Attorney General Nessel to Michigan Republicans on fraud claims: 'Put up or shut up'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued blistering tweets Thursday, demanding that state Republicans "put up or shut up" when it comes to unproven claims of widespread election fraud.

A day after a high-profile state House Oversight Committee hearing featuring Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Nessel said Republicans had "embarrassed our state and defamed Michigan’s most populous city."

The Plymouth Democrat called on Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox to renounce claims of corruption in Detroit or take "evidence" to Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, federal authorities or her own attorney general's office.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

"At long last, put up or shut up," tweeted Nessel, the state's top law enforcement officer.

For weeks, supporters of Trump have asserted that there was widespread fraud in Michigan's Nov. 3 election, which the Republican incumbent lost to President-elect Joe Biden by 154,000 votes. However, Trump's backers have relied primarily on speculation and claims that have been rejected in court or by election officials.

During a four-hour Wednesday committee hearing in Lansing, Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, labeled Michigan's election a "con job" and said Detroit was among the most corrupt cities in the country.

He also browbeat legislators and urged them to intervene in the results of the election despite the fact that state law awards Michigan's 16 presidential electors to the certified winner of the popular vote. The Board of State Canvassers and bipartisan boards of canvassers in every county have already certified Michigan's results.

"You are the final arbiter of how honest or not your election is in your state," Giuliani told lawmakers Wednesday night. "And it’s your responsibility to stand up to that.

"All I can tell you is (if) we let them get away with this, I don’t know what happens after this.”

Nessel said Republicans had allowed witnesses to make "baseless, debunked attacks on our elections." Multiple individuals who were presented by Giuliani on Wednesday night repeated claims about the TCF Center, where absentee ballots were counted in Detroit, that a Wayne County judge previously labeled "not credible."

One individual, Mellissa Carone, who was a contractor for Dominion Voting Systems at the TCF Center, suggested there was 120% turnout in Detroit. Turnout in the city was 51%, according to official results.

Carone claimed that she saw thousands of instances of ballots tabulated multiple times. If that occurred, Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Wayland, pressed Carone about why there weren't major differences between poll book totals, which track voters, and ballot count totals

"What did you guys do, take it and do something crazy to it?” Carone then asked Johnson, referring to the Detroit poll books.

In response to Nessel's tweets, Cox said the attorney general "needs to do her job and stop pointing partisan fingers."

"The fact the she would go on Twitter to try and downplay decades of Detroit corruption is telling, and likely explains why we haven’t heard an update on her investigation into the unethical conduct of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Jocelyn Benson’s husband Ryan Friedrichs in over a year," Cox added, referring to allegations of wrongdoing involving a nonprofit and the mayor's administration.

The purpose of the House Oversight Committee meeting was to hear from people who witnessed things at TCF Center, where Detroit's absentee ballots were counted, said Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall, chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

In a statement after the meeting, Hall said the testimony included "abuses of the duplicate ballot and ballot tabulating processes" and "Republican challengers being harassed" at TCF Center.

"I want to stress that today was not about partisan politics, it was a piece of the puzzle as we try to figure out what happened and we will continue to gather more," Hall added.

On Thursday, Nessel noted that Matthew Schneider, U.S. attorney for Michigan's Eastern District, is a Trump appointee and his jurisdiction includes Detroit and the TCF Center.

"Wondering why @MIGOPChair doesn’t trust him to handle an investigation?" Nessel asked of Cox.

On Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr told the Associated Press that the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.