LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker was disciplined Monday for not denouncing potential violence at the Michigan Capitol before Democratic presidential electors met to vote for Joe Biden, who defeated President Donald Trump in the swing state.
State Rep. Gary Eisen, of St. Clair Township, told WPHM-AM that he planned to help with an unspecified “Hail Mary” GOP plan to challenge the election, conceding that the “uncharted” action likely would not change the result. Asked if he could guarantee people’s safety, he said “no.”
House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Speaker-elect Jason Wentworth, both Republicans, removed Eisen from committees in the closing days of the two-year session. In a statement, they said threats or suggestions of violence in politics are never acceptable, including “when the public officials open the door to violent behavior and refuse to condemn it. We must do better.”
The 16 electors later cast their votes for Biden during a meeting also attended by top state Democrats such as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel.
The Capitol was closed to the public due to coronavirus restrictions because neither the House nor Senate were in session, though some Republicans, including Eisen, were critical of the closure on the day of the Electoral College meeting. Legislative offices in the Statehouse and nearby buildings also were closed due to “credible threats of violence,” a Senate spokeswoman said.
Eisen was among 15 Republican legislators and four GOP congressmen in Michigan who signed onto a Texas lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to set aside votes in four states due to baseless claims of widespread fraud, including in Michigan. The court dismissed the case.
Michigan’s Republican legislative leaders have said the Legislature followed state law in not overturning Biden’s 154,000-vote victory in the state — a margin of 2.8 percentage points.
Eisen, a first-term legislator, issued a statement saying he regretted “confusion” over his remarks and no longer planned to go to the Capitol with a group that supports an alternative slate of would-be GOP electors. They were turned away from entering the Statehouse later Monday.
“I wanted to attend today’s event to help prevent violence, not promote it,” he said. “My comments were meant to reflect that while our group intends to be peaceful, I did not feel I could speak for other groups. Apparently some people are making credible threats of violence today, and I am glad local law enforcement is on the scene preventing any such action and keeping everyone safe.”
House Speaker Lee Chatfield, a Republican, said the Legislature chose decades ago to award electors to the winner of the popular vote and the Supreme Court has ruled that the right cannot be infringed on retroactively.
It was the second time in less than a week that House leaders punished a member. Democratic Rep. Cynthia Johnson, of Detroit, lost her committee spots because she took to social media to warn “Trumpers,” after saying she received at least one racist threat that she should be lynched following a hearing in which Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani falsely alleged that there had been mass fraud in Detroit.
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