One of the Michigan Republicans who acted as a fake elector for Donald J. Trump has expressed deep regret about his participation, according to a recording of his interview with the state attorney general’s office obtained by the New York Times.
The elector, James Renner, is so far the only Trump elector to have reached a settlement with the office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who filed suit in July against the 16 fake Trump electors from State. In October, Ms. Nessel’s office dropped all charges against Mr. Renner after he agreed to cooperate.
Mr Renner, 77, was late replaced on the electoral roll in December 2020 after two others withdrew. He told the attorney general’s office that he later realized, after reviewing testimony from the House investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, that he and other constituents had acted inappropriate manner.
“I cannot emphasize enough that after reading the information contained in the J6 transcripts, I was distressed that due process had not been followed,” he said during of maintenance. “I felt like I was put in a situation that I should never have been involved in.”
Mr. Renner’s lawyer, Matthew G. Borgula, had no comment.
Charges have been made against bogus voters in three states – Georgia, Michigan and Nevada – and investigations are underway in other states, including Arizona and New Mexico. In Georgia, prosecutors in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, looked well beyond the voters themselves and indicted Mr. Trump, the former president, and many of his top allies for their efforts to keep him in power despite losing in 2020. Trump also faces accusations of election interference from Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
In Michigan, Ms. Nessel, a Democrat, only charged voters but said her investigation was still open. During their interview with Mr. Renner, his investigators asked about a number of other people involved, including Shawn Flynn, a lawyer who worked on the ground with the Trump campaign in Michigan, and Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer. (Mr. Giuliani is among those charged in Georgia; he and Mr. Trump have pleaded not guilty.)
It is unclear whether they, or Mr. Trump himself, are legally exposed in Michigan. The Detroit News recently reported that Mr. Trump was recorded in December 2020 pressuring two members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers not to certify the election results, providing direct evidence of his role in attempting to overturn Michigan’s vote.
Mr. Renner is a former state trooper and retired businessman who volunteered as a local party activist in Clinton County, near Lansing, the state capital. State. He had never been a voter before and usually supported Republican campaigns by handing out signs and fliers. He said he was contacted by the head of the county Republican Party about a day before voters were scheduled to meet on Dec. 14, 2020, asked to replace someone who dropped out and that he had agreed to do so.
As Michigan had already been certified for Joseph R. Biden, Jr., who won the state by more than 150,000 votes, Trump electors were prohibited from meeting in the Capitol building, which was then largely closed due to the pandemic. They ended up meeting in the basement of the state Republican headquarters.
During a preliminary hearing earlier this month for several voters, Laura Cox, the former chair of the state Republican Party, said she and other local party officials drafted a text that voters had to sign, making it clear that they were only acting on a contingent basis, in case the Trump campaign’s election lawsuit was successful. But Ms. Cox was sidelined by Covid on the day of the meeting, and she said the Trump campaign was going against her instructions by not including such language.
At the same pretrial hearing, Terri Lynn Land, a former Michigan secretary of state initially nominated as a 2020 Republican elector, testified that she declined to meet on December 14, 2020, because Mr. Trump did not had not been certified by state officials. Tony Zammit, a former state party spokesman who attended part of the meeting, said that in his view the “vast majority” of voters were not guilty but were “following what the lawyers told them.”
Mr. Renner said in his interview with investigators that when he showed up, “I knew nothing about the election process.” Three of the voters took the lead in the signing, he said: Meshawn Maddock, former co-chairman of the state Republican Party; Republican National Committee member Kathleen Berden; and Marya Rodriguez, the only lawyer among the voters. (They all pleaded not guilty.)
In the interview, Mr. Renner said that “I accepted that the people in authority” knew “what they were talking about.”
But he said he then began studying the House transcripts and the official procedure for electors after he and the other fake Trump electors were sued in civil court in January. And he was alarmed by what he found, he said.
“It was only then that I realized, hold on, there is a formal, state-sanctioned process for this,” he said. Before that, he said: “I had never been a voter, I had never discussed it with anyone. I was used to a much more informal process at the county level. And that’s when I started to become suspicious of what had happened.
He said he later realized “what happened was not legitimate.”
In Georgia, more than half of Trump’s fake voters agreed to cooperate with prosecutors before charges were filed in the case. In Michigan, all eight charges against Mr. Renner, including forgery and conspiracy charges, were dropped as part of his deal with Ms. Nessel’s office.
His ongoing investigation means the legal implications of Michigan’s last presidential election won’t be resolved until voting begins in the next one. Preliminary hearings in the voters’ case are expected to last until February; The state’s presidential primary will be held on February 27.
“I’m very upset, I don’t show it, but I am,” Mr. Renner told investigators, adding that to say he felt “betrayed is an understatement.” That’s all I can say.”
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