RIP, Party of Law and Order

Mar-a-Lago’s aftermath has proven the GOP's authoritarian shift, and Democrats need to seize the moment.

After years of igniting conflict with his special brand of kerosene, Donald Trump now wants to bring down the temperature in the country. 

He’s sensing the risks to his own interests if he gets blamed for the violence he unleashed on law enforcement after the search of his Florida residence. So he appeared on Fox News and sent an emissary to the Justice Department, to deliver the message that he was ready to help lead the way out of chaos. 


Of course, what Trump actually wants is plausible deniability for the chaos he continues to create. On TV he intoned for conciliation, but online he kept right on the attack, blaming his legal troubles on Democrats and corrupt enemies. Meanwhile, there are more threats of violence from his allies. 

Trump’s lawyer warned on right-wing TV that criminal charges for Trump would “cause so much mayhem” and would be “a monstrous mistake.” (Most lawyers say “my client is innocent.” Trump’s seems to be advising that if you decide to prosecute, you’re signing up for mob violence in the bargain.) 

Another Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, threatened instant house-raiding retribution for President Biden the moment Trump is re-elected. And Trump himself was right behind him, affirming that he, too, is thinking of retribution on so many enemies, most of whom no longer even hold public office. 

Former veep Mike Pence, ever looking for disgraces that let him nudge away from his onetime boss, also noticed that sowing violence against law enforcement may pose a political opportunity. Pence, who just happened to be in the early-presidential-primary state of New Hampshire this week, chided the GOP for suborning attacks on the FBI and Justice Department. 


“The Republican Party is the party of law and order,” Pence said, deploying a slogan that completely misidentifies the contemporary Republican Party. Who can convince the GOP base that attacking law enforcement (or election officials, or political opponents, or public health spokespersons) really is un-American? 

Probably no one, because, as Mar-a-Lago’s aftermath has proven, this is an authoritarian movement. “Law and order” is a phrase that long ago was co-opted to mean “intimidation and domination.” What Pence never counted on when he signed up for Team Trump is that the intimidation and domination would extend to insufficiently supplicated cops. 

This week I sat down with former Attorney General Eric Holder for an interview airing on VICE News’ upcoming Breaking the Vote TV show (watch for it after Labor Day!). Holder has a book out on what he calls the “existential emergency” of American democracy, and how to fix it. He had some pretty specific things to say about Trump getting charged, and especially the aftermath of the Mar-a-Lago search.

All but the most cynical AGs would get fired up about a politician who targets law enforcement personnel for personal gain. But Holder also seems to recognize the political salience of the Mar-a-Lago aftermath. Holder isn’t running for office, but he does want Democrats to hold the House and add a couple Senate seats so they can quickly enact democratic and voting reforms. 


What’s interesting is that with Trump looking for cover, and Pence looking for opportunity, and Holder looking for a rallying cry, you’ve heard very little from any prominent Dem office-holders. Maybe it’s because it’s politically-sleepy August, or maybe because President Biden would rather talk about the new climate bill. 

We’re likely to learn more in the next several days about what the DOJ has on Donald Trump and his quest to take and hold onto classified documents. It probably won’t be the last time Trump’s supporters threaten law enforcement, and it definitely won’t be the last time Trump encourages them. 

Makes you wonder if that will piss off any Democrats actually running for something the way it pisses off an attorney general from the Obama years. 

Sign up your friends for Breaking the Vote! And watch out for the Breaking the Vote show coming soon from VICE News. You’ll be able to say you read it before they watched it!

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GOP Rep. Liz Cheney used the attention on her loss in Tuesday’s GOP Wyoming primary to pivot to her next act: making good on her vow to never let Donald Trump get to the Oval Office again. 

Cheney moved quickly to form a political action committee dedicated to the task, and juiced it with millions from her now-moot congressional campaign war chest. 


Cheney’s life as a future-ex member of Congress began very poetically: with bullshit from her opponent on Fox News. Harriet Hageman, who took Trump’s endorsement and beat Cheney by more than 37 points, went on Hannity Wednesday and complained that Cheney never called her to concede the election. 

Cheney, as is her practice in the January 6 committee, responded with receipts. “Hi, Harriet, it is Liz Cheney calling,” Cheney said on Hageman’s voicemail. “It is about 8:13 on Tuesday the 16th. I’m calling to concede the election and congratulate you on the win. Thanks.”

Hageman, who lied about the 2020 election throughout her campaign, is probably not caught in a lie here, as more squabbling showed the whole thing was likely a miscommunication. Still, it makes perfect sense that her official road to Congress begins with misinforming everyone on Hannity.

‘Everybody has resigned’

The feds this week charged Walter Lee Hoornstra, of Missouri, for threatening an election official in Arizona in May 2021. According to the indictment, Hoornstra left a voicemail on the personal cellphone of the official, threatening that “your ass will never make it to your next little board meeting” if the official didn’t comply with election audits in the state. 


Hoornstra is just the sixth person charged for threatening election workers, despite more than 1,000 threats reported to a DOJ task force over the past year. 

Given the epidemic of intimidation, it’s a staggeringly low number of charges. Federal officials said about 10 percent of reports warrant further criminal investigation, and only a tiny fraction of those meet the legal threshold for a threat. The problem, of course, is that threats don’t have to be technically illegal to be effective. 

Take Gillespie County, Texas, where the entire local election administration staff just resigned because of ongoing intimidation. “I’ve been threatened, I’ve been stalked,” Anissa Herrara, who just resigned as county election administrator, told the local press. “We have some people who are pretty fanatical and radical about things,” said county Judge Mark Stroeher. “Unfortunately, they have driven out our elections administrator, and not just her, but the staff. Everybody has resigned.”

T.W.I.S.™ Notes

You really have to choose your venue to keep all the action straight This Week in Subpoenas. Let’s go around the horn from Georgia, to D.C., to New York, and Mar-a-Lago!

Target acquired


It’s not clear exactly how Rudy Giuliani got himself to the Fulton County Courthouse on Wednesday. “I’ll give you one answer: I didn’t walk,” Rudy said as he arrived to testify in front of the grand jury investigating interference in the 2020 election in Georgia. 

Last week Rudy tried to get out of appearing in DA Fani Willis’ grand jury by saying recent medical procedures left him unable to fly by plane. Ordered by a judge to get to Atlanta by some other conveyance, Rudy turned up shortly after finding out he’s a target of the investigation. 

We don’t know what prosecutors asked Rudy, what he said, or if he answered questions at all. Did he come close to matching Trump’s Fifthtastic record of refusing to answer questions 440 times? Alas, grand jury proceedings are secret, and we may never know unless or until Rudy gets charged. 

So what’s next for Rudy? He has legal exposure all over the place, both criminal and civil. Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen told VICE News’ Greg Walters that he thinks Rudy will eventually flip and become a cooperating witness against Trump. And Rudy himself, asked by a reporter at an NYC airport where he’d just flown in after his testimony, quoted the DA saying he “satisfied his obligation” to the Fulton County grand jury. 


More lawyers who need lawyers

Two other Trump coup lawyers have been ordered to appear in Fulton County. Jenna Ellis, who was sunk deep into Trump efforts to overturn 2020–and is currently trying to help Christian nationalist Doug Mastriano take over elections as governor of Pennsylvania—is due to appear Aug. 25. And John Eastman, who’s been searched by federal agents investigating the coup attempt AND who told Georgia lawmakers about evidence of widespread fraud that didn’t exist, is trying to fight his subpoena and is set to appear in a Santa Fe court next Friday.

Senators who need lawyers

A federal judge ordered GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham to testify in Fulton County too, since Graham made two phone calls to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after the election, just to see about throwing out ballots. Graham is still on a quest to quash his subpoena.

Governors who need lawyers

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp resisted Trump’s scheme to overthrow the election, but he doesn’t want to appear as a witness in front of Willis’ grand jury. Kemp said that would interfere with his reelection bid, after which, Willis went HAM.  


Still other lawyers who need lawyers

Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann got a subpoena from a federal grand jury investigating the coup attempt. You may remember Herschmann from his earlier hits, which include representing Trump during his first impeachment trial, and from his testimony in front of the January 6 committee, where he recalled telling John Eastman he was “out of his fucking mind” for his coup plan involving former Veep Mike Pence

Former presidents (and more of their lawyers) who need lawyers

A Florida judge appears ready to reveal more information about what federal agents were looking for when they raided Mar-a-Lago nearly two weeks ago. The judge heard arguments yesterday from media organizations who want to unseal the affidavit backing up the FBI’s search warrant. DOJ opposes that release because it could complicate a possible future prosecution and tip off targets about sources, methods, and legal strategies. 

But the judge ordered DOJ to propose redactions that could allow the affidavit to come out without compromising investigations. The feds have until next Thursday, and then they may have to fight it out with the judge over just how much information about the search, any classified documents, and the case comes out. DOJ’s position is understandable, but literally everyone else wants to know what exactly prompted the agency, all the way up to AG Merrick Garland, to calculate that getting the documents back was worth the blowback…like having FBI agents’ lives threatened. 


We also learned that former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy, Patrick Philbin, were also questioned in the documents probe earlier this year. 

Former vice presidents possibly considering hiring lawyers

Mike Pence is looking for places to edge away from the guy who whipped up the mob that called for him to be hanged. He may want to run for president, after all! This week Pence was asked if he’d testify in front of the Jan. 6 committee… and he didn’t say no!

In the public Pinterest

When Arizona GOP Rep. Mark Finchem isn’t busy spreading election conspiracies and hanging out with Oath Keepers, he likes to spend lots of time online. Finchem’s Pinterest posts offer a window into the interests and mindset of the guy who’s running to control elections as Arizona’s next secretary of state. Finchem likes normie things like dogs, but he was also very disappointed with Michelle Obama’s choice of shorts. Also, he kept a “Treason Watch List,” compared Barack Obama to Hitler, and appears to fantasize about another American civil war. He deleted some of his posts, but you can still see them (thanks, Internet Archive!).

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“You are both wrong and confused.” — Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, in a letter to attorney Brian McEvoy, calling out McEvoy’s attempt to shield Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp from testifying to Willis’ special grand jury.

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Clerk Can’t — Mesa County, Colorado Clerk and indicted felon Tina Peters won’t get to be on the red carpet for the premier of a new film about… her! A judge this week denied Peters’ request to travel out of state so she could attend Mike Lindell’s “Moment of Truth” election conspiracy summit in Missouri. The event features the new film “Selection Code,” a documentary about Peters hosted by (honestly, though, what the hell happened to) Lara Logan. 

August breach days — All the Mar-a-Lago news this week kind of obscured this wild report: While Trump forces scrambled to overturn election results after November 2020, aligned lawyers were very busy trying to get access to voting machine data all across the country. The Washington Post has records from Sidney Powell and a bunch of Trump allies who retained a private data firm to gain access to voting systems and data in Georgia, Nevada, and Michigan. “The scope of it is mind-blowing,” one plaintiff’s lawyer in a lawsuit says. Investigations, including potentially criminal ones, are underway. Don’t miss a special appearance from Cyber Ninjas sleuth Doug Logan!

Felonious bunk — In a world where conspiracy theorists are running to control voting, election workers face threats by the thousands, and a losing president could get charged for mounting a coup attempt, the greatest threat to democracy is clearly… convicted felons who vote. 

Welcome to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ newly created election crimes unit, which delivered its first investigations leading to charges Thursday. DeSantis announced 20 people were arrested for voting in 2020 despite being ineligible because of murder or sex offense convictions. Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 that restored voting rights to most felons if they meet certain conditions. But some classes of felons were excluded. 

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The new era of political violence is here. THE ATLANTIC

The Arizona Republican Party’s anti-democracy experiment. NEW YORK TIMES

TikTok is great for spreading political messages—and conspiracy theories. VOX