Trump allies, RNC officials set for 'election integrity' summit in Detroit

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Allies of former President Donald Trump are putting on an "election integrity" summit in Detroit on Friday and Saturday, an event that will feature political figures who've made unproven claims of fraud and staffers from the Republican National Committee.

The Election Integrity Network is organizing the gathering. The group is chaired by conservative lawyer Cleta Mitchell, who served "as a volunteer attorney for the Trump legal team in Georgia," according to its website.

Mitchell was on the Jan. 2, 2021, phone call in which Trump asked Georgia election officials to “find” enough votes to declare him the winner of the battleground state, according to the Associated Press.

In this Feb. 6, 2014, file photo, Cleta Mitchell testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The Election Integrity Network is a project of the Conservative Partnership Institute, which features Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, as a senior partner.

The summit will include presentations entitled "Starting and Building Local Task Forces/Becoming a Presence in the Local Election Office," "Working Together to Fight the Left" and "Becoming Part of the Election Apparatus: Election Inspectors in Michigan," according to an agenda obtained by The Detroit News.

The discussions about election inspectors will be led by Matthew Seifried, listed as election integrity director for the Republican National Committee for Michigan. Josh Findlay, listed as the RNC's national election integrity director, will be on the "Working Together to Fight the Left" panel.

The Election Integrity Network didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about the event Thursday. The summit will take place at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center.

Preya Samsundar, spokeswoman for the RNC, said the committee's election integrity program "is geared to recruiting, training, and educating voters and volunteers because polling shows that Americans want bipartisan transparency at the polls."

"By helping volunteers get involved in their local elections, we are enabling citizens to take part in the process. We work with other groups who have an interest in promoting election integrity, but the RNC's efforts are independent from any outside organization," Samsundar said.

Cindy Berry, Chesterfield Township's clerk, will participate in a discussion at the summit on voting by mail and voting systems. Berry said she had been contacted by someone at the Michigan Republican Party about the possibility of speaking at the event.

People want secure elections that they can have confidence in, Berry said.

“I am hoping to bring a professional perspective,” she said.

Also appearing at the summit, according to the agenda, will be former Michigan state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, who's repeatedly made unproven claims of fraud in the November 2020 election, and Erick Kaardal, an attorney with the Thomas More Society.

In April 2021, Dominion Voting Systems accused Colbeck of waging a "disinformation campaign" while touring Michigan to give presentations entitled "Case for MI Decertification." The Thomas More Society was involved in unsuccessful litigation that aimed to require legislatures in battleground states, including Michigan, to sign off on their states' election results.

Lavora Barnes, chairwoman of the Michigan Democratic Party, said the conference's lineup read "like a who’s who of Democracy destroyers."

"This isn’t surprising given the rampant fraud that runs deep in the RNC and the Michigan Republican Party," Barnes said. "This conference agenda makes clear that the Republicans are hell bent on keeping alive the ‘Big Lie’ through the 2022 elections.

"It’s not shocking that Republicans are boldly and publicly continuing their attempts to undermine our democratic institutions and it is something that we — the Michigan Democratic Party — are fighting against every day," Barnes said.

The agenda for the summit says Michael Gableman, former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, will give a keynote address. He's been investigating claims of fraud in Wisconsin.

According to information provided to one attendee, "no video or audio taping of any of our training and education sessions" will be allowed at the event.

Trump lost Michigan's November 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden by 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points. A series of court rulings, more than 200 audits and an investigation by the GOP-controlled state Senate Oversight Committee have upheld the result.