Trump withdraws Michigan suit, falsely claims Wayne County votes halted

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Detroit election workers at TCF processed more than 160,000 absentee ballots for the November presidential election. (Shutterstock photo)

LANSING — President Donald Trump’s campaign on Thursday withdrew its federal lawsuit over Michigan election results while falsely claiming it had stopped the certification of votes in Wayne County, the state’s largest and most Democratic region.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani announced the surprise legal move in a short statement, suggesting the campaign had achieved “the relief we sought: to stop the election in Wayne County from being prematurely certified before residents can be assured that every legal vote has been counted and every illegal vote has not been counted.”

But state officials and legal experts say that is not the case.

Trump actually lost his attempt to block certification in Wayne County even though GOP canvassers Monica Palmer and William Hartmann are now attempting to “rescind” their votes, a move that reportedly followed personal outreach by the president.

“There is no legal mechanism for them to rescind their vote,” said Tracy Wimmer, a spokesperson for Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “Their job is done and the next step in the process is for the Board of State Canvassers to meet and certify.”

In a motion of voluntary dismissal of the federal lawsuit filed Thursday morning, Trump attorney Mark “Thor” Hearne falsely stated that the Wayne County Board had “met and declined to certify results of the presidential election.”

The board did meet on Tuesday, when Hartmann and Palmer initially refused to certify results because several precinct counts were “out of balance,” meaning that numbers of voters who signed into poll books did not match the number of ballots.

But after two hours of public backlash and a promise that the state would pursue a post-election audit, the GOP canvassers reversed course and joined Democrats to certify the Wayne County results.

Late Wednesday, Hartmann and Palmer released affidavits attempting to take back their votes. Palmer claimed they were bullied and “enticed into accepting a late-night agreement” for certification that they now regret.

Trump’s legal team included those affidavits in its Thursday morning filing, but they mean “nothing” and will have “zero” effect on Michigan’s election certification process, said Steven Liedel, a government policy attorney who served as legal counsel to former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat.

“The county canvass was completed by the end of the day on Tuesday, and there is no mechanism for any activity at the county level after the end of the day on Tuesday,” Liedel said.

Even if Republicans did want to formally reconsider their votes, they’d have to do so at an open and public meeting, not through an affidavit, he added.

The Trump campaign is continuing to “try and sow discord and confusion about what is a routine, lawful process,” Mark Brewer, an attorney and former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, said of the state’s vote certification process.

“They can withdraw the lawsuit on whatever basis they want, but those (Republican canvassers’) affidavits mean nothing.”

The Associated Press, citing an anonymous source, reported Palmer and Hartmann submitted the affidavits after Trump personally reached out to them. Palmer confirmed to the Detroit Free Press she received a call from the president after Tuesday’s meeting, to “make sure she was safe.”

Their sworn statements are “not worth the paper that they’re written on,” said Jonathan Kinloch of Detroit, one of two Democratic canvassers in Wayne County. He told Bridge the board cannot legally revisit the certification vote because the state deadline had already passed.

“It makes absolutely no sense for them to be doing this at this time,” he said.

Trump’s lawsuit, filed Nov. 11 in the Western District of Michigan, sought to stop certification in both Wayne County and at the state level. The Board of State Canvassers is set to meet Monday for a vote on statewide certification. Norm Shinkle, one of two Republicans on that bipartisan board —  which, like Wayne County’s board is split with two Democrats and two Republicans — has already told Bridge Michigan he makes “no predictions” about the vote.

The Trump campaign lawsuit alleged widespread “irregularities” in Detroit’s absentee counting board, where officials temporarily barred new poll challengers from entering an already-crowded room. It included affidavits from several GOP poll challengers, including Shinkle’s wife.

The case brought by Trump has been marked by legal blunders, including a delay in actually “serving” state election officials with the complaint, a routine step required in civil litigation.

Judge Janet Neff was considering a motion to dismiss the case requested by the Democratic National Committee and Michigan Democratic Party and supported by Benson, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, the city of Detroit and the Michigan NAACP.

The NAACP accused Trump of launching an “all-out attack on votes cast by Black voters” in an effort to make up a “state-wide 150,000 vote gap” in Michigan, where unofficial results show Democrat Joe Biden won by roughly three percentage points.

NAACP President Yvonne White and Detroit Branch President Wendell Anthony said dismissing Wayne County votes would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters.

“To do so at the cost of  hundreds of thousands of votes lawfully cast—not coincidentally in a county with the largest Black population in Michigan—would be unprecedented and unlawful,” attorneys said in the court filing. “Further, it is unconscionable and would severely undermine faith in the integrity of both this nation’s elections and judicial processes.”

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