We’ve written a lot about the Big Lie’s evolution — from fear-mongering about voter fraud to the attempts to subvert the 2020 election, to the ongoing partisan election reviews — and the network of activists who have been keeping this anti-democratic movement alive.
But over the past couple of months, the public has seen even more clearly how coordinated the effort was by Trump supporters and allies to try to overturn the former president’s election loss, including farfetched lawsuits and a pressure campaign on Justice Department leadership.
This week, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow highlighted forged electoral certificates uncovered by American Oversight that also point to a high level of coordination across several states. Those fake certificates were submitted by Trump supporters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin — all states won by Joe Biden — falsely purporting to be legitimate electors.
- Those five falsified documents, as well as those from Pennsylvania and New Mexico, which contained slightly different language in one key paragraph, all bear striking similarities in formatting and writing. “That doesn’t happen by accident,” Maddow said during her Tuesday night show. “Who organized this?”
We first reported on the records last year but they’ve drawn renewed scrutiny this week, because in the year since American Oversight obtained them, we’ve seen them referenced in two key documents related to the attempted coup:
At the same time, Politico reports that the House Jan. 6 panel’s “state-level work is kicking into overdrive,” with investigators probing Trump’s pressuring of state election officials to back his democracy-thwarting ambitions.
- This includes messages exchanged by Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, and Georgia officials, as well as Trump’s call to an election investigator in the state, the audio recording of which we obtained last year.
- Another major news item regarding the attack on the Capitol was the Thursday arrest of the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes. Rhodes and 10 others were charged with seditious conspiracy — the first sedition charge in the Justice Department’s prosecution of hundreds of people involved in the riot.
- “Prosecutors said that beginning only days after the 2020 election,” reported the New York Times, “Rhodes oversaw a seditious plot ‘to oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power by force.’”
While we learn more about the coup attempt, American Oversight is also focused on the sham election investigations that have been undertaken in multiple states.
The partisan and protracted Wisconsin investigation has extended into the new year, and on Monday a judge let stand subpoenas issued to state election officials. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul had challenged the subpoenas, arguing that lead investigator Michael Gableman could not interview officials behind closed doors.
- Meanwhile, state Rep. Janel Brandtjen, the head of the Assembly’s elections committee, has requested election data going back decades, which the chair of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission said comprises “millions of data points.” “It’s a ridiculous request,” WEC Chair Ann Jacobs said.
On the Records
ICE Celebrates Arrest of Massachusetts Judge
In 2019, a Massachusetts state judge was indicted for allegedly having helped an immigrant man who appeared before her in court evade federal immigration enforcement officers the year before. Along with the Massachusetts ACLU, we sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement last year for the release of communications about the prosecution. Documents filed in court show top ICE officials celebrating the arrest.
Trump Administration Loyalty Tests
Mari Stull, a Trump appointee in the State Department, was investigated in 2018 for having allegedly vetted employees for loyalty to the president. We obtained Stull’s emails from that time, which provide concerning examples of such behavior. In one email about a candidate for a UNICEF job, Stull pointed out that they had “served Hillary Clinton,” and said that the position “would be well served by a like-minded, proven supporter of the President.”
The Coronavirus Pandemic
The Biden administration plans to announce next week how it will make “high-quality masks available to the American people for free.” After consideration, the CDC decided not to update its mask guidance to recommend N95 and KN95 masks, which provide better protection against the virus than surgical or cloth masks. “Any mask is better than no mask,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said.
- The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration’s vaccination mandate for large businesses, which would have covered more than 80 million workers. The court allowed the vaccine mandate policy for health care workers to move forward.
- The Associated Press highlighted the shortcomings in relying on case counts as the primary data point for illustrating the state of the pandemic, as they do not take into account unreported tests taken at home or infected people who don’t test at all. Instead, media outlets have increasingly relied on other indicators of the surge, such as overwhelmed hospitals or worker shortages.
The country broke its record for Covid-19 hospitalizations this week, with more than 145,000 people in hospitals with the virus, surpassing the previous peak in January 2021. Nationwide cases and deaths have increased in the past week compared with the previous two weeks.
- In California, officials have attempted to address hospital staffing shortages by directing health care workers who test positive without symptoms to return to work without isolating. The move was based on guidance from the CDC allowing work restrictions to be lifted for asymptomatic personnel during “crisis” situations.
- Cases in New York City, the original U.S. hotspot for omicron, have plateaued, sparking optimism from city officials. On Tuesday, high school students across the city walked out of their classes to protest inadequate protective measures.
- West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice tested positive for Covid-19, stating that he felt “extremely unwell” but is vaccinated and boosted.
- State Department staff are experiencing a massive surge in cases.
- Chicago schools reopened after the city agreed to bolster protective measures against the virus, including expanded testing and providing students with N95s, as demanded by the teachers union.
- The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis received a briefing about the government’s response to the omicron variant from CDC Director Walensky and top HHS officials David Kessler and Dawn O’Connell. Walensky, along with Anthony Fauci, also testified at a Senate hearing about Covid-19 variants on Tuesday.
Other Stories We’re Following
Jan. 6 and the Big Lie
- House Jan. 6 committee dismisses ‘unsupported’ claim of FBI involvement in riot (Washington Post)
- Lindell started a new election ‘hub’ run by Jan. 6 riot attendees (Daily Beast)
- Violent online messages before Capitol riot went unshared by DHS, emails show (Politico)
- Revealed: The billionaires funding the coup’s brain trust (Rolling Stone)
Sham Election Reviews
- Kyrsten Sinema not backing down on the filibuster in fatal blow to Democrats’ voting rights fight (CNN)
- Conservative groups target state, local voter registration rolls with multiple lawsuits (Iowa Capital Dispatch)
- Republicans set to force emergency rule on absentee ballot drop boxes Monday (Wisconsin Examiner)
- Families separated at border now fear extortion attempts (Associated Press)
- Student loan processor Navient to cancel $1.7 billion of debts (Wall Street Journal)
- RNC signals a pullout from presidential debates (New York Times)
- Justice Dept. forms new domestic terrorism unit to address growing threat (Washington Post)
- Treasury warns of ‘enormous challenges’ this tax-filing season that could delay refunds (Washington Post)
In the States
- Redistricting: Ohio Supreme Court strikes down state House and Senate maps (Columbus Dispatch)
- Because an email went to spam, a Virginia lawmaker wants all FOIA requests made by certified mail (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
- Florida Republicans craft restrictive abortion law Democrats have little power to stop (Politico)
- Gianforte sides with Legislature in criticizing Montana judiciary (Montana Free Press)
- Abbott dismissed criticism of National Guard pay issues and suicides, accusing opponents of ‘playing politics’ (Houston Chronicle)
- Judge rules against pipeline company trying to keep ‘counterinsurgency’ records secret (Intercept)
- Governor looks to target Missouri Sunshine Law during legislative session (Missouri Independent)
- Florida officials tried to steer education contract to former lawmaker’s company (Tampa Bay Times)
- A rural Washington school board race shows how far-right extremists are shifting to local power (Washington Post)
- Sheriff ordered deputies to take cash from undocumented immigrants, investigators allege (Washington Post)
- How a Trump golf course is screwing over a public school (Daily Beast)
- Georgia DA investigating Trump closer to decision on charges (Associated Press)
- Mike Pence. Stephen Miller. The Supreme Court. Vaccine mandates. What could possibly go wrong? (Mother Jones)
- Pressed on his election lies, former President Trump cuts NPR interview short (NPR)