Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Nessel Removes Herself From Probe Into Election Lies Because “Potential Target” Might Run Against Her

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Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

Nessel tells WDET she is putting up an isolation wall between herself and the investigation.

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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says she will not be directly involved in her office’s investigation into people who have spread lies about the 2020 election for personal gain. 

The attorney general’s office agreed earlier this month to launch a probe into individuals who have spread false claims about the election in order to raise money or gain publicity for themselves. Nessel tells WDET’s Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today that a “potential target” of that investigation may be running against her for attorney general next year.

You can’t create a conflict to get out of an investigation.” —Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

I have built an isolation wall, and I’ve removed myself personally from that investigation,” Nessel told Henderson on Thursday morning. ”Why? Because one of the individuals who was mentioned and who is a potential target, all of a sudden, after we took the investigation, announced he was running against me. Which is, of course, creating what he perceives to be, I think, a conflict of interest to try to get us to stop an investigation.”

Nessel did not mention the potential target in question by name. Attorney Matthew DePerno, who was identified specifically by state Senate Republicans of spreading false information about the 2020 election, announced this month that he is running for Michigan attorney general.

The part that I find to be interesting about it is if you could just all of a sudden, I don’t know, sue the Department of Attorney General, and then say, ‘Oh, you can’t do an investigation into me now because there’s conflict of interest as I just sued you,’ after you knew an investigation has begun, I think that would be very problematic,” said Nessel. ”You can’t create a conflict to get out of an investigation.”

That was the sense that the Senate Oversight Committee got that these attorneys and other people knew that this information was false … And so essentially, they were scamming people, which is a crime.” —Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

The attorney general notes that the Republican-led state Senate investigation into 2020 election fraud claims found a number of individuals were pushing falsehoods in ways that could be potentially criminal. Nessel says there’s an important line between free speech and illegal scams.

In accepting the request by the Senate Oversight Committee to investigate, the initial thinking was like any other product. If you were to say, ‘Hey, I have this, I have this formula, this drink, and if you ingest it, it’s going to do all kinds of things. It’ll reverse aging, and you’ll lose weight. It prevents COVID.’ I don’t know, a litany of things that you know are factually inaccurate, you know for a fact that that is not true information but you market that product anyway, then you’ve committed a crime, you’re selling that product to people under false pretenses,” said Nessel.

And essentially, that was the sense that the Senate Oversight Committee got that these attorneys and other people knew that this information was false. But they were saying ‘give me money and I will prove that there was election fraud,’ even though they knew that none of the things they were saying were actually truthful or accurate. And so essentially, they were scamming people, which is a crime,” she said.

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Jake Neher, Senior Producer, Detroit Today; Host, MichMash

Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.

Jake.Neher@wdet.org Follow @GJNeher

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