Tag: election violence
With 1000 Complaints Of Election Threats, Garland Has Gotten One Conviction

With 1000 Complaints Of Election Threats, Garland Has Gotten One Conviction

A Department of Justice task force to combat violent threats against election workers has received more than 1,000 referrals since it was launched in July 2021but has only secured one conviction, a House committee was told on Wednesday.

“It’s received well over 1,000 reports of threats, but it’s only secured one conviction,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), House Homeland Security Committee vice chair. “Which raises the question, ‘Why only one conviction?”

At the committee hearing on the election security landscape, the lack of accountability was also tied to local police. These departments were reluctant topress charges after being contacted by the election officials, the committee was told, because police officers often did not know where the legal line was between illegal threatening conduct and permissible political speech.

“Law enforcement, in many cases, is unaware that issues on Election Day or leading up to the election can be a real threat or a real issue,” said Neal Kelly, who now chairs the Committee for Safe and Secure Elections, which seeks to educate police on this issue, and was formerly the registrar of voters in Orange County,California, and was a police officer before that.

“Beat officers, officers on the ground, just are not familiar with criminal code for election violations or that threats to election officials are occurring in large numbers,” he said. “When I was in Orange County, I had police officers respond to some scenes and they just thought it was a civil matter. They were not aware that there were actually criminal violations that occurred at a vote center.”

The House hearing comes as 2022’s general election is heating up and there is disagreement over what are the biggest ongoing threats facing voters, election officials and American democracy. Polls conducted since the House January 6Committee has been holding hearings detailing ex-President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election have shown many voters, especiallyindependents, want the provocateurs and insurrectionists held accountable.

“The threats to election security vary widely in the United States,” said Torres.“There’s the threat of a cyberattack on election infrastructure. There’s the threat of influence operations that radicalized people with misinformation and disinformation… And there’s a threat of violence and harassment and intimidation against election officials themselves.”

Torres asked which threat was mostly likely to “endanger” the 2022 midterms.

Elizabeth Howard, a senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice and NewYork University law school and a former Virginia state election official, replied that widespread threats to election officials were her top concern “because of the cascading effects that result.”

“What we’re seeing across the country are election officials who are deciding to leave the profession,” she said. “So, for example, five of Arizona’s 15 counties now have new election directors this cycle. Six of Georgia’s most populous counties have new election directors this cycle. This crates the potential for more mis- and disinformation because the people taking the retiring election officials’ place are not going to have the same level of experience [running elections].”

Kelly said that the 2020 election “amplified” the harassment, but “I’ve heard them before. If you go back to 2018 in Orange County, there was a number of similarthreats and issues arose when we had congressional districts flip from red to blue... It’s not just at the national level. It can certainly happen at the local level.We see that, and I will say this, it’s not just the battleground states.”

“In every single election we see rumors, we see myths and disinformation,” saidNew Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, who had toleave her home and have police protection after the 2020 election and after herstate’s recent 2022 primary. “Those rumors rend to peter out.”“Unfortunately, we are still on a daily basis, in my state and across the country ,living with the reverberating effects of the big lie from 2020,” she continued. “The recent activities that happened in my state where we almost failed to certify an entire county’s worth of votes in a primary election [Otero County] are a direct result of that rhetoric.”

At Wednesday’s hearing, Democratic members were united in squarely blaming Trump’s false stolen election claims, and, to a lesser degree, social media platforms, that paired conspiracy-minded people with conspiracy theorists, for the uptick in threatened violence. Republican members, in contrast, said increased federal oversight of state-run elections was their top worry, and often went on to repeat Trumpian conspiracy theories about 2020.

“Isn’t it true, by implication, that the ballots cast in Wisconsin – by absentee dropbox deposited ballots were illegal in the 2020 election?,” asked Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC), referring to a July 2022 ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court that banned their use one month before the state’s upcoming primary.

“I cannot speak to the ins and outs of the specific legality, the constitutional questions that came forth in Wisconsin,” Oliver replied. “What I can tell you is that in states like mine, where we have secure 24-hour monitored systems that are permissible under state law, [that] we do not see the level of concern. And frankly, the alleged fraud, the alleged fraud that has been leveled against such ballot collection systems.”

These kinds of exchanges evaded the central question of what the most pressing security threat was facing upcoming midterm elections. And just as important, what could or should be done to counter election-centered threats and violence?

“When something like 40 percent of Americans believe that the 2020 election was stolen, about 60 to 70 percent of Republicans… clearly, that is the root cause of the threats of violence that many nonpartisan election officials are facing,” said Rep. Tom. Malinowski (D-NJ) addressing Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, where polls have found 62 percent of Republicans still believe the 2020 election was stolen. “What should responsible leaders in our country be doing to address that false belief out there?”

“I guess I find the silver lining to every cloud – that folks are interested in this topic right now at a level that they would not normally be,” replied LaRose. “I view this as an opportunity to educate people about the safeguards that exist, and make sure that information is available in every part of our state.”

Only Torres, the committee vice chair, asked about the Justice Department’s election threats task force and why it only had one conviction.“Is the issue one of law and the law is insufficiently protective of election workers or is it one of enforcement?” he asked. “What’s going on?”

“The DOJ task force has taken important steps but clearly what they’ve done is not enough,” Howard replied, summarizing more detailed written testimony. “We think that they need to expand the task force to include state and local law enforcement. As our Brennan Center survey showed, almost nine out of 10 election officials who had been threatened reported those threats not to federal officials, but to their local law enforcement.”

The DOJ did not send any officials to testify. But later in the hearing, Kelly amplified Howard’s comments by noting that most local police officers are unfamiliar with election-related crimes and are reluctant to present cases to local prosecutors.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Washington, Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke to reporters and pushed back on the accusation that the DOJ wasn’t doing enoughto hold perpetrators of 2020-related election violence accountable.

Garland replied:

“There is a lot of speculation about what the Justice Department is doing, what it’s not doing, what our theories are, what are theories aren’t, and there will continue to be that speculation. That’s because a central tenet of the way in which the Justice Department investigates — a central tenet of the rule of law — is that we do not do our investigations in public. This is the most wide-ranging investigation and the most important investigation that the Justice Department has ever entered into. And we have done so because this represents, this effort to upend a legitimate election, transferring power from one administration to another, cuts at the fundamental of American democracy. We have to get this right. And for people who are concerned, as I think every American should be about protecting democracy, we have to do two things. We have to hold accountable every person who is criminally responsible for trying to overturn a legitimate election. And we must do it in a way filled with integrity and professionalism – the way the Justice Department conducts investigations. Both of these are necessary in order to achieve justice and to protect our democracy.”

Garland was referring primarily to crimes surrounding the planning and execution of the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. In contrast, testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee concerned the ongoing and current threats to local and state election officials by believers in the big lie, where local and federal police, for differing reasons, have barely held those threatening violence to account.

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.

Capitol riots

The Lies That Drove Trump’s Mob Still Linger

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Eight days ago, allegations of illegal and fraudulent voting in Pennsylvania and other swing states where President Trump lost led his supporters to storm the Capitol. The mob came after a Trump rally, where the president recited numerous falsehoods that long have been debunked.

It was a stunning spectacle. More than a dozen Republican congressmen rose and condemned the violence. Then, as if the cause of the rampage lay elsewhere, they opposed certifying Pennsylvania's votes by reciting many of the same allegations that Trump uttered that day—atop innuendo that Democrats had widely cheated.

"To sum it up, Pennsylvania officials illegally did three things," said Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC). "One, they radically expanded vote by mail for virtually any reason. Two, they removed restrictions when a ballot could be sent in. And three, they removed signature verification on those very ballots."

Budd did not mention that Pennsylvania's Republican majority legislature had approved the election reforms that laid the ground rules for 2020's election. Nor did he note that the Republican National Committee had pushed Pennsylvania's Republicans to vote with absentee ballots—and hundreds of thousands did.

Instead, Budd and other Republicans said that the election was illegitimate because Democratic officials—such as Pennsylvania's secretary of state—issued rules to make it easier for voters and election officials to manage in a pandemic. They said the Constitution had been violated because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had agreed with those steps. Only state legislatures could set election rules, they said, making a novel argument that ignored decades of election law and court rulings.

"I rise in support of this objection and to give voice to the 249,386 men and women of Ohio's 6th Congressional District," said Rep. Bill Johnson, R-OH, "who have had their voices silenced by the rogue political actors in Pennsylvania, who unilaterally and unconstitutionally altered voting methods to benefit the Democratic candidate for president."

"Secretaries of state and state supreme courts cannot simply ignore the rules governing elections set forth in the [U.S.] Constitution," he fumed. "They cannot choose to usurp their state legislatures to achieve a partisan end, Constitution be damned."

These representatives were joined by others who said that Trump's mob was "shameful," "unacceptable" and "un-American." Yet they went on to recite many of the same claims that Trump made before his mob acted. These claims filled the 60-plus lawsuits brought by Trump and his allies since the election—claims federal and state judges have overwhelmingly rejected as baseless and lacking in evidence.

Had these Republicans learned anything from the rampage? When the debate ended well past midnight, 138 Republicans voted to reject Pennsylvania's 20 Electoral College votes. Their dissents did not stop the chamber from accepting the state's Electoral College votes. Nor did it prevent a joint session of Congress later that morning from certifying Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the 2020 election's winners.

Yet the 138 votes, and the slippery arguments or misrepresentations that preceded them, are a dark sign of the times. When one-quarter of House members either lack sufficient knowledge of how elections are run or cling to specious arguments to overturn results, the undercurrents driving Trump's mob are still present. Looking ahead, voting rights advocates are starting to see these sentiments resurface as a new wave of anti-voting legislation in red-run state legislatures.

"We're deeply concerned the post-election lawsuits are now morphing into state-driven voter suppression schemes," said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, speaking during a press briefing during Georgia's runoffs on January 5. "These lawsuits failed universally… Now we see lawmakers seeking to exploit this moment [and] institute new restrictions on measures such as [repealing] no-excuse absentee voting."

Clarke is partly referring to a proposal by Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to reel in absentee voting. The 2020 election had overwhelmed local election officials, he has said, adding that future voting options needed to be streamlined. Record numbers of Georgians voted by mailed-out ballots in 2020, which was part of the wave that elected two Democratic U.S. senators and delivered a surprising Biden-Harris victory.

Raffensperger had been attacked by Trump as a RINO—Republican In Name Only—and pressured by Trump on January 2 to alter the certified vote count so Trump would emerge as the victor. On Thursday, the Trump campaign withdrew its suits in Georgia on the eve of scheduled court hearings. Raffensperger issued a detailed press release that noted Trump folded just before his legal team had to present evidence of illegal voting and rigged elections.

"On the eve of getting the day in court they supposedly were begging for, President Trump and [Georgia Republican Party] Chairman David Shafer's legal team folded Thursday and voluntarily dismissed their election contests against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger rather than submit their evidence to a court and to cross-examination," the secretary's release began.

"However, even in capitulation, they continue to spread disinformation," it said. "The President's legal team falsely characterizes the dismissal of their lawsuits as 'due to an out of court settlement agreement.' However, correspondence sent to Trump's legal team prior to the dismissals makes perfectly clear that there is no settlement agreement. The Trump legal [team] voluntarily dismissed their lawsuits rather than presenting their evidence in court in a trial scheduled for tomorrow in front of Cobb County Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs."

The statement said that the "withdrawals came after Secretary Raffensperger sent a letter to Congress on Wednesday containing point-by-point refutation of the false claims made by the President and his allies. Late last night, Congress accepted Georgia's slate of electors without objection, as no Senator joined in [Republican] Congressman Jody Hice's objection to Georgia's electors."

Few Republicans probably read Raffensperger's memo as they sought shelter from Trump's mob. However, in the other chamber, Georgia's Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who lost to Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock a day before, said she could no longer oppose her state's certification of the presidential vote. The storming of the Capitol had changed her mind. The same could not be said of nearly one-third of the House.

Steven Rosenfeldis the editor and chief correspondent ofVoting Booth, a projectof 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.

#EndorseThis: Sober Colbert Rips MAGA Terrorists And Their GOP Enablers

#EndorseThis: Sober Colbert Rips MAGA Terrorists And Their GOP Enablers

Last night Stephen Colbert took twelve minutes during The Late Show to discuss last week's heinous events in the Capitol and their aftermath. Colbert dropped his usual lighthearted approach for a grimmer style -- understandably, as American democracy is in peril under Donald Trump. A stunning number of Republicans still choose to dishonor their oath of office, and Stephen isn't having it,

Not at all. This is powerful, sobering, and yet will still make you smile. Watch.

The Terrorists Who Attacked Congress At The President's Direction Came Prepared To Killwww.youtube.com

More Republican Legislators Linked To Violent Assault On Capitol

More Republican Legislators Linked To Violent Assault On Capitol

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

The number of Republican state lawmakers identified as having either been at Wednesday's attack on the U.S. Capitol or part of the rally that led up to it continues to grow, as photographic evidence helps investigators pin down who was a part of the insurrection.

Four more GOP state lawmakers have been identified as attending either the rally that preceded the attack or the attack itself. They join 12 others who have already been outed as being part of the mayhem, along with a former state legislator.

The newly identified include:

West Virginia state Sen. Mike Azinger: Azinger posted photos to Facebook of being at the Washington Monument on Jan. 6 — the day of the attack — lauding the efforts by Trump supporters, even after knowing that the actions of the pro-Trump mob led to violence, death, and destruction.

"We're here!" Azinger wrote in a post that included photos of the Washington Monument, which has now been closed to the public due to threats of violence. "Stop the Steal, baby!"

Azinger blamed Antifa for the violence, a baseless lie.

Maryland state Del. Dan Cox: Cox is facing calls to resign after he went to the rally and tweeted that Pence is a "traitor" — at the very same time the violent mobs were marauding through the Capitol.

We've since learned that the terrorists at the Capitol were chanting that Pence should be hung, with a noose and a platform for a hanging spotted outside of the Capitol building.

Rhode Island state Rep. Justin Price: Like the other Republican state lawmakers who attended the rally or the insurrection itself, Price is also facing calls to resign after he marched to the Capitol with the pro-Trump mob.

Price claims he did not enter the Capitol, and also falsely blamed the violence on Antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement, a patently false and racist accusation.

Virginia Del. Dave LaRock: LaRock wrote on Facebook that he was at the Capitol on Wednesday but did not say whether he entered the building.

He, too, falsely blamed outside agitators for the violence, even though the violence was carried out by Trump supporters and "antifa" was not found to be part of the crowd.

So far, at least one GOP state lawmaker has been arrested for their role in the violent attack: Incoming West Virginia Del. Derrick Evans, who took a selfie video of his crimes and shouted, "Derrick Evans is in the Capitol."

The Justice Department announced it was charging Evans with "one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds."

Evans' video made it easy for law enforcement to determine that it was, indeed, Evans.

Evans "streamed live to his Facebook page a video of himself joining and encouraging a crowd unlawfully entering the U.S. Capitol," the Justice Department wrote in a news release announcing Evans' arrest.

Evans resigned on Saturday, saying "I take full responsibility for my actions, and deeply regret any hurt, pain or embarrassment I may have caused my family, friends, constituents and fellow West Virginians."

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which seeks to get Democrats elected to state legislatures across the country, criticized GOP legislative leaders for not commenting on the number of Republican lawmakers who were part of the mayhem on Wednesday.

"There can be no unity without accountability," Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Jessica Post said in a news release. "Every elected official who betrayed our democracy is unfit to represent their communities. We challenge our Republican counterparts to step up for the country they claim to love and join us in upholding the values that make this nation great. If there was any time to put country over party, it is now."

To date, at least five people died in the attack, including a Capitol Police officer.

And Trump is now likely to be impeached a second time for inciting the insurrection that led to the deaths and desecration of the Capitol.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.