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Trump electors in Michigan being served with federal subpoenas


Lansing — Some of the 16 Michigan Republicans who signed a certificate falsely claiming to cast the state's electoral votes for Donald Trump in December 2020 are receiving grand jury subpoenas from federal officials.

The development, which was unfolding in the battleground state on Thursday, marked the latest escalation of a national investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into whether laws were broken by Trump allies as they pushed to challenge and overturn the results of the last presidential election.

It's unclear whether the Michigan Republicans are being sought as witnesses or targets of the investigation.

Republican Michele Lundgren of Wayne County, one of the 16 Trump electors in Michigan, said a group of Department of Justice officials, including someone with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, served her with a subpoena on Thursday. Lundgren said a fellow elector, Amy Facchinello, received a subpoena on Wednesday.

Lundgren, who's 72, said she let one of the individuals go through her phone and computer. The investigators were looking for email communications she had with other Trump electors, she said.

"They kept asking me questions and asking me questions, and I kept telling them answers," she said.

Lundgren described the conversation as "long" and "pleasant." The subpoena Lundgren received sought an interview on July 8 with the officials, saying they would fly her to Washington, D.C., she said.

Asked if any of the 16 Trump electors in Michigan had made the state GOP aware that they were contacted by the FBI, party spokesman Gus Portela said the party was aware "that folks are likely to be contacted."

Trump and some of his supporters have maintained that he won Michigan even though  Democrat Joe Biden beat him by 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points in the certified results. Biden's victory has been upheld by a series of court rulings, more than 200 audits and an investigation by the Republican-controlled state Senate Oversight Committee.

As part of the campaign to reverse Trump's loss, his backers gathered in the basement of Michigan Republican Party headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020, the same day Michigan's true presidential electors supporting Biden were meeting in the state Capitol. The Republicans signed a document falsely claiming that they were casting Michigan's electoral votes for Trump and that they had convened in the state Capitol.

The latter statement was clearly untrue because the Republicans were denied access to the building, which was closed for security reasons. Under Michigan state law, presidential electors were required to meet in the state Senate chamber at 2 p.m. Dec. 14, 2020.

The most high-profile Michigan Republican to sign the certificate was Meshawn Maddock, a top Trump ally and co-chairwoman of the state GOP. Maddock hasn't responded to questions about whether she received a subpoena.

The subpoenas this week came after a high-profile U.S. House hearing that focused on the false electors strategy in seven battleground states.

The hearing included recorded testimony from Laura Cox, the former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, who said the Trump electors had contemplated hiding in the state Capitol overnight to be in the building on Dec. 14, 2020.

Cox said she viewed the plan as "insane" and "inappropriate."

The New York Times first reported Wednesday that Michigan lawyer Shawn Flynn, who worked for the Trump campaign in the state, had been subpoenaed by federal authorities. Flynn was present in the basement of state GOP headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020. He led the meeting until officers were elected, according to a source with knowledge of the event who declined to be identified. Flynn has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Kathy Berden, Michigan's Republican national committeewoman, eventually was elected chair of the false electors' meeting. She was listed as the sender of the false certificate on a document delivered to the Archivist of the United States.

Berden didn't respond Thursday to multiple requests for comment. Another of the 16 Trump electors, Facchinello of Grand Blanc, declined comment when reached by The News on Thursday.

"I’m not making any comments or talking to any press,” Facchinello said after being asked if she received a subpoena. "I don’t like the news."

Republican John Haggard of Charlevoix, another Trump elector, said as of Thursday morning, he hadn't received a subpoena.

Haggard has previously said that he believed Trump won Michigan's election, which he lost to Biden by 154,000 votes, and that his First Amendment rights protected his ability to sign the false certificate.

In January, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel referred a probe into the false electors to federal prosecutors. On June 1, she told The News she had read stories indicating federal authorities were investigating the electors in multiple states and were "interviewing people in Michigan for that."

The Democratic attorney general has specifically suggested forgery charges could be considered and said the GOP electors in Michigan seemed to be part of a "coordinated effort." Similar certificates were created in other states.

"Under state law, I think clearly you have forgery of a public record, which is a 14-year offense, and election law forgery, which is a five-year offense," Nessel said.

The Michigan Republican Party has previously criticized Nessel's comments about the false electors, labeling it a "political persecution."

rsnell@detroitnews.com

cmauger@detroitnews.com

Staff Writer Beth LeBlanc contributed.