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Michigan Republicans Charged in False Elector Scheme Appear in Court

Michigan Republicans Charged in False Elector Scheme Appear in Court

Two Michigan Republicans charged with purporting to be electors for President Donald J. Trump in 2020 appeared before a state judge on Friday, adding to a flurry of court action this week tied to efforts to overturn the last presidential election.

The hearings for the two pro-Trump electors — Meshawn Maddock, a former co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, and Mari-Ann Henry, who was active in Republican politics in suburban Detroit — came a day after the former president pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges in federal court in Washington. Earlier in the week, a grand jury in another part of Michigan indicted prominent Republicans on charges connected to improper access to voting machines.

The hearing on Friday was largely procedural. Judge Kristen D. Simmons of the State District Court in Lansing agreed to give defense lawyers until October to review “voluminous” discovery materials in the felony case.

From her small wood-paneled courtroom in Lansing City Hall, across the street from the State Capitol, Judge Simmons spoke over a video conference link with Ms. Maddock, Ms. Henry and their lawyers. She agreed to allow each defendant, who could face lengthy prison sentences if convicted, to take a trip out of state before trial.

The cases against Ms. Maddock and Ms. Henry, who previously pleaded not guilty, are part of a broader prosecution of 16 purported Trump electors in Michigan that was announced last month by the state attorney general, Dana Nessel, a Democrat.

“They weren’t the duly elected and qualified electors, and each of the defendants knew it,” Ms. Nessel said in announcing the charges. “They carried out these actions with the hope and belief that the electoral votes of Michigan’s 2020 election would be awarded to the candidate of their choosing instead of the candidate that Michigan voters actually chose.”

Though Mr. Trump carried Michigan in 2016, Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the state by roughly a three-point margin in 2020, an outcome that was crucial to his overall election victory.

Other slates of false pro-Trump electors in swing states won by Mr. Biden, including Arizona and Georgia, are being investigated as part of a sprawling attempt to reverse the results of the 2020 election.

Some Republicans hoped that the false-electors plan, which was led largely by lawyers close to Mr. Trump, would persuade Vice President Mike Pence to accept the slates of false electors during the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, and by doing so, keep Mr. Trump in office for another term. Mr. Pence refused, even as a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol and delayed the certification of the election.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump was charged with four criminal counts tied to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election: conspiracy to violate civil rights, conspiracy to defraud the government, corrupt obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to carry out such obstruction. Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, has said he was a victim of “persecution” by the Justice Department.

Little was said in the Michigan hearing on Friday about the details of the case. The defendants spoke only sparingly, telling the judge they supported their lawyers’ requests to delay their next hearing.

In an earlier interview with the Fox affiliate in Detroit, Ms. Maddock described the charges as politically motivated.

“We know we didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “We’re not fake electors. I was a duly elected Trump elector. There was no forgery involved.”

George MacAvoy Brown, a lawyer for Ms. Henry, said in a statement that Ms. Henry, a longtime party activist in Oakland County, Mich., has been falsely accused.

“The government’s claim that she attempted to subvert the will of the voters and undermine an election is spurious and unsupported by the facts,” he said.

The hearing in Lansing was among the first for the defendants in the Michigan case. Ms. Nessel charged each of the electors with eight felony counts, including forgery and conspiracy to commit forgery. The defendants are accused of signing documents attesting falsely that they were Michigan’s “duly elected and qualified electors” for president and vice president.

According to prosecutors, some of the Trump electors attempted to deliver the paperwork at the State Capitol on Dec. 14, 2020, but were turned away. Meanwhile, the real electors who were certified by the Board of State Canvassers, and who cast their votes for Mr. Biden, met inside the building.

Kirsten Noyes contributed research.


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