BELLAIRE — A judge ruled communications — if they exist — between the plaintiff in an ongoing election-related lawsuit, and former President Donald Trump, his family, his campaign staff and attorney Rudy Giuliani, was not relevant to the case and struck down the request during a motion hearing.
“Allowing this case to proceed down that track would open up the possibility of the plaintiff seeking similar information from the defense, and turn this case — potentially anyway — into more of a political football than it already is,” said 13th Circuit Court Chief Judge Kevin Elsenheimer.
Assistant Attorney General Eric Grill said Monday he was seeking potential communications between the plaintiff and the Trump campaign, in order to determine whether outsiders were behind the case in Antrim County.
On November 23, Bill Bailey of Central Lake Township filed a lawsuit accusing the county of election fraud.
Grill represents Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who was later added to the suit, by her request, as a named defendant.
On Nov. 27, political operatives working on behalf of Bailey visited Antrim County, identified themselves to officials as representing Giuliani’s legal team, and accessed official election data in at least one township, as previously reported.
The visit occurred a week before Elsenheimer issued a court order, granting Bailey’s request for a forensic examination of the county’s Dominion Voting Systems election equipment, which occurred Dec. 6.
Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy, who acknowledged errors by her office accounted for about 2,000 votes cast for Trump to be mistakenly assigned to then-Democratic challenger Joe Biden, said some of the same people who visited Nov. 27, returned Dec. 6 as part of a forensic examination team.
“The interest I have,” Grill explained to the judge Monday, “is knowing to what extent the Trump campaign, or members of the Trump campaign, or attorneys, have involvement in this case. And whether or not coordination was driving this case, and keeping it going, long after a point that it really should have stopped.”
Judge Elsenheimer did not ask Bailey’s attorney, Matthew DePerno, whether or not such communications existed.
DePerno did say that if Grill’s request was granted, the court should expect further discovery requests from the plaintiff along the same lines.
“We’ll do as the court instructs,” DePerno said. “In a way, if you grant this request, there’s a whole lot of other information we’re going to ask about.”
“Because it will widen the scope of discovery, at Mr. Grill’s request, if he thinks we’re going to now start talking about the Trump campaign, Rudy Giuliani, and those types of issues,” DePerno said. “I’ll leave to your discretion, your honor.”
The hour-and-a-half-long hearing on a number of discovery issues marked the latest court action in a case that has made national headlines, after Giuliani testified in December in front of Michigan’s Republican-lead Senate oversight committee.
The committee held hearings on the issue, and took testimony from witnesses, including Giuliani, and found the mistake in the vote tally was due to “human error,” not fraud.
“The simple answer given by the clerk of Antrim County still stands,” said Michigan Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township, chair of the committee, in a Dec. 22 statement.
“These errors were quickly discovered and rectified by the protective systems our state has built in to verify and protect election integrity and were further verified when a hand count was completed,” McBroom said.
Costs incurred by the case continue to rise.
On Thursday the Antrim County Commission voted unanimously to take $53,000 from the general fund to pay legal bills incurred in the case; the county has previously paid attorney Haider Kazim $35,000, board minutes show.
On the homepage of DePerno Law Office, PLLC, there are tabs to two crowdfunding sites — one for Bailey’s legal fund and one for a “Stop Election Fraud” fund, as well as a Paypal tab where site visitors can make a direct donation.
Bailey’s legal fund has raised $21,530 on Fundly, and the Stop Election Fraud fund has raised $100,256 on Plumfund.
DePerno did not respond to a request seeking comment.