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Steve Bannon

Photo by MediaMatters

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

On Veterans Day, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon referred to a 19th century poem to surreptitiously call for Americans to fight and die for a second Trump term.

For years, Bannon has cloaked his extremist positions with obscure and pretentious references. In this case, his co-host Jack Maxey read an excerpt from Lays of Ancient Rome, a poem by 19th century British imperialist Thomas Babington Macaulay. The excerpt read by Maxey on the show describes the inevitability of death and the glory of dying for your country. Bannon connected the quote to the current crisis in the United States election, using the reference as a call to violence to President Donald Trump's supporters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.


From the November 11, 2020, edition of War Room: Pandemic

JACK MAXEY (CO-HOST): OK, we're cold opening here with Horatius at the gate and I'm going to give it to you from memory.
Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods.
...
STEVE BANNON (CO-HOST): It wasn't the impeachment that was really going to cause a constitutional crisis, right? You could see how that was going to kind of play out. But it was this vote in 2020 and particularly as you saw the Democrats go to this mail-in vote -- ladies and gentlemen we're hurtling towards a real constitutional crisis and it's going to start -- this prairie fire is going to burn right up to the first week of December. And you're going to see some very interesting things. We're going to need a couple profiles in courage. We're going to need a couple of Horatius at the gate in the first week of December -- places like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia. It's all coming.

The comments, which did not stream on Facebook or YouTube, came after Bannon was penalized across multiple social media platforms because he called for the beheading of infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray, saying if it were up to him, he would "put the heads on pikes" as a "warning to federal bureaucrats."

Though the platform removed Bannon's video featuring comments about Fauci and Wray, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees in an all-staff meeting on November 12 that Bannon "had not violated enough of the company's policies to justify" a permanent suspension from the platform. A few days earlier, Facebook had also removed a network of pages associated with Bannon for pushing false claims about the presidential election. Bannon's Facebook page has been inactive since the beheading remarks.

Other social media platforms took action in response to Bannon's comments. Multiple accounts associated with Bannon and his podcast War Room: Pandemic were removed from Twitter, he was suspended from streaming on YouTube for "at least a week," and his Vimeo and MailChimp accounts were terminated. As of this writing, War Room: Pandemic has resumed streaming on YouTube.

Despite these penalties, Bannon continues to call for violence amid severe political volatility.

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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