TPM: von Spakovsky Involved with Group That Originated Crazy Conspiracy Theory that Italian Defense Contractor Changed Votes from Trump to Biden (via Satellite!) During 2020 Election

Josh Kovensky for TPM:

For those ready to believe that President Trump really won re-election, there’s one particularly fantastical conspiracy theory to hang your hat on.

It’s called ItalyGate, and it offers a simple, direct, and especially implausible claim: An Italian defense contractor teamed up with the U.S. Embassy in Rome to use satellite transmissions to switch millions of Trump votes to Biden votes, thus stealing the election.

What makes this conspiracy theory especially handy among the many whackadoodle Big Lie claims is that it serves to explain why, as the former president has argued, millions of vote batches came in in the middle of the night as overwhelmingly for Biden: they were the product of a “data switch” by Italian operatives with access to advanced satellite technology.

As it turns out, the ItalyGate conspiracy theory wasn’t merely floating in the MAGA ether — another harebrained explanation for fringy Trump diehards to cling to. Revelations this week and additional reporting by TPM offer new insights into how ItalyGate sprang into existence and made it all the way to inner sanctums of the Justice Department, the White House, and perhaps to Trump himself.

Much of the story still remains a mystery that’s been lost in the haze of the right-wing fever swamps, but TPM was able to identify several people and companies that played key roles in promoting the theory.

Among them is a Florida non-profit called Nations in Action, on whose board conservative lawyer and noted voter fraud alarmist Hans von Spakovsky served. Von Spakovsky told TPM that he resigned from the group two days after the Capitol insurrection, and did not reply to a further inquiry about what he did for Nations in Action. Two companies controlled by a Virginia realtor and onetime Somali hostage negotiator named Michele Ballarin also played key roles in promoting the theory.

It remains unclear how the theory went from Ballarin and Nations in Action to the White House, though the Nations in Action chief said in an emailed statement to TPM that she told Trump about the allegations at Mar-a-Lago on Christmas Eve. Emails released by Congress this week show then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pushing senior DOJ officials to investigate the theory, sending along a YouTube video that elaborated on it as well as an Italian-language letter with a translated copy purporting to back up the allegations.

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