Ted Cruz Raising Money Off Fabricated Conspiracy Theories
This afternoon the slow-moving House select committee investigating the Trump coup and insurrection issued subpoenas to 14 people in 7 states (chairs and secretaries of the bogus groups in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) who submitted forged documents claiming Republican electors were rightfully elected; none of them were and it was all part of the plot to subvert the presidential election in favor of Trump. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the select committee chair: "The Select Committee is seeking information about attempts in multiple states to overturn the results of the 2020 election, including the planning and coordination of efforts to send false slates of electors to the National Archives. We believe the individuals we have subpoenaed today have information about how these so-called alternate electors met and who was behind that scheme."
Not all of the people subpoenaed are random rightwing crackpots. They're all rightwing crackpots, but not random ones. David Shafer is the chair of the Georgia Republican Party, Michael McDonald is the chair of the Nevada Republican Party and Andrew Hitt was the chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party. Jewll Powdrell claims to have forged the documents on behalf of former Congressman Steve Pearce, the current head of the New Mexico GOP. Some are RNC members, like James DeGraffenreid (NV) and Kathy Berden (MI). Nancy Cottle is the vice president of the Arizona Federation of Republican Women and Bill Bachenberg sits on the board of the NRA. (Lest you forget, senile ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani coordinated the whole plot to steal the election through the forged documents for the Trump campaign.)
This morning David Corn reported for Mother Jones how the schemes and plots are still being exploited by Republican elected officials, using Ted Cruz as an example. Corn wrote that "A few days ago, Cruz sent out a fundraising email embracing the right-wing crackpot notion that the insurrectionist January 6 attack on the US Capitol was orchestrated by the FBI or another government agency. Hardcore Trumpists, most notably Fox host Tucker Carlson, have pushed the fact-free idea that the Deep State engineered the assault on Congress to discredit Trump and his political movement. And Cruz has rushed to the front of the loony train. In the email, he darkly asked, 'Did ANY FBI agents or confidential informants actively participate in the events that day?' And to bolster his innuendo, he reiterated another unfounded far-right claim: 'We know the FBI has been misused in the past to target President Trump and our conservative movement and run interference for the Democrats.'"
Sticking with the scoundrel’s method of just asking questions, he wrote potential donors, “What are they trying to hide now about the events of January 6, 2021? I’m working hard to expose the full truth and shine a light on whether there was any FBI involvement on that day… and the liberal media can’t stand it!” Endeavoring to whip up paranoia, Cruz asserted that Democrats “want to twist the events of January 6” and create a “completely dishonest narrative” to “distract voters from the the Biden administration’s failures and their Party’s extreme-left agenda.” Of course, he added that “their pals in the liberal media [are] all-in on the scam.”
Capitalizing on a specific strain of January 6 conspiracy theories, Cruz asked, “Who is Ray Epps? Was Ray Epps a federal agent or informant?” Epps was a pro-Trump protester from Arizona present at the seditious raid on Capitol Hill who has become the star in a phony right-wing narrative that was already debunked by the time Cruz sent out this plea for money.
As Glenn Kessler, who writes the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” column recently noted, “The story of Ray Epps is a depressing chronicle of our times.” As Kessler put it, the Epps saga:
follows a familiar path. Self-proclaimed Internet sleuths, seeking to prove the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol was the work of federal agents, latch onto “clues.” Partisan players weave the clues into misleading narratives. Then Fox News hosts such as Tucker Carlson elevate these claims, over and over. That catches the attention of lawmakers eager to win favor with the Trump base. Idle speculation becomes embraced as established fact.
The 60-year-old Epps, who operates a business hosting events at a farm outside Phoenix and who was once the president of the Arizona chapter of the Oath Keepers militia group, came to Washington for the pro-Trump rally held on January 6. The night before he was caught on video amid a crowd of Trumpers declaring, “In fact, tomorrow, I don’t even want to say it because I will probably be arrested. Tomorrow, we need to go into the Capitol.” A clip the next day includes Epps addressing fellow protesters. “As soon as our president is done speaking, we are going to the Capitol, where our problems are. It’s that direction,” he said, pointing. “Please spread the word.” And there is a video shot later of Epps whispering to a pro-Trump protester right before that fellow joins a group of other demonstrators who are pushing through a police barricade.
The supposition here is that Epps was a Deep State agent pulling the strings and slyly egging on these irate Trumpers to violence. (In the video of the encounter at the barricade, it’s clear the mob was storming this checkpoint with or without the participation of the man to whom Epps spoke.) But there’s also this: The FBI posted a photo of Epps on its help-us-find-the-insurrectionists website. Yet, then, the photo mysteriously disappeared. Obviously, to protect an FBI operative and cover their tracks, right? No, the FBI says, it had managed to locate Epps and no longer required the public’s assistance. Epps has not yet been charged with any crime.
From these most slender of reeds, an immense mansion of suspicion has been constructed. At a hearing in October, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY)-- yes, the guy who later sent out a holiday card with a photo of him and his family holding an assortment of guns-- referred to videos of Epps and asked Attorney General Merrick Garland if federal agents had schemed to provoke the Trump protesters to attack Congress. Garland replied that he cannot comment on the ongoing January 6 investigation. Aha! the conspiracists shouted. After that, a former Trump speechwriter penned a long article claiming Epps was a “Fed-Protected Provocateur.”
...The lack of evidence hasn’t stopped Cruz. Not only did he use his platform in the Senate to spread unfounded anti-government paranoia; he is now trying to milk that paranoia to score campaign cash. In his fundraising email, he boasts that he has “led the search for answers on whether there was any federal involvement in January 6.” He asserts: “The American people deserve answers, and I intend to pry them out of the Biden DOJ.” Of course, his effort will be greatly helped if the recipient rushes a contribution to Cruz. He ends the email: “For Liberty.”
The Epps conspiracy theory may not be as insane as the claim that Cruz’s dad helped murder JFK. But it is groundless, as well. Though Cruz once denounced the deployment of such nuttery in politics and decried Trump’s exploitation of lies and deceit, he now has squeezed into the crazy conspiracy clown car and become a leading disciple within the Trump cult. For liberty? Nah, for money and career.