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Washington — President Donald Trump headlined a rally Wednesday where he demanded a review of the Nov. 3 election to “save our democracy,” questioning results from states including Michigan and repeating debunked claims.  

The Republican president accused Democrats of getting away with election fraud even though state and federal judges didn’t find any merit to such accusations made by Trump supporters in Michigan court cases. He also called on Congress and state legislators to promptly pass sweeping election reforms.

The president called the election “pure theft,” claiming he’d been leading by “hundreds of thousands of votes” in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia before things abruptly turned around. Votes from Detroit and some other Democratic-leaning areas traditionally start to get recorded late on Election Night.

Ahead of Wednesday’s joint session of Congress, Trump repeated a series of dubious claims about Michigan’s election during a speech that spanned just over an hour. 

All of the claims have been presented previously, and many of them have been debunked. 

“Wayne County poll watchers observed canvassers scanning batches of ballots over and over again,” Trump told the crowd. “Detroit had more votes than it had voters.”

Trump said turnout represented 139% of the city’s registered voters in Detroit, a Democratic stronghold and Michigan’s largest city. The actual turnout in Detroit was 51%, according to the official results tallied by the City Clerk’s Office.

A data “analysis” previously released by Texas resident Russell Ramsland — Ramsland has been cited in litigation brought by supporters of the president — incorrectly said there was 139% turnout in a precinct in Detroit, but it’s unclear how he arrived at that figure and which precinct he was focused on. Ramsland’s analysis also falsely said there were multiple precincts in Muskegon County with more than 100% turnout, including one with 781% turnout.

There is no chance a county board of canvassers would allow a precinct to be certified with 781% turnout, Jeanne Pezet, elections coordinator for Muskegon County, told The Detroit News last month. 

The highest precinct-level turnout percentage in Wayne County’s official results was 88% in Precinct 4 of Brownstown Township.

The president also said that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat he sarcastically called a “real great one, had “flooded the state with unsolicited absentee ballot applications in violation of state law.” However, courts in Michigan have upheld Benson’s decision to send the applications to voters. 

State Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled in August that Benson had the power to issue the applications because she outranked “those local election officials over whom she has supervisory control.” In September, a Court of Appeals panel upheld Stephens’ ruling 2-1, noting Benson had “inherent” authority to mail the applications. 

Trump also repeated an unsubstantiated claim that ballots were cast on behalf of more than 17,000 people who were deceased. A “fact check” maintained by the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office says it’s “not aware of a single confirmed case showing that a ballot was actually cast on behalf of a deceased individual.”

He also repeated assertions that there were problems connected Dominion Voting Systems, whose voting machines are used in most Michigan counties. There’s no proof that Dominion’s technology was connected to any fraudulent activity.

States, Trump argued Wednesday, “got defrauded and want to revote.”

“They were given false information, they voted on it,” Trump said. “Now they want to recertify. They want it back.”

The president addressed Republican supporters, including thousands from Michigan, during Wednesday’s “March for Trump” rally to urge Congress to investigate allegations of election fraud, including in Michigan. 

The rally sprawled across the Ellipse near the White House up to the base of the Washington Monument. Most attendees carried flags or donned hats with Trump’s name. Some wore military fatigues or bulletproof vests.

Others held signs urging Congress to “stop the steal” or labeling themselves “proud deplorables” in reference to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign gaffe when she said half of Trump’s supporters were in a “basket of deplorables.”

Police fanned out around the city and clashed with protesters who ended up storming the U.S. Capitol building as members of Congress convened in the afternoon. The building was locked down, and lawmakers were evacuated. The Capitol was cleared of rioters by 6 p.m. 

Senators and representatives were being asked to certify the Electoral College results of each state that have found President-elect Joe Biden to be the overall winner. Trump’s supporters haven’t provided concrete evidence of widespread election fraud in Michigan, where Biden won 51%-48% over Trump or by 154,000 votes.

“You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong,” Trump added. 

Rob Cortis of Livonia has driven the “Trump Unity Bridge” around the country since Trump was elected in 2016. He came to Washington to support the protests and parked the bedecked trailer outside the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue down the street from the White House. 

He said he’ll keep driving the trailer around the country even if Trump doesn’t remain president. 

“The message is being heard,” Cortis said. “My message is unite America behind positive messages to support the America First agenda, which includes preserving our constitution, preserving our American culture, preserving our education system.”

Longtime friends Mike Cooley, 62, and Joe Cowdrey, 58, drove to D.C. Tuesday night after hearing about the rally online, including on the president’s Twitter account. Cooley is from Houghton Lake and Cowdrey is from Alma.

“We couldn’t take it no more. The Liberty Bell was ringing in our heads,” Cowdrey said. “We don’t mind losing, but we want it to be fair. We want to be sure it was right, that’s all we’re asking.”

Cooley said he doesn’t think anything would convince him that the election results in favor of President-elect Joe Biden were accurate. The courts that rejected legal challenges to Michigan’s results based on lack of evidence weren’t an assurance because they ruled out the claims without “forensically looking at it,” he added.

“We know they stole it,” he said. “You don’t have to be a brain scientist to figure it out. We hope things get rectified here.”

Election processes were reviewed by canvassing boards in each county and in the state before certification. 

Karen Ostin of Farmington flew into the city Tuesday night to meet up with like-minded colleagues from around the country. “We can’t take this fraud. If we don’t expose fraud in this election I don’t think there will ever be a fair election again,” she said. 

Ostin worked as a Republican poll challenger at the TCF Center in Detroit where the city’s absentee ballots were being counted and was among those who wasn’t allowed entry on Nov. 4. She said she submitted an affidavit after challenging two ballots with the same number but different names. 

“I hope that (Congress) does not certify those electors and Vice President Pence stands up and goes for an investigation of the fraud,” Ostin said. “I want them to show the information and let this be investigated.”

The Oakland County Republican Party arranged for about a dozen buses with 50 passengers apiece that departed late Tuesday to transport residents from southeast Michigan to the rally. 

Oakland County Republican Party Chairman Rocky Raczkowski told The Detroit News that residents of Michigan want “transparency and integrity in our election system” and “to have their voice be heard.”

Meshawn Maddock of Milford, a grassroots organizer in Michigan, said she helped organize participation in the rally for thousands of Michigan supporters of Trump and that she and her husband flew to Washington on Monday to take part in multiple events. 

Maddock said activists from Traverse City, Saginaw, as well as Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties, among others. 

The Trump supporters attending, she said, have argued that there was fraud in the election and want a real investigation. The Trump campaign and other supporters did not provide concrete evidence of widespread election fraud in Michigan and lost state and federal court cases involving fraud allegations. 

Linda Lee Tarver, a political activist with Black Voices for Trump, told The News late Tuesday that she’s in D.C. to support the president and doesn’t have any confidence that Michigan’s election was fair. 

Tarver of Lansing and Maddock are among those who were expected to speak during Wednesday’s rally. 

Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani claimed to supporters Wednesday that the Democrats and their allies “have not allowed us to see one machine or one paper ballot.”

Giuliani noted that Vice President Mike Pence can draw on the Electoral Count Act of 1887 — a federal law establishing procedures for the counting of electoral votes by Congress following a presidential election — to cast aside the results given the “questionable constitutionality” of the election. 

“He can decide on the validity of these crooked ballots or he can send it back to the legislatures, give them five to ten days to finally finish the work,” said Giuliani, adding he has letters from legislatures in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin and “one other coming in” asking for that to take place.

Trump on Wednesday echoed Giuliani’s claims, saying all Pence has to do is send it back to the states and recertify and “we become president.”

Pence presided over the joint session, but declined to try to send the issue back to the states. Legal experts have said his role is ministerial and he does not have unilateral power to “reject fraudulently chosen electors,” as Trump has claimed on Twitter. The vice president’s role as presiding officer is limited by federal law.

During Eric Trump’s address, the crowd began chanting “fight for Trump” as Eric Trump lauded the patriots who have stood up for the president. 

“They can lie, they can cheat, they can steal. My father has started a movement and this movement will never, ever die,” he said. “This is a movement that will transcend him. It’s a movement that will transcend all of us.”

cferretti@detroitnews.com

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