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Antrim County, Mich., Tied to Election Fraud Claim Strategy

The congressional investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack has revealed that misinformation about Antrim County, Mich., was part of a written plan to propagate Donald Trump's election fraud claims.

Stop the steal sign at Trump rally
Shutterstock/Trevor Bexon
(TNS) — Documents provided to a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol show misinformation about Antrim County's election was part of a coordinated, nationwide strategy aimed at certifying the 2020 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.

A "Strategic Communications Plan" of the "Giuliani Presidential Legal Defense Team," which includes the former president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, references debunked claims about Antrim County's voting equipment as part of an effort to put pressure on Republican senators in six states — including Michigan — between Dec. 27, 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021, the Plan states.

The other states listed are Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, records show.

The 22-page Communications Plan was provided Dec. 31 to members of the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, by an investigator hired by Trump's post-election legal team. The release was in response to a Nov. 5 subpoena, records show.

Bernard Kerik is a former New York City Police commissioner who, his attorney said in a Dec. 31 letter to the committee, was hired by Trump's legal team as an investigator tasked with looking into claims of election fraud.

"To be clear, while it has been reported that some may have pushed a plan for then Vice President Pence to certify alternate slates and declare Donald Trump the winner on January 6, this is not Mr. Kerik's understanding," a letter to the committee from Washington, D.C., attorney Timothy Parlatore states.

"His goal was to provide sufficient evidence through his investigation or prompt a DOJ investigation specifically to ensure that the election results accurately reflected the will of the people," the Parlatore letter states.


That a small rural county of 23,000 in northern Michigan has come to the attention of elected officials investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — and what led to a violent mob that assaulted law enforcement officers, breached security barriers and occupied the building for several hours — comes as no surprise to Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy.

"From day one I said, 'Are we a sample or an example?'" Guy said Tuesday. "We're just one little fish but if they can hook on us, as they have done, they can get more and more people, their people and people on the fence, to buy into it."

Guy, a Republican, said she believes the former president and his allies used Antrim County and an election-related lawsuit filed there by a local man three weeks after the 2020 presidential election as a springboard to try to convince voters the election was fraudulent.

Bill Bailey of Central Lake Township filed suit in 13th Circuit Court against Antrim County on Nov. 23, 2020, accusing the county of violating his constitutional rights and of using Dominion Voting Systems election equipment he said could be pre-programmed for fraud.

Bailey on Wednesday directed a reporter's questions to his attorney, Matthew DePerno.

"This has nothing to do with me, Mr. Bailey, or the Antrim County case," DePerno said in an email Wednesday, of documents provided the Jan. 6 committee by Kerik and shared with DePerno by a Record-Eagle reporter. "I've never seen this document before today."

Kay Stimson, Dominion Voting Systems vice-president of government affairs, also responded with an emailed statement.

"All independent reviews, including hand counts and audits of the paper ballots following the 2020 presidential election, have proven that Dominion voting machines produced accurate results in Michigan and other states," Stimson said Wednesday.

In late 2020, days after Bailey filed suit, 13th Circuit Court Judge Kevin Elsenheimer signed a court order granting Bailey's request to have forensic images taken of Antrim County's election equipment, records show.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel successfully filed a motion to intervene on behalf of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who was then added to Bailey's lawsuit on Dec. 11, 2020, as a named defendant, court records show.

"We're learning about this as the public is and will be reviewing findings," Lynsey Mukomel, AG press secretary, said Tuesday, when asked about the documents recently provided to the Jan. 6 committee by Kerik.

That the Communications Plan document originated with the Giuliani legal team correlates with reports by at least three northern Michigan officials who previously told Guy political operatives had traveled to Antrim County in November 2020, contacted township officials regarding local election data and identified themselves as representing Giuliani's legal team.

"It was intimidation," Guy said, of the visit by staff with Allied Security Operations Group, a Dallas-based tech company, who returned to Antrim County the next week to conduct the court-ordered forensic exam of the county's voting equipment as part of Bailey's lawsuit.

The forensic exam was completed inside the county's government building Dec. 6, 2020, when a contact tracing executive order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was in effect.

A contact tracing sign-in sheet, previously provided to the Record-Eagle in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed a Washington, D.C., lobbyist, Katherine Friess accompanied DePerno and those from ASOG, who conducted the exam.

Friess did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Friess is also listed in a "privilege log," provided Dec. 31 to the Jan. 6 committee by Kerik, which describes additional documents in Kerik's possession he planned to withhold, citing attorney work product privilege held by former President Trump.

"As I have noted multiple times in the past, Mr. Kerik is not the privilege holder, President Trump is," Parlatore states in his letter to the Jan. 6 committee. "Absent a privilege waiver or judicial order, Mr. Kerik is prohibited from disclosing these materials."

Friess is named in Kerik's privilege log as being the author of a Nov. 4, 2020, document about voter fraud whistleblowers and a Nov. 15, 2020, document about volunteers willing to help with the investigation — both of which appear to show she was involved with Trump's post-election legal team prior to Bailey filing his lawsuit on Nov. 23, 2020.


The Antrim County report by ASOG accused Dominion of programming its equipment for fraud, though election experts, at least one of whom was appointed by former President Trump, have since debunked those claims.

Chris Krebs, the former chief of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, called the ASOG report "factually inaccurate" when testifying in before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

And Ryan Macias, former acting director of U.S. Election Assistance Commission Voting Testing and Certification Program, reviewed the ASOG report and issued a rebuttal, stating its authors had a "grave misunderstanding" of the county's Dominion Voting Systems equipment and a "lack of knowledge" of election technology.

Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan, also issued a report, and confirmed initial mistakes in the vote tally in Antrim County's presidential election were the result of human error and not a security breach.

Guy previously acknowledged an error by her office in the 2020 presidential election vote tally initially showed about 2,000 votes cast for then-President Donald Trump had mistakenly been assigned to then-challenger Joe Biden.

Guy corrected her office's vote tally errors prior to the state's certification of the county's November 2020 election results, and records show Trump won Antrim County by a large margin, receiving 9,748 votes to Biden's 5,960 votes, which is reflected in the certified results.

Michigan's Bureau of Elections on Dec. 17, 2020, conducted a hand recount of Antrim County's presidential election, trained local volunteer election workers as counters and opened the building to public viewing.

The livestreamed recount found no fraud, but that did not slow the spread of misinformation, Guy said.

For example, the ASOG report continued to circulate widely online after being shared on social media by Giuliani, by another Trump-allied attorney, Sidney Powell, as well as by former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn — the recipient of a presidential pardon from Trump — and by Donald Trump Jr.

"There was no fraud involved," Guy said. "We're being used and it will continue throughout 2022. It's dangerous."

Guy, who previously said she'd received threatening telephone messages and for a brief time was escorted to and from her office by law enforcement, said she is now more worried about democracy than dangers to her personal safety.


Bailey's lawsuit was dismissed in May by Judge Elsenheimer, who also stayed other pending legal issues.

In June, DePerno appealed that decision, on behalf of Bailey, to the state Court of Appeals.

The Communications Plan provided by Kerik to the Jan. 6 committee does not name Baily but does reference an early complaint from his lawsuit — that a marijuana ordinance, allowing a single retailer in the Village of Central Lake, "changed from a loss to a win," showed proof of fraud.

Bailey, however, is registered to vote in Central Lake Township and only voters registered in the Village of Central Lake received a ballot containing the marijuana ordinance.

This issue was not raised in court by Bailey, Antrim County attorneys or the Michigan Attorney General's office, until it was reported in 2020 by the Record-Eagle.

Appellate briefs have been filed and oral arguments requested; it is unclear when the Court of Appeals will hear the case and rule.

In the meantime, DePerno in July announced his candidacy on the Republican primary for Michigan Attorney General and in September was endorsed by Trump.

And Kelly Young, a self-described apolitical Antrim County resident and former grocer, in November opened Torch Cannabis Co., a recreational marijuana retailer, in a former butcher shop in the Village of Central Lake.

©2022 The Record-Eagle, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.