Following a line of fellow Republican speakers condemning “cancel culture,” Rep. Liz Cheney stood on the floor of Congress Tuesday to condemn those in her party who refuse to condemn a former president’s effort to steal the 2020 election and his ongoing “crusade to undermine our democracy.”
Cheney, Wyoming’s sole member of the House of Representatives, is currently the chair of the GOP conference. But her harsh words for Donald Trump, the de facto leader of her party, and refusal to endorse his claims about voter fraud have made her position tenuous.
On Wednesday, her colleagues are voting on whether to replace her with another lawmaker, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, a Trump loyalist. But she is not going down quietly.
“Today we face a threat America has never seen before: a former president, who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol, in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him,” Cheney said. “He risks inciting further violence.”
Cheney reminded her fellow Republicans dozens of courts rejected the former president’s claims of mass voter fraud, as did his own Department of Justice. “I am a conservative Republican,” she said, “and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law.”
Those who decline to accept that the election is over – and refuse to state that President Joe Biden’s victory was legitimate – “are at war with the Constitution,” Cheney added.
A majority of Republican voters now believe the former president’s false claims that the election he objectively lost was stolen from him, according to recent polling.
“Remaining silent, and ignoring the lie, emboldens the liar,” Cheney said. “I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”
According to CNN, only one lawmaker, Colorado Republican Ken Buck, stayed to hear the remarks.
When former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election he claimed it was because of voter fraud, citing claims that were initially started years ago by a Texas businessman, The Washington Post reported.
The Post reported that Russell Ramsland Jr. and his associates at Allied Security Operations Group began giving presentations to conservative lawmakers, activists, and donors that said audit logs in voting machines, the mechanisms that document the machine’s activity, had indications of manipulation beginning in late 2018.
The allegations and claims about voting systems and fraud made by Ramsland and ASOG were unsubstantiated and widely debunked by data security experts.
Ramsland, a failed congressional candidate, attempted to find political candidates who had lost elections they believed they’d won to sell them on this idea, however, he didn’t have much success until associates of Trump latched on to the claims, passing it along to Trump, who accepted and further spread claims that the machines were faulty.
In 2019, Ramsland began briefing GOP lawmakers and officials from the Department of Homeland Security on the idea that US election software was coming from Venezuela and that there would be efforts to manipulate votes in the 2020 election on a large scale, the Post reported.
Powell has used Ramsland’s assertions in lawsuits she waged on behalf of Trump and Giuliani and had publicly claimed some of the assertions that started with Ramsland. Powell, the Post discovered, was also briefed by ASOG two years before the election.
Ramsland told the Post that ASOG did give Powell and Giuliani research but said they never spoke with Trump directly.
He added that his companies perspective was “one of many voices” that expressed concerns about election system vulnerabilities.
Powell, through an attorney, told the Post that she did meet with a Ramsland ally but did not say if she directly spoke to him. Giuliani and his attorney did not respond to the Post’s request for comment.
Lindell said the last time he spoke to Trump was “a couple of weeks ago,” when they discussed the US border.
Lindell, a major GOP donor, was a staunch Trump ally during the former president’s time in the White House, and has repeatedly supported the unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump.
He visited Trump at the White House multiple times, including speaking at a COVID-19 briefing. He also met Trump during Trump’s final week in office, leading to viral photos of him carrying printed notes referencing “martial law.”
“I’ve talked to him once every … maybe month or so, if I’m down there,” Lindell said, without explaining where he meant.
Kimmel then asked Lindell when they last spoke.
“A couple of weeks ago I guess, when he said he was worried about what was going down at the border,” Lindell said. “He said: ‘I’m really worried about what’s going on.'” He did not elaborate on what else specifically they discussed.
Tightening the border between the US and Mexico and clamping down on immigration was a cornerstone of Trump’s 2016 election campaign. During his time in office, he issued anti-immigration executive orders, and tried to build a $15 billion border wall between the two countries, which people are now climbing over with $5 ladders.
Lindell told Kimmel that he first met Trump in August 2016 when he “didn’t know anything about politics.”
“I met this man who had problems, solutions, and he knew what they manifest to,” he said.
Lindell said that after he met Trump he thought “wow, this guy could be the greatest president ever.”
He said that when he returned to Minnesota, he told the press that they had met, which he said led to a huge public backlash. “I was attacked like you’ve never seen,” he said.
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.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images
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 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.
If you’re looking to buy a MyPillow product from Costco, you might struggle.
The brand’s products seem to have disappeared from the retailer’s website.
Insider spoke to a customer service worker from Costco via the company’s website, who said there seemed to be no MyPillow products in stock at any of its stores near Brooklyn. They confirmed that none were listed for sale for online orders.
Insider asked Costco whether it had cut ties with the brand. The retailer declined to comment.
This is a change from January, when Costco said that it had “contractual commitments to MyPillow that we intend to honor” when asked for comment.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, has repeatedly pushed voter-fraud conspiracy theories. This included baseless claims that Dominion’s voting machines helped rig the 2020 US presidential election.
“This is really the fallout from the 10 weeks of misinformation that flew in from former President Donald Trump,” Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said in an interview Wednesday of new voting restrictions in Georgia.
“I went back over the weekend to really look at where this really started to gain momentum in the legislature, and it was when Rudy Giuliani showed up in a couple of committee rooms and spent hours spreading misinformation and sowing doubt across, you know, hours of testimony.”
Duncan previously criticized the legislation, saying in a late-March interview, “I don’t think it was the best move forward.”
The bill was signed into law last month by Gov. Brian Kemp, who says its guards against fraud are less restrictive than voting laws in some states run by Democrats.
Lindell spoke to Insider in a phone interview Thursday, where he discussed the approximately $65 million in lost revenue this year that this is expected to cost the company, as previously reported by Insider’s Jacob Shamsian.
“We obviously can’t get that back, we’re going to lose that,” Lindell told Insider on Thursday.
But the growing audience for radio and podcast shows could help MyPillow fill this gap through direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales by creating more advertising opportunities, he said.
“We’re going to look at other strategies to try and get that revenue back,” Lindell said. “We’re looking at every space for that.”
“We’ve expanded so much in radio and podcast, that’s our biggest expansion right now,” he added. “It’s just booming right now. We hope that that makes up a lot of it.”
In court filings, the company has said that it spends around $5 million a month on advertising, per The New York Times.
Because MyPillow has always focused on direct consumer advertising, the shift from retailers to DTC sales won’t be hard for the brand, Matt Voda, CEO of OptiMine, told Insider.
Lindell said in late March that lots of customers have been buying products directly through MyPillow, and that it’s had to hire more staff to meet demand. It’s expanded beyond just pillows, and Lindell told Insider Thursday it had more than 110 different products.
“TV traditionally helps box store sales, but I’m very confident that the radio and podcasts are gonna make up a lot of the lost box store revenue and retailers,” Lindell said.
Lindell told Insider that during the pandemic more people were watching TV so the company’s infomercials can reach a bigger audience than they could in the past, but that as the US opens up MyPillow will pivot to spend more money on digital advertising.
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.
President Joe Biden has been in office for less than two weeks, but in state legislatures across the US, Republicans still reeling from former President Donald Trump’s electoral loss are devising ways to restrict the vote, from eliminating ballot drop boxes to requiring the notarization of absentee ballot applications.
In 2010, Republicans made historic gains in state legislatures, flipping 24 chambers that year, allowing them to control the redistricting process for the past decade. In additional drawing scores of safe GOP House seats, the party pushed a wave of socially-conservative legislation that centered on restricting abortion rights and minimizing the collective bargaining power of public-sector labor unions.
While Biden and Trump both won 25 states in the 2020 presidential election, Biden flipped five states that Trump carried in 2016, which included Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, along with Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district.
These presidential swing states are now home to some of the most dramatic election-related proposals that have been floated or filed in the legislature for a vote. However, even in states where Trump won easily, including Mississippi and Texas, voting restrictions stand a good chance of passing.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, 106 bills aimed at restricting voting access have been introduced or filed in state legislatures in 28 states, representing a nearly threefold increase from the same period last year.
Last November, countering Trump’s debunked claims of voter irregularities, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that the November 2020 election “was the most secure in American history.”
Here are some of the voting proposals that are being debated across the country:
Since 1952, Republicans have won Arizona in every presidential election except for Bill Clinton’s 1992 win and Biden’s victory last year.
Biden won the state by less than 11,000 votes out of roughly 3.3 million votes cast, performing strongly with Latino voters and even making inroads with a segment of the state’s Republican voters.
With the support of high-profile Republicans including Cindy McCain, the wife of the late GOP Sen. John McCain, and former Sen. Jeff Flake, Biden tapped into the independent-minded nature of the state, similar to the campaign strategy of Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, who defeated appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally last November.
However, conservative activists vigorously challenged the election results, including Trump, who criticized GOP Gov. Doug Ducey for certifying the election results, a normally-routine process. Since the GOP controls the state legislature in Arizona, the raft of restrictive bills are being taken up in committees.
Give the legislature the power to award two of the state’s 11 Electoral College votes
Award the state’s electoral votes by congressional district in lieu of the current winner-takes-all system
Curtail and/or end mail-in voting
Liming mail-in voting to those who cannot physically reach a voting precinct
Limit voting centers in each county according to the population size
Require mail-in ballot envelopes to be notarized or returned in-person
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, was sharply critical of House Bill 2720, which was introduced by GOP state Rep. Shawnna Bolick and would allow the legislature to overturn the election results.
“It is a punch in the face to voters,” she said in an NBC News interview. “It absolutely, 100%, allows a legislature to undermine the will of voters.”
She also tweeted: “So really, we should just get rid of the presidential election altogether? In reality, that’s what this bill would do.”
Georgia was the scene of deep political consternation for the GOP. Last November, Biden became the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the state since 1992. Trump insisted that he won the state for months, asking GOP Gov. Brian Kemp to overturn the election results and even pressuring GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the 12,000 roughly votes that he would need to overcome Biden’s margin of victory.
In the end, Trump caused so much internal political turmoil in the state that Democrats, fresh off of Biden’s win, had an enthusiasm advantage for two Senate runoff elections that featured then-GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue running against Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively.
Warnock and Ossoff won their races, handing control of the Senate to the Democrats and giving the party their strongest anchor in the Deep South in years.
Georgia Republicans, stung by the losses, are now hoping to implement additional voting restrictions.
Top state officials, including Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, are backing a more rigorous voter identification process for absentee balloting.
A GOP lawmaker has proposed a bill that would require proof of identification, twice, in order to vote absentee.
Last year, House Speaker David Ralston floated stripping Georgia voters of their ability to choose the secretary of state by putting a measure on the ballot that would allow voters to cede that responsibility to the GOP-controlled legislature.
Michigan voted for every Democratic presidential nominee from 1992 to 2012. When Trump pulled off a narrow upset in 2016, Democrats pledged to outwork the GOP and win back the Midwestern state and its 16 electoral votes.
In 2018, the party had a banner year, electing Gretchen Whitmer as governor, Dana Nessel as attorney general, and Jocelyn Benson as secretary of state.
Last November, Biden won the state by over 150,000 votes and a nearly 3% margin (50.6%-47.8%), securing a victory in a state that Democrats were thrilled to put back in their column.
The state legislature is still in GOP hands, a lingering result of the party’s 2010 midterm election sweep, but Whitmer also serves as a check on any far-reaching proposals.
Michigan GOP Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey told The Detroit News that he would like to improve the state’s qualified voter files and party leaders, including home state Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, said last year that the state needed “election reform.”
With its 20 electoral votes, Pennsylvania has long been a top prize for Democrats, who won the state by combining overwhelming victories in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with growing suburban strength and blue-collar support in cities like Allentown and Scranton.
Democrats won Pennsylvania in every presidential election from 1992 to 2012, but similar to Michigan, Trump pulled off a narrow upset in 2016.
Biden, who was born in Scranton and represented neighboring Delaware in the Senate for 36 years, won the state 50%-49% over Trump last November.
Democrats, eager to build on Biden’s victory, have already zeroed in on the Senate seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Pat Toomey in 2022 and the governor’s race to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that same year.
There are currently GOP proposals on the table to nix no-excuse absentee balloting and make it easier for state officials to toss ballots that have a signature mismatch if the ballot isn’t fixed within six days of being notified, according to the Brennan Center.
Wisconsin is another key state in the Democrats’ Midwestern presidential electoral puzzle. After narrow wins in 2000 and 2004, the party won the state easily in 2008 and 2012 before seeing Trump narrowly win the state in 2016.
After a hard-fought race, Biden won the state over Trump by roughly 20,000 votes out of more than 3.2 million votes cast.
The Trump campaign, incensed that votes in Democratic-leaning Milwaukee County put Biden over the top, demanded a recount in Milwaukee and Dane County, home of Madison, the state’s liberal capital city. Not only was Biden’s win reaffirmed by the recounts, but he picked up additional votes.
A GOP legislator is floating a proposal to allocate eight of the state’s 10 electoral votes by congressional district, starting with the 2024 election, and the party may also seek additional restrictions on absentee balloting.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has the ability to wield his veto pen, but he is also up for reelection in 2022.
Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District
Last year, Biden carried Nebraska’s Omaha-based congressional district, the first time a Democrat had won the district since Barack Obama in 2008.
The win was a breakthrough for the party in the otherwise overwhelmingly Republican state.
Since 1991, Nebraska has awarded two electoral votes to the overall statewide winner, with the remaining three votes awarded to the winner of each congressional district.
In 2020, Trump secured four electoral votes to Biden’s one electoral vote.
A new GOP bill introduced in the state legislature would put into place a winner-takes-all system; if it had been in place in 2020, Trump would have won all five electoral votes.
The 2nd congressional district contains sizeable Black and Latino populations, and opponents of the bill argue that the legislation would be detrimental to minority voters.
“You see very clearly that there was a lot of excitement particularly from voters of color in the Omaha metro-area who engage in that process over the last few election cycles because they had that meaningful opportunity,” she said.