It’s been a rough 3 years for the Michiganders who tried to overturn the 2020 election.

It’s been a rough 3 years for the Michiganders who tried to overturn the 2020 election.

Insurrections loyal to President Donald Trump try to break through a police barrier on Jan. 6, 2021, at the US Capitol. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

By Kyle Kaminski

January 5, 2024

As Michigan’s battle for accountability continues three years after the Jan. 6 riots, the extremists who followed orders from ex-President Donald Trump are now facing the law.

MICHIGAN—This week marks three years since ex-President Donald Trump led an armed mob of right-wing extremists to storm the US Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021. Since then, more than 1,200 peopleincluding Trump himself—have been charged with crimes tied to the insurrection. 

All told, dozens of Michiganders have faced charges stemming from their involvement in Jan. 6—ranging from misdemeanors like trespassing to serious felonies like assaulting police officers. And several election conspiracists, including a former Republican gubernatorial candidate who lost the primary election in 2022, have since been sentenced to jail time. 

Yet the saga isn’t over for those who pushed election lies in Michigan. The wheels of justice continue to churn, albeit slowly, and prosecutors are still pursuing accountability for those involved in the riot, as well as the efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“While many Americans—including Michiganders—have been criminally charged in connection with their actions on January 6, the Big Lie is alive and well in the Michigan Republican Party and many people directly connected to the insurrection are still serving in state government,” said Sam Inglot, executive director of Progress Michigan. 

“Trump has been criminally indicted and more than a thousand people were arrested, but we must continue to hold MAGA Republicans who attack our freedom to vote accountable for their efforts to hang onto power and rule for the wealthy few,” Inglot added.

Running for re-election in 2024

Several key figures in Michigan’s Republican Party who once believed they could overturn the 2020 election—including three members of Congress, multiple state lawmakers, and the chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party—still wield considerable influence in 2024. 

And three years post-insurrection, less than a year away from another presidential election, the question still lingers: Will Michigan hold its bad actors accountable?

Among them: US Reps. Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet), Lisa McClain (R-Bruce Twp), and Tim Walberg (R-Tipton). Hours after the Capitol riots, these three voted to block presidential electors certified by Republican-majority state legislatures in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Had their scheme prevailed, they would have been responsible for disenfranchising more than 81 million Americans—including about 2.8 million Michiganders—who voted for Biden.

All three lawmakers are running for re-election this year, giving voters who live in their districts yet another opportunity to decide whether their blatant attempts to subvert democracy should cost them their jobs. The primary election is Aug. 6. The general election is Nov. 5.

Losers who keep losing

Election denier and conspiracy theorist Kristina Karamo lost her bid to become Michigan’s secretary of state in 2022, but last year was elected chairwoman of the state Republican Party. She still refuses to accept the 2020 election results—and is now having leadership problems of her own. Ongoing infighting among GOP leaders could soon lead to her being booted as chair.

Former GOP attorney general candidate Matt DePerno is also facing charges for his attempts to bust open voting equipment after the 2020 election. That criminal case will continue this year.

Election experts say extremists like Karamo and DePerno—who dispute the results of valid elections in which there is no evidence of fraud—can pose a danger to future elections and could trigger chaos if they refuse to accept results they don’t like.

Fake electors facing felonies

About three weeks before the violent mob of armed insurrectionists stormed the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a group of 16 Republican leaders in Michigan were allegedly in Lansing cooking up their own scheme to subvert democracy and keep Trump in office for another term.

On Dec. 14, 2020, the group had a secret meeting in the basement of the Michigan GOP headquarters, where they signed their names to multiple certificates falsely stating they were the Michigan’s “duly elected and qualified electors” for the president and vice president.

Even though Trump did not win, and these Republicans were not the real electors, they went on to send their falsified documents to the US Senate and National Archives in what prosecutors have described as a “coordinated effort” to award the state’s electoral votes to Trump.

In fact, just this week, The Detroit News reported the bombshell news that Trump’s campaign had helped coordinate the plan, and directly orchestrated the filing of the false certificates. But the “desperate plan,” as Michigan Attorney General Nessel has called it, failed—miserably.

Biden was sworn in as president, and every serious challenge to the 2020 election since has been denied, dismissed, or otherwise rejected as a conspiracy theory or outright lie.

And three years later, 15 of those Michigan Republicans are now facing felony charges for their actions. If convicted, each of them could be spending more than a decade in prison.

The group of Republicans who falsely posed as presidential electors includes the head of the Republican National Committee’s chapter in Michigan, Kathy Berden, of Snover; Wyoming Mayor Kent Vanderwood; Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot, as well as the former co-chair of the Michigan GOP, Meshawn Maddock, the wife of state Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford).

“The evidence will demonstrate there was no legal authority for the false electors to purport to act as ‘duly elected presidential electors’ and execute the false electoral documents,” Nessel said last year. “There was no legitimate legal avenue or plausible use of such a document.”

Many of them have also maintained prominent roles in Republican politics in Michigan. 

Maddock helped organize buses to travel to DC on the day of the insurrection, and has repeatedly referred to her work with election and campaign volunteers as “training an army.” Her husband (and at least one other Republican state representative) have also been identified among the Michigan Republicans who were in Washington DC on the day of the Jan. 6 riots.

Maddock has also credited the Trump campaign with organizing the fake elector scheme. “We fought to seat the electors. The Trump campaign asked us to do that,” Maddock reportedly said

Among the other fake electors facing criminal charges: 

Marian Sheridan, of West Bloomfield, was recently re-elected by delegates as grassroots vice chair of the state Republican Party. Michele Lundgren lost her state House campaign in 2022 against state Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck). Amy Facchinello is a school board member in Grand Blanc. Hank Choate is a Cement City farmer who’s well-known in agricultural circles and was chosen as the Michigan Farm Bureau’s volunteer of the year last year.

Mayra Rodriguez, of Grosse Pointe Farms, lost her own 2020 state House election to Democrat Joe Tate, who went on to become elected Michigan’s Speaker of the House last year. Rodriguez served as secretary for the fake electors, and was the only attorney among the 16 people who signed the fraudulent certificate, reports the Detroit News. Both Rodriguez and Berden, 70, also refused to cooperate with a committee that investigated the insurrection.

Clifford Frost, from Warren, ran unsuccessfully for state House in 2020. John Haggard is the owner of Haggard’s Plumbing and Heating in Charlevoix. Mari-Ann Henry, of Brighton, is the treasurer for the 7th Congressional District GOP Committee. Timothy King, of Ypsilanti, along with Haggard and Sheridan, was a key plaintiff in another failed lawsuit to overturn the election.

Ken Thompson, of Orleans, was reportedly acting as a substitute for those who missed the meeting where the false documents were signed. And Rose Rook, of Paw Paw, a retired real estate agent, is on the executive committee of the Van Buren County Republican Party.

All 15 defendants have pleaded not guilty or had judges enter not guilty pleas on their behalf. 

Democrats making progress

Meanwhile, over the last year in Michigan, Democratic lawmakers have worked to protect and expand voting rights—including expanding automatic voter registration, establishing nine days of early, in-person voting before Election Day, and setting up new criminal penalties for those who try to intimidate or prevent election officials from performing their duties on Election Day.

“The fate of our country rests with the 2024 election,” Democratic Party Chairwoman Lavora Barnes said in a statement this week. “The stakes could not be higher here in Michigan. … While Michigan Democrats have taken significant steps to protect our democracy and ensure an insurrection like January 6th never happens again, the threat is far from gone.”

READ MORE: Three years after Jan. 6, Trump’s authoritarianism is on full display

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Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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