GOP leaders head to D.C. for post-election meeting with Trump, decline to ask feds for COVID-19 help

State reports 7,592 new cases Thursday, hospitalizations rise

Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, May 24, 2019 | Nick Manes

In her last COVID-19 press update before Thanksgiving, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday criticized state Republican leadership and President Donald Trump for focusing more on baseless election fraud claims than on legislation to help Americans during the ongoing pandemic.

State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) are set to visit Trump at the White House Friday. The meeting is largely considered to be a play to urge GOP leadership to unlawfully overturn election results in Michigan and hand the victory to Trump instead. 

“The president has spent more energy spreading untruths about the election outcome than he has listening to health experts and protecting American people,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer added that she, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) and House Minority Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) sent a letter Thursday to congressional leaders urging them to swiftly pass a COVID-19 relief bill that “meets the scale of this crisis.”

Could the Legislature help hand Trump reelection, even if he loses Michigan?

She noted that she offered both Shirkey and Chatfield a chance to sign on to the letter, but both declined.

The Trump campaign reportedly has a plan to overturn the election by focusing on key states. In Michigan, that involve  a two-pronged approach, including pressuring the Board of State Canvassers not to certify the election results when it meets on Monday. The board is split 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans and several groups are now expecting the board to deadlock, throwing the matter to the courts. 

This would be a repeat of the attempt Tuesday night with the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, which did approve certification on a second vote. However, the panel’s two Republicans now say they want to rescind their vote, even though that does not appear to be legal.

Although Democratic President-elect Joe Biden won Michigan with a much bigger margin than Trump did in 2016 — more than 150,000 votes — the outgoing Republican president continues to sow doubt about the results and has even attempted to interfere at the county level by calling Wayne County canvassers personally.

Detroit NAACP chief: ‘We’re not going to let them steal the election’

The second part depends on the GOP-majority Legislature appointing its own slate of Trump electors. As the Advance has previously reported, that’s not legal under Michigan law. 

Steve Liedel, former chief counsel to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, told the Advance in October it would be “the equivalent of a state-level coup, because powers that are vested in other officials would be illegally assumed by legislators acting” — and thus would be “rather unlikely.” But he added, “in 2020, anything is a possibility.”

During a press briefing on Thursday, Biden responded to Trump’s planned meeting with Michigan GOP officials.  

“There’s questions whether it’s even legal. It’s going to be interesting to see who shows up and is called to meet with the leadership,” Biden said. “We’ve won Michigan. It’s going to be certified.”

However, U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden), who’s retiring this year and has urged Trump to accept defeat, told the Detroit News he expects Trump to pressure Shirkey and Chatfield to appoint pro-Trump electors and the Board of State Canvassers not to certify results. Mitchell called that “destructive.”

In wild meeting, Wayne Co. board certifies Biden as winner after GOP members initially blocked it

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), a former CIA analyst who’s considered a moderate in Congress, didn’t mince words about the seriousness of Trump’s action and the decision before Shirkey and Chatfield.

“History has come for Speaker Chatfield and Senator Shirkey, who have been summoned to the White House, ahead of Monday’s State Board of Canvassers’ meeting meant to certify Michigan’s results. These two men will soon have to choose between our democracy, and fealty to one man,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Gentlemen, this may be the thing you are remembered for. Please defend our democracy.”

Whitmer asks GOP for COVID-19 plan

At her press conference, Whitmer said she hopes that Republicans will share a substantive plan for action on COVID-19 first thing after their hunting break. Lawmakers plan to be back in session in December.

She also again urged Michiganders to only celebrate Thanksgiving and other holidays with members of their own households to slow the spread of the virus.

“We’re preserving future holiday gatherings together by taking this seriously now. By not gathering with people outside of your household this Thanksgiving, it is an act of kindness and love,” Whitmer said.

On Wednesday, Whitmer and six other governors — Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear — penned a joint op-ed in the Washington Post urging Americans to stay home for Thanksgiving to combat the virus.

Bipartisan governors urge pandemic safety as holidays approach

The governors also did a video together this week.

Michigan, like many states in the midwest, is experiencing a concerning trend of new daily cases reaching into the thousands as the state continues to see its worst COVID-19 spike yet.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun called the rise “exponential.” Between 9% and 16% of tests are now coming back positive.

Michigan now has the fourth-highest number of hospitalizations in the country, behind Texas, Illinois and California, she added. With hospitals currently averaging 79% full across Michigan, hospitals in the state are inching “closer and closer to becoming overwhelmed.”

“At the rates we are seeing in the state, it is very likely that if you’re gathering for Thanksgiving, the virus will also be around the table with you. Bad decisions made at Thanksgiving will mean people will be mourning the deaths of their loved ones by New Years,” Khaldun said.

Khaldun also said that since cases are rising so quickly, contact tracers are becoming overwhelmed and might not be able to reach out fast enough to notify of an exposure. She urged Michiganders to download the MI Covid Alert app to fill in the gaps.

Michigan now ranks 5th nationally in COVID-19 deaths

The DHHS reported Thursday that a total of 285,398 Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 and 8,324 have died from the virus — an additional 7,592 cases and 134 deaths since Wednesday.

The state notes that 61 of Thursday’s additional deaths come from its most recent review of vital records and testing data. This means that those individuals had already died, but are just now being flagged by the state as official COVID-19 deaths. The DHHS conducts this review process three times per week.

DHHS also reports that an additional 25,643 Michiganders have been identified as “probable” cases for COVID-19, as well as 393 probable deaths. The department began tracking probable cases on April 5.

Combining the state’s confirmed positive cases with probable cases brings the total up to 311,041 statewide cases and 8,717 deaths.

The virus has been detected in all of Michigan’s 83 counties. The state’s COVID-19 fatality rate has fallen again slightly to 2.9%.

Johns Hopkins University reports that there are more than 56.7 million confirmed cases worldwide and 1.3 million deaths. The United States makes up a significant portion of those, as more than 11.6 million confirmed cases and 251,892 deaths have been recorded nationally.