John Bolton says Trump will try to “squeeze” Michigan officials during White House visit

John Bolton told CBSN on Friday that the president will attempt to convince Michigan’s two top Republican lawmakers to intervene in the state’s election during a White House visit today. Mr. Trump invited the state leaders as his campaign pushes for Michigan’s board of canvassers not to certify Joe Biden’s victory.

“The president’s going to try and squeeze them,” Bolton said Friday. The former Trump national security adviser said the president’s campaign has no evidence that could overturn the results of the presidential election, and is instead leaning on his supremacy over the Republican Party to intimidate members. 

“The honor and integrity of the Republican Party now rests on the shoulders of these two Michigan legislative leaders,” Bolton said, adding that he hopes the lawmakers, Michigan’s House and Senate majority leaders Lee Chatfield and Mike Shirkey — and Republicans at all levels of power — can resist the president’s blatant political pressure. 

“He’s going to try and squeeze others if he succeeds with these two gentlemen,” Bolton said. 

“The president could be calling Republican legislatures and others to the White House the same way,” he said. “… Republicans at all levels — state, county, election boards, legislatures — whoever they may be, have got to resist this political pressure.” 

If Michigan’s state board of canvassers does not certify Biden’s victory in Michigan, state lawmakers could be asked to select electors, who participate in the Electoral College vote on December 14.

A spokesperson for Shirkey said in a November 13 statement that “Michigan law does not include a provision for the legislature to directly select electors or to award electors to anyone other than the person who received the most votes.” 

Shirkey himself had stronger comments. “That’s not going to happen,” he told Bridge Michigan. “We are going to follow the law and follow the process,” he said. “I do believe there’s reason to go slow and deliberate as we evaluate the allegations that have been raised.”

Chatfield tweeted on the same day that “there are simply too many reports of irregularities” for the state to ignore. “This is about giving peace of mind and upholding what makes America unique. We should all want that.”

He said on Twitter Friday that he won’t apologize for taking the meeting. “No matter the party, when you have an opportunity to meet with the President of the United States, of course you take it,” Chatfield wrote.

“I hope that they will pass this test of character,” said Bolton. “We’re past the point of legal theories and evidence… we’re down to brute political force.”

He called on national Republican leaders, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to relieve state and local officials of the president’s pressure. “Let’s have Republican leaders in Washington stand up and say ‘this is simply unacceptable,'” said Bolton, who served in the Reagan administration and as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush. 

President-elect Biden beat President Trump in Michigan by more than 150,000 votes. The president’s campaign then filed a lawsuit in state court to stop the counting of ballots, citing inadequate access to vote-tallying locations. A judge denied the request, noting that Michigan’s secretary of state had already issued a directive about how to follow state laws, with instructions for providing meaningful access for poll-watchers. 

The loss was one of several setbacks in the president’s legal challenge of the election. Bolton, who was part of the Bush campaign’s legal team during the 2000 recount, called the president’s court battles a “fiction” that distract from the campaign’s real effort to influence Republican lawmakers and voters. 

“Two and half weeks after the election, we have seen that he doesn’t have any valid legal theories that can really overturn the election, he has no evidence,” he said.

Senator Mitt Romney is one of the few prominent Republicans who have publicly denounced President Trump’s refusal to concede. Asked why more Republicans have not joined him, Bolton said that some have, citing Illinois congressman Adam Kinzinger. “This is like the Academy Awards, you don’t want to leave anybody out,” he said, adding, “and I think more will.”

If they do not, Bolton warned, the Republican Party is in danger of losing its base before the all-important runoff elections in Georgia that will determine the balance of power in the Senate. “My point is precisely that we are endangering our chances when we don’t speak the truth to our own voters,” he said. “I think they can handle it.”

“The fact that the liberal mass media are saying ‘Trump’s not telling the truth’ isn’t going to impress many people on the Republican side in Georgia,” Bolton said. “Republican leaders speaking out I think could make a big difference… the time is right now.”

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