The Michigan Court of Claims judge, Cynthia Stephens, rejected a motion by President Donald Trump’s campaign to stop the Michigan vote count, questioning some of the evidence presented and calling it “hearsay” in a Thursday afternoon ruling.
Bill Stepien, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, issued a statement Wednesday announcing the campaign’s plan to file the suit as it became increasingly clear that Michigan votes would go to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. The state was called later that day by the Associated Press and major networks.
The suit alleged that the Michigan absentee ballot counting committees did not conduct the process transparently and prevented Republican challengers from doing so – and in some cases even excluded them from monitoring the process. The case also included a motion by an unidentified poll challenger who claimed that a polling officer had been instructed to change the date of receipt on a postal ballot in Detroit.
“At best, I have an affidavit from hearsay, which I believe addresses damage that would be substantial, but that’s what we have,” Stephens said in response to the survey challenger’s claim. “We have an affidavit that was not firsthand.”
“‘I heard someone say something’ – how is that not hearsay? Come on,” Stephens asked, as Trump’s attorney tried to defend himself against the “hearsay” point.
Heather Meingast, Michigan’s Assistant Attorney General, pointed out that the lawsuit was now “irrelevant” because the Michigan count was over. An attorney representing the Democratic National Committee, which joined the defense, agreed that part of the suit was based on “hearsay” and claimed that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson should not be the defendant for other allegations because she had given appropriate advice to local officials overseeing the count. If a survey challenger had been denied entry or removed from a counting center, the Trump campaign would have to file suit against that particular district official, the lawyer said.
Throughout the trial, Stephens was very skeptical of the Trump campaign’s arguments. However, after rejecting the motion-which was largely consistent with the defense-the judge said, “I think everyone here is striving for a full and fair electoral process at best.
“We are pleased that the Michigan Court of Claims has rejected the Trump campaign’s challenge to the AV ballot counting process. This was simply a political stunt designed to divert attention from the legitimate outcome of the election. Michiganders sent a clear message to this president, and no trial or tweet can change the outcome,” said Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes in a statement emailed to Washington on Newsday after the ruling.
Ryan Jarvi, the press secretary of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, Dana Nessel, said they were “satisfied” with the verdict.
Judge Stephens “found the same shortcomings in the campaign documents as we did, namely the complete absence of any evidence of wrongdoing by election workers and worthless legal arguments. The Michigan election was fair, transparent and reflected the will of the voters, and we will continue to defend ourselves against any challenges that say otherwise,” Jarvi said in a statement he e-mailed to Washington in Newsday.
Washington Newsday asked the Trump campaign for further comments, but it did not respond immediately.
In a statement e-mailed to Washington Newsday Wednesday after Trump’s campaign announced the suit, Jarvi said the Michigan election was conducted “transparently.
“Michigan will continue to protect the right of all voters to have their ballots counted,” the spokesman said.
Trump narrowly won Michigan 2016 with a margin of less than 11,000 votes. This victory came after former President Barack Obama carried the state in the Midwest in 2008 and 2012, as every Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 had done. Although the Trump campaign may bring further legal challenges, Biden won the state by a comfortable margin of 2.7 percentage points – or nearly 150,000 votes.
This article has been updated with an additional statement from the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.