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Inside Michigan fake electors meeting: Trump attorney, dueling documents, phone ban

Laura Cox
Michigan GOP Chair Laura Cox testified Thursday in a preliminary exam for ‘fake electors’ in the 2020 election (Bridge file photo)
  • Former Michigan GOP Chair testifies in preliminary exam for 15 Republicans accused of felonies in ‘fake elector’ plot
  • Laura Cox says she had ‘grave concerns’ about the 2020 election but discouraged a plan to camp out at Michigan Capitol
  • Prosecutors say defendants conspired to forge a document falsely claiming then-President Trump won the 2020 election

LANSING — Former Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox testified Thursday that she tried to "put the brakes" on then-President Donald Trump's so-called fake electors plot to stay in office. 

"They weren't electors at the time, in my opinion," Cox said of 15 fellow Republicans accused of conspiring to forge a document claiming Trump had won  Michigan’s electoral votes in 2020 despite his 154,188-vote loss to Democrat Joe Biden.


Taking the stand in the second day of a preliminary court hearing for six of the felony defendants, Cox said she proposed an alternative: a "ceremony" to honor the GOP elector nominees and a document pledging they would cast Electoral College votes for Donald Trump "if the election was overturned."


The Dec. 14 meeting at the Michigan GOP headquarters was an attempt to deter a plan by defendants to camp out in the Michigan Capitol the prior night so they could attempt to participate in the state’s Electoral College vote and help Trump stay in office.

Prosecutors allege defendants, including Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden and former Michigan GOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock, ultimately signed a different document instead: A "certificate of votes" falsely claiming Trump had won the election in Michigan. 

Cox testified she feared dramatic action could be "misconstrued" as an effort to declare Trump the winner of an election he had lost. But she said she wanted to show the Trump campaign the Michigan GOP was “doing our part” in a way she “was comfortable with.”

Cox said she had prepared her alternate document with state party general counsel Stu Sandler after discussions with both Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and Trump campaign attorney Thor Hearne. 

​​Terri Lynn Land, a former Secretary of State and 2020 elector nominee, testified later Thursday that she discussed the planned meeting with Cox but did not attend because she never understood why it was happening.

Separately, Land said Maddock called her and told her “Trump lawyers” wanted her to attend but would not explain why.  Land did not travel to Lansing or sign any document, she said. 

Meshawn Maddock, right, and co-defendant Michele Lundgren talk to each other
Meshawn Maddock, right, and co-defendant Michele Lundgren talk briefly Thursday in 54-A District Court in Lansing. Both face felony charges alleging they forged documents in a failed effort to keep former President Donald Trump in the Whiter House. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)

Tony Zammit, former communications director for the Michigan GOP, testified that he did not think all the fake electors were “necessarily responsible” and listened to bad advice from Trump campaign attorney Shawn Flynn. 

But, he added: "I thought Meshawn Maddock might be culpable."

The hearing before Judge Kristin Simmons of the 54-A District Court in Lansing is expected to continue over two days in February before she decides whether there is enough evidence to warrant a trial.

‘Trump in a skirt’

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, announced felony charges against the GOP defendants in July. They are accused of forging an official election document with the "intent to defraud" before Vice President Mike Pence certified the 2020 contest on Jan. 6, 2021.

They face forgery-related charges punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Maddock, who went on to serve as Michigan GOP co-chair in 2021 and 2022, has called the case a politically motivated “witch hunt” and bashed Zammit’s testimony, calling him an ‘incompetent” party staffer. 

"The only Trump lawyer I have ever known was Shawn Flynn," who was at the meeting, Maddock said, suggesting she is being targeted because of her loyalty to the former president. 

“I’m just Trump in a skirt,” Maddock said.

Defendants contend they did not intend to commit any crime but wanted to present Pence with an alternate slate of electors because of ongoing election disputes. 

The state investigation into the GOP electors plot began in January 2021 after the National Archives forwarded the alternative "certificate of votes" to Michigan Bureau of Elections Director Jonathan Brater, he testified Wednesday

Cox, who led the Michigan GOP through the 2020 election, testified she had "grave concerns" about the presidential contest and had raised alarms about "irregularities" in social media posts and a joint press conference with McDaniel, the RNC chair.

Because of those comments and others like them, defendants thought "they were doing the right thing" by acting as alternative electors, argued Nick Somberg, an attorney for Maddock. 

"They were being told by a high-up official that there was election fraud," he said. 

Most of the major lawsuits challenging Michigan's results had already been dismissed by the time of the Dec. 14 meeting, however. 

A federal judge on Dec. 7 rejected what she later called a "frivolous" lawsuit filed by pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell. The Michigan Supreme Court rejected an Antrim County case on Dec. 9, and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a multi-state suit on Dec. 11. 

Cox, who previously testified before a congressional committee that investigated the impetus for January 2021 riots at the U.S. Capitol, said Thursday that she first learned about the Michigan Capitol campout plan from Bob Norton, an attorney for Hillsdale College. 

"I didn't think it was a very good idea," Cox said, noting the Capitol was expected to be closed to the public and might not be a "safe environment" for some of the defendants who "are older."


So Cox said she called then-Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, and asked him to "put a stop to it," which she said he agreed to do.

‘A different response’ 

As an alternative, Cox said she invited the GOP elector nominees to Michigan GOP headquarters on Dec. 14 — the day Democratic electors were slated to cast Electoral College votes at the Capitol — to "honor them" for their work as party activists.

She also wanted Berden, a defendant and current Michigan representative to the Republican National Committee, to sign her document saying the electors would vote for Trump in the event the election was officially overturned, Cox testified. 

"I heard she was going to be staying the night at the Capitol, and I offered a different response," Cox said.

Zammit, the former Michigan GOP communications director, said Thursday he was asked to gather cell phones from the electors before the Dec. 14 meeting in the state party’s Lansing headquarters. 

He left the basement gathering for at least an hour but called attendees upstairs two at a time to sign the Cox document, Zammit testified. When he returned to the basement meeting the elector slate was signing a document he had not seen before, he said. 

Zammit said he had returned to the meeting because a colleague told him the elector nominees were planning to walk to the Capitol, which he was asked to discourage because the party did not want them to be confused  with the “duly elected" Democratic electors. 

Flynn, the Trump attorney, began the meeting, took the signed document as he left and said he would be “mailing” it, according to Zammit, who said he thought Flynn took advantage of “the vast majority” of the GOP electors. 

Another attorney, Ian Northon of the Amistad Project, had arrived at the meeting with Maddock and a film crew but was not allowed inside, he said.

“I think a lot of folks listened to lawyers,” Zammit said. 

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