Category Archives: chicanery

“Senator Robert Menendez Is Indicted in New York”


Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey has been charged in a federal corruption indictment, the authorities said on Friday.

The indictment against Mr. Menendez, a 69-year-old Democrat who leads the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, follows a lengthy investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and comes nearly six years after his trial on unrelated claims of corruption ended with a hung jury.

The indictment, unsealed in Manhattan federal court, also names the senator’s wife of three years, Nadine Menendez, 56, and a prominent New Jersey real estate developer, Fred Daibes, accusing them of participating in the corrupt scheme. Wael Hana, a longtime friend of Ms. Menendez’s who founded a halal meat certification business in New Jersey, was also charged, as was a fifth person, Jose Uribe, a New Jersey businessman.

It has been known for some time that Mr. Menendez was under federal scrutiny, and he has said he was willing to assist investigators and was confident the matter would be “successfully closed.”

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“​Mark Meadows’s Testimony in Georgia Case May Have Done Him No Favors”


At issue was whether his actions — as described in the indictment of Mr. Trump, Mr. Meadows and 17 others in Fulton County, Ga., last month — could be considered within the scope of his duties as White House chief of staff. Mr. Meadows made the case for that under questioning by his lawyer, but he hit a snag when a prosecutor asked whether he had “any role” in coordinating the bogus electors who were used in a last-ditch effort to keep Mr. Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election.

“No, I did not,” he replied.

The prosecutor then introduced into the record a December 2020 email that Mr. Meadows wrote to a Trump campaign staff member. In it, Mr. Meadows wrote, “We just need to have someone coordinating the electors for the states.”

The exchange, which prosecutors will almost certainly use against Mr. Meadows at trial, underscored the high-stakes gamble that he took by testifying. So far, the gamble has not paid off: In early September, U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones declined to move his case to federal court.

Mr. Meadows has appealed. But his testimony may have given ammunition to Georgia prosecutors as they prepare to try him, Mr. Trump and the 17 other defendants. Legal experts say that Mr. Meadows may have damaged his credibility while weakening his claim to immunity from state prosecution as a federal official, given his struggles to articulate how the actions ascribed to him in the indictment were part of his official duties rather than in service of the Trump campaign.

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“‘Where’s Celia?’ An Arizona elections official becomes the target of a virtual manhunt by GOP activists on a public records crusade.”

Jen Fifield for Votebeat:

They started searching for her in late January.

“Where’s CELIA NABOR?” one member of the angry online mob wrote. “Find her,” another wrote. Track her phone, credit cards, social security number, and social media, others suggested. It was time for her to “face the music.” “COULD SHE BE AT HOME????” someone wrote, posting her address. 

And then, that same night, after 2 a.m., someone started banging on Celia Nabor’s door. 

She lay frozen in bed in her suburban Phoenix neighborhood, terrified, wondering if one of her online harassers had come to follow through on the threats. Then, as abruptly as it had begun, the pounding stopped. 

Nabor never found out who knocked on her door that night. What she did know was that the trouble had started earlier that week. On Jan. 30, GOP activists began spreading false information about her, based partly on documents acquired through records requests searching for fraud in Maricopa County’s elections, where Nabor helped oversee early voting.

They said Nabor was dodging a request to answer questions, prompting others to claim she had helped the county steal the election for Democrats. But that wasn’t true.

We The People AZ Alliance — a Phoenix-based political action committee funded primarily by Patrick Byrne and his organization The America Project — employed what’s become a familiar playbook among allies of former President Donald Trump: Barrage local election offices with public records requests, then twist real records to make routine actions seem suspicious. 

The organization dug into Nabor’s work, asking for copies of all of her texts and her emails. They asked for information on how she and the employees under her performed their jobs and whether they were disciplined. They wanted protocols and contractor names and contracts and more. 

Extensive requests such as these are a complex piece of the ballooning number of public records requests to election offices across the country, according to Votebeat’s review of hundreds of public records requests and logs. 

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David Levine: “Countering the Distortion of Election Administrator Errors”

The following is a guest post from David Levine:

On September 1, Harris County, Texas’ two-year-old elections department was eliminated after the Texas Legislature passed legislation earlier this year abolishing it and the State Supreme Court refused to stop the legislation from taking effect. This effort was fueled in large part by unsupported allegations that Harris County mishaps during the November 2022 general election – such as problems with voting machines, paper ballot shortages and long waiting times – impacted certain local contest results. Harris County, the nation’s third largest, is now in the unenviable position of reverting back to splitting its election duties between the county clerk and the tax assessor-collector — a traditional model for administering elections in Texas that many counties have moved away from in recent years out of a desire to have a nonpartisan elections official helping ensure elections are conducted impartially – while preparing for local elections in November and a presidential election in 2024.

Those who think that what transpired in Harris County could not happen elsewhere should think again. In July, Krysia Sikora and I published a report that found that administrative mistakes have been used to cast doubt on U.S. elections across the country. Examining mistakes made in Harris County’s November 2022 election, as well as recent elections in Antrim County, Michigan and Maricopa County, Arizona, we found that administrator errors are not simply being scrutinized to improve the quality of elections; they are often being distorted to try and undermine the integrity of electoral processes.

In Antrim County, election officials initially misreported – and quickly corrected  –  unofficial 2020 election results by up to several thousand votes that showed a big victory for Joe Biden in an historically Republican area. Although the county and its partners took numerous steps to resolve the mistake, including a manual count of all votes cast for president, the discrepancy triggered an avalanche of lawsuits and conspiracies baselessly alleging that the county’s voting machine vendor had “rigged” the voting machines. The error and the response to it gained national attention and contributed to former President’ Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

In Maricopa County, roughly 60 vote centers reported on the morning of the 2022 midterm elections that their voting machines were having issues counting ballots, which in some cases led to lines of close to two hours. In response to these problems, Maricopa County officials quickly and correctly encouraged voters to either deposit ballots into a secure ballot box so they could be subsequently counted at Maricopa County’s central counting facility, or visit nearby voting centers with shorter wait times to cast their ballots.  Unfortunately, some voters, perhaps at the urging of influential right-wing personalities, chose to ignore this guidance and instead waited in line.  Even after the reasons for the voting machine problems were identified in subsequent investigations and corrected – it turned out that the toner on some ballots printed on site was not dark enough for the vote-counting machines to read – some losing Arizona candidates continue to maintain there was election malfeasance, targeting Maricopa election officials. To cite just one example, Kari Lake, Arizona’s 2022 Republican nominee for governor called for Maricopa County’s election officials to be “locked up” after she lost and repeatedly sought to overturn the election results. While her efforts were  not successful in the short term, neither were they entirely in vain.

Election officials and their partners are not defenseless in the face of these kinds of threats. Our report provides suggestions, such as conducting tabletop exercises for different threat scenarios and developing crisis communication plans, to reduce the likelihood of election mistakes and mitigate their impact. We also suggest nonpartisan election observation, as was done in Fulton County, Georgia for the November 2022 midterms, to help ensure any mistakes are properly contextualized. 

Notwithstanding such efforts, in an age defined by polarization and election denialism, where the integrity of the information environment is far from certain and experienced election officials continue to leave in droves, the weaponization of election mistakes is unlikely to disappear, or even dissipate, before 2024. It is imperative that election officials and their partners confront this head on to ensure that legitimate election results continue to be affirmed, not overturned.

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Sounds Like Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Gableman’s Testimony at John Eastman’s California Disbarment Trial Did Not Go Well

LA Times:

Cross-examining Gableman last week in Eastman’s trial, Duncan Carling, an attorney representing the California State Bar, asked Gableman if there had been any successful legal challenges to the CTCL grants.

“Not yet,” Gableman replied.

Was he aware of any court findings that the Center for Tech and Civic Life grants violated any Wisconsin law?

“Not yet,” Gableman repeated.

Did Gableman find proof that Wisconsin voting machines had been manipulated for purposes of fraud?

“If I had found it, I would have put it in my report,” he said.

Among his other claims, Gableman asserted that Wisconsin lacked safeguards to prevent noncitizens from voting. Did he find evidence that noncitizens had in fact voted, he was asked?

“It was impossible for us to conduct that investigation,” Gableman said, claiming his inquiry had been curtailed by politics.

In Wisconsin, controversy plagued Gableman’s partisan election review from start to finish. Contributing to its costs: about $260,000 spent on court-ordered legal fees in connection with lawsuits brought by a liberal watchdog group. At one point, Gableman refused to answer questions in a Wisconsin circuit court, and the judge held him in contempt for flouting the state’s open records law.

Gableman’s manner in Eastman‘s State Bar trial drew more than one reprimand from Judge Yvette Roland. Once, she warned him to avoid a “diatribe.” Another time, she said, “Don’t interrupt me, and don’t roll your eyes. … If anyone knows how to comport himself in a courtroom, it should be you.”

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North Carolina: “Mark Harris, center of 2018 ballot scandal, announces new congressional campaign”

Charlotte Observer:

Mark Harris, whose 2018 congressional campaign was at the center of a ballot-harvesting scandal ending in a new election and felony indictments for an operative who worked for him, announced his campaign for Congress on Tuesday.

Harris’s own son gave bombshell testimony at 2019 state hearings called to investigate election fraud, where Harris himself called for a new election.

Yet in his campaign announcement, Harris cast doubt on the decision to reverse his apparent win.

“After seeing first hand the manufactured scandal that resulted in the Democrat-controlled State Board of Elections not certifying our victory in 2018, I am one of the few people who truly understands the extremes Democrats will go to in order to advance their woke, leftist agenda,” he said in a statement.

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“What Ginni Thomas and Leonard Leo wrought: How a justice’s wife and a key activist started a movement”

Very deep dive by Politico’s Heidi Pryzybyla:

At the time, the Citizens United ruling was widely expected, as the court had already signaled its intentions. When it came, it upended nearly 100 years of campaign spending restrictions.

The conservative legal movement seized the moment with greater success than any other group, and the consequences have shaped American jurisprudence and politics in dramatic ways.

From those early discussions among Leo, Thomas and Crow would spring a billion-dollar force that has helped remake the judiciary and overturn longstanding legal precedents on abortion, affirmative action and many other issues. It funded legal scholars to devise theories to challenge liberal precedents, helped to elect state attorneys general willing to apply those theories and launched lavish campaigns for conservative judicial nominees who would cite those theories in their rulings from the bench.

he movement’s triumphs are now visible but its engine remains hidden: A billion-dollar network of groups, most of which are registered as tax-exempt charities or social welfare organizations. Taking advantage of gaps in disclosure laws, they shield the identities of most of their donors and some of the recipients of the funds. Among those who’ve been paid by the groups are leading thinkers and individuals with close personal ties to Leo — including a whopping $7 million to a group run by a close friend and his wife. They also include a for-profit business for which Leo himself is chairman and which received tens of millions of dollars from his nonprofit network.

Leo’s role as the central figure in this movement has long been known, culminating in his acquisition last year of what many believe to be the largest political donation in history. Few are aware of the extent to which the movement’s baby steps were taken in concert with Ginni Thomas.

Two months before the Citizens United decision, but after the justices had signaled their intentions by requesting new arguments, attorney Cleta Mitchell — later to play a role in Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 elections — filed papers for Ginni Thomas to create a nonprofit group of a type that ultimately benefited from the decision. Leo was one of two directors listed on a separate application to conduct business in the state of Virginia. Thomas was president. She signed it on New Year’s Eve of 2009, and Crow provided much of the initial cash. A key Leo aide, Sarah Field, would come aboard to help Thomas manage the group, which they called Liberty Central.

After Liberty Central went public, it provoked an outcry over a Supreme Court justice’s wife promoting causes like overturning Obamacare that were before her husband’s court. Leo and Thomas changed gears. His network reactivated a dormant group, the Judicial Education Project, which would go on to become a major supplier of amicus briefs before the nation’s highest court. She created a for-profit consulting business using a similar name — Liberty Consulting — that enabled her to perform consulting work for conservative activist groups.

The Judicial Education Project supplied some of her business: Documents indicate Leo ordered at least one recipient of his groups’ funds, Kellyanne Conway, to make payments to Ginni Thomas for unspecified work, according to a Washington Post story earlier this year.

Now, Liberty Consulting is a focus of interest from congressional committees probing the Supreme Court’s ethics disclosures. Senate Democrats have demanded that Leo and Crow provide a list of “gifts, payments, or other items of value” they’ve given Thomas and her husband.

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“Trump trials: What counts as protected free speech?”

Christian Science Monitor:

“There’s nothing more protected under the First Amendment than political speech,” Mr. Lauro said.

Many legal analysts are skeptical this approach will work in a courtroom. There is no First Amendment right to engage in a conspiracy to break the law, they point out, and Mr. Trump has been charged with urging others to take illegal actions.

Nor is “political” speech actually uniquely protected under the law, they say.

But some experts add that there are fuzzy lines in First Amendment jurisprudence. It is an area of law that is not as settled as one might think, given the Constitution’s age.

Judges in Trump cases may also be reluctant to slap pretrial speech restrictions on a former president and current political candidate who is adamant about First Amendment rights, even if he makes inflammatory comments about his legal situations.

“The basic point is that there are areas of uncertainty,” says Frederick Schauer, a professor and First Amendment scholar at the University of Virginia School of Law. “Raising a First Amendment defense might, depending on the facts, not be completely frivolous.”…

Urging in the abstract that people ought to rob banks to bring capitalism to its knees would be protected under the First Amendment, says Professor Schauer. Urging particular people in a nonpublic manner to rob a bank and give the speaker some of the money would not.

“So a lot may depend on the fuzzy line between protected advocacy of illegal activity and unprotected criminal conspiracy,” says Professor Schauer.

Some experts say Mr. Trump’s lawyers’ description of his activities as “political” speech may be more of a rhetorical flourish than legally meaningful.

Political speech is often presented as axiomatic of the type of speech that the First Amendment is designed to protect, says Gregory Magarian, a constitutional law professor at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. That does not make it a special category, he says. Speech is speech.

The loser of an election is allowed to say they really won, even if everyone around them is saying otherwise. 

“But if the loser is the president and he is using the power of the office to overturn an adverse election result, that’s way off in its own ZIP code in terms of protecting political dissent,” says Professor Magarian.

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“Shaker Heights attorney who supported Trump jailed for felony voter fraud”

A Shaker Heights attorney who donated to ex-President Donald Trump’s campaign was convicted Tuesday of election fraud for voting twice in the last two general elections.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Andrew Santoli ordered sheriff’s deputies to take James Saunders straight to county jail after finding the 56-year-old guilty of two counts of illegal voting, a fourth-degree felony.

Santoli held that Saunders cast ballots in both Ohio and Florida in the 2020 presidential election and the 2022 general election. The judge noted that voting records from both states show Saunders also illegally voted twice in the 2014 and 2016 general elections. Prosecutors could not charge him for those votes because the statute of limitations had passed….

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said after the hearing that Saunders’ case is the only instance of a person actually voting twice in Cuyahoga County in several years.

“It appears [Saunders] felt he was smarter than the system,” O’Malley said. “He was wrong.”

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“What the Heck Happened in Coffee County, Georgia?; A detailed look back at the computer intrusion that features prominently in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s election interference indictment”

Lawfare deep dive by Anna Bower:

Days before the forensics team sets foot in Douglas, which is about 130 miles southwest of Savannah, voters had arrived at the elections office to mark their ballots in the state’s runoff election for the U.S. Senate, a race that would tip the balance of power in the upper house of Congress. Two months before that, some 15,000 people flocked to the polls in the rural county, as Joe Biden and Donald Trump battled for the presidency. Later, in a recorded phone call entered as evidence in litigation, Hall will claim that the forensics group “scanned every freaking ballot” cast in those races.

“They scanned all the equipment, imaged all the hard drives, and scanned every single ballot,” he will say in March 2021.

Throughout the month of January 2021, similar breaches occur on at least three other occasions, as additional outsiders are again given access to the state’s voting equipment. Forensic copies are subsequently accessed by more than a dozen individuals across several states, the court records show.

Until Monday, no individual involved in the apparent breach in Coffee County had been held accountable. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) has said that it has been investigating the matter for more than a year, prompting questions about the sluggishness of the investigation. An open records request submitted by Lawfare to Coffee County reveals that the GBI recently seized the desktop computer used by Hampton at the elections office—more than two and a half years  after the breach. Meanwhile, at the federal level, there have been no public signs that the Justice Department or the office of Special Counsel Jack Smith has taken any steps to investigate the events in Coffee County, despite calls for them to do so.

A separate open records request submitted by Lawfare returned no responsive documents for subpoenas or other communications between Coffee County elections officials and federal law enforcement authorities. A spokesperson for the special counsel’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Yet, just over 200 miles from Douglas, in Atlanta, one prosecutor has taken a deep interest in the events in Coffee County.

In her sweeping indictment handed up on Monday, the Coffee County breach features prominently throughout. Powell, Latham, Hall, and Hampton are all charged under the mammoth indictment’s racketeering charge, which alleges that “several of the Defendants corruptly conspired … to unlawfully access secure voting equipment and voter data” and “stole data, including ballot images, voting equipment software and personal voter information.” According to the indictment, the “stolen data was then distributed to other members of the enterprise, including members in other states.” 

In addition, Powell, Latham, Hall, and Hampton face charges of conspiracy to commit election fraud (Counts 32-33), conspiracy to commit computer theft (Count 34), conspiracy to commit computer trespass (Count 35), conspiracy to commit computer invasion of privacy (Count 36), and conspiracy to defraud the state (Count 37).

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My New One at Slate: “Why the Fulton County Indictment Is Different From Jack Smith’s Case”

I have written this piece for Slate. It begins:

If the recent federal indictment of Donald Trump on charges related to his attempt to subvert the 2020 presidential election was a streamlined surgical strike aimed at assuring a clean case and a speedy trial of the former president before the 2024 election, Monday night’s Georgia indictment is the equivalent of a blitz. With 19 defendants and 41 charges, the heart of the indictment is a sprawling state racketeering charge with Trump in the center of a vast conspiracy to lie to state officials, pressure election officials to change vote totals, turn in phony slates of fake electors to Congress, influence witness testimony, and gain access to voting machinery and software, all in an effort to turn Trump from an electoral college loser into a second-term president. And although the action in the state complaint is centered in Georgia, it alleges that part of the conspiracy, which included the actions of his chief of staff and lawyers, spanned much of the continent, from Arizona to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin to Washington, D.C. The case will be messy and difficult to manage, especially given Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s stated intention to try all 19 defendants together.

But the biggest difference between the federal case and the state case is not the number of defendants or counts in the indictment. It’s about the central role that race is likely to play not in the federal case but in the state case, from the race of the prosecutor, to the focus on a Black election worker Ruby Freeman, to the essential nature of the race-baiting bogus voter fraud charges in Georgia that formed Trump’s basis for claiming falsely that he was the rightful winner….

In important ways, the Georgia complaint is about getting justice for Freeman and Moss. But more broadly, the complaint vindicates the interest of all Black voters in Georgia and around the country. When Trump made his voter fraud claims in 2016 and 2020, he constantly focused his accusations on Democratic cities with large Black populations. On November 27, 2020, for example, Trump tweeted: “Biden can only enter the White House as President if he can prove that his ridiculous ‘80,000,000 votes’ were not fraudulently or illegally obtained. When you see what happened in Detroit, Atlanta, Philadelphia & Milwaukee, massive voter fraud, he’s got a big unsolvable problem!” The message is clear: minority voters were stealing the votes of Trump’s white rural supporters. These racist tropes were also a major theme of Giuliani’s public-facing efforts to overturn the election as well.

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“Secure ballots or boondoggle? Arizona county tailors project to politically connected firm”


As an Arizona county prepares to spend up to $1 million in state money to test anti-counterfeit features on ballots, it appears the project was tailored for one company in particular that has pushed the idea with the help of political allies in the state for more than two years.

The idea of adding unique features such as watermarks to ballots is gaining steam as a way to both protect against fraudulent ballots and improve voter confidence. But because the Cochise County pilot was crafted so specifically to describe Texas-based Authentix’s products, election technology experts say it unnecessarily limits the competition for the work while testing unnecessary and expensive products that might even make ballots unreadable to vote-counting machines.

Alex Gulotta, Arizona director of voter advocacy group All Voting is Local, called the venture a “boondoggle.” 

“It’s designed specifically to benefit this particular company, and it’s solving a problem that does not exist,” Gulotta said. While Arizona’s failed GOP candidates and leaders have claimed thousands of fake ballots were inserted into Arizona’s 2020 and 2022 elections, courts have found no evidence of any.

But Cochise County supervisors are set to vote on Tuesday to contract with Authentix, as well as  one other company that applied independently. The companies say they will test ballots with features such as watermarks, invisible ink and text, and unique dyes prior to the 2024 presidential election.

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“Michigan trio indicted in voting machine breaches. Clerks and experts say it’s a warning for others.”


This week’s indictments of three Michigan allies of former President Donald Trump on claims of illegally seizing voting machines demonstrate that the rules and laws governing the security of Michigan’s election systems worked, say experts and local clerks, and it sends a message that voting systems must be kept closely protected.

Matthew DePerno, a lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general last year, and former state Rep. Daire Rendon, both Republicans, were indicted and arraigned Tuesday in Oakland County Circuit Court. Lawyer Stefanie Lambert Junttila was arraigned Thursday. All were charged in connection with an alleged plot to gain possession of voting machines used in the 2020 election and examine them in a failed attempt to prove the machines were rigged to deliver a fraudulent victory for President Joe Biden.

In an investigation last year, state authorities said DePerno, Rendon, and Lambert Junttila “orchestrated” the effort to examine ballot tabulators from locations in three northern Michigan counties beginning around January 2021. DePerno and others then allegedly took five tabulators to hotels and rental homes in Oakland County, broke into the machines, and ran tests on them.

Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson, the special prosecutor in the case,  announced Thursday he would not charge anyone else.  At one point the year-long investigation had identified at least nine people involved in the effort, including a county sheriff and a group of technology contractors. Some of those participants, Hilson wrote, had been “deceived” into believing their actions were lawful.

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