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The Department of Justice is ramping up its investigation into the creation of alternate slates of pro-Trump electors seeking to overturn Joe Biden's 2020 election victory, The New York Times reports.
The investigation is particularly focusing on a team of lawyers who worked for former President Donald Trump.
"A federal grand jury in Washington has started issuing subpoenas in recent weeks to people linked to the alternate elector plan, requesting information about several lawyers including Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and one of his chief legal advisers, John Eastman, one of the people said," the Times reports.
Also sought by the subpoenas are pro-Trump lawyers like Jenna Ellis and Kenneth Chesebro.
As the Times points out, election officials in seven key swing states offered formal lists of pro-Trump electors to the Electoral College claiming that the states would lean in favor of Trump when their claims of mass voter fraud were accepted.
Submitting false statements to a federal agency or agent is a federal crime.
Trump's unceasing and unfounded claims that the November 2020 presidential vote was "stolen" by Democrat Joe Biden have seeped into the political bloodstream.
Seventy-eight percent of the Republicans surveyed by CNN-SSRS said they do not believe Biden legitimately won the presidency, a figure in line with the findings of other opinion polls.
"It's a new phenomenon in American elections," said Edward Foley, a constitutional law professor at The Ohio State University.
"There have been fights over hanging chads -- like Bush vs Gore in 2000 -- and there have been recounts for as long as there have been elections in America," Foley said.
"But the 'Big Lie' is a new thing. It's disconnected from reality and it's kind of a social pathology."
With additional reporting by AFP
The leader of a national white supremacist group was sentenced Tuesday in Michigan on civil disorder charges.
Tuscola County Circuit Court Judge Amy Gierhart ordered Justen Watkins, 25, of Bad Axe to a term of 32 months to 4 years in prison for conspiring to train for a civil disorder and a mandatory consecutive 2 years for felony firearm. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said that one of the charges filed against Watkins – conspiring to train for a civil disorder – marked the first time a defendant has faced the felony in Michigan’s history.
Authorities say Watkins helped lead a group known as The Base, which reportedly ran a “hate camp” for members, where he led tactical and firearms training for participants with the goal of being prepared for the violent overthrow of the government.
The cases were the result of a joint investigation by the Michigan State Police (MSP) Caro Post and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).
Charges against Watkins were initially filed in October 2020, along with a co-defendant, Alfred Gorman, in connection to a December 2019 incident in which authorities say a Dexter family was “terrorized at their home after the men used intimidation tactics and posted messages to other members of The Base targeting the home.”
Both men were charged in Washtenaw County with gang membership, a 20-year felony; unlawful posting of a message, a two-year felony and/or a $5,000 fine; and using computers to commit a crime, a four-year felony and/or $5,000 fine.
After those charges were filed, investigators found evidence that Watkins and two other members of The Base – Thomas Denton and Tristan Webb – entered two former and vacant Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) sites in Caro to assess them as potential future training grounds for “hate camps”, which is what the group named their paramilitary firearms training exercises.
Charges were then filed against Watkins, Denton and Webb, including one count of larceny in a building, a four-year felony; one count of gang membership, a 20-year felony; one count of conspiracy to train with firearms for a civil disorder, a four-year felony; and one count of felony firearm, a two-year felony.
Webb pleaded no contest last week to gang membership, conspiracy to train with firearms for a civil disorder and felony firearm. Authorities say the larceny in a building charge will be dismissed as part of the plea. Watkins, meanwhile, pleaded guilty last month to gang membership in Washtenaw County and will be sentenced there June 13 on that count.
Denton previously pleaded no contest to felony firearm and conspiracy to train with firearms for a civil disorder in Tuscola County and was sentenced to two years for felony firearm and between nine months and four years for the conspiracy charge, which will run concurrently. The remaining charges were dismissed.
Gorman, who was only charged in Washtenaw County, pleaded guilty to gang membership and was sentenced Feb. 28. He received four years of probation. The other charges were dismissed.
“The tragic event in Buffalo that resulted in 10 people being murdered and another three injured is an example of why we must prosecute and pursue these types of crimes to deter others from contemplating such acts of violence,” said Nessel.
“Securing these convictions on the conspiracy to train for civil disorder creates a historic precedent in our state’s court system and conveys the real danger domestic terrorism poses here and around the country. Today’s sentencing is recognition by the court of the serious nature of these crimes and demonstrates the willingness of our justice system to hold accountable those who commit crimes in the name of overthrowing our government or perpetuating racist ideologies. I appreciate the work of our law enforcement partners at all levels to help bring these criminals to justice.”
Founded in 2018, The Base – which translates into “Al-Qaeda” in English – has been labeled by authorities as a “white supremacy gang” that openly advocates for violence and criminal acts against the U.S., and purports to be training for a race war to establish white ethno-nationalist rule in areas of the U.S., including Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
According to Nessel’s office, the group also traffics in Nazi ideology and extreme anti-Semitism.
Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.
Gov. Greg Abbott attended a fundraiser for his reelection campaign Tuesday night in East Texas, hours after a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at an elementary school over 300 miles away in Uvalde. His campaign says he is postponing all political activities going forward.
Abbott went to the fundraiser after visiting Taylor County — another part of the state — to survey the state's wildfire response there. While holding a news conference there, he gave an update on the Uvalde shooting, which had just happened.
The news of Abbott's attendance at the fundraiser was first reported by Quorum Report.
"After holding a briefing and press conference on the current wild fires in Taylor County, where he also provided an update the situation in Uvalde, the Governor did stop by a previously scheduled event last night at a private home in Walker County," Abbott campaign spokesperson Mark Miner said in a statement. "All campaign and political activity, including a scheduled fundraiser for this evening, have postponed until further notice."
Abbott and other state leaders were set to hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon in Uvalde on the state response to the massacre, according to the governor's office.
Abbott, a prolific fundraiser, is running for a third term against Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke. O'Rourke's response to the Uvalde shooting has included criticism of Abbott for loosening gun laws in Texas, and O'Rourke has called on Abbott to pull out of an appearance at a National Rifle Association convention this weekend in Houston.
Abbott's appearance at the fundraiser came as other Texas politicians were canceling similar events due to the tragedy. State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, who represents Uvalde, canceled a campaign fundraiser that had been scheduled for Tuesday evening in Austin. A Republican state representative, San Antonio's Steve Allison, also nixed a campaign fundraiser for Wednesday in Austin.