By Peter Eisler and Nathan Layne
(Reuters) – A sheriff in Michigan’s Barry County, already under state investigation for alleged involvement in the illegal tampering of a vote-counting machine, sought warrants in July to seize other machines in an effort to prove former President Donald Trump’s claims about voters fraud in the 2020 election, documents reviewed by Reuters showed.
The proposed warrants sought authorization to seize voters and various election records from the offices of the Barry County and Woodland Township clerks, the documents showed. The two jurisdictions had not previously been identified as targets in the sheriff’s investigation into suspicions that machines in the county were rigged to draw votes from Trump.
The warrants were submitted in July to the office of Barry County District Attorney Julie Nakfoor Pratt, a Republican, who told Reuters she declined to pursue them because she didn’t think the sheriff had enough evidence to support his suspicions that the machines were rigged. .
Reuters obtained copies of the documents as part of a Freedom of Information request filed with the prosecutor’s office.
The requests suggest Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, a Republican, has been trying to expand his investigation into alleged voter fraud even as he faces an investigation by the attorney general’s office.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, has identified Leaf as a target in a statewide investigation into alleged illegal voter tampering in at least three counties.
Nessel last month alleged that Leaf was involved in tampering with a voting machine obtained without authorization in 2021 from Irving Township, another jurisdiction in Barry County. Leaf denied wrongdoing and told Reuters that no one in his office was involved in improper access to the machine. Leaf’s proposed warrants also included voting machines from Irving Township.
Last month, Nessel asked for a special prosecutor to be appointed to look into the charges against Leaf and eight other targets in the state investigation because the list includes Matthew DePerno, the Republican nominee to challenge Nessel for attorney general in his election November.
Leaf did not respond to a request for comment on the proposed warrants.
Pratt, the prosecutor, told Reuters earlier that she declined to approve the warrants because “I saw no evidence of a crime” in the material Leaf provided to support the requests. “I didn’t see probable cause” to seize the voting equipment, Pratt added.
Barry County Clerk Pamela Palmer and Woodland Township Clerk Nancy Stanton could not immediately be reached for comment. Palmer, a Republican, told Reuters earlier that the vote count in Barry County was accurate and confirmed by multiple audits.
Leaf’s investigation has become a clarion call for supporters of Trump’s debunked claims that he was robbed of re-election by widespread voter fraud.
A member of the so-called “constitutional sheriffs” movement, which argues that sheriffs have supreme law enforcement authority in their counties, over and above that of state and federal agencies, and even the president of the United States, Leaf has repeatedly appeared at events in across the country organized by supporters of Trump’s rigged election claims.
Reuters previously reported that Leaf has been helped in his investigation by key Trump allies, but his efforts to gain access to voting machines in the county have been blocked by state and federal judges who said he failed to provide credible evidence to support the claims. that the equipment was rigged.
The state investigation into illegal tampering with election equipment concluded that criminal charges should be brought against Leaf for his alleged role in helping a private investigator gain access to the Irving County voting table that was found to have been moved to the district of Detroit, broken. and reviewed by computer technicians working with key national figures who support Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
(Reporting by Peter Eisler and Nathan Layne; Editing by Jason Szep and Jonathan Oatis)