opinion

Trump wants a new Legislature — but to do what exactly?

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Which prominent political figure recently kicked off a press release about the state’s Republican-led House and Senate with the following quote?

“Michigan needs a new legislature.”

A. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

B. Michigan Democratic Party Chairwoman Lavora Barnes

C. President Joe Biden

D. Former President Donald Trump

I’ll give you a hint. The next line of the press release reads, “The cowards there now are too spinless to investigate election fraud.”

Ah. Yes, the answer is the only Republican on the list. 

Donald Trump, the one person who has made it a mission to replace a Republican-led Michigan Legislature with ... another Republican Legislature, I suppose. This next one would theoretically be willing to repeat whatever he says, do what he asks without question.

That’s what happens to Republican leaders who don’t operate under Trump’s imagined set of facts, I guess. These days, Republicans who refuse to paper over Trump’s unsubstantiated election fraud claims with the “America First” rah-rah-rah are Republicans in Name Only (RINOs).

Here in Michigan, the Legislature refused to dive into Trump’s endless circular arguments. Passing nine election reform bills that Whitmer vetoed wasn’t good enough. 

The Senate embraced a report that basically concluded it found no evidence of widespread election fraud. Trump wants them all out.

“They refuse to conduct a Forensic Audit,” wrote Trump, neglecting the fact that Arizona’s “forensic audit” turned up next to nothing.

To date, Trump has backed seven state legislative candidates and it’s presumed more are coming. That’s on top of secretary of state, attorney general and two congressional endorsees. 

The irony of Trump counting on the nearly exact “rigged election” system of 2022 to make changes to the “rigged election” system of 2020 shouldn’t be lost on anyone, but let’s push that aside.

Will Trump give any of his endorsees a dime from his Save America PAC? Or does he believe his name alone is a golden ticket?

We’ll find out a year from now, at the latest, when final campaign finance reports are in.

In the meantime, the best Trump can hope for is the political pressure he’s putting on senators like Ed McBroom, who authored the “Nothing To See Here” report, and Lana Theis, who supported it in committee, will change minds.

The odds of Trump having enough winning candidates to populate most of the House and Senate are long. The odds of these winning candidates being able to do anything about the 2020 election results aren’t long. They’re nonexistent.

First, with the new redistricting commission maps, it’s a coin flip whether House and Senate Republicans can even have a majority in one chamber, let alone both.

In the House alone, Trump will need at least 29 Republicans within a Republican majority state House to pick his endorsee, Rep. Matt Maddock, for speaker. Considering Maddock is starting with not many more than his own vote for Republican leader, it’s safe to say Maddock has a long road.

Also, none of the current Senate leader contenders for next session are talking about forensic audits. That will need to change for Trump’s scheme to work.

Let’s assume the most improbably scenario, though. The Republicans win a 56-54 majority in the House with Maddock elected as speaker and Trump Republicans lead a 20-18 majority with … let’s just say … Mike Detmer as Senate majority leader.

And let’s say Garrett Soldano or Ryan D. Kelley unseats Whitmer to sign whatever bill they pass.

The soonest they could order a forensic audit of the 2020 election is January 2023 — and, guess what? It would be useless.

Under federal law, local clerks are allowed to start destroying ballots 22 months after an election to make room for the next flood of general election ballots. My math has that as September 2022.

By the time Nov. 8, 2022, ballots are counted, 2020 ballots will be shredded recycling.

If that’s the case, why does Michigan need a new Legislature, exactly? To call for an audit of an election where the evidence is gone?

Other Republicans are beginning to ask the same questions.

(Email Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS at melinnky@gmil.com. His column appears weekly.)

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