Georgia’s secretary of state said an investigation into the unauthorized access to the equipment by former Coffee County election officials continues.
Georgia’s secretary of state on Friday announced plans to replace election equipment in one county following “unauthorized access” to the equipment that happened two months after the 2020 election.
A computer forensics team hired by allies of then-President Donald Trump traveled to Coffee County, about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta, on Jan. 7, 2021. A company representative has said they made complete copies of the election management system server and other election system components. Later that month, two men who have been involved in efforts to discredit the 2020 election results also spent hours inside the elections office with access to the equipment.
Trump and his supporters pushed false claims about certain voting machines after he lost his bid for reelection. Authorities have said there was no evidence of widespread problems with voting equipment.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said an investigation into the unauthorized access to the equipment by former Coffee County election officials continues.
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“Anyone who broke the law should be punished to its full extent,” Raffensperger said in a news release. “But the current election officials in Coffee County have to move forward with the 2022 election, and they should be able to do so without this distraction.”
Footage from security cameras shows “former election officials in Coffee County permitting access by unauthorized individuals to equipment that under Georgia law should have been secured,” the release said. The footage was produced in response to subpoenas issued by plaintiffs in a long-running lawsuit against state election officials that claims the state’s touchscreen voting machines aren’t secure.
The county’s election management server and central scanner workstation were previously replaced in June 2021, officials have said. The county will receive 100 new touchscreen voting machines, 100 printers, 10 precinct scanners, 21 tablets used to check in voters and new flash cards and thumb drives to be installed and tested before early voting begins next month.
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Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, a plaintiff in the voting machine lawsuit, said the election management server and central scanner workstation should also be replaced. She said that’s because they were used with the other potentially contaminated equipment in elections since their replacement last year.
Separately, election officials in the state’s most populous county, in and around Atlanta, said Friday that they had fired a worker after learning that “personally identifiable information was shared with an individual outside the organization,” news outlets reported.
“The individual responsible for the incident no longer works with Fulton County,” the county said in a news release. “Fulton County is committed to the safety and security of all citizens and employees. Each individual affected by this incident will be notified and will receive credit monitoring services.”
Lindell has been charged in what prosecutors say was a “deceptive scheme” to breach voting system technology used across the country.
MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell said Tuesday that federal agents seized his cellphone and questioned him about a Colorado clerk who has been charged in what prosecutors say was a “deceptive scheme” to breach voting system technology used across the country.
Lindell was approached in the drive-thru of a Hardee’s fast-food restaurant in Mankato, Minnesota, by several FBI agents, he said on his podcast, “The Lindell Report.” The agents questioned him about Dominion Voting Systems, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and his connection to Doug Frank, an Ohio educator who claims voting machines have been manipulated, he said.
The agents then told Lindell they had a warrant to seize his cellphone and ordered him to turn it over, he said. On a video version of his podcast, Lindell displayed a letter signed by an assistant U.S. attorney in Colorado that said prosecutors were conducting an “official criminal investigation of a suspected felony” and noted the use of a federal grand jury.
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The circumstances of the investigation were unclear. The Justice Department did not immediately respond Tuesday night to a request for comment about the seizure or investigation.
“Without commenting on this specific matter, I can confirm that the FBI was at that location executing a search warrant authorized by a federal judge,” FBI spokeswoman Vikki Migoya said in an email.
Federal prosecutors have been conducting a parallel investigation alongside local prosecutors in Colorado who have charged Peters with several offenses, including attempting to influence a public servant, criminal impersonation and official misconduct. The Republican was elected in 2018 to oversee elections in Colorado’s Mesa County. A deputy clerk, Belinda Knisley, was also charged in the case, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years of probation.
For more than a year, Peters has appeared onstage with supporters of former President Donald Trump who made false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. The charges against Peters and Knisley allege the two were involved in a “deceptive scheme which was designed to influence public servants, breach security protocols, exceed permissible access to voting equipment, and set in motion the eventual distribution of confidential information to unauthorized people.”
State election officials first became aware of a security breach in Mesa County in 2021 when a photo and video of confidential voting system passwords were posted on social media and a conservative website. Because each Colorado county has unique passwords maintained by the state, officials identified them as belonging to Mesa County, a largely rural area on the border with Utah.
Peters appeared onstage in August 2021 at a “cybersymposium” hosted by Lindell, who has sought to prove that voting machines have been manipulated and promised to reveal proof of that during the event.
While no evidence was provided, a copy of Mesa County’s voting system hard drive was distributed and posted online, according to attendees and state officials.
The copy included proprietary software developed by Dominion Voting Systems that is used by election offices around the country. Experts have described the unauthorized release as serious, saying it provided a potential “practice environment” that would allow anyone to probe for vulnerabilities that could be exploited during a future election.
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Nearly two years after the 2020 election, no evidence has emerged to suggest widespread fraud or manipulation, while reviews in state after state have upheld the results showing President Joe Biden won.
The Mesa County breach is just one of several around the country that have concerned election security experts. Authorities are investigating whether unauthorized people were allowed to access voting systems in Georgia and Michigan.
Lindell said the federal agents had also questioned him about when he first met Frank, an Ohio math and science educator, who is among a group of people who have been traveling across the U.S. meeting with community groups claiming to have evidence that voting machines were rigged in the 2020 election.
In court records, prosecutors say Frank met with Peters and members of her staff in April 2021 in her office. During the meeting, Frank told Peters that the county’s election management system was vulnerable to outside interference and the group discussed concerns the state was going to “wipe” the machines, according to the court records.
In 2011, Catherine Engelbrecht appeared at a Tea Party Patriots convention in Phoenix to deliver a dire warning.
While volunteering at her local polls in the Houston area two years earlier, she claimed, she witnessed voter fraud so rampant that it made her heart stop. People cast ballots without proof of registration or eligibility, she said. Corrupt election judges marked votes for their preferred candidates on the ballots of unwitting citizens, she added.
Local authorities found no evidence of the election tampering she described, but Ms. Engelbrecht was undeterred. “Once you see something like that, you can’t forget it,” the suburban Texas mom turned election-fraud warrior told the audience of 2,000. “You certainly can’t abide by it.”
planting seeds of doubt over the electoral process, becoming one of the earliest and most enthusiastic spreaders of ballot conspiracy theories.
fueled by Mr. Trump, has seized the moment. She has become a sought-after speaker at Republican organizations, regularly appears on right-wing media and was the star of the recent film “2,000 Mules,” which claimed mass voter fraud in the 2020 election and has been debunked.
She has also been active in the far-right’s battle for November’s midterm elections, rallying election officials, law enforcement and lawmakers to tighten voter restrictions and investigate the 2020 results.
said in an interview last month with a conservative show, GraceTimeTV, which was posted on the video-sharing site Rumble. “There have been no substantive improvements to change anything that happened in 2020 to prevent it from happening in 2022.”
set up stakeouts to prevent illegal stuffing of ballot boxes. Officials overseeing elections are ramping up security at polling places.
Voting rights groups said they were increasingly concerned by Ms. Engelbrecht.
She has “taken the power of rhetoric to a new place,” said Sean Morales-Doyle, the acting director of voting rights at the Brennan Center, a nonpartisan think tank. “It’s having a real impact on the way lawmakers and states are governing elections and on the concerns we have on what may happen in the upcoming elections.”
Some of Ms. Engelbrecht’s former allies have cut ties with her. Rick Wilson, a Republican operative and Trump critic, ran public relations for Ms. Engelbrecht in 2014 but quit after a few months. He said she had declined to turn over data to back her voting fraud claims.
“She never had the juice in terms of evidence,” Mr. Wilson said. “But now that doesn’t matter. She’s having her uplift moment.”
a video of the donor meeting obtained by The New York Times. They did not elaborate on why.
announce a partnership to scrutinize voting during the midterms.
“The most important right the American people have is to choose our own public officials,” said Mr. Mack, a former sheriff of Graham County, Ariz. “Anybody trying to steal that right needs to be prosecuted and arrested.”
Steve Bannon, then chief executive of the right-wing media outlet Breitbart News, and Andrew Breitbart, the publication’s founder, spoke at her conferences.
True the Vote’s volunteers scrutinized registration rolls, watched polling stations and wrote highly speculative reports. In 2010, a volunteer in San Diego reported seeing a bus offloading people at a polling station “who did not appear to be from this country.”
Civil rights groups described the activities as voter suppression. In 2010, Ms. Engelbrecht told supporters that Houston Votes, a nonprofit that registered voters in diverse communities of Harris County, Texas, was connected to the “New Black Panthers.” She showed a video of an unrelated New Black Panther member in Philadelphia who called for the extermination of white people. Houston Votes was subsequently investigated by state officials, and law enforcement raided its office.
“It was a lie and racist to the core,” said Fred Lewis, head of Houston Votes, who sued True the Vote for defamation. He said he had dropped the suit after reaching “an understanding” that True the Vote would stop making accusations. Ms. Engelbrecht said she didn’t recall such an agreement.
in April 2021, did not respond to requests for comment. Ms. Engelbrecht has denied his claims.
In mid-2021, “2,000 Mules” was hatched after Ms. Engelbrecht and Mr. Phillips met with Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative provocateur and filmmaker. They told him that they could detect cases of ballot box stuffing based on two terabytes of cellphone geolocation data that they had bought and matched with video surveillance footage of ballot drop boxes.
Salem Media Group, the conservative media conglomerate, and Mr. D’Souza agreed to create and fund a film. The “2,000 Mules” title was meant to evoke the image of cartels that pay people to carry illegal drugs into the United States.
said after seeing the film that it raised “significant questions” about the 2020 election results; 17 state legislators in Michigan also called for an investigation into election results there based on the film’s accusations.
In Arizona, the attorney general’s office asked True the Vote between April and June for data about some of the claims in “2,000 Mules.” The contentions related to Maricopa and Yuma Counties, where Ms. Engelbrecht said people had illegally submitted ballots and had used “stash houses” to store fraudulent ballots.
According to emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, a True the Vote official said Mr. Phillips had turned over a hard drive with the data. The attorney general’s office said early this month that it hadn’t received it.
Last month, Ms. Engelbrecht and Mr. Phillips hosted an invitation-only gathering of about 150 supporters in Queen Creek, Ariz., which was streamed online. For weeks beforehand, they promised to reveal the addresses of ballot “stash houses” and footage of voter fraud.
Ms. Engelbrecht did not divulge the data at the event. Instead, she implored the audience to look to the midterm elections, which she warned were the next great threat to voter integrity.
In a speech Thursday night, President Biden framed the November elections as part of an ongoing battle for the “soul of the nation.”
President Joe Biden warned Thursday night that “equality and democracy are under assault” in the U.S. as he sounded an alarm about his predecessor, Donald Trump, and “MAGA Republican” adherents, labeling them an extremist threat to the nation and its future.
Aiming to reframe the November elections as part of a battle for the nation’s soul — “the work of my presidency,” President Biden used his prime-time speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia to argue that Trump and “Make America Great Again” allies are a challenge to nation’s system of government, its standing abroad and its citizens’ way of life.
“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic,” President Biden declared. He said they “are determined to take this country backward’ they “promote authoritarian leaders and they fan the flames of political violence.”
The explicit effort by President Biden to marginalize Trump and his adherents marks a sharp turn for the president, who preached his desire to bring about national unity in his Inaugural address. White House officials said it reflects his mounting concern about Trump allies’ ideological proposals and relentless denial of the nation’s 2020 election results.
“MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards,” President Biden is saying, according to prepared remarks released by the White House. “Backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.”
“For a long time, we’ve reassured ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed. But it is not,” President Biden says. “We have to defend it. Protect it. Stand up for it. Each and every one of us.”
President Biden, who largely avoided even referring to “the former guy” by name during his first year in office, has grown increasingly vocal in calling out Trump personally. Now, emboldened by his party’s recent legislative wins and wary of Trump’s return to the headlines, President Biden is sharpening his attacks.
Trump plans a rally this weekend in Scranton, Pennsylvania, President Biden’s birthplace.
At a Democratic fundraiser last week, President Biden likened the “MAGA philosophy” to “semi-fascism.”
In Philadelphia, White House officials said, President Biden intended to hark back to the 2017 White supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, which he says brought him out of political retirement to challenge Trump. President Biden argues that the country faces a similar crossroads in the coming months.
Biden allies stress that he is not rejecting the entirety of the GOP and is calling on traditional Republicans to join him in condemning Trump and his followers. It’s a balancing act, given that more than 74 million people voted for Trump in 2020.
“I respect conservative Republicans,” President Biden said last week. “I don’t respect these MAGA Republicans.”
Delivering a preemptive rebuttal from Scranton Thursday evening, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy accused President Biden of trying to divide Americans, and blasted the Democrats’ record in Washington, pointing to rising inflation, crime and government spending.
“In the past two years, Joe Biden has launched an assault on the soul of America, on its people, on its laws, on its most sacred values,” he said. “He has launched an assault on our democracy. His policies have severely wounded America’s soul, diminished America’s spirit and betrayed America’s trust.”
Asked about McCarthy’s criticism, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said “we understand we hit a nerve” with the GOP leader, and quoted the Republican’s prior statements saying Trump bore responsibility for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Larry Diamond, an expert on democracy and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said calling Trump out for attacks on democracy “can be manipulated or framed as being partisan. And if you don’t call it out, you are shrinking from an important challenge in the defense of democracy.”
Even this week, Trump was posting on his beleaguered social media platform about overturning the 2020 election results and holding a new presidential election, which would violate the Constitution.
Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University, said it’s not unusual for there to be tension between a president and his successor, but it’s “unprecedented for a former president to be actively trying to undermine the U.S. Constitution.”
“The challenge that President Biden faces is to get on with his agenda while still doing what he needs to uphold the Constitution,” Naftali said. “That’s not easy.”
The White House has tried to keep President Biden removed from the legal and political maelstrom surrounding the Department of Justice’s discovery of classified documents in Trump’s Florida home. Still, President Biden has taken advantage of some Republicans’ quick condemnation of federal law enforcement.
“You can’t be pro-law enforcement and pro-insurrection,” President Biden said Tuesday in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.
President Biden’s appearance Thursday night was promoted as an official, taxpayer-funded event, a mark of how the president views defeating the Trump agenda as much as a policy aim as a political one. The major broadcast television networks were not expected to carry the address live.
President Biden’s trip to Philadelphia is just one of his three to the state within a week, a sign of Pennsylvania’s importance in the midterms, with competitive Senate and governor’s races. However, neither Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democrats’ Senate nominee, nor Attorney General Josh Shapiro, their pick for governor, was expected to attend Thursday night.
The White House intended the speech to unite familiar themes: holding out bipartisan legislative wins on guns and infrastructure as evidence that democracies “can deliver,” pushing back on GOP policies on guns and abortion that President Biden says are out of step with most people’s views, and rejecting efforts to undermine confidence in the nation’s election or diminish its standing abroad.
The challenges have only increased since the tumult surrounding the 2020 election and the Capitol attack.
Lies surrounding that presidential race have triggered harassment and death threats against state and local election officials and new restrictions on mail voting in Republican-dominated states. County election officials have faced pressure to ban the use of voting equipment, efforts generated by conspiracy theories that voting machines were somehow manipulated to steal the election.
Candidates who dispute Trump’s loss have been inspired to run for state and local election posts, promising to restore integrity to a system that has been undermined by false claims.
There is no evidence of any widespread fraud or manipulation of voting machines. Judges, including ones appointed by Trump, dismissed dozens of lawsuits filed after the election, and Trump’s own attorney general called the claims bogus. Yet Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research polling has shown about two-thirds of Republicans say they do not think President Biden was legitimately elected president.
This year, election officials face not only the continuing threat of foreign interference but also ransomware, politically motivated hackers and insider threats. Over the past year, security breaches have been reported at a small number of local election offices in which authorities are investigating whether office staff improperly accessed or provided improper access to sensitive voting technology.
In the weeks after President Donald J. Trump lost the 2020 election, the Fox Business host Lou Dobbs claimed to have “tremendous evidence” that voter fraud was to blame. That evidence never emerged but a new culprit in a supposed scheme to rig the election did: Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of election technology whose algorithms, Mr. Dobbs said, “were designed to be inaccurate.”
Maria Bartiromo, another host on the network, falsely stated that “Nancy Pelosi has an interest in this company.” Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News personality, speculated that “technical glitches” in Dominion’s software “could have affected thousands of absentee mail-in ballots.”
Those unfounded accusations are now among the dozens cited in Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against the Fox Corporation, which alleges that Fox repeatedly aired false, far-fetched and exaggerated allegations about Dominion and its purported role in a plot to steal votes from Mr. Trump.
civil and criminal investigations across the country into his business dealings and political activities. Here is a look at some notable cases:
The Trump Investigations
Jan. 6 investigations. In a series of public hearings, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack laid out a powerful account of Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. This evidence could allow federal prosecutors, who are conducting a parallel criminal investigation, to indict Mr. Trump.
The Trump Investigations
Georgia election interference case. Mr. Trump himself is under scrutiny in Georgia, where the district attorney of Fulton County has been investigating whether he and others criminally interfered with the 2020 election in the state. This case could pose the most immediate legal peril for the former president and his associates.
The case has caused palpable unease at the Fox News Channel, said several people there, who would speak only anonymously. Anchors and executives have been preparing for depositions and have been forced to hand over months of private emails and text messages to Dominion, which is hoping to prove that network employees knew that wild accusations of ballot rigging in the 2020 election were false. The hosts Steve Doocy, Dana Perino and Shepard Smith are among the current and former Fox personalities who either have been deposed or will be this month.
Dominion is trying to build a case that aims straight at the top of the Fox media empire and the Murdochs. In court filings and depositions, Dominion lawyers have laid out how they plan to show that senior Fox executives hatched a plan after the election to lure back viewers who had switched to rival hard-right networks, which were initially more sympathetic than Fox was to Mr. Trump’s voter-fraud claims.
Libel law doesn’t protect lies. But it does leave room for the media to cover newsworthy figures who tell them. And Fox is arguing, in part, that’s what shields it from liability. Asked about Dominion’s strategy to place the Murdochs front and center in the case, a Fox Corporation spokesman said it would be a “fruitless fishing expedition.” A spokeswoman for Fox News said it was “ridiculous” to claim, as Dominion does in the suit, that the network was chasing viewers from the far-right fringe.
Fox is expected to dispute Dominion’s estimated self-valuation of $1 billion and argue that $1.6 billion is an excessively high amount for damages, as it has in a similar defamation case filed by another voting machine company, Smartmatic.
A spokesman for Dominion declined to comment. In its initial complaint, the company’s lawyers wrote that “The truth matters,” adding, “Lies have consequences.”
denied a motion from Fox that would have excluded the parent Fox Corporation from the case — a much larger target than Fox News itself. That business encompasses the most profitable parts of the Murdoch American media portfolio and is run directly by Rupert Murdoch, 91, who serves as chairman, and his elder son, Lachlan, the chief executive.
Soon after, Fox replaced its outside legal team on the case and hired one of the country’s most prominent trial lawyers — a sign that executives believe that the chances the case is headed to trial have increased.
Dominion’s lawyers have focused some of their questioning in depositions on the decision-making hierarchy at Fox News, according to one person with direct knowledge of the case, showing a particular interest in what happened on election night inside the network in the hours after it projected Mr. Trump would lose Arizona. That call short-circuited the president’s plan to prematurely declare victory, enraging him and his loyalists and precipitating a temporary ratings crash for Fox.
These questions have had a singular focus, this person said: to place Lachlan Murdoch in the room when the decisions about election coverage were being made. This person added that while testimony so far suggests the younger Murdoch did not try to pressure anyone at Fox News to reverse the call — as Mr. Trump and his campaign aides demanded the network do — he did ask detailed questions about the process that Fox’s election analysts had used after the call became so contentious.
The case was settled in 2017.
But Fox has also been searching for evidence that could, in effect, prove the Dominion conspiracy theories weren’t really conspiracy theories. Behind the scenes, Fox’s lawyers have pursued documents that would support numerous unfounded claims about Dominion, including its supposed connections to Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan dictator who died in 2013, and software features that were ostensibly designed to make vote manipulation easier.
According to court filings, the words and phrases that Fox has asked Dominion to search for in internal communications going back more than a decade include “Chavez” and “Hugo,” along with “tampered,” “backdoor,” “stolen” and “Trump.”
Eric Munchel of Tennessee, in which he is brandishing a shotgun, with Mr. Trump on a television in the background. The television is tuned to Fox Business.
But the hurdle Dominion must clear is whether it can persuade a jury to believe that people at Fox knew they were spreading lies.
“Disseminating ‘The Big Lie’ isn’t enough,” said RonNell Andersen Jones, a law professor and First Amendment scholar at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. “It has to be a knowing lie.”
Republican Secretary of State candidate for Colorado, Tina Peters, a county clerk and election denier who’s been indicted on criminal charges for tampering with voting machines, sings the National Anthem at her primary election night rally in Sedalia, Colorado, U.S., June 28, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt/File Photo
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DENVER, July 15 (Reuters) – A Colorado judge on Friday nixed an arrest warrant for a county clerk who was indicted on felony charges of tampering with voting equipment and then lost a bid for the Republican nomination to Colorado’s top election-management post.
Mesa County District Judge Matthew Barrett said he was giving Tina Peters a break because her lawyer took responsibility for not relaying to his client an order barring her from traveling out of state without the court’s approval. The ban was part of the terms of her bail bond that permitted her pre-trial release from jail in March.
But Barrett warned Peters, who flew to Las Vegas this week to speak at a symposium of conservative law enforcement officers, during the 45-minute hearing that he would not be so lenient should it happen again.
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“She is a flight risk,” Barrett said. “She has resources and access to private jets.”
In March, Peters was indicted by a Colorado grand jury on election tampering charges stemming from an alleged breach of Mesa County’s voting equipment. She has been barred by Colorado’s secretary of state from overseeing elections in the western Colorado county this year.
According to the 10-count indictment, which included charges of criminal impersonation, conspiracy, identity theft and official misconduct, Peters gave unauthorized personnel access to the county’s election computer server.
The case gained national attention in part because Peters was outspoken in her support for former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged against him.
Peters has denied any wrongdoing and blamed her legal troubles on her political adversaries, including Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat.
Undaunted by her indictment, Peters sought the Republican nomination to challenge Griswold, who is up for re-election in November. But Peters, who was permitted to travel outside Colorado while she was a candidate for statewide office, lost the Republican primary last month.
Peters is due back in court on Aug. 5.
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Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and Leslie Adler
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, made securing the 2020 U.S. election a top priority. He met regularly with an election team, which included more than 300 people from across his company, to prevent misinformation from spreading on the social network. He asked civil rights leaders for advice on upholding voter rights.
The core election team at Facebook, which was renamed Meta last year, has since been dispersed. Roughly 60 people are now focused primarily on elections, while others split their time on other projects. They meet with another executive, not Mr. Zuckerberg. And the chief executive has not talked recently with civil rights groups, even as some have asked him to pay more attention to the midterm elections in November.
Safeguarding elections is no longer Mr. Zuckerberg’s top concern, said four Meta employees with knowledge of the situation. Instead, he is focused on transforming his company into a provider of the immersive world of the metaverse, which he sees as the next frontier of growth, said the people, who were not authorized to speak publicly.
hearings on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot have underlined how precarious elections can be. And dozens of political candidates are running this November on the false premise that former President Donald J. Trump was robbed of the 2020 election, with social media platforms continuing to be a key way to reach American voters.
2000 Mules,” a film that falsely claims the 2020 election was stolen from Mr. Trump, was widely shared on Facebook and Instagram, garnering more than 430,000 interactions, according to an analysis by The New York Times. In posts about the film, commenters said they expected election fraud this year and warned against using mail-in voting and electronic voting machines.
$44 billion sale to Elon Musk, three employees with knowledge of the situation said. Mr. Musk has suggested that he wants fewer rules about what can and cannot be posted on the service.
barred Mr. Trump from its platforms after the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has worked over the years to limit political falsehoods on its sites. Tom Reynolds, a Meta spokesman, said the company had “taken a comprehensive approach to how elections play out on our platforms since before the U.S. 2020 elections and through the dozens of global elections since then.”
recently raised doubts about the country’s electoral process. Latvia, Bosnia and Slovenia are also holding elections in October.
“People in the U.S. are almost certainly getting the Rolls-Royce treatment when it comes to any integrity on any platform, especially for U.S. elections,” said Sahar Massachi, the executive director of the think tank Integrity Institute and a former Facebook employee. “And so however bad it is here, think about how much worse it is everywhere else.”
Facebook’s role in potentially distorting elections became evident after 2016, when Russian operatives used the site to spread inflammatory content and divide American voters in the U.S. presidential election. In 2018, Mr. Zuckerberg testified before Congress that election security was his top priority.
banning QAnon conspiracy theory posts and groups in October 2020.
Around the same time, Mr. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated $400 million to local governments to fund poll workers, pay for rental fees for polling places, provide personal protective equipment and cover other administrative costs.
The week before the November 2020 election, Meta also froze all political advertising to limit the spread of falsehoods.
But while there were successes — the company kept foreign election interference off the platform — it struggled with how to handle Mr. Trump, who used his Facebook account to amplify false claims of voter fraud. After the Jan. 6 riot, Facebook barred Mr. Trump from posting. He is eligible for reinstatement in January.
Frances Haugen, a Facebook employee turned whistle-blower, filed complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission accusing the company of removing election safety features too soon after the 2020 election. Facebook made growth and engagement its priorities over security, she said.
fully realized digital world that exists beyond the one in which we live. It was coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash,” and the concept was further explored by Ernest Cline in his novel “Ready Player One.”
The future. Many people in tech believe the metaverse will herald an era in which our virtual lives will play as important a role as our physical realities. Some experts warn that it could still turn out to be a fad or even dangerous.
Mr. Zuckerberg no longer meets weekly with those focused on election security, said the four employees, though he receives their reports. Instead, they meet with Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs.
Several civil right groups said they had noticed Meta’s shift in priorities. Mr. Zuckerberg isn’t involved in discussions with them as he once was, nor are other top Meta executives, they said.
“I’m concerned,” said Derrick Johnson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who talked with Mr. Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Meta’s chief operating officer, ahead of the 2020 election. “It appears to be out of sight, out of mind.” (Ms. Sandberg has announced that she will leave Meta this fall.)
wrote a letter to Mr. Zuckerberg and the chief executives of YouTube, Twitter, Snap and other platforms. They called for them to take down posts about the lie that Mr. Trump won the 2020 election and to slow the spread of election misinformation before the midterms.
Yosef Getachew, a director at the nonprofit public advocacy organization Common Cause, whose group studied 2020 election misinformation on social media, said the companies had not responded.
“The Big Lie is front and center in the midterms with so many candidates using it to pre-emptively declare that the 2022 election will be stolen,” he said, pointing to recent tweets from politicians in Michigan and Arizona who falsely said dead people cast votes for Democrats. “Now is not the time to stop enforcing against the Big Lie.”
BRASÍLIA — The conference hall was packed, with a crowd of more than 1,000 cheering attacks on the press, the liberals and the politically correct. There was Donald Trump Jr. warning that the Chinese could meddle in the election, a Tennessee congressman who voted against certifying the 2020 vote, and the president complaining about voter fraud.
In many ways, the September gathering looked like just another CPAC, the conservative political conference. But it was happening in Brazil, most of it was in Portuguese and the president at the lectern was Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s right-wing leader.
Fresh from their assault on the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, former President Donald J. Trump and his allies are exporting their strategy to Latin America’s largest democracy, working to support Mr. Bolsonaro’s bid for re-election next year — and helping sow doubt in the electoral process in the event that he loses.
pillow executive being sued for defaming voting-machine makers.
academics, Brazil’s electoral officials and the U.S. government, all have said that there has not been fraud in Brazil’s elections. Eduardo Bolsonaro has insisted there was. “I can’t prove — they say — that I have fraud,” he said in South Dakota. “So, OK, you can’t prove that you don’t.”
Mr. Trump’s circle has cozied up to other far-right leaders, including in Hungary, Poland and the Philippines, and tried to boost rising nationalist politicians elsewhere. But the ties are the strongest, and the stakes perhaps the highest, in Brazil.
WhatsApp groups for Bolsonaro supporters recently began circulating the trailer for a new series from Fox News host Tucker Carlson that sympathizes with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Mr. Nemer said. The United States, which has been a democracy for 245 years, withstood that attack. Brazil passed its constitution in 1988 after two decades under a military dictatorship.
advised President Bolsonaro to respect the democratic process.
In October, 64 members of Congress asked President Biden for a reset in the United States’ relationship with Brazil, citing President Bolsonaro’s pursuit of policies that threaten democratic rule. In response, Brazil’s ambassador to the United States defended President Bolsonaro, saying debate over election security is normal in democracies. “Brazil is and will continue to be one of the world’s freest countries,” he said.
Unemployment and inflation have risen. He has been operating without a political party for two years. And Brazil’s Supreme Court and Congress are closing in on investigations into him, his sons and his allies.
Late last month, a Brazil congressional panel recommended that President Bolsonaro be charged with “crimes against humanity,” asserting that he intentionally let the coronavirus tear through Brazil in a bid for herd immunity. The panel blamed his administration for more than 100,000 deaths.
Minutes after the panel voted, Mr. Trump issued his endorsement. “Brazil is lucky to have a man such as Jair Bolsonaro working for them,” he said in a statement. “He is a great president and will never let the people of his great country down!”
“They say he’s the Donald Trump of South America,” Mr. Trump said in 2019. “I like him.”
To many others, Mr. Bolsonaro was alarming. As a congressman and candidate, he had waxed poetic about Brazil’s military dictatorship, which tortured its political rivals. He said he would be incapable of loving a gay son. And he said a rival congresswoman was too ugly to be raped.
Three months into his term, President Bolsonaro went to Washington. At his welcome dinner, the Brazilian embassy sat him next to Mr. Bannon. At the White House later, Mr. Trump and Mr. Bolsonaro made deals that would allow the Brazilian government to spend more with the U.S. defense industry and American companies to launch rockets from Brazil.
announced Eduardo Bolsonaro would represent South America in The Movement, a right-wing, nationalist group that Mr. Bannon envisioned taking over the Western world. In the news release, Eduardo Bolsonaro said they would “reclaim sovereignty from progressive globalist elitist forces.”
pacts to increase commerce. American investors plowed billions of dollars into Brazilian companies. And Brazil spent more on American imports, including fuel, plastics and aircraft.
Now a new class of companies is salivating over Brazil: conservative social networks.
Gettr and Parler, two Twitter clones, have grown rapidly in Brazil by promising a hands-off approach to people who believe Silicon Valley is censoring conservative voices. One of their most high-profile recruits is President Bolsonaro.
partly funded by Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese billionaire who is close with Mr. Bannon. (When Mr. Bannon was arrested on fraud charges, he was on Mr. Guo’s yacht.) Parler is funded by Rebekah Mercer, the American conservative megadonor who was Mr. Bannon’s previous benefactor.
Understand the Claim of Executive Privilege in the Jan. 6. Inquiry
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A key issue yet untested. Donald Trump’s power as former president to keep information from his White House secret has become a central issue in the House’s investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Amid an attempt by Mr. Trump to keep personal records secret and a move to hold Stephen K. Bannon in contempt of Congress, here’s a breakdown of executive privilege:
What is executive privilege? It is a power claimed by presidents under the Constitution to prevent the other two branches of government from gaining access to certain internal executive branch information, especially confidential communications involving the president or among his top aides.
What is Trump’s claim? Former President Trump has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the disclosure of White House files related to his actions and communications surrounding the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. He argues that these matters must remain a secret as a matter of executive privilege.
Is Trump’s privilege claim valid? The constitutional line between a president’s secrecy powers and Congress’s investigative authority is hazy. Though a judge rejected Mr. Trump’s bid to keep his papers secret, it is likely that the case will ultimately be resolved by the Supreme Court.
Is executive privilege an absolute power? No. Even a legitimate claim of executive privilege may not always prevail in court. During the Watergate scandal in 1974, the Supreme Court upheld an order requiring President Richard M. Nixon to turn over his Oval Office tapes.
May ex-presidents invoke executive privilege? Yes, but courts may view their claims with less deference than those of current presidents. In 1977, the Supreme Court said Nixon could make a claim of executive privilege even though he was out of office, though the court ultimately ruled against him in the case.
Is Steve Bannon covered by executive privilege? This is unclear. If any contempt finding against Mr. Bannon evolves into legal action, it would raise the novel legal question of whether or how far a claim of executive privilege may extend to communications between a president and an informal adviser outside of the government.
What is contempt of Congress? It is a sanction imposed on people who defy congressional subpoenas. Congress can refer contempt citations to the Justice Department and ask for criminal charges. Mr. Bannon could be held in contempt if he refuses to comply with a subpoena that seeks documents and testimony.
Companies like Gettr and Parler could prove critical to President Bolsonaro. Like Mr. Trump, he built his political movement with social media. But now Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are more aggressively policing hate speech and misinformation. They blocked Mr. Trump and have started cracking down on President Bolsonaro. Last month, YouTube suspended his channel for a week after he falsely suggested coronavirus vaccines could cause AIDS.
In response, President Bolsonaro has tried to ban the companies from removing certain posts and accounts, but his policy was overturned. Now he has been directing his supporters to follow him elsewhere, including on Gettr, Parler and Telegram, a messaging app based in Dubai.
He will likely soon have another option. Last month, Mr. Trump announced he was starting his own social network. The company financing his new venture is partly led by Luiz Philippe de Orleans e Bragança, a Brazilian congressman and Bolsonaro ally.
said the rioters’ efforts were weak. “If it were organized, they would have taken the Capitol and made demands,” he said.
The day after the riot, President Bolsonaro warned that Brazil was “going to have a worse problem” if it didn’t change its own electoral systems, which rely on voting machines without paper backups. (Last week, he suddenly changed his tune after announcing that he would have Brazil’s armed forces monitor the election.)
Diego Aranha, a Brazilian computer scientist who studies the country’s election systems, said that Brazil’s system does make elections more vulnerable to attacks — but that there has been no evidence of fraud.
“Bolsonaro turned a technical point into a political weapon,” he said.
President Bolsonaro’s American allies have helped spread his claims.
At the CPAC in Brazil, Donald Trump Jr. told the audience that if they didn’t think the Chinese were aiming to undermine their election, “you haven’t been watching.” Mr. Bannon has called President Bolsonaro’s likely opponent, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a “transnational, Marxist criminal” and “the most dangerous leftist in the world.” Mr. da Silva served 18 months in prison but his corruption charges were later tossed out by a Supreme Court justice.
Eduardo Bolsonaro’s slide show detailing claims of Brazilian voter fraud, delivered in South Dakota, was broadcast by One America News, a conservative cable network that reaches 35 million U.S. households. It was also translated into Portuguese and viewed nearly 600,000 times on YouTube and Facebook.
protest his enemies in the Supreme Court and on the left.
The weekend before, just down the road from the presidential palace, Mr. Bolsonaro’s closest allies gathered at CPAC. Eduardo Bolsonaro and the American Conservative Union, the Republican lobbying group that runs CPAC, organized the event. Eduardo Bolsonaro’s political committee mostly financed it. Tickets sold out.
a fiery speech. Then he flew to São Paulo, where he used Mr. Miller’s detainment as evidence of judicial overreach. He told the crowd he would no longer recognize decisions from a Supreme Court judge.
He then turned to the election.
“We have three alternatives for me: Prison, death or victory,” he said. “Tell the bastards I’ll never be arrested.”
Leonardo Coelho and Kenneth P. Vogel contributed reporting.
Fox News Media, the Rupert Murdoch-controlled cable group, filed a motion on Tuesday to dismiss a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought against it in March by Dominion Voting Systems, an election technology company that accused Fox News of propagating lies that ruined its reputation after the 2020 presidential election.
The Dominion lawsuit, along with a similar defamation claim brought in February by another election company, Smartmatic, have been widely viewed as test cases in a growing legal effort to battle disinformation in the news media. And it is another byproduct of former President Donald J. Trump’s baseless attempts to undermine President Biden’s clear victory.
In a 61-page response filed in Delaware Superior Court, the Fox legal team argues that Dominion’s suit threatened the First Amendment powers of a news organization to chronicle and assess newsworthy claims in a high-stakes political contest.
“A free press must be able to report both sides of a story involving claims striking at the core of our democracy,” Fox says in the motion, “especially when those claims prompt numerous lawsuits, government investigations and election recounts.” The motion adds: “The American people deserved to know why President Trump refused to concede despite his apparent loss.”
Charles Babcock, who has a background in media law, and Scott Keller, a former chief counsel to Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas. Fox has also filed to dismiss the Smartmatic suit; that defense is being led by Paul D. Clement, a former solicitor general under President George W. Bush.
“There are two sides to every story,” Mr. Babcock and Mr. Keller wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “The press must remain free to cover both sides, or there will be a free press no more.”
a novel tactic in the battle over disinformation, but proponents say the strategy has shown some early results. The conservative news outlet Newsmax apologized last month after a Dominion employee, in a separate legal case, accused the network of spreading baseless rumors about his role in the election. Fox Business canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight” a day after Smartmatic sued Fox in February and named Mr. Dobbs as a co-defendant.
The conservative news outlet Newsmax formally apologized on Friday for spreading baseless allegations that an employee of Dominion Voting Systems had rigged voting machines in an effort to sink President Donald J. Trump’s bid for re-election last year.
In a statement posted on its website, Newsmax acknowledged that it had found “no evidence” for the conspiracy theories advanced by Mr. Trump’s lawyers, supporters and others that the employee, Eric Coomer, had manipulated Dominion voting machines, voting software and the final vote counts in the election.
“On behalf of Newsmax, we would like to apologize for any harm that our reporting of the allegations against Dr. Coomer may have caused to Dr. Coomer and his family,” the statement said.
Mr. Coomer, director of product strategy and security for Dominion, sued Newsmax and several pro-Trump figures in December, after he had been roundly vilified in the right-wing media sphere. In his lawsuit, which also names the Trump campaign, Rudolph W. Giuliani and the One America News Network, Mr. Coomer claimed that he had suffered harm to his reputation, emotional distress, anxiety and lost earnings as false accusations spread throughout the pro-Trump world that he was plotting to rig the election.
posted a photo of Mr. Coomer on Twitter, alongside the false claim that Mr. Coomer had said he would ensure a Biden victory. Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, said at a news conference that Mr. Coomer was a “vicious, vicious man” who was “close to antifa,” the lawsuit said.
And Sidney Powell, who was also one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, replied, “Yes, it’s true,” on Newsmax when she was asked if Mr. Coomer had said, “Don’t worry about President Trump, I already made sure that he’s going to lose the election,” according to the lawsuit.
As a result, Mr. Coomer received an onslaught of offensive messages, harassment and death threats, according to the lawsuit, which names Ms. Powell as a defendant.
“These fabrications and attacks against me have upended my life, forced me to flee my home, and caused my family and loved ones to fear for my safety, and I fear for theirs,” Mr. Coomer wrote in an opinion column published in The Denver Post in December.
a statement renouncing a number of false claims about Dominion and Smartmatic, another election technology company that had become the focus of conspiracy theories. The statement came after Smartmatic said it had sent Newsmax legal notices and letters demanding retractions for publishing “false and defamatory statements.”
Newsmax’s statement acknowledged that “no evidence has been offered that Dominion or Smartmatic used software or reprogrammed software that manipulated votes in the 2020 election.”
In February, a Newsmax host, Bob Sellers, cut off Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow and a vociferous Trump supporter, when he began attacking Dominion on air. As Mr. Lindell continued to talk, Mr. Sellers read a prepared statement saying the election results had been certified in every state.
“Newsmax accepts the results as legal and final,” Mr. Sellers said. “The courts have also supported that view.”