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.
I feel Prettyman, oh so Prettyman
I’m enjoying some time with family, so it’s a bit of an abbreviated newsletter this week. There’s news from Michigan and Wisconsin down below. And… a BIT of indictment news from Washington. Seriously, a former president hearing charges read for using multiple conspiracies to attempt to overturn the 2020 election could be the first chapter of the most important trial in modern history. After long days of tracking events, I had a chat with VICE News’ Greg Walters, who was at yesterday’s arraignment of Donald Trump at the E. Barrett Prettyman federal courthouse in DC. We talked about where we go from here with all the charges and expected charges.
(BTW, Greg and I joined VICE’s Twitch stream yesterday to talk about the latest charges. Check it out!)
Hey man, it’s been a busy day. Is this a good time?
Sure, as long as you don’t mind that I’m chopping eggplant while we talk. I’ve barely eaten all day.
Absolutely, chop! So, I saw you writing on Twitter that Donald Trump was rather slouchy in this latest appearance.
Yeah, he seems to be getting increasingly slouchy. This is just not Trump’s happy place. He has a different persona during his arraignments than he does in the rest of his Trumpy life. We’ve been watching this guy since 2015 and his public persona is extremely well known. But he’s not like that in these arraignments. He’s slouchy, he’s folding his hands intensely in a sort of white knuckle death grip. He’s looking around the room, he’s monosyllabic, he doesn’t know whether to stand up or sit down when he speaks.
He’s not in his golden place.
That’s a good way to put it. He’s just not in his calm mind, if he has one.
I saw that a bunch of DC District judges watched from the back row of the courtroom.
Yeah we spotted Chief Judge Boasberg in the back.
And Judge Amy Berman Jackson was there, and Judge Randy Moss too. Also several police officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6 came out. It was clearly a big day at the office!
Jack Smith was there, of course. Also, this is interesting: Evan Corcoran, the lawyer who is a prominent witness and was forced to answer questions in the grand jury investigation of the Mar-a-Lago, appeared with Trump’s entourage. All this after Trump tried to bamboozle him about giving back classified documents! It’s hard to say what’s going through Corcoran’s mind, but he seems to still be showing up to the indictments as a member of Team Trump in some kind of good standing.
Everyone’s been looking at the six co-conspirators, but the one name that’s just glaringly absent from the indictment, and could be conspicuously absent in Fulton County in a couple weeks, is Mark Meadows. He’s the guy you’re very loudly not hearing about.
That’s right. That is fueling a lot of speculation that Mark Meadows may have flipped, which is a big deal, because it’s gonna be a big deal in Georgia. It’s unlikely that he would have flipped in one of these cases and not the other.
He was a central player in Trump’s attempts to reverse his electoral defeat in November, December, January 2020-21. And yet he was nowhere in the indictment. It’s not for sure, but we’re expecting in Atlanta for Fani Willis to plausibly cast a wider net and indict some of these same people who feature as unindicted co-conspirators in the Jack Smith case. If that happens, and if Meadows is not charged, that’s something close to confirmation that he is either cooperating or that the prosecutors feel he is a very likely valuable cooperator.
Yeah, if, say Giuliani, Eastman, Chesebro, Trump, and a cast of fake electors in Georgia get charged, and Mark Meadows doesn’t…
It just doesn’t seem like Meadows would be able to keep dancing through the raindrops without getting wet here. It would tell us a lot.
You were pointing me earlier today toward this statement from the Sheriff of Fulton County, who said Trump gets no special treatment whatsoever in Fulton County if he’s arrested and booked there. And the procedures for criminal defendants in Fulton County can be pretty stark.
I saw Sheriff Patrick Labat at an event during the midterms and he struck me as the kind of guy who’s unlikely to be restrained and care very much about the visuals of an arraignment. That matters because he’s the person in charge of the booking and, like, saying that we’re going to see a mug shot this next time.
And criminal defendants in Fulton County are processed at 901 Rice St, which is a notorious jailhouse scene.
Yeah, you gotta wonder if the local authorities are gonna want to bring attention to 901 Rice. It’s a vexed criminal complex, which I’ve been to. It just gets a lot of press for being a very terrible place where lots of people wait for a long time before even being charged with crime, because there’s such a big backup in cases. Trump’s lawyers point out the big backlog in local cases while the DA is going after the former president. So I can see why the authorities might not want to go there.
Speaking of big backlogs, they’re running out of slots to schedule all the criminal and civil trials Trump is facing, if they’re going to happen before the election. Did you see that Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg said on WNYC that he’d be open to delaying the Stormy Daniels payoff trial if someone else, like in DC, Atlanta, or Florida needs to go first?
Yeah, and he did point out that that’s technically up to the judge to schedule cases. But Bragg could play a role in objecting or helping along a request to delay. But he made it clear that he wasn’t going to fight that. And that’s important, in part because one of the really key points about this hearing today, and the trial, is whether it can proceed to a verdict before the election.
This was a big part of the dynamic for the pre-arraignment days for Walt Nauta in the Mar-a-Lago case. And did you see that the Special Counsel has made a motion saying Stanley Woodward has a conflict of interest in representing both Nauta and Trump? They’re requesting a hearing on it, and I’ve been wondering for a long time how a lawyer can rep both Donald Trump and Walt Nauta when those two clients’ best interests clearly have to diverge.
Right. It makes me wonder, first of all, whether Trump and Nauta might have been baiting the DOJ into taking this off ramp to have this argument, which, again, could burn time. But also, it’s a sign that DOJ is still hoping Nauta will flip. Because one of the best reasons to switch lawyers for two different defendants is to try to get one of them to flip on the other.
Hey, Woodward represented Cassidy Hutchinson before she got rid of him and talked to the Jan. 6 committee (and the Special Counsel). And he also represented Yuscil Taveras, Employee #4 in the Mar-a-Lago case, until he switched lawyers and decided to tell the truth about being ordered to erase surveillance servers!
Another plausible way to look at this case, if you are a defendant, is that your best way forward is to stay in Trump’s good graces because the case against you is so strong, you’re toast no matter what. And what you really want is a guy in the White House with the pardon power, and he still likes you, because you stood strong.
If either of these cases does get pushed out past the election, maybe all the sudden it becomes easier to flip some of the co-defendants who have been holding out to see if Trump wins. If he loses, that could be sort of a domino effect. Again, pure speculation on my side, but something to watch.
Alright man, enjoy the eggplant stir fry.
It’s going to be way too garlicky. I have to burn the taste of all this justice out of my mouth.
We’re at seven-eight charges and counting for Trump. Sign your friends up for Breaking the Vote!
A protester stands with a sign outside E. Barrett Prettyman United States Court House, in Washington D.C., the United States, Aug. 3, 2023. (Aaron Schwartz/Xinhua via Getty Images)
Oops, I did Mich-i-gan
That’s the latest from the feds, so let’s go to the states!
A special prosecutor in Michigan has charged two more Republicans with election tampering for their part in the caper to heist and break into ballot tabulators and prove voting fraud. Former Michigan GOP Attorney General candidate Matt DePerno and former state Rep. Daire Rendon were both indicted in the scheme, which involved taking machines from three rural Michigan counties and transporting them to hotels or AirBnBs, where others broke into the machines hunting for evidence of fraud.
DePerno was indicted on four counts: Undue possession of a voting machine, conspiracy to commit undue possession of a voting machine, conspiracy to commit unauthorized access to a computer or computer system, and willfully damaging a voting machine. Rendon caught two charges: Conspiracy to commit undue possession of a voting machine, and false pretense.
Both men were charged by Michigan special prosecutor DJ Hilson, who was appointed after AG Dana Nessel filed a complaint about the scheme last year. (Nessel had a conflict of interest involving DePerno, who had run against her for attorney general in 2022. BTW here’s DePerno telling PBS NewsHour that he has tons of evidence of fraud, before angrily walking away.)
Let’s take a quick step back. The federal case against Donald Trump and his six co-conspirators doesn’t indict any of the alleged plot’s dozens of fake electors from swing states, though they (along with others from New Mexico) play a key part in the narrative. Instead, the feds are keeping their case narrow and leaving the MAGA’s anti-democracy supporting cast to the states.
Nessel charged 16 fake electors in Michigan. There’s a good chance some of Georgia’s fake electors could be included in whatever charges the Fulton County grand jury issues this month (some have agreed to cooperate with DA Fani Willis and appear to have immunity deals).
But remember, Trump’s infection of the democratic process didn’t end when his plot failed after Jan. 6. All over America, conspiracy theories popped up like mushrooms as MAGA zealots rushed to find evidence of non-existent widespread fraud. DePerno and Rendon (and others likely soon to be charged) took and tampered with machines in Michigan. In Georgia, Sidney Powell, aka Trump “Co-conspirator #3,” dispatched a team of computer experts who broke into computer systems in Coffee County, Georgia, with the aid of a local GOP official and fake elector.
And, as all Breaking the Vote readers know, in Mesa County, Colorado, then-Clerk Tina Peters allegedly hired an IT expert just so she could steal his security credentials, give them to an election conspiracist, and allow that man to access voting machines and publish their data online. Peters is facing seven felony counts in October.
“It’s tough to own any of this when it’s all just conspiracy shit beamed down from the mothership.”
— An email from an unnamed “Senior Campaign Advisor,” in the most recent indictment of Donald Trump, expressing frustration that Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s fraud claims in Georgia couldn’t be substantiated.
The spoils of warranto — Everyone knew the lawsuits would flood in as soon as liberals flipped Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. Just a day after the court was sworn in with newly-minted Justice Janet Protasiewicz taking her seat, Democrats filed suit challenging the state GOP’s long-entrenched gerrymander, which keeps the evenly-divided state tilted rightward.
A group of 19 voters and a legal advocacy organization challenged the GOP’s use of legislative maps that they say violate separation of powers rules and voting laws. They’re asking the court to issue a writ of quo warranto, which would effectively force state lawmakers to run in more fairly redrawn districts in 2024.
This case is being fast-tracked right to the state Supreme Court. Wisconsin is considered one of the most anti-democratically gerrymandered states in the country (North Carolina is up there too). Republicans and Democrats essentially evenly divide the Wisconsin electorate, yet the GOP holds 64 of 99 seats in the state Assembly, and 21 of 33 seats in the Senate.
None, if by hand — One GOP-dominated Arizona county is abandoning its plans to hand-count all its 2024 election ballots after a test run resulted in rampant errors and eye-popping costs.
Officials in Mohave County voted 3-2 to end the plans after a trial hand count of 850 test ballots resulted in 46 errors. The ballots took three minutes each to count, and in the end, officials told the county board they’d have to hire 245 workers to work seven days a week just to tabulate all the ballots inside the county’s 19-day time limit. And at a total cost of $1,108,000, more than the entire election allowance for the year, it’s all a budget-busting cluster!
Election experts and officials have been warning about this kind of thing for years. Arizona Sec. of State (and Breaking the Vote guest) Adrian Fontes advised GOP county officials that attempting to go full-hand-count would violate state law. A couple forged ahead to try it anyway. And don’t forget about Shasta County, Calif., where local GOP officials, swimming in Dominion propaganda, spent over $1 million in taxpayer money to replace machines just before Fox settled Dominion’s defamation suit.
Also ran swag — Thanks to his testimony to the Jan. 6 grand jury, Mike Pence has some gear that’s guaranteed to rocket his presidential campaign!
The elements of offense in the Trump Jan. 6 indictment.
The perfect date for Trump’s Jan. 6 conspiracy trial.
Jeffrey Clark is a GOP star after trying to use the DOJ to overturn the election.
FROM THE WASHINGTON POST
Source : Vice News