More stories

  • in

    Missouri Enacts Strict New Voter Rules and Will Switch to Caucuses

    Missouri overhauled its election rules on Wednesday, enacting a voter identification law similar to one the state’s highest court blocked two years ago and doing away with its presidential primary in favor of a caucus system.The new law, which Gov. Michael L. Parson signed at the State Capitol in Jefferson City, requires voters to present a photo ID when casting a regular or absentee ballot. Those without such documentation will be required to fill out a provisional ballot that would be segregated until they provide photo identification or their signature is matched to the one kept on file by election officials.The voter identification rule was the latest instituted in a Republican-controlled state, and reflected the party’s continued mistrust of common voting practices, including the use of voting machines. It requires the use of hand-marked paper ballots statewide starting in 2023, with limited exceptions for certain touch-screen systems until the end of next year.Among the other changes is a prohibition against the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots — a practice that many Republicans criticized during the 2020 presidential election — and replacing Missouri’s presidential primary, held in recent years in March, with a series of caucuses.The proposal advanced in the spring from the Legislature, where its Republican sponsors have continued to cite unsubstantiated and nonspecific voter fraud claims — just as former President Donald J. Trump has done — as the impetus for the voter ID law.The law will take effect on Aug. 28, in time for the November election but not until after Missouri holds its primaries on Aug. 2.Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 that led to a previous set of voter ID rules, but the state Supreme Court gutted those rules in 2020. The rules had stipulated that voters without the required ID had to fill out an affidavit or use provisional ballots until their identity could be validated.The president of the League of Women Voters of Missouri told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch this month to expect legal challenges to the new law, which the group said could disenfranchise voters of color and those who are young or older.While paper ballots are already overwhelmingly used in Missouri, Republicans have sought to scale back the use of electronic voting equipment nationwide, spreading falsehoods that the devices were rigged during the 2020 presidential election.The new law repealed provisions enacted at the start of the coronavirus pandemic that permitted mail and absentee voting in the 2020 general election, but Republicans compromised with Democrats to allow two weeks of no-excuse in-person absentee balloting. However, those ballots must be submitted at a local election office. Military and overseas voters will still be permitted to mail their ballots.The law also makes it illegal for local election authorities to accept private donations in most circumstances. More

  • in

    Election Workers Don’t Feel Safe Despite Federal Effort to Combat Threats

    WASHINGTON — “Do you feel safe? You shouldn’t.”In August, 42-year-old Travis Ford of Lincoln, Neb., posted those words on the personal Instagram page of Jena Griswold, the secretary of state and chief election official of Colorado. In a post 10 days later, Mr. Ford told Ms. Griswold that her security detail was unable to protect her, then added:“This world is unpredictable these days … anything can happen to anyone.”Mr. Ford paid dearly for those words. Last week, in U.S. District Court in Lincoln, he pleaded guilty to making a threat with a telecommunications device, a felony that can carry up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.But a year after Attorney General Merrick B. Garland established the federal Election Threats Task Force, almost no one else has faced punishment. Two other cases are being prosecuted, but Mr. Ford’s guilty plea is the only case the task force has successfully concluded out of more than 1,000 it has evaluated.Public reports of prosecutions by state and local officials are equally sparse, despite an explosion of intimidating and even violent threats against election workers, largely since former President Donald J. Trump began spreading the lie that fraud cost him the 2020 presidential election.Colorado alone has forwarded at least 500 threats against election workers to the task force, Ms. Griswold said.The sluggish pace has sparked consternation among both election workers and their supporters, some of whom say they are souring on the idea of reporting the menacing messages to prosecutors if nothing comes of it.“The reaction usually is ‘Thank you for reporting that; we’ll look into it,’ and there’s no substantive follow-up to understand what they’re doing,” said Meagan Wolfe, the president of the National Association of State Election Directors. That leads some “to feel there isn’t adequate support that can deter people from doing this in the future,” she added.U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland formed the Election Threats Task Force in June 2021.Kenny Holston for The New York TimesThe depth of election workers’ fear was underscored in hearings this month by the congressional panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault at the U.S. Capitol. Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, who are mother and daughter and both election workers in Atlanta, told of being forced into hiding by a barrage of threats in December 2020, after being falsely accused of election fraud by Rudy Giuliani, who was then Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer. Protesters tried to enter a relative’s house in search of the two. Eventually, they quit their positions.That is not the norm, but neither is it uncommon. Ms. Griswold said one Colorado county clerk wears body armor to work, and another conducts business behind bulletproof glass.“In my experience, if someone is telling you over and over how they’re going to hang you, asking you the size of your neck so they can cut the rope right, you have to take the threats really seriously,” she said, citing threats she had received.The city clerk in Milwaukee, Claire Woodall-Vogg, said she had “completely redesigned our office at City Hall for safety reasons” after receiving hundreds of threats, which she said had been forwarded to the task force.An investigation by Reuters in September turned up more than 100 threats of death or violence to election officials in eight battleground states, which at that time had produced four arrests and no convictions.A survey in March by the Brennan Center for Justice found that one in six local election officials have personally experienced threats, and nearly a third said they knew people who had left their jobs at least in part because of safety concerns.Justice Department officials declined to comment on the task force’s progress. The department has said previously that the task force was tracking and logging election-related threats, and had opened dozens of criminal investigations as a result. That led to charges in February against men from Texas and Nevada and the recent guilty plea in Nebraska.Claire Woodall-Vogg, the city clerk in Milwaukee, had to reconfigure the clerk’s office due to safety concerns.Scott Olson/Getty ImagesThe task force also has conducted training and education sessions on threats with state and local law enforcement and election officials and social media platforms. Each of the 56 F.B.I. field offices has assigned an agent to collect and analyze threat reports, and federal prosecutors have been trained in assessing and investigating threats.The trickle of prosecutions in the wake of those moves is explained in part by federal law, which defines illegal threats extremely narrowly in the name of preserving the constitutional right to free speech.“You need to say something like, ‘I am going to kill you.’ It can’t be ‘Someone ought to kill you,’” said Catherine J. Ross, a professor and expert on First Amendment law at George Washington University. “That’s a very high bar, and intentionally a high bar.”That so-called true threat doctrine classifies even many extreme statements as protected political speech. That rules out charges in a great many cases of threats against election officials — even when the recipients feel terrified for their lives.Joanna Lydgate, founder and chief executive officer of the bipartisan legal watchdog organization States United Democracy Center, said she was encouraged to see results from the task force and understood, “These cases can be challenging to bring, and they take time.”She said: “We definitely hope to see more of this from DOJ, because investigating these threats, building these cases and holding people accountable is critically important, especially as we’re looking toward the midterms.”In Arizona, the office of Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has reported more than 100 threats to the F.B.I. in the last year, said a spokeswoman, C. Murphy Hebert. Ms. Hebert said she was confident that the task force was reviewing those threats, but that could be cold comfort to recipients who have not seen results.“For the folks monitoring and the folks being targeted, a hundred messages saying ‘You should die’ is pretty threatening,” she said. “But based on what we know of the process,” they are not actionable, she said.Protesting supporters of U.S. President Donald J. Trump are reflected in a window of a tabulation center during the 2020 presidential election in Maricopa County, Ariz.Jim Urquhart/ReutersMatt Crane, the executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, said threats sent to him in the past year included voice mail and online chatter urging that he, his wife and children be shot in the head. He said he had reported at least one threat to the F.B.I.But while the bureau has helped clarify how its threat review process works and has met with local clerks, he said, he still does not know whether his report was followed up on.“It does not give a lot of comfort to the people who receive threats,” he said. “I’ve heard some say: ‘Why should I report it? I’m better off just carrying my gun with me and if something happens, at least I can do something to protect myself.’”Other experts say the lack of both action and transparency was undermining the principal goal of the task force — to stop the epidemic of violent threats.“Three prosecutions in a year for a problem that is nationally widespread seems awfully low,” said David J. Becker, a onetime voting rights lawyer at the Justice Department who now directs the nonprofit Center for Election Innovation & Research. “Whether accurate or not, the impression among election officials is that the effort the Department of Justice launched with great fanfare a year ago isn’t getting the job done.”The Brennan Center report in March found that more than half the threats against election officials who were polled had gone unreported, and that a vast majority of threats were forwarded to local law enforcement agencies, not state or federal law enforcement.Four in 10 election officials said they had never heard of the task force. And while the Justice Department has increased outreach to election officials and publicized a hotline that can be used to report complaints, “there is really very little detail about what happens when complaints are made,” said Lawrence Norden, the senior director of the center’s Elections and Government Program.“Election officials rightly feel that public repercussions for these threats are going to be critical to curtailing them,” he said. But, so far, there have been too few court cases to provide any sense that offenders will be held accountable.Until that changes — if it does — election officials need more reassurance that law enforcement has their back, he and others said.“You have a lot more election officials who are exercising their Second Amendment rights than before 2020,” said Mr. Crane, the head of the Colorado clerks association. “It only takes one of these crazy people to show up at your doorstep.” More

  • in

    How the House Jan. 6 Panel Has Redefined the Congressional Hearing

    No bloviating speeches or partisan rancor. Lots of video and a tight script. The story of Donald J. Trump’s efforts to hold on to power is being unspooled in a way totally new to Capitol Hill.The typical congressional hearing features a pileup of long-winded statements — what some might consider bloviating. There are harsh partisan exchanges that can obscure the substance at hand. Visual presentations tend to involve an easel. The television audience is largely on C-SPAN.But the congressional hearing has been utterly, if perhaps temporarily, redefined over the past month by the House select committee investigating President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to hold on to power.The five sessions the panel has produced so far this month resemble a tightly scripted television series. Each episode has a defined story with a beginning, middle and end. Heroes and villains are clearly identified. Only a few of the committee members speak at any given hearing, and those who do often read from teleprompters.The answers to the questions are known before they are asked. There is no grandstanding or partisan rancor.Earlier this month, the committee postponed its third scheduled hearing for a reason far different from those that have typically troubled the tradition-bound elected officials and aides of Capitol Hill: Their writers and producers needed more time to sharpen their scripts and cut better video clips, people involved in the decision said.When that hearing finally occurred on Thursday, the members — with the cable networks all carrying it live — wove together videos of depositions, audio from interviews and other material to document in detail how Mr. Trump tried to pressure the Justice Department into aiding his schemes.“For the first time since Trump became president, there is a clarity of message and a clear story that is being told,” said Michael Weisman, a longtime network and cable television producer and executive who oversaw live coverage of sporting, news and entertainment events. “In the past, it was muddy, they were talking over each other, there was playing to the camera and Democrats had a hard time getting their story out. This is different.”At the end of the day, the committee’s success or failure will hinge primarily on the power of the extensive factual record it has marshaled about Mr. Trump’s unrelenting efforts to reverse his election loss in 2020 and disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. But it has also faced the challenge of presenting its evidence in a way that can break through to the public in a highly polarized environment in which Republicans often get their news from pro-Trump sources.The committee has been aided by James Goldston, a former head of ABC News, who leads a small team that is sifting through the hours of depositions and vivid, sometimes disturbing footage of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol to put together the presentations.But the panel’s ability to draw on all that material traces back to a decision its members and investigators made months ago to videotape depositions with witnesses, a move largely unheard-of on Capitol Hill.Armed with thousands of hours of recorded depositions, the investigators and producers working for the committee have identified just the snippets they need for their storytelling. It is a tactic that keeps the narrative flowing but also has another big benefit: Having the option of using edited video means the committee does not have to call for live testimony from witnesses who could seize the opportunity to help Mr. Trump.The committee has only been able to pull off its approach because the House Republican leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, decided last year not to appoint members to the panel after Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked two of his choices. The result is that the only Republicans on the committee, Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the vice chairwoman, and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, are in sync with the Democrats in judging Mr. Trump to be a danger to democracy.And while current and former congressional officials said that it was highly unlikely that another committee could pull off the approach, they said the panel had probably permanently changed things in at least one way: Taped depositions in investigations are likely to become the norm and be relied on heavily by Republicans if they retake control of the House or Senate in November.“In some sense, this is the first congressional hearing of the 21st century,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and a member of the committee, who is set to lead a presentation at the panel’s next hearing. “We have really made full use out of video, out of tweets and email, and interspersing technology with live statements by the witnesses and members.”The goal, Mr. Raskin said, has been to create riveting television, with constituents anticipating the next session as if it were a drama series.“It’s one thing to tell America there was an attempted coup and a violent insurrection,” he said. “It’s another to actually tell the inside story of how these things happened and what the human dimension was all about.”Allies of Mr. Trump have dismissed the proceedings as a showbiz stunt lacking any balance and ignoring testimony helpful to the former president.The videos have rankled Mr. Trump, who has long prided himself on his instincts for good television.The news media at the hearing on Thursday. The panel’s ability to draw on video traces back to a decision its members and investigators made months ago to record depositions with witnesses.Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times“Those losers keep editing video,” Mr. Trump has told associates.Mr. Trump has closely watched the hearings, expressing surprise at the testimony against him from former administration officials and even his family members, associates said. Mr. Trump has also repeatedly told associates that episodes that former advisers have discussed on video simply “didn’t happen.”A person familiar with the discussions at the time between Mr. Trump and Mr. McCarthy said that the former president supported walking away from the committee after the House leader’s choices were blocked.And some witnesses have claimed that the panel used their testimony out of context. One Trump adviser, Jason Miller, said the committee unfairly truncated parts of his interview. Mr. Miller has complained that the panel made “selective edits” in an effort “to turn MAGA teammates against each other” and Mr. Trump.If they wanted to keep the quality of the production high, committee members determined, they only had the staff and bandwidth to put on two hearings a week, a conclusion that led them to delay the hearing on Mr. Trump’s attempts to use the Justice Department to remain in power.Each hearing has featured a behind-the-scenes element. The committee has played footage of high-profile members of Mr. Trump’s administration, like former Attorney General William P. Barr, speaking candidly as if they were trading war stories. Mr. Barr, with his sport jacket open and flanked by his highly paid lawyers, cursed as he described to investigators how he told Mr. Trump his claims of election fraud were bogus.The committee then played footage of Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump speaking on a Zoom-like conference call as she told investigators she respected Mr. Barr and believed him when he publicly pushed back on her father.The hearings have also introduced new characters who were largely unknown to even the closest followers of the Trump story. Among them has been Eric Herschmann, a White House lawyer in the final days of the administration. Sitting in what appeared like a fancy office with a black baseball bat with the word “Justice” in capital letters on the wall behind him, Mr. Herschmann has relayed expletive-laced anecdotes and rebukes of the lawyers Mr. Trump was using to try to overturn the election.Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 HearingsCard 1 of 6Making a case against Trump. More

  • in

    No One Is Above the Law, and That Starts With Donald Trump

    In a 2019 ruling requiring the former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify at a congressional hearing about former President Donald Trump’s alleged abuses of power, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson declared that “presidents are not kings.” If we take that admonition from our next Supreme Court justice seriously and look at the evidence amassed so far by the House select committee on the Jan. 6 attack, we can — and in fact must — conclude that the prosecution of Mr. Trump is not only permissible but required for the sake of American democracy.This week’s hearings showed us that Mr. Trump acted as if he thought he was a king, not a president subject to the same rules as the rest of us. The hearings featured extraordinary testimony about the relentless pressure to subvert the 2020 election that the former president and his allies brought against at least 31 state and local officials in states he lost, like Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. He or his allies twisted the arm of everyone from top personnel at the U.S. Department of Justice to lower-level election workers.The evidence and the testimony offered demonstrates why Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Justice Department should convene a grand jury now, if it hasn’t already, to consider indicting Mr. Trump for crimes related to his attempt to overturn the results of the election, before he declares his candidacy for president in 2024, perhaps as early as this summer.Although a Trump prosecution is far from certain to succeed, too much focus has been put on the risks of prosecuting him and too little on the risks of not doing so. The consequences of a failure to act for the future of democratic elections are enormous.There’s no denying that prosecuting Mr. Trump is fraught with legal difficulties. To the extent that charges like obstructing an official proceeding or conspiring to defraud the United States turn on Mr. Trump’s state of mind — an issue on which there is significant debate — it may be tough to get to the bottom of what he actually believed, given his history of lying and doubling down when confronted with contrary facts. And Mr. Trump could try to shift blame by claiming that he was relying on his lawyers — including John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani — who amplified the phony claims of fraud and who concocted faulty legal arguments to overturn the results of the election. Mr. Trump could avoid conviction if there’s even one juror who believes his repeated lies about the 2020 election.And yes, there are political difficulties too. The “Lock her up!” chants against Hillary Clinton at 2016 Trump rallies for her use of a personal email server while she was secretary of state were so pernicious because threatening to jail political enemies can lead to a deterioration of democratic values. If each presidential administration is investigating and prosecuting the last, respect for both the electoral process and the legal process may be undermined.That concern is real, but if there has ever been a case extreme enough to warrant indicting a president, then this is the case, and Mr. Trump is the person. This is not just because of what he will do if he is elected again after not being indicted (and after not being convicted following a pair of impeachments, one for the very conduct under discussion), but also because of the message it sends for the future.Leaving Mr. Trump unprosecuted would be saying it was fine to call federal, state and local officials, including many who have sworn constitutional oaths, and ask or even demand of them that they do his personal and political bidding.The testimony from the hearings reveals a coordinated and extensive plot to overturn the will of the people and install Mr. Trump as president despite Joe Biden winning the election by 74 Electoral College votes (not to mention a margin of about seven million in the popular vote). There was political pressure, and sometimes threats of violence, across the board. Mr. Trump and his cronies hounded poll workers and election officials to admit to nonexistent fraud or to recount votes and change vote totals.Wandrea Moss, known as Shaye, a former Georgia election worker, testified Tuesday about the harassment and violent threats she faced after Trump allies accused her and her mother of election fraud. As The Associated Press reported, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Mr. Giuliani, pointed to surveillance video of the two women working on ballot counting and “said the footage showed the women ‘surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they are vials of heroin or cocaine.’” The “USB ports” turned out to be ginger mints.It is no wonder that election workers and election officials are leaving their offices in fear of violence and harassment.Former top Department of Justice officials in the Trump administration testified on Thursday about pressure from Mr. Trump, in collusion with a lower-level department official named Jeffrey Clark, to issue a letter falsely claiming evidence of significant fraud in the elections. We heard in Thursday’s hearing that Mr. Trump, in a meeting that echoed his earlier role as boss on the television show “The Apprentice,” almost fired the attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, to replace him with Mr. Clark, who had no experience in either criminal law or election law.The confirmation by the Department of Justice under Mr. Clark of this “fraud” would have served as a predicate for state legislators, also pressured by Mr. Trump and his allies, to “decertify” Biden electors and conjure up a new slate of electors supporting Mr. Trump.The pressure did not stop there. An earlier committee hearing recounted severe pressure from Mr. Trump on Vice President Mike Pence to manipulate the rules for Congress to count electoral votes, a plan that depended on members of Congress supporting spurious objections to the Electoral College votes in states that Mr. Biden won.Mr. Trump also whipped up the Jan. 6 crowd for “wild” protests and encouraged it to join him in pressuring Mr. Pence to violate his constitutional oath and manipulate the Electoral College count.In his testimony on Tuesday before the Jan. 6 committee, the speaker of the Arizona House, Rusty Bowers, described the intense barrage coming at him from calls from Mr. Trump and his allies, and from Trump supporters who protested outside his house and threatened his neighbor with violence. But Mr. Bowers compared the Trump crew to the book “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” because they failed to come forward with a plausible plan to overturn the election results in Arizona or elsewhere.Seeing the group as bumbling, though, minimizes the danger of what Mr. Trump and his allies attempted and downplays how deadly serious this was: As Representative Adam Schiff, a member of the committee, noted, the country “barely” survived Mr. Trump’s attempt at election subversion, which could have worked despite the legal and factual weaknesses in the fraud claims.What if people of less fortitude than Mr. Bowers and others caved? Consider Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state in Georgia, who also testified on Tuesday about pressure from the Trump team. He described a direct phone call from a man who was then the sitting president prodding him to “find” 11,780 votes to flip Georgia from Mr. Biden to Mr. Trump. What if, instead of rebuffing Mr. Trump, Mr. Raffensperger declared that he felt there were enough questions about the vote count in Democratic counties in Georgia to warrant the legislature’s appointment of new electors, as Mr. Trump had urged?If even one of these officials had cooperated, the dikes could have broken, and claims in state after state could have proliferated.There’s no question that Mr. Trump tried to steal the election. Richard Donoghue, a top official at the Department of Justice serving during the postelection period, testified on Thursday that he knocked down with extensive evidence every cockamamie theory of voter fraud that Mr. Trump and his allies raised, but to no avail. He testified that there were nothing but “isolated” instances of fraud, the same conclusion reached by the former attorney general, Bill Barr.Mr. Bowers testified that when he demanded evidence from Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Giuliani said he had theories, but no evidence. The president appears to have known it too. According to Mr. Donoghue’s handwritten notes of his conversation with Mr. Trump, when confronted with the lack of evidence of fraud, the former president said, “Just say the election was corrupt” and “leave the rest to me” and the Republican congressmen. The president even talked about having the federal government seize voting machines, perhaps in an attempt to rerun the election.The longer Mr. Garland waits to bring charges against Mr. Trump, the harder it will be, especially if Mr. Trump has already declared for president and can say that the prosecution is politically motivated to help Democrats win in 2024. The fact that federal investigators conducted a search for evidence at the home of Mr. Clark shows that the department is working its way ever closer to the former president.What Mr. Trump did in its totality and in many individual instances was criminal. If Mr. Garland fails to act, it will only embolden Mr. Trump or someone like him to try again if he loses, this time aided by a brainwashed and cowered army of elected and election officials who stand ready to steal the election next time.Mr. Trump was the 45th president, not the first American king, but if we don’t deter conduct like this, the next head of state may come closer to claiming the kind of absolute power that is antithetical to everything the United States stands for.Richard L. Hasen (@rickhasen), who will join the University of California, Los Angeles, as a professor of law in July, is the author of “Cheap Speech: How Disinformation Poisons Our Politics — and How to Cure It.” In 2020, he proposed a 28th Amendment to the Constitution to defend and expand voting rights.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

  • in

    The Jan. 6 Hearings Have Been So Much Better Than I Expected

    I felt a nauseating dread as the Jan. 6 hearings approached, fearing that all they would do is demonstrate Donald Trump’s impunity. That the former president attempted a coup has been obvious since his mob descended on the Capitol, if not before. With Trump, however, the question has never been whether he’s committed outrageous misdeeds, but whether those misdeeds can be made to matter. Over and over again, the answer to that question has been no.It might still be no. But the hearings are having more of an impact than I expected. The decision by the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, to keep pro-Trump Republicans off the Jan. 6 committee has eliminated the back-and-forth bloviating that typically plague congressional inquiries, allowing investigators to present their findings with the narrative cohesion of a good true-crime series. Trump, who understands television, appears to be aware of how bad the hearings are for him; The Washington Post reported that he’s watching all of them and is furious at McCarthy for not putting anyone on the dais to defend him.There are signs that public opinion is moving, at least a little. A recent ABC News/Ipsos poll found that 58 percent of Americans believe Trump should be criminally charged for his role in the Jan. 6 riots, compared to 52 percent in late April. Sixty percent think the committee’s investigation has been “fair and impartial.” Sarah Longwell, an anti-Trump Republican strategist, has been conducting focus groups of Trump voters since Jan. 6. In her last two, none of the participants wanted Trump to run again — something that hadn’t happened before.Longwell emphasizes that these people aren’t watching the hearings, which they dismiss as partisan. But some of the news emerging from them is still sinking in. The Republicans in her focus groups aren’t mad at Trump, but they seem to be growing weary of him. “It is plausible that part of what the Jan. 6 hearings are doing is just creating more of that reminder that Trump is a lot to have to defend, a lot to deal with,” Longwell said.For some, the hearings are doing more than that. Dustin Stockton helped organize the pro-Trump bus tour that culminated in the Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse in front of the White House. Politico once called him and his fiancée, Jennifer Lawrence, the “Bonnie and Clyde of MAGA world.” On Tuesday, after a hearing that included testimony by Rusty Bowers, the speaker of the Arizona House, and the Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, Stockton tweeted, “This has been the most impactful of the January 6th Committee hearings. Embarrassed that I was fooled by the Fulton County ‘suitcases of ballots’ hoax.”He was referring to the conspiracy theory, pushed by Trump and his allies, that election workers smuggled fraudulent ballots into the State Farm Arena in Atlanta and ran them through the voting machines multiple times. Tuesday, he said, was the first time he realized the tale was a complete fabrication.This wasn’t a total about-face; as Hunter Walker reported in Rolling Stone, Stockton and Lawrence had already grown disillusioned with Trump. They claim they were appalled by the attack on the Capitol and blamed Trump for propping up what Stockton called “the worst chaos agents” in their milieu. Figuring that they couldn’t afford to fight subpoenas, they were cooperating with the Jan. 6 committee.Still, Stockton has been publicly skeptical of the congressional investigation, and he remains a hater of Joe Biden and a fan of right-wing trolling. The hearing on Tuesday, however, got to him, especially the testimony from Freeman and Moss about how their lives were upended by the lie Stockton helped spread.“To see the just absolute turmoil it caused in her life, and the human impact of that accusation, especially, was incredibly jarring,” Stockton said of Freeman.Very few on the right, of course, are watching these hearings as closely at Stockton, but he said he’s hearing from some people who are following them. “I think the loudest voices are doing their best to divert attention and not focus on it all,” he said. “There are tons of conservatives who private message me, who don’t have large voices, who are paying attention to some degree.” Some of them, he said, are deeply disappointed by what they’re hearing.Perhaps this makes sense. Elite conservatives mostly understood that Trump’s stories about a stolen election were absurd; as one senior Republican official asked The Washington Post, “What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?” But his rank-and-file devotees weren’t all in on the con. Instead, they were the marks.“If there are parts of the population that are totally captive to Trump’s propaganda and cannot be reached by facts and truth, that part of the population will begin to shrink over time,” said Jamie Raskin of Maryland, a member of the Jan. 6 committee and an incorrigible optimist. “It’s certainly not going to grow.”There’s not going to be a big moment when the scales fall from Republican eyes. Too many already see Trump clearly and simply prefer autocrats to Democrats. Even Bowers, who at one hearing described Trump’s acolytes terrorizing his family while his daughter was dying, said he’d vote for Trump again if he’s the nominee. But as the Jan. 6 committee methodically lays out what was, for all its squalor and absurdity, a systematic plan to subvert the 2020 election, it will get marginally harder for Trump to present himself as a defrauded winner rather than the flailing loser he is.That might, in turn, make the prosecution of Trump and his enablers a tiny bit less politically fraught. Getting the truth out won’t guarantee justice. It’s at least a step toward making justice possible.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

  • in

    Abandoned by Trump, Mo Brooks Is Now Open to Testifying About Jan. 6

    Stinging from his resounding defeat in Alabama’s Republican runoff for the Senate on Tuesday and a snub from former President Donald J. Trump, Representative Mo Brooks now appears to be willing to testify as part of the Jan. 6 investigation.Mr. Brooks signaled on Wednesday that he would comply with an impending subpoena from the bipartisan House committee that is leading the inquiry into the attack on the Capitol — but only under certain conditions.His comments to the media, reported by CNN on Wednesday, came one day after he lost a bitter primary runoff to Katie Britt. Mr. Trump withdrew his endorsement of Mr. Brooks in March when he began slipping in the polls, and gave his support to Ms. Britt in the final weeks of the campaign.Mr. Brooks bemoaned his loss, telling a Politico reporter that the “bad guys won.”He hinged his willingness to testify before the House committee on being able to do so “in public so the public can see it — so they don’t get bits and pieces dribbled out,” Mr. Brooks said, according to CNN.The congressman added that he would only testify about matters related to Jan. 6, 2021, and that he wanted to see copies of documents that he might be asked about beforehand, the network reported.Mr. Brooks was not available for an interview on Thursday, and his office declined to elaborate on his comments.Mr. Brooks, a hard-right Republican and a once-fierce ally of Mr. Trump’s whom the former president has accused of becoming “woke,” has drawn intense scrutiny for his actions preceding the violence on Jan. 6.Outfitted in body armor at a rally before the siege, Mr. Brooks exhorted Mr. Trump’s election-denying supporters to start “kicking ass.”Investigators have also sought to question Mr. Brooks about his interactions with Mr. Trump in the aftermath of the attack. They zeroed in on Mr. Brooks’s comments in March, when he said that Mr. Trump had, since leaving office, repeatedly asked him to illegally “rescind” the 2020 election, remove President Biden and force a new special election.But as of Wednesday, Representative Bennie G. Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the head of the Jan. 6 committee, acknowledged that Mr. Brooks still had not been served with a subpoena. Mr. Thompson said that process servers in Washington had been unable to track down Mr. Brooks because he had been campaigning in Alabama.Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 HearingsCard 1 of 6Making a case against Trump. More

  • in

    As Midterms Loom, Mark Zuckerberg Shifts Focus Away From Elections

    Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, made securing the 2020 U.S. election a top priority. He met regularly with an election team, which included more than 300 people from across his company, to prevent misinformation from spreading on the social network. He asked civil rights leaders for advice on upholding voter rights.The core election team at Facebook, which was renamed Meta last year, has since been dispersed. Roughly 60 people are now focused primarily on elections, while others split their time on other projects. They meet with another executive, not Mr. Zuckerberg. And the chief executive has not talked recently with civil rights groups, even as some have asked him to pay more attention to the midterm elections in November.Safeguarding elections is no longer Mr. Zuckerberg’s top concern, said four Meta employees with knowledge of the situation. Instead, he is focused on transforming his company into a provider of the immersive world of the metaverse, which he sees as the next frontier of growth, said the people, who were not authorized to speak publicly.The shift in emphasis at Meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, could have far-reaching consequences as faith in the U.S. electoral system reaches a brittle point. The hearings on the Jan. 6 Capitol riots have underlined how precarious elections can be. And dozens of political candidates are running this November on the false premise that former President Donald J. Trump was robbed of the 2020 election, with social media platforms continuing to be a key way to reach American voters.Election misinformation remains rampant online. This month, “2000 Mules,” a film that falsely claims the 2020 election was stolen from Mr. Trump, was widely shared on Facebook and Instagram, garnering more than 430,000 interactions, according to an analysis by The New York Times. In posts about the film, commenters said they expected election fraud this year and warned against using mail-in voting and electronic voting machines.Voters casting their ballots in Portland, Maine, this month.Jodi Hilton for The New York TimesOther social media companies have also pulled back some of their focus on elections. Twitter, which stopped labeling and removing election misinformation in March 2021, has been preoccupied with its $44 billion sale to Elon Musk, three employees with knowledge of the situation said. Mr. Musk has suggested he wants fewer rules about what can and cannot be posted on the service.“Companies should be growing their efforts to get prepared to protect the integrity of elections for the next few years, not pulling back,” said Katie Harbath, chief executive of the consulting firm Anchor Change, who formerly managed election policy at Meta. “Many issues, including candidates pushing that the 2020 election was fraudulent, remain and we don’t know how they are handling those.”Meta, which along with Twitter barred Mr. Trump from its platforms after the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has worked over the years to limit political falsehoods on its sites. Tom Reynolds, a Meta spokesman, said the company had “taken a comprehensive approach to how elections play out on our platforms since before the U.S. 2020 elections and through the dozens of global elections since then.”Mr. Reynolds disputed that there were 60 people focused on the integrity of elections. He said Meta has hundreds of people across more than 40 teams focused on election work. With each election, he said, the company was “building teams and technologies and developing partnerships to take down manipulation campaigns, limit the spread of misinformation and maintain industry-leading transparency around political ads and pages.”Trenton Kennedy, a Twitter spokesman, said the company was continuing “our efforts to protect the integrity of election conversation and keep the public informed on our approach.” For the midterms, Twitter has labeled the accounts of political candidates and provided information boxes on how to vote in local elections.How Meta and Twitter treat elections has implications beyond the United States, given the global nature of their platforms. In Brazil, which is holding a general election in October, President Jair Bolsonaro has recently raised doubts about the country’s electoral process. Latvia, Bosnia and Slovenia are also holding elections in October.“People in the U.S. are almost certainly getting the Rolls-Royce treatment when it comes to any integrity on any platform, especially for U.S. elections,” said Sahar Massachi, the executive director of the think tank Integrity Institute and a former Facebook employee. “And so however bad it is here, think about how much worse it is everywhere else.”Facebook’s role in potentially distorting elections became evident after 2016, when Russian operatives used the site to spread inflammatory content and divide American voters in the U.S. presidential election. In 2018, Mr. Zuckerberg testified before Congress that election security was his top priority.“The most important thing I care about right now is making sure no one interferes in the various 2018 elections around the world,” he said.The social network has since become efficient at removing foreign efforts to spread disinformation in the United States, election experts said. But Facebook and Instagram still struggle with conspiracy theories and other political lies on their sites, they said.In November 2019, Mr. Zuckerberg hosted a dinner at his home for civil rights leaders and held phone and Zoom conference calls with them, promising to make election integrity a main focus.He also met regularly with an election team. More than 300 employees from various product and engineering teams were asked to build new systems to detect and remove misinformation. Facebook also moved aggressively to eliminate toxic content, banning QAnon conspiracy theory posts and groups in October 2020.Around the same time, Mr. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated $400 million to local governments to fund poll workers, pay for rental fees for polling places, provide personal protective equipment and other administrative costs.The week before the November 2020 election, Meta also froze all political advertising to limit the spread of falsehoods.But while there were successes — the company kept foreign election interference off the platform — it struggled with how to handle Mr. Trump, who used his Facebook account to amplify false claims of voter fraud. After the Jan. 6 riot, Facebook barred Mr. Trump from posting. He is eligible for reinstatement in January 2023.Last year, Frances Haugen, a Facebook employee-turned-whistle-blower, filed complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission accusing the company of removing election safety features too soon after the 2020 election. Facebook prioritized growth and engagement over security, she said.In October, Mr. Zuckerberg announced Facebook would focus on the metaverse. The company has restructured, with more resources devoted to developing the online world.The team working on elections now meets regularly with Nick Clegg, Meta’s president for global affairs.Christopher Furlong/Getty ImagesMeta also retooled its election team. Now the number of employees whose job is to focus solely on elections is approximately 60, down from over 300 in 2020, according to employees. Hundreds of others participate in meetings about elections and are part of cross-functional teams, where they work on other issues. Divisions that build virtual reality software, a key component of the metaverse, have expanded.What Is the Metaverse, and Why Does It Matter?Card 1 of 5The origins. More