Paul Ryan’s principled stand — or political gamesmanship, depending on what you think he wants — against Donald Trump has broken the Republican Party in two: even among the GOP elite, many say that the Speaker of the House’s failure to endorse his party’s nominee will lose Republicans the White House, the Senate, and maybe even the House of Representatives. Others say Ryan is standing up for the conservative movement (and human decency). “Take it slow,” Late Show host Stephen Colbert advised Ryan last night. “You want the first time you endorse Donald Trump to be special.”
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On Monday morning, two of Wisconsin’s presidential electors and a voter sued a group of “fake electors” who sought to deceive Congress in an attempt to help then-President Trump overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
The lawsuit, a first of its kind, was filed in state circuit court in Madison, the state’s capital, and named as defendants 10 Republicans and two others "who conspired with, aided, and abetted them," according to CBS News.
The two, according to the New York Times, are James R. Troupis, a Trump campaign lawyer, and Kenneth Chesebro, an attorney from Massachusetts who authored a memo in 2020 that proposed the fake elector scheme to Troupis.
Law Forward and Georgetown Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) sued the sham electors on behalf of the legitimate electors.
The plaintiffs are asking a Dane County judge to ban the Republicans from serving as electors in the future and order each of them to pay a $2,000 fine and up to $200,000 in damages to the Democratic electors.
“I don’t know that you can put a price on trying to steal democracy,” said Khary Penebaker, one of the plaintiffs and a Wisconsin Democratic National Committee member. “There has to be some kind of penalty. It has to be something. There has to be pure accountability for this. We cannot have this happen again.”
Wisconsin is one of seven states Trump lost in the last election where allies brought fought a slate of fake electors to cast electoral votes for him, anyway, to subvert the 2020 elections.
In the lawsuit, the defendants were accused of helping to “lay the foundation for a nationwide scheme to override the results of the 2020 election” and “the groundwork for the events of January 6, 2021.”
"They did so even though they knew that Biden and Harris had won the election in Wisconsin; even though those results had been recounted and certified; and even though Trump and Pence had exhausted all available legal mechanisms for challenging the outcome," the lawsuit alleged, according to CBS News.
“Although Defendants were unsuccessful in having their fake ballots counted, they caused significant harm simply by trying, and there is every reason to believe that they will try again if given the opportunity,” the lawsuit read, according to the Guardian. “Defendants’ actions also violated a host of state and federal laws. Thus far, however, none of the fraudulent electors has been held accountable. This lawsuit seeks to change that.”
None of the defendants in the lawsuit face criminal charges for their attempt to overturn the last election. Still, of the 84 sham GOP electors in the seven states that Trump lost to face civic penalties, the Wisconsin group is the first to face civic penalties.
In January, Michigan’s Democratic Attorney General, Dana Nessel, announced she had asked federal prosecutors to launch an investigation into 16 Republicans in the state who presented themselves as lawful electors and sought to cast electoral votes for Trump in a state Joe Biden won.
A week later, U.S. Deputy Attorney General, Lisa O. Monaco, told CNN that the Department of Justice was looking into the battleground states’ fake electors who falsely declared Trump victorious, despite Biden winning all states by a narrow margin.
Many of the fake electors have been subpoenaed by the House Select Committee, the congressional panel investigating the Capitol riot. Among the list is Robert F. Spindell Jr., a Republican and member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, who tried to get Trump elected in Wisconsin, a state he lost by over 20,000 votes.
Fox News is rubbing its bigotry and volatility in the faces of would-be and current advertisers, leaving them without a shred of plausible deniability as they consider a business relationship with a network that prioritizes the promotion of white supremacist conspiracy theories.
On Monday, Fox held its upfronts presentation, an industry tradition in which networks bring in advertisers and media buyers and pitch them on buying ads for the next year. It was the first time Fox has held the event in person since 2019. In the intervening years, the network has cemented its control over the Republican Party, helped to bring about and then justify the January 6, 2021, Trumpist attack on the U.S. Capitol, run a remarkably effective campaign to dissuade people from taking COVID-19 vaccines; and demolished its “news side” in favor of more propaganda.
Fox’s crucial event came at a particularly inopportune moment for the network. On Saturday, a white supremacist gunman killed 10 people at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo. The manifesto he allegedly posted online invokes the “great replacement” theory as his motivation, which posits that shadowy forces are masterminding nonwhite immigration in order to “replace” the white population. This blood-soaked conspiracy theory, once largely confined to Internet fever swamps and the political fringe, has in recent years been mainstreamed by Fox News hosts. The network – and in particular its biggest star and the theory’s most prominent supporter, Tucker Carlson – have received abominable press over the last few days, as the overlap between their commentary and that of the shooter have drawn scrutiny everywhere from the front pages of newspapers to the floor of the U.S. Senate.
Pete Hegseth, who last year warned of a "full-scale invasion" of migrants "coming to your backyard," featured in Fox's upfront (and introducing Kevin Costner) pic.twitter.com/zn1G37bcfm— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) May 16, 2022
While Carlson and his primetime colleagues went all but unmentioned during Fox’s pre-recorded presentation, their style of bigotry and mendacity was represented in the room by Pete Hegseth, a Fox & Friends weekend host who pitched advertisers on the network’s streaming service. Hegseth has repeatedly pushed the same “replacement” narrative on Fox, warning viewers of a “full-scale invasion” of Haitian immigrants “coming to your backyard” and arguing that Democrats are deliberately allowing unchecked immigration for political gain. He is one of the network’s staunchest supporters of the insurrectionists who sacked the U.S. Capitol, validating them the very next day as people who simply “love freedom” and want to “defend our republic.” A member of former President Donald Trump’s Fox cabinet of network advisers, Hegseth has refused to admit Trump lost the 2020 election.
Fox’s on-air programming had largely avoided talking about the Buffalo shooter’s “great replacement” motivation. But as prospective advertisers mingled with the Fox brass and presenters at the afterparty following the network’s pitch, Fox’s stars were on-air making clear that they not only have no intention of apologizing for promoting white supremacist conspiracy theories – but that they consider themselves among the victims of the massacre.
On his 7 PM. broadcast, Jesse Watters, who has accused Democrats of “breaking the border on purpose” to “overwhelm the system in order to achieve more political power,” described criticism linking the shooter’s manifesto to right-wing invocations of “replacement theory” as an attempt to “further divide this country by race and profit from that division politically” and as a “psy ops game.”
They are not sorry and are going to keep pushing the white nationalist "great replacement" theory and the Murdochs are happy for them to do it as long as no one doing business with Fox changes their behavior. https://t.co/DXA5YIfBZi pic.twitter.com/IoW9WT2gVT— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) May 17, 2022
Carlson has accused President Joe Biden and the Jewish financier and philanthropist George Soros of trying to alter the “racial mix” of the U.S. through "’the great replacement,’" “the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from far-away countries,” because they want to “destroy” the country, and even urged his viewers to take action in response.
On Monday night, he lashed out at his critics, arguing that they were using “race politics” in a manner that “always leads to violence and death,” and invoking the Rwandan genocide.
Tucker Carlson's message in the wake of the Buffalo attack: "So what is hate speech? Well, it's speech that our leaders hate. So because a mentally ill teenager murdered strangers, you cannot be allowed to express your political views out loud. That's what they're telling you." pic.twitter.com/DMSNa9YoEt— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) May 17, 2022
Sean Hannity, who has accused Democrats of engineering “a quid pro quo: We'll give you citizenship for free, we hope you vote Democrat,” said the following hour that “many on the left” were “exploiting” the shooting by “blaming Republicans and conservatives and talk show hosts and Fox News.”
And in the 10 p.m. hour, Laura Ingraham, who has told her viewers that Democrats “want to replace you, the American voters, with newly amnestied citizens and an ever-increasing number of chain migrants,” said that while some critics say that the shooter’s “accomplices” are Republican politicians parroting the same talking points, “the real accomplices are in the media” for trying to “censor opposing views.”
Fox is denying its advertisers any wiggle room whatsoever. Its biggest stars are clearly signaling that they will continue to use the same rhetoric that motivated the Buffalo shooter and an array of terrorists before him. The Fox brass, from the Murdochs on down, have no apparent qualms about what they are doing and no intention of getting them to stop. The only question for Fox’s advertisers is whether they are willing to continue their own complicit participation.
Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott closed the network’s presentation on Monday by highlighting its “loyal audience.” Advertisers should worry about whether Fox’s programming might be driving that audience to do something other than buy their products.
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.
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