Michigan Republicans charged in ‘false elector’ scheme to overturn Trump loss

By Kanishka Singh and Nathan Layne

(Reuters) -Michigan’s attorney general on Tuesday announced felony charges against 16 Republicans for participating in an alleged “false elector” scheme that aimed to overturn then-President Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss in the battleground state.

While more than 1,000 people have been charged with crimes related to the violent Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol — the day Congress met to certify the election result — the Michigan felonies mark the first time anyone has been charged for trying to overturn Trump’s defeat via the political system.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, has been investigating the group for allegedly signing documents showing they were legitimate Electoral College delegates. Their aim was to get Congress to accept phony certificates for Trump, even though Democrat Joe Biden carried the state by 154,000 votes.

Nessel charged the 16 Republicans with a series of felonies, including forgery, conspiracy to commit forgery, and conspiracy to commit election forgery. The charges carry possible penalties ranging from five to 14 years in prison.

The group includes Marian Sheridan, the grassroots vice chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party; Meshawn Maddock, former co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party; Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden; and Stanley Grot, the clerk in Shelby Township, a northern suburb of Detroit.

None could immediately be reached for comment.

“The false electors’ actions undermined the public’s faith in the integrity of our elections and, we believe, also plainly violated the laws by which we administer our elections in Michigan,” Nessel said in a statement.

According to the congressional committee that investigated the U.S. Capitol attack, Trump and his allies sought to overturn his November 2020 defeat by convincing Republican-controlled legislatures in battleground states to name their own Trump-friendly electors or refuse to name any electors.

Those electors met on Dec. 14, 2020, to cast their votes for Trump — the same day legitimate electors cast their ballots for Biden. While those ballots had no legal standing, Trump and his supporters used them to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to discard the actual results on Jan. 6, 2021.

In Michigan, the defendants met covertly in the basement of the state’s Republican Party headquarters and signed multiple certificates stating they were the “duly elected and qualified electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America for the State of Michigan,” according to Nessel.

“These false documents were then transmitted to the United States Senate and National Archives in a coordinated effort to award the state’s electoral votes to the candidate of their choosing, in place of the candidates actually elected by the people of Michigan,” Nessel said.

Other authorities are also investigating efforts to overturn Trump’s 2020 loss.

Trump said on Tuesday that the U.S. Justice Department had notified him that he is a target of their investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election, in a sign that he may face criminal charges.

A Georgia prosecutor is also investigating efforts to reverse his defeat in that state.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Nathan Layne; Editing by Andy Sullivan, Will Dunham and Daniel Wallis)