President Donald Trump sought to leverage the power of the Oval Office on Friday in an extraordinary attempt to block President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, but his pleas to Michigan lawmakers to overturn the will of their constituents appeared to have left them unswayed.
Mr. Trump summoned a delegation of the battleground state’s Republican leadership, including the Senate majority leader and House speaker, in an apparent extension of his efforts to persuade judges and election officials to set aside Mr. Biden’s 1,54,000-vote margin of victory and grant Mr. Trump the State’s electors. It came amid mounting criticism that Mr. Trump’s futile efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 election could do long-lasting damage to democratic traditions.
Mr. Trump’s efforts extended to other States that Mr. Biden carried as well, amounting to an unprecedented attempt by a sitting President to maintain his grasp on power, or in failure, to delegitimise his opponent’s victory in the eyes of his army of supporters.
Rick Hasen, an election law expert and professor who has been meticulously chronicling the 2020 race, wrote that there would be “rioting” in the streets if an effort was made to set aside the vote in Michigan, calling it tantamount to an attempted coup.
“We should worry because this is profoundly antidemocratic and is delegitimising the victory of Joe Biden in a free and fair election,” Mr. Hasen wrote on his blog. “It is profoundly depressing we still have to discuss this. But it is extremely unlikely to lead to any different result for president.”
In a joint statement after the White House meeting, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield said allegations of fraud should be investigated but indicated they were unmoved by Mr. Trump’s claims thus far. “We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election,” they said.
“The candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan’s electoral votes,” they added, saying they used the meeting with Mr. Trump to press him for more pandemic aid money for their State.
The President on Friday again falsely claimed victory, declaring as an aside during a White House announcement on drug pricing, “I won, by the way, but you know, we’ll find that out.”
Mr. Trump’s roughly hourlong meeting with the Michigan legislators came days after he personally called two local canvassing board officials who had refused to certify the results in Wayne County, Michigan’s most populous county and one that overwhelmingly favored Biden. The two GOP officials eventually agreed to certify the results. But following Mr. Trump’s call, they said they had second thoughts.
The Board of State Canvassers is to meet on Monday to certify the Statewide outcome and it was unclear whether Republican members of that panel would similarly balk.
Some Trump allies have expressed hope that State lawmakers could intervene in selecting Republican electors, as the President and his attorneys have pushed baseless allegations of fraud that have been repeatedly rejected in courtrooms across the country. It was with that in mind that Mr. Trump invited the Michigan legislators. He was also said to be considering extending a similar invitation to lawmakers from Pennsylvania.
“The President could be calling Republican legislators and others to the White House to try and squeeze them,” tweeted former national security adviser John Bolton. “Republicans at all levels — state, county, election boards, legislatures — must resist this political pressure.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that the meeting with Michigan officials was “not an advocacy meeting”.