Today began with Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater at the New York Times reporting on previously undisclosed emails from the weeks before the January 6 insurrection, in which advisors openly referred to the slates of alternative electors they had prodded supporters to produce as "fake."
"We would just be sending in 'fake' electoral votes to Pence so that 'someone' in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the 'fake' votes should be counted," Arizona lawyer Jack Wilenchik wrote on December 8, 2020, to Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn. Later, Wilenchik suggested that "'alternative' votes is probably a better term than 'fake' votes." He then added a smiley face.
Wilenchik also said he and Arizona Republican Party chair Kelli Ward had discussed keeping the plan quiet so that "we can can try to 'surprise' the Dems and media with it," and that Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ) had asked him to testify at a Senate hearing put together by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI).
The emails appear to show connections between Epshteyn and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as well as Epshteyn and John Eastman, the author of the memo calling for alternate slates of electors. Further, they show that Mike Roman, who was director of Election Day operations for Trump's campaign, organized ways to overturn the election. Epshteyn and Roman corresponded with Trump lawyers Jenna Ellis and Bruce Marks, deputy director of Election Day campaign operations Gary Michael Brown, and Christina Bobb then at One America News Network.
In an echo of the shadow operation Guiliani ran to pressure Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to smear Hunter Biden, those trying to overturn the election did not share their conversations with the White House legal counsel's office, whose lawyers had made it clear there was no evidence for any of their accusations of a stolen election. Haberman and Broadwater remind readers that the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has established that Trump knew about the plan to create fake electors. So, too, did Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel. In Pennsylvania, the point person to organize fake electors was Doug Mastriano, who is now the Republican nominee for governor.
On Twitter, lawyer George Conway wrote: "If you had asked me to hypothesize, for illustrative purposes, a set of emails that prosecutors would find helpful in proving a fake-elector fraud conspiracy, I would not have come up with anything nearly as incriminating as the emails that the Times just reported on today."
Then the January 6th committee released footage from their interview with former acting defense secretary and Trump loyalist Christopher MIller, who took office on November 9, 2020, after Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper. In the clip, Miller contradicted a statement Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows made on the Fox News Channel in February 2021. Meadows claimed that Trump had ordered 10,000 troops to be ready on January 6. Miller said he had received no such order.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden continues to try to break Trump's support. Biden's predecessor was in Washington today and was expected to lay the groundwork for a "law and order" campaign. In the end, it turned out he mostly rehashed his disproven claims about the 2020 election, but he did promise to execute drug dealers and put homeless people in camps on the outskirts of cities.
Biden responded by taking the fight right to Trump and the right wing: "Here's something else wrong with the ex-president's record on crime," Biden tweeted; "he opposes action on assault weapons. These military-style weapons kill cops—and they kill school kids. We need to stop selling them in America." Yesterday he warned law enforcement that supporting insurrection was anti-cop and anti-American; today he is expanding that to support for assault-type weapons, an argument that resonates after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which 376 law enforcement officers declined to confront an 18-year-old gunman equipped with AR-15 style rifles.
While Biden is trying to break Trump supporters away from the former president, the American right wing is doubling down on authoritarianism.
On July 15 the European Commission announced that it would sue Hungary over an anti-LGBTQ law and its refusal to renew the license of a broadcaster critical of the government, and today one of Hungarian president Viktor Orbán's longtime advisors resigned over what she called his recent "pure Nazi" speech about "mixed-race" nations. "I don't know how you didn't notice that the speech you delivered is a purely Nazi diatribe worthy of Joseph Goebbels," she wrote. And yet, Orbán is still scheduled to speak next month at the August 4 meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas.
Finally, the day ended with a blockbuster story from Carol D. Leonnig, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, and Spencer S. Hsu at the Washington Post. Basing their story on conversations with four sources, they reported that the Department of Justice is investigating former president Trump as part of its criminal investigation of efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The Department of Justice has already charged more than 850 people in the events surrounding Trump's attempt to remain in power, but there has been much speculation over whether Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Justice Department were willing to let the former president skate free. There are two possible avenues of criminal prosecutions on the table. One is that Trump participated in the attempt to delay or obstruct an official proceeding, which is the crime for which other participants in the events of January 6 have been indicted. The other is the fraud of setting up the fake electors from the states.
Conversations with their sources, who have shared the questions they have been asked, have led the Washington Post reporters to conclude that Trump is, in fact, under criminal investigation. Prosecutors are asking questions about the former president and members of his inner circle, about their meetings to overturn the election. And, in April, Justice Department investigators got the phone records of Trump administration officials, including Meadows, which means they convinced a judge they had good reason to look at them.
Attorney General Garland has said he would "pursue justice without fear or favor."