Michigan election chief: Trump suggested I be arrested for treason and executed

Cynthia McFadden, Kevin Monahan and Alexandra Chaidez
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks as she addresses the media with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris during a voting rights listening session at TCF Center in Detroit, Michigan, July 12, 2021.
Rebecca Cook | Reuters

Jocelyn Benson, Michigan's top election official, faced an onslaught of threats after the 2020 presidential election for refusing to overturn results that showed Joe Biden had won the state. In those hectic weeks, she says she also received an especially disturbing piece of information: President Donald Trump suggested in a White House meeting that she should be arrested for treason and executed. 

Benson, a Democrat, revealed the alleged remark for the first time in an interview with NBC News. She said she learned of it from a source familiar with Trump's White House meeting. 

"It was surreal and I felt sad," Benson said, recalling her reaction.

"It certainly amplified the heightened sense of anxiety, stress and uncertainty of that time — which I still feel in many ways — because it showed there was no bottom to how far he (Trump) and his supporters were willing to stoop to overturn or discredit a legitimate election."

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Reached for comment, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said: "I have it on good authority that Secretary Benson knowingly lied throughout her interview with NBC News."

Benson, Michigan's secretary of state, is now locked in an election fight with a Republican candidate who parrots Trump's false claims about the 2020 election. In speeches and on her podcast, Kristina Karamo has said the election was "rigged and stolen" and "Secretary of State Benson should go to jail."

A community college instructor, Karamo has secured the endorsement of the state GOP party and, more pivotally, Trump himself. 

"She is strong on crime, including the massive crime of election fraud," Trump said in his endorsement. 

The secretary of state race in Michigan is among several featuring GOP candidates who have pushed the false claim that the 2020 election was marred by widespread fraud.

This November, voters in 24 states will decide who should run their elections. Candidates who deny the 2020 election results are on the ballot in 14 states, including the key battlegrounds of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Nevada, according to an NBC News review.