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The most brutal debunking of Trump’s fraud claims yet — from Republicans

A judge deemed Trump campaign witness Mellissa Carone “not credible” before she spoke during a Dec. 2, 2020, Michigan state House hearing on the election. (Video: The Washington Post)

The Republican Party’s response to former president Donald Trump and his allies’ wild, baseless claims of voter fraud has been anything but courageous. It’s been entirely clear most reputable members of the GOP are uncomfortable responding, often instead lodging watered-down or adjacent claims. Some Republicans have spoken out but generally only when forced to pick a side — such as when their state became the focus of Trump’s lies.

But when the rubber has met the road, GOP lawmakers have routinely landed on one side: against Trump’s claims.

Perhaps the starkest example of that came Wednesday, from a Republican-led state Senate committee in Michigan. A report from the Oversight Committee makes little mention of Trump, instead focusing on claims made by allies or general conspiracy theories about the vote count in Michigan. But the committee was brutal in statements on those claims, just about all of which can be traced to Trump in one way or another.

The sum total is a broad, unsparing repudiation of Trump’s fraud claims in Michigan.

Let’s recap some of the key findings on the voter-fraud theories pushed by the former president, Rudolph W. Giuliani and other Trump allies.

1. Antrim County ‘switched’ votes

Among the many theories about what happened in Michigan, the idea that votes were switched from Trump to Joe Biden in Antrim County might have been the most pervasive. As recently as last month, Trump called the ongoing litigation over the issue “the major Michigan Election Fraud case.” He added: “The number of votes is MASSIVE and determinative. This will prove true in numerous other States.”

What the report says: The report devotes its starkest language to debunking this theory — and strongly rebukes the likes of Trump by extension.

“The strongest conclusion comes in regard to Antrim County,” the committee’s Republican chairman, state Sen. Ed McBroom, says in an opening letter. “All compelling theories that sprang forth from the rumors surrounding Antrim County are diminished so significantly as for it to be a complete waste of time to consider them further.”

The report goes on to suggest a group that has pushed the theory, the Allied Security Operations Group (ASOG), cherry-picked data to create a misleading picture. It even goes so far as to suggest the Michigan attorney general should investigate those “who have been utilizing misleading and false information about Antrim County to raise money or publicity for their own ends.”

The coup de grace: “The Committee finds those promoting Antrim County as the prime evidence of a nationwide conspiracy to steal the election place all other statements and actions they make in a position of zero credibility.”

Among those to whom this accusation of “zero credibility” would logically now apply: Trump. That last quote is a near-exact summary of Trump’s claim that what happened in Antrim County was emblematic of what occurred in “numerous other States.” Trump also made this point in his speech just before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, saying, “In one Michigan county alone, 6,000 votes were switched from Trump to Biden, and the same systems are used in the majority of states in our country.”

2. Not more votes than voters

This is one of the few instances in which the report actually directly calls out the Trump team for promoting baseless theories.

The basic idea is that there were a bunch of counties in Michigan in which there were more votes than actual voters. “In Michigan and Wisconsin, we have over-votes in numerous precincts of 150 percent, 200 percent and 300 percent,” Giuliani said. Lawyer Sidney Powell added it was “up to 350 percent in some places.”

What the report says: This ridiculous theory was debunked almost immediately, including in this space, but it persevered. The report in a footnote calls out Giuliani directly.

“The ‘more votes than voters’ theory, repeated by President Trump’s attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, was based on an affidavit from the ASOG co-founder that cites several Michigan counties where there were allegedly more votes than registered voters,” the report says. “However, the affidavit cited several townships in Minnesota, not Michigan. Even if the document referenced the right state, the claims regarding the Minnesota townships still were not accurate, according to data from the Minnesota Secretary of State.”

3. Blank ballots and troops voting for Biden

Trump and his team regularly cited the idea that there was something suspicious both about (a) blank ballots that were seen in Michigan — particularly in Detroit-based Wayne County — and (b) that election watchers saw military ballots that were somehow only for Biden.

“Four witnesses have testified under penalty of perjury that after officials in Detroit announced the last votes had been counted, tens of thousands of additional ballots arrived without required envelopes,” Trump said. “Every single one was for a Democrat.”

What the report says: It dispatches with this — and the witnesses cited by Trump — quickly:

The presence of blank ballots also provides significant confusion, despite being necessary for the duplication of military ballots and damaged absentee voter ballots. It is noteworthy that attempting to utilize these ballots for any significant level of fraud would require perfectly matching precincts to voters, manipulating poll books with fake dates for requests and receipts of the ballots, voter’s signatures, and the clerk’s signature and time stamp.
One witness testified that none of the military ballots at her table being duplicated were for President Trump. However, upon questioning, the witness recounted she only witnessed a few dozen ballots. This is a very reasonable outcome given the overall performance of the candidates in these precincts and the amount witnessed, which is not statistically significant.

4. No on dead people voting

“Over 13 ballots were cast by nonresidents, and an estimated 17,000 ballots were cast by dead people,” Trump said Jan. 4 while talking about Michigan. “Some dead people, by the way, also requested an application. It’s true. Those are the ones that really bother me.”

In a Jan. 2 call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), Trump added: “They had, as an example, in Michigan, a tremendous number of dead people that voted. I think it was … 18,000, or some unbelievably high number.”

What the report says: “Unbelievably high” is right, in that the report found essentially none.

“The Committee was also provided a list of over 200 individuals in Wayne County who were believed to be deceased yet had cast a ballot,” it says. “A thorough review of individuals on that list showed only two instances where an individual appeared to have voted but was deceased.”

But even those weren’t fraud.

It says one instance involved a man who shared a name with his deceased 118-year-old father, and that it was explained by a “clerical error.” The second was a 92-year-old woman who died four days before the election but had submitted her absentee ballot before her death.

What’s more, the report indicates an extremely solid effort to prevent the counting of the latter types of vote.

“Notably, research showed the secretary of state and clerks were able to discover and remove approximately 3,500 absentee ballots submitted by voters while they were alive but died before Election Day, which is a commendable accomplishment,” the report says.

5. Not something fishy in Wayne County

Trump and his team regularly pointed to large urban areas in key states as supposed evidence of fraud. They cited huge, late-night dumps of ballot counts that they claimed were suspicious because they were overwhelmingly for Biden. (Never mind that both absentee and in-person votes in urban areas went quite understandably heavy for Biden.) They also suggested there was something inexplicable about how many people voted in Detroit and how strongly it went for Biden.

“In Detroit, turnout was 139 percent of registered voters,” Trump said Jan. 6. “Think of that: So you had 139 percent of the people in Detroit voting.”

Trump at another point echoed ridiculous claims made by allies that somehow Biden did better than Hillary Clinton in urban areas only in key states — but not other urban areas. “Biden did poorly in big cities … except those of Detroit (more votes than people!), Philadelphia, Atlanta and Milwaukee, which he had to win,” Trump tweeted. “Not surprisingly, they are all located in the most important swing states, and are long known for being politically corrupt!”

What the report says: Poppycock:

Comparing historical results casts serious doubt over any claims of widespread impropriety in the Michigan 2020 election. In fact, turnout in 2020 increased less in Wayne county (11.4%) than in the rest of the state (15.4%) and President Trump won a greater percentage of votes there than he did in 2016 (30.27% vs 29.3%).
Additionally, the data suggests that there was no anomalous number of votes cast solely for the President, either in Wayne County or statewide.