They All Know It's A Fraud.

Plus: The GOP's Gangster Politics

Roe v. Wade apparently hangs in the balance; the president delivers a defiant and unapologetic defense of his Afghanistan withdrawal; cleanup from Hurricane Ida continues and…. Kevin McCarthy’s GOP goes all-in on gangster politics.

Let’s start there shall we?

On Tuesday, McCarthy threatened the nation’s telecom companies with political retribution if they complied with requests from the House’s Select Committee on January 6.

“If these companies comply with the Democrat order to turn over private information, they are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” McCarthy said in Tuesday’s statement. “If companies still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law.”

Three points need to be made. First, the telecom companies would not be violating federal law by complying with the request to preserve the phone data of witnesses to the January insurrection. Second, this is an open, crude attempt to obstruct the investigation through intimidation. Third, this is not a legal threat. It’s raw thug politics.

Nice telecom company you got there. It’d be a shame if anything were to happen it….

And the threat is, apparently, part of a coordinated partisan message. There’s no gap between the GOP leader, the crackpot fringe of the party, and the media foghorns on this.

Here’s MTG, echoing McCarthy’s threat, and Tucker’s endorsement. “I hope they are afraid of you,” Carlson said. “They should be.”

Exit take: Someone is scared here — otherwise why go scorched earth?

But, as one close observer told me last night, this sort of thing is “deliberate provocation and conspiracy fertilizer… it’s going to get worse.”

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They Know. They All Know.

Inadvertently, perhaps, Ron Johnson got it right.

Even as the Wisconsin GOP is moving ahead with plans to spend at least $680,000 in taxpayer money on an Arizona-like “forensic audit” of last year’s election, Johnson acknowledged that there was nothing “skewed” about Trump’s defeat in the Badger State.

The Oshkosh Republican made the comment to a liberal activist who posed as a conservative at a Republican event held Sunday. She posted a video of their exchange on Twitter on Tuesday. 

"There’s nothing obviously skewed about the results," Johnson said.

He noted Republicans collectively received more votes in races for other offices.

"If all the Republicans voted for Trump the way they voted for the Assembly candidates, he would have won," Johnson said. "He didn’t get 51,000 votes that other Republicans got, and that’s why he lost."

Here’s the thing — Johnson is absolutely right about the election, which is kind of extraordinary. The senator who has embraced just about every conspiracy theory and crackpot MAGA fantasy — from the “peaceful” January 6 protest to the virtues of Ivermectin — somehow finds the Big Lie about the election in Wisconsin a bridge too far

Johnson knows what happened here. He knows that Trump lost because he underperformed other Republicans on the Wisconsin ballot. Trump lost the state by 20,682 votes— or about 0.6 percentage points. Johnson points out that GOP Assembly candidates collectively got 50,000 more votes than Trump. You do the math.

There was a similar pattern in congressional races across the state. According to this analysis, Trump got about 30,000 fewer votes than his own party’s congressional candidates. Biden, in contrast, got 43,000 more votes than Democratic congressional candidates.

Here’s another story every GOP operative understands: In 2016, Trump won the heavily Republican so-called WOW counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington Counties) by 28 points. Last year his margin was cut to 24. One of the GOP’s top election gurus. Joe Handrick, explained:

It’s almost as if Never Trump voters weren’t irrelevant, after all.

Johnson knows all of this.

So does every other prominent Wisconsin Republican, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who is backing the $680,000 “audit,” and has hired a former state Supreme Court justice to “investigate” the election.

Paul Ryan knows it.

"President Trump lost the election. Joe Biden won the election," Ryan said to WISN 12 News reporter Kent Wainscott during a rare interview.

Even as Wisconsin Republican lawmakers launch a forensic audit of the 2020 election, Ryan believes it is time for his party to move past the false claim that the election was stolen from Trump.

"President Trump continues to insist that the 2020 election was rigged and that he in fact won," Wainscott said.

"It was not rigged. It was not stolen. Donald Trump lost the election. Joe Biden won the election. It's really clear," Ryan said.

Scott Walker knows it. Shortly after the election, he tweeted:

Walker should know. He lost his own re-election bid by 29,227… and never demanded a recount.

Congressman Mike Gallagher knows it. Two days before the Insurrection he said:

"The idea that Congress gets to overturn the states and the Electoral College is a dangerous idea," he said. "Certainly it's never been the case from a conservative perspective that Congress would have that power, because that means you believe Congress would have unlimited power."

Reince Priebus also knows it, even though his fingerprints seem to be all over the latest attempt to appease the Orange God King.

And yet the GOP is going ahead with the audit scam, even as the price tag explodes.

Why? Johnson himself explained last year in a phone call with a former GOP county chair named Mark Becker:

The TL;DR of the call was this: Senator Johnson knows that Joe Biden won a free and fair election. He is refusing to admit it publicly and stoking conspiracies that undermine our democracy solely because it would be “political suicide” to oppose Trump.

When Becker wrote about his call with Johnson, he called the senator’s position “unconscionable.”

But the Wisconsin GOP is now all in.

Even though they know it is all bullshit.

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The Party Of Violence

Ideas have consequences and so do lies — and we are seeing he results all around the country.

As Mona Charen writes in today’s Bulwark: “Election workers have been hounded and threatened.” So have school board members and medical professionals.

In Georgia, a mobile vaccination site had to be shut down after anti-vax protesters showed up to threaten and harass health care workers. “Aside from feeling threatened themselves, staff realized no one would want to come to that location for a vaccination under those circumstances, so they packed up and left,” a spokeswoman for the state health department told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The rhetoric is escalating. Members of Congress, like Madison Cawthorn, now openly talk about the possibility of “bloodshed” over elections.

Republicans talk incessantly about other people’s violence. The rioters who burned buildings after George Floyd’s death. The criminals who make Chicago a murder capital. Immigrants who supposedly terrorize their host nation (they don’t).

Criminal violence is a problem, but the kind of violence Republicans are now flirting with or sometimes outright endorsing is political—and therefore on a completely different plane of threat.

She notes that a recent poll found that 56 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement: “The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.”

“They are playing with fire,” Mona writes. “Nothing less than democratic legitimacy is on the line. These menacing signals suggest that January 6 may have been the overture, not the finale.”

Bonus: Greg Sargent also writes about Cawthorn’s rhetoric:

The big truth captured here is that for many right-wing personalities, the lying about the left is prior and essential to their radicalization, abandonment of democracy and increasing embrace of authoritarianism. The former inspires and justifies the latter: Once you unshackle yourself entirely from any obligation to reality in depicting the leftist menace, it’s a short leap to envisioning and then justifying pretty much anything in response to it.

He notes that the attempted walk-back by Cawthorn’s spokesman was also revealing:

Luke Ball, a spokesman for Cawthorn, said in a statement Monday that the lawmaker was “in no way supporting or advocating for any form of violence.”

“In his comments, Congressman Cawthorn is CLEARLY advocating for violence not to occur over election integrity questions,” Ball said. “He fears others would erroneously choose that route and strongly states that election integrity issues should be resolved peacefully and never through violence.”

There you have the reigning ethos of today’s right wing laid bare: If we keep lying uncontrollably to our supporters about the totalitarian left’s repression of them, they just might resort to violence, and gosh almighty, wouldn’t that be just terrible!

I had some thoughts on this last night:

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Quick Hits

An Open Letter to Tucker Carlson from a Hungarian Conservative

Balázs Gulyás is a reporter for Magyar Hang, a Hungarian independent weekly. In today’s Bulwark, he writes:

Dear Mr. Carlson! You’ve been misled by your hosts. Viktor Orbán is not building a conservative Disneyland in Hungary, but a Russian and Chinese beachhead while personally enriching himself. For him conservative values are an alibi. The next time you have the good fortune to come to Hungary, look me up, and I will offer you the red pill of Morpheus’s Hungarian Matrix, and “show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” The choice is yours.

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