It resembled a political rally more than a news conference. In November 2021, exactly one year after Donald J. Trump lost the presidential election to Joseph R. Biden Jr., Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida spoke to a raucous crowd in a hotel conference room just a few miles from Mr. Trump’s home base of Mar-a-Lago.
Their suspicions about vast election malfeasance would be heard, Mr. DeSantis promised. He was setting up an election police unit and he invited the crowd to send in tips about illegal “ballot harvesting,” nodding to an unfounded theory about Democrats collecting ballots in bulk.
The crowd whooped and waved furiously. “He gets it!” posted a commenter watching on Rumble.
But in his seven-minute, tough-on-election-crimes sermon, Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, never explicitly endorsed that theory or the many others spread by the defeated president and embraced by much of their party.
In this way, for nearly three years, Mr. DeSantis played both sides of Republicans’ rift over the 2020 election. As his state became a buzzing hub of the election denial movement, he repeatedly took actions that placated those who believed Mr. Trump had won.
Most prominent was the creation of an election crimes unit that surfaced scores of “zany-burger” tips, according to its former leader, disrupted the lives of a few dozen Floridians, and, one year in, has not yet led to any charges of ballot harvesting or uncovered other mass fraud.
Yet Mr. DeSantis kept his own views vague. Only last month — two years, six months and 18 days after Mr. Biden was sworn into office — did Mr. DeSantis, now running for president, acknowledge that Mr. Biden had defeated Mr. Trump…
At a news conference announcing the charges, Mr. DeSantis said more cases from the 2020 election were to come. “This is the opening salvo,” he said.
But by the end of 2022, the unit had announced only one other case against a 2020 voter. Mr. Ladanowski said by the time he had left in December, the team had moved on to vetting the current voter rolls.
As of July, the election crimes unit had referred nearly 1,500 potential cases to local or state law enforcement agencies, according to the governor’s office. Just 32 — or 2 percent — had resulted in arrests or warrants, and those cases were unrelated to the purportedly systematic abuses that elections activists claimed had tainted the 2020 election.
Thirteen of the defendants had been convicted of felonies. Defense attorneys said that some ex-felons accepted plea deals simply out of fear of being sent back to prison, and that none received a stiffer penalty than probation. Appeals court judges are now considering whether the state prosecutors had the legal authority to bring charges.
The election crimes unit also fined more than three dozen organizations that ran voter registration drives a total of more than $100,000 — much of that for failing to turn in the voter registration forms quickly enough….
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.”
Some of the nation’s preeminent election deniers have launched EagleAI NETwork, a new project that could undermine voting rights and elections. Its key supporters include Georgia serial voter registration challenger Jason Frazier and former President Trump lawyer Cleta Mitchell — best known for her participation in Trump’s phone call asking Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” him 11,780 votes. If EagleAI replaces existing election systems, it may be used to smear impartial election administration, disenfranchise voters, and set the stage for overturning unfavorable election results. It’s another link in the antidemocracy chain that those unhappy with election outcomes are building.
Don’t let the “AI” in the name fool you. There’s nothing intelligent about EagleAI, which appears to be no more than a system that performs data matches based on a database of public voter data amassed by a web scraper. Its own proponents describe it as “Excel on steroids.”
EagleAI takes from sources including the National Change of Address database, criminal justice records, and tax property data to create massive lists of voters. From there, it highlights names of potentially ineligible voters using criteria that are at best unreliable and at worst irrelevant, such as matching names on voter lists with change-of-address forms or felony convictions, or even just registration at nursing homes (baselessly implying that nursing home residents are somehow not competent to vote). Amateur investigators take the highlighted names and look for purported evidence of voter ineligibility, like a social media posting from out of state. They can then use EagleAI to auto-prepare challenge forms in a couple of clicks. It’s no more than a clearinghouse for election deniers to compile mass challenges.
A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that Rudy Giuliani is liable in a defamation lawsuit brought by two former Fulton County election workers.
In her 57-page order, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell issued a default judgment against the former New York City mayor. This means that all that remains is for a jury to decide whether Giuliani should pay damages and, if so, how much. Howell’s sanction is among the most severe a judge can issue against a defendant in a civil case.
Howell cited Giuliani’s “willful” refusal to turn over documents that could have shed light on whether he knowingly made false and defamatory statements about the two women. And she ordered Giuliani and his companies to pay a combined $132,857 in attorneys fees — at a time when he is already having difficulty paying his legal bills.
The ruling affirms a claim that Giuliani defamed election workers Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss when he accused them of committing fraud during the 2020 presidential election. The case now heads to trial by early 2024 solely to determine whether Giuliani must pay damages for spreading the false claims.
The Michigan Republican Party is starving for cash. A group of prominent activists — including a former statewide candidate — was hit this month with felony charges connected to a bizarre plot to hijack election machines. And in the face of these troubles, suspicion and infighting have been running high. A recent state committee meeting led to a fistfight, a spinal injury and a pair of shattered dentures.
This turmoil is one measure of the way Donald J. Trump’s lies about the 2020 election have rippled through his party. While Mr. Trump has just begun to wrestle with the consequences of his fictions — including two indictments related to his attempt to overturn the 2020 results — the vast machine of activists, donors and volunteers that power his party has been reckoning with the fallout for years.
As the party looks toward the presidential election next year, the strains are glaring.
Mr. Trump’s election lies spread like wildfire in Michigan, breaking the state party into ardent believers and pragmatists wanting to move on. Bitter disputes, power struggles and contentious primaries followed, leaving the Michigan Republican Party a husk of itself.
Quite notable from Fox News:
The Republican National Committee says it’s going “all in” ahead of Wednesday’s first GOP presidential nomination debate to encourage voters to turn in ballots early.
The recently-launched “Bank Your Vote” campaign seeks to motivate pre-Election Day balloting among Republicans ahead of the 2024 presidential election. The RNC effort aims to educate GOP voters on absentee voting, ballot collection and early in-person voting.
The RNC ad blitz, shared first with Fox News Wednesday, includes a 30-second ad that will appear on the Rumble live stream of the debate, a Fox News-hosted showdown in Milwaukee….
Former President Donald Trump, who appears in the new RNC ad, released a video last month encouraging Republicans to vote early, backing the RNC’s effort.
For over 2½ years, Trump has repeatedly spotlighted unproven claims that massive fraud in early and absentee voting led to the 2020 presidential election being stolen.
But since launching his 2024 presidential campaign last November, Trump has appeared to slowly embrace efforts to encourage Republicans to vote early in person or cast an early absentee ballot.
During a recent Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity, Trump said he would encourage Republicans to vote early. But he also claimed people make “phony ballots” and charged “a lot of bad things happen to those ballots.”
Due in part to Trump’s rhetoric, Democrats have enjoyed a sizable early voting advantage the past couple of years over Republicans.
A federal indictment and one in Georgia charging Donald Trump with lying about the 2020 election to overturn President Joe Biden’s win have done nothing to slow the geyser of election falsehoods flowing from the former president and his supporters.
Just two days after the Georgia indictment, one of Trump’s most enthusiastic backers took the stage at a conference in Missouri to again spread election misinformation. Mike Lindell, the owner of MyPillow who is a vocal promoter of the myth that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, kicked off an event on purported election crimes with a video about fraud.
It included footage from November 2020 that purported to show a Fulton County, Georgia, election worker pulling a briefcase of ballots from under a desk to surreptitiously add them to the tally….
By repeating the lie over and over, even when it has been repeatedly exposed as baseless, Trump is not only ensuring that his loyal followers remain energized, but also dominating the discussion and forcing others to relitigate the 2020 election on his terms.
Frank is convinced that American elections need saving and believes that to do so, people must take back the ballot box one county at a time. And though his allegations have been disproved and dismissed by election experts and fact checkers, he hasn’t been deterred from spending the last 2½ years on the road, spreading his message to any group that will host him.
“I’m fighting for the country that I grew up in that’s no longer here,” Frank said in an interview with The Times.
His more than 50 speeches in California and hundreds more across the country are part of a multi-pronged effort by the election denial movement to make a significant impact on future elections by changing state laws, training candidates and — in Frank’s case — organizing volunteers to challenge local results and voter rolls.
Paul Gronke, director of the Elections & Voting Information Center at Reed College in Portland, Ore., called Frank’s theories “fiction.”
“He’s a compelling presenter, but that doesn’t change the fact that what he’s saying are not facts,” Gronke said….
Frank said he got involved in Shasta County’s efforts last fall. Local activists had already been knocking on doors to conduct their own election audit and were pressuring county supervisors to stop using Dominion Voting Systems machines. Sympathetic county supervisors were elected to the board in November and Frank visited the county several times to present his election fraud theories.
He said he “coached” some of the supervisors on strategy in daily phone calls and private meetings. The Shasta County Board of Supervisors ended its contract with Dominion in January, and went a step further in March when it voted to stop using electronic machines to tabulate ballots. Only a small number of the roughly 10,000 election jurisdictions in the U.S. have stopped using electronic voting machines since 2020.
Frank speaks of Shasta County in biblical terms, holding it up to audiences as an inspiration and template.
“Once David slew Goliath, then the Hebrew children, the Israelites, chased the Philistines out of the land. … They suddenly all got brave, right? Shasta just slew Goliath. Now you all need to get brave,” he said in Hemet.
Election officials are worried Frank’s claims are being embraced by people who feel disenfranchised and oppose efforts to expand voter registration and voting by mail.
In effect, Trump-aligned lawyers have now conceded as false:
- Their most-hyped, supposedly direct evidence of mass voter fraud (Freeman and Moss)
- The idea that Trump was the “proper and true victor” (as Ellis claimed)
- The idea that the “election was stolen, and Trump won by a landslide” (as Ellis claimed)
- The idea that there was “a coordinated effort in all of these states to transfer votes either from Trump to Biden, to manipulate the ballots, to count them in secret” (as Ellis claimed)
Powell has conceded that the major claims she promoted in Michigan “perhaps” weren’t, in fact, true — despite her assurances that she would be able to prove them.
This comes on top of all the times Trump-aligned lawyers have been sanctioned, and conservative media outlets like Fox News, One America News and Newsmax have been forced to settle or back down in the face of legal threats over false claims.
Politico Magazine on the consequences that Trump’s lawyers and advisers have faced for their attempts to overturn the 2020 election results. It begins:
The scene was instantly infamous. There was Rudy Giuliani — once “America’s Mayor,” now a man ridiculed for his servility to Donald Trump — backed by a small array of American flags at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. He was flanked by Sidney Powell, a lawyer who shopped around “wackadoodle” theories of election fraud, and Jenna Ellis, a previously obscure attorney from Colorado who dubiously called herself a constitutional lawyer.
It was mid-November 2020, and the three of them — styling themselves as an “elite strike force team” that would secure Trump’s reelection through the courts after the effort resoundingly failed at the ballot box — offered assembled reporters a litany of conspiracy theories, false claims of election fraud, and general nonsense. Eventually, makeup began to drip down Giuliani’s sweat-drenched face, prompting widespread mockery throughout the country.
It only got worse from there.
Rudolph W. Giuliani has conceded that while acting as a lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump, he made false statements by asserting that two Georgia election workers had mishandled ballots while counting votes in Atlanta during the 2020 election.
The concession by Mr. Giuliani came in court papers filed on Tuesday night as part of a defamation lawsuit that the two workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, had brought against him in Federal District Court in Washington in December 2021.
The suit accused Mr. Giuliani and others of promoting a video that purported to show Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss — who are mother and daughter — of manipulating ballots while working at the State Farm Arena for the Fulton County Board of Elections.
In a two-page declaration, Mr. Giuliani acknowledged that he had in fact made the statements about Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss that led to the filing of the suit and that the remarks “carry meaning that is defamatory per se.” He also admitted that his statements were “actionable” and “false” and that he no longer disputed the “factual elements of liability” the election workers had raised in their suit.
But Mr. Giuliani, insisting that he still had “legal defenses” in the case, said that he continued to believe his accusations about Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss were “constitutionally protected” under the First Amendment. He also refused to acknowledge that his statements had caused the women any damage — a key element required to collect a judgment in a defamation case.
The Detroit Free Press has a deep dive into the state’s law on access to voting machines:
At the heart of the investigation into an alleged conspiracy to seize voting machines in the wake of the 2020 presidential election lies a question about Michigan election law: Who is allowed to have access to the voting machines and when?
DJ Hilson, the special prosecutor investigating the alleged plot, has asked the court to weigh in on the matter, filing a request earlier this year seeking a legal interpretation of Michigan election law in Oakland County Circuit Court. It’s a move he and Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Phyllis McMillen — who’s presiding over the case — acknowledge is unusual….
Hilson asked the Oakland County Circuit Court in March to issue a declaratory judgment finding that the “undue possession” of voting machines prohibited under the law is “possession that is not authorized by the Secretary of State or by court order.” By his reading, Michigan election law does not “allow for a clerk to unilaterally relinquish the custody of a voting machine.”
Almost from the moment that a pro-Trump mob stormed into the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, conspiracy theories have ricocheted from the fringes of the internet to the corridors of Congress. Republican officials and others on the right have dismissed the attack as the work of mere tourists, or sought to depict it as a false-flag operation by shadowy leftist groups — or even the federal government.
These baseless claims have seeped into dozens of criminal cases stemming from the riot, and for more than two years the government has had to beat them back.
On Thursday, prosecutors may face their stiffest challenge yet on that front as Alan Hostetter, a former police chief turned yoga instructor from Southern California, goes on trial in Federal District Court in Washington. Few people connected to the Jan. 6 attack have embraced conspiracy theories about the attack as fully as Mr. Hostetter, who is planning to place them at the heart of his defense.
Acting as his own lawyer, Mr. Hostetter has said that he intends to fight charges of conspiracy and obstruction based on what he calls “three fundamental pillars”: that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald J. Trump; that he and other rioters had no desire to disrupt the challenges to the vote results that were taking place inside the Capitol on Jan. 6; and that, therefore, the assault on the building had to have been staged by “federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.”…
Prosecutors have warned for weeks that the proceeding could devolve into chaos.
“The defendant’s goal with this trial — rather than a genuine engagement on the elements or the evidence — is to create a circuslike atmosphere and to promote his own brand,” they wrote last month to Royce C. Lamberth, the presiding judge.
Miles Parks for NPR.