Those who have followed the scandal-ridden career of Vegas cop-turned-Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald aren’t shocked to find him mired in Donald Trump’s fake electors mess. We would have been shocked if he wasn’t up to his neck in it.
The chairman and former Vegas councilman, a frothing Trump fanboy from the start, used the reflected celebrity of his relationship with the former president to promote himself and consolidate his hold on the state party even as it has foundered at the polls. Joe Biden won Nevada by more than 33,000 votes.
The ballots were counted, but the lies kept coming. In the weeks following the 2020 election, McDonald led the GOP’s “Stop the Steal” voter fraud deception and helped promote specious lawsuits before and even after they were swiftly laughed out of court.
Naturally, McDonald was one of the phony GOP electors in seven swing states, including Nevada, that Trump hoped to use to overturn the results of the election he lost, with the party chair front and center as a Dec. 14 ceremony in front of the State Capitol in Carson City that looked more like a bad political skit than part of a strategy to help derail the democratic process.
Like so many Trump-era hustles, the fraud was hiding in plain sight.
Some Nevada Republicans, including Rep. Mark Amodei, defended the phony electors’ theater as protected political speech, but they were there to set the stage for the big reveal planned for Jan. 6. Multiple calls between Trump officials were made during the planning, with at least one that included attorney Rudolph Giuliani.
Then Vice President Mike Pence went and screwed it all up by following the Constitution.
The multi-state deception has drawn the interest of the Justice Department and the members of the congressional committee investigating the phony electors’ connection to the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol. Today, McDonald finds himself and Nevada Republican Party National Committee member Jim DeGraffenreid among those under subpoena by the committee.
The subpoenas request that they appear before the committee on Feb. 24 for a deposition after producing documents by Feb. 11 relevant to their “role and participation in the purported slate of electors casting votes for Donald Trump.” Other subpoenas were issued to GOP party chairs and officials in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Being dragged before Congress and placed under oath would probably qualify as an ignominious low point for most people, but not McDonald. In fact, it might represent the culmination of his long and notorious career in public self-service as he’s spent decades skating from one scandal and score to the next. Along the way, he’s drawn investigative scrutiny from the FBI, IRS, and even detectives from his own former police department although, as he repeatedly reminds his skeptics, no criminal charges have ever been filed against him.
As a council member while City Hall was run by mob mouthpiece-turned-Mayor Oscar Goodman, McDonald’s willingness to accept $5,000 “fees” to play consultant for organized crime associate and topless bar boss Rick Rizzolo raised eyebrows even in jaded Las Vegas.
He lost his seat on the council in 2003 after becoming embroiled in an FBI public corruption investigation that sent four former Clark County commissioners to prison along with topless bar mogul Michael Galardi, another McDonald benefactor. But, again, McDonald wasn’t charged.
Out of office, he turned the state Republican Party apparatus into his personal political fiefdom. His Chicago ward-boss style combined with fealty toward Trump served him well, even as they’ve brought chaos to the party.
When Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske showed the strength of character to proclaim that no widespread voter fraud had occurred in the 2020 election in Nevada, McDonald was not amused. Cegavske, the only Republican currently holding a statewide office in Nevada, was censured by her own party.
In his long tenure as state party chairman, McDonald has failed to consistently denounce the presence of members of the far-right Proud Boys in the GOP ranks as he worked to replace the Clark County Republican Party board with Trump acolytes.
It can be argued that McDonald’s messy life has prepared him for this moment in the spotlight.
Back in 2012, the year he was first elected state GOP chairman, McDonald sat for a deposition in a lawsuit involving his pal Rizzolo. A Rizzolo goon had viciously assaulted a Kansas tourist over a paltry bar tab, and the topless bar boss had agreed to pay $10 million to resolve the case. But then he didn’t pay up.
But Michael McDonald, like his musical namesake, keeps forgettin’. Under oath, McDonald was asked if he knew where Rizzolo had hidden his fortune. He invoked the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination 10 times.
What are the odds that he’ll do the same before the Jan. 6 committee?