donald Trump’s criminal case in South Florida said Tuesday she doesn’t think the 2024 election will be a deciding factor for her in determining when the ex-president's historic trial begins.
U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon made the comment during a nearly two-hour public hearing on the 37-count criminal indictment that Special Counsel Jack Smith secured in June against Trump and his personal valet and co-defendant, Walt Nauta.
Among Cannon's top early priorities is establishing a schedule for the legal proceedings, and Tuesday's hearing marked the first time she's brought together federal prosecutors and defense attorneys for Trump and Nauta to discuss the matter.
Smith's team has been pressing for a mid-December beginning to the Trump trial, while lawyers for Trump and Nauta want the entire proceeding postponed until after the 2024 election that the former president is running in with the hope of winning back his old White House job.
During Tuesday's hearing, Smith's team appeared to concede their December proposal was aspirational.
"We feel it is very important that we have a trial date to work from, realizing that the trial date may not be set in stone," said Jay Bratt, the Chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Justice Department's National Security Division.
Such a schedule may depend on whether the cases against Trump and Nauta are labeled complex, a designation that the government has opposed. Cannon appeared inclined to find that it was, pressing prosecutors on whether any similar Espionage Act case had such an ambitious schedule. Bratt appeared to concede that he couldn't find one, though he added that Trump's case was different from the fold in an important aspect. The evidence has been available for nearly a year, since the FBI searched and seized the documents at issue in the case in August 2022.
Pressing both the government and the defense, Cannon similarly showed little interest in basing her ultimate decision on waiting until the November 2024 election has passed.
"I can appreciate that more time is necessary, but we need to set a schedule," Cannon told Trump's attorney, Todd Blanche, early in the afternoon session.
Cannon, a Trump appointee, did not issue a decision on a trial date during Tuesday's hearing. Instead, she said she'd be weighing a number of other factors in determining a schedule, including the volume of discovery materials Smith team will be handing over to Trump's defense so it can prepare for the trial.
Court watchers have viewed the trial schedule as a key test for Cannon, whose rulings in favor of the 45th president of the United States received a blistering rebuke late last year.
After the FBI seized the documents from Mar-a-Lago in August 2022, Cannon issued an injunction blocking the government from using them in their investigation. A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit overturned that order in a blistering rebuke that accused Cannon of undertaking a “radical” restructuring of criminal procedure on behalf of the ex-president.
In the shadow of that decision, Cannon shot down attempts by Trump's team to weigh the case's political backdrop into her consideration, or for prosecutors to respond to insinuations of political persecution by the former president's legal team. Trump's attorney Christopher Kise previously hinted, but had not outright stated, that they wanted to postpone a trial until after the 2024 election.
At one point, Cannon pressed Kise to go on-the-record about that desire.
"Your position is there can be no trial until after the election?" the judge asked.
After Kise answered in the affirmative, Cannon told him that the volume of discovery and anticipated motions would provide a more "suitable" framework for her under the Speedy Trial Act. Trump's attorneys previously accused the government of seeking an "expedited" criminal trial, but special counsel attorney David Harbach said that this formulation gets it backwards.
"It's not a speedy trial that has to be justified," Harbach noted. "It's deviation from a speedy trial that has to be justified."
Despite the unprecedented Justice Department prosecution of a former president, Harbach argued that Trump was no different from any other "busy, important person" who's been indicted.
Judge Cannon was all but begging Trump's lawyers to give her a discovery excuse, that the volume of documents would be too much for Trump's team to handle before at least this time next year or something perverse like that.
I don't know exactly how she's going to delay this case until after the election, but it looks like she's going to try.
Lawfare's Ben Wittes makes a convincing argument that Trump will be indicted by Special Counsel Jack Smith's grand jury on January 6th charges as soon as Friday and the indictment unsealed next week. Once again the reasoning is fueled by the fact Trump can't keep his damn mouth shut as he went on a Truth Social tirade on Tuesday over Smith naming Trump as a target of his January 6th investigation.
There are very few facts in Trump’s statement, but it does seem to say clearly enough that on Sunday evening, Trump received a target letter from Special Counsel Jack Smith in the Jan. 6 investigation. Trump also claims that the letter gave him “a very short 4 days to report to the Grand Jury.”
Trump is not a reliable narrator on factual matters, but he has twice before announced that he expected to be indicted and been right both times. There seems to me little reason to suspect that he would make up his receipt of a target letter—especially because we know from news reporting that the Jan. 6 grand jury has been active and was clearly approaching the decision-making phase of its work. Indeed, only on Friday, I noted that the absence of a target letter story in the press was the only reason to think an indictment wasn’t yet imminent at that time: “It sure looks like we’re basically at decision time. Except for one thing—and I think the one thing is overwhelmingly likely to happen before an indictment does. We have not seen a story about a target letter, a meeting with Trump’s lawyers, a negotiated surrender, or an indictment filed under seal.”
Well, thanks to Trump, that one thing is now in place. A target letter almost always precedes an indictment by only a short time. So it’s reasonable to infer that if Trump has received one, the indictment will follow soon.
Trump offers another useful factual claim, which is his vague reference to a time frame. It’s not clear precisely what he means by “giving me a very short 4 days to report to the Grand Jury,” but I suspect it means that prosecutors have invited him to testify before the grand jury and given him a deadline of Thursday to do so. That would likely mean an indictment will immediately follow the lapse of that deadline, assuming Trump does not actually show up. The indictment will likely be filed under seal so as to allow an orderly process for Trump to show up for surrender and arraignment—as happened with the Mar-a-Lago indictment.
A few additional inferences are possible. This indictment will take place in Washington, D.C. We know this not merely because Trump claims it in the last paragraph of his statement. We know it also because the grand jury has been meeting for months at the courthouse here in Washington, and unlike with the Mar-a-Lago case, that has continued up until the present; the locus of activity has not shifted elsewhere as it did in the Mar-a-Lago case, which was taken up late in the game by a grand jury in Florida.
One thing Trump gives no sign of in his statement is what he will be charged with. The possibilities here are broad. There has been a lot of talk in the press about possible wire fraud charges in connection with some of the post-election fundraising. There is also the possibility of charges in connection with the pressure exerted on Vice President Pence and other elected officials or Trump’s efforts to procure fake electors. The subject matter of the indictment also has implications for the possibility of possible co-defendants—if any—a subject on which Trump is also silent. We do know, however, because of the subject matter of the grand jury investigation and the limitations of Smith’s jurisdictional mandate that the charges will concern Jan. 6 in some meaningful sense.
There is no point speculating about these matters at this stage, although that surely won’t stop cable news pundits from doing so incessantly until the text of any indictment becomes public. The most one can responsibly say is that a third indictment appears to be forthcoming, and that it’s reasonable to expect the grand jury to act as early as the end of this week.
Which explains in part why Fulton County, Georgia DA Fani Willis is waiting until next month to unveil her state charges against Trump, letting Jack Smith go first with those "possibly broad" charges. Rolling Stone's Jana Winter:
THE SPECIAL COUNSEL’S letter to Donald Trump related to Jan. 6 listed the federal statutes under which Trump is expected to be charged, including conspiracy, obstruction, and civil rights violations, according to a source with knowledge of the contents of the target letter.
Special counsel Jack Smith sent the letter to Trump on Sunday, informing him he was a target of the Justice Department. Trump on Tuesday announced he’d been sent the letter via a post on the social media platform Truth Social.
The letter mentions three federal statutes: Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States; deprivation of rights under color of law; and tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant. It does not offer further details, nor does it detail how the special counsel believes Trump may have violated the statutes, the source tells Rolling Stone.
The letter does not mention statutes on sedition or insurrection, according to the source. Trump is the only person named in the letter, the source says.
Sedition and insurrection are going to be hard to prove in court. Defrauding the United States with a false slate of electors and witness tampering, well, Trump has kinda already admitted to that publicly and on several occasions, hasn't he?
Stay tuned. This weekend could be a hell of a ride.