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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Watch: Cruz Only ‘No’ Vote After Railing Against Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Another Coup
The Senate Rules Committee voted 14-1 to advance the Electoral Count Act, legislation designed to prevent another coup like the one led by defeated President Donald Trump, and Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, on January 6, 2021. Every Democrat and every Republican except the junior GOP Senator from Texas voted for the legislation.
The bill is even supported by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
But according to Sen. Cruz, who once bragged he was “leading the charge” to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, the bill is “all about” Donald Trump.
With so many stories published about the GOP’s efforts to keep Trump in the White House despite Joe Biden winning both the popular vote and the Electoral College by large margins, some may have missed The Washington Post‘s reporting back in March the shows “just how deeply” Sen. Cruz “was involved, working directly with Trump to concoct a plan that came closer than widely realized to keeping him in power.”
“As Cruz went to extraordinary lengths to court Trump’s base and lay the groundwork for his own potential 2024 presidential bid, he also alienated close allies and longtime friends who accused him of abandoning his principles,” the Post notes.
“Cruz’s efforts are of interest to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, in particular whether Cruz was in contact with Trump lawyer John Eastman, a conservative attorney who has been his friend for decades and who wrote key legal memos aimed at denying Biden’s victory.”
On Tuesday Cruz railed against the Electoral Count Act, which would make the January 6 attempt to overturn the election at least more difficult, as his fellow Republicans seemed to ignore his outburst.
“This bill is all about Donald J. Trump,” Cruz declared, not realizing that he was indicting the former president by saying so. “And nobody in our lifetimes has driven Democrats in this body more out of their mind than President Trump.”
“This bill is a bad bill, this bill is bad law,” Cruz complained. “It’s bad policy and it’s bad for democracy,” he added, despite every other Republican on the committee voting for it and several Republicans voting for the House version.
What he did not say is that no Democrat has ever conspired to overturn an election and execute a coup.
Senator Angus King (I-ME) after Cruz’s rant, reminded the committee the bill does not “come out of the blue,” saying it is “a modification of a 150-year old law.”
“It’s not a new effort of Congress to intrude into the electoral process,” he said, taking a gentle swipe at Cruz.
“I watched this,” NPR’s Peter Sagal said of Cruz’s remarks, “and what’s remarkable is to the extent to which all the other Senators (with the exception of a mild correction from Sen King) simply ignore him.”
He went on to note the bill “merely intended to clarify” the existing law, “which virtually everyone … has agreed is archaic and confusing.”
Despite all his bravado, the bill did advance out of committee almost unanimously, with the exception of Cruz’s lone no vote.
Watch below or at this link.
Ted Cruz just became the only republican on the Rules committee to vote against the Electoral Count Act, which puts guard rails in place to prevent future coup attempts.
Cruz led the charge in the Senate to overturn the last election for Donald Trump. pic.twitter.com/IY7ZZPavow
— Sawyer Hackett (@SawyerHackett) September 27, 2022
Embattled Trump-Appointed DHS Inspector Was Given Phones of Secret Service Agents in July, Raising ‘New Questions’: Report
Senior Secret Service leadership confiscated the cell phones of 24 agents and handed them over to the embattled Trump-appointed Inspector General of the Dept. of Homeland Security as he was launching his criminal investigation into the deleted text message scandal. The Secret Service, DHS, and former Trump officials at the Pentagon have been under fire after the IG, Joseph Cuffari, belatedly revealed texts from January 5 and 6, 2021, had been deleted.
“The agency handed over the phones ‘shortly after’ a July 19 letter was sent by Inspector General Joseph Cuffari’s office,” NBC News reports.
“The revelation that Cuffari’s office has had access to the phones since late July or August raises new questions about the progress of his criminal investigation into the missing text messages and what, if anything, the public may be able to learn about communications between agents on Jan. 6, 2021,” NBC adds.
Cuffari reportedly learned in December of 2021 that the cell phones of Secret Service agents directly involved in protective operations on the day of the insurrection, had been wiped and text messages deleted. He did not report this to Congress until July of 2022, despite his staff taking action.
CNN, however, has reported Cuffari actually learned of the deleted texts in May of 2021, which if accurate would mean he waited more than a year to inform Congress. Nor did he inform the National Archives, which is required by law to retain those records.
Cuffari has been seen by some as covering for Trump loyalists. His own staff is calling for his firing.
“Department of Homeland Security (DHS) watchdog staff recently called on President Joe Biden to remove their boss, Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, according to a blistering letter obtained by the Project On Government Oversight,” POGO reported last week. “‘The highest priorities of an inspector general are integrity and independence,’ states the letter. ‘IG Cuffari and his inner circle of senior leaders have fallen short in these areas time and time again.'”
In April of 2021 The Washington Post reported Cuffari “blocked investigations proposed by career staff last year to scrutinize the [Secret Service’s] handling of the George Floyd protests in Lafayette Square and the spread of the coronavirus in its ranks, according to documents and people with knowledge of his decisions.”
Noted political scientist Norman Ornstein, who sits on the POGO board, in late July called the situation a “coverup of treason.”
POGO, he wrote, “has been calling for a long time for the resignation of DHS IG Joseph Cuffari. He sat on the information of missing texts from the top DHS ‘acting’ officials, put there by Trump to do his bidding. Stinks to high heaven. Coverup of treason.”
DOJ Demands Return of Emails Peter Navarro Sent From Private Account for Government Business
The Department of Justice is seeking a court order to compel Peter Navarro to return government documents he took after leaving the Trump administration.
Investigators are seeking the return of emails he sent while working on the White House coronavirus response, which they say were sent from a private account for government business to discuss ventilators, activating National Guard units, and the use of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment, reported CNN.
“There is no genuine dispute of fact that Dr. Navarro used at least one unofficial email account to conduct official business, that those records are the property of the United States, and that Dr. Navarro has refused to return the records to the United States. Indeed, his counsel has expressly admitted as much,” wrote Justice Department lawyers.
“Because Dr. Navarro remains in possession of property that belongs to the United States,” the lawyers added, “this Court should issue a writ of replevin requiring Dr. Navarro to return what he wrongfully continues to possess.”
The National Archives discovered the emails were missing after the DOJ sued Navarro earlier this year in a records dispute related to a House investigation.
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