With the midterm election just months away and Donald Trump still eyeing a third presidential run in 2024, the New York Times is reporting that one of the architects of the former president’s attempt to throw out the results of his 2020 loss is currently working on recruiting conspiracy-minded poll workers and watchers that have state election officials fearful of future chaos and disruption.
According to the report, attorney Cleta Mitchell who rose to fame as a participant on Trump’s infamous phone call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger where the former president demanded the Georgia Republican “find” 11,780 votes, is working with the Election Integrity Network which has financial ties to Trump’s still-thriving political operation.
As the Times’ Alexandra Berzon writes, Mitchell has been busy traveling the country and meeting with far-right activists, instructing them on how to get deeply involved with the election process in their states, putting them in a position to challenge election results and disrupt certification of the votes.
According to Berzon, no position at the state level is considered too small by Mitchell, who recently told over 150 conservatives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, “We are taking the lessons we learned in 2020 and we are going forward to make sure they never happen again.”
Pointing out that Mitchell was a participant in multiple lawsuits by Trump to challenge election results at the state level — none of which succeeded — Berzon writes that she is undeterred as her conspiracy theories are debunked and that she has the financial backing of several conservative groups.
“In seminars around the country, Ms. Mitchell is marshaling volunteers to stake out election offices, file information requests, monitor voting, work at polling places and keep detailed records of their work,” the Times report states, adding that an examination of her efforts reveals ” a loose network of influential groups and fringe figures.”
Her supporters “include election deniers as well as mainstream organizations such as the Heritage Foundation’s political affiliate, Tea Party Patriots and the R.N.C., which has participated in Ms. Mitchell’s seminars. The effort, called the Election Integrity Network, is a project of the Conservative Partnership Institute, a right-wing think tank with close ties and financial backing from Mr. Trump’s political operation.”
With the Times reporting, “Ms. Mitchell’s trainings promote particularly aggressive methods — with a focus on surveillance — that appear intended to feed on activists’ distrust and create pressure on local officials, rather than ensure voters’ access to the ballot,” Philadelphia Republican and former election board member Al Schmidt expressed concern about what is to come next.
“I think it’s going to come down to whether they are truly interested in knowing the truth about elections or they’re interested in propagating propaganda,” he admitted.
Notably, the report adds that attorney Mitchell “has worked closely with Virginia Thomas, the wife of the Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, on organizing through the Council for National Policy, a national coordinating group for conservative leaders.”
Virginia Thomas is currently being scrutinized by the Jan 6th House select committee after it was revealed that she had been texting former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows with advice on how to overturn the 2020 election results.
You can read more here.
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Bombshell NYT Report Reveals Bill Barr’s Special Counsel Opened ‘Secret’ Financial Crimes Probe Into Trump But Never Prosecuted
Special Counsel Robert Durham, appointed by then-Attorney General Bill Barr, uncovered possible financial crimes by Donald Trump but made no attempt to prosecute them, The New York Times reveals in massive, bombshell report published Thursday after a months-long investigation.
“Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it,” The Times’ Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner report.
The “potentially explosive tip linking Mr. Trump to certain suspected financial crimes” came during a trip Barr and Durham, his special counsel, took together. They “decided that the tip was too serious and credible to ignore.”
But, “Mr. Durham never filed charges, and it remains unclear what level of an investigation it was, what steps he took, what he learned and whether anyone at the White House ever found out. The extraordinary fact that Mr. Durham opened a criminal investigation that included scrutinizing Mr. Trump has remained secret.”
That’s just one aspect of The Times’ extensive and disturbing report.
It also reveals that there was little justification for Barr to install Durham as a special counsel to investigate what Trump wrongly maintained was an unjustifiable investigation into his ties to Russia.
In fact, The Times “found that the main thrust of the Durham inquiry was marked by some of the very same flaws — including a strained justification for opening it and its role in fueling partisan conspiracy theories that would never be charged in court — that Trump allies claim characterized the Russia investigation.”
In another shocking revelation, The Times reports Durham “used Russian intelligence memos — suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation — to gain access to emails of an aide to George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who is a favorite target of the American right and Russian state media.”
The Times does not explain how Durham obtained the Russian disinformation.
“Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.”
Attorneys on Durham’s team apparently had significant qualms with his actions, leading at least two to resign.
“There were deeper internal fractures on the Durham team than previously known,” The Times reports. “The publicly unexplained resignation in 2020 of his No. 2 and longtime aide, Nora R. Dannehy, was the culmination of a series of disputes between them over prosecutorial ethics. A year later, two more prosecutors strongly objected to plans to indict a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign based on evidence they warned was too flimsy, and one left the team in protest of Mr. Durham’s decision to proceed anyway. (A jury swiftly acquitted the lawyer.)”
BARR THREATENED NSA
The Times also reports that Attorney General Barr bought into Trump’s false claims that there had been “no collusion” between the Trump camp and Russia.
Importantly, The Times states point-blank that the Mueller Report “detailed ‘numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,’ and it established both how Moscow had worked to help Mr. Trump win and how his campaign had expected to benefit from the foreign interference.”
According to The Times’ account, “soon after giving Mr. Durham his assignment,” in May of 2019, “Mr. Barr summoned the head of the National Security Agency, Paul M. Nakasone, to his office. In front of several aides, Mr. Barr demanded that the N.S.A. cooperate with the Durham inquiry.”
The NSA is a wholly separate entity from the Dept. of Justice. It is an agency under the Dept. of Defense and reports to the powerful Director of National Intelligence (DNI).
Barr apparently did not care, and, “repeating a sexual vulgarity, he warned that if the N.S.A. wronged him by not doing all it could to help Mr. Durham, Mr. Barr would do the same to the agency.”
DURHAM TRIED TO SCUTTLE A REPORT’S FINDING THAT TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION WAS WARRANTED
“Mr. Durham’s team spent long hours combing the C.I.A.’s files but found no way to support the allegation” that the investigation into Trump and Russia was the result of some anti-Trump deep state operation.
Barr and Durham actually “traveled abroad together to press British and Italian officials to reveal everything their agencies had gleaned about the Trump campaign and relayed to the United States, but both allied governments denied they had done any such thing. Top British intelligence officials expressed indignation to their U.S. counterparts about the accusation, three former U.S. officials said.”
The Dept. of Justice’s Inspector General’s investigation found there was, in fact, sufficient cause for the DOJ to have opened up the Trump-Russia investigation, contrary to Barr’s personal beliefs.
So he tried to have that finding removed from the final report.
The Times reports that “the broader findings contradicted Mr. Trump’s accusations and the rationale for Mr. Durham’s inquiry,” which should have shut down what ultimately became Durham’s four-year long investigation that netted almost nothing.
The DOJ Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, “found no evidence that F.B.I. actions were politically motivated. And he concluded that the investigation’s basis — an Australian diplomat’s tip that a Trump campaign adviser had seemed to disclose advance knowledge that Russia would release hacked Democratic emails — had been sufficient to lawfully open it.”
So Barr tried to discredit Horowitz’s report.
“Minutes before the inspector general’s report went online, Mr. Barr issued a statement contradicting Mr. Horowitz’s major finding, declaring that the F.B.I. opened the investigation “on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient.” He would later tell Fox News that the investigation began “without any basis,” as if the diplomat’s tip never happened.”
Read the entire Times report here.
Ending Roe Was Just the Beginning: Anti-Choice Activists Are Working to Ban Abortion Rights Nationwide
In a bright pink, purple, and red-lit ballroom in downtown Washington, D.C., last Thursday, anti-choice activists gathered to listen to prominent activists in the anti-choice movement.
“For 49 years, our role has been to influence five people on the court,” said Maureen Ferguson, a senior fellow for The Catholic Association. “Now, we have to persuade 330 million.”
The comment marked a shift in focus for the anti-choice movement. With the dismantlement of Roe v. Wade last summer, the anti-choice movement’s focus has shifted from the Supreme Court to a bevy of other places: state legislatures, Congress, and the court of public opinion.
Of course, the movement has already been hard at work in all those arenas. Trigger laws were set in place to ban abortion in scores of states after Roe was overturned, the new Republican Congress immediately set about trying to pass national anti-abortion legislation, and the March for Life has always targeted young Catholic kids in their messaging about abortion to change public opinion for the future. But their biggest goal—getting five sympathetic justices to the high court to dismantle the right to abortion—had been completed.
The panel, dubbed “Capitol Hill 101,” was a kickoff to the March for Life being held the following day and started, of course, with celebration.
“All the justices deserve our praise,” said Robert P. George, a Princeton University professor, contributor to the Federalist Society, and the author of an amicus brief in support of anti-choice petitioners in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe.
But there were limitations, George said: Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion “only went part of the way to vindicate the Constitution. … The Supreme Court did not declare the right of the unborn, but it did declare that Roe took away the right to legislate.” He pointed to the fifth section of the 14th Amendment, arguing that that “the equal protection of the laws” applies to “any person,” including the “unborn.” In an amicus brief George had submitted in Dobbs, he argued that states should be required to treat abortion as homicide.
The next panelist, Maureen Ferguson, tackled what she called “disinformation” from abortion-rights activists. “The abortion moment has flooded the national debate with disinformation,” she said, focusing on 10 talking points.
“No. 1: Women will die,” Ferguson said. “False. Every pro-life law contains a life for the mother exception.”
This goes against what medical professionals say. Jen Villavicencio, a physician with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told Forbes that “as the forced pregnancies now continue to term”—including those with life-threatening complications—“we will see more people die.” The New York Times recently reported that exceptions to abortion bans are rarely granted, even to women who qualify under state law.
And there are plenty in the pro-life movement—including representatives of organizations sitting in that ballroom—who are seeking to do away with the life of the mother exception. As The Atlantic’s Mary Zeigler reports:
Anti-abortion-rights groups, like Pro-Life Wisconsin, have described the “life of the mother” exception as unnecessary and wrong. The Idaho GOP just approved a platform with no lifesaving exception. Republican candidates like Matthew DePerno, the Republican running to be Michigan’s attorney general, oppose all exceptions to abortion bans, and that includes to save a mother’s life. Conservative states are rushing to eliminate or narrow existing exceptions to their laws. Powerful groups like Students for Life, Feminists for Life, and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) argue that “abortion is never medically necessary” and that doctors should always be punished for intentionally taking a fetal life.
Despite numerous outlets reporting that some women are being denied miscarriage treatment because hospitals are worried of running amok of new anti-abortion laws, Ferguson claimed that nothing of the sort was happening and that “every doctor knows the difference between miscarriage and abortion.”
She also said that women would not be thrown in jail with the end of Roe. But there are male lawmakers who are seeking to do just that. Throughout the country, a faction of self-proclaimed “abolitionists” are eager to punish women who receive an abortion with prison time. In Louisiana, one piece of legislation that would land women who have abortions “with the same criminal consequences as one who drowns her baby” made it one step closer to becoming a law, CNN reported.
Ferguson also claimed in vitro fertilization was not a target of the anti-choice movement, arguing that Roe’s decision was very narrow and only applied to abortion. But the following minute, she went on to claim that we know exactly when life begins—“at the fusion of sperm and egg.” Of course, by that definition, in vitro fertilization would be a target for the anti-choice movement, as it fuses sperms and eggs in a petri dish, picks the best embryo to implant and often discards the others.
Other panelists representing the Susan B. Anthony List and the Senate Pro-Life Caucus spoke about the need to pass federal legislation to limit abortion and encouraged attendees to pester their lawmakers to pass anti-choice legislation.
As the panel wound down, George urged attendees to “keep the baby in view. And we’ll win.”
Ferguson followed his lead by encouraging attendees to download the sound of an embryo at six weeks, so they could play the sound to anyone they speak to who favors abortion rights. “Well, here’s what a baby’s heartbeat sounds like at six weeks,” she said, playing the audio for the ballroom from her phone.
As the panel closed, attendees, which included hundreds of high school students, funneled out of the ballroom to the March for Life Expo. At the entrance was a booth for Alliance Defending Freedom, a multimillion-dollar anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ litigation shop, handing out free swag to excited students. ADF was central to the overturning of Roe and represented Mississippi in the Supreme Court case; its lawyers have previously bragged that they helped write the Mississippi law as part of their strategy to ban all abortions in the country.
Across from them was the Heritage Foundation, which handed out a packet of flyers and advertised a raffle for a prize of $500. Concerned Women for America advertised their Young Women for America program. Focus on The Family—a platinum sponsor of the March for Life and whose activists worked behind the scenes to get right-wing judges nominated to the federal court—had another stand, while GiveSendGo, the Christian fundraising site, also had a booth featuring a cash grab, a handwritten prize wheel, and a timeline of its company that featured its decision to offer a crowdfunding platform for Kyle Rittenhouse.
This article was originally published by Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission.
Image: Drew Petrimoulx / Shutterstock
‘X-Rated’: Christian Nationalist Mastriano Promises Bill to Ban Public Drag Shows After High School’s ‘Queer Prom’
Failed Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, a state senator, is saying he will submit legislation to ban drag shows in public by reclassifying them as “adult-oriented businesses,” amid right wing uproar over a high school’s “queer prom.”
“In the near future, I plan to introduce a bill to ban drag shows on public property or in areas that can be seen by minors,” Mastriano, a Trump-endorsed far right wing Christian nationalist who lost the 2022 gubernatorial race by a massive 14-point margin.
“In Pennsylvania, there has been an alarming uptick in drag performances that appeal to children,” Mastriano lamented in a memo to fellow lawmakers, as Fox 43 reports. “In April 2022, parents at a school district in Lancaster were shocked to learn about after-school X-rated drag shows occurring on school property. In October 2022, a sexually charged drag show for audience members as young as 13 was performed at the Rainbow Room in Bucks County.”
“Drag shows that appeal to minors on school property, libraries, and other public places should not be accepted in any functioning society,” Mastriano added.
Sen. Mastriano was caught on film leading a group in prayer just two weeks before the 2021 insurrection, asking God for the MAGA movement to overthrow the federal government, praying they would “seize the power” and “rise up” on January 6.
In one of his examples, Mastriano was referring to the Bucks County Rainbow Room’s Queer Prom, but his characterizations of drag shows and the queer prom are disputed.
Bucks County Courier Times reports that the Rainbow Room is part of Democratic state Sen. Steve Santarsiero’s district.
Santarsiero “attended the 2020 prom as legislator and a parent of a gay child. He said his younger son had come out as gay about eight months before and was compelled to comment after seeing the proposal.”
Santarsiero published his open letter to lawmakers responding to Mastriano’s announcement.
“I take particular exception to his distorted characterization of the Rainbow Room’s Queer Prom, a dance specifically arranged for LGBTO+ youth in Bucks County,” Santarsiero tells his fellow lawmakers. “The Rainbow Room, which Planned Parenthood established over 20 years ago to be a safe place for LGBTQ+ youth to come together and build self-esteem, first held the prom in February 2020 I was at that event, both as an elected official sponsoring it and as a parent (our younger son had come out as gay about 8 months before and was excited to attend the prom with his friends).”
He explains what he saw was kids who were “happy,” and “happy to be in a loving environment where it was OK to be themselves.”
“What I observed in person in 2020 – and again by watching the video of the 2022 prom – was a large group of teenagers having fun. What struck me, in fact, was that they could have been kids -gay or straight – at any school in the country. For the most part, they danced with the same awkwardness as any other teenager – I say that endearingly as someone who even in late middle- age is still awkward on the dance floor. What was apparent was that each one of them was happy. They were happy to be with their friends and happy to be in a loving environment where it was OK to be themselves.”
Calling it “an important point,” Santarsiero observes: “Many of these students do not feel accepted by their peers – although it has been my experience both as a teacher and a parent that the younger generations are far more open to them than older ones – and at times by adults, which, sadly, can include family members Indeed, the Central Bucks School District, where many of these students attend school, is presently led by a board majority that has created an educational environment that is openly hostile to LBGIQ+ youth. So, having an organization like the Rainbow Room and an event like the Queer Prom can very literally save the lives of kids who otherwise experience feelings of depression and isolation. I can share from personal experience that Ronni and I are deeply indebted to the Rainbow Room for how it helped our son on the road to becoming the confident young man that he is.”
He appeared to take particular exception to Mastriano calling it “sexually charged.”
“As for it being sexually charged, I will not attempt to get into the gentleman’s mind to decipher what exactly he meant by that phrase, although I note that it is one that is most often used by those, who, solely on their own authority, take on the mantel of arbiter of morality in ironic disregard of the biblical admonition against judging. I would simply suggest that it might be a challenge to find a prom in America at which someone would not be offended by what they would consider inappropriate behavior or dress. With that in mind, we should be careful not to hold LGBTQ+ youth to a different standard than that of straight young people,” Santarsiero said.
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