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    US prosecutors investigate Republicans who sent fake Trump electors to Congress

    US prosecutors investigate Republicans who sent fake Trump electors to Congress‘Fraudulent elector certifications’ sent from states won by Biden in effort to subvert election result and declare Trump the winner Federal prosecutors have launched an investigation into the attempt by Republicans in seven presidential battleground states won by Joe Biden in 2020 to subvert the election result by sending bogus slates of Donald Trump electors to Congress.The ploy was one of the central tactics used by Trump loyalists as part of the “big lie” that he had defeated his Democratic challenger. The fake slates of electors were forwarded to congressional leaders, who then came under pressure to delay certification of Biden’s victory on 6 January 2021, the day of the Capitol insurrection.In an interview on CNN, the deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco, revealed that the justice department has begun an investigation into what she called the “fraudulent elector certifications”. She said the department had received referrals on the matter and “our prosecutors are looking at those”.Monaco added: “We are going to follow the facts and the law wherever they lead to address conduct of any kind and at any level that is part of an assault on our democracy.”Fake slates of Trump electors were sent to Congress from seven states in fact won by Biden – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Of those, two – New Mexico and Pennsylvania – added the caveat that the Trump electors should only be counted in the event of a disputed election.The other five states sent signed statements to Washington giving the appearance that Trump had won despite clear and verified counts placing Biden on top.Under America’s arcane presidential election system, US presidents are not chosen directly by voters but indirectly through electoral college votes meted out state by state. Official certificates naming the electors for the winning candidate in each state are then sent to Washington to be certified, in this case on 6 January, when hundreds of violent Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to disrupt the process.Earlier this month the pro-democracy group American Oversight obtained under freedom of information laws the bogus certificates from all seven states in which Republicans attempted to overturn the election result. The certificate from Georgia, one of the most hotly contested states in 2020, reads: “We, the undersigned, being the duly elected and qualified electors for president and vice president of the United States of America from the state of Georgia …”The fake statement then carries the names and signatures of 16 fake electors who claimed falsely to have cast their electoral college votes for Trump when in fact they had no legal standing to do so. The move was in direct contravention to the actual vote in Georgia, confirmed in multiple counts, which Biden won by 11,779 votes.Democratic attorneys general in at least two of the seven states – New Mexico and Michigan – have now asked federal prosecutors to examine whether drawing up the bogus certificates amounted to a crime. Their referrals appear to have triggered the DoJ’s investigation.The fact that Republicans left a paper trail by sending their phony certificates to both Congress and the National Archives suggest that they may now face legal peril. The House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection has also recently begun to focus on the fake Trump electors, and particularly those who organized the plot.A figure of special interest is Rudy Giuliani, who acted as a lawyer for the Trump campaign and who has been reported to have spearheaded the fake elector strategy. The January 6 committee sent Giuliani a subpoena letter earlier this month specifically referring to his efforts instigating the ploy.Another area of intense interest is the draft letter prepared in December 2020 by Jeffrey Clark, a relatively lowly justice department official, who tried to persuade Georgia and six other states won by Biden to call back their electors from Congress and consider replacing them with Trump electors. The letter was never officially sent after the acting US attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, refused to play ball.The fake electors tactic was also central to the election subversion strategy laid out for Trump by the conservative lawyer John Eastman. In a now notorious two-page memo handed to Trump and the then vice-president, Mike Pence, in the Oval Office, Eastman argued that Pence could block the certification of Biden’s victory on 6 January.Pence had the constitutional role of presiding over the joint session of Congress that would certify the election results – a process usually considered purely ceremonial. But Eastman advised him that when he opened the electoral college ballot from Arizona he should announce that “he has multiple slates of electors, and so is going to defer decision on that”.By “multiple slates”, Eastman was referring to the official slate of electors returned by Arizona in favor of Biden who won the state by 10,457 votes and the fake slate of Trump electors that is now under federal investigation.TopicsUS newsUS politicsRepublicansDonald TrumpUS elections 2020newsReuse this content More

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    ‘The walls are closing in’: Trump reels from week of political setbacks

    ‘The walls are closing in’: Trump reels from week of political setbacks It was a terrible seven days, with major developments in investigations of his election lies and the Capitol riot reaching into his inner circle

    ‘House of Trump is crumbling’: why the legal net is tightening
    The last time Donald Trump heard such hammer blows, they were from renovations at Mar-a-Lago that displeased the former president. But not even that sound would have left his ears ringing like last week’s avalanche of bad news that some believe nudged a criminal indictment one step closer.Rudy Giuliani and Michael Flynn to see honorary university degrees revokedRead moreNo single week in the year since Trump left the White House has been as dramatic, or for him as potentially catastrophic, as the one just passed.It included a rebuke from the supreme court over documents related to the 6 January insurrection which Trump incited; news that the congressional committee investigating the riot was closing in on Trump’s inner circle; evidence from New York’s attorney general of alleged tax fraud; and, perhaps most damaging of all, a request from a Georgia prosecutor for a grand jury in her investigation of Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election.The week ended with the leaking of a document showing that Trump at least pondered harnessing the military in his attempts to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.It all left the former president with plenty to ponder.“He’s Teflon Don, he said he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and survive it, his supporters are going to support him no matter what, but I’m starting to think more and more that the walls are closing in on this guy,” said Kimberley Wehle, a respected legal analyst and professor of law at the University of Baltimore.“The most immediate thing is the grand jury in Georgia because there’s audio of him trying to get [secretary of state] Brad Raffensperger to ‘find’ votes. Under Georgia election laws as I read them that is potentially a crime.“The looming question is whether Trump will be indicted along with 11 others so far for seditious conspiracy [over the 6 January Capitol attack]. To me that’s the biggest turn of events … the justice department believes they have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt of an agreement, a meeting of minds to overturn a legitimate election.“And that there are a lot of high-level people that are looped into it, including potentially Donald Trump himself, and of course he’s not president, so he’s not immune from prosecution any more.”It is that Department of Justice investigation into the deadly Capitol assault, parallel but separate to the 6 January House committee, which harbors the most legal peril for Trump. Some believe sedition charges for members of the Oath Keepers militia indicate that the inquiry has moved into a higher gear.Others, most recently Preet Bharara, former district attorney for the southern district of New York, have questioned why it appears members of Trump’s inner guard, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows, have not yet been questioned.“It’s just not a possibility they’ve tried to interview, you know, a dozen of the top people at and around the White House like the [6 January] committee has [because] they squeal like stuck pigs when people approach them,” Bharara told The New Abnormal podcast, a Daily Beast podcast.“It’s odd to have allowed all this testimony to be collected, all these documents to be subpoenaed and compiled, and they don’t look like they’ve done any of these interviews. There are some lower-level people who breached the doors to the Capitol, but I don’t think those people are giving it up in a straight line to Trump.”At a rare press conference earlier this month, the attorney general, Merrick Garland, did not mention Trump by name but sought to reassure critics of his investigation.“The justice department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law – whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy,” he said in a carefully worded address.The objectives of the House committee are easier to divine and more likely in the immediate term to cause political harm to Trump as he mulls another White House run.Thursday’s request for testimony from his daughter Ivanka, a former White House adviser, brings the investigation to the heart of Trump’s inner circle. Trump’s actions are also set to be explored in primetime TV hearings that Jamie Raskin, a Democratic member of the committee, has promised will “blow the roof off the House”.The panel also scored a big victory on Wednesday when the supreme court ended Trump’s efforts to shield more than 700 pages of White House records. The treasure trove of documents included a draft executive order directing the Department of Defense to seize voting machines, and appointing a special counsel to look into the election, in support of Trump’s “big lie” that the election was stolen.“Documents don’t die, they don’t lie,” Wehle said. “A witness can say, ‘Oh, I don’t recall,’ and dance around it. Documents cannot. Secondly, the documents will lead to more people to discuss what happened, including Ivanka Trump.”Trump himself has been uncharacteristically quiet about his week of setbacks, other than two statements attacking Fani Willis, the Democratic district attorney for Fulton county, Georgia, for requesting a grand jury to assist her investigation into his election interference.Draft Trump order told defense chief to seize swing-state voting machinesRead more“The people looking for the crime are being hounded and the people who committed the crime are being protected,” he said. “This is not the American way.”To Wehle, the week’s developments have significance not only for Trump but for November midterm elections in which Republicans are tipped to reclaim Congress.“We have to think about the January 6th committee as getting information to voters before November about sitting members who might be up for reelection,” she said.“The question is not so much whether Trump will be indicted, but who in a seat of power in the US Congress was potentially involved in this conspiracy.“Frankly, if American democracy is to be saved from single-party minority rule, November is absolutely vital.”TopicsDonald TrumpUS Capitol attackUS politicsUS elections 2020US midterm elections 2022US elections 2024US CongressfeaturesReuse this content More

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    Draft Trump order told defense chief to seize swing-state voting machines

    Draft Trump order told defense chief to seize swing-state voting machinesUnpublished executive order, obtained by Politico, among documents provided to January 6 panel after court ruling

    US politics – live coverage
    In the heady days between Donald Trump’s defeat in November 2020 and the 6 January insurrection at the US Capitol, an executive order was prepared. It commanded the defense secretary to seize voting machines in battleground states, as part of Trump’s “big lie” that the vote was rigged.Michael Flynn allies allegedly plotted to lean on Republicans to back vote auditsRead moreThe draft executive order, obtained and published by Politico, was never sent and its author is unknown. It was part of a cache of documents handed over to the House committee investigating the 6 January violence, after the supreme court ruled this week that Trump could not shield himself from oversight on grounds of executive privilege.The disclosure of the draft order adds to evidence of the lengths to which Trump and his close advisers were prepared to go to keep him in the White House, against the will of the American people. Under the draft order, the defense secretary would have been required to carry out an assessment of the voting machines “no later than 60 days from commencement of operations”.That would have pushed the chaos that Trump assiduously attempted to sow around Joe Biden’s legitimate victory well beyond the handover of power at the inauguration on 20 January.The publication of the document will provoke intense speculation as to who wrote it. Politico pointed out that at the time the draft order was dated, 16 December 2020, the idea of seizing voting machines in key states was being vigorously promoted by Sidney Powell, a controversial lawyer who had Trump’s ear at the time.The document outlines the seizure of voting machines by the Pentagon under federal emergency powers. That would in itself have been incendiary, as it would have amounted to a dramatic display of federal over state power of the sort normally fiercely resisted by Republicans.The author of the draft order seeks to justify such a contentious move by regurgitating conspiracy theories. For example, pointing to voting machines, the document says there is “evidence of international and foreign interference in the November 3, 2020, election”.It names Dominion Voting Systems, a leading provider of voting machines that has become the target of rightwing conspiracy theorists and big lie merchants. Dominion has sued several purveyors of false claims that its products were used to swing the election from Trump to Biden.“Dominion Voting Systems and related companies are owned or heavily controlled and influenced by foreign agents, countries, and interests,” the draft order falsely claims.The draft also singles out Antrim county, Michigan. Claims that voting machines in that county were compromised have been thoroughly rebutted, including by state election authorities.A second document was also leaked to Politico from the new mountain of paperwork received by the 6 January committee. Titled Remarks on National Healing, it appears to be the text of a speech Trump never delivered.The tone of the speech is striking because it stands in stark contrast to the approach Trump actually adopted in the wake of the Capitol violence. Still president for two weeks, he attempted to belittle the significance of the day.Had this alternative speech been given, Trump would have sent out a very different message. It describes 6 January as a “heinous attack” that left him “outraged and sickened by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem”.The text added: “The Demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy.”TopicsUS elections 2020Donald TrumpUS politicsUS voting rightsTrump administrationnewsReuse this content More

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    MyPillow CEO faces defamation lawsuit from second voting machine maker

    MyPillow CEO faces defamation lawsuit from second voting machine makerMike Lindell is being sued by UK-based company Smartmatic over his claims that it switched votes from Trump to Biden in 2020 The MyPillow CEO, Mike Lindell, is facing another defamation lawsuit for promoting his conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was rigged against Donald Trump.Smartmatic, a UK-based voting machine company, filed a lawsuit against Lindell on Tuesday claiming that Lindell espoused lies about the company switching votes from Trump to Joe Biden in order to better sell his products.MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell turned away from Republican governors conventionRead more“Crazy like a fox. Mike Lindell knows exactly what he is doing, and it is dangerous,” Smartmatic said in the lawsuit, filed to a federal court in Minnesota. “Lindell intentionally stoked the fires of xenophobia and party-divide for the noble purpose of selling his pillows.”The company noted that the MyPillow brand was “a ubiquitous feature” and was “strategically placed” during his media appearances.Lindell is already facing a $1.3bn lawsuit from Dominion, another voting machine company, that was filed last February. In August, a federal judge gave the green light for the lawsuit against Lindell to move forward to a trial.Smartmatic is seeking unspecified monetary damages in its suit.Multiple investigations into the 2020 election have found no evidence of the widespread voter fraud that Lindell and other Trump allies have been claiming. Lindell has spent the last year advancing his conspiracy theory, funding a three-week bus tour and a three-day “cyber symposium” on the election.In response to Smartmatic’s lawsuit, Lindell said he was “excited” to present evidence that he has against the company.“They’re guilty. They’ve attacked us and were part of the biggest crime in history against our country. And they’re going to all go to prison,” Lindell told Business Insider. Lindell also pointed out that he had lost more than $80m after large retailers dropped his product and that he had spent $30m of his own money trying to prove his election fraud theories.In addition to Smartmatic’s lawsuit, the state of Idaho on Tuesday sent Lindell a cease-and-desist letter ordering him to remove false statements about the state’s election from his website. The state, which voted for Trump in the 2020 election, also billed Lindell $6,558.83 to cover the cost the state spent refuting Lindell’s claims.Despite the multiple lawsuits that he faces, Lindell is still actively promoting his theories on the 2020 election. Most recently, Lindell was seen on a conservative media site saying that he had “enough evidence to put everybody in prison for life, 300 and some million people”, though 159 million people voted in the 2020 election.TopicsUS newsUS elections 2020newsReuse this content More

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    Michael Flynn allies allegedly plotted to lean on Republicans to back vote audits

    Michael Flynn allies allegedly plotted to lean on Republicans to back vote auditsEx-whistleblower says group enlisted his help to seek potentially damaging information on two members of Congress to prod them to back audits in key states Trump lost FBI agents and the House panel investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol have both learned of an alleged plan by allies of retired army Lt Gen Michael Flynn to gather “intelligence” on top Republicans to “move” them to back election audits in key states Trump lost, said ex-whistleblower Everett Stern who talked to the panel and the FBI.Stern, who runs the intelligence firm Tactical Rabbit and is a Republican vying for a Senate seat in Pennsylvania, in multiple interviews with the Guardian said two Flynn associates with the rightwing Patriot Caucus group enlisted his help in April in a scheme to seek potentially damaging information on two Republican members of Congress to prod them to back an audit of the 2020 vote that Joe Biden won.Stern told the Guardian he spent several hours in November telling House panel investigators about the alleged drive by Flynn associates who sought campaign finance and other dirt on Pennsylvania’s senator Pat Toomey and congressman Brian Fitzpatrick to win their support for an audit to bolster Trump’s debunked charges that Biden’s win was fraudulent.A long shot candidate to succeed the retiring Toomey, Stern said he alerted the FBI in June when he learned more details of the bizarre drive by Flynn allies to specifically target the two Republicans, both of whom backed impeaching Trump after the January 6 insurrection.The efforts by Flynn’s Patriot Caucus allies were launched after Trump failed to block Biden from taking office, and are part of a wider drive by Trump loyalists and Flynn to help boost Trump’s political fortunes via more state audits nationwide into false charges that Biden’s win was rigged, and elect like-minded candidates in key states to top electoral offices.Stern provided text messages, emails and other documents revealing he had multiple contacts with one of the Patriot Caucus members, Velma Anne Ruth, and two other influential Flynn allies, Houston real estate mogul Al Hartman and former army green beret Ivan Raiklin, who were pushing audits in several key states.Stern said Flynn’s Patriot Caucus associates first approached him in Pennsylvania for possible help after an April Republican party event, and soon after told Stern in phone calls they worked with Flynn and the Patriot Caucus, and planned to recruit “former domestic and foreign intelligence officials” to facilitate their scheme.The plan by Flynn’s allies alarmed Stern, but as a former whistleblower involved in exposing a large bank money laundering scandal by HSBC in 2012, he told the Guardian he decided to play along for a few months to glean information to expose the Trump allies’ scheme.Stern expressed dismay that Flynn’s Patriot Caucus associates “don’t understand that Biden is the president. They wanted to collect information through Tactical Rabbit and my campaign,” to turn up the heat on Toomey and Fitzpatrick to back an audit which Stern viewed as potentially “extortion”.Stern gave the Guardian a voice mail he received in which Hartman talked about leaning on moderate Republican “RINOs” in Pennsylvania to gain support for an audit of that state’s vote which Biden won by over 80,000, and Hartman said a similar drive in Michigan was needed.Stern said Hartman wanted to use Tactical Rabbit’s intelligence gathering tools and his campaign to dig up potentially embarrassing campaign finance information and other dirt about the Pennsylvania members, plus Republican political figures in Michigan who were also resisting audits.Hartman and Raiklin also talked with Stern about meeting Flynn, Trump’s disgraced ex-national security adviser, and proposed compensating him for his information via campaign donations, said Stern.In an April exchange of Hartman text messages seen by the Guardian, Hartman asked a Flynn scheduler to help “connect” Flynn with Stern whose Senate campaign and credentials he touted highly, calling Stern a “strong believer”, in their cause.Although Stern tipped off the FBI in June about what he deemed a threat to national security and he said he met with agents again in November, it’s not clear if his allegations are still being pursued.Stern’s allegations have echoes of Flynn’s scheming with Trump and other loyalists in late 2020 to thwart Biden’s win, efforts that included a White House meeting with Trump where Flynn proposed declaring martial law in several states Biden won and then rerunning the election there.In November, the House panel probing the January 6 Capitol attack subpoenaed Flynn who Trump had pardoned post election even though he had pled guilty twice to lying to the FBI during the Russia investigation. In response to the subpoena to testify and turn over documents, Flynn sued the panel but a judge quickly dismissed his lawsuit last month.John Sipher, who was in the CIA’s clandestine services for 28 years, shares Stern’s view of Flynn who he knew in the military and shortly thereafter. “I am appalled by what he has become,” Sipher said in an email.Asked if he thought the FBI was pursuing Stern’s charges, Sipher said: “I would hope and assume they are taking this seriously.”While Fitzpatrick and Toomey were the main “targets” Stern said other Pennsylvania officials including judges were also being targeted by the Flynn allies as they sought to ramp up pressure for an audit in the state.Neither Fitzpatrick or Toomey’s offices replied to multiple requests for comment.The Patriot Caucus, a coalition of Patriot and other rightwing groups in some two dozen states with which Raiklin and Hartman have ties, according to Stern and documents, has worked with Trump loyalists like Flynn to push audits in key states Biden won, and backed Trump allies for governor, and other top posts in states like Pennsylvania and Arizona Trump lost.Flynn himself on 7 January publicly endorsed another Trump ally and election audit promoter, Doug Mastriano for governor in Pennsylvania, at a campaign rally also attended by Raiklin.Flynn has also endorsed two Trump backed candidates in Arizona: Kari Lake, an ex-Fox News figure for governor, and Mark Finchem, a state representative who attended the January 6 Stop the Steal rally, for secretary of state.To coordinate national efforts, Raiklin and Hartman on 3 July spearheaded one of a series of “Election Integrity” calls with Trump loyalists, lawyers and donors to discuss the status of audits efforts in several states and other plans to cast doubt on Biden’s win, according to an Arizona senate document shared by the watchdog group American Oversight.“Join us every second Saturday for SITUATION UPDATES and COLLABORATION from active leaders in the election remediation process at state level – attorneys with Mike Lindell and Patrick Byrne, data analysts, state legislators, gubernatorial candidates, and grassroots activists whose goal is completing a cyber forensic audit in their state,” the Arizona document reads.A who’s who list of Trump loyalists and groups invited to join these calls included the America Project and America’s Future, both of which Flynn played key roles with as they poured some $2m into a discredited audit of Arizona’s largest county, plus the Patriot Caucus’ Velma Anne Ruth, Finchem and Byrne, the millionaire chief financier of the Arizona audit.Hartman in emails with Stern obtained by the Guardian invited him in June to attend a religious far right meeting known as Ziklag in Dallas where he could meet separately with Flynn. Stern said Hartman told him a “private meeting was going to be arranged with Flynn” who Stern was told wanted to meet him.After indicating to Hartman he would attend, Stern opted to cancel at the last minute after his lawyer indicated there could be legal repercussions from a meeting with Flynn. “I thought it was extremely dangerous to meet with a three star general who I believed had broken the law.”“They planned to give my campaign funds to help me” develop damaging information on Toomey and Fitzpatrick, Stern claimed. “It was like a wink, wink. Hartman is the man behind the curtain. He’s an operative and financier,” promoting audits.Hartman has long been a donor to the right. He’s on the advisory council for the pro Trump Turning Point USA and has been active in the conservative donor network led by oil billionaire Charles Koch.Raiklin, an army reserve officer who reportedly has known Flynn since 2014, is facing an internal army reserve probe into possible violations of rules barring partisan political activity, according to a military official who spoke to Reuters last month.Raiklin in December 2020 outlined a wild scheme in tweets and a podcast to thwart Biden’s win, charging a vast conspiracy that included Pence, intelligence, China and Big Tech, as Reuters reported. Raiklin told Trump to “activate the emergency broadcast system,” and deployed the hashtag #FightLikeAFlynn, stressing that “we the people are going to force this plan on them”.Neither Hartman or Raiklin replied to multiple calls seeking comment.A Flynn scheduler did not respond to questions for the story.Velma Anne Ruth with the Patriot Caucus, who was photographed with Stern at a June event in Pennsylvania where she wore a tank top that said General Flynn, called Stern’s charges “delusional, fabricated and defamatory”, in a text message. Stern said he shared the photo and other documents involving exchanges he had with Ruth with the FBI.Senior ex-prosecutors and intelligence officials say Stern’s allegations merit law enforcement attention.“Stern’s allegations suggest serious crimes,” said ex-prosecutor Paul Rosenzweig who worked on Ken Starr’s team during the impeachment of Bill Clinton. “If his allegations were corroborated by extrinsic evidence they clearly would warrant investigation.”Former CIA official Sipher, who has spoken with Stern before, said: “Everett is someone with a strong sense of right and wrong, and willing to suffer the consequences of doing the right thing. We would be better served to have more people like Everett in public life.”TopicsDonald TrumpUS elections 2020US politicsRepublicansnewsReuse this content More

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    Georgia prosecutor seeks special grand jury into Trump’s election interference

    Georgia prosecutor seeks special grand jury into Trump’s election interferenceDA requests subpoena power to compel testimony from witnesses, such as Brad Raffensperger, who Trump asked to ‘find’ 11,780 votes The prosecutor for Georgia’s biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into former US president Donald Trump’s efforts to influence the state’s 2020 election results.In a letter to Fulton county’s chief judge, first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper, district attorney Fani Willis wrote that multiple witnesses have refused to cooperate without a subpoena requiring their testimony.“Therefore, I am hereby requesting … that a special purpose grand jury be impaneled for the purpose of investigating the facts and circumstances relating directly or indirectly to possible attempts to disrupt the lawful administration of the 2020 elections in the State of Georgia,” Willis wrote.The investigation by Willis, a Democrat, is the most serious inquiry facing Trump in Georgia after he was recorded in a phone call pressuring Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to overturn the states election results based on unfounded claims of voter fraud.Criminal inquiry into Trump’s Georgia election interference gathers steamRead moreThe prosecutor specifically mentioned that Raffensperger, whom she described as an “essential witness”, had indicated he would only take part in an interview once presented with a subpoena.A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Trump adviser previously criticized the investigation as a “witch-hunt” designed to “score political points”.A spokesperson for the superior courts in Fulton county, which encompasses most of the state capital Atlanta, said there was no immediate timeline for a response to Willis’s request.In the letter, Willis said a special grand jury, which can subpoena witnesses, was needed because jurors can be impaneled for longer periods and focus exclusively on a single investigation.During the 2 January 2021 call, the former Republican president urged Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn his Georgia loss to Democrat Joe Biden. The transcript quotes Trump telling Raffensperger: “I just want to find 11,780 votes,” which is the number Trump would have needed to win Georgia.Legal experts have said Trump’s phone calls may have violated at least three state election laws: conspiracy to commit election fraud, criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, and intentional interference with performance of election duties.The possible felony and misdemeanor violations are punishable by fines or imprisonment.TopicsGeorgiaUS politicsDonald TrumpUS elections 2020newsReuse this content More

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    Cyber Ninjas, firm that conducted Arizona election ‘audit’, shuts down

    Cyber Ninjas, firm that conducted Arizona election ‘audit’, shuts downCompany has failed to comply with court order to turn over public documents from review beset by shoddy working and infighting Cyber Ninjas, the firm that was contracted by Arizona Republicans to carry out a widely-criticized review of 2.1m ballots cast in the presidential election, is shutting down amid a legal battle seeking to force the company to make documents from the review public.Assault on American democracy has gained pace since US Capitol attackRead moreA judge fined the company $50,000 a day on Thursday – 50 times the amount requested by plaintiffs – for failing to comply with a court order to turn over public records, in a lawsuit brought by the Phoenix-based Arizona Republic newspaper.During the same hearing, a lawyer representing Cyber Ninjas, Jack Wilenchik, begged the judge to allow him to withdraw from representing the firm. He said he had not been paid for his work and that the company was insolvent.Rod Thomson, a spokesman for the company, confirmed in an email on Thursday evening that the company was shutting down.He said Doug Logan, the founder and chief executive who oversaw the review after expressing support for the disinformation pushed by Donald Trump and allies that the 2020 election was stolen by the Democrats, was no longer with the company.“Doug Logan and the rest of the employees have been let go and Cyber Ninjas is being shut down,” he said in an email. He did not respond to questions about why the company was closing.John Hannah, the local judge overseeing the case, warned that the firm could not escape having to turn over documents by shutting down.“The court is not going to accept the assertion that Cyber Ninjas is an empty shell and that no one is responsible for seeing that it complies,” he said, according to the Arizona Republic.The shutdown marks an abrupt turn for a company that led an effort Trump and allies around the country once saw as their most promising effort to prove widespread irregularities in the 2020 election.The effort raised a staggering $5.7m from outside groups. State lawmakers from around the country flew to Phoenix to watch the effort in person and pushed to replicate it elsewhere.This despite other officials at every level declaring the election the most secure in US history, and eventually William Barr, the then US attorney general, saying the Department of Justice had not uncovered evidence of voter fraud that would change the outcome of Biden’s victory in the November ballot.But the Arizona review, which began last April and largely concluded last fall, was quickly beset by shoddy methodology, bizarre practices, and infighting.Its final report in September not only affirmed Biden’s victory in Maricopa county, Arizona’s most populous and the location of the state capital, Phoenix, but also raised questions about election equipment being connected to the internet and mail-in ballot processing procedures.Nearly all of the claims the firm made in its month-long review were debunked on Wednesday in a 93-page document authored by election officials in Maricopa county, where Cyber Ninjas did its review.“Nearly every finding included faulty analysis, inaccurate claims, misleading conclusions, and a lack of understanding of federal and state election laws,” the county wrote in its rebuttal.A claim that there were thousands of suspicious duplicate images of ballot envelopes, for example, was easily explainable, the county said. If a ballot comes in with a missing or faulty signature, election officials contact the voter and help them fix it. When the ballot is resubmitted, it is scanned again before being sent to be opened. “Only one ballot was counted for each envelope,” the county said.The report also includes a lengthy technical analysis debunking claims from Cyber Ninjas that its election equipment was connected to the internet. Out of the 2.1m votes cast in the county, officials acknowledged potentially double-counting 50 ballots and said they were referring 37 cases to the attorney general’s office for further investigation for potential voter fraud.Karen Fann, the president of the Arizona senate who was a staunch supporter of the Cyber Ninjas review, seized on those few irregularities to claim the audit was worthwhile. “From day one, the Arizona senate’s efforts have been in pursuit of a singular goal – identifying and implementing improvements to our election’s processes,” she said in a statement. “Although it took 14 months and a costly audit, Maricopa county yesterday joined us in pursuit of this worthwhile objective.”Her statement did not mention two of the most important, and obvious facts from the audit – that Joe Biden won Arizona and the original election results were accurate.TopicsUS elections 2020The fight to voteUS politicsnewsReuse this content More

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    Assault on American democracy has gained pace since US Capitol attack

    Assault on American democracy has gained pace since US Capitol attackAnalysis: Republican strategy has focused on sowing doubt about 2020’s result, passing new laws and taking over key election offices On 6 January 2021, it seemed like the stitching holding America’s democracy together might finally collapse. As armed supporters of a defeated president laid siege to the Capitol, the US Congress did something extraordinary – it suspended the official procedure to certify the winner of a presidential election.The attack was eventually put down and Congress returned to officially certify Joe Biden’s victory. “They tried to disrupt our democracy. They failed,” Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, said when the Senate came back into session.Sign up for the Guardian’s Fight to Vote newsletterBut the effort to disrupt and undermine American democracy didn’t end on 6 January. In fact, it has speeded up over the 12 months since then.Working in state legislatures across the US, Republicans have launched a methodical effort to undermine the post-election processing of votes and the people who count them. One year after the effort to steal the 2020 election for Donald Trump failed, Republicans have put in place machinery to ensure future attempts could be successful. The potential for a stolen election in the US is higher than ever.In recent years there has been growing alarm over the way the Republican party has eagerly embraced voter suppression – efforts to change election rules to make it harder to vote. But what’s happening now, experts say, is new – an effort to take control of the administration of elections and vote counting itself.The insurrection is only the tip of the iceberg | Sidney BlumenthalRead more“What we’re seeing is an unprecedented, multi-pronged assault on the foundations of our democracy,” said Wendy Weiser, who directs the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “We’re really seeing an all-out effort to undermine election administration in America.”Republicans have built this attack around three pillars. First, they have encouraged and fomented doubt about the results of the 2020 election. Second, they have passed new laws that inject more partisanship into election administration. And third, they have sought to take over key election offices from which they could exert enormous unilateral power over vote-counting and post-election certification.Republicans have taken the idea of a stolen election from the fringes of political discourse and made it party orthodoxy. Senior Republicans have castigated fellow members who have contested claims the election was illegitimate. At the state level, Republicans have continued to spread false accusations about the 2020 vote and embraced unusual and partisan reviews of the 2020 election that have used shoddy methodology to question the results.In Arizona, Republicans hired Cyber Ninjas, a firm with no election experience to lead a widely panned review of the election results in the state’s largest county. The final report affirmed Biden’s win, but also suggested there were irregularities. The claims were immediately explained and debunked. In Wisconsin, Republican legislators authorized their own post-election inquiry, led by a former state supreme court justice who has hired partisan staffers, threatened to jail mayors of some of the state’s biggest cities and said he doesn’t know how elections work.In 2020, Trump allies pushed state lawmakers in Georgia and Arizona to reject the popular vote in their state and choose their own electors. That effort was unsuccessful. But the focus on undermining the 2020 results now appears to be laying the groundwork to allow lawmakers to successfully do this in 2024 and beyond, said Jessica Marsden, a lawyer at Protect Democracy who is tracking election subversion efforts.“In both Arizona and Georgia, you had the governors not willing to go along with that game, they would have been doing that quite explicitly to throw out the vote of their own constituents,” Marsden said. “What the disinformation campaign does is try to lower the political cost of throwing out election results by creating a lot of uncertainty about what the true results were.”The effort appears to be working – 71% of Republicans believe Biden’s victory was not legitimate, according to a recent UMass Amherst poll.There was also a surge of bills last year that sought to interfere with election administration in 2021. As of mid-December last year, 262 election interference bills had been introduced in 41 states, according to the States United Democracy Center. Thirty-two of those bills have become law in 17 states.Among them is a new law in Georgia that gives state lawmakers the authority to review local election boards and replace them if the state election board determines they are underperforming. Separate from that law, Georgia Republicans have also quietly acted to remove Democrats from their positions on county election boards. A new Arkansas law allows state officials to investigate irregularities and remove local election officials from their posts if needed.In Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, a Republican US senator, has suggested that the Republican-controlled legislature should unilaterally assert control of federal elections, eliminating the six-member bipartisan commission that runs elections in the state. Republicans in the state legislature have also called for criminal punishment for members of the commission as well as its non-partisan administrator.“What’s going in Wisconsin is sort of the canary in the coalmine of what is spreading across the United States,” said Ann Jacobs, a Democrat who chairs the six-person panel that oversees elections in Wisconsin. “There is a faction of the Republican party that is openly embracing the idea that people’s votes should not count.”Beyond laws, Republicans who believe the election was stolen have also launched an aggressive effort to win elections for secretary of state, the top election official in many places. They are targeting offices in Michigan, Georgia, Nevada and Wisconsin, all key swing states where secretaries played a key role in ensuring a fair vote count in 2020.In Michigan, Republicans have also tapped election deniers to serve on local canvassing boards, responsible for local election certification, in several counties, a role from which they could cause significant damage in future elections.That effort comes as a flood of election officials have left their jobs in the last year facing a flood of harassment and other threats, opening up opportunities for inexperienced and partisan workers to fill the void. It has raised fears over what might happen in 2024’s presidential election, especially if Trump runs again.Democrats are still seeking a way to block this kind of subversion.The Freedom to Vote Act, one of two sweeping voting rights bills stalled in Congress, would prohibit the removal of election officials without cause and strengthens protections for election workers. It also requires the use of paper ballots, creating a paper trail to verify after an election, and sets minimum election standards around election rules. But even though Democrats have pledged they will find a way to pass the bill, they have yet to find a way around the filibuster to do so.While Democrats try to find a way forward, Weiser, the Brennan Center expert, noted the Republicans campaign already appeared to be succeeding.“We have vote suppression measures in place. We have qualified, professional election administrators across the country having left their positions,” she said. “We have candidates for election office at the gubernatorial level saying that they would refuse to certify election results if it didn’t turn out a certain way.“We already have significant damage to our electoral system that’s already in place. That we’re already going to be living with.”TopicsUS politicsThe fight to voteUS Capitol attackRepublicansUS elections 2020analysisReuse this content More