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.
Lies and the seats
GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, talking about Jan. 6, last month: “If Steve Bannon and I had organized that, we would have won. Not to mention, we would’ve been armed.” Greene, Tuesday: “It will be my honor to serve my constituents and the American People on the House Committee on Homeland Security to focus on the security of the United States.”
Greene’s knack for racism, antisemitism, and conspiracy theories got her kicked off her committee assignments in early 2021 with the support of all Democrats and 11 Republicans in the House. After that, she grew fond of gloating to reporters that GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy had not only promised to restore her committee assignments when he became speaker, but that those assignments committees would be even better than the ones she had lost.
Marjorie Taylor Greene was exactly right. McCarthy gave her everything she predicted he would.
Greene also got a spot on the powerful Oversight Committee, a made-for-TV panel where many of Republicans’ coming investigations will originate. She’ll be joined by her partner-in-boosting-white-nationalism Rep. Paul Gosar, and frenemy Rep. Lauren Boebert. It’s the latest example of what McCarthy’s limp into the speakership proved: the Republicans who did the most to promote, and in some cases organize, Trump’s attempt to illegally cling to office now have more power than they did two years ago.
We accept you, one of us!
Anthony Devolder George Devolder Anthony Zabrovzky Kitara Ravache GADS Rep. George Santos, is officially a GOP House member in good standing after receiving two committee assignments from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. An outcast during his first few days in the Capitol, Santos seems to have found his clique in the GOP conference. Imagine, the MAGA caucus eager to accept an undeterrable, scamming liar. Go figure!
- Knave Navarro
Former Trump trade advisor and charitable cause Peter Navarro will have to stand trial at the end of the month for defying his subpoenas from the Jan. 6 committee. A federal judge ruled Thursday that Navarro hadn’t backed up his claim that former President Donald Trump had asserted executive privilege over his testimony. Navarro tried a bunch of other tactics to get his case dismissed but Judge Amit Mehta shot them all down.
Now Navarro has to face a contempt trial similar to the one that could soon land Steve Bannon in prison. Bannon is appealing his conviction while also awaiting trial on a multimillion fraud and money laundering rap in New York.
- A Proud sedition
The government’s case against five Proud Boys for seditious conspiracy and more got underway this week. Filmmaker Nick Quested, who also testified at the Jan. 6 committee was called, and the jury saw his now-famous documentary footage of Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio meeting with Oath Keepers founder (and convicted seditionist) Stuart Rhodes in a Washington, D.C. parking garage on Jan. 5.
While the jury was out, prosecutors played a clip from the meeting video where someone can be heard saying, “It’s inevitable. It’s going to happen. We just have to do it strong, fast, together.” That sparked a dispute between prosecutors and defense attorneys because it’s not clear who’s speaking, and the defense argued the shocking statement could prejudice the jury. Prosecutors never played it for them.
Jurors also heard from a Secret Service agent assigned to Veep Mike Pence, and US Capitol Police who tried to hold back the MAGA mob.
Better collar Sol
Trumpist Republicans who’ve lost elections vent their fury in all kinds of ways: stealing voting equipment, threatening election workers, convening a violent mob to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. Solomon Peña compensated for his 48-point loss in a 2022 state House race by allegedly getting people to shoot up the Albuquerque homes of elected Democrats he didn’t like.
Peña is being held without bond after appearing in court for the first time Wednesday. Prosecutors say Peña, a former felon who attended several Trump events including the Stop the Steal rally before the Jan. 6 riot, refused to concede his loss, then paid a bunch of dudes to target the homes of four area Dems. A witness puts Peña in the car with an AR-15 on one of the assaults, though his gun jammed. “We have a significant amount of evidence. We’re very confident,” Bernalillo County DA Sam Bregman told CNN.
“Hang ‘em until dead!” Peña wrote on Telegram last year after hearing claims of voter fraud in Nevada.
On one hand, the charges tell a story of a conspiracy-addled weirdo steeped in right-wing disinfo, who luckily didn’t succeed in hurting anyone (though came close to hitting a 10-year-old girl.) They’re also another (and another) reminder of how green-lighting and praising political violence quickly normalizes it.
But here’s the chef’s kiss: Peña’s alleged plot is so egregious that the MAGA conspiracy theorists he believes in most are hanging him out to dry as a false flag infiltrator sent to make their movement look bad.
The big Lycoming
In rural Lycoming County, Pa., stolen election delusions manifested themselves in a less violent, though still incredibly silly, way. Officials there spent three days and hundreds of hours on a hand recount… of the 2020 election.
Local Republicans, convinced that Donald Trump’s Pennsylvania loss couldn’t really have happened, pressured county officials into staging the recount of 60,000 ballots. In the end, both Trump and Joe Biden lost a few votes from the official machine-counted tally. Trump carried Lycoming by more than 40 points. The recount netted him a total of eight votes.
Newly-minted Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen campaigned on a platform that mixed Stop the Steal disinformation with antisemitic theories like the one about George Soros plotting to register liberal voters. So as soon as he took office this week, Allen made good on a campaign promise: He removed Alabama from the non-profit and bipartisan Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a 30-state consortium that matches voter data and other data so states can keep their voter rolls clean.
ERIC was started and staffed by officials from across the political spectrum. But Allen’s pledge to leave it was borne entirely of right-wing propaganda falsely claiming that Soros founded and funded it. Even Allen’s GOP predecessor said that was a lie. In reality, ERIC works to identify voters who’ve died, moved, or become ineligible so that states don’t duplicate registrations.
Algorithm and blues
The January 6 committee chose not to say much about social media companies’ role in spreading violent rhetoric and incitement, preferring to focus on Donald Trump and his direct role in the coup plot instead. But a 122-page memo released by the committee lays out some stark bottom lines.
Read all about how social media platforms in general failed to anticipate or closely moderate violent and extremist rhetoric once the November, 2020 election was over, giving extremists including Trump valuable running room in spreading increment. And while Elon Musk’s “Twitter files” have tried to make a case that company executives worked to silence Republicans and help Democrats, the committee found the opposite. Twitter’s leaders and content moderators scrambled to accommodate Trump’s rule-breaking and false rhetoric for fear of reprisals from him and backlash from conservatives.
And while we’re on the topic of Trump’s tweets, the disgraced former president reached new depths with a Mar-a-Lago documents-related rant on Truth Social Wednesday, calling the FBI “Gestapo” who planted documents on him and trying on a new misdirection about how he just liked to collect classified cover sheets (the very same ones that are are evidence he knew he was holding classified documents.)
Which is all to say… great news! Trump is soon to be back on Twitter and Facebook after using those platforms to attempt a coup!
“We’re not done.” — Lawyer Karen DiSalvo, after helping force a hand recount of 2020 election results in Lycoming County, Pa. this week that yielded a net eight votes out of 60,000 for Donald Trump.
Milwaukee sewers — Wisconsin Dems are calling for the ouster of a Republican statewide election official who gloated about how GOP tactics successfully suppressed people of color from voting. Robert Spindell, who sits on the Wisconsin Elections Commission (and was also a fake elector for Trump!) crowed in an email that Republicans “can be especially proud” that turnout in Dem-heavy Milwaukee was down, with “the major reduction happening in the overwhelming Black and Hispanic areas.”
Spindell has defended his comments, and his praise for the GOP “Negative Black Radio Commercials” that he credited with helping Republicans in Milwaukee. Keep in mind: this isn’t a brazen elected official with a constituency who’s voted for him. He’s a member of the Wisconsin body that’s supposed to oversee free and fair elections.
MAGA gate — We already know some of the MAGA world characters and coup plotters who streamed through the White House gates to meet with Trump and his staff as the zero hour of Jan. 6 approached. Sidney Powell, Jeffrey Clark, Rudy Giuliani, Patrick Byrne and others all show up in reporting and in the pages of January 6 committee report. But want to know if anyone YOU know is among the huge crowd? Take a searchable tour through the pre-insurrection White House visitor logs!
This is USSS — Unfortunately the ship has sailed on the two days of text messages from Jan. 5 and 6 that the U.S. Secret Service (definitely accidentally) erased. But now a government watchdog group is suing to get records of the agency’s communications with Oath Keepers before the insurrection. The recent trial that convicted Oath Keepers founder Stuart Rhodes and others of sedition produced testimony that Rhodes, Ariz. GOP state Senator Wendy Rogers, and other Oath Keepers were in contact with the Secret Service before the insurrection.
Bragg Stormy hour — America’s worst TikToker and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen met for 2 1/2 hours with Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s team this week. Cohen is back because the DA is taking a fresh look at the hush-money payments Cohen admitted to paying Stormy Daniels after her encounter with Trump. Cohen famously displayed checks Trump wrote to him reimbursing for the payments, including one written while he was president. There’s potential fraud, money laundering, or campaign finance violations here. Bragg is also reportedly still interested in the criminal side of the insurance fraud case that got Trump sued by the New York AG.
The Maricopa County attorney fighting false election claims.
FROM THE GUARDIAN
FROM THE ATLANTIC
Subjective and objective measurement of democratic backsliding.