White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed the afternoon meeting was not an “advocacy meeting”.
“There will be no one from the campaign there,” McEnany said during a press conference on Friday. “He meets regularly with lawmakers from across the country.”
Election workers, who were expected to be in attendance, decided to skip the meeting after Rudy Giuliani’s son Andrew tested positive for coronavirus.
After leaving the meeting, Republican leaders of the Michigan State House and Senate said the election was indeed a topic of discussion. But they gave a blow to Trump’s hopes, saying they hadn’t heard or seen anything, which suggested the state’s 16 electoral votes should go to Trump rather than Biden. Biden won the state with 154,000 votes.
“We have not yet received any information that could change the outcome of the Michigan election. As lawmakers, we will obey the law and follow the normal process of Michigan’s voters as we said during these elections.” Senate Chairman Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield said in a joint reading: “Michigan’s certification process should be a conscious process that is free from threats and intimidation. Allegations of fraudulent conduct should be taken seriously, thoroughly investigated and, if established, fully pursued within the scope of the law. And the candidates who win the most votes will win elections and Michigan’s electoral votes. These are simple truths that should instill confidence in our choices. “
Other prominent Michigan Republicans also suggested the president’s efforts were unsuccessful.
“I haven’t seen any evidence of fraud that could topple 150,000 and some votes,” MP Fred Upton (R-Mich.) Told reporters on Friday. “This doesn’t seem to be about cheating anymore … I don’t know which way you are going.”
In addition to meeting with Michigan lawmakers earlier this week, Trump praised two Republican district officials who briefly held certification in the Detroit area. The state’s acquisitions board – a non-partisan four-member body – is due to certify the nationwide grand total on Monday afternoon, a prospect that seems increasingly likely when the state’s best elected Republicans signal a Biden victory.
On the same day, Pennsylvania counties will transmit their certified votes to Democratic Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar. Boockvar does not have a legal deadline for issuing statewide certification but is expected to act quickly. If both states certify next week, Trump would have no way of avoiding a Biden victory – even if the president’s efforts were successful in other states like Arizona, Nevada or Wisconsin.
Even in these states, Trump has so far been hindered in his attempts to prevent an election certificate. Late on Friday, the Republican-controlled oversight body in Maricopa, Arizona’s largest county, voted unanimously to affirm the 2020 election results after a meeting that systematically dismantled allegations of fraud.
“It’s time to call back the rhetoric, conspiracies and false claims,” said Clint Hickman, Republican chairman of the board. “In a free democracy, elections lead to some people’s candidate losing.”
Trump has relied on GOP-controlled lawmakers to take the unprecedented and legally dubious move of overriding their states’ voters and declaring the president the winner – a longshot game that would become virtually impossible if the election results were in these States would be confirmed.
Trump has been locked in the White House for days and has teamed up with a narrow circle of aides to work out legal and political strategies to reverse the election results. But beyond that small group of advisors, many in the White House and the campaign are skeptical of the effort.
On Friday morning, as first reported by AxiosA small group of top poll workers working on the legal effort spoke to Eric Herschmann of the White House Attorney’s Office about an update on ongoing legal proceedings, including a pending lawsuit in Pennsylvania that Trump hopes will delay certification . Trump himself, as well as a network of surrogates, have contacted local election officials with authority over decisions at the county level.
Some Republican loyalists have already lined up in support of the president’s efforts. In Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, Joyce Dombroski-Gebhardt, a GOP member of the Democratic-controlled electoral committee, told POLITICO that she intended to oppose certification on Monday.
“I stand by,” she said, adding that she has concerns about spoiled ballots and registrations. “A lot went wrong with our choice here.”
When asked if she believed Trump won the state, she said, “Absolutely, yes.”
Keith Gould, another Luzerne County’s Republican board member, said he was waiting to hear public comment on Monday before deciding whether to vote for certification.
“I’m on the fence until I hear all the concerns,” he said. “I don’t find any problems with the decision or the signatures and the like, but there were just some problems that I was told – it wasn’t me.” I didn’t say exactly what they were – but there were some of them so I want to hear them before I commit to certification. ”
Pennsylvania Republicans believe Trump will invite GOP lawmakers to the White House to discuss the election results. However, on Friday afternoon, advisers to Speaker of Parliament Bryan Cutler and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said they had not received an invitation.
Rep. Seth Grove, a Republican who was a leading advocate of scrutiny of the Pennsylvania election results, said he was “not contacted by anyone in the White House or the Trump campaign about any meetings.”
In Georgia, the president has one last card to play: his campaign has a short window to request a formal machine recount, where Biden’s profit margin was just 0.3 percentage points.
Democrats portrayed Trump’s move as the last authoritarian gasp from an outgoing president.
“No legislator in our country’s history has ever done anything Donald Trump is apparently excited that Michigan state lawmakers are ignoring the results of a popular election and removing control from the electorate, “Biden campaign attorney Bob Bauer said at a press conference on Friday.
For Trump, however, the strategy is a familiar one that has helped him weather multiple crises during his presidency: addressing Republicans’ initial concerns on Capitol Hill, playing for time, and then using them to build political support behind a strategy that was once considered unthinkable.
Trump used this game book during the impeachment when all but one GOP senator agreed that pressure on a foreign leader to investigate Biden and Democrats was not a criminal offense. He also used it during Special Adviser Robert Mueller’s investigation, publicly pressuring witnesses to oppose cooperation, refusing to attend an interview, and repeatedly urging his aides to restrict or dismiss investigators. In all cases, the Republicans in Washington initially flinched before finally rallying around Trump.
So far, Congressional Republicans have largely kept Trump at a distance, refusing to take on his fraud allegations, but insisting that he has the right to file fraud complaints and take legal action. Some of Trump’s closer allies in the Capitol have called for a hearing on “irregularities” in the elections, suggesting that the complaints from the Trump campaign should be followed up.
In the meantime, Trump’s arguments have caught up with Republican voters. Polls reflect deep distrust of the election results, although there is no substantial content Evidence of fraud.
“It’s a blatant anti-democratic effort that is sure to fail, but it is helping to undermine the trust of Trump supporters in the process,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine. “So this is not a free exercise. Just because it won’t work doesn’t mean it’s harmless. “
Gabby Orr contributed to this report.