Republicans set the stage — in 2016 — for the eventual release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s evidence.
When the FBI decided during the election campaign not to charge Hillary Clinton over her email handling, then-Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) ordered investigators to turn over thousands of documents they had turned up during the probe, wrote watchdog lawyer Molly Claflin for The Daily Beast.
At the time, Chaffetz was chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Claflin was counsel to senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
The FBI did turn over the Clinton investigation findings, including classified records and emails found on her private server, and the FBI also turned over classified surveillance warrants related to the Trump-Russia probe last year — when congressional Republicans demanded them.
“Rather than trust law enforcement agencies to make apolitical investigative decisions, Republicans determined that Congress’ oversight role includes checking the law enforcement agencies’ work,” Claflin said. “Once the FBI agreed, and released the underlying evidence considered in its law enforcement investigation to the legislative branch, the FBI changed the rules for its dealings with Congress.”
“That genie will not go back in the bottle,” she added.
Claflin, who now serves as chief oversight counsel for the American Oversight government watchdog organization, said the FBI publicly posted online summaries of all interviews conducted in the Clinton email probe, so there’s no reason the same cannot be done in its investigation of President Donald Trump’s campaign ties to Russia.
“Anything less will send the signal that the FBI and the Justice Department will respond to document requests based on the party that makes them,” she said, “rather than based on any theory of consistency or serving the public interest.”
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Republicans Largely Ignore Biden Killing of Top al-Qaeda Terrorist While Some Use It to Attack the President
House and Senate Republicans are mostly quiet about President Joe Biden having killed top al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, a terrorist who was Osama bin-Laden’s second in command. Few gave him credit for taking out the terrorist, despite lauding Donald Trump when he took out Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Qasem Soleimani.
Ayman al-Zawahiri was “a mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks” who was “one of the most sought-after people by the U.S. for over two decades,” NBC News reports. Some Republicans offered praise to the men and women in the armed forces, some to the CIA, the agency Biden used to carry out the assassination. And some used the killing of the top al-Qaeda terrorist as an opportunity to attack the President.
Americans paying attention only to Fox News or Republicans on Capitol Hill would have a very different understanding of this critical moment in history.
Matthew Dowd, a former Republican who was a chief strategist on the George W. Bush 2004 presidential campaign, and became a Democrat after Donald Trump was elected, writes, “as I said at the time, too many in the news media were wrong about Biden’s withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Biden made right decision, and it was managed incredibly well.”
He adds, “we are still able to conduct operations against terrorists without having troops there.”
A few Republicans took to Twitter to recognize the moment, while ignoring President Biden’s achievement – or attacking him.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to the brave Americans who took out the terrorist, Al Zawahiri,” wrote House Minority Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. “The Biden admin must provide Congress with a briefing as soon as possible to discuss the resurgence of Al Qaeda in the region following his disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
Retired reporter Dan Murphy responded, saying: “There were over 1,000 terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan in the final year of our military involvement there. US servicemen and woman died there every year. But no longer.”
“Yawn,” he added, suggesting he was bored with the Republican leader’s remarks.
U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) posted one of the most critical responses.
“I’m so proud of our military and Intelligence Community for this successful mission. Al-Zawahiri was an evil man who has been brought to justice. But we did this in spite of @POTUS’ leadership, not because of it.”
“His surrender of Afghanistan continues to threaten our security,” he added, offering nothing to support the claim.
House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) repeatedly praised “the members of our Intelligence Community” but not President Biden.
“This mission also serves as a reminder that al-Qaeda is not gone from Afghanistan as President Biden claimed following his disastrous withdrawal,” LaHood charged. “Rising threats from al-Qaeda and other terror orgs must be confronted by the Admin in consultation with Congress to keep America safe.”
Spelling the eradicated terrorist’s name wrong, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) offered this response: “Amman Al Zawhiri’s death is undoubtedly a win for the world. This truly evil man can do no more harm to anyone. God bless the USA!”
William F. Wechsler of the non-partisan think tank The Atlantic Council calls this “A sense of vindication for Biden and a moment of truth for the Taliban.”
“This is a particularly notable accomplishment for President Biden, who decided to withdraw remaining US forces and leave Afghanistan to the Taliban, relying only on ‘over the horizon’ counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda. This decision was criticized by many counterterrorism experts at the time, myself included. But with today’s news, Biden and his team, ably led by Liz Sherwood-Randall at the White House, will go to sleep tonight with a deep sense of vindication and take a well-deserved victory lap.”
How Trump’s Big Lie Is Threatening the Future of Elections
The Jan. 6 hearings closed for the summer last Thursday night with a plea from Republican House Vice Chair Liz Cheney. Citing the conservative heroine British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Cheney called on the public: “Let it never be said that the dedication of those who love freedom is less than the determination of those who would destroy it.”
Cheney may be willing to pursue former President Donald Trump to the gates of Hell in her determination to expose his threat to democracy; her party, on the other hand, appears willing to join him there.
As the House select committee presented damning evidence of Trump’s months-long campaign to overturn the election, crescendoing in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol that left 7 dead and about 150 police officers injured, right-wing groups are trying to make sure that next time, Trump, or any other wannabe dictator, will be successful.
Around the country, right-wing forces are seeking to control state elections by pursuing secretary of state offices and taking over roles typically held by nonpartisan election workers. They’re spreading voter fraud conspiracy theories, casting doubt on the integrity of the elections. They’re no longer flirting with violent rhetoric but embracing it.
On Thursday night, the committee played tape of former White House strategist Steve Bannon—who was recently convicted of contempt of Congress for failing to comply with the committee’s subpoena—in which he revealed to a room of supporters Trump’s plan and strategy ahead of Election Day.
“What Trump’s gonna do is just declare victory, right?” Bannon told associates on Oct. 31, 2020. “He’s gonna declare victory. But that doesn’t mean he’s a winner. He’s just gonna say he’s a winner.”
“More of our people vote early, that count; theirs vote in mail,” Bannon said. “And so they’re going to have a natural disadvantage. And Trump’s going to take advantage of that. That’s our strategy. He’s going to declare himself a winner.”
Trump knew he lost when he spread baseless claims about a stolen election. Countless aides testified to the select committee that they repeatedly told the former president that his conspiracy theories about the election were just that—conspiracy theories—or, in the words of his attorney general Bill Barr, “complete bullshit.” Trump lost by 7 million votes, lost key battleground states, and lost dozens of lawsuits in which he or his supporters claimed voter fraud.
And yet, Trump persisted. Bannon reveled in the chaos. And the chaos opened the door for others. Last fall, California Republican Larry Elder suggested voter fraud would steal the election from him until the results of the gubernatorial race came in and showed how soundly his bid was crushed. Radical America First candidate Shekinah Hollingsworth received a few hundred votes in her bid to become a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, but that didn’t stop her alleging election fraud. In Georgia, the conspiracy theory-minded, gun-toting Christian nationalist Kandiss Taylor received 3.4 percent of the vote in that state’s GOP gubernatorial primary; she predictably claimed the election was stolen and refused to concede. Rachel Hamm in California played this same game, as did Bianca Garcia in Texas. We could go on.
Kandiss “Jesus, Guns, Babies” Taylor, who received 3.4% of the vote in Georgia’s GOP gubernatorial primary, clams the election was stolen and refuses to concede, praying that those responsible for this “crime” will “feel so guilty [that] they come forward”: “We pray for guilt.” pic.twitter.com/ctTOvYgCAq
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) June 1, 2022
With such false claims of fraud, far-right forces and right-wing media have been able to convince a broad swath of the American public that our elections are not safe. They have convinced Trump supporters that poll workers—public servants like Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, who became the focus of Trump’s ire when he baselessly accused her of processing fake ballots—are to blame.
And so they harass them and threaten them—and when they have driven good people away from those posts, they try to take their places.
A month after the failed insurrection, Bannon called for followers to “take this back village by village … precinct by precinct.” According to ProPublica, GOP leaders in 41 of 65 key counties reported an unusual increase in signups since his call to action.
This strategy to attack and replace local election officials with Trump loyalists is one we’re seeing play out from Fulton County, Georgia, to Yavapai County, Arizona, with the full weight of the Republican Party behind it.
The Republican National Committee—which aided Trump in his plot to stay in power—has spent millions on 17 states to recruit more than 14,000 poll workers and 10,000 poll watchers already, according to the Washington Post.
Working with the RNC is Cleta Mitchell, a Trump lawyer who was on the infamous call on which Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 more votes. Mitchell is leading the so-called “election integrity” effort by the Conservative Partnership Institute, which seeks to bring together local right-wing groups with established conservative behemoths like the Heritage Foundation. The Brennan Center describes CPI as such: “The network has published materials and hosted summits across the country with the aim of coordinating a nationwide effort to staff election offices, recruit poll watchers and poll workers, and build teams of local citizens to challenge voter rolls, question postal workers, be ‘ever-present’ in local election offices, and inundate election officials with document requests.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, CPI became home to other Trump allies who had a role in the months-long effort to overturn the election, including Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows (who sat scrolling through his phone when he heard about threats of violence on Jan. 6), Trump’s former social media director Dan Scavino (who spread voter fraud conspiracies on behalf of the tweet-happy president), and Ed Corrigan (who appeared to be busy behind the scenes encouraging Vice President Mike Pence to buck his constitutional duty and overturn the election). CPI enjoyed a $1 million boost from Trump’s Save America PAC.
CPI and organizations like it are finding success. One in 5 local election administrators say they are likely to leave their jobs before the 2024 presidential election, according to a survey by the Brennan Center for Justice. These public servants cite politicians attacking “a system that they know is fair and honest” and the stress of the job as the top two reasons for their planned departures.
Meanwhile, other politicians are running for secretary of state to gain control of their states’ elections. Arizona’s Mark Finchem stood outside the U.S. Capitol’s east steps as the anti-government extremist Oath Keepers—of which Finchem claims to be a member—stormed the building. Three months later, he announced his bid for Arizona’s secretary of state and earned Trump’s endorsement. In Michigan, Kristina Karamano, also blessed with a Trump endorsement for her voter-fraud conspiracy theories, became the Republican nominee in the race for secretary of state. And in Georgia, Rep. Jody Hice tried to best Trump nemesis Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger out of the Republican nomination to no avail.
Added to this stew: a large dose of violent rhetoric. Ahead of Jan. 6, violent rhetoric was widespreadon pro-Trump social media and among far-right groups. Today, it no longer remains on the fringes but has been embraced by right-wing politicians.
In Missouri, former governor Eric Greitens—whose ex-wife has accused him of domestic violence—released a campaign ad for his U.S. Senate bid. “Today, we’re going RINO hunting,” Greitens says in the ad, before bursting through a door with a SWAT team, guns raised. “Get a RINO hunting permit. There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country,” he says.
He’s not the only one seeing red. In Oklahoma, state Senate candidate Jarrin Jackson wants to shoot “godless commies.” In February, Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers voiced her desire “to build more gallows” in a video address to white nationalists.
Right-wing activist Jarrin Jackson, who has not been shy about his desire to shoot “godless commies” in the face, is now running for a seat in the Oklahoma state senate: “I’d like to ask for your vote and for you to unleash me.” https://t.co/kkc5EljrqX https://t.co/xL4IdQegEO pic.twitter.com/nOkcAPdTAb
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) March 25, 2022
When asked by Cheney whether he believed in the peaceful transfer of power, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded the Fifth Amendment, every American’s right against forced self-incrimination. The recorded testimony, which was shown during the sixth hearing, was shocking, and yet, Flynn is not alone. Republicans are more likely than other Americans to say political violence might be necessary, with four in 10 subscribing to that belief, according to a survey conducted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute shortly after the Jan. 6 attack. Perhaps that’s why, after hearing Trump’s suggestion that Mike Pence was a traitor to the country, so many of the Trump supporters storming the Capitol were keen on hanging the former vice president.
Trump, as the hearing Thursday revealed, did nothing for 187 minutes while his supporters rampaged through the Capitol, beat police officers, and hunted for Pence, Pelosi, and other members of Congress, all with the goal of preventing the peaceful transfer of power. As we move into the 2022 elections, Americans have a choice about the future of democracy in our country and whether the coup next time will succeed.
This article was originally published by Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission.
DOJ Should Indict Trump Says Political Scientist – He ‘Brags About His Crimes and Promises to Commit Them Again’
The U.S. Dept. of Justice should prosecute Donald Trump for his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, says a political scientist and Bloomberg opinion writer.
Jonathan Bernstein, who has a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and taught at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University, says “it’s just not that hard a choice. Trump’s crimes are too important, and too dangerous, to ignore.”
After offering up a string of reasons why DOJ should tread lightly, he stresses that the “Justice Department says that it investigates crimes, not people, and that’s the way it should be. Nobody should want the Justice Department to be turned against the leaders of out-parties for offenses that would never have been charged against anyone else.”
Bernstein adds that prosecuting a former president is “something that should be reserved for the gravest circumstances,” and he apparently concludes that Trump’s actions qualify.
“Experts seem to believe that the evidence is there and that conviction is likely for Trump’s efforts to pressure election officials to falsify results, to gin up slates of fake electors and to provoke the Capitol mob,” he explains, noting that “to this day, long after the election, [Trump] continues to try to overturn the legitimate result.”
“Prosecutors should take it into account if a person constantly takes to the biggest stages and in effect brags about his crimes and promises to commit them again if he has the chance.”
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