A probe into South Korea's ferry disaster has heard that warnings over the ship's seaworthiness were ignored, prosecutors said Wednesday, as rescuers worked to recover the bodies of more than 90 people still missing. The confirmed death toll from the…
A straw poll at the semi-annual Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference in Michigan suggests that Donald Trump influence among Republican Party activists seems to be waning as the country moves on from his November election loss.
According to a report from MLIVE, attendees are already lining up behind alternatives to the former president for the 2024 presidential election and when asked if a Trump endorsement would sway their vote, a majority took a pass.
"An endorsement from former President Donald Trump may not be a decisive advantage among Michigan Republicans, according to a straw poll sponsored by The Detroit News, " the report states, basing it upon an "unscientific poll surveyed more than 740 Republicans of the conference's 1,300 attendees."
As Exhibit A, MLIVE reports that Matthew DePerno has received Trump's endorsement in the Attorney General race but, among attendees at the conference, ran "dead last" in the list of potential candidates.
"About 60% of those surveyed said they would vote for a Republican 'even if the candidate didn't agree with Trump's assertion that the 2020 election was stolen,'" the reports states, adding that favorites for the 2024 GOP presidential field still includes Trump at 47% followed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (25%), South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (8%), U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (6%)"
You can read more here.
'Calling it payback shows it's premeditated': Unite the Right organizers go on trial for planning violence
The orgy of fascist violence that exploded in Charlottesville, Va. during the event known as Unite the Right on Aug. 11-12, 2017 provided a shocking manifestation of the polarization, division and scapegoating projected by Donald Trump during his ascent to power.
It's been more than four years since white supremacists led a torchlit march to the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, surrounding counter-protesters whom they kicked, punched and struck with torches, while local officials and visiting faith leaders huddled in fear in a nearby church on Aug 11. The following morning, they marched through the streets of Charlottesville chanting, "Jews will not replace us," charged through a group of clergy members, and fought pitched battles in the streets with antifascist counter-protesters. After Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared the rally an "unlawful gathering" they brutally beat a young, Black man named DeAndre Harris with sticks in a parking garage, and a man named James A. Fields Jr. accelerated his car into a crowd of marchers, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others. Unite the Right is widely acknowledged as the largest gathering of hate groups in decades.
The organizers of Unite the Right will go on trial on Oct. 25 in a civil suit brought by the nonprofit Integrity First for America on behalf of students, clergy and other Charlottesville residents who were injured in Fields' car-ramming attack, the assault at the Rotunda and by the waves of neo-Nazis who charged through counter-protesters outside the park where the Lee statue stood. The lawsuit seeks to prove that the defendants conspired to violate the civil rights of Black and Jewish people and their supporters through a "common plan of violence and intimidation in the streets of Charlottesville."
The violence in Charlottesville on Aug. 11-12 didn't come out of nowhere.
Pitched street battles in Berkeley, Calif. in March and April, and then in Portland, Ore. in June reflecting escalating tensions between right-wing groups emboldened by Donald Trump and antifascists made it practically inevitable that violence would spill out in Charlottesville. "Despite clear evidence of violence," an independent review would find, police in Charlottesville "consistently failed to intervene, deescalate or otherwise respond."
The violence was also predictable because the white supremacist figures behind Unite the Right had organized previous events in Charlottesville. Richard Spencer, a white supremacist who was elevated into the national spotlight when he pronounced, "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!" to Nazi salutes at a conference he hosted in Washington DC shortly after the 2016 election, would set his sights on Charlottesville the following spring.
The left-leaning college town in the bucolic Virginia countryside prominently showcased monuments to Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, while the University of Virginia — Spencer himself was an alum — honored its founder, Thomas Jefferson. With efforts afoot to remove the Lee and Jackson monuments, the increasingly emboldened fascists of the alt-right located a ripe target to air their grievance against multiracial democracy amid majestic statuary honoring venerated white men.
Spencer joined forces with Jason Kessler, a local fascist who contributed to the conservative website the Daily Caller, and on May 13 they organized a torch-lit march to the Lee statue in which attendees carried flags and chanted Nazi slogans, "Blood and soil," and, "You will not replace us." Meanwhile, the North Carolina-based Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan exploited the controversy in an effort to raise their own profile by staging a rally of their own in Charlottesville on July 8. The Confederate monuments in Charlottesville provided a focal point to summon together the varied strains of white male fragility, misogyny, antisemitism, anti-immigrant grievance, anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans beliefs, and Christian nationalism — to literally unite the right.
Several pieces were already in place. Under the leadership of Matthew Heimbach, the neo-fascist group Traditionalist Worker Party had built a coalition with the old-guard National Socialist Movement, secessionist League of the South and youthful Vanguard America under the banner of the Nationalist Front. Those groups had rallied together in Pikeville, Ky. in April. Traditionalist Worker Party had provided security for Spencer during an appearance at Auburn University in Alabama earlier that month. Spencer was also forging organizational links with Identity Evropa, whose founder, Nathan Damigo — a Marine Corps veteran from California's Central Valley — had punched an antifascist woman in the face without provocation during a rally in Berkeley, Calif. in April.
Mike Peinovich, an irreverent podcaster with a show called "The Right Stuff," along with Damigo, had attended the earlier May 13 torch rally in Charlottesville. Andrew Anglin and his partner Robert "Azzmador" Ray helped promoted Unite the Right through their grotesquely racist and overtly fascist website the Daily Stormer, and had similarly promoted the May 13 torch rally. Christopher Cantwell, a one-time Libertarian whose views evolved towards overt Nazism as host of the "Radical Agenda" podcast, also contributed to organizing and promoting Unite the Right. Rounding out the organizing core of Unite the Right was Augustus Sol Invictus, a devil-worshiping lawyer and unsuccessful US Senate candidate. Invictus was also the head of the Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knight, a short-lived auxiliary to the Proud Boys that was known as its "military wing."
There's little doubt that the dozen-plus defendants elaborately coordinated Unite the Right. [Last month/on Sept. 15], the plaintiffs filed a list of 3,328 exhibits they plan to introduce into evidence, including upwards of 150 text messages exchanged among them. The plaintiffs' exhibit list also cites more than 850 posts on Discord, a gaming chat platform that the organizers used to secretly plan and coordinate Unite the Right. While antifascists have infiltrated and leaked the contents of some of the Discord planning channels, the lawsuit contends that the #leadership channel reserved for top leaders remains undisclosed. According to the complaint, Kessler and Elliott Kline — No. 2 in command at Identity Evropa — "moderated, reviewed, directed and managed" the Discord chat platform, which was broken out into 43 separate channels for different topics and mobilizing supporters from different regions of the country.
The plaintiffs allege that Spencer, then the most prominent figure in the white supremacist movement, has said that Identity Evropa was designated to organize participation in the rally among people coming from outside of Charlottesville, with Kessler as a local counterpart. Identity Evropa leader Nathan Damigo, in turn, delegated organizing duties to Elliott Kline, who would take the reins of the organization from Damigo shortly after Unite the Right.
Kline allegedly said he ran Unite the Right "as a military operation," according to the complaint, while noting that he had previously served in the Army.
As first reported by the Daily Beast, the plaintiffs are likely to present evidence suggesting a flow of funding from private donors to support organizing for Unite the Right. An arrangement to pay Kline for his organizing efforts was disclosed in the original exhibit list filed by the plaintiffs on Sept. 14. The document was placed under seal the following day by court order following a subsequent filing by the plaintiffs explaining that it "inadvertently included some information designated as 'Confidential' and 'Highly Confidential'" under a previous protective order. The contents of the restricted exhibits were published on Twitter by antifascist activist Molly Conger.
"I am going to move forward tomorrow and get you on payroll," Damigo told Kline, according to one of the texts.
In another text, a person named "Coach" broaches the topic of getting paid for his movement work in a discussing a breakup.
"I'm about to double down in the movement harder than I already have," Kline said. "I asked her if she thought it was a good idea. She was excited. And now she wants out. It's too late for me to turn it down now. Half the reason I took the opportunity was because I knew I'd be able to support her with it. It's no secret but I'm taking over IE from Nathan and I'm going to be paid from private donors some good money."
The identity of Identity Evropa's private donors remains unknown, but a text from Spencer to Kline suggests he had some involvement in the arrangement.
"Also, we're going to pay you," Spencer reportedly said.
With the paid position, Kline apparently stepped up his involvement in organizing Unite the Right — and coordination with Kessler.
"You and I should get used to speaking daily now," Kline told Kessler. "Now that this is my full-time job, I'll be much more available to you."
The upcoming trial also promises to reveal funding for another significant group in the Unite the Right coalition. One of the plaintiffs' exhibits is described as a "document containing list of 2016 contributions to Traditionalist Worker Party."
Traditionalist Worker Party came into Unite the Right as part of the pre-existing Nationalist Front coalition, which took on specific duties in Charlottesville.
An essay by Traditionalist Worker Party officer Matthew Parrott, which the plaintiffs plan to introduce into evidence, describes how the group joined forces with League of the South and National Socialist Movement "to help create two shield walls" for "the fight."
"While most of the Identity Evropa men were occupied on other fronts, they sent a detachment of fighters to assist us and to relay intelligence to Jason Kessler and other organizers," Parrott wrote in the essay, according to the lawsuit. "They offered more fighters, but we had our positions amply covered."
Since 2017, the organizers of Unite the Right have attempted to distance themselves from the bloodshed in Charlottesville. But the plaintiffs argue that the violence that took place on Aug. 11-12 was promised and planned by the defendants, citing their voluminous communications in Discord, social media posts, and statements on their own websites.
"I recommend you bring picket sign posts, shields and other self-defense implements which can be turned from a free speech tool to s self-defense weapon should things turn ugly," Kessler reportedly said in the #announcement channel on Discord on June 7, according to the lawsuit.
More explicitly, in an undated text to Spencer included in the plaintiff's original exhibit list, Kessler reportedly said, "We're raising an army my liege. For free speech, but the cracking of skulls if it comes to it."
Spencer, in turn, reportedly texted Kline: "This is going to be a violent summer."
After the National Guard flushed the white supremacists out of the park where they were gathered on Aug. 12, Kline reportedly sought people with guns to confront the authorities. Ultimately, Kline's plan did not come to fruition because the rioters ultimately fled Charlottesville after Fields, who had rallied with Vanguard America, attacked counter-protesters with his car.
"I need shooters," Kline said, according to the lawsuit. "We're gonna send 200 people with long rifles back to that statue."
Bickering among the organizers — and revisionism — started less than a week after Fields' deadly attack, with Spencer repudiating Kessler for tweeting that Heather Heyer's death was "payback."
"I will no longer associate with Jason Kessler; no one should" Spencer wrote. "Heyer's death was deeply saddening. 'Payback' is a morally reprehensible idea."
Kline upbraided Kessler for his lack of discretion.
"It's almost as if you don't get how this works," Kline told Kessler in a private text included in the plaintiffs' original exhibit list. "Calling it payback shows it's premeditated."
Kline's texts escalated in intensity as he attempted to drive home the point.
"Saying that someone's death is payback for something that happened years ago is admitting premeditation," he told Kessler. "How you couldn't see that shows you're a crazy moron."
Then: "WHEN YOU SAY SOMETHING IS PAYBACK IT TAKES AWAY YOUR INNOCENCE YOU STUPID F***."
Finchem, who has been at the forefront of efforts to undermine the results of the election, said that the hearing “vindicated" him for a trip he made to Washington D.C. on Jan. 5 to deliver an “evidence book" to Arizona GOP Congressmen Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs.
Finchem would later be seen outside the Capitol building on Jan. 6 as rioters breached the Capitol building, attempting to interrupt the certification of the election results.
When you see (the news), just turn off the TV.
– Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City
In reality, the “audit" found no evidence of the massive fraud that Finchem and many other Republicans, led by twice-impeached former President Donald Trump, have said changed the outcome of the election. The auditors made numerous claims of impropriety, but provided no proof that any laws were broken and did minimal investigation of the alleged anomalies.
The election review also concluded that Trump lost to Biden. (The “audit" concluded that Biden actually won by about 260 more votes than the official election results.)
Seizing on unsubstantiated claims
The Arizona Republican Party billed the rally after the hearing as a “debrief," but many politicians — most running for re-election or a higher office — gave stump speeches or repeated unsubstantiated claims about the results of the “audit," particularly allegations that there were cybersecurity lapses and the election was thus not secure.
In his presentation to the Senate, CyFIR CEO Ben Cotton claimed election files had been deleted. Maricopa County officials said nothing was deleted, but the files were instead archived for preservation and to free up space on the election machines.
Sen. Sonny Borrelli, a Lake Havasu Republican and vocal proponent of false claims that the 2020 election was rigged against Trump, seized on Cotton's claim.
“By deleting files, plain and simple you nullified an election," he said as the crowd erupted in cheers and applause.
A fired up Borrelli made a number of claims to the audience, saying that the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors violated federal law and that they will be “held accountable."
“Do we think that this was a free and fair election?" Borrelli asked the crowd, which enthusiastically shouted back, “No!"
Borrelli has been a major supporter of the “audit" efforts, appearing on right-wing media channels drumming up support for the Senate's efforts. He said media outlets that reported critically on the “audit" did so unfairly, and falsely claimed that they “worked with" the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which refused to cooperate with the Senate's review.
“When you see (the news), just turn off the TV," Borrelli said. “Just don't listen to certain radio stations anymore."
Other elected officials pushed supporters to ignore any claims that the “audit" didn't prove fraud.
“No matter what the left says, we will keep this in the narrative," Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, said, adding that they will hold whoever is responsible for the invented election fraud “criminally liable."
Supporters on Rogers's Gab account during the audit hearing Friday posted messages about killing members of the Maricopa Board of Supervisors because of the audit.
Rogers, calling the 2020 election “corrupted," announced that she and a coalition of Republican lawmakers in other states who similarly believe baseless claims are calling for forensic audits in all 50 states due to the results of Arizona's “audit." When she said she will continue to push for Arizona to decertify the results of the 2020 election — something legislative attorneys say is not possible — the crowd began chanting “USA."
“If we don't have accurate and fair elections, we don't have a country," Rogers said.
The 2020 election has been deemed by election experts and cybersecurity officials to be the most secure election in United States history.
'Audit' will prompt push for new, restrictive laws
The only speaker at the AZGOP event who did not outright say they believed there was fraud, call for the decertification of the election or say the “audit" vindicated Trump supporters was Senate President Karen Fann.
“You guys are the true heroes," Fann said to the crowd, which also included some volunteers who worked on the “audit" itself.
“It's been rough, it's been real tough," Fann said, remarking that she has received threats related to the audit, though she noted the support she has received has been far greater.
Fann reiterated that the Senate will be handing over the information it collected to Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
Other lawmakers, such as Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake, said that the audit is a signal for future legislation.
“Now we're going to find out who has backbone and who doesn't," Blackman said. “This is when the work starts, America."
Blackman, like several other speakers, called for arresting county leaders and election officials.
“If you tamper in an Arizona election, you should stand behind bars," Blackman said.
Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: email@example.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.
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