Interview: DePerno speaks on the probe Michigan AG is requesting on her potential November opponent

Watch Flashpoint every Sunday at 10 a.m. on Local 4 News and Local 4+

Back here, we’ve got the very unusual circumstance of the incumbent attorney general seeking a special prosecutor to investigate the man who appears to be her November opponent. State republicans will gather in about two weeks, and it seems likely they’ll nominate Attorney Matt DePerno as their AG candidate.

DETROIT – We are now around three months away from an election that refuses to settle into anything resembling a normal midterm.

Nationally, the dial remained turned up to an 11 with the search of former President Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago. Back here, we’ve got the very unusual circumstance of the incumbent attorney general seeking a special prosecutor to investigate the man who appears to be her November opponent.

State Republicans will gather in about two weeks, and it seems likely they’ll nominate Attorney Matt DePerno as their AG candidate. But who knows, because some Republicans are wondering if that’s a good idea now that Dana Nessel has the wheels turning on DePerno -- and the evidence on paper is compelling.

DePerno, a lawyer, has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump. The political newcomer supports Trump’s false claims about his 2020 loss in the swing state to President Joe Biden. DePerno was endorsed by Michigan Republicans at their state convention in April. He will be officially nominated at a second convention later this month, but that was considered a formality.

DePerno is a challenge for Michigan political reporters.

Read more: Michigan AG Nessel requests special prosecutor in 2020 tabulator probe

We’ve all reported time and time again that there is absolutely no proof of widespread voter fraud, and yet that’s his story and he’s sticking to it, especially since it landed him the endorsement of Donald Trump.

DePerno discusses his view on the investigation and the election.

State’s former elections director Chris Thomas also discussed Deperno’s claims and behavior.

Watch the August 14, 2022 episode of Flashpoint in the video player above.


Flashpoint interview with Matthew DePerno.

DePerno is here this morning to talk about the investigation and the election, which both seem to be looming in his windshield.

Scillian

Another extraordinary week in Michigan politics, though at some point if you keep using the word extraordinary, maybe it means that the extraordinary has become ordinary, but nonetheless quite a bit of upheaval again this past week. A lot of it is centering on my first guest, Matt DePerno, the likely Republican candidate for attorney general. Mr. DePerno joins me now. Via zoom. I want us to get to the tabulators situation in the investigation. That seems to be looming in a moment.

But first, let’s start with a rather crazy day on Friday, we had a couple of county conventions for the GOP trying to take place, one in Hillsdale county that was canceled after the Hillsdale chair got rid of 70 of the 100 duly elected county GOP delegates, and then I guess, had two conventions basically taking place in Macomb County, because there seems to be quite a bit of disagreement over who the Macomb County GOP chairs are - one according to the courts, another according to the Michigan Republican Party. I don’t think there’s any doubt that some of the upheavals in the party right now is about your nomination, isn’t it?

DePerno

Oh, I don’t know about that. I think there’s you know, this is the normal process where delegates get elected. Delegates want to be part of this decision in terms of these races that are nominated and then confirmed in August. And they want to have a say so this is the, you know, our representative republic at work. I haven’t heard anything that this has anything to do with me.

Scillian

Well, there are. The Detroit News, for example, ran an editorial this past week that said that given that you’re under investigation now, that Republicans would be wise to pick somebody who would have a cleaner run against Dana Nessel, who the Detroit News believes deserves a really strident opponent, but that it might not be you, given the things that are looming over your head at the moment. I don’t get any sense from what I’ve heard you say that you’re thinking at all about not putting yourself up for that nomination on August 27.

DePerno

No, no, we don’t have any issue and why would we sit here and listen to a liberal commentator from the Detroit News talk about Republican politics in our party? I don’t care what an opinionated commentator says on the Detroit News. What I know is I wonder the nomination in April. That’ll be confirmed in August. And we will move on to the general election and defeat Democrats in November.

Scillian

The Detroit News editorial page is seldom referred to as liberal but I take your point. Let’s move if we could, then to the investigation that is being sought now by your opponent. I just mentioned that this is a pretty extraordinary circumstance where Dana Nessel has asked for a special prosecutor to look into the behavior of her opponent. But I guess I’d turn the tables. If you were the attorney general and you believed that someone had broken the law and it just so happened that that person was someone that you were going to be running against, what would you do? Would you call it off, so that because you wouldn’t want it to appear political?

DePerno

Well, what we know is that Dana Nessel has been conducting this investigation since February. And she knew I was a political opponent back then she continued her investigation, then, despite her conflict of interest, I think when you have a conflict, the wise thing to do would be to appoint a special prosecutor back in February if she was serious about this. But Dana Nessel is not serious about this, and I can tell you why. Back on December 2, 2020 in the Antrim County case that I worked on, where Dana Nessel was my opposing counsel, I notified both her and Jocelyn Benson, about a tabulator in Antrim County that had the security tapes removed and was broken into during the actual election, and then was used in subsequent elections. Dana Nessel never cared about that, which makes me believe she doesn’t really care about this issue. What she’s doing is weaponizing her office, using taxpayer money to attack a political opponent. And that’s what’s most important about this story, which no one is reporting on yet is Dana Nessel use taxpayer money, which is actually an illegal campaign contribution that she is using to benefit her campaign.

Scillian

You said that you said that you believe she’s being political in this. But aren’t you, too, because a centerpiece of your campaign is that you want to become Attorney General, you said so that you can prosecute Dana Nessel and Governor Whitmer. Aren’t you both doing the same thing?

DePerno

No, we’re not doing the same thing. There’s a big difference. Let’s not conflate the issue of being a candidate, like myself and an outsider coming in, who wants to change the system and eliminate corruption of current elected people, Dana Nessel is currently elected. She took an oath of office to honor the Constitution. And she has violated that. She is the most corrupt Attorney General in the country. So there’s a big difference between being a candidate like myself and being an actual corrupt elected official.

Scillian

She’s not the only one, though, who’s taken issue with the fact that you seem to have come into possession or have access to voting tabulators. Now, I know that you don’t believe that, that it’s against the law, your reading of the statute is that it is not necessarily against the law to have one. But you’ve been very coy about how you came into possession of these tabulators. Can you tell me now where you got them?

DePerno

Well, I’ve been very clear about this. I’ve never had possession of any of these tabulators. I’ve been very clear about that. I’ve never talked to any precinct clerks about tabulators. And I’ve never had possession.

Scillian

That can change to Matt, because the Detroit News found a podcast from last year where your phrase was,’ we got access to tabulators.’ Are you just changing the pronoun from we to they?

DePerno

No, well, you know, expert witnesses who worked on the case had access to tabulators. But there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, who cares about that, because the statute reads that you can have authorized access to a tabulator so long as it’s not during the election or after the election up until the point that the vote is certified. But I want to come back to the December 2020 issue, where I notified Dana Nessel of an actual tabulator that was used in the election in November of 2020, that was broken into that had the security seals removed and then was used in subsequent elections and Dana Nessel didn’t care about that. So why does she care about this issue right now? The only reason is she wanted she leaked documents to the Detroit News Sunday night, because she wanted to, she wanted to hurt me, prior to the upcoming conventions.

Scillian

I know, I will expect them to be talking to Dana Nessel again before the election and to talk about the things that she did during that time. But I’m more concerned right now with what you’ve done during that time. If you want to argue and I think most election officials I’ve talked to find that a specious argument, that it’s okay to have a Michigan tabulator. But it’s pretty clear in the statute, that it is illegal to damage a tabulator. And the word is that those tabulators went when they were returned. At least one of them, if not several, had been damaged, not too surprising when someone was going after them with I don’t know, whatever kinds of tools to try and crack them open and see what kind of things can be manipulated with them inside. But you’re an attorney, you are duty bound to report any illegal activity if you knew that one of those had been damaged. Aren’t you on the hook for that?

DePerno

Well, I have no knowledge at all of any tabulator that was ever damaged. I never saw any tabulator that was damaged. I was never in the room with any tabulator that was damaged. And I never heard of any tabulator that was damaged until this Sunday, when Dana Nessel made that allegation. So as far as I’m concerned, I’ve seen no evidence of that.

Scillian

The other thing, though, that’s happened here, though, has been a bit of a change in tone of the way that the story goes. Originally, last year you talked about, you seem to be saying,’ look, it’s so easy to get a hold of one of these tabulators that of course, this is how mayhem could happen in the election.’ Now you’re trying to make it sound like it was a much more open process. Well, if that’s true, these tabulators were apparently according to the allegations, returned to their rightful spots through handoffs going on at carpool parking lots and shopping malls. If it was on the up and up, why doesn’t it look like it was on the up and up?

DePerno

I have no idea. Again, I don’t know, the facts related to that. I wasn’t involved in the collecting a tabulator or returning a tabulator. But what I can tell you is we are a home rule state in Michigan, which means local municipalities have the ability to govern themselves and have full autonomy as to whether or not they want to give access to somebody of a tabulator, they don’t have to go to the Secretary of State Benson or Nessel to get permission. So what we’re really talking about here is much ado about nothing. What we’re talking about is Dana Nessel weaponizing her office against a political opponent and using taxpayer money to do that, because nothing she’s actually described in her petition or special counsel was illegal.

Scillian

Let’s broaden this out to the bigger issue, which is that you take great. You take great issue with the fact that me and so many others have reported that there were no examples of widespread voter fraud. And you believe that that was a fraudulent election in 2020. I’m really curious as to whether or not you have been watching the January 6 hearings?

DePerno

No, I have not spent any time watching the January 6 hearings.

Scillian

Do you not feel party to part of the fuel that fed what happened at the Capitol on January 6?

DePerno

I wasn’t. I wasn’t at the Capitol.

Scillian

But your narrative on what you saw, was clearly what drove a lot of the anger that we watched that day, unfounded, as it may be, to most of us who have covered these elections --

DePerno

Well, no, you can’t. You can’t put that on me. And I think that’s a ridiculous statement, quite frankly, to make.

Look, for you to even come here and say that there’s been no widespread evidence of false fraud is number one, false, but number two, why does it matter? Okay. Why does it have to be widespread? Why can’t there just be fraud? How much fraud is okay with you is the question?

Scillian

But you’re a part of the legal system, you understand how the system works. And at a certain point, when you’ve had all of these election boards, canvassing boards, clerk’s from towns and cities, secretary of state, judges up and down the docket telling you that all of these claims were false. If 10 people tell you, you’re drunk, you got to lie down. Right?

DePerno

I haven’t heard one single judge say what you just said. Even the judge in Antrim County, Judge Elsenheimer was very complimentary of the evidence that we produced. He said he wanted to get to the bottom of it, but he ultimately summarily dismissed the case on a procedural issue. I haven’t seen a judge that said that there was no fraud.

Scillian

Judge Kenny said in Wayne County, which is that what we had here is a whole bunch of people who didn’t understand how the system worked and ascribed false and malevolent motives to what is a normal process.

DePerno

That wasn’t my case. I wasn’t involved in that case. I can only speak to what we found in Antrim County. We put out 22 reports that actually showed evidence of a subversion in the election system.

All you got to do is read our reports. But for you to somehow come here and maliciously to assign some motive to me, that has to do something with January 6, sort of shows the level of bias you have as a reporter.

Scillian

Every reporter in the state who covered the election has been a little insulted by suggestions that we somehow missed the biggest example of voter fraud in American history.

But let me ask you one last question. If you were the attorney general --

DePerno

Well, hold on a second. In Antrim County --

Scillian

Antrim County was a perfect example of the system working they found a problem that the voting software has not been updated.

DePerno

That is now what happened in Antrim County.

Scillian

Software had not been updated, and once it did it flipped. If I was going to try and turn Antrim County. Well if I was going to turn an election in Michigan, I would never use Antrim County where Donald Trump was going to win by a ton.

DePerno

You’re not going to allow me to answer your questions.

Scillian

I keep trying to trying to cover a lot.

DePerno

Antrim County, let me ask you this. Why did you miss the issue of an actual tabulator in Antrim County, that had it seals removed? It was broken into and it was used in the election? Why don’t you report on that? Why has Dana Nessel done nothing about that? But yet you want to stand here and ask me these questions and make the false statement that there was nothing wrong in Antrim County but but you don’t you report on the actual issue of an actual criminal act that occurred during the elections

Scillian

What we reported on was its trip through the courts which led nowhere.

DePerno

Why assign anything about Sidney Powell to me?

Problem in the media. Really your problem as as what I’d call fake news, internet content creators, is to take a case like mine, which was legitimate, which actually produced real evidence and showed a real subversion in the system, but you conflate that case with all these other cases and don’t assign the actual credibility to my case deserves.


Flashpoint interview with Chris Thomas.

State’s former elections director Chris Thomas will also discuss Deperno’s claims and behavior on Flashpoint.

About the Authors:

Devin Scillian is equally at home on your television, on your bookshelf, and on your stereo. Devin anchors the evening newscasts for Local 4. Additionally, he moderates Flashpoint, Local 4's Sunday morning news program. He is also a best-selling author of children's books, and an award-winning musician and songwriter.

Elizabeth Washington is a Digital News Editor and has been with Local 4 News since April 2022.