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Donald Trump, pushing election claims, says, 'Michigan needs a new Legislature'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Former President Donald Trump declared Monday that Michigan, where Republicans control the House and Senate, needs a new "Legislature" and endorsed a primary challenger to one of the state's most conservative lawmakers.

In a series of statements issued Monday, Trump endorsed John Gibbs, a primary challenger to U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids Township. He also called Michigan lawmakers "cowards" and continued to make unsubstantiated claims that there was widespread fraud in the battleground state's 2020 election. He lost the Michigan race to Democrat Joe Biden by 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points.

Trump endorsed former U.S. House candidate Mike Detmer of Howell in a likely primary challenge to state Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton. Theis is vice chairwoman of the Senate Oversight Committee, which released a high-profile report in June, finding no evidence of significant acts of fraud in last year's election.

Former President Donald Trump speaks during his Save America rally in Perry, Ga., on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.

"Lana Theis refuses to support a forensic audit and refuses to admit there was pervasive voter fraud in the 2020 election," Trump said Monday in a statement issued by his Save America committee. "Think of it, nothing was found wrong in Detroit, one of the most corrupt cities in the U.S., whose elections over the years have been a joke.

"Theis is being challenged by an America first patriot, Mike Detmer. Mike ran a tough campaign in 2020 for Congress and performed very well."

Theis is a former state House member who is widely considered among the most conservative legislators in Lansing. But she "forgot she’s a Republican," Trump claimed in his statement.

Detmer ran in Michigan's 8th Congressional District in 2020. He came in second place in the Republican primary, losing to Paul Junge by about 7 percentage points. Junge went on to lose to U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, by 4 percentage points in the general election.

Also, on Monday, the former president endorsed Rachelle Smit, Martin Township's clerk, for a seat in the state House. She's running in Allegan County.

"Rachelle Smit is a twice-elected clerk who knows our elections are not secure, and that there was rampant voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election," Trump said.

Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, serves Michigan's 22nd State Senate District.

Michigan's 2022 district lines have not yet been finalized by the state's redistricting commission.

The results of the 2020 presidential vote have been upheld by a series of court rulings, dozens of past audits and the GOP-controlled Senate Oversight Committee's probe. The Michigan Senate report was developed through 28 hours of committee testimony from about 90 people, a review of thousands of subpoenaed documents and hundreds of hours of Senate staff investigation.

"Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan," the Senate committee's report concluded. "The committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain."

Trump backs Meijer challenger

In another statement Monday evening, Trump announced his support of Gibbs, a former staffer of the ex-president, in his bid to unseat Meijer. 

Gibbs, a Michigan native from Lansing, was nominated last year by Trump to serve as director of the Office of Personnel Management, but the Senate never confirmed him.

After his nomination, CNN reported inflammatory tweets by Gibbs from 2016, including a debunked conspiracy claiming that John Podesta, who managed Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, participated in a satanic ritual.

"John Gibbs is a fabulous talent who loves the state, our military and our vets," Trump said. "He will always protect our Second Amendment, our southern border and the police — there will be no defunding with John."

Meijer has attracted at least three other primary challengers since he voted earlier this year to impeach Trump for his role in instigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Trump previously endorsed state Rep. Steve Carra, R-Three Rivers, in his campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, the other Michigan lawmaker who voted to impeach him.

cmauger@detroitnews.com

Staff Writer Melissa Nann Burke contributed.