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How a Michigan couple radicalized the state’s GOP and emboldened insurrectionists

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The Maddocks were behind an attempt to block the ballot count at Detroit’s TCF Center. - DEVI BONES / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Devi Bones / Shutterstock.com
  • The Maddocks were behind an attempt to block the ballot count at Detroit’s TCF Center.

Trying to overturn the election

After the TCF Center event, the Maddocks grew in prominence as they continued to push falsehoods about the election. In one bogus claim in early December, Meshawn Maddock insisted she had obtained a list of dead Michigan voters and posted it on Facebook, along with the home addresses of the allegedly deceased people. She claimed more than 2,000 people "voted in Wayne County by absentee ballot that were CONFIRMED deceased."

"Just imagine if our Secretary of State (Jocelyn) Benson DID HER JOB and checked all 83 counties?!" Maddock wrote.

The post was shared hundreds of times before people on the list began calling her out.

"I'm certainly not dead!" one woman responded.

Another man said, "Two people in my neighborhood are on this list. They're very much alive. Hell, their boys play baseball with my sons."

At a Stop the Steal rally on Dec. 8, Meshawn Maddock declared she won't end the battle to overturn the election "until my president tells me to stop."

"It is fake news that Donald Trump supporters are giving up," Maddock told the crowd. "It is in the Lord's hands, we trust him, but we are going to do our work while we are here. We have seen too much. Have you seen cheating? Have you seen that they're trying to steal this election? We're not going to give up. No matter what happens, we are going to keep fighting."

The following day, Matt Maddock released a letter demanding a "complete forensic assessment" of the state's election results, claiming there were "numerous irregularities" and eyewitness accounts of fraud. The letter, posted on Maddock's Facebook page, inspired outrage.

"Heads need to roll," Wendy Shank responded.

"So when do we start riot's," Michael J. Bayard asked.

On the thread, Matt Maddock posted, "It ain't over."

On Dec. 14, when the state's 16 electoral college delegates voted in support of President-elect Joe Biden, the Maddocks disregarded state law and held their own caucus with an alternate slate of delegates to "certify" the election for Trump. They tried to enter the state Capitol, which was closed because of "credible threats of violence," to deliver their votes for Trump but were stopped by Michigan State Police.

After the video-recorded stunt, in a conspiracy-laden press conference, Meshawn Maddock declared they weren't backing down.

"If the fake news and the leftist Democrats and even the deep state never-Trumper Republicans and the media and big tech, if they think that voters who have been disenfranchised and do not trust our election system right now are just going to go away, if they think we're just going to roll over after what we've witnessed has happened and that we're ever going to trust our elections again, they're wrong," Maddock said.

In the Legislature, Matt Maddock made several attempts to overturn the election. In late December, he and Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, joined a federal lawsuit filed by Trump supporters to challenge the results of the election. The suit asked a judge to allow lawmakers to certify states' election results, a move that would enable the Republican-led Michigan Legislature to reject Biden's victory. But a judge turned down the suit, calling their arguments "flat-out wrong" and "a fundamental and obvious misreading of the Constitution."

As the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., neared, the Maddocks amplified falsehoods about the election and alluded to civil war.

On Twitter, Meshwan Maddock insisted, "@POTUS was robbed of this election" and "Do not back down. Democrats are trying to steal this election and they are not even trying to hide their treachery."

On New Year's Day, Meshawn Maddock tweeted, "Good morning January 1st, 1776," a reference to the Revolutionary War.

In an interview with the anti-lockdown group Stand Up Michigan, Matt Maddock also spoke about civil war.

"As soon as we lose our faith in elections, the next step after that, the same thing that happened after the civil war," Maddock said. "They lost faith in elections because there was inadequate elections going on. The next step was a civil war, so we're treading on really, really thin ice."

Two days days before the insurrection, Meshawn Maddock told the Detroit Free Press, "As a leader for Republicans in Michigan, I'm going to stand shoulder to shoulder with Americans that know voter fraud is real. ... Now is not the time for summer soldiers and sunshine Patriots, now is the time for brave men to do the right thing."

In the meantime, Meshawn Maddock helped organize and promote buses of supporters from suburban Detroit to Washington, D.C., for the rally.

On Jan. 5, a day before the insurrection, Maddock and 10 other Republican lawmakers from Michigan wrote a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, urging him not to certify the election, questioning "the validity of hundreds of thousands of ballots" in battleground states.

Later in the day, Meshawn Maddock, flanked by enormous Trump flags, delivered a speech to thousands of people, saying "over 19 buses" are headed from Michigan to Washington, D.C.

Calling Trump "the greatest president this nation will ever know," she said, "We have the scales lifted off our eyes. Somehow we are able to see what other people can't see. It's our job to show that to them."

"No matter what happens today or tomorrow, I know that God reigns, we trust the Lord, but we never stop fighting."

Her husband, standing next to her, lifted his fist.

On the day of the insurrection, Meshawn Maddock declared on Twitter, "It's Trump's party now."

On the day of the insurrection, just hours before Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, smashed windows, and assaulted police, Meshawn Maddock posted a now-deleted video on Instagram in which a man yells, "We need to march on the Capitol when we are done here and drag these people out of power."

The Maddocks insist they did not participate in the riot and were in a hotel room when the violence broke out.

Instead of quickly condemning the insurrection, Maddock complained about Twitter locking Trump's account on the day after the insurrection.

"Twitter locking the President's account is unbelievable in a year of 'No Way That's Not Possible," she tweeted.

Only after she came under fire from people within her own party did she speak out against the violence.

"I condemn the violence and breaching of the capitol in the strongest possible terms," Maddock tweeted the day after the insurrection. "The rally was supposed to be a peaceful event and people who broke the law should be held accountable. I am horrified by the death of the young woman and pray for the healing of our nation."

But shortly after, on the right-wing social media site Parler, Maddock echoed a quote from Michael Flynn, one of QAnon's most high-profile adherents, that said "Trump will remain president."

"It's all apologies and prepared statements on Twitter, but over on Parler, incoming Michigan GOP chair Meshawn Maddock is still busily spreading conspiratorial nonsense about Trump remaining president," Joshua Pugh, communications director of the Michigan AFL-CIO, tweeted on Jan. 9.

While Republican leaders on the national level are trying to unify the party to win back moderate voters, the GOP in Michigan and other states are becoming more extreme in their embrace of Trumpism. - BRICE TUCKER
  • Brice Tucker
  • While Republican leaders on the national level are trying to unify the party to win back moderate voters, the GOP in Michigan and other states are becoming more extreme in their embrace of Trumpism.

Calls to expel Rep. Maddock

Following the insurrection, Democratic lawmakers have called for disciplinary actions against Matt Maddock, and moderate Republicans have distanced themselves from the couple.

A day after the riot, state Rep. Rachel Hood, D-Grand Rapids, called Matt Maddock "a domestic terrorist" who incited an insurrection.

"He must be censured and have committees stripped," Hood tweeted.

State Rep. Abraham Aiyash, D-Hamtramck, introduced a bill to investigate and expel Maddock from the House, saying it appears he violated his oath to the Constitution.

"I don't think censure goes far enough," Aiyash tells Metro Times. "You can't serve in a representative democracy if you don't believe in it to begin with. Everything he has said has been baseless. It's an assault on our democracy."

Other Democrats support taking action against Maddock.

"It's clear by his actions that Rep. Maddock does not believe in the very oath to uphold the Constitution that he took yesterday," House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski, of Scio Township, said in a statement last month.

Among those calling for Matt Maddock's resignation were the Oakland County Democratic Party and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

"This attack, by our own fellow citizens — many from Michigan — to subvert the will of voters and the legal results of a free and fair election, is not and should not be construed as a partisan issue," Jody LaMacchia, chairwoman of the Oakland County Democratic Party, said in a statement. "But more than just seeing each and every person who was present and committed acts of violence, vandalism and sedition accountable, we must hold elected officials who egg this traitorous behavior on — and the donors who funded it — accountable."

An online petition signed by more than 9,000 people calls for a recall of Matt Maddock.

"No matter which party you belong to or candidate you support these people incited domestic terrorism and have no place to have any position of power in our community," the petition states. "This couple and the President has made a mockery of our most sacred institutions including the peaceful transfer of power."

'Unholy lust' for Trump

Although Trump is no longer president, his influence on the Michigan Republican Party is stronger than ever. Moderate Republicans who try to distance themselves from Trump and the baseless conspiracy theories are being squeezed out of the party.

But the state GOP is making a dangerous gamble. Democrats have seized control of the state's three statewide positions — governor, attorney general, and secretary of state — and Trump lost by 150,000 votes. Without moderate Republicans, the party risks alienating voters who are turned off by Trump.

Some Republicans tried to steer the party away from Trumpism. On the day of the insurrection, Republican activist Dennis Lennox called for Maddock to "withdraw" her nomination.

"If she doesn't, the convention should suspend the rules and elect a candidate from the floor. Period," he tweeted.

Other well-known Republicans, including Northville Township trustee Chris Roosen, former state Sen. Mike Kowall, and GOP strategists Greg McNeilly and Matt Marsden have also spoken out against Maddock as party chairwoman.

Not only is the party deeply divided, it's facing legal troubles. As delegates prepared to vote for the party's leadership earlier this month, outgoing GOP Chairwoman Laura Cox leveled serious allegations against U-M Regent Ron Weiser, who was vying for her seat and was endorsed by Meshawn Maddock. In a letter to the Michigan Bureau of Elections, Cox claimed that Weiser may have violated the Michigan Campaign Finance Act by using party funds to shell out $200,000 to Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot to get him to drop out of the GOP race for secretary of state in 2018. Despite the accusations, Weiser defeated Cox with 66% of the vote, becoming Michigan GOP co-chair along with Maddock.

The Michigan Bureau of Elections is investigating the claims.

Timmer tells Metro Times that the party, controlled by leaders with an "unholy lust for Trump," is headed down a dangerous path.

"They think they have this calling that Trump was sent from God," Timmer says. "They're fucking crazy. There's no other way to put it. There is no touchstone to reality."

In the weeks after the riot, the Maddocks and high-ranking Republicans in Michigan continued to downplay the deadly riot and peddle misinformation about election fraud. At a diner with Hillsdale County Republicans on Feb. 4, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Clarklake Republican, falsely claimed the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was "a hoax" and "staged" by Trump opponents.

"That wasn't Trump's people. That's been a hoax from Day One. That was all prearranged," Shirkey, the state's highest-ranking Republican said, of the riot. "It was arranged by somebody who was funding it."

Shirkey has also cozied up to militiamen. Two weeks after dozens of armed protesters forced their way into the state Capitol last April to protest Governor Whitmer's stay-at-home order, Shirkey spoke at one of their events, sharing a stage with one of the 13 men charged with plotting to kidnap Whitmer.

"Sometimes politicians get it backward," Shirkey told the protesters. "That's when these groups need to stand up and test that assertion of authority by the government. We need you now more than ever."

By embracing domestic extremists and advancing falsehoods about the election, Michigan Republicans have emboldened Trump loyalists and paved the path for the insurrection, according to Timmer and other observers.

"Michigan was the dress rehearsal for Jan. 6," Timmer says.

While Republican leaders on the national level are trying to unify the party to win back moderate voters, the GOP in Michigan and other states are becoming more extreme in their embrace of Trumpism. In Arizona, the state party censured the Republican governor for imposing COVID-19 restrictions. In Oregon, GOP leaders have claimed that the Jan. 6 riot was a "false flag operation designed to discredit President Trump" and passed a resolution condemning 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump.

The Hawaii Republican Party tweeted a defense of QAnon believers and praised the "high quality" work of a Holocaust denier. In Wyoming, the state party censured U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney for voting to impeach Trump.

One thing is clear: Republicans have eroded trust in the democratic system. Nearly a third of Michigan's registered voters still believe Trump won the election or are unsure who did, a Detroit News poll found. About 30% of Republicans nationwide viewed the D.C. rioters as "patriots," a YouGov Direct poll found.

"Crazy or dangerous or seditionists or mean or racist or xenophobic isn't a dealbreaker for these people," Timmer says.

The Maddocks declined to comment for this story.

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