Political insider: Michigan GOP officials come to grips with Trump
As Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich bowed out of the presidential race this week, Michigan Republicans are coming to grips with the reality that brash businessman Donald Trump will be the party’s nominee.
Attorney General Bill Schuette vowed Wednesday to support whoever wins the GOP nomination despite his concerns with the New Yorker’s bombastic rhetoric.
“I’ve been one of the first to say that his disparaging comments about Hispanics and Mexicans, that’s deplorable to me,” Schuette told reporters. “His comments about women and the disabled, that’s not Bill Schuette.”
But the attorney general, who said he would campaign for state GOP candidates that share a ticket with Trump, said his presidential vote will be motivated by the likely Democratic nominee.
“I’m not turning the keys to America over to Hillary Clinton, that’s for sure,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, who endorsed Kasich, offered a similar assessment Wednesday after news broke that the Ohio governor was ending his campaign.
“I’ll support our nominee,” Meekhof said.
The West Olive Republican said he hopes Trump will tone down his rhetoric in the general election and said he is not convinced that Trump will hurt other Republican candidates on the ballot.
“He actually won here,” Meekhof said, noting Trump’s victory in Michigan’s March 8 primary. “A lot of demographics where they said he couldn’t win, he’s been winning right along, in terms of other groups of individuals. I think he has some great potential upside.”
Sen. Patrick Colbeck, who helped head up the Cruz campaign in Michigan, was not ready to pledge his support to Trump, saying he has a lot of “soul searching” to do before November.
“This is serious stuff,” said Colbeck, R-Canton. “Obviously I’m not very enamored with Trump at all, and I’m not very enamored with Hillary Clinton either.”
Senate: Cotter has privilege
State House Speaker Kevin Cotter has “absolute” legislative privilege and should not have to testify in an ongoing criminal case involving former Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat, according to the Michigan Senate.
The upper chamber weighed in on the House-related legal matter Wednesday, filing a brief in Ingham County Circuit Court supporting Cotter’s attempt to quash a testimonial subpoena and order to answer 15 questions submitted ahead of time from attorneys for Courser and Gamrat.
“The Michigan State Senate has an obvious interest in ensuring that all Michigan legislators are free to deliberate thoughtfully and with the utmost freedom and autonomy about the difficult legislative issues of the day,” former state solicitor general John Bursch wrote in the brief.
The brief was submitted with approval of Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, but drew the ire of Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint.
“This is a matter that is unique to the House of Representatives and the processes and decisions they made,” Ananich said in a statement. “The Senate Business Office decided to offer their unsolicited opinion without consulting me or any members of the Democratic Caucus.”
Cotter oversaw the effort to oust Courser and Gamrat from the House over allegations they misused taxpayer resources to cover up their extra-marital affair. Gamrat was expelled shortly after Courser resigned rather than suffer the same fate.
Attorney General Bill Schuette later charged the tea party conservatives with felonious misconduct in office. Two of the charges center on Courser’s distribution of an anonymous “false flag” email and whether Gamrat knew about it.
Judge Hugh B. Clarke Jr. ruled last month it would be “patently unfair” for Gamrat and Courser’s attorneys to not have an opportunity to question Cotter in their clients’ defense.
Cotter’s attorneys appealed the ruling on April 28, arguing the court misinterpreted the speech or debate clause of the Michigan Constitution and ignored a state law prohibiting subpoenas for testimony by legislators pursuant to their legislative duties.
Gamrat attorney Mike Nichols said he believes Cotter will be and should be forced to testify.
“All I want to do is defend a citizen accused of a crime, and one of the witnesses just happens to be, until December 31 of 2016, a sitting legislator,” he said.
Miller, Trott back Trump
U.S. Reps. Candice Miller and David Trott became Wednesday the first Michigan congressional Republicans to endorse New York businessman Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination.
Miller, the 12-year veteran from Harrison Township and chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, made the first endorsement in an interview with Politico. She originally supported former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
“I believe in the good sense of the American people, the voters, and the voters of the Republican party, and they have overwhelmingly spoken,” Miller said in a statement released Wednesday by her office. “I am totally and completely looking forward to President Trump. As our presumptive nominee, I am confident in his candidacy and give him my full support.”
Trott, the freshman lawmaker from Birmingham, last August endorsed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the race in February after the South Carolina primary. Trott is an influential Republican establishment donor who got out of the foreclosure business to run for public office.
“Mr. Trump is giving a voice to millions of Americans who have been ignored by Washington and are disgusted with the failures of the career politicians running this country,” Trott said in a statement.
“Michigan voters know that Hillary Clinton would be a disaster as president and continue the failed policies of the past decade. After a long primary campaign, I am confident that conservatives will unite behind Donald Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton and get our nation back on track.”
U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, the Grand Rapids area Republican who first endorsed Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and then Cruz for the GOP nomination, has said he would not vote for Trump.
Trump is expected to have an uphill battle against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Clinton in Michigan, especially since Republicans haven’t won the state since 1988. But he has vowed he will win the state, and Miller told Politico she would be willing to campaign with him.
Contributors: Jonathan Oosting and Richard Burr