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Texas Attorney General Admits Voter Suppression Saved State For Trump

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

One need only compare now-President Joe Biden's losses in Texas in 2020 to his losses in Idaho or Wyoming to see that Texas has gone from deep red to light red. Biden lost Texas by six percent; he lost Wyoming by 43 percent, Idaho by 30 percent, and North Dakota by 43 percent. Nonetheless, the Democratic Party has, historically, had a turnout problem in the Lone Star State; Democrats are going to need a heavier turnout in the Democrat-leaning parts of the state if they are going to win statewide races (presidential, gubernatorial or U.S. Senate) in the future. And Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, during a June 4 appearance on Steve Bannon's podcast, essentially admitted that voter suppression helped former President Donald Trump win Texas in 2020.

Paxton told Bannon, who served as White House chief strategist in the Trump Administration in 2017 following his years as chairman of Breitbart News, that had his office not blocked Harris County from sending out mail-in ballot applications to its residents, Trump would have lost Texas in 2020. Harris County includes Democrat-leaning Houston.

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"Trump won by 620,000 votes in Texas," Paxton told Bannon. "(The) Harris County mail-in ballots that they wanted to send out were 2.5 million. Those were all illegal, and we were able to stop every one of them."

What Paxton described as "mail-in ballots" were mail-in ballot applications. There's a difference between sending out 2.5 applications for mail-in ballots and actually sending out 2.5 mail-in ballots. And there was nothing evil or sinister about the applications that Harris County officials wanted to send out, as Paxton claimed.

Nonetheless, Paxton's comments were revealing, as they underscore the fact that far-right Republicans like Paxton and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are scared to death of the possibility of Democrats ramping up voter turnout in the more Democratic parts of the state — which include not only Houston (which hasn't had a Republican mayor since the early 1980s), but also, Austin, El Paso, Dallas and San Antonio. However, the Texas GOP has a very strong ground game in countless rural counties in North Texas and Central Texas, and they really know how to turn out the Republican base in those areas of the state.

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Journalist Sharon Zhang, reporting on the interview in Truthout on June 7, stresses that it's "unclear" whether or not Trump "would have actually won the state if Harris County had been allowed to follow through on its plan to make voting more accessible."

"While President Joe Biden won the county by a 13-point margin or nearly 220,000 votes, with record-breaking voter turnout, Trump carried the state with over 600,000 votes," Zhang explains. "Regardless of whether the results would have been any different for Biden had Harris County been able to send out mail-in ballot applications, Paxton's statement about the election results seven months after the fact is revealing of how conservatives view elections and voting rights. Rather than ensuring that elections are conducted fairly, they openly support blocking access to the ballot by any means necessary — especially among voters in more Democratic leaning and non-White areas."

Zhang continues, "Paxton, after all, is the same person who sued to disenfranchise millions of voters in battleground states following Biden's victory in the 2020 elections. Regardless of whether Paxton's lawsuit against the mail-in ballot applications handed Trump his victory in Texas, it was certainly one more tool in the GOP's voter-suppression toolbox for the state."

Why Facebook Should Ban Trump Permanently

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Facebook has done the bare minimum once again regarding Donald Trump's account, postponing real action for two years. But anything short of a full ban rings hollow. Trump spent years using Facebook to push misinformation and spread extreme rhetoric against his critics -- particularly during his presidency -- and it should be easy for the platform to do the responsible thing and permanently ban his account.

On June 4, Facebook announced plans to suspend Trump for two years, leaving open the possibility of his return "if conditions permit." But if Trump is let back on, he will by all indications continue to abuse the platform to spread misinformation and attack others, as he's done for years. A two-year suspension — just one election cycle — is unlikely to change that.

Media Matters previously reported that roughly 24 percent of Trump's posts between January 1, 2020, and January 6, 2021, contained either misinformation, content warranting an additional information label, or harmful rhetoric about others. Based on his previous habits, we estimate that his two-year suspension will keep at least 2,800 posts with misinformation or extreme rhetoric off the platform, including at least 700 posts that would likely have contained election misinformation.

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Facebook has let Trump abuse its platform for years. His 2016 campaign was bolstered on Facebook by fake accounts, and it used data illegally obtained from the platform. And things have not improved since. As our data on his 2020 posts shows, the 24 percent of his 2020 posts that pushed misinformation or extreme rhetoric earned 331.6 million interactions. Facebook's meager attempts to rein in Trump's lies have not been effective, and in some cases -- such as with the platform's labeling system -- they may have backfired.

Facebook's refusal to permanently ban Trump is unsurprising, as he and his extreme rhetoric are good for business. According to Pathmatics data analyzed by Media Matters, the Trump campaign spent roughly $121.5 million on Facebook ads in 2020, earning over 16 billion impressions on these ads. The only companies that spent more on Facebook ads in 2020 were Disney and HBO. And this figure includes only the money the campaign gave directly to Facebook; Trump also directed users to other misinformation spreaders that make Facebook money, putting him at the center of Facebook's lucrative right-wing misinformation ecosystem.

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Despite at least one Facebook executive's claims, divisive content garners high engagement, and engagement drives Facebook's profits. The ecosystem propped up by Trump is lucrative, so it is predictable – though still disappointing – that Facebook is hesitant to upset its profit producers.

Trump's Facebook and Instagram pages remain visible, as they have throughout his suspension, and his old content continues to garner new engagement. It's unacceptable that Facebook has left visible content featuring the behaviors (spreading misinformation, inciting violence) that got him kicked off the platform in the first place, and it's exemplary of Facebook's careless content moderation.

Facebook has done everything it could to avoid taking responsibility for Trump's misuse of the platform, and this approach continues in its unwillingness to commit to permanently preventing his return. Now Facebook has all but guaranteed that Trump will make headlines again when his suspension is reevaluated. The cowardly decision is completely antithetical to the platform's stated mission – "to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together." By failing to ban Trump outright, despite the damage he has done, Facebook has shown its true mission is increasing profit regardless of the costs.

New Book: Sean Hannity Wrote Trump 2020 Campaign Ad

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Fox News host Sean Hannity's role as an off-the-books political operative to former President Donald Trump extended to writing copy for one of the Trump campaign's commercials, according to a new report.

Mike Bender, the Wall Street Journal''s senior White House reporter, reports that Hannity played a role in scripting a Trump campaign ad in his forthcoming book, Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story Of How Trump Lost. According to a write-up in PunchBowl News, "The ad was known in the Trump campaign as 'the Hannity ad' and 'the one Hannity wrote,'" and Bender describes internal Trump campaign emails which "referred to the spot simply as 'Hannity'" or "the 'Hannity-written' spot."

The ad, like Hannity's show during the campaign, is a semi-coherent mashup of pro-Trump and anti-Biden talking points that lacks a clear narrative.

And indeed, according to Bender, the ad was widely mocked within the Trump campaign and aired only once, on Hannity's program, at a cost of $1.5 million.

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Hannity vaguely denied writing the ad copy, telling Bender, "The world knows that Sean Hannity supports Donald Trump. But my involvement specifically in the campaign -- no. I was not involved that much. Anybody who said that is full of shit."

It's hard to know what to think about a statement like this from a notorious liar. But one reasonable interpretation is that this helps to establish an outer bound for the type of political behavior Hannity thinks his employer would let him get away with. The statement suggests that he believes that Fox would have a problem with him openly accepting responsibility for writing one of the former president's campaign ads.

This is, of course, an absurdly low bar for a cable news host. But as I noted last year, Hannity regularly violated basic tenets of journalistic ethics throughout the Trump years, with the network brass either ignoring his behavior or offering slaps on the wrist:

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2016: Amid a presidential campaign that saw Hannity actively using his show to boost Trump's candidacy and promoteunhinged conspiracy theories about his opponent, Hillary Clinton, Hannity endorsed Trump in a promotional video for his campaign, leading to a stern statement from Fox.
2017: Hannity triggered an advertiser exodus and internal dismay when he tried to defend Trump against reports linking his campaign to Russian interference in the 2016 election by championing the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.
2018: Profiles in The Washington Post and New York magazinedetailed the scope of Hannity's White House influence and regular conversations with Trump. He was revealed as a secret client of Trump's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, a fact the Fox host had not disclosed in his commentary on Cohen's case. And he appeared on stage and spoke at a Trump political rally on the eve of the 2018 midterm elections.
2019: Hannity was a central figure in the Ukraine disinformation plot that triggered Trump's impeachment by the House of Representatives.
2020: Documents uncovered by BuzzFeed News showed that Hannity had served as a backchannel between Trump and his associates under investigation during special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

Since then, Fox has become even less ethical and more propagandistic. The network hired a slew of former Trump administration officials. The list includes 2024 presidential hopeful Mike Pompeo, as well as the former president's daughter-in-law, would-be Senate candidate Lara Trump. One Fox contributor, Newt Gingrich, is working with Trump to develop the GOP's policy agenda for the 2022 elections.

But taking ownership of a campaign ad appears to still be a step too far.

McCarthy: Nobody Is ‘Questioning The Legitimacy’ Of The 2020 Election

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Wednesday that no one is "questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election," even as multiple members of his own party, including Donald Trump, continue to do exactly that.

"I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election," McCarthy said at a news conference outside the White House, where he met with President Joe Biden on Wednesday. "That's all over with. We are sitting here with the president today."

McCarthy made the comment just hours after Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from her House leadership role for her outspoken criticism of Donald Trump and his lies of a stolen election.

Cheney accused members of her own party of going down an authoritarian path by not calling out voter fraud lies, saying in a Tuesday night speech that Republicans need to "speak the truth. Our election was not stolen. And America has not failed."

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House Republicans are likely to replace Cheney with is Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who is still calling Trump "the president."

On January 6, the day of the Capitol insurrection, Stefanik lied about voter fraud, falsely claiming in an "open letter" to her constituents that "more than 140,000 votes came from underage, deceased, and otherwise unauthorized voters — in Fulton County alone."

It's a lie Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said was outrageous.

"The suggestion that one-fourth of all ballots cast in Fulton County in November were illegal is ludicrous," Raffensperger told CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale.

What's more, McCarthy's claim that no one is questioning the outcome of the race came two days after Trump himself issued yet another lie-filled post on his new blog claiming there was widespread fraud in the election and that he, not Biden, won.

McCarthy himself has worked to raise doubts about the election outcome.

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On November 6, one day before the race was called for Biden, McCarthy said in a Fox News appearance that "President Trump won this election, so everyone who's listening, do not be quiet. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes."

McCarthy also backed a since-failed lawsuit from the Texas Attorney General that sought to invalidate the votes in states Biden won. And he later was one of the 147 members of Congress to vote to block certification of Joe Biden's win — based off lies of fraud and irregularities in the election.

Ultimately, the consistent lies from Trump and the GOP about a stolen election have led Republican voters to believe Biden's win was illegitimate.

An Economist/YouGov poll from the end of April found 74 percent of Republican voters don't believe Biden legitimately won the election.

It's something Cheney said in her Tuesday speech she is afraid of.

"I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former President's crusade to undermine our democracy," Cheney said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.