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Trump indictment: How Michigan, Detroit factor into charges over 2020 election

Former President Donald Trump, shown here in Novi in June, was indicted again on Tuesday on allegations he tried to pressure officials in Michigan and other states to overturn the 2020 election results. (Bridge file photo by Brett Farmer)
  • Former President Donald Trump indicted by federal grand jury for efforts to overturn 2020 election
  • Indictment outlines pressure campaign in Michigan, texts to top GOP officials
  • Trump calls latest indictment an attempt to derail 2024 campaign

LANSING — Former President Donald Trump is facing new criminal charges related to his failed efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss. And Michigan, which he lost by 154,188 votes, features prominently in the indictment.

Here's what you need to know.

The charges

A federal grand jury on Tuesday charged Trump with four felony counts: Conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights. 

The charges stem from Special Counsel Jack Smith's investigation of Trump's efforts to stay in power that precipitated riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 

The indictment accuses Trump of making knowingly false statements that were "integral to his criminal plans" to block certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election win and block the counting of legitimate votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona. 

Detroit on repeat

Michigan is mentioned 39 times in the 45-page grand jury indictment, including a three-page section that outlines alleged actions Trump and his attorneys took to overturn the election here. 

As Bridge has reported, Trump began to challenge results shortly after the election, alleging a "vote dump" in Detroit and later calling top Michigan lawmakers to the Oval Office on Nov. 20. 

There, then-Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, told Trump he "lost Michigan not because of fraud, but because the Defendant had underperformed with certain voter populations in the state," according to the indictment. 

On Dec. 1, Trump's Attorney General William Barr told the president there "was no indication of fraud in Detroit," according to the indictment. Despite that, Trump the next day repeated his claims about Detroit, calling the city "totally corrupt."

Michigan texts

The indictment also includes previously unreported information about Trump's efforts to overturn Michigan's 2020 election, including text messages from an unnamed co-conspirator to top state lawmakers. 

On Dec. 4, the Trump co-conspirator texted then-House Speaker Lee Chatfield asking the Levering Republican to "assist in reversing the ascertainment" of Biden electors, according to the indictment. 

“Looks like Georgia may well hold some factual hearings and change the certification under Art II sec 1 cl 2 of the Constitution," the text message read. "As [Co-Conspirator 2] explained they don’t just have the right to do it but the obligation. . . . Help me get this done in Michigan.” 

Three days later, the co-conspirator sent a similar text to Shirkey asking the Legislature to pass a joint resolution stating that "the election is in dispute," there is an "ongoing investigation" and the state's official Biden electors "are not the official electors" for Michigan. 

Other parts of the indictment suggest the co-conspirator may have been Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney. But in a Tuesday text message, Shirkey told Bridge Michigan he could not remember who it was from.

Biden's win

Shirkey and Chatfield did not agree to block Michigan's Electoral College vote on Dec. 14 at the state Capitol, undermining Trump’s attempts to persuade Vice President Mike Pence to reject the official Biden electors in Congress on Jan. 6.

Instead, the Michigan GOP leaders issued a joint statement indicating they had "not received evidence of fraud on a scale that would change the outcome of the election” in the state.

What Trump is saying

Trump, who is campaigning for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, responded to the grand jury indictment by blasting what his campaign called "election interference" designed to help Biden win re-election next year.

"These un-American witch hunts will fail and President Trump will be re-elected to the White House so he can save our Country from the abuse, incompetence, and corruption that is running through the veins of our country,” the Trump campaign said in a statement.  

Trump added a brief statement on his TruthSocial channel: "Why didn’t they bring this ridiculous case 2.5 years ago? They wanted it right in the middle of my campaign, that’s why!"

What the prosecutor said

Smith, a special prosecutor appointed last year by Biden Attorney General Merrick Garland, called the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol "an unprecedented assault on the seat of American Democracy." 

In announcing charges Tuesday, Smith said the attack was fueled by "lies" from Trump aimed at “obstructing a bedrock function of the U.S. Government - the nation's process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election.”

But Trump, he reminded, "must be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law."

Legal woes mount

This is the third major indictment against Trump, who is also facing separate criminal charges related to allegations of hush money payments and mishandling classified documents. 

Several of his Michigan loyalists face charges too. 

Earlier Tuesday, Special Prosecutor D.J. Hilson confirmed an Oakland County grand jury had authorized criminal charges against attorney Matthew DePerno and former state Rep. Daire Rendon, who are accused of conspiring to access voting machines after the 2020 election. 

Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel last month charged 16 "fake electors" with felony charges for signing documents falsely declaring Trump had won Michigan in 2020. Former Michigan GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock and others have pleaded not guilty.

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