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‘A red light blinking’: Watchdog thrashes Trump, Biden administrations for Afghanistan failures

Politico -

John Sopko has been the bearer of bad news in Afghanistan for nearly 10 years. So when President Ashraf Ghani’s government collapsed in August 2021, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction was not surprised, he told POLITICO in an interview.

Sopko’s team, charged by Congress with providing independent oversight of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, repeatedly warned in quarterly reports leading up to Kabul’s fall of significant challenges facing the Afghan national defense and security forces. Due to its dependence on the U.S. military and contractors, the decision to withdraw this support destroyed the Afghan military’s morale.

Once the decision was made to pull the last Americans from Afghanistan, collapse was “inevitable,” Sopko said.

“There was a red light blinking on Afghanistan for years saying ‘watch out,’” Sopko said. “Once the morale collapsed, that was it.”

Sopko’s latest interim report, out Wednesday, is the first U.S. government report on how and why the Afghan security force crumbled — and it pulls no punches. The report unequivocally calls out former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden for their decisions to withdraw U.S. military and critical contractor support from Afghanistan, calling this “the single most important factor” in the military’s collapse.

“We built that army to run on contractor support. Without it, it can’t function. Game over,” one former U.S. commander in Afghanistan told Sopko’s office, according to the report. “When the contractors pulled out, it was like we pulled all the sticks out of the Jenga pile and expected it to stay up.”

The IG offered the Pentagon, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development the opportunity to review and comment on the interim report. The Pentagon provided verbal comments, some of which the IG incorporated into the report. The State Department declined to comment and USAID did not provide comments.

The U.S.-Taliban agreement under Trump and subsequent announcement that the U.S. military would withdraw by May 2021 had a devastating effect on the Afghan military’s morale and was a “catalyst” for its collapse, the report states. One former Afghan commander told the IG that the agreement’s “psychological impact” was such that many soldiers “switched to survival mode.”

The release of 5,000 Taliban fighters in the summer and fall of 2020 further demoralized the Afghan military and helped regenerate the Taliban’s combat power, according to the report.

“We tend to think of the Afghan military as, ‘Oh, they didn’t do any fighting,’” Sopko told POLITICO. “No — a lot of them fought and died.”

The withdrawal agreement, parts of which “are believed to be contained in secret written and verbal agreements between U.S. and Taliban envoys,” introduced “tremendous uncertainty” into the U.S.-Afghan relationship, the report states. Afghan government officials were largely removed from the negotiations and struggled to understand its stipulations. The U.S. military never clearly communicated the specifics of its policy changes to the Ghani administration or army leadership, Afghan officials told Sopko’s office.

“The Taliban’s operations and tactics, however, suggested that they may have had a better understanding of new U.S. levels of support the United States was willing to provide to the ANDSF following the signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement,” the report states.

The Taliban “weaponized” the vacuum created by the lack of information, claiming they had a secret deal with the United States “for certain districts or provinces to be surrendered to them,” according to the report. This led many police officers, who had not been paid for months, to abandon their posts, which started “a cascading effect” and led to soldiers fleeing as well.

“As much as I hate giving the Taliban any credit for anything … they did a fantastic psychological operation against the poor soldiers who are out there in the field, who haven’t seen their pay, haven’t seen any weapons or air support for weeks,” Sopko said.

Another crucial factor that contributed to low morale was the decision to suddenly reduce the number of U.S. airstrikes supporting the Afghan military, the report says. The United States conducted 7,423 airstrikes in 2019 — the most since at least 2009. But the next year the number of airstrikes dropped to 1,631, with almost half occurring in the two months before the U.S.-Taliban agreement.

“Overnight … 98 percent of U.S. airstrikes had ceased,” a former commander of Afghanistan’s Joint Special Operations Command told Sopko’s office.

The report notes that “under the U.S.-Taliban agreement’s rules, U.S. aircraft could not target the Taliban groups that were waiting more than 500 meters away—the groups ‘beyond the contact’ that would engage in the second, third, or fourth wave to defeat the last ANDSF units.” A senior Afghan official told investigators this was “a loophole that the Taliban used in their targeting to their advantage.”

On the ground, Afghan troops never knew if or when U.S. forces would come to their defense. One former Afghan general told the IG that the U.S. military “took on the role of a referee and watched” the fight, something the general referred to as “a sick game.”

Low salaries, poor logistics that led to food, water and ammunition shortages, corrupt commanders who “colluded with contractors to skim off food and fuel contracts,” and “lack of ANDSF buy-in with the Afghan central government” all contributed to the “morale crisis,” according to the report.

The report also highlights the effect of Biden’s April 2021 withdrawal announcement on Ghani’s government. One senior Afghan official told the IG that it was not until that declaration that Ghani’s inner circle realized the army “had no supply and logistics capability.”

The decision to withdraw on-site contract maintenance beginning in May 2021 led to a cascade of problems, including reducing aircraft availability. The Afghan security forces had stockpiles of U.S.-provided weapons and supplies “but did not have the logistics capability” to quickly move them.

Sopko’s report notes the impact on the fledgling Afghan air force, which had long struggled to sustain itself without U.S. help. The majority of U.S.-made UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, used for medical evacuations and to transport critical goods and equipment, were grounded shortly after the contractors left following Biden’s announcement, according to the report.

“As a result, Afghan soldiers in isolated bases were running out of ammunition or dying for lack of medical evacuation capabilities,” the report states.

The report further dings the U.S. military for creating a false sense of success among the Afghan security forces. They performed key activities — logistics, intelligence and maintenance, for example — knowing that the Afghans did not have the capability to do these missions alone, according to the report.

“The quest to withdraw from Afghanistan dominated the United States’ military strategy, but the U.S. wanted to ensure the ANDSF had the appearance of success,” the report concludes. “In essence, the U.S. created a false reality with the ANDSF.”

The interim report also delves into what went wrong at the highest levels of the Afghan government. After the U.S.-Taliban agreement, Ghani became paranoid that the U.S. wanted to remove him from power, and feared a military coup, according to the report. In the week before Kabul fell, Ghani replaced many young, U.S.-trained officers with an “old guard of Communist generals” he saw as loyal to him.

“The constant turnover weakened military chains of command, trust, and morale,” the report concludes. “Young, well-trained, educated, and professional ANDSF officers who grew up under U.S. tutelage were marginalized and their ties to the U.S. became a liability.”

Additionally, U.S. government officials, including members of Congress, also reinforced Ghani’s “misperceptions” that the withdrawal announcement was intended to “shape his behavior,” as opposed to being official U.S. policy, according to the IG report.

Overall, Sopko’s office concluded that the U.S. did not have a “realistic understanding” of the time required to build a “self-sustaining security sector,” something that took decades to develop in South Korea.

“Constantly changing and politically driven milestones for U.S. engagement undermined its ability to set realistic goals for building a capable and self-sustaining military and police force,” the report says. “Adapting a decades-long process to an unrealistically short timeline was reminiscent of the U.S. experiences in Vietnam.”

Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.

Abortion counteroffensive could buoy California Dems

Politico -

California's push to ensure abortion rights could also boost Democrats across the ballot.

The Supreme Court's draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will give Democratic candidates nationwide a clarifying issue to run on. But unlike most other states, California Democrats can deploy the state's storied ballot initiative system to drive voters to the polls — with a ballot measure that would enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution.

“There’s public outrage and confusion and people are scared, and all of those feelings you would expect would have an outcome in the coming election,” said Jodi Hicks, CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. “That’s exactly what we’re trying to do, is to turn that anger into action.”

That action could transform the contours of midterm elections, expanding California Democrats' margins in the statehouse and shoring up the national party's defense of its House majority. Control of Congress will hinge in part on a half-dozen California races where turnout could be the difference.

Incumbents are running on the issue: Rep. Katie Porter — drawn into a new district with a tiny Democratic registration edge and a large share of suburban women — has been on television frequently assailing the court's draft decision, predicting it would unleash "frustration and rage." Frontline Republican incumbents are already feeling the heat. After barely winning his Los Angeles district in 2022, Republican Rep. Mike Garcia is getting hammered over his abortion stance.

Newsom and legislative leaders in California — who had already begun positioning the state as a haven for people seeking abortions — wasted no time looking to bulletproof constitutional safeguards. Within days of POLITICO reporting that the high court had voted provisionally to overturn Roe, California Democrats announced they aimed to place a measure on the November ballot that would explicitly include the right to abortion in the state’s constitution. The idea grew out of an abortion council’s recommendations to prepare for an expected adverse ruling.

The effects of such an initiative could ripple beyond activating the party faithful. Californians of every party oppose overturning Roe, according to a recent statewide poll — including more than three-quarters of independent voters, a swing bloc that comprises about a fifth of the state’s electorate. It could also animate young voters, who tend to vanish in midterm elections, by giving them an urgent reason to go to the polls.

“I expect it will definitely galvanize Democratic voters to get out and vote, and perhaps not just Democratic voters but those who have no party preference,” said NARAL Pro-Choice California Director Shannon Olivieri Hovis.

That broad consensus on abortion means there is little upside for vulnerable California Republicans to highlight the issue. Most Republican voters would prefer to keep Roe in place. GOP leaders reacted to the Supreme Court news by accusing Democrats of distracting from more important economic issues.

That disinclination to engage exasperates the state’s small but passionate anti-abortion rights movement. “This is an opportunity Republicans are missing by using the ostrich, head-in-the-sand approach, by not talking about it at all,” said Karen England, head of the Capitol Resources Institute. “I think it’s going to hurt Republicans if we don’t start talking about how extreme the California Democrats are on this issue.”

Augmented Democratic turnout in California could give the party a bulwark in some key House races. Both parties are vying over a handful of swing seats that could help determine control of Congress.

Republican voters have so far reported far greater enthusiasm to turn out in November, reflecting a bleak political landscape for Democrats and the GOP’s perception of an open path back to power. President Joe Biden’s California poll numbers have sunk as voters are pinched by rising prices and pessimistic about an anemic economy. The emergence of abortion as a defining issue could narrow that gap.

“At a time when the economy is so-so at best,” said Public Policy Institute of California President Mark Baldassare, “how do you motivate the party in power? This is a reminder for Democratic voters that there is a reason to vote, especially in the House elections.”

Political strategists for both parties have long sought to juice turnout with ballot measures intended to galvanize their base. That was the strategy behind a 2018 gas tax repeal measure funded by prominent California House Republicans. Now Democrats have a cause for 2022 — even if it is a fight they’d rather not see reopened.

“I know that political people search for reasons to drive turnout,” said California Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), who has reshuffled her caucus’ agenda to move the initiative to the ballot by an end-of-June deadline. “On this particular issue, I’d rather be looking at still trying to find what would bring out the voters.”

California has a recent case study in the political potency of abortion. Newsom crushed a recall attempt last year in part by playing up his contrast on the issue with Republican frontrunner Larry Elder, who strenuously opposed abortion rights. Allies like Planned Parenthood helped the governor amplify the message, and now Newsom is running an abortion-focused ad as he seeks reelection this year.

The key to successfully defeating the recall, Newsom adviser Sean Clegg said, was “to make it a choice.” The 2022 contest could allow Democrats to communicate a similarly stark contrast. Newsom has roughly $4 million in a ballot measure committee that he could deploy to boost the abortion amendment.

“No one wants to read a silver lining into this issue being alive and awakened the way it has, but I think it’s going to have a unique electoral impact,” Clegg said. “It’s going to create a counter-movement.”

California Democrats in swing districts are already hammering that message. Former Assemblymember Christy Smith ran an abortion-focused ad in her race against GOP Rep. Mike Garcia before POLITICO reported the Roe vote. Now Smith says she has seen a surge in volunteers and donations.

“I think it was a wake-up for a lot of people who, rightly so, have been recovering still from Covid and what has been a challenging economy,” Smith said. “This was an issue that said we still have these big fights ahead of us well.”

Jena Griswold Wants To Restore Voters’ Faith in the System. But Have They Already Made Up Their Minds?

Politico -

Spring snowflakes floated outside wall-to-wall windows framing Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s downtown Denver office as she reached for one of her two cell phones. She was looking for a video in which MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, the Donald Trump ally and conspiracy theorist, accused her of murder.

“Jena Griswold is a criminal beyond all criminals,” said Lindell on his online show, the “Lindell Report,” which broadcasts on frankspeech.com, his face in one box on the screen adjacent to another with the face of his co-host Brannon Howse. “I got news for you, Jena, it’s too late, you already committed a murder and we caught you.”

The statement caught the attention of Howse, who paused from moving things around his desk and asked: “A murder? A murder? A murder?”

“It’s a para ... a ... a ... it’s an analogy,” Lindell responded.

This, Griswold says, is a large part of what has made her job so difficult over the past two years. “It seems fantastic, the fact that [Lindell] called me a murderer,” said Griswold, 37, the first Democrat to win secretary of state in Colorado in more than 50 years. “Except it generates tons of death threats.”

The baseless allegations drew further attention to the nation’s youngest state elections administrator after viewers retweeted a clip featuring Lindell’s comments about Griswold hundreds of times and a Newsweek","_id":"00000180-d3c7-d040-ad9f-dbcf2ba10000","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}">story about the incident appeared in Newsweek.

A decade or two ago, the office of a state-level secretary of state was barely visible to most Americans. One notable exception was in 2000, when the presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore came down to 537 votes and five weeks, and then-Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris was thrust into the national spotlight overnight. Today, while candidates for the office run partisan campaigns and those elected have official partisan affiliations, their responsibilities are designed to be nonpartisan and ministerial in nature. Most oversee elections and maintain voter registration files. That’s the more high-profile part of their job; they also keep records and ensure they are accessible to the public — everything from registration documents for charitable organizations to raffle licenses — and administer a number of laws impacting business and commerce.

That near-invisibility changed, though, in the aftermath of the 2020 election, when Donald Trump alleged the election had been stolen and realized whom he would need to help him prove it — or overturn the results.

In a phone conversation, Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.” Along with a number of other statements on the rigged election, the call, made after Trump’s own election officials deemed 2020 “the most secure election in history,” helped create and spread the idea that state and local officials posed an inside threat to the country’s election system.

After secretaries of state nationwide stood up to defend the election results, death threats against them and county clerks who directly administer elections multiplied. Colorado, transitioning from a purple to a blue state and widely considered a model for its universal mail ballot system, quickly became a target for election deniers.

Griswold in particular made a name for herself as a no-holds-barred administrator in 2020, when she pushed back on election disinformation on national TV and challenged Trump on Twitter about assertions that mail ballots were less secure.

In a September 2020 appearance on Anderson Cooper’s prime time CNN show, she pushed back on allegations by Trump that mail ballots were ripe for voter fraud because several were found in the trash in a few states. “I really do believe this is a political stunt,” she added. “I want to underline how dangerous this is for the nation — we have a president who is not committing to respect the outcomes of our elections.”

Now chair of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, Griswold wasn’t just getting more attention and media appearances as her profile grew. Violent threats against the former voter protection attorney and her office also started to tick up in 2021. At one point, there were so many death threats her staff lost count. As the midterms approach, they are mounting once more.

Now, she’s running for reelection, and in what has become one of Colorado's strangest political fights, she’s found herself in a kind of war with a county clerk who is facing criminal charges for allegedly compromising voting equipment and election security. Griswold went to court and successfully barred Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters from overseeing both the 2021 election and this year’s midterms. Peters, whose campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment, is now running to unseat her.

The race is poised to answer questions about the future of the office of secretary of state in Colorado and the U.S. What does it mean for the country when many Americans think the person overseeing elections in their state is guided more by their partisan affiliation than by the nonpartisan requirements of the job? And when that happens, can the damage be reversed?

“The real question is, what will happen then?” said Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser at the Democracy Fund, a nonpartisan foundation that works to strengthen elections. “Will it motivate voters to turn out and vote for individuals who are nonpartisan, or on the other end of the spectrum, will it cause voters to throw up their hands in disgust and stay home?”

With no election administration experience, Griswold defeated Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams in 2018 on promises to fight special interests and expand voting access. One story she liked to tell during that campaign was about the cabin she grew up in near Estes Park with an outhouse and how she began work the summer after seventh grade to supplement her family’s income. “I literally sold my car that had broken down for a plane ticket to go out to Philadelphia to law school,” she said.

Once there, Griswold couldn’t afford electricity to heat her apartment, forcing her to take a “piping hot shower” each evening and don three layers of sweats to stay warm.

Her straight-talking charisma attracted loyal volunteers, many of whom are now campaigning for her reelection. “I was texting for her at my daughter’s wedding,” said Sue Felton, 72, at a recent Democratic assembly meeting in Denver, where Griswold doled out hugs to delegates, supporters and elected officials. “The first time I ever heard her speak was at a house party where she said she would work to make sure ‘every eligible Coloradan was registered to vote, whether Democrat, Republican or unaffiliated.’” She was elected in 2018 with 51 percent of the vote.

Then came the 2020 election, when secretaries of state across the country were pulled into politics. Like Griswold, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson have become targets of proponents of the false claim that President Joe Biden stole the election. “Election officials continue to face regular harassment and threats to their lives,” Hobbs said in a January statement marking the one-year anniversary of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Dozens of armed protesters shouted obscenities and chanted into bullhorns outside Benson’s home as she and her son decorated for Christmas in December 2020, she wrote in a statement on Twitter.

Colorado’s Griswold oversees elections in a state where tensions run particularly high because of its deep divide between rural conservative voters and their liberal urban neighbors. She attracted the ire of conservatives both for public statements they deem as partisan and for her vocal support of election reforms that opponents fear will centralize power in her office by weakening county clerks’ oversight of elections.

Election watchers and some Republican county clerks who work with her say Griswold’s bold, confrontational style and ambitions for higher office make her appear more partisan that previous secretaries of state, who largely completed their duties behind the scenes.

“There is no doubt that she sees her position as a springboard to higher office,” wrote Eric Sondermann, a political columnist for ColoradoPolitics.com. “Her press releases are non-stop. She has a nose for divisive, polarizing issues and eagerly seizes upon them.”

Questions about Griswold’s political ambitions arose after she created an exploratory committee tasked with researching a run against Republican Sen. Cory Gardner six months after taking office in January 2019. She ultimately decided not to enter the race. She also doesn’t shy away from publicly backing issues important to her party — she testified in front of a state House committee this spring in favor of a bill that codifies the right to abortion in statute.

Her willingness to speak to national media has no doubt strengthened the impression that she has higher political ambitions, too. In the months after the 2020 election, as Trump’s charges of a stolen election swirled and as the country grappled with the fallout from the Jan. 6 insurrection, Griswold appeared frequently on CNN and MSNBC.

She discussed with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow how Mesa County clerk Peters allegedly compromised voting equipment, an act that ultimately forced Griswold to decertify the county’s voting machines. In an appearance earlier this year, MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle asked her about how she can ensure there is a “safe and secure election” in her state after Republican lawmakers in the state’s General Assembly proposed thanking Jan. 6 protestors.

“There are great people on both sides of the political divide who work in election administration,” Griswold answered, “but we are seeing President Trump and his extremism take over.”

She continued: “It’s going to be very important for voters to pay attention to who is running for local election officials and secretaries of state, because we cannot allow people who do not believe in the right to vote to oversee elections or administer them.”

There are times in these interviews when the line between a pro-voting statement and campaign promotion get blurrier. In a February interview on CBS News, Griswold urged viewers to go to her reelection campaign website after discussing Peters’ announcement that she would run for secretary of state.

“She has squandered her credibility, squandered the presumption of fairness and objectivity as secretary of state,” said Dick Wadhams, a Republican political consultant. “We’ve never had a secretary of state like that in Colorado before.”

Other election officials disagreed, saying Griswold is merely defending her office, and democracy, against conspiracy theorists. “The secretary of state’s office has become more politicized not because of what Jena has done, but because of the ‘Big Lie,’” said Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz, Pueblo County clerk and recorder, a Democrat and president of the state’s county clerks association. “I don’t think that politicization is on her; it’s on the people who believe in the ‘Big Lie.’”

Griswold is also challenging the false claim that Biden stole the election in her work as chair of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State. She hired full-time staff for the first time in its history, and the group set a fundraising goal of $15 million for this election cycle, about eight times more than it raised in 2019 and 2020.

Now, four years after her election, the spotlight on her office is far brighter and far harsher than she could have imagined. The debate over election security and safety in Colorado reached such a fever pitch that Griswold, who favors blazers in jewel tones, is recognized as she walks down the street. But that’s not the only cost of having a higher profile.

“I have received a constant barrage of threats like, ‘What is your neck size?’; ‘Your dog is going to be wondering where you went’; ‘We know what you did and we are coming for you,’” testified Griswold at a March state Senate committee hearing for a bill that would increase law enforcement protection for statewide elected officials, including herself. The bill passed out of the General Assembly.

Election officials overall, 80 percent of whom are women, reported election misinformation makes their jobs more dangerous, according to a Brennan Center survey of nearly 600 workers.

The twin threats to election security and Griswold’s own safety left many of her staff of 145 working “around the clock” since 2020, she said in an interview. She joked wryly the stress caused thin gray strands to appear in her black hair.

Now, Griswold and other secretaries of state find themselves in a quandary; if they push back on these attacks — on themselves and the voting process in their states — with legislation, their responses are often seen as partisan, too.

Griswold’s office backed a slate of measures, including the law enforcement protection bill. For now, she relies on private guards paid for by her department’s cash fund. Her agenda also included bills that fortify security for poll workers, such as a “Vote Without Fear Act.” The measure, signed recently by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, bans the carry of a concealed weapon within 100 feet of a drop box or voting center.

Another measure that makes it a crime to threaten an election worker passed the Legislature and is awaiting the governor’s signature. A controversial third bill makes it a felony to tamper with voting equipment and requires county clerks to keep such equipment in a room with video surveillance and keycard access and to complete an election certification program.

Most Republicans opposed the measure. “This bill is a blatant power grab by Democrat partisan hack Jena Griswold,” state Republican Party Chair Kristi Burton Brown wrote in an email urging voters to oppose the bill. “Jena is making another bold attempt to weaponize her office and centralize control over elections at the state level, taking power away from local officials who are elected by YOU, the people.”

The state’s county clerks supported the measure. They requested it be drafted to protect against insider threats after an unusual alleged crime by Mesa County Clerk Peters, who is the subject of local, state and federal investigations into election equipment tampering. The blowback from Peters’ alleged actions is affecting many of her colleagues, who say they spend a lot of time pushing back on election conspiracies and dealing with threats.

“The last couple of years have been a fantastic education for people who serve in these roles as election administrators,” said Matt Crane, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, which represents election officials in 64 counties. “Anything you do that can be seen as partisan undercuts your ability to do these jobs. Public confidence demands people be as neutral as possible.”

The 2022 race will also raise, and answer, the question of whether this damage can be reversed.

These questions over how a secretary of state should speak publicly about politics are on the ballot in the 2022 race. One of Griswold’s Republican opponents wants to dial back the politics of the office; the other will likely only amplify the dynamics that have transformed the office over the past couple of years.

Pam Anderson, a former Jefferson County clerk and now an elections consultant, is running on a campaign of taking the politics out of the office. Peters believes that the election was stolen in 2020, and she sees it as her mission to “fix what happened in 2020.”

The lengths to which she has already gone for that mission show how much the stolen election theory has destroyed trust in elections in America and Colorado specifically.

Peters was recently indicted on multiple felony and misdemeanor charges for allegedly tampering with voting equipment as part of a scheme to prove the election was stolen in Mesa County. The indictment describes a series of events that happened amid what is known as a “trusted build” in Colorado counties in spring 2021. A trusted build is a routine update of election machine software that usually happens in between elections.

What happened next is less clear and still under investigation. The indictment accuses her of allowing an unauthorized individual access to Mesa County’s election equipment hard drive. Some imagery of the trusted build was published online, along with passwords for Mesa County’s election system by Ron Watkins, former administrator of the 8kun message board, which promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory.

“They were going to destroy some files,” Peters said at a recent rally featuring her and Lindell on the steps of the gold-domed state Capitol in Denver. “So, I backed it up first.” Peters was presumably referring to concerns among some Trump supporters that the 2020 election was stolen by actors on the inside of election administration systems — people, for instance, like Griswold. When she launched her campaign in February, Peters pledged to “put an end to … corruption in the office of secretary of state.”

At the event, Peters cited a series of reports conducted by several computer consultants that she claimed show election records were improperly deleted from voting systems and wireless devices were connected to equipment, compromising security.

In a court filing, Griswold’s lawyers wrote “there is nothing further from the truth” in response to Peters’ contention that election records were destroyed during the “trusted build.” Such files are required to be maintained by county clerks for up to 25 months after an election, the secretary’s office said in a statement.

Griswold is also investigating a second county clerk for a breach of election security protocols.

On the Republican primary ballot, Peters will face Anderson and businessperson Mike O’Donnell. Anderson is taking a different tack from Peters and wants to spend less time talking about national politics and more time combating election disinformation, working with county clerks and rebuilding election integrity. “I would avoid any activity that would give the perception that I could not be fair,” she said. “I think Jena has utilized the office to promote herself, as well as political positions that don’t have a nexus to Colorado, and given people the ability to perceive her as more partisan and less fair.”

Griswold disagreed that politics dominates her rhetoric. She pointed to the fact that she asked Williams, her Republican predecessor, to oversee elections in Mesa County in 2021 after a judge ruled Peters couldn’t do so. She also underscored how most bills on her legislative agenda had bipartisan support.

Griswold is also emphasizing her record over the last four years to expand voting access and to strengthen election security and oversight. These are areas, she says, that are not about partisanship, but about ensuring all Coloradans can vote.

Given the disinformation that continues to riddle political campaigns in the year 2022, there might no longer be any part of government that isn’t “about partisanship” — even an office that is mostly about file keeping and election administering. And in Griswold’s case in particular — after years of death threats and conspiracy-mongering from her most zealous critics — it might be becoming too difficult to stay in the middle of the road.

“What we can expect from the Republicans in every swing state who are extremists is spreading the ‘Big Lie,’” Griswold said. “What we can expect from Democrats is standing up against security risks and making sure that Americans have their voices heard.

“I don’t think that is partisan — that is American.”

Democrats torn on corporate tax cut as child tax credit languishes

Politico -

Democrats’ bid to extend the child tax credit is stuck in the mud, and that is raising a politically touchy question for lawmakers: Can they still support tax cuts for businesses?

Some lawmakers think it’s possible to walk that line, and want to use a bill before Congress aimed at boosting competitiveness with China to help tech companies reduce their tax bills.

But some progressives are aghast at the prospect of passing what would be a major tax cut for corporations when the heart of their “reconciliation” agenda is going nowhere fast.

“It’s an insult to working people,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). “No tax cuts for corporations before we get tax cuts for working and middle class families.”

The brewing fight shows how Democrats’ reconciliation plans, firmly lodged in legislative limbo, continue to loom on Capitol Hill, shadowing and shaping the debate over even seemingly unrelated legislation with tax implications.

Democrats’ failure to extend their monthly child payment program — not to mention raise taxes on big companies — has left some wary of helping businesses, including on relatively uncontroversial issues.

Democrats actually supported the proposal in question — easing new restrictions that make it harder for tech companies to deduct their research expenses — as part of their reconciliation plan last year, although it attracted little notice.

But some say that was different because of the context: It was a package deal. Yes, companies got relief on the research write-offs but they would have also been subject to stiff increases in other taxes, and the plan included an extension of the child credit and other goodies for low- and middle-income people.

It’s a very different matter, some say, to now strip out the corporate benefit, pass it and leave the rest of Democrats’ plans hanging.

“There is a stark comparison being made [between helping families and businesses] which I think muddies the political waters,” said Andrew Grossman, a top Democratic tax aide at a recent conference sponsored by the DC Bar Association.

The issue is confronting lawmakers as they try to work out their differences on a bill designed to strengthen U.S. competition with China through various measures, such as promoting the domestic semiconductor industry. Lawmakers kicked off a rare conference committee late last week to work out differences between the House and Senate.

The bill appears to have a clear path to President Joe Biden’s desk, and that has the business community pressing lawmakers to use the opportunity to fix an issue Republicans created as part of their 2017 tax cuts.

For decades, companies had been allowed to immediately deduct the cost of their research expenditures.

To help defray the cost of their tax cuts, Republicans repealed those provisions and required businesses to instead spread those deductions over five years. The move was widely seen as a budget gimmick because the research provisions are among the most popular business tax breaks in the code.

Though the plan was approved as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the new rules didn’t take effect until this January, to the howls of many companies. Northrup Grumman told investors last month that the provisions would cost it $1 billion this year alone.

Many Democrats want to address the issue, with more than 40 in the Senate backing a nonbinding amendment by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) calling on lawmakers to deal with it on the semiconductor bill.

“There is overwhelming support for the R&D tax incentive,” she said. “This is one important way to help power our economy, outcompete countries like China, and keep the U.S. at the forefront of innovation.”

Twenty-nine House Democrats, along with 40 Republicans, signed a recent letter urging party leaders to fix the issue.

Some also hope to add other tax provisions to the measure, including a special new tax break to subsidize semiconductor production though that appears less likely.

It’s unclear how party leaders intend to handle the dispute.

They could decide not to include any tax issues in the China bill, figuring that’s too much of a can of worms. Some lawmakers have already raised concerns that inserting a tax title in the legislation could slow down its passage. Congress has not passed any tax legislation this year, and if party leaders allow some tax provisions, they could unleash pent-up demands from rank-and-file lawmakers to include many others as well.

Though Democrats have thin majorities in the House and Senate, it’s possible they won’t need progressives’ votes and can ignore their complaints — though that depends on what Republicans do.

Republicans could make up the difference in votes, though they are divided over the China measure, including whether it should include any tax provisions.

And some pushing the R&D provisions have begun quietly strategizing about how they might address progressives’ concerns about not having something to offer average voters.

It’s unrealistic to think lawmakers could pair the R&D provision with their long-sought expansion of the child credit, said one former top Senate Democratic aide, not least because of West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition. The child credit proposal is also far bigger than the research fix.

But perhaps lawmakers could twin that with smaller expansions of family-friendly tax breaks, like the Earned Income Tax Credit.

“Maybe it’s not the child tax credit but are there other family-related tax provisions that don’t cost $100 billion per year that might be a more even trade,” the former aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“People are thinking about whether there are more balanced trades where you’d take some of the venom out of the argument that we’re not doing anything for families.”

Opinion | Samuel Alito: One Angry Man

Politico -

It’s easy to caricature Justice Samuel Alito, author of the draft opinion striking down Roe v. Wade, as an arch-conservative. His relentlessly right-of-center votes tell as much. Likewise, his early, subtly disparaging nickname, “Scalito,” suggests he is a mere mini-me clone of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. But this sells short Alito, who will be a senior and guiding figure in the Supreme Court’s newly empowered conservative bloc.

For Alito is not just a conservative. He’s not a consistent “originalist” in the vein of Scalia or Justice Clarence Thomas, only a “practical” one. The key to understanding Alito is not judicial philosophy or ardent conservativism: it’s his anger — an anger that resonates with the sentiments of many voters, especially white and male ones, who feel displaced by recent social and cultural changes. If you want to understand what to expect from the post-Roberts Court, paying attention to that anger pays dividends.

In both his public actions and his opinions, Alito has a confrontational, take-no-quarter approach. It offers a sharp contrast with his fellow Catholic, fellow alumnus of the executive branch and fellow former court-of-appeals-judge John Roberts. Partly this is a matter of each man drifting a different way over time — Roberts to the left in his role as a chief trying to steer his court, Alito to the right less tethered by commitment to the court as an institution. Yet that differing pattern of ideological change is also fueled by their distinct temperaments and bedrock beliefs.

In the popular imagination, Brett Kavanaugh is the angry justice — thanks to his searing opening statement at his 2018 confirmation hearing. But Kavanaugh’s reasoning on the bench is legalist, his tone measured, his scholarly interests running to the technical, even esoteric. Not so Alito: In the Dobbs draft, in his earlier abortion decisions, in his opinions on affirmative action and elsewhere, there is a starkly personal and emotional quality lacking in other justices. Roe is “egregiously wrong and deeply damaging.” Same-sex marriage should not be recognized as a constitutional right because such a decision “will be used to vilify Americans … unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” The hypothetical risk of critical, First-Amendment protected speech, for Alito, sufficed to deny the dignity of marital recognition to same-sex couples.

A seething and resentful anger can be traced to a tetchy 2006 confirmation hearing, from which his wife fled in theatrical tears. It registered during the first official State of the Union address delivered by a Black president, when Barack Obama’s comments on a campaign finance ruling caused Alito to visibly respond “not true.” When his female colleagues Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan have read opinions from the bench, Alito repeatedly would purse his lips, roll his eyes, and (again) mouth “no.” Perhaps Alito subjects white male antagonists to the same openly disdainful — and nakedly unjudicial — displays of contempt. But there is no public record to suggest as much.

Instead, Alito’s anger consistently sounds in a register of cultural decline, bemoaning the growing prominence of women and minorities in American life. Writing the majority opinion in Hobby Lobby, which endorsed a company’s right to deny employees contraception coverage, Alito waxed lyrically about the “men and women who wish to run their businesses as for-profit corporations in the manner required by their religious beliefs.” The women denied medical care that facilitates participation in the labor market, in contrast, weren’t a concern. Examining a Washington state regulation of pharmacists, Alito was quick to detect “hostility” to conservative religious beliefs. And in an opinion repudiating New Haven’s effort to promote more Black firefighters, Alito alone trawled the history of the case to complain about the role played by a Black pastor who was an ally of the city’s mayor and had “threatened a race riot.” Black involvement in municipal politics, for Alito, appears as a sinister threat to public order.

In stark contrast, when the charge of discrimination is made on behalf of racial or religious minorities, Alito expresses no such solicitude. He does not search for evidence of bias. Instead, he takes an impossibly narrow view of job-related discrimination that demands women somehow instinctively know they are being paid less than male counterparts. Despite his claim to a “just the facts ma’am” approach, Alito has a distinctively constricted take on what the “facts” are. To read his opinions is to inhabit a world in which it is white Christian men who are the principal targets of invidious discrimination, and where a traditional way of life marked by firm and clear gender rules is under attack.

When it comes to the criminal justice system, Alito is a reliable vote for the most punitive version of the state. In 2016, when the Supreme Court invalidated Florida’s death-penalty scheme on Sixth Amendment grounds, only Alito dissented. When the court, a year earlier, found a federal sentencing rule for armed offenders unconstitutionally vague, only Alito voted for the prosecution. It’s difficult to think of cases where Alito has voted for a criminal defendant, or any other litigant that elicits liberal sympathies.

Looking forward in anger, Alito’s voice anticipates and resonates with a growing constituency in the Republican Party. Political scientists such as Ashley Jardina call it “white identity politics.” Central to this worldview is a (false) conviction that whites are increasingly the victims of discrimination. Also important is a belief that speaking English, being Christian and being born in the United States are predicates to being American. Paradoxically, then, even as he wraps himself in the law’s cloak, Alito may well be that most democratic of judges: one who has power because his accent chimes with a growing political force in electoral politics.

Where might this anger lead? In November 2020, Alito gave a keynote speech to the conservative legal organization the Federalist Society. Much criticized at the time for its partisan tone “befitting a Trump rally,” in the words of one critic, those remarks are useful because they prefigure where a court on which Alito is a dominant voice might go.

In that speech, Alito criticized pandemic restrictions by bemoaning the rise of “scientific” policymaking. He complained about the “protracted campaign” and “economic boycotts” of Catholic groups and others with “unpopular religious beliefs” (self-identified Christians make up some 63 percent of the American populace). And he (falsely) warned of “morning after pills that destroy an embryo after fertilization.” If that speech is any guide — and there is no reason to think it won’t be — the future of the Supreme Court will be increasingly one of religious censor: keeping women in their lane, standing up for Christian rights, and making sure that uppity “scientists” in the federal government don’t get their wicked way.

'Beware what you wish for': 5 takeaways from a key primary night

Politico -

The blockbuster Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania is too close to call, and returns from Oregon are still filtering in.

But regardless of what else happens, progressives had a winning night, Madison Cawthorn revealed something new about the ‘Big Lie’ and Pennsylvania Democrats might want to be careful what they wish for.

Here are five takeaways from a primary night where there votes are still being counted.

Trump was also unelectable

State Sen. Doug Mastriano appears to have blown up GOP plans in Pennsylvania.

A far-right election denier and a leading force in the effort to overturn the 2020 election results, Mastriano is viewed by many Republican operatives as a liability in a critical swing state, likely headed for a thrashing in the suburbs in November. Some state Republicans are considering publicly supporting the Democratic nominee, Josh Shapiro, while the Republican Governors Association may not even put money into the race.

This, of course, is the matchup Democrats were rooting for. Shapiro was so sure Mastriano would be the easiest Republican to beat that he aired an ad designed to elevate Mastriano in the primary.

This is probably smart politics. Everything about Pennsylvania’s swing state electorate suggests Mastriano is a dead man walking.

Except for this: Lots of Republicans and Democrats alike felt exactly the same way about Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential primary, back when establishment Republicans were praying for anyone other than Trump to win the nomination and some of Hillary Clinton’s advisers were salivating over the prospect of running against Trump. The climate for Democrats in this midterm election year is no better than it was then. In fact, it’s worse. And Pennsylvania is a swing state for a reason. Trump only lost Pennsylvania by about 80,000 votes in 2020. He won the state four years earlier.

Carl Fogliani, a Republican strategist based in Pittsburgh, said late Tuesday that Democrats might “beware what you wish for.” And some Democrats are feeling the same way.

One Democratic strategist who advises major Democratic donors said Mastriano’s nomination is “the least bad thing” that Democrats could have hoped for in Pennsylvania.

But he said, “There is nothing about this cycle that’s good for Dems.”

Could Mastriano win?

The strategist said, “Absolutely.”

The limits of ‘Big Lie’ politics

The most surprising thing about Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s demise on Tuesday was not that he lost, but that he admitted it.

Of all the Republicans who have lost their primary contests this year, Cawthorn, a pro-Trump, scandal-plagued congressman from North Carolina, would have seemed a natural fit to try out a baseless claim of voter fraud in 2022. His race was fairly close. When he wasn’t talking about group sex and cocaine, he has complained about “rigged” elections before.

But on Tuesday, he didn’t. Instead, Cawthorn conceded.

It’s possible, as one Republican operative put it Tuesday, that “he just wants the pain to end.”

But there’s something potentially more important going on here, too. Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in 2020, while animating many far-right candidacies today, don't appear to be spreading down-ballot in the early primaries.

Yes, election truther-ism seems likely to resurface in November, when Republicans are running against Democrats, not other Republicans. But Trump’s fraud claims were never so constrained. He called for a do-over after losing the Iowa caucuses to Ted Cruz in 2016.

The other possibility is that Trump’s claims of a stolen election are available to him alone — a conceit not transferable to other Republicans at all.

After Cawthorn conceded on Tuesday, a Republican strategist working on House races across the country said that “without Trump egging it on, they don’t have the backup ammo to keep that message alive.”

Forget party loyalty. It’s all about Trump.

In the days before Trump endorsed Mastriano in Pennsylvania, Republicans terrified that Mastriano would sink them in November had hoped Trump might pick someone — anyone — else, blunting Mastriano’s rise.

They should have known better.

Trump is not the party building type, in the event that wasn't already clear. And that's certainly not the point of his sprinkling of endorsements in the midterm elections. He is rightfully taking credit for some Republicans’ victories, as in the North Carolina Senate race on Tuesday. But that isn’t as important for Trump, politically, as burnishing his win-loss record and nurturing adherents to his own cause. Ultimately, the outcome in November doesn’t matter.

In North Carolina, Trump’s support pulled Bo Hines, a 26-year-old who came out of nowhere, to a House primary victory. The endorsement was a show of Trump’s force, but some Republicans view Hines as a vulnerable general election candidate, and the endorsement infuriated some local Republicans who have toiled in the party vineyards for years.

In Idaho, where Trump’s endorsed candidate in the gubernatorial race, Janice McGeachin, lost badly on Tuesday, Trump’s needless intervention did nothing other than fuel an intraparty civil war. Same story in Georgia, which holds its primary next week.

Trump was not party building when he took his baseless claims of voter fraud to Georgia after the 2020 election, depressing turnout in two critical Senate runoffs that the GOP ultimately lost. The scores of new voters that Trump drew to the party was a massive boon to the GOP. But there's no certainty they'll be around for the long haul, or when Trump leaves the political scene. No one who loses the House, the Senate and the White House on his watch can be said to be committed to party building.

For Trump, the win-loss record in the primaries has become something close to an obsession. But it is designed to be a game that Trump cannot lose. As one Trump adviser said, even a primary loss is not a “loss-loss.” That’s because he’ll get another crack at it in November. He can always endorse a nominee then.

Progressives have a big night

John Fetterman was expected to win the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania for so long that it could be easy to overlook how big a win it was for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

And the evening got better after that.

In Oregon, first-time candidate Carrick Flynn, who had the support of the leadership-aligned House Majority PAC, conceded to Andrea Salinas, a progressive state lawmaker endorsed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), in the open 6th Congressional District. In the state’s 5th District, moderate incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) was trailing progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner by a wide margin with 46 percent of the expected vote in.

In Pennsylvania, Summer Lee was leading Steve Irwin by a razor-thin margin with 93 percent of the expected vote in.

In North Carolina, two progressives, Nida Allam and Erica Smith, went down in open seat House primaries. But even with those losses — and even if the results in Oregon and Pennsylvania turn — it will go down as a good night for the left.

At a minimum, they have Fetterman and Salinas. And in the Senate, the rest of the map was pretty promising for progressives as well. A night that produced Fetterman — and Charles Booker and Cheri Beasley in Kentucky and North Carolina, respectively — as Democratic Senate nominees is a night progressives can learn to love.

Next week comes another big test for the left — and one where internal polling suggests progressives are in a strong position. That’s in Texas, where supporters of Jessica Cisneros are rallying around the revelation of a Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, in an effort to unseat Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), an anti-abortion Democrat.

Governors are sticky

No one was going to pay much attention to Idaho, not with Pennsylvania and North Carolina voting on the same night.

But the Trump-backed effort to unseat incumbent Gov. Brad Little was a fairly good test of Trump-ism, its flop a demonstration of Trump's limits. Trump’s vehicle in Idaho, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, was far from a perfect candidate. But she had some credibility by virtue of her office. And she knew how to make a splash, using her power to issue executive orders, including banning mask mandates, when Little traveled out of state.

It wasn’t enough. In a state where Trump beat Biden by 30 percentage points and carried all but three counties in 2020, Little was crushing McGeachin when the race was called.

And it’s just a warmup. Next week, in a much higher-profile contest in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp is widely expected to finish first in the primary, ahead of Trump-backed Sen. David Perdue.

Trump's endorsement is still the most coveted currency in Republican primary politics. His preferred candidate in an open gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, Mastriano, won. But sitting governors have brands of their own and a familiarity with voters that may matter more than outside intervention — even from the former president. In a party dominated by Trump, it's an office even Trump is having difficulty figuring out how to crack.

How Trump-backed candidates fared on the busiest primary day

Politico -

Donald Trump’s preoccupation with his endorsement win-loss record was never more apparent than in Pennsylvania.

The former president endorsed state Sen. Doug Mastriano for governor in the final week before the Republican primary, despite the efforts of state Republicans to convince him otherwise. As a leading election denier who worked vigorously to overturn the 2020 election results, Mastriano was a natural for Trump to choose. He was also a high-risk nominee, one whom many in the party believe will get crushed in November.

Trump knew this and endorsed him anyway, leading to GOP grumbling that he was putting his own vanity ahead of the party. In their view, Trump picked Mastriano because he was leading in the polls, and wanted a guaranteed victory in Pennsylvania, where Trump’s other statewide endorsee, Mehmet Oz, might lose.

Mastriano was one of more than two dozen candidates on the Tuesday ballot who have Trump’s endorsement. Since most of them were safe Republican incumbents, he’ll come out of the May 17 primaries with a winning record.

In North Carolina, where Trump’s backing of Rep. Ted Budd for Senate seemingly came out of nowhere, Budd pulled away from the field in the final weeks of the campaign to capture the GOP nomination. But Rep. Madison Cawthorn was defeated in his bid for a second term, despite Trump's last-minute plea to primary voters to give him a second chance.

In Idaho, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin's loss to Gov. Brad Little was an even more humbling defeat for the former president. Despite Trump's endorsement. McGeachin lost the primary by a wide margin, marking the second consecutive week that a Trump-backed candidate for governor fell short. In Nebraska’s May 10 primary, Trump ally Charles Herbster finished second despite a Trump rally for him in the run-up to the election.

Trump did not make any endorsements in Oregon, a state he lost by 16 percentage points in 2020.

Here is a look at the Trump-endorsed candidates who won Tuesday.

Idaho wins Senate Sen. Mike Crapo

Won with 69 percent of the vote.

In the wake of the Access Hollywood scandal in 2016, Crapo issued a statement saying he could no longer support Trump. "His repeated actions and comments toward women have been disrespectful, profane and demeaning," he said. "I urge Donald Trump to step aside and allow the Republican party to put forward a conservative candidate like Mike Pence who can defeat Hillary Clinton."

Five years later, several weeks after Crapo voted to acquit in Trump's second impeachment trial, Trump released a statement endorsing the Idaho senator in his 2022 reelection.

ID01 Rep. Russ Fulcher


He voted to overturn 2020 electoral votes.

Kentucky wins Senate Sen. Rand Paul

Won with 86 percent of the vote.

Once a presidential primary election rival to Trump, Paul secured the former president’s backing in April 2021. Trump said he was endorsing the senator for fighting “against the swamp in Washington, the radical left liberals, and especially the destructive RINOS, of which there are far too many, in Congress.” That didn’t stop the former president from sticking it to Paul a few months later after the senator funded an Ohio special election candidate other than the one Trump had endorsed.

“Do you think Rand Paul will apologize for spending nearly $1 Million on another candidate in Ohio’s 15th District congressional race after I had already endorsed Mike Carey?” Trump said in a statement. “In any event, Mike went on to an unprecedented victory, more than doubling the second placed finisher and Rand’s candidate came in a distant third out of eleven. Rand is a different kind of guy, but I like him a lot anyway, and I'm proud to have endorsed him when he ran. Do you think he learned his lesson?"

KY01 Rep. James Comer


KY02 Rep. Brett Guthrie

Won with 78 percent of the vote.

KY04 Rep. Thomas Massie

Won with 75 percent of the vote.

Massie bucked Trump on some votes early in his term, which led Massie’s 2020 primary challenger to accuse him of being disloyal to Trump. So how did the congressman respond? He purchased ad time in South Florida on Fox News to run an ad designed to capture the president’s attention while he was at Mar-a-Lago. After opening with a photograph of Massie and Trump flashing grins and thumbs-ups, the spot attacked Massie’s primary challenger as “a Trump-hater.”

By May of that year, when Massie threatened to delay the House's $2 trillion Covid-19 relief package, Trump had had enough. He dismissed the congressman as a “third-rate Grandstander” and called for him to be kicked out of the GOP. Now, however, Trump views him differently. According to the endorsement Trump issued last week, Massie is a “first-rate defender of the Constitution.”

KY05 Rep. Harold Rogers

Won with 83 percent of the vote.

He voted to overturn 2020 electoral votes.

KY06 Rep. Andy Barr

Won with 88 percent of the vote.

North Carolina wins Senate Rep. Ted Budd

Won with 59 percent of the vote.

Before Trump unexpectedly announced his support, Budd had been lagging in polls against former Gov. Pat McCrory. But Trump’s endorsement and a wave of outside spending powered Budd to a lead he never lost in the crowded Republican Senate field, quieting the early speculation that the former president had erred in supporting the congressman. Budd also voted to overturn 2020 electoral votes.

NC03 Rep. Gregory Murphy

Won with 76 percent of the vote.

He voted to overturn 2020 electoral votes.

NC05 Rep. Virginia Foxx

Won with 77 percent of the vote.

She voted to overturn 2020 electoral votes.

NC07 Rep. David Rouzer

Won with 79 percent of the vote.

He voted to overturn 2020 electoral votes.

NC08 Rep. Dan Bishop


He voted to overturn 2020 electoral votes.

NC09 Rep. Richard Hudson

Won with 79 percent of the vote.

He voted to overturn 2020 electoral votes.

NC10 Rep. Patrick McHenry

Won with 68 percent of the vote.

NC13 Bo Hines

Won with 32 percent of the vote.

Trump’s endorsement of a 26-year-old who didn't live near the newly drawn congressional district he was seeking stunned many state Republicans in March, as there were several other candidates who hailed from the area. “He is a proven winner both on and off the field, and he is going to help win a huge Republican majority in the House of Representatives,” Trump said when he backed Hines, a former college football player, in March. The former president also held a rally with Hines, Budd and Cawthorn in April, where he reaffirmed his support for the candidates. POLITICO rates the race as a toss-up in November.

Pennsylvania wins GOVERNOR Doug Mastriano

Won with 45 percent of the vote.

In a last-minute endorsement that rattled members of Pennsylvania’s Republican party, Trump backed Mastriano, a leading force in trying to overturn the 2020 election results who was pictured outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. “There is no one in Pennsylvania who has done more, or fought harder, for Election Integrity than State Senator Doug Mastriano,” Trump said last week.

Many Republicans fear their far-right nominee cannot win the general election and could damage party candidates from his perch at the top of the ticket.

Senate Mehmet Oz

Outcome still to be decided.

Initially, Trump backed Sean Parnell in the Senate primary, but Parnell dropped out of the race two months later. Trump then delivered his endorsement to Oz in April, citing his celebrity as a television show host: “He has lived with us through the screen and has always been popular, respected, and smart." The endorsement caused a backlash among some Republicans who never believed Oz’s conservative bona fides. The physician never took a decisive lead, even after even after receiving Trump’s backing. With 95 percent of the expected vote in, Oz led former hedge fund CEO David McCormick 31.2 percent to 31.1 percent.

PA08 Jim Bognet

Won with 69 percent of the vote.

Bognet was a Trump administration appointee in the Export-Import Bank. In his endorsement statement, Trump commended him in bringing “manufacturing jobs back to Northeast Pennsylvania.” Bognet will challenge Democratic incumbent Matt Cartwright in November.

PA10 Rep. Scott Perry


Perry, chairman of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, served as a behind-the-scenes facilitator who connected Department of Justice lawyer Jeffrey Clark with Trump as part of an effort to overturn the 2020 election results. In his endorsement of the congressman, Trump said Perry is an “America First warrior” and a “a tremendous advocate for our MAGA agenda.”

Perry voted to overturn 2020 electoral votes.

PA11 Rep. Lloyd Smucker


He voted to overturn 2020 electoral votes.

PA13 Rep. John Joyce


He voted to overturn 2020 electoral votes.

PA14 Rep. Guy Reschenthaler


He voted to overturn 2020 electoral votes.

PA16 Rep. Mike Kelly


He voted to overturn 2020 electoral votes.

Just When You Think Biden Admin Can't Get Worse...

Real Clear Politics -

By Greg Ganske May 15, 2022 Before I retired from reconstructive surgery, I cared for toddlers who bit into electrical cords and burned their lips. Maybe that is why I feel like I am bound in a chair, gagged, arms and legs tied, watching a two-year-old chewing through a plugged-in electrical cord when I watch the nightly news. I see one ... Read More


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