This content comes from the latest installment of our weekly Breaking the Vote newsletter out of VICE News’ D.C. bureau, tracking the ongoing efforts to undermine the democratic process in America. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday.
Boxes in briefs
“You don’t know anything about the boxes.” That’s reportedly what Trump said to his longtime executive assistant when she informed him that the feds were going to question her about all those crates full of classified documents stashed at Mar-a-Lago. Thing is, Molly Michael most definitely did know something about the boxes, and Trump knew it.
Michael, who had worked for Trump since 2018 in the White House, coordinated closely with valet and alleged Trump co-conspirator Walt Nauta to move boxes to and from the now-famous basement storage room. But she apparently grew concerned last year when it became clear her boss intended to lie to the feds about the boxes of docs stored at Mar-a-Lago. She spoke to investigators, which is partly why you may know her as the unindicted “Employee 2” in the Mar-a-Lago indictment.
Michael also reportedly handed over note cards bearing classified markings that Trump used to write to-do lists for her. That’s wild, but not as wild as an employer telling an employee that she doesn’t know anything about the boxes the feds are looking for. It sure sounds like…well…in the words of Trump’s former lawyer, a mob boss.
But I’m wondering if Michael could have witnessed any part of Trump’s 24-minute phone call with Nauta on June 23, 2022. According to the indictment, that call set the plot to delete MAL security footage in motion. But so far, we don’t know the contents.
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One small Epps for man
This will surely quiet all the howls of conspiracy. Just kidding, it won’t! Ray Epps, the former Marine and Oath Keeper who right-wing conspiracy theorists pegged as an FBI plant on Jan. 6, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count this week.
Epps became the target of conspiracy theorists after he was seen in videos hyping up protesters to enter the Capitol on Jan. 6. Tucker Carlson ran with the Internet fever dream of “the FBI instigated Jan. 6” and turned it into a ratings grabber, prompting Epps to face death threats and to sue Fox and Carlson for defamation. Carlson also said that Epps must be a federal agent since his photo was abruptly removed from the FBI’s Jan. 6 “persons of interest” page. Now we know that’s because Epps turned himself in. Something to remember the next time right-wing politicians and media figures swear they have the terrible truth about one of Trump’s enemies.
Not only did Epps get charged and plead guilty (informants generally don’t do that), the federal prosecutor handling his case told the court Epps was at no time “a confidential source or undercover agent for the government.” (US Attorneys generally avoid lying to judges in open court.) Epps is due for sentencing in December.
Right-wing crackpot lawyer and Trump worshipper Lin Wood was recommended for indictment by the Special Purpose Grand Jury that investigated the effort to overturn the election in Georgia. He wasn’t charged, and now Wood is a witness for the prosecution.
But don’t call Lin Wood a flipper, says Lin Wood!
Hutch is expected
You’re about to be seeing a lot more of former Mark Meadows aide and Jan. 6 star witness Cassidy Hutchinson. She’s set to appear on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show Monday. There, she’ll surely be asked about the latest super-gross advance from her forthcoming book, “Enough.”
Hutchinson writes that Rudy Giuliani sexually assaulted her on Jan. 6 in the back-stage tent at the pre-riot Ellipse rally near the White House. Rudy moved toward her “like a wolf closing in on its prey,” she writes. Then, she said, Rudy put his hand under her blazer and up her skirt. Giuliani is also accused of sexual assault in a $10 million lawsuit brought by an ex-employee.
That $10 million suit is just one of Rudy’s financial nightmares. He also lost the defamation suit brought by Fulton County poll workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss; he’s being sued for defamation by Dominion for $1.3 billion; Smartmatic too; not to mention his 13-count indictment in the Fulton County conspiracy. Now his lawyers are suing him for $1.36 million in unpaid legal fees.
Rudy denied the allegations in a Newsmax interview.
Guilty and charging
Rudy famously hasn’t been able to get Trump to contribute much at all to his legal fees, despite the boss’s penchant picking up his allies’ lawyer tabs. (BTW Jack Smith specifically cited Trump’s bankrolling of witnesses’ legal costs as obstruction this week.)
Anyway, how hurt will Rudy be when he hears Trump paid about $300,000 of newly-convicted Peter Navarro’s legal costs, according to Peter Navarro?
Land o’ fakes
Three fake electors were in front of a judge this week trying to get their cases removed to federal court. State Sen. Shawn Still, former Georgia GOP Chair David Shafer, and former Coffee County Chair Cathy Latham all argued that they were “contingent” electors–not fake ones–and as such they were federal officers deserving a federal trial.
Former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows already had his bid to remove his case denied, but the case is under appeal. Latham is also charged in the Coffee County computer caper end of the Georgia RICO conspiracy.
Dept. of Motor Voters
Pennsylvania became the 23th state to automatically register residents to vote when they get their driver’s license issued or renewed at the DMV. Gov. Josh Shapiro announced the change, which officials say will make a dent in the 1.7 million eligible residents who aren’t registered to vote in PA.
Pennsylvania will now register eligible voters when they get a license or state ID, unless they opt out. Previously residents had to affirmatively opt-in.
That’s the feeling the White House is going for next Thursday. In Washington, House Republicans are holding the first hearing in their impeachment inquiry, which is charging in front of the cameras with no evidence tying President Biden to his son Hunter’s business dealings. For contrast, Joe Biden will be in Arizona, where, according to the White House, he’s set to give remarks on the legacy of GOP Sen. John McCain and the job of “strengthening our democracy.”
The White House is very much giving the political press a dual assignment for Thursday. As important as the news is, I’d argue how the news is covered is far more important for the coming election year. Let me know what you notice!
The sum of its Spartz
Merrick Garland’s appearance Wednesday in Rep. Jim Jordan’s House Judiciary Committee, filled with GOP outrage about Hunter Biden and innuendo–but no evidence–of President Biden’s wrongdoing, broke no new ground. Except, maybe, for this novel take on Jan. 6 by GOP Rep. Victoria Spartz. Jan. 6 was for parents and kids in strollers! It’s the latest GOP effort to minimize and normalize the Jan. 6 insurrection and riot, just in time to “whatabout” it into oblivion with an evidence-free Biden impeachment.
Garland told Republicans that their efforts to single out prosecutors and officials won’t intimidate DOJ officials, though he only implied the sources, which are those same congressional Republicans and Trump himself. “We will not back down from defending our democracy,” he said.
“This is not good.”
— Steven Sadow, Trump’s Georgia lawyer, overheard in court while lawyers for co-defendant Jeffrey Clark argued that Trump authorized Clark’s actions in the alleged conspiracy.
Gopher the record — The judge hearing the 14th Amendment challenge to Trump’s ballot eligibility in Minnesota has set oral arguments for November 2. Activists in some states may use preemptive lawsuits to try to disqualify Trump. Others may sue the Secretary of State. Either way, experts say, this question is going to SCOTUS.
Anno Dominion — Dominion Voting Systems next big defamation suit for election lies will kick off just as early voting in the 2024 presidential election is getting underway. A judge in Delaware set a September, 2024 trial date for Dominion’s lawsuit against right-wing outlet Newsmax. Dominion is, of course, fresh off its record-breaking $787 million settlement with Fox News (in front of the same judge), and a settlement with pro-Trump OAN for undisclosed terms.
Lake it til you make it — Kari Lake, who lost the 2022 Arizona governor race by 17,000 votes then spun endless MAGA-esque conspiracies about her loss, is now running for Senate. Lake is expected to jump into the GOP primary, already populated by losing 2022 Senate candidate and election denier Blake Masters. Trump is behind Lake, but the field is crowded and complicated. A third GOP candidate is already in the primary; Democratic Rep. Reuben Gallego is in the race, while incumbent Kirsten Sinema has changed her party ID from Democrat to Independent and hasn’t even confirmed she’s running.
Meanwhile, Lake’s “I didn’t really lose” show was back in court Thursday trying to gain access to Maricopa county voter signatures she says she can prove are fraudulent. Whether she succeeds, the problem here is that Lake and her lawyers’ effort to get the signatures declared public records would make them open to public sharing, and naturally, conspiracy theories and doxxing. Stay tuned.
Lock me up? — Will I go to a cushy jail or a “bad” one? What about my bodyguards? Will I have to wear a jumpsuit? Donald Trump has a lot of questions lately about what life will be like if he winds up inside a jail cell.
How Gen. Mark Milley protected the Constitution from Donald Trump.
FROM THE ATLANTIC
Dark money: the backstory of Alabama’s redistricting defiance.
FROM ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER
How Wisconsin is a “laboratory for destroying democracy.”