Michigan Republicans say election laws will be followed after extraordinary Trump meeting

U.S. President Donald Trump sought to leverage the power of the Oval Office on Friday in an extraordinary attempt to block President-elect Joe Biden’s victory as criticism mounted that his futile efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 election could do long-lasting damage to democratic traditions.

Trump summoned a delegation of Republican lawmakers from Michigan, including the state’s Senate majority leader and House speaker, in an apparent extension of his efforts to persuade judges and election officials in the state to set aside Biden’s 154,000-vote margin of victory and grant him the state’s electors.

Those lawmakers later confirmed they will still follow election laws in their state and award the electors to the winner of the popular vote.

Read more: Trump, after legal losses, turns to Republicans to overturn U.S. election results

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Trump’s efforts to override the public’s will extended to other battleground states that Biden carried as well. It all added up to an unprecedented attempt by a sitting president to maintain his grasp on power, or in failure, to delegitimize his opponent’s victory in the eyes of his army of supporters.

Rick Hasen, an election law expert and professor who has been meticulously chronicling the 2020 race, wrote that there would be “rioting” in the streets if an effort was made to set aside the vote in Michigan, calling it tantamount to an attempted coup.

“We should worry because this is profoundly antidemocratic and is delegitimizing the victory of Joe Biden in a free and fair election,” Hasan wrote on his blog. “It is profoundly depressing we still have to discuss this. But it is extremely unlikely to lead to any different result for president.”

U.S. election: Georgia governor says state law requires governor’s office to formalize certification of election

U.S. election: Georgia governor says state law requires governor’s office to formalize certification of election

In a joint statement after the White House meeting, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield said allegations of fraud should be investigated, but indicated they were unmoved by Trump’s claims thus far. “We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election.”

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“The candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan’s electoral votes,” they added, saying they used the meeting with Trump to press him for more pandemic aid money for their state.

The president on Friday again falsely claimed victory, declaring as an aside during a White House announcement on drug pricing, “I won, by the way, but you know, we’ll find that out.”

Read more: Loudest attacks on U.S. election integrity come from Trump, not Russia

Trump’s roughly hourlong meeting Friday with the Michigan legislators came days after he personally called two local canvass board officials who had refused to certify the results in Wayne County, Michigan’s most populous county and one that overwhelmingly favoured Biden. The two GOP officials eventually agreed to certify the results. But following Trump’s call, they said they had second thoughts.

The Board of State Canvassers is to meet Monday to certify the statewide outcome and it was unclear whether Republican members of that panel would similarly balk.

Some Trump allies have expressed hope that state lawmakers could intervene in selecting Republican electors, as the president and his attorneys have pushed baseless allegations of fraud that have been repeatedly rejected in courtrooms across the country. It was with that in mind that Trump invited the Michigan legislators. He was also said to be considering extending a similar invitation to lawmakers from Pennsylvania.

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“The president could be calling Republican legislators and others to the White House to try and squeeze them,” tweeted former Trump national security adviser John Bolton. “Republicans at all levels — state, county, election boards, legislatures — must resist this political pressure.”

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U.S. election: ‘Numbers don’t lie’ says Georgia’s Secretary of State after ballot recount confirms Biden win over Trump

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that the meeting with Michigan officials was “not an advocacy meeting” and insisted Trump “routinely meets with lawmakers from across the country.” But such meetings are in fact rare, particularly as Trump has maintained a low profile since the election.

As he departed Detroit for Washington on Friday morning, Shirkey was swarmed by activists bearing signs that read: “Respect the Vote” and “Protect Democracy.”

Chatfield tweeted before the meeting with Trump: “No matter the party, when you have an opportunity to meet with the President of the United States, of course you take it. I won’t apologize for that.”

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Read more: U.S. election: Michigan’s largest county certifies results after initial Republican delay

U.S. election: Michigan’s largest county certifies results after initial Republican delay