April 25, 2022
Yesterday, voters in both France and Slovenia rejected far-right candidates for leadership. French voters preferred leaving Emmanuel Macron in place as president by 58.5% over Marine Le Pen (41.5%). Le Pen is supported by fascists and antisemites, and she promised to take France out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), to turn against the U.S. influence, and to end multiculturalism, which she maintains is a failure.
In Slovenia, a small country in central Europe where Melania Trump was born, prime minister Janez Janša is a close ally of Viktor Orbán, who is prime minister in Slovenia’s neighbor Hungary and who has been quite clear that he intends to dismantle democracy. An admirer of Donald Trump, Janša insisted that Trump won the 2020 election, and pushed the nation toward the right, away from the European Union and toward a governing style like Orbán’s. Freedom House, which keeps tabs on the health of democracies, recently said that Janša’s government has been trying to undermine the rule of law, the media, and the judiciary. He lost out yesterday to a new political party that is socially liberal, pro-European, and eager to deal with the climate crisis. That party, the Freedom Movement, was organized only in May 2021.
The rejection by European voters of far-right authoritarianism is a backdrop to news in the U.S. today, where CNN dropped information about 2,319 text messages from the files Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows turned over to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol before he changed his mind and stopped cooperating.
Shockingly, these are the messages Meadows thought were okay to share. He held back more than 1,000, including all of them from December 9 to December 20, on the grounds that they should be protected for one reason or another. You have to wonder what was in them, considering what was in the ones he surrendered.
The first thing that jumps out from today’s messages is how thoroughly Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity was working for Trump, rather than acting the part of an impartial news reporter. On Election Day, November 3, 2020, Meadows told Hannity to stress to voters they needed to get out and support Trump. “Yes sir,” Hannity answered. “On it. Any place in particular we need a push?” Meadows answered: “Pennsylvania. NC AZ… Nevada.” “Got it,” Hannity answered. “Everywhere.” There is now some muttering that the Trump campaign should have listed the free advertising from the Fox News Channel as a campaign contribution, since it was clear that Hannity’s shows were advertisements, and that “in-kind” donations are subject to federal regulation.
The second thing that jumps out is how determined Trump Republicans were to believe that Trump could not possibly have lost the election. The day after the election, the Trump team was already working state officials to skew the vote counts, but as early as November 6, Trump advisor Jason Miller texted evidence that debunked the idea that the election was stolen, and he would continue to do so. Meadows agreed that there was no evidence to match the extreme claims of Trump lawyer Sidney Powell; Jared Kushner sent an article debunking the story of suitcases full of ballots in Georgia. We know from other exchanges that Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Representative Chip Roy (R-TX) came to recognize that the election had not been stolen.
And yet, Trump supporters, especially MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, continued to send Meadows stories about a stolen election; Lindell believed that God was directing Trump’s reelection. By November 7, former energy secretary Rick Perry was on board with the idea that the election had been fraudulent. By November 19, 2020, Meadows was trying to set up a call with Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger—this would end up being the hour-long phone call between Raffensperger and Trump on January 2, 2021, that Raffensperger recorded. In it, Trump urged Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” in Georgia—one more than Trump needed to win the state.
As early as November 6, a scheme to keep Trump in power despite the will of the voters was underway. To be clear, this means that elected representatives and appointed members of our government were actively working to end our democracy. More than 40 current and past members of Congress are in the records, including Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL), Donald Trump, Jr., and Rick Perry. Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) was also a key player.
Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ) suggested getting Republican state legislatures to appoint electors* for Trump rather than Biden. Meadows answered: “I love it.” Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) texted on December 26: “Mark, just checking in as time continues to count down. 11 days to 1/6 and 25 days to inauguration. We gotta get going!” On January 5, Jim Jordan said that Vice President Mike Pence should refuse to accept all electoral votes he thought were unconstitutional. Meadows responded: “I have pushed for this. Not sure it’s going to happen.”
When the MAGA crowd turned violent on January 6, supporters begged Trump to call them off, suggesting they knew full well who was rioting and who was behind those riots. And yet, hours later, Jason Miller proposed lying to the American people by changing the story altogether, blaming “Antifa” for the violence of the Trump supporters at the Capitol. He added that Trump should tweet, “The fake news media who encouraged this summer's violent and radical riots are now trying to blame peaceful and innocent MAGA supporters for violent actions. This isn't who we are!” Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) also tried to argue that the attackers were “Antifa. Dressed like Trump supporters.” So did Louie Gohmert (R-TX).
Those deep in the insurrection have flat out lied about their participation in it, suggesting they know it was illegal. When called out for texts back last December, Rick Perry denied he sent them, but today’s texts not only came from his phone but also were signed. Similarly, when Greene was asked under oath just last Friday—three days ago—“Did you advocate to President Trump to impose martial law as a way to remain in power?” Greene answered: “I do not recall.” Greene’s questioner followed up: “So you’re not denying you did it?” Greene answered: “I don’t remember.”
And yet, on January 17, Greene texted: “In our private chat with only Members, several are saying the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall [sic] law. I don't know on those things. I just wanted you to tell him. They stole this election. We all know. They will destroy our country next. Please tell him to declassify as much as possible so we can go after Biden and anyone else!”
The attack on our democracy was entirely fabricated, and yet it has persisted and metastasized in the shape of the Big Lie that Biden stole the election. Last night in Georgia, where Republicans Brian Kemp and Trump-endorsed David Perdue are struggling over the Republican nomination, the Big Lie was center stage. According to Patricia Murphy of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Purdue began the debate by endorsing the Big Lie—“First off, let me be very clear, the election in 2020 was rigged and stolen—”and he managed to keep the debate locked on the 2020 election for the first 24 minutes.
The ability of the Republicans to create a world out of lies comes from our current media landscape in which it is possible for Trump supporters to live in a media bubble of falsehoods.. Researchers recently conducted an experiment in which they paid pro-Trump Republicans to switch from the Fox News Channel to CNN for a month, and they discovered that those viewers changed their minds on a number of key issues. But, as soon as the payments stopped, they went right back to watching the FNC.
This week, the European Union set out to bring some kind of order to social media, reaching a deal that would require Facebook, YouTube, and other internet services to combat misinformation, disclose their algorithms, and stop targeting users with divisive advertising. And yet, the U.S. today appeared to move in the opposite direction. Twitter announced it had reached an agreement with billionaire Elon Musk to sell Twitter to him. If he gets over all the next hurdles to the deal, that widespread information hub will become a company owned by a single man. Reporter Matthew Gertz from Media Matters wrote that last Friday, 18 House Republicans led by Jim Jordan wrote to the Twitter board that had previously opposed the sale to Musk, browbeating them to consider the sale, which they interpret as a win for right-wing voices that have been banned from current Twitter for spreading lies.
Jokes broke out today that Arizona would be challenging the results of the French election, but it’s not really a joke. Today, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill providing for an election police force charged with rooting out election fraud, and Aaron Rupar of Public Notice recorded that the Fox News Channel today mentioned Hunter Biden 32 times and Mark Meadows once.
When Slovenian prime minister Janez Janša lost his election yesterday, a leader of the opposition noted how many people in the country were in shock at how quickly Slovenia slipped into “a more autocratic system. We never thought a democratic system could change so fast,” she said.
*The text’s actual words– “a look doors”-- seem to be a voice to text mistranslation.
andrew kaczynski @KFILEMarjorie Taylor Greene said members of Congress suggested that Trump declare “Marshall law,” in her text to Mark Meadows. https://t.co/CoLNQkdGVs https://t.co/Df8xyYyPpR