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Top GOP state lawmakers set to visit White House amid election fight

Lansing — The top two leaders in the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature are expected to visit the White House Friday, according to a source with knowledge of the plans.

The visits by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, will come as a legal fight plays out in the battleground state with President Donald Trump attempting to challenge the results of the Nov. 3 election.

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, speaks to supporters of President Donald Trump at a rally in Norton Shores on Oct. 17, 2020.

Democrats and at least one Republican voiced frustration after news of the planned trip broke, citing concerns that it could be part of an effort to overturn Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden's victory in Michigan.

U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, a Dryden Republican, said he expects Trump is bringing Shirkey and Chatfield to the White House to pressure them to appoint pro-Trump electors to circumvent the popular vote as well as lean on the state's GOP canvassers not to certify the election. That’s “destructive,” Mitchell said.

“For them to do anything other than to respect the popular vote is a violation of their oath of office. They took an oath like I took an oath to the Constitution, but in their case to the state Constitution, and the laws of the state don’t say you get to appoint anyone you want,” said Mitchell, who's retiring from Congress at the end of the year.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also blasted the news of the trip on Thursday during a press conference.

"All of the meetings in the world can’t take away from the fact that Joe Biden won Michigan by over 150,000 votes," she said.

Biden won Michigan 51%-48% or by 154,000 votes, according to the current unofficial results. All 83 counties have approved their tallies, according to the Department of State. And the Board of State Canvassers is scheduled to meet Monday to consider statewide certification.

But Trump's campaign suggested in a Thursday statement the Wayne County Board of Canvassers didn't certify the results in Michigan's largest county. Two Republican members of the Wayne County canvassers agreed to certify the results on Tuesday night but have since signed affidavits saying they regretted their votes and would like to rescind them.

"This morning we are withdrawing our lawsuit in Michigan as a direct result of achieving the relief we sought: to stop the election in Wayne County from being prematurely certified before residents can be assured that every legal vote has been counted and every illegal vote has not been counted," Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, said in a statement.

In a Thursday press conference, Giuliani suggested that Trump would win Michigan without votes in Wayne County, which Biden won by 332,617 votes.

Trump tried to contact the Republican Wayne County canvassers on Tuesday night to express gratitude for their support, the Associated Press reported, citing an individual familiar with the matter.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, criticized plans by Shirkey and Chatfield to visit the White House on Friday, three days before the state is set to certify Michigan’s election results. She said the pair should not take part in Trump’s “scheme” to undermine democracy.

“Conspiracies start with these kind of meetings, and the people are fed up and upset the GOP has continued to down this path to disenfranchise voters and allow these other false conspiracy theories to gain field,” Tlaib said.

She said her Republican colleagues need to realize that 5.5 million Michigan votes are in jeopardy.

On Nov. 6, three days after the election, Michigan legislative leaders announced they would convene committee hearings to examine the integrity of the state's election. The House and Senate oversight committees are scheduled to hold their second meeting on the matter Thursday afternoon.

As it stands, Republicans have not uncovered evidence that would suggest widespread voter fraud and throw the results into question. Biden won Michigan by 14 times the number of votes Trump won the state by four years earlier.

In a Saturday interview, Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox said the party continues to collect information about "incidents" that occurred in the Nov. 3 election.

Some Democrats have voiced concerns that the GOP-controlled Legislature could try to change the way Michigan's electors are chosen ahead of next month's Electoral College convention. Michigan law holds that the state's electoral votes automatically go to the presidential candidate who wins the state's popular vote.

"If there was any action it would come from the Legislature, and I trust and believe in our speaker and our leader to take appropriate action," Cox said.

Shirkey and Chatflied have previously said that the winner of the popular vote in Michigan will receive the state's 16 votes in the Electoral College next month.

Shirkey told The Detroit News on Tuesday that he doesn't expect the results of the state's presidential race to change as lawmakers examine the voting process. "Elections have consequences," he said. 

Biden is in the lead, Chatfield acknowledged Wednesday. 

"But President Trump is still the president of the United States and he's not conceded this election. And my job is to investigate reports of fraud and reports of irregularities," Chatfield said. "That's what we are going to do. When the time comes for there to be a concession, then I am sure that will happen. ... But we're not there right now." 

cmauger@detroitnews.com

Staff Writer Riley Beggin contributed.