Sunday, October 24, 2021

Last Call For The Big Lie, Big Texas Edition

If there was somehow any doubt left over the validity of Republican state "election audits" consisting of anything more than flimsy excuses to assuage loser Donald Trump's ego and to provide a pretense for the wholesale theft of federal elections in 2022 and 2024, Texas GOP Gov. Gregg Abbott is making sure that the Arizona audit farce is coming to the Lone Star State, led by one of Trump's Big Lie lawyers.

Amid pressure from former President Donald J. Trump to support a broad review of the 2020 election in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday appointed as secretary of state a lawyer who briefly joined Mr. Trump’s challenge to the 2020 results in Pennsylvania.

The new secretary of state, John Scott, will oversee Texas elections at a time when a new law imposing further restrictions on voting and a Republican redistricting plan have raised alarm among voting rights advocates that the state’s growing nonwhite population would not be fairly represented.

More immediately, Mr. Scott, a Fort Worth lawyer who worked for Mr. Abbott when he was the state’s attorney general, will take charge of a limited review of the 2020 election results that Mr. Abbott, a Republican, ordered last month for four of the most populous counties in Texas.

“I am confident that John’s experience and expertise will enhance his oversight and leadership over the biggest and most thorough election audit in the country,” Mr. Abbott said in a statement announcing the appointment.

Though he must eventually be confirmed by the State Senate, Mr. Scott can serve in the role in the interim. The Senate is not in regular session again until 2023.

The appointment brought immediate criticism from Democrats and voting groups. “The timing of this announcement is clearly intended to subvert our democratic process in a way that allows Greg Abbott’s completely unsuitable nominee to oversee our 2022 elections without having to face confirmation hearings,” said Stephanie Gómez, the Texas associate director for Common Cause.

Mr. Scott was among the lawyers representing Mr. Trump’s campaign as it filed suit to challenge the results of the November 2020 election in Pennsylvania, a state that President Biden won by 80,555 votes.

But Mr. Scott withdrew from the case, as did another member of his law firm, Bryan Hughes, on the eve of a hearing, after a circuit court ruling that effectively gutted their arguments. The case was ultimately dismissed.

“The lesson from the Pennsylvania case is that John Scott is a guy you can trust to follow the law,” said Mr. Hughes, a Republican state senator from Tyler, Texas. He added that, while in the attorney general’s office, Mr. Scott represented Texas in litigation over the state’s voter identification law, “so this area of the law is not unfamiliar to him.”

Mr. Hughes was the lead sponsor of Texas’ restrictive new election rules, which passed this year over concerted opposition from Democrats. The new rules broaden the authority of the secretary of state in elections.

No credible evidence has emerged of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election in Texas or in any other state. Mr. Trump carried the state by more than 5 percentage points and Republicans maintained a lock on the statehouse despite a well-funded effort by Democrats to try to flip control.
So the question then becomes "why the audit"?  Trump won the state, and Texas has already passed a raft of new voter suppression laws that will help keep Republicans in power for the foreseeable future. A thorough audit like Abbott is promtsing would show that...Trump won the state. The bill advancing the audit in the state legislature quietly died earlier this week because even Texas Republicans don't feel the need to do it.

But Abbott is going to do it anyway. What's the deal?

The "deal" is to go after election officials in Texas's largest urban (and blue) counties: Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Collin and replace them with Republicans. They need the pretense to do that. This will be it.

They'll never stop trying to rig elections, folks.

A Come To Joes' Meeting

President Joe Biden and President Joe Manchin will hold a summit with Senate Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer over the Build Back Better bill in Delaware today to try to iron out Manchin's final raft of hostage demand cuts.
President Joe Biden was hosting two pivotal senators for meetings in Delaware on Sunday in hopes of resolving lingering disputes over Democrats’ long-stalled effort to craft an expansive social and environment measure.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., were scheduled to attend the session, the White House said.

Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., two of their party’s most moderate members, have insisted on reducing the size of the package and have pressed for other changes.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said she was waiting for the Senate to wrap up talks on the framework and was expecting a plan to be introduced as early as Monday. Top Democrats are scrambling to act on legislation by week’s end so they can pass a separate, roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill by Oct. 31, when a series of transportation programs will lapse.

“I think we’re pretty much there,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told CNN’s “State of the Union,” stressing that a few “last decisions” to be made. “It is less than what was projected to begin with, but it’s still bigger than anything we have ever done in terms of addressing the needs of America’s working families.”

Democrats initially planned that the measure would contain $3.5 trillion worth of spending and tax initiatives over 10 years. But demands by moderates led by Manchin and Sinema to contain costs mean its final price tag could well be less than $2 trillion.

Disputes remain over whether some priorities must be cut or excluded. These include plans to expand Medicare coverage, child care assistance and helping lower-income college students. Manchin, whose state has a major coal industry, has opposed proposals to penalize utilities that do not switch quickly to clean energy.
Pelosi said Democrats were still working to keep in provisions for four weeks of paid family leave but acknowledged that other proposals such as expanding Medicare to include dental coverage could prove harder to save because of cost. “Dental will take a little longer to implement,” she said.

The White House and congressional leaders have tried to push monthslong negotiations toward a conclusion by the end of October. Democrats’ aim is to produce an outline by then that would spell out the overall size of the measure and describe policy goals that leaders as well as progressives and moderates would endorse.

The wide-ranging measure carries many of Biden’s top domestic priorities. Party leaders want to end internal battles, avert the risk that the effort could fail and focus voters’ attention on the plan’s popular programs for helping families with child care, health costs and other issues.

Democrats also want Biden to be able to cite accomplishments when he attends a global summit in Scotland on climate change in early November. They also have wanted to make progress that could help Democrat Terry McAuliffe win a neck-and-neck Nov. 2 gubernatorial election in Virginia


Pelosi and Biden have a deadline for next week. Manchin does not. Pretending Manchin isn't holding 99.99% of the leverage here is wishful thinking, and that's been true for months now. Manchin will get the cuts he decides on. The alternative is nothing, which is what chance Dems will have in the future if this bill self-destructs.

The question remains if he will move the goalposts again, or if Sinema will do so.

The long-term solution remains 52+ Democratic senators.

We'll see.

Sunday Long Read: Lamb Of A Cruel God

Our Sunday Long Read is Politico Magazine's Jessica Pishko profile of a white supremacist domestic terrorist, Pinal County, Arizona Sheriff Mark Lamb. Know your enemy, folks.

The first thing to know about Mark Lamb, the sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, is that he just plain looks like a sheriff. It could be the Justin cowboy hat he wears pulled low over his eyes and his penchant for Western shirts and a tactical vest in lieu of a uniform. It could be his demeanor, at once confident and aw-shucks. It could be his size — he’s 6’3”, 240 pounds, or so he writes in his self-published book, American Sheriff: Traditional Values in a Modern World.

In public, Lamb commands attention. During a July interview at a local café here decked out in Old West paraphernalia, passersby interrupted to clasp hands heartily with him and chat. There was an older Latino man named Randy wearing a snap-pocket shirt who had recently retired from a wild horse-and-burro program at the nearby prison and asked Lamb if he knew any cowboys. There were middle-aged women with salon-styled hair hoping to take their picture with him. There was the waitress who told Lamb he needed to gain weight. They seemed unsurprised to see their sheriff talking to a reporter and flashing his TV-ready smile.

Lamb, 49, has jurisdiction over only Arizona’s third most populous county, a stretch of desert wedged between Phoenix and Tucson that’s home to about 500,000 people. Yet he styles himself as the “American Sheriff” — a moniker around which he has spent the past several years trying to build a national brand as a fervent defender of law enforcement.

Since taking office in 2017, Lamb has become the face of a new online streaming service called the American Sheriff Network and of a nonprofit coalition of sheriffs called Protect America Now; he also founded a charity, the American Sheriff Foundation. Lamb is a frequent talking head on Fox News and Newsmax, where he derides President Joe Biden’s and Vice President Kamala Harris’ handling of immigration, and he has spoken at political events like a Turning Point Action summit a few months ago in Phoenix, where he quoted Shakespeare and Thomas Paine (“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered”) and promised, “The sheriffs are going to hold the line.”

With an action figure-style charisma and a growing media platform, Lamb sees it as his mission to educate the American public about the role of the sheriff, which he described to me as to protect people from “the bad guys, and I always say the sheriff is also there to protect the people from government overreach.” As much as he glorifies law enforcement, though, Lamb is selective about which laws he chooses to enforce. He takes a hardline approach on immigration, for example, but when it comes to the government telling people to get vaccinated — or declaring the 2020 election legitimate — he fashions himself as more of a vigilante resister, with a heavy dose of anti-government, sometimes militant rhetoric.

Lamb supported the “stop the steal” campaign in Arizona and has expressed sympathy for the Jan. 6 rioters. He has called vaccine mandates “garbage” and spoke at a recent anti-vaccine rally in Phoenix, where he told supporters, “We’re going to find out what kind of patriots you are. We’re going to find out who is willing to die for freedom.” He also makes direct appeals to citizens, an effort that looks more dangerous after former President Donald Trump riled up supporters on Jan. 6. For example, Lamb, an ardent defender of the Second Amendment, has spoken in support of the formation of private militias — “well within the Constitution,” he told a group of supporters in March — and emphasized the power of sheriffs in Arizona, an open-carry state, to call local civilians into service to “suppress all affrays, insurrections and riots that comes to the attention of the sheriff.” Last year, as Black Lives Matter protests swept across the country, he formed a local civilian “posse” to assist his office with law enforcement, even though there were no such protests in Pinal County.

Through Protect America Now, which was founded by a Republican strategist and two businesspeople working with Lamb and counterparts nationwide, he is marshalling dozens of other elected sheriffs and citizen supporters around these ideas — “building an army” as the group puts it. The message: Sheriffs are here to protect your freedom — including freedom from your own democratically elected government.
What the law in Pinal County means is whatever Mark Lamb says it means. What he wants is a national network of like-minded county sheriffs, complete with surplus military gear thanks to Dubya and Trump and an army of deputies to use it against whomever they choose.
That's not law or justice.  That's an authoritarian regime. And there's dozens like Lamb out there, waiting to join his organized insurrectionists. What do you do when the local county sheriff *is* the terrorist in your neighborhood?

America as a united nation of 50 states doesn't have too much longer at this rate.
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