Star Trump witness gives some wild testimony
One of the Trump campaign's star witnesses alleging election fraud has suddenly shot to fame after her testimony at a hearing in Michigan yesterday.
US President Donald Trump's legal team, led by Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, appeared before the state's House Oversight Committee to delve into their claims that widespread voter fraud tainted last month's election.
The hearing lasted four hours and included testimony from several people who claimed to have witnessed misconduct on election night. One of them was Melissa Carone.
Ms Carone said she was contracted by Dominion, the company behind the electronic voting systems used by some American counties, to do IT work at the TCF Centre in Detroit.
Vice has confirmed this with a Dominion source, who said Ms Carone was indeed "one of several thousand technicians we hired for a day or two". Her job at the vote counting centre was to "troubleshoot level one problems for staff".
Before we dive in, I should note that this is not the first time we've heard from Ms Carone.
Mr Trump and his lawyers have cited her allegations before as definitive proof of fraud, and her sworn affidavit was among those featured in a lawsuit last month which sought to prevent Wayne County, a heavily Democratic area, from certifying its results.
If you have followed these lawsuits closely, you might recall Mr Giuliani publicising her claim that food trucks had delivered thousands of fraudulent ballots to the TCF Centre.
"Two vans pulled into the garage of the counting room, one on day shift and one on night shift. These vans were apparently bringing in food," Ms Carone said in her affidavit.
"I never saw any food coming out of these vans. Coincidentally, it was announced on the news that Michigan had discovered over 100,000 more ballots, not even two hours after the last van left."
She also alleged that election workers had illegally counted the same ballots multiple times.
I'll go into his judgment in more detail later. First though, let's run through Ms Carone's appearance at yesterday's hearing.
She faced questions from a number of Michigan state politicians, representing both major parties, but one testy exchange with Representative Steven Johnson, a Republican, is getting the most attention.
It concerned discrepancies in Detroit's poll book, in which the number of voters recorded as having cast ballots did not match up with the number of ballots actually counted.
This is not an unusual phenomenon. It has happened repeatedly in previous elections, including Mr Trump's victory in 2016.
The discrepancy is usually just a handful of votes, and can be caused by human error, a jammed tabulator, or someone signing in to vote and then leaving without sticking around to cast their ballot.
That brings us back to Ms Carone. The core of her testimony yesterday was a claim that she witnessed election workers counting the same ballots "nine to 10 times", and that this happened with thousands of ballots.
If true, that would mean Detroit reported tens of thousands more votes for Joe Biden than had actually been cast.
Mr Johnson asked Ms Carone how her testimony could possibly be accurate, as it would have caused a much larger discrepancy between the poll book and the number of votes counted.
Here's the full exchange, featuring Mr Johnson, Ms Carone, House Oversight chairman Matt Hall, and a brief cameo from Mr Giuliani urging his witness to pipe down.
Carone: "The poll book is completely off. Completely off."
Johnson: "Off by 30,000?"
Carone: "I'd say that poll book is off by over 100,000. That poll book - why don't you look at the registered voters on there? How many registered voters are on there? Do you even know the answer to that?"
Johnson: "Well I guess I'm trying to get to the bottom of this here."
Carone: "Zero. Zero. There's zero."
Johnson: "So my question then is, if the-"
Carone: "Guess how many - wait - what about, what about, what about the turnout rate?"
Carone: "120 per cent?"
Hall: "Let's let Representative Johnson ask his question."
Johnson: "So the poll book number. There's two things that could happen here. Either the poll book number - if ballots were counted multiple times, there's two options. Option number one is that the poll book numbers are not going to match the actual-"
Carone: "They don't."
Johnson: "Not by thousands and thousands of votes. That's not what we see right now."
Carone: "You take a look again. Take a look again."
Johnson: "Option number two is that they, essentially, were filling in names of people who didn't vote."
Carone: "Dead people too?"
Johnson: "So is that, I guess is that your suggestion? My question here is, why - we're not seeing the poll book off by 30,000 votes. That's not the case."
Carone: "What'd you guys do, take it and do something crazy to it?"
Johnson: "I'm just saying, the numbers are not off by 30,000 votes, so-"
Carone: "I know what I saw."
Johnson: "Are you saying they're filling in-"
Carone: "I know what I saw, and I signed something saying that, if I'm wrong, I can go to prison. Did you?"
Johnson: "I'm just trying to ask you a legitimate question here."
Hall: "Yeah, let's let Representative Johnson ask his question, and then don't interrupt him, and then if you want to respond to it, that's fine."
Hall: "Did you have more, Representative?"
Johnson: "I guess I just want to keep following back up with the poll books. Are we saying that the poll book is either wildly off, or that they are filling in names?"
Carone: "Wildly off. It's wildly off, and dead people voted, and illegals voted. So that's my answer."
The transcript doesn't quite capture Ms Carone's demeanour, so I'd encourage you to watch the footage below, which has been widely shared online. Several people have compared it to a Saturday Night Live skit.
Here’s Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) telling Giuliani witness Mellisa Carone that her claim about poll books being off by 100,000+ votes doesn’t add up:— Aaron FOX 17 (@AaronParseghian) December 3, 2020
“What did you guys do take it and uh do something crazy to it ,” she questions the conservative lawmaker pic.twitter.com/Kzy8EA44Gp
Ms Carone's assertion that the turnout rate in Detroit was 120 per cent is false. The actual rate was about 51 per cent, with 251,138 of the city's 504,714 registered voters casting ballots.
That has not stopped the President and his lawyers from repeatedly claiming there were "far more voters than people" in Detroit.
Their figures appear to come from an error-riddled affidavit filed by Russell Ramsland, a former Republican congressional candidate.
The document lists 25 Wayne County precincts that supposedly recorded 100 per cent turnout. Small problem though - none of the precincts in question are actually in Wayne County, or even Michigan. They're from an entirely different state, Minnesota.
Bit of a weird one.
Anyway, the rest of Ms Carone's testimony yesterday was conducted in much the same tone. Tempers occasionally flared. At one point Representative Cynthia Johnson, a Democrat, blew up at Mr Hall for deciding not to put the Trump campaign's witnesses under oath.
"You're allowing people to come in here and lie. And I know they're lying," Ms Johnson told the committee chairman.
"I am a mother. I have two children. I have two degrees," Ms Carone shot back.
"I don't know any woman in the world that would write an affidavit under oath just to write it. You can go to prison for this."
It is true that committing perjury in court can earn you a jail sentence in Michigan. As her affidavit was filed in court, Ms Carone was theoretically exposing herself to that possibility, though in practice no judge was actually going to take such draconian action.
As none of yesterday's witnesses were under oath, they cannot be sanctioned if they made false statements to the hearing.
Since we mentioned court there, let's return to the lawsuit that featured Ms Carone's affidavit. Judge Kenny specifically addressed her claims in his ruling on November 13.
"Ms Carone, a Republican, indicated that she 'witnessed nothing but fraudulent actions take place' during her time at the TCF Centre," he wrote.
"Offering generalised statements, Ms Carone described illegal activity that included counter tabulating machines that would get jammed four to five times per hour, as well as alleged cover-up of loss of vast amounts of data. Ms Carone indicated she reported her observations to the FBI.
"Ms Carone's description of the events at the TCF Centre does not square with any of the other affidavits. There are no other reports of lost data, or tabulating machines that jammed repeatedly every hour during the count.
"Neither Republican nor Democratic challengers nor city officials substantiate her version of events. The allegations simply are not credible."
The broader judgment was equally scathing. Judge Kenny dissected half a dozen other affidavits submitted by the plaintiffs, and found none of them convincing. He essentially concluded none of the witnesses knew what they were talking about.
"Plaintiffs rely on numerous affidavits from election challengers who paint a picture of sinister, fraudulent activities occurring both openly in the TCF Centre and under the cloak of darkness," he said.
"Perhaps if plaintiffs' election challenger affiants had attended the October 29 walk-through of the TCF Centre ballot counting location, questions and concerns could have been answered in advance of election day.
"Regrettably, they did not, and therefore plaintiff's affiants did not have a full understanding of the TCF absent ballot tabulation process.
"No formal challenges were filed. However, sinister, fraudulent motives were ascribed to the process and the City of Detroit. Plaintiffs' interpretation of events is incorrect and not credible."
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Yesterday's hearing ended with a closing argument of sorts from Mr Giuliani.
"You are the final arbiter of how honest or not your election is in your state," Mr Giuliani told the panel of Michigan politicians.
"It's your responsibility to stand up to that. All I can tell you is, if we let them get away with this, I don't know what happens after this."
Representative Beau LaFave, a Republican, asked Mr Giuliani to explain what, exactly, he was asking the state legislature to do.
"I ask that you take back your power," Mr Giuliani said.
"Don't let it just get taken from us."
He denied that he wanted the legislature to defy Michigan's certified results and give the state's electoral votes to Mr Trump, though in effect, that does appear to be the Trump campaign's goal.
There is no active lawsuit in Michigan with the potential to overturn Mr Biden's 154,000-vote margin of victory.
Bipartisan canvassing boards in each of the state's 83 counties have certified their final results, as have the Board of State Canvassers and Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Representative Aaron Miller, a Republican, was particularly unimpressed by the arguments he had witnessed from Mr Giuliani.
"I'm happy to thoughtfully listen to evidence and claims, and that was what today was supposed to be about. But Mr Giuliani's final statement waded into the realm of insanity," Mr Miller said, according to The Detroit News.
"He made wild and broad partisan insults for several minutes that had nothing to do with the election, and it was frankly unacceptable, shameful and pathetic, and distracts from any evidence that we might hear.
"I am utterly embarrassed."
Originally published as Star Trump witness' wild testimony