Special counsel has interviewed senior state official in Michigan in Trump probe, report says

Michigan was one of the crucial battleground states targeted by the former president and his allies

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Thursday 13 July 2023 02:12 BST
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Justice Department investigators have interviewed Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson as part of their investigation into Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Ms Benson’s meeting with prosecutors working for special counsel Jack Smith took place last month and lasted for “several hours”, a source told CNN.

Michigan was one of the crucial battleground states targeted by the former president and his allies as he tried to overturn Joe Biden’s victory, which is now the subject of a DoJ probe.

President Joe Biden presents Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson a Presidential Citizens Medal during a ceremony to mark the two-year anniversary of the January 6 attack on the Capitol
President Joe Biden presents Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson a Presidential Citizens Medal during a ceremony to mark the two-year anniversary of the January 6 attack on the Capitol (Getty Images)

Her interview with Mr Smith’s team took place after her office was subpoenaed and provided a tranche of documents to the special prosecutor that included communications between the state’s election officials and Mr Trump’s former lawyers and members of his campaign.

In one email a Michigan election official reported receiving a voicemail from a person claiming to be a lawyer working for Rudy Giuliani, who was then Mr Trump’s personal attorney.

“While the City Clerk of Rochester Hills, Michigan, I received voicemails in December 2020 specifically requesting access to the election equipment,” the email read, reported CNN.

The official also included an audio file of a call that came in from a “lawyer with Rudy Giuliani’s team,” according to the news network.

In early 2022, Ms Benson spoke to The Independent about attacks on women by Mr Trump and some of his supporters. She experienced this herself when angry protesters gathered outside her home after the then-newly defeated president filed a lawsuite against her over his bogus claims of election fraud.

She told The Independent’s Eric Garcia: “I think the attacks on women, not just coming from the former president but many of his most ardent supporters and others, are particularly pernicious and particularly personal and all the more offensive.

“I think my most important concern is that they not serve as a deterrent for women to serve in times like these because we need all voices at the table now more than ever.”

She also said Mr Trump should be held accountable for his efforts to overturn the result of the 2020 election. “In that sense, we have to recognise two things are happening now.

“One, the tactics and effort to potentially overturn or thwart an election result that Trump or others may disagree with in the future, those efforts are becoming incredibly sophisticated and perhaps more strategic. Because of that, in part we have to ensure there is accountability and justice and consequences for those who tried but failed to block the will of the people in 2020.”

Ms Benson spoke about the failure of the John R Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to advance, and the pressure it put on states to protect democracy.

“The fact that one component of the federal government, the US Senate, is clearly abdicating that role, that constitutional role in this critical moment is disappointing to all those who believe in democracy,” Ms Benson told The Independent.

“That said, given where we are in this moment, the action or failure to act in the US Senate also underscores the reality that the path to protecting and defending democracy will run through the states as opposed to the federal government.”

In January, to mark the second anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, Ms Benson was among 12 people to receive the Presidential Citizens Medal from Joe Biden.

The president said that the medals how “courage and selflessness” around the events of the riot at the US Capitol, which were intended to prevent the certification of Mr Biden’s election victory.

“This extraordinary recognition gives me hope that we will emerge out of this time with a democracy that is stronger, healthier, and more robust than ever before. That is what I fight for, have hope for, and what I have confidence that all of us working together can achieve,” Ms Benson said in a statement at the time.

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