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Investigations

Tom Barrack

Screenshot from CNN

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Federal law enforcement authorities have arrested a top Trump friend and ally, Tom Barrack.

Barrack served as then-President Donald Trump's chairman of his 2017 inaugural fund. The charges are not believed to be related to that fund.

"Few people are closer to Trump than Barrack, his friend for three decades," an October, 2017 Washington Post article said of Barrack.

"Barrack as Barrack helped rescue Trump's real estate empire years ago. He was the top fundraiser for Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. He turned down a Cabinet offer, preferring to be an outside adviser, although his name is still mentioned as a potential White House chief of staff should Trump decide to choose a new one. Above all, Barrack has remained unfailingly loyal to Trump, whom he sees as a shrewd politician."

UPDATE:

NBC's Tom Winter reports charges include acting as an "agent" of a foreign government, "influencing the foreign policy positions of the Trump campaign in 2016" and lying to the FBI:

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Rep.Carolyn Maloney

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The conspiracy theory-driven "audit" of ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona, has raised a lot of questions. After all, it was only partially paid for by the Arizona state Senate, with the rest of the money coming from unknown donors. It was conducted by a company with no known experience in election audits and headed by someone who has tweeted pro-Trump conspiracy theories. And it involved questionable moves like inspecting ballots for bamboo fibers in an effort to prove a conspiracy theory about ballots being flown in from South Korea.

House Democrats are demanding answers to those questions, in a 13-page letter to Cyber Ninjas, the shady company hired by Arizona Senate Republicans to carry out the fraudit. Starting with this: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee "is seeking to determine whether the privately funded audit conducted by your company in Arizona protects the right to vote or is instead an effort to promote baseless conspiracy theories, undermine confidence in America's elections, and reverse the result of a free and fair election for partisan gain."

As the letter makes clear, detailing Cyber Ninjas' lack of experience with elections, its "sloppy and insecure audit practices" (which were widely reported and commented on by actual election audit experts), and CEO Douglas Logan's "embrace of election conspiracy theories," Democrats expect the answer to that opening question to be that the fraudit was intended to undermine confidence in elections and perhaps reverse the result of a free and fair election for partisan gain, not to protect the right to vote.

The letter, from Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jamie Raskin—the former being the committee chair—asks Cyber Ninjas to turn over nine categories of documents. Those include documentation of any previous election audit clients Cyber Ninjas has had (again, as far as anyone knows there are no such clients), information on who paid for the Arizona effort, documents and communications that might possibly explain why Cyber Ninjas was looking for bamboo fibers and looking at ballots under UV lights, and, just to be sure they got everything, "All documents and communications related to conducting the Maricopa County audit, including but not limited to policies, procedures, audit plans, strategy, staff and personnel, and security or integrity problems that arose during the audit, and any interim or final audit findings."

Oh, and also this: "all communications involving you or any Cyber Ninjas employees, consultants, agents, volunteers, or representatives with" Donald Trump, any Trump administration official or formal or informal campaign or legal representative of Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and others.

The Justice Department has previously expressed concern about ballots and voting machines at risk of "being lost, stolen, altered, compromised or destroyed" thanks to Cyber Ninjas' poor security practices. And as House Democrats begin their investigation—which could lead to referrals to the Justice Department—Maricopa County announced it would spend nearly $3 million to replace voting equipment compromised by the fraudit, which took the equipment out of the control of the government.

"The frustrating thing is, those were perfectly good machines which passed all of our accuracy tests from the time we first got them in 2019. The taxpayer paid good money for them, but now this equipment will have to be decommissioned because the Senate didn't take our warnings about chain-of-custody seriously," Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chair Jack Sellers said in a statement.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, by the way, is majority Republican, but has been outspokenly opposed to the fraudit, calling it a "sham," a "con," and "a spectacle that is harming all of us." Their opposition to a partisan effort to undermine faith in their county's elections led the Maricopa supervisors to be threatened with arrest by other Republicans in the state, as support for Donald Trump's lies about the election having been stolen from him has become a key loyalty test for Republicans.

The House Democrats are giving Cyber Ninjas until July 28 to turn over its documents.