Weeks after Mellissa Carone was tapped by the Trump campaign as a witness in Michigan, little appeared to be going as planned with the contract IT worker’s testimony — an unverified series of claims about ballot fraud at Detroit’s vote-counting center.
Yet, there she was in front of a Michigan House panel on Wednesday, dressing down a Republican lawmaker as she loudly insisted, without proof, that tens of thousands of votes had been counted twice. At one point, she was audibly shushed by Trump campaign attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani.
“I know what I saw,” Carone told state Rep. Steven Johnson (R), raising her eyebrows sharply. “And I signed something saying if I’m wrong, I can go to prison. Did you?”
On social media, her pointed declarations, Midwestern lilt and poofy, blond updo drew comparisons to “Saturday Night Live” characters played by Victoria Jackson and Cecily Strong. By early Thursday, one clip of her exchange with Johnson had been viewed about 9 million times.
Holy smokes the sequel is even better!— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) December 3, 2020
Rudy Giuliani tries to shush her to calm her down and the Republican even tries to reel her in!
She treats this Republican* like he’s a Chick-fil-A employee and the milkshake machine went down.
For many following along, the viral clips of Carone appear to sum up the last-ditch legal efforts by the Trump campaign to challenge the vote in swing states won by President-elect Joe Biden. As the campaign’s lawsuits have been repeatedly tossed out in court, Giuliani has instead urged Republican legislators to embrace his unverified claims of fraud and halt their states’ vote certifications.
The key witness in that campaign? A woman who even Giuliani reportedly emphasized he had only met this week.
Carone, Giuliani and the Trump campaign all did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post late Wednesday.
A contractor for Dominion Voting Systems, which supplies voting technology for election jurisdictions nationwide, Carone stumbled into the national spotlight last month as one of a handful of “extraordinary witnesses” cited by Giuliani to support the Trump campaign’s unverified claims of a “stolen election.”
On Election Day, Carone said, she worked a nonstop, 24-hour shift at Detroit’s vote-counting operation at TCF Center, tasked with IT support for Dominion’s machines. In an affidavit filed Nov. 10, she claimed seeing some ballots being illegally scanned multiple times and suggested that vans meant to bring in meals for elections workers were hiding tens of thousands of ballots instead.
Carone’s affidavit was included in a lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign seeking to halt the certification of election results in Wayne County, a liberal, vote-rich area where Biden racked up much of his support in Michigan. Wayne County Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny denied that request Nov. 13, saying Carone’s and other witnesses’ “interpretation of events is incorrect and not credible.”
Nearly a month later, she continued making the same allegations in separate presentations this week before the Michigan House and Michigan Senate Oversight Committees.
“Everything that happened at that TCF Center was fraud,” she declared Tuesday. “Every single thing.”
During her exchange with Johnson the following day, the GOP state lawmaker questioned her claim that 30,000 votes were counted multiple times but were not reflected in the poll book, which indicates how many absentee ballots were cast in each precinct.
“We’re not seeing the poll book off by 30,000 votes,” he said.
“What’d you guys do, take it and do something crazy to it?” Carone fired back, before telling him there were “zero registered voters” in Wayne County’s poll book and that 100,000 fraudulent ballots had been cast. (Biden nonetheless won Michigan by more than 154,000 votes.)
When another representative suggested she should be “under oath” during her presentation, Carone got personal.
“I am a mother, I have two children, I have two degrees,” Carone said in a clip that was shared on Twitter Wednesday by President Trump. “I don’t know any woman in the world that would write an affidavit under oath just to write it. You can go to prison for this.”
Asked later why more people did not come forward with allegations of fraud, she claimed that Trump’s critics had ruined the lives and reputations of witnesses like her. She added that she lost family and friends, received threats, and had to move, change her phone number, and take down her social media accounts. (A Facebook account under her name that promoted her media appearances in November and repeatedly expressed support for Trump still appears visible.)
“My life has been completely destroyed because of this,” she said.
But on social media, her allegations seemed to be drawing far more attention for what they said about the Trump campaign.
“Imagine lining up your witnesses,” one person wrote on Twitter, “and this is the best you got.”
Tom Hamburger in Detroit contributed to this report.
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