Michigan GOP lawmakers reject Trump's brazen effort to overturn election results

The extraordinary White House invitation drew bipartisan condemnation.

November 20, 2020, 8:36 PM

In his latest long-shot bid to change the outcome of his election defeat, President Donald Trump on Friday took the extraordinary step of requesting to meet with Michigan's top two Republican lawmakers at the White House -- just days before the state was set on Monday to officially certify his loss in the critical battleground state.

Trump's latest attempt to remain in power for a second term after he lost both the popular vote and the electoral college reflected a strategy that now appears to increasingly rely on pressuring GOP governors and the leaders of Republican-controlled legislatures in Michigan and other key states to try to overturn the results of a democratic election.

Following their White House meeting with Trump Friday evening, the Michigan lawmakers made clear they had not swayed by the president to go along with any scheme to alter the election outcome in their state.

"Michigan's certification process should be a deliberate process free from threats and intimidation. Allegations of fraudulent behavior should be taken seriously, thoroughly investigated, and if proven, prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And the candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan's electoral votes. These are simple truths that should provide confidence in our elections," Michigan's Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield said in a statement.

The lawmakers said that "the candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan's electoral votes" and added that "we have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan."

At a Friday event on drug pricing in the White House briefing room, Trump answered no questions about his effort to alter his election defeat and made only a brief aside to reporters.

"I won, by the way, but you know, we will find that out. Almost 74 million votes," he said.

But in fact, Biden won nearly 6 million more votes than Trump. While Trump did win 73,685,294 votes, Biden surpassed him with 79,666,405.

President Donald Trump stands by his desk in the Oval Office after returning at the conclusion of an event about the "Operation Warp Speed" program in the White House, Nov. 13, 2020.
Carlos Barria/Reuters, FILE

Trump's tactics drew rebuke from two Republican senators, with frequent Trump critic Sen. Mitt Romney, of Utah, saying late Thursday that the president was trying "to subvert the will of the people."

"Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election," Romney wrote in a statement. "It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President."

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany misleadingly portrayed Friday's meeting with Michigan lawmakers as a routine meeting not related to the president's campaign.

"This is not an advocacy meeting," McEnany, who also serves as a campaign adviser, told reporters Friday, at her first White House briefing in 50 days. "There will be no one from the campaign there. He routinely meets with lawmakers from all across the country."

Senator Mitt Romney arrives at the Senate Republican GOP leadership election on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 10, 2020.
Erin Scott/Reuters, FILE

In fact, the meeting is anything but routine. It is unusual for the president to meet with state legislators, and the timing of the meeting -- just days before the state is set to certify the vote counts sealing the president's loss in the state -- was further suspect.

These efforts by the president have raise thorny ethical and legal questions, legal experts told ABC News.

Earlier this week, sources told ABC News, Trump also made contact directly with two Republican canvassers from Detroit's Wayne County. The canvassers, who initially voted against certifying the results in their county, later agreed to do so, only to later try to rescind their approval after a conversation with the president.

PHOTO: House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, of Michigan,  speak to the media at the Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Jan. 30, 2020.
House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, of Michigan, speak to the media at the Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Jan. 30, 2020.
David Eggert/AP, FILE

Friday's meeting came as Trump's legal efforts in Michigan, among other battleground states where he lost and is challenging the vote, have dried up or been thrown out by courts.

As they fail in court, he has taken to social media and his legal team has held news conferences where they have continued to sow baseless conspiracy theories about how, they argue without providing evidence, the election was rigged against the president.

On Thursday, Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani held a rambling 90-minute press conference at the Republican National Committee's headquarters in which he laid out a series of bizarre and unfounded conspiracy theories in arguing the election had been stolen from the president.

Despite the president's persistent claims of rampant fraud, his legal team has failed to produce evidence to support those claims and have instead had their arguments thrown out in court case after court case. Top election officials across the country have further disputed those claims and confirmed the election was secure.

President Donald Trump delivers an update on "Operation Warp Speed" in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, on Nov. 13, 2020.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, of Nebraska, blasted Giuliani on Thursday, saying, "Rudy and his buddies should not pressure electors to ignore their certification obligations under the statute."

"When Trump campaign lawyers have stood before courts under oath, they have repeatedly refused to actually allege grand fraud -- because there are legal consequences for lying to judges," Sasse said.

ABC News' Allison Pecorin, Kendall Karson and Katherine Faulders contributed to this report.

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