This is normal. So very normal.

Nothing to see here. Just a former president of the United States sharing a social media post advocating or predicting civil war in the United States. No biggie.

Originally tweeted by George Conway🇺🇦 (@gtconway3d) on May 22, 2022.

I just have one small correction to Conway’s tweet. Trump isn’t just a former president. He is also the front runner for the GOP nomination in 2024.

Why hasn’t Trump been crowing about the coming abortion ban?

It’s his doing as much as anyone’s

Apparently, Trump is a little worried about what he’s wrought. Not because it will hurt women of course. For him, that’s a feature not a bug. It’s because he thinks it might hurt his chances with suburban women (which also indicates he knows he lost the election because of that …)

Donald Trump is on the precipice of achieving the most lasting and impactful part of his presidential legacy, as the justices he put on the Supreme Court prepare to help overturn Roe v. Wade and cement the former president’s status as a hero to social conservatives. But for a man who rarely opens his mouth without talking about his own (real or alleged) achievements, Trump has been near-silent on abortion since it became clear Roe was going under.

Instead, Trump has been privately fretting about what the impending collapse of abortion rights will do for his own political prospects, telling those close to him that the issue could hurt him with “suburban women” should he try to retake the White House in 2024. “Suburban women have been a recurring concern for [former] President Trump, including during the 2020 campaign, when his smarter advisers were sounding the alarm to him about how he was losing suburbs. He is … worried women in the suburbs could punish him for this one day, [too],” said a person familiar with the matter.

In the weeks since a draft opinion to overturn Roe was revealed, Trump has barely talked about the issue during interviews, at political rallies, and in his social media posts. According to two sources familiar with the matter, this is indeed an intentional and calculated silence. In recent days, Trump has told some of his allies and counselors that “suburban women” and other key voting groups don’t like hearing about the issue, as they are simply more pro-choice than the mainstream of the Republican Party and conservative movement. He has also told several associates that if he went too hard now on the topic of overturning Roe, it would give his enemies the chance to “use it against” him — the strong implication being, according to the two sources, that if Trump ultimately runs for the White House again in 2024, it could be more a political liability than an asset.

And, naturally, Trump has recently solicited printouts of the latest polling on the subject, according to the two people familiar with the situation.

“‘Suburban women — some who voted for me — they don’t like it when we talk about it. That’s a problem sometimes [and that is] important to remember,’” Trump said at one small gathering earlier this month, the second source relayed.

There are, however, some conservative die-hards in Trump’s orbit who are personally trying to nudge him toward embracing — or at least firmly acknowledging — the anticipated victory, which would inevitably set the pro-choice movement back decades. “I encouraged him to go bigger on the life issue [following the leaked draft opinion],” said a third person, who said they’d spoken to Trump about this in the past two weeks. “He said [something like], ‘maybe,’ which sounded more like a ‘not now.’”

Trump has remained conspicuously reserved since Politico reported earlier this month that five conservative justices had agreed to an opinion overturning Roe. On Truth Social — his apparent social media home since being kicked off other major platforms after the Jan. 6 riot in Washington, D.C., last year — Trump has been busy “truthing” about 2020-election-conspiracy theories, the PGA tour, the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial, the Durham probe, Elon Musk’s “probably illegal purchase of a crummy phony account loaded company,” and Tuesday’s Republican primaries. But since the draft opinion leaked, not once in the roughly 120 posts Trump has made on Truth Social have his thumbs tapped out a post referencing abortion, according to a Rolling Stone review of his account.

I knew he was nervous about this. Normally he would be strutting around taking credit for his great victory. But his instincts are right. It will be a problem.

First, nobody believes he really cares about abortion. Second, he once said that there should be some punishment for women for having and abortion which is a huge no-no to say out loud at this stage of the strategy. Third, overturning Roe is wildly unpopular and he campaigned on putting judges on the court who do exactly what they are doing. Yes, they are going to hold him responsible — as they should.

Sick rich playboys killing for sport

Hateful creeps

This makes me want to throw up:

The following story was written and researched by The Utah Investigative Journalism Project in partnership with The Salt Lake Tribune.

Utah hunting guide Wade Lemon faces five years in state prison for the death of a Carbon County bear killed during a guided hunt on May 18, 2018.

But Lemon, a well-known guide didn’t pull the trigger — Donald Trump Jr. did, according to the Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Trump Jr. is not named in a recent filing against Lemon, but the DNR confirmed his identity as the person named in the felony complaint as Lemon’s “client” on the hunt. Prosecutors have indicated there was no evidence showing Trump Jr. would have known about the alleged baiting that went on during the hunt.

Without naming Trump Jr., Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said the hunter in the case “was actually a victim and a now a possible witness in a fraudulent scheme to lead the hunter to believe it was actually a legitimate Wild West hunting situation.”

The charges against Lemon from the Trump Jr. hunt were filed just before the four-year statute of limitations expired. The DNR initially investigated allegations of illegal bearbaiting on the hunt in 2018 and closed the case later that year.

On Sept. 3, 2020, The Utah Investigative Journalism Project requested files on closed investigations against Wade Lemon Hunting. The DNR provided files on cases dating back to 2009 except for the case on the 2018 Trump Jr. hunt. DNR had decided to reopen that case and denied the records request, stating the release would interfere with the now “open” investigation.

DNR turned the case over to the Utah Attorney General’s Office. Utah Attorney General Reyes has close ties to Trump, having campaigned for him and even flying to Nevada to investigate the election results after Trump’s defeat at the polls and signed on to a lawsuit claiming “unlawful election results.” The Attorney General’s Office reinvestigated the case for months, then handed it off to the Davis County Attorney’s Office to screen for filing of charges.

Documents show investigations into Lemon’s organization for the past decade — allegations of cruel and illegal big game baiting practices.

“Lots of quality time in the woods hanging out at 10,000 feet. #outdoors #weekend #adventure #cabin #utah,” reads a May 19, 2018 Instagram post from Trump Jr. The president’s son is decked out in camouflage standing casually at the edge of a cliff before a sweeping view of rolling forests, hills and plateaus. The post is tagged “Utah” and the caption reads “Great weekend in Utah with some good friends in the outdoors.”

Trump Jr. was in Utah to help launch Hunter Nation, a hunting advocacy group. That group would later launch its own super PAC, Hunter Nation Action, which spent $96,997 in ads against Democrats in the 2020 election, according to the campaign spending transparency site Open Secrets.

The organization formed in 2018 and was cofounded by Utahn Don Peay, the Utah campaign manager for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“You will have to go a long way to find a bigger advocate for our hunting lifestyle, a more passionate hunter and conservationist than Don, Jr.,” reads a post Hunter Nation released in the fall of 2019 as part of a raffle for members to win a trip hunting elk in Utah with the president’s son.

“The opportunity to share a hunting camp with him is truly priceless,” the post reads.

There were no pictures of Don Jr.’s kills from his May 2018 trip to Utah on his social media feed, but DNR confirmed that over the course of two days the president’s son bagged two kills that many would consider once-in-a-lifetime hunts — a bear on May 18 and a cougar on May 19, 2018.

Charging documents allege Lemon’s outfitters illegally used bait on the bear shot by Trump Jr. According to the document, a witness identified Lemon and his employees during the hunt in May 2018 and was able to identify Lemon over radio traffic, giving instructions to his employees.

The illegal bait, “a pile of grain, oil and pastries” was discovered with a trail camera pointed right on it with “WLH” (for Wade Lemon Hunting) written on the side and with Lemon’s own telephone number, according to court documents. The charging documents also include evidence from a subordinate confirming Lemon had him place the bait in the location several weeks before the hunt.

Lemon was contacted by phone and said he was surprised by the charges related to the Trump Jr. hunt, saying, “As far as I knew everything was above board,” before ending the call.

A request for comment from The Trump Organization, where Trump Jr. is an executive vice president, was not returned.

Wait. Does Don Jr still have a job other than getting paid to make happy birthday Cameos for MAGA freaks? It seems like all he does is shoot his mouth off, kill animals and post on social media.

He and his brother are both a couple of sociopaths who like to kill animals but apparently they are such pampered little princes that they need people to find the poor creature for them and set up an easy kill so all they have to do is just pull the trigger and strut around like some primitive beast. It couldn’t be more disgusting.

You can read the whole thing to get a sense of what a revolting rich-boy scam this is. It’s just awful.

Down Under wakes up

Good news for Australia

The country took a sharp left turn. It’s a matter of survival:

Victory belongs to Anthony Albanese, only the fourth Labor leader since World War Two to oust a Liberal prime minister, but the 2022 Australian election was primarily a rejection of Scott Morrison and the brand of politics he has come to personify.

A politics that denied, and sometimes even mocked, the seriousness of the climate crisis – as Treasurer, Morrison laughingly brandished a lump of coal in parliament.

A politics that many female voters especially found bloke-ish and boorish.

A politics that many Australians came to associate with truth-twisting and lying – such as when Morrison claimed that Emmanuel Macron had “sledged” the Australian people over the cancellation of a multi-billion dollar submarine contract, when it was obvious that the French president had mounted a highly personalised attack on a man he labelled a liar.

At a time when conservative politics down under has displayed some small-t Trumpian traits, historians may conclude that Australian voters evicted from office the country’s first post-truth prime minister.

Rather than pulling off Miracle 2.0 – on the night of his unexpected victory in 2019, this Pentecostal Christian declared that he believed in miracles – the departing Liberal leader may well have led his party into the wilderness

Tumbling down have come the walls of conservative citadels. Parliamentary seats where Liberals had for generations dominated now look like barren lands.

The shoreline of Sydney Harbour, which is home to the most expensive real estate on the continent, is a case in point. It has been overwhelmed by a “teal” wave, the colour adopted by the swathe of independents who have had such a transformative effect on the country’s political geography.

Remarkably, the Liberals no longer control any harbour-side seats that stretch from the Opera House to the ocean. These include Wentworth and Warringah, which were represented up until recently by two former Liberal prime ministers, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott.

It is akin to San Francisco, another great harbour city, losing all its Democrats.

Nor did the teal wave just wash over the Liberal ramparts of Sydney.

In Melbourne, the party looks to have lost the seat of Kooyong, which was once the fiefdom of Robert Menzies, Australia’s longest serving prime minister, and which had remained faithfully conservative since Australia became a federation in 1901.

The same electoral dynamics played out. A party that has become fixated in recent decades with attracting working class battlers in traditional Labor strongholds has lost touch with Tesla-driving professionals in blue-ribbon seats.

For the first time in more than a decade, the electric car nudged out the coal train.

The rise of the teal independents has shattered the main party duopoly in the major cities – urban Australia accounts for 86% of the country’s population.

So, too, have the Australian Greens, one of the hitherto under-reported stories of this election.

With votes still to be counted, the Greens are confident of achieving what they are calling a “greenslide” in Queensland.

That is a startling statement, because, if true, it would shatter the conventional wisdom of Australian politics: that green politics is anathema to the country’s “Deep North” state.

Labor’s phobia of alienating voters in this mining and resources hub has had a paralysing effect on its approach to climate change.

Here, then, the Greens have been beneficiaries of Labor’s timidity regarding emissions targets.

If parts of Queensland become “Greensland” then the ground has truly shifted beneath our feet.

How that’s going to work out is anyone’s guess:

The success of the Greens and the rise of the independents explains why the two major parties, the Liberals and Labor, slumped to a record-low primary vote (which is where voters record their first preference).

There was always a none-of-the above feel to the head-to-head between the main party leaders. That has been borne out in the results.

Anthony Albanese, then, has achieved an ambiguous victory. There was no great groundswell of support for Labor. Indeed, its primary vote was actually 2% down from 2019, a meagre 32%. Although he is certain to emerge as prime minister, we still do not know whether he will stand at the head of a Labor majority government.

My sense during the campaign was that the Labor leader never fully addressed his prime ministerial plausibility problem. His gaffes did not help (although I think the public became more critical of the press pack’s endless gotcha questions rather than his inability to always answer them).

Nonetheless, a politician who was better known for most of his career as a backroom fixer is now front of house, and will occupy the prime ministerial residence, The Lodge. This he will see as vindication of his “small target” campaign and his mantra of “safe change.” It will also justify his political shapeshifting, from a left-wing firebrand to a risk-averse pragmatist…

The federal election has made politics here greener, more feminine and, at a time of creeping Americanisation, more emphatically Australian.

Perhaps the overwhelming message from voters is that they want a different kind of politics. Certainly, 2022 will be remembered for its shock to the system result.

Shocks to the systems can go sideways, as we well know. Let’s hope this one doesn’t.

More cops died last year than in any year since 1930

And criminals didn’t do it

A whole lot of the dead weren’t vaccinated:

For the second year in a row, Covid-19 was the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers in the United States, according to a report released on Tuesday by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

A total of 458 officers died in the line of duty in the country last year, making it the deadliest year in more than 90 years and a 55 percent increase from 2020, according to preliminary data compiled by the organization. Of those, it found that 301 federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement officers had died because of Covid-19.

“It has been reported to NLEOMF that these officers have died due to direct exposure to the virus during the commission of their official duties,” the report said.

In the three decades before the pandemic, the organization’s annual tally of officers killed in the line of duty surpassed 200 only twice, in 2001 and 2007. The last time it went above 300 was in 1930.

In recent months, as local governments began implementing vaccine mandates for workers, some police officers and law enforcement unions have pushed back, threatening resignations and legal action.

In October, New York City’s largest police union sued over the city’s vaccine mandate. The Police Benevolent Association of New York said it opposed a vaccine mandate for officers that does not allow an option of being tested weekly instead of being vaccinated. A federal judge this week dismissed a lawsuit filed by several Los Angeles police officers who had sued over the city’s vaccine mandate.

I will just point out that police unions insist that their members be given immunity from the law in many cases because their job is inherently dangerous and they need special dispensation to kill when they feel endangered. And yet they allowed their members to refuse vaccines which killed far more of them than gunfire. I guess it makes sense if you believe that a big part of their job is killing innocent members of the public, whether with guns or a deadly virus. But I don’t think that’s really in the job description. Or it shouldn’t be.

No, the system didn’t work

And it will be even worse next time

I’ve been working my way through former SecDef Mark Esper’s memoirs, “A Sacred Oath.” You’ve probably heard about its one or two re-reveals of previously reported information. But the real interest of the book arises from a metaphor Esper uses a couple of times.

Esper compares the Pentagon to a soccer ball. There are rules about how it is to be handled. Break the rules – grip the ball with the fingers – and the ball will be briefly indented. But the rule-breaker cannot grip forever. Once released, the ball rapidly recovers its shape.

Esper details instances that support his soccer-ball analogy. EG in a spasm of irritation in December 2019 then-President Trump issued an order that all US forces be removed from Germany. Trump was egged on by his hot-tempered then-ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell.

Esper quotes Grenell about the troop withdrawal: “That will get their [Germany’s] attention.”

He then quotes himself: “Of course it will, and many other countries too, including Russia, but for all the wrong reasons.”

But an order is an order. So Esper agreed to a “comprehensive review … to look at our troop presence around the world,” including European Command. Obviously such a review would take a long time – and as it happened, Trump had left office before the review was completed.

Similar slow-dragging methods were used against Trump’s demand for a big military parade through the center of Washington.

On the evidence of his book, Esper is satisfied that his methods more or less worked. “Despite the friction in my relationship with Trump, I felt I was still able to manage the president and his worst instincts.” (369)

And here really is the crux of the book and its argument. Esper seems to have been a competent manager, moderately conservative, a loyal American. Trump offended him in many ways, but those offenses are presented as distractions from more important work.

As Esper writes: “[A]lthough many things he suggested ranged from appropriate to outlandish, none ever rose to a level that warranted consideration of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment.” Esper situates this estimate before the “shoot them in the legs” comment of June 2020, but the estimate remains clearly his view throughout his service. As he writs on p. 5: “There was another major concern I had to factor in to the equation: ‘Who would replace me?'”

The book is intended to reassure: Yes, some excesses occurred, but they were managed and contained. Trump had some good instincts, Esper writes in more than one place, and they could be appealed to – and if not, the worst orders could be mitigated or delayed.

But here are the haunting questions left behind:

1) As I’ve written before, if Trump is returned to office, this time the velociraptors will know how the door handles work. He will bring with him more committed followers, who may defeat the methods of evasion and delay.

2) Passive resistance tactics only go so far. If Trump signs the paper exiting NATO – NATO is kaput, no matter how much DoD may wish to evade and delay. As Esper acknowledges, he could not protect the Vindman brothers from Trump’s retaliateion.

3) Esper describes himself as a man of “conventional” views. Except for the very, very rare Henry Kissinger, the senior levels of government are not staffed by highly imaginative people. Nor probably should they be. Keep the system working, that’s the job. But that natural bureaucratic propensity leaves the system vulnerable when it confronts a novel threat outside its expectation: like a corrupt, anti-constitutional president at the top of the machinery of state. Aside from delay, top managers didn’t know how to cope. So in their memoirs after the fact, they console themselves: the system worked on my watch, more or less. Or if it didn’t work, it can now be fixed, because surely after January 6, Trump and Trumpism must be finished. Americans would never stand for a repeat, would they?

All of which reminds me of something else I said often in the first weeks of the Trump presidency: “The sunny American confidence that everything will turn out all right it itself the greatest threat to everything turning out all right.”

Originally tweeted by David Frum (@davidfrum) on May 22, 2022.

Will Trumpers sit out the races in November if they don’t get their way?

Trump predicts they will

Sad!

Republicans here still seething about the 2020 presidential race say they would rather sit out the election in November if Trump’s candidate, former Sen. David Perdue, loses an upcoming GOP gubernatorial primary than ever support incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp.  

The animosity towards Kemp, whom several MAGA Republicans described as a “Judas” and “betrayer” for certifying Joe Biden’s win in 2020, is unlikely to affect the outcome of the May 24 primary. But it may hurt Kemp’s chances this fall in an anticipated rematch with presumed Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, the woman he narrowly beat in 2018 — with Trump’s support.

“I don’t want Stacey Abrams. But I don’t think I can vote for Brian Kemp,” a 27-year-old Gordon County resident who declined to give his name told Insider at a “Bikers for Trump” rally about an hour north of Atlanta. 

The local Republican, who accused Kemp of “rolling over and letting the country get crucified” during the last election, said he planned to vote for Perdue on Tuesday because the Trump-endorsed former senator from Georgia had vowed to hold everyone involved in the “rigged and stolen” presidential contest accountable if he gets elected. 

Earlier in the day, an 81-year-old Georgian who said he’s voted Republican since 1964, couldn’t even bring himself to say Kemp’s name or that of Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger. 

“I wouldn’t vote for either one of them. They’re not Republicans. They’re liars,” David, who declined to provide his last name, said at Perdue’s May 20 event at a rural airfield. He added that Kemp and Raffensperger “did Trump in in Georgia” by not investigating the results to the twice-impeached former president’s satisfaction. 

Kemp and Raffensperger conducted a statewide audit and oversaw recounts of the more than 5 million votes Georgians cast in the 2020 presidential election. Biden beat Trump there by about 12,000 votes. 

Amy Steigerwalt, a professor of political science at Georgia State University, said the 2020 race is over for everyone but the Trumpiest locals. “Most voters know that the recounts and audits all showed that the election was conducted fairly and transparently, and that there was no evidence of fraud or malfeasance,” she told Insider. 

Still, Trump mentioned the possibility of his devotees sitting out the governor’s race earlier this month. CNN reported that he said “many Republicans are just not going to vote for Kemp” during a call-in rally he did for Perdue. 

The “Trumpiest locals” make up a substantial fraction of the Georgia GOP. If they do decide to sit it out it could make the difference. And I frankly think that Trump would be just fine with it. All he cares about is vindicating his loss in 2020 and his people refusing to vote for Kemp and Raffensberger would prove that in his mind. He is pushing for Herschell Walker to win the Senate but I have a sneaking suspicion that Herschell is going to implode before November so I wouldn’t count on him bringing out the Trumpers either.

One thing we know for sure is that the only thing that matters to Trump is Trump. What he believes serves him in 2024 is what he will do.

Do they think they can erase transgenderism?

The wingnuts are giving it a try

It’s not just schools folks. Did you think they’d stop there?

Two Virginia Republicans have asked a court for restraining orders that would prevent private bookseller Barnes & Noble from selling two books to minors, marking an escalation in the conservative campaign to limit students’ access to literature.

The two books are “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, a memoir about identifying as genderqueer or nonbinary, and “A Court of Mist and Fury,” a fantasy novel by Sarah J. Maas. The two Republicans, Del. Timothy Anderson of Virginia Beach and Tommy Altman, a congressional candidate, requested the orders from Virginia Beach Circuit Court on Wednesday as part of their larger, ongoing lawsuit targeting the books.

The requested restraining orders would also prohibit distribution of the two books by Virginia Beach City Public Schools. The board of that school system voted this week to remove all copies of “Gender Queer” from its libraries over its sexual content.

This is performative, of course. They can’t really stop a book from being disseminated. Perhaps they’ve heard of this thing called “the internet.” Or maybe not. But the performance they’re giving should be chilling to anyone who still cares about living in a free society. It’s bad enough they are doing this to schools. Now they’re trying to ban books in bookstores.

Gosh “Gender Queer” sure sounds dangerous:

In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears.

Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity—what it means and how to think about it—for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.

“It’s also a great resource for those who identify as nonbinary or asexual as well as for those who know someone who identifies that way and wish to better understand.” — SLJ (starred review)

Right. The last thing we would ever want to do is better understand …

Should we give election workers combat pay?

A harrowing story of citizens trying to protect democracy

TPM interviewed a former election security officer. It’s bad:

As midnight approached on November 3, 2020, Ken Matta was sitting in a Phoenix conference room with Arizona’s secretary of state. And he was feeling pretty good.

Sure, COVID-19 had disrupted his office’s typical election plans, but the secretary’s team had pulled off one of the smoothest elections in years. 

It took a lot of work to make it happen. They had received unprecedented help from the federal government. County election offices had become a buzzing hive of activity, cooperating with each other and sharing best practices. The counterterrorism “fusion center” in Arizona — which was stocked that day with intelligence and law enforcement officials from every level of government — had overseen an Election Day without a hitch. 

And so Matta, the election security lead in Arizona and a nearly 20-year veteran of the secretary of state’s office, was optimistic.

“We built this great community in Arizona, like never before,” said Matta. “We felt so good. A week before the election, we’re looking at each other going like, ‘Alright, what else can we do?’ It’s not very often when we get a chance to say, ‘You know what, we’re sitting pretty.’” 

Then, the President of the United States appeared on television. As he started to speak, Matta’s heart sank. The election, Donald Trump said, was a fraud on the American people. 

That speech by Trump, falsely claiming victory just after 2 a.m. in Washington, marked the beginning of months of attacks on election workers, like Matta, that continue today. Matta had worked in government for two decades after being bitten by the election security bug during the 2000 Bush v. Gore recount. He had never seen anything like it. 

“Instantly, our lives changed,” he recalled in an interview with TPM. “None of us in the whole industry at that moment felt safe and secure. That’s the good name of elections thrown under the bus. And we had worked harder up to that point than we ever had before to make sure the elections were secure.” 

That work didn’t matter: They were standing between Trump and power. What Matta witnessed in the 18 months since Trump’s election-night proclamation has made him fear for the future of American democracy: a sustained attack on election workers, and the resulting attrition and political gamesmanship that he says will allow conspiracy theorists and political operatives into key jobs in election administration, including secretary of state positions — the officials who in many state run elections. 

The arsonists, in other words, are now arriving at the firehouse. 

Matta left state government this month.

“I’m worried that people that only follow a political agenda get into power and have control over our elections,” he said. “If we get to that point, the outlook is bleak.”

Most of those leading the election fraud crusaders are cynical opportunists who see a path to power by cheating. And unfortunately, they have now brainwashed millions of people into believing their bullshit:

Assault Rifles, Threats To ‘Hunt’ Election Workers, And A Creepy Gas-X Gift Box

Nov. 3, 2020, which should have been nearly the finish line to a challenging election year, turned out to be the start of something new.

After Trump’s election-night address, “we swung into debunking mode,” Matta said. The office began strategizing how to fight back against the misinformation, working out communication strategies to address the President’s lies. But the lies were already bearing fruit.

The calls started rolling into the secretary’s office: Harassment, threats. A mob swarmed the Maricopa County voter tabulation center. Political operatives began their work to overturn Joe Biden’s victory. Alex Jones showed up in the state. Soon, Rudy Giuliani arrived too, to meet with state legislators and hold a theatrical “hearing” on supposed voter fraud. 

It didn’t end with Joe Biden’s inauguration, of course. A few weeks later, the Republican-controlled state Senate subpoenaed all 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County, handing them over to a group of privately-funded conspiracy theorists led by the contractor Cyber Ninjas, which began a sham “audit” that included recounting the ballots and inspecting them for bamboo fibers — sure signs of meddling from Asia, the theory went. 

Matta witnessed that whole episode first-hand, including as an observer of the “audit” for the secretary of state, where Cyber Ninjas’ audit workers often tried to convince him that he and his colleagues would end up in jail. 

At one point, Matta began noticed pro-audit demonstrators with assault rifles eyeing the cars entering the state fairgrounds, where ballots were being stored and recounted at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. 

He, too, began carrying a gun. 

But equally alarming for him was the treatment of millions of voters’ ballots: Matta saw audit workers mistakenly double-count 100 overseas and military ballots, but only after they’d mistakenly believed they’d uncovered evidence of fraud. Later, when the audit contractors moved into a new building, rain dripped from a leaky roof directly onto ballot boxes, and Matta saw ballots sag in the humid, un-air-conditioned room. 

“They didn’t even know how many ballots they had,” he scoffed a year later, in an interview with TPM. “Their numbers didn’t jive at all.”

The audit also revealed the disdain that Trump’s true believers had for the state employees. 

Audit workers were “questioning our integrity, our democratic allegiances, our sexuality,” he recalled. “It was tough to walk through that everyday.”

At the end of the ordeal, he found a “very creepy” gift box waiting on a table for him. Inside was  a plastic cockroach that audit workers had repeatedly placed on his phone, a bottle of Pepto Bismol (a reference to the pink shirts that secretary of state observers were forced to wear), a seat-saver for a Trump rally with Matta’s name on it, a ticket stub for audit bankroller Patrick Byrne’s “Deep Rig” conspiracy theory moviered and green pens, and a pack of Gas-X, which Matta said referred to the audit workers’ repeated taunts to the state observers that they should be anxious about the outcome of the audit — they would, after all, soon be behind bars. 

“They were always saying, ‘Are you nervous? Because you’re going to jail.’” 

They love to say that, don’t they? It’s become their all-purpose cri de guerre. Considering that hundreds of them have been indicted for january 6th you’d think they’d dial that back but they won’t. They love to say it.

And they love to say it to average citizens just doing their work in a non-partisan fashion.

Matta spoke to TPM a few weeks after leaving his job at the secretary of state’s office. He was worried about the attrition of election workers in the face of continued attacks and threats. At the secretary of state’s office, he reviewed at times more than 30 threats a day that were sent to employees in the office, everything from menacing emails to voicemails informing staff that they would “be hunted.” The number of threats flagged to him eventually tapered, but Matta thought that may have simply been because employees grew “calloused” to their lives being threatened. 

Across the country, an alarming number of election workers are leaving their jobs, as are seasonal poll workers. Conservative activists have taken note, and are working hard to replace them with true believers.

“If you’re a senior citizen — we’ve heard them say, ‘Why would I volunteer to go get shot up at the polls or something for this amount of money?’” Matta said.

He thinks election deniers are bound to fill those gaps.

There is no doubt about it. They already are in the swing states Trump is intent upon stealing in 2024.

There was a time when I might have thought that average people being exposed to the way things really work would sober them up. But these people are so far gone that it’s clear even irrefutable proof right before their eyes won’t convince them. After all, quite a few of them believe that the Democratic Party and George Soros are running a blood drinking satanic pedophile ring. There’s no reasoning with people like that.

The fraud fraud goes to court

John Eastman’s sad attempts to protect Dear Leader

One of Trump’s pathetic coup lawyers is fighting a subpoena by the January 6th Committee asking for documents pertaining to his work trying to overturn the election. He claims it is privileged and has filed a suit to that effect.

Philip Bump breaks down his claims in that filing. It’s not pretty:

The new court filing asserts that the issue Eastman was discussing with Trump was “not whether there had been illegality and fraud in the election—there was ample evidence of that at the time, and the evidence on that score has only grown since—but whether it was of sufficient scope to have altered the outcome of the election, warranting reversal, or at least called it into question, [warranting] a new election.” Setting aside that the example of a new election being called was the fraud uncovered in a congressional race in 2018 — an incident in which the repercussions were far lower and the evidence far greater — it’s useful to point out the falsehood in the middle of the sentence. There was no “ample evidence” of fraud on Jan. 6, 2021, and the idea that there was has only decreased since.

“Countless examples of election illegality and fraud, and expert opinion indicating a high likelihood of fraud, were available to President Trump and Dr. Eastman at the time,” the filing claims. It points to a petition filed by the Trump campaign against election administrators in Georgia, documenting “scores of violations of Georgia election law” that purportedly affected the election.

Notice what Eastman’s doing here. He’s conflating changes to the law with fraud, in an effort to bolster the idea that the election was stolen via efforts to expand voter access that he and Trump believe worked against the incumbent. It’s like claiming that someone committed arson and citing as evidence the fact that the service station near their house was selling gas without charging the required taxes.

The Georgia Supreme Court rejected the suit in December 2020. Eastman’s filing elevates claims from that lawsuit anyway and loops in new assertions, including an incident in which a Georgia Tech student alleges that someone voted with her absentee ballot. That claim was central to a lawsuit against the 2020 results filed by former senator David Perdue that was ignominiously tossed out of court this month.

“This evidence was known by Dr. Eastman and his client at the time,” the filing reads, speaking of the Georgia assertions, “but it has recently been lent additional support by revelations contained in a new documentary film by Dinesh D’Souza, 2000 Mules, supported by exhaustive analysis of geospatial cell phone data and drop box video surveillance footage, of a massive and illegal ballot harvesting scheme.”

In reality, “2000 Mules” offers no robust evidence of anything. Not of the scheme alleged in the movie and, therefore, not of the validity of Eastman’s claims. Of course, as the filing admits, this concocted allegation didn’t exist at the time Eastman was advising Trump, making its inclusion here a particularly odd choice that serves mostly to reveal how thinly supported the overall argument is.

The filing then points to other examples of lawsuits focused on legalities rather than fraud, but it soon returns to the idea that he and Trump were warranted in assuming there was robust fraud.

“Statistical evidence, contained in Dr. Eastman’s privileged email exchanges … but also that which was publicly available at the time, strongly indicated ‘the intense improbability of the accuracy of the present Biden lead,’ ” it reads. The source for that? A purported analysis of the statistical unlikelihood of Biden’s win that focuses on things such as the fact that Joe Biden received more votes in many places than Barack Obama did in 2008 — something easily explained by both population growth and fervent opposition to Trump.

The author of that analysis, incidentally, was Steve Cortes, an adviser to Trump’s campaign.

One of the most ludicrous arguments in the new filing centers on the commonly repeated refrain that the election was the “most secure in American history,” an assertion made by Trump administration officials soon after the vote concluded. That statement also said there was “no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” It was an effort to rebut baseless claims about electronic voting machines that were being made by people such as Trump attorney Sidney Powell.

But the Eastman filing rejects that assertion using one example.

“The forensic audit conducted in Antrim County proved that statement to be false,” it reads, “as even the State’s own expert acknowledged that votes were switched in the machine due to an improper software upgrade.”

This is nothing short of embarrassing. First, it aims to rebut a broad claim about the reliability of electronic voting machines nationally based on the results in a Michigan county where 16,000 votes were cast. Second, it aims to rebut that claim based on an incident that was easily and quickly explained as an error in how vote-counting machines were configured by county officials. Third, even had the incorrect results stood, Trump would have lost Michigan handily. Fourth, it is not in the least an example of votes being lost, changed or compromised, just an error in how they were at first counted. Fifth and most important, no good-faith assessment of the election should treat Antrim’s goof as evidence of rampant uncertainty about the results.

In fact, a Republican-led probe of the election found last year that “all compelling theories that sprang forth from the rumors surrounding Antrim County are diminished so significantly as for it to be a complete waste of time to consider them further.” Yet here is Trump’s former attorney considering them further…

These Trump accomplices are ridiculous, all of them. Sadly, like most everyone else, I suspect, I have little faith that anything serious will happen to any of the coup plotters. In fact, if the Republicans take the House in 2022, I think we’ll see rabid Benghazi-style hearings that will have the mainstream media slavering over Hunter Biden and Nancy Pelosi in ways that will mirror what the right wing media will be presenting — thus creating the effect of consensus that it’s the Democrats who are corrupt and anti-democratic. I hope I’m wrong.