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    The fake elector defense: what Trump allies are saying to justify the 2020 scheme

    Three allies of Donald Trump were charged in Wisconsin Tuesday for their roles in advancing the fake electors plan, but the 10 fake electors themselves have not yet been criminally charged.That might be because the Wisconsin fake electors, like other fake electors across the US, have said in media interviews they were misled to believe their documents could only be used if court challenges went for the former president. Others have said they were following lawyers’ advice when they signed on.Wisconsin attorney general Josh Kaul’s office has said it is still investigating and hasn’t ruled out charges against the individual electors, who have faced a civil suit they settled by agreeing not to serve as electors for Trump again.In April, 18 people were charged in Arizona in that state’s inquiry into the fake elector scheme. Defense attorneys representing some of those charged in Arizona have used similar justifications, saying they were following lawyers’ advice when they signed on.One told the Arizona Republic that his client, Jim Lamon, was relying on “lawyers from back east” who said the slates would only be used if the state’s results changed. Another told the paper that there wouldn’t be any evidence of their client’s intent to commit fraud or forgery because they got legal advice from Trump’s lawyers that led them to believe they weren’t doing anything wrong.These claims pop up frequently by fake electors and those involved in the scheme to overthrow the 2020 election results, as do other defenses relying on historical precedent and changing election law. Defenders of the fake electors cite a 1960 election in Hawaii and changes to congressional procedure to count electoral votes among their justifications..Some of the defenses have shown up in legal motions in Georgia, which is further along in its case against some fake electors there. But the justifications are largely happening online as the cases move more slowly than the internet, with rightwing influencers saying the scheme had a historical precedent and wasn’t illegal.Edward Foley, an election law expert at Ohio State University, has started to see the false electors in two tiers: those who were clearly in “cahoots with Trump” and intended to subvert the election’s outcome, and others who were duped. Andy Craig, director of election policy at the Joseph H Rainey Center, has come around to this idea as well, saying it depends heavily on the facts in each fake elector’s case, but some of them did seem misled.“I do think, to my mind, it’s fair to say that some of these fake electors are the victims of Trump’s fraud and [Rudy] Giuliani’s fraud,” Foley said. “They were relatively low-level political operatives who were trying to do something for the team and were doing it because the leader of their team was asking them to. That doesn’t justify what they did, but I’m not sure I would think criminal punishment would be appropriate for them because again, I think they’re the victims of the crime, not the perpetrators.”In Georgia, prosecutors granted many of the fake electors, nearly all of them little-known party loyalists, immunity from prosecution. Only three of the 16 have been charged criminally, all of whom appear to have a more hands-on role in the scheme.And in Pennsylvania and New Mexico, for example, the fake electoral certificates contained a caveat that they would only be considered valid if courts eventually ruled in Trump’s favor and deemed him the legitimate winner. Fake electors in those states have not faced prosecution in large part because of that language.As a reminder, the US doesn’t elect presidents via a popular vote. Instead, voters in each state turn out at the polls, which dictates a slate of electoral votes that get sent to Congress, called the electoral college. Whichever candidate wins the electoral vote wins the presidency, and this is sometimes different from who wins the popular vote. At issue in the fake electors scheme is that Trump supporters signed falsely that Trump had won their states’ votes, when in reality Biden had won.Other defensesLegal experts say the fake electors’ other defenses hold less water – the 2020 scheme is much different than the 1960 Hawaii election, and any changes in the Electoral Count Reform Act don’t affect the illegality of what the false electors did.The 1960 Hawaii election, which involved two slates of electors, is a long-running justification on the right for the fake electors. In 1960, Nixon narrowly led Kennedy initially in Hawaii, though the margin was so small it kicked off a recount. Before the recount could be completed, the state had to send its electoral votes to Congress for counting, so electors for both Kennedy and Nixon signed separate documents saying they were the state’s electors and sent them off.After the recount, the results showed Kennedy actually won the state, and so Kennedy’s electors met again to sign that he won. Nixon, who was presiding over the electoral count in Congress as vice-president, accepted this final submission. No one got in trouble for the previous slates, though it was also possibly illegal for the Democrats to have met and signed as though Kennedy won before the recount concluded. Hawaii’s votes didn’t affect who won the presidency, as Kennedy had already clinched the win.“Hawaii is a very odd situation because it ultimately ended with then vice-president Nixon, who was one of the candidates, being willing to accept the Kennedy slate, which didn’t matter one way or the other, wasn’t going to affect the outcome of the electoral college majority” Foley said. “It was sort of like a politician trying to be magnanimous.”Influencers like Charlie Kirk, the leader of rightwing youth organization Turning Point USA, brought up Hawaii after the Arizona charges. In a post on X, Kirk cited the “precedent created by Democrats” in Hawaii in 1960.“The Arizona Trump electors were doing what they thought was a legally necessary step as part of a wider political and electoral dispute,” Kirk wrote. “They acted in the belief that Donald Trump was the true winner of Arizona in the 2020 election.”The major difference: there was a legitimate, ongoing, good faith debate over who won in Hawaii, and a razor-thin margin of less than 200 votes that led to a full recount. By contrast, the margins in the seven states involved in the 2020 plan were much higher, and legal avenues to overturn results had largely run out.“All of these states were won by bigger margins, far beyond what any kind of recount or litigation was ever realistically going to overturn,” Craig said. “And so there was no good basis to believe that the results would legitimately flip in these states.”Another line of defense, used less frequently, revolves around changes to the electoral count process after the fake electors scheme in 2020.Rightwing commentator Mike Cernovich said after the Arizona changes that “multiple electors were LEGAL until the law was recently amended”, presumably a reference to the changes to the Electoral Count Act.The original Electoral Count Act stemmed from the contentious mess of the 1876 election, where there were multiple competing slates of electors and no consensus over who had won the election. It spelled out the process and deadlines for how states would send electoral votes and how Congress would count them.“What the Electoral Count Act did and still continues to do is to furnish Congress with a procedure to evaluate competing claims by competing slates of electors,” said Jim Gardner, an election law expert at the University at Buffalo School of Law. “And that’s all it does. So it is a piece of congressional self-regulation. It does not in any way regulate the behavior of other parties outside Congress.”The 2022 reform act makes clear that the vice-president, when presiding over the count, can’t use their role to get involved in disputes over electors – stemming from the effort to pressure then vice-president Mike Pence to throw out the Biden electors in key states.It also says that governors must certify the electors and send them to Congress. None of the Trump fake electors were certified by their states’ governments, a required part of the process for Congress to accept a slate.These changes, though, aren’t evidence that fake electors were allowed under the act before it was amended, legal experts say. Additionally, the charges these electors face in some states are violations of state-level laws against forging documents or committing fraud – not violations of a federal law to count electoral votes.“I don’t think it’s correct to say that somehow it’s an acknowledgement that any fake submission before this was not criminal,” Foley said.Sam Levine contributed reporting More

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    Georgia elections board member denies plans to help Trump subvert election

    A new appointee to the Georgia state board of elections has elicited questions about whether she may be part of preparations to subvert the election on behalf of Donald Trump and others who are hoping to cast doubt on results that don’t go his way.Those fears are unfounded, she said.The Georgia speaker of the house appointed Janelle King, a Black conservative podcast host and Republican party hand, to a critical fifth seat on the board of elections in May. The state GOP applauded the replacement of a more moderate Republican with King, seeing her as a vote for “election integrity” ahead of a critical presidential election.But King flatly denies that she intends to interfere in the state’s elections as a board member or that she has had contact with the Trump campaign or its surrogates with regard to her appointment.“I’ve heard several rumors about what I’m going to do or not going to do,” King said. “And the way I see it is that this is what people expect of me and what they perceive. But I’ve never been one to do anything based off of what other people want. I like being fair, I like getting good sleep at night.”The elections board promulgates election rules, conducts voter education, investigates questions of election misconduct or fraud, and makes recommendations to the state attorney general or Georgia’s general assembly regarding elections. The five-member board has one appointee from the Democratic and Republican party and one each from the governor, state senate and state house, which now looks like a 4-1 Republican majority, although governor Brian Kemp sits outside of the increasingly radical Trump wing of the Republican party.“The state elections board has a massive role to play in how Georgia’s elections are run and certified, especially this year in a swing state that decided the last presidential election,” said Stephanie Jackson Ali, policy director for the New Georgia Project Action Fund. “The members of the SEB could, quite literally, determine who wins in November.”“With this appointment, I’m increasingly concerned about the future politicization of a board that should be focused on running our elections smoothly and accessibly for Georgia voters, not on moving forward an agenda for partisan gain,” Jackson Ali added.King is a former deputy director of the state party. She has also worked on bipartisan outreach with the League of Women’s Voters. Her husband Kelvin King is co-chair of Let’s Win For America Action, a conservative political action committee that focuses on minority outreach for Republicans. Kelvin King ran for US Senate in 2022, losing the Republican primary to Trump’s preferred candidate Herschel Walker.Janelle King hasn’t been an active participant in the swirling drama of Georgia’s election integrity politics in the wake of the 2020 election. Relative to other appointees to the board, she’s also light on experience with elections. Asked if she believed that the 2020 election was fairly administered in Georgia, she said she didn’t know.“I believe that there were some things that are questionable,” King said. “And I believe that those things have caused a disruption in whether or not people believe in our process.”The role will “allow me to be able to see evidence and – or the lack thereof, whatever it presents”, she added. “There were some things that were questionable. But we respect that the decision has been made, right? I mean, Trump’s not in the White House. So, President Biden is our president. And that’s where we stand.”King joins the board at a sensitive moment in Georgia’s election cycle. Conservatives are raising questions about the competence of the Fulton county registration and elections board in Georgia’s most populous county, which includes most of Atlanta.The state elections board voted last month to admonish Fulton county and require outside oversight through the rest of the 2024 election cycle, as a censure after discovering county elections workers violated state law while conducting a recount of the 2020 presidential election by double-counting 3,075 ballots.The secretary of state’s office determined that the infraction did not impact election results. The results of the 2020 election in both Fulton county and the state have repeatedly been validated in recounts and in court findings.Democratic party activists suggest that the state elections board’s focus on Fulton county is table setting for further denialism if Trump loses Georgia in November.The speaker of the house in Georgia, Jon Burns, appointed King to succeed Edward Lindsey, a former state representative whose lobbying practice for county government and votes on the board rankled Republicans in the Trump wing of the party. Lindsey was the tie-breaking vote earlier this year against recommending restrictions to absentee ballot voting.Rightwing organizations like the Texas Public Policy Foundation had been calling for Lindsey’s ouster, even as Lindsey’s term expired in March. The house failed to appoint his replacement before adjourning for the year, leaving the decision to Burns.Burns’ appointment of King was greeted by Georgia GOP chairman Josh McKoon as “very good news” at a fundraising dinner in Columbus, where he described it as giving the board “a three-person working majority, three people that agree with us on the importance of election integrity”.“I believe when we look back on November 5th, 2024, we’re going to say getting to that 3-2 election integrity-minded majority on the state election board made sure that we had the level playing field to win this election,” McKoon added.The board does not certify elections in Georgia; that role belongs to county elections board and ultimately the secretary of state’s office.“I’m only one vote,” King said. “I can’t block anything myself if I wanted to at all. And I don’t plan to interfere in elections. What I plan to do is make sure that what comes before us if there’s wrong that’s being done, then we need to address it.”The Georgia speaker’s office denied that Burns has been contacted by Trump, a member of his staff or someone else working on behalf of his campaign with regard to replacing Lindsey on the board with someone amenable to Trump’s interest.“Janelle King’s appointment to the state elections board was not impacted by any outside influence,” said Kayla Robertson, a spokesperson for Burns. “Janelle will be a tremendous asset as an independent thinker and impartial arbiter who will put principle above politics and ensure transparency and accountability in our elections.” More

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    Publisher of debunked voter-fraud film apologizes to falsely accused man

    The publisher of 2000 Mules issued a statement Friday apologizing to a Georgia man who was shown in the film and falsely accused of ballot fraud during the 2020 election.The widely debunked film includes surveillance video showing Mark Andrews, his face blurred, putting five ballots in a drop box in Lawrenceville, an Atlanta suburb, as a voiceover by the conservative pundit and film-maker Dinesh D’Souza says: “What you are seeing is a crime. These are fraudulent votes.”Salem Media Group said in the statement that it had “removed the film from Salem’s platforms, and there will be no future distribution of the film or the book by Salem”.“It was never our intent that the publication of the 2000 Mules film and book would harm Mr Andrews. We apologize for the hurt the inclusion of Mr Andrews’ image in the movie, book, and promotional materials have caused Mr Andrews and his family,” the statement said.A state investigation found that Andrews was dropping off ballots for himself, his wife and their three adult children, who all lived at the same address. That is legal in Georgia, and an investigator said there was no evidence of wrongdoing by Andrews.The film uses research from True the Vote, a Texas-based non-profit, and suggests that ballot “mules” aligned with Democrats were paid to illegally collect and deliver ballots in Georgia and four other closely watched states. An Associated Press analysis found that it is based on faulty assumptions, anonymous accounts and improper analysis of cellphone location data.Salem said it “relied on representations by Dinesh D’Souza and True the Vote, Inc (‘TTV’) that the individuals depicted in the videos provided to us by TTV, including Mr Andrews, illegally deposited ballots”.Lawyers for D’Souza and True the Vote did not immediately respond to emails Friday afternoon seeking comment on Salem’s statement.Andrews filed a federal lawsuit in October 2022 against D’Souza, True the Vote and Salem. The case continues, and representatives for Salem and for Andrews’ legal team did not immediately respond to emails asking whether the statement came as a result of the lawsuit. More

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    Newsmax accused of deleting evidence that it was spreading 2020 election lies

    The chief executive of Newsmax deleted text messages and the company allowed key employees to delete emails as part of an effort to conceal evidence the outlet knew it was broadcasting falsehoods about the 2020 election, lawyers for the voting machine company Smartmatic said in an acerbic court filing last week obtained by the Guardian.The allegations were made as part of a motion for sanctions in an ongoing defamation case Smartmatic filed against Newsmax for making false and outlandish claims about the company after the last presidential election. The case is planned to go to trial in September in Delaware superior court.The motion, which contains significant redactions, says Newsmax’s chief executive, Christopher Ruddy, deleted text messages after the company was asked to preserve documents and communications as part of a lawsuit. Smartmatic also alleges that Newsmax allowed emails from Gary Kanofsky, its news director, who tried to warn other Newsmax staffers against broadcasting false claims about Smartmatic, to be deleted.Smartmatic attorneys also claim that Newsmax allowed messages from the editorial director, David Perel, to be deleted even though he warned Ruddy about the credibility of a source and was responsible for drafting Newsmax’s journalistic practices.Newsmax, which denies publishing libelous claims, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. NBC News first reported the court filing.The messages are relevant to the case because Smartmatic needs to prove that Newsmax had “actual malice” and knew the statements were false or acted with reckless disregard to the truth and published them anyway.“Newsmax destroyed the text messages and emails of key executives responsible for its defamatory campaign against Smartmatic. This was not a mistake,” Smartmatic lawyers wrote in the court papers. “Newsmax’s cover-up worked. Critical documents, including text messages and emails going directly to Newsmax’s actual malice and motive, were permanently deleted.”Among the text messages allegedly deleted was one in which Ruddy refers to Sidney Powell, Trump’s lawyer who was one of the most prominent purveyors of false allegations of voter fraud after the 2020 election. While the content is redacted in the filing, Smartmatic described the message as Ruddy’s “unvarnished view of Ms Powell’s credibility” and “direct evidence of actual malice”.Ruddy claimed that the messages on his phone were set to automatically delete every 30 days, a setting lawyers said he did not change after Smartmatic instructed him to preserve communications. Despite that claim, Ruddy turned over an additional 1,106 text messages on 2 May, which Smartmatic lawyers say is evidence that his text messages did not really auto-delete during the period he claimed.The filing also describes Kanofsky, the news director, as “the closest thing Newsmax had to a whistleblower”. Starting in November 2020, Kanofsky allegedly sent emails to other Newsmax employees with a fact-check about Smartmatic and warning them about broadcasting false claims. Newsmax allegedly did not tell Kanofsky to preserve his emails and they were deleted. Smartmatic lawyers said when they pressed Newsmax on why they weren’t turning over Kanofsky’s emails, Newsmax attorneys revealed that Kanofsky had a practice of regularly deleting all of his work emails and saving them in his personal email.David Perel, the editorial director, also was not instructed to preserve emails, even though he sent relevant messages warning against publishing false claims. Smartmatic claimed. Perel was terminated in 2021 and Smartmatic said Newsmax wiped the messages on his company laptop.Lastly, Smartmatic claims that Newsmax tried to conceal the existence of a document outlining its journalistic and ethical practices. While the content of the guidelines is redacted in the filing, Smartmatic says Newsmax violated them by broadcasting false information.“Newsmax’s misconduct goes beyond falsely accusing Smartmatic of rigging the US election; it also attempted to conceal evidence of its actions and failed to follow its own journalistic standards,” J Erik Connolly, a lawyer for Smartmatic said in a statement.Smartmatic asked the superior court judge Eric Davis, who is overseeing the case, to order the company to pay legal fees it spent obtaining the concealed messages. It also asked Davis to alert the future jury to the concealment and instruct them to make an “adverse inference” about Newsmax’s motives.The lawsuit is one of several defamation actions that have been filed against conservative media as part of an effort to hold them accountable for spreading lies. Smartmatic and the voting machine company Dominion also have ongoing defamation lawsuits against Powell, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Lindell.Smarmatic settled a libel suit against the far-right network OAN last month for undisclosed terms. Last year, Fox News agreed to pay Dominion $787.5m to settle a defamation suit the company filed against it for false election claims. More

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    Rudy Giuliani pleads not guilty to charges in Arizona fake electors case

    Rudy Giuliani denied charges of illegally trying to keep Donald Trump in power after his 2020 election defeat as he was arraigned to appear before a court in Arizona along with 10 other defendants on Tuesday.Giuliani’s not guilty plea to nine felony charges came days after he was served an indictment as he left a party to celebrate his 80th birthday last Friday.Giuliani was the last of the 12 defendants to receive a summons to Tuesday’s hearing after the Arizona attorney general’s office said he had evaded efforts to serve him with a notice for several days.Reflecting the difficulties in tracking him down, the attorney general’s office requested a $10,000 cash bond for Giuliani, citing the problems it had serving him with an indictment and a general lack of cooperation, according to reports. No such request was made of other defendants.Others charged over their roles as false electors include two sitting lawmakers, state senators Jake Hoffman and Anthony Kern. The former Arizona Republican party chair Kelli Ward and her husband, Michael Ward, have been charged, as has Tyler Bowyer, a Republican national committeeman, and Turning Point USA executive, and Jim Lamon, who ran for US Senate in 2022.The others charged in the fake electors scheme are Nancy Cottle, Robert Montgomery, Samuel Moorhead, Lorraine Pellegrino and Gregory Safsten.Further defendants are expected to be arraigned next month, including Boris Epshteyn, a lawyer for Trump, and Mark Meadows, a former White House chief of staff.Trump himself is listed as “un-indicted co-conspirator 1” in the case but has not been charged.Before receiving the indictment, Giuliani, the former New York mayor and the legal spearhead of Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, had taunted the Arizona officials by posting a picture of himself on X challenging them to drop the case.“If Arizona authorities can’t find me by tomorrow morning: 1. They must dismiss the indictment; 2. They must concede they can’t count votes,” he captioned the post, which has since been deleted.After being served his indictment, Giuliani posted on Facebook that he did not know that Arizona officials were looking for him until “somebody told me there was a news article saying they were having a hard time finding me”.The indictment alleged that Giuliani “pressured” Arizona legislators and the Maricopa county board of supervisors to change the election result in the state, which Joe Biden won by more than 10,000 votes.He is also accused of urging Republican electors in Arizona to vote for Trump, in the face of the popular vote counts showing a victory for Biden.According to the testimony of Rusty Bowers, a former speaker of the Arizona house of representatives, Giuliani, in his efforts to persuade the state legislature to overturn the 2020 vote, told him and legislators that “we don’t have the evidence but we have lots of theories”.The case is the latest in a spate of legal woes to beset Giuliani – a former federal prosecutor once renowned for fighting mafia organised crime bosses – over his attempts to help Trump overturn the 2020 poll.He has filed for bankruptcy after being ordered to pay $148m in damages to two election workers in Georgia after they successfully sued for defamation. More

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    Rudy Giuliani complains Arizona indictment not served ‘stylishly’

    The former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani has complained that an indictment handed down against him in connection with Arizona’s fake electors case was not served “stylishly”.Giuliani was one of 17 defendants who was charged over his role in attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election.The Trump ally was served a copy of a document containing the charges against him during a celebration for his 80th birthday in Palm Beach, Florida, a party thrown by a Republican fundraiser, Caroline Wren.He expressed dissatisfaction with the way the indictment was presented in remarks he made on Sunday alongside his girlfriend, Maria Ryan.“So one guy, he walked in between a couple of people who didn’t know who he was. And he handed me a folded-up, crumpling piece of paper. It was a crumpling piece of paper. It wasn’t, like, done stylishly,” Giuliani said.“And he handed it to me, and he said, this is from Arizona attorney general [Kris Mayes]. I still don’t have the indictment,” he added.Giuliani’s indictment papers came after he mocked Mayes on social media.In a post on X that has since been deleted, Giuliani bragged about evading Mayes – and the former attorney to Trump claimed that charges against him would be dismissed if officials could not serve him in time.“If Arizona authorities can’t find me by tomorrow morning: 1. They must dismiss the indictment 2. They must concede they can’t count votes,” Giuliani wrote in the post, which also had a picture featuring smiling friends and party balloons.The indictment was served hours later. Mayes tweeted on 17 May: “The final defendant was served moments ago. [Rudy Giuliani, ] nobody is above the law.”Mayes also shared a screenshot of Giuliani’s deleted post.A Giuliani spokesperson, Ted Goodman, said the ex-New York City mayor was “unfazed” by the indictment-related disruption at his party, according to a statement reported by Politico.“He was unfazed, and enjoyed an incredible evening with hundreds of people, from all walks of life, who love and respect him for his contributions to society,” Goodman said. “We look forward to full vindication soon.”In her own remarks to Politico, Wren described the birthday celebration as “a wonderful evening celebrating an American hero”.“It’s a shame that while the Arizona southern border is wide open and crime is reaching an all-time high, the [Arizona] secretary of state’s office thought it was a good use of resources to send agents across the country to serve an indictment to a man who has spent his entire life dedicated to law and order and was just trying to celebrate his 80th birthday amongst friends & family,” Wren said.The latest indictment is one of several legal and personal issues facing Giuliani.Among other matters, Giuliani filed for bankruptcy in December after being ordered to pay $148m in a defamation case for falsely accusing two Georgia poll workers of election subversion in 2020. More

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    ‘There’s no fraud here’: how a Republican official is addressing election denialism in his rural county

    Abe Dane would be the first to admit he had concerns about election fraud during the 2020 election. He believed the elections in his own county, where he had worked the polls, were clean – but he wasn’t sure about other counties in the state, where unfounded claims of fraud swirled in 2020.That was before he took a position in local election administration. Now, with first-hand experience, Dane, the director of elections in Hillsdale county, Michigan, is confident in the process.It’s convincing others that’s the challenge now.Since 2020, deep-red Hillsdale county has been a flashpoint for election anxieties. Stephanie Scott, the elections clerk from Adams Township – one of the offices in Dane’s jurisdiction – earned the attention of figures in Donald Trump’s inner circle as she spread false claims of fraud and refused orders by the secretary of state’s office to turn over voting equipment for regular maintenance. Scott was ousted in a recall campaign by activists who were fed up with her insistence on spreading the false claim that the last election was stolen from Trump.On 8 May, the Michigan attorney general, Dana Nessel, announced felony charges against Scott and her attorney, Stefanie Lambert, for allegedly turning over private voter data from the 2020 election to an unauthorized third party.Meanwhile, Scott has filed paperwork to challenge Dane in his fall election for Hillsdale county clerk.The Guardian spoke with Abe Dane about running an elections office during troubled political times – and his own shifting view of election security.View image in fullscreenIn a more conservative area, like Hillsdale, where people know that their neighbors are mostly going to be voting along a certain party line, do you still see the same kind of politicization around election administration as elsewhere? What does that look like for you, in a conservative town, as an elected Republican?Being a Republican and administering elections, I’m pushing back on that [politicization]. I try my best when I’m at township meetings, or city meetings, to choose my words carefully.I guess when I first started, I was a little bit more cautious. Here’s an example: I would say, “In Hillsdale county, there is no election fraud going on. We are doing things right in this county.” I’d always say “in this county”. I’ve gotten to the point now where I personally believe that our elections nationwide are completely fine. And so I’m starting to stop that, and to stop trying not to offend my fellow Republicans in my county. I’ll just say flat out, like, “I don’t think there was election fraud anywhere. I think people have a different worldview than you and you can’t accept that.”You mentioned earlier you had doubts about the election and concerns about election fraud, but it sounds like your view now has shifted. Can you tell me about that evolution?Well, to start with, in 2020 and before, I wasn’t in county government at all.I began to be an election inspector in the 2020 elections, and I knew things were on the up-and-up here. I didn’t have any questions about our own county. But I had questions about, you know, Detroit or Wayne county – things like that. As I got into election administration, I started seeing the processes, the checks and balances, the security that’s involved, and got familiar with a qualified voter file – the state’s voter registration system – and how they manage that list.There’s no good training to be an election administrator that’s from an accredited school. So, our education comes from our peers, and our associations – I’m rubbing shoulders with the elections director in Wayne county and [officials] all over the state, and we’re developing these relationships, and I’m saying, “You know, these are people just like me.” They care about their voters, they care about everyone having access to the polls. They care about making sure everything balances, and every vote is counted. And there’s no partisanship in that.Clerks should be non-partisan, because all we care about is allowing people to have access to the voting process.So no, there’s no fraud here.Given that you are part of this community, do you think that your evolution on this has given some credibility to election processes, with you having seen it from the inside and being able to communicate about it?I wish I had that much influence. It’s really just the people that are in my circle, that know me on a personal level, that I would have that kind of an impact on. So unfortunately, it’s not like that.No, it’s a battle that all of us election administrators have to fight – to help people understand what we’re trying to do and the process that’s in place to keep it accurate and honest. It’s going to take time and this election coming up – depending on how it goes – it might set us back another number of years in trying to get people to the point where they can trust our elections.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionAmong our clerks and election inspectors, there are a good percentage of them that actually have concerns about people causing trouble in the precinct on these big elections. We’re working with our local law enforcement to try and visit the precincts, and even this one I had yesterday, I talked to the sheriff and I said: “It would go a long way if you just popped in there. It’s just one little precinct open, but they would love to see you there sometime.” And he did.Now that we’re getting a little bit closer to the election, what types of security threats are you preparing for? Or does it not feel that tense here?I would like to say it doesn’t feel that tense here, but we need to be prepared for anything.So we’re getting ready to do our inspector training – every election inspector in our county that will be working all the precincts in August and November will need to take their two-year recertification, and I’ll be doing that. So it’s a big ordeal. It takes two months to go through and I think there’s close to 300 people that we have to train.And in that, [security] is going to be one of the things that we talk about – and that’s the preparation. It’s: OK, what if this happens, what do you do? Who do you call?If I have the time, which is difficult with my time restraints right now, I’m trying to develop a document that will help facilitate communication if something does happen – whether it’s security, or whether it’s a weather issue, to facilitate communication between myself and the clerk’s office and the sheriff’s department or central dispatch, 911 operation and any county maintenance and stuff to be able to get things orchestrated, if we have to change a precinct location or if we have to deal with emergency in a precinct.View image in fullscreenAs the 2024 general election approaches, at the national and also local level, people who rejected the results of the 2020 election are getting more active. What’s been the most effective way that you’ve been able to push back against election denialism?I would say the most effective way is to have the time to be able to go out in the community and talk at public events or clubs and organizations and even the township and city meetings, and just give presentations to give that information about how our processes work.I’ve seen in other communities where they have more staff, and more time, where they can invite people in and have trainings just for the community on elections – not necessarily to make them inspectors, but to just teach them about the processes and inviting them in to conduct audits of an election precinct voluntarily.On a different subject, I am curious – is Stephanie Scott campaigning against you? Is that election a concern?To be honest, I’m not losing sleep over it. I put a lot of time and effort, blood, sweat and tears into this place. So I want to win. But if I lose, then I have a market where I can easily find another job that pays better and is less stressful and less hours. So it’s a win-win either way for me.So you’d stay in election administration?I do love election administration. And I love this community. And I want my family to grow up here. So yeah, I want to stick it out. More

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    Supreme court justice Samuel Alito faces criticism after Trump-supporting flag reportedly seen outside his home – live

    Good morning, US politics blog readers. The New York Times reported yesterday that a flag used by supporters of Donald Trump’s baseless claim of fraud in his 2020 election loss flew outside Samuel Alito’s house shortly before Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021. The supreme court justice, who said the flag was displayed by his wife amid a dispute with a neighbor, is a conservative stalwart on the court, and authored the decision that two years ago overturned Roe v Wade and allowed states the ban abortion. The reactions to the news have been predictably partisan, with Republican senator Tom Cotton accusing the Times of trying to “incite another mob”, Minnesota’s Democratic governor Tim Walz describing flying the flag as “not normal” and Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal saying the court’s credibility “is plummeting”.The story was the latest in a string of reports that have emerged over the past year and raised questions about the supreme court’s ethics. While these stories have generated plenty of outrage, none of the justices involved have suffered any consequences, and the conservatives remain dominant on the court, with six seats against the liberals’ three. The court is poised to soon rule on whether Donald Trump is immune from prosecution over his attempt to overturn the 2020 election – a case that could have a major impact on his rematch with Joe Biden.Here’s what else is going on today:
    The House oversight committee late yesterday advanced a resolution to hold attorney general Merrick Garland in contempt for not releasing a recording of Biden’s interview with a special counsel, but only after a shouting match between lawmakers.
    Biden, who polls show has lost some of his support with Black voters, will speak at the National Museum of African American History and Culture at 11.45am ET, and then meet with leaders of Black fraternities and sororities together with Kamala Harris at 3.30pm.
    White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre takes reporters’ questions at 1pm.
    The Democratic chair of the Senate judiciary committee, Dick Durbin, is calling on Samuel Alito to recuse himself from cases concerning Donald Trump and the 2020 election after the New York Times reported that a flag supporting the ex-president’s false election fraud claims flew outside the supreme court justice’s residence.Here’s what Durbin had to say:
    Flying an upside-down American flag – a symbol of the so-called ‘Stop the Steal’ movement – clearly creates the appearance of bias. Justice Alito should recuse himself immediately from cases related to the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection, including the question of the former President’s immunity in US v Donald Trump, which the supreme court is currently considering.
    The court is in an ethical crisis of its own making, and Justice Alito and the rest of the court should be doing everything in their power to regain public trust. This latest story is further proof that Congress needs to pass the SCERT Act to create an enforceable code of conduct for the supreme court. Supreme court justices should be held to the highest ethical standards, not the lowest.
    The Scert Act would require the supreme court to adopt a code of conduct and create a mechanism to investigate violations. While the court adopted an ethics code last year, it lacks any mechanism for enforcement.Republicans are vehemently against any new regulations on the supreme court, and have the votes to prevent the Scert Act from passing the Senate.In other news, the House oversight committee last night advanced a resolution to hold the attorney general, Merrick Garland, in contempt after he refused to release audio of Joe Biden’s interview with Robert Hur, the special counsel who investigated his possession of classified documents. But the vote only took place after a messy verbal clash between lawmakers at opposite ends of the political spectrum, the Guardian’s Martin Pengelly reports:The two most famous sets of initials in US politics clashed in a chaotic House hearing on Thursday, as the progressive star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, objected fiercely to an attack on another Democrat by the far-right Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, or MTG.The oversight committee hearing concerned Republican attempts to hold the US attorney general, Merrick Garland, in contempt, for refusing to release tapes of interviews between Joe Biden and the special counsel Robert Hur.Things went wrong when MTG made a partisan point, trying to tie Democrats to the judge in Donald Trump’s criminal hush-money case – which, by drawing a number of Republicans to the New York courtroom to support Trump, was responsible for the hearing starting late in the day.In answer to MTG, Jasmine Crockett of Texas said: “Please tell me what that has to do with Merrick Garland … Do you know what we’re here for? You know we’re here about AG Garland?”In response to the New York Times’s reporting, Samuel Alito acknowledged that the flag was raised outside his house, but said it was due to a dispute with a neighbor:
    I had no involvement whatsoever in the flying of the flag,” Justice Alito said in an emailed statement to The Times. “It was briefly placed by Mrs. Alito in response to a neighbor’s use of objectionable and personally insulting language on yard signs.”
    The Alitos live in Alexandria, Virginia, a pleasant city across the Potomac river from Washington DC, where some of their neighbors do not like them, the Times reports:
    In recent years, the quiet sanctuary of his street, with residents who are Republicans and Democrats, has tensed with conflict, neighbors said. Around the 2020 election, a family on the block displayed an anti-Trump sign with an expletive. It apparently offended Mrs. Alito and led to an escalating clash between her and the family, according to interviews.
    Some residents have also bridled at the noise and intrusion brought by protesters, who started showing up outside the Alito residence in 2022 after the Supreme Court overturned the federal right to abortion. Other neighbors have joined the demonstrators, whose intent was “to bring the protest to their personal lives because the decisions affect our personal lives,” said Heather-Ann Irons, who came to the street to protest.
    The half-dozen neighbors who saw the flag, or knew of it, requested anonymity because they said they did not want to add to the contentiousness on the block and feared reprisal. Last Saturday, May 11, protesters returned to the street, waving flags of their own (“Don’t Tread on My Uterus”) and using a megaphone to broadcast expletives at Justice Alito, who was in Ohio giving a commencement address. Mrs. Alito appeared in a window, complaining to the Supreme Court security detail outside.
    As you can see in the below tweet from the New York Times, the flag flown outside the conservative supreme court justice Samuel Alito’s house was simply an upside-down American flag:But as their story notes, flying the flag that way had, by early 2021, become a symbol of support for Donald Trump’s false claims that his loss in the November 2020 election had occurred due to fraud:
    Turning the American flag upside down is a symbol of emergency and distress, first used as a military S.O.S., historians said in interviews. In recent decades, it has increasingly been used as a political protest symbol — a controversial one, because the flag code and military tradition require the paramount symbol of the United States to be treated with respect.
    Over the years, upside-down flags have been displayed by both the right and the left as an outcry over a range of issues, including the Vietnam War, gun violence, the Supreme Court’s overturning of the constitutional right to abortion and, in particular, election results. In 2012, Tea Party followers inverted flags at their homes to signal disgust at the re-election of President Barack Obama. Four years later, some liberals advised doing the same after Mr. Trump was elected.
    During Mr. Trump’s quest to win, and then subvert, the 2020 election, the gesture took off as never before, becoming “really established as a symbol of the ‘Stop the Steal’ campaign,” according to Alex Newhouse, a researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder.
    A flood of social media posts exhorted Trump supporters to flip over their flags or purchase new ones to display upside down.
    “If Jan. 6 rolls around and Biden is confirmed by the Electoral College our nation is in distress!!” a poster wrote on Patriots.win, a forum for Trump supporters, garnering over a thousand “up” votes. “If you cannot go to the DC rally then you must do your duty and show your support for our president by flying the flag upside down!!!!”
    In an appearance on MSNBC this morning, Richard Blumenthal, a Democratic senator who serves on the judiciary committee, said the revelation that a pro-Trump flag flew outside Samuel Alito’s house further undermines the supreme court’s credibility.Polls indicate public approval of the supreme court has declined over the past two decades, which Blumenthal blames on the conflicts of interest that have developed among its conservative justices. He called on Chief Justice John Roberts to order Alito and Clarence Thomas, a fellow conservative whose wife was involved in efforts to stop Joe Biden from taking office, to recuse themselves:Blumenthal has been among the Democratic lawmakers that have pressured Roberts and the justices to tighten their ethics following reports of their connections with wealthy conservatives:The revelation that a flag used by supporters of Donald Trump’s baseless 2020 election fraud claims flew outside the house of Samuel Alito comes as the court is considering whether to give the ex-president immunity from the federal charges brought against him for his attempt to block Joe Biden from assuming office.In oral arguments in the case last month, the supreme court justice and other conservatives seemed partial to Trump’s claim that he should be immune from at least some of the charges, since they concern his conduct while acting in his official capacity as president. That raises the prospect of a decision that could have the net effect of further delaying his trial, potentially until after his November presidential election rematch against Biden.During the oral arguments, Alito, together with fellow conservative Brett Kavanaugh, seemed worried that future presidents could be affected by a denial of immunity to Trump. Here’s a recap of their viewpoint, from the Guardian’s Hugo Lowell:
    Alito and Kavanaugh suggested they were particularly concerned about zealous prosecutors going after former presidents once they left office for “mistakes” if the supreme court decided that presidents had no immunity from criminal prosecution.
    “It’s not going to stop, it’s going to cycle back and be used against the current president and the next president and the next president after that,” Kavanaugh said.
    The government disputed that prosecutors could wantonly target former presidents, arguing there were checks and balances in the judicial system like the grand jury process.
    Alito was dismissive of the grand jury suggestion, bringing up the adage that a grand jury could indict a “ham sandwich”. When Dreeben said prosecutors don’t charge people who don’t deserve it, Alito responded: “Every once in a while there’s an eclipse too.”
    For more on the case, and how the supreme court’s decision could affect it, here’s our story from April:Good morning, US politics blog readers. The New York Times reported yesterday that a flag used by supporters of Donald Trump’s baseless claim of fraud in his 2020 election loss flew outside Samuel Alito’s house shortly before Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021. The supreme court justice, who said the flag was displayed by his wife amid a dispute with a neighbor, is a conservative stalwart on the court, and authored the decision that two years ago overturned Roe v Wade and allowed states the ban abortion. The reactions to the news have been predictably partisan, with Republican senator Tom Cotton accusing the Times of trying to “incite another mob”, Minnesota’s Democratic governor Tim Walz describing flying the flag as “not normal” and Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal saying the court’s credibility “is plummeting”.The story was the latest in a string of reports that have emerged over the past year and raised questions about the supreme court’s ethics. While these stories have generated plenty of outrage, none of the justices involved have suffered any consequences, and the conservatives remain dominant on the court, with six seats against the liberals’ three. The court is poised to soon rule on whether Donald Trump is immune from prosecution over his attempt to overturn the 2020 election – a case that could have a major impact on his rematch with Joe Biden.Here’s what else is going on today:
    The House oversight committee late yesterday advanced a resolution to hold attorney general Merrick Garland in contempt for not releasing a recording of Biden’s interview with a special counsel, but only after a shouting match between lawmakers.
    Biden, who polls show has lost some of his support with Black voters, will speak at the National Museum of African American History and Culture at 11.45am ET, and then meet with leaders of Black fraternities and sororities together with Kamala Harris at 3.30pm.
    White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre takes reporters’ questions at 1pm. More