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Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

To understand just how fractious and ungainly the Trump coalition truly is, look no further than his administration. You’ll find establishment Republicans (White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry), former Tea Party insurgents (CIA director Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke), Wall Street players (Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn), and for the time being, clash-of-civilization ethno-nationalists (Deputy Assistant to the President Seb Gorka), not a few of whom seem to be working at cross purposes.

For the first few months of Trump’s presidency, this unholy confederacy has largely kept in formation. But in the wake of Trump’s recent Tomahawk strike on a Syrian air field, it has begun to splinter, with the president drawing the ire of some of his most loyal troops: the Pepe brigade known as the “alt-right.” Now that he has all but banished former Breitbart chair Steve Bannon from the West Wing, Trump could soon be facing a full-fledged mutiny. Even his neo-fascist admirers in Europe have begun to question his commitment to the nationalist agenda on which he campaigned. (That a loose collection of white supremacists and far-right extremists, however vile its motives, has shown a more unified opposition to military intervention than the Democratic Party is another post for another day).

Here are nine Trump diehards who appear to have turned on their beloved president and political ally. One might even hazard to call them “cucks.”

1. Richard Spencer

The self-proclaimed founder of the alt-right movement, Spencer is the president of the National Policy Institute, a think tank devoted to “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” As recently as November of 2016, Spencer led a conference of more than 200 attendees in a cheer of “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” while delivering a Nazi salute.

Spencer was quick to condemn the missile strikes on Syria, calling for Bannon’s resignation and likening Trump’s presidency to a third term of George W. Bush. The white nationalist, or identitarian as he prefers to be known, even intimated he’d throw his support behind Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) in 2020.

2. Mike Cernovich

While he denies any formal ties to the alt-right, this purveyor of deranged conspiracy theories and dubious vitamin supplements has been one of Trump’s most vocal and vitriolic supporters on social media. Just last week, he earned the praise of Donald Trump Jr. for “breaking” the Susan Rice story, a fallacious scandal involving Obama’s former national security adviser that has gone precisely nowhere.

Shortly after the airstrikes, the attorney with a “gorilla mindset” took to Twitter to express his disgust:

3. Milo Yiannopoulos

Yiannopoulos has mercifully retreated from the public eye after video surfaced of him saying pedophilia was a rite of passage for gay men, but prior to that he was Breitbart’s most recognizable personality. He has staged all manner of tedious stunts to express his support for Donald Trump, including bathing in pig’s blood, and refers to the 45th president as “daddy.”

Trump’s about-face on Syria appears to have sent the would-be author into a Freudian tailspin:

4. Paul Joseph Watson

Along with fellow Info Wars host Alex Jones, Watson has spent much of the past year and a half crowing about the globalists in our midst, at least when he’s not daring journalists to visit the mean streets of Malmo. (In February, he suggested the small Swedish city had been overrun with violent immigrants.)

Watson’s journey on the Trump train appears to have come to an abrupt end:


5. Ann Coulter

The conservative radio host and political commentator has been a mouthpiece for right-wing reactionaries before 4chan was a glint in the reddit alien’s eye. Her racist screeds are legion—she’s made a lucrative career of trolling—but lowlights of recent vintage include arguments that Mexicans are “culturally deficient” and that soccer’s growing popularity in the States is a product of our moral decay. Earlier this year, she appeared to offer a bizarre half-nod to neo-Nazis on Twitter.

Coulter has been one of Trump’s staunchest defenders—she actually published a book with the title In Trump We Trust—but even she has been rattled by his interventionist turn:


6. Steve King

Last year, the Iowa Congressman argued that white people have “contributed more to civilization” than any other racial “subgroup.” Just last month, he defended Holland’s far-right presidential candidate Geert Wilders, tweeting “Widers understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore civilization with someone else’s babies.” In a related story, he was one of Donald Trump’s most faithful supporters in Congress throughout the 2016 Republican primary and presidential election.

King has grown increasingly disheartened about Steve Bannon’s marginalization in the Trump administration. “A lot of us look at [him] as the voice of conservatism in the White House,” he told Politico.

7. & 8. Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen

Farage is one of the architects of Brexit and a member of Britain’s far-right U.K. Independence Party; Le Pen is the leader of France’s extremist National Front and quite possibly her country’s next president. Both have lavished praise on Trump (Farage adoringly called him a “silverback gorilla” after the second presidential debate). And both have criticized his military action in Syria.

“I think a lot of Trump voters will be scratching their heads hard and asking, ‘Where does this go from here?'” Farage told British radio host Nick Ferrari. “It plays absolutely into the ISIS narrative. I’m really pretty worried about this.”

9. Steve Bannon

It’s premature to include Trump’s chief strategist on this list; Bannon is still a member of the inner circle, and reports indicate that he’s “laying low” so as not to further alienate the president. Yet those same reports seem to suggest that Bannon has grown as disenchanted with Trump as Trump has with Bannon.

According to the Daily Beast, the one-time Breitbart chair calls Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a “cuck” and a “globalist” behind his back. Axios published a separate story Wednesday that revealed Bannon’s allies, if not the man himself, are similarly disdainful of Gary Cohn, who they refer to simply as “Globalist Gary.”

Steve Bannon has called Breitbart a platform for the alt-right and professed his admiration for any number of fascists and white supremacists.

Jacob Sugarman is a managing editor at AlterNet.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

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The Arizona 2020 election "audit" under way

Screenshot from azaudit.org

As ongoing threats by Trump loyalists to subvert elections have dominated the political news, other Republicans in two key states—Florida and Arizona—are taking what could be important steps to provide voters with unprecedented evidence of who won their most close and controversial elections.

In both battleground states, in differing contexts, Republicans are lifting the curtain on the data sets and procedures that accompany key stages of vetting voters, certifying their ballots, and counting votes. Whether 2020’s election-denying partisans will pay attention to the factual baselines is another matter. But the election records and explanations of their use offer a forward-looking road map for confronting the falsehoods that undermine election results, administrators, and technologies.

In Republican-run Florida, the state is finalizing rules to recount votes by incorporating digital images of every paper ballot. The images, together with the paper ballots, create a searchable library to quickly tally votes and identify sloppily marked ballots. Questionable ballots could then be retrieved and examined in public by counting boards to resolve the voter’s intent.

“The technology is so promising that it would provide the hard evidence to individuals who want to find the truth,” said Ion Sancho, former supervisor of elections in Leon County, where Tallahassee is located, who was among those on a January 4 conference call workshop led by the Division of Elections seeking comments on the draft rule and procedures manual revisions.

Under the new recount process, a voter’s paper ballot would be immediately rescanned by an independent second counting system—separate from what each county uses to tally votes. The first digital file produced in that tabulation process, an image of every side of every ballot card, would then be analyzed by software that identifies sloppy ink marks as it counts votes. Several Florida counties pioneered this image-based analysis, a version of which is used by the state of Maryland to double-check its results before certifying its election winners.

“The fact that it has overcome opposition from the supervisors of elections is telling because the number one problem with the [elected county] supervisors is [acquiring and learning to use] new technology; it’s more work to do,” Sancho said. “The new technology doesn’t cost much in this case. Everyone has scanners in their offices already because every voter registration form by law must be scanned and sent to the Division of Elections.”

The appeal of using ballot images, apart from the administrative efficiencies of a searchable library of ballots and votes, is that the images allow non-technical people to “see” voters’ intent, which builds trust in the process and results, said Larry Moore, the founder and former CEO of the Clear Ballot Group, whose federally certified technology would be used in Florida recounts.

But Florida’s likely incorporation of ballot images into its recount procedures, while a step forward for transparency, is unfolding in a fraught context. In 2021, its GOP-majority state legislature passed election laws that are seen as winnowing voters and rolling back voting options. In other words, it may be offering more transparency at the finish line but is also limiting participation upstream.

The new recount rule is expected to be in place by this spring, months before Florida’s 2022 primaries and midterm elections. Among the issues to be worked out are when campaign and political party officials and the public would observe the new process, because the election administrators do not want partisans to intentionally disrupt the rescanning process. These concerns were raised by participants and observers on the teleconference.

The Arizona Template


In Arizona, Maricopa County issued a report on January 5, “Correcting the Record: Maricopa County’s In-Depth Analysis of the Senate Inquiry.” The report is its most substantive refutation of virtually all of the stolen election accusations put forth by Trump loyalists who spent months investigating the state's presidential election.

Beyond the references to the dozens of stolen election accusations put forth by pro-Trump contractors hired by the Arizona Senate’s Republicans, the report offered an unprecedented road map to understanding how elections are run by explaining the procedures and data sets involved at key stages.

The report explained how Maricopa County, the nation’s second biggest election jurisdiction (after Los Angeles County) with 2.6 million registered voters, verified that its voters and ballots were legal. It also explained key cybersecurity features, such as the correct—and incorrect—way to read computer logs that prove that its central vote-counting system was never compromised online, as Trump supporters had claimed in Arizona (and Michigan).

“I’ve never seen a single report putting all of this in one place,” said John Brakey, an Arizona-based election transparency activist, who has sued Maricopa County in the past and routinely files public records requests of election data. “Usually, it takes years to understand all this.”

Taken together, Florida’s expansion of recounts to include using digital ballot images, and Maricopa County’s compilation of the data and procedures to vet voters, ballots, and vote counts, reveal that there is more evidence than ever available to confirm and legitimize election participants and results.

For example, Maricopa County’s investigation found that of the 2,089,563 ballots cast in its 2020 general election, one batch of 50 ballots was counted twice, and that there were “37 instances where a voter may have unlawfully cast multiple ballots”—most likely a spouse’s ballot after the voter had died. Neither lapse affected any election result.

“We found fewer than 100 potentially questionable ballots cast out of 2.1 million,” the report said. “This is the very definition of exceptionally rare.”

When Maricopa County explained how it had accounted for all but 37 out of 2.1 million voters, it noted that the same data sets used to account for virtually every voter were also used by the political parties to get out the vote. Thus, the report’s discussion of these data sets—voter rolls and the list of people who voted—offered a template to debunk voter fraud allegations. This accusation has been a pillar of Trump’s false claims and is a longtime cliché among the far right.

It is significant that this methodology, indeed the full report, was produced under Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a conservative Republican who has repeatedly said that he had voted for Trump, and was fully endorsed by Maricopa County’s Board of Supervisors, which has a GOP majority and held a special hearing on January 5 to review the findings.

In other words, the report is not just a rebuttal for the Arizona Senate Republican conspiracy-laced post-2020 review. It is a road map for anyone who wants to know how modern elections are run and how to debunk disinformation, including conspiracy theories involving alleged hacking in cyberspace.

“There is not a single accurate claim contained in [Arizona Senate cybersecurity subcontractor] CyFIR’s analysis of Maricopa County’s tabulation equipment and EMS [election management system],” the reportsaid, referring to accusations that counts were altered. “This includes the allegation that county staff intentionally deleted election files and logs, which is not true.”

When you add to Maricopa County’s template the introduction of a second independent scan of every paper ballot in future Florida recounts, what emerges are concrete steps for verifying results coming from Republicans who understand how elections work and can be held accountable.

Of course, these evidence trails only matter if voters or political parties want to know the truth, as opposed to following an ex-president whose political revival is based on lying about elections. However, more moderate Republicans seem to be recognizing that Trump’s stolen election rhetoric is likely to erode their base’s turnout in 2022, as Trump keeps saying that their votes don’t matter.

“You’ve got Republican buy-in,” said Florida’s Sancho, speaking of his GOP-ruled state’s embrace of more transparent and detailed recounts. “And Republicans, more than anyone else, should be concerned about whether their votes were counted as cast and as the voter intended.”

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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Michael Carvajal

Photo by Tom Williams via Reuters

The search is on for a new director of the federal Bureau of Prisons after Michael Carvajal announced on January 5 that he’s retiring from his appointed post and will leave when the Department of Justice finds his replacement.

The Biden Administration needs to replace Carvajal with a person who knows prisons inside and out: someone who’s been incarcerated before.

When President Joe Biden announced his first round of cabinet picks just weeks after being elected in 2020, then Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said: “When Joe asked me to be his running mate, he told me about his commitment to making sure we selected a cabinet that looks like America – that reflects the very best of our nation.

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