WASHINGTON, MICHIGAN - APRIL 02:  Matthew DePerno speaks at a rally hosted by former President Donald Trump on April 02, 2022, in this file photo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, MICHIGAN - APRIL 02: Matthew DePerno speaks at a rally hosted by former President Donald Trump on April 02, 2022, in this file photo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

“It speaks volumes as to why Trump so heavily backs Matt DePerno’s candidacy,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.


Need to Know

  • Michigan lawyer Matt DePerno met with top State Department officials about his debunked election research.
  • The meeting offers insight into how DePerno won Trump’s endorsement.
  • DePerno won the Republican endorsement for Michigan Attorney General and is running on election integrity. 

WASHINGTON—On Jan. 6, 2021, Michigan’s Republican-endorsed candidate for attorney general–Kalamazoo lawyer Matthew DePerno–and another prominent election conspiracy theorist met with top members of the State Department. The pair traveled to DC to present debunked information claiming that former President Donald Trump had won the 2020 election, per new reporting from The Washington Post.

Robert Destro, Trump’s assistant secretary of the State Department, confirmed to The Post that he met with DePerno on Jan. 6, while thousands of Trump supporters led an insurrection at the US Capitol. 

In November 2021, DePerno drew national attention to himself when he filed a lawsuit against Antrim County on behalf of a client, alleging that a clerical error was evidence of widespread election fraud. After examining the machines, he produced a report that caught the eyes of Trump and those seeking to overturn the election, despite the fact that numerous reviews from experts and judges found significant flaws in his report. 

Destro’s meeting with DePerno and Joe Oltmann, a Colorado podcaster who claimed he heard a Dominion voting machines executive admit to stealing the election, shows that election conspiracists exerted some sway within the administration—not merely externally, where they pushed the public narrative toward unfounded conspiracies. It’s unclear exactly who else attended the meeting and what was covered, The Post reported. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in meetings all day, his calendar showed, though a spokesperson for the secretary would not confirm or deny whether he attended the meeting with DePerno.

US elections do not fall within the State Department’s purview, which is reserved for international relations. Steven Biegun, the point person for investigating foreign interference in the 2020 elections for the State Department, said that by Jan. 6, election conspiracies like those sown by DePerno and Oltmann were proven to have no standing. They were “just complete and utter nonsense,” Biegun, then-Deputy Secretary of State, told The Post.

The Michigan Court of Appeals previously ruled similarly on DePerno’s lawsuit. Now, Oltmann is standing trial in a defamation case brought forth by the Dominion employee he accused of saying would rig the election. The employee, Eric Coomer, received death threats in the aftermath. 

“[The] plaintiff merely raised a series of questions about the election without making any specific factual allegations as required.”

Michigan Court of Appeals, regarding DePerno’s election fraud lawsuit

Still, DePerno and Oltmann’s trip to Washington, DC, was rife with other high-profile meetings. On social media, Oltmann wrote that he had met with the “right people” at the State Department, in addition to meeting with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Meanwhile, DePerno has continued to trumpet election conspiracy theories at the heart of his run for Michigan Attorney General. On Tuesday, he promoted a so-called “election integrity task force,” about which details are unclear, advertised by a picture of himself and former president Trump.

Recently, DePerno’s competitor for the Republican AG endorsement–former state House speaker Tom Leonard–raised the issue of nearly $400,000 DePerno raised for his “Election Fraud Defense Fund” in 2020. Bill Bailey, the client DePerno represented in the Antrim County lawsuit, responded in a video posted on Rumble

“We had to hire a cyber team, right, and they were mobile because we had to protect them from getting found by the deep state,” he said. “This case should have cost, to be honest, four times this amount of money, but Matt is thrifty.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel responded  on Twitter to the latest report about DePerno. She and DePerno will square off in November’s general elections. 

“This is who the Republican Party is now & it speaks volumes as to why Trump so heavily backs Matt DePerno’s candidacy for Michigan Attorney General,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a tweet following the release of The Washington Post report.