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Trump-backed candidate for Michigan AG and ex-GOP lawmaker face state charges over alleged voting machine plot after 2020 election

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By Zachary Cohen, Marshall Cohen and Tierney Sneed, CNN

(CNN) — Two prominent Republicans in Michigan, including a Trump-backed candidate who lost his state attorney general bid, are now facing criminal charges in connection with their alleged role in a plot to access and seize voting machines across that state, according to court documents.

Matthew DePerno, a failed GOP candidate for Michigan attorney general who had been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and former GOP state Rep. Daire Rendon were both arraigned Tuesday on multiple charges related to unlawful possession of voting machines and conspiracy to access voting machines, the documents show.

The charges stem from an ongoing investigation that revolves around attempts by Trump supporters to breach voting machines in Michigan, as part of their ham-handed attempts to prove that Trump had actually carried the state in the 2020 election.

The defendants are among a loose collection of Trump supporters across the country who tried to breach voting machines while hunting for fraud in Michigan, Georgia and other key states. They took action after some of their allies unsuccessfully urged Trump in December 2020 to sign an executive order directing the military to seize the voting machines.

Before the machine breaches, Trump and other prominent Michigan Republican figures had repeatedly peddled baseless conspiracy theories about massive fraud in Detroit and supposedly rigged voting machines that manipulated the results in rural Michigan counties.

The inquiry was originally led by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, an elected Democrat who has strongly and publicly condemned the GOP efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in the Wolverine State. Nessel handed off the investigation last year to a special prosecutor because of a potential conflict of interest regarding one of the targets of the probe.

DePerno, a Kalamazoo-based attorney and 2020 election denier who ran for Michigan attorney general in 2022, secured Trump’s endorsement and won the Republican primary, but he lost the general election when he ran against Nessel, who won reelection. Rendon was a Republican member of the Michigan House of Representatives from 2017 until early 2023.

Muskegon County prosecutor D.J. Hilson, an elected Democrat, is now overseeing the investigation.

Paul Stablein, an attorney for DePerno, said in a statement that his client “categorically denies any wrongdoing and firmly asserts that these charges are unfounded and lack merit.”

“He maintains his innocence and firmly believes that these charges are not based upon any actual truth and are motivated primarily by politics rather than evidence,” Stablein said.

Earlier in the probe, Michigan State Police seized voting machines while investigators looked for evidence of potentially illegal breaches.

Investigators have said in recent court filings obtained by CNN that the probe centers around “a conspiracy to unlawfully obtain access to voting machines used in the 2020 General Election” and has “uncovered several crimes,” including conspiracy, illegal possession of a voting machine, damaging a voting machine, fraudulently accessing a computer system, and using a computer to commit a crime.

One of Hilson’s prosecutors said at a court hearing in May that they believe “multiple crimes” related to the voting machines occurred in “multiple counties” across Michigan, according to a transcript obtained by CNN. These comments were first reported by The Detroit News.

There was a strong indication last month that charging decisions were approaching. Hilson asked an Oakland County judge to sign off on his legal interpretation of state laws that criminalize improper possession of voting machines. The judge agreed with Hilson’s reading of the law, giving him broader leeway to bring charges and giving his investigation a boost.

This story has been updated with additional details.

The-CNN-Wire
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CNN’s Annie Grayer contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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