The team of Arizona Republican state senators, legislative staff, and advisers finalizing the Cyber Ninjas’ report on the 2020 presidential election in Maricopa County is preparing to say that Joe Biden legitimately won the election, according to the largest funder of the Senate’s mostly privatized election review, former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne.
“The way some of these political RINOs [Republicans In Name Only] are doing this is they’re trying to argue that the [election] report should only be allowed to go and address the original construct of the report, the original assignment of the audit, and leave out other things that have been found,” Byrne told Creative Destruction Media’s L. Todd Wood.
“The political class is going to try to come in and water this down,” Byrne said. “The Republican political class, the RINOs, the nobodies… They are going to try to water this down. I am sure they all have been promised federal judgeships or sacks of cash under a streetlight if they can get this killed at this late date or watered down. And I think the public of Arizona should go ballistic.”
Byrne’s comments were made on August 29 but have been reposted on pro-Trump media in recent days as Arizona’s Republican Senate leadership is finalizing its report on the election. Trump has also revived his attacks on “RINOs” in recent days on Telegram, a social media site favored by his base.
The Arizona Senate’s review team includes Doug Logan, the CEO of the Cyber Ninjas, its lead contractor—which is writing the report and has been paid $3.2 million from Byrne’s organizations.
Byrne’s comments underscore what observers of the Arizona Senate’s review have anticipated for months—that any credible review would conclude there were no major problems with Maricopa County’s conduct of the presidential elections, although, as in any election, some procedures could be improved to make the vote-counting process more transparent.
Cyber Ninjas was hired to oversee a manual recount of Maricopa County’s presidential and U.S. Senate votes and to examine whether the county’s ballots were authentic or possibly forged. Logan and his team had little or no prior election audit experience, and their methods were criticized as secretive and deeply flawed. Nonetheless, for months the Arizona “audit” has been a driving force perpetuating the “big lie,” or the false claim that the election was rigged by Democrats and establishment actors who orchestrated a massive vote-stealing operation.
The Arizona review has generated endless conspiracy theories and became a rallying cry, if not a litmus test, for Trump-centered Republicans. It has inspired loyalists in other presidential swing states to launch similar reviews long after the 2020 election results were certified.
The stolen election claims, however, have not produced any evidence that has been accepted by any state or federal court. Instead, Trump’s campaign legal team has been sanctioned by a U.S. District Court judge in Michigan for lying in court, and some of his lawyers face fines and disbarment. In Arizona, a team of retired election auditors with decades of experience has published analyses using official 2020 election records to document how nearly 60,000 ballots had a majority of votes for Republican candidates but not for Trump. Trump lost the state by nearly 11,000 votes.
Sources in Arizona have said that the state Senate review team was spooked by the possible losses of law licenses looming over Trump’s attorneys, as well as stern warnings from the U.S. Department of Justice for possibly using investigative methods that could violate voter intimidation laws. As a result, they have been editing the report drafted by the Senate’s lead contractor, Cyber Ninjas, and excising claims and narratives that are speculative rather than factual. This has delayed the report’s release until the week of September 20, sources indicated.
The special counsel appointed by the Trump administration to scrutinize the Russia investigation obtained a grand jury indictment on Thursday of a prominent cybersecurity lawyer, accusing him of lying to the F.B.I. five years ago during a meeting about Donald J. Trump and Russia.
The indictment secured by the special counsel, John H. Durham, also made public his findings about an episode in which cybersecurity researchers identified unusual internet data in 2016 that they said suggested the possibility of a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, a Kremlin-linked financial institution.
He concluded that the Clinton campaign covertly helped push those suspicions to the F.B.I. and reporters, the indictment shows. The F.B.I. looked into the questions about Alfa Bank but dismissed them as unfounded, and the special counsel who later took over the Russia investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, ignored the matter in his final report.
The charging of the lawyer, Michael A. Sussmann, had been expected. He is accused of falsely telling a top F.B.I. lawyer that he was not representing any client at the meeting about those suspicions. Prosecutors contend that he was instead representing both a technology executive and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
“Sussmann’s false statement misled the F.B.I. general counsel and other F.B.I. personnel concerning the political nature of his work and deprived the F.B.I. of information that might have permitted it more fully to assess and uncover the origins of the relevant data and technical analysis, including the identities and motivations of Sussmann’s clients,” the indictment said.
Mr. Sussmann’s defense lawyers, Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth, have denied the accusation, insisting that he did not say he had no client and maintaining that the evidence against him is weak. They also denied that the question of who Mr. Sussmann was working for was material, saying the FB.I. would have investigated the matter regardless.
Following up on my post, Ninth Circuit Judge Carlos Bea Despicably Agrees to Be Honored by John Eastman’s Claremont Institute, at Event with Orwellian Panel on “Election Integrity”, Judge Bea tells the National Law Journal he’s still coming despite criticism from some legal ethics scholars:
Legal ethics experts are divided over whether Bea’s behavior violates the code of conduct for federal judges, is simply ill-advised or just doesn’t rise to the level of being worthy of significant scrutiny in light of Eastman’s role in promoting election fraud theories, action for which other attorneys have faced discipline. For some observers, the concern is that Bea’s attendance could create the perception that he is not an impartial judge, or that he may lend legitimacy to Eastman’s baseless theories.
“To me, it’s unbecoming of a federal judge to appear in public and accept an award from an institution tied to someone who perpetuated that lie. There’s a general perception of the judiciary that grows with each passing year that it’s a more political institution, that judges are deciding cases based on the ideology of the president who appointed them. So to have a federal judge appearing at an event with someone that’s so clearly tied to not only an extreme ideology, but a dangerous lie … is not something that I think shouldn’t be occurring at all,” said Fix the Court Executive Director Gabe Roth, who first brought attention to the event last week on social media.
In an email, Bea said he intends to accept the award despite criticism and noted that the award is from the institute, not Eastman.
Bea also pointed to a ruling he authored earlier this year as adding to the perception that he applies the law impartially. In the opinion, Bea affirmed the dismissal of a suit the Pasadena Republican Club filed against the Western Justice Center claiming the club’s constitutional rights were violated after the center canceled a scheduled speech to be given by Eastman.
“I think the opinion adds to the perception of impartiality in the application of the law rather than any adoption of Mr. Eastman’s views,” he said in an email.
In a Slate magazine article published last week, law professor Richard Hasen echoed Roth’s concerns, adding that Bea would be lending his credibility to Eastman’s ideas by agreeing to be an honoree at an event where Eastman is speaking.
Eastman does not appear to have been sanctioned or face other penalties for his role in the election challenges. He also has not been named as a defendant in the federal civil lawsuits filed over the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Rudy Giuliani, whom Eastman appeared alongside at the day’s rally, has had his law license interimly suspended for his role in promoting election fraud claims, and is targeted in some of the Jan. 6 litigation.
Charles Geyh, a law professor at Indiana University’s Mauer School of Law who studies judicial ethics and conduct, said Bea’s conduct may be more than simply ill-advised. Bea’s decision to accept the award may violate Canon 2 of the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges, he said.
The Judicial Conference Committee on Codes of Conduct, which is responsible for interpreting the code, has an advisory opinion stating that before accepting an award, judges must consider whether doing so would “raise the appearance of impropriety or partiality, as enjoined by Canon 2 of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.” It also state judges should not accept an award from a group “whose public image embodies a clearly defined point of view on controversial legal, social, or ethical issues.”
Geyh says the Claremont Institute fits into that definition, given its adoption of increasingly controversial views in recent years. The organization has welcomed as fellows Jack Posobiec, a host for the conservative One America News Network who peddled “Pizzagate” conspiracy theories in 2016, and Charlie Kirk, the founder of the conservative group Turning Point USA.
Bea’s acceptance of the award creates the perception that he “embraces the controversial perspectives” the institute endorses, Geyh said.
John H. Durham, the special counsel appointed by the Trump administration to scrutinize the Russia investigation, has told the Justice Department that he will ask a grand jury to indict a prominent cybersecurity lawyer on a charge of making a false statement to the F.B.I., people familiar with the matter said.
Any indictment of the lawyer — Michael Sussmann, a former federal prosecutor and now a partner at the Perkins Coie law firm, which represented the Democratic National Committee on issues related to Russia’s 2016 hacking of its servers — is likely to attract significant political attention.
Donald J. Trump and his supporters have long accused Democrats and Perkins Coie — whose political law group, a division separate from Mr. Sussmann’s, represented the party and the Hillary Clinton campaign — of seeking to stoke unfair suspicions about Mr. Trump’s purported ties to Russia.
The case against Mr. Sussmann centers on the question of whom his client was when he conveyed certain suspicions about Mr. Trump and Russia to the F.B.I. in September 2016. Among other things, investigators have examined whether Mr. Sussmann was secretly working for the Clinton campaign — which he denies.
An indictment is not a certainty: on rare occasions, grand juries decline prosecutors’ requests. But Mr. Sussmann’s lawyers, Sean M. Berkowitz and Michael S. Bosworth of Latham & Watkins, acknowledged on Wednesday that they expected him to be indicted, while denying he made any false statement….
At the meeting, Mr. Sussmann relayed data and analysis from cybersecurity researchers who thought that odd internet data might be evidence of a covert communications channel between computer servers associated with the Trump Organization and with Alfa Bank, a Kremlin-linked Russian financial institution.
The F.B.I. eventually decided those concerns had no merit. The special counsel who later took over the Russia investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, ignored the matter in his final report.
Mr. Sussmann’s lawyers have told the Justice Department that he sought the meeting because he and the cybersecurity researchers believed that The New York Times was on the verge of publishing an article about the Alfa Bank data and he wanted to give the F.B.I. a heads-up. (In fact, The Times was not ready to run that article, but published one mentioning Alfa Bank six weeks later.)
Mr. Durham has been using a grand jury to examine the Alfa Bank episode and appeared to be hunting for any evidence that the data had been cherry-picked or the analysis of it knowingly skewed, The New Yorker and other outlets have reported. To date, there has been no public sign that he has found any such evidence.
But Mr. Durham did apparently find an inconsistency: Mr. Baker, the former F.B.I. lawyer, is said to have told investigators that he recalled Mr. Sussmann saying that he was not meeting him on behalf of any client. But in a deposition before Congress in 2017, Mr. Sussmann testified that he sought the meeting on behalf of an unnamed client who was a cybersecurity expert and had helped analyze the data.
Moreover, internal billing records Mr. Durham is said to have obtained from Perkins Coie are said to show that when Mr. Sussmann logged certain hours as working on the Alfa Bank matter — though not the meeting with Mr. Baker — he billed the time to Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
Another partner at Perkins Coie, Marc Elias, was then serving as the general counsel for the Clinton campaign. Mr. Elias, who did not respond to inquiries, left Perkins Coie last month.
In their attempt to head off any indictment, Mr. Sussmann’s lawyers are said to have insisted that their client was representing the cybersecurity expert he mentioned to Congress and was not there on behalf of or at the direction of the Clinton campaign.
They are also said to have argued that the billing records are misleading because Mr. Sussmann was not charging his client for work on the Alfa Bank matter, but needed to show internally that he was working on something. He was discussing the matter with Mr. Elias and the campaign paid a flat monthly retainer to the firm, so Mr. Sussmann’s hours did not result in any additional charges, they said.
Back on September 1, I published a post entitled: Ninth Circuit Judge Carlos Bea Despicably Agrees to Be Honored by John Eastman’s Claremont Institute, at Event with Orwellian Panel on “Election Integrity”
Fix the Court, which had called my attention to the event, sent this letter to Judge Bea on September 10, and it has not yet received any response from Judge Bea. I wonder if the Ninth Circuit’s public information office would have a comment:
Capitol Police investigators have recommended disciplinary action against six police officers for their actions during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, when Trump supporters stormed the building in an effort to stop the certification of President Biden’s victory.
Three officers were singled out for unbecoming conduct, one officer for failure to comply with directives, one officer for improper remarks and one officer for improper dissemination of information, the Capitol Police said in a statement on Saturday.
None of the officers, or details about the recommended penalties, were identified. No criminal charges will be filed, after the U.S. attorney’s office did not find sufficient evidence to do so.
The internal inquiry, which was conducted by the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility, covered 38 investigations, although investigators failed to identify 12 officers involved in the cases. One investigation, into an unidentified official who was “accused of unsatisfactory performance and conduct unbecoming,” remains open, according to the statement.
Just two days before armed rioters stormed and ransacked the Capitol, about 300 law enforcement officials got on a conference call to talk about the possibility that Donald Trump’s supporters would turn violent on Jan. 6. They specifically discussed the possibility that the day’s gatherings would turn into a mass-casualty event, and they made plans on how to communicate with each other if that happened.
The officials were so prepared for chaos that they even had a hashtag to share information on the FBI’s private communication service: #CERTUNREST2021.
These previously unreported details come from a person familiar with the call and an email summarizing it obtained by the transparency group Property of the People. The Wall Street Journal first reported that the call occurred.
“Reporting indicates a significant number of individual [sic] plan to or are advocating for others to travel to Washington, DC to engage in civil unrest and violence,” reads the summary of the call, which included officials from so-called fusion centers — regional intelligence hubs set up after 9/11 to track major domestic threats.
The extent of the FBI’s awareness that the rally by Trump backers could turn violent raises fresh questions about why national security and law enforcement officials didn’t do more to protect the Capitol on that volatile day
Election officials are coming under unprecedented attack for doing their jobs. Some states are attempting to criminalize the exercise of these officials’ trained professional judgments; some officials have been the target of threats to themselves and their families. Any American — whether Republican, Democrat or independent — must know that systematic efforts to undermine the ability of those overseeing the counting and casting of ballots on an independent, nonpartisan basis are destructive to our democracy.
The two of us have been partisan opponents in the past, representing opposing political parties to the best of our abilities. But at this moment in time, we share a grave concern about attacks on those public servants who successfully oversaw what was arguably the most secure and transparent election in our country’s history, with record turnout, during a global pandemic. If such attacks go unaddressed, our system of self-governance will suffer long-term damage.
So, in partnership with the nonprofit and nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research, we are launching the Election Official Legal Defense Network (EOLDN), which will connect licensed, qualified, pro bono attorneys with election administrators who need advice or assistance. State and local election workers anywhere in the country can go to EOLDN.org, or call the toll-free number (877) 313-5210, at any time, 24/7, to request to be connected with a lawyer who can help them, at no cost.
This service will be available regardless of the officials’ political affiliation or where they work — that is, whether they are in a blue or red state or county. We already have lawyers committed to provide this volunteer support, and we are recruiting more. As co-chairs, we will be supported by a bipartisan advisory board of experienced state and local election officials of both parties, from across the nation. The response from these officials has been extraordinary and gratifying.
When we co-chaired the Presidential Commission on Election Administration in 2013-2014, we saw how essential it is for election officials to have the space, resources and respect to perform their critical jobs. We both came away extremely impressed with their dedication and performance.
An FBI intelligence analyst warned days after the 2020 election that Stop the Steal rallies — one of which metastasized into the ransacking of the Capitol — could turn violent.
The emailed warning from an analyst at the FBI’s school for bomb technicians circulated through the Bureau and to some of its state and local partners on Nov. 9, 2020, just days after the major TV networks called the election for now-President Joe Biden. Its subject line was simple: “Far-Right Chatter re Election Results.”
“As Joe Biden is declared the victor in the 2020 Presidential Campaign, chatter from the far-right indicates the belief the election was stolen from President Trump,” the FBI analyst wrote, then urging recipients to “keep your head on a swivel.”
The FBI analyst’s message, which has not been previously published and was obtained by the watchdog group Property of the People, indicates that federal law enforcement officials saw ample signs before Jan. 6 that right-wing efforts to overturn the election results could result in violence. FBI Director Christopher Wray has testified before Congress that the Bureau tracked the threat from domestic extremists in the months before the attack on the Capitol, and the email gives new detail on what the FBI was watching. When the email went out, prominent officials and leaders in the conservative movement were promoting the #StopTheSteal hashtag.
Internal jostling for leadership of Florida’s Republican Party has shaken loose a revelation bolstering allegations the GOP regularly runs third-party candidates funded by “dark money” shadow groups to win elections.
In an email sent Tuesday to all Florida GOP committee members, former state representative and current Lee County Property Appraiser Matt Caldwell ripped the party’s leadership for failing to support incumbents and for placing elected state officials – including current chairperson Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota – in charge.
Caldwell, defeated by Democrat Nikki Fried in the 2018 state agriculture commissioner election by 6,753 votes, blamed his loss on the state party’s neglect.
“The most glaring difference in the loss for Ag. Commissioner was the lack of any 3rd party candidate” in his race against Fried as, he implied, the state party did for candidates in four other statewide races, including Gov. Ron DeSantis’ half-percent victory over Democrat Andrew Gillum.
In fact, he added, “Many of our victories can be attributed to 3rd Party candidates dividing the vote.”
While recruiting third-party or no party affiliation (NPA) candidates is not new and, under Florida’s campaign financing rules, not necessarily illegal, the Miami-Dade State Attorney Office is investigating at least one NPA candidate’s 2020 campaign and Democrats are demanding lawmakers reassess state campaign regulations.
The most notable example comes from Miami-Dade County’s Senate District 37 race, where NPA candidate Alex Rodriguez received 6,300 votes out of 215,000 ballots cast in an election won by 32 votes by Sen. Ileana Garcia, who unseated incumbent Democrat José Javier Rodríguez.
A local criminal investigation into then-President Donald Trump’s attempt to meddle with Georgia’s 2020 election recount is inching forward, as Fulton County investigators have interviewed elections officials and received documents from the agency, according to three people with direct knowledge of the probe.
“They’ve asked us for documents, they’ve talked to some of our folks, and we’ll cooperate fully,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told The Daily Beast this week.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis previously revealed to The Daily Beast that she has spun up a new anti-corruption team to explore what state laws, if any, were broken when Trump and his allies tried to overturn election results there. But her office has been quiet about the matter in the five months since.
Her investigators have since interviewed at least four officials at the secretary of state’s office, asking questions that show a particular interest in Raffensperger’s separate phone conversations with Trump and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, according to two of these sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
A prominent Republican attorney who advised President Donald Trump as he tried to overturn the 2020 election helped set up an escrow account to funnel money to companies working on the Arizona election audit.
Cleta Mitchell’s role came to light as The Arizona Republic combed through documents the state Senate released this week after a court order. The documents provide previously unknown details on payments to companies and people participating in audit work and link the audit even closer to Trump.
Mitchell, who gained national attention for advising Trump during his January call to Georgia election officials in which he asked them to find votes in his favor, arranged for $1 million to be sent from the escrow account in late July to three subcontractors working under Cyber Ninjas, the Senate’s lead contractor.
This adds to the millions of dollars in outside funding that has paid for the months-long partisan review of Maricopa County’s ballots and voting machines. Republican leaders in the Senate ordered the unusual review that has been funded mainly by “Stop the Steal” advocates and Trump allies.
County administrators in Colorado have opened an investigation into an election official after employees complained she was pressuring them not to cooperate with a joint local, state and federal criminal investigation into an election system security breach discovered last month, a source told CNN.
Deputy clerk Belinda Knisley of the Mesa County Clerk and Recorders office has been placed on paid administrative leave due to a “confidential personnel matter,” CNN previously reported. A source in the Mesa County government tells CNN that the “confidential personnel matter” refers to an open county human resources investigation in which Knisley is accused of pressuring fellow clerk employees — her subordinates — not to cooperate with the criminal investigation into the breach.
When Knisley caught wind of the HR investigation, the source said that Knisley also then pressured employees not to cooperate with it.
Knisley was arrested on Wednesday, charged with felony burglary and misdemeanor cyber crime. As part of her bail conditions, Knisley agreed to have no contact with any clerk employees.
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.”
Navigating Bi-Partisan Election Funding in the Age of Transparency: Bruce Freed, president and co-founder of the Center for Political Accountability joins host Richard Levick of LEVICK to discuss their latest report, Corporate Enablers and the challenges for companies trying to recommit to bi-partisan campaign funding after the events surrounding January 6th and the state election law changes in Georgia, Florida, Texas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Iowa. To help companies navigate this new, perilous landscape, he recommends CPA’s Code of Conduct as a guide and The Fracturing of the American Corporation The Fracturing of the American Corporate Elite — Mark S. Mizruchi | Harvard University Press as essential reading.