Michigan's attorney general charges 16 people in false elector scheme
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Yesterday, the Democratic state attorney general announced charges against 16 fake electors. These were people who submitted paperwork to the federal government falsely saying that they were Michigan's true electors and that Donald Trump won the state, even though he clearly lost Michigan in 2020.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
To talk about all this, we have Colin Jackson of the Michigan Public Radio Network. Good morning, Colin.
COLIN JACKSON, BYLINE: Good morning.
FADEL: So what do we know about these charges?
JACKSON: Well, there are 16 defendants total. They each face eight felony charges that mostly have to do with forgery. And as you mentioned, they stem from this moment in December of 2020 when Attorney General Dana Nessel said the 16 defendants gathered in the basement of what was then the Republican Party headquarters. They allegedly signed a memo falsely stating that they were Michigan's official Electoral College members, when they were not, and tried to award Michigan's Electoral College votes to former President Donald Trump, even though he lost the state handily.
A group tried to drop that memo off at the state capitol, where the state's real electors were gathering, but they were turned away. But despite that, Nessel says they did still transmit that memo to the National Archives and former Vice President Mike Pence hoping he'd overturn the election results. Here's Nessel, a Democrat, discussing it yesterday.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DANA NESSEL: Undoubtedly, there will be those who claim these charges are political in nature. But where there is overwhelming evidence of guilt in respect to multiple crimes, the most political act I could engage in as a prosecutor would be to take no action at all.
FADEL: What do we know about the people charged?
JACKSON: They range in age from 55 to 82. The name that jumped out immediately to me was Meshawn Maddock. She's a prominent Trump ally and until recently was the Michigan Republican Party co-chair. Her husband is a current Republican state representative who's part of our House Freedom Caucus. I want to note he was not charged or mentioned anywhere in the AG's announcement. But there are also a few elected officials on the list. Those include a West Michigan city mayor named Kent Vanderwood, a Metro Detroit suburb clerk named Stan Grot and Michigan local clerks that actually help administer elections. This just happened yesterday. So, so far, I haven't seen much reaction yet, though.
FADEL: To the charges, so that may be coming. Now, Michigan isn't the only place where there were fake electors. This happened in several other swing states where there are also investigations. But if you, Colin, could, just put Michigan in a national context when it comes to efforts to overturn a legitimate election in the U.S. in 2020.
JACKSON: Michigan was one of the centerpieces of the so-called Stop the Steal movement after it became apparent Trump lost to President Biden by more than 150,000 votes. We saw Trump's attorneys and allies kind of flood the courts with lawsuits, trying to overturn the results. You may remember the nickname given to them, the Kraken. Each of those challenges were thrown out, though. Election denialism, though, has taken a hold on the Republican Party institution here. We've seen party leadership largely be at the forefront of wrongly claiming Trump won. We've also seen infighting continue as it relates to that.
FADEL: So what should we expect next now for the 16 people charged in the fake elector plot?
JACKSON: For those charged now, there hasn't been a date set yet for their arraignment. But Attorney General Nessel does say more people could be charged.
FADEL: So these are the first charges we've seen of this kind. We'll see if other states follow suit. That's Colin Jackson of the Michigan Public Radio Network. Colin, thank you.
JACKSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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