Trump recorded pressuring Wayne County, Michigan, canvassers not to certify 2020 vote

December 25, 2023

Then-President Donald Trump personally pressured two Republican members of the Wayne County [Michigan] Board of Canvassers not to sign the certification of the 2020 presidential election, according to recordings reviewed by The Detroit News and revealed publicly for the first time.

On a November 17, 2020, phone call, which also involved Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Trump told Monica Palmer and William Hartmann—the two GOP Wayne County canvassers—they’d look “terrible” if they signed the documents after they first voted in opposition and then later in the same meeting voted to approve certification of the county’s election results, according to the recordings.

“We’ve got to fight for our country,” said Trump on the recordings, made by a person who was present for the call with Palmer and Hartmann. “We can’t let these people take our country away from us.”

McDaniel, a Michigan native and the leader of the Republican Party nationally, said at another point in the call, “If you can go home tonight, do not sign it. … We will get you attorneys.”

To which Trump added: “We’ll take care of that.”

Palmer and Hartmann left the canvassers meeting without signing the official statement of votes for Wayne County, and the following day, they unsuccessfully attempted to rescind their votes in favor of certification, filing legal affidavits claiming they were pressured.

The moves from Palmer, Hartmann, and Trump—had they been successful—threatened to throw the statewide certification of Michigan’s 2020 election into doubt.

The revelation of the contents of the call with the former president comes as he faces four counts of criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States and its voters of the rightful outcome of the election. Efforts to prevent certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s 154,000-vote victory in Michigan are an integral part of the indictment.

The call involving Trump, McDaniel, Hartmann and Palmer occurred within 30 minutes of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers meeting ending on November 17, 2020, according to records reviewed by the News.

The recordings further demonstrated the direct involvement of Trump, as an incumbent president, with Republican officials in Michigan in a bid to undermine Biden’s win and how some details of his efforts had remained secret as he launched a campaign to win back the White House in 2024.

Neither Palmer nor McDaniel and Trump, through spokespeople, disputed a summary of the call when contacted by the News. Hartmann died in 2021.

The News listened to audio that was captured in four recordings by someone present for the conversation between Trump and the canvassers. That information came to the News through an intermediary who also heard the recordings but who was not present when they were made.

Sources presented the information to the News on the condition that they not be identified publicly for fear of retribution by the former president or his supporters.

The timestamp of the first recording was 9:55 p.m., November 17, 2020. The time was consistent with Verizon phone records obtained by a U.S. House committee that showed Palmer received calls from McDaniel at 9:53 p.m. and 10:04 p.m.

Allegations that the 2020 election was “stolen” remain unproven. In Michigan, a Republican-controlled state Senate committee investigated the claims and found no evidence of widespread fraud.

Palmer acknowledged to the News that she and Hartmann took the call from Trump in a vehicle and that other people entered the vehicle and could have heard the conversation. She said she could not, however, identify who entered the vehicle or might have heard the conversation.

Palmer told the News repeatedly that she didn’t remember what was stated on the phone call with McDaniel and Trump.

Jonathan Kinloch, who was a Democratic member of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers in November 2020, said what happened on the call with Trump was “insane.”

He added, “It’s just shocking that the president of the United States was at the most minute level trying to stop the election process from happening.”

Research contact: @detroitnews