In rural Michigan, a far-right sheriff has teamed up with a Trump-camp lawyer to chase the former president’s outlandish conspiracy theories about a rigged election.
County Sheriff Dar Leaf is a member of a radical group of “constitutional sheriffs,” and is now himself under investigation.
Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was rigged and therefore stolen from him has been decisively, continuously debunked by local election officials, state and federal courts, and Trump’s own attorney general.
From the local to the national level, all have deemed Trump’s case to be bogus. But in rural Michigan’s Barry County, Sheriff Leaf rejects all this.
Since late 2020, Leaf has been investigating one of Trump’s most fantastical false assertions, looking into the conspiracy that vote-counting machines somehow flipped votes from Trump to Democrat Joe Biden.
The far-right sheriff has been working with key figures in the former president’s failed effort to overturn the election. Leaf has petitioned courts seeking to seize election equipment, assigned investigators to grill local clerks about balloting processes, and made sweeping requests for their records.
The sheriff is barreling ahead despite the conclusions of judges and even despite the county’s Republican prosecutor that he lacked probable cause.
Leaf is roiling conservative Barry County, where Trump won decisively, and testing a legal theory with revolutionary implications for American democracy.
Leaf is a member of the “constitutional sheriffs” movement, a group that asserts sheriffs, who are normally elected in counties, possess supreme law-enforcement power in their jurisdictions. They believe this power exceeds that of state police, federal agencies, and any other official, including the U.S. president.
The most prominent group in the movement is the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. This extreme group takes the extreme position that sheriffs can and should ignore any law they deem unconstitutional.