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The Lansing Sixteen are Not Growing Old Gracefully

Imagine spending your twilight years in prison.

No, I'm not talking about Donald Trump. I'm not talking about Rudy Giuliani, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, or any of those other miscreants who can reasonably expect to do time sooner or later, assuming they're not singing.

I'm talking, rather, about the sixteen Michigan Republicans who are facing old age and eight felony counts at the same time.

In 2020, they were all GOP operatives, all gleeful participants in the "stop the steal" drivel when Trump lost Michigan. But then they took it too far. They met in the basement of the Republican party headquarters in Lansing, and they apparently conspired to present themselves as official electors. Which is quite against the law. At roughly ten years per felony, they might just spend the rest of their lives behind bars. All for Donald Trump.

The average age of the Lansing Sixteen is 64. None are under 55, two are over 80. They've all been around the block enough times to know a scam when they see one. You'd think. But in 2020, for reasons that will flummox historians for generations, they let a known con man convince them that the presidential election had been stolen.

Whether they really believed him, or still do, is hard to know. But whatever they were thinking or drinking, someone talked them into putting their names on a forgery of an official state document. They listened to lawyers — the likes of Sidney Powell and Lin Wood — who said it was all on the up-and-up. Just sign here. It's for Trump. What could go wrong?

Imagine, if you will, the gut-churning moment when all sixteen realized there was an investigation into what they'd done. Imagine the stress and anxiety they've had to live with for the two years since. And there was nothing they could do except lawyer up and wait for the knock on the door. Or maybe for a pardon from Trump.

They might go to prison, they might not. Either way, they might need a second mortgage to pay for the lawyering. And either way, they might need medication for their recurring nightmares of Dana Nessel.

Nessel is the law here in Michigan. As our attorney general, she's already won a slew of high-profile convictions of Michigan-based loonies, most notably the Wolverine Watchmen who plotted to kidnap and kill the governor, Gretchen Whitmer. She does not mess around.

Nessel would not be bringing this "false electors" case if it weren't completely airtight. She has the receipts. She has the signatures. She has the who, what, when, where, and why. I wouldn't be surprised if she has sealed cooperation agreements from a few of the defendants.

She is, notably, not indicting Trump, at least not yet. Maybe she could, but she's probably better off not. While his culpability is certain, it's difficult to prove. So why go to so much trouble, just to add a few hundred more years to Trump's prison time?

Why not, instead, put the pressure on the stooges, on the party hacks who thought Trump was the great white hope? Let DOJ go after the big fish, Nessel is moving down the food chain to the local dupes, the supposed pillars of their communities. She's showing those nice communities how gullible, dishonest, and shameful those pillars really are.

Yes, I know, the communities themselves are a big part of the problem. But even so, most people do know right from wrong, even if they choose the latter. And when a local bigwig gets prison time, the neighbors think twice about where the lines are drawn.

There are several sorts of numbskullery among the sixteen. The local press has given a microphone to a quite-petrified Michelle Lundgren, 73, who has been openly complaining about being duped:

“We were called on the phone, asked if we’d come and support President Trump and sign something, and we all went to Lansing. … We were just told to show up and sign this paper. If we had any information about it being untoward or illegal, we would not have done it.”

The key words here are "support President Trump" — do we sense a theme here? — and we do have to wonder if she told this story to the investigators two years ago. Regardless, her lawyers should tell her to shut up, since what she says on the air can be used in court. Just ask Trump. Stupidity is not a defense.

But while there is surely a special place in hell for ignoramuses like Lundgren, she is far from the worst of the sixteen.

That honor probably goes to Meshawn Maddock — former co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party — who just loves the smell of Trump-stink.

Meshawn is the queen of election deniers. Think Kari Lake, but smarmier. In 2022, she used her position as co-chair to drive her party of rural wingnuts and religious cranks right off a cliff, right into the worst electoral drubbing in half a century. Arguably, she cost her party both houses of the legislature, most of the executive branch, several seats in Congress, and the respect of reasonable people all over Michigan, many of whom were once dependable Republicans. Clearly, she has a gift.

But that's just what she's done for us lately. Back in 2020, she was in the thick of the stop-the-steal scam, a publicity-hungry provocateur even then. She's known for posting incendiary memes on social media, and last February she publicly taunted Dana Nessel for not yet having indicted her in the fake electors scheme. I'm happy to say, her patience has now been rewarded.

As for the rest of the sixteen, I haven't done a deep dive, but there are definitely some gems among them.

Amy Facchinello, 55, was on the Grand Blanc school board in 2021, when a student discovered, online, her long-time attachment to QAnon conspiracy theories. At the time, this drew actual demonstrations — students, teachers, and parents picketing the school board — demanding that she step down. She didn't, and she's still there. The only thing that can remove her is a felony conviction. As it happens.

Kathy Berden, 70, is currently Michigan's representative to the Republican National Committee, meaning she works under Ronna McDaniel to undermine democracy wherever possible. Has Ronna even noticed how many of the good folks in her party have correctional facilities in their future?

I could go on. The Lansing Sixteen includes a mayor, a few local officeholders, and several successful businessmen. They have shown a fealty to Trump that defies rational thought. But I can't help but wonder if they've connected Trump to their current troubles, or if they're forever in denial. Can they acknowledge, even if only to themselves, that they've been scammed?

There's plenty of schadenfreude to go around here. It's hard for us to sympathize with people who tried to pull off a coup. And if they acted in ignorance, somehow that makes it even worse.

So I don't know what should be done with these sixteen fools. But I'll happily leave it to Dana Nessel to figure it out.

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