Former Michigan GOP spokesperson testifies fake elector defendants were misled
Dec 14, 2023, 11:13 AM | Updated: 4:38 pm
A former communications director for the Michigan GOP testified Thursday that he believes an attorney for then-President Donald Trump’s campaign “took advantage” of some of the 15 Republicans who face forgery and another charges for allegedly serving as false electors.
Anthony Zammit testified during the second day of a preliminary hearing for six of the defendants in a Lansing, Michigan, courtroom.
Investigators have said the group signed a document during a meeting at the Michigan Republican headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020, falsely stating they were the state’s “duly elected and qualified electors.”
Zammit said that in January 2022 he contacted then-U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who was vice chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building, and a reporter because he believed that “the entire truth” in the electors’ case had not come out.
“I thought that several of the people that were involved in this, they weren’t implicated and that a lot of the electors were not necessarily responsible for what had happened,” Zammit said.
He said Shawn Flynn, an attorney who was on Trump’s campaign staff, attended the meeting, which was held in a basement training room of the GOP headquarters in Lansing. He also said he saw electors sign a document in triplicate and that Flynn then took the pages to his office.
Zammit said Flynn later remarked: “Can you believe that I have to send this to the secretary of state, the vice president and the National Archive?”
Electors may have been led to believe that Michigan could lose its electoral votes if Trump later was found to have won the 2020 presidential election in the state over Joe Biden, Zammit said.
“I think a lot of folks listen to lawyers,” he said. “I think it’s a position of authority and I think they were being told something by a lawyer that they needed to sign certain documents so that Michigan would not be disenfranchised.”
The Associated Press left a voicemail Thursday afternoon seeking comment from Flynn.
The defendants have insisted that their actions were not illegal, even though Biden won Michigan by nearly 155,000 votes, a result confirmed by a GOP-led state Senate investigation in 2021.
Fake electors in Michigan and six other 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 charge electors, following Michigan and Georgia. Republicans who served as false electors in Wisconsin, meanwhile, agreed to a legal settlement last week in which they conceded that Biden won the election and that their efforts were part of an attempt to improperly overturn the 2020 results.
Former Michigan GOP chair Laura Cox also testified Thursday that conversations about assembling a slate of Republican electors began early in December 2020, and that she approved a document saying they would cast votes for Trump if Michigan’s 2020 election results were overturned.
But Cox said that document was ceremonial in nature and required a triggering event such as a court overturning Joe Biden’s win.
“The document clearly states that if the election were overturned these electors would serve their job to cast their votes for Donald Trump and Michael Pence,” Cox said.
Cox said the document she approved was intended to “at least” make “the Trump campaign comfortable that we were doing our part.” Her document was signed by Kathy Berden, a Michigan committeewoman for the Republican National Committee.
Berden and other former and current party officials and activists are among the defendants, along with officeholders including a mayor and township clerk. All pleaded not guilty to eight criminal charges, including multiple counts of forgery, after Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the charges in July. One, James Renner, agreed to cooperate with the state and had all criminal charges dropped in October.
Preliminary hearings don’t involve a jury and are for the judge to determine if there’s sufficient evidence to substantiate the charges.
The six defendants who appeared in court Wednesday are having their cases heard together. Their hearing is scheduled to resume in February. A seventh, Kenneth Thompson, had his case postponed because his attorney didn’t show up. The other eight defendants will have preliminary examinations at later dates.
Williams reported from West Bloomfield, Mich.