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Michigan Residents React To Trump's 2nd Impeachment Trial

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The defense opened its case today in former President Trump's second impeachment trial. We're going to turn now to Michigan, one state where false claims of voter fraud ran rampant. And we want to hear what voters there think about what's going on. Michigan saw armed right-wing protesters enter its own Capitol building last spring. And joining us now is Michigan radio reporter Beenish Ahmed. Welcome to the program.

BEENISH AHMED, BYLINE: It's good to be with you.

CORNISH: Can we start with people in Detroit? I know that Trump's team spent a lot of time questioning, and they did not raise evidence at all about the veracity of the election results there. So what are you hearing from Detroiters?

AHMED: Yeah. So I talked to a Detroiter named Branden Snyder. He has a civic engagement organization called Detroit Action. He went to the city convention center, where votes were being counted in the days after the election. And if you'll recall, a couple hundred Trump supporters were there, many of them chanting, stop the steal. And Detroit is a majority-Black city, so Snyder puts the blame on former President Trump for trying to silence Black voters.

BRANDEN SNYDER: And for someone to try and take that away, you know, someone who has not been a friend of, you know, Black communities, you know, it's really, really, really frustrating and really, really hurtful.

AHMED: And yeah. So looking at what's happening this week, he says that Trump should face consequences for trying to undermine the election.

CORNISH: When it comes to Trump supporters, I know there's been some news about some of the state's top Republicans. What have you - what can you tell us?

AHMED: Some Trump supporters are following the lead of the state's top Republican, Mike Shirkey. He's the Senate majority leader here in Michigan. And news reports dropped this week of a leaked video. It was of a meeting that Shirkey had with Republican leaders at a diner. One of them recorded the conversation. And in it, Shirkey says he doesn't think that it was Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol building, that it was a hoax and that it was all prearranged. To be clear, that's not what the evidence shows, but Shirkey stood by his comments in a hot mic moment on the Michigan Senate floor on Wednesday.

So I went to a diner this morning where a county GOP had a breakfast. And the Republicans there - a lot of them agreed with Shirkey that the riot at the U.S. Capitol was a hoax. I talked to Wes Nakagiri. He's a Livingston County commissioner. He was wearing a red Michigan for Trump hat. And he said he wouldn't go so far as to call it all a hoax, but he did call the impeachment a farce. Let's take a listen.

WES NAKAGIRI: It's unconstitutional. Even if it were constitutional, what they're charging President Trump with - incitement - is far-fetched.

CORNISH: These are just a few quotes. And I don't know. Is there any polling out there that can give us a sense of what's going on?

AHMED: There is, yes. So the Detroit News published results from a poll this week that it conducted of 600 Michigan residents. Fifty percent of them said that they were for impeaching former President Trump, and 45% said that they were against. So that shows you just how divided the state is when it comes to politics. But one interesting fact out of that poll was that 70% of Michiganders said that they think Trump bears at least some responsibility for what happened at the U.S. Capitol.

CORNISH: Why else do you think Michigan is significant in this moment? What can it tell us about the rest of the country?

AHMED: Yeah. I think a lot of observers point to Michigan as a sort of bellwether state that - what happens here is sort of reflective of the national political scene. And in this case, it seems eerily true. It came up in the impeachment hearings when Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the Democratic House impeachment manager who's leading the charge for impeachment, said that the siege on the Michigan State House last spring, quote, was a "dress rehearsal for the siege" on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

CORNISH: That's Michigan Radio's Beenish Ahmed. Thank you for your time.

AHMED: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF OWEN DUFF'S "LAKE MICHIGAN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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