Trump endorses election challenger DePerno for Michigan attorney general

Beth LeBlanc Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Former President Donald Trump has bucked the party establishment again and  endorsed for Michigan attorney general a lead lawyerin the unsuccessful bid to overturn the state's 2020 election. 

Trump announced his endorsement of Kalamazoo attorney Matthew DePerno in a Thursday statement that labeled DePerno a "super lawyer" who has "defended the Constitution for 20 years.The former president said DePerno has been on the front lines pursuing fair and accurate elections, as he relentlessly fights to reveal the truth about the Nov. 3 presidential election scam."

Trump touted DePerno's dedication to the Second Amendment, law and order, the military and veterans. Should DePerno win the Republican nomination for attorney general, he would run against incumbent Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel in 2022. 

FILE - In this July 24, 2021 file photo, Former President Donald Trump speaks on a variety of topics to supporters at a Turning Point Action gathering in Phoenix.

"Dana Nessel, the Radical Left, and the RINOs are targeting Matt because he gets results and has exposed so much Voter Fraud in Antrim County, and many more places, in the 2020 Election," Trump's statement said. "He will never give up, and that’s why they absolutely cannot stand him!"

DePerno took to Twitter Thursday to express his thanks for the endorsement. 

"An absolute honor to have the blessing and full endorsement of the 45th President! " DePerno wrote.

Nessel's campaign said Thursday the endorsement was "not surprising."

"It’s very clear that today’s GOP is a single issue party and that single issue is loyalty to Donald Trump," said Kimberly Bush, a spokeswoman for Nessel's campaign.

State Rep. Ryan Berman, a Commerce Township Republican who practiced law for 16 years, has also announced his candidacy for the position. 

Matthew DePerno

Former state House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, has been rumored a potential candidate but has made no announcement to that effect. Leonard lost the 2018 race for attorney general to Nessel by 3 percentage points.

However, many Republicans have been expecting Leonard to enter the race and saw him as the favorite for the nomination at the party's April convention. Leonard is the Michigan party's finance chairman.

Many Republicans have privately expressed doubts that DePerno would be a viable general election candidate.

Over the last several months, DePerno has led a lawsuit in Antrim County claiming election fraud. It was dismissed by 13th Circuit Judge Kevin Elsenheimer in May on the grounds that an audit of the election was already performed there.

Democrat Joe Biden won the county in preliminary results, but Trump won the county when errors were found and corrected for the certified results. The audit confirmed the final result. Biden won the state by about 154,000 votes.

DePerno has clashed frequently with Republicans who have stressed the need to move on from the 2020 election. As recently as last month, he criticized the GOP-led Legislature for failing to decertify the election, subpoena county election records and run more audits. 

The lawyer said only three House Republicans agreed to meet with him to listen to his case regarding Antrim County.

A Republican-led Senate committee that reviewed Michigan's 2020 election for potential fraud labeled DePerno's Antrim County claims "demonstrably false and based on misleading information and illogical conclusions" in a June report.

DePerno's insistence that Dominion voting machines in Antrim could have been "hacked" because they had modems or wireless chips installed was "indisputably false," the Senate committee found.

In July, Nessel's office agreed to a request from the Senate committee to investigate individuals who've pushed false claims about the 2020 election for money or publicity for themselves. 

Nessel has indicated that DePerno is one of the individuals.

As of June, DePerno's website linked to an "Election Fraud Defense Fund," which said it had raised about $321,000.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com