PERRY, Ga. — Former President Donald Trump returned to Georgia on Saturday to showcase a trio of loyalists he’s endorsed in 2022 elections, deepening an internal rift among state Republicans that helped fuel upset Democratic victories in the last election cycle. The pro-Trump slate took center stage at a rally at the Georgia National Fairgrounds, as the former president pushed to continue to refashion the state GOP in his mold and promoted falsehoods that the state election was tainted by widespread election fraud. The visit only sharpened the division within a state GOP reeling from losses in...
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According to a report from the Guardian's David Smith, Donald Trump is reportedly obsessed with the televised Jan 6th hearings investigating his part in the insurrection that sent lawmakers fleeing for their lives, and he is growing angrier each day that his political future is sustaining irreparable damage.
As Smith notes, the former president is holed up at his Bedminster golf resort for the summer and has reportedly been watching the hearings unfold with no one coming to his defense since House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pulled all the GOP lawmakers he recommended for the panel in a fit of pique.
According to the Guardian report, "As the panel has presented a carefully crafted case against Trump as the leader of a failed coup, he is said to be livid that there is no one in the room to speak up for him," adding, "He is possibly aware that, while the hearings come too late to force his resignation and may or may not cause the justice department to press criminal charges, they seem to be inflicting greater political damage than anyone imagined."
That appears to be borne out by both close advisers to the former president and former supporters who now see him as "damaged goods" with rapidly declining chances of re-election in 2024.
With Smith writing, "The hearings have painted a portrait of a man detached from reality, peddling paranoid conspiracy theories and putting himself before his country," he notes that a Trump insider told NBC News, "I look at this and say there is nobody in America who is watching this – even with all that’s going on in the world with Joe Biden – and saying, ‘Donald Trump should be the next president of the United States’. Nobody.’”
Longtime conservative pollster Frank Luntz concurred.
“I see people no longer drinking the Kool-Aid. I see people moving away from Trump for the first time," Luntz explained. "His endorsement matters more than anybody else in the Republican party by far, but he does not control the Republican party any more. He’s the loudest voice, he has the most influence, but he’s losing control every day.”
The report goes on to note that at last week's Faith & Freedom conference, activists are already admitting that they are looking beyond Trump in 2024 with Florida Gov. Ron De Santis the favorite to take his place as the face of the party.
You can read more here.
As the January 6th Committee continues to unpeel layers of criminality and conspiracy, it’s important to note that the Stone/Bannon/Trump “Stop The Steal” scheme did not originate in 2020. It was, in fact, 20 years in the making.
Roger Stone, Trump’s dirty trickster who was sentenced to 40 months in prison before Trump pardoned him, rolled out version 1.0 in Florida in 2000, helping the George W. Bush campaign stop a Florida Supreme Court-mandated statewide recount that would have handed the election to Al Gore.
After Stone’s successful efforts to shut down the Miami-Dade County recount with the infamous “Brooks Brothers Riot,” five Republicans on the US Supreme Court overruled the Florida Supreme Court (so much for “state’s rights” and the 10th Amendment) and blocked the recount because it would “cause irreparable harm” to “plaintiff George W. Bush.”
Stone coordinated the program to shut down the vote count and throw the election to Bush, who had lost the election by 500,000 votes nationwide, a role Stone reprised in both 2016 and 2020.
In 2000, “I set up my command center there [in Miami]” Stone told Jeffrey Toobin. “I had walkie-talkies and cell phones, and I was in touch with our people in the building. Our whole idea was to shut the recount down. That was why we were there. We had the frequency to the Democrats’ walkie-talkies and were listening to their communications…”
Joe Geller was the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party Chairman, and was threatened and roughed up by Stone’s goons, many staffers from Republican members of Congress flown down for the event.
“Anybody who says it was unrelated to the intimidation and violence floating around there is not telling the truth. I saw it with my own eyes,” Geller told The Washington Post. “Violence, fear and physical intimidation affected the outcome of a lawful elections process. I think that’s pretty bad.”
Stone’s next Stop The Steal, this one Version 2.0, was to be on behalf of Donald Trump in 2016, an election they fully expected to lose but were willing to unleash chaos on the country over anyway.
The day before the 2016 election — six years ago — ABC News reported that Roger Stone’s second “Stop The Steal” program had been forced to back off their efforts to put armed white “election monitors” into minority neighborhoods after a court threatened him.
“For weeks,” John Kruzel reported for ABC, “the group has used incendiary rhetoric to motivate members to turn up at contested areas tomorrow to participate in a survey of voters leaving polling places.”
Two weeks earlier The Guardian reported that the Trump campaign was targeting “Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Fort Lauderdale, Charlotte, Richmond and Fayetteville,” all cities with large Black populations.
Trump and Stone were expecting to lose the election to Hillary Clinton, so finding or manufacturing any evidence of hanky panky in Black neighborhoods would be pure gold for the “Stop The Steal” operation they were planning for the days after the election was called for Clinton.
If if there was anything that might throw a monkey wrench into the 2016 election, armed white men going door-to-door in Black neighborhoods to ask about voting plans, and standing outside polling places doing “exit interviews” was at the top of the list.
“In court filings,” ABC reported, “Democrats argue Stop the Steal’s exit polling operation serves no legitimate purpose, but is merely a pretext for harassing and intimidating likely Democratic voters of color. They say the ruse goes hand-in-hand with Donald Trump's heated, racially-tinged accusations of vote-rigging and his calls for supporters to monitor voting in ‘certain areas,’ which Democrats argue is code for minority communities.”
That year, 2016, was a dress rehearsal for 2020. Stone and Trump’s 2016 StopTheSteal.org website (here’s the link to the archive) laid out the lies they were going to deploy and their strategy for profiting from them:
“[Democrats] intend to flood the polls with illegals. Liberal enclaves already let illegals vote in their local and state elections and now they want them to vote in the Presidential election.
“What can we do to stop this outrageous steal? We must step up to the plate and do this vital job? Thats why I am working with a statistician attorneys and computer experts to find and make public any result which has been rigged.
“We at THE EMERGENCY COMMITTEE TO STOP THE STEAL WILL:
“– Demand inspection of the software used to program the voting machines in every jurisdiction...
“– Conduct targeted EXIT-POLLING in targeted states and targeted localities that we believe the Democrats could manipulate based on their local control...
“– Retain the countries foremost experts on voting machine fraud to help us both prevent and detect voting machine manipulation….”
And, of course, there was the ever-present Trump-trademarked fundraising grift:
“Under the law, you or your corporation can contribute in any amount. Won’t you send $10,000 for this vital program today? Of course $5,000 or even $2,500 would be a great help. If you can send $5,000 or $10,000 or more it would be a Godsend.”
Thus, by the time the 2020 election rolled around, Trump and Stone were running a well-oiled machine, at least when it came to preparing the ground to convince the public the election had been stolen from Trump.
The BBC compiled a series of Trump tweets throughout 2020, all designed to prepare his followers to believe his lies about a stolen election that fall.
The first came in April, as the pandemic was biting and then-President Trump’s approval numbers were collapsing:
GET RID OF BALLOT HARVESTING, IT IS RAMPANT WITH FRAUD. THE USA MUST HAVE VOTER I.D., THE ONLY WAY TO GET AN HONEST COUNT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 14, 2020
Then, in June as the Democratic candidacy of Joe Biden was gaining traction:
RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2020
In August, he tweeted again to his millions of followers:
The Democrats are demanding Mail-In Ballots because the enthusiasm meter for Slow Joe Biden is the lowest in recorded history, and they are concerned that very few people will turn out to vote. Instead, they will search & find people, then “harvest” & return Ballots. Not fair!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 20, 2020
Around that time, in August — three months before the election — the BBC documented how Trump and Stone rolled out dozens of Facebook groups all using the same banner; millions joined them or got their “news” from these groups between August and the election:
Finally, the night of the election Trump again tweeted, laying the ground for both January 6th and a massive half-billion-dollar theft of money from his mostly older small-dollar donors:
We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 4, 2020
That’s how Trump has made over $390 million dollars just since he lost the election. And he’s still fundraising, fleecing the rubes: I get a dozen emails a week from him begging for money and telling me I can win a prize.
The big difference between 2000 and 2020 is that back in 2000 Stone’s plan worked, but it failed the second time around.
Stone’s “Brooks Brothers” goons succeeded in stopping the Florida vote count and cemented Bush’s ascent to the White House, even though he’d lost the election.
In 2020, on the other hand, the January 6th protests failed to intimidate members of Congress the way they had the Miami-Dade County vote-counters twenty years earlier.
Having succeeded in stealing an election with a mob once, it’s not surprising that Stone and Trump thought it might work again. They just couldn’t pull it off because Trump was so incompetent. The next Republican may not be.
Given that Republicans have used these “big lie” and intimidation tactics in three presidential elections in this century, Republican criminality should cease to surprise us. And, indeed, there’s a long tradition of criminal GOP presidential tactics.
Nixon blew up LBJ’s Vietnam negotiations (causing another 20,000 American deaths) to win the 1968 election, something LBJ and Republican Senate leader Everett Dirksen agreed at the time was treason. Reagan cut a deal with the Iranians in 1980 to sabotage Jimmy Carter, elevating him to the White House.
Bush’s dirty work was done by his brother in Florida and his dad’s friends on the Supreme Court, and in 2016 Trump had a big boost from Vladimir Putin, a boost that Trump tried his best to repay during his presidency by shutting down two of our cybersecurity agencies, withholding military support to Ukraine, and trying to pull the US out of NATO.
And here come the new outrages, just in time for the 2022 and 2024 elections.
At this moment multiple Republican-controlled states are considering laws giving their legislatures the power to override the vote of the people of the state and send the presidential electors of their choice to Washington, DC.
The trend started in Arizona last year, when, as NBC News noted:
“The Republican chair of Arizona's state House Ways and Means Committee introduced a bill Wednesday that would give the Legislature authority to override the secretary of state’s certification of its electoral votes.”
Meanwhile, 27 states with Republican Secretaries of State are most likely following the examples of Ohio, Texas and Georgia and purging people in “certain” zip codes from their voter rolls.
Five Republicans on the US Supreme Court legalized that in 2018; it was a decision that NBC News reported “discourages minority turnout”:
“At least a dozen other politically conservative states said they would adopt a similar practice if Ohio prevailed,” NBC reported.
Ever since ALEC got to work and the first mandatory voter ID law was put into place in both Georgia and Indiana in 2005, Republican-controlled states have been hard at work.
They’ve figured out dozens of ways to make it harder for working class people to vote at a convenient time, impossible in some cases for low income people to vote at all, and to throw up expensive and/or time-consuming barriers to voting for young and elderly people.
One of their favorites is criminalizing making mistakes while voting, like making it a crime to misspell your name or city, or to offer to carry your neighbor’s ballot to the post office, or to register to vote or sign a petition.
The laws are so all-over-the-place and almost always only enforced against Black and Brown people that entire communities have become reluctant to vote.
Stories of voting-related prison sentences spread fast, like Pamela Moses’, who got 6-years-and-a day in prison for registering to vote, not knowing she couldn’t in that state because she had once been a felon.
And that drop in voting is what Republicans have been calling for ever since Heritage Foundation co-founder Paul Weyrich, working for Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1980, laid out the new GOP strategy to a group of Republicans in the basement of a Dallas church (check it out: it’s only 40 seconds and was a moment that changed history):
Fully 393 pieces of voting-related legislation intended to suppress the vote have been proposed in 39 state legislatures as of May of this year. One-hundred-forty-eight of them have passed in 27 states.
These Republicans haven’t fought fair in over 50 years.
Don’t expect them to this fall; and we must be on particular alert for the presidential election in 2024.
They’re gaming that one out as you read these words. We need to be, too.
They held signs declaring “abortion is healthcare” or “abortion is a human right.” Another read “our democracy, it is broken.”
Cheri Wells stood next to her one-year-old daughter, Lux, who was strapped into a stroller.
“I brought my daughter down here because this absolutely has everything to do with her, too,” she said.
“It’s taking away her rights to overturn Roe vs. Wade, as well,” she said. “I mean, it’s all about controlling women, period.”
Advocates surge ahead
Advocacy groups and leaders for and against abortion spoke out on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the nationwide right to abortion included in Roe v. Wade.
Religious and anti-abortion groups praised the decision that overturned abortion legalization that had been in place since the early 1970s, and continued their push for prohibitions in Ohio.
“Ohio Right to Life encourages our pro-life legislative majorities and Governor DeWine to be ambitious and end abortion once and for all in our great state,” said anti-abortion lobby Ohio Right to Life’s president Michael Gonidakis.
The anti-abortion groups have state leaders on their side, as Gov. Mike DeWine promised backing for the six-week ban that has been tied up in federal court, and Attorney General Yost put the wheels in motion for that ban to become effective.
In a motion filed less than an hour after the Dobbs decision was released by the U.S. Supreme Court, Yost’s office asked to dissolve the injunction that kept the state abortion ban from going into effect in 2019 when it was passed by the Ohio General Assembly.
“Because there exists no just reason for delay, defendants respectfully request this court immediately dissolve the preliminary injunction and dismiss this case,” Yost wrote in the motion to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
Later Friday night, a court granted the motion, and Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order permitting the Ohio Department of Health to set rules for the law.
Those in the pro-abortion realm are not sitting on their laurels after the much-anticipated decision came through.
In a Friday afternoon press call, members of Planned Parenthood of Ohio said while the ruling had been expected, even before a draft opinion leaked to the public, the results were no less devastating.
“Ohioans should not have to figure out how to safely provide health care for themselves,” said Iris Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. “It’s an attack on your rights, an attack on your privacy and your freedom.”
Though abortion is now legal at six weeks rather than 20 weeks after a missed period, pro-abortion advocates maintained a message that until a court rules or another ban is put in place, abortion is still legal in the state of Ohio.
Case Western Reserve University law professor Jessie Hill, who has worked on cases defending reproductive rights, said there “are still legal moves to be made” and lawyers intend to continue pursuing options.
One way in which Hill said abortion advocates can move forward is by giving advice that is protected under the First Amendment.
“The state can not, as a general matter, ban truthful, factual information,” Hill said.
Working within the state’s legal system is also in the playbook to keep abortion legal.
“Our in-state strategy ensures that we protect the Ohio Supreme Court, which has been a backstop for securing reproductive justice,” said Rhiannon Carnes, co-founder and c-executive director of the Ohio Women’s Alliance Action Fund.
The group is working with partners to “implement harm reduction measures to ensure that people who need an abortion can obtain the essential health care they deserve,” according to a statement by the OWA. A “voter education plan is also” being launched as the August 2 primary and November general election approach.
“We are all coming together to build independent political power against those stigmatizing abortion and forcing their political objective on our lives and bodies,” Carnes said in the statement.
One Small Step
In the Ladies Gallery at the Ohio Statehouse, a group of anti-abortion activists held a press conference to applaud the Dobbs decision. The room, set aside to honor the achievements of women in Ohio politics, regularly hosts events of all kinds, but the setting wasn’t lost on the speakers.
Beth Vanderkooi of Greater Columbus Right to Life described abortion as a “systemic injustice” meant to discriminate against women.
“True advocates for women’s rights would work together to bring down these injustices rather than tell women that their path to equality, to liberty and to freedom, rests on the dismembered bodies of their dead children,” she said.
The organizers sought to cast Friday’s decision as a watershed achievement for civil rights, comparing it to the reversal of Dredd Scott and Plessy and invoking the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. They also propped it up as a landmark historical event on the order of the moon landing or D-Day.
“It’s one small step for babies,” Created Equal vice president Seth Drayer insisted, “one massive leap for humankind, because Dr. King famously said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
While abortion advocates prepare for their next moves, Created Equal’s president Mark Harrington said their fight was far from over. Invoking Winston Churchill, he called the Dobbs decision “the end of the beginning.”
That posture certainly means advocating for greater restrictions or even the elimination of abortion at the state level, but given Justice Clarence Thomas’ suggestion that the court should next revisit rulings on the legality of same-sex marriage and relationships, as well as contraceptives, some worry the right to an abortion is far from the only one under threat.
Despite promising continued action, Harrington distanced his organization from Thomas’ remarks.
“The idea that one justice which we may or may not agree with on these other issues, says that from the bench in his opinion, doesn’t really matter unless the court actually has a case,” Harrington said. “And there’s no future that I can see where that’s actually going to occur in the short term.”
While Harrington and others who spent years fighting abortion look to the future with the wind in their sails, people like Cheri Wells are looking ahead with uncertainty. The leak of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs may have undercut the shock of the decision, but the despair is just as deep.
“For some reason, in the back of my mind,” she said, “I thought someone was gonna save us.”
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Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Ohio Capital Journal maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor David DeWitt for questions: email@example.com. Follow Ohio Capital Journal on Facebook and Twitter.