President Donald Trump contacted the Republican officials on Michigan’s Wayne County Board of Canvassers before they attempted to backpedal yet again on certifying the county’s election results, which includes votes from the majority Black city of Detroit.
In a ham-handed attempt to withdraw their votes certifying the election results, GOP canvassers Monica Palmer and William Hartmann signed affidavits on Wednesday night attempting to “rescind” their votes from the day before. The two Republicans had initially voted against certification before reversing course on Tuesday night.
Palmer told the Washington Post Thursday that Trump had called her after the board had voted for certification that night.
“He was checking in to make sure I was safe after hearing the threats and doxing that had occurred,” Palmer said, referring to her and Hartmann’s allegations that they had been threatened after voting against certifying the election.
Palmer said her conversation with Trump was about two minutes long and that his call was “not pressure.”
“It was genuine concern for my safety,” she told the Post.
In her affidavit, which doesn’t carry any legal weight to actually un-certify the results, Palmer wrote “I rescind my prior vote to certify Wayne County elections. I fully believe the Wayne County vote should not be certified.”
The pair said in their affidavits that they were publicly ridiculed at the board of Canvassers meeting Tuesday following their vote not to certify the election results.
“This public ostracism continued for hours during which time we were not provided an opportunity to break for dinner and were not advised that we could depart and resume the hearing on another date,” Hartmann alleged.
Tracy Wimmer, a spokesperson for Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, told TPM in an emailed statement that “there is no legal mechanism” for Palmer and Hartmann to rescind their votes.
“Their job is done and the next step in the process is for the Board of State Canvassers to meet and certify,” Wimmer said.
The affidavits were cited in a Trump campaign suit in federal court that attempted to stop Michigan from certifying its election results. In a notice of voluntary dismissal Thursday, an attorney for the campaign inaccurately said that the Wayne County board of canvassers had “declined to certify the results” of the presidential election. The board did in fact vote to certify the results, but the Trump lawyer cited new affidavits from two Republican board members who claimed they were “rescinding” their votes.
CNN reported that Palmer and Hartmann sent the affidavits to the Wayne County attorney.
Palmer and Hartmann said that county corporate counsel Janet Anderson-Davis told them they could not use their discretion regarding concerns about “discrepancies” or “anomalies” with the vote. Anderson-Davis, Palmer alleged, “told me that I had to certify the vote that night.”
Palmer and Hartmann asserted that they had expected Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to honor the board’s resolution that she audit the votes in exchange for the two Republicans agreeing to certify the election.
“I would not have agreed to the certification but for the promise of an audit,” Hartmann wrote in his affidavit.
However, Democratic board member Jonathan Kinloch told the Washington Post that Palmer and Hartmann were aware that the resolution wasn’t binding. Additionally, the board had not formally asked Benson to do the audit before the pair attempted to take back their votes for certification.
Kinloch also told the New York Times that despite his GOP colleagues’ efforts, their votes certifying the election results are binding.
“This is an attempt to save face for a baseless lawsuit that the Campaign was going to lose,” Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told TPM. The committee is representing the NAACP Michigan State Conference, which intervened in the case alongside elections officials.
“The official decision of the Wayne County Canvassing Board was to certify the election and that decision cannot be undone subsequently by two members of the Board.”
“It’s no surprise to us that these cases are being voluntarily dismissed,” said David Fink, an attorney for the City of Detroit, which intervened in the case.
“Every time one of these cases gets to a judge, their baseless conspiracy theories are rejected,” Fink said. “With a margin of more than 150,000 votes in Michigan, they still have not documented a single vote that was fraudulently cast.”
The affidavits are the second reversal among the two Republicans, who initially voted against certification while the board’s two Democrats voted in favor of it. The 2-2 deadlock threatened to potentially invalidate the county’s votes, many of which led to President-elect Joe Biden’s key victory in Michigan.
The GOP officials backtracked on Tuesday night and voted for certification after receiving widespread backlash from critics who accused them of trying to silence Black voters and boost Trump’s undemocratic attacks on an election that he lost decisively.
The Detroit News reports that Michigan’s top two GOP leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R), will visit the White House on Friday. The purpose of the meeting is unclear, but Trump may be trying to strong-arm state legislators to appoint electors in his column, even if Biden carried the state.