Michigan prosecutors to outline case against false Trump electors in first hearing

Dec 12, 2023, 10:06 PM

FILE - Kathy Berden watches during a training session for Women for Trump, An Evening to Empower, i...

FILE - Kathy Berden watches during a training session for Women for Trump, An Evening to Empower, in Troy, Mich., Aug. 22, 2019. Prosecutors will outline their case Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023, against 15 Michigan Republicans, including Berden, charged for acting as false electors for then-President Donald Trump in 2020, giving the fullest glimpse yet at the charges brought by Attorney General Dana Nessel's office. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Prosecutors will outline their case Wednesday against 15 Michigan Republicans charged for acting as false electors for then-President Donald Trump in 2020, giving the fullest glimpse yet at the charges brought by Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office.

Former Michigan GOP co-Chair Meshawn Maddock and Kathy Berden, a Michigan committeewoman for the Republican National Committee, are among the seven defendants appearing for preliminary examinations. The other defendants in the case will have preliminary examinations at later dates. State prosecutors are expected to present key witnesses and evidence, aiming to get a judge’s agreement that a felony has occurred and more likely than not the defendant committed it.

Nessel announced the criminal charges against Michigan’s slate of 16 false electors in July. All defendants have pleaded not guilty, but one, James Renner, had all criminal charges dropped in October after he reached a cooperation deal with the state.

Investigators say the group met at the Michigan GOP headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020, and signed a document falsely stating they were the state’s “duly elected and qualified electors.” Each of the defendants faces eight criminal charges, including multiple counts of forgery.

President Joe Biden won Michigan by nearly 155,000 votes, a result confirmed by a GOP-led state Senate investigation in 2021.

Michigan’s false electors have remained steadfast in their defiance, insisting that their actions were not illegal.

Fake electors in seven battleground states sent certificates to Congress falsely declaring Trump the winner of the 2020 presidential election in their state, despite confirmed results showing he had lost. Last week, Nevada became the third state to criminally charge electors, following Michigan and Georgia.

Michigan’s group of false electors include former and current party officials, party activists and officeholders, including a mayor and township clerk.

The seven defendants appearing before a judge in Lansing on Wednesday will have their cases heard together. The preliminary examinations, which involve no jury, are expected to last at least two days, and the defense will be allowed to question the state’s witnesses.

The judge will then rule whether the prosecution has met their burden of proof for the cases to be bound over to the circuit court.

Amy Facchinello, a Grand Blanc school board member who will appear in court Wednesday due to her alleged role in the plot, has argued in court filings that she was acting “at the direction” of Trump and other federal officers.

Two of the original 16 Republican electors, former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and Gerald Wall, did not attend the Dec. 14, 2020, meeting and were replaced by Renner and Kenneth Thompson, who is scheduled to appear Wednesday.

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Michigan prosecutors to outline case against false Trump electors in first hearing