Michigan GOP lawmaker loses committee posts after not ruling out violence during Electoral College vote
- A Republican Michigan state representative, Gary Eisen, was stripped of his committee assignments by GOP leaders after refusing to rule out that violence would occur in the capital of Lansing related to a "Hail Mary" bid to deny Joe Biden a victory in the presidential election.
- House Speaker Lee Chatfield, a Republican, said: "We as elected officials must be clear that violence has no place in our democratic process. We must be held to a higher standard."
- President Donald Trump has refused to concede he lost to Biden.
A Republican state representative in Michigan was stripped of his committee assignments by GOP leaders Monday after refusing to rule out that violence would occur in the capital of Lansing as members of the Electoral College met to confirm the state's choice of Joe Biden as president of the United States.
State Rep. Gary Eisen, who last year tweeted a photo of a semi-automatic handgun and ammunition after Michigan's governor proposed a gas tax, did not threaten to commit violence during the radio interview that led to his disciplining by the Michigan House speaker
But Eisen twice hinted that violence could occur related to a "Hail Mary" effort by him and other GOP lawmakers to block the Electoral College's electors selection of Biden, a Democrat, over President Donald Trump, a Republican.
His interviewer on WPHM-AM said he was "concerned about violence today in Lansing," given Eisen's vague description of what Republicans planned to do.
The interviewer then asked Eisen, "Can you assure me that this is going to be a safe day in Lansing, nobody's going to get hurt?"
The lawmaker paused and then said, "No."
"I don't know, because what we're doing today is uncharted, it hasn't been done, and it's not me doing it, it's the Michigan House, it's the Michigan party ... I'm just here to witness," said Eisen, who represents St. Clair Township.
Eisen later issued a statement saying he regretted "the confusion over my comments," and said he wanted to attend the event he was talking about "to help prevent violence, not promote it."
But House Speaker Lee Chatfield, a Republican, said: "We as elected officials must be clear that violence has no place in our democratic process. We must be held to a higher standard."
"Because of that, Rep. Eisen has been removed from his committee assignments for the rest of the term," Chatfield said in a statement.
Chatfield also refused Monday to appoint an alternate slate of electors for Trump, as the president's allies have suggested.
"I fought hard for President Trump. Nobody wanted him to win more than me," Chatfield said.
"I think he's done an incredible job. But I love our republic, too. I can't fathom risking our norms, traditions and institutions to pass a resolution retroactively changing the electors for Trump, simply because some think there may have been enough widespread fraud to give him the win," the speaker said.
"That's unprecedented for good reason. And that's why there is not enough support in the House to cast a new slate of electors. I fear we'd lose our country forever. This truly would bring mutually assured destruction for every future election in regards to the Electoral College. And I can't stand for that. I won't."
Eisen's controversial remarks came as the Michigan legislative buildings were closed Monday because of security concerns.
And they came two months after six men were arrested on federal criminal charges accusing them of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer before the presidential election. Authorities have said that the FBI heard the men and others talking about attacking the state capitol.
In April, thousands of demonstrators, some of whom were armed, protested at the state capitol over Whitmer's state-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year, when Whitmer proposed a 45-cent tax on gasoline, Eisen tweeted a photo of a handgun, ammunition and a magazine for that ammo, with the message, "The only number with a 4 and 5 in it, that I will support is a 1911A1 .45 ACP Pistol."
"We have been consistent in our position on issues of violence and intimidation in politics — it is never appropriate and never acceptable," Chatfield said in his statement Monday on Eisen.
"That is true of threats or suggestions of violence against Gov. Whitmer, Secretary (of State Jocelyn) Benson, Rep. (Cynthia) Johnson and others on the Oversight Committee, Republicans, Democrats, and members of the Electoral College."
The Electoral College is set today to give Biden 306 votes, 36 more than he needs to win the presidency.
Trump and many of his allies, including GOP members of statehouses and Congress, have refused to admit Biden won the election, and have repeatedly made baseless claims that the president was swindled out of victory by widespread ballot fraud. No lawsuit filed by Trump's campaign or its allies has succeeded in invalidating any ballot on a claim of fraud.
Trump's team now suggests that state houses or the U.S. Congress could void Biden's victory.
Eisen, who had supported a failed Supreme Court challenge filed by Texas to block Michigan and three other states from certifying Biden's popular vote wins in those states, said during his interview that there are legal methods open to the state House to deny Biden a win in Michigan.
He argued that there are legitimate questions about the mishandling of ballots and possible fraud during the election which justified delaying the selection of Biden as officials investigated those issues.
And he said that he and other GOP House members were planned on taking action, possibly on Monday, to thwart Biden's selection.
"This could be a historic event," Eisen said, without elaborating.
"This is an option given to the House and to the legislators, given by the United States Constitution. It's not like we're making it up.
"This is a power given to us by the United States Constitution that if we think there is mishandling [of ballots], some fraud, if this election is not on the up-and-up, we can implement these powers."
Eisen said that he was asked to "escort certain members in and out of the capitol" Monday, but that plan had a "monkey wrench" thrown into it when a "bomb threat" to Lansing was called in from Wisconsin.
"How convenient," Eisen said, casting doubt on the legitimacy of that threat, which he claimed led officials to close the state capitol building. "Whether it was true or not, we don't know."
Eisen said security at the capitol cannot legally bar him from entry when he was on official business.
But, "if they do, we are going to move to another location" to attempt the Hail Mary effort he had said was being planned, Eisen said.
"It'll be all over the news later," he added.
When his interviewer told Eisen that sounded dangerous, the lawmaker replied, "It is dangerous."
"I was warned there was going to be violence, there was going to be protests," Eisen added.
"We were warned there could be outbreaks of violence ... in Lansing, and they're suggesting for everybody to stay home, and that's not how we work in America."
Eisen later Monday issued a statement that said, "I regret the confusion over my comments this morning, and I want to assure everyone that those of us who are supporting an alternative slate of electors intend to do so peacefully and legally."
"I wanted to attend today's event to help prevent violence, not promote it. I no longer plan to go to the Capitol with that group today," said Eisen, according to WILX-10 TV in Michigan.
""My comments were meant to reflect that while our group intends to be peaceful, I did not feel I could speak for other groups," Eisen said.
"Apparently some people are making credible threats of violence today, and I am glad local law enforcement is on the scene preventing any such action and keeping everyone safe. Our group, who will also be at the Capitol today to request to be seated as electors, intends to participate in our democracy peacefully. We are all concerned about safety today and hopeful for a safe, legal and clear process at the Capitol."