Republicans are ramping up election fraud claims ahead of November

“Forget election season; election denial season has officially kicked off.
Over the last few weeks, Republican legislators have held committee hearings as well as introduced and passed legislation preventing noncitizens from voting — something that is already illegal in state and federal elections, and very rare. Former President Donald Trump has ramped up his claims that the 2024 election will be stolen — even above and beyond his typical portending. The cast of the 2024 veepstakes have all been toeing the line on election denialism. And let’s not forget the hundreds of election-denying candidates running for election or reelection up and down the ballot.

“This effort has the effect, and perhaps has the intent, of planting the seeds of doubt about an election that some Trump supporters must think he might lose,” said David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research.

There was a moment in the weeks following the 2022 midterm elections where it felt like maybe, just maybe, the election denial trend was starting to fade. Voters had roundly rejected election-denying candidates, including in some of the most high-profile races on the ballot, and the vast majority of candidates who lost their election conceded, including even some of the most dedicated election deniers. But it’s become clear over the past few weeks that Republicans are not yet ready to abandon the election denial narrative and are instead angling to make it a central issue come November.”

“Roughly the same percentage of Americans believe the 2020 election was stolen today as did in 2021. Polling from YouGov and The Economist in April showed 36 percent of Americans said Biden did not legitimately win, similar to the 38 percent who said so in April 2021 — making it clear what kind of lasting impact this rhetoric can have on voters’ perception of an election’s legitimacy. It also raises the specter of a repeat of the violence we saw on Jan. 6; meanwhile, threats against election workers have continued in the four years since the last presidential election.”

Why a GOP governor’s pardon of a far-right murderer is so chilling

“in Texas, you can commit murder without suffering the legal consequences of that crime, so long as your victim’s politics are loathed by the right and your case is championed by conservative media. Or at least, this is the message sent by Gov. Greg Abbott’s pardoning of Daniel Perry.

“In the weeks after George Floyd’s murder in 2020, the proliferation of Black Lives Matter protests had filled Perry with apparent bloodlust. Then an active-duty Army officer, Perry texted and messaged friends, among other things:
“I might go to Dallas to shoot looters.”
“I might have to kill a few people on my way to work they are rioting outside my apartment complex … No protesters go near me or my car.”
“I wonder if they will let [me] cut the ears off of people who’s decided to commit suicide by me.”
When a friend of Perry asked him if he could “catch me a negro daddy,” Perry replied, “That is what I am hoping.”

Weeks later, Perry was driving an Uber in Austin, Texas, when he came upon a Black Lives Matter march. According to prosecutors, Perry ran a red light and drove his vehicle into the crowd, almost hitting several protesters. Activists gathered angrily around Perry’s car. Garrett Foster, a 28-year-old Air Force veteran who was openly carrying an AK-47 rifle, approached Perry’s window.

Perry then shot Foster dead.

At trial, Perry’s defense team alleged that Foster had pointed his rifle at the defendant. But witnesses testified that Foster never brandished his weapon, only carried it, which is legal in Texas. And Perry corroborated that account in his initial statement to the police, saying, “I believe he was going to aim at me. I didn’t want to give him a chance to aim at me.” A jury convicted Perry of murder last year.

But..the governor of Texas used his pardoning power to release Perry from prison.

In a statement, Abbott said, “Texas has one of the strongest ‘stand your ground’ laws of self-defense that cannot be nullified by a jury or a progressive district attorney.” He noted that in the Lone Star State, a person is justified in using deadly force against another if they “reasonably believe the deadly force is immediately necessary” for averting one’s own violent death. The Texas governor argued that it was reasonable for Perry to believe his life was at stake since Foster had held his gun in the “low-ready firing position.”

Yet this claim is inconsistent with Perry’s own remarks to the police, which indicated that Foster did not aim a rifle at his killer, but merely carried it. Needless to say, seeing a person lawfully carrying a firearm cannot give one a legal right to kill them.

But pesky realities like this carry less weight than conservative media’s delusional grievances. Shortly after Perry’s conviction in April 2023, then-Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson aired a segment portraying Perry as a helpless victim of “a mob of rioters” and a “Soros-funded” district attorney. Carlson decried the jury’s verdict as a “legal atrocity” and lambasted Abbott for standing idly by while his state invalidated conservatives’ right to defend themselves. “So that is Greg Abbott’s position,” he said. “There is no right of self-defense in Texas.”

The next day, Abbott pledged to work “as swiftly as Texas law allows regarding the pardon of Sgt. Perry.””

As China and Iran hunt for dissidents in the US, the FBI is racing to counter the threat

“After a student leader of the historic Tiananmen Square protests entered a 2022 congressional race in New York, a Chinese intelligence operative wasted little time enlisting a private investigator to hunt for any mistresses or tax problems that could upend the candidate’s bid, prosecutors say.
“In the end,” the operative ominously told his contact, “violence would be fine too.”

As an Iranian journalist and activist living in exile in the United States aired criticism of Iran’s human rights abuses, Tehran was listening too. Members of an Eastern European organized crime gang scouted her Brooklyn home and plotted to kill her in a murder-for-hire scheme directed from Iran, according to the Justice Department, which foiled the plan and brought criminal charges.

The episodes reflect the extreme measures taken by countries like China and Iran to intimidate, harass and sometimes plot attacks against political opponents and activists who live in the U.S. They show the frightening consequences that geopolitical tensions can have for ordinary citizens as governments historically intolerant of dissent inside their own borders are increasingly keeping a threatening watch on those who speak out thousands of miles away.”

With new national security legislation, China shows it will never loosen its grip on Hong Kong

“the government of Hong Kong published the latest of a series of increasingly draconian national security laws. This one will target espionage, treason, and foreign political interference, and those found guilty of violating some of its tenets could be sentenced to life imprisonment.
This might sound niche or even well-intentioned; doesn’t the US have its own fears about foreign political interference in its elections? But this isn’t really about national security. It is, as Human Rights Watch put it, “Beijing’s latest effort to transform Hong Kong from a free society to an oppressed one where people live in fear.”

That effort has been underway at varying speeds since Hong Kong was returned to Beijing’s control in 1997. It is now all but complete.

Despite complaints from foreign governments, from what remains of Hong Kong civil society, and even from the city’s increasingly beleaguered international business community, Hong Kong’s now opposition-less legislature will almost assuredly fast-track it into law.

For Hong Kong’s 7.4 million citizens, the multi-year fight to maintain some semblance of self-government and political rights is all but over.”

Hong Kong Police Targeting Overseas Activists and Speech

“Hong Kong is using its national security law to arrest and prosecute critics residing in the United States. The Hong Kong police recently announced cash bounties of HK$1 million ($128,000) for information leading to the arrest of five young activists. The targets—Frances Hui, Joey

Is America uniquely vulnerable to tyranny?

“Around the world, they find two conditions that make political parties more likely to accept electoral defeats: “when they believe they stand a reasonable chance of winning again in the future” and when they believe “that losing power will not bring catastrophe — that a change of government will not threaten the lives, livelihoods, or most cherished principles.”

In the 21st century, these conditions no longer held among the GOP’s conservative white base. Democrats were no longer a mere political rival, but avatars of a new and scary social order.

“Not only was America no longer overwhelmingly white, but once entrenched racial hierarchies were weakening. Challenges to white Americans’ long-standing social dominance left many of them with feelings of alienation, displacement, and deprivation,” Levitsky and Ziblatt write. “Many of the party’s voters feared losing … their country — or more accurately, their place in it.”

This, they say, is what made the party vulnerable to conquest by someone like Trump. Rather than fight the base in democracy’s name, traditional Republican elites like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) acted as “semi-loyal democrats”: leaders who say the right things about supporting democracy and the rule of law, but value partisan victory over everything else — including basic, non-partisan democratic principles. This enabled the entire party to become a vehicle for an anti-democratic agenda.

“Openly authoritarian figures — like coup conspirators or armed insurrectionists — are visible for all to see. By themselves, they often lack the public support or legitimacy to destroy a democracy. But when semi-loyalists — tucked away in the hallways of power — lend a hand, openly authoritarian forces become much more dangerous,” they explain. “Throughout history, cooperation between authoritarians and seemingly respectable semi-loyal democrats has been a recipe for democratic breakdown.””

India’s Alleged Assassination of a Dissident in Canada Highlights Repression Across Borders

“”The Chinese Communist regime, often with the aid of other governments, is systematically hunting down its political and religious exiles, no matter where in the world they seek refuge,” Nate Schenkkan and Sarah Cook reported in 2021 for The Diplomat.
“Fox Hunt is a sweeping bid by General Secretary Xi [Jinping] to target Chinese nationals whom he sees as threats and who live outside China, across the world,” FBI Director Christopher Wray charged in a 2020 speech. “We’re talking about political rivals, dissidents, and critics seeking to expose China’s extensive human rights violations. Hundreds of the Fox Hunt victims that they target live right here in the United States, and many are American citizens or green card holders.”

In April of this year, authorities arrested two men accused of helping establish a secret Chinese “police station” in New York’s Chinatown. “The PRC, through its repressive security apparatus, established a secret physical presence in New York City to monitor and intimidate dissidents and those critical of its government,” according to U.S. Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen.”

“Turkey’s government, it should be noted, cooperates with Beijing to silence Muslim Uyghur refugees who fled to Turkey, and it has sought assistance in muzzling its own dissidents. “Uzbekistani security services helped abduct a man from his apartment in Tashkent and return him to Turkey,” notes Freedom House.”