America’s Biggest Loser

What was, I believe, the last pending legal challenge to the Pennsylvania election has been tossed out of court, and the Wisconsin recount verified that Biden won that state. Trump is still the loser. Never before in U.S. history has a candidate lost the same election so many times.

.Do read 20 days of fantasy and failure: Inside Trump’s quest to overturn the election at WaPo. Of course, Trump refuses to concede. In a Fox News interview this morning that apparently amounted to a Trump monologue without interruption, Trump still claimed his votes were “dumped” and that the election was rigged and a fraud. It’s possible he will lose the election a few more times before he’s through.

Cameron Peters, Vox:

In total, the president’s flailing legal strategy has resulted in a 1-39 record before various state and federal courts around the country, according to Elias. No evidence of voter fraud or other irregularities has surfaced anywhere, despite false claims by Trump and his allies otherwise, and a federal election certification deadline on December 8 is closing in.

See also Will Bunch, From Terre Haute to Tehran to your grandma, Trumpism is revealed as a death cult in the end.

The New Palin?

Will post-POTUS Trump be the new Palin and slide slowly into insignifigance, or will he lead an actual right-wing insurgent movement that can cause genuine trouble? Or maybe both?

What we know: Right now, Trump appears to still be denying that he lost while simultaneously planning his comeback. He has grudgingly agreed to vacate the White House if the Electoral College votes for Biden, but no one expects him to concede. Michael Cohen predicts he’ll spend Christmas at Mar-a-Lago and just not bother to return to Washington. There are also credible stories that he is planning to begin his campaign for 2024 at a big rally to be held during Biden’s inauguration. It’s also the case that a significant percentage — as high as 80 % in some polls — of Republican voters believe Trump’s claims of election fraud and do not consider Biden’s election to be legitimate.

All of these elements could destabilize U.S. democracy, especially if they continue for very long. (See Uri Friedman, The Atlantic, The Damage Will Last.) The question is, how long will they last? It’s possible that once Trump is out of the White House and no longer dominating nearly every news cycle he’ll slowly fade away.

A lot depends on news media. I have read in several sources that Trump fully expects to continue to dominate news media after he’s out of office because Joe Biden is boring. Maybe, but IMO the major media outlets are mostly going to be glad to be rid of him. It’s been gratifying to me that most news media has been quick to point out that Trump has no evidence of election fraud. Maybe they’ve learned something.

See Martin Longman, How Trump Killed Political Blogging, at Washington Monthly.

Political blogging was born in the Bush years, peaked under Obama, and mostly died in the Trump Era. The decline is partly explained by the mainstream media adopting some of blogging’s strongest features and hiring some of its talent—think Ezra Klein and Greg Sargent. But the most important factor is that straight journalists finally internalized that it’s part of their job to tell the reader when they’re being lied to.

The mainstream media didn’t see it that way when the topic was invading Iraq to deal with Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.  The political press corps was tentative in combating Birtherism and the Tea Party’s response to the election of a black man. At times, they were still somewhat credulous and deferential with the Obama administration. Yet, it was Trump’s flurry of incontrovertible falsehoods that led the Washington Post to put the famed “Democracy Dies in Darkness” banner up shortly after his inauguration. Today, after four years of covering his presidency, straight news reports are blog-like in the way they chop down lies and contradict official statements.

Martin Longman compares news coverage of George W. Bush before the invasion of Iraq to their coverage of Trump.

I try to imagine what it would have been like in 2002-03 if the Washington Post had written, “Bush said he planned to invade Iraq and said, without evidence, that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons. His foreign policy team has been widely mocked­­ – and the United Nations inspectors have contradicted almost every claim as they’ve scoured the country in vain looking for weapons of mass destruction.”

However, even  this year there was still a lot of “normalization” of Trump going on. See Aaron Rupar, Vox, NPR’s sanitizing of Trump’s Milwaukee rally shows how he’s broken the media from January 15, 2020. IMO the pandemic and Trump’s failure to respond to it changed something; it was a bridge too far. Mainstream media is done normalizing Trump, it seems.

Trump will still be the darling of One America News and Newsmax, but as I wrote earlier this week, those are rinky-dink outlets with no influence among powerful people. Will Fox News, the New York Post, and other Murdoch media continue to promote Trump? There’s been lots of reporting that Rupert Murdoch is no Trump fan, and much of the Murdoch media’s coverage of Trump’s post-election shenanigans has hardly been deferential to Trump. On the other hand, Trump may still be useful to Murdoch as a means to stymie the Biden Administration.

The Republican Party also needs to make a choice. It seems to me the GOP in the long run would be far better off without him. If he really does spend the next four years running for the 2024 GOP nomination it’s going to seriously screw with Republican chances that year.  In the short run, though, his followers are just too big a piece of Trump’s base to blow off. It’s hard to know what they will do with Trump. They may not know themselves what they will do with Trump.

This is all leaving out the real possibility that Trump will be indicted and tried for serious crimes once he’s out of office. If that happens, this will give the Republican Party a graceful way to cut him loose, and I suspect most of the party will take advantage of that opportunity if it arises.

By 2024, Trump may be lucky to get a gig as a guest judge on Shark Tank.

David Horsey, Seattle Times

Another Turkey Pardoned

Michael Flynn is pardoned. I should say “lying scum Michael Flynn.” We knew this was coming. See also White House Weighs Pardon Blitz Before Trump’s Exit at the New York Times.

See also Joe Biden calls for shared sacrifice to fight the pandemic as Trump rails about baseless election accusations. We’ll have a real president in a couple of months. Hang in there.

Interesting read: The Inside Story of Michigan’s Fake Voter Fraud Scandal at Politico by Tim Alberta.

At Long Last …

After yesterday’s drama I’m ready to relax a bit and enjoy pared-down Thanksgiving week without feeling weighed down by impending doom. Trump isn’t gone — yet — but he’s definitely going. The turkey pardon is this afternoon; we’ll see if Trump shows up. That will make three turkeys looking for pardons.

A development that could end up being beneficial in the long run is that Trump culties are stampeding away from Fox News and big-time social media such as Facebook and Twitter. We might worry that they’ll now all be marinating in an even more insulated crazy sauce, and in the short run that could lead to problems. But in the long run I think this will amount to an act of self-marginalization.

This is coming about because the “mainstream” far-right media finally is moving away from Trump. Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and even Rush Limbaugh are admitting Biden won the election — maybe not fairly — and that Trump’s efforts to prove fraud are failing. The True Believers are shifting to Newsmax and One America News (OAN), with Parler for their social media fix. There are reports that Fox News’s approval ratings among conservatives have dropped, although Fox’s ratings haven’t suffered as much as some have claimed.

Newsmax and OAN have stuck with Trump and are keeping the hope of a second Trump term alive for the faithful. This has been a great ratings boost for them. It’s also dragging a lot of people into an alternative universe, further dividing the nation, and potentially setting us up for more right-wing violence. But the ratings!

So why isn’t Fox News doing the same? Because it has a different purpose.  Rupert Murdoch didn’t set up a media empire just to make money or to raise an army of zombies, although those were solid side effects. He wanted influence. He wanted to push government and mass media to the right. And you don’t maintain influence by staying on The Titanic once it hits the iceberg.

Paul Waldman wrote,

It wasn’t just to inflame their own audiences, it was a political project aimed at “working the refs” — keeping journalists under pressure to alter what they reported and how they reported on it to make the news more friendly to the right.

While it’s an unending battle, working the refs works. Conservatives are very good at raising a stink, and news organizations often respond by changing their coverage. But it only works if those in the mainstream are aware of what’s being said on the right. You can’t pressure someone who is barely aware you exist.

Which is part of the power of Fox News: It’s watched by most Republicans in official Washington, and what happens there is injected into the mainstream conversation. The same congressman who watches Fox News in his office later goes on ABC News and repeats what he heard.

Just to be clear, there are plenty of ludicrous lies and insane conspiracy theories that Fox News spews out on a daily basis. But it remains tethered to, and in conversation with, the mainstream. That’s where its power comes from.

Could Newsmax or One America News do the same thing? It’s theoretically possible, but right now they’re still rinky-dink operations with zero credibility. The only time just about any real journalist pays attention to what goes on at either outlet is to watch a clip shared on social media and say, “My god, look at how crazy this is.”

This is a pattern of prior nativist or other right-wing movements in the U.S. They may gain genuine power for a while, but they last only as long as they are useful to the establishment. Often they self-destruct from excessive fanaticism or lose support because of changing economic or social conditions. You see the same pattern with the Know-Nothings, the 1920s Klan, and Joe McCarthy.

McCarthy was the most powerful man in America for a time; nobody dared cross him. Even President Eisenhower, who seriously hated McCarthy, held his tongue for a time. And then McCarthy imploded, and his fellow Republicans cut him loose. McCarthyism lingered for a while, in part because the fears that fueled it didn’t die, but it lost much influence. By the 1960s mainstream political culture was opening up to more liberal views. I strongly suspect Trump — who shares a connection with McCarthy through Roy Cohn — is about to go down a similar road.

And then the extremists retreat to the fringe for a decade or two, and when the movement emerges later it will be under a new name and with new leadership and talking points. But for a while the nation gets a reprieve. It’s a cycle. We may be near the end of a cycle. I sincerly hope we are.

Joe McCarthy and Donald Trump. New York Times photos.



What’s It Going to Be, Michigan?

This morning I started to write a post about today’s Michigan vote certification. Then I noticed that the Michigan Board of State Canvassers was scheduled to meet at 1 pm, or noon my time. So I thought, I’ll wait to see what they do. Well, it’s mid-afternoon, and I’m still waiting. There’s a live feed of the meeting here, if you want to watch what’s going on.

As I keyboard, the meeting has been going on for nearly three hours. They’re taking a recess.

The canvassing board has four members, two Democrats and two Republicans. The holdup is one of the Republicans, Norm Shinkle; there are reports that he has told people he will refuse to certify in order to hold up the whole process, which might possibly allow the Republican state legislature to void the election and choose Trump electors. Today’s meeting has been turned into a hearing on the election, with witnesses and public comments, and Shinkle has been grilling witnesses, which as I understand it is not something the board is authorized to do.

Here’s a useful article by Elizabeth McElvein at Lawfare that explains the Michigan Board of State Canvassers and what it is supposed to do. It is supposed to certify the vote. It is not authorized to investigate allegations about the election.

The Michigan Supreme Court has held repeatedly that a canvassing board wields purely ministerial powers. A board may, and indeed must, tabulate the votes submitted by the counties, but “it has no power to go behind the returns and recount the votes.” The state Supreme Court has affirmed this principle even in the face of allegations that the “election law of this State was most grossly violated.” So even if Shinkle’s allegations of massive voter fraud were true—and it’s worth repeating that there is no evidence that that’s the case—it seems unlikely that a court would permit the board to cite this as a basis for certification delay, let alone to investigate the allegations.

McElvein goes on to say that under Michigan law the current board meeting may not dissolve until they have processed the returns handed to them and certified the vote. If they fail to certify, they are commiting a felony.

Shinkle reportedly wants to hold up certification pending an audit. However, per state law, an audit can’t be performed until after certification. By all accounts the state already is prepared to audit the vote after certification.

Clara Hendrickson of the Detroit Free Press writes that Shinkle probably won’t get away with voiding the vote.

Legal experts do not expect the courts would fail to order the board to certify the election since Michigan election law is so clear on the board’s legal obligation to do so. If the two Republican members of the State Board of Canvassers fail to certify Michigan’s election results, legal experts expect lawsuits filed in the Michigan Court of Appeals would result in the court ordering the board to certify and expect an order would be upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court.

It’s also possible that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could replace a board member in order to get the election certified. This is just exhausting.

Intrigue, and Backstabbing, in the GOP

I’m seriously having a hard time keeping up with all this. But let’s start with Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman at the New York Times, How Trump Hopes to Use Party Machinery to Retain Control of the G.O.P.

Ronna McDaniel, Mr. Trump’s handpicked chairwoman, has secured the president’s support for her re-election to another term in January, when the party is expected to gather for its winter meeting. But her intention to run with Mr. Trump’s blessing has incited a behind-the-scenes proxy battle, dividing Republicans between those who believe the national party should not be a political subsidiary of the outgoing president and others happy for Mr. Trump to remain in control of it. …

…Mr. Trump will have no political infrastructure once he leaves office except for a political action committee he recently formed, and absent a formal campaign, he is hoping to lean on the R.N.C. to effectively give him one, people familiar with his thinking said.

This is especially intriguing:

The continuing influence of Mr. Trump could also have implications for some of the national committee’s most critical assets: Its voter data and donors lists contain thousands of names of contributors and detailed information about supporters. The voter data in particular is a focus of attention, after distrust arose between the committee and the Trump campaign over the data’s use in the final months of the campaign.

While the committee and the Trump campaign are in the process of untangling joint agreements over access to that information, Mr. Trump sees control of the lists that he helped build over the past four years as a way to keep a grip on power — and to neutralize potential challengers for supremacy over the party, according to Republicans close to the White House.

Trump is making noises about running for another term in 2024, which could inhibit other candidates from putting themselves forward.

See also Alex Isenstadt at Politico, Trump threatens to wreak havoc on GOP from beyond the White House.

President Donald Trump has spent the three weeks since he lost the election savaging a pair of GOP governors for not backing his claims he was robbed.

Republicans are worried it’s just the start of what’s in store from the soon-to-be-former president.

Trump’s attacks on Govs. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Mike DeWine Ohio — both of whom are up for reelection in 2022 — has led to broader concerns within the party that he will use his post-presidency to exact revenge on perceived enemies and insert himself into races in ways that are not helpful.

There is talk that Trump voters plan to boycott the Georgia Senate runoff elections. I’ve seen this reported in several places. It might not pan out, of course. But it does bring up the question of how much of the Republican voter base is now assimilated into the MAGA-Borg, and whether those voters will bother to turn out if Trump isn’t on the ticket.

And this brings us to David Atkins, Washington Monthly, Can Republicans Get Trump-Style Turnout Without Trump on the Ballot? The short answer is, maybe. Or maybe not. This analysis is worth reading all the way through. Much that will happen over the next decade will depend on whether Trumpism will turn out voters without Trump on the ballot. If so, we’re screwed. If not, there is hope.

While Trump is stabbing Brian Kemp in the back — and he tried so hard for so long to be a good toady — Trump may need to be watching his own back. This is from Marcy Wheeler:

Amid reports that Ronna not-Romney McDaniel is the favorite to become RNC Chair again — which stalwarts view as Trump’s attempt to run the RNC as his own operation, undercutting any challengers in 2024 — I find this quote in the WaPo story particularly interesting.

A fresh indication that Trump’s options are dwindling came Friday from an organization with close ties to his education secretary, Betsy DeVos. The conservative Michigan Freedom Fund, which the DeVos family finances, issued the following statement Friday: “The election is over. The results are in, and here in Michigan, they’re not going to change.”

There have been hints that Betsy and Dick were tiring of Trump already. Betsy’s former Chief of Staff, Josh Venable, even joined one of the anti-Trump groups during the election.

That has interesting implications for the fate of two men — Betsy’s brother Erik Prince and Trump himself.

Oh, dish, Marcy. You really need to read this all the way through. Basically, the Prince-DeVos faction has closer ties to Mike Pence than to Trump, and collectively this Prince-DeVos-Pence faction could post a real threat to Trump. They know things, and once Trump is no longer president they have no reason to do Trump any favors.


Time to Get Serious

Here’s where we stand: By my calculation, if state election certifications continue on schedule, after Monday, November 23, enough states will have certified to put the election out of reach for Trump. There won’t be enough uncertified, “contested” states left to flip that would give Trump 270 Electoral College votes.

That doesn’t mean he’ll give up, of course. Michigan Republicans haven’t given up, either:

The Michigan and national Republican parties have asked the Board of State Canvassers to delay certification of the state’s election results in a bid to investigate “anomalies and irregularities” alleged to have occurred in Michigan’s Nov. 3 election.

Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel asked the state to conduct a “full, transparent audit” before certification, noting other states like Georgia “have taken discretionary steps” in determining their results.

The Board of State Canvassers is scheduled to meet Monday to consider certification.

The request from Cox and McDaniel came the morning after Michigan Republican lawmakers met with President Donald Trump at the White House for an hour.

The Michigan delegation insists that they didn’t fly to Washington for a one-hour meeting to discuss the election with Trump, only “covid relief.” Sure.

The Michigan Attorney General is considering criminal charges against Republican officials who try to block certification. Also, the Legal Defense Fund of the NAACP has filed a lawsuit against Trump and his campaign for attempting to disenfranchise Black voters in Detroit.

You can find no end of commentary on what a joke the Trump Legal Team has become. Just today, Aaron Blake at WaPo pointed out that one of Giuliani’s affadavits supposedly documenting voting irregularities in Michigan was actually full of data about Minnesota. I’m serious.

See also David Atkins, Washington Monthly, Trump Is Staging a Comically Incompetent Coup.

Living through it as we all are, it is difficult to keep in perspective how astonishingly bizarre it is. From Rudy Giuliani’s hair dye dripping down his cheek and wiping snot all over his face with a handkerchief, to Sidney Powell’s repeatedly weird promises to “release the kraken” (now a QAnon meme near you) and invocations of the long deceased Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as somehow in on the conspiracy, to Jenna Ellis stridently vouching for the delusions of a man she once called an “idiot” who “really cannot be trusted to be consistent or accurate in anything,” it seems more like tragicomic soap opera material than living history.

Certainly there have been other absurd episodes in American history. But I don’t know of anything this ridiculous that was allowed to continue for so long at the highest levels of government. It’s way past time for Trump to produce solid evidence of wrongdoing or shut up. It was way past time a couple of weeks ago. The farce continues, and the world is watching. Incredulously. The nation must get serious and put a stop to this. But how?

It really ought to be the role of senior Republican senators to take on the Barry Goldwater role and tell the “president” the game is over. But so far nearly all of them are making excuses for Trump and refusing to call Biden “president elect.”

Possibly the worst part is that Trump hasn’t given himself a graceful way to get out of this mess. I can’t see his end game. I still think it’s entirely possible that he packs up and gets out of Washington before the inauguration. Trump may turn the keys over to Pence, with instructions to pardon him. I just don’t see him conceding and going through the traditional transition ceremonies. The only thing he can accomplish at this point is undermine the Biden administration. Which may be the real plan.

The GOP Has Been Trumped

Trying to blog the Last Days of Trump is a tad overwhelming. Events are coming too fast; it’s like being slammed by a tsunami every day. But I try to pick out one digestible thing to look at.

Here are a couple of columns that point to the same thing — the near total Trumpification of the Republican Party. Trump lost, but election data show us that his being on the ticket helped down-ticket Republicans anyway.

At WaPo, E.J. Dionne compares the blue wave of 2018 to the results of 2020. In 2018, turnout in metro areas and among people with college educations rose much higher than in rural areas and among the less educated. “When you look at where the big 2018 turnout increase came from,” Dionne writes, “it’s obvious that Democratic-leaning constituencies intent on punishing Trump far outperformed Trump’s core constituencies, perhaps because Trump himself was not on the ballot.” Dionne continues,

But in 2020, Trump voters came out in droves and thus boosted down-ballot Republicans. Trump won over 10 million more votes in 2020 than in 2016 — exit polls suggest that 6.5 million of his ballots came from first-time voters — which means he brought new supporters into the electorate who were important to this year’s House GOP victories.

As one Democratic strategist noted, “2018 was a wave year because our people showed up and theirs didn’t. 2020 was like a reversion to the mean because both sides showed up and right now we’re feeling the whiplash because no public or private data saw it coming.”

Given that it’s unlikely Donald Trump will ever appear on a ballot again, what will this mean for the Republican party?

Going forward, figuring out how Trump won an additional 10 million votes is one of the most important questions in politics. Here’s a plausible and discouraging theory: Given Trump’s intemperate and often wild ranting in the campaign’s final weeks and the growing public role in GOP politics of QAnon conspiracists, the Proud Boys and other previously marginal extremist groups, these voters may well be more radical than the party as a whole. This means that Republicans looking to the future may be more focused on keeping such Trump loyalists in the electorate than on backing away from his abuses.

Trump’s bitterest harvest could thus be a Republican Party with absolutely no interest in a more moderate course and every reason to keep its supporters angry and on edge. Ignoring reality and denying Trump’s defeat are part of that effort.

At the Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein comes to a similar conclusion. He writes that the recent congressional results tracked very closely to presidential results; only a small percentage of voters chose a president and congressperson of different parties.

Just as in 2016, Democrats this year did not win a single Senate seat in a state that Trump carried. Similarly, Susan Collins in Maine was the only Republican Senate candidate to win a state Trump lost. Final data in many states aren’t yet available, but Trump likely carried most of the Democratic-held House seats that Republicans flipped.

And if Republican voters believe, as a large percentage of them do, that Biden stole the election from Trump, those senators are not likely to go along with the reach-across-the-aisle thing. They will more likely please their constituents by blocking everything the Biden administration tries to do.

Brownstein interviews Bill Kristol, who for once may have a clue:

Overall, Kristol said, the election’s unexpectedly mixed results, with Republican congressional gains offsetting Trump’s defeat, have diminished the audience in the party for reconsidering Trumpism. Among congressional Republicans, the dominant interpretation of the results “is we paid no price for being Trump enablers or even apologists or even pale versions of Trump at times,” Kristol told me. “They think they are going to win the House in 2022, have a good shot at the presidency in 2024, and probably hold the Senate. Therefore, what do they have to do? They think they basically move ahead, business as usual, no repudiation, no rethinking, no fundamental recalibration.”

It’s also the case that if Trump is not ruined by all the legal trouble he’s in, he will continue to pull strings in the Republican party, acting as a kingmaker.

In the long run this stay-the-course strategy could turn out to be a bad decision for Republicans. For one thing, Trump really did lose.

As the vote counting continues, Biden’s lead has stretched to nearly 6 million votes, a larger raw-vote victory than Obama had in 2012. Trump can point to his continued dominance among non-college-educated white voters and his modest, but meaningful, gains among nonwhite voters as validation of his direction. But Republicans uneasy about his influence can find plenty of contrary trends that raise doubts about his ability to win another presidential election, including his weak performance among younger voters; the consolidation of well-educated, diverse, and prospering metro areas against him; and Biden’s ability not only to recapture key Rust Belt states but also to break through in Sun Belt battlegrounds.

But Republican office holders are looking to the next election, the 2022 midterms, and they are betting on a failed Biden administration to put them back in the congressional driver’s seat. So most of them will shamelessly support Trump’s claim that he was the rightful winner of the election, and once the Biden administration begins they will pull every trick they know how to pull to make Biden fail.

We may yet win the George Senate runoff elections. Trump isn’t on the ticket, after all. And, going forward, this tension may eventually cause the crack-up of the old GOP and a massive political realignment. But it’s going to be very, very messy.

See also:

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post, Trump and Giuliani are the Republican Party

Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post, GOP leaders’ embrace of Trump’s refusal to concede fits pattern of rising authoritarianism, data shows

David Smith, Guardian/Observer, Trump will cast a long shadow over Republican party despite defeat

Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times, Trump Lost the Race. But Republicans Know It’s Still His Party.

Jonathan Last, The New Republic, The Republican Party Is Dead. It’s the Trump Cult Now.

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, Trump Is No Longer the Problem. His Army of Followers Is.

How Missouri Republicans Rigged an Election

Before any more time passes I want to explain something that happened in the recent gubernatorial election in Missouri. It was between the Republican incumbent, Mike Parsons, and the Democratic State Auditor, Nicole Galloway.

For a time the polls in this race were close — which may not have been accurate, but whatever — possibly because Parsons has no discernible personality and is mostly inactive. I think if he disappeared for a week, no one would notice, including his wife. Going into the election Galloway had a sterling repulation and was endorsed by all the major newspapers.

Then Missouri’s new nutjob Republican U.S. senator, Josh Hawley, filed a complaint against Galloway. This is from September:

The Missouri State Board of Accountancy has opened an investigation into a complaint he filed against Auditor Nicole Galloway earlier this year, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley said Wednesday.

Hawley blasted Galloway on social media, accusing her of altering audits for political reasons and keeping political consultants on her office’s payroll. He referred to her office as a “case study in corruption.”

Note that before he was elected senator Hawley was the state attorney general, so he’s thick with the other Republicans in Jefferson City.

Soon Galloway also was being investigated by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft. If that name rings a bell, he’s the son of John “Crisco” Ashcroft who was U.S. Attorney General in the George W. Bush administration. Yeah, that guy. You remember him.

So this investigation is in the newspapers and was prominently featured in Parsons campaign attack ads against Galloway. The major newspapers continued to endorse Galloway, anyway.

In October Galloway filed a suit.

Democratic state Auditor Nicole Galloway, in the midst of a heated election for governor, is asking a judge to block an investigation of her by Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in Cole County Court, Galloway’s attorney said Ashcroft’s office lacks the legal authority to issue a subpoena for documents related to the probe.

And the filing says the move by the secretary of state is politically motivated because voters are already casting ballots in the race for governor.

“In less than 30 days before a major election, the Secretary of State is commencing an entirely unlawful investigation against another statewide elected official based upon a fatally flawed complaint from a dark money organization,” wrote Joel Anderson, chief litigation counsel for the auditor’s office.

And here we get to what’s really bugging Missouri Republicans:

Liberty Alliance, a not-for-profit organization trying to get Republicans elected, says an opinion piece by Galloway that ran in the Post-Dispatch last year focusing on a restrictive state abortion law was submitted to the newspaper by one of her state-paid press aides, violating state law barring the use of taxpayer dollars for campaign purposes.

The auditor’s office said there is no law prohibiting her, as an elected statewide officeholder, from speaking on any variety of topics.

In launching his investigation, Ashcroft first submitted a public records request for emails related to the abortion issue.

Be sure not to miss that last paragraph above. Ashcroft apparently believes it’s unlawful for a public official to be in favor of legal abortion. (You may remember the saga of Missouri’s last abortion clinic, which is still open, possibly because Rachel Maddow shone a bright light on what was going on with it.)

Back to the Liberty Alliance — even before the investigation into Galloway was opened, Missouri Democrats had filed an ethics complaint against Liberty Alliance.

The complaint alleges that the nonprofit was created to work against the candidacy of state Auditor Nicole Galloway, the Democrat challenging Gov. Mike Parson this fall. Because of this, the complaint argues that the nonprofit shouldn’t be allowed to shield its donors from public view. It should be required to file disclosure paperwork with the Missouri Ethics Commission like a political action committee.

“Liberty Alliance has been releasing videos, statements, creating a website and soliciting donations all for the primary or incidental purpose of advocating against the election of Nicole Galloway for governor of Missouri,” the complaint says, later adding: “Liberty Alliance USA has violated Missouri law by influencing or attempting to influence voters against the election of Nicole Galloway for governor and failing to register with the MEC as a continuing committee.” …

…Liberty Alliance USA was created just three days after Galloway announced she was going to run for governor. On its incorporation paperwork it lists its owner as nonprofit Cornerstone 1791 as its owner.

As nonprofits, the groups are not required to disclose their donors. They may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity.

Both Liberty Alliance USA and Cornerstone 1791 share an address with the Kansas City law firm of former Missouri GOP Chairman Todd Graves.

The Missouri Ethics Commission dismissed the complaint. So the dark money continued to flow. Here’s the Wikipedia page on Cornerstone 1791, if you’re interested.

Anyway, in the closing days of the campaigns, Missouri was saturated with television ads accusing Galloway of all kinds of moral malfunctions. Here is a television news fact check of one of them. You really want to watch this. Among other things, it clarifies why Josh Hawley is pissed at her.

The ethics investigation into Hawley was ended by Jay Ashcroft, btw.

On November 3, Parsons defeated Galloway 57.2% to 40.6%.

Oh, and Ashcroft closed the investigation into Galloway on November 12, admitting there was no evidence.

Mike Parsons and Nicole Galloway, St. Louis Post-Dispatch photos

The Endless Election in the Endless Year

First off, as a public service, here are some key election certification dates according to this page:

  • November 20: Georgia
  • November 23: Michigan and Pennsylvania
  • November 30: Arizona
  • December 1: Nevada and Wisconsin

On these dates, the election result of the state is declared official. The Electoral College votes on December 14.

I bring this up in case there are more shenanigans about not certifying elections, as in Wayne County, Michigan, last night. The Republican holdouts eventually relented and the county results were certified. I take it yesterday was a county deadline for certification.

I don’t know that the fact of certification will discourage Trump and Giuliani from their doomed quest to flip the election. For a good laugh, do see Here’s what happened when Rudolph Giuliani made his first appearance in federal court in nearly three decades.

See also Charles Pierce, 40 Years of Republican Politics Came to a Head at the Wayne County Board of Canvassers and Paul Waldman, We came much closer to an election catastrophe than many realize.