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On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Molly Beck reported that Dean Knudson, a Republican member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, is resigning his position.
Knudson, who was appointed by Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, was set to hold office until 2024. However, he has frequently clashed with fellow Republican officials, including Vos himself, for their efforts to legitimize former President Donald Trump's conspiracy theories that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
"My core values are to practice service above self and to display personal integrity. And to me that integrity demands acknowledging the truth even when the truth is painful. In this case, the painful truth is that President Trump lost the election in 2020," said Knudson in a statement. "My message to Republicans today is simple: If you're a candidate, focus on the issues that affect Wisconsin families and their pocketbooks. It's time to pivot away from conspiracy theories to kitchen table issues."
\u201c"My message to Republicans today is simple: If you're a candidate, focus on the issues that affect Wisconsin families and their pocketbooks. It's time to pivot away from conspiracy theories to kitchen table issues."\u201d— Molly Beck (@Molly Beck) 1653516604
According to Beck, Knudson's resignation could throw a monkey wrench into the state commission's scheduled vote to elect a new chairman today. Under commission selection rules, the new chair will have to be another Republican. The only other Republican member currently eligible to be chair is Bob Spindell, who signed on as a fake elector to the pro-Trump "alternate" slate falsely alleging that the former president won the state.
Knudson has urged the commission to instead wait until he is replaced to hold the vote.
Wisconsin lawmakers have furiously sought to lend credence to Trump's conspiracy theories, most notably hiring former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to conduct an audit of the election. Gableman came back with a report arguing the state should "decertify" its results, a proposal that is legally impossible and has drawn scorn from even some GOP lawmakers.
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows may be trying to cover up incriminating evidence about Donald Trump's state of mind during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
On Wednesday, The New York Times reported the Jan. 6 Select Committee Investigating the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol has heard that Trump approved of then-Vice President Mike Pence being hung by Trump supporters for not overturning the 2020 presidential election, which was won by Democrat Joe Biden.
"Shortly after hundreds of rioters at the Capitol started chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” on Jan. 6, 2021, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, left the dining room off the Oval Office, walked into his own office and told colleagues that President Donald J. Trump was complaining that the vice president was being whisked to safety," the newspaper reported. "Mr. Meadows, according to an account provided to the House committee investigating Jan. 6, then told the colleagues that Mr. Trump had said something to the effect of, maybe Mr. Pence should be hanged."
In a new analysis published by The Washington Post, Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman explain why the comment matters.
"These new details, according to the Times, were provided to the Jan. 6 committee by witnesses to Meadows’s recounting of it. Remember, Meadows himself is not cooperating with the committee; this suggests that what he may be covering up is quite incriminating," they explained. "Again, we don’t know whether Trump was joking. But the larger context of that day’s events is key: The rioters focused on Pence because Trump told them that Pence was the reason the election was being allegedly stolen from Trump."
Trump's comments could show Trump saw the rioters as a weapon he could wield.
"In this context, Trump’s comment about Pence hanging — and Trump’s apparent irritation that Pence was being whisked to safety — reinforce the likelihood that he actively wanted Pence to feel vulnerable to the mob’s pressure. This can be true even if Trump didn’t literally want or envision Pence’s hanging," they explained. "If so, this means that even as the mob was going on an appallingly destructive rampage that would ultimately lead to deaths and injuries, Trump came to see this as useful to his cause. That would be an extraordinary dereliction of duty at best."
Read the full analysis.
A Texas man entered a guilty plea today to a charge that carries five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines in connection with the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. But for those concerned that MAGA rioters are not getting punished severely enough, this one might become a prime exhibit.
Christian Cortez, 28, of Seabrook, Texas, was accused of joining a crowd of rioters who were attempting to break down Capitol doors. He was arrested with co-defendant Benjamin Larocca, 28, also of Seabrook, who pleaded guilty in April 2022 to a misdemeanor charge of engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct.
Cortez was accused of having stepped in front of the Capitol doors while officers were trying to seal them and having begun swearing.
“Cortez can be heard yelling "F*ck you! Oath breakers! Oath breakers! You' re a f*ckin' oath breaker!" according to the FBI criminal complaint. And, it is alleged, he didn’t back off even after getting sprayed by the officers with a chemical irritant.
“Do it! We're just standing here!" Cortez is said to have screamed while slamming down a blue-colored flag. Citing video evidence, the complaint added: “Cortez takes another step toward officers and thrashes his arms downward, yelling again ‘Do it some f*ckin' more!’
But although Cortez’ conduct was deemed serious enough to rise to a felony, the range of punishment under federal sentencing guidelines – as reported in his plea agreement – is for “0 to 6 months in prison” and a fine ranging from $2,000 to $20,000, a far cry from the $250,000 maximum. The agreement adds, “Your client reserves the right to ask the Court not to impose any applicable fines”
The disposition of the case will be up to a federal judge at his sentencing, which is set for August 31, and that judge is not bound by the plea agreement. But since Cortez accepts full responsibility and his no criminal record, he is subject to reduction in the federal sentencing guidelines.
To date, some 298 of the more than 840 defendants arrested for the riot have pleaded guilty, according to Business Insider. But most of those pleas have been for misdemeanor parading charges and have resulted in probation, in some cases with brief home confinement.
It remains to be seen whether Cortez will serve prison time. His case shows, however, that not even a felony plea guarantees that.
You can read the FBI statement of facts in the case here.