Black Michigan lawmaker posts voicemails of lynching threats in wake of election hearing

Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press
·5 min read

DETROIT – One caller told Michigan state Rep. Cynthia A. Johnson, D-Detroit, that she should be "swinging from a … rope."

That echoed another call received by Johnson, who is Black, that predicted the lawmaker would be lynched, according to multiple voicemails Johnson posted on her Facebook page.

The calls are some of many threats received by Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Michigan, as President Donald Trump and his allies continue to rely on conspiracy theories – not credible evidence – to argue widespread fraud led to a stolen election.

Supporters want lawmakers to step in and award Michigan's electoral votes to Trump, although President-elect Joe Biden earned 154,000 more votes than the president. Legislative leaders have already said they have no role in intervening in the election, but that didn't stop Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis from asking lawmakers to take some action when they appeared at a House Oversight Committee meeting last week.

Johnson is the Democratic minority vice chairwoman of the committee. During the hearing, Giuliani spent hours interviewing his own witnesses, who provided largely uncontested inaccuracies and misinformation about the election.

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Cynthia Johnson
Cynthia Johnson

Johnson asked only a handful of questions during the hearing – Committee Chairman Matt Hall, R-Emmett Township, limited lawmakers to one question per witness. One question included asking a witness to spell her name, a request some Trump supporters saw as an attempt to "dox" the witness, or publicly reveal information about someone with malicious intent.

Johnson did not ask the witness, Jessy Jacob, to provide contact information. Jacob had already publicly identified herself in an affidavit filed with a lawsuit where she also alleged electoral misconduct.

Many of the allegations presented during the hearing dealt with Detroit; at one point, Giuliani called Detroit one of the most corrupt cities in the country. When Johnson tried to make a statement refuting testimony offered, Hall determined she was out of order and turned off her microphone. Johnson, the only lawmaker who is Black or representing Detroit on the committee, at times yelled after her microphone was turned off.

The hearing garnered national attention, including Saturday Night Live lampooning the hearing to open this weekend's show. Locally, the vast amount of attention is leading to threats.

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Michigan State Police wait in the lobby of the Anderson House Office Building while Rudy Giuliani testifies on election integrity during a Michigan House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Lansing.
Michigan State Police wait in the lobby of the Anderson House Office Building while Rudy Giuliani testifies on election integrity during a Michigan House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Lansing.

Johnson did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. In other Facebook posts, she's noted she's received many calls since the hearing.

Sunday morning, state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia, tweeted about the threats.

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Michigan lawmakers: The threats must stop

There have also been threats made against Republicans, confirmed state House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.

"Violent threats against anyone are a stain on our society and unacceptable, especially when that person is just trying to do their job and help people. I and my family have received numerous threats, along with members on both sides of the aisle," Chatfield said Sunday in an emailed statement.

"Whenever a threat is made against a representative and we are made aware, we contact our House sergeants and the Michigan State Police so they can look into its credibility, stay alert and prepare for any possible situation.”

Trump asked Chatfield and state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, to attend a White House meeting after the election in November. While many feared the president would try to strongarm the legislative leaders into taking legislative action to undermine the will of Michigan voters, the legislators have repeatedly said they will respect the current process set out in Michigan law.

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The president undermined the lawmakers' statements after the meeting though, saying and tweeting many times after the meeting that fraud would be found in Michigan. Neither his legal team nor anyone else has presented any evidence of widespread elections fraud in the state.

Other elections officials in other states have also received threats. A Georgia elections official, a Republican, recently called on Trump to stop spreading misinformation and to condemn attacks made on elections workers. During a visit to Georgia Saturday, Trump blasted elected leaders in the state for not bending to his will.

The threats and attacks must stop, said Michigan House Minority Leader Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills.

“There is no place in our political process for intimidation or threats of violence against elected officials, our families and loved ones. Following this hard fought election, we must lower temperature and return civility to our political discourse," Greig said in a statement emailed Sunday.

“With the increasing severity of the most recent threats of violence and intimidation, our caucus will be working in concert with law enforcement authorities to address our security throughout the lame duck session.”

Michigan lawmakers are set to meet in session for two more weeks this month. The Capitol has seen its fair share of protests this year, including several rallies where some people brought guns inside the statehouse.

The threats come two months after state and federal law enforcement revealed an alleged plot to kidnap and kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

On Dec. 14, Democratic delegates to the Electoral College will cast Michigan's 16 votes for Biden. He will assume the presidency in January.

Follow reporter Dave Boucher on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan lawmakers face threats after election, Rudy Giuliani hearing