U.S. House seeks communications between Trump White House, Michigan Republicans

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — The U.S. House committee that's investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection wants to examine communications between officials within former President Donald Trump's administration and Michigan Republican leaders.

On Wednesday, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, chairman of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, sent a request to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Among the documents he sought were "communications referring or relating to the 2020 election results between White House officials and officials of state governments" from Nov. 3, 2020, through Jan. 20.

Thompson specifically listed eight individuals, including three from Michigan: state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, former state House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Monica Palmer, a member of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers.

Michigan State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey adjusts his protective face mask as he arrives to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 20, 2020.

The request from the Democratic-controlled House could shine new light on Trump's efforts to challenge the results in Michigan and how elected leaders in the state responded to them privately.

"Our Constitution provides for a peaceful transfer of power, and this investigation seeks to evaluate threats to that process, identify lessons learned and recommend laws, policies, procedures, rules or regulations necessary to protect our Republic in the future," Thompson wrote in his records request.

Chatfield and Shirkey were the top lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Legislature as some Trump supporters called on the House and Senate to intervene in Michigan's election results in December.

Trump lost the state to Democrat Joe Biden by 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points. Despite unsubstantiated claims that widespread fraud swayed the results, a series of court decisions, bipartisan boards of canvassers and an investigation by a Republican-led Senate committee has backed up the outcome.

Chatfield and Shirkey were among a group of seven Michigan Republicans who traveled to meet with Trump in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 20, 17 days after the election, and as the then-president was asserting the election had been rigged.

In a statement after the gathering, Chatfield and Shirkey suggested they used the meeting to focus on COVID-19 relief and not Michigan's election results.

"We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and, as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election," Chatfield and Shirkey said at the time.

But the day after the meeting, Trump responded to a social media post from Chatfield, saying, "Massive voter fraud will be shown!" Chatfield, who left the House because of term limits at the end of 2020, and Shirkey didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

As for Palmer, she is one of two Republicans on the four-member Wayne County Board of Canvassers. On Nov. 17, she and fellow Republican canvasser William Hartmann initially refused to certify the county's election results before changing course and voting in favor of certification.

If the results had not been approved in Michigan's largest county and a Democratic stronghold, it could have been a boost to Trump supporters' efforts to reverse the statewide outcome. Palmer has said she received a call on her way out of the canvassers meeting on Nov. 17 from Trump. She summarized the contents of the call with Trump as "Thank you for your service. I’m glad you're safe. Have a good night.”

In addition to communications with Shirkey, Chatfield and Palmer, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House committee is also seeking records between the Trump White House and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Georgia secretary of state investigator Frances Watson and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. 

Paxton led an unsuccessful legal effort to overturn the results in Michigan and other battleground states.