Li'l Marco's big loan: The tale of a senator, his private-equity pal and an inexplicable appointment

Last year, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida appointed his longtime friend and financial adviser Bernie Navarro to an advisory committee that helped select potential nominees for federal judgeships, even though Navarro had no law degree and no legal experience. Just three months earlier, Navarro — who runs a private equity mortgage lender — extended Rubio a short-term "bridge loan" of $850,000 that allowed the Republican senator to purchase a house.

This article first appeared in Salon.

To be clear, there is nothing inherently unethical or suspicious about taking out a bridge loan. As the name suggests, they are often used in business or real estate transactions to bridge the gap between more conventional and permanent forms of financing. Homeowners can use bridge loans, for instance, to complete the purchase of a new home while they wait for their current home to sell, as was apparently the case with Rubio.

But this case seems noteworthy for a number of reasons, starting with the long, close personal and financial relationship between Rubio and Navarro. Furthermore, Rubio received his loan from Benworth Capital, Navarro's company, on Jan. 18, 2021, but did not disclose it publicly for more than a year and a half, until his most recent financial disclosure form on Aug. 30, 2022. In April of 2021, after receiving the loan from Benworth but long before disclosing it, Rubio appointed Navarro to the Southern District Judicial Advisory Commission, which was responsible for picking finalists for several important federal appointments in south Florida, including U.S. district judges, U.S. marshals and the U.S. attorney.

Adam Bozzi, vice president for communications at the advocacy group End Citizens United, said he saw a clear "threat of conflict of interest" in Rubio's relationship with Navarro. "It becomes worse when you actually are in debt to the person and you put them on a board that gives them special access [to give] advice to you," he added, "and it becomes even worse when you don't disclose it."

Navarro has extensive career experience in real estate finance, investment, development and construction, but has no evident qualifications to serve as an adviser on judicial appointments. According to the Benworth Capital website, the company offers bridge loans with "a less stringent approval process" for real estate buyers with "less than perfect credit."

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Those transactions have led to a certain amount of controversy over the years. In 2017, Benworth foreclosed on the family home of a 14-year old girl with cerebral palsy. Her parents had stopped making monthly payments, saying they had been "misled into taking out a high-interest, short-term loan ... that they could not afford to pay back," the Miami Herald reported. Ultimately, the family was allowed to stay in their home, after Benworth agreed to a settlement of $240,000 — nearly $100,000 more than the original loan amount.

In 2020, Navarro registered Benworth as a "woman-owned business," in an attempt to fast-track receipt of emergency COVID relief funds under the Paycheck Protection Program. Salon was unable to determine whether one or more women own at least 51% of the company, which is the federal government's definition of that term.

Navarro's two companies, Benworth Capital and Presto Payday, received at least $308,000 in COVID relief while his firm processed PPP loans. Benworth has continued to expand, opening an office in Puerto Rico, and donating more than $56,000 to Republican candidates and PACs, along with $14,200 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Rubio and Navarro reportedly met in Florida Republican circles, and became friends long before the former entered politics. In April of 2015, Navarro hosted an intimate gathering for Rubio and a group of friends, family members and political allies at Navarro's suburban Miami home, trumping the senator's announcement by introducing him as "the next president of the United States."

Navarro hosted several fundraisers for Rubio, first for his short-lived presidential campaign and then for his 2016 re-election to the Senate, serving as finance chairman for both campaigns. Navarro has personally contributed over $25,500 to Rubio's campaigns and associated PACs throughout his career.

There is nothing manifestly illegal about Rubio's personal or financial relationship with Navarro, although it points toward a number of unanswered questions. But as Adam Bozzi of End Citizens United sees it, this is a textbook example of how shadowy backstage deals involving money and influence have contaminated American politics.

"Giving these types of people influence where they can advocate for judges that will help corporations or help themselves rather than consumers or Florida families," Bozzi told Salon, "that is the kind of quid pro quo corruption that hurts people and turns off voters."

Far-right 'constitutional sheriffs' now turn to hunting 'fraud' in midterm elections

A controversial group of right-wing sheriffs that has spread false claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election and propagated Donald Trump's Big Lie is now vowing to monitor this year's midterm elections through surveillance of drop boxes and a hotline for reporting purported election fraud.

The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) supports the far-right fringe belief that under the U.S. Constitution county sheriffs have extensive power that supersedes all other federal, state or local authorities. It has recently partnered up with a Texas nonprofit called True the Vote, which has peddled conspiracy theories about voter fraud. Now the two groups are promising to keep on investigating allegations about a "stolen election" in 2020 and also to police future voting. For election authorities and voting rights advocates, the combination is ominous.

This partnership provides an insight into the role the "constitutional sheriff" movement is playing in sowing doubts about the election process and monitoring how voters cast their ballots. Such efforts amount to voter intimidation and voter suppression in many cases, advocates say.

Having county elected officials spreading conspiracy theories "makes it more difficult to break down the walls of voters that we're talking to," said Natali Bock, co-executive director of Rural Arizona Action. "There is a cynicism that takes root when you have these outlandish stories." That kind of "misinformation spreads like wildfire," she continued, "and instead of just being able to present facts, now we are have to do a lot of relationship building."

Sheriff Mark Lamb of Pinal County, Arizona, has emerged as a prominent figure in the movement that is lending law enforcement credibility to false election fraud claims. He helped found Protect America Now, a coalition of almost 70 sheriffs from different parts of the country who say they are working together to protect America against "an overreaching government." In partnership with True the Vote, the coalition has raised more than $100,000 toward a goal of $1 million for grants to fund sheriffs surveillance of ballot drop boxes and an anonymous hotline for tips about voter fraud. Lamb's office did not respond to Salon's request for comment.

"Sheriff Lamb is the continuation of every other [form of] voter suppression that has happened," Bock said, "only now it's the more dangerous form because he carries a badge and a gun and is seated at an elected position of power." Bock's organization does advocacy and outreach work in Pinal County (which is south and east of Phoenix) as well as other parts of rural Arizona.

Lamb's rhetoric is dangerous, Bock adds, because it may embolden other far-right extremists to the point of violence, which can endanger voters and election workers. There's also the danger of perpetuating a "cycle of cynicism" among historically marginalized communities that have faced voter suppression, which may prevent them from participating in the democratic process.

"Communities of color are experiencing apathy around voting and the democratic process," she said, before asking: "Is it apathy? Or is it the conclusion of generations of oppression?"

Lamb promoted his coalition's partnership at a July rally in Prescott, Arizona, saying that "sheriffs are going to enforce the law… We will not let happen what happened in 2020." A fervent Trump supporter, Lamb also endorsed a slate of election-denying candidates backed by the former president. Lamb continues to recruit sheriffs from counties across the United States, and has published ads defining his coalition's mission as "fighting back against a liberal takeover."

County sheriffs in at least three states have launched their own supposed investigations of election fraud, fueled by the right-wing conspiracy theories in circulation since the 2020 election. In Michigan, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf has been under state investigation for allegedly tampering with voting machines. Last year, Leaf seized a Dominion voting tabulator from Irving Township and allegedly "tore it apart," later returning it with a broken security seal, the county clerk told News 8.

Leaf's lengthy investigation into election fraud has been fruitless, with the Barry County prosecutor finding no evidence of any wrongdoing. His is just one example among dozens of others launched by election deniers across the country. These efforts have failed to expose any instances of voter fraud, but voting rights advocates say they are negatively impacting voter turnout.

Law enforcement's role in policing the election can dissuade voters from casting their ballots, said Sharon Dolente, a senior adviser at Promote the Vote Michigan. That "chilling effect" won't just impact individual voters, but also entire communities, especially those that have historically been disenfranchised.

"Individuals who were questioning the [2020] result were only questioning the results specifically in Black and brown communities in Michigan. I don't think that's an accident, right?"

"There were many instances after the 2020 election where individuals who were questioning the result were only questioning the results specifically in Black and brown communities in the state of Michigan," Dolente said. "I don't think that's an accident, right? I think that is a response to the political power and will those communities expressed, and it's an effort to dampen that."

Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of True the Vote, has played a pivotal role in recruiting sheriffs, lawyers and conservative activists to the purported crusade against voter fraud movement. When federal and state law enforcement dismissed her group's claims, she turned to county sheriffs for help.

Engelbrecht was featured in "2000 Mules," a documentary by right-wing pundit Dinesh D'Souza that claimed to provide new evidence that the 2020 election had been stolen. In it, Engelbrecht made unfounded allegations about the widespread abuse of ballot drop boxes, charges she has repeated many times on right-wing media.

In July, Engelbrecht joined CSPOA founder Richard Mack, a former Arizona county sheriff, to announce their partnership at a training event in Las Vegas. Mack said that investigating election fraud was his group's top priority, referring to it as a "holy cause." He has also served on the board of Oath Keepers, the militia group some of whose members now face seditious conspiracy charges for their role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

An extensive 2021 report by the Anti-Defamation League describes the CSPOA as an "anti-government extremist group" and outlines Mack's extensive ties to "militia and sovereign citizen movements" and his associations with white supremacists. (He has said he does not share their views.) He has led training sessions on many occasions that the ADL says are meant to indoctrinate law enforcement officers into extremist movements. Some of those have been led by KrisAnne Hall, a far-right activist who believes that the 14th, 15th and 19th amendments are unconstitutional.

Although it's too early to gauge the effects of this new far-right movement, Florida and Georgia have passed restrictive laws on absentee voting and the use of ballot drop boxes, two principal targets of Trump's false claims about widespread voting fraud.

A 2021 report by the Anti-Defamation League describes Richard Mack's sheriffs' association as an "anti-government extremist group" and outlines Mack's extensive ties to "militia and sovereign citizen movements."

In Georgia, where Black and brown voters came out in record numbers, Joe Biden won by about 12,000 votes, and Democrats later won two narrow runoff elections for U.S. Senate seats. Even though Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has repeatedly said there was no widespread fraud in the state's elections, lawmakers enacted sweeping changes to its voting law that advocates say are likely to harm minority voters.

"By creating these new bureaucracies and this new red tape," said Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, lawmakers are "creating a cycle of voter intimidation." This is "a relic of the past", she went on, and too close to "what we saw in Jim Crow, with folks coming to people's doors with guns and pitchforks, trying to ask, 'Are you the registered voter here?'"

Her group has developed an election protection program meant to help dispel any doubts voters have about the election process and to ensure they don't encounter barriers while casting their ballots. But Dennis says Georgia's new law, SB 441, which authorizes state police to launch a probe into any allegations of voter fraud, worries her. Such unfounded allegations, she says, can create a "domino effect," damaging voters "who are not in areas that are inundated with news and disempowering their voices at the ballot box," Dennis said. "I think in Georgia particularly, [there] is a coordinated effort to purposely do that."

Dolente, who has been doing voting rights work in Michigan for 20 years, strikes a similar note. Alongside efforts to restrict voting access for people from historically disenfranchised communities, she says there is also a coordinated effort to spread misinformation in these communities. But despite dozens of lawsuits launched in 2020 and 2021 to look for election fraud in her state, she said, authorities couldn't find any.

"The system is safe and secure and the voters of Michigan know that," Dolente said. "They can concoct as many investigations as they like and it's never going to come up with a different result."

Trump team picked special master they think is a 'deep skeptic of FBI' due to Russia probe: report

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon last week appointed Judge Raymond J. Dearie as a special master to review records the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago. Former President Donald Trump's lawyers recommended Dearie, a former chief judge of the federal court in the Eastern District of New York, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan.

Dearie, who's overseen cases involving organized crime and authorized warrants in highly classified investigations, is now taking on a new role. As special master, Dearie will sift through more than 11,000 documents, identifying which documents are protected by attorney-client privilege and executive privilege.

He will determine if any material was improperly taken during last month's search and make recommendations and suggestions for Cannon to either accept or reject.

Dearie served seven years on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which examines applications from the U.S. government "requesting warrants for electronic surveillance, physical searches and other investigative efforts related to foreign intelligence", according to its website.

In October 2016, when Dearie was a FISA judge, the court approved a wiretap of a foreign policy adviser on Trump's presidential campaign. The Justice Department requested the surveillance of former Trump adviser Carter Page as part of the FBI's "Crossfire Hurricane" investigation, which looked into ties between Trump's campaign and Russia. Two of the four warrants approved to surveil Page were later deemed invalid after the Justice Department's inspector general found misstatements and omissions in FBI paperwork to get the warrant.

Two anonymous sources with direct knowledge of the deliberations told Axios that lawyers and advisers of Trump believe Dearie's role on the secretive court made him a deep skeptic of the FBI after its surveillance of Page, which influenced Trump's legal team's decision to suggest him.

"This experience drove the Trump team's thinking in requesting him," the outlet reported, adding that "Trump's lawyers are betting that has made Dearie more skeptical of the FBI than an average judge — in a way that endures beyond the Page case."

Cannon has issued a deadline of Nov. 30 for the documents review and issued interim reports and recommendations "as appropriate". She said that Dearie should first look at the classified documents.

Dearie has been regarded as an exemplary jurist and a straight-shooter, in the legal community.

Lawyers and litigants have described Dearie as an "independent, thorough and even-handed jurist who is fit to wrangle the dueling sides," according to Politico. Despite the difficulties this role may present, he is equipped to handle it.

"He's one of the few judges who both sides want to appear in front of. He is held in the highest regard by attorneys. He's someone who actually listens to the lawyers and considers what they have to say before he makes a decision," a former Brooklyn federal prosecutor Lindsay Gerdes told Politico.

The Justice Department has argued that a special master is legally unnecessary and, if appointed, should not be charged with reviewing any of the documents marked as classified. In several court filings, prosecutors have made the case that appointing a special master can delay the criminal investigation into Trump and due to the documents' sensitive nature, could pose a national security risk.

The Trump team's suggestion of Dearie as special master has puzzled legal observers due to the former president's history of strictly placing loyalists in key roles. However, the DOJ has accepted the team's suggestion due to Dearie's "previous federal judicial experience and engagement in relevant areas of law."

Trump team picked special master they think is a 'deep skeptic of FBI' due to Russia probe: report

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon last week appointed Judge Raymond J. Dearie as a special master to review records the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago. Former President Donald Trump's lawyers recommended Dearie, a former chief judge of the federal court in the Eastern District of New York, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan.

Dearie, who's overseen cases involving organized crime and authorized warrants in highly classified investigations, is now taking on a new role. As special master, Dearie will sift through more than 11,000 documents, identifying which documents are protected by attorney-client privilege and executive privilege.

He will determine if any material was improperly taken during last month's search and make recommendations and suggestions for Cannon to either accept or reject.

Dearie served seven years on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which examines applications from the U.S. government "requesting warrants for electronic surveillance, physical searches and other investigative efforts related to foreign intelligence," according to its website.

In October 2016, when Dearie was a FISA judge, the court approved a wiretap of a foreign policy adviser on Trump's presidential campaign. The Justice Department requested the surveillance of former Trump adviser Carter Page as part of the FBI's "Crossfire Hurricane" investigation, which looked into ties between Trump's campaign and Russia. Two of the four warrants approved to surveil Page were later deemed invalid after the Justice Department's inspector general found misstatements and omissions in FBI paperwork to get the warrant.

Two anonymous sources with direct knowledge of the deliberations told Axios that lawyers and advisers of Trump believe Dearie's role on the secretive court made him a deep skeptic of the FBI after its surveillance of Page, which influenced Trump's legal team's decision to suggest him.

"This experience drove the Trump team's thinking in requesting him," the outlet reported, adding that "Trump's lawyers are betting that has made Dearie more skeptical of the FBI than an average judge — in a way that endures beyond the Page case."

Cannon has issued a deadline of Nov. 30 for the documents review and issued interim reports and recommendations "as appropriate." She said that Dearie should first look at the classified documents.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

Dearie has been regarded as an exemplary jurist and a straight-shooter, in the legal community.

Lawyers and litigants have described Dearie as an "independent, thorough and even-handed jurist who is fit to wrangle the dueling sides," according to Politico. Despite the difficulties this role may present, he is equipped to handle it.

"He's one of the few judges who both sides want to appear in front of. He is held in the highest regard by attorneys. He's someone who actually listens to the lawyers and considers what they have to say before he makes a decision," a former Brooklyn federal prosecutor Lindsay Gerdes told Politico.

The Justice Department has argued that a special master is legally unnecessary and, if appointed, should not be charged with reviewing any of the documents marked as classified. In several court filings, prosecutors have made the case that appointing a special master can delay the criminal investigation into Trump and due to the documents' sensitive nature, could pose a national security risk.

The Trump team's suggestion of Dearie as special master has puzzled legal observers due to the former president's history of strictly placing loyalists in key roles. However, the DOJ has accepted the team's suggestion due to Dearie's "previous federal judicial experience and engagement in relevant areas of law."

Trump fully embraces QAnon on Truth Social — hours after obsessed supporter allegedly killed wife

In his one-term presidency, Donald Trump pushed out a number of notorious conspiracy theories tied to voter fraud, climate change and vaccines, but it wasn't until recently that Trump expressed his explicit support for QAnon – which promotes the idea that Trump is the savior of the American people.

Despite the dangers of endorsing a movement the FBI has labeled a domestic terror threat, Trump posted a picture of himself wearing a Q lapel pin, with the QAnon catchphrases "The Storm is Coming" and "WWG1WGA," on his Truth Social account earlier this week. He shared the post after an account called "Patriots in Control" originally published the photo on the platform.

His latest embrace of QAnon comes as no surprise since Trump spent much of his presidency praising followers who were a part of the movement and even endorsed a Republican candidate for congress who is a prominent QAnon supporter. He has previously defended the movement saying it consists of people who "basically believe in good government."

But what makes his recent endorsement especially disturbing is that it came hours after a man obsessed with the QAnon conspiracy theory allegedly killed his wife and seriously injured one of his children.

After Trump lost in the presidential election in 2020, Igor Lanis became obsessed with QAnon and the false idea that Joe Biden stole the election. His daughter, Rebecca Lanis, blamed her father's worsening mental health on extremism and conspiracy theories he encountered online, according to the Daily Beast.

Lanis represents just one example among thousands of other QAnon supporters who believe that Trump is fighting against a cabal of Democrats and other elites that are operating a global child sex trafficking ring. The narrative originated in 2017 after a YouTuber and two moderators from the 4chan website banded together, giving credibility to posts by a user called "Q", who claimed to be a high-ranking military officer. Eventually, the theory they espoused became known as Qanon.

In the years since, the movement has grown and become tied to a number of violent incidents, including the killing of two infants by their father, who told investigators that his belief in QAnon made him do it, a man ramming his pickup truck filled with guns through the gates of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's home and the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

And as social media platforms like Twitter have banned accounts linked to QAnon, the movement's supporters have shifted to Truth Social, which brands itself as a free-speech haven. Users have continued to post content that espouses violence and Trump has promoted these messages.

In the past, Trump has "re-Truthed" a post calling for "civil war" and pushing claims that the 2020 presidential election was a "coup," according to a report by NewsGuard. More recently, he has posted and reshared posts that included conspiracy theories about the Department of Justice, former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and also boosted QAnon accounts that attacked President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

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Trump's recent posting of his photo with the phrase "The Storm is Coming" days after the death of Queen Elizabeth II has led some QAnon supporters to believe that a "storm" really is coming. "The storm" refers to the day when Trump would ostensibly expose the pedophilic cabal of the deep state and the elites and also issue mass arrests of his political rivals. And as part of their role in this "Great Awakening", QAnon believers would educate the public about the movement ahead of these arrests. Ultimately, the "storm" would trigger their "savior" Trump's return to power.

The "storm" was originally supposed to strike when QAnon supporters marched on the Capitol on Jan. 6, but instead, the siege led to mass arrests and several QAnon believers losing faith after President Joe Biden was inaugurated. However, Trump's recent support of QAnon is enabling a QAnon renaissance, which poses the same dangers as the spread of disinformation on social media prior to the insurrection.

NOW WATCH: 'Kiss our democracy goodbye': Robert Reich sends warning of GOP lawmakers superseding the will of the voters

'Kiss our democracy goodbye' Robert Reich sends warning of GOP lawmakers superseding democracy www.youtube.com

Trump-inspired wave of threats against election officials raises midterm tensions as some workers simply quit

Election officials across the country are concerned with potential violence and other disruptions compromising this November's midterm elections. Some are even quitting their jobs as Donald Trump's allies continue to push out false claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has made $8 million available for local clerks to bolster election security. More than 1,600 election clerks remain in constant fear for their safety, said Michigan Department of State spokesperson Angela Benander in a statement on Thursday.

"I am concerned about people being disruptive," said Sommer Foster, co-executive director of Michigan Voices. "I'm concerned about people trying to intimidate voters. I'm concerned about dis- and misinformation. It's something that we see a lot in Michigan, and so we are doing what we can to make sure that we have systems in place to fight against that."

Foster, who works with partners on issues like election protection, voter suppression and educating voters about their rights, witnessed election clerks in 2020 being unfairly "maligned" and "attacked." The harassment was so stressful, Foster continued, that one former Republican election official in a suburb outside Detroit simply quit his job .

"It's a huge loss," Foster said. "This was somebody who was dedicated to making sure that voters had their rights protected. We are hearing incidents of clerks being called out by name [by] some of these folks that are still telling lies about the 2020 election."

Almost half (47%) of top elected and appointed local officials in Michigan reported being harassed in the last few years due to their position in local government, according to a University of Michigan survey.

Efforts by Trump allies to overturn the last presidential election have persisted, even close to two years after the fact, and false claims about the supposedly stolen election have created safety concerns for administrators across the country. One in six elec­tion offi­cials have exper­i­enced threats and 77% say that they feel those threats have increased in recent years, according to a Brennan Center poll released earlier this year.

Death threats, racist and gender-based attacks are reportedly forcing election workers to hire personal security, leave their homes and in some cases even resign from their positions.

In one rural Texas county, the entire elections staff quit just 70 days before the midterm elections, PBS reported. For the last 10 months, local leaders in Georgia's biggest county have been unable to hire a permanent director to run the Department of Registration and Elections.

Following the 2020 election, Anissa Herrera, the elections administrator for Gillespie County, Texas, received a number of death threats from far-right sources against her staff, which led to numerous resignations.

Such experiences have become so commonplace that election clerks consider it a part of their job, said Anthony Gutierrez, executive director of Common Cause Texas.

"These election administrators keep saying that they report things to law enforcement or local DAs and nothing happens, like nobody's being prosecuted," Gutierrez said.

Common Cause, which does election protection work, is also looking at potential ways to hold people who attack election workers accountable. What has complicated that task, Gutierrez and others say, is that numerous people in leadership positions keep casting doubt on the way elections are administered.

Last year, Texas Secretary of State John Scott claimed that a "full forensic audit" of the 2020 general election was necessary to restore Texas voters' trust in the state's election systems. (Trump easily carried the state.) Scott also briefly represented Trump in a legal challenge to the 2020 results in Pennsylvania.

For an elected state official to embrace that narrative, Gutierrez said, "really perpetuates this feeling that the people running our elections are doing something wrong, or trying to rig the elections. Just naturally, that's going to create an environment where you're asking for some kind of violence to happen."

In many key battleground states, supporters of Trump's false election claims are running for secretary of state — a position that in most states gives them the power to oversee elections — and are continuing to sow doubt about the way elections are administered.

Jim Marchant, the Republican secretary of state nominee in Nevada, has repeatedly claimed that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump and has said he would not have certified its results if he were in office. Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem, the GOP nominee for secretary of state has called for the arrest of incumbent Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, and has proposed giving the state legislature the power to accept or reject election results. In Colorado, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters (a failed secretary of state candidate) is now under indictment on felony and misdemeanor charges related to tampering with voting equipment. And in Michigan, GOP candidate Kristina Karamo, a prominent election denier, signed onto a lawsuit in the Michigan Supreme Court challenging the 2020 election. (She also faces unrelated allegations by her ex-husband that she threatened to kill their entire family during an altercation.)

Supporters of Trump's false election claims are running for secretary of state in several battleground states, while continuing to sow doubt about how elections are administered.

In some counties, staffers are receiving special training aimed to ensure the election process runs smoothly. In Arizona, the secretary of state's office hosted tabletop exercises for county election officials and law enforcement agents meant to prepare them for worst-case scenarios, said Sophia Solis, deputy communications director for the office, in an email to Salon.

In 2020, every county in Arizona was assigned a "threat liaison officer" to help prepare for and investigate any threats that might arise, Solis said. Staffers for the secretary of state have also met with county sheriffs to discuss what constitutes harassment or threats at polling locations, and to provide guidance on how to deal with such scenarios.

State Voices, which partners with various other organizations in pro-democracy work, is also preparing for the upcoming midterms by partnering with Common Cause to create trainings for volunteers in how to handle disruptions at polling locations.

In 2020, State Voices trained community members in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Ohio to support voters and report any issues to the election protection hotline. Elena Langworthy, the group's deputy director of policy, said the planning and preparation seemed to work. "We had a plan in place to deal with anything that arose that was more on the side of physical violence and intimidation," she said, "and luckily we didn't see a [significant] number of physical incidents occur."

But there is still no solution to the shortage of election workers in many counties, which Foster of Michigan Voices directly attributes to the ongoing wave of angry threats. These workers "just want to provide a service to their communities," Foster said, "and they're being unfairly attacked."