Michigan Dems seek probe of 11 GOP lawmakers for 'seditious conspiracy' to overturn 2020 election

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan House Democrats introduced a resolution Wednesday asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate 11 of their Republican colleagues for attempting "to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election."

Sponsored by Rep. Joe Tate, D-Detroit, the proposal is extremely unlikely to gain traction in the GOP-controlled House but underscores Democrats' beliefs that federal authorities should probe the actions that high-ranking Michigan Republicans took in the wake of Donald Trump's loss to Joe Biden.

A group of Republican electors walks toward the Michigan State Capitol to try to  gain entry to cast their ballots in Lansing, Mich., on Dec. 14, 2020.

Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points, a result that's been upheld by a series of court rulings, more than 200 audits and an investigation by the Republican-run Michigan Senate's oversight committee. But some of the former president's supporters have maintained unproven claims that widespread fraud swung the race.

"An essential element of being a legislator is accepting the peaceful transition of power when the people choose different leaders, and these members failed to faithfully discharge the duties of their office by acting to undermine this basic tenet of democracy," the resolution says. "Michigan residents deserve better leaders than people who would subvert their own government to remain in power."

The resolution accuses 11 Republican state legislators of conspiring to overthrow the government and delaying the execution of laws, in violation of federal policies.

The Republican lawmakers should be investigated "for the crime of seditious conspiracy," the Democratic proposal says.

Five of the Republican lawmakers — Reps. Julie Alexander of Hanover, Beth Griffin of Mattawan, Matt Maddock of Milford, John Reilly of Oakland Township and Daire Rendon of Lake City — were entangled in a plot to advance a false slate of Republican presidential electors, claiming Trump won Michigan, according to the resolution.

The lawmakers themselves didn't sign the false electors certificate, contending Trump got Michigan's 16 electoral votes, but were involved in the effort, including the GOP electors' unsuccessful attempts to gain access on Dec. 14, 2020, to the Michigan Capitol.

The building was closed to the public that day, but state law required presidential electors to convene inside.

The Detroit News first reported in January that Trump supporters contemplated working with a Republican lawmaker who had a Capitol office to get the 16 Trump electors inside or find a way inside before the building was sealed off.

Laura Cox, who was chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party in 2020, told a U.S. House committee last month that some Trump supporters discussed hiding in the state Capitol overnight.

The Department of Justice has already been probing the false electors' activities in multiple battleground states, including Michigan. In June, some of the 16 Michigan Republicans who signed the false certificate received grand jury subpoenas from federal officials.

One of the Trump electors, Republican John Haggard of Charlevoix, has previously argued he believed Trump won Michigan's election and his First Amendment rights protected his ability to sign the false certificate.

In January, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel referred an investigation into the false electors to federal prosecutors. The Democratic attorney general has suggested forgery charges could be considered and said the GOP electors in Michigan seemed to be part of a "coordinated effort."

The new House resolution says all of the 11 House Republicans mentioned in the document signed on to an unsuccessful court filing in December 2020, claiming state legislators should have a post-election certification vote to determine the presidential electors for Michigan.

Rep. Joe Tate, D-Detroit

In addition to Alexander, Griffin, Maddock, Reilly and Rendon, Reps. Gary Eisen of St. Clair Township, Michele Hoitenga of Manton, Greg Markkanen of Hancock, Jack O'Malley of Lake Ann, Brad Paquette of Niles and Rodney Wakeman of Saginaw Township signed the filing.

Then-Rep. Doug Wozniak of Shelby Township also signed, but he is now serving in the Michigan Senate.

“State legislatures have plenary power to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the elections under the U.S. and Michigan constitutions, so it is our duty to conduct further investigations,” Alexander said at the time.

Tate's resolution comes 111 days before the November election, in which candidates' handling of the 2020 vote is expected to be in the spotlight.

Rendon, who is mentioned in the resolution, has become entangled in an ongoing state investigation into unauthorized access to voting tabulators, The Detroit News first reported in May.

Multiple northern Michigan clerks have said Rendon contacted them after the 2020 election seeking access to voting equipment. Carol Asher, the longtime clerk in Denton Township, said she provided a statement about Rendon's request to the Attorney General's office.

cmauger@detroitnews.com