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Key Figure in Trump’s 2020 Plot in Michigan Arraigned on Voting Machine Charges

Matthew DePerno helped lead a plot to seize and tamper with voting machines, officials have said.

Matthew DePerno, the Republican candidate for the attorney general of Michigan, greets attendees during a rally in a private aircraft hanger at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on November 7, 2022.

Matthew DePerno, a leader of a plot to help former President Donald Trump overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election in Michigan, was arraigned and charged by Michigan prosecutors on Tuesday.

DePerno, the former Republican candidate in the 2022 race for state attorney general, is facing four felony charges that come after a yearlong probe into the scheme by D.J. Hilson, a special prosecutor in the state. The charges include undue possession of a voting machine and conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to a computer or computer system.

Prosecutors also charged state Rep. Daire Rendon (R) with conspiracy to commit undue possession of a voting machine and false pretenses.

According to a report by the Michigan attorney general’s office last year, DePerno was a key figure in a plot by a group of Trump allies to attempt to overturn the result of the election in the state by finding supposed election fraud.

Members of the group allegedly called election officials to obtain voting machines that they stored in hotels and Airbnb rentals. There, documents find that they scoured the machines for “evidence” of election fraud and then returned the machines weeks later, when officials found that they had been tampered with.

Supposed fraud regarding voting machines was a major unfounded conspiracy theory spread by Trump and his allies surrounding the election; Trump’s team had stoked activists in key swing states like Michigan and Georgia to seize voting machines to search for election inconsistencies that didn’t exist. Voting machines have already been the subject of legal action in relation to the 2020 election, including in Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against Fox News.

DePerno’s lawyer has said in a statement that DePerno “categorically denies any wrongdoing.”

According to a statement by Hilson’s office, the charges against DePerno and Rendon were authorized by an independent citizen’s grand jury, and Hilson’s office did not make a recommendation to the grand jury about whether or not to issue an indictment. Hilson’s office has said that more charges regarding others involved in the plot are yet to come.

Dana Nessel, the current state attorney general who won against DePerno last year, and whose office has not been involved in the investigation since Hilson was appointed to the case last year, said in a statement that the plot was a concerted effort to harm U.S. democracy.

“These allegations are incredibly serious and unprecedented. The 2024 presidential election will soon be upon us. The lies espoused by attorneys involved in this matter, and those who worked in concert with them across the nation, wreaked havoc and sowed distrust within our democratic institutions and processes,” Nessel said. “We hope for swift justice in the courts.”

The charges came just hours before Trump himself was charged by Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith for his sweeping crusade to overturn the 2020 election and install himself as president, as well as his role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Trump was charged with four felony counts: two charges related to obstructing an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and conspiracy to violate civil rights.

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