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Tag: michael flynn

Former National Guard Chief Accuses General Flynn Of 'Outright Perjury' Over Capitol Riot

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

A former D.C. National Guard official blasted the Pentagon inspector general’s report on the military’s response to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and directly accused two top generals of lying about their role in the delays deploying the National Guard that day. Previously, the former commander of the D.C. National Guard—who now serves as the House sergeant-at-arms—had called for the retraction of the same inspector general’s report.

William Walker, who was the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard on January 6, and Col. Earl Matthews, who was then Walker’s top attorney, both say that the Pentagon’s claims about when Walker was cleared to deploy troops to the Capitol are flatly false. Matthews laid out his rebuttal of the inspector general’s report in a 36-page memo to the January 6 House select committee, again saying, as has been widely reported since January, that Gen. Charles Flynn and Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, both senior Army officials, opposed a National Guard deployment in a 2:30 p.m. phone call, and calling both men “absolute and unmitigated liars” for their denials that they did so.

National Guard officials say the Defense Department’s story about that 2:30 p.m. phone call has changed repeatedly, and at one point Piatt admitted that yes, he “may have expressed concern” about a National Guard deployment to the Capitol—something that Piatt then denied in a written response to the House Oversight Committee in June. Matthews described that denial as “false and misleading,” but used stronger words for Flynn’s claim that he “never expressed a concern about the visuals, image, or public perception of” such a deployment. That, Matthews wrote, was “outright perjury.”

Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund and Washington, D.C., officials have also said that Piatt opposed a National Guard presence at the Capitol.

The 2:30 p.m. call is a key step in the hours-long delay in responding to the bloody attack on the Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump. It is incontrovertibly true that Walker did not at that point get permission to deploy the D.C. National Guard, but when he did get that permission is in dispute. According to the inspector general’s report, Walker was given permission in a 4:35 p.m. call with Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. Walker says that call did not happen, and that he did not get permission until 5:08 p.m. You would think that if there was a phone call, the Defense Department would have records of it, but, according to The Washington Post, the inspector general’s report cites “an anonymous Army official” in its conclusion that McCarthy gave Walker the go-ahead at 4:35 p.m.

In Senate testimony earlier this year, Robert Salesses, a top Pentagon official, initially said Walker got permission at 4:32 p.m. only to walk it back: “In fairness to General Walker, too, that’s when the [acting] secretary of defense made the decision—at 4:32,” Salesses said. “As General Walker has pointed out, because I’ve seen all the timelines, he was not told that until 5:08.”

Like Walker, Matthews fiercely disputes the 4:35 p.m. claim, calling it “an outrageous assertion … as insulting as it is false,” and saying that McCarthy himself had been “incommunicado or unreachable for most of the afternoon.”

Walker and Matthews both obviously have huge incentives to point the finger outside the D.C. National Guard, just as the Defense Department has huge incentives to point the finger away from itself. But we do know that multiple people have said Flynn and Piatt had the role in the 2:30 p.m. phone call that Matthews describes, and that the Army’s accounts of that call changed in the weeks following January 6. This is definitely an issue that requires further investigation, and the select committee had better be on it.

QAnon Cult Split By 'Civil War' Sparked By Lin Wood's Attacks On Michael Flynn

According to The Daily Beast, the latest Make America Great Again (MAGA) intraparty feud involves Trump-loyalist and conspiracy-driven attorney Lin Wood and former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Although Wood has a reputation for backing far-right conservatism and conspiracy theories, most recently he has faced scrutiny for attacking other well-known conservative figures and releasing incriminating audio clips.

During a recent segment of the podcast Fever Dreams, co-host Will Sommer shed light on the clash between Wood and Flynn. Per Sommer's report, the controversy surrounding Wood escalated when he released audio clips of Flynn. The incriminating audio reportedly featured Flynn's deeply critical remarks about the "pro-Trump conspiracy theory" QAnon being a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-backed plot.

In the wake of Flynn's remarks, Sommer noted that “QAnon’s been very good to Michael Flynn. Some of them believe he’s Q… I mean this is a guy who is thick as thieves with QAnon. But privately, [he calls it] a ‘CIA operation. It’s nonsense.’ So this is a pretty big break from what he does publicly.”

The whole ordeal has contributed to a domino effect on other issues. Per The Beast: "As a result, pro- and anti-Flynn factions inside QAnon have been ripping into each other on Telegram and other right-wing social media platforms."

Sommer also expounded on the aftermath describing it as a form of "civil war."

“This has basically started a big civil war… including, I should say, the JFK Jr. people in Dallas. So they’ve all sided with Lin," Sommer said. "Michael Flynn, obviously, has his own adherents—but this has really, like, started a lot of drama."

He added, “They’re calling it a civil war but maybe it’s more like a prison riot… this has also set off a lot of people who have beefs with people on the other side, but that are totally unrelated to this. But now they’re seeing this as their opportunity to settle scores with their rivals… things are all on fire over there.”

Flynn Aiming For A Violent, Ultranationalist, Theocratic Coup Against Democracy

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Michael Flynn is always in the news for the worst reasons.

Today, it's because of the former Trump advisor's feud with Lin Wood and the leaking of messages and audio recording during which he calls QAnon “total nonsense” as well as a CIA psy-op. Last time, he was calling for a single religion in the United States. Time before that, QAnon members accused him of being a Satanist for a sermon at a church drawing from a former New Age apocalyptic leader.

Next time, it may be for something worse. In any case, everything Flynn has been doing suggests that QAnon or not, his audience, his rhetoric and his goals are far more concrete and far more sinister than the mocking media coverage suggests. Let’s start in September.

On September 17, Flynn was at the “Opening the Heavens” Conference at the Lord of Hosts Church in Omaha, Nebraska. That event claimed to be “an annual, multi-day event where the prophetic heart of God and the manifestation of His supernatural power are demonstrated to those in attendance and [those] viewing online around the world!”Flynn spoke alongside a number of “prophetic” pastors, including Gene Bailey, executive director of Kenneth Copeland ministries, whose spiritual warfare preaching got the heavy-metal treatment last year.

Flynn’s speech made news due to QAnon’s reaction to it. It was said to be Satanic, ironic given QAnon’s resemblance to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Flynn’s speech resembled a 1984 sermon by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, founder of the Church Universal and Triumphant, a New Age apocalyptic group best known for their move to bunkers in Montana to await a prophesied nuclear apocalypse in 1990. Not only was it a failed doomsday cult, but it was a theosophic movement, something associated with Lucifer by its 18th-century founder.

Flynn said he felt called to St. Michael, the archangel and his namesake. While the link between Prophet and Flynn is interesting, the text of Flynn’s “Archangel Prayer” is all by itself not so great:

We are your instrument
Of those sevenfold rays
And all your archangels, all of them
We will not retreat, we will not retreat
We will stand our ground
We will not fear to speak
We will be the instrument of your will
Whatever it is
In your name, and in the names of your legions
We are freeborn, and shall remain freeborn
And we shall not be enslaved by any foe
Within or without
So help me God.

“Seven rays” is a concept used in theosophy and in the Summit Lighthouse. Prophet’s prayer to Archangel Michael, which people have compared Flynn’s sermon, is not only part of the theosophic movement, but an aggressively anti-Communist talk, ending:

Archangel Michael, Stand with me!
Save my child!
Save my household!
Save my nation and bind those Communist hordes!

Others can analyze the I AM movement and its issues, but the use of militant religious language and the comparison to an aggressively apocalyptic, anti-Communist doomsday cult is bad enough.

Then in early November, Flynn and Wood had a series of exchanges -- people have focused on the audio recording of Flynn calling QAnon a CIA disinfo operation — but more worrying was the fact that he told Wood, on November 3, to read an article proving QAnon is a fraud.Why more worrying? Because it was written by Hal Turner, a neo-Nazi radio host who’s promoted various QAnon conspiracies and served time for threatening elected officials -- he advocated murder repeatedly. The article is incredibly scary. It included this passage:

The Trump Anon believers want SOMEBODY ELSE to do it for them. Well, I’ve said this before and I will say it again now: Nobody is coming to save them/us. Nobody is coming to save the country. If you want something done, you gotta do it yourself. And until someone (but not me) decides that it is finally time to throw away all the comforts of this life, and brutally slaughter the people who are doing all these things, (and by “slaughter” I mean exactly that) then all these things will continue, unabated, to the destruction of our country and our oh-so-comfy lives.

This is standard Turner fare -- to preserve white nationalist power, people have to murder others, including elected officials -- but to have someone with Flynn’s background and his elite status within QAnon conspiracy and other movements promoting it is infinitely more terrifying than the entertainment value of seeing him bashing QAnon.A week later Flynn and Wood were in Springfield, Missouri, at a “Preserving America” event billed as “Come and listen to America’s tier-1 patriot speakers and learn about preserving America under the Constitution.” Outside of the Springfield News-Leader, it garnered little press -- but one local sheriff attending claimed he had, “A great conversation with General Flynn. He wanted me to know the American Sheriff is the last line of defense for our freedom. I agree!”

Flynn has spoken with Richard Mack for the “Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association” podcast, an anti-government extremist group that works to recruit sheriffs into the “patriot” militia movement. The comment should be taken in that light.

Then there is Flynn’s ongoing “Reawaken America” tour, the most recent news items before the Wood blowup. On November 13, the tour was at the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, John Hagee’s church.Hagee is an apocalypse-minded Christian Zionist and his son and executive pastor of the church, Matt, was on stage for the event. The “Reawaken America Tour,” a QAnon speaking tour, has numerous pastors presenting -– Dave Scarlett, Mark Burns, Phil Hotsenpiller, Leon Benjamin, Greg Locke, Jackson Lahmeyer, Brian Gibson among them. All have pushed the Big Lie and Christian Nationalism.

On stage, Flynn said, “if we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God.” The clip got widespread media play, but it is much more important in that broader context. “Reawaken America” has events in Dallas in December at Elevate Life Church in Frisco, where Pastor Keith Craft runs men-only “Warrior Nights,” dresses in militant garb, and mocks mask-wearing and the government.

In January, they’ll be at Dream City Church in Phoenix, which had hosted a Trump rally in 2020 and had been sent a cease-and-desist about promoting a fraudulent air filter system that June.

In February, they’ll be at Trinity Gospel Temple in Canton, Ohio, where Pastor Dave Lombardi tweeted out on November 3: “‘King Cyrus’ will prevail! Christian principles will prevail!,” and “the ‘Walls of Jericho’ will fall tonight! The Gospel message will prevail! The March continues!”

Both ideas have violent overtones — the fall of the walls of Jericho is followed by the massacre of all inhabitants. “King Cyrus,” a reference here to Donald Trump, destroyed the empire of the Babylonians.

These events are linking congregations nationwide in a specific project -- to build an ultranationalist Christian right to control of America.

Flynn’s fall events show it is not as simple as whether or not he’s a grifter who pretends to believe in QAnon. He is. He’s a fraud. He’s corrupt. And we already knew this. But he’s also a corrupt fanatic, who believes in overthrowing the government and imposing a theocracy. He certainly seems comfortable reading and promoting neo-Nazi articles advocating the literal slaughter of enemies while doing so.

Stop laughing at Michael Flynn.

He’s dangerous.

Driving him out of QAnon is great, but the other groups he’s engaged with, the other ideologies he’s a part of, are no laughing matter.

Proud Boys, Oath Keepers And Other Extremists Summoned By Select Committee

Seeking insight into how the violence that erupted at the U.S. Capitol last January was plotted, the House select committee tasked with probing the insurrection subpoenaed various extremist right-wing organizations and their figureheads on Tuesday.

It is the second time this week that the committee has added to an already thick stack of subpoenas sent to individuals entrenched in former President Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election.

Twenty-four hours ago, Trump stalwarts and conspiracy theorists Roger Stone and Alex Jones were among the recipients of a committee subpoena. On Tuesday, the latest batch from the select commission zeroed in on extremists involved in the attack like Proud Boys International LLC, that group's former chairman Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, the Oath Keepers organization and its president Elmer Stewart Rhodes, and the First Amendment Praetorian, a far-right quasi-paramilitary group that has run security for pro-Trump events in the past. That group's chairman, Robert Patrick Lewis, was also subpoenaed.

Heaps of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers members have been brought up on criminal charges specifically tied to the January 6 attack. In the 11 months since the siege, prosecutors have repeatedly argued that the groups conspired with each other to stop the certification of the 2020 election.

However, neither Tarrio, Rhodes, nor Lewis have been charged with crimes related directly to the activities that occurred on January 6. Tarrio is currently serving a five-month sentence in a D.C. jail for stealing and burning a Black Lives Matter banner last December and possessing two large-capacity firearm magazines when stopped in Washington on January 4.

On Tuesday, Rhodes was identified by the committee as the person referred to in an indictment returned earlier this year by a grand jury involving a January 6 defendant. Rhodes, the committee notes, "describes a conspiracy among at least 18 Oath Keepers in which members of the Oath Keepers planned to move together in coordination and with regular communication to storm the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021."

The Oath Keepers subpoena was hotly anticipated given the group's obvious involvement in breaching the U.S. Capitol. They were seen breaching the building with a military formation and proudly displayed their insignia throughout the day.

Almost two dozen of the organization's leaders have been charged with crimes related to the attack. The Department of Justice has indicated that the group hid firearms at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia.

In court, according to Politico, one Oath Keeper ringleader, Kelly Meggs, "told allies 'this isn't a rally,' which U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta has described as key evidence of the group's intent."

Robert Patrick Lewis, a former U.S. Army staff sergeant who spearheads the 1st Amendment Praetorian, has not been charged with any crimes related to January 6, but his track record of conspiracy theories, propaganda, and actual role in rallies leading up to the Capitol attack has grabbed the committee's interest.

The group posted a list of Trump events that it provided security to online, including several "Stop the Steal" rallies held in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Georgia.

"1st Amendment Praetorian provided security to the Million MAGA March on November 14, 2020, including providing protection to Ali Alexander, you described your coordination with Mr. Alexander as 'tight at the hip,'" the subpoena to Lewis states.

Alexander organized the Stop the Steal rally at the Ellipse on January 6 and has also been subpoenaed by the committee.

"You later claimed that you provided security for Lieutenant General Michael Flynn at the 'Jericho March' in Washington, D.C. on December 12, 2020, and have claimed to coordinate closely and regularly with Lt. Gen. Flynn. You have also claimed to coordinate closely with Sidney Powell [Trump's former attorney]," the subpoena notice to Lewis states.

Significantly, Lewis also took to Twitter just two days before the attack on January 6, saying: "There may be some young National Guard captains facing some very, very tough choices in the next 48 hours. Pray with every fiber of your being that their choices are Wise, Just and Fearless."

Lewis was also listed as a speaker on a permit for a rally on January 5 in D.C. In the permit, Lewis noted that 25 fellow members of his organization would serve as "demonstration marshals."

And on the day of the insurrection, just after 2 p.m., Lewis tweeted: "Today is the day the true battles begin."

A day after the attack, Lewis bragged on an independent QAnon conspiracy broadcast known as Patriot Transition Voice that he was "war-gaming" with "constitutional scholars" to keep Trump in office before the Capitol breach. Though the group has a lower profile than the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys, the January 6 Committee has singled them out before. This August, the panel highlighted Lewis and the organization he leads in its request for White House documents from the National Archives.

While the overlap between and among these groups is striking, the critical element presently missing for investigators is proof that it was Trump himself who intended to use the violence overwhelming the Capitol as a means to disrupt Congress's counting of electoral votes. The victory already belonged to President Joe Biden at that time, but the formality is part and parcel of ensuring a peaceful transition of power.

"We believe the individuals and organizations we subpoenaed today have relevant information about how violence erupted at the Capitol and the preparation leading up to this violent attack," committee chairman Bennie Thompson said in a statement Tuesday. "The Select Committee is moving swiftly to uncover the facts of what happened on that day, and we expect every witness to comply with the law and cooperate so we can get answers to the American people."

New Subpoenas Fly To Trump Aides -- And Indictments May Follow

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Long-anticipated subpoenas for senior officials to former President Donald Trump and members of his 2020 reelection campaign were issued by investigators on the House January 6 select committee on Monday.

The subpoenas come at the same time obstruction to congressional oversight wafts in the Washington, D.C., air with former White House adviser Steve Bannon being held in contempt of Congress two weeks ago, after flatly refusing to cooperate with the probe. Former acting attorney general for the Justice Department's civil division, Jeffrey Clark, has also refused to cooperate citing claims of executive privilege.

A total of six new subpoenas were issued Monday. One went, as widely expected, to John Eastman, a senior fellow of the conservative think tank The Claremont Institute and former legal professor at Chapman University. Eastman authored a six-point memo instructing Vice President Mike Pence on how to deny Joe Biden's rightful victory, but has since waffled publicly about the memo's intent. But for lawmakers on the committee, Eastman's actions, regardless, demand answers.

In addition to Eastman's now-notorious memo, the committee also cites his participation in a briefing "for nearly 300 state legislators from several states regarding purported election fraud," during which he propped up Trump's lies about election fraud and told the group it was "'the duty of legislators to fix this, this egregious conduct and make sure that we're not putting in the White House some guy that didn't get elected," the committee's letter states.

Eastman also allegedly met with Trump and Pence on at least two occasions—mere days before the insurrection. It was then, the committee contends, that he communicated with Pence's counsel, Greg Jacob, regarding his earlier proposal to delay or block certification of the election.

And, perhaps most damning for Eastman, are his own words in a January 6 email. The committee specifically cited an email from the former law professor to Greg Jacob. Eastman allegedly told Jacob "the siege" unfolding at the Capitol that day was due to Jacobs and Pence failing to promote lies about the election certification process. Eastman blasted Jacobs, saying he and Pence "did not do what was necessary to allow this to be aired in a public way so that the American people can see for themselves what happened."

Eastman is also allegedly one of the numerous officials who met with Trump toadies in a "war room" at the Willard Hotel. It has been widely reported that in addition to Eastman, Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani were also regularly on hand at the war room.

Incidentally, in a new analysis published by The Bulwark on Monday, Christian Vanderbrouk unpacked a 37-page report first published by The Claremont Institute last October. The Texas Public Policy Foundation, which did not return a request for comment Monday, co-published the report.

As pointed out by Vanderbrouk, the post-election war game was dreamed up by Eastman and others and amounts to "an instruction manual for how Trump partisans at all levels of government—aided by citizen 'posses' of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers—could, quite literally, round up opposition activists, kill their leaders, and install Donald Trump for a second term in office."

When reached for comment Monday, Vanderbrouk told Daily Kos by email that he wrote and published the piece Monday because he hopes "that it puts to rest any remaining questions about whether Claremont and its supporters are good-faith players in our system."

The committee has demanded a response by Eastman by Nov. 23; his deposition is currently slated for Dec. 8.

No stranger to congressional oversight, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn was also subpoenaed Monday and requested for deposition on December 6.

"You reportedly attended a December 18, 2020, meeting in the Oval Office, during which participants discussed seizing voting machines, declaring a national emergency, invoking certain national security emergency powers, and continuing to spread the message that the November 2020 election had been tainted by widespread fraud," the subpoena letter states.

Also cited by the committee was Flynn's appearance on Newsmax TV the day before that Oval Office meeting, where he opined openly about so-called precedents he perceived for deploying military troops or declaring martial law to "rerun" the election.

Flynn reportedly met with Trump just weeks after he was pardoned by the president on charges that he lied to the FBI. He was one of Trump's most stalwart allies, even speaking to the former president's supporters at a "MAGA March" protesting the outcome of the election on Dec. 12, 2020.

Trump reelection campaign officials like William Stepien, Jason Miller, and Angela McCallum were also subpoenaed Monday.

As a manager to the reelection campaign, Stepien oversaw "the conversion of the Trump presidential campaign to an effort focused on 'Stop the Steal' messaging and fundraising," the committee said in its subpoena.

That messaging overtly highlighted conspiracy claims about voting machines that Stepien and other Trump campaign members had long known were patently false, the committee added. A memo published in September outlines how Trump campaign staff knew of the deceit for weeks, but ran with it, anyway.

The committee also wants Stepien to provide any information he might have about the campaign's attempts to persuade states to delay or deny certification of electoral votes, or send multiple slates of electoral votes to Congress.

Stepien, if he complies will be deposed on December 13.

Jason Miller regularly spread claims of "widespread fraud" in the election, and publicly asserted Democrats would "steal the election," a committee letter to the former Trump campaign adviser states.

This message was echoed by the mob who attacked the Capitol and notably, even after the election, lawmakers claim Miller, Trump, and Trump's former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani coordinated press events to make more bogus claims about the election. Miller is also believed to have been in the war room at the Willard Hotel on Jan. 5.

Miller is scheduled to be deposed on December 10.

As for Angela McCallum, the national executive assistant to Trump's 2020 reelection campaign, investigators say she was directly involved in efforts to "encourage state legislators to alter the outcome of the 2020 election." One such example provided by the committee is a publicly available recording of a voicemail left to a Michigan state representative. McCallum wanted to know whether Trump could "count on" the representative.

"And you told the representative that he/she had authority to appoint an alternate slate of electors based on purported evidence of widespread election fraud," the subpoena states.

If she complies, like all others subpoenaed Monday, the deadline to submit documents is Nov 23. Her deposition is currently slated for Nov 30.

Also subpoenaed Monday was Bernard Kerik. The former New York Police Department Commissioner—who was convicted of tax fraud in 2001—reportedly booked hotel rooms to be used as command centers for Trump officials, and is alleged to have been at the Willard Hotel on January 5 along with Bannon, Eastman, and Giuliani.

In Kerik's subpoena, lawmakers allege the former commissioner met with Giuliani "at least as early as Nov. 5" to promote claims of election fraud.

Former White House deputy chief of staff for communications, Dan Scavino, and Kash Patel, the former chief of staff to then-acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, were subpoenaed weeks ago. Onetime White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was also slapped with a subpoena but has been on thin ice with the committee in recent days. He has reportedly delayed providing materials as requested.

In September, rally organizers including Amy Kremer, founder and chairwoman of Women for America First, were subpoenaed. The group coordinated a rally at the Ellipse on January 6. Kremer's daughter and co-founder of Women for America First, Kylie Kremer, was also subpoenaed. Their depositions were recently put on hold, but it is unclear exactly why. A spokesperson for the committee has declined to comment on details of the investigation.

Caroline Wren and Cindy Chafian were served, too. As reported by ProPublica, Wren served as a deputy to Donald Trump, Jr.'s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, at the joint presidential fundraising committee, Trump Victory, throughout the 2020 campaign. Chafian, yet another organizer of the rally at the Ellipse, was involved with Wren in planning and budgeting for the event.

Maggie Mulvaney, listed as a "VIP lead" in a rally permit arranged by Women for America First, was also subpoenaed. Mulvaney is the niece of Trump's former acting White House chief of staff, then director of the Office of Management and Budget, then special envoy for Northern Ireland, Mick Mulvaney.

In addition, Megan Powers, of MPowers Consulting LLC, and Hannah Salem, of Salem Strategies LLC, were also listed on permits for the rally. Legislators believe the women were supervising rally scheduling and logistics. Also subpoenaed were Lyndon Brentall of RMS Protective Services—flagged on permit paperwork as an "on-site supervisor"—and Justin Caporale and Tim Unes. Both Caporale and Unes worked for Event Strategies Inc.; the committee believes they have information about project and stage management for the rally.

Katrina Pierson, Trump's campaign spokesperson in 2016, received a subpoena last month. According to the FEC, Pierson received $10,000 biweekly for her work with the Trump campaign from September 2019 to January 2020. Pierson is believed to have been in contact with Trump regularly before and on January 6.

Trump-Friendly Prosecutor Signals Potential Trouble For Insurrection Cases

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The federal government's prosecution of the January 6 Capitol insurrectionists continues to roll along with hardly any change in direction or pace: Participants in the attack continue to be arrested as investigators accumulate more evidence, while judges continue to keep major players, particularly members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, under lock and key.

However, one bright red flag was raised by Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel—who has assiduously tracked and reported on the imposingly complex prosecutions from January 6—this week in the conspiracy case being assembled by prosecutors against the Proud Boys: It now emerges that one of the lead prosecutors in that case is Jocelyn Ballantine, the same DOJ prosecutor who engaged in dubious behavior around former Trump official Michael Flynn's prosecution, such as submitting altered documents. Could a botch job be around the corner?

Ballantine, as Wheeler details, engaged in a pattern of misconduct in handling the Flynn case that could easily result in a federal judge dismissing the case. And as the Proud Boys' attorneys made clear in their filings this week demanding that key players in the insurrection, including leaders Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean, be granted pretrial release, their primary strategy appears to be aimed at obtaining exactly that kind of summary dismissal of the charges.

Wheeler points to three specific acts by Ballantine in the Flynn matter that raise concerns:

  • On Sept. 23, she provided three documents that were altered to Sidney Powell, one of which Trump used six days later in a packaged debate attack on Joe Biden.
  • On Sept. 24, she submitted an FBI interview report that redacted information—references to Brandon Van Grack—that was material to the proceedings before Judge Emmet Sullivan.
  • On Oct. 26, she claimed that lawyers for Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe had checked their clients' notes to confirm there were no other alterations to documents submitted to the docket; both lawyers refused to review the documents.

Having a prosecutor on the Proud Boys prosecution team (let alone overseeing it) with a dubious conduct history poses serious risks for their success, and indeed for the broader prosecution: "Given Ballantine's past actions, it risks sabotaging the entire January 6 investigation," Wheeler observes.

The possibility of a bungled federal prosecution in the Proud Boys case raises the specter of a similar botch job in a major case involving right-wing extremists: Namely in 2018, when prosecutorial misconduct involving evidence sharing forced the federal judge overseeing the case against rancher Cliven Bundy for his 2014 armed standoff with federal authorities to order all charges dismissed—one of several cases of misconduct involving that U.S. Attorney's office. That dismissal, with prejudice, was upheld on appeal.

The attorneys for Biggs and Nordean, meanwhile, made a fresh appeal for their clients' pretrial release to home confinement, claiming the men posed neither a serious flight risk nor any threat to public safety in the interim. The attorneys presented clips from a video shot on January 6 in Washington, D..C., by fellow Proud Boys member Eddie Block, claiming they demonstrated that the group actually intended to hold their "big event" afterward at The Ellipse, not at the Capitol.

"There's no conspiracy," defense attorney John Hull said. "… So, [with] no conspiracy, about 80% of the whole case falls apart."

Prosecutors noted that Block's statements in the clips are contravened by the men's demonstrated actions that day, which included Nordean and Biggs tearing down a police barrier. They also reminded the judge of encrypted texts the men shared that day preparing for insurrection on January 6.

Prosecutors warned that the defendants' release would mean "there's no way to police" any other potential planning the men might participate in with other Proud Boys members: "That's a significant, prospective danger to the community," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough said.

In other January 6-related developments:

  • Accountability arrived for the Capitol Police officers who behaved as congenial hosts to the insurrectionists on January 6. The agency announced it had taken disciplinary action against six officers following an internal investigation.

There were 38 internal investigations involving officer behavior on January 6, with 26 different officers identified, Capitol Police reported. There was no wrongdoing found in 20 of the cases.

Three of the six officers were disciplined for "conduct unbecoming;" another for improper remarks; one for improper dissemination of information; and one for "failure to comply with directives."

"The six sustained cases should not diminish the heroic efforts of the United States Capitol Police officers. On January 6, the bravery and courage exhibited by the vast majority of our employees was inspiring," the release said.

  • FBI agents arrested a woman from Allentown, Pennsylvania, who had filled her social-media pages with QAnon conspiracy theories and demands for an "Army of Patriots" to seize control of the government, prior to invading the Capitol with other right-wing extremists on January 6.

Prosecutors detailed Kelly O'Brien's prolific rants on social media leading up to January 6. One dated November 26, 2020, asserted: "We do not riot. We fight. We are an Army of Patriots. You will know us when you see us. There will be no ambiguity. Prepare yourself."

On Dec. 19, 2020, O'Brien posted: "WE ARE IN A BATTLE between GOOD and evil. Make no mistake about that. Elders are cheering us on and believe that WE ARE GOING TO BE THE GREATEST GENERATION in their lifetime. And they lived through WWII. Are you going to fight or are you weak. Let us know now. WE NEED PATRIOTS! WE NEED FREEDOM FIGHTERS! Now!"

The day after Christmas, another used posted: "You can vote your way into socialism but you have to shoot your way out of it!" O'Brien responded: "We might have to."

After the insurrection, on January 8, amid a discussion of Trump's refusal to concede to Joe Biden, O'Brien asserted that "Everything is happening according to Q plan. So scared."

  • A former FBI special agent remarked on MSNBC that the insurrectionists' targets were chosen not by movement leaders or members, but rather by elected politicians like Donald Trump and Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley.

"It's our political leaders that are doing this more than domestic extremists," Clint Watts, a Joint Terrorism Task Force veteran, said. "What you see right there President Trump told them they were going to the Capitol that day. They didn't pick the Capitol, he said it, his organizers they promoted it, his fellow congressmen in the GOP, they promoted it.

"It was Josh Hawley out there fist-bumping the crowd, right? Before it went in," he added. "That's the thing we look for to see, hey, where are they tipping to. For the most part, the groups aren't picking the targets. It's the elected leaders."

The Grand Old Party Is Now The Party Of Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bannon Recruits QAnon Supporters As GOP Precinct Chairs

Reporting by Doug Bock Clark, Alexandra Berzon, and Anjeanette Damon

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

One of the loudest voices urging Donald Trump's supporters to push for overturning the presidential election results was Steve Bannon. "We're on the point of attack," Bannon, a former Trump adviser and far-right nationalist, pledged on his popular podcast on Jan. 5. "All hell will break loose tomorrow." The next morning, as thousands massed on the National Mall for a rally that turned into an attack on the Capitol, Bannon fired up his listeners: "It's them against us. Who can impose their will on the other side?"

When the insurrection failed, Bannon continued his campaign for his former boss by other means. On his "War Room" podcast, which has tens of millions of downloads, Bannon said President Trump lost because the Republican Party sold him out. "This is your call to action," Bannon said in February, a few weeks after Trump had pardoned him of federal fraud charges.

The solution, Bannon announced, was to seize control of the GOP from the bottom up. Listeners should flood into the lowest rung of the party structure: the precincts. "It's going to be a fight, but this is a fight that must be won, we don't have an option," Bannon said on his show in May. "We're going to take this back village by village … precinct by precinct."

Precinct officers are the worker bees of political parties, typically responsible for routine tasks like making phone calls or knocking on doors. But collectively, they can influence how elections are run. In some states, they have a say in choosing poll workers, and in others they help pick members of boards that oversee elections.

After Bannon's endorsement, the "precinct strategy" rocketed across far-right media. Viral posts promoting the plan racked up millions of views on pro-Trump websites, talk radio, fringe social networks and message boards, and programs aligned with the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Suddenly, people who had never before showed interest in party politics started calling the local GOP headquarters or crowding into county conventions, eager to enlist as precinct officers. They showed up in states Trump won and in states he lost, in deep-red rural areas, in swing-voting suburbs and in populous cities.

In Wisconsin, for instance, new GOP recruits are becoming poll workers. County clerks who run elections in the state are required to hire parties' nominees. The parties once passed on suggesting names, but now hardline Republican county chairs are moving to use those powers.

"We're signing up election inspectors like crazy right now," said Outagamie County party chair Matt Albert, using the state's formal term for poll workers. Albert, who held a "Stop the Steal" rally during Wisconsin's November recount, said Bannon's podcast had played a role in the burst of enthusiasm.

ProPublica contacted GOP leaders in 65 key counties, and 41 reported an unusual increase in signups since Bannon's campaign began. At least 8,500 new Republican precinct officers (or equivalent lowest-level officials) joined those county parties. We also looked at equivalent Democratic posts and found no similar surge.

"I've never seen anything like this, people are coming out of the woodwork," said J.C. Martin, the GOP chairman in Polk County, Florida, who has added 50 new committee members since January. Martin had wanted congressional Republicans to overturn the election on Jan. 6, and he welcomed this wave of like-minded newcomers. "The most recent time we saw this type of thing was the tea party, and this is way beyond it."

Bannon, through a spokesperson, declined to comment.

Tracking a Wave of New GOP Officers

Note: Hover over the pins for details on the increase or for information about other GOP activism there.

While party officials largely credited Bannon's podcast with driving the surge of new precinct officers, it's impossible to know the motivations of each new recruit. Precinct officers are not centrally tracked anywhere, and it was not possible to examine all 3,000 counties nationwide. ProPublica focused on politically competitive places that were discussed as targets in far-right media.

The tea party backlash to former President Barack Obama's election foreshadowed Republican gains in the 2010 midterm. Presidential losses often energize party activists, and it would not be the first time that a candidate's faction tried to consolidate control over the party apparatus with the aim of winning the next election.

What's different this time is an uncompromising focus on elections themselves. The new movement is built entirely around Trump's insistence that the electoral system failed in 2020 and that Republicans can't let it happen again. The result is a nationwide groundswell of party activists whose central goal is not merely to win elections but to reshape their machinery.

"They feel President Trump was rightfully elected president and it was taken from him," said Michael Barnett, the GOP chairman in Palm Beach County, Florida, who has enthusiastically added 90 executive committee members this year. "They feel their involvement in upcoming elections will prevent something like that from happening again."

It has only been a few months — too soon to say whether the wave of newcomers will ultimately succeed in reshaping the GOP or how they will affect Republican prospects in upcoming elections. But what's already clear is that these up-and-coming party officers have notched early wins.

In Michigan, one of the main organizers recruiting new precinct officers pushed for the ouster of the state party's executive director, who contradicted Trump's claim that the election was stolen and who later resigned. In Las Vegas, a handful of Proud Boys, part of the extremist group whose members have been charged in attacking the Capitol, supported a bid to topple moderates controlling the county party — a dispute that's now in court.

In Phoenix, new precinct officers petitioned to unseat county officials who refused to cooperate with the state Senate Republicans' "forensic audit" of 2020 ballots. Similar audits are now being pursued by new precinct officers in Michigan and the Carolinas. Outside Atlanta, new local party leaders helped elect a state lawmaker who championed Georgia's sweeping new voting restrictions.

And precinct organizers are hoping to advance candidates such as Matthew DePerno, a Michigan attorney general hopeful who Republican state senators said in a report had spread "misleading and irresponsible" misinformation about the election, and Mark Finchem, a member of the Oath Keepers militia who marched to the Capitol on January 6 and is now running to be Arizona's top elections official. DePerno did not respond to requests for comment, and Finchem asked for questions to be sent by email and then did not respond. Finchem has said he did not enter the Capitol or have anything to do with the violence. He has also said the Oath Keepers are not anti-government.

When Bannon interviewed Finchem on an April podcast, he wrapped up a segment about Arizona Republicans' efforts to reexamine the 2020 results by asking Finchem how listeners could help. Finchem answered by promoting the precinct strategy. "The only way you're going to see to it this doesn't happen again is if you get involved," Finchem said. "Become a precinct committeeman."

Some of the new precinct officers were in the crowd that marched to the Capitol on January 6, according to interviews and social media posts; one Texas precinct chair was arrested for assaulting police in Washington. He pleaded not guilty. Many of the new activists have said publicly that they support QAnon, the online conspiracy theory that believes Trump was working to root out a global child sex trafficking ring. Organizers of the movement have encouraged supporters to bring weapons to demonstrations. In Las Vegas and Savannah, Georgia, newcomers were so disruptive that they shut down leadership elections.

"They're not going to be welcomed with open arms," Bannon said, addressing the altercations on an April podcast. "But hey, was it nasty at Lexington?" he said, citing the opening battle of the American Revolution. "Was it nasty at Concord? Was it nasty at Bunker Hill?"

Arizona activist Daniel J. Schultz, who developed the precinct strategy, appears on Steve Bannon's podcast and weekly conference calls with organizers around the country. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: Bannon's War Room/YouTube; Network America/YouTube

Bannon plucked the precinct strategy out of obscurity. For more than a decade, a little-known Arizona tea party activist named Daniel J. Schultz has been preaching the plan. Schultz failed to gain traction, despite winning a $5,000 prize from conservative direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie in 2013 and making a 2015 pitch on Bannon's far-right website, Breitbart. Schultz did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In December, Schultz appeared on Bannon's podcast to argue that Republican-controlled state legislatures should nullify the election results and throw their state's Electoral College votes to Trump. If lawmakers failed to do that, Bannon asked, would it be the end of the Republican Party? Not if Trump supporters took over the party by seizing precinct posts, Schultz answered, beginning to explain his plan. Bannon cut him off, offering to return to the idea another time.

That time came in February. Schultz returned to Bannon's podcast, immediately preceding Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO who spouts baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

"We can take over the party if we invade it," Schultz said. "I can't guarantee you that we'll save the republic, but I can guarantee you this: We'll lose it if we conservatives don't take over the Republican Party."

Bannon endorsed Schultz's plan, telling "all the unwashed masses in the MAGA movement, the deplorables" to take up this cause. Bannon said he had more than 400,000 listeners, a count that could not be independently verified.

Bannon brought Schultz back on the show at least eight more times, alongside guests such as embattled Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, a leading defender of people jailed on Capitol riot charges.

The exposure launched Schultz into a full-blown far-right media tour. In February, Schultz spoke on a podcast with Tracy "Beanz" Diaz, a leading popularizer of QAnon. In an episode titled "THIS Is How We Win," Diaz said of Schultz, "I was waiting, I was wishing and hoping for the universe to deliver someone like him."

Schultz himself calls QAnon "a joke." Nevertheless, he promoted his precinct strategy on at least three more QAnon programs in recent months, according to Media Matters, a Democratic-aligned group tracking right-wing content. "I want to see many of you going and doing this," host Zak Paine said on one of the shows in May.

Schultz's strategy also got a boost from another prominent QAnon promoter: former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who urged Trump to impose martial law and "rerun" the election. On a May online talk show, Flynn told listeners to fill "thousands of positions that are vacant at the local level."

Precinct recruitment is now "the forefront of our mission" for Turning Point Action, according to the right-wing organization's website. The group's parent organization bused Trump supporters to Washington for January 6, including at least one person who was later charged with assaulting police. He pleaded not guilty. In July, Turning Point brought Trump to speak in Phoenix, where he called the 2020 election "the greatest crime in history." Outside, red-capped volunteers signed people up to become precinct chairs.

Organizers from around the country started huddling with Schultz for weekly Zoom meetings. The meetings' host, far-right blogger Jim Condit Jr. of Cincinnati, kicked off a July call by describing the precinct strategy as the last alternative to violence. "It's the only idea," Condit said, "unless you want to pick up guns like the Founding Fathers did in 1776 and start to try to take back our country by the Second Amendment, which none of us want to do."

By the next week, though, Schultz suggested the new precinct officials might not stay peaceful. Schultz belonged to a mailing list for a group of military, law enforcement and intelligence veterans called the " 1st Amendment Praetorian" that organizes security for Flynn and other pro-Trump figures. Back in the 1990s, Schultz wrote an article defending armed anti-government militias like those involved in that decade's deadly clashes with federal agents in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas.

"Make sure everybody's got a baseball bat," Schultz said on the July strategy conference call, which was posted on YouTube. "I'm serious about this. Make sure you've got people who are armed."

Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., speaks to the Macon County GOP while holding an autographed shotgun that was being raffled off. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Video: Macon County Republican Party/Facebook

The sudden demand for low-profile precinct positions baffled some party leaders. In Fort Worth, county chair Rick Barnes said numerous callers asked about becoming a "precinct committeeman," quoting the term used on Bannon's podcast. That suggested that out-of-state encouragement played a role in prompting the calls, since Texas's term for the position is "precinct chair." Tarrant County has added 61 precinct chairs this year, about a 24% increase since February. "Those podcasts actually paid off," Barnes said.

For weeks, about five people a day called to become precinct chairs in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, southwest of Green Bay. Albert, the county party chair, said he would explain that Wisconsin has no precinct chairs, but newcomers could join the county party — and then become poll workers. "We're trying to make sure that our voice is now being reinserted into the process," Albert said.

Similarly, the GOP in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, is fielding a surge of volunteers for precinct committee members, but also for election judges or inspectors, which are party-affiliated elected positions in that state. "Who knows what happened on Election Day for real," county chair Lou Capozzi said in an interview. The county GOP sent two busloads of people to Washington for Jan. 6 and Capozzi said they stayed peaceful. "People want to make sure elections remain honest."

Elsewhere, activists inspired by the precinct strategy have targeted local election boards. In DeKalb County, east of Atlanta, the GOP censured a long-serving Republican board member who rejected claims of widespread fraud in 2020. To replace him, new party chair Marci McCarthy tapped a far-right activist known for false, offensive statements. The party nominees to the election board have to be approved by a judge, and the judge in this case rejected McCarthy's pick, citing an "extraordinary" public outcry. McCarthy defended her choice but ultimately settled for someone less controversial.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, more than 1,000 people attended the county GOP convention in March, up from the typical 300 to 400. The chair they elected, Alan Swain, swiftly formed an "election integrity committee" that's lobbying lawmakers to restrict voting and audit the 2020 results. "We're all about voter and election integrity," Swain said in an interview.

In the rural western part of the state, too, a wave of people who heard Bannon's podcast or were furious about perceived election fraud swept into county parties, according to the new district chair, Michele Woodhouse. The district's member of Congress, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, addressed a crowd at one county headquarters on August 29, at an event that included a raffle for a shotgun.

"If our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, it's going to lead to one place, and it's bloodshed," Cawthorn said, in remarks livestreamed on Facebook, shortly after holding the prize shotgun, which he autographed. "That's right," the audience cheered. Cawthorn went on, "As much as I'm willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there's nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American, and the way we can have recourse against that is if we all passionately demand that we have election security in all 50 states."

After Cawthorn referred to people arrested on January 6 charges as "political hostages," someone asked, "When are you going to call us to Washington again?" The crowd laughed and clapped as Cawthorn answered, "We are actively working on that one."

Arizona lawmaker Mark Finchem speaks on Bannon's podcast, and former President Donald Trump speaks at a July rally in Phoenix. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: Bannon's War Room/Rumble; CSPAN

Schultz has offered his own state of Arizona as a proof of concept for how precinct officers can reshape the party. The result, Schultz has said, is actions like the state Senate Republicans' "forensic audit" of Maricopa County's 2020 ballots. The "audit," conducted by a private firm with no experience in elections and whose CEO has spread conspiracy theories, has included efforts to identify fraudulent ballots from Asia by searching for traces of bamboo. Schultz has urged activists demanding similar audits in other states to start by becoming precinct officers.

The Number of Republican Precinct Committee Members in Maricopa County Surged After Steve Bannon's Call to Action

"Because we've got the audit, there's very heightened and intense public interest in the last campaign, and of course making sure election laws are tightened," said Sandra Dowling, a district chair in northwest Maricopa and northern Yuma County whose precinct roster grew by 63% in less than six months. Though Dowling says some other district chairs screen their applicants, she doesn't. "I don't care," she said.

One chair who does screen applicants is Kathy Petsas, a lifelong Republican whose district spans Phoenix and Paradise Valley. She also saw applications explode earlier this year. Many told her that Schultz had recruited them, and some said they believed in QAnon. "Being motivated by conspiracy theories is no way to go through life, and no way for us to build a high-functioning party," Petsas said. "That attitude can't prevail."

As waves of new precinct officers flooded into the county party, Petsas was dismayed to see some petitioning to recall their own Republican county supervisors for refusing to cooperate with the Senate GOP's audit.

"It is not helpful to our democracy when you have people who stand up and do the right thing and are honest communicators about what's going on, and they get lambasted by our own party," Petsas said. "That's a problem."

Far-right lawyer Lin Wood faces off with South Carolina GOP chair Drew McKissick. An operative involved in Wood's campaign tackles a protester at a speech by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in Greenville. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: MyrtleBeachSC News/YouTube; Breaking Video/YouTube

This spring, a team of disaffected Republican operatives put Schultz's precinct strategy into action in South Carolina, a state that plays an outsize role in choosing presidents because of its early primaries. The operatives' goal was to secure enough delegates to the party's state convention to elect a new chair: far-right celebrity lawyer Lin Wood.

Wood was involved with some of the lawsuits to overturn the presidential election that courts repeatedly ruled meritless, or even sanctionable. After the election, Wood said on Bannon's podcast, "I think the audience has to do what the people that were our Founding Fathers did in 1776." On Twitter, Wood called for executing Vice President Mike Pence by firing squad. Wood later said it was "rhetorical hyperbole," but that and other incendiary language got him banned from mainstream social media. He switched to Telegram, an encrypted messaging app favored by deplatformed right-wing influencers, amassing roughly 830,000 followers while repeatedly promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Asked for comment about his political efforts, Wood responded, "Most of your 'facts' are either false or misrepresent the truth." He declined to cite specifics.

Typically, precinct meetings were "a yawner," according to Mike Connett, a longtime party member in Horry County, best known for its popular beach towns. But in April, Connett and other establishment Republicans were caught off guard when 369 people, many of them newcomers, showed up for the county convention in North Myrtle Beach. Connett lost a race for a leadership role to Diaz, the prominent QAnon supporter, and Wood's faction captured the county's other executive positions plus 35 of 48 delegate slots, enabling them to cast most of the county's votes for Wood at the state convention. "It seemed like a pretty clean takeover," Connett told ProPublica.

In Greenville, the state's most populous county, Wood campaign organizers Jeff Davis and Pressley Stutts mobilized a surge of supporters at the county convention — about 1,400 delegates, up from roughly 550 in 2019 — and swept almost all of the 79 delegate positions. That gave Wood's faction the vast majority of the votes in two of South Carolina's biggest delegations.

Across the state, the precinct strategy was contributing to an unprecedented surge in local party participation, according to data provided by a state GOP spokeswoman. In 2019, 4,296 people participated. This year, 8,524 did.

"It's a prairie fire down there in Greenville, South Carolina, brought on by the MAGA posse," Bannon said on his podcast.

Establishment party leaders realized they had to take Wood's challenge seriously. The incumbent chair, Drew McKissick, had Trump's endorsement three times over — including twice after Wood entered the race. But Wood fought back by repeatedly implying that McKissick and other prominent state Republicans were corrupt and involved in various conspiracies that seemed related to QAnon. The race became heated enough that after one event, Wood and McKissick exchanged angry words face-to-face.

Wood's rallies were raucous affairs packed with hundreds of people, energized by right-wing celebrities like Flynn and Lindell. In interviews, many attendees described the events as their first foray into politics, sometimes referencing Schultz and always citing Trump's stolen election myth. Some said they'd resort to violence if they felt an election was stolen again.

Wood's campaign wobbled in counties that the precinct strategy had not yet reached. At the state convention in May, Wood won about 30% of the delegates, commanding Horry, Greenville and some surrounding counties, but faltering elsewhere. A triumphant McKissick called Wood's supporters "a fringe, rogue group" and vowed to turn them into a "leper colony" by building parallel Republican organizations in their territory.

But Wood and his partisans did not act defeated. The chairmanship election, they argued, was as rigged as the 2020 presidential race. Wood threw a lavish party at his roughly 2,000-acre low-country estate, secured by armed guards and surveillance cameras. From a stage fit for a rock concert on the lawn of one of his three mansions, Wood promised the fight would continue.

Diaz and her allies in Horry County voted to censure McKissick. The county's longtime Republicans tried, but failed, to oust Diaz and her cohort after one of the people involved in drafting Wood tackled a protester at a Flynn speech in Greenville. (This incident, the details of which are disputed, prompted Schultz to encourage precinct strategy activists to arm themselves.) Wood continued promoting the precinct strategy to his Telegram followers, and scores replied that they were signing up.

In late July, Stutts and Davis forced out Greenville County GOP's few remaining establishment leaders, claiming that they had cheated in the first election. Then Stutts, Davis and an ally won a new election to fill those vacant seats. "They sound like Democrats, right?" Bannon asked Stutts in a podcast interview. Stutts replied, "They taught the Democrats how to cheat, Steve."

Stutts' group quickly pushed for an investigation of the 2020 presidential election, planning a rally featuring Davis and Wood at the end of August, and began campaigning against vaccine and school mask mandates. "I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery," Stutts had previously posted on Facebook, quoting Thomas Jefferson. Stutts continued posting messages skeptical of vaccine and mask mandates even after he entered the hospital with a severe case of COVID-19. He died on Aug. 19.

Salleigh Grubbs alleges 2020 election fraud while testifying to state lawmakers. She was elected the Cobb County party chair, and she dedicated her first meeting to "the battle for freedom that Americans have before them today." Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: DogEars/YouTube; Cobb County Republican Party/Facebook

The hubbub got so loud inside the Cobb County, Georgia, Republican headquarters that it took several shouts and whistles to get everyone's attention. It was a full house for Salleigh Grubbs' first meeting as the county's party chair. Grubbs ran on a vow to "clean house" in the election system, highlighting her December testimony to state lawmakers in which she raised unsubstantiated fraud allegations. Supporters praised Grubbs' courage for following a truck she suspected of being used in a plot to shred evidence. She attended Trump's Jan. 6 rally as a VIP. She won the chairmanship decisively at an April county convention packed with an estimated 50% first-time participants.

In May, Grubbs opened her first meeting by asking everyone munching on bacon and eggs to listen to her recite the Gettysburg Address. "Think of the battle for freedom that Americans have before them today," Grubbs said. "Those people fought and died so that you could be the precinct chair." After the reading, first-time precinct officers stood for applause and cheers.

Their work would start right away: putting up signs, making calls and knocking on doors for a special election for the state House. The district had long leaned Republican, but after the GOP's devastating losses up and down the ballot in 2020, they didn't know what to expect.

"There's so many people out there that are scared, they feel like their vote doesn't count," Cooper Guyon, a 17-year-old right-wing podcaster from the Atlanta area who speaks to county parties around the state, told the Cobb Republicans in July. The activists, he said, need to "get out in these communities and tell them that we are fighting to make your vote count by passing the Senate bill, the election-reform bills that are saving our elections in Georgia."

Of the field's two Republicans, Devan Seabaugh took the strongest stance in favor of Georgia's new law restricting ways to vote and giving the Republican-controlled Legislature more power over running elections. "The only people who may be inconvenienced by Senate Bill 202 are those intent on committing fraud," he wrote in response to a local newspaper's candidate questionnaire.

Seabaugh led the June special election and won a July runoff. Grubbs cheered the win as a turning point. "We are awake. We are preparing," she wrote on Facebook. "The conservative citizens of Cobb County are ready to defend our ballots and our county."

Newcomers did not meet such quick success everywhere. In Savannah, a faction crashed the Chatham County convention with their own microphone, inspired by Bannon's podcast to try to depose the incumbent party leaders who they accused of betraying Trump. Party officers blocked the newcomers' candidacies, saying they weren't officially nominated. Shouting erupted, and the meeting adjourned without a vote. Then the party canceled its districtwide convention.

The state party ultimately sided with the incumbent leaders. District chair Carl Smith said the uprising is bound to fail because the insurgents are mistaken in believing that he and other local leaders didn't fight hard enough for Trump.

"You can't build a movement on a lie," Smith said.

The Hillsdale County Republican Party's new leaders organized sending buses of people to the Trump rally on Jan. 6. Now, activists dedicated to the stolen election myth are recruiting precinct delegates at regular events. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: Jon Smith/Facebook; Debra Ell/Facebook

In Michigan, activists who identify with a larger movement working against Republicans willing to accept Trump's loss have captured the party leadership in about a dozen counties. They're directly challenging state party leaders, who are trying to harness the grassroots energy without indulging demands to keep fighting over the last election.

Some of the takeovers happened before the rise of the precinct strategy. But the activists are now organizing under the banner "Precinct First" and holding regular events, complete with notaries, to sign people up to run for precinct delegate positions.

"We are reclaiming our party," Debra Ell, one of the organizers, told ProPublica. "We're building an 'America First' army."

Under normal rules, the wave of new precinct delegates could force the party to nominate far-right candidates for key state offices. That's because in Michigan, party nominees for attorney general, secretary of state and lieutenant governor are chosen directly by party delegates rather than in public primaries. But the state party recently voted to hold a special convention earlier next year, which should effectively lock in candidates before the new, more radical delegates are seated.

Activist-led county parties including rural Hillsdale and Detroit-area Macomb are also censuring Republican state legislators for issuing a June report on the 2020 election that found no evidence of systemic fraud and no need for a reexamination of the results like the one in Arizona. (The censures have no enforceable impact beyond being a public rebuke of the politicians.) At the same time, county party leaders in Hillsdale and elsewhere are working on a ballot initiative to force an Arizona-style election review.

Establishment Republicans have their own idea for a ballot initiative — one that could tighten rules for voter ID and provisional ballots while sidestepping the Democratic governor's veto. If the initiative collects hundreds of thousands of valid signatures, it would be put to a vote by the Republican-controlled state Legislature. Under a provision of the state constitution, the state Legislature can adopt the measure and it can't be vetoed.

State party leaders recently reached out to the activists rallying around the rejection of the presidential election results, including Hillsdale Republican Party Secretary Jon Smith, for help. Smith, Ell and others agreed to join the effort, the two activists said.

"This empowers them," Jason Roe, the state party executive director whose ouster the activists demanded because he said Trump was responsible for his own loss, told ProPublica. Roe resigned in July, citing unrelated reasons. "It's important to get them focused on change that can actually impact" future elections, he said, "instead of keeping their feet mired in the conspiracy theories of 2020."

A crowd tries to push back cops guarding the back door to a high school theater where the Clark County GOP tried to hold a leadership election. At least one Proud Boy was riling up the crowd. Credit: Lisa Larson-Walker/ProPublica. Videos: Veterans in Politics/YouTube; Paul Bodine/YouTube

Jesse Law, who ran the Trump campaign's Election Day operations in Nevada, sued the Democratic electors, seeking to declare Trump the winner or annul the results. The judge threw out the case, saying Law's evidence did not meet "any standard of proof," and the Nevada Supreme Court agreed. When the Electoral College met in December, Law stood outside the state capitol to publicly cast mock votes for Trump.

This year, Law set his sights on taking over the Republican Party in the state's largest county, Clark, which encompasses Las Vegas. He campaigned on the precinct strategy, promising 1,000 new recruits. His path to winning the county chairmanship — just like Stutts' team in South Carolina, and Grubbs in Cobb County, Georgia — relied on turning out droves of newcomers to flood the county party and vote for him.

In Law's case, many of those newcomers came through the Proud Boys, the all-male gang affiliated with more than two dozen people charged in the Capitol riot. The Las Vegas chapter boasted about signing up 500 new party members (not all of them belonging to the Proud Boys) to ensure their takeover of the county party. After briefly advancing their own slate of candidates to lead the Clark GOP, the Proud Boys threw their support to Law. They also helped lead a state party censure of Nevada's Republican secretary of state, who rejected the Trump campaign's baseless claims of fraudulent ballots.

Law, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment, has declined to distance himself from the Las Vegas Proud Boys, citing Trump's "stand back and stand by" remark at the September 2020 presidential debate. "When the president was asked if he would disavow, he said no," Law told an independent Nevada journalist in July. "If the president is OK with that, I'm going to take the presidential stance."

The outgoing county chair, David Sajdak, canceled the first planned vote for his successor. He said he was worried the Proud Boys would resort to violence if their newly recruited members, who Sajdak considered illegitimate, weren't allowed to vote.

Sajdak tried again to hold a leadership vote in July, with a meeting in a Las Vegas high school theater, secured by police. But the crowd inside descended into shouting, while more people tried to storm past the cops guarding the back entrance, leading to scuffles. "Let us in! Let us in!" some chanted. Riling them up was at least one Proud Boy, according to multiple videos of the meeting.

At the microphone, Sajdak was running out of patience. "I'm done covering for you awful people," he bellowed. Unable to restore order, Sajdak ended the meeting without a vote and resigned a few hours later. He'd had enough.

"They want to create mayhem," Sajdak said.

Soon after, Law's faction held their own meeting at a hotel-casino and overwhelmingly voted for Law as county chairman. Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald, a longtime ally of Law who helped lead Trump's futile effort to overturn the Nevada results, recognized Law as the new county chair and promoted a fundraiser to celebrate. The existing county leaders sued, seeking a court order to block Law's "fraudulent, rogue election." The judge preliminarily sided with the moderates, but told them to hold off on their own election until a court hearing in September.

To Sajdak, agonizing over 2020 is pointless because "there's no mechanism for overturning an election." Asked if Law's allies are determined to create one, Sajdak said: "It's a scary thought, isn't it."