“Based on his private statements to colleagues, we know that former Fox News personality Tucker Carlson did not believe Trump lawyer Sidney Powell’s wild claims about systematic fraud in the 2020 presidential election. “Sidney Powell is lying,” Carlson flatly stated in a November 16, 2020, text message to fellow Fox News host Laura Ingraham that came to light as a result of the defamation lawsuit that Dominion Voting Systems filed against the channel. Ingraham agreed that Powell could not be trusted: “Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy [Giuliani].”
We also know, again thanks to discovery in the Dominion lawsuit, that Carlson had a low opinion of Donald Trump. In a November 10, 2020, text message, he called Trump’s decision not to attend Biden’s inauguration “hard to believe,” “so destructive,” and “disgusting.” He was more broadly critical in a January 4, 2021, text message to his staff. “There isn’t really an upside to Trump,” he said, describing “the last four years” as “a disaster.” Carlson was eager for a change: “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait. I hate him passionately.” The day after the January 6 Capitol riot by Trump supporters, Carlson privately called him “a demonic force” and “a destroyer.”
Carlson, who launched a new show on Twitter after Fox News fired him in April, was singing a different tune.. t the Turning Point Action Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida. “Why were they so mad?” he said during a giddy, meandering 44-minute speech at the pro-Trump gathering, referring to the Capitol rioters. “Why do they take the bus from Tennessee to go jump up and down in front of the Capitol?” The answer, he said, is that they were frustrated by the patronizing, dismissive response to their legitimate concerns about how the presidential election had been conducted.
Carlson suggested it was laughably implausible that Joe Biden had received “81 million votes”—”15 million more than Barack Obama,” which “seems like a lot”—especially “considering [that] he didn’t campaign and he can’t talk.” But instead of taking that reaction seriously, Carlson said, the political and journalistic establishment told Trump’s supporters to “settle down,” saying, “We have the source code in the voting machine software, and we’ve looked at it, and it’s totally on the level. We’ve double-checked. We wouldn’t let an electronic voting [company] hide their software from us.”
The unfounded claim that deliberately corrupted Dominion software enabled Biden to steal the election, of course, was the central issue in the company’s lawsuit against Fox, which the parties settled for a jaw-dropping $788 million shortly before Carlson got the boot. It was also the claim that Carlson privately dismissed as dangerous nonsense. “It’s unbelievably offensive to me,” he told Ingraham. “Our viewers are good people and they believe it.”
“Carlson, who was transparently craving the adulation of the Trump supporters in West Palm Beach, is reinforcing their conviction that Biden could have won the election only through a vast criminal conspiracy that Carlson publicly called unsubstantiated and privately called a lie. He apparently has swallowed any disgust he once felt at Powell et al.’s deception of “good people.””
“The Enforcement Acts, one of which was known also as the Ku Klux Klan Act, given its prime target, criminalized widespread attempts by former Confederates to deny Black Southerners their right to vote, to have their votes counted and hold office — rights they enjoyed under the Reconstruction Act of 1867, the 14th Amendment and soon, the 15th Amendment. Coming at a time when American democracy teetered on the edge, these laws gave teeth to the federal government’s insistence that no eligible voter could be denied the right to vote and have his vote counted. (At the time, only men could exercise the franchise.) The laws were a direct response to Southern Democrats’ efforts to abrogate the practical effects of the Civil War and nullify Black political participation and representation.
Today, American democracy stands once again at a crossroads. The refusal of many Republican officeholders to accept the outcome of a free and fair election, and Trump’s outright appeal to fraud and violence in an effort to overturn that election, are precisely the kinds of antidemocratic practices the Enforcement Acts were intended to criminalize and punish.”
“In the days to come, Trumps’ defenders may claim that the 1870 Enforcement Act is antiquated and obsolete or, as the National Review argued, irrelevant to the case in hand.
In fact, as the Washington Post recently documented, while the act was precipitated by Klan violence in the 1860s, throughout the 20th century and even in more recent times, “Section 241 has also been used to prosecute a wider range of election subversion, including threatening or intimidating voters, impersonating voters, destroying ballots and preventing the official count of ballots.” That includes its use to prosecute white people who terrorized civil rights volunteers during the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi and in cases involving election interference in states like Oklahoma, Tennessee and Kentucky. In other words, it is hardly what legal observers call a “strange law,” or a law still on the books but no longer relevant or enforceable.
Moreover, the acts of which Trump stands accused of committing are precisely what the Enforcement Act was intended to combat. Nullifying the votes of citizens. Fraudulently submitting fake elector slates. Attempting to intimidate state officials into falsifying returns. Bullying a vice president into discarding the official election count. And yes, inciting violence in the furtherance of overturning a free and fair election.
Our system presumes that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. It is now incumbent upon the Department of Justice to make its case. But the shameful events of late 2020 and early 2021 only reinforce the lasting relevance and importance of the 1870 Enforcement Act, a law constructed to meet challenges that, a century and a half later, still hang over America’s fragile democracy.”
“Even as Fox acknowledges a judge’s determination that it repeatedly aired “false” allegations about Dominion, it claims to be upholding “the highest journalistic standards.” Surely that means it will set the record straight. Not according to The Hill’s Dominick Mastrangelo, who reports that a “source with knowledge of the Fox/Dominion settlement says the network will not be required to issue any on-air retractions or apologies as part of the deal.””
“On Jan. 4, 2021, Fox News host Tucker Carlson was done with Donald Trump.
“We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait,” he texted an unidentified person.
“I hate him passionately. … I can’t handle much more of this,” he added.
By this time, Fox News was in crisis mode. It had angered its audience when it correctly said Joe Biden had won Arizona in the presidential election. Executives and hosts were worried about losing viewers to upstart rivals, most notably Newsmax.
The private comments were a far cry from what Carlson’s viewers were used to hearing from the stalwart conservative host on his prime-time show every night.
“We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest,” he wrote in another text message, referring to the “last four years.” “But come on. There isn’t really an upside to Trump.””
“In a group text chain from mid-November, Hannity, Ingraham and Carlson complained about their news colleagues and the network’s decision to call Arizona in favor of Biden. Fox News was the first network to do so, and the call was accurate.
“Why would anyone defend that call,” Hannity asked.
“My anger at the news channel is pronounced,” Ingraham said later in the exchange.
Carlson piped in, saying: “It should be. We devote our lives to building an audience and they let Chris Wallace and Leland [expletive] Vittert wreck it. Too much.”
Wallace and Vittert were Fox News hosts and anchors at the time.”
“In a conversation with Fox News journalist Chris Stirewalt on Dec. 2, 2020, about a month after the election, Bill Sammon, who was then the network’s managing editor, lamented the state of the place they worked.
“More than 20 minutes into our flagship evening news broadcast and we’re still focused solely on supposed election fraud — a month after the election. It’s remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things,” Sammon said.
Stirewalt added: “It’s a real mess. But sadly no surprise based on the man I saw revealed on election night.”
Sammon replied, “In my 22 years affiliated with Fox, this is the closest thing I’ve seen to an existential crisis — at least journalistically.””
“Former President Donald Trump’s reaction to the 2020 election arguably violated several federal and state laws. But any effort to prosecute him for those alleged violations would face the possibly insurmountable challenge of proving criminal intent.
Given Trump’s long history of embracing self-flattering assertions at odds with reality, it seems plausible that he sincerely believed, despite all the countervailing evidence, that the election was subverted by systematic fraud. If so, his various efforts to prevent Joe Biden from taking office would have been, from his perspective, attempts to correct a grievous wrong rather than attempts to illegally obstruct the peaceful transfer of power.
The select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot showed that people close to Trump recognized who had actually won the election and tried to dissuade him from embracing wild conspiracy theories to the contrary. But that testimony did not conclusively prove that Trump privately agreed with those advisers even while publicly promoting the stolen-election fantasy. A recent ruling by a federal judge in California supplies further evidence to support that interpretation, suggesting that Trump knowingly submitted false claims about election fraud in Georgia as part of a federal lawsuit.”
“Carter ruled that the crime-fraud exception applies to four emails related to Trump and Eastman’s “knowing misrepresentation of voter fraud numbers in Georgia when seeking to overturn the election results in federal court.” Carter says the emails indicate that Trump made those claims even though he knew they had been discredited.
In a state lawsuit filed on December 4, 2021, Carter notes, “President Trump and his attorneys alleged…that Fulton County improperly counted a number of votes,” including “10,315 deceased people, 2,560 felons, and 2,423 unregistered voters.” When they decided to file a federal lawsuit challenging the election results, Trump and his lawyers “discussed incorporating by reference the voter fraud numbers alleged in the state petition.” But in a December 30 email, Eastman “relayed ‘concerns’ from President Trump’s team ‘about including specific numbers in the paragraph dealing with felons, deceased, moved, etc.'”
The next day, Eastman elaborated on those concerns: “Although the President signed a verification for [the state court filing] back on Dec. 1, he has since been made aware that some of the allegations (and evidence proffered by the experts) has been inaccurate. For him to sign a new verification with that knowledge (and incorporation by reference) would not be accurate.”
Trump apparently was unfazed. “President Trump and his attorneys ultimately filed the complaint with the same inaccurate numbers without rectifying, clarifying, or otherwise changing them,” Carter writes. “President Trump, moreover, signed a verification swearing under oath that the incorporated, inaccurate numbers ‘are true and correct’ or ‘believed to be true and correct’ to the best of his knowledge and belief.”
In other words, Carter says, “the emails show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public.” The emails therefore “are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States.””
“The inconvenient truth behind all this fraud and waste is that these government programs never should have been designed as they were. For example, while the federal government justifiably boosted state unemployment benefits at the beginning of the pandemic, it was irresponsible to enhance the benefits by $600 a week. As a result, 76 percent of the individuals who received such benefits were making more by not working than by working. It was also irresponsible to extend the program long after the economy reopened and resumed growing.
The same is true of the overly generous three rounds of $1,200, $600, and $1,400 individual payments paid to people who either already received the enhanced unemployment benefits or who never lost their jobs. Most recipients of these funds didn’t need them. In fact, only 15 percent of people who received the first round of checks said they had spent it or planned to spend it. And there were other benefits on top of these checks.”
“This non-fraudulent spending is now helping to fuel inflation.
Then, you have the money dispensed to corporations. In one way or another, that spending made up a huge share of the COVID-19 relief. Indeed, whether through the airline bailouts or the Payroll Protection Program, shareholders collected trillions of dollars in government handouts they didn’t need. Most of the PPP funding, for example, went to companies whose workers were never at risk of losing their jobs since they were well-suited to work from home.”
“billions of dollars went to state and local governments, including for schools that stayed closed, even though many of these governments’ revenue growth equaled or exceeded pre-pandemic levels.
Of course there was some fraud, but the malfeasance happened only because the programs were created in the first place and designed to go to everyone regardless of need. This reckless “design” is the true scandal.”
“The federal government sent billions in unemployment aid to ineligible beneficiaries and outright fraudsters during the pandemic, according to a new watchdog report. At least $78 billion in jobless benefits, and potentially much more, were misspent during fiscal year 2021, according to a Tuesday report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
“Not only is the system falling short in meeting the needs of workers and the broader economy, but the potential for huge financial losses could undermine public confidence in the stewardship of government funds,” said GAO head Gene Dorado in a press release yesterday, who called the report’s findings “extremely troubling.”
The Congressional watchdog agency has rated the unemployment insurance system as “high risk” for waste, fraud, and abuse and called on lawmakers and the administration to undertake immediate reforms.
The federal government’s unemployment insurance system—jointly administered by the Department of Labor and a patchwork of state agencies—has long struggled with making improper payments. This problem only got worse during the pandemic, when Congress dumped billions more into an expanded number of unemployment assistance programs.
The GAO found that the improper payment rate jumped from 9 percent in the pre-pandemic fiscal year 2020 to 18.9 percent the next year. That means nearly one in five unemployment insurance dollars went to an ineligible or overpaid beneficiary.
There are multiple reasons for this sharp rise in improper payments.
The GAO reports that some states’ legacy 40- and 50-year-old information technology systems used to administer benefits weren’t up to the task of identifying potential fraud or overpayments. These same systems also struggled to handle totally new benefit programs covering self-employed workers like rideshare drivers, who typically aren’t covered by unemployment insurance.
Federal rules on who was eligible to receive benefits were also “untimely and unclear,” according to the GAO report. Some state officials told the agency they’d already set up programs and started sending money out the door by the time Labor Department guidance came down.
The massive increase in available unemployment funds also increased the rate of improper payments. Federal funding for unemployment benefits jumped from $86.9 billion in fiscal year 2020 to $410 billion in fiscal year 2021.
States often struggled to hire enough people to administer these new benefits. The staff they did hire were often undertrained.
The huge increase in unemployment benefits also became a target for fraudsters. The GAO reports that 146 people have pleaded guilty to federal charges of defrauding unemployment systems. In California, for instance, the state paid an estimated $400 million on fraudulent claims made in the name of state prison inmates.”
“William Barr began his tenure as Donald Trump’s attorney general with extremely evasive testimony during his confirmation hearing. He may be best remembered for giving a highly misleading summary of the Mueller report, and he spent much of 2020 trying to substantiate Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election being rigged against him.
But now, more than six months following his departure from government, Barr is trying to do some image damage control.
In interviews with journalist Jonathan Karl for a book excerpted in the Atlantic, Barr details how his final break with Trump finally came after he went public with claims undermining Trump’s last-ditch effort to overturn his election loss to Joe Biden.
“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told an Associated Press reporter on December 1.
Barr told Karl that comment prompted an angry Trump to summon him into a meeting in which the president unloaded on him, saying things like “how the fuck could you do this to me?” and “you must hate Trump.”
Barr indicates that not only was he not intimidated by Trump’s outburst, but he fired back, comparing the Rudy Giuliani-led effort to overturn the results to a circus.
“You know, you only have five weeks, Mr. President, after an election to make legal challenges,” Barr told Trump, according to Karl. “This would have taken a crackerjack team with a really coherent and disciplined strategy. Instead, you have a clown show. No self-respecting lawyer is going anywhere near it. It’s just a joke. That’s why you are where you are.”
Barr ended up leaving the Department of Justice days before the January 6 insurrection. The new account of the weeks leading up to his resignation has led some to describe him as a “patriot.” But that’s going way too far even when Barr’s account is read in the most charitable light.”
“Barr spent the run-up to the 2020 election serving more as an arm of Trump’s campaign than he did as an independent arbiter of the rule of law. Barr was happy to amplify Trump’s lies about mail voting and voting fraud up to the point where it was clear to all but the most fanatical Trump supporters that he had lost the election.
Consider, for instance, the disastrous interview Barr did with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on September 2, when he couldn’t produce any evidence of mail voting fraud and resorted to saying its general existence is a “matter of logic.” Or his DOJ’s decision a few weeks later to issue a factually incorrect press release announcing an investigation into alleged mail voting irregularities in Pennsylvania — an announcement that violated DOJ’s policies. Or Barr’s move three days after the election to authorize investigations into “substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities,” even though there was no evidence of such irregularities.
In his interviews with Karl, Barr portrayed his decision to authorize fraud investigations despite a lack of evidence as a strategy he used to make sure he would be able to tell Trump that his conspiracy theories were baseless when the time came.”
“it’s not normal for the DOJ, which is ostensibly supposed to operate with a modicum of independence from the executive branch, to pursue investigations based on “bullshit” conspiracy theories favored by the president. But Barr spent years turning the DOJ into something akin to the president’s personal law firm.”
“It’s not even clear to what extent — if at all — Barr’s break with Trump was motivated by a desire to protect American democracy. Instead, Karl’s piece makes it seem as though Barr and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were primarily interested in helping Republicans win special elections in January for two US Senate seats.
Karl writes that McConnell had been urging Barr throughout November to speak out against Trump’s election fraud conspiracy theories, because those theories were complicating the argument Republicans wanted to make about how maintaining the Senate majority was important as a check on Biden’s power. But McConnell was reluctant to speak out himself for fear that if he did so, an embittered Trump would sabotage the Republican candidates”
“while it’s good that Barr ultimately stood up to Trump, it’s worth keeping in mind how abnormal it is for the US attorney general to be scheming with the Senate leader on ways to ensure their political party retains power.”