News Roundup: Paying Up for Election Lies

More than $787 million — that’s how much Fox News has agreed to pay in the defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems over the network’s broadcasting of lies about election fraud.

  • It’s an enormous sum — the largest-ever publicly disclosed defamation settlement amount — but it doesn’t require Fox to issue an on-air correction or apology to its viewers.
  • The network still faces a $2.7 billion lawsuit from another voting machine company, Smartmatic USA.
  • As NPR reports, there are more than a dozen election defamation lawsuits working through the legal system right now, thanks to the “huge surge of false narratives about the 2020 election” having “brought a wave of credible cases for the courts to weigh.”

While it’s just a fraction of the Fox settlement amount, election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell has been told he must pay $5 million to a computer forensics expert who took up Lindell’s challenge to prove wrong his outlandish claims that China had interfered in the 2020 election.

  • The expert, a Trump voter from Nevada, “had examined Lindell’s data and concluded that not only did it not prove voter fraud, it also had no connection to the 2020 election.”

One of the most prominent examples of the post-2020 efforts to cast doubt on election integrity was the Arizona Senate’s discredited “audit” of Maricopa County’s vote. This week, after nearly two years, American Oversight finalized a settlement agreement with the Senate and its lead contractor Cyber Ninjas in our lawsuit for public records from the review.

  • Our litigation extracted tens of thousands of pages of records that the Senate fought all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court to keep hidden from the public. Those documents revealed key details about how the “audit” was conducted and why.
  • Separately, an Arizona appellate court ruled that the state Republican Party and its lawyers must pay the attorneys’ fees for the Arizona Secretary of State’s office in a lawsuit that challenged Maricopa’s post-election hand-count procedures. 

Of course, as NBC News points out, one person who hasn’t paid the price for former President Trump’s election lies is Trump himself. And while last year’s midterm elections saw the defeat of several prominent election deniers who were running for office, a major threat to U.S. democracy remains at the local level. A new report from research nonprofit Informing Democracy outlines how those “threats are growing in strength as misguided officials continue to peddle lies about non-existent fraud, probe for vulnerabilities in election law and process, and undermine public confidence about the security of future elections.” Here are two recent headlines related to that fact:

  • After threats and clashes with Republicans, another Texas election official quits (New York Times)
  • Fulton County, Pa. sanctioned over copying 2020 voting machine data (ABC News

Those lies’ continued existence have kept alive efforts to further restrict voting access. And conservative attorney Cleta Mitchell — who played a prominent role in Trump’s attempt to overturn his election loss — is one of the big names pushing for more restrictions.

  • This week, the Washington Post reported that Mitchell gave a presentation last weekend to Republican donors in which she said that conservatives should work together to limit voting access on campuses, same-day registration, and the automatic mailing of ballots to registered voters. She also called for the firing of two Arizona election officials who refused to cave to Trump’s false claims that the election was fraudulent.
  • Mitchell serves on the advisory board of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and we’ve been investigating her efforts to advance her anti-voting agenda, having filed a lawsuit against the EAC last year for her emails.
  • Last month, American Oversight reported on emails we obtained in which Mitchell used unfounded claims of voter fraud to oppose expanded access to absentee voting in 2020 as well as in 2022, while she served as an EAC adviser. 
  • Read American Oversight’s statement on Mitchell’s latest comments.

On the Records

White Supremacist Incidents in the Military
The Texas Tribune recently reported that the Army is increasingly permitting soldiers charged with violent crimes to leave the military instead of facing trial. Documents we uncovered in 2021, reported on by USA Today, showed that the Navy had quietly separated members involved in white supremacist incidents from their ranks without imposing lasting consequences.

  • The documents also include information on seven incidents of racist extremism in the Coast Guard from 2018 to 2020 as well as a 2008 Navy investigation of a white supremacist group within the Marine Corps.
  • In 2022, we obtained Coast Guard records that detailed reports of members displaying and espousing white supremacist ideologies. Information provided in a few of the cases shows that some investigations concluded after members agreed to stop seeking out extremist content online.
  • Finally, we previously received responses to our FOIA requests and records that illustrate how branches of the military are not adequately tracking incidents of white supremacy within their ranks.

RAGA Corporate Donors
This week, ProPublica reported on corporate donors’ return to supporting the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) after having paused donations over criticism of the party’s embrace of Trump’s stolen-election lies.

  • ProPublica’s report cited records obtained by American Oversight that shed light on efforts by RAGA leadership to rebuild relationships with major corporate donors after Jan. 6.
  • The records, some of which had also previously been covered by the Center for Media and Democracy, revealed other meetings between Wilson and some of RAGA’s top corporate donors in the summer of 2021.
  • In one email, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office scheduled a meeting with top executives of Johnson & Johnson, which had previously been a major RAGA donor but paused its contributions after the Jan. 6 attack. Wilson had served as the RAGA chairman at the time.
  • We also detailed records we obtained from the Montana attorney general’s office showing that Aaron Reitz, a deputy attorney general in Texas, helped coordinate a letter to DirecTV in which several attorneys general urged the company to reconsider its decision to drop One America News. 

Other Stories We’re Following

Jan. 6 Investigations
  • Fulton prosecutors offered immunity deals to some GOP electors (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • Claims of crime expose rift in Georgia’s pro-Trump fake elector group (Guardian)
  • Atlanta prosecutor seeks removal of lawyer in Trump case (New York Times)
  • Trump team prepares to fight efforts to block him from ballots over Jan. 6 (Washington Post)
  • Georgia prosecutor probing Trump reveals new details of active investigation (Politico)
  • Boris Epshteyn, Trump legal adviser, is to be interviewed by special counsel (New York Times)
  • Appeals court presses pause on House GOP subpoena to former Trump prosecutor (Politico)
Voting Rights
  • Florida Republicans eye voter registration groups in new effort to change election law (Miami Herald)
  • Texas considers bills criminalizing voter fraud despite no evidence (The Guardian)
  • Florida Republicans eye voter registration groups in new effort to change election law (Miami Herald)
Trump Administration Accountability
  • Trump says if elected he will force federal workers to pass a political test and fire them if they fail (The Independent)
  • Trump may not appear at his upcoming trial in NYC due to ‘logistical burdens,’ attorney says (ABC News)
  • ICE records reveal how agents abuse access to secret data (Wired)
  • As migrant children were put to work, U.S. ignored warnings (New York Times)
  • Biden administration to announce plans for anticipated border surge (Washington Post)
In the States
  • Florida bans teaching about gender identity in all public schools (Washington Post
  • ‘Don’t Say Gay’ expansion requested by DeSantis approved (Associated Press)
  • Historic surge in bills targeting transgender rights pass at record speed (Washington Post)
  • GOP-controlled Missouri House approves ban on transgender athletes in women’s sports (Kansas City Star)
  • Transgender lawmaker silenced by Montana House speaker until she apologizes (Associated Press)
  • Public schools would have to display Ten Commandments under bill passed by Texas Senate (Texas Tribune)
Government Transparency
  • Legislation would exempt Florida Gov. DeSantis’ movements from public records (WFSU Tallahassee)
  • Suit seeks to force Archives to get DOJ help in finding missing Secret Service texts (The Hill)
  • Senate passes bill to undo Wisconsin open records ruling (Associated Press)
National News
  • Senate Democrats eye a hearing on Clarence Thomas as Republicans shrug off gift revelations (NBC News)
  • Complaints about Justice Thomas’s disclosures sent to judicial committee (Washington Post)
  • FDA okays second omicron booster for people at high risk from Covid (Washington Post)
  • Heritage Foundation makes plans to staff next GOP administration (New York Times)
  • Supreme Court extends pause on ruling limiting access to abortion pill (New York Times)
  • House Republicans to vote on barring trans athletes from women’s sports (Washington Post)
  • How a campaign against transgender rights mobilized conservatives (New York Times)