One of the pro-Donald Trump fake electors charged in Michigan has agreed to cooperate with state prosecutors in exchange for getting his case dismissed.
James Renner, 76, is the first defendant to strike a deal with prosecutors. Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, charged the group of 16 fake electors earlier this year.
This is the most significant development in the case since Nessel filed the charges in July. She was the first prosecutor in the nation to charge anyone in connection with the Trump-backed fake elector scheme.
As part of the deal, Renner agreed to provide “complete and truthful testimony whenever called upon” by prosecutors, at any hearings or trials related to the 2020 fake electors, according to court filings. This includes describing what happened in the room where he and others signed the sham certificate in December 2020.
Like all of the other defendants, Renner originally faced eight felony charges, including forgery and conspiracy to publish a false statement. If he provides misleading or false testimony at any future cases, prosecutors could refile the felony charges.
The fake GOP electors tried to subvert the Electoral College process in 2020 by signing illegitimate certificates falsely proclaiming that Trump won the presidential election in Michigan. This was part of the Trump campaign’s multi-state effort to overturn the election that he lost.
The remaining 15 defendants include current and former state GOP officials, a Republican National Committee member, a mayor from central Michigan and a Grand Blanc school board member. They have all pleaded not guilty.
Court filings indicate that Renner signed his deal with prosecutors on October 10. It only became public Thursday when Renner appeared at a brief hearing in Ingham County District Court.
“We are excited for this result,” Renner’s attorney Clint Westbrook said at the hearing.
Westbrook later told CNN in a statement that, “after conversations with the Attorney General’s office, all charges against our innocent client, Jim Renner, were dismissed.” A spokesperson for Nessel told CNN in a statement that, “we dismissed the case against James Renner under a cooperation agreement.”
Interview with investigators
According to documents obtained by CNN, Renner met with state investigators in September for a proffer interview, which is often a precursor to a plea deal or non-prosecution agreement.
Renner explained how he got involved in the post-election effort and identified eight of the other fake electors by name as attending the signing ceremony in December 2020, which could help prosecutors.
But some of his other comments could support the argument from defense attorneys in the case that their clients met as a legal “contingency” so Trump could continue contesting the election results.
He said the group of fake electors was “led to believe” that they needed to sign the faux Electoral College certificates because Michigan’s GOP-run legislature could still reject Joe Biden’s electors and recognize the pro-Trump slate instead. Some of the GOP officials running the meeting – which was conducted in private – also mentioned “ongoing lawsuits” related to the 2020 election, according to the document obtained by CNN.
Even though Trump lost Michigan in 2020 by more than 154,000 votes, Renner said “it was his belief Donald Trump may have the ability to win the election” when he signed the certificate, according to the document, which described Renner’s interview with state investigators.
This story has been updated with additional developments.