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Rudy Giuliani targets Wayne County, raising claims judge found 'not credible'

President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani took aim at Wayne County, suggesting Thursday his client would win Michigan's election without votes cast in the state's largest county.

The former mayor of New York City focused on allegations made in a case brought on behalf of Detroit poll challengers who sought to stop the certification of Wayne County's election results. The claims focused on purported restrictions on challengers, late arriving absentee ballots and Detroit clerk's office workers who supposedly encouraged early voters to cast their ballots for Democratic President-elect Joe Biden and Democrats. 

But city of Detroit officials have denied the allegations. And Wayne County Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny said the plaintiffs'  "interpretation of events" was "incorrect and not credible."

Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Thursday Nov. 19, 2020, in Washington.

During a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, Giuliani said the Trump campaign has identified 300,000 "illegitimate ballots" in Michigan — but did not provide detailed specifics.

"These ballots were all cast basically in Detroit that Biden won 80-20," Giuliani said. "So you see it changes the result of the election in Michigan, if you take out Wayne County."

"It's a very significant case," Giuliani then said of the case Costantino v. Detroit.

In Wayne County as a whole, Biden won 68% of the vote: He got 332,617 more votes than Trump there.

Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes, according to the current unofficial results. All 83 counties have already voted to validate their totals. The Board of State Canvassers is scheduled to meet Monday to consider statewide certification.

It's unclear what would cause a judge to throw out all of the votes in Wayne County, which has a population of about 1.7 million, 17% of Michigan's total population.

Biden won Detroit, Wayne County's largest city, by 221,254 votes, according to the city's results. The former vice president got 233,908 votes, while Trump got 12,654.

But the Republican president picked up nearly 6,000 votes from 2016 in Detroit, winning almost 5,000 more votes while Biden lost close 1,000 votes from Hillary Clinton's total four years ago.

U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, a Dryden Republican who votes with Trump 96% of the time, said he’s “disgusted” with what Trump is doing, saying he’s damaging democracy and people’s trust that their vote matters in U.S. elections. 

“You can’t just throw out votes you don’t like. That’s a third-world nation. What’s the basis upon which these would be thrown out?” Mitchell said of Wayne County votes. 

Mitchell noted that former Michigan elections director Chris Thomas — with decades of experience in election administration — has signed affidavits saying there’s no indication of fraud or gross errors in absentee voting.

“The president lost by over 150,000 votes in Michigan. We’re not talking a handful of votes, so it’s the most exasperating thing I’ve seen in my adult life is someone unable to deal with the reality that they lost the election,” Mitchell said.

“I’m just dismayed that the effort continues. No factual basis has been put forth to argue that the votes shouldn’t count. And I’ve asked,” Mitchell said, referring to inquiries he’s made to Trump campaign advisers. 

Democratic U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who represents parts of Wayne County and Detroit, said Trump’s strategy is a criminal scheme to “steal” the election he clearly lost.

“We must make sure that we push back against that kind of approach of taking away people’s voices via their vote. It’s important: You cannot choose your voters. This is not how democracy works,” Tlaib said. 

“To imply that you can just throw out a county because you didn’t win it is dangerous and must be confronted by every official — especially those in the Republican Party.”

On Tuesday night, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, two Democrats and two Republicans, initially deadlocked on whether to certify the county's election results. Hours later, after public comment, the board changed course and voted 4-0 to certify the results and demand an audit of the precincts that were out of balance, meaning the number of voters tracked didn't match the number of ballot casts — something that is not unusual in Michigan elections, especially with high levels of absentee voting.

On Wednesday, the two Republican Wayne County canvassers signed affidavits saying they regretted their votes to certify, arguing that "intense bullying and coercion" plus bad legal advice forced them to agree to certify the election after they had voted no.

Giuliani said Thursday Trump's campaign dropped a separate federal lawsuit challenging Michigan's election results because the Wayne County canvassers decided to "de-certify."

But state officials have said the vote to certify the results on Tuesday is what matters legally, and there's not a mechanism for the Republicans to rescind it on their own.

The former mayor also spoke at length about a case in state court that seeks to stop the certification of Wayne County's election results, called Costantino v. Detroit.

The campaign has 220 affidavits in the "Michigan case" from people who claim they saw wrongdoing, Giuliani said at one point.

"They're not all public. But eight of them are," he said, while criticizing the media for not providing more coverage of the documents.

Of people who haven't agreed to have their affidavits released, Giuliani said, "Those people don't want to be harassed. They don't want to have their lives torn apart by the goons on the other side."

The city of Detroit has denied the allegations in the Costantino case and said they are proof the plaintiffs "do not understand absent voter ballot processing and tabulating."

Kenny, the Wayne County judge who considered the case, noted that some affidavits by poll challengers alleging unsecured ballots or too many ballots cast for Biden were "rife with speculation" and showed they knew little about the counting process.

The Michigan Court of Appeals panel Monday night denied an appeal of a Kenny's decision. Two of the three judges on the panel were appointed by Republican governors. 

Staff Writers Riley Beggin and Beth LeBlanc contributed.

cmauger@detroitnews.com