U.S. House Jan. 6 committee subpoenas two Michigan Trump electors

Lansing — The U.S. House committee that is investigating the Jan. 6 riot has issued subpoenas to two of the 16 Michigan Republicans who signed and submitted a false certificate that claimed Donald Trump won the battleground state's presidential election.

The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol announced the subpoenas of the two Michigan individuals, Kathy Berden and Mayra Rodriguez, and 12 others on Friday.

The panel is examining who was behind the "scheme" to have Republicans submit "alternate" slates of presidential electors to challenge or block Democrat Joe Biden's 2020 victory, said Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi.

Kathy Berden, republican national committeewoman, announces her continued support for President Donald Trump during a trumperware event on Saturday, April 13, 2019 in Flushing, Michigan .
 Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

"The select committee is seeking information about attempts in multiple states to overturn the results of the 2020 election, including the planning and coordination of efforts to send false slates of electors to the National Archives," Thompson said.

The 14 people who are being subpoenaed were the chairperson and secretary for the groups of "alternate" electors in seven battleground states. Berden, Michigan's Republican national committeewoman, was the chairwoman for Michigan's GOP slate.

According to a letter to her, the committee wants Berden to produce certain documents by 10 a.m. Feb. 11 and appear for a deposition at 10 a.m. Feb. 22.

"The select committee seeks information from you on a narrow range of issues," the letter to Berden from Thompson said. "We have sincere respect for your privacy, and we are not seeking information about your political views or your efforts in the 2020 presidential campaign more generally.

"Rather, we are seeking information about your role and participation in the purported slate of electors casting votes for Donald Trump and, to the extent relevant, your role in the events of Jan. 6, 2021."

Berden and Rodriguez didn't respond Friday to questions from The Detroit News.

Biden won Michigan's 2020 presidential election over Trump by 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points. The outcome was certified by the Board of State Canvassers on Nov. 23, 2020, meaning Michigan's 16 electoral votes went to Biden under state law.

However, on Dec. 14, 2020, the day the 16 Democratic presidential electors met inside the state Capitol to officially cast their votes, 16 Republicans met at state GOP headquarters to sign a certificate, claiming to cast votes for Trump.

The Republicans who signed the document, including Michigan Republican Party Co-Chairwoman Meshawn Maddock, inaccurately claimed they were the "duly elected and qualified electors," according to their certificate.

They sent the certificate to the National Archives as part of an attempt in multiple states to impede Biden's victory before the country's electoral votes were counted and certified during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

Earlier this month, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced she referred an investigation into the GOP electors to the U.S. attorney's office for the Western District of Michigan. Federal authorities will be better able to examine if there was a multistate conspiracy involving the electors' certificates, Nessel said.

Nessel said she believes there's "absolutely" enough evidence to bring criminal charges — she's previously mentioned forgery of a public record and election law forgery — against the 16 Republicans who signed the false certificate.

Michigan Republicans have accused Nessel of playing politics.

“This is nothing more than political prosecution of convenience led by Dana Nessel," said Gustavo Portela, the state GOP's communications director. "Dana Nessel is playing political games with people’s lives and livelihoods for the sake of scoring political points ahead of an election."

According to a Dec. 14, 2020, memorandum, Berden sent the GOP electors certificate to the U.S. Senate, the U.S. archivist, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's office and Robert Jonker, the chief judge of U.S. District Court for Michigan's Western District.

Asked earlier this month why the group submitted the certificate, Berden told The News, "I can’t comment on anything like that. That was a long time ago."

Rodriguez was the secretary for Michigan's GOP electors, according to the certificate.

The U.S. House committee is telling Rodriguez to submit certain documents by 2 p.m. Feb. 11 and to appear for a deposition at 2 p.m. Feb. 22.

Under the select panel’s rules, Thompson has the power to authorize and issue a subpoena for documents or for witnesses to appear, including for the purpose of taking depositions.

The penalties under federal law for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena are a fine of $100 to $100,000 or jail time of up to a year.

A committee may seek to cite a non-cooperative witness with contempt. The Jan. 6 panel has already demonstrated its willingness to do so, sending two contempt citations to the full House for a vote — former Trump aide Steve Bannon, who’s since been indicted, and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Both contempt citations were approved.

Biden said in October that the committee should go after those who defy subpoenas and “hold them accountable,” and that the Justice Department should prosecute them.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco confirmed to CNN Tuesday that federal prosecutors are reviewing the fake election certificates sent to the National Archives declaring that Trump had won several states where he lost, including Michigan.

"On the issue you raised of fraudulent elector certifications, we've received those referrals. Our prosecutors are looking at those, and I can't say anything more on ongoing investigations," Monaco said.

“But more broadly, the AG has been very, very clear, we are going to follow the facts and the law wherever they lead, to address conduct of any kind and at any level that is part of an assault on our democracy."