Republican state lawmakers from Michigan met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday and said afterwards that they were not "made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan."
The White House meeting came as Trump's lawyers are calling for state legislatures, including Michigan's, to name Trump electors in states won by President-elect Joe Biden.
"The entire election, frankly, in all the swing states should be overturned, and the legislatures should make sure that the electors are selected for Trump," campaign lawyer Sidney Powell told Fox Business on Thursday.
In a joint statement issued after their approximately two-hour visit to the White House, state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield said they accepted the president's invitation "as we would accept an invitation from any sitting president if asked to meet," but said their position that the voters are the ones who pick the state's electors was unchanged.
As "legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election," their statement said.
“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," they added.
A state GOP leader told NBC News before the meeting that Shirkey and Chatfield expected Trump to pressure them to overturn the election results based on unproven claims of fraud and irregularities in Detroit. They were prepared to tell him that while they will pursue probes into “irregularities and potential fraud to avoid future situations,” they would uphold Michigan law, which calls for the winner of the vote to get the state's 16 electors, the person said.
Biden won the state by almost 160,000 votes.
“Legally, they don’t think they have any actual legal options. It legally cannot happen in Michigan. That’s what they’re going to tell the president,” the person said.
In their statement, Shirkey and Chatfield said they used the meeting to press for "additional federal funds to help Michigan in the fight against Covid-19.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany portrayed the highly unusual meeting as routine earlier in the day.
“This is not an advocacy meeting," she said. "There will be no one from the campaign there. [The president] routinely meets with lawmakers from across the country."
When Shirkey and other lawmakers arrived at Reagan National Airport in Washington earlier in the day, they were greeted by about 20 protesters yelling "certify the vote" and holding signs that said "Shame."
Biden campaign legal adviser Bob Bauer said, "No state legislature in our country's history ever has done what Donald Trump is apparently agitating for the Michigan State Legislature to do, which is to ignore the results of a popular vote election and wrest control from the voters."
Bauer called the invitation "an abuse of office. It's an open attempt to intimidate election officials. It's absolutely appalling." "It's also pathetic," he added, and "will be unsuccessful."
Trump invited the lawmakers to meet with him after reaching out to two other local Republican officials earlier in the week. Trump phoned the pair after they initially voted not to certify the vote in Wayne County, a Democratic stronghold. The pair wound up certifying the vote after a heated public meeting on Tuesday, but then filed affidavits for the Trump campaign the next day — after having spoken with the president the night before — saying they'd changed their minds.
One of the board members, Monica Palmer, said that the president's phone call had nothing to do with her changing her mind, and that he hadn't asked her to do so. “My conversation with the president was about threats coming from the public and my safety — not about rescinding my vote,” Palmer said Thursday.
Christine Greig, the state's Democratic House leader, told NBC News that Democrats are concerned that Michigan's GOP might try to pull the “same stunt” on certification at the state level that they did at the county level.
“It’s just another component of their plan of attack, to disregard the will of the electors and cast doubt into the election, Greig said. "It’s hurting our state, it’s hurting our democracy, and they need to stop it."
The Democratic vice chairman of Wayne County's canvassing board, Jonathan Kinloch, told NBC News, “This is unchartered waters for everybody. Nobody would have thought all of this would be occurring. This is totally unfortunate how they have upended all sorts of norms."
One legal expert said in an op-ed the lawmakers could face legal jeopardy themselves if they try to help Trump with any appeal on the state's electors.
“Why, exactly, does President Trump want to see these two men in person, in his office?" wrote Richard Primus, a constitutional law professor at the University of Michigan. “It isn’t to offer evidence that Michigan’s election was tainted and should therefore be nullified. If he had any such evidence, his lawyers would have presented it in court."
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, declined to comment on the situation to NBC News, saying, "we don’t comment on pending investigations.”
In a joint op-ed in the Detroit News, Reps. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat, and Paul Mitchell, a Republican who is retiring, said it was time for Trump to give up the ghost.
"We know many of our residents are disappointed by his loss. But there is simply no indication of massive fraud, wrongdoing or gross error in Michigan’s election results," the state's Congress members wrote. "The continued refusal to acknowledge the election results risks corroding our democracy by literally hollowing it out."
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a former presidential nominee and Michigander, was even more critical of the president's actions.
“Having failed to make even plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election," he tweeted Thursday night. "It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.”