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Donald Trump blasts Michigan GOP senators who found no election fraud

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Former President Donald Trump targeted two Republican state senators from Michigan on Thursday, a day after the state's Senate Oversight Committee released a report saying lawmakers found no evidence of fraud in the 2020 election.

In an email blast, Trump said the Michigan Senate GOP's eight-month investigation into the election, which involved 28 hours of public committee testimony and a review of thousands of subpoenaed documents, was a "cover up." Trump claimed it was "a method of getting out of a forensic audit for the examination of the presidential contest."

The former president told his supporters to call Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, and Oversight Chairman Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, and "get them to do the right thing or vote them the hell out of office."

In this Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, file photo, President Donald Trump waves as he boards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington, en route to his Mar-a-Lago Florida Resort.

Shirkey is the top lawmaker in the Michigan Senate. McBroom was the primary author of the report on the 2020 election. While the committee's investigation found there were "glaring issues that must be addressed" in state election law, it added there was "no evidence presented at this time" to prove "significant acts of fraud."

"This committee found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election," McBroom wrote in a letter attached to the report. "However, we cannot and should not overlook severe weaknesses in our elections system."

The report's conclusions directly conflicted with the statements of some GOP activists and Trump himself, who have levied unsubstantiated claims of widespread wrongdoing in Michigan and sought to overturn the battleground state's election results based on those assertions.

Trump lost Michigan by 154,000 votes, or 3 percentage points, to Democrat Joe Biden. A series of court rulings, bipartisan boards of canvassers and dozens of audits performed by election officials have reinforced the outcome.

The Senate majority leader is grateful for the hard work of the Oversight Committee, and the Senate will continue to move forward as planned, Shirkey spokeswoman Abby Walls said. 

Trump and some of his supporters have continued to claim there was rampant fraud and have pushed for a statewide audit of the vote. State Rep. Steve Carra, R-Three Rivers, introduced a bill in the House Tuesday to require such a review.

Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan

In his Thursday email blast, Trump said Shirkey and McBroom want to "investigate the patriots who have fought for the truth and who are exposing a very possibly rigged election."

"The truth will come out and RINO’s (Republicans In Name Only) will pay at the polls, especially with primary voters and expected challenges," Trump wrote. "Our country was based on free and fair elections, and that’s what we must have!"

The Senate Oversight Committee report recommended that Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel consider investigating individuals who pushed false claims about Antrim County's election "to raise money or publicity for their own ends."

"If you are profiting by making false claims, that's pretty much the definition of fraud," McBroom said in a Wednesday interview.

McBroom declined Thursday afternoon to immediately respond to Trump's comments. During a Sunday appearance on WDIV-TV, Shirkey said there is no question in his mind that Biden had won the state.

About the possibility of another audit in Michigan, both McBroom and Shirkey have said they're waiting to see what an ongoing review of the vote in Arizona's Maricopa County finds.

Shirkey is term limited and can't seek reelection to his Senate seat in 2022. McBroom can run again. He previously served in the state House and won his Upper Peninsula Senate seat by 11 percentage points in 2018.

In recent months, Senate Republicans have pushed a package of 39 bills to overhaul the state's voting laws. The proposals would bar Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson from sending out absentee ballot applications unless they are specifically requested by voters, would increase supervision of ballot drop boxes and expand voter identification requirements.

Trump's Thursday message mentioned "problems with the numbers" that gave a conservative county to Biden, apparently referencing Antrim County. In that county, initial results showed Biden winning because of human errors by election workers who didn't update equipment after late changes to ballot designs.

The mistakes were quickly identified after Election Day and the county's official results showed Trump winning 61% of the vote in the county. However, the changing numbers inspired national conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems, the voting equipment used in Antrim County and the majority of Michigan's 83 counties.

"Events in Antrim County sparked a significant amount of concern about the technology used to count ballots," the Senate committee report said. "This concern led to much speculation, assumptions, misinformation and, in some cases, outright lies meant to create doubt and confusion.

"The many hours of testimony before the committee showed these claims are unjustified and unfair to the people of Antrim County and the state of Michigan."

The former president also referenced the treatment of Republican poll watchers in Detroit and Benson's mailing of absentee ballot applications to registered voters in the state.

cmauger@detroitnews.com