On Thursday, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the funding used in a criminal scheme to spoil South Florida races for the benefit of Republicans using "ghost candidates" may have come from outside the state — and could be linked to political power brokers in Alabama.
"At issue is $550,000 donated last year by a dark-money nonprofit to a pair of political committees that promoted little-known independent candidates in three key Senate races: Senate District 9 in Central Florida and Senate Districts 37 and 39 in South Florida," said the report. "The money paid for nearly identical mailers apparently tailored to persuade Democratic-leaning voters to support the independent candidates in each of the three races, all of which were ultimately won by Republicans."
The scheme has been linked to a former Republican lawmaker named Frank Artiles, who was arrested on felony charges stemming from the scandal in March. Political operatives hired by the GOP in the scheme were reportedly terrified they would be charged with crimes themselves.
"Investigators in the Artiles case have obtained records that suggest the nonprofits [bankrolling the campaigns] had ties to consultants working at the time for Matrix LLC, an Alabama-based communication and political consulting business," said the report. "According to records from a separate civil lawsuit, those consultants all left Matrix at the end of last year amid a falling out with the company's founder, Joe Perkins, a Democratic strategist and behind-the-scenes power broker. Matrix recently sued its ex-employees — who now work together at a new consulting shop in Florida — accusing them of diverting fees from clients to businesses and nonprofits they set up for themselves."
The trial is set to begin in August.
CNN guest drops the mic on Lindsey Graham -- and says he's a better Trump 'golf caddy' than a senator
Cardiologist Dr. Jonathan Reiner on Thursday delivered a blistering assessment of Sen. Lindsey Graham's recent encouragement of former President Donald Trump to take a more active role in promoting the COVID-19 vaccine.
After CNN host Erin Burnett quoted Graham as saying he called Trump and told him to do more to promote the vaccine that was developed during his administration, Reiner was incredulous that Graham was only just now giving the former president this advice.
"Where has he been for the last 18 months?" asked Reiner. "Or for the last eight months since the vaccine has been released?"
Reiner then went after Graham for doing more to butter up Trump than to promote public health.
"You know, Senator Graham has been a very effective adviser and enabler and golf caddy for the former president," he said. "But he has not wanted to run foul of him, which is why you haven't heard him vigorously urging Americans or South Carolinians to become vaccinated."
Watch the video below.
Doctor drops the mic on Lindsey Graham -- and says he's a better Trump 'golf caddy' than a senator www.youtube.com
The Justice Department hasn't indicated yet whether it will launch any criminal investigations into former President Donald Trump.
In some cases, local district attorneys or county attorneys are doing their own work on specific things Trump has done in their areas of the country -- but some legal scholars believe that federal action will be required.
Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe joined former federal prosecutors Joyce Vance and Barbara McQuade in crafting a roadmap for the Justice Department to explain why and how they can move forward.
Writing in the Washington Post, the three argued that without an investigation into Trump's behavior, the DOJ can't restore the "badly frayed public trust" in the agency. While there are likely some questionable things Americans still aren't privy to, the legal analysts explained that the publicly available information is more than enough to launch an investigation.
While Fulton County Attorney Fani Willis is looking into whether Trump committed election fraud by asking the Georgia secretary of state to "find" 12,000 votes, the DOJ could also look into those actions. After Trump put pressure on Georgia officials he turned to acting attorney general Jeff Rosen and Vice President Mike Pence.
"Just say the election was corrupt, [and] leave the rest to me," Trump told Rosen.
There was even a fear that Trump would fire Rosen and appoint his ally Jeffrey Clark as the new acting AG because Clark would work with the president to ensure the Georgia election was declared fraudulent. Then there were the statements made at the Jan. 6 rally by Trump, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and Rudy Giuliani.
"None of these facts alone proves a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, but together they clearly merit opening a criminal investigation, which would allow prosecutors to obtain phone and text records, emails, memos and witness testimony to determine whether Trump should be charged," the experts explained.
They suggested charging "conspiracy," a federal crime for those who attempt to defraud the United States by blocking the function of the government. It's the same conspiracy that special counsel Robert Mueller used on Russian hackers.
"An investigation could also explore whether Trump agreed with others — Giuliani, Brooks and possibly members of his inner circle — to obstruct Congress's function of exercising its statutory duty to certify the election results on Jan. 6," they explained. "By using disinformation to sow unfounded doubt, Trump and his allies may have tried to induce members of Congress to vote against certifying the election results, creating enough chaos to throw the election to the House, where Republicans controlled a majority of state delegations."
They also argued that the DOJ could charge Trump with obstruction of an official proceeding. It's a crime to block, influence or impede any official proceeding, such as the joint session of Congress authorizing the 2020 election. Merely agreeing with the rest of the Republicans involved would work to prove a violation. For that matter, it would work as a charge against Brooks, Giuliani and others involved on Jan. 6.
Then there's a RICO charge, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which the DOJ could do by showing Trump "was associated with an enterprise affecting interstate commerce, such as the office of the presidency, and committed at least two racketeering acts." The DOJ could use the recorded conversation Trump had with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R-GA) in which he claimed Raffensperger could be accused of committing a crime.
"That's a big risk to you," Trump said.
They closed by explaining that the point is that Trump shouldn't just get to walk away for an attempted coup. If Merrick Garland wants to restore the dignity of the DOJ, they encourage him to begin here.
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