Bad press around founder Mike Lindell may ultimately boost business for MyPillow, analysts say

mike lindell donald trump
Former President Donald Trump shakes hands with Mike Lindell (L), founder of My Pillow, during a Made in America event.

  • Mike Lindell expects MyPillow to lose around $65 million this year after retailers severed ties.
  • But marketing experts say the company might actually be able to capitalize off the bad press.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In the space of just a few months, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has been blocked from Twitter, sued by voting-machine company Dominion, and cut off by Newsmax after he spread baseless voter-fraud conspiracy theories.

His comments have hit his business, too. MyPillow’s Twitter account has also been suspended, and Lindell has said that 22 retailers have stopped selling its products, which he expects will cost the company around $65 million in lost revenue this year.

More than 100,000 people have also signed a petition calling on other retailers, including Amazon and Walmart, to pull ties with MyPillow.

But the company might actually be able to capitalize off the bad press around Lindell, marketing experts told Insider.

When Lindell is in the news, interest in the brand grows, Jim Lecinski, a professor on Kellogg School of Management’s MBAi program, told Insider.

Google Trends data show searches for MyPillow soar when Lindell is in the news, such as in August 2020, when he promoted oleandrin as a COVID-19 treatment. And in January and February 2021, when he repeatedly pushed voter-fraud conspiracy theories. These surges of interest don’t align with general search trends for bedding.

Estimates from ad-data company Pathmatics suggest MyPillow also boosted its Facebook ad spending each time Lindell hit the headlines.

Lecinski said it makes sense to spend more money on advertising when interest, and consequently brand awareness, are already high.

“MyPillow is recognizing that bad press is still press and is taking advantage of the energy, no matter the sentiment,” Matt Klein, a cultural researcher and consultant, told Insider. “Lindell’s divisiveness is attractive to some.”

“So when there’s a press hit, negative or positive, he becomes top of mind again for those consumers,” Klein added.

Lindell previously told Insider’s Kate Taylor he tracks every MyPillow ad either breaks even or makes money, regardless of controversies he’s embroiled in at the time.

When Lindell is in the news, this can act as upper-funnel marketing, which has the purpose of raising brand awareness, Matt Voda, CEO of OptiMine, told Insider.

MyPillow can instead focus on lower tunnel direct response marketing, including paid search, social media, and TV ads, to drive sales, he said.

Some consumers may stop buying MyPillow’s products

There will be some consumers who “vote with their dollar” and stop buying MyPillow’s products, Lecinski said, referring to previous Nike boycotts, but he added that it’s not clear how long this will last.

Christina Eyuboglu, publicist and crisis-management expert at Adduco, told Insider that people support companies that align with their belief systems, and purchase accordingly.

“It’s a way to put your money, and your power, behind your ideologies,” she said.

mike lindell trump
Mike Lindell speaks during a briefing with former president Donald Trump.

Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, told Insider that MyPillow should focus on boosting sales among Lindell’s most loyal supports.

“To save the MyPillow brand, Lindell must hyper-focus on the portion of his conservative audience not turned off by his conspiracies and his running amok with a brand suicide vest and close to pulling the cord with catastrophic effects to the company,” he said.

Schiffer added that Lindell’s support of voter-fraud theories has “[left] the MyPillow brand in the septic muck caused by its own CEO.”

Lindell is optimistic about the future of MyPillow

Lindell, however, doesn’t seem worried about the future of the company.

In an interview with Insider on April 1, he said radio and podcast infomercials could plug the gap in lost retailer revenue. “With our branding, we are just doing stuff that works,” Lindell said.

In a podcast in March, he said the companies who kept stocking its products were “thriving,” and that MyPillow has had to expand its workforce to meet demand. However, one large retailer, Costco, appears to have recently stopped stocking MyPillow items – but it declined to say whether it had fully cut ties with the brand.

Lecinski said some of Lindell’s supporters may choose to buy more MyPillow products to show their support for his beliefs. He added that a lot of people ultimately aren’t engaged in the news, so they may continue buying the products without knowing about Lindell’s controversies and the calls to boycott the brand.

Because MyPillow has always focused on direct consumer advertising, the shift from retailers to DTC sales won’t be hard for the brand, Voda said. Lindell himself has said that more customers have been buying products directly through MyPillow – and perhaps the company’s doubling-down on radio and podcast infomercials could help further fuel this.

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Notorious Giuliani witness Mellissa Carone said she’s running for a state house seat in Michigan

Melissa Carone
Melissa Carone, who was working for Dominion Voting Services, speaks in front of the Michigan House Oversight Committee in Lansing, Michigan on December 2, 2020.

  • A key witness from a Michigan election-fraud hearing last year, is running for state office.
  • Mellissa Carone went viral in December after her bizarre testimony on alleged voting fraud in Detroit.
  • The Republican said she’s running her campaign on “election integrity.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The woman who made headlines late last year for her outlandish testimony as Rudy Giuliani’s “star” witness during a Michigan election-fraud hearing on the presidential election is joining the political fray herself.

Mellissa Carone, who went viral following her eccentric performance at the Michigan House Oversight Committee in December, is running for a seat in the Michigan State House, according to a local Fox affiliate. 

Carone is running as a Republican in a Detroit-area district that has been a GOP-stronghold since the 1990s, the outlet reported.

According to The Detroit News, the Oakland County District seat Carone is running for will be open in 2022, as the current representative will be unable to run for reelection because of term limits.

Carone told the newspaper that she is “running on election integrity,” and criticized Democratic leadership in the state, saying Michigan needed a return to “conservative values.” 

Carone officially formed a committee for her campaign last week, according to state records.

The 33-year-old was parodied on “Saturday Night Live” by Cecily Strong after she made false claims about election fraud at a Detroit ballot counting center where she worked as a Dominion Voting Systems IT contractor.

She erroneously claimed that voter turnout in Detroit was over 120%, and when a Republican lawmaker questioned how there could be massive fraud when there was no discrepancy between ballot count totals and tracked votes, Carone questioned whether lawmakers “did something crazy” to the poll book totals. 

Lawyers for Dominion hit Carone with a cease-and-desist order following her baseless claims, accusing the mother of two of spreading lies about the company.

Trump supporters positioned Carone as an insider whose key testimony could potentially help discredit President Joe Biden’s win over the former president. But a letter sent to Carone from Dominion said in reality, Carone was “hired through a staffing agency for one day to clean glass on machines and complete other menial tasks.”

Following her moment in the spotlight, reports revealed she was on probation for sending her fiance’s ex-wife sex tapes. Police records said Carone harassed the woman for two years, stalking her and sending her explicit videos from an anonymous account. 

Carone told the Huffington Post that it was her fiance who had sent the tapes and that she agreed to a plea deal so they wouldn’t have to continue with court proceedings. 

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Trump’s attempts to overturn the election have cost taxpayers more than $519 million so far, Washington Post finds

donald trump election speech
President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington.

  • Trump spent the weeks following the election alleging mass election fraud.
  • His attempts to overturn the results have reportedly cost taxpayers more than $519 million so far. 
  • More than $488 million was for Capitol security while another $30 million was in state costs.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election by propagating baseless claims of mass voter fraud have cost taxpayers more than $519 million, an analysis by The Washington Post found. 

The Post tallied the cost from reviews of local, state, and federal spending records, and interviews with government officials. The costs included legal fees, damage costs from the Capitol siege in January, military and security expenses, and more.

Not long after the election was declared a victory for President Joe Biden, Trump falsely claimed there was mass election fraud, saying, with no evidence, that the election was stolen.

Trump and his Republican allies spent the weeks leading up to Biden’s inauguration filing dozens of lawsuits in swing states attempting to overturn the results, delay certification, or throw out votes. They failed to win any of them. 

Altogether, states spent $2.2 million on legal challenges and security for election officials, the Post found. 

Pennsylvania, for instance, paid outside lawyers as much as $480 per hour to work against Trump’s election fraud lawsuits. 

At a “Save America” rally shortly before Congress began certifying the electoral vote on January 6, Trump told a crowd of supporters to march to the Capitol and continued to allege mass voter fraud. He also falsely claimed that Congress and Vice President Mike Pence could “decertify” the election results and give him another term. 

Not long after his speech, supporters breached the US Capitol and clashed with law enforcement. The riot resulted in the deaths of five people, including a police officer. 

The House of Representatives impeached Trump for “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the riot. The Senate will hold an impeachment trial next week. 

The riot led to a demand for increased security around lawmakers and the Capitol ahead of the impeachment trial.

National Guard troops were deployed to Washington, DC, following the attack and some will remain there until mid-March. The Post reported that the cost for that is at least $480 million. Additionally, the week of the attack, the DC Metropolitan Police spent $8.8 million protecting the Capitol. 

Costs for repairing the Capitol to clean up the damage of the attack, the cost for the US Park Police to clean up the National Mall, and costs for additional staffing, overtime, and medical bills from Capitol Police are also still unknown. 

Read also: The ultimate guide to Joe Biden’s White House staff

Members of Congress are also now using their publicly funded Members’ Representational Allowances, which comes from taxpayer money, to secure personal protective resources, from bulletproof vests to private security details and surveillance cameras, the Post reported. 

Acting Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman last month proposed permanently keeping the fence that was installed around the Capitol building following the January 6 riot.

The move garnered pushback from local officials, but if it were to be implemented, beyond being approved by the Capitol Police Board, the House and Senate would also have to approve appropriating funds to fortify the building. 

Read also: Joe Biden said his Cabinet would be ‘the most diverse in history.’ We ran the numbers on 7 different metrics to see how diverse his staff really is.

States so far also spent $28 million for security relating to the insurrection and inauguration, the Post reported. 

The costs included protecting their own statehouses following the Capitol attack. For instance, state officials in California spent around $19 million deploying National Guard and state troopers to the state Capitol and other locations between  Jan. 14 to Jan. 21, the Post reported.

In Texas and North Carolina, taxpayers paid for helicopters to monitor potential protests, and in cities like Lansing, Michigan, and Olympia, Washington, they paid for temporary fencing and extra security details for state lawmakers going to legislative sessions.

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Trump wanted the Justice Department to sue individual states to overturn their election results, but top officials refused, WSJ report says

trump pentagon
President Donald Trump.

  • Trump wanted the Justice Department to sue states directly in the Supreme Court to overturn the election results.
  • DOJ officials refused, prompting Trump to plot to replace the acting attorney general with a loyalist.
  • That effort was foiled by DOJ leaders when some threatened to resign if Jeffrey Rosen was removed.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump wanted the Department of Justice to file lawsuits in the Supreme Court against specific states in an attempt to overturn their election results, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal.

DOJ officials refused, prompting Trump to plot to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with a loyalist. The plot was blocked when a group of top DOJ leaders threatened to resign if acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen was removed.

Trump’s idea to sue states was pushed by his personal lawyers, The Journal reported.

“He wanted us, the United States, to sue one or more of the states directly in the Supreme Court,” a former administration official told The Journal.

DOJ officials refused to file the case, determining that there was no legal grounds and that “the federal government had no legal interest in whether Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden won the presidency,” according to The Journal.

The DOJ did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Read more: Trump didn’t pardon himself. Here’s the massive tsunami of legal peril that now awaits him.

Trump and his allies pursued dozens of legal challenges in the wake of the election in an attempt to overturn the results based on unsubstantiated claims of mass voter fraud. The Trump campaign and Republican officials filed lawsuits across battleground states, but virtually none of the challenges held up in court.

Trump’s own Justice Department, and ally Attorney General Bill Barr, said in December it had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would’ve affected the election outcome.

The Journal said the effort to sue states directly was ramped up after the Supreme Court on December 11 dismissed a lawsuit filed by Texas’ attorney general Ken Paxton in an attempt to overturn the results in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

On the night of the election during a speech where he falsely claimed victory, Trump threatened to go to the Supreme Court over the election, though it was unclear why or on what legal basis he planned to do so.

When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died in September and Trump and Republicans were determined to fill her seat, Trump also suggested the election would be decided in the Supreme Court, though again it was unclear what exactly he thought would constitute litigation.

Trump successfully nominated and appointed Justice Amy Coney Barrett, making her the third Trump-appointee on the bench alongside Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, solidifying the court’s conservative majority with a 6-3 split.

After the Texas case was dismissed, Trump blasted the Supreme Court in a tweet, saying “no wisdom, no courage!”

Read the full report at The Wall Street Journal

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McConnell blamed Trump for inciting the Capitol riot, but the senator – and everyone else who refused to acknowledge Biden’s win – was complicit too

Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters as Senate Republican leaders hold a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 1, 2020.

  • On Tuesday, McConnell blamed Trump for inciting the mob that violently stormed the US Capitol.
  • But incitement of the mob started with lies about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
  • Republicans who did not admit Biden’s win, and let those lies spread unchecked, are complicit.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On his last day as Senate majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell explicitly blamed President Donald Trump for inciting the mob that violently stormed the US Capitol building on January 6.

“The mob was fed lies,” the Republican leader said from the floor of the Senate on Tuesday. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”

It’s unclear exactly who McConnell meant by “other powerful people,” but if he’s being honest, it should include himself too.

The Capitol attack was carried out by a group of the president’s supporters after thousands attended a “March for Trump” rally to protest certification of the election results, due to what they believed was a stolen election.

The president himself addressed his supporters and reiterated unsubstantiated claims of voter and election fraud, fueling the mob’s march to, and eventual siege of, the Capitol.

Those lies may have started with Trump, but they were enabled by every member of Congress who gave credibility to the fraud claims by not acknowledging Biden’s win.

“Absolutely the Republican leadership fed this,” Alison Dagnes, a political science professor at Shippensburg University, told Insider. “Because to me it’s not about the riot, to me it goes back to the original sin of the lie.”

Read more: The Capitol siege proves it’s finally time to take Trump and other politicians’ violent rhetoric both seriously and literally.

Indeed, evidence of widespread voter fraud has not been uncovered, despite relentless attempts by Trump’s administration and other Republican officials. Dozens of legal challenges were mounted regarding fraud claims, and  virtually none of them held up in court.

Trump’s own Justice Department said there was no evidence of widespread fraud.

And yet, according to an Ipsos/Axios poll conducted in the wake of the Capitol riot, 62 percent of Republicans polled supported Trump’s efforts to contest the election results. In the same poll, only 36 percent of Republicans self-identified as Trump supporters, meaning election challenges had support within the party even among those who don’t necessarily love Trump.

Another poll, conducted by Data for Progress and Vox, found 72 percent of Republicans don’t trust the election results, and 74 percent said allegations of voter fraud made them question the results.

“Even if they don’t identify as being Trumpy, they are still buying into a line of reasoning that is false,” Dagnes said.

That’s largely due to the Republican lawmakers, and a right-wing media ecosystem, who let the misinformation fester, she said.

By Saturday November 7, all major media outlets had called the presidential election for Biden. Typically, that call is made on election night, but because of the pandemic and an increase in mail-in voting, the counting process took longer than usual, as experts had been anticipating for months.

In other presidential elections, including Trump’s 2016 win, lawmakers and Americans generally accept that call. The opponent then concedes, and the country moves forward with a president-elect.

This time, the president not only refused to concede, but also falsely asserted that he won the election and Biden lost. Most Republican lawmakers went along with the president, refusing to acknowledge Biden’s win.

McConnell was one of them. He remained silent about the election outcome, instead opting to point out that the president had the right to pursue legal challenges.

It wasn’t until December 15, more than five weeks after Biden was projected to win and one day after states certified their results, that McConnell finally acknowledged him as president-elect.

“McConnell is an old school politician,” Kevin Kosar, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and co-editor of the book “Congress Overwhelmed,” told Insider. “When he speaks up, it is for a very clear purpose.”

Read more: Mitch McConnell is telling GOP senators their decision on a Trump impeachment trial conviction is a ‘vote of conscience’

Kosar said McConnell “made the choice to wait things out rather than elicit a backlash from the president and his most ardent supporters.”

The majority leader also didn’t want to create issues for his fellow GOP senators, as many Republican voters already believed the election had been stolen by the Democrats.

“Those voters were yelling at their senators, and were being further stirred up by various right-wing media and provocateurs,” Kosar said. “So McConnell kept mum and tried to let the situation defuse itself through the failure of the various Trump lawsuits.”

McConnell may have hoped that Trump’s loss would become too apparent to be ignored, or that the president would eventually yield or “blow himself up,” according to Kosar.

“And the latter sorta happened,” Kosar said. “The insurrection of January 6 changed the political optics greatly, and, I think, deeply troubled McConnell.”

It troubled Americans as well, including some Republicans, and made the president look very bad to a lot of people. Some White House officials who previously stood by Trump resigned, and some lawmakers who had intended to object to certifying the election results reversed course.

“With Trump so greatly weakened and headed for the door, McConnell recently felt free to say he thought Trump provoked the mob,” Kosar said.

But to some, McConnell’s condemnation of Trump and the lies fed to the mob came too late, well after election doubts took root among a wide swath of Republicans.

It’s true that McConnell came out firmly against the efforts by some of his peers to object to the election certification on January 6, saying overturning the results would send our democracy into a “death spiral.”

“Nothing before us proves illegality of the massive scale that would have tipped the entire election,” he said from the Senate floor shortly before Congress had to evacuate the Capitol. “Nor can public doubt alone justify a radical break when the doubt was incited without any evidence.”

But McConnell helped sow that doubt, along with every lawmaker who refused to simply acknowledge the truth on the day Biden was projected to win.

Even though, as he said himself, there was no evidence against it.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A top Georgia election official says Rudy Giuliani intentionally ‘lied’ about election fraud by presenting a deceptively edited video as evidence

Gabriel Sterling
Gabriel Sterling, the Voting Systems Manager for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

  • Top Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling said Rudy Giuliani “lied” by presenting a deceptively edited video as evidence of election fraud.
  • In a “60 Minutes” interview, Sterling debunked Giuliani’s claim about illegitimate ballots, saying the president’s lawyer showed only a misleading clip to Georgia state senators despite having access to the full video.
  • Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who also appeared on “60 Minutes,” said Giuliani “knows that what he said was not true.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A top Georgia election official said Rudy Giuliani “lied” over election fraud claims by presenting a deceptively edited video as evidence, despite having access to the full footage.

Gabriel Sterling, the chief operating officer for Georgia’s secretary of state, made the comments in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday, during which he described President Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud as “fantastical, unreasonable,” and “lacking in any factual reality.”

Sterling, a Republican and Trump voter, told interviewer Scott Pelley that Giuliani presented a selectively edited video to Georgia state senators as evidence. In a clip shown on “60 Minutes” of Giulani presenting the video, he calls it a “powerful smoking gun.”

Giuliani’s video, which also aired in national Trump campaign ads, claims to show cases of ballots removed from under a table and “added in secret.”

However, Sterling said the full video shows a different story.

 

He said when election officials were told they were done counting for the day, uncounted ballots were placed in secure, tamper-proof cases and stored under the table. Shortly after, the officials were told they needed to continue counting through the night.

At that point, the secure cases of uncounted ballots were retrieved from under the table to proceed the counting.

Sterling said the president’s team always had access to the complete video, but Giuliani only presented the state senators with the part that shows cases being pulled out from under the table.

“Rudy Giuliani looked them in the eye and lied,” he said.

Read more: Trump must be prosecuted, or we should just admit presidents are above the law

“From my point of view, they intentionally misled the state senators, the people of Georgia, and the people of the United States about this, to cause this conspiracy theory to keep going and keep the disinformation going, which has caused this environment that we’re seeing today,” Sterling said.

Giulani did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Trump and his allies have repeated unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter and election fraud since the president lost the election to President-elect Joe Biden. However, none of the claims have held up in court and the Justice Department said it found no evidence of widespread fraud.

The belief by some of the president’s supporters that the election was fraudulent fueled the the deadly siege on the US Capitol last week, where many of the rioters chanted and held up signs that read “Stop the steal!”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, appeared on “60 Minutes” as well, echoing Sterling’s claims and saying Giuliani “knows that what he said was not true.”

“But our state senate did not ask us to come in there so that we could rebut what they said,” he said of the Republican legislature. “And it was actually left as the gospel truth, and it wasn’t. It was fabricated.”

Earlier this month, in a leaked phone call between Raffensperger and the White House, Trump repeated unsubstantiated claims about the election and urged the secretary of state to “find” him enough votes to beat Biden.

The day after the call was leaked, Sterling also debunked the president’s claims, which he said made him “scream” because they were so dishonest.

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The Trump administration told a Georgia federal prosecutor to resign because Trump was unhappy with his lack of election fraud investigations

georgia voting
Voters stand in line before the doors open at Cobb County Community Center on January 5, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • The Trump administration told a Georgia federal prosecutor to resign because the president was unhappy with his failure to investigate election fraud allegations.
  • Byung J. “BJay” Pak abruptly resigned from his position as US Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
  • Trump apparently referred to Pak in a recent phone call with Georgia’s secretary of state, complaining about a “Never Trumper US attorney.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Trump administration pressured a federal prosecutor in Atlanta to resign over his failure to investigate baseless allegations of election fraud in Georgia, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

The Justice Department on Tuesday tapped a new federal prosecutor to lead the Atlanta office, a day after the Trump-appointed US Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, Byung J. “BJay” Pak, abruptly resigned.

Pak’s resignation drew attention because Trump appeared to refer to him in a recent phone call with Georgia’s secretary of state in which the outgoing Republican president asked state officials to try to “find” enough votes to overturn the results of the November 3 election he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

In a recording obtained by numerous media outlets, Trump appeared to complain during the call about Pak without naming him, saying there was a “Never Trumper US attorney” in Georgia.

The Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, said that at the behest of the White House, a senior Justice Department official called and told Pak he needed to step down because he was not pursuing the voter-fraud allegations to Trump’s satisfaction.

The Journal reported that the call occured January 3. Pak resigned January 4.

The New York Times also reported Saturday that the acting deputy attorney general, Richard Donoghue, had made a call to Pak expressing Trump’s frustration with Pak’s efforts to investigate election fraud.

The White House declined to comment while the Justice Department and Pak did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.

Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Jon Ossoff unseated Republican David Perdue in Tuesday’s runoffs, giving Democrats control of the US Senate.

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All 10 living former defense secretaries issue a warning to Trump over threats to use the military to dispute the election

Mark Milley
President Trump’s Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said in September: “In the event of a dispute over some aspect of the elections, by law, US courts and the US Congress are required to resolve any disputes, not the US military.”

  • All ten living former defense secretaries — both Republicans and Democrats — wrote a Washington Post editorial urging President Donald Trump to refrain from using the military to interfere in the election.
  • The signatories stressed that involving the military in election disputes could result in criminal charges.
  • Trump has repeatedly suggested that there may not be a “peaceful transfer of power” and has reportedly entertained suggestions that the military step in to help him dispute the election.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Nearly a dozen former defense secretaries published a Washington Post editorial on Sunday, warning President Donald Trump of the dangers of using the military to dispute the election. 

The editorial, titled “Involving the military in election disputes would cross into dangerous territory,” was signed by all ten living former defense secretaries, including two who served under President Trump, Mark Esper and James Mattis.

Other signees included Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel, and Ashton Carter, who served under Barack Obama; Robert Gates, who served under Obama and George W. Bush; William Cohen and William Perry, who served under Bill Clinton;  Dick Cheney, who served as DOD secretary under George H.W. Bush; and Donald Rumsfeld, who served first under Gerald Ford in 1975 and was later tapped for the role under George W. Bush. 

The letter urged the president to accept the results of the election and stressed that the military should not be used to fulfill political ends. 

“American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy,” they wrote in The Washington Post, adding that the administration should “refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.”

“The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived,” the letter continued.

The former secretaries also cautioned that anyone found to be interfering in the election could potentially be subject to criminal charges.

“Efforts to involve the US armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful, and unconstitutional territory,” they wrote. “Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.”

The editorial offered a direct message to Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, who in December halted meetings with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team. Miller claimed meetings weren’t canceled, but had been delayed because of the holidays. 

Biden transition director Yohannes Abraham told Axios, however, that no holiday contingency plans had been made.

“Let me be clear: there was no mutually agreed-upon holiday break,” he said.  

“Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates – political appointees, officers and civil servants – are each bound by oath, law, and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly,” the editorial said. “They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.”

Hagel, one of Obama’s DOD secretaries, told the Post on Sunday that he initially thought writing such an editorial would be an overreaction, but then reconsidered. 

“This is a fundamental element of our democracy, and it lands squarely in the responsibilities of defense officials,” Hagel said. “I thought, in the end, that this was something that was important that we do.”

Trump’s inner circle has suggested imposing martial law

Rumblings about Trump’s desire to use the military to intervene in the election began in September after Trump refused to commit to a “peaceful transfer of power.” Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley was asked by Congress what, if any, role the military should have in the election.

“I believe deeply in the principle of an apolitical US military,” Milley said. “In the event of a dispute over some aspect of the elections, by law, US courts and the US Congress are required to resolve any disputes, not the US military. I foresee no role for the US armed forces in this process.”

The idea was once again brought up by Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who appeared on the conservative channel Newsmax on December 18 to suggest that the military be brought in to “rerun” the election. 

“He could order the, within the swing states, if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities, and he could place those in states and basically rerun an election in each of those states. It’s not unprecedented,” Flynn told host Greg Kelley. 

During a meeting with Flynn, former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell, and Rudy Giuliani the following day, Trump asked about Flynn’s idea, The New York Times reported.

Trump dismissed the claims as “fake news.”

The Post editorial comes amidst the release of a recorded conversation between Trump and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp in which the president repeatedly pressured Kemp to void the state’s election results and “find 1,780 votes, which is one more than we have.”

President-elect Joe Biden won Georgia by a margin of 11,779 votes.

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McConnell ties $2,000 stimulus checks to Trump-proposed poison pills on Section 230 and election fraud, likely sinking push for additional COVID-19 relief

mitch mcconnell donald trump scotus
Senate Maj. Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump

  • Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell introduced a bill Tuesday linking $2,000 stimulus checks to a repeal of Section 230 and a new commission to study election fraud, a move likely to doom the increased checks.
  • McConnell’s proposal came just hours after he blocked a House-passed bill that would have also boosted Americans’ stimulus payments, but without tackling the other items — both of which are top Trump priorities.
  • Trump and some Republicans have repeatedly railed against Section 230 — which shields internet companies from being sued over user-posted content — and made baseless accusations about election fraud, while Democrats have opposed them on both issues.
  • McConnell’s decision to tie increased stimulus checks to a Section 230 repeal and election fraud commission may sink the effort by pressuring Democrats to vote against the bill or help Trump notch three wins.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday introduced a bill tying $2,000 stimulus checks to unrelated items on President Donald Trump’s agenda: a full repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and the creation of a new Congressional committee to further investigate the integrity of the 2020 US elections.

By linking the increased payments to measures that Democrats oppose, so-called poison pills, McConnell’s bill will likely sink efforts to get Americans additional COVID-19 relief.

McConnell’s move comes just hours after he blocked a separate attempt by Democrats to hold a vote on $2,000 checks that didn’t include language on the other two issues.

“Senator McConnell knows how to make $2,000 survival checks reality and he knows how to kill them,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a press release.

“If Sen. McConnell tries loading up the bipartisan House-passed CASH Act with unrelated, partisan provisions that will do absolutely nothing to help struggling families across the country, it will not pass the House and cannot become law – any move like this by Sen. McConnell would be a blatant attempt to deprive Americans of a $2,000 survival check,” Schumer added.

Earlier on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had called for an immediate vote in the upper chamber on legislation known as the CASH Act, which was passed by the House on Monday night with the support of 44 Republicans and all but two Democrats.

McConnell has repeatedly opposed additional direct COVID-19 relief payments to Americans, previously calling them “crazy policy.” But he has also faced pressure recently from Democrats, Trump, and even some Republicans – ahead of pivotal runoff elections in Georgia for control of the Senate – to raise the amount to $2,000 from the $600 that Congress and Trump signed off on earlier this week.

Read more: $600 checks for most people, help for entertainment venues, airlines and public transit. Here’s what else is in the $900 billion stimulus Trump just signed.

Trump had threatened to veto the stimulus bill, because the checks were not for $2,000, but he eventually singed the $900 billion relief package.

On Tuesday, following McConnell’s decision to block the House proposal that would have done exactly that, Trump lashed out again, while also pushing Republicans to link the increased payments to his crusades against the tech industry and the presidential election results. 

“Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP. $600 IS NOT ENOUGH! Also, get rid of Section 230 – Don’t let Big Tech steal our Country, and don’t let the Democrats steal the Presidential Election. Get tough!” Trump tweeted.

By linking the $2,000 checks to Trump’s other demands – both of which Democrats have opposed – McConnell’s bill will likely pressure Democrats into voting down the measure, which in turn could give Republicans political cover to say they weren’t responsible for tanking the increased payments to Americans.

Trump has repeatedly railed against Section 230, a legal provision that shields internet companies from lawsuits over content posted on their sites by users and gives them the ability to regulate that content. Trump and some Republicans have mistakenly interpreted the law as requiring social media companies to be politically neutral, and have long complained – despite evidence to the contrary – that social media is biased against conservative viewpoints.

Trump has also repeatedly advanced baseless claims alleging widespread voter fraud in the 2020 US elections – and his lawyers have won zero out of least 40 lawsuits making such claims. (President-elect Joe Biden earned 306 Electoral College votes earlier this month, more than the 270 needed to win the presidential election, and won the popular vote by more than 7 million votes).

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OANN is doubling down on election conspiracy theories after Dominion threatened the network with a defamation lawsuit

OANN
Dominion Voting Systems has threatened to sue OAN, Newsmax, and Fox News for defamation.

  • Dominion Voting Systems sent letters to the One America News Network threatening to sue for defamation, accusing the network of spreading unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the election-technology company.
  • OAN responded with letters of its own, asking Dominion to preserve certain documents concerning the election in order to help the network make its case if it ends up in court.
  • The requests reiterated some of the figures involved in the election conspiracy theories, including the former president of Venezuela Hugo Chávez and the billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In response to threats of a defamation lawsuit, the One America News Network is leaning further into some election conspiracy theories that the network has featured on its shows.

Dominion Voting Systems previously sent OAN letters threatening to sue, accusing the network of spreading the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that the election-technology company manipulated votes in favor of President-elect Joe Biden in the November general election.

Dominion also asked the network to save any documents or correspondence related to Dominion, Insider’s Jacob Shamsian previously reported.

In letters reviewed by Insider, OAN responded by requesting Dominion keep records of certain documents so the network can “preserve its own claims and defenses in the event of litigation.”

The conservative news network sent similar letters to Smartmatic, another election-technology company.

Supporters of President Donald Trump have alleged, without substantial evidence, that Dominion’s voting machines and Smartmatic’s voting software helped flipped votes from Trump to Biden. There are also groundless claims that Dominion has secret ties to Smartmatic.

The material OAN requested be preserved concerns that claim, as well as other baseless conspiracy theories that prompted Dominion’s lawsuit threats in the first place.

In the letters dated December 23, the list included voting software and hardware, communications about the 2020 election, digital and manual ballots, and the voting machines themselves.

In letters sent a day later, OAN requested the companies’ save any correspondence between Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica and a number of individuals, including former president of Venezuela Hugo Chávez and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

The president’s allies have also claimed without evidence that Smartmatic was working with the socialist Venezuelan government and Chávez, who died in 2013, to disrupt the US presidential election.

The list of material to preserve includes documents concerning George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist who is a frequent target of right-wing conspiracy theorists.

In addition to OAN, Dominion has sent letters to Fox News and Newsmax with threats to sue for defamation, as well as conservative media figures like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, among others.

The company has also sent letters to some of Trump’s allies, including attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani.

Mugica, the Smartmatic CEO, has also said the company is considering pursuing lawsuits against Fox News, Newsmax, and OAN, for spreading the groundless claims, saying they have hurt his business.

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