How far will Republicans go to bow down to Putin???

There’s little doubt that Russian President Vladimir Putin has succeeded in achieving near-total control over the Republican Party. They’re gutting aid to Ukraine (and have been for over a year), working to kneecap our economy, whipping up hatred among Americans against each other, promoting civil war, and openly embracing replacing American democracy with authoritarian autocracy.

Putin has declared war on queer people, proclaimed Russia a “Christian nation,” and shut down all the media he called “fake news.” Check, check, check.

Most recently, the three-year “Biden bribery” hysteria Republicans in the House have been running — including thousands of hits on Fox “News” and all over rightwing hate radio — turns out to have been a Russian intelligence operation originally designed to help Trump win the 2020 election. The Russian spy who’d been feeding this phony info to “Gym” Jordan and James “Gomer Pyle” Comer is now in jail.

Over the past two years, as America was using Russia’s terrorist attacks on Ukraine to degrade the power and influence of Russia’s military, Putin was using social media, Republican politicians, and rightwing American commentators to get Republican politicians on his side and thus kill off US aid to Ukraine.

The war in Gaza is making it even easier, with Putin-aligned politicians like Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) tweeting: “Any funding for Ukraine should be redirected to Israel immediately.”

Russia’s battlefield, in other words, has now shifted from Ukraine to the US political system and our homes via radio, TV, and the internet, all in the hopes of ending US aid to the democracy they’ve brutally attacked.

And the momentum is following that shift: Russia is close to having the upper hand in Ukraine because of Putin’s ability — via Trump and Johnson — to get Republican politicians to mouth his talking points and propaganda.

Now, with Speaker “Moscow Mike” Johnson shutting down the House of Representatives so nobody can offer a discharge petition that would force a vote on Ukraine aid (and aid for Palestinian refugees, Taiwan, and our southern border), it’s becoming more and more clear that Vladimir Putin is running the Republican party via his well-paid stooge, Donald Trump.

I say “well paid” because Donald Trump would have been reduced to homelessness in the early 1990s if it weren’t for Russian money, as both of his sons have said at different times. He’d burned through all of his father’s estate, even stealing a large part of it from his siblings. He’d lost or hidden almost two billion dollars running a casino.

As Michael Hirsch noted for Foreign Policy magazine:

“By the early 1990s he had burned through his portion of his father Fred’s fortune with a series of reckless business decisions. Two of his businesses had declared bankruptcy, the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City and the Plaza Hotel in New York, and the money pit that was the Trump Shuttle went out of business in 1992. Trump companies would ultimately declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy two more times.”

He’d been forced to repeatedly declare bankruptcy — sticking American banks for over a billion dollars in unpaid bills — after draining his businesses of free cash and stashing the money in places he hoped nobody would ever find.

No American bank would touch him, and property developers in New York were waiting for his entire little empire to collapse. Instead, a desperate Trump reached out to foreign dictators and mobsters, who were more than happy to supply funds to an influential New York businessman…for a price to be paid in the future.

He sold over $100 million worth of condos to more than sixty Russian citizens during that era, and partnered with professional criminals and money launderers to raise money for Trump properties in Azerbaijan and Panama. According to Trump himself, he sold $40 to $50 million worth of apartments to the Saudis.

He then partnered with a former high Soviet official, Tevfik Arif, and a Russian businessman, Felix Sater, who’d been found guilty of running a “huge stock-fraud scheme involving the Russian mafia.”

As the founders of Fusion GPS wrote for The New York Times in 2018:

“The Trump family’s business entanglements are of more than historical significance. Americans need to be sure that major foreign policy decisions are made in the national interest — not because of foreign ties forged by the president’s business ventures.”

Thus, when it came time to run for president, Trump had to pay the price. He and the people around him were inundated with offers of “help” from Russians, most associated directly with Putin or the Russian mafia.

Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had been paid millions by Putin’s oligarchs and ran Trump’s campaign for free. Reporters found over a dozen connections between Russia and the Trump campaign, and during the 2016 campaign Trump was secretly negotiating a deal to open a Trump tower in Moscow. Trump’s son and his lawyer met with Putin’s agents in Trump Tower.

Putin’s personal troll army, the Internet Research Agency (IRA) based out of St. Petersburg but operating worldwide, began a major campaign in 2016 to get Trump elected president.

Manafort fed Russian intelligence raw data from internal Republican polling that identified a few hundred thousand individuals in a half-dozen or so swing states the GOP thought could be persuaded to vote for Trump (or against Hillary), and the IRA immediately went to work, reaching out to them via mostly Facebook.

Mueller’s report and multiple journalistic investigations have noted that the most common message out of Russia then was directed at Democratic-leaning voters and was, essentially, “both parties are the same so it’s a waste of time to vote.”

A report from Texas-based cybersecurity company New Knowledge, working with researchers at Columbia University, concluded, as reported by The New York Times:

“‘The most prolific I.R.A. efforts on Facebook and Instagram specifically targeted black American communities and appear to have been focused on developing black audiences and recruiting black Americans as assets,’ the report says. Using Gmail accounts with American-sounding names, the Russians recruited and sometimes paid unwitting American activists of all races to stage rallies and spread content, but there was a disproportionate pursuit of African-Americans, it concludes.

“The report says that while ‘other distinct ethnic and religious groups were the focus of one or two Facebook Pages or Instagram accounts, the black community was targeted extensively by dozens.’ In some cases, Facebook ads were targeted at users who had shown interest in particular topics, including black history, the Black Panther Party and Malcolm X. The most popular of the Russian Instagram accounts was @blackstagram, with 303,663 followers.

“The Internet Research Agency also created a dozen websites disguised as African-American in origin, with names like blackmattersus.com, blacktivist.info, blacktolive.org and blacksoul.us.”

And it appears to have worked in suppressing the potential Black Democratic vote in swing states. 

A 2018 bipartisan Senate report found the Russian efforts consequential, as the BBC headline on that analysis summarizes:

“Russian trolls’ chief target was ‘black US voters’ in 2016.”

The news story summarizes:

“A Senate inquiry has concluded that a Russian fake-news campaign targeted ‘no single group… more than African-Americans.’ …

“Thousands of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and You Tube accounts created by the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) were aimed at harming Hillary Clinton’s campaign and supporting Donald Trump, the committee concludes.

“More than 66% of Facebook adverts posted by the Russian troll farm contained a term related to race.

“African-American community voters were discouraged from voting, and from supporting Hillary Clinton.”

Between the information compiled by Oxford Analytica and the details passed along from the GOP to Prigozhin via Manafort, a mere margin of 43,000 votes across a handful of swing states —all microtargeted by Russia — handed the electoral college to Trump, even though he lost the nationwide vote to Hillary Clinton by almost 3 million ballots.

So now Trump has succeeded in making the entire GOP a party to his long-term debt to Putin and his oligarchs. “Moscow Mike” Johnson has blocked any aid to Ukraine for over a year; the last congressional appropriation for foreign aid was passed in 2022, when Nancy Pelosi ran the House.

Meanwhile, under Trump’s and Putin’s direction, Republicans in Congress are doing everything they can to damage the people of the United States.

They believe it will help them in the 2024 election if they can ruin the US economy while convincing American voters that our system of government is so corrupt (“deep state”) that we should consider replacing democracy with an autocratic strongman form of government like Putin’s Russia. Tucker Carlson is even suggesting that Russia is a better place to live than the US.

They revel in pitting racial, religious, and gender groups against each other while embracing a form of fascism that pretends to be grounded in Christianity, all while welcoming Putin’s social media trolls who are promoting these divisions.

Republican-aligned think tanks are working on Project 2025, a naked attempt to consolidate power in the White House to support a strongman president who can override the will of the people, privatize Social Security and Medicare, shut down our public school system, fully criminalize abortion and homosexuality (Sam Alito called for something like that this week), and abandon our democratic allies in favor of a realignment with Russia, China, and North Korea.

Trump got us here by openly playing to the fears and prejudices of white people who are freaked out by the rapid post-1964 “browning” of America. Putin jumped in to help amplify the message a thousandfold with his social media trolls, who are posting thousands of times a day as you read these words.

Now that Putin largely controls the GOP, today’s question is how far Republicans are willing to go in their campaign to bring the USA to her knees on behalf of Putin and Trump.

— When Congress comes back into session next week, will they take up Ukraine aid?

— Will they continue their opposition to comprehensive immigration and border reform?

— Will they keep pushing to privatize Social Security with their new “commission”?

— Will they work as hard to kneecap Taiwan on behalf of President Xi as they have Ukraine on behalf of Putin?

— Will they continue to quote Russian Intelligence propaganda in their effort to smear President Biden?

— Instead of just 7 Republicans going to Moscow to “celebrate” the Fourth of July, will the entire party move their event to that city like the NRA did? Or to Budapest, like CPAC did?

Or will the GOP suddenly start listening to the rational voices left in their party, the Mitt Romneys and Liz Cheneys who still believe in democracy (even if they want to gut the social safety net and turn loose the polluters)?

Why are “conservatives” calling for the end of America??

Why are conservatives calling for the end of American democracy? 

At the CPAC meeting this week, a well-known rightwing influencer, Jack Posobiec, went off on a rant about how important it is for conservatives to band together to end democracy in America and, presumably, replace it with Christofascism like in Russia. “Welcome to the end of democracy!” he declared. “We’re here to overthrow it completely. We didn’t get all the way there on January 6th, but we will endeavor to get rid of it and replace it with this right here,” he said as he held up a cross. “That’s right, because all glory is not to government, all glory to God.”

This, frankly, should not be surprising. It was 1951 when Russell Kirk, the godfather of the modern conservative movement, published his book The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot in which he laid out the importance of “classes and orders” in society. ( Kirk is detailed extensively in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy.)

At the time Kirk was writing, the middle class was growing like a weed back then — this was before Reagan kneecapped the labor movement — and Kirk warned that if too many people got into the middle class and were no longer “the fearful poor” that there’d be chaos in America. He warned that women would no longer respect their husbands, racial minorities would forget their “rightful place” in the social order, young people would defy their parents, and society would go to hell.

The solution, dictated back in the late 1700s by British conservative Edmund Burke, was to gut the middle class and return to the “normal” social form of a small number of really rich people at the top, a tiny middle class of doctors, lawyers, and professionals who served the morbidly rich, and a massive class of the working poor. 

And that, folks, is where Trump and today’s Republican Party want to go.

It’s about the United Methodist Church

Some of you may know the Methodist church is going through a schism, the reason is because many members want to support alternative lifestyles which includes gay marriage and ordination of LGBTQ pastors. There are others who are very intolerant, vocal and can be extremely crude in expressing their views.

I’m a Methodist.  Here’s my opinion.

Former FBI informant re-arrested

A former FBI informant who lied about multimillion-dollar bribery charges against President Joe Biden and his son Hunter and who has links to Russian intelligence was again taken into custody Thursday, two days after a judge said he could be freed ahead of trial, his attorneys said in court documents.

The arrest during a meeting Thursday morning with his lawyers comes after prosecutors appealed a ruling allowing 43-year-old Alexander Smirnov, who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, to be released with a GPS monitor ahead of trial on charges alleging he lied to the FBI.

He was taken into custody on a warrant for the same charges issued in California, where the case was originally filed, his lawyers said. Several sealed entries were listed in the court docket, but no additional details about his return to custody were immediately available.

A spokesman for Justice Department special counsel David Weiss confirmed Smirnov had been arrested again.

Smirnov is charged with making a false statement and creating a false and fictitious record.

According to attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld, Smirnov was arrested Thursday morning at their law offices in downtown Las Vegas on the same charges. The lawyers did not immediately respond to phone and text message requests for further comment.

Prosecutors say Smirnov falsely told his handler that executives from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid President Biden and Hunter Biden $5 million each around 2015. The claim became central to the Republican impeachment inquiry in Congress.

Republican attack on Joe and Hunter Biden falls apart, Republicans were being controlled by Russian intelligence services

The former FBI informant charged with fabricating the Burisma bribery story about President Biden and his son Hunter had “extensive and extremely recent” contacts with foreign intel services, prosecutors alleged Tuesday in a court filing.

Yes, including Russian intel.

The revelation came in arguments that Special Counsel David Weiss, who is also prosecuting Hunter Biden, made for detaining Alexander Smirnov pending his trial. (Smirnov was ultimately released under conditions yesterday.)

The implications of this Russian operation are staggering, especially for the willing Republicans and right-wing media stooges who were the useful idiots propagating the disinformation for years. The James Comers, Chuck Grassleys, Jim Jordans of the world have been trafficking in this stuff as the purported basis for a Biden impeachment, which is itself tightly yoked to Trump’s campaign for re-election. Right-wing outlets, most notably Fox News, have been amplifying the claims not dozens or hundreds but thousands of times over the past several months.

Everywhere you turn, it’s Russia either helping Trump directly or indirectly by damaging Trump’s foes. The pattern is clear and persistent but also so sweeping and far-reaching that it really requires taking a step back to grasp the full scope of it all. It has dominated right-wing media, become an accepted “fact” among MAGA adherents, and allowed elected Republicans to play mainstream media like a cheap fiddle. All those breathless Biden impeachment process stories? They’re an outgrowth of this disinformation campaign.

Jordan, Comer are complicit Russian agents, spreading Russian lies

Ohio congressman Jim Jordan could face major repercussions over the Republican attempt to impeach Joe Biden after a former FBI informant charged with making false bribery claims against the president was determined to have been using Russian intelligence, legal experts suggest.

Alexander Smirnov, 43, is accused of making a false statement to the FBI and creating a false and fictitious record in relation to claims that the president and his son, Hunter Biden, were paid $5 million each in bribes from Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

In court filings on Tuesday, the Department of Justice said that Smirnov admitted during interviews that he had met with “officials associated with Russian intelligence” who were “involved in passing a story” about Hunter Biden.

The bogus claims that Biden financially benefited from his son’s foreign business dealings while he was vice president, including accusations of taking bribes, have been cited by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jordan and other Republican figures in their impeachment proceedings .

https://www.newsweek.com/jim-jordan-joe-biden-impeachment-bribery-russia-1871889

Jordan, Comer, and Grassley need to be in jail . . . now

On Wednesday, the Republican-led House of Representatives impeachment inquiry will question James Biden behind closed doors on the very critical matter of how he repaid a loan to his brother. Banking records have already revealed that there is absolutely nothing to find in this investigation. Joe Biden loaned his brother James $200,000. Two months later, James paid him back. Neither did one thing wrong.

This hearing is a perfect example of why everyone called before this inquiry should demand to testify publicly. Not only has House Oversight Committee Rep. James Comer accused both the president and Democrats in Congress of lying about the loan, even though Comer already had all the evidence in hand to show everything was accurate and above board, but Democrats are being denied their rightful opportunity to rub Republican noses in the ugly collapse of every piece of “evidence” behind this so-called investigation.

In the last few days, the FBI form that Republicans demanded to see, then released themselves after threatening to hold the FBI director in contempt, turns out to be the product of a Russian mole who was fed false information by Russian agents. Meanwhile, a picture of “cocaine” that was included in a court filing in charges against Hunter Biden turns out to be an image of sawdust.

The only real questions that remain in this investigation are: How much did James Comer, Jim Jordan, and Chuck Grassley know, and when did they know it?

As Spiderman might say, let’s do this one last time …

In 2019, Rudy Giuliani went to Ukraine on orders from Donald Trump and came back with a story. That story was so ludicrous that everyone passed on it, including Fox News. But there was one place where Giuliani could still get this mess published: The New York Times.

According to that story, Joe Biden went to Ukraine and demanded the firing of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin because Shokin was investigating Burisma, the energy company where Hunter Biden served on the board. Biden allegedly threatened to withhold U.S. aid from Ukraine until Shokin was canned so Hunter could continue to collect his paycheck, and this oh-so-good prosecutor was unjustly fired.

The Times ran the story verbatim, without seeming to do anything like check Giuliani’s sources or look at public records. However, within a few days, Bloomberg dispatched a reporter to Ukraine to check on what Giuliani was selling, and sure enough, it was all bullshit.

Not only had Shokin not been investigating Burisma, he was so notoriously corrupt that officials in both the U.S. and the U.K. called for his removal for years. Biden didn’t start the push to remove Shokin, and he didn’t act alone. Everything that happened in Ukraine was very public, and European officials celebrated when Shokin was finally sacked.

There was no story. There never had been a story. But that didn’t stop Republicans from continuing to repeat Giuliani’s fairytale.

Then a miracle happened. Republicans learned that the FBI had been given a tip about this subject, one that resulted in an FD-1023 form that seemed to back up everything Giuliani had said in 2019. Over objections from the FBI, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Jim Jordan demanded the form. Then Grassley and Comer released the form to the public, and it became the beating heart of the Republican “impeachment investigation.”

And the form was perfect. Referring to Joe Biden as the “big guy” was in there. A claim that Hunter Biden was hired to “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems” was right on the front page. The “17 recordings” of phone calls that supposedly included Joe Biden getting directly involved with his son’s business came from this form. Best of all, it included the claim that a Burisma executive complained about how “it cost 5 (million) to pay one Biden, and 5 (million) to another Biden.”

The form was everything. The absolute proof that Republicans wanted.

Except, of course, everything in it completely contradicted years of public records and statements from those involved. Republicans didn’t let that bother them. Comer defended this form repeatedly, calling Democrats who challenged its contents liars. Grassley declared the importance of those recordings mentioned in the form, even while admitting they might not exist. Jim Jordan practically quoted the form in his questioning of Devon Archer, and then lied about Archer’s testimony when it failed to match up.

Then last Thursday, Alexander Smirnov, the man behind that FD-1023, was charged with lying to the FBI and creating false records. According to CNN, Smirnov has informed investigators that he has “‘extensive and extremely recent’ contacts” with Russian spies. And in an interview after his arrest, Smirnov admitted that “officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story about Businessperson 1.”

“Businessperson 1” is Hunter Biden.

So, Republicans have not only spent the last year pressing an investigation of the president’s son largely instigated by a document that turns out to have been tailor-made for them by Russian intelligence, they opened an impeachment inquiry with a Russian agent as the “heart” of their investigation.

The answer to why the FBI was so reluctant to release the document is simple: They don’t release unfounded accusations (unless they come from James Comey or Robert Hur, of course). And that ongoing investigation that had Republicans so excited was the investigation of Smirnov, not Hunter Biden.

All of this was a lie, and Republicans knew it. Just ask one of the men who toured Giuliani around Ukraine in the first place.

Republicans are plowing on, keeping up the pretense that this source they made such a big deal about for so long was just “ancillary” to their investigation into what they love to call “the Biden crime family.” They have other evidence, dammit. Like how Joe Biden once loaned his son some money for a truck.

But in the last day, another part of the investigation into Hunter Biden has crumbled into dust. As in sawdust.

Federal prosecutors mistakenly claimed in a court filing that a photo of sawdust they found while searching Hunter Biden’s electronics was cocaine, attorneys for the president’s son said Tuesday.

How anyone could have ever thought that this material, which was tan in color and sitting on a table saw, was anything other than sawdust is astounding. But a picture of any kind of dust seemed to be convincing to Sean Hannity, so Fox News audiences aren’t likely to be threatened by the truth. (This also raises questions about just what Hannity has been putting up his nose.)

A Russian agent. A fake document. A pile of sawdust. That’s what Republicans have to show for their big investigation.

It would be really great to hear what’s happening behind those closed doors today. Democrats should be having fun.

Nazis led by ex-Marine parade in Nashville, run away when challenged

Anyone who hasn’t yet seen this riveting footage, should take a look.

And then note the guy taking the video you’re watching, he’s the guy screaming “Show me your faces!” repeatedly at this phalanx of Neo-Nazis, who according to Frank Figliuzzi, national security analyst for MSNBC and former Asst Dir. of Counterintelligence at the FBI, call themselves ‘Blood Tribe’, and are led by a former Marine named Christopher Pohlhaus.  The group dispersed fairly quickly after this minor confrontation.

That’s telling.  First, that these ‘tough guys’, considered the fringe of the fringe, are insecure enough to hide their identities, just like the KKK found it was necessary to do because their ‘ideas’ have no legitimate purchase in majorities of mainstream America, who consider their activities as irresponsibly provocative.

Second, that it didn’t take much to scare them off, in Nashville, Tennessee, no less.  It doesn’t appear from the video there was much public affinity by passersby to the spectacle of uniformed — but masked — Blood Tribe neo Nazis.  In fact, the last part of the clip with Blood Tribe marchers passes by a bystander watching the videographer, and also shouting “Cowards!” at the group, for hiding under their masks.

Sure, it could’ve been designed as a test run, by a group that only organized three years ago.  But what was their takeaway here?  That they were not confronting a passive constituency, even under short notice public displays in a Southern state.

So far, the provocation methods of groups like this are designed to invite a confrontational overreach that would justify a violent response.  Which they don’t usually get.  Just bigger crowds that can yell just as loudly, when there’s enough response time to confront them.  Luckily, Americans are used to people getting in their faces for one thing or another, while honoring the right to speak your mind.

Yet, it’s another sign, small as it is here, that there’s an America out there waking up.  We’re capable of distinguishing between free speech and hate speech.  If we persevere, if we keep up the pressure, while Trump keeps faith with his pathological belief that his flamethrower of lawlessness and chaos is something Silent Majority America is pining for, Trumpism is going down.

We’re a long way from beating this thing, but the signs are looking good that Good People are not willing to make the same allowances to political intimidation that occurred in the 1930’s, that their grandfathers lost their lives to defeat militarily in Europe and Asia in defense of democracy.  Unwilling to remain silent, in this country, re-consecrated after the Civil War, with the passage of the 13, 14, and 15th Amendments, providing suffrage for all free [p]ersons and the protection of the Law, for the purpose of political representation as citizens of the United States, to go back and and allow ‘Evil to reign’ again, after already pulling back that promise and sacrificing Black suffrage for a hundred years on the altar of White race fears of that era, to finally repatriating that promise in the aftermath of the Fight against Fascism (WWII) that became the Struggle against Totalitarianism (the Cold War) that was the backdrop of the 1960’s.  While plenty of mistakes were made in the name of that ‘Cold War’, some good things came about domestically that held Americans to their better natures, in order to demonstrate a reasonable fidelity to the words written on pieces of paper.  The Voting Rights Act of 1965, once again guaranteeing political suffrage to structurally-disenfranchised peoples in America, was one of those things.

Nearly 60 years later, it’s evident that Jim Crow is not coming back to town, as long as people like this videographer are there to get in their faces and make their hate accountable to the community.  To my community.  To your community.  This video shows how it’s done.

We are gonna beat this thing.  Election 2024 is just the start of something Big.  I’m tired of lawlessness being given a long leash, both here and abroad, and I’m willing to bet you are too.  In this struggle, of our time, fought closer to home, often without uniforms, it is an honor to serve with all of you, as our grandparent’s generation did when they were confronted with lawlessness.  Once again, citizens stepping up, in ways large and small, to defend Democracy and make it their own.  Let’s continue to ‘show our faces’ and confront this narcissistic Menace to our society.

“Christian” family moves to Russia to get away from LGBTQ . . . and now the rest of the story

The patriarch of a right-wing Canadian family of eight had just about enough of the gay people existing in his country. “We didn’t feel safe for our children there in the future anymore. There’s a lot of left-wing ideology, LGBTQ, trans, just a lot of things that we don’t agree with that they teach there now, and we wanted to get away from that for our children.”

Yeah, if there’s one place that’s just not safe for kids, it’s Canada. Russia would be so much safer. 

So mom and dad sold everything they had to move to sunny Russia to raise their kids in “orthodox” values. They gladly took donations on their social media platform from fellow right-wingers so they could live in Putin’s wonderland. They did all of this just three weeks ago, and Russian officials assured them that they would work with them to get them established, and even help them get a farm.

Long story short, they lived happily ever after.

Except they did not. 

First off, the Russian bank where they moved their funds immediately froze their assets. The amount of money seemed suspicious, as I guess it would since most Russians outside of Putin’s circle are dirt poor. As a result, the family doesn’t have money to live on, and those nice Russian officials disappeared.

Since no one in the family speaks Russian they’ve had a bear of a time trying to argue for their money since Russia doesn’t require any bank, or any business, to hire English translators. In the meantime, they discovered that Russia is a pretty damn miserable place to be right now.

A Russian reporter interviewed the mom—likely for a story on how the corrupt, liberal West was forcing Christians to flee to Mother Russia to the warm embrace of Vladimir Putin. But the mom forgot where she was and instead spoke her mind:

“I’m very disappointed in this country at this point. I’m ready to jump on a plane and get out of here. We’ve hit the first snag where you have to engage logic in this country and it’s very, very frustrating.”

Hoooo boy.

They just arrived and already she’s insulted Russia.  Now, I’m not saying Russia doesn’t have freedom of the press, but it’s just the freedom to praise Putin and his country. Anything that resembles criticism in Russia is NOT taken as kindly as it is in our Western godless dystopias. I’m also not suggesting that Russian officials paid the family a visit to remind them of where they are, but I will point out the dad immediately posted a video saying that his wife misspoke.

In that video, he reiterated that no, Russia is really, really great (subtext: please don’t push me out of a window) and he spoke about hoping to resolve the issue with the bank. The commenters weren’t so sure, or kind. They pointed out that the bank will likely never release their funds and it is more likely that he will be recognized as a foreign agent.

At this point, I’m not sure his farming gig is going to work out. He should have gone the Tara Reade route and agree to be used as a tool for Russian state media. I mean, if you are going to go traitor, go all in.

I’m willing to bet that living in a country that tolerates gay people might not be looking so bad now. I’m sure the family is desperately trying to split, and I looked up how difficult it is to leave Russia. According to the BBC, you can leave “as long as you have money and have not been called up to the army.” For his sake, let’s hope he just lost his money. 

Rightwing, pro-Trump group admits it: No evidence of vote tampering

Donald Trump isn’t the only right-wing fabulist who has learned that when you enter a courtroom, rules matter. True the Vote, a national group devoted to spreading conspiracies about voter fraud, just suffered a humiliation in a Georgia courtroom, thanks to a judge’s simple request that they — get this — provide evidence for their claims of fraud during the 2020 election and the subsequent Senate runoff.

While it’s understandable to despair at the ease with which the liars and con artists of the right’s “election integrity” movement pump fabrications into the national bloodstream, their virtually unbroken string of failures in the courts may offer some solace. At least there, the system seems to work. 

That’s because courts have rules far more strict than Rudy Giuliani’s podcast or — as Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against Fox News showed — an evening of right-wing television. To make a charge stand up legally, these voter fraud fabulists have to back it up with evidence. Again and again, they have failed to do so. 

The cycle, by now, is depressingly familiar. First, groups like True the Vote spout claims of widespread fraud based on innuendo, ignorance of the law and the occasional I-know-a-guy-whose-girlfriend’s-cousin-heard-from-another-guy hearsay. Then those claims are amplified by conservative media — in this case, True the Vote’s conspiracy theories were heavily featured in the film “2000 Mules” from Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative pundit and convicted felon who was pardoned by Trump.

But though the claims may be widely believed by the devoted and the deluded, when it comes time to actually challenge the outcome of an election, they fail. In the Georgia case, True the Vote had filed a claim with the state in late 2021 alleging that the organization “spoke with several individuals regarding personal knowledge, methods, and organizations involved in ballot trafficking in Georgia.” They even said they had one anonymous individual who “admitted to personally participating and provided specific information about the ballot trafficking process.”

Those are some blockbuster allegations. So the state of Georgia opened an investigation, and asked True the Vote for evidence, including the name of this ballot trafficker so they could interview the person. Last summer, fed up with waiting for True the Vote to turn over corroboration, the Georgia attorney general asked a judge to compel the group to share its proof. Finally, in a court filing — more than two years after its initial complaint — True the Vote admitted it is unable to supply evidence for its charges.

We saw a similar series of events in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election: All over the country, Trump’s representatives and advocates tried to get the results of the election overturned. Every time they got into court, they were unable to provide any proof of their claims. They lost over 50 such suits; in some cases, judges that Trump himself had appointed tossed them out of court.

Add that to the success the targets of voter fraud defamation have had holding Trump allies accountable for the damage they did. Dominion settled its lawsuit against Fox News for $787.5 million, and a similar $2.7 billion lawsuit from Smartmatic is ongoing. A jury ordered Giuliani to pay $148 million to two Atlanta poll workers he targeted with vicious lies about them being part of a nonexistent voter fraud scheme. And one man who alleges he was slandered by True the Vote and “2000 Mules” has a lawsuit that is still pending. They claimed that video shows him stuffing a ballot drop box with fraudulent votes when he was actually dropping off ballots for himself and members of his family.

Unfortunately, the fact that the right’s voter fraud fraudsters lose just about every time they have to supply proof of their claims in a courtroom doesn’t mean this mania has been defeated. The bogus idea that voter fraud is rampant in American elections has become a core tenet of Republican ideology, almost as important as a belief that taxes are too high, immigrants are violent and abortion must be prohibited.

Polls consistently show that about two-thirds of Republican voters say Joe Biden was not legitimately elected president. No one repeats that lie more loudly and often than Trump himself, and fealty to that deranged fantasy may be the most important thing he looks for in anyone who wants to work for him. Trump’s pick to be the next co-chair of the Republican National Committee, North Carolina GOP Chair Michael Whatley, has worked with election denier groups; he was also involved in the effort to overturn the 2020 election. Trump reportedly chose Whatley because, as one of the former president’s associates put it, he is “a stop the steal guy.”

Republicans’ continued belief in those lies produces a panoply of ugly consequences. Election workers around the country who want nothing more than to serve their communities and the system of democracy face harassment and death threats. Conservatives have redoubled efforts to restrict voting rights under the false banner of fighting fraud. And the very fanning of these conspiratorial flames burns away trust in the democratic system. So far, the purveyors of election fraud stories haven’t succeeded in reversing any legitimate elections. When they get into court, they inevitably fail. But only continued reversals at the ballot box itself may be enough to stop them.