But the visit comes as Trump has personally intervened to try to upend Michigan’s vote certification process. All 83 counties have certified their vote counts, giving President-elect Joe Biden a 156,000-vote margin of victory, and the state board of canvassing is scheduled to meet Monday to consider certifying the final state tally.
This week, the president called a GOP official who voted to certify the results in Wayne County, home of Detroit. She and her fellow Republican board member subsequently tried to rescind their confirmatory votes, a move the secretary of state’s office said was not permitted.
Trump’s invitation to Shirkey and Chatfield ratcheted up alarm among current and former elected officials in Michigan, who expressed fear that he would pressure them into embracing his unfounded claims of massive voter fraud in Detroit and encourage the state canvassing board not to certify the vote.
One of the two Republicans on the state canvassing board, Norman Shinkle, told The Washington Post on Thursday that he was leaning toward seeking a delay and requesting an audit of the vote, citing debunked conspiracy theories touted by Trump and his attorneys about voting machines.
“Right now, the idea to check into some of these accusations seems to make sense to me,” he said.
John James, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate who lost to incumbent Democrat Gary Peters, also urged the canvassing board Friday not to certify the results, citing voting irregularities that he said warranted investigation.
Trump’s lawyers have said that if the state board deadlocks on certifying the vote, they want the GOP-controlled legislature to appoint its own slate of electors.
Election law experts have said such a move would be legally dubious, as state law grants no role for the legislature in the certification process. Earlier in the week, Shirkey dismissed the prospect of a legislative intervention in the race — saying Biden won and that a Republican effort to overturn Michigan’s election results was “not going to happen.”
Two individuals who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations said there have been numerous attempts in the past 24 hours to reach the two Republican state leaders and ask them not to embrace Trump’s claims. They said they did not have certainty, in the end, about what Chatfield or Shirkey might do.
Both lawmakers are term-limited, with Chatfield on his way out on Dec. 31 and Shirkey serving his final two years. But Chatfield, who is just 32, is considered a potential challenger to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in 2022.
A political operative in Lansing who spoke on the condition anonymity to describe private discussions said he spoke to Chatfield this week and thinks both lawmakers feel an obligation to meet with Trump in part because he is the president and in part because Republicans in Michigan are pushing for them to intervene, despite the lack of evidence.
“They are under immense pressure,” the person said. “They are the two highest-ranked Republicans left in Michigan. The Republican Party along with the grass roots are clamoring for them to just overturn the election. So, to say, ‘We’re not going to the White House’ is a slap in the face to their own party.”
On Friday, Chatfield tweeted: “No matter the party, when you have an opportunity to meet with the President of the United States, of course you take it. I won’t apologize for that. In fact, I’m honored to speak with POTUS and proud to meet with him. And I look forward to our conversation.”
Shirkey was greeted by protesters after he landed at Reagan National Airport on Friday morning, prompting him to begin humming a hymn about persecution, according to a video posted on Twitter.
On Friday, Democratic lawmakers publicly implored their colleagues not to lend their voice to Trump’s efforts to undermine public faith in the election results.
The president “today is trying to cajole, bully and maybe…