Shirkey and Chatfield: No One Else Was in the Room Where It Happened

Yesterday, Michigan certified its vote, declaring Joe Biden the winner of its 16 Electoral College votes.

That should not be surprising. After all, Biden won by a sound margin, and there were no credible claims of irregularities. Nevertheless it was treated as big news, with tens of thousands glued to the live feed of the certification meeting.

After the certification, per AP’s David Eggert, the Dick and Betsy DeVos backed Michigan Freedom Fund issued a statement backing the certification.

The Board of State Canvassers did the right thing today. We believe the vote to certify should have been 4-0. The election is over, & the person with the most legal votes – & in this election that person is Joe Biden – must prevail. Period.

Not long after the certification, Trump’s GSA Administrator, Emily Murphy, released a letter announcing she was going to let the President-Elect begin the transition process, even while she bitched about the pressure she had been put under and stopped short of using the word, “ascertainment,” that gives the letter full legal weight.

I wonder whether there’s not more to how it happened that Trump began the process of conceding.

All this happened just days after DeVos machine politicians Mike Shirkey and Lee Chatfield flew to DC and sat for a meeting with the President, at his request. It’s not clear who, from the White House, attended, but none of Trump’s competent lawyers were planning on it.

Within the White House, a number of the president’s top aides were expected to skip the late-afternoon huddle, including representatives from the White House Counsel’s Office. Also not attending was Ronna McDaniel, a former head of the Michigan Republican Party who chairs the Republican National Committee, according to an RNC spokesperson.

Already in the post-election period, Trump had the GOP Republican Senate candidates and Lindsey Graham pressure election officials in Georgia, in Lindsey’s case, arguably aggressively enough to break the law. The meeting with MI’s legislators came at an even more desperate moment for Trump.

After the meeting, the MI politicians released a statement offering an explanation of their own actions that would provide legal cover — they delivered a letter asking the President for COVID relief. More interestingly, they insisted that MI’s vote be free of threats and intimidation.

Michigan’s certification process should be a deliberate process free from threats and intimidation. Allegations of fraudulent behavior should be taken seriously, thoroughly investigated, and if proven, prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And the candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan’s electoral votes. These are simple truths that should provide confidence in our elections.

If Trump did do something inappropriate in that meeting — as he has done over and over and over before and during his presidency — it would mean multiple people, all with close ties to the DeVos political machine, were witnesses. Given how easy it has been for grifters like Lev Parnas to record sensitive meetings, it would be a cinch for these politicians to do so as well. If they did, that would put a good deal of leverage into the hands of that DeVos machine, a machine that prefers organized raping and pillaging of the public good to the kind of chaotic looting Trump has been pursuing.

The DeVos machine would greatly like to ensure that its brand of corporatist, Christian ideology reclaim dominance in the Republican party over the unreliable Trump frothers.

Given how poorly Trump has hidden his bribes and threats in the past, it would be fairly easy to anticipate more of the same, and to exploit them if they happened during an in-person meeting with more witnesses from Michigan than from the White House. One could do so while pretending to give a fuck about good governance (as Shirkey et al did pretend after they left the meeting). And legal exposure in the State of Michigan, with a fearless Democratic Attorney General, Dana Nessel, is not the kind of risk that Trump has any power over.

Something happened over the last several days that led Trump to grudgingly start ceding power. And no one else was in the room where that something may have happened.

Update: Eggert has a thread reporting out an interview with Shirkey. In it, Shirkey claims that “only half” of the meeting talked about the election.

Shirkey estimated that in the 60- to 90-minute meeting with Trump, ‘less than half’ was devoted to discussions on the election – ‘especially if you take out the dialogue we had with Giuliani, it was far less than that.’

“Less than half” doesn’t really help Trump here.

57 replies
    • emptywheel says:

      I don’t know that for sure. What I do know is that Lev Parnas and others have demonstrated that it is child’s play to collect them. And DeVos would benefit from inside knowledge from his wife, Pence, and his own meetings directly with Trump.

      • subtropolis says:

        Surreptitiously recording inside the Oval Office, though, would give most people pause, I should think.

        What I’d like to know is who foot the bill for the $800-a-bottle champagne later that evening in Trump’s hotel. Trump? Or DeVos?

      • Fraud Guy says:

        Even Omarosa recorded her meetings with Trump, as did Cohen…anyone with at least a little knowledge of him seems to think it’s a good idea.

        • bmaz says:

          Undoubtedly others too. And note, Omorosa is still walking around, and that was not what got Cohen convicted (because, really, it is not a crime in DC as it is a one party consent state).

        • Rugger9 says:

          That’s a good question to ask our MI legislators and staff that went to DC: did you sign a nondisclosure agreement?

          Because this is about public policy and the 2020 election it would have to be public information.

      • Bay State Librul says:

        Good point – Do no harm… wonderful oath

        “We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won’t do harm – yes, choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.” E.M. Forster

  1. ThomasH says:

    I wonder how much coverup and destruction of evidence and documents has to do with the grudging acceptance of Biden’s elected president status? With the allowance of the official transition period, there would be members of Biden’s transition team inside the trump White House.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I wonder if the message was reversed. The DeVoses implied that happy things would come Trump’s way if he stopped obstructing MI’s election process. It’s one way to give Trump a win, while conceding an important point. It’s lousy governance, though.

      • Max404 says:

        What threats could he make? As Edward Norton wrote, he doesn’t have the cards. The DeVos’ have real money; he’s bankrupt. All he can do now is slink away.

        And try to build up his Lost Cause grift. It is to his advantage for the Republicans to lose the Senate. He needs McConnell to lose power. Then he has a chance, he thinks, to return, to save the day. His real enemy now is the Republican party without him in control.

        In this he is in perfect alignment with his old friend Roger.

        • Rugger9 says:

          That might be the key point, the money. No one publicly knows DJT’s net worth (or the organization, either) but this perception of wealth is what DJT has used as leverage in all of his deal making. Between Rupert, Sheldon Adelson, the Kochs (maybe) and now the DeVos empire the big money has signaled their lack of interest in propping up DJT.

          That leaves mostly foreign actors such as Vlad, Tayyip, MBS, etc. who would be willing to support DJT and have the cash to do so. These individuals will demand pro quos for their quid. However, DJT will be in no position to grant any outside of the WH so it might be that we see the implosion of the TrumpOrg in rather spectacular fashion.

          OT but important as well, who is ultimately responsible for the debts racked up by DJT’s campaign that he is not paying? Can campaigns declare BKs?

        • Dave_MB says:

          Don’t forget as an ex-president that Trump will keep getting intelligence briefings. He still has information that he can sell.

        • bmaz says:

          That is not necessarily correct. Briefings of ex-presidents are on limited topics and are only by courtesy. They are no mandatory, and it is hard to see why anybody would brief Trump on anything classified.

        • emptywheel says:

          Trump believes he controls the party. He intends to keep it that way. Most others have responded to his threats, because they have to go on ballots. Admittedly, Shirkey and Chatfield do too (either might challenge Whitmer). But Trump doesn’t control MI. DeVos does.

        • Rugger9 says:

          That exposure to primaries cannot be underestimated because the proliferation of the MAGA cult and before that the TEA party expelled all other GOP types out of the party. The only reason there are any so-called reasonable ones has to do with where they are in “blue” states.

        • Sam Penrose says:

          Marcy, your recent posts are the only place I’ve read of Devos MI machine. I don’t doubt your knowledge, but have you or others elaborated on it elsewhere?

  3. PeterS says:

    There was always going to be a day between 3 November and 20 January when the transition would be allowed to formally begin. And then, because it’s human nature to look for explanations for even random events, there were always going to be detailed theories as to why that particular day, not two days later or one day before. I’m not saying 23 November was a random choice, or that EW is wrong (is she ever), just that it had to be SOME day.

  4. madwand says:

    When Lyndon Johnson decided not to run again, the story of the Three Wise Men circulated, no one knowing who those guys were at the time. Perhaps what made Trump change his mind is something along those lines. Certainly there has been a growing chorus of Republicans advising him along those lines. It makes sense that the big money guys who operate behind the curtains were also active in this regard.

  5. Jay says:

    Honestly it’s hard to think of a time when Trump appears to have been cowed by local politicians of any stripe- he seems mostly to only place nice with foreign dictators. I thought maybe the final blow was when the business leaders said the GOP was going to get no more money if he didn’t knock it off. But he doesn’t seem to care about money either. Maybe his kids got scared and talked him into backing down.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Trump thinks only about money. It’s a symbol of everything he wants to be. He doesn’t care about money going to anyone else. The CEO’s threats are about money going to someone else.

      Meanwhile, the federal government is subsidizing ND medical efforts to treat Covid patients. I’m all for that. But it ought to come with strong pressure that ND take basic public health steps that both ND and SD have refused to do. If you keep starting fires because you like to barbecue in a match factory, at some point you should be made to stop barbecuing.

  6. Marinela says:

    So the person that abstained in the Michigan vote, his name is Shinkle.
    He abstain because he called the election close.
    Which can be proven it was not.
    Any legal exposure he could face about not doing his job?
    I mean, at least, he could not stay in that position if he cannot count.

      • Marinela says:

        I see what you mean.

        Making some assumptions here…

        If he also voted in 2016, apparently he was ok with irregularities then, there were more of those at the time, when he voted for Trump, with the margin slimmer in 2016 versus 2020.

        All of these could be easily proven, if so, I still think he needs to explain his position.

        Otherwise a future presidential candidate can corrupt the few hundreds canvassers in all the battle ground states and force them to cause an artificial controversy.

      • YinzerInExile says:

        I’m not 100% sure that an abstention is a vote; to the contrary, I think it’s more accurately a way not to vote, while simultaneously being present at a meeting and therefore continuing to contribute to having a quorum (although in the final analysis there may be some governing document for the body in question — as there would be with, say, a corporate charter or bylaws, in the corporate law context — or a statute or regulation for a public body, that might give a definitive answer). I don’t know if, perhaps, the Michigan Board of Canvassers loses a quorum in the absence of all members; if it does, then that would help explain the choice to abstain, as a way to wimp out on the substantive question of certification as a performative matter while allowing it to proceed nonetheless. In general, though, I would not expect an abstention to count as a vote.

  7. punaise says:

    Perhaps that is what the two MI lawmakers were celebrating so overtly in DC that evening, champage and all: “bagging” Trump, mission accomplished?

    • emptywheel says:

      That thought did cross my mind. Effectively, “see if you can capture Trump doing what Trump always predictably does, committing a crime, but doing so such that we can let Dana Nessel take him down, with no damage to ourselves, if we choose to.”

      • punaise says:

        I prefer that version to my initial take: that they were indeed in cahoots with Trump but made public statements after the meeting that we’re just encouraging enough to get folks to chill out about it, but ambiguous enough to allow for torpedoing the certification.

  8. noromo says:

    Why do I feel like Charlie Koch is hovering in the background? (And I dont believe his recent “enlightenment” at all.)

    • Eureka says:

      Because he came in with a strong assist in the form of Sen. Toomey’s statement Saturday night (Koch money, like DeVos money, preferring predictability). While the statement was temporally prompted by a federal court ruling against the Trump campaign, it is remarkable for how it includes Trump’s attempt to extort the MI party (while boxing them in to their stated better natures):

      Release: Toomey Statement on PA Federal Court Decision, Congratulates President-elect Biden
      November 21, 2020


      “This [MDPA] ruling follows a series of procedural losses for President Trump’s campaign. On Friday, the state of Georgia certified the victory of Joe Biden after a hand recount of paper ballots confirmed the conclusion of the initial electronic count. Michigan lawmakers rejected the apparent attempt by President Trump to thwart the will of Michigan voters and select an illegitimate slate of electoral college electors. These developments, together with the outcomes in the rest of the nation, confirm that Joe Biden won the 2020 election and will become the 46th President of the United States.


      (Toomey’s received DeVos money as well:
      He is also retiring from public office when his term ends in two years; I’d call this a forward-looking statement as to where he expects (not) to land.)

  9. Doctor My Eyes says:

    My lens for viewing the current machinations is Russian organized crime vs. US organized more-or-less criminals who have begun to understand that they don’t want to start having to cut Putin in on a significant percentage of their grift. Basically, a turf war.

  10. Tom says:

    I am not so sure it was a done deal when the Canvassers meeting started. Norman Shinkle was gung-ho not to certify. If Chatfield and Shirkey were going to tell the board to certify, though, it would be through Van Langevelde, who works for the House GOP Caucus, i.e., for Chatfield. He was a little on the fence, wanting to hear public comment before voting, but he did say that legally they didn’t have a choice. Maybe that was a signal, maybe that was his true opinion, maybe he didn’t want to throw away his career on a lost cause. Laura Cox, Michigan GOP chair, called in and repeated the usual nonsense allegations. When they got to the real public comments, there were about 20, all but one of which supported certifying. Then a recess, and after one or two more commenters they voted. Maybe they were trying to show Shinkle how hopeless his position was.

    I think the GOPers would have blocked certification if it had a chance of succeeding, but they weren’t on a career suicide mission.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      We can live with it only because the statute boxed Murphy into a corner. She refused to make her ascertainment, but admitted its consequences and authorized the release of resources. There’s no interpretation of that conduct that would pass judicial muster – other than that she made her ascertainment, regardless of her refusal to convey it to Biden.

      To hold otherwise, a court would have to conclude that Murphy intentionally violated the law by illegally releasing those resources. Courts are loathe to do that when an alternate reading absolves them of having to do so. That’s why team Biden forged ahead rather than play Murphy’s – and Trump’s – obstructionist games.

      • pdaly says:

        Murphy’s choice of salutation in her letter to “Mr. Biden” makes clear her contempt of Biden as President-Elect, so I sort of hope Biden practices his unify the country plan on her and asks her to keep her GSA job. Then perhaps she decides to diss him (again) by leaving her job in a huff. Biden, in the meantime, gets it out of his system and gives the rest of the leadership jobs to Democratic people who helped elect him.

        (I’m not good at gaming these things out, so I’m not sure what would happen if Murphy stayed on at her GSA job and again didn’t ascertain a Democratic win in 2024)

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The chief administrator of the GSA is a pollitical appointee who requires Senate confirmation. She will be among the first to be fired.

  11. BobCon says:

    What kind of leverage do Granholm and the new non-GOP majority on the Michigan Supreme Court have over 2022 redistricting?

    The DeVos clan probably has a lot of sheep in the legislature and US House they want to protect, and I am curious if they are trying to unify their control over the state party and possibly solidify some rules of the road in anticipation of a fight over district boundaries.

    • FLwolverine says:

      In 2018 Michigan voters approved Proposal 2, which transferred the redistributing function from the legislature to an independent commission. Republicans have been fighting that with one lawsuit after another, but so far the independent commission process is still in place. Of course, there’s always the problem of the quality of information they’ll have to work with.

      • BobCon says:

        Thanks, I couldn’t remember if they were one of the anti-gerrymander states. I have to assume the new balance in rhe MI Supreme Court bears some weight there.

        I’m also very curious how 2024 maneuvering is going to matter. I have to assume there is a decent chance the GOP oligarchs are banking on a big field, the spectre of a split convention, an end to the Iowa/NH dominance of the early process, and the Devos family may want to hammer down their influence over Michigan to keep ther place at the table.

  12. Mitch Neher says:

    But . . . What if the State of Michigan’s failure to certify the vote risked provoking civil unrest amongst the people of Detroit and beyond?

    The DeVos machine might include a fair number of Chamber-of-Commerce types who might be wary of provoking civil unrest in Detroit and beyond.

    Or I could just be projecting my own fears of civil unrest.

  13. Mitch Neher says:

    But . . . What if the State of Michigan’s failure to certify the vote risked provoking civil unrest amongst the people of Detroit and beyond?

    The DeVos machine might include a fair number of Chamber-of-Commerce types who might be wary of provoking civil unrest in Detroit and beyond.

    Or I could just be projecting my own fears of civil unrest.

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