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Michigan Republican loses his committee assignments after comments construed as a refusal to condemn violence

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Rep. Gary Eisen could not say no one would get hurt at an event to appoint alternate Electoral College electors in Michigan's Capitol.

Elaine Cromie/Getty Images

Republican leaders in the Michigan Legislature reprimanded one of their GOP colleagues Monday after he made comments that some construed to "open the door to violent behavior" as security concerns have been raised over groups promising to disrupt the Electoral College vote in the state Capitol this afternoon.

Rep. Gary Eisen (R-St. Clair Township) made the comments on a morning radio program after he was interviewed about the imminent Electoral College vote, the Detroit Free Press reported. Michigan's 16 electoral votes will be cast for former Vice President Joe Biden, who was certified as the winner of the state in the 2020 presidential election. President Donald Trump's campaign and other Republicans filed several unsuccessful legal challenges to stop the certification of the election.

Eisen said that he and others would go further by participating in an event at the Capitol to appoint an alternative set of electors for the Electoral College and, when asked, he seemingly did not rule out the possibility of violence at the event. The lawmaker described what he and others were trying to do as a "Hail Mary" for Republicans to overturn the results of the election.

State House and Senate office buildings in Lansing were closed Monday because of "credible threats of violence" reported by law enforcement officials. According to the Detroit Free Press, there have been unconfirmed reports of violent threats made against Michigan delegates to the Electoral College.

Eisen was asked about the security concerns on the radio.

"Can you assure me that this is going to be safe day in Lansing, nobody's going to get hurt?" radio host Paul Miller asked Eisen.

"No," he responded. "I don't know because what we're doing today is uncharted. It hasn't been done."

Following these comments, Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) announced that Eisen would be stripped of his committee assignments in a statement denouncing threats made against the Electoral College proceedings and accusing Eisen of opening the door to violence with his remarks.

"We have been consistent in our position on issues of violence and intimidation in politics — it is never appropriate and never acceptable. That is true of threats or suggestions of violence against Gov. (Gretchen) Whitmer, Secretary (of State Jocelyn) Benson, Rep. (Cynthia) Johnson and others on the Oversight committee, Republicans, Democrats, and members of the Electoral College. That applies to threats made toward public officials, and it must also apply when the public officials open the door to violent behavior and refuse to condemn it. We must do better," Chatfield said.

"We as elected officials must be clear that violence has no place in our democratic process. We must be held to a higher standard. Because of that, Rep. Eisen has been removed from his committee assignments for the rest of the term."

Eisen responded Monday afternoon, releasing a statement that clarified he supports sending an alternate slate of delegates to the Electoral College but does not condone violence. He announced that he will not attend the event at the Capitol this afternoon.

"I regret the confusion over my comments this morning, and I want to assure everyone that those of us who are supporting an alternative slate of electors intend to do so peacefully and legally. I wanted to attend today's event to help prevent violence, not promote it. I no longer plan to go to the Capitol with that group today," Eisen said.

White House aide Stephen Miller on Monday went on Fox News and promised that "an alternative" slate of electors would be appointed by Republicans in contested battleground states where the Trump campaign argues Biden won by fraud or by an illegitimate electoral process. There is no legal precedent for recognition of an "alternate" slate of electors from any state and Congress is extremely unlikely to recognize any electors but the official ones appointed by the several states.

Earlier this month, Michigan Republicans also stripped Democratic Rep. Cynthia Johnson of her committee assignments after she issued a video warning to "Trumpers" and urged "soldiers" to "make them pay." Johnson later claimed her comments were referencing "soldiers" for "Christ" against "racism" and "misogyny" and that her video was made in response to racist threats she's received. In the video she said she wants her supporters to "hit 'em in their pocketbooks," which according to Johnson meant make those threatening her pay financially by reporting them to the authorities.

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