Trump suggests he will back primary challenges to Michigan GOP lawmakers

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Former President Donald Trump escalated his pressure on the Michigan Legislature on Wednesday, signaling he will endorse primary challengers against sitting GOP lawmakers who don't support a new audit of the 2020 election.

So far, the Republican leaders of the state House and Senate have resisted the idea of requiring a third-party review of last year's election, which Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden by 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points in Michigan. But the former president and some of his supporters have focused on touting the idea and lobbying legislators to pursue it, including during a Tuesday afternoon rally on the Capitol lawn.

Former President Donald Trump attends a border security briefing in this Wednesday, June 30, 2021, file photo in Weslaco, Texas.

"Why won’t they give respected professionals and representatives at yesterday’s rally the right to do a Forensic Audit of Wayne County (Detroit) and Macomb County?" Trump said in a Wednesday statement. "That includes the RINOs in the State Senate and House who for, whatever reason, do nothing but obstruct instead of seeking the truth.

"Hopefully, each one of these cowardly RINOs, whose names will be identified and forthcoming, will be primaried, with my Complete and Total Endorsement, in the upcoming election."

The term "RINO" stands for Republican in name only.

Hundreds of people participated in Tuesday's rally in Lansing to call for an audit of the 2020 election. During the event, attendees discussed plans to launch a petition campaign to try to force the House and Senate to vote on an audit.

Meanwhile, Democrats have described the push for a new audit as an attempt to undermine the public's faith in elections. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's office has emphasized that more than 250 audits have already examined last year's vote.

There has been no evidence of widespread fraud in Michigan's 2020 election, and a series of court rulings have upheld the outcome.

"I have faith that the people of Michigan will see through this charade and that voters on both sides of the aisle will choose truth and continue to believe in their voices, their votes and their authority to hold their elected officials accountable," Benson tweeted  Tuesday in response to the Capitol rally.

House Republican leadership referred one bill, introduced in June, to require an audit to the Government Operations Committee, which is where proposals are often sent to die. In June, the Senate Oversight Committee released a report on the 2020 election, saying it found no "no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud."

Republicans hold majorities in both the House and Senate. In 2022, every seat in the Legislature will be on the ballot with newly redrawn district lines in the battleground state. If Trump, who remains popular among GOP voters, intervenes in the races and ousts incumbent Republicans in primaries or forces them to spend resources on the contests, it could boost Democrats' chances of winning seats.

Trump has already endorsed state Rep. Steve Carra, R-Three Rivers, in his campaign to oust U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, who voted to impeach the former president in January.

Last week, Macomb County Clerk Anthony Forlini said he planned to hire a cyber security firm to conduct a forensic audit of the county's election server to "restore the confidence of our election processes in Macomb County." The county is the state's third-largest.

Staff Writer Carol Thompson contributed.