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Another ‘perfect’ phone call, this time in Michigan


Just to remind ourselves of the existential stakes at play in 2024, let’s ring out the old year by wringing one more authoritarian mess from the MAGA playbook.
By now you’ve perhaps heard about the phone recording unearthed by the Detroit News, featuring the 2020 election loser on the horn with two Michigan election officials, pleading with them not to sign the certification of Joe Biden’s decisive statewide win in that crucial Rustbelt state. This revelation, which jibes with Donald Trump’s actions in Georgia and other states, bolsters the federal criminal charges that he sought to overturn the 2020 election results in a multi-pronged assault on the democratic process.
In the words of Ty Cobb, one of his many former lawyers, the Michigan phone call “shows the depths to which Trump personally participated in fraudulently pimping the Big Lie,” and confirms “the core conspiracies charged by the special prosecutor.”
Trump was stomped in Michigan by a margin of 154,000 votes, but somehow he got it into his meathead that massive fraud was the cause – bad things musta happened in Detroit where Black people vote, or whatever – and even though there was no such evidence, he wanted those two election officials to screw up certification in the state’s most pivotal county. And his bogus plea was echoed on the phone call by one of his toadies, Republican national chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.
The two election officials on the receiving end of the call were Republicans. They’d already voted to approve certification, but hadn’t yet joined the rest of their colleagues to sign the official documents. On the recording, Trump told them that it would look “terrible” if they signed; in his words, “How can anybody sign something when you have more votes than people?” (That was a lie.) And if they signed, the public would “never know what happened in Detroit…Everybody knows Detroit is crooked as hell.” (Nothing happened in Detroit.)
He also gave them marching orders – “We’ve got to fight for our country. We can’t let these people take our country away from us” – and McDaniel echoed Der Leader: “If you can go home tonight, do not sign it…We will get you attorneys.” Trump echoed that offer (um, bribe): “We’ll take care of that.”
So it went on the evening of Nov. 17, 2020. It could’ve been a lot worse – at least Trump didn’t say, “Find me 154,001 votes”” – and in the end the county and state certified Biden’s win. But the recorded phone comments add fuel to Jack Smith’s federal indictment, which mentions Trump’s post-election Michigan meddlings. The Detroit News (put your hands together for local journalism!) obtained the recordings, four in all, from someone who didn’t want to be identified “for fear of retribution by the former president or his supporters.” Oh you betcha.
Even Fox News has caught a whiff of Trump’s Michigan stink. Republican strategist Karl Rove didn’t mince words: “I think the former president has a problem with this…I think this is what we would call election interference. The former president should not have been doing this. These people are supposedly independent election officials…If this recording is true, he is creating another problem for himself,” as a criminal defendant.
So is this mutt going to be tried and convicted or what?
Here’s a New Year’s resolution: Don’t give up hope.
The marquee coup trial in Washington, D.C., scheduled to start March 4, will likely be pushed back because a federal appeals court (and perhaps the Supreme Court) first needs to rule on Trump’s preposterous claim that anything he did while still in office blessed him with total immunity from prosecution.
Mindful of the trial calendar, the appeals court will move quickly in January. Trump will lose his immunity bid (there’s no legal precedent for total immunity), and after Trump’s desperate attempts to delay justice are fully exhausted, there’s every reason to believe that the federal trial in D.C. will happen prior to the November election. Indeed, the Biden re-election campaign, in a new message, has succinctly framed the stakes for 2024:
“The choice for voters next year will not simply be between competing philosophies of governing. The choice for the American people in November 2024 will be about protecting American democracy and the very individual freedoms we enjoy as Americans.”
It’s binary: Democracy or fascism. Choose the latter and what happened in Michigan will look benign.

Copyright 2023 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.