Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance
December 14, 2023
Republican Party leaders who served in 2020 offered their accounts in court Thursday of what they knew prior to 16 individuals signing and submitting false electoral votes for former President Donald Trump, who lost the presidential election that year.
Wednesday’s and Thursday’s proceedings in Lansing were held for the cases against Michigan GOP National Committeewoman Kathleen Berden, Amy Faccihinello, Mari-Ann Henry, John Haggard, Michele Lundgren and former Michigan GOP Co-chair Meshawn Maddock. There are nine others facing charges.
Over the last two days, the court has heard from several witnesses. Former Michigan GOP Chair Laura Cox testified Thursday that she slammed various ideas within the Republican Party at the time to submit false results for the election.
“I knew that they were trying to meet and that they had some ideas that I felt like I had to put the brakes on,” Cox said, outlining one plan she said was presented to her by Hillsdale College attorney Robert Norton.
This plan was to have false electors hide out in the Michigan Capitol the night before the electoral votes needed to be submitted so they could turn fake ones in for Trump on Dec. 14, 2020, when the Capitol was closed to the public. She testified that she called then-Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) to put a stop to that idea.
Instead, Cox said she planned to invite all the Republican electors who would have been the rightful electors if Trump had won Michigan, to the Republican Party headquarters in Lansing on Dec. 14, 2020, to be honored.
Cox said she also wanted Berden to sign a document saying should the election be overturned, as many Republicans across the country were echoing their unproven concerns of voter fraud in the state, the Republican electors of Michigan would take on the role of submitting Michigan electoral votes for Trump.
But Dec. 14 went very differently from the plan Cox outlined. She wasn’t present at the time due to COVID-19, which she contracted from former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who has since been indicted in Georgia alongside Trump for charges having to do with efforts to overthrow the election in 2020.
“A lot of the electors weren’t necessarily responsible,” former Republican Party Communications Director Tony Zammit testified, saying he was in the room for brief stints while the documents were being signed.
He added that most of the electors probably weren’t culpable, as he only saw them sign three copies of a sheet of paper that didn’t have the full details of the documents claiming to be legitimate certified electoral votes.
When asked by Berden’s attorney, George Donnini, if there were any electors he felt might have known full well what they were signing, Zammit only said Maddock’s name.
“In the basement, there was always only one document that just had our name and the line to sign,” Maddock told reporters Thursday after the hearing had ended, adding that Trump attorney Shawn Flynn had been telling Michigan Republicans that Trump lawyers wanted the group to meet.
Zammit said Trump lawyers, including Flynn, were present at the signing and he thinks they might have taken advantage of the trust people have in lawyers as authority figures to get the group to sign the documents.
Former Secretary of State of Michigan 2020 Republican elector nominee Terri Lynn Land offered testimony that ahead of Dec. 14, 2020, Maddock had called her saying Trump attorneys wanted to talk and have electors meet up, but when Maddock wouldn’t give her more details on what they wanted, Maddock hung up.
“I have many commitments and it’s December and it’s Christmas,” Land added as to why she did not attend the Dec. 14 meeting.
She currently serves as a GOP member of the Wayne State University Board of Governors.
Several of the defense attorneys in the case have advocated for their clients’ rights to political protest, arguing the documents were never going to lead to Michigan’s electoral votes being misrecorded. The documents, however, were sent to the U.S. Senate and National Archives.
Another argument, which Zammit’s testimony speaks to, is that the electors did not know all the details of what they were signing and therefore lack the threshold of “intent” needed to sustain fraud charges.
At least five more witnesses will be called in the preliminary hearings for these six electors when court resumes on Feb. 13 and 14 and proceedings will continue for nine other defendants charged in the case.
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