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Rudy Giuliani’s bizarre legal strategy, in two clips

Michigan Republicans asked Giuliani to prove his voter fraud claims. He brought a discredited witness who accused them of vote tampering instead.

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani speaks during an appearance before the Michigan House Oversight Committee on December 2, 2020.
Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

“What’d you guys do — take it and do something crazy to it?”

That’s just one of many absurd claims in a clip that has reached more than 13 million views already, where Melissa Carone — one of Rudy Giuliani’s star witnesses at a hearing where he asked Michigan legislators to overturn the state’s presidential election results — veers from accusation to accusation. In a testy exchange, Carone accuses Republican state representatives of tampering with state voting records when one official tells her the poll book is not off by 30,000 votes.

The exchange is comically hard to follow, but it’s illustrative of the sputtering, slapdash, and conspiracy theory-driven nature of Trumpworld’s flailing attempts to discredit and overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Carone’s testimony was part of a hearing scheduled on December 1 when Michigan House Oversight Chair Matt Hall (R) invited Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, to “speak to the committee on election irregularities in Michigan.” Hall said in his statement that he was hoping for “clarity and transparency.”

That’s not what Michigan got.

According to MLive, the Trump legal team mostly spent their time calling up Michigan Republicans to testify against the election process in Wayne County. Many of them rehashed baseless claims of voter fraud and misconduct “made at a Senate Oversight Committee hearing Tuesday and in affidavits included in various legal challenges to the election results ... none of those challenges have been successful in court.”

This hearing came two days after Attorney General Bill Barr told the Associated Press that there was no proof that widespread voter fraud could have altered the result of the 2020 presidential election.

Michigan Republicans did not allow testimony under oath, restricted Democrats from calling witnesses, and prohibited cross-examination, leading Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to call the hearings a “state sponsored disinformation campaign geared toward undermining our electoral system.”

Carone’s testimony was, if not emblematic, at least fairly in step with the rest of the hearing. Her testimony went too far for even Giuliani, who at one point leaned over, seemingly to try to restrain his witness after she laughed derisively at a request to stop interrupting the official asking her to clarify her claims of fraud. It’s unclear what Giuliani expected — Carone’s accusations had been aired on Fox when she was interviewed on November 11. In the interview with Lou Dobbs, she insinuated that vans providing food to poll workers were in fact carrying illegitimate votes instead.

Days later, a Wayne County judge stated that these allegations “simply are not credible,” according to reporting by the Washington Post.

First voter fraud claims, then voter suppression attempts — the Michigan hearings followed a well-trodden path

Multiple witnesses focused their criticisms on Detroit, a city that is 79 percent Black and that Giuliani referred to as “corrupt,” saying “don’t scratch your head about what happens in Detroit. They steal elections in Detroit.”

MLive reported that Detroit activists have been alarmed by the Trump campaign’s claims of voter fraud in their city. Activist Branden Snyder told MLive that it “reeks of racism ... that Black folks and in a majority-Black city can’t count their own votes.” Nessel echoed these claims, saying “the themes we see, that persist here, are this: Black people are corrupt, Black people are incompetent, and Black people can’t be trusted.”

At Wednesday’s hearing, one Michigan woman used racist language to argue in favor of instituting a voter ID requirement.

Accusations of voter fraud are inextricable from the long history of restricting the right of people of color to vote. A January brief published by the Brennan Center for Justice explains:

Like their Jim Crow predecessors, strict voter ID laws are often defended by reference to a racially neutral need to defend the ‘integrity’ of elections...but study after study has shown that voter impersonation fraud is vanishingly rare. Many also claim that these laws impose little burden because everyone has the requisite ID — but the reality is that millions of Americans don’t, and they are disproportionately people of color.

Of course, Michigan does have a voter ID requirement. You have to present a valid form of identification or sign an affidavit. In the November 2016 election, only around 18,000 people opted to sign an affidavit instead of providing identification, according to Bridge Michigan, a nonpartisan, nonprofit news source. President-elect Joe Biden received over 150,000 more votes than Trump in the state.

One Republican official’s reaction to the hearing pretty much sums it up — state Rep. Aaron Miller castigated Giuliani, telling the Detroit News: “He made wild and broad partisan insults for several minutes that had nothing to do with the election, and it was frankly unacceptable, shameful, and pathetic and distracts from any evidence that we might hear. I’m utterly embarrassed.”

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