Fake Trump voter in Michigan told prosecutors he was sorry and angry


One of the Michigan Republicans who acted as Donald J. Trump's bogus elector expressed deep regret for his involvement, 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 reach a settlement with Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office, which filed criminal charges in July against the state's 16 bogus Trump electors. In October, Nessel's office dropped all charges against Renner after he agreed to cooperate.

Renner, 77, was a late replacement on the voter list in December 2020 after two others dropped out. 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 in ways inappropriate.

“I can't stress enough how once I read the information in the J6 transcripts I was upset that the legitimate process had not been followed,” he said in the interview. “I felt like I had been put into a situation that I should never have been involved in.”

Mr. Renner's attorney, Matthew G. Borgula, had no comment.

Charges have already been filed against bogus electors 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 far beyond the voters themselves and charged Trump, the former president and many of their key allies for their efforts to keep him in power despite his 2020 loss. Trump also faces charges of election interference by Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by US Attorney General Merrick Garland.

In Michigan, Ms. Nessel, a Democrat, has only accused voters but has said her investigation is still open. During her interview with Renner, her investigators asked about other people involved, including Shawn Flynn, a lawyer who worked with the Trump campaign in Michigan, and Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump's former personal lawyer. (Giuliani is among those charged in Georgia; both he and Trump have pleaded not guilty.)

It is unclear whether they, or Trump himself, have legal exposure in Michigan. The Detroit News recently reported that Trump was recorded in December 2020 pressuring two members of the Wayne County Canvassing Board not to certify the election results, providing direct evidence of his role in the attempt to overturn the election. Michigan 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. He had never been a voter before and generally supported Republican campaigns by handing out posters and flyers. He said the head of the county Republican Party contacted him about a day before electors planned to meet on Dec. 14, 2020, asked him to replace someone he was abandoning, and he agreed to do so.

Since Michigan had already been certified for Joseph R. Biden, Jr., who won the state by more than 150,000 votes, Trump's electors were prohibited from gathering in the Capitol building, which at the time was virtually closed due to the pandemic. They ended up meeting in the basement of the state Republican headquarters.

During a pretrial hearing earlier this month for several of the electors, Laura Cox, former chairwoman of the state Republican Party, testified that she and other local party officials had drafted language for electors to sign that made clear that they were only acting on a contingency basis, in case the Trump campaign's election litigation was successful. But Ms. Cox was sidelined by Covid on the day of the meeting, and she said the Trump campaign went against her direction by not including that language.

At the same pretrial hearing, Terri Lynn Land, a former Michigan secretary of state who was originally designated as a 2020 Republican elector, said she refused to meet on Dec. 14, 2020 because Trump had not been certified by state officials. Tony Zammit, a former state party spokesman who attended part of the meeting, testified that in his opinion the “vast majority” of voters were not guilty, but rather “agreed with what the lawyers were telling them.” “.

Renner said in his interview with investigators that when he showed up, “I didn't know anything about the electoral process.” Three of the electors took the lead in the signing session, he said: Meshawn Maddock, former co-chair of the state Republican Party; Republican National Committeewoman Kathleen Berden; and María Rodríguez, the only lawyer among the voters. (All have pleaded not guilty).

In the interview, Mr. Renner said he was “accepting that people in authority” knew “what they were talking about.”

But he said he then began studying House transcripts and the official procedure for electors after he and Trump's other bogus electors were sued in civil court in January. And he was alarmed by what he found, he said.

Only then did I realize that, wait, there is an official state-sanctioned process for this,” he said. Before that, he said, “I had never been a voter, I had never discussed it with anyone. He was used to a much more informal process at the county level. And that's when I started to suspect what had happened.”

He said he later realized “what happened was not legitimate.”

In Georgia, more than half of Trump's bogus electors agreed to cooperate with prosecutors before charges were filed in the case there. In Michigan, all eight charges against Renner, including forgery and conspiracy, were dropped as part of his settlement with Nessel's office.

Their ongoing investigation means the legal fallout from the last presidential election in Michigan won't end before voting begins in the next one. Pretrial hearings in the electors' case are scheduled to last until February; The state's presidential primary will take place on February 27.

“I'm very upset, I don't show it, but I am,” Renner told investigators, adding that to say he felt “betrayed is an understatement.” This is all I can say.”

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