"My fellow Republicans," wrote former Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) yesterday at CNN.com, "to make our way back from this four-year detour will require a dose of honest self-reflection. We were once the conservative party. Our party chose to vacate any claim to that mantle when we gave ourselves over to a reality TV figure whose commitment to anything other than his own self-interest has always been hard to discern. He cared so little about anyone or anything other than himself that we now know that he couldn't even be stirred to defend his own Vice President when his life was in danger. We didn't convict him. We should have, but we didn't. Let's not compound the grievous injury to the country and our party by continuing to embrace him, for Trumpism is the opposite of conservatism. We all know that, too. There is nothing to gain by making a pilgrimage to Florida. There is no enlightened mystic at Mar-a-Lago-- just a diminished man who lost an election and couldn't accept it. There is no redeeming his behavior. And let's not continue this tragic charade by further humiliating and debasing ourselves. History always knows the truth. Let's learn the lessons of this experience, admit our failings and move on. This is what our country deserves."
RightChange.com is a far right attack committee funded by a crackpot pharmaceutical businessman, billionaire Fred Eshelman. He's given the group between $4 and $5 million for a series of deceitful smear ad campaigns unhinged from any semblance of truth. Eshelman is widely considered a cancer on American politics. He's spent millions supporting far right Republican candidates and committees. The only Democrat I have ever found him donating to was North Carolina Blue Dog Mike McIntyre who usually voted with Republicans anyway.
And now he's crying that Trump stole his money and he's suing to get back $2 million of the $2.5 million he gave to a GOP scam operation, True the Vote, to separate gullible Trump supporters from their money. Eshelman was the biggest sucker of all. Reporting for the Washington Post last night, Shawn Boburg and Jon Swaine wrote that Eshelman found the scam operators before they found him and offered to give them $2 million out of the blue, believing all the bullshit about the election having been stolen from Trump. He regretted his contribution in less than 2 weeks.
Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party," wrote Boburg and Swaine, "collected $255 million in two months, saying the money would support legal challenges to an election marred by fraud. Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress also raised money off those false allegations, as did pro-Trump lawyers seeking to overturn the election results-- and even some of their witnesses. True the Vote was one of several conservative 'election integrity' groups that sought to press the case in court. Though its lawsuits drew less attention than those brought by the Trump campaign, True the Vote nonetheless sought to raise more than $7 million for its investigation of the 2020 election. Documents that have surfaced in Eshelman’s litigation, along with interviews, show how True the Vote’s private assurances that it was on the cusp of revealing illegal election schemes repeatedly fizzled as the group’s focus shifted from one allegation to the next. The nonprofit sought to coordinate its efforts with a coalition of Trump’s allies, including Trump attorney Jay Sekulow and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the documents show.
Eshelman has alleged in two lawsuits-- one in federal court has been withdrawn and the other is ongoing in a Texas state court-- that True the Vote did not spend his $2 million gift and a subsequent $500,000 donation as it said it would. Eshelman also alleges that True the Vote directed much of his money to people or businesses connected to the group’s president, Catherine Engelbrecht.
Asked about the shifting focus from allegation to allegation, Engelbrecht said, “A good thorough investigation takes the course it takes, and we were not going to expose whistleblowers to make a quick headline.” She said that the group’s investigation “is ongoing even now.” In court documents, True the Vote says Eshelman’s money was spent properly.
True the Vote’s lawyer, James Bopp, said that no conditions were attached to Eshelman’s donations and he is not entitled to the return of his money just because he didn’t like the outcome.
The court documents and interviews show how quickly Eshelman and his allies became disillusioned with True the Vote.
“We were just not getting any data or proof,” said Tom Crawford, who had worked for Eshelman as a lobbyist and served as his representative on the True the Vote effort. “We were looking at this and saying to ourselves, ‘This just is not adding up.’ ”
...True the Vote has spent the past decade aggressively promoting claims of voter fraud and pushing for voter-identification laws. The group has established itself as a hub for training volunteer poll watchers to monitor voters for their eligibility. Democrats have accused it of trying to intimidate minorities and other low-participation voters.
...Eshelman’s Nov. 5 donation was easily the biggest gift True the Vote had ever received, according to a person familiar with its operations, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters in litigation. True the Vote had never raised more than $1.8 million in a single year, its tax returns show.
...[O]ver the following days, in federal lawsuits True the Vote filed in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the group said the evidence for its claims was still being developed.
The suits, filed by Bopp, said True the Vote would use “sophisticated and groundbreaking programs” to show that enough illegal votes had been cast-- by noncitizens, felons, fake voters and others-- to swing the election to Biden. “This evidence will be shortly forthcoming,” each complaint said.
Bopp, whose firm received a retainer of $500,000 for its work on the lawsuits, told The Post that there was “tons of evidence” of voter fraud but that it was “anecdotal, circumstantial.”
...As True the Vote struggled to produce solid whistleblower accounts, its lawsuits also failed to gain traction. Bopp, who serves as the group’s general counsel, told The Post that he reached out to Trump and his legal team with a proposal: that they join forces.
In phone conversations with Sekulow and Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorneys, Bopp said he urged the Trump legal team to adopt True the Vote’s legal strategy, which hinged on persuading a federal judge to open up access to voter rolls.
“It was becoming clear to me that the lawsuits we filed were not getting the attention they needed” from judges, Bopp said in an interview. “And the Trump legal effort was a disaster, both their strategy and the tactics.”
Bopp said Sekulow and Giuliani supported the proposal and told him they would recommend it to Trump.
Bopp said that, at Sekulow’s request, he briefed a group of Trump allies in a phone call that included Sekulow, Graham and Fox News host Sean Hannity.
Giuliani did not respond to requests for comment. Representatives for Graham and Hannity declined to comment. Sekulow wrote in a text message: “I do not disclose discussions that I may have had on legal matters on behalf of a client.”
Bopp said that on the morning of Nov. 15 he spoke to Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, and sent him a written proposal about True the Vote’s legal approach. A spokesman for Meadows declined to comment.
According to Bopp, Meadows said he would speak to Trump and get back to Bopp by 3 p.m. that day. But the call never came.
The following day, Bopp decided to abandon all four of True the Vote’s lawsuits, concluding that without the campaign’s involvement the suits had little chance of advancing before the election was to be certified in December. The lawsuits were just one component of the operation Eshelman was funding, but True the Vote had pitched them as critical to overturning the election results.
Bopp told Eshelman about the decision that day, during a tense phone call.
Eshelman was furious, according to court documents and interviews.
On Nov. 17, he sent Engelbrecht an email demanding the return of his money. True the Vote offered on Nov. 23 to return $1 million to settle the matter. Eshelman filed his first lawsuit two days later, saying the group had failed to provide an accounting of how the remainder of his money had been spent.
He withdrew the federal lawsuit on Feb. 1 and filed the suit in Texas state court.
None of Eshelman’s money has been returned, court documents show.
Bopp told The Post his firm ultimately billed True the Vote roughly $300,000-- more than half its retainer-- for its work on the four lawsuits. He said he withdrew them because he “could see they were not going to accomplish anything.”
Overall, the experience left several people who were involved in the effort unconvinced that there ever was evidence of voter fraud to be discovered.
Yesterday Katrina Vanden Heuvel penned an OpEd for the Washington Post, How To Hold Senate Republicans Accountable She wrote that after the Senate trial McConnell confirmed Trump's complicity in the insurrection: "Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty… There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day… The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president."
Vanden Heuvel reminded her readers that McConnell voted to acquit anyway as did 42 other senators and she wants to see them held accountable. "Citizens who care about the future of this republic should come together, across lines of party and ideology, to vote out of office those who failed in their most important responsibility... Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors were brazen, not hidden. But Republican senators knew they would face a blowback from Trump supporters in their own states if they held him accountable. Sadly, polls show that a majority of Republicans believe Trump’s lies about the election; half even believe that antifa was behind the attack... The only way to concentrate their minds is for the rest of us to mobilize and defeat them at the polls for their craven failure to serve their country. Many Republicans may still be beguiled by Trump, but they are a far remove from the majority of Americans."