The GOP Is Done with Democracy

The party has one principle left: Power is only legitimate when it’s wielded by Republicans. 

This content comes from the latest installment of our weekly Breaking the Vote newsletter out of VICE News’ D.C. bureau, tracking the ongoing efforts to undermine the democratic process in America. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday.

Government issue 

There’s a ton to get to this week, now that America’s leading defendant (I’m actually surprised “DOTUS” hasn’t caught on) is still being arraigned. But first to Ohio, and the defeat of Republicans’ open attempt to further dismantle democracy there. 


The abortion question is an important one, and now Ohioans will get to have a straight majority-rule vote in November on whether to protect abortion rights in the state constitution.

Judging from the outcome on “Issue 1” this week, pro-life Republicans are in grave danger of losing that vote. They already knew that, which is why they tried to rig it with a 60% threshold, instead of 50%. Even Kari Lake showed up to campaign for the power grab.

Soon after last summer’s Dobbs decision, it became clear that Republicans’ long-fought victory on abortion was an unpopular political loser. Voters in Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, and elsewhere have all voted in favor of abortion rights. The same could not be allowed to happen in Ohio. 

A political party with a stake in democratic values would internally debate a compromise; or embrace Dobbs and let the chips fall where they may; or come up with a messaging strategy to win voters over. But the Trumpist GOP is not that party. 

The same impulse that led Ohio Republicans to brazenly rig November’s abortion vote also led North Carolina Republicans, tired of sharing power in their evenly divided state, to sue all the way to the Supreme Court to block Democrats from having a say in congressional maps. It gave Donald Trump fertile ground to launch his political career pretending Barack Obama couldn’t possibly be a legitimate president. It incubated the lie that the 2020 election must have been stolen, not lost. 


And it animates the decrepit idea, confirmed in polling this week, that Trump is being prosecuted not for crimes against democracy, national security, and the rule of law, but because he’s a persecuted victim just “like me.” 

Retired conservative Judge J. Michael Luttig, who advised Mike Pence on the eve of Jan. 6 that he had no power to play functionary in Trump’s coup, declared this week that the GOP is no longer a political party able to function in a democracy. Trump took and maintains control of the GOP for precisely this reason. He embodies the one principle left in the GOP: Power is only legitimate when it’s wielded by Republicans. 

Democrats, independents, and more than a few erstwhile Republicans in Ohio—and a lot of other places—seem pretty opposed to that idea.

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Correction: Last week I wrote that Stanley Woodward represented Cassidy Hutchinson before she testified in front of the Jan. 6 committee. Wrong! Hutchinson was represented by former White House lawyer Stefan Passantino before she got new counsel.


We’ve finally reached accountability for the people at the top of the attempted coup. Back down at riot level, DOJ released a tally of all the arrests, pleas, and convictions they’ve made since Jan. 6.

But now, so many charges are swirling against Donald Trump and the anti-democratic MAGA faithful that it’s hard to keep track. The cases are starting to intersect and interact in ways that will only get more complicated if co-conspirators get charged in the Jan. 6 indictment, in Georgia, or in other states. 


What’s clear already is that Trump’s attacks on the criminal justice system and his opponents are, once again, not a hypothetical danger. They’re fatal. This week, yet another armed militant whose enemies just happened to be all of Trump’s enemies was shot and killed after pointing a gun at federal agents who came to arrest him. The guy was really into threatening Joe Biden, but also Merrick Garland, New York AG Letitia James, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, and others. 

While Trump’s calls to protest his arraignments have largely fallen flat, his incitement hasn’t. Recall that a man attacked an FBI field office after Trump railed against agents who executed a search warrant on Mar-a-Lago. He later died in a hail of bullets outside Cincinnati,


Let’s take a quick tour of the latest, even as we’re on the verge of turning up the heat even more on Hot Accountability Summer. 

Fulton County

- Racketeer club — More witnesses are due to appear in front of the grand jury next week. Shortly after, DA Fani Willis is expected to bring more than a dozen indictments, likely charging a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. There are two separate grand juries currently seated in Fulton County, one meeting Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other Thursdays and Fridays. So we could hear about indictments either at the beginning or the end of the week. 

How do you know we’re on the cusp of charges? Because Trump is spending money to attack the prosecutor in Atlanta, complete with lots of innuendo


Willis appears to be pursuing racketeering charges under Georgia’s RICO law, though that’s not certain. But if she charges a criminal conspiracy, it’ll be interesting to see who (besides Trump) is at risk of charges in both Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Ostensibly all of Trump’s alleged co-conspirators in the federal case, including Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, and Jeffrey Clark were also active in the effort to overturn Georgia. 

Trump’s allies with exposure are already gearing up catch charges. What was it Mike Pence was saying about Trump’s “gaggle of crackpot lawyers?”


Rudy appeared at multiple legislative hearings to spread disinformation about the election and election workers; Eastman had Trump sign a filing about Georgia’s election he knew to be false; Powell recruited the cyber crew who broke into computers in Coffee County; Ken Chesebro formulated and directed the plan to recruit fake electors, some of whom in Georgia have immunity deals; and Clark briefly took over as Attorney General on the promise of lying to Georgia officials about DOJ findings of widespread election fraud. 

As for Co-Conspirator #6… stay tuned. Also, Mark Meadows isn’t named in the federal Jan. 6 indictment. If he’s not named in Georgia, well, we got ourselves a flipper. 

The federal coup case

- The X foils — When Jack Smith slides into your DMs… 

- Happy New Year! — Jack Smith yesterday urged the court to set a trial date for Jan. 2, 2024, telling US District Judge Tanya Chutkan that Trump’s millions of alleged voting victims have as much a right to a speedy trial as the defendant does. If it’s granted, that’ll jump the coup case to the front of the line, making it the first of Trump’s criminal indictments (so far) to go to trial. 


- Always use protection — The Special Counsel and Trump’s defense team go before Judge Chutkan this morning to set the ground rules for all the evidence the government is about to hand over. It’s called a protective order, and Trump’s team is gunning for one that gives him free rein to attack witnesses and poison the jury pool. Prosecutors argue that Trump wants to try his case in the press instead of the courtroom, and as such are asking for an order that lets Trump speak publicly about the case, but bars him from discussing evidence, witnesses, or other discovery.

Trump’s already attacked the judge, the Special Counsel, witnesses, and the city where he allegedly committed his four crimes. He’s also said he’ll defy whatever order the judge imposes. It’s fairly obvious that Trump wants to provoke Judge Chutkan into sanctioning him, so he can claim persecution. 


- Attorneys, Bernie — Trump may be charged, but the Special Counsel’s Jan. 6 investigation is still chugging. The feds are focused on fundraising and finances post-Election Day, and they’re still conducting interviews, including with longtime Rudy and Trump ally Bernard Kerik

Who is Bernie Kerik? He rose to fame as NYPD Commissioner on 9/11 but then pleaded guilty to eight felonies, including tax evasion, and served four years in prison. Earlier, he got caught using a Ground Zero apartment intended as a resting place for recovery workers to get his hook-up on, and his nomination to be DHS Secretary imploded. Naturally, Kerik was granted a “best people” full pardon by Trump, and later went on to support his false election claims.


- It’s not easy being Chesebro — Ken Chesebro, aka Co-Conspirator #5, got started on the plan to use fake electors to steal the 2020 election earlier than previously known. The January 6 committee missed it, but NYT got hold of a Dec. 6, 2020 memo where Chesebro first contemplates how to use a nationwide false prospectus to buy time for Trump to bring lawsuits. In a matter of days, Chesebro followed up with a plan for recruiting the fake electors to bring chaos on Jan. 6.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at a Get Out the Vote Bus Tour campaign event for Republican gubernatorial nominee for New York Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), November 01, 2022 in Staten Island (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at a Get Out the Vote Bus Tour campaign event for Republican gubernatorial nominee for New York Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), November 01, 2022 in Staten Island (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Mar-a-Lago docs case

Come on, Aileen — US District Judge Aileen Cannon has barely gotten hold of the documents case, and she’s already raising red flags. This week, while refusing to grant the government’s routine requests to seal some filings, Cannon ordered prosecutors to justify why a second grand jury in Washington, DC is still investigating the case. 


The move alarmed legal experts. Cannon, who has scant experience in criminal procedure, seemed not to know that dual grand juries are completely routine. 

But potentially more disturbing: How exactly did Cannon become aware of the issue? Defense lawyers never brought it up. But, the previous night, Fox News did

More pleas — Both Trump and his valet Walt Nauta pleaded not guilty to the new charges in the superseding indictment… the one alleging a cover-up of the cover-up by way of conspiring to delete surveillance camera footage.

- See you next Tuesday — Newly-minted co-conspirator Carlos De Oliveira (the property manager who allegedly told Employee 4 that “the boss” wanted the security servers deleted), still wasn’t arraigned yesterday, after squeezing a 10-day delay in his initial appearance. Oliveira, just like Nauta, slowed things down by not securing local Florida counsel as required. Delay is the strategy. De Oliveira’s arraignment is now scheduled for next Tuesday.


-  No SCIFs, ands, or buts — The highly classified documents that are now evidence in the Mar-a-Lago case can only be viewed in a sensitive compartmented information facility, otherwise known as a SCIF. Trump says that traveling to the federal courthouse in Fort Pierce, Fla. is too inconvenient, so he wants one rebuilt at Mar-a-Lago. 

On one hand, Trump’s home already had a SCIF so he could view and discuss classified material when he was president. On the other hand, Mar-a-Lago is literally the scene of the crime, and the crime was grossly mishandling classified information in an environment crawling with people (including imposter foreign nationals) not qualified to see it! You’d think Trump’s personal convenience, as not-president, would have no bearing on the court, but, then again, Cannon. So we’ll see. 


Rudy’s World 

Co-Conspirator #1 and… just, WT actual F (there’s description of alleged sexual abuse in that link)… Rudy Giuliani is dragging his feet again. Lawyers for voting machine company Smartmatic accused Rudy of failing to produce discovery as required in the company’s $2.7 billion defamation suit against Giuliani and a cast of other MAGA propagandists. 

Their brief was pretty magical. “‘The dog ate my homework.’ ‘I have to wash my hair.’ ‘I can’t go out, I’m sick.’ Since the dawn of time, people have made up excuses to avoid doing things they do not want to do. That’s exactly what Giuliani has done here,” the lawyers wrote


The (not actually) funny thing is that it’s the exact same schtick that got Rudy sanctioned in the ongoing defamation suit brought by former Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss

In the Georgia case, he claimed he couldn’t produce timely discovery because he’s strapped for cash. That may or may not explain the former mayor’s luxe Upper East Side apartment going on the market this week. 

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“Alright, folks. Now, just a note: Newsmax has accepted the election results as legal and final.”

— Newsmax host Eric Bolling, issuing a disclaimer immediately after ending an interview with Donald Trump.

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Tenn. count indictment — Fresh off of the Supreme Court’s order for Alabama Republicans to improve Black representation in congressional districts, a group of Tennessee voteris giving it a try. They filed suit in federal court this week, alleging that the GOP breakup of heavily-Black Davidson County violates the Voting Rights Act.

Con-y Appleseed — Read this great profile of chemist Douglas Frank, whose travels all over America sowing distrust in voting systems have earned him the nickname “the Johnny Appleseed of voter fraud.” Frank helped Trumpist GOP officials in Shasta County, Calif., in their quest to get rid of Dominion voting machines. In Colorado, he convinced former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters to let election denialists copy voting machine data, for which she’s been indicted for multiple felonies. 

The profile’s money quote, from Frank: “Instead of planting apple seeds, I think I’m going around starting little fires everywhere. And then I come back and I throw gasoline on those fires.”

A guy walks into disbar — John Eastman is the OG coup architect (though, watch out John! Ken Chesebro is being recognized more and more!) But Eastman has problems on both coasts. In Washington, D.C., he’s also known as Co-Conspirator #2 in the Jan. 6 federal indictment. Who knows what Fulton County will bring. 

In California, Eastman is still facing potential disbarment in a trial that’s been pending since June. Now Eastman is asking the judge to put his disbarment on hold, citing the fact that he might soon be charged, and that could force him to take the Fifth while trying to keep his law license. Eastman is asking the judge to postpone his disbarment trail until after his potential indictment is resolved. That could be a long time.

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Every case, everywhere, all at once.


A GOP Wisconsin election official bullied by her own party.


The Claremont Institute: The anti-democracy think tank.