The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: election 2020 lies

Texas Republican Urges Election Audit — In Counties Biden Won

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Texas state Rep. Steve Toth (R) on Monday announced that he had filed legislation calling for a "forensic audit" of the state's 2020 election results.

Former President Donald Trump won Texas in 2020 by nearly six percentage points despite ultimately losing the national electoral college and popular vote to President Joe Biden.

Toth's bill, the "Texas Voter Confidence Act," would not audit all of the 11 million-plus votes that were cast in the state. Instead, the legislation calls for an audit in "every precinct in each county with a population of 415,000 or more."

This would disproportionately target counties that voted for Biden.

According to a list of Texas counties by population, only three that voted for Trump — Collin, Denton, and Montgomery — would be audited under the bill if it became law. The remaining 10 counties voted for Biden, including Texas' two most populous counties, Harris County (where Houston is located) and Dallas County.

"We need a forensic audit to uncover all the voter fraud," Toth said in a statement accompanying his announcement.

He added, "Texans want to know more about the claims of voter fraud and deserve to have confidence in their elections."

Toth did not offer any proof to back his claims of widespread fraud. However, he echoed other Republicans in Texas, including Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Sen. Ted Cruz, who have made baseless accusations of voter fraud in the 2020 election, allegations that have no basis in reality.

Toth's bill may be on hold for the time being. Currently, the Texas Legislature is unable to form a quorum, and thus cannot consider legislation, after Democratic lawmakers left the state in protest of a GOP proposal empowering several voter suppression efforts.

The audit request follows a similar controversial "audit" of the 2020 vote in Arizona, undertaken by conservative activists. That process has been criticizedfor using unscientific protocols, promoting conspiracy theories, and allegedly damaging state-owned election equipment.

Republicans across the country have also considered replicating that process, including in places Trump won.

Utah state Rep. Steve Christiansen, for instance, visited the Arizona "audit" earlier in June, telling the Daily Beast he wanted to hold the same sort of process in his home state, where Trump won by more than 20 percentage points.

In North Carolina, Republican members of the state legislature are also pushing for an audit. Trump won the state by 1.3 points in 2020.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Republicans Undermining Democracy With Pointless 2020 Election Probes

A Pennsylvania courtroom last month became the latest battleground over claims the 2020 presidential election was rigged, as Republicans around the country pressed ahead with efforts to investigate the voting despite a lack of evidence of widespread fraud.

On December 15, a five-judge panel in Harrisburg heard Democrats' arguments to block a subpoena sought by Senate Republicans, seeking information on voters and election systems. Democrats argue the subpoena is an abuse of power and serves no legitimate legislative purpose.

A lawyer for Senate Republicans insisted lawmakers have a legitimate interest in getting the information to improve election law, regardless of the backdrop of former President Donald Trump trying to get allies in battleground states to turn up evidence of election fraud.

"The fact that there's noise floating around out there shouldn't concern the court," lawyer Matt Haverstick said.

The election review in Pennsylvania and another in Wisconsin are part of the larger story, as GOP lawmakers elsewhere make their case for similar efforts in their states. They cite concerns raised by claims made by Trump and his allies, who have referenced various conspiracy theories to explain his loss last November to Democrat Joe Biden.

Among the claims is that widespread voter fraud occurred, but an Associated Press review found fewer than 475 instances of potential voter fraud in the six states disputed by Trump — a number that would have made no difference in the election.

Though Republican leaders argue their probes are needed to restore public confidence in elections, experts say it's the reviews themselves that are undermining faith in U.S. elections.

"The intent of these reviews is to continue to create doubt, distrust and confusion around an election that has been canvassed, certified, audited, litigated and reviewed so they can keep the narrative going. So they can continue to raise money and raise their political profiles," said Matt Masterson, a former top election security official in the Trump administration.

In Pennsylvania, Republicans led by Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman insist the undertaking has nothing to do with Trump or trying to overturn last year's election. Rather, they say the point is to fix problems with the state's elections.

However, the 2020 election has been the focus of Republican-controlled committees in the Senate and House. There have been numerous hearings, hours of testimony, and proposed legislation.

In an interview on December 14, Trump praised the work of Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and argued that many of the problems that arose in the election were due to pandemic-related changes made outside of the legislative process.

"They used COVID in order to cheat, as a way of cheating," Trump said. "In Pennsylvania, Sen. Corman and a whole group of people are totally engaged because they've now found that things were much different than they were told."

To conduct the review, Pennsylvania Republicans have hired a small firm with little track record and no experience in elections. There was no bidding for the contract, and no public request for proposals. A similar situation unfolded in Arizona, where Senate Republicans seeking a review of the 2020 election hired an outside firm that was criticized for its lack of knowledge of election systems and processes.

The Arizona review ended in September without offering proof to support Trump's claims of a stolen election.

Earlier in December, in Wisconsin, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the investigation he ordered into the 2020 presidential election will spill into 2022 and cost more money. So far, the effort has cost taxpayers nearly $680,000.

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman was tapped to lead the investigation and has sought subpoenas of the mayors of the state's five largest cities and the state's top elections official.

Democrats and some Republicans in the state have criticized the investigation as a sham, given that some of those hired by Gableman worked in Trump's administration or have supported conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. Trump lost Wisconsin by nearly 21,000 votes, an outcome that's been upheld following recounts, multiple court rulings and a nonpartisan audit.

Wisconsin election officials have so far identified 31 potential cases of voter fraud. In 26 of those cases, prosecutors declined to bring charges after conducting a review, according to the AP's findings.

Around the same time, Republican state Sen. Kathy Bernier, chair of the Senate elections committee and the former Chippewa County election clerk, called the review a "charade" designed to appease the GOP's conservative base and said questioning the integrity of elections will ultimately hurt turnout for Republicans.

"I understand there is frustration when you have a president saying there is massive voter fraud," Bernier said. "We have a great system here and no one should falsely accuse election officials of cheating."

The wave of demands for reviews of the election also includes reliably Republican states that Trump won in 2020.

Last week, a panel of majority-GOP lawmakers in Utah approved an audit of the state's election system. Unlike Arizona, the Utah effort will be conducted by nonpartisan legislative auditors and is not focused solely on 2020.

Republican Lt. Gov. Deirdre Henderson cautioned that efforts questioning the integrity of the state's voting system are "destructive" and "very concerning."

"From all of the things that I have seen, the endgame here is to fundamentally destroy the voting system we have here in the state of Utah," Henderson said in an interview.

H/T American Independent

Trump Flack Sues To Stop Select Committee From Obtaining Bank Records

The spokesperson for former President Donald Trump, Taylor Budowich—who investigators say helped fundraising efforts for the rally at the Ellipse in Washington on January 6—has launched a bid to stop investigators from reviewing his financial records.

His lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C., and revealed that Budowich has so far turned over more than 1,700 pages of records to the January 6 select committee.

The 21-page complaint named all committee members, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Budowich’s bank, J.P. Morgan Chase. The Trump spokesman claims he has already fielded questions from investigators related to the “planning of a peaceful, lawful rally” this December for more than four hours. However, the scrutiny of his finances, he says, is a step too far.

In November, the January 6 select committee issued its first subpoena to Budowich, noting their inquiry was related to his alleged funneling of $200,000 from an undisclosed “source or sources” to promote the rally near the Capitol. Budowich, investigators say, “facilitated the transfer” of those funds with Women for America First VIP adviser Caroline Wren. Wren was subpoenaed by the committee this September. She has been cooperating with the committee and reportedly sat for a deposition in mid-December for several hours.

Investigators have requested information from Wren about her alleged communication with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows—now awaiting possible indictment by the DOJ for contempt of Congress—and the committee has sought information about reports that Wren “parked funds” flagged for January 6 with a variety of nonprofits.

Though he has balked over the demand to J.P Morgan, it is still unclear if the bank has actually supplied the committee with the records. A bank spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment but in the lawsuit, Budowich’s attorney says the financial institution, on December 21 gave Budowich until Christmas Eve to stop the review. Budowich also claimed both the bank and the select committee refused to extend his deadline.

As of Monday morning, Budowich’s legal docket in D.C. has been quiet and it is unclear if his attempt to block the committee with a temporary restraining order will be a success.

In a statement after hitting the committee with his lawsuit, the Trump spokesman said: “Democracy is under attack. However, not by the people who illegally entered the Capitol on Janiuary 6, 2021, but instead by a committee whose members walk freely in its halls every day.”

That rhetoric, and a sizeable portion of Budowich’s legal complaint, echo other sentiments that have sprouted from almost a dozen figures the committee has sized up as it digs into the insurrection on Jan. 6.

For instance, Budowich claims the committee lacks legislative merit and is part of an “unconstitutional attempt to usurp the Executive Branch’s authority to enforce the law.” But that theory has been shot down by a federal appeals court in Washington. And as for Trump, even he is in the middle of testing those waters now. Just before the holidays and as a filing deadline loomed, the former president appealed an earlier ruling from the courts that permitted scrutiny of his presidential records as it relates to the attack. The next move there is up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Budowich argues too that the request to J.P. Morgan by the committee violated his First Amendment right because it was too hasty.

The Trump spokesman, who is also the sole owner of the for-profit Conservative Strategies, Inc. organization, claims he gave the committee “sufficient” information on his bank statements from about mid-December 2020 to Jan. 31, 2021.

A committee spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

The probe has been actively pursuing mountains of information for months. Investigators have interviewed nearly 300 people so far and just this month, the body finally began to issue notices to prominent Trump allies and sitting U.S. lawmakers who amplified Trump’s lies about voter fraud in the 2020 election. A request for voluntary cooperation was issued to Rep. Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican. He lashed out, refusing to comply. And Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio was also asked to meet with investigators voluntarily to disclose information about his discussions with Trump on Jan. 6.

Jordan did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In the past, Jordan has said he spoke to Trump after the riot was over. His story changed when he told Politico that he “definitely” spoke to Trump multiple times but did not recall the timeframe. One of those calls, he conceded, occurred when he was in a secure lockdown area with other lawmakers as the Capitol was under siege. In July, when pressed by reporters about whether he would cooperate with the committee, Jordan said “If they call me, I got nothing to hide.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Dominion Voting Systems Lawsuit Against Fox News Moves Forward

Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News can move forward, a Delaware state judge has ruled.

Law & Crime reports Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis wrote, “For purposes of the Motion, the Court must view all well-pled facts alleged in the Complaint as true and in a light most favorable to Dominion,” but added clearly, “If the plaintiff offers ‘some direct evidence' that the statement ‘was probably false,’ the Court can infer that the defendant ‘inten[ded] to avoid the truth.’

The right-wing cable network is being sued for giving “fictions a prominence they otherwise would never have achieved,” Dominion said in its lawsuit back in March, turning “a small flame…into a forest fire.”

“With Fox’s global platform,” Dominion’s 138-page lawsuit contends, “an audience of hundreds of millions, and the inevitable and extensive republication and dissemination of the falsehoods through social media, these lies deeply damaged Dominion’s once-thriving business.”

In a statement, Fox News called the lawsuit an “all-out assault on the First Amendment.”

Article reprinted with permission from Alternet

‘Justice For J6’ Rally Distracts From Attacks On Democracy By GOP At State Level

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

More than eight months after a mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol building while the 2020 presidential election was being ratified, some media outlets hyped a follow-up rally at the Capitol. But in fact, the real action is happening elsewhere.

Some mainstream media outlets focused attention on Saturday's scheduled "Justice for J6" rally in Washington, D.C., organized by a former Trump 2016 campaign strategist who has resurfaced to contend that people being held in pre-trial detention for their role in the January 6 assault on the Capitol are "political prisoners." But in doing so, the media unduly magnified an event that was a sparsely attended bust — and overlooked a more insidious development in the ongoing attempts to spread further lies about the 2020 election.

Another story developed in Pennsylvania this week, where a committee in the Republican-controlled state Senate has taken a major step in advancing the far-right push for "forensic audits" of the 2020 election results throughout the country.

The state Senate's Intergovernmental Affairs and Operations Committee voted along party lines Wednesday to issue a subpoena for detailed personal records of every registered voter in the state, including normally non-public information such as driver's license numbers and the last four digits of people's Social Security numbers. In addition to the clear dangers for identity theft if such information were to leak into the wrong hands, these tactics are similar to efforts by Arizona Republicans and could lead to voter intimidation.

"There have been questions regarding the validity of people … who have voted, whether or not they exist," state Republican Sen. Cris Dush, who is also the committee chair, had said in a committee hearing. These statements are similar to former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani's discredited claims from last year that great numbers of votes had been cast under dead people's names in the swing state as it was won by Joe Biden. (There have been just a small handful of cases in Pennsylvania in which votes were cast under dead people's names — in acts committed by registered Republicans, who now regret having believed Trump's propaganda about election fraud.)

An analysis by Media Matters found that in cable news coverage since Tuesday, when Pennsylvania Republicans first announced they would be seeking all this private data, CNN has mentioned the rally in at least 69 segments, while MSNBC has included the story in at least 35 segments. (Fox News, by contrast, has given the rally almost no political oxygen, mentioning it only three times during the same time frame.)

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania story has received only a fraction of the coverage, having been mentioned in at least 13 segments on CNN and at least seven on MSNBC, according to the same analysis. (Fox News has not mentioned the Pennsylvania subpoena at all.)

Atlantic Council fellow Jared Holt, who monitors online extremism, wrote last week that the media have largely overblown the rally in their coverage. (Emphasis in original.)

Take it from me, a guy who spends 40+ hrs a week staring into the extremist abyss: What you're seeing at this point is largely speculation. To be perfectly honest, I'm a frustrated at what I've seen so far from the nation's leading publishers of journalism. It feels they have learned nothing about covering this space.
This is not to say that the event will not carry an inherent risk of attracting extreme believers, or even some with a violent disposition. For that, the event is worth monitoring and keeping tabs on. I'd also strongly advise people stay away from the rally, given that possibility. But suggestions that organized extremist groups are mobilizing at any major scale around this event are unsupported by current analysis.

The media coverage from the two networks looks even worse for CNN when examining the content itself. The network interviewed the rally's lead organizer Matt Braynard, and has aired clips from the interview multiple times, where CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider debunked Braynard's assertions that the people being held in detention were nonviolent protesters. One segment from Erin Burnett OutFront contained only a brief mention that Holt said the rally was expected to fail.

By contrast, MSNBC has done a much better job of explaining in detail that the event was expected to be a dud. (Though at the same time, this also means the network has given too much attention to a story that amounts to nothing.)

On Friday's edition of Morning Joe, NBC News senior reporter Brandy Zadrozny bluntly explained that far-right groups were actually discouraging their members from going to this event, that Braynard has been engaged in a "money-making enterprise" surrounding MAGA causes, and that "all of this media attention really helps him to do just that."

WILLIE GEIST (CO-HOST): You've been keeping tabs online, on these online forums where these groups who planned and plotted January 6 also organized. What are you seeing this week, what are you seeing this morning, in terms of tomorrow's planned rally?

BRANDY ZADROZNY (NBC NEWS SENIOR REPORTER): Well, it's some good news, you know. We're not seeing any signs that we might usually see before a large, national-scale political rally, MAGA rally, extremist rally. We're seeing basically, really underwhelming posts, really limited to people nearby. People who are talking about this rally that you'd usually find in these circles — Proud Boys, QAnon, MAGA, anti-vaxxers — actually they're saying to stay away. There's a conspiracy theory that this is actually a honeypot or some sort of plot by the feds to entrap people to commit crimes. There's really barely a whimper out there for the real target audience.

I talked to Jared Holt from the Atlantic Council's DFR lab, and he's just saying really, the local energy is already preoccupied with community issues like in Portland or anti-mask vaccine rallies. So people are just too busy. And it's really important to note that unlike the January 6 Capitol attack, where it was really a bunch of different factions all sort of coming together under the umbrella of voter fraud, of the stolen election conspiracy theory — and really asked to be there by President Trump — no one is really doing this.

This event is actually just planned by this guy. His name is Matt Braynard, he works for this organization that he founded called Look Ahead America. And you know, he's a former Trump campaign operative. He's sort of a C-list player who jumps from MAGA cause to MAGA cause. He raised $650,000 last year to investigate the stolen election. So this is a money-making enterprise, and it's really important to remember that. And all of this media attention really helps him to do just that.

One major difference between the events of January 6 and Saturday's rally was that last time, the rioters sincerely believed that they were acting on behalf of the sitting president of the United States — and seemingly confirming their belief, Trump refused to immediately deploy the National Guard to defend Congress. No such incentive structure exists anymore, now that Joe Biden is actually in the White House, and any backup support would be sent to the Capitol if it is needed. Furthermore, Congress will not even be in session until next week. Those facts all seriously narrow down the range of people who might show up with violence in mind — though as we have also learned, such individuals could potentially show up on any other day.

To be clear, it is completely appropriate for security officials to prepare for violence just in case, and those preparations can themselves have a deterrent effect on any violence even occurring. But media hyping of the event is only serving to puff up its visibility and the public profiles of its organizers in a way that does not appear to be warranted.

Not only that, the time could be better spent shining a light on how the spirit of the insurrection has continued in state legislatures.

Methodology

Media Matters searched our internal database of all original, weekday programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC (shows airing from 6 a.m. through midnight) for segments that analysts determined to include mention of either the September 18 Justice for J6 rally or the subpoenas for personal information in the Pennsylvania State audit of the 2020 U.S. presidential election from 6 a.m. September 14 through 12 p.m. September 17, 2021.

Arizona’s Fake Audit Is Spreading Like Cancer

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Donald Trump is succeeding in mainstreaming his fringe politics at the state level just like he did at the federal level.

Originally, the Arizona sham audit was an outlier—replicated in no other state and only gaining prominence among Trumpy bit players at the state level. Now, however, GOP leaders in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have put the full weight of their legislative bodies behind the Arizona-style investigations, giving them a veneer of import despite the fact that they are nothing more than exploratory boondoggles.

These so-called "audits" won't overturn the election results, and they are coming on the heels of multiple recounts in both states. So the likelihood that the reviews will reveal anything approaching a significant finding is sheer fantasy. But at the end of the day, they needed to be on Trump's good side, and putting the full force of government behind the effort was the surest way to do that.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, who had been dragging his feet on opening an investigation, finally bowed to Trump's pressure campaign in late August.

"I am 100 percent behind it," Corman told a pro-Trump media personality after Trump loyalists began calling for primary challenges to any GOP lawmakers standing in the way of a review. Corman ultimately sidelined one of the state's chief proponents of the audit, Sen. Doug Mastriano, and put a loyalist in charge of the effort—Sen. Cris Dush.

In Wisconsin, GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos made a similar calculation. In June, Vos tapped former conservative Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to lead a state audit after Trump had attacked Vos and several other GOP lawmakers as "working hard to cover up election corruption."

Late last month, Wisconsin Republicans on a key Assembly committee voted along party lines to pump nearly $680,000 in taxpayer funding into the effort. Vos later bragged to a conservative radio host that Trump was "comfortable" with "where we're heading."

Ultimately, GOP lawmakers like Vos and Corman have mainstreamed Trump's corruption to save their own hides.

"It's disappointing, because part of the burden of leadership is killing bad ideas that might be popular with the base," Trey Grayson, former Kentucky GOP secretary of state, told Politico. "When they put their imprimatur on it, it's a signal to everybody that they think that this is important."

In the meantime, the Arizona fraudit has produced exactly nothing—no results—and no one has any idea when it will.

Corman said that he hoped the Arizona results would "give us momentum, make it harder for courts to shoot us down, if results have happened in other states that have seen this." Corman has also indicated subpoenas are in the offing if they become necessary. Hearings on the matter are set to begin later this week.

The Grand Old Party Is Now The Party Of Violence

A Republican running for Northampton County executive in Pennsylvania gave a heated address on August 29 about mask mandates in schools. Steve Lynch is tired, he said, of providing his school board arguments and data (he apparently thinks the data support letting kids go maskless), but the important thing about his rant is the threat of force: "Forget into these school boards with frigging data. ... They don't follow the law! You go in and you remove 'em. I'm going in there with 20 strong men."

That's the kind of language that Republicans are now employing. Lynch has not run for public office before, but he did attend the January 6 rally in Washington, D.C., and has posted on social media that the violence that day was a false-flag operation meant to discredit Trump supporters.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina spoke last week at an event sponsored by the Macon County Republican Party. He delivered the kind of lies that have become routine among some Republicans. The election was stolen — and not just the presidential contest but also that won by Gov. Roy Cooper (who defeated his opponent by a quarter of a million votes). Cawthorn told the crowd that vaccines are harmful to children and urged them to "defend their children." A woman asked what he plans to do about the "535 Americans who have been captured from January 6." Cawthorn, who has apparently heard this before, thundered, "Political hostages!" When someone in the crowd asked, "When are you gonna call us back to Washington?" he replied, "We are actively working on that one."

Insurrection talk is becoming Cawthorn's specialty: "If our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, then it's going to lead to one place — and it's bloodshed."

Naturally, former President Donald Trump has endorsed him for "whatever he wants to do."

In neighboring Tennessee, the Williamson County school board was disrupted by anti-mask parents. As doctors and nurses testified that masks would help limit the spread of COVID-19, people cursed and threatened them: "We will find you!" "We know who you are!"

In Georgia, a mobile vaccination site had to be shut down after anti-vaccine protesters showed up to threaten and harass health care workers. "Aside from feeling threatened themselves, staff realized no one would want to come to that location for a vaccination under those circumstances, so they packed up and left," a spokeswoman for the state health department told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

A survey of the rest of the country yields yet more examples.

We are all old enough to remember a time when election workers were public-spirited citizens, usually elderly, who volunteered their time (or got very modest compensation) to sit for hours at polling sites scanning names from lists of voters and handing out little stickers. That America is gone, driven out by a radicalized Republican party. A number of states with Republican majorities have passed laws that would impose criminal fines of up to $25,000 for "offenses" such as permitting a ballot drop box to be accessible before early voting hours or sending an unsolicited absentee ballot application to a voter.

But that's not the worst of it. Election workers have been hounded and threatened. Bomb threats have been emailed to election sites. "You and your family will be killed very slowly," read a text message sent to Tricia Raffensperger after her husband, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, declined to "find" enough votes to flip the state to Trump. As many as 1 in 3 election workers has reported feeling unsafe, and thousands are resigning.

When Rep. Liz Cheney made the principled decision to vote for Trump's impeachment, she noted that one reason more Republicans might not have chosen to join her was that "there were members who told me that they were afraid for their own security — afraid, in some instances, for their lives."

Republicans talk incessantly about other people's violence. The rioters who burned buildings after George Floyd's death. The criminals who make Chicago a murder capital. Immigrants who supposedly terrorize their host nation (they don't).

Criminal violence is a problem, but the kind of violence Republicans are now flirting with or sometimes outright endorsing is political — and therefore on a completely different plane of threat.

Kyle Rittenhouse, an ill-supervised teenager who decided to grab an AR-15 and shoot people at a Kenosha, Wisconsin, riot (killing two and wounding one) was lionized by the GOP. His mother got a standing ovation at a fundraiser in Waukesha. Ashli Babbitt has become a martyr. Allen West, former chair of the Texas GOP, speaks approvingly of secession. Former National Security Adviser and Trump confidant Michael Flynn suggests that we need a Myanmar-style coup. Some 28 percent of Republicans respond affirmatively to the proposition that "because things have gotten so far off track" in the U.S., "true American patriots may have to resort to violence" to save the country.

Maybe that's not so bad? Not even a third. Another poll framed it differently: "The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it." Fifty-six percent of Republicans agreed.

They are playing with fire. Nothing less than democratic legitimacy is on the line. These menacing signals suggest that Jan. 6 may have been the overture, not the finale.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com

Michigan Judge Refers Trump’s 'Kraken' Lawyers For Disbarment

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Federal Judge Linda Parker on Wednesday referred a group of pro-Trump attorneys, including Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, for potential suspension and disbarment for their misconduct in a lawsuit that sought to overturn Joe Biden's 2020 win in Michigan.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, along with other defendants in the original lawsuit, has asked the judge to consider sanctions after the pro-Trump lawyers had their claims of election fraud demolished.

In the new ruling, Parker issued a 110-page opinion condemning the team's "historic and profound abuse of the judicial process," finding that their behavior in the case warrants formal sanction by the courts. They will have to pay for Michigan and Detroit's legal costs and attend classes about the law relevant to the case, the judge ruled. And she will also be referring their cases to the authorities who issued the lawyers' licenses, which may take further punitive action against them.

Such harsh sanctions are rare in the legal world and highlight the extreme nature of the pro-Trump lawyers' conduct.

Parker was direct and unsparing in her condemnation of their actions.

"[T]he question before the Court is whether Plaintiffs' attorneys engaged in litigation practices that are abusive and, in turn, sanctionable. The short answer is yes," she wrote. "The attorneys who filed the instant lawsuit abused the well-established rules applicable to the litigation process by proffering claims not backed by law; proffering claims not backed by evidence (but instead, speculation, conjecture, and unwarranted suspicion); proffering factual allegations and claims without engaging in the required prefiling inquiry; and dragging out these proceedings even after they acknowledged that it was too late to attain the relief sought."

She continued:

And this case was never about fraud—it was about undermining the People's faith in our democracy and debasing the judicial process to do so.
While there are many arenas—including print, television, and social media—where protestations, conjecture, and speculation may be advanced, such expressions are neither permitted nor welcomed in a court of law. And while we as a country pride ourselves on the freedoms embodied within the First Amendment, it is well-established that an attorney's freedom of speech is circumscribed upon "entering" the courtroom.

The lawyers "scorned their oath, flouted the rules, and attempted to undermine the integrity of the judiciary along the way," she said.

Essentially, she argued that Powell, Wood, and the others used the case in Michigan to propagate the notion that Trump had been the true winner of the 2020 election, even though they had no reasonable case to bring. Their aim wasn't, she concluded, to make good faith arguments about the facts and the law in hope of being vindicated in a court of law. Instead, they were using the courts as a platform for propaganda without regard for the merits of their legal arguments. In short, it was a flagrant abuse of the system.

She even drew a connection between the lawyers' misconduct and the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Much of the opinion details how the attorneys, such as Wood, have been blatantly dishonest with the court, and why their arguments were frivolous and illegitimate on numerous grounds. For example, they sought to have Whitmer barred from sending the results of Michigan's election to the Electoral College, even though she had already done so. They cited precedents for their arguments that had no relevance or made the opposite point to what they were trying to push. They made baseless claims that legal acts were against the law. At other points, they completely reversed themselves on crucial issues, such as key deadlines in the case, without explanation or justification.

"It is not lost upon the Court that the same claims and requested relief that Plaintiffs' attorneys presented here were disposed of, for many of the same reasons, in Michigan courts and by judges in several other 'battleground' jurisdictions where Plaintiffs' counsel sought to overturn the election results," Parker wrote. "The fact that no federal district court considering the issues at bar has found them worthy of moving forward supports the conclusion that Plaintiffs' claims are frivolous."

The extent of the blatant deception and arguments clearly made in bad faith can only lead to one conclusion.

Parker explained: "Once it appeared that their preferred political candidate's grasp on the presidency was slipping away, Plaintiffs' counsel helped mold the predetermined narrative about election fraud by lodging this federal lawsuit based on evidence that they actively refused to investigate or question with the requisite level of professional skepticism—and this refusal was to ensure that the evidence conformed with the predetermined narrative (a narrative that has had dangerous and violent consequences). Plaintiffs' counsel's politically motivated accusations, allegations, and gamesmanship may be protected by the First Amendment when posted on Twitter, shared on Telegram, or repeated on television. The nation's courts, however, are reserved for hearing legitimate causes of action."

In short, her conclusion was simple: "This lawsuit should never have been filed."