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Tag: elections

Trump Lawyer Sidney Powell Fails To Appear Before Georgia Grand Jury

Sidney Powell, one of the attorneys who led former President Donald Trump's post-election legal battle in 2020, did not appear to testify before a special purpose grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia.

According to WSB-TV, Powell was set to appear on Thursday, September 22 as part of the county's investigation of potential criminal interference following the state's 2020 election.

Per the news outlet, court records indicate that Powell was asked about "her involvement in an incident that happened in South Georgia in January 2021."

At the time, footage captured several individuals gaining access to the County Elections Office to "download elections data from voting machines and an elections server."

According to state investigators, the act is being purported as “criminal behavior.” Powell is accused of covering the cost for the effort.

Powell was thrust into the public eye as one of Trump's allies following his 2020 presidential election loss. Like many of his other allies, Powell echoed the former president's unfounded conspiracy theories of widespread voter fraud as she and his legal team filed numerous of lawsuits in battleground states where he lost.

Following the 2020 election, Powell made headlines when she appeared for Republican National Committee (RNC) news conference. “President Trump won by a landslide,” she said. “We are going to prove it.”

I’m going to release the Kraken,” she said around the same time.

At this point, it remains unclear if Powell will face legal consequences for her failure to appear at the recent hearing. As of Friday, September 23, it is also unclear whether or not the hearing will be rescheduled.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

GOP Senators Who Voted For Abortion Ban Flip-Flop Under Midterm Pressure

A number of Republican senators who just two years ago voted to ban abortion nationwide are now trying to distance themselves from that position as polling shows their anti-abortion stance could sink their chances in the November midterm election.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and GOP Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, John Thune of South Dakota, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin all voted for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act when it was introduced in the Senate in 2020 and 2018. That bill, introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), made it a crime to perform an abortion after 20 weeks' gestation.

But after Graham on September 13 introduced S.4840, listed officially as "A bill to amend title 18, United States Code, to protect pain-capable unborn children, and for other purposes," which would criminalize abortion after 15 weeks' gestation, those same Republicans now say regulation of abortion should be left to the states.

Asked whether Republicans would put the bill to a vote if they regained a majority in the Senate, McConnell said, "I think most of the members of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level."

But in 2018, when McConnell was Senate majority leader, he put a nationwide 20-week abortion ban on the floor for a vote.

"There is no reason why this should be a partisan issue," McConnell said on the Senate floor on January 29, 2018. "I hope that my Democratic colleagues will not obstruct the Senate from taking up this bill."

Cornyn has also reversed his position on a nationwide abortion ban.

According to Politico, Cornyn said of Graham's bill: "There's obviously a split of opinion in terms of whether abortion law should be decided by the states … and those who want to set some sort of minimum standard. I would keep an open mind on this but my preference would be for those decisions to be made on a state-by-state basis."

But in January 2018, Cornyn supported Graham's 20-week ban and lamented the fact that it didn't pass, tweeting: "Who among us thinks it's appropriate to have an elective abortion after five months when a child can feel pain? I'm disappointed in my colleagues who voted to block the pain-capable legislation today."

Polling has shown that public opinion about abortion is dramatically different from that of Republican lawmakers since the Supreme Court ruling in June in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that affirmed the right nationwide to abortion before fetal viability, which takes place around 24 weeks' gestation.

Surveys show that large majorities of voters want abortion to remain legal in all or most cases, and that they do not support bans.

A poll of registered voters conducted by the Wall Street Journal in late August found that 60 percent say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, a 5-point jump since March.

Graham introduced his bill after some Republican operatives had been lamenting that the party hadn't presented a unified message about their position on abortion after the Dobbs decision.

"Not having pro-life battleground candidates stake out a clear, unified position on something like a 15-week ban on the day that Dobbs was announced seems like a strategic blunder," GOP pollster Patrick Ruffini tweeted on September 8.

However, the ban contained in Graham's bill is also overwhelmingly unpopular: The Journal poll found 57 percent of voters oppose a ban on abortion at 15 weeks.

Prior to Roe's reversal, Republicans had a two-point average lead on the generic congressional ballot, a measure of which party voters want to see gain control in Congress. Now that lead has evaporated, with Democrats now holding a 1.4-point average lead over Republicans, according to FiveThirtyEight's tracker.

Before the Roe reversal, Republicans were the favorite to capture control in the Senate. However, FiveThirtyEight now gives Democrats a 71 percent chance at keeping the Senate majority.

Democrats, for their part, have been hammering Republicans on the abortion issue, with ad after ad calling the GOP's push to ban the procedure extreme and dangerous.

"Republicans got what they wanted (overturning Roe v. Wade and passing bans in a variety of states) and assumed that voters would be fine with it. They're not, and now Republicans are scrambling to try to stick with their agenda and still appeal to voters," Christina Reynolds, vice president of communications for the pro-abortion rights PAC EMILY's List, tweeted on September 13. "Good luck with that..."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Fox Executives And Anchor Tried To Subvert 2020 Election Night Reporting

Top Fox News executives interfered with the election projections of the network’s vaunted “decision desk” due to blowback from then-President Donald Trump, according to a new book. The reports — and the actions Fox took with regard to its decision desk following the 2020 election — demolish the network’s argument that its “news side” is a credible journalistic operation walled off from the “opinion side’s” Republican Party propaganda machine.

In The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021, Peter Baker and Susan Glasser report that while Fox’s decision desk had been comfortable with its election night call that Joe Biden had won Arizona, “Fox executives were freaking out” that week as the network came “under tremendous pressure from Trump and his allies.” Fox’s call made it more difficult for Trump to subvert the election after declaring victory on election night, and he responded by successfully encouraging Fox viewers to switch to its competitors.

Jay Wallace, Fox’s president and executive editor, took a direct action overriding the decision desk in hopes of avoiding further criticism from Trump supporters on the Friday after election day, according to Baker and Glasser.

Wallace “overruled the Decision Desk team including Bill Sammon, Arnon Miskin, and Chris Stirewalt, refusing to let them call Nevada for Biden even after other networks did, a level of interference that had been unheard of in past elections,” they write. “The reason had little to do with Nevada. Because of the Arizona projection, calling Nevada would give Biden enough electoral votes for victory. Wallace did not want Fox to be the first to call the election and declare Biden president-elect.”

Wallace’s act followed two other proposals from senior Fox employees to interfere with the decision desk for Trump’s benefit, according to the book.

First, “at 8:30 the morning after the election, Suzanne Scott, the chief executive officer, even suggested that Fox should not call any more states until they were officially certified,” they reported. As Baker and Glasser noted, “official state certifications typically took days or even weeks and no network had ever waited until then before telling their viewers who had won.”

“A couple other top executives backed up Scott,” while Sammon, the Washington managing editor who directed the decision desk, advised against the move, according to the book. (That Sammon, who slanted Fox’s reporting to the right and bragged about falsely portraying Barack Obama as a socialist during the 2008 election, was the voice of reason here shows how far the network had gone.)

But two days later, they report that Fox chief political anchor Bret Baier sent Wallace an email arguing that Fox should reverse its Arizona call and instead project that Trump had won the state — even though he trailed at the time by more than 10,000 votes.

“The Trump campaign was really pissed,” he wrote in an email to Jay Wallace, the president and executive editor at Fox. “This situation is getting uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. I keep having to defend this on air.” He accused the Decision Desk of “holding on for pride” and added: “It’s hurting us. The sooner we pull it—even if it gives us major egg [on our faces]—and we put it back in his column the better we are in my opinion.

Fox executives sell ads by touting the purported firewall between the network’s right-wing “opinion side” and its respectable “news side.” But here we have the network’s top “news side” anchor imploring the head of “news side” programming to make the “news side” decision desk fraudulently award a state to Trump because his campaign was demanding it. That says more about Fox’s role as GOP propaganda than any “opinion side” monologue. (In a statement, Baier denied writing that the Trump campaign “was really pissed,” claiming that the quote was “from an external email that I referenced,” but complained only of the “context” of the remainder of the quotes.)

Wallace didn’t follow through on Baier’s proposal, but according to Baker and Glasser he blocked the decision desk’s Nevada call the following day. The day after that, Fox saw the writing on the wall and followed CNN, ABC, CBS, and The Associated Press in declaring that Biden had won the election.

But that wasn’t the end of it. The network’s brass subsequently established an incentive structure that would dissuade similar “news side” threats to Fox’s bottom line.

Baker and Glasser report that Sammon and Stirewalt were then “summarily fired,” with the announcement delayed until January and described as a “retirement” and part of a “restructuring,” respectively.

Over the months that followed, “opinion side” hosts Greg Gutfeld and Jesse Watters, who had both questioned the network’s Arizona call, were given their own weeknight shows. They each took over time slots that had previously been occupied by “news side” programs. Other prominent election deniers were also promoted and given increased prominence at the network.

Everyone who works at Fox now knows that if they help Republicans try to steal an election, they’ll be richly rewarded. If they try to interfere with that effort by accurately stating that the Democrats won, the network’s top executives may overrule them and they will find themselves looking for a new job.

Fox’s decision desk is now just another piece of the right’s election subversion machine — one its executives can deploy at will — and its projections should be treated as such. Any future Fox election calls that diverge from other networks to the benefit of the GOP should be treated with extreme skepticism.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Wisconsin's Top Election Denier Urges 'Revolution'

Last week, former Wisconsin state Supreme Court Judge Michael Gableman repeated conspiracy theories and unproven allegations about the 2020 presidential election during a speech at a Republican fundraiser.

He also brought up the specter of "revolution."

Gableman's remarks came during an Outagamie County Republican Party Constitution Day dinner in Appleton, Wisconsin. The keynote speaker was Republican gubernatorial nominee Tim Michels, who is challenging Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November.

"It's a beautiful world, but it's that very comfort that is keeping us from what our founders knew to be the only way to keep an honest government, which is revolution," Gableman said during his speech last Friday. "Thomas Jefferson said that the Tree of Liberty must be watered by the blood of patriots every generation. I don't think that's going to happen, and our president has gone out of his way to say, 'Don't even think about a revolution, we've got F14s, and you've got...' Who talks like that?"

The speech was recorded by Lauren Windsor, who created the anti-Republican sting operation The Undercurrent.

Gableman, who served on the court from 2008 to 2018, was the subject of an investigation involving a possible breach of ethics in a campaign ad against one of his colleagues. The court deadlocked on disciplinary action before the case was ultimately dismissed.

Last year, Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos hired Gableman to conduct an investigation into alleged fraud in the 2020 election, following intense criticism by former President Donald Trump over what he baselessly claimed were irregularities in Wisconsin's electoral system. A partial recount and a review by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, among other initiatives, found no widespread election fraud.

Gableman's recommendations included a section on providing a "method" for pre- and post-certification challenges to presidential elections. In this section he suggested that the legislature "might also consider formalizing the ability of candidates to assemble alternative slates of electors, to ratify an already lawful process."

Multiple state Republican state parties formed alternative slates of electors in 2020 in a bid to prevent President Joe Biden's win from being certified.

During his speech, Gableman repeated the outlines of his report, which largely involved what he characterized as a plot by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, to put state election officials on his payroll and have them mobilize Black voters.

"In 2019," Gableman told the audience, "Mark Zuckerberg decided that he did not want Donald Trump to be president anymore and that he was going to use whatever part of his vast fortune was necessary to see to it that Trump was not reelected."

He went on to describe how Zuckerberg spent millions to win Wisconsin for Biden and claimed that he had followed a playbook designed by David Plouffe, a longtime advisor to former President Barack Obama.

Gableman was referring to an $8.8 million grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which is funded in part by Zuckerberg. The grant was distributed to five of Wisconsin's largest cities — Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Kenosha, and Green Bay — to assist with electoral logistics. This was especially needed during the 2020 election because of restrictions around voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vos fired Gableman in August, ending an investigation that had lasted more than a year and cost Wisconsin taxpayers more than $1 million.

"We're going to continue to be paying for these lies both financially and morally. It is far past time that his lies and misinformation have been put to an end," Democratic state Sen. Melissa Agard told WisPolitics.

Michels himself has taken a page from Gableman's playbook by casting doubt on the 2020 election results.

"Certainly, there was a lot of bad stuff that happened," Michels told conservative radio host Joe Giganti in June. "There was certainly illegal ballots. How many? I don't know if Justice Gableman knows. I don't know if anybody knows."

Michels' campaign website features a "blueprint to restore election integrity," which echoes many of Gableman’s claims and recommendations, including the repealing of all of the Wisconsin Election Commission's guidelines and "freezing the issuance of new guidelines."

"We need to make it easier to vote, harder to cheat," the site says.

Michels has said he would also ban ballot drop boxes, and would require counties to provide judges on short notice to resolve disputes or emergencies at polling places on Election Day.

Ballot drop boxes were relatively uncontroversial before the pandemic. But during the 2020 election, they were used in greater numbers as more people were afraid to vote in person. Republicans have baselessly claimed that the boxes lead to fraudulent votes.

"We're gonna get those bills right, those bills Tony Evers vetoed, and we're going to get election integrity here in the state of Wisconsin. We're gonna stop the Zuckerbucks, stop the ballot harvesting," Michels said at last week's campaign event.

Referring to his service in the U.S. military, he noted that the oath he took to protect the country extended to protecting American democracy.

"We will have election integrity in Wisconsin," he told the audience. "We will lead the way for the United States of America to make sure the cheating stops!"

Michels has been accused of flip-flopping, especially when it comes to supporting Trump's election fraud lies. During a debate in July, he said that he would not make decertifying the 2020 election a priority, the New York Times reported, only to later say that he would consider any legislation supplied by the state legislature.

"Michels and Gableman have staked out the most radical positions on the 2020 election in order to pander to Donald Trump and his MAGA base," Hannah Menchhoff, rapid response director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, told the American Independent Foundation.

"We can safely say that Tim Michels and Michael Gableman are two peas in a pod when it comes to promoting election conspiracy theories and attempting to illegally overturn free and fair election results. Tim Michels wants to disenfranchise voters and take away their fundamental rights, proving once again that he is too radical for Wisconsin."

Neither Michels nor Gableman returned requests for comment on this story.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Fox-Inspired Durham Probe Of Russia Investigation Fizzles Out

Fox News spent years smearing the Justice Department investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election as a criminal conspiracy by Obama administration officials and the “deep state” against Donald Trump. The network’s campaign ultimately spawned a sprawling probe by special counsel John Durham that followed up on Fox’s call to “investigate the investigators.” But now that investigation is reportedly coming to an end, with little to show for itself other than additional Fox content.

Durham “appears to be winding down his three-year inquiry,” The New York Times reported Wednesday, noting that the grand jury he “has recently used to hear evidence has expired, and while he could convene another, there are currently no plans to do so.”

The special counsel ultimately developed cases against three individuals, but as the Times noted, “he has not charged any conspiracy or put any high-level officials on trial.” Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty for altering a document used to justify the surveillance of a Trump campaign aide and was sentenced to probation. Durham charged former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann with a single count of lying to an FBI agent, but he was found not guilty by a unanimous jury in May. The last remaining person on Durham’s public docket is Igor Danchenko, a Russian national who contributed to the Steele dossier and goes on trial next month on charges of making false statements to the FBI.

That’s a poor result for a probe that Fox hosts such as Sean Hannity had declared was necessary to target an anti-Trump conspiracy that featured an array of high-ranking public officials, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. At one point, Hannity argued that if the investigation did not result in high-level convictions, “the great American republic will disintegrate before your eyes.”

But at the same time, the probe wasn’t a total loss — it provided Hannity and his ilk with a steady stream of content. I noted after the jury found Sussmann not guilty that Fox had aired more than 2,000 weekday segments that discussed Durham’s investigation or the origins of the Russia probe since his May 2019 appointment, with more than 500 coming after he was named special counsel in October 2020.

The network’s coverage has dwindled since then, but the damage has been done. Durham’s probe fit neatly into Hannity’s counternarrative, in which Trump and his associates were victims of a witch hunt and the real crimes were all committed by overzealous anti-Trump investigators. That conspiracy theory has foundered in court, and the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded in December 2019 that the Russia probe was properly predicated.

Its legacy, however, will be in solidifying the GOP’s turn against the FBI and the Justice Department and setting the stage for the current vein of demagoguery against the various federal probes of Trump and his allies. Hannity sought to put Trump above the law, and, at least for Republicans, he succeeded.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

MAGA Conspirators Swamp Election Offices With Bogus Record Requests

Incited by MAGA conspiracy theorists like MyPillow founder Mike Lindell, Trump supporters are flooding elections offices nationwide with records requests from the 2020 presidential election—an election they lost handily according to all lawsuits and disputes but refuse to believe was fair and democratically won by President Joe Biden.

According to reporting from The Washington Post, dozens of states and a slew of counties across the country are being overwhelmed with what appear to be duplicate requests for “cast vote records,” as they’re called by Lindell.

In text exchanges with the Post, Carol Snow, a MAGA activist from Burke County, North Carolina, writes: “We believe those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. ... Their lack of transparency causes distrust of the electronic voting systems we are required to use to cast our ballots.”

As the Post reports, it seems as though the tsunami of requests started after a livestream from Lindell in mid-August, which was then pushed into wider viewership on Steve Bannon’s podcast. The profusion of public records requests, a tool used by journalists and the public, has effectively inundated offices—and that’s exactly the point.

The timing comes just weeks before early voting in October as election offices prepare to mail out ballots and decide on polling places. Claire Woodall-Vogg, the executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, tells the Post, “When you are asking for every single document under the sun, it becomes difficult for us to do our job.”

In Nevada County, California, clerk-recorder and registrar of voters Natalie Adona tells SFGATE that her office has been flooded with records requests for nearly two years, but in the last week, it’s been outrageous for her as well as offices around the state.

Shasta County Clerk Cathy Darling Allen says that most of the requests have similar wording, repeating the bogus allegations that the Dominion voting machines were somehow taken over by nefarious people or groups.

“I have staff requesting extensions and researching how to obtain the reports requested from our Dominion voting system,” Allen told SFGATE. “This cannot continue.”

According to Maine Public, election officials in the state report that one of the requests “closely mirrors language” used by Terpsichore “Tore” Maras-Lindeman. Maras-Lindeman was Sidney Powell’s “secret intelligence contractor” in the failed bid to have SCOTUS overturn the 2020 election, as well as a podcaster and mouthpiece for QAnon conspiracies.

Lindell recently boasted of donating at least $800,000 toward the legal defense of a “MAGA-supporting Mesa County, Colorado, elections clerk who, along with her deputy, Belinda Knisley, was recently indicted on charges connected to breaching election security, allowing the Dominion voting machines under their care be tampered with by a third party,” Daily Kos Walter Einenkel writes.

Election records are normally kept for 22 months, the Post reports, and Lindell has been desperate to retrieve as many of the records as possible before the Labor Day deadline.

“These machine companies have played out the clock, so to speak. ... But people can request them, and then obviously we can preserve them,” Lindell said.

Matt Crain, who leads the Colorado County Clerks Association, tells the Post the effort from Lindell to encourage the bombardment of election offices is absolutely intentional.

“The only way to look at it is as a denial-of-service attack on local government. ... The irony is, if Lindell wanted the cast vote records, he could have just put in a request to get them. They don’t do that. They put out this call to action for people to do it, and they know it’s going to inundate these offices, especially medium and small offices who are understaffed and overwhelmed already. They know exactly what they’re doing.”

Lindell was recently referred to as “white” Mike Lindell by Vincent James, a white nationalist and conspiracy theorist. James gave a shoutout to Lindell on this livestream, for selling pillows with a discount via a coupon code.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Judge Slaps Down Trump's Frivolous Lawsuit Against Clinton

While Donald Trump managed to find a highly unqualified judge who was willing to work hand in hand with his attorneys to grant his “special master” request, his court shopping isn’t always so effective. Back in March, Trump filed a sprawling, 108-page conspiracy theory-laden lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and others, claiming that he was the victim of a “conspiracy to commit injurious falsehood” and basically that people had the audacity to try and stop him from winning the 2016 election. Clinton’s name may be at the top of the list, but the actual suit includes 35 named defendants, 10 John Does, 10 corporations, and the government. The list of charges is even longer.

Over the last few months, Trump’s legal team has responded to questions about the filing by making it even longer, padding it with more rambling pages, even more claims, and with complaints that Federal District Court Judge Donald Middlebrooks was also part of this grand conspiracy. On Thursday, Middlebrooks spent 65 pages explaining everything wrong with Trump’s ludicrous suit before dismissing “with prejudice” the charges against Clinton and others. The judge also sliced and diced claims from Trump that he was being nickeled and dimed over legal technicalities.

The inadequacies with Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint are not “merely issues of technical pleading,” as Plaintiff contends, but fatal substantive defects that preclude Plaintiff from proceeding under any of the theories he has presented. At its core, the problem with Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint is that Plaintiff is not attempting to seek redress for any legal harm; instead, he is seeking to flaunt a two-hundred-page political manifesto outlining his grievances against those that have opposed him, and this Court is not the appropriate forum.

What makes this extra fun is that Trump really thought he might get something out of this despite the fact that the lawsuit reads very much like a transcription of one of his rambling, paranoia-filled rally speeches and includes an amazing list of charges against Clinton, the government, and everyone who opened their mouth to point out that Trump was, without a doubt, the worst candidate ever to stand for any office. Christopher Steele? In there. Peter Strzok? Of course. James Comey, Lisa Page, Fusion GPS, Bruce and Nelly Ohr, the DNC … Oh, the gang’s all here.

All of them are terrible, because not only does Donald Trump think that the only way he can lose an election is if someone cheated, he also believes that running against him in an election is a crime.

Why did Trump think any of this would work? Because Trump did with this suit did just what he did with the special master request: He filed it in a location where he knew there was a right-wing judge he had appointed. When his special master request reached Judge Aileen Cannon, she didn’t throw it back for not being properly filed or formed, she helped Trump’s attorney’s revise the document to get it over the transom. And when Trump failed to even make a request for injunction or relief that was okay because Cannon filled those those things in for him.

Trump certainly expected the same kind of loving care on this suit. However, the district court docketing system happened to toss the case to Middlebrooks. Who was appointed by President Bill Clinton. And Middlebrooks proceeded to make a tasty meal of Trump’s nonsense.

Trump tried to put the brakes on this outcome earlier by demanding back in April that Middlebrooks recuse himself because he wasn’t nominated by Trump. Middlebrooks took no time in denying Trump’s demand and explaining how all this is supposed to work.

Every federal judge is appointed by a president who is affiliated with a major political party, and therefore every federal judge could theoretically be viewed as beholden, to some extent or another. As judges, we must all transcend politics.

That would be nice. In this case, Middlebrooks then got on with the business of writing a novella on the silliness behind Trump’s claims.

In his lawsuit, Trump alleges that everyone, just everyone, was involved in a conspiracy in which they sought to “nefariously sway the public’s trust” and that they “worked together with a single, self-serving purpose: to vilify Donald J. Trump.”

If that was a crime, then a few hundred million people in this country would certainly be guilty. Fortunately, trying to win an election is still legal, for now.

Middlebrooks spent considerable time detailing the ways in which everything about Trump’s suit was the worst kind of nonsense. Not only did Trump wait so long in filing the complaint that he was well beyond the legal statute of limitations for such civil claims, this lawsuit repeated exactly the primary failing of his special master claim by failing to note any way in which Trump was actually harmed by any of the actions he described, or why anything said by Clinton and others was not “plainly protected by the First Amendment.”

The judge also made clear—at length—that court was not the place for this kind of dispute, that there was nothing that looked like legal harm to be found anywhere in all Trump’s claims, and that you can’t sue people just because you don’t like them.

In particular, Trump tossed in claims such as “racketeering” but failed to provide a single example of activity that fit such a charge. Middlebrooks actually pointed this out the last time he punted the suit back to Trump’s attorneys, but no one seems to have listened.

Fundamentally, Plaintiff cannot state a RICO claim without two predicate acts, and, after two attempts, he has failed to plausibly allege even one. Plaintiff cannot state an injurious falsehood claim without allegations of harm to his property interests. And Plaintiff cannot state a malicious prosecution claim without a judicial proceeding, but he unsuccessfully attempts to misconstrue, misstate, and misapply the law to do so anyway.

Trump claimed racketeering, but provided no evidence; charged that he was injured without showing any harm; and claimed “malicious prosecution” over something that didn’t even involve a court case. It is all just as foolish as it sounds.

But since, of course, the real purpose of this suit was to generate emails saying “Donald Trump needs $5 FROM YOU by MIDNIGHT or HILLARY Clinton might WIN!” What actually happened in court is of little consequence.

And Trump can now see if he can get such a filing in front of Cannon. She’s so helpful.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Extremist Sheriffs Double Down On Embrace Of Big Lie As Midterm Approaches

It’s a testament to the cult power of Donald Trump’s Big Lie that an elected lawman who himself now faces investigation for tampering with voting machines will not only refuse to apologize, but proceed to double down. Another law enforcement official subscribing to the same authoritarian conspiracy theories is meanwhile threatening everyone within his fiefdom with repercussions if they don’t submit to his similar “investigations,” and setting the stage for his nakedly partisan deputies to patrol at polling places.

These cases, both involving the so-called “constitutional sheriffs” movement’s open embrace of Trump’s election denialism, reflect the challenge that awaits much of the country—particularly the rural areas where these sheriffs rule—when we head to the polls in November. Their well-financed campaign, coordinated with leading Trumpists, to overturn election results and seize voting machines they suspect of skewing the vote could wreak havoc with election results around the country if it continues to gain steam.

Dar Leaf, the sheriff of Michigan’s Barry County, has played a leading role in the unfolding saga. It recently emerged that not only does Leaf insist that his dubious “investigations” of election outcomes in his county—based almost entirely on a fraudulent Dinesh D’Souza pseudodocumentary—are legitimate, but that he has continued to seek warrants to confiscate voting tabulators from election officials in townships throughout his county.

Leaf sought warrants to seize machines and search offices of the Barry County Clerk, as well as in Woodland Township and Irving Township, Bridge Michigan found through a Freedom of Information Act request. His affidavits could not cite any evidence justifying the searches, saying only that Leaf sought "evidence of the crime of election law violations."

The report found that Leaf wanted to seize "components of voting and election equipment"—tabulation machines, poll books, election reporting modules, as well as 2020 election paper ballots. He also demanded keys to unlock the devices.

Leaf’s intentions, the affidavits showed, were to have the voting equipment "forensically examined" by someone "who is certified and trained to conduct data extractions."

His involvement in seizing one such tabulator in 2021—which resulted in its being dismantled and examined, then returned with its seals broken—is part of a state investigation that involves not just Leaf, but the Republican nominee for Michigan’s attorney general, Matthew DePerno.

Last month, the current Democratic attorney general, Dana Nesso, filed a petition for a special prosecutor to handle that investigation since it involves her likely Republican opponent in the fall election. The petition indicated that state police investigators believed that DePerno was “one of the prime instigators,” along with Leaf and a state legislator, of a conspiracy to persuade Michigan clerks to allow unauthorized access to voting machines.

DePerno’s campaign issued a statement ridiculing Nessel’s petition as “an incoherent liberal fever dream of lies.”

Barry County Prosecutor Julie Nakfoor Pratt's office refused to sign off on the warrant requests because Leaf had not established "probable cause" to conduct the searches.

"There just wasn't anything in there that amounted to any fraud that I could see," she told Bridge Michigan.

Leaf’s efforts on Trump’s behalf began in December 2020, when he filed a lawsuit demanding Barry County’s voting machines be impounded—which was swiftly laughed out of court. He then embarked on an “investigation” of the machines by sending a deputy and a private investigator to grill township officials about their intricacies.

It was during one of these interrogations that the Irving Township clerk surrendered one of the town’s Dominion machines to Leaf’s team. “I’ve been told they took it (to the Detroit area) and tore it apart,” she told a local TV station, noting that when the machine was returned during a meeting in a parking lot, its security seal had been broken.

Dominion’s machines were the focus of a conspiracy theory popular after the election among the Trumpist right claiming that vote totals had been secretly manipulated to hand the presidency to Joe Biden. The theory was widely circulated on right-wing media such as Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax, all of whom now face multibillion-dollar defamation lawsuits from the company.

Leaf was connected through his attorney, Carson Tucker, to a number of the leading Trump-loving conspiracists the former president employed, including ex-Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood. “My client Barry County Sheriff and several other county sheriffs in Michigan would like to consider issuing probable cause warrants to sequester Dominion voting machines if there is evidence of criminal manipulation,” Tucker wrote to them in one email.

His claims made little sense in Barry County, where Trump won by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Rutland Charter Township clerk Ruth Hawthorne observed tartly: “They seem to think there was some kind of microchip in our tabulators that was throwing votes to Biden. But Trump won Barry County. He won by 65 percent of the vote, so I don’t know where they’re thinking that any kind of chips were in any of our machines or thinking that something had happened to them. The whole thing is nutty. It is nutty, totally nutty.”

Leaf’s extremism was well established before the 2020 election. He had appeared on stage at an anti-masking rally bashing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer with three of the “Patriots” who were later charged with plotting to kidnap and execute her. He first suggested to reporters that perhaps the plotters were only trying to make a “citizens arrest.” Leaf and other Michigan “constitutional sheriffs” also later refused to enforce a statewide ban on guns in Michigan polling places.

His “election integrity” campaign in Michigan caught the attention of Richard Mack, the founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Keepers Association (CSPOA), who then announced a nationwide campaign involving all of the country’s “constitutional sheriffs.”

In May, Mack called on sheriffs and police around the U.S. “to come together in pursuit of the truth regarding the 2020 election.” A CSPOA press release made clear that the basis of their “investigations” was D’Souza’s widely debunked pseudodocumentary, 2000 Mules:

Considering the persistent allegations of election fraud since even before the 2020 elections began, and as a response to the perpetual polarizing effect this has had on the American people, the CSPOA would like to put this issue to rest. Our constitutional republic and peaceful future as a free people absolutely depend on it.

In the opinion of the CSPOA, there is very compelling physical evidence presented by in the movie “2000 Mules” produced by Dinesh D'Souza. “Law Enforcement has to step in at this point,” asserts D'Souza, and we absolutely agree with him. Therefore, we are asking for all local law enforcement agencies to work together to pursue investigations to determine the veracity of the “2000 Mules” information.

In fact, D’Souza’s documentary has been repeatedly demonstrated to be utterly groundless garbage. It has been debunked by Reuters, the Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post,, Politifact, and NPR, to name only a few of the outlets where its phony “facts” and false premises have been eviscerated.

In short order, the CSPOA had teamed up with Trump’s most fervent election denialists, True the Vote, which receives substantial funding from notorious pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell. “Constitutional sheriffs” in other counties—including one in Kansas and another in Wisconsin—attempted similar “investigations” but came up empty-handed.

At a Las Vegas gathering organized by Mack and True the Vote in July, Leaf called the county prosecutor’s refusal to hand out the search warrants "ridiculous,” adding: “We think we have enough for search warrants and everything else,” Leaf said during the conference, which also featured speeches from Trump loyalists like Lindell. “We're gonna keep moving forward, folks. We’re not done with this.”

Leaf harkened to the “constitutionalist” claim that county sheriffs are the supreme law of the land, saying: “What that does, it gives you the power—and I don’t know if you’re gonna appreciate me saying this—if we can’t get anywhere, we’re looking at doing grand juries, at the common law.”

One of True the Vote’s partners in the “election integrity” campaign is another “constitutional sheriffs” organization called Protect America Now, run by Sheriff Mark Lamb of Arizona’s Pinal County. Lamb was a featured speaker at a Trump rally in Prescott in July, where he revved the crowd up with promises that the nation’s sheriffs would intervene on their behalf in future elections.

“We’re gonna make sure that we have election integrity this year,” Lamb declared. “Sheriffs are going to enforce the law. This is about the rule of law. It is against the law to violate elections laws—and that’s a novel idea, we’re going to hold you accountable for that. We will not let happen what happened in 2020.”

Lamb has plenty of local critics in Pinal County. At recent meeting of the county’s Board of Supervisors, he was accused by longtime residents of indulging in baseless fearmongering over election results.

Roberto Reveles, a longtime Arizona civil rights activist, told commissioners that Lamb was engaging in naked partisan threats: “I recently was subjected to the intimidation referred to by a previous speaker. Sheriff Mark Lamb walked up to me and pointed at me … and said, ‘You and your fellow Democrats are destroying our country.’”

Lamb defended himself shortly afterwards during an appearance on Newsmax. “Last week in the board meeting I had probably 8 to 10 Democrats show up and absolutely blast me because I believe in the ‘Big Lie,’” Lamb said.

“It clearly shows that these folks don’t care about election integrity,” he continued. “They’re happy that their guy is in power, and right now they should care more than ever because this guy in office, Joe Biden and his administration, is absolutely destroying America and freedom and they’re turning this into a country that we just don’t recognize.”

Local Democrats like Ralph Atchue, formerly a candidate for Arizona Senate, state that Lamb and his deputies will begin patrolling polling places. “I hear from everybody that the line is being crossed,” Atchue told Jessica Pishko of Bolts. “Completely blurred.”

Far-right election denialists in Seattle’s King County placed signs during the July primary at ballot drop boxes warning people that their actions were being recorded on camera. Ironically, the King County Sheriff’s Office is now investigating those actions at the behest of the county’s elections office.

“The specter of law enforcement at the polls is already enough to discourage people from going to the polls,” observes Devin Burghart of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. “Moreover, the threat of surveillance of polling places and drop boxes proposed by groups like True the Vote is meant to intimidate voters, particularly people of color, and deter them from casting ballots.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.