The Trump supporter is the only one of the 16 fake Michigan electors who has decided to help the police and had his charges dropped.
According to a recording of his conversation with the state attorney general’s office that The New York Times got, one of the Republicans in Michigan who lied as an elector for Donald J. Trump said he felt very bad about it.
So far, James Renner is the only Trump elector who has made a deal with the office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. In July, all 16 of the state’s fake Trump electors were charged with crimes. All charges against Mr. Renner were dropped by Ms. Nessel’s office in October after he agreed to help.
In December 2020, Mr. Renner, 77, was added to the list of electors after two others dropped out. He told the attorney general’s office that he later understood that he and other electors had done wrong things after reading evidence from the House investigation into the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
“Once I read the information in the J6 transcripts, I couldn’t stress enough how angry I was that the right steps had not been taken,” he said in the interview. “It seemed like someone dragged me into something I shouldn’t have been in.”
Matthew G. Borgula, Mr. Renner’s lawyer, didn’t say anything.
Fake voters have been charged in three states so far: Georgia, Michigan, and Nevada. Other states, like Arizona and New Mexico, are also looking into the matter. In Fulton County, Georgia, which includes Atlanta, prosecutors have charged Mr. Trump, the former president, and many of his closest friends with trying to keep him in power after he lost the 2020 election. They don’t just blame the electors. The special counsel named by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Jack Smith, also has charges against Mr. Trump for meddling in the election.
Ms. Nessel, a Democrat from Michigan, has only charged the electors and said her review is still ongoing. Her agents asked Mr. Renner about a number of other people who were involved, such as Rudolph W. Giuliani, who used to be Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, and Shawn Flynn, a lawyer who worked with the Trump campaign in Michigan. (Mr. Giuliani is one of the people charged in Georgia. He and Mr. Trump have both pleaded not guilty.)
It is not clear if they or Mr. Trump are in danger of being sued in Michigan. The Detroit News recently reported that Mr. Trump was caught on tape in December 2020 telling two members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers not to declare the election results. This is clear proof of his involvement in trying to change the Michigan vote.
Mr. Renner recently worked as a local party activist in Clinton County, which is close to Lansing, the state capital. He used to be a state trooper and is now retired from business. He was a Republican who usually helped Republican elections by handing out signs and flyers. He had never been an elector before. He said that the head of the county Republican Party called him a day or two before the meeting of the voters on December 14, 2020, and asked him to fill in for someone who had to cancel. He agreed to do so.
The Trump electors couldn’t meet in the Capitol building because it was mostly closed because of the pandemic. This was because Michigan had already been confirmed for Joseph R. Biden, Jr., who won the state by more than 150,000 votes. They finally got together in the basement of the state Republican offices.
At a pre-trial hearing earlier this month for some of the electors, Laura Cox, who used to be chairwoman of the state Republican Party, said that she and other local party officials had written language for the electors to sign that made it clear they were only acting if the Trump campaign’s election litigation succeeded. On the day of the meeting, however, Ms. Cox was pushed to the side by Covid, and she said that the Trump team broke her rules by not using that language.
At the same pre-trial meeting, Terri Lynn Land, who used to be the secretary of state for Michigan and was originally named as a Republican elector for 2020, said she couldn’t meet with Mr. Trump on December 14, 2020, because state officials hadn’t certified him yet. Former state party spokesman Tony Zammit, who was at part of the meeting, said that he thought the “vast majority” of the voters were not guilty because they were “going along with what the lawyers were telling them.”
When detectives talked to Mr. Renner, he said, “I knew nothing about the electoral process.” He said that three of the electors led the signing session. They were Meshawn Maddock, who used to be co-chair of the state Republican Party, Kathleen Berden, who works for the Republican National Committee, and Marya Rodriguez, who is the only lawyer among the electors. (All of them have said they’re not guilty.)
During the conversation, Mr. Renner said, “I fully believed that those in charge knew what they were talking about.”
But he said that after he and the other fake Trump electors were sued in civil court this January, he started to look at the House records and the official rules for the electors. He said that what he found scared him.
It wasn’t until then that he said, “Hold on, there is an official state-authorized process for this.” He had said before, “I had never been an elector and I had never talked about it with anyone.” That’s how things were done when I worked in the county. That’s when I started to doubt what had happened.”
Afterward, he said he understood “what happened was not legitimate.”
More than half of the fake Trump electors in Georgia decided to help the police before they even brought charges in that case. As part of Mr. Renner’s deal with Ms. Nessel’s office, all eight charges against him in Michigan were dropped. These included counts of forgery and plot.
Because her investigation is still going on, Michigan’s legal issues from the last presidential election will not be over before the next one starts. The electors’ case has preliminary meetings that will last until February. On February 27, the state’s presidential primary will take place.
He told the police, “I’m very angry; I don’t show it, but I am.” He also said that he felt “betrayed is an understatement.” That’s all I have to say.