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Trump Asks Michigan Lawmakers to White House in Bid to Subvert Election
Trump Asks Michigan Lawmakers to White House in Bid to Subvert Election avatar

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President Trump in the Oval Office last week. Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

After failing repeatedly in court to overturn election results, President Trump is taking the extraordinary step of reaching out directly to Republican state legislators as he tries to subvert the Electoral College process, inviting Michigan lawmakers to meet with him at the White House on Friday.

Mr. Trump contacted the Republican majority leader in the Michigan State Senate to issue the invitation, according to a person briefed on the invitation. It is not clear how many Michigan lawmakers will be making the trip to Washington, nor precisely what Mr. Trump plans to say to the lawmakers.

The White House invitation to Republican lawmakers in a battleground state is the latest — and the most brazen — salvo in a scattershot campaign-after-the-campaign waged by Mr. Trump and his allies to cast doubt on President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s decisive victory.

It comes as the Trump campaign and its allies have been seeking to overturn the results of the election in multiple states through lawsuits and intrusions into the state vote certification process, often targeting cities like Detroit, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Atlanta with large and politically powerful Black populations. Mr. Trump himself reached out personally to at least one election official in Wayne County, Mich., home of Detroit, who tried to decertify the results there.

Some members of Mr. Trump’s team have promoted the legally dubious theory that friendly legislatures could under certain scenarios effectively subvert the popular vote and send their own, pro-Trump delegations to the Electoral College.

The Michigan Senate leader who received Mr. Trump’s invitation, Mike Shirkey, said in an interview earlier this week with Bridge Michigan, a local news outlet, that the Legislature would not move to appoint its own slate of electors, stating, “That’s not going to happen.”

The statewide canvassing board, a bipartisan four-member panel, is responsible for certifying Michigan’s election results by a Monday deadline, a step that must take place before any move could be made to change the electors.

One of the Republican members of the board, Norm Shinkle, said in an interview on Thursday that he was coming under enormous pressure regarding his vote, which he said was complicated by a late night announcement from the two Republicans on the four-member canvassing board in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, that they wanted to “rescind” their votes to certify the county’s results.

Mr. Trump reached out Tuesday night to one of those Republicans, Monica Palmer, to thank her for her support, according to two people briefed on the call. Ms. Palmer and the other Republican board member, William Hartmann, had initially refused to certify the election results, before relenting Tuesday night after a public outcry and accusations of that they were trying to disenfranchise voters in Detroit, which is more than three-quarters Black. Ms. Palmer and Mr. Hartmann are white.

On Tuesday, Mr. Shirkey condemned threats of violence received by members of the Wayne County board of electors, and he indicated that the legislature would conduct their own investigation, but that it was not their place to resolve questions about the election.

“Additional concerns have been brought before the courts, which is the proper place to resolve questions of legality surrounding the state elections process,” Mr. Shirkey said.

Monica Palmer, a Republican member of the board of canvassers in Wayne County, Mich., spoke with Jonathan Kinloch, one of her Democratic counterparts on the board, in Detroit on Tuesday.Credit…Robin Buckson/Detroit News, via Associated Press

The Republicans sought to rescind the certification votes they had cast on Tuesday night through affidavits released late Wednesday night, roughly 24 hours after Mr. Trump had spoken with Ms. Palmer. But legally, functionally and practically, they cannot do so.

“There is no legal mechanism for them to rescind their vote,” Tracy Wimmer, a spokeswoman for Michigan’s top election official, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, said on Thursday. “Their job is done and the next step in the process is for the Board of State Canvassers to meet and certify.” That meeting is scheduled for next Monday.

The Trump campaign’s lead election lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, announced Thursday morning that the campaign was withdrawing a federal suit it had filed seeking to stop the certification of results in Wayne County. The campaign attached the affidavits to the dismissal notice.

Mr. Biden won nearly 95 percent of the vote in Detroit and around 70 percent of the vote in Wayne County en route to winning Michigan by more than 150,000 votes.

After Ms. Palmer and Mr. Hartmann initially refused to certify the election results over slight discrepancies in majority-Black precincts, while ignoring similar problems in heavily white areas of the county where Mr. Biden won a far smaller share of the vote, public outcry ensued, with 300 voters and civil rights leaders on a Zoom call expressing outrage.

Hours later, Ms. Palmer and Mr. Hartmann changed course and voted to certify. But in their affidavits the next day, they effectively said that they had been bullied into voting for the certification and that they did not believe the Democrats on the board were following through with their promise to ensure an independent audit of the Wayne County results.

The announcement about the Republicans’ attempt to rescind their certification votes arrived in a news release from a Virginia-based public-relations firm, ProActive Communications, that has been paid millions for consulting work for Mr. Trump’s campaign and whose founder, Mark Serrano, has been a frequent television defender of the president’s.

With the withdrawal of the Wayne County suit, the Trump campaign and its Republican supporters have now lost or withdrawn from all of their major legal actions in Michigan, although the state’s Supreme Court is still considering an appeal of a lower court’s decision not to halt the certification of Wayne County’s results.

The calls from business groups could bring additional pressure on top Republicans in Congress to finally recognize President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the winner of the election
The calls from business groups could bring additional pressure on top Republicans in Congress to finally recognize President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the winner of the electionCredit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Business leaders in Washington and on Wall Street are increasingly calling on the Trump administration to recognize Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the presidential election and initiate a formal transition ahead of Mr. Biden’s inauguration in January.

Some of the biggest corporate lobbying groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers — supported President Trump in his push to cut taxes and roll back regulations while in office but are now breaking with the president as he pushes unfounded claims of fraud and wages a protracted court battle in an attempt to overturn the election results.

The business pressure comes as the General Services Administration refuses to issue a letter of “ascertainment,” which would allow Mr. Biden’s transition team to begin the transfer of power, and as top Republicans refuse to formally concede that Mr. Trump lost. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has yet to recognize Mr. Biden’s victory publicly, but said this week that there would be an “orderly transition of power” before the next inauguration.

The National Association of Manufacturers on Wednesday called on the head of the G.S.A. to formally initiate the transition between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden.

“It’s imperative that our nation has a President and advisors who are fully prepared to lead our nation on Inauguration Day given the magnitude of the challenges ahead and the threats to our economic and national security, and most importantly, to the public health,” wrote the manufacturing group’s leaders, including its president and chief executive, Jay Timmons, and the chief executives of the chemicals giant Dow and Trane Technologies.

“We call on the Trump administration to work cooperatively with President-elect Biden and his team,” the letter said.

On Thursday, the chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donohue, told Axios that “while the Trump administration can continue litigating to confirm election outcomes, for the sake of Americans’ safety and well-being, it should not delay the transition a moment longer.”

And at the DealBook Online Summit on Wednesday, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, expressed dismay that the transition has not yet formally begun.

“We need a peaceful transition,” Mr. Dimon said. “We had an election. We have a new president. We should support that. Whether you like the election outcome or not, you should support the democracy because it is based on a system of faith and trust.”

The calls from business groups could bring additional pressure on top Republicans in Congress to finally recognize Mr. Biden as the winner of the election, even as Mr. Trump continues to pressure party officials to cast doubt on the results.

Supporters of President Trump protesting near a site where votes were being counted earlier this month in Phoenix. The Arizona secretary of state described threats against her and her family.
Supporters of President Trump protesting near a site where votes were being counted earlier this month in Phoenix. The Arizona secretary of state described threats against her and her family.Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

President Trump’s false accusations that voter fraud denied him re-election are causing escalating confrontations in swing states across the country, leading to threats of violence against officials in both parties and subverting even the most routine steps in the electoral process.

In courtrooms, statehouses and election-board meetings across the country, the president is increasingly using the weight of his office to deliver his message to lower-level election workers, hoping they buckle. It has not worked.

The extraordinary assault on the voting system by the president and his allies has taken on added intensity as the deadlines for certifying results in several states approach. Once certified, the final tallies will further complicate Mr. Trump’s attempt to overturn his loss. Here is a look at some of the states where tensions are rising and local officials are receiving threats of violence.


On Wednesday, the secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, lamented the “consistent and systematic undermining of trust” in the elections and called on Republican officials to stop “perpetuating misinformation.” She described threats against her and her family in the aftermath of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in her state.


In a state where Mr. Biden has clung to a narrow lead through a recount that was scheduled to have concluded Wednesday night, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has said he, too, received menacing messages. He also said he felt pressured by Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to search for ways to disqualify votes. The state faces a Friday deadline to certify its election results.


Republican state lawmakers advanced a proposal on Wednesday to audit the state’s election results that cited “a litany of inconsistencies” — a move Democrats described as obstructionist given Mr. Trump’s failure to present evidence of widespread fraud or other problems in a state where Mr. Biden’s margin of victory is more than 80,000 votes and growing. Republicans in Wisconsin filed new lawsuits on Wednesday in the state’s two biggest counties, seeking a recount.


Nowhere was the confusion and chaos more evident than in Michigan, where two Republican members of the canvassing board in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, initially refused to certify election results on Tuesday, then reversed their votes following a public outcry, only to attempt to rescind their approval the next day. State election officials said the board members could not rescind their votes.

It was revealed on Thursday that Mr. Trump had called one of the Republican members to thank her for her support.

Senator Kelly Loeffler posed with supporters at a rally last week in Marietta, Ga.
Senator Kelly Loeffler posed with supporters at a rally last week in Marietta, Ga.Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

The two runoff elections in Georgia that will determine which party controls the Senate are already drawing enormous sums of cash, with more than $125 million pouring into the state in only two weeks.

The races have taken on outsized importance as the narrowest of Democratic majorities in the Senate would considerably ease President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s path to confirming his cabinet picks, appointing judges and advancing his policies.

The two Democratic challengers, the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, have each raised huge amounts since Nov. 3, with Mr. Warnock collecting around $40 million and Mr. Ossoff a little less than that, according to two people familiar with their fund-raising.

The Senate arm of the Republican Party and the two Republican incumbents, Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, announced they had pulled in $32 million in just the first six days after the election. And Ms. Loeffler, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, who spent $23 million of her own money to make the runoff and can inject millions more at a moment’s notice, has already booked $40 million in television time.

Super PACs on both sides are racing to lock up a shrinking supply of television airtime, as ad rates in the Atlanta market skyrocket, after the state voted for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1992.

The races have drawn campaign visits from potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates. Mr. Biden himself is planning a trip closer to the Jan. 5 runoffs.

If both Democrats win the runoffs, they would pull the Senate into a 50-50 tie, which would give Democrats de facto control of the chamber because Kamala Harris, as vice president, would cast the tiebreaking vote.

Conversely, a Republican majority would give Senator Mitch McConnell, the G.O.P. leader, an effective veto over many of Mr. Biden’s ambitions.

Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, in the Capitol on Wednesday.
Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, in the Capitol on Wednesday.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, has privately hinted that President Trump would drop his objection to stripping Confederate leaders’ names from military bases, which is threatening to derail the annual military policy bill, if Democrats agreed to repeal an important legal shield for social media companies.

Mr. Trump has threatened to veto the legislation, which authorizes pay raises for American troops, if it contains the base-renaming requirement, which drew bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

Over the course of several conversations, Representative Adam Smith of Washington, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, asked Mr. Meadows what might persuade Mr. Trump to sign the measure with the renaming requirement intact, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Mr. Meadows, according to the people, said that adding a repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, considered the most consequential law governing speech on the internet, would help.

Such a deal would amount to a last-minute, sweeping overhaul of communications law, and a Democratic congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to disclose internal discussions, said many lawmakers in the party viewed it as a nonstarter.

But the offer reflected the appetite at the White House to score long-shot victories on top priorities in the final days of Mr. Trump’s presidency. And it further complicated what could become a bitter fight on Capitol Hill over the issue of Confederate base names.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the conversations. A spokesman for Mr. Smith also declined to comment, citing an informal policy of keeping details of such negotiations private.

Mr. Trump and his closest allies in Congress have agitated for a revocation of Section 230, which shields social media companies from liability for the content posted by users on their sites.

The Justice Department has written a legislative proposal intended to reform the law. And Mr. Trump signed an executive order several months ago intended to limit some of the Section 230 provisions.

The Trump administration has been criticized before for fostering anti-immigrant sentiment and ties to white nationalists.
The Trump administration has been criticized before for fostering anti-immigrant sentiment and ties to white nationalists.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

A prominent Jewish group criticized the White House on Wednesday for appointing to a commission that monitors Holocaust sites a speechwriter whom the White House had fired in 2018 for attending a gathering with white nationalists.

The speechwriter, Darren Beattie, was appointed this week to the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad for a three-year term that will last into the Biden administration. The commission is tasked with identifying and preserving cemeteries and historic buildings in Europe, including sites used to kill primarily Jews during the Holocaust.

In 2018, Mr. Beattie was dismissed from his job as a speechwriter for Mr. Trump after the revelation that he had appeared on a panel in 2016 with Peter Brimelow, the founder of the anti-immigrant site VDare, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled a hate website.

The Anti-Defamation League denounced Mr. Beattie’s appointment.

“It is absolutely outrageous that someone who has consorted with racists would even be considered for a position on a commission devoted to preserving Holocaust memorials in Europe,” said the group’s chief executive, Jonathan Greenblatt. “We urge the administration to rescind his appointment immediately.”

Asked for comment, Mr. Beattie said of the group: “The A.D.L. pretends to be an organization that protects Jews, but it really exists to protect Democrats. As a Jewish Trump supporter, I consider it an honor to be attacked by the far-left A.D.L. and its disgraced leader, Jonathan Greenblatt.” A White House spokesman declined to comment.

Mr. Beattie’s dismissal from the White House had followed criticism that the Trump administration has fostered anti-immigrant sentiment and ties to white nationalists.

Shortly after Mr. Trump took office, the White House issued a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day that neglected to mention Jews. And in 2017, the president was denounced after saying there were “very fine people on both sides” after a protester was killed at a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va.

The federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind., where three death row inmates are scheduled to be executed in the coming weeks.
The federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind., where three death row inmates are scheduled to be executed in the coming weeks.Credit…Michael Conroy/Associated Press

In the final weeks of President Trump’s term, his administration intends to execute three inmates on federal death row, the last scheduled executions by the Justice Department before the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has signaled he will end federal use of capital punishment.

Since July, when it resumed carrying out the death penalty after a 17-year hiatus, the Trump administration has executed seven federal inmates. Weeks before Mr. Biden is sworn in, the three inmates face the prospect of being the last federal prisoners to die by capital punishment for at least as long as Mr. Biden remains in office.

Orlando Cordia Hall, 49, convicted in the brutal death of a teenage girl, is scheduled to be executed on Thursday. Two other prisoners are to be executed in December, including Lisa M. Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row.

Mr. Biden has pledged to eliminate the death penalty. His campaign promised to work to pass legislation to end capital punishment on the federal level and offer incentives to states to follow suit. An aide reiterated Mr. Biden’s platform when asked how he planned to do so and did not respond to requests for comment on the scheduled executions.

The Justice Department under Mr. Trump resumed federal capital punishment this summer after a nearly two-decade informal moratorium. Before then, only three people had been executed by the federal government in the past 50 years, according to Bureau of Prisons data.

Federal executions during a transition of power are extremely unusual, according to Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. He said that presidents have generally deferred to incoming administrations.

“This is another part of the Trump legacy that’s inconsistent with American norms,” he said. “If the administration followed the normal rules of civility that have been followed throughout the history in this country, it wouldn’t be an issue. The executions wouldn’t go forward.”

The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment about the timing of the executions.

Then-Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. met with President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine in Ramallah in 2016.
Then-Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. met with President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine in Ramallah in 2016.Credit…Pool photo by Debbie Hill

In an effort to refurbish their sullied image in Washington, the Palestinians are laying the groundwork for an overhaul to one of their most cherished but controversial practices: compensating those who serve time in Israeli prisons, including for violent attacks.

Eager to make a fresh start with the incoming Biden administration, Palestinian officials are heeding the advice of sympathetic Democrats who have repeatedly warned that without an end to the payments, it would be impossible for the new administration to do any heavy lifting on their behalf.

The Palestinian Authority’s policy to pay stipends to prisoners held by Israel, in a system critics call “pay to slay,” has long been denounced by Israel and its supporters as giving an incentive to terrorism because it assures would-be attackers that their dependents will be well cared for. Because payments are based largely on the length of the prison sentence, critics say the most heinous crimes are the most rewarded.

In a bipartisan rebuke to the system, Congress has repeatedly passed legislation to reduce aid to the Palestinians by the amount of those payments. The payments were cited by the Trump administration when it cut off funding and took other punitive measures against the Palestinians starting in 2018.

— Adam Rasgon and

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Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, defended President Trump, saying it was in his right to reach out to Michigan election officials.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

For all the drama around the presidential race, the biggest surprise of the 2020 election may have been in the House, as Republicans gained eight seats and cut into the Democratic majority after a campaign in which officials in both parties expected the G.O.P. to come up short.

President Trump may have lost the election, but he also turned out a lot of voters, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, told The New York Times.

“I don’t think Trump goes away. If at the end of the day he does not win the presidency, he will still be a player and he’ll still have a base,” Mr. McCarthy said. “And if you sit back, if Trump was not on the ticket, would we have won seats this year? He brought turnout.”

No Republican leader had more riding on these elections than Mr. McCarthy, the man responsible for recruiting many of the newly elected House Republicans. In a recent interview, Mr. McCarthy discussed the campaign, how the House is the political equivalent of a baseball farm system and what Mr. Trump’s role in the party will be going forward.

President Trump said in July that he planned to remove unauthorized immigrants from the count for the first time in history. He will be unable to do so without the population data.
President Trump said in July that he planned to remove unauthorized immigrants from the count for the first time in history. He will be unable to do so without the population data.Credit…Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

In a blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to strip unauthorized immigrants from census totals used for reapportionment, Census Bureau officials have concluded that they cannot produce the state population totals required to reallocate seats in the House of Representatives until after President Trump leaves office in January.

The president said in July that he planned to remove unauthorized immigrants from the count for the first time in history, leaving an older and whiter population as the basis for divvying up House seats, a shift that would be likely to increase the number of House seats held by Republicans over the next decade.

But on Wednesday, according to three bureau officials, the Census Bureau told the Commerce Department that a growing number of snags in the huge data-processing operation that generates population totals had delayed the completion of population calculations at least until Jan. 26, and perhaps to mid-February. Those officials spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the Trump administration.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department oversees the bureau, was informed of the holdup on Wednesday evening, those people and others said. The Commerce Department and the Census Bureau did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Under law, the White House must send a state-by-state census tally to the House of Representatives next year which will be used to reallocate House seats among the states. On Mr. Trump’s order, the Census Bureau is trying to compile a separate state-by-state tally of unauthorized immigrants, in order to subtract those people from official census results before they are dispatched to the House.

That cannot happen — and Mr. Trump’s plan will become moot — if the census totals are not completed before Mr. Trump leaves office on Jan. 20.

It is possible that the administration could still order the bureau to produce the state-by-state population data before the president’s term ends, regardless of problems that affect its accuracy. But experts on census issues said it was unclear whether the bureau’s career staff — data scientists and other experts who have devoted their careers to an accurate head count — would carry out such an order or instead resign en masse.

The ramifications of the president’s order extend well beyond the House. Excluding unauthorized immigrants from population totals could drastically alter the allotment of federal dollars for a broad range of services, generally shifting grants and government resources from cities to less populated areas.

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