Before Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas took to Facebook in the early morning hours that Wednesday; there she urged people to tune into the so-called Stop the Steal rally held on the grounds of the White House. “LOVE MAGA people!!!!” she posted, adding minutes later, “GOD BLESS EACH OF YOU STANDING UP or PRAYING.”
Though her affinity for caps-lock commentary may suggest otherwise, Ginni Thomas is an influential right-wing activist respected in conservative politics. The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, she has made her own mark on the Republican Party with lofty positions at Turning Point USA, the Heritage Foundation, The Daily Caller, and the Council for National Policy, a highly secretive organization whose members include some of the most powerful conservatives and right-wing players in the country.
Respected though she may be in conservative circles, Ginni Thomas’ connection to extremists is nothing new. In 2010, she led Liberty Central, a think tank she founded to appeal to Tea Party supporters and to serve as the connective tissue between “Tea Party groups and the new citizen activists,” as she claimed in a 2010 interview. That group’s sponsors included the Gun Owners of America—a radical alternative to the NRA—and its gun-rights extremist leader Larry Pratt, who addressed white supremacists at a 1992 gathering in Colorado and appeared to call for war against the U.S. government in 2010. The far-right Catholic group Tradition, Family and Property, known for being virulently anti-LGBTQ, anti-woman, and anti-democratic, was also linked to Ginni Thomas’ think tank from its inception.
Ginni Thomas’ zeal for the Stop the Steal campaign and its followers, a mob of whom would later storm the Capitol in an act of domestic terrorism, is notable in and of itself—her husband sits on the highest court, after all—but it’s also disconcerting for another reason: She is the latest in a string of Council for National Policy members—and an authoritative voice at that—who has supported the Stop the Steal movement.
On the morning of Jan. 6, Ginni Thomas—wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas—endorsed the protest demanding that Congress overturn the election, then sent her “LOVE” to the demonstrators, who violently overtook the Capitol several hours later. She has not posted since. pic.twitter.com/378CHMkFN5
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) January 8, 2021
Since the inception of this latest incarnation of the Stop the Steal campaign on Nov. 4 by lead organizer Ali Alexander, who himself was a member as recently as 2017, according to membership rolls obtained by the watchdog group Documented, it has received support from CNP members. In fact, the tacit support of key CNP members for challenging the 2020 presidential election results may have been the impetus for Alexander’s decision to begin the campaign to overturn the results of the presidential election by peddling disinformation.
Formed during the Reagan administration, CNP holds closed-door meetings and instructs members to not discuss the council’s work or its membership, though, over the years, membership rolls have been leaked to the press. Those rolls have shown the organization to be home to a couple hundred marquee names in the conservative movement, Christian right, and right-wing fringe: Current members include Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch and Tony Perkins of the religious-right Family Research Council; former members include Trump’s former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
The CNP has a close relationship with the Trump White House—so much so, that at the superspreader Rose Garden event to celebrate the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, “there were more Council for National Policy members present there than there were members of the White House staff and members of Congress combined,” said Anne Nelson, author of the “Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right,” a book about the CNP. And on the eve of the Republican National Convention, Trump gave a big speech to the Council for National Policy, calling it as his “flagship address,” a rare public event for the council, Nelson said.
Nelson describes the CNP’s main role as providing “coordination, rather than direction” to its members, which include executives of such right-wing outlets the Salem Media Group and The Daily Caller. Ginni Thomas, Nelson points out, is on the board of governors of CNP Action, the lobbying arm of the secretive organization. In May 2019, Thomas and Trump lawyer Cleta Mitchell provided an update on the Conservative Action Project, CNP’s 501(c)(4) arm that holds weekly meetings, and laid out their strategy for the coming year with a slide presentation to CNP members, which included messaging about building a robust infrastructure on the right and protecting Trump.
In the days leading up to the Jan. 6 mayhem, and on the day itself, the connection between CNP and Stop the Steal—and the campaign’s influence on the White House—became more apparent.
On Dec. 30, Right Wing Watch posted a report about a letter sent by the Conservative Action Project to Senate Republicans urging them to “contest the electoral votes” from “Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona”—the battleground states Biden won. That letter may have not mentioned Stop the Steal by name, but it asked senators to do exactly what Stop the Steal was demanding of Republican members of Congress: to reject electoral votes in favor of Biden.
Those signees included Cleta Mitchell, Trump’s lawyer (who was on the infamous phone call when Trump asked that Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger “find 11,780 votes”); Tom Fitton, an CNP executive committee member whose Judicial Watch group constantly spouts voter fraud conspiracy theories; Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots and columnist for The Washington Times; Tony Perkins, former CNP president and leader of the Family Research Council; Kenneth Blackwell, former Ohio secretary of state and member of CNP Action’s board of directors; and William L. Walton, current CNP president. All were revealed as CNP members in a leak of CNP’s September 2020 membership directory.
A Dec. 10 letter posted on the Conservative Action Project website, reported by Alex Kotch at Exposed by CMD, asked state legislatures in battleground states to “exercise their plenary power under the Constitution and appoint clean slates of electors to the Electoral College to support President Trump,” and that the House and Senate only recognize the electors of those states that do so. Again, this was the same demand state legislators and Congress members were hearing from Stop the Steal activists. Kotch reports that the letter links to a document that, according to metadata embedded in the file, was created by none other than Cleta Mitchell, calling for a “constitutional remedy” to reject votes for Biden. The signatories included some of the same names that appeared on the Dec. 30 letter, in addition to Ed Martin, a leading Stop the Steal organizer and CNP member whom Alexander has thanked for his “mentorship” in organizing the Stop the Steal campaign.
Two days before the Jan. 6 rally, CNP member Charlie Kirk, who leads the youth-oriented group Turning Point USA, shared a video from Women for America First’s Kylie Jane Kremer advertising the rally and told his followers that his organizations, TPUSA and Students for Trump, had funded more than 80 buses to attend the rally. “The historic event will likely be one of the largest and most consequential in American history,” Kirk wrote. “The team at @TrumpStudents & Turning Point Action are honored to help make this happen, sending 80+ buses full of patriots to DC to fight for this president,” he said in the since deleted tweet, uncovered by Daily Dot. Kirk’s Students for Trump co-chair is Ryan Fournier, a Stop the Steal organizer who spoke at the Jan. 5 rally on the same stage where speakers advocated rebellion.
While a viral claim that Ginni Thomas funded the buses herself appears to be false, Ginni Thomas has been linked to the group in the recent past, serving on Turning Point USA’s advisory council in 2019, along with fellow CNP members Foster Friess, Adam Brandon, and former Ohio congressman Bob McEwen.
On Jan. 5, speakers took to Freedom Plaza for a Stop the Steal rally designed to prime attendees for the big day. Among the speakers was Peter Navarro, a fringe right-wing economist who spoke at the May 2019 CNP meeting. and who serves as an assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. On the stage at Freedom Plaza, Navarro peddled voter fraud conspiracy theories and urged activists to stay angry, declaring to the assembled crowd, “We will take this back.”
On Jan. 6, Ginni Thomas told her Facebook followers to watch the event convened by groups working in concert with the Stop the Steal campaign, dubbed the “Save America Rally,” on the right-wing Right Side Broadcasting, one of the few networks to cover the gathering. The massive rally, at which Trump would incite his supporters to bring their wrath to the Capitol, was led by the groups March for Trump and the Kremers’ Women for America First.
Amy Kremer, who was listed as a member in a 2014 CNP membership directory obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center, was among the first speakers. Jenny Beth Martin, the CNP executive committee secretary whom Trump thanked in his speech to CNP this summer, was another. She brought with her Simone Gold, who is now sought by the FBI after she appeared to be part of the crowd that stormed the Capitol following her speech on the main stage, as seen on social media.
After the Capitol insurrection, Ginni Thomas either deactivated or deleted her Facebook account, likely unhappy that reporters noted her enthusiasm for a movement what would launch a riot. Josh Hawley, one of the senators who led the charge to contest electors’ votes in the Senate, charged ahead even as other lawmakers backed off in light of the violent consequences wrought by the disinformation campaign designed to delegitimize the outcome of the presidential election. “Shadow Network” author Nelson noted that, throughout his career, Hawley was groomed by CNP affiliates.
The Stop the Steal disinformation campaign wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without CNP support. When on Nov. 4, Ali Alexander floated the idea of rebooting the Stop the Steal campaign, which in its prior iteration was focused on the outcome of the 2018 mid-term elections, baselessly claiming that the election had been stolen from Trump, he called on key CNP members including Tom Fitton, Amy Kremer, Ed Martin, and Charlie Kirk.
“Because Ali Alexander is a fairly veteran operative, he managed to get a lot of people on board very quickly,” said Stephanie Lamy, a French information warfare researcher with the advocacy groupDanaides. “Although he was a fairly marginal actor, he managed to have a big reach because he knew which people to rely on. And that was a lot of the CNP.”
Once he began to be successful, Lamy said, the White House seemed to have taken note.
Right Wing Watch reported about CNP members’ connection to Stop the Steal on Nov. 13—the same day Vice President Mike Pence was set to address CNP attendees in Virginia. CNP convened that meeting, Nov. 12-14, “to strategize on how to challenge the election results,” according to Exposed by CMD reporter David Armiak. At the meeting, a panel dedicated to the election results and the ensuing legal battles featured Cleta Mitchell, J. Christian Adams, a known voter suppressor who leads the Public Interest Legal Foundation, and the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky, a leading proponent of the voter fraud myth.
The following day, Stop the Steal organizers held the first of three major rallies in Washington, D.C., with speakers peddling disinformation and violent rhetoric on the main stage—a day that ended in violent skirmishes between Proud Boys and counterprotesters, foreshadowing the violence to come.
“Most people don’t realize that disinformation has an aim, and that aim is to have real life impact. So what we saw with Stop the Steal, it had a real-life impact as of the 6th of November [the date of one of the first Stop the Steal rallies], and it kind of culminated with these terrorist threats and a breach of the Capitol,” said Lamy, the French disinformation researcher. “And it’s still ongoing,” she continued. “The CNP hasn’t finished manipulating anger and personal grievances.”
This article was originally published at Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission.
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FBI Investigating ‘Massive’ Alleged Campaign Finance Scheme to Help Fund Susan Collins’ Re-Election: Report
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating an alleged campaign finance scheme it characterized as “massive” involving a political action committee aligned with Senator Susan Collins, and direct donations to the Collins’ campaign. The Maine Republican won re-election in November despite polling that showed her Democratic challenger beating her.
“A recently unsealed search warrant application shows the FBI believes a Hawaii defense contractor illegally funneled $150,000 to a pro-Collins super PAC and reimbursed donations to Collins’ campaign. There’s no indication that Collins or her team were aware of any of it,” Axios reports.
The report shows that Senator Collins, who sits on the Defense subcommittee of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, helped the contractor secure an $8 million Navy contract, before most of the donations were given. That contractor is the Martin Defense Group, formerly known as Navatek.
A shell company was allegedly used. Federal contractors are prohibited from donating to super PACs.
“Former Navatek CEO Martin Kao was indicted last year for allegedly bilking the federal government of millions in coronavirus relief loans,” Axios reports.
The Collins Campaign “had absolutely no knowledge of anything alleged in the warrant,” a Collins spokesperson, Annie Clark, told Axios.
Maine voters elected Collins “to a fifth term by 9 points. No Maine senator has been popularly elected five times. It was a far cry from previous supermajority wins,” The Bangor Daily News reported at the time, “but resounding after every public poll showed [Democrat Sara]Gideon ahead. Democrats had pinned their hopes of flipping the Senate on Maine, leading to more than $200 million spent on the race.”
Here’s a copy of the search warrant:
NEW: The @FBI is investigating whether Martin Defense Group (a government contractor with a presence in Maine) & its executives illegally donated to @SenatorCollins‘s campaign & its supportive super PAC, 1820 PAC, per this search warrant application. https://t.co/DrNIYIru7u
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) May 18, 2021
‘I’m Not Releasing the Video – This Is Done’: NC DA Gets Defensive After Announcing No Charges in Police Shooting
The Pasquotank County, North Carolina District Attorney announced Tuesday he will not be filing charges against police officers who shot Andrew Brown, Jr., an unarmed 42-year old Black man, in the head, killing him while serving an arrest warrant on April 21. After holding a lengthy press conference Andrew Womble became defensive when asked about releasing the video, and later when asked how he could make a decision to not charge officers when all the facts are not in.
“I’m not releasing the video, this is done,” Womble told reporters. “Anything in my office is not public record by statute.”
The Associated Press adds: “Womble, who showed portions of the video at the news conference, said Tuesday that he would not release the video.”
Womble reportedly has a total of about two hours of video from police body cams, but only allowed the family of Andrew Brown, Jr. to see less than 20 minutes worth. He showed a very small portion of video on Tuesday to support his decision to not file charges against any of the officers.
Womble went on to say that any release of the video would have to be done through the court, but when asked if he had requested the video be released he said he had not.
“You can not swing a skunk in front of a group of people then ask them not to smell it,” Womble said last month.
On Tuesday Womble told reporters, “Mr. Brown’s death, while tragic, was justified, because Mr. Brown’s actions caused three deputies with the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office to reasonably believe it was necessary to use deadly force to protect themselves and others.”
After urging the public to not “jump to conclusions until all the facts are out,” one reporter reminded Womble he had just admitted he did not have all the facts.
“Do you think all the facts are out?” the reporter said. “You told us that you don’t know how fast the car was going, whether the car was decelerating or accelerating. And the still images you showed us told a different story, before the first shot was fired. Once you put the video in motion, it looked like Brown was turning away from the officer.”
“I’m sorry, your question is?” Womble, defensively replied.
“How do you respond to that?” the reporter posited.
“What was the question?” Womble again replied.
“Are you sure all the facts are in?” the reporter continued. “You said you don’t know if the car was decelerating or accelerating.”
“I know that all of the facts that I needed to make this decision are in,” Womble replied.
“Isn’t that important?” the reporter pressed. “That’s important. If you look at the video. If you look at the video in motion, it looks like he’s turning away before the first shot is fired, that’s important.”
“Sir, there are several cases,” Womble said defensively, “there’s a litany of cases in our American jurisprudence where shots are fired into still cars, cars that aren’t moving. So, the speed at which Mr. Brown is moving at the officers…notv relevant in my determination.”
The reporter said if Brown had hit the brakes, “isn’t that important?”
Womble refused to answer and went to another reporter.
The full video of Womble’s press conference is here:
Al Sharpton weighed in:
Elizabeth City DA Womble who is running for Superior Court Judge gave a bizarre and unconvincing defense of not charging Police for shooting Andrew Brown, Jr. In the back of head! The Feds and a Special Prosecutor is clearly needed.
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) May 18, 2021
‘Ineptitude’: Maricopa County Destroys Top AZ GOP Senator’s Recount Company as ‘Grifters and Con-Artists’
Arizona’s Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in a letter sent Monday slammed both the State Senate Republican President and the company she chose to perform a highly-controversial recount of the 2020 presidential election ballots.
That recount, which has been going on for nearly four weeks, has been plagued by regular reports of irregular and suspicious actions and, as the Board of Supervisors said today, “ineptitude.”
Already the U.S. Dept. of Justice has notified the company performing the recount, Cyber Ninjas, that it is watching their actions and warning them their actions may violate the law.
The Maricopa Board of Supervisors – which is made up of four Republicans and just one Democrat – Monday did not hold back, blasting Senate President Karen Fann, accusing her of lying, among other disturbing actions.
Fann, in a false accusation picked up and repeated by Donald Trump over the weekend, claimed Maricopa County deleted an entire database. The accusation was made either out of ignorance or political vengeance, or both, but the damage has been done.
The County responded today, calling the accusations “false, defamatory, and beneath the dignity of the Senate.”
“We demand that you immediately rescind your false and malicious tweet,” the county tells Senate President Fann in a 13-page letter, “asserting that Maricopa County ‘spoiled evidence’ in the days before we provided the server to the Senate. Your tweet, which relies on the ‘modified date’ shown in the screenshot as evidence of wrongdoing, is demonstrably false; the only thing it does demonstrate is your auditors’ incompetence. Their stunning lack of a basic understanding for how their software works is egregious and only made worse by the false tweet sent defaming the hardworking employees of Maricopa County.”
The Senate, Maricopa County adds, “is only interested in feeding the various festering conspiracy theories that fuel the fundraising schemes of those pulling your strings.”
You have rented out the once good name of the Arizona State Senate to grifters and con-artists, who are fundraising hard-earned money from our fellow citizens even as your contractors parade around the Coliseum, hunting for bamboo and something they call “kinematic artifacts” while shining purple lights for effect. None of these things are done in a serious audit. The result is that the Arizona Senate is held up to ridicule in every corner of the globe and our democracy is imperiled.
A few more excerpts:
“Your various questions about our election procedures reveal a serious lack of understanding of election law.”
“a spectacular lack of understanding on your part”
“we cannot give you a password that we do not possess any more than we can give you the formula for Coca Cola. We do not have it; we have no legal right to acquire it; and so, we cannot give it to you.”
“We will not be responding to any additional inquiries from your “auditors”. Their failure to understand basic election processes is an indication you didn’t get the best people to perform in your political theatre. We have wasted enough County resources. People’s tax dollars are real, your ‘auditors’ are not.”
“Your ‘audit’ is harming all of us, and we ask you to end it.”
But perhaps among the most disturbing accusations Maricopa County makes, is, as The Guardian’s Sam Levine reports, Cyber Ninjas is “just straight miscounting ballots.” Read this short tweet:
— Sam Levine (@srl) May 17, 2021
Jack Sellers, the Chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, concluded a meeting Monday afternoon by announcing to the Arizona Senate, “Finish your report and be ready to defend it in a court of law.”
Image: Screenshot from Maricopa County May 17 press conference via YouTube
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