A social media influencer who implored a crowd to “storm the gates” of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has been hired by a Michigan county clerk as the “talent development specialist” working with poll workers in one of the battleground state’s biggest swing regions, according to an email obtained by POLITICO.
The talent-development official, Genevieve Peters, also joined armed members of the Proud Boys for a 2020 rallyat the Michigan Capitol and live-streamed a “Stop the Steal” protest outside the home of Michigan’s secretary of state. She has madenumerous social media posts of herself mingling with Proud Boys including marching alongside its leader, Joe Biggs, according to social media postings by citizen journalists tracking extremists includingChad Loder, whose work to identify Jan. 6 participants has been cited in at least one Department of Justice charging document.
Peters, a Michigan native who has also lived in California, videotaped herself vowing Jan. 6 was “only the beginning.” Peters has not been charged with any crime related to the Capitol riot.
Macomb County Clerk Anthony Forlini, a Republican, told POLITICO Peters was hired in May to help recruit poll workers. She applied for a position that was newly created in response to concerns of city clerks about staffing shortages ahead of the November midterm elections that include races for governor, secretary of state and attorney general, he said.
Forlini said he is aware Peters attended the Jan. 6 protests. What she may have done “in her personal life” predates her work in his office, he said, noting he did not interview her himself. On her LinkedIn page, Peters lists having served for six years as a contract election supervisor in Los Angeles County, including training election inspectors and supervising polling preparations and training over polling staff.
“Genevieve is a part of looking at training procedures since most of her background is teaching and training, so just getting material together that’s more easily understood,” he said. “The clerks are thankful we’re coming up with a better curriculum. We’re helping them recruit and train poll workers,” said Forlini, estimating he is hitting his target of an equal mix of Democrat and Republican poll workers throughout the county.
Forlini also said workers are being trained “off state material” by county election director Mike Grix.
Contacted by POLITICO, Jake Rollow, spokesman for Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said the office is aware of Peters’ appointment and monitoring the situation, including “the potential challenges that may arise from it.”
Peters has not responded to multiple messages left on her work email, beginning on Friday, and phone number, which includes a recording identifying her name and title. Much of Peters’ selfie-style video footage has been removed from her Facebook page, but not before it was archived by individuals participating in a “Sedition Hunters” consortium keeping records on a Jan. 6 evidence web page.
In an Oct. 4 email to city clerks, Peters gave an update on Macomb County’s efforts to enlist poll workers. “We are pleased to report that our outreach efforts for Election Workers have been quite successful. We are acquiring a nice list of many community folks that have stepped up to be hired as election workers for November,” Peters said in the email. Her title is listed as “talent development specialist.”
David Levine, a former elections official who wrote a recent paper on how to vet poll workers said he is “deeply disturbed” by the appointment. “I’m a big believer in repentance and that people take actions they later regret, but absent a compelling circumstance or apology for her previous behavior this is immensely problematic,” said Levine, who is an elections integrity fellow for the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund.
According to a Jan. 6 evidence gallery crowdsourced by citizen journalists, Peters arrived with friends with a portable stage and loudspeakers at the west side of the Capitol, eventually telling the crowd “we have breached the Capitol” and that “there is no better cause” for being arrested than standing up for then-President Donald Trump. Speaking from her platform, Peters likened the moment to “our 1776,” or America’s revolution against British rule. “We have breached the Capitol,” said Peters. “Move forward,” she said.
A day later, local news station WXYZ played a portion of the same footage, describing her as “firing up” the crowd, even as she said she didn’t “condone” a rioter who occupied House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office desk. WXYZ reportedPeters had previously led “Stop the Steal” rallies in Detroit and Lansing.
There had also been photos of Peters on social media in the lobby of the Michigan Capitol with a group of men wearing shirts associated with the extremist Boogaloo movement, according to Raw Story, and with a number of Trump’s highest-profile election conspiracy backers, including his confidant Roger Stone andMarjorie Taylor Greene, the U.S. House member from Georgia who is known for her QAnon conspiracy theories.
That Peters is playing a pivotal role in Macomb’s elections office illustrates how successfully some Trump loyalists and election deniers have found their ways into official party and government roles. Macomb is Michigan’s third-most populated county. Before voting for Trump by wide margins in 2016 and 2020, Macomb had for decades served as a national barometer for the national political landscape. In 2008, Barack Obama won Macomb by the largest margin for any Democrat since 1964.
With newly redrawn state election districts, Macomb features a couple of now-competitive state Senate races that will help determine control of the chamber, said Laura Misumi, grassroots coordinator for Election Defense Coalition, a partnership of Michigan social justice and labor activist groups organizing to protect fair elections administration in the state.
The battle for Michigan’s Legislature is considered among the most important in the nation by nonpartisan elections experts concerned about how state legislatures could try to assert more control in the next presidential election. In 2020, Trump hosted members of the Michigan Legislature in the Oval Office as he sought to stop certification of the states’ electoral votes for Joe Biden.
“We’ve seen a concerted recruitment effort of making sure sympathetic folks are in office,” said Misumi. “It’s coming straight out of a playbook.”
Rollow, the secretary of state spokesman, said the state “will not tolerate any breach” of state voting laws and “will seek full accountability for anyone who abuses their authority or interferes with the integrity of our elections.”
“Elections officials and their staff members have the right to their own personal political views, but the law requires that they administer elections in a nonpartisan manner so all voters can have faith that every valid vote is counted fairly,” said Rollow.
Peters has a long history of political activity on behalf of Trump and other causes.
Weeks before Peters live streamed herself outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, Peters live streamed on Facebook a protest that included armed protesters outside the home of Secretary of State Benson chanting “Stop the Steal.” The protest grabbed national headlines as Benson hunkered down inside with her children who had been hanging Christmas lights as some protesters could be heard screaming “you’re murderers” near their bedrooms.
“We are letting her know that we’re not taking this bullshit election, we are not standing down, we are not giving up. You are not going to take this election from a man that has earned it completely 100 percent by a freaking landslide. Let me tell you: This ain’t over,” said Peters, according to multiple newspapers, though Peters has since removed most of her social media.
In a sign of just how deeply the false belief that the election was stolen has penetrated the mainstream of the Republican Party, the Macomb County GOP shared Peters’ livestream video on its Facebook page, according to the Daily Beast.
In his POLITICO interview, Forlini himself would not acknowledge that Michigan’s 2020 election had been fairly determined statewide.
Asked if he was concerned about Peters’ advocacy around promoting false claims that the last election was fraudulent, Forlini said “none of that has been apparent in anything we’ve done. She has not ever, ever brought up anything like that or talked in that fashion whatsoever.”
He added: “I wouldn’t put up with that certainly for anything relating to that because we try to keep ourselves pretty neutral.” Even so, he said, he doesn’t look into peoples’ personal lives and noted no one has alleged she did anything illegal.
While Forlini is confident the outcome of Macomb’s vote in 2020 was accurate, he said that’s only because he audited his computer servers. More than 250 audits of the election confirmed its “integrity and accuracy,” according to the secretary of state’s office. A monthslong, GOP-led oversight committee investigation concludedthere was no widespread or systemic fraud and urged that state’s attorney general to investigate those making such baseless claims.
Still, Forlini said: “It’s not up to me to believe or not to believe. My job is to make sure elections I run are good,” he said.
Peters first gained national attention in May of 2020 forrecording herself refusing to wear a face mask at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic at a California Trader Joe’s.
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