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Jan. 6 committee hearings: Michigan officials targeted in Trump’s “pressure campaign”

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Eli Newman, Russ McNamara, Dorothy Hernandez
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WDET
Jocelyn Benson says armed protesters surrounded her home, while Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey testifies he received thousands of texts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol says former President Trump led a “pressure campaign” to convince state lawmakers to overturn the 2020 election results.

Tuesday’s hearing, the fourth in a series of six, of the House Select Committee investigating attack on the Capitol focused on Trump’s attempts to influence state lawmakers and pressure officials in key battleground states like Georgia and Michigan to reject ballots or to submit alternative electors. Investigators say Trump’s focus on Michigan and Detroit election officials was part of his effort to subvert the will of voters. The state cast 150,000 more votes for President Biden than it did for Trump.

Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) said when state elections officials refused to stop the count and certify him as the winner of states he lost, Trump and his campaign applied more pressure.

“Anyone who got in the way of Donald Trump’s continued hold on power after he lost the election was the subject of a dangerous and escalating campaign of pressure,” Schiff said. “This pressure campaign brought angry phone calls and texts, armed protests, intimidation and all too often threats of violence and death.”

One of these officials was Jocelyn Benson, who said she was personally harassed to keep Trump in office. Armed protesters surrounded her Detroit home in the weeks following Election Day. They arrived at night and called her a “threat to democracy.” Benson told the panel she was frightened by the situation.

“Are they coming with guns? Are they going to attack my house? I’m in here with my kid,” Benson said. “I’m trying to put him to bed. So that was the scariest moment, just not knowing was going to happen.”

In a statement released Tuesday, Benson said “the threats are a direct extension of the efforts to spread false information about the security and accuracy of our elections that we’ve all endured in the years since 2020.”

“Those unhappy with the results of the 2020 presidential election – and now, political candidates courting their support and coveted endorsements – have perpetuated an unprecedented, dangerous, egregious and false campaign to erode the public’s confidence in the results of one of the most secure, accessible and transparent elections in our state – and country’s – history,” Benson said.

Plan to break into state Capitol

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey was subpoenaed to speak before the congressional committee investigating the attack. The panel aired video of Shirkey’s conversation on Tuesday with committee investigators. He received 4,000 texts to overturn the election results after Trump gave out his personal phone number on Twitter, according to his testimony.

When asked if he or Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield told the president they were not going to do anything that violated state law, Shirkey said they were going to follow state law.

“There was a loud noise, a loud consistent cadence of, we heard the Trump folks are calling and asking for changes in the electors and you guys can do this,” Shirkey said. “Well, they were believing things that were untrue.”

While he never publicly spoke out against the 2020 presidential election results, Shirkey falsely claimed that the attack on the Capitol was a “hoax” and “staged.”

Many Michigan GOP lawmakers were set to bypass the normal processes for certifying election results and put forward their own electors that would give Trump Michigan’s Electoral College votes.

Former Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox says she was approached by an attorney saying there was a plan to break into the Michigan Capitol.

“He said he was working with the president’s campaign,” Cox said. “He told me that the Michigan Republican electors were planning to meet in the Capitol and hide overnight, so that they could fulfill the role of casting their vote in per law in the Michigan chambers. And I told him in no uncertain terms that that was insane and inappropriate.”

The Detroit News is reporting that the attorney who tried to subvert Michigan’s election results is Robert Norton, the vice president and general counsel for Hillsdale College.

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