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Tag: elections

Where Abortion Is On The Ballot In November

The fate of abortion rights is now in the hands of voters after the Supreme Court on Friday overturned decades of settled precedent in its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that abortion is not a right under the U.S. Constitution.

Now that state legislatures are able to pass bills that restrict abortion, the outcome of elections for governors, attorneys general, and state lawmakers will determine whether abortion remains legal and how draconian bans will be.

Thirteen GOP-controlled states already have on the books "trigger" laws, bans on abortion designed to take effect once the constitutional right to abortion was denied by the Supreme Court.

However, in other states, Democratic governors and other officials have served as a firewall against abortion bans, firewalls that will crumble if Republicans win key elections in those states in November. Nearly every GOP candidate for the positions have said they support bans on abortion, some even in cases in which the life of the pregnant person is at risk.

Democratic groups are promising to continue the fight for abortion rights even after the court has struck down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that affirmed a constitutional right to abortion.

"Make no mistake: abortion is on the ballot this November, and we, the pro-choice majority in this country, will hold them accountable," Laphonza Butler, president of EMILY's List, which supports Democratic pro-choice female candidates for political office, said in a statement. "We will replace them in offices across the country, up and down the ballot with Democratic pro-choice candidates who will fight for our rights and freedom, with women who will work to expand access to anyone who needs it."

These are the states where abortion rights are at risk if Republicans win elections in November 2022.

Wisconsin

The state of Wisconsin has an abortion ban on the books from 1849.

The law says that anyone who performs or assists in an abortion is committing a felony carrying a maximum six-year prison sentence.

However, Wisconsin Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, who is running for reelection in November, said he would not enforce it.

"Even if courts were to interpret that law as being enforceable, as attorney general I would not use the resources of the Wisconsin Department of Justice either to investigate alleged violations of that abortion ban or to prosecute alleged violations of it," Kaul told the Associated Press in December.

Former state Rep. Adam Jarchow and county attorney Eric Toney, Republicans running to replace Kaul, have both said they would enforce the 1849 law.

"As a pro-life father of two, I will always support the right to life," Jarchow said in May, while the AP reported in December that Toney said, "I am proudly pro-life and I will defend the police and defend our Wisconsin laws, including our abortion ban, if allowed."

Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is also up for reelection. As governor, he has the power to veto any further abortion bans the Republican-controlled Legislature tries to pass.

Evers' possible GOP opponents have expressed their opposition to abortion.

Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch said she is against abortion even in the case of rape or incest, explaining, "I don't think it's the baby's fault how the baby is conceived."

Businessman Tim Michels, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, said, "Every life is precious, and as governor, I will work with the legislature to ensure the lives of the most vulnerable are protected.

Michigan

Michigan's abortion ban law has been on the books since 1931. It makes abortion a felony with a maximum four-year prison sentence. Pregnant people who get abortions can be charged, as can doctors.

Democratic Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has said she won't enforce the law, which are currently facing court challenges filed by Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights advocates.

"As I've repeatedly made clear, I will not use the resources of the Attorney General's office to enforce an unconstitutional law that will allow the state into our bedrooms and doctor's appointments, interfering with our fundamental reproductive rights," Nessel tweeted after the Supreme Court decision was released on Friday.

Nessel's likely GOP opponent, Matt DePerno, who describes himself as "100% pro-life without exception," has said he will enforce the law.

Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has supported abortion rights in her state, is also up for reelection.

Republican Garrett Soldano, who is running to unseat Whitmer, opposes abortion in cases of rape or incest, telling an interviewer in January, "What we must start to focus on is not only to defend the DNA when it's created, but however, how about that we start inspiring women in the culture, to let them understand and know how heroic they are and how unbelievable that they are? That God put them in this moment and they don't know, that little baby inside them may be the next president."

Republican candidate Ryan Kelley's website says, "Science and data prove that a new life, a new body, and a new strain of DNA begins at conception. Michigan law must uphold this basic biological principle. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is endowed to each individual, including unborn human lives." On his Facebook page, Kelley says, "What does pro life mean to me? Pro life means to honor the creation of life from conception."

Pennsylvania

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania has vetoed three anti-abortion bills sent to him by the Republican-controlled Legislature, but Wolf is term-limited and cannot run for reelection in November.

Democrats have nominated current Attorney General Josh Shapiro to run for governor in November. Shapiro supports abortion rights and would veto any anti-abortion legislation.

"I will not let our daughters grow up in a world where they have fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had in Pennsylvania," Shapiro tweeted after Friday's decision. "The stakes in this post-Roe world are clear. Either we're going to safeguard their right to choose, or it'll be ripped away with no exceptions."

Shapiro's GOP opponent in the race, Doug Mastriano, opposes abortion in all cases, even when the life of the pregnant person is at risk.

According to the opposition research organization American Bridge 21st Century, Mastriano told a gathering of voters in York County, Pennsylvania, "I will move with decision, decisive decisiveness here to sign these bills, whether it's my heartbeat bill or Stephanie Borowitz’s bill or Down Syndrome Protection Act ... So on day one, I have a series of executive orders, and just for everyone's comfort out there, executive orders are powers that a governor can wield. But you obviously want to back up the legislation. So the codified in the law. So after my eight years are up, the next governor can't overturn them."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Debunked 'Big Lie' Documentary Draws Aging Trumpists To Theatres

Washington (AFP) - A new movie that pushes dubious and widely debunked conspiracy theories to bolster Donald Trump's claim that he was robbed of a second term as president has become a surprise hit at the US box office.

Despite warnings by experts, "2000 Mules," a film by Dinesh D'Souza -- who was convicted of violating campaign finance laws before being pardoned by the former president -- has garnered more than $1.2 million at the box office since its release in late May.

With large buckets of popcorn in hand, a group of elder moviegoers crowd into a matinee screening in a cinema in a commercial district in Virginia.

Passing by theaters showing the adventures of "Doctor Strange" or the latest "Sonic the Hedgehog" movie, the senior citizens settle down in front of the documentary promising to "expose widespread, coordinated voter fraud in the 2020 election, sufficient to change the overall outcome."

'Lifeblood Of Democracy'

The film opens with footage of anonymous voters enthusiastically slipping their ballots into boxes stamped with the American flag, while D'Souza tells the audience that "elections are the lifeblood of our democracy."

But, he says as the background darkens, the 2020 election "haunts the American mind."

Like millions of Americans, including former president Trump, D'Souza voices the debunked belief that the Democrats rigged the result of the last presidential election, relying on the widespread use of mail-in ballots during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We can't move on unless we know the truth," the director says in his voiceover.

'Proof' That Proves Nothing

In an attempt to prove his theory, which has been rejected by all relevant US authorities of both parties, D'Souza shows himself, leaning on a kitchen counter and phoning a group based in Texas called True the Vote, which claims to "support election integrity." A meeting is arranged.

In a kind of hangar packed with computer servers, two members of the group claim to have proof of the existence of a well-planned operation which, "like a cartel," hired "mules" to stuff ballot boxes in a series of states that were key to Joe Biden's victory in 2020.

To validate their hypothesis, they rely on vast troves of anonymous location data from smartphone apps, which they claim show the comings and goings of these "mules" between the headquarters of various NGOs and ballot boxes.

It's a "heist" and "a crime," says the outraged D'Souza.

In the theater in Virginia, the audience is sold.

"It's like a nuclear bomb," says one man.

The theories pushed in the movie have been seriously questioned by multiple disinformation experts.

They say that a delivery man, a taxi driver, or a postman working in the neighborhood could easily have been mistaken for people making such nefarious trips.

But for Trump and his supporters, this is the ultimate proof of the fraud they have been decrying for a year and a half.

"They rigged and stole the 2020 election, we cannot be okay with this, we cannot simply move on," says D'Souza as the film ends.

And as the first notes of the American national anthem play, he issues a call to action: "The America we love needs us now more than ever."

How Democrats (And Honest Republicans) Can Defeat The Next Coup Attempt

In 1980, because I was an idealistic conservative eager to do my bit for democracy, I volunteered for my local Republican Party as a poll watcher. When polls closed, election officials asked us to gather around as they opened the backs of the machines one by one and tallied the votes. We could all see what was happening, and we all gave our assent that the totals were correct.

It was a glimpse into the ordinary yet extraordinary system we've devised over decades and centuries to ensure that elections are performed honestly and securely. Each state has developed its own procedures, but they're all broadly similar. The results of each polling location are delivered to the precinct and then on to the canvassing board. Election administrators are observed by partisans of both parties, and the results are often counted more than once.

Our voting systems in America have not always been perfect — the most glaring flaw being the disenfranchisement of many African Americans until the mid-20th century — but we corrected that, and over time and in most places, we've conducted free and fair elections every two years.

Today, that stability is at risk.

Across the country, candidates who deny the legitimacy of the 2020 election are seeking office in order to prepare the ground for the next election contest. Pardoned Trump ally Steve Bannon is encouraging MAGAites to run for local posts with authority to count votes. Bannon uses his popular podcast to tout "taking over the Republican party through the precinct committee strategy ... It's about winning elections with the right people — MAGA people. We will have our people in at every level."


At least 23 candidates who deny the outcome of the 2020 election are running for secretary of state in 19 states. Among those are battleground states that Joe Biden won narrowly: Michigan, Nevada, Georgia and Arizona. Trump has endorsed candidates in Georgia, Arizona and Michigan, the only time in history that a former president has bestirred himself over races so far down the ballot. "We're seeing a dangerous trend of election deniers lining up to fill election administration positions across the country," Joanna Lydgate, chief executive of the States United Democracy Center, told The Guardian. States United also tallies 53 election deniers seeking governorships in 25 states, and 13 election deniers running for attorney general in 13 states.

Additionally, death threats and intimidation from MAGA extremists have caused one in five election administrators to say they will leave their posts before 2024. The most common explanation is that too many politicians were attacking "a system that they know is fair and honest" and that the job was too stressful. A February survey of 596 local election officials found that they spanned the political spectrum pretty evenly — 26% identified as Democrats, 30% as Republicans and 44% as independents. A majority said they were worried about attempts to interfere with their work in future elections.

While MAGA types are beavering away, attempting to stack election boards and other posts with election-denying zealots, what are other Americans doing? The clock is ticking.

Democrats are likely to have a tough election in November — not that widespread Republican victories will cause election deniers to reconsider their belief that the 2020 race was stolen. But while Democrats are likely to lose seats in the House and Senate, local elections may not be so lopsided, particularly if the craziness of some of these candidates is highlighted. Kristina Karamo, for example, the Trump-endorsed secretary of state candidate in Michigan, claims that she personally witnessed fraudulent vote-counting in 2020, that Trump won her state (Biden won it by 154,000 votes) and that left-wing anarchists attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Some Republicans, it should not be forgotten, continue to uphold the integrity of elections; a handful of honest Republicans saved the country from a potentially disastrous constitutional crisis in 2020.

If past is prologue, Democrats will probably pour money into unwinnable races over the next few months. Remember Amy McGrath? She was supposed to dethrone Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Democratic donors gave her $88 million. Remember Jaime Harrison? He was going to defeat Lindsey Graham in South Carolina. Donors shoveled $130 million his way. Harrison lost by a 10-point margin. McGrath lost by nearly 20 points. The list goes on. Beto O'Rourke, anyone? (Republicans do this, too. Just look at the money wasted in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's district.)

This year, donors are spending millions in an attempt to unseat the execrable Marjorie Taylor Greene. Sigh. Trump won Greene's district with 75% of the vote. This. Won't. Work.

Democrats, independents and sane Republicans should focus instead on the critical local contests that will determine who counts the votes in 2024. Those unsexy races for local positions and administrative posts like secretaries of state could make the difference in 2024 between an election and a coup.

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.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Fox Primes Viewers For ‘Election Fraud’ Chaos In Pennsylvania

Fox News prime-time host Sean Hannity is priming his audience to see election fraud in any defeat for Dr. Mehmet Oz, his favored candidate who currently leads the GOP primary for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania with two percent of votes outstanding. If the fast-closing hedge funder Dave McCormick takes the lead and the Oz camp claims the election has been stolen, it could set up a potentially explosive proxy war with Hannity’s colleague Laura Ingraham, whose Fox program favors McCormick and has suggested he is likely to prevail when all the votes are counted.

The GOP primary was a chaotic slugfest that split Fox’s slate of pro-GOP hosts in an unusually public way. Hannity was Oz’s most prominent supporter, reportedly securing the support of former President Donald Trump and using his program to endorse the TV personality, give him a regular platform, and target the challenge from right-wing commentator and Fox & Friends regular Kathy Barnette. Ingraham, meanwhile, used her Fox program (which airs in the hour following Hannity’s) to promote McCormick, criticize Oz, and defend Barnette.

Tuesday’s election is currently too close to call, with Oz holding a roughly 1,200-vote lead over McCormick, 31. percent to 31.1 percent, according to the Associated Press. McCormick has gained ground as officials continue counting ballots, and the election appears headed to a recount.

Trump, Hannity, and the bulk of Hannity’s Fox and right-wing media colleagues dishonestly sought to delegitimize the 2020 election results when mail-in ballots helped President Joe Biden win key states. Their cynical attempt to subvert the vote and terminate the American republic led inexorably to January 6, 2021, when a riotous mob of Trump supporters sacked the U.S. Capitol as they sought to thwart the peaceful transition of power.

Hannity and Trump are now deploying the same playbook in Pennsylvania.

“Dr. Oz should declare victory,” Trump suggested on his social media site Wednesday morning. “It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they ‘just happened to find.’”

A few hours later, Hannity similarly baselessly raised the prospect of election fraud on his nationally syndicated radio show.



Hannity similarly portrayed the election as a done deal on his Fox show that night.

“I've been crunching numbers all day. I've been talking to people all day. I've been checking county websites all day. And I have my belief that, worst case scenario, this comes out in Oz's favor,” Hannity told his guest, the pollster Matt Towery.

Towery agreed with Hannity’s analysis, saying, “There aren't enough votes here to make this a reversal in who's leading. It could take it down more, maybe even to 600, but I don't think it can change the lead."

And Oz himself appeared and took Trump’s advice, telling Hannity’s audience, “This election is ours.”

Hannity viewers who kept watching after the program ended received a very different message from Ingraham’s show.

The analyst Ingraham hosted to discuss the race, Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito, said that based on the outstanding ballots, “If you ask me tonight whose campaign I would want to be in, it would probably be McCormick’s.”

And then McCormick himself came on and, at Ingraham’s urging, disputed Oz’s claim that he had won.


As the midterm elections approach, Trump and Hannity have learned to expect no negative consequences for convincing their fans to believe outlandish lies about rigged elections. Trump remains the head of the Republican Party, while Hannity retains his dual role at Fox and as a GOP operative. Their impulse to treat any electoral defeat as fraudulent now risks chaos for the GOP in Pennsylvania and on Fox’s airwaves – and sets the stage for a similar, dangerous play for the White House in 2024.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

John Eastman Trying To Conceal Trump’s Direct Role In Coup Plot

New details about the direct role that Donald Trump played in developing a strategy to overturn the 2020 election were revealed in a federal court filing from election coup attorney John Eastman late Thursday.

Eastman is several months into a battle to keep records of his work for Trump in the run-up to January 6 confidential. but in his latest parry to bar access to emails he says should be protected under attorney-client privilege, he has revealed that Trump sent him at least “two hand-written notes” containing information “he thought might be useful for the anticipated litigation” challenging election results.

Evidence of Trump’s hand in developing this strategy is not the only thing that Eastman wants U.S. District Judge David Carter to keep away from prying eyes. He also asked the court to protect correspondence with no less than seven state legislators, White House attorneys, and other officials who received his guidance on the appointments of Trump’s so-called “alternate” electors.


Details on those officials and legislators in the filing are limited since Eastman was careful to keep their identities private.

But as first reported by Politico:

“But several of the attorneys filed declarations supporting Eastman’s descriptions of his work for Trump. Those declarations, filed under seal with the court, include attestations from Kurt Olsen, the lead lawyer in a Supreme Court lawsuit that Trump backed to overturn the election results, as well as Bruce Marks, a Pennsylvania lawyer who worked on Trump’s election litigation.”

Olsen was subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee in March. His push to change election laws at the Justice Department just ahead of the Capitol attack prompted the demand for his records and testimony. Olsen, in response, countersued the select committee.

Notably, Eastman also mentions in his filing that there are at least “six conduits to or agents of the former president” that he dealt with directly when strategizing the overturn.

Three are individuals who had roles with Trump’s campaign and serve as attorneys and the other three were members of Trump’s “immediate staff and one attorney.”

“While Dr. Eastman could (and did) communicate directly with former President Trump at times, many of his communications with the President were necessarily through these agents,” the filing states.

In another section of the motion, Eastman clarifies further, saying he also “communicated directly with Trump by phone and email through his assistant or attorney agents.”

Even now, Eastman promotes claims and makes insinuations that the 2020 election was rigged against Trump. There is no evidence to support these statements. He was equally adamant in the motion to Judge Carter that the select committee probing the attack is acting unconstitutionally and prejudicially.

Time and again, however, when the committee’s standing has come up in a legal challenge, courts have found otherwise, deeming it a valid and constitutional body acting within the scope of its congressional authority.

“The Select Committee has accused Dr. Eastman and his client of acting to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress with corrupt intent, based on its claim that Dr. Eastman and his client (and others) engaged in the ‘big lie’ about election illegality and fraud. But that claim, that premise, is itself false. One might even say that the assertion of a ‘big lie’ is itself the actual Big Lie,” Eastman maintained in the motion Thursday.

This batch of emails Eastman wants hidden comprise just 600 records. The committee has requested access to 90,000 pages of records housed with Chapman University, Eastman’s former employer.

The committee initially subpoenaed Eastman directly but he refused to comply.

That decision has been a boon for the committee: Judge Carter ruled in March that Trump and Eastman “more likely than not” engaged in a conspiracy meant to stop Congress from engaging in the counting of certified votes, one of the last steps on the path to a transfer of power.

Eastman was previously revealed to be the author of a six-point pressure strategy targeting former Vice President Mike Pence. Eastman advised in the document that Pence had the final say in stopping the certification. In truth, Pence did not, his role, under the constitution, was overwhelmingly perfunctory.

The conservative attorney took a swing at Judge Carter’s ruling from March, and in particular, a section where Carter said the evidence indicated Eastman's conduct was not “driven by preserving the Constitution, but by winning the 2020 election.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Florida Court Blocks DeSantis’ Racist Gerrymander Map

A state court judge blocked Florida's new Republican-drawn congressional map from taking effect on Wednesday, ruling that it violates the state constitution because it "diminishes African Americans' ability to elect candidates of their choice." Circuit Judge Layne Smith, who was appointed to his current post by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, further ordered that the state implement a remedial map that restores the Fifth District in northern Florida to its previous Jacksonville-to-Tallahassee configuration and makes commensurate changes to neighboring districts.

At issue is a set of amendments reforming the redistricting process that voters approved in 2010, often known as the "Fair Districts" amendments. These amendments prohibit, among other things, the "retrogression" of minority voting rights in both congressional and legislative redistricting. As ACLU attorney Nicholas Warren explained, "This means no backsliding in minority voters' ability to elect candidates of choice"—which in the case of the Fifth District would mean a Black Democrat.

Indeed, the current representative for the Fifth, Al Lawson, fits that mold precisely. But to maximize GOP fortunes and please his base, DeSantis demanded a map that shattered the Fifth and transformed it from a safely blue district with a 46 percent Black plurality to a solidly red seat with a 67 percent white majority. That, said Smith in an oral ruling from the bench, violated the Fair Districts amendment that governs congressional line-drawing.

Republicans are certain to appeal, so Smith's decision may not stand. But it bears noting that the present east-west version of the Fifth District was ultimately blessed by the state Supreme Court in a 2015 ruling following a successful challenge to the GOP's prior map under the Fair Districts amendment. The high court has grown considerably more conservative since then thanks to appointments by DeSantis and his predecessor, Rick Scott, though as Warren noted, "the anti-retrogression mandate is a clear and uncontroversial part" of state law.

Whether that proves any sort of obstacle to the justices is the key question, though the appellate courts could also rule—as the U.S. Supreme Court regularly has in cases that disfavor Republicans—that it’s too late for Florida to change its map this year. Practically speaking, however, the state has three and a half months to prepare as Florida’s primary is not until Aug. 23.

The remedial plan adopted by Smith leaves the rest of DeSantis' map intact, but several other districts are still being challenged as partisan gerrymanders, which are also barred by the Fair Districts amendment.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Pennsylvania Republicans Fear Nominating Mastriano For Governor

Republicans in Pennsylvania are expressing growing concern about the possibility of the party being defeated in November for the state's gubernatorial election.

According to Politico, Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Penn.) appears to be the frontrunner and Republican leaders are reportedly working tirelessly being the scenes to ensure he does not end up with the Republican nomination.

As the primary election approaches, "GOP gubernatorial campaigns and leading state and county officials have been in discussions about uniting behind a single candidate to avoid a scenario in which Mastriano wins the crowded race by taking advantage of a splintered vote. If that doesn’t work, another option is persuading the candidates in single-digits in the polls to drop out."

Speaking to Politico, Andy Reilly, a Republican National Committee (RNC) member, Sam DeMarco, who served as the Allegheny County Republican Party chair, and other sources opened up about their concerns.

“There’s so much that concerns me about this,” DeMarco told the news outlet as he specified that he was only speaking for himself as opposed to the entire group. “We’re in a year where all evidence points to a red tsunami. And it appears here in Pennsylvania, because of the number of people in the race and his smaller but consistent base of support, we may be nominating the only Republican who would be unelectable in November.”

Reilly also released a statement detailing his concerns.

In a statement to Politico, Reilly said, “As National Committeeman, I have spoken regularly with almost all of the gubernatorial campaigns over the past [three] months. Last week when the presumptive [Democratic] nominee, Josh Shapiro, and the State Democratic Party used campaign resources to assist the candidacy of Doug Mastriano in the Republican primary, it raised concerns among the campaigns. Those concerns have led to discussions among the campaigns of which I have been occasionally involved.”

Reilly also added that “the state party voted not to endorse a candidate, any decision a campaign makes to endorse another candidate, suspend their campaign or stay in the race is entirely the decision of that campaign.”

Mike Conallen, the former chief of staff for Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) who now serves as a Republican strategist in Pennsylvania, also explained why he believes Mastriano will have the most difficult time clinching a gubernatorial win. The Republican candidate, who has been a vocal supporter of Trump and his voter fraud conspiracies, leaves heavily to the far right. For Conallen, it seems that may be a bit problematic.

“I think there is a significant level of concern that Mastriano, of all of the primary candidates, will have the most difficult time in the general, just because of the level of his conservative viewpoints and policies,” said Conallen. “There was the general consensus that even though he was the most likely to win the primary, he was going to have the toughest time in the general.”`

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Michigan Lawyer Who Sought To Overturn Biden's Victory Tied To Russian Spy

A Tennessee attorney who worked on a Michigan lawsuit alleging voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election has a history of working with Russian nationals, an investigation by the American Independent Foundation has found.

The lawyer, G. Kline Preston IV, worked with a conservative legal group in Michigan as part of an effort to overturn the election results in the state, where Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by a slim margin in 2020.

Preston has worked for Republican politicians and causes as a legal adviser for nearly two decades. He has said he is "family friends" with Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, whose campaign he represented in 2005 as it was being investigated for possible finance violations. He gave legal advice to Blackburn's 2007 House campaign and worked with her as recently as 2014.

Preston has a long history of sharing pro-Confederate propaganda on social media. He even quoted a former Ku Klux Klan leader in one of the many books he's written. In 2013, Preston sent a tweet suggesting that former President Barack Obama is not American — the same "Birther" conspiracy theory that Trump pushed before he ran for president.

"As long as US is electing foreign-born presidents, I propose Vladimir Vladimirivich [sic] Putin," Preston tweeted in 2013.

On Nov. 8, 2020, lawyers with the right-leaning Great Lakes Justice Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Wayne County residents alleging fraud took place during the vote count. The lawsuit, which alleged that officials affiliated with Democrats "allowed illegal, unlawful, and fraudulent processing of votes cast" in a plot to sink Trump's chances of winning the state, was initially dismissed by the Wayne County Circuit Court. The lawyers behind the legal effort then appealed the ruling to the Michigan Supreme Court.

During the effort to get the Michigan Supreme Court to hear their case, the Great Lakes Justice Center's lawyers filed affidavits from 47 witnesses who alleged they saw voter fraud during the vote count at Huntington Place, the convention center in Detroit where the voting and vote-counting were conducted. Among the affidavits is a sworn statement from Preston that identifies him as "an attorney for the GOP in Michigan on November 3-4, 2020."

In the statement, Preston claimed that election officials at the venue where the vote-counting took place intentionally set up their process in an obscured area so Republican election observers couldn't see what they were doing.

"The entire set-up of the administration and calculation of ballots on November 4, 2020, at the Detroit Department of Elections in the TCF Center was improper because a central part of their procedure was hidden and obscured in plain sight by the raised stage on which unknown functions were performed involving ballots which were not subject to observation, review, scrutiny or challenge," the statement reads.

On Nov. 23, 2020, the Michigan canvassing board voted to certify the state's election results, with one of two Republicans joining the Democratic board members in the vote.

One of the Russian nationals Preston is connected to is Maria Butina, an unregistered foreign agent who infiltrated the National Rifle Association as part of a Russian effort to influence conservatives. In 2018, The Daily Beast uncovered that it was Preston who first introduced Butina's handler, Alexander Torshin, a former Russian parliamentarian who was sanctioned by the Treasury Department, to David Keen, the former president of the NRA. According to their reporting, Preston is a "friend and confidant" of Torshin. In 2011 — the same year he introduced Torshin to Keene — Preston traveled to Russia to serve as a foreign elections observer. Preston also told The Tennessean in 2018 that Torshin "was interested in the NRA so I hooked him up."

In speaking with Rolling Stone in 2018, Preston waved off suspicion about introducing his friend to the NRA's leader. "Torshin is a gun enthusiast," he said. "I just called [Keene] out of the blue. I told him, 'Hey, I got a friend who is interested in the NRA, gun rights, that kind of stuff. Happens to be a Russian senator.'"

Preston is mentioned several times in the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Most notably, the report mentions that "according to Butina and press reporting, Tennessee attorney G. Kline Preston may also have been involved in the introduction."

From 2015 to 2017, Butina acted "as an agent of Russia inside the United States by developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence over American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation," according to the Justice Department.

Butina was working at the direction of an unnamed individual only described as a "high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank," according to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint against her.

The "high-level official in the Russian government" mentioned in the affidavit was later revealed to be Torshin, Preston's "friend and confidant."

Preston's ties to Moscow extend far beyond the Butina episode. As an undergraduate, he studied in Russia at Leningrad State University and is said to speak Russian fluently. In the affidavit, Preston says he's written 14 books on law, most of which are about Russian law and elections, including "Parliamentary Elections of the Russian Federation: The Case Against Western Media Bias and Prejudice" and "The Law on Advertising of the Russian Federation." According to Preston's website, he served as a freelance elections observer in at least three Russian parliamentary elections in 2011, 2012, and 2016.

In August of 2020, Preston appeared on the internet show of Johan Bäckman, a Finnish pro-Russian political academic, and said he anticipated there would be widespread voter fraud to prevent Trump from being reelected. "We also have an issue now with the integrity of our voting system," Preston said. "So I anticipate a lot of voter fraud during our election ... U.S. elections are nothing like what we see in Russia."

He also has decades of business experience with Russia, according to his LinkedIn profile. The Daily Beast found a cached version of his law office's website that expands on his years of work with Russian clients, including a claim to have organized the "visit, participation and conference for Russian Government Officials to attend the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association."

In an interview, Preston said he volunteered for Lawyers for Trump, a coalition of right-wing lawyers formed in July of 2020 that led legal efforts to overturn the election results in several states with false allegations of election fraud. Preston said the group placed him in Michigan to serve as an "election observer."

"[Lawyers for Trump] reached out and I got back in touch with them and said I'd be happy to [help] and went and spent about a week up in Detroit," Preston told the American Independent Foundation. "A lot of it was monitoring. We had people at the precincts."

Preston insisted he worked with Lawyers for Trump of his own accord, not at the direction of any Russian nationals. But in speaking with the American Independent Foundation he repeatedly praised the way Russia runs its elections, saying the country is "much better" at running elections than the United States, which he called "a joke."

Preston looks to Russian elections — which are historically mired in corruption and fraud — as an exemplar of how the United States should run its elections.

"I've been an observer in five federal elections in Russia," Preston said. "And I'm just here to tell you their elections are run much more smoothly — and with much more credibility than what I saw in Detroit."

Though the lead-up to the 2020 election in the U.S. was once again fraught with concerns of Russian interference, there's been no evidence that Russia or any other country had a hand in the post-election efforts to overturn the results in Michigan or any other state. A declassified intelligence report from March of 2021 confirmed that Putin did in fact authorize interference in the 2020 election by attempting to influence people close to Trump. "Neither Russia nor other countries tried to change ballots themselves," the report concluded.

Ultimately, the Great Lakes Justice Center's lawsuit was tossed by a Wayne County Circuit Court judge, who found that "the affidavits supplied by plaintiffs, purporting fraud, were 'rife' with generalization, speculation, hearsay, and a lack of evidentiary basis." An appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court was later dismissed as moot after the Michigan Board of Elections certified the state's election results.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.