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Friday, June 24, 2022

Opinion | It will be bad if Merrick Garland prosecutes Trump--and worse if he doesn't - The Washington Post

Opinion It will be bad if Merrick Garland prosecutes Trump — and worse if he doesn’t

Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien is seen on the screen in Washington, D.C., on June 13. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post) 
"Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien is seen on the screen in Washington, D.C., on June 13. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post) 

It will set a disturbing precedent if Attorney General Merrick Garland prosecutes former president Donald Trump for alleged crimes. But I believe it will set a worse precedent if Garland doesn’t.

There are obvious risks in a political system where criminal charges and jail sentences can be used to achieve political ends.

All we need to do is look to South America, where former presidents Carlos Menem of Argentina, Alberto Fujimori of Peru and Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva of Brazil all were sentenced to prison terms for various crimes including, in Fujimori’s case, the creation of a murderous right-wing death squad. In each case, die-hard supporters believed their hero had been railroaded for political purposes. Those prosecutions may have served justice. But their sentences did nothing, at least in the short term, for unity or stability.

And the prosecutions created an incentive for revenge. If Lula defeats President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s October election, will the Trump-like Bolsonaro be put in the dock? Closer to home, would the next Republican administration invent some reason to bring charges against President Biden or his son Hunter?

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We should not rush to become that kind of country. But it might be even more dangerous to live in the sort of nation where a president can violate the law with absolute impunity. Once, we might have worried about a leader who would risk shooting a man on Fifth Avenue. Now, we risk being governed by a president who will try his best to negate the will of the voters and remain in office despite having been dismissed.

The Jan. 6 House selectcommittee, in its riveting public hearings, has made what strikes this non-lawyer as a compelling case that Trump orchestrated a fraudulent and ultimately violent attempt to overturn the result of the 2020 election.

Trump’s involvement in what amounted to a failed coup went far beyond the incendiary speech on the Ellipse that launched the mob toward the Capitol. And he persisted even though, as we now know, Trump was repeatedly told that his claims of a “stolen election” were nonsense.

Bill Stepien, Trump’s former campaign manager, told him beforehand that a “red mirage” on election night would make it look as if Trump was winning — but only temporarily. Trump’s attorney general, William P. Barr, said Trump’s repeated claims of voter fraud were “completely bogus and silly” — and told Trump to his face that the allegations were worthless.

Despite this, Trump went ahead not just with incendiary tweets, but with phone calls to election officials in hotly contested states pressuring them to “find” nonexistent Trump votes or decertify the election results or name “alternate” slates of electors. He called supporters to D.C. for a climactic confrontation on the day when Congress and the vice president would formally certify Biden’s election. And he raised $250 million in donations for an “election defense fund” that did not exist.

Although our democracy survived, this was far from a victimless crime. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards, who suffered a concussion while defending the Capitol from the mob, told of slipping in blood. Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Georgia election worker Shaye Moss told the committee of the vicious and horrifying death threats they received. Moss testified that a Trump supporter came to her grandmother’s house in an attempt to make some sort of “citizens’ arrest.”

Garland has to decide whether there is evidence Trump committed one or more crimes, whether prosecutors can prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and whether bringing charges against a former president is simply unimaginable. The first two decisions will depend on what the experienced prosecutors at the Justice Department conclude. The last is up to him.

He will be pilloried either way. But he needs to understand that deciding not to prosecute would send a clear message to future presidents: Do whatever you like, and there will be no accountability. No consequences.

To a layman’s eyes and ears, the select committee has made a powerful case for prosecution. We have not heard a defense from Trump — thanks largely to the decision by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) not to name GOP members to the panel. And, of course, in any legal proceeding Trump would be considered innocent until proven guilty.

But something that should be important to every American is already on trial: the idea that we are all equal before the law, and equally responsible to it.

The real test should be whether charges would be filed against Donald Smith or Donald Jones, given the same facts. If the answer is yes, and we are the country we say we are, charges must be filed against Donald Trump as well."


Opinion | It will be bad if Merrick Garland prosecutes Trump--and worse if he doesn't - The Washington Post

Thursday, June 23, 2022

‘Absolutely Shocking’: New York Governor Reacts To Supreme Court Ruling ...

Opinion | 'Lady Ruby' Freeman and our democracy should be protected - The Washington Post

Opinion We need laws to protect election workers like ‘Lady Ruby’ Freeman

Former Georgia election worker Wandrea' ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, foreground, is seen as her mother, Ruby Freeman, wipes a tear, as the House Jan. 6 committee holds a public hearing on June 21. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
"Former Georgia election worker Wandrea' ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, foreground, is seen as her mother, Ruby Freeman, wipes a tear, as the House Jan. 6 committee holds a public hearing on June 21. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Ruby Freeman was given a jewel of a name, but later had the gumption to crown herself “Lady Ruby.” Imagine having the confidence to build a business around that brand and then creating T-shirts in several colors with that marque to sell and to wear at your pop-up fashion boutique or while serving as a poll worker in Fulton County, Ga.

And then imagine having to run away from your name and your life and everything you know because the president of the United States had targeted you in a lie to try to stay in an office that he did not earn.

Lawmakers moved with lightning speed this month to protect the safety of Supreme Court justices in their homes. Well, if they can do that, they also need to grease the effort to safeguard honest election officials and poll workers facing a barrage of harassment, intimidation and death threats motivated by Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of an election he lost.

The need for this became crystal clear during Tuesday’s hearing before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

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Arizona House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers (R) told the committee that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told him, “We’ve got lots of theories, but we just don’t have the evidence.” Even so, the Trump team implored Bowers to decertify the election by replacing the electors seated through popular votes for Joe Biden with “fake” ones who would support Trump.

The former president himself called on Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to find him 11,780 more votes, as if he were ordering a burger and fries.

One by one, witnesses described how they refused to play along with the scheme. One by one they described the price they paid for their valor.

Raffensperger testified that his wife was harassed and said people broke into the home of his daughter-in-law — a widow raising two kids. Bowers said he now dreads Saturdays, because mobs congregate outside his home with video trucks and massive loudspeakers, accusing him of being a pedophile.

But it was the testimony of election workers Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman (a.k.a. Lady Ruby), that best underscored the human toll. They were at the center of an accusation concocted by Trump and Giuliani who falsely, and repeatedly, claimed that the two had processed fake ballots for Joe Biden.

At Tuesday’s hearing we learned that Giuliani falsely said Moss passed a thumb drive to her mother during the vote-counting process and compared it to passing “vials of heroin or cocaine” — punctuating the lie with an ugly stereotype because two Black women were the villains he needed to sell his ridiculous story. (It was a mint, Moss testified.)

The resulting attention upended Moss’s and Freeman’s lives. People filled their Facebook accounts and phone messages with hate. In a clear reference to lynching and racial terrorism, Moss was told, “You should be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.”

Both women left their jobs and went into hiding. “I don’t go to the grocery store at all. I haven’t been anywhere at all. I’ve gained about 60 pounds,” Moss testified, fighting back tears.

Freeman, once so proud of her moniker, doesn’t dare use it in public now. “I get nervous when I bump into someone I know at the grocery store who says my name,” she said. “I’m worried about who’s listening. ... I am always concerned of who’s around me. I’ve lost my name, and I’ve lost my reputation. I’ve lost my sense of security.”

She, and everyone else who testified Tuesday, did so knowing that the threats against them will amplify. They did it knowing that election officials across the country are facing increasing intimidation. They did it knowing that violence is a real possibility.

During the Senate debate over protecting Supreme Court justices and their families, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said, “Threats to the physical safety of Supreme Court justices and their families are disgraceful, and ... cannot be tolerated.”

Threats to the physical safety of election officials and poll workers also should not be tolerated. Yet they are sadly becoming almost routine.

This cannot stand. It is a crime in the United States to threaten a postal worker or willfully obstruct the mail — a crime punishable by jail time. Surely protecting our democracy is as important as protecting the delivery of our mail.

Republican legislatures across the country are backing new laws to penalize election officials who leave ballot boxes unattended or let non-citizens register to vote. What we really need are more laws to protect the well-being of these workers, who are central to the voting process.

Democracy is based on the decision of voters to chart the course of a country through their ballots. It relies on the ability of those who oversee that process to do their jobs without fear of intimidation or threats from people willing to resort to thuggery because they are not certain they can win if they play by the rules."


Opinion | 'Lady Ruby' Freeman and our democracy should be protected - The Washington Post

Sen. Ron Johnson under fire over fake-electors disclosure at hearing

Sen. Ron Johnson under fire over fake-electors disclosure at hearing

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Capitol Hill on June 22. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

“Weeks before the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) held a hearing on election fraud in an attempt to legitimize former president Donald Trump’s false allegations of voting irregularities. Four days before the attack on the Capitol, Johnson signed a statement with nine other Republican senators that they intended to object to certifying Joe Biden’s electors and demand “an emergency 10-day audit of the election.”

This week, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot revealed that Johnson’s chief of staff tried to deliver to Vice President Mike Pence a slate of fake electors backing Trump, raising questions about the Wisconsin Republican’s role in a deliberate and coordinated plan to block Biden’s win and give Trump the presidency.

The disclosure also underscores the extent of Johnson’s role as one of Congress’s most prominent election deniers and Jan. 6 apologists — spreading conspiracy theories about rigged votes and playing down the severity of the violent assault on the Capitol as mostly “peaceful,” while floating the idea that it might have been an inside job by the FBI.

Johnson, who is up for reelection this year, has been dogged by scandals and controversial statements since aligning himself with Trump. He has spread false information about the coronavirus, was accused of racism for saying he would have been concerned had Black Lives Matter protesters flooded the Capitol on Jan. 6 instead of mostly White Trump supporters, and is under fire for using taxpayer funds for airfare between Washington and his Florida home. Some Democrats and political experts say this latest revelation of direct communication in the form of text messages between Johnson and Pence staff on Jan. 6 could sway voters in a battleground state where elections are won by a slim margin.

“What happened in the last 24 hours is different. It’s one thing to articulate off-the-wall political positions, it’s another thing to possibly have assisted in a coup attempt,” said Kenneth R. Mayer, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

On June 21, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack outlined a scheme supported by President Trump to overturn the 2020 election. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

Johnson’s possible Democratic opponents — the Wisconsin primary is in August — immediately attacked him, arguing that the texts provide tangible evidence to voters that Johnson was part of an attempt to nullify the votes of thousands of Wisconsinites. A poll released Wednesday by Marquette Law School but conducted before the latest revelations found Johnson trailing three of his four potential opponents by single digits.

Senate Democratic candidate Tom Nelson, who previously had pushed for the Jan. 6 committee to subpoena Johnson, on Wednesday called on the senator to resign. “Today’s revelations go beyond anything I could have imagined for how far Ron Johnson would go to overturn our Wisconsin election result. Johnson should not only resign and be placed under oath, but all signs point to evidence of a crime that the U.S. Department of Justice is obligated to investigate.”

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is also running in the Democratic Senate primary, called on Johnson to “resign immediately.”

“Ron Johnson actively tried to undermine this democracy. He literally tried to hand Mike Pence fake ballots. Once again, Ron Johnson has proven he’s a danger to our country and our fundamental rights,” Barnes said in a statement.

“Ron Johnson is a seditious traitor and a danger to democracy,” tweeted Alex Lasry, another Senate candidate.

Sarah Godlewski, Wisconsin state treasurer and another Democrat vying to challenge Johnson, called him “a threat to our democracy and a disgrace to our state.”

Johnson spokeswoman Alexa Henning dismissed the criticism. “The senator’s Democrat opponents are always trying new ways to avoid talking about their disastrous Democrat policies,” she said. “The senator has never considered resigning as a result of dozens of false attacks already made against him. Why would this absurd attack be any different?”

Henning did not respond to specific questions about the text messages or Johnson’s knowledge of the fake electoral documents.

Johnson has denied his involvement in the plan to deliver to Pence fake Trump electors. A text message shown at the hearing, from Johnson chief of staff Sean Riley to Pence aide Chris Hodgson and sent minutes before the joint session of Congress to certify the Biden win, said “Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS please advise.”

“What is it?” Hodgson replies. “Alternate slate of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn’t receive them,” Riley writes. “Do not give that to him,” Hodgson responds.

Johnson told reporters on Tuesday that someone from the House side, “some staff intern,” brought the envelope to his office and said it needed to be delivered to the vice president. Johnson claims that his office attempted to make the handoff, but the vice president’s staff rejected it and that was his staff’s total involvement. “I had no hand in it,” Johnson said. “This is a total non-story.”

Johnson acknowledged that “he was aware that we got something delivered that wanted to be delivered to the vice president,” but said he did not know who delivered it or what it was. He said his chief of staff “did the right thing” in offering the documents to the vice president.

Later, Johnson left the Capitol trailed by reporters asking him about the text messages. Johnson held his phone to his ear and said he was on a call, but a reporter challenged the senator, saying that he could see the screen and knew Johnson wasn’t talking to anyone.

“The bottom line is that Johnson is not stupid — he had to know what the context of the moment was, what was happening on Jan. 6, what was going on back home; he was far down the rabbit hole of ‘Stop the Steal’ efforts,” said Charlie Sykes, a prominent former Republican who has long opposed Trump. Sykes, who lives in Wisconsin, said “the very specific, easily understandable” image of the text messages from Johnson’s staff to the vice president’s office referencing alternate electors takes the effort to overturn the election from an abstract notion to something tangible.

The Jan. 6 committee unpacked a few other details about how the Wisconsin plan came together. Andrew Hitt, a former Wisconsin GOP chairman, signed on to be a fake elector for Trump. In testimony to the committee, Hitt said he thought the Trump slate of alternate electors would only be used if the Trump campaign won its legal challenges.

“I was told that these would only count if a court ruled in our favor,” he said. Otherwise, “It would have been using our electors in ways that we weren’t told about and we wouldn’t have supported,” Hitt said in a clip shown during the hearing.

A package tracker shows that the packet of certificates was mailed in Wisconsin on Dec. 16 but was not accepted by an employee at the National Archives in Washington until the morning of Jan. 4. Later that day, Mark Jefferson, the executive director of the Wisconsin Republicans, texted someone: “Freaking trump idiots want someone to fly original elector papers to the senate President. They’re gonna call one of us to tell us just what the hell is going on.”

Hitt and Jefferson did not respond to requests for comment.

Jeffrey Mandell, a Wisconsin attorney on a lawsuit filed in May against the fake Trump electors in the state, said there remain many holes in the timeline, including who from the Trump campaign was in contact with Hitt and Jefferson and who gave the fraudulent documents to Johnson’s office. Mandell pointed out that the cover page included with the alternate slate of electors sent to Washington was on official Republican Party of Wisconsin letterhead.

Mandell said that while many questions remain, the committee’s implication of Johnson is confirmation of the senator’s role in trying to overturn the 2020 election.

“We’ve known for a long time that he was an adherent of the ‘big lie’ and was willing to say and do anything to advance that ‘big lie,’ ” Mandell said. “He has continued to waffle and for the most part has continued to entertain the ‘big lie’ and support those conspiracy theorists. It wasn’t a terrible surprise, but there is something pretty visceral about the image of Senator Johnson physically trying to get these papers to Pence in the light of day, on the Senate floor, at the key moment right before Congress started to count the votes.”

Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.“

As Midterms Loom, Elections Are No Longer Top Priority for Meta C.E.O.

As Midterms Loom, Elections Are No Longer Top Priority for Meta C.E.O.

Mark Zuckerberg, who once said securing elections was “the most important thing,” has shifted Meta’s focus to the metaverse. That may have real-world implications.

Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s chief executive, has been focused on pushing his company into the immersive world of the metaverse.
Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, made securing the 2020 U.S. election a top priority. He met regularly with an election team, which included more than 300 people from across his company, to prevent misinformation from spreading on the social network. He asked civil rights leaders for advice on upholding voter rights.

The core election team at Facebook, which was renamed Meta last year, has since been dispersed. Roughly 60 people are now focused primarily on elections, while others split their time on other projects. They meet with another executive, not Mr. Zuckerberg. And the chief executive has not talked recently with civil rights groups, even as some have asked him to pay more attention to the midterm elections in November.

Safeguarding elections is no longer Mr. Zuckerberg’s top concern, said four Meta employees with knowledge of the situation. Instead, he is focused on transforming his company into a provider of the immersive world of the metaverse, which he sees as the next frontier of growth, said the people, who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The shift in emphasis at Meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, could have far-reaching consequences as faith in the U.S. electoral system reaches a brittle point. The hearings on the Jan. 6 Capitol riots have underlined how precarious elections can be. And dozens of political candidates are running this November on the false premise that former President Donald J. Trump was robbed of the 2020 election, with social media platforms continuing to be a key way to reach American voters.

Election misinformation remains rampant online. This month, “2000 Mules,” a film that falsely claims the 2020 election was stolen from Mr. Trump, was widely shared on Facebook and Instagram, garnering more than 430,000 interactions, according to an analysis by The New York Times. In posts about the film, commenters said they expected election fraud this year and warned against using mail-in voting and electronic voting machines.

Voters casting their ballots in Portland, Maine, this month.
Jodi Hilton for The New York Times

Other social media companies have also pulled back some of their focus on elections. Twitter, which stopped labeling and removing election misinformation in March 2021, has been preoccupied with its $44 billion sale to Elon Musk, three employees with knowledge of the situation said. Mr. Musk has suggested he wants fewer rules about what can and cannot be posted on the service.

“Companies should be growing their efforts to get prepared to protect the integrity of elections for the next few years, not pulling back,” said Katie Harbath, chief executive of the consulting firm Anchor Change, who formerly managed election policy at Meta. “Many issues, including candidates pushing that the 2020 election was fraudulent, remain and we don’t know how they are handling those.”

Meta, which along with Twitter barred Mr. Trump from its platforms after the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has worked over the years to limit political falsehoods on its sites. Tom Reynolds, a Meta spokesman, said the company had “taken a comprehensive approach to how elections play out on our platforms since before the U.S. 2020 elections and through the dozens of global elections since then.”

According to Mr. Reynolds, Meta has hundreds of people across more than 40 teams focused on election work. With each election, he said, the company was “building teams and technologies and developing partnerships to take down manipulation campaigns, limit the spread of misinformation and maintain industry-leading transparency around political ads and pages.”

Trenton Kennedy, a Twitter spokesman, said the company was continuing “our efforts to protect the integrity of election conversation and keep the public informed on our approach.” For the midterms, Twitter has labeled the accounts of political candidates and provided information boxes on how to vote in local elections.

How Meta and Twitter treat elections has implications beyond the United States, given the global nature of their platforms. In Brazil, which is holding a general election in October, President Jair Bolsonaro has recently raised doubts about the country’s electoral process. Latvia, Bosnia and Slovenia are also holding elections in October.

“People in the U.S. are almost certainly getting the Rolls-Royce treatment when it comes to any integrity on any platform, especially for U.S. elections,” said Sahar Massachi, the executive director of the think tank Integrity Institute and a former Facebook employee. “And so however bad it is here, think about how much worse it is everywhere else.”

Facebook’s role in potentially distorting elections became evident after 2016, when Russian operatives used the site to spread inflammatory content and divide American voters in the U.S. presidential election. In 2018, Mr. Zuckerberg testified before Congress that election security was his top priority.

“The most important thing I care about right now is making sure no one interferes in the various 2018 elections around the world,” he said.

The social network has since become efficient at removing foreign efforts to spread disinformation in the United States, election experts said. But Facebook and Instagram still struggle with conspiracy theories and other political lies on their sites, they said.

In November 2019, Mr. Zuckerberg hosted a dinner at his home for civil rights leaders and held phone and Zoom conference calls with them, promising to make election integrity a main focus.

He also met regularly with an election team. More than 300 employees from various product and engineering teams were asked to build new systems to detect and remove misinformation. Facebook also moved aggressively to eliminate toxic content, banning QAnon conspiracy theory posts and groups in October 2020.

Around the same time, Mr. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated $400 million to local governments to fund poll workers, pay for rental fees for polling places, provide personal protective equipment and other administrative costs.

The week before the November 2020 election, Meta also froze all political advertising to limit the spread of falsehoods.

But while there were successes — the company kept foreign election interference off the platform — it struggled with how to handle Mr. Trump, who used his Facebook account to amplify false claims of voter fraud. After the Jan. 6 riot, Facebook barred Mr. Trump from posting. He is eligible for reinstatement in January 2023.

Last year, Frances Haugen, a Facebook employee-turned-whistle-blower, filed complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission accusing the company of removing election safety features too soon after the 2020 election. Facebook prioritized growth and engagement over security, she said.

In October, Mr. Zuckerberg announced Facebook would focus on the metaverse. The company has restructured, with more resources devoted to developing the online world.

The team working on elections now meets regularly with Nick Clegg, Meta’s president for global affairs.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Meta also retooled its election team. Now the number of employees whose job is to focus solely on elections is approximately 60, down from over 300 in 2020, according to employees. Hundreds of others participate in meetings about elections and are part of  cross-functional teams, where they work on other issues. Divisions that build virtual reality software, a key component of the metaverse, have expanded.

Mr. Zuckerberg no longer meets weekly with those focused on election security, said the four employees, though he receives their reports. Instead, they meet with Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs.

Several civil right groups said they had noticed Meta’s shift in priorities. Mr. Zuckerberg isn’t involved in discussions with them as he once was, nor are other top Meta executives, they said.

“I’m concerned,” said Derrick Johnson, president of the N.A.A.C.P., who talked with Mr. Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Meta’s chief operating officer, ahead of the 2020 election. “It appears to be out of sight, out of mind.” (Ms. Sandberg has announced she will leave Meta this fall.)

Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, another civil rights group, said Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Zuckerberg asked his organization for recommendations in 2020 to thwart election misinformation. Their suggestions were largely ignored, he said, and he hasn’t communicated with either executive in more than a year. He now interacts with Meta’s vice president of civil rights, Roy Austin.

Meta said Mr. Austin meets every quarter with civil rights leaders and added that it was the only major social media company with an executive in charge of civil rights.

In May, 130 civil rights organizations, progressive think tanks and public interest groups wrote a letter to Mr. Zuckerberg and the chief executives of YouTube, Twitter, Snap and other platforms. They called for them to take down posts about the lie that Mr. Trump won the 2020 election and to slow the spread of election misinformation before the midterms.

Yosef Getachew, a director at the nonprofit public advocacy organization Common Cause, whose group studied 2020 election misinformation on social media, said the companies have not responded.

“The Big Lie is front and center in the midterms with so many candidates using it to pre-emptively declare that the 2022 election will be stolen,” he said, pointing to recent tweets from politicians in Michigan and Arizona who falsely said that dead people cast votes for Democrats. “Now is not the time to stop enforcing against the Big Lie.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Religious Right’s Power Goes Up In Flames In Trump Dumpster Fire

Rudy Giuliani Admitted Trump Team Had No Evidence for Election Fraud Cla...

Katie Britt's win, and other takeaways from elections in Alabama, Georgia and Virginia - The Washington Post

Takeaways from the elections in Alabama, Georgia and Virginia

Alabama Senate candidate Katie Britt speaks to supporters on Tuesday night in Montgomery, Ala. (Butch Dill/AP)
"Alabama Senate candidate Katie Britt speaks to supporters on Tuesday night in Montgomery, Ala. (Butch Dill/AP)

Voters in Alabama, Georgia, Virginia and Washington, D.C., selected their nominees on Tuesday for the November general election, with the first two states holding runoffs.

This primary night was sleepier than most, but it did have some significant results. Below are some takeaways.

1. Georgia GOP bucks Trump … again

It has gone from bad to worse for Donald Trump in Georgia.

Last month, Trump’s candidates were drubbed statewide in the Peach State, starting with former senator David Perdue’s massive loss to Gov. Brian Kemp and Rep. Jody Hice’s remarkably failed bid to unseat Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. (Trump’s candidate for attorney general also lost.)

Congressional candidates Vernon Jones and Jake Evans each fell, piling onto Trump’s losses. Adding insult to injury, Jones was defeated by Kemp-endorsed businessman Mike Collins. Each trailed by a Perdue-esque margin, with their opponents winning more than 74 percent of the vote.

Neither result was too surprising, perhaps apart from the margin. But together, they reinforced how little regard Georgia Republicans have for Trump’s status as a kingmaker — and that Trump’s backing by itself is still only good for about 25-30 percent of the vote.

The twin losses in Georgia mean four Trump-backed House candidates have losttheir party’s nomination, with Jones and Evans joining Rep. Madison Cawthorn (N.C.) and Katie Arrington (who had challenged Rep. Nancy Mace in South Carolina).

2. The significance of Katie Britt’s win

The night’s marquee race was a bit more difficult to parse. But it was still no real success story for Trump — and Alabama remains another state in which that endorsement has repeatedly failed.

On paper, the winner was Trump-backed Katie Britt, the former chief of staff to outgoing Sen Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.). Britt defeated Rep. Mo Brooks (R) with ease. With 96 percent of expected votes tallied, she led the vote by 63-to-37.

In actuality, though, Trump just hitched his wagon to someone already on track for a win. And he actually endorsed Brooks as far back as last year. But when Brooks failed to catch on, he pulled his endorsement. Then something funny happened: Brooks actually gained ground and qualified for the runoff.

Trump ultimately backed Britt, but he waited until the runoff to do so, and by that point, it was clear she was very likely to win — just like Doug Mastriano in the Pennsylvania governor’s race, whom Trump backed very late. Britt led Brooks by 16 points in the primary and back then was already at 45 percent — near the majority she would ultimately need in the runoff.

The result: a very establishment-oriented Republican — rather than a MAGA true-believer — is likely to be the next senator from Alabama. In fact, Trump once attacked Britt by tying her to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

It’s yet another misstep for Trump in Alabama. In a 2017 special election, he backed appointed Sen. Luther Strange, who lost the nomination to Roy Moore. Then he backed Moore in the special, despite allegations of Moore having pursued teenagers when he was in his 30s. Moore lost, too.

3. A new Senate youth movement?

Britt also stands out in another way: She’s just 40 years old. If and when she’s elected, she’ll almost definitely be the youngest woman in the Senate.

But she’s the latest young candidate with a good shot at joining that chamber of Congress. In Ohio, the GOP nominee is 37-year-old J.D. Vance. In Nevada, it’s 43-year-old Adam Laxalt. And in Arizona, Trump recently backed 35-year-old Blake Masters, who appears to be gaining in the race for the GOP nomination. Meanwhile, the Democratic battle to face Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is between two Democrats in their mid-30s, along with another who is 40. And Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) GOP challenger, Kelly Tshibaka, is in her early 40s.

Were any of them to join the Senate, they would be among the youngest senators. Only two current senators are younger than 45 years old.

It’s too simple to say voters are looking for youth. But in a country in which nearly all the top leaders in government are in their 70s or even their 80s, our last two presidents have been the oldest ever elected, and the average age in the Senate is the highest ever, it’s something worth watching.

The millennials are coming, it seems. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) is unlikely to be the only one for long."


Katie Britt's win, and other takeaways from elections in Alabama, Georgia and Virginia - The Washington Post