Don’t Let Trump Steal the Show With ‘Stop the Steal’

You cannot actually debunk Republican accusations of voter fraud. You can show they aren’t true (and they aren’t), but that has no bearing on the belief itself.

“Voter fraud” is not a factual claim subject to testing and objective analysis as much as it’s a statement of ideology, a belief about the way the world works. In practice, to accuse Democrats of voter fraud is to say that Democratic voters are not legitimate political actors, that their votes do not count the same as those of “the people” (that is, the Republican electorate) and that Democratic officials, elected with those illegitimate votes, have no rightful claim to power.

In a sense, one should take accusations of voter fraud seriously but not literally, as apologists for Donald Trump once said of the former president. These accusations, the more florid the better, tell the audience that the speaker is aligned with Trump and that he or she supported his attempt to subvert the 2020 presidential election. They also tell the audience that the speaker will do anything necessary to “stop the steal,” which is to say anything to stop a Republican from losing an election and, barring that, anything to delegitimize the Democrat who won.

In the last days of the California recall election that ended this week, for example, the leading Republican candidate, Larry Elder, urged his supporters to report fraud using a website that claimed to have “detected fraud” in the results. “Statistical analyses used to detect fraud in elections held in third-world nations (such as Russia, Venezuela, and Iran) have detected fraud in California resulting in Governor Gavin Newsom being reinstated as governor,” the site readElder himself told Fox News that the 2020 election was “full of shenanigans.”

“My fear is they’re going to try that in this election right here,” he said.

Never mind that the results had not yet come in at the time Elder promoted this website, or that he was a long shot to begin with. The last Republican to win statewide high office in California was Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, when he ran successfully for re-election after winning the 2003 recall vote against the Democrat Gray Davis. Newsom, a Democrat, won his 2018 race for governor by nearly 24 points. Elder was not doomed to lose, but the idea that the election was rigged — that he was robbed of victory by mass cheating and fraud — was ridiculous. But again, the point of voter fraud accusations isn’t to describe reality; the point is to express a belief, in this case, the belief that Newsom and his supporters are illegitimate.

There are other candidates running for office making similar claims. Adam Laxalt, the leading candidate for the Republican nomination in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race, has promised to “file lawsuits early” in order to “tighten up the election.” Laxalt co-chaired Trump’s 2020 campaign in the state and supported the effort to overturn the results. “There’s no question that, unfortunately, a lot of the lawsuits and a lot of the attention spent on Election Day operations just came too late,” he said in a recent interview.

Trump endorsed Laxalt this summer, praising his commitment to the voter fraud narrative. “He fought valiantly against the Election Fraud, which took place in Nevada,” said Trump in a statement. “He is strong on Secure Borders and defending America against the Radical Left. Adam has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

This isn’t just rhetoric, either. The ideological belief in voter fraud is driving actual efforts to delegitimize Democratic Party victories and tilt the electoral playing field in favor of Republican candidates. In Florida, for instance, a member of the state House of Representatives introduced a draft bill that would require an Arizona-style election audit in the state’s largest (and most heavily Democratic) counties.

In Georgia, a Trump-backed candidate for secretary of state, Jody Hice, is running on a promise to do what the incumbent Brad Raffensperger wouldn’t: subvert the election for Trump’s benefit should the former president make another bid for the White House. “If elected, I will instill confidence in our election process by upholding the Georgia Constitution, enforcing meaningful reform and aggressively pursuing those who commit voter fraud,” Hice said in a statement announcing his candidacy in March. As a congressman, he voted against certifying the 2020 election in January and, the following month, told a group of conservative activists, “What happened this past election was solely because of a horrible secretary of state and horrible decisions that he made.”

There is also the question of Republican voters themselves. According to a Monmouth University poll taken in June, nearly one-third of Americans believe that Joe Biden’s victory was the result of fraud, including 63 percent of Republicans. If Republican politicians keep pushing the voter fraud narrative, it is as much because Republican voters want to hear it as it is because those politicians are themselves true believers.

If this voter fraud ideology were just a matter of bad information, that would be straightforward (if not exactly easy) to fix. But as the legal scholar Ned Foley has argued, the assertion of fraud — the falsification of reality in support of narrow political goals — is more akin to McCarthyism. It cannot be reasoned with, only defeated.

The problem is that to break the hold of this ideology on Republican voters, you need Republican politicians to lead the charge. A Margaret Chase Smith, for example. But as long as Trump controls the party faithful — as long as he is, essentially, the center of a cult of personalitythose voices, if they even exist, won’t say in public what they almost certainly say behind closed doors.

It is up to Democrats, then, to at least safety-proof our electoral system against another attempt to “stop the steal.” The Senate filibuster makes that a long shot as well, even as centrist Democrats like Joe Manchin insist that there’s a compromise to strike with Republicans. Let’s hope he’s right because at this stage of the game, it is the only move left to play.

Mueller braces for challenges to his authority

The special counsel has won some early court victories in the Russia investigation, but with charges filed defense attorneys and others are lining up to rein in the probe.

.. the criminal case against former Donald Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates speeds toward a possible spring 2018 trial
.. Kevin Downing, Manafort’s lead attorney …. Downing also said he may try to prevent Mueller’s prosecutors from presenting some of their evidence during the criminal trial.

.. “’Distort, detract, deny’ is a common playbook for defense lawyers,” said Julie Myers Wood, a former Whitewater prosecutor. “And if the allegations are serious here, I wouldn’t expect the lawyers to sit back or withhold any tool in a quest to undermine the perception of Mueller’s legitimacy.”

.. Past independent counsel and special prosecutor cases are rife with legal battles that can come to rival the actual investigation. Michael Deaver, a former senior aide to President Ronald Reagan, tried without success to halt an independent counsel conflict-of-interest probe into his post-White House work by claiming the investigator held a grudge against him.
During the Iran-Contra probe, Lt. Col. Oliver North similarly failed to get the Supreme Court to consider his bid to block the investigation.
.. Trump himself told the New York Times in July that he would consider it “a violation” if Mueller’s investigators looked into his personal finances. And the president’s personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, told POLITICO on Thursday he is primed to lodge formal objections with either Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if the Russia investigation took a wide or unexpected detour into issues like an old Trump real-estate deal.
.. “Whenever you operate in uncharted legal territory, and this would be an example, you’d expect defense lawyers to push the envelope and edges
.. In a case like Manafort’s, Mueller may be wise to hand it over to DOJ for prosecution
.. But Rotunda also said a court is unlikely to give a defendant standing to object to Mueller’s jurisdiction. “The only entity that could object is the DOJ,” he said.
..  U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson has proposed should go to trial starting May 7
.. Jackson also told the attorneys for Mueller and the defense that she’s considering issuing a gag order that limits the public statements both sides may make about the case.
.. Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled last month in the special counsel’s favor when he tried to seek grand jury testimony from an attorney for Manafort and Gates.
.. Richard Ben-Veniste, a former Watergate prosecutor, said that he expected defense lawyers representing indicted defendants to keep on challenging Mueller’s authority and jurisdiction. “I would also expect such challenges to be unavailing,” he said, “as Mueller’s authority to act is on firm legal ground.”

The Problem with ‘Lock Them Up’ Politics Read more at:

The criminalization of political differences destroys what’s left of civility in our political culture.

.. For a year, Democrats listened to crowds at Trump rallies and even the delegates at the Republican National Convention engage in chants of “lock her up.” Today, the Internet is reverberating with Democrats engaging in some virtual revenge as the latest leaks about the investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians have indicated that Jared Kushner is a “person of interest.”

That means liberals are chortling about the president’s son-in-law having to choose between a jail cell and informing on his wife’s father.

.. Flynn is, of course, in no position to complain about people hoping to see him in jail, since he was the one that led the crowd in “lock her up” chants at the GOP convention in Cleveland.

.. The problem is that both parties seem to have lost the ability to oppose an administration or candidate without seeking to “lock up” the other side.

.. The current process by which foes are delegitimized means that all too many Americans don’t merely disagree with their opponents. The questioning of motives has now escalated to the point where Democrats believe that Republicans are not merely hard-hearted tools of the corporate class but willing to commit treason to gain a political advantage or increase profits to private interests.

.. many on the right not only condoned Trump’s birther smears about Obama but actually thought Hillary Clinton wanted four Americans to be murdered by terrorists in Benghazi and deliberately exposed U.S. secrets to foreign powers.

.. tolerance of opposing views in the public square has been discarded in favor of a Facebook-feed mentality in which all ideas and persons who don’t confirm our pre-existing prejudices and assumptions can be deleted and “defriended.”

The result isn’t just the collapse of civility that is taken for granted on both sides of the aisle but a political cycle in which the impulse to criminalize differences has become the default reaction to losing an election

If that is where we are, America is not merely a bifurcated nation but well on its way to banana-republic status.

All the times Trump personally attacked judges — and why his tirades are ‘worse than wrong’

A White House statement Tuesday about a federal district judge’s ruling on Trump’s executive order on “sanctuary cities” did not mince words. It emphasized — more than once — that the judge who just ruled against the administration is not an elected official.

.. Trump is sending a dangerous message in his latest attack on the judiciary: “As the leader of the free world, I should be able to do what I choose. The court shouldn’t be able to get involved.”

Geyh said that attitude shows a lack of understanding of the equal roles of the three branches of government, specifically of the judiciary’s job to serve as a check on the executive branch.

.. “Presidents have disagreed with court rulings all the time. What’s unusual is he’s essentially challenging the legitimacy of the court’s role. And he’s doing that without any reference to applicable law,” Geyh told The Washington Post. “That they are blocking his order is all the evidence he needs that they are exceeding their authority.”

“That’s worse than wrong,” Geyh added. “On some level, that’s dangerous.”

.. Trumps’s attacks on the federal judiciary began even before he took office.

.. U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel was the target of racially tinged remarks by the Republican presidential nominee last June. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump said that Curiel’s ethnicity should have disqualified him from presiding over fraud lawsuits against the now-defunct Trump University.

He argued that because of his hard-line immigration policies, having a judge of Mexican heritage preside over a lawsuit against him presented an “absolute conflict” of interest.

.. “They ought to look into Judge Curiel because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace. Okay?”