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Trump tweets undermine Michigan leaders; images show Chatfield drinking at Trump hotel

Public skepticism that Michigan’s Republican legislative leaders focused on COVID-19 assistance during a Friday meeting with President Donald Trump was only amplified Saturday, when Trump’s tweets implied the election was also a topic of discussion. 

Senator Shirkey arrives in D.C. singing

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Photographs of House Speaker Lee Chatfield drinking and sitting, unmasked, with others at the Trump International Hotel — and the lawmakers not elaborating on what, if anything, the president asked about Michigan election results — also drew the ire of people already dubious that the president did not try to persuade the lawmakers in his ongoing efforts to undermine the will of voters. 



a group of people sitting at a table: House Speaker Lee Chatfield, right and Representative Jim Lilly, left have drinks at the Trump Hotel in Washington D.C. November 20, 2020.


© The Undercurrent
House Speaker Lee Chatfield, right and Representative Jim Lilly, left have drinks at the Trump Hotel in Washington D.C. November 20, 2020.

More: Michigan GOP leaders say COVID-19 assistance, not election, focus of White House meeting

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More: Michigan Speaker Chatfield: ‘I won’t apologize’ for meeting with President Trump

Chatfield, R-Levering, and state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, met with Trump Friday afternoon at the White House. After the meeting, the pair issued a statement that said, in part, “we have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan.”

President-elect Joe Biden earned approximately 154,000 more votes in the state than Trump. 

However, Trump tweeted twice Saturday, responding to both lawmakers with more unfounded allegations of fraud and misconduct in Michigan. 

“This is true, but much different than reported by the media. We will show massive and unprecedented fraud!” Trump tweeted in response to Shirkey tweeting out his statement. 

In response to a Chatfield tweet, Trump tweeted, “Massive voter fraud will be shown!”

More: Trump withdraws federal lawsuit in Michigan, citing Wayne County canvasser affidavits

More: Donald Trump called Monica Palmer after Wayne County Board of Canvassers meeting

The Trump campaign and supporters have failed repeatedly, both in court and in news conferences, to present any evidence or proof of widespread fraud. Instead, their allegations have either been deemed not credible by judges or racist by a litany of people, including Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Michigan Democratic Party Chairwoman Lavora Barnes and others. 



a large clock on the side of a building: Projections of messages to Republican election officials from Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield during their visit to the White House light up the front of the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.


© André Chung
Projections of messages to Republican election officials from Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield during their visit to the White House light up the front of the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Leading up to the White House meeting, Chatfield and Shirkey faced an enormous public backlash for agreeing to see the president. Chatfield, who appeared repeatedly with Trump at events in Michigan ahead of Election Day, defended the decision. 

Chatfield, Shirkey and other Michigan lawmakers, including House Speaker-elect Justin Wentworth, R-Clare, appeared to be staying at Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C. Images emerged online hours after the White House meeting showing Chatfield and several other men drinking what appeared to be expensive champagne while sitting inside the hotel. None wore masks. The images were also obtained by the Free Press. 

The Free Press asked representatives for Chatfield and Shirkey about whether the president asked the lawmakers about taking actions in an effort to change the election outcome, whether the president’s tweets undercut the lawmakers’ statement issued Friday and how the lawmakers paid for their travel and accommodations. 



a large building with a clock on the front of a window: Projections of messages to Republican election officials from Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield during their visit to the White House light up the front of the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.


© André Chung
Projections of messages to Republican election officials from Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield during their visit to the White House light up the front of the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.

A spokesman for Chatfield acknowledged receiving the questions, including a separate question about the images of the speaker drinking at the Trump hotel. Chatfield paid for his own expenses, a spokesman said. He did not clarify if the speaker used campaign or personal funds, and did not provide further comment.

However, the speaker did change his cover image on Twitter to a picture that showed his own face projected on the front of the Trump hotel. Activists projected images of Chatfield and Shirkey on the hotel Friday, along with messages stating “the world is watching.” 

A spokeswoman for Shirkey said he covered the cost of his trip, including accommodations. While she said no taxpayer dollars were used, she would not specify whether he used campaign funds or personal money to pay for those costs. Shirkey declined additional comment through the spokeswoman. 

More: Biden campaign: Trump efforts to derail Michigan election results an ‘abuse of office’

More: GOP Senate candidate John James asks Board of State Canvassers to delay certification

The actions undermine the lawmakers’ assertions that they went to the White House merely to discuss COVID-19 assistance, argued critics in comments that made the images ubiquitous on Twitter. 



a clock on the side of a building: Projections of messages to Republican election officials from Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield during their visit to the White House light up the front of the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.


© André Chung
Projections of messages to Republican election officials from Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield during their visit to the White House light up the front of the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.

“Close your eyes and try to imagine the reaction if someone photographed Gov. Whitmer in a Washington DC hotel bar, with a $500 bottle of Dom Pérignon, without a mask, on the day Michigan had nearly 10,000 new cases of COVID-19 and 53 deaths,” tweeted Zach Pohl, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Despite the fear expressed by many that Republicans in the Michigan Legislature may attempt to change the outcome of the election in the state, there is essentially nothing the legislators can do. Both Chatfield and Shirkey have indicated they would not take action to undermine the results. 

The idea that the Michigan Legislature could delay this process or appoint its own set of pro-Trump electors is far-fetched, legal experts say.

Michigan election law provides no role for the Legislature in the certification of the state’s election results or appointment of electors. Under Michigan law, the state’s political parties nominated individuals to serve as presidential electors during their August conventions. The governor will certify the electors for the party whose nominee won the state’s popular vote. If the Legislature wants to change this process, it would have to pass a bill that Whitmer would almost certainly veto.

More: Secretary of State: Post-election ‘performance audit’ planned in Wayne County

More: Who makes up the Board of State Canvassers? 

The Board of State Canvassers will meet Monday to certify the statewide results and determine the winners for federal and state office. With Michigan’s 83 counties having already transmitted their certified results to the Secretary of State’s Office, the state board is required under Michigan election law to certify the statewide totals.

The campaign of John James, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, has asked the board to delay certification so that an audit of the Wayne County vote totals can be performed. The Associated Press and others have indicated U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat, won the race. 



a clock on the side of a building: Projections of messages to Republican election officials from Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield during their visit to the White House light up the front of the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.


© André Chung
Projections of messages to Republican election officials from Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield during their visit to the White House light up the front of the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.

On Saturday, the Michigan Republican Party echoed this request. While both have argued there are irregularities in vote counting in Detroit, neither has indicated whether they have evidence or believe any changes would alter the outcome of the election. 

“These issues cannot simply be ignored away or brushed under the rug, they must be confronted and thoroughly examined,” said Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, and Laura Cox, chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, in a joint statement. 

Wayne County already canvassed and certified these results, and Michigan law only allows for an audit or recount after statewide certification of results. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, has already pledged to conduct a “post-election performance audit” in Wayne County. 

If Michigan certifies its results before Dec. 8, Congress is required to accept Michigan’s electoral votes. On Dec. 14 Michigan’s presidential electors will convene and cast the state’s Electoral College vote. 

Contact Dave Boucher at [email protected] or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Trump tweets undermine Michigan leaders; images show Chatfield drinking at Trump hotel

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