‘It’s going to be an army’: Tapes reveal GOP plan to contest elections

“Video recordings of Republican Party operatives meeting with grassroots activists provide an inside look at a multi-pronged strategy to target and potentially overturn votes in Democratic precincts: Install trained recruits as regular poll workers and put them in direct contact with party attorneys.

The plan, as outlined by a Republican National Committee staffer in Michigan, includes utilizing rules designed to provide political balance among poll workers to install party-trained volunteers prepared to challenge voters at Democratic-majority polling places, developing a website to connect those workers to local lawyers and establishing a network of party-friendly district attorneys who could intervene to block vote counts at certain precincts.”

“election watchdog groups and legal experts say many of these recruits are answering the RNC’s call because they falsely believe fraud was committed in the 2020 election, so installing them as the supposedly unbiased officials who oversee voting at the precinct level could create chaos in such heavily Democratic precincts.

“This is completely unprecedented in the history of American elections that a political party would be working at this granular level to put a network together,” said Nick Penniman, founder and CEO of Issue One, an election watchdog group. “It looks like now the Trump forces are going directly after the legal system itself and that should concern everyone.”

Penniman also expressed concern about the quick-strike networks of lawyers and DAs being created, suggesting that politically motivated poll workers could simply initiate a legal conflict at the polling place that disrupts voting and then use it as a vehicle for rejecting vote counts from that precinct.”

“On the tapes, some of the would-be poll workers lamented that fraud was committed in 2020 and that the election was “corrupt.” Installing party loyalists on the Board of Canvassers, which is responsible for certifying the election, also appears to be part of the GOP strategy. In Wayne County, which includes Detroit, Republicans nominated to their board a man who said he would not have certified the 2020 election.

Both Penniman and Rick Hasen, a law and political science professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, said they see a domino effect that could sow doubts about the election even when there was no original infraction: A politically motivated poll worker connecting with a zealous local lawyer to disrupt voting, followed by a challenge to the Board of Canvassers that may have nothing to do with the underlying dispute but merely the level of disruption at the polling place.

“You shouldn’t have poll workers who are reporting to political organizations what they see,” Hasen said. “It creates the potential for mucking things up at polling places and potentially leading to delays or disenfranchisement of voters,” especially “if [the poll workers] come in with the attitude that something is crooked with how elections are run.””

“Penniman, the election watchdog, believes the strategy is designed to create enough disputes to justify intervention by GOP-controlled state legislatures, who declined to take such steps in 2020.”

Hong Kong ushers in a new era of restriction under John Lee

“John Lee is the new chief executive of Hong Kong. The 64-year-old ran the only approved campaign to succeed Carrie Lam, the embattled head of the Chinese territory who oversaw a dramatic degradation to democratic institutions throughout 2019’s pro-democracy protests. Lee’s tenure will likely bring more of the same: a former deputy chief of Hong Kong’s police force, he was instrumental in the brutal crackdowns on pro-democracy activists.

As the sole Beijing-approved candidate to replace Lam, Lee’s victory was all but assured as soon as he announced his candidacy. While Hong Kong doesn’t have what Americans would recognize as a democratic electoral system, previous elections have seen multiple candidates vie for Hong Kong’s top job. But this year, Lee was the only person Beijing apparently deemed sufficiently loyal to China’s Communist Party under its new electoral policies for Hong Kong, unveiled last March. He won handily with 99 percent of the votes from the 1,500-member electoral commission.”

The revealing Trump White House debate over whether to seize voting machines

“By December 2020, as President Donald Trump was trying feverishly to overturn Joe Biden’s election win, his closest remaining advisers had broken into two warring camps.

Both factions, at this point, supported and encouraged Trump’s strategy to retain power: pressuring state legislatures, state officials, and members of Congress to throw out results in key states, claiming they were tainted by fraud. Both were even interested in using the federal government’s power to seize voting machines in key states.

But one camp, led by Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn, wanted to go even further and use the military to seize those machines — while the other, led by Rudy Giuliani, thought that was a bridge too far.

Think of it as a divide between the dangerously unhinged and the totally batshit.”

“The story makes clear just how dire things were for democracy at this point. Everyone around Trump was recommending extreme measures that, if successful, would have amounted to stealing the election.

Yet even some of Trump’s unhinged, irresponsible, and conspiratorial advisers, like Giuliani, were still trying to steer him away from the even worse actions counseled by Powell and Flynn, who seem to have been totally unmoored from factual and political reality at this point.”

“while some officials might have refused to go along with Trump’s whims, he did have the option to replace them but simply chose not to — due to his own calculations that this would be too far, or because other advisers talked him out of it. But there was no guarantee that Trump, who had been willing to push so far already, would back off here. If he were just a bit more stubborn and willing to stretch the boundaries of his power, the election 2020 crisis could have grown far worse.”

““Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome,” Trump said in a statement…“Unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power, he could have overturned the Election!” That same day, he mused at a rally about pardoning January 6 rioters. In a battle between the unhinged and the batshit for Trump’s favor, the latter camp may be gaining strength.”

No, Flynn’s Martial Law Plot Isn’t Sedition. But It’s Not Necessarily Legal Either.

“Flynn had recently appeared on the far-right outlet Newsmax suggesting that Trump could order “military capabilities” to “rerun an election” in swing states, and that “[m]artial law has been instituted 64 times.” Meanwhile, Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward urged Trump to “Cross the Rubicon” and impose martial law to claim an election that the Electoral College, not to mention several dozen court rulings, has now certified he lost.

Public reaction to Flynn’s “coup” proposal — which he’d shared previously through a press release on Twitter from the right-wing group “We The People” (tagline: “Freedom never kneels except for God”) — have been furious and damning.”

“There’s a buffet of sedition statutes (18 U.S.C., sections 2383 through 2385) which have some potential relevance here. Section 2383 makes it a crime to incite or assist in a rebellion against the United States or give comfort to those who incite an insurrection. Section 2384 carries a 20-year jail term for seditious conspiracy, which requires an agreement between two or more people to “overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States … or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States.” The third provision, 2385, makes it a crime to “knowingly or willfully advocate, abet, advise, or teach the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States.” The statute goes on to criminalize the intentional publication or circulation of any printed matter advocating the desirability of overthrowing the U.S. government. (Thirteen states also have their own laws banning “criminal anarchy.”)

Historically, sedition laws have been used to target critics of the government, and some of those prosecutions have run afoul of First Amendment protections. But the First Amendment does not uniformly protect speech if it incites violence.

Was Flynn inciting violence by proposing the military be used to seize voting machines? During the now-infamous Oval Office meeting, chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone protested vehemently, but were there two or more people in agreement to overthrow the government? Was Flynn’s social media campaign a violation of the rule against circulating any printed matter advocating the overthrow of the government?

This is where the current sedition laws begin to seem inadequate to the task of responding to Flynn’s unprecedented proposal.

First, there is the problem of “sedition against what?” Usually, it’s the sitting government, which means that one could make a strong argument that it’s impossible for Trump to be involved in a seditious conspiracy so long as he’s the sitting President. Second, no one has ever been successfully prosecuted under the sedition statutes for exhorting a sitting president to perform an illegal act, with or without the president’s connivance.”

“The First Amendment protects free speech, but in 1969 the Supreme Court held in Brandenburg v. Ohio that “the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” (Emphasis mine.)

Martial law is not mentioned in the Constitution. Nor is it authorized by any act of Congress. The Supreme Court has never directly held that the federal government has the power to impose martial law. Although the Insurrection Act allows the president to use armed forces to “suppress” an insurrection and restore immediate law and order upon the request of a state legislature or governor, an 1878 law called the Posse Comitatus Act otherwise forbids the use of the military for domestic law enforcement. A criminal statute puts members of the military who prevent or attempt to interfere with voters “exercising the right of suffrage” at risk of going to prison for up to five years.”

Mitch McConnell and Several Other GOP Senators Finally Acknowledge Biden’s Victory

“Rep. Paul Mitchell (R–Mich.), a retiring congressman who congratulated Biden on November 7, announced yesterday that he was “disaffiliating from the Republican Party” out of disgust at its humoring of Trump’s increasingly desperate explanations for losing the election. “The president and his legal team have failed to provide substantive evidence of fraud or administrative failure on a scale large enough to impact the outcome of the election,” Mitchell wrote in a letter to Republican Nation Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel. “It is unacceptable for political candidates to treat our election system as though we are a third-world nation and incite distrust of something so basic as the sanctity of our vote….If Republican leaders collectively sit back and tolerate unfounded conspiracy theories and ‘stop the steal’ rallies without speaking out for our electoral process, which the Department of Homeland Security said was ‘the most secure in American history,’ our nation will be damaged….With the leadership of the Republican Party and our Republican conference in the House actively participating in at least some of these efforts, I fear long-term harm to our democracy.””

Trump’s Election Conspiracy Theory Requires Followers To Join Him in an Alternate Universe

“notwithstanding a long series of disappointments for litigants trying to demonstrate that the presidential election was illegitimate, culminating in two unanimous rejections by the Supreme Court last week. According to a recent Fox News poll, 68 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of Trump voters believe “the presidential election was stolen.”

Some of those Trump fans may simply be signaling their loyalties or giving the response they think will irk the president’s enemies. But unless Trump supporters are perpetrating an elaborate gag nearly as sophisticated and complex as the baroque conspiracy he blames for denying him a second term, there are a lot of true believers out there.

Believing Trump requires accepting his claim that election officials across the country—possibly aided by a long list of co-conspirators that includes George Soros, the Clinton Foundation, and several foreign governments—used fraud-facilitating voting machines to give Joe Biden an edge, then switched to manufacturing “hundreds of thousands” of phony paper ballots when the original plan fell short. It also requires believing that pro-Trump news outlets, Republican election officials, Republican members of Congress, Trump-nominated judges and justices, the Department of Homeland Security, and Trump’s own attorney general helped conceal that conspiracy by casting doubt on the president’s charges or obstructing his efforts to overturn the election.

The alternative to buying all that is to conclude that Trump has refused to admit defeat, whether for personal or political reasons, and has therefore resorted to increasingly desperate explanations for Biden’s victory. That hypothesis is consistent with everything we know about Trump, including his disdain for the truth, his enormous yet fragile ego, and his allergy to accepting responsibility.

It is also consistent with the chasm between Trump’s assertions and the claims his campaign has made in court. In a 46-minute Facebook rant earlier this month, Trump complained that “even judges so far have refused to accept” that he won the election—hardly a niggling detail, since courts are the forum where Trump had to support his charges with credible evidence.

Trump thinks the Supreme Court “chickened out” when it declined to hear Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit seeking to overturn the election results in four battleground states. The justices simply “didn’t want to rule on the merits of the case,” the president avers.

Yet state and federal judges have ruled on the merits of Trump’s legal arguments and rejected them, often in blistering terms. Equally telling, the Trump campaign’s lawsuits have failed even to allege the sort of vast criminal conspiracy he describes in speeches and tweets—possibly “because there are legal consequences for lying to judges,””

‘Seditious abuse of the judicial process’: States reject Texas effort to overturn Biden’s election

“Officials from four presidential swing states forcefully criticized an effort by Texas and President Donald Trump to enlist the Supreme Court to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election, with Pennsylvania calling the last-ditch legal effort “seditious” and built on an “absurd” foundation.

“The Court should not abide this seditious abuse of the judicial process, and should send a clear and unmistakable signal that such abuse must never be replicated,” Pennsylvania said in a 43-page brief signed by Attorney General Josh Shapiro and his deputies.

“In support of such a request, Texas brings to the Court only discredited allegations and conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact,” the attorneys wrote. “Accepting Texas’s view would do violence to the Constitution and the Framers’ vision.”

The briefs from Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin — states targeted in Texas’ lawsuit, brought by Attorney General Ken Paxton, which Trump is attempting to join — directed their fury largely at Paxton. And they pleaded with the justices to reject the suit out of hand, warning that anything else would give states unprecedented power to sue each other to enforce their will, leading to waves of partisan retribution that shake the foundations of federalism.”

“Texas’ lawsuit drew skepticism even among Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have broadly been supportive of the president’s efforts to undermine faith in the democratic system. Some Texas GOP lawmakers, including Sen. John Cornyn, raised questions about the merits. Rep. Chip Roy called it “a dangerous violation of federalism,” and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy twice dodged questions about whether he backed the legal effort.

However, a group of 106 House Republicans signed a friend of the court briefing, arguing the defendant states acted illegally and that their electors should be prevented from voting.”

Trump unleashes an army of sore losers

“Trump, it seems, isn’t the only dead-ender holding out more than a month after the election, refusing to acknowledge defeat. Even as Trump lost again in court on Friday, with the Supreme Court rejecting a long-shot effort to overturn the election, he remains a lodestar for denialists of the GOP.

In California, a Republican congressional candidate trounced in Democratic-heavy Los Angeles is still refusing to concede — while simultaneously announcing he’s running for governor. In Maryland, a congressional candidate beaten by more than 40 percentage points is still complaining about “irregularities” in her election. And in Tennessee, a House candidate defeated by more than 57 percentage points has reached out to the ubiquitous pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell to air her grievances about an election that no Republican had any chance of winning — but that she’s convinced she did.

The down-ballot parroting of Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud began right after the election. But in the weeks since, it has evolved into a self-sustaining phenomenon of its own. Republican candidates for House, legislative and gubernatorial races in more than half a dozen states are still refusing to concede.

Echoing the president, these candidates are an early sign of what Republicans say will be a sustained, post-Trump effort to tighten voting restrictions and to reverse measures implemented in many states to make voting easier. They also may mark the beginning of a Trump-inspired trend of candidates who never fold — they just fade away after weeks and months of unsubstantiated allegations of fraud.”

“On Friday, after the Supreme Court’s rejection of an effort to overturn the presidential election, Webber suggested on Twitter that even the court’s action was a sign of something sinister.

“That’s how you know it’s deeper than anyone could have ever imagined,” he said.”

LC: This could lay the groundwork for further deterioration of democracy.

Study: Trump’s tweets can lead Republicans to lose faith in elections

“President Donald Trump’s tweets attacking the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election might not sway the outcome — but they might sway Americans’ faith in democracy.

A study by political science researchers from Stanford and five other universities found that exposure to those tweets “erodes trust and confidence in elections and increases the belief that elections are rigged among his supporters.” However, among those who oppose the president, the study found that their trust in elections actually increased after seeing his tweets, albeit by a slightly smaller magnitude.”

“people’s self-reported views may have less to do with their actual opinions and more to do with staying in line with their party. Previous research has shown that survey respondents often follow partisan cues: Politico, for instance, found that Republicans’ and Democrats’ views on whether the economy was improving flipped after Trump’s 2016 win, but that those shifts in reported attitudes only sometimes affected people’s actual behavior.”