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Trump reportedly pressured Michigan Republicans not to sign 2020 election certification

Former President Donald Trump allegedly urged two local Michigan Republicans not to sign the Wayne County certification for the 2020 presidential election, according to recordings of a phone call reviewed by The Detroit News.

The Detroit News reported Thursday that on Nov. 17, 2020, Trump pressured Wayne County Board of Canvassers Monica Palmer and William Hartmann in a phone call in which Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel also participated.

“We’ve got to fight for our country,” Trump said in the call, according to The Detroit News. “We can’t let these people take our country away from us.”

McDaniel also chimed in, the Detroit News reports, urging them, “If you can go home tonight, do not sign it. … We will get you attorneys,” according to the news site, which also said Trump added, “We’ll take care of that.”

The Detroit News says the recordings were made by a person who was present on the call. CBS News and other outlets were aware that the call had taken place, but the contents of the call weren’t public until the Detroit News obtained access to the recordings of the conversation. CBS News has not independently confirmed the existence of the recordings.

The Trump campaign didn’t dispute the contents of the call.

“All of President Trump’s actions were taken in furtherance of his duty as president of the United States to faithfully take care of the laws and ensure election integrity, including investigating the rigged and stolen 2020 presidential election,” said Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung. “President Trump and the American people have the constitutional right to free and fair elections.”

The RNC referred to McDaniel’s comment to the Detroit News. “What I said publicly and repeatedly at the time … is that there was ample evidence that warranted an audit,” McDaniel told the Detroit News.

Michigan was a key battleground state in 2020 that Trump lost to President Biden, and Wayne County, home to Detroit, the state’s largest and most heavily Democratic city, played a critical role. Without the county’scertification, the state’s election results could not be certified. The county’s Board of Canvassers eventually voted to certify in November 2020, hours after the board had been deadlocked 2-2 on the matter.

At the time, the Trump campaign filed a federal lawsuit in Michigan seeking to block the certification of the state’s election results, inaccurately claiming that the Wayne County Board of Canvassers had declined to certify the results. The Trump campaign soon dropped the lawsuit.

Michigan is expected to again be a crucial state in the 2024 presidential election.

It is not known whether special counsel Jack Smith has the recording of the conversation between Trump, McDaniel and the two canvassers, but the incident is not mentioned in the former president’s 2020 election-related federal indictment.

“I was well aware that then-President Trump and his team actively sought to interfere in Michigan’s certification process in 2020, but yesterday’s reporting in the Detroit News was the first time I learned of the audio evidence of his attempted interference,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said. “This is all the more remarkable because in 2020 Michigan was one of the first battleground states to certify the results of the presidential election.”

Olivia Rinaldi and Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report

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