Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has asked a court to force former President Donald Trump, his lawyers, and former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees over their presidential election lawsuits.
In court documents filed on Wednesday, attorneys for Evers called lawsuits that disputed the 2020 election results “meritless” and “built on inscrutable conspiracy theories.”
He called for $106,000 in sanctions against Powell, and $144,000 against Trump and his attorneys, according to court documents.
“This litigation imposed significant costs on the taxpayers of Wisconsin,” attorneys for Evers said in court documents filed against Trump. “Those costs were needless, because Trump’s suit never had any merit, this litigation was precluded by exclusive state-court proceedings, and the costs were exacerbated by strategic choices made by Trump and his lawyers.”
Trump used the December conversation to pressure Frances Watson, the investigations supervisor to the Georgia Secretary of State, to find nonexistent examples of voter fraud before “the very important date” of January 6, the paper reported.
It was previously believed that a recording of his phone call did not exist, The Washington Post reported in January.
Officials, however, recently located the recording in Watson’s spam folder when responding to a public records request, an unnamed person familiar with the incident told The Post.
In the conversation between Trump and Watson, the former president asked her to look into the “dishonesty” at Fulton County. He also claimed that his campaign “won by hundreds of thousands of votes.”
Fulton County, a heavily Democratic jurisdiction, voted for Biden in the 2020 election. There is no evidence of widespread fraud there.
Trump lost Georgia by over 11,000 votes, an outcome that was certified after ballots were counted three times.
In the call, Trump also told Watson that she would be “praised” when “the right answer comes out.”
The conversation preceded Trump’s infamous chat with Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, in which the former president asked him to “find” additional votes to overturn President Joe Biden’s win.
A criminal investigation into this conversation and Trump’s efforts to “influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election” was opened in Fulton County last month.
Raffensperger also initiated a “fact-finding inquiry” into the phone call last month, The New York Times reported.
The Georgia district attorney investigating former President Donald Trump’s actions surrounding the state’s presidential election has hired a lawyer with expertise in racketeering cases, Reuters reported Sunday.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said last month prosecutors were launching a criminal investigation to determine whether Trump had illegally interfered in attempts to overturn his loss in the state.
Willis tapped John Floyd to assist in cases that involve racketeering, including the investigation into Trump, Reuters reported. The outlet said that Floyd has written a guide on prosecuting racketeering cases.
The investigation into Trump includes a phone call the then-president made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a recording of which was obtained by The Washington Post in January. During the call, Trump told Raffensperger to “find” the additional votes he needed to defeat Joe Biden in the state.
During the phone call, Raffensperger told Trump that the election was secure and that Trump’s data suggesting he had won was wrong, prompting Trump to push back.
“All I want to do is this,” Trump said. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”
In February, Willis sent a letter to Raffensperger, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, and other Republican officials asking them to save materials related to that phone call for an “investigation into attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election.”
The letter listed racketeering as one of the possible violations being investigated, as well as soliciting election fraud, making false statements to government bodies, and violation of oath of office.
Mail-in ballots did not help Democrats or lead to a voting increase during the election, according to a new Stanford University study.
Published on March 5, the paper examines how absentee voting affected the 2020 US election by studying turnout rates in Texas, a state which decided not to ease its mail-in voting system process despite many others choosing to do so because of the pandemic.
While Texan voters aged 65 or over could automatically vote by mail, younger people had to provide a legally justifiable reason to be able to do such as having a disability, the Associated Press reported.
Both age groups had identical voting rates with only 0.2% more Democrats in the older one, showing that mail-in ballots did not in fact increase the Democrats’ share of the vote, AP added.
While Democrats were more likely to vote by mail than Republicans in 2020, it didn’t actually help win the election because they were equally less likely to vote early in-person or on election day, the study found.
It also revealed that there was a slightly higher turnout rate among 65-year-olds compared to 64-year-olds in 2014 and 2018, suggesting that absentee voting increases turnout in lower interest elections.
The study concludes that making it easier to vote through mail-in ballots did not increase voting levels because there were already high levels of motivation to participate in the 2020 election.
Jesse Yoder, one of the paper’s eight authors and a PhD student in political science at Stanford University told AP: “We find a pretty precisely zero effect on turnout. Voter interest was really driving turnout more than these convenience voting forms.”
Republicans have baselessly maintained that the expansion of mail ballot votes was a major reason why Donald Trump lost the election and have legally challenged various states on their decision to do so.
In Georgia, for example, there are proposals for absentee voters to require identification as well as a reason, The Guardian reported.
QAnon followers, unable to cope with Joe Biden’s elevation to president in January, have now coopted a new belief to argue that the next legitimate inauguration date will be on March 4.
After President Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021, some QAnon believers concluded that their conspiracy theory was a “lie.” But its most fervent followers weren’t ready to give up on their conspiratorial beliefs, clinging to an absurd hope that former President Donald Trump will be sworn in at a later date.
Using ever-shifting goalposts, the pro-Trump conspiracists have now set their eyes on March 4, 2021.
Where does the conspiracy theory come from?
The belief that Trump will be sworn in on March 4 is rooted in theories promoted by the obscure sovereign citizen movement.
The sovereign citizen movement is a highly-fragmented grouping of Americans who believe taxes, US currency, and even the US government to be illegitimate.
A minority of them believe that laws do not apply to them at all, resulting in the FBI designating some members as “domestic terrorists” and “anti-government extremists.”
A central tenet of the movement is that the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, converted “sovereign citizens” into “federal citizens.”
This belief also goes so far as to dismiss the validity of any presidency after 1868, making Ulysses S. Grant the last valid president.
The ideas are esoteric and, arguably, nonsensical.
“You really feel like you’re in an Alice in Wonderland world when you start going through the ideas of the sovereign citizens,” Michael Barkun, professor emeritus of political science at Syracuse University, told Insider. “It’s like you’ve gone down some kind of rabbit hole into a parallel universe.”
Some sovereign citizens also believe that an obscure law from 1871 reveals that the US has become a corporation.
The District of Columbia Organic Act established a single municipal government for Washington, DC. The use of the word “corporation,” referring to an incorporated district, has led to the mistaken interpretation of this to mean that the entirety of the US became a business.
“Some believe that President Joe Biden is the executive of a bankrupt corporation – the United States Inc.,” said Travis View said, conspiracy theory expert and host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast.
Creating an alternate reality based on a misinterpretation of a minor detail in an old law is typical of conspiracy groups, Media Matter’s deputy research director Stefanie Le told Insider.
“They can create elaborate mythologies based on the smallest and least significant details,” she said.
Why March 4?
Before the 20th Amendment in 1933, all presidents were sworn in on March 4.
It was introduced to shorten the “lame duck” period between elections and the start of new administrations.
Given that followers of the sovereign citizen movement reject all constitutional amendments passed after the 14th amendment, they do not view this date change as legitimate.
QAnon followers, who failed to see Trump inaugurated in January, have recycled the argument and reinvented the next legitimate inauguration date.
They say that on March 4, 2021, Trump will succeed the last legitimate president, Grant, to become the 19th president.
Le told Insider: “Now that one of their most highly-anticipated events – the January 20 inauguration – has failed to come true, they’re grasping for explanations from other conspiracy theories.”
View said that there is no clear logic to it besides the blind faith that Donald Trump is the chosen one to save humanity.
‘Maybe we should gather again and storm the Capitol on March 4’
Adopting conspiracy theories from other groups to contribute to a specific, imaginary narrative isn’t unexpected.
It’s QAnon’s survival method “because their own predictions have fallen apart,” said Le.
The forums populated by QAnon adherents are now buzzing with chatter about March 4.
Telegram and Gab have led the way according to research by Media Matters seen by Insider, and it is widely circulating on 4Chan and right-wing forum Patriots.win, the researchers said. The rumors have also reached TikTok, reported the Independent.
There have been real-world consequences to the March 4 rumor-mill.
Notably, Trump’s DC hotel has hiked prices for March 3 and March 4. It is the only luxury hotel in the area to increase its rates for those nights.
The US Capitol Police, fearing potentially violent clashes, have ordered almost 5,000 National Guard troops to remain stationed in Washington, DC, on March 4.
Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, referred to the conspiracy theory during a hearing on the matter.
“Some of these people have figured out that apparently 75 years ago, the president used to be inaugurated on March 4,” he said. “OK, now why that’s relevant? God knows. At any rate, now they are thinking, ‘maybe we should gather again and storm the Capitol on March 4’ … that is circulating online.”
A HASC Democratic spokesperson told Insider that Smith had seen the reports identifying March 4 as “another inflection point” in the capital.
“The House Armed Services Committee’s role is to validate that military personnel are used in accordance with their aligned task and requirements,” the spokesperson said.
Will QAnon ever give up?
Security is also expected to be high throughout March to anticipate the still-unscheduled State of the Union address.
The Capitol Police plans to maintain an elevated presence due to intelligence suggesting that extremists have discussed plans to attack the Capitol building during the speech, Politico reported.
Experts, however, don’t expect the insurrectionist violence of January 6 to be replicated on March 4.
Barkun, who previously advised the FBI on security threats posed by extremist groups, said he is confident that sufficient attention is being paid to QAnon’s activities.
View also doubts that there will be widespread violence. “I think the events of January 6 spooked a lot of Q followers,” he told Insider.
But none of the experts Insider spoke to believe QAnon is going away any time soon. It is commonplace for conspiracy theory groups to deal with incorrect predictions by just kicking the can down the road.
“They will construct more and more complex rationalizations that push the events that they wish for farther and farther into the future,” Barkun told Insider.
People are calling for a boycott of Publix after the Wall Street Journal unmasked an heiress to the Southern grocery empire as the top donor to the Trump rally that led to the Capitol riots on January 6.
Julie Jenkins Fancelli, an heiress to the Publix founding family’s nearly $9 billion fortune, has previously donated millions to Republican causes and candidates. On January 30, the WSJ reported Fancelli as having contributed $300,000 out of the roughly $500,000 total raised for Trump’s now-infamous “Stop the Steal” rally.
Publix has a dedicated fanbase, but Fancelli’s contribution to the rally was the last straw for many loyal customers, The Guardian reported Monday. On Monday, the hashtag #BoycottPublix was trending on Twitter, with many users expressing outrage and claiming betrayal over Fancelli’s donation.
Fancelli is still president of the George Jenkins Foundation, Inc., Publix founder George Jenkins’s charity, which is not affiliated with the grocery chain. Since posting the statement on January 30, the Publix Twitter account – which previously posted around once a day – has been uncharacteristically silent.
This isn’t the first time Publix has courted controversy over its political donations. It came under fire after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis awarded the chain an exclusive vaccine distribution contract. This followed the Publix PAC donating $100,000 donation to his campaign – a spokeswoman for DeSantis said any implication that the contract was a reward for the donation was “baseless and ridiculous,” per the Lakeland Ledger.
Leaders from predominantly Black communities throughout the state also criticized the contract, saying it deprived many Black Floridians of the chance to get vaccinated.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has opened an investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Georgia state officials to illegally overturn legitimate election results, Reuters reported.
Raffensperger’s office said that the inquiry is “fact-finding and administrative in nature,” and that findings will be referred to the Republican-majority state Board of Elections.
The investigation centers on a call Trump made to Raffensperger in January, where he demanded the state official “find 11,780 votes” to help him win Georgia.
During the call, Raffensperger pushed back against Trump’s demands. Election officials across Georgia disputed Trump’s claims that the election was fraudulent or unfair.
Once the state completes its investigation into the call, it can refer findings to the state’s attorney general or elsewhere for prosecution.
“The Secretary of State’s office investigates complaints it receives,” Walter Jones, a spokesman for the office, told Reuters in a statement on Monday. “The investigations are fact-finding and administrative in nature. Any further legal efforts will be left to the Attorney General.”
The New York Times reported that Fani Willis, the Democratic district attorney of Fulton County, is also considering launching a criminal inquiry into Trump’s actions.
Trump also repeatedly called and pressured Republican Governor Brian Kemp, and taunted him on Twitter, in an attempt to have Kemp call a special legislative session to overturn the election results.
David Worley, the only Democrat on Georgia’s elections board, told Reuters that the administrative inquiry could preface criminal charges.
“Any investigation of a statutory violation is a potential criminal investigation depending on the statute involved,” he said, adding, “The complaint that was received involved a criminal violation.”
Worley also explained that he personally would initiate a motion at Wednesday’s elections board meeting, to formally refer the inquiry to the Fulton County district attorney’s office.
Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump, told the AP there was “nothing improper or untoward about a scheduled call between President Trump, Secretary Raffensperger and lawyers on both sides.”
Insider has reached out to the Trump Organization, the Georgia secretary of state’s office, and the state election board for comment.
Former President Donald Trump has shifted money raised from campaign donors into the Trump Organization, according to documents from the Federal Election Committee (FEC) seen by Forbes.
He moved around $2.8 million into his private businesses throughout the duration of his presidency, Forbes’s Dan Alexander reported.
Trump funneled an additional $81,000 into the Trump Organization after his election loss, the magazine said.
The payments were made public in the filings the campaign submitted to the FEC and were liest to cover costs including rent, airfare, lodging, and other expenses.
One of the campaign’s joint-fundraising committees, associated with the Republican Party, also moved an estimated $4.3 million of donor money into his private business during his presidential term, according to Forbes.
Lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems sent letters Thursday to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Parler, asking them to preserve posts by more than a dozen high-profile far-right individuals and news outlets ahead of threatened defamation lawsuits.
“A number of posts on your website must be preserved because they are relevant to our client’s libel claims; these claims are based on false accusations that Dominion rigged the 2020 election,” lawyers from the firm Clare Locke, which represents Dominion, said in the letters.
A Wisconsin priest who performed exorcisms of demons he said were behind the baseless claims of election fraud has left his diocese.
In a statement, the Diocese of Madison said Reverend John Zuhlsdorf, known online as Fr. Z, will relocate “to pursue other opportunities,” and that the decision was made mutually, according to the Independent.
Zuhlsdorf live-streamed the exorcisms, which have since been removed from YouTube.
In one broadcast, Fr. Z, as he was known online: said: “As exorcists will confirm, the demons are very good with electronic equipment,” reported the Independent. A seeming reference to Trump supporters’ baseless claim that voting machinery was rigged in the presidential election.
Zuhlsdorf claimed he had received permission to perform them by Bishop J. Hying, the Associated Press reported.
Bishop Hying told the National Catholic Reporter that he did not give permission to conduct exorcisms related to “partisan political activity” but rather “for the intention of alleviation from the scourge of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Fr. Z also has a popular blog on which his most recent post is a personal note from January 15 in which he mentions the “present atmosphere of ‘cancel culture’ now infecting the Church, as well as the media and streets,” and adds, “there is a catholic Antifa now.”
He also discusses leaving the Diocese of Madison and says: “My years in my adoptive Diocese of Madison have been fruitful on many levels.
“I thank God and many others who have been so good to me here. I’ll be around, however, and I won’t be a stranger.”