Michigan’s attorney general called for a special prosecutor to probe allegations her Donald Trump-backed opponent led an effort that gained unauthorized access to voting equipment during a hunt for false claims of election fraud after the former president lost the 2020 election.
Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) issued the request Friday after a monthlong investigation by Michigan State Police into potential breaches of voting machines in several counties. The probe began in February amid reports some Trump supporters had convinced clerks to give them access to the machines used in 2020 in an effort to prove voter fraud that cost Trump the 2020 race. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and the former president’s claims have been disproven time and time again.
The investigation, Nessel’s office said, unexpectedly led to lawyer Matthew DePerno, who officials claim “orchestrated a coordinated plan to gain access to voting tabulators.”
DePerno is the presumptive Republican nominee in the race and has earned the fierce support of Trump.
“When this investigation began there was not a conflict of interest,” the petition, first published Sunday by Politico, reads. ”However, during the course of the investigation, facts were developed that DePerno was one of the prime instigators of the conspiracy.”
Former President Donald Trump endorses Matthew DePerno (R), who is running for the Michigan Republican party's nomination for state attorney general, during a rally on April 2, 2022, near Washington, Michigan. (Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images)
The petition adds investigators found voting tabulators had been taken to hotels and Airbnbs as part of the plan, broken into and tested. The investigation found DePerno was present at a hotel room during one of the “testings.”
Nessel requested the independent probe because her office said it had a conflict of interest as she is currently running for reelection against DePerno.
Reuters, citing court filings and public records, also reported Sunday that DePerno examined a vote tabulator in Richfield Township.
The prosecutor, if named, would determine whether the state should file criminal charges against DePerno and eight other associates who allegedly took part in the scheme. It’s a felony in Michigan to seek or provide unauthorized access to voting equipment, Reuters notes.
Tyson Shepard, DePerno’s campaign manager, discounted the call for an investigation to the The Detroit News, saying Nessel had a “history of targeting and persecuting her political enemies.”
“Dana Nessel knows she is losing this race,” Shepard told the publication. “She is desperate to win this election at all costs and is now targeting DePerno, her political opponent. Her actions are unethical and will further demonstrate to the voters that she is unfit for office.”
Statement from DePerno for Michigan Campaign on Dana Nessel's Political Witch Hunt pic.twitter.com/XGuOZK7Rlt
— Matthew DePerno for Michigan AG (@deperno4mi) August 8, 2022
Others named in the investigation include state Rep. Daire Rendon (R) and the Sheriff of Barry County, Michigan, Dar Leaf.
Trump, still the major endorsement in GOP primaries, has touted DePerno as his unequivocal choice to be Michigan’s top law enforcement official. DePerno was a major figure in the state after Trump lost the 2020 election, leading a lawsuit to challenge the results in Michigan’s Antrim County that ultimately gave Trump false fodder that there were issues with voting machines.
“He’s going to make sure that you are going to have law and order and fair elections,” Trump said earlier this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas. “That’s an important race.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.