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Trump and the GOP Blocked Election Security Bills, But ‘Stop the Steal’ Made Everyone Forget

If the last two presidential elections are any indication, we can expect Roger Stone and his cabal of miscreants to flood the information space with phony, distracting, and inflammatory narratives about the 2024 election.

In the run-up to the 2020 election, the Trump White House and Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn (a former Vice Chair of Trump’s 2016 transition team) blocked Democratic efforts to improve the security of U.S. voting machines, while Russia prepared to help re-elect Trump

This is the mostly forgotten context in which Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime advisor, relaunched “Stop the Steal,” a campaign of deflection, physical intimidation, and propaganda, which baselessly accused Trump’s foes of election fraud. 

Stone and his cohorts—including Alex Jones, Mike Flynn, Sidney Powell, and Patrick Byrne—deployed a Russian propaganda technique called the “firehose of falsehood.” As soon as one claim is debunked, another replaces it, creating a 24/7 tsunami of information warfare that is disseminated through as many different channels of communication as possible.  

Stone had first test-driven “Stop the Steal” during the 2016 presidential election. It was an audacious move given the contemporaneous attack on America’s election infrastructure by Russia, whose president (Vladimir Putin) wanted Trump to win the race. (See part 1.)

While Stone baselessly accused Trump’s 2016 detractors of fraud, Paul Manafort (Stone’s former lobbying partner who served as Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman) shared detailed campaign polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian operative who had worked for Manafort’s firm in Ukraine. 

Manafort reportedly expected Kilimnik to share the data with, among others, Serhiy Lyovochkin, a pro-Putin Ukrainian politician who, per the New York Times, had participated in a scheme to electronically alter election data during Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election. 

(The scheme was uncovered via telephone intercepts, igniting Ukraine’s Orange Revolution.)

Stone nonetheless claimed that the 2016 U.S. election would be rigged against Trump who instead defied almost every poll to take the presidency. 

Stone and another associate, Ali Alexander, next used “Stop the Steal” after the 2018 Florida midterm election, deflecting from reports that Russian hackers had successfully breached voter registration systems in at least two Florida counties. (See part 2.) 

Stone resurrected the “Stop the Steal” campaign during the 2020 election, deflecting from the Trump White House’s obfuscation of voting machine security legislation, reports that Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) had hand delivered a letter from Trump to Putin’s administration, and reports that Russia planned to help re-elect Trump in 2020. 

The lies spread by the 2020 “Stop the Steal” coalition led to an assault on our U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, with Stone’s friends in the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers leading the charge. 

Stone has denied involvement in the storming, however, emphasizing that he was in his hotel suite when it occurred. It’s a flimsy alibi given that Stone has previously boasted of orchestrating the infamous “Brooks Brothers riot” during the 2000 presidential election, while using walkie talkies and cell phones as he sat inside a Winnebago. The Brooks Brothers riot was so disruptive that it shut down the hand recount, throwing the race to George W. Bush by 537 votes in Florida. 

Jan. 6 was, in effect, a steroid-fueled version of the Brooks Brothers riot, but with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers as foot soldiers and a Kremlin-style firehose of falsehood.

Efforts to reinstall Trump, however, extended beyond Jan. 6. The breach of the U.S. Capitol was followed by multiple breaches of U.S. voting systems (and downloading of the software code) by MAGA operatives, who were supposedly searching for proof of fraud. 

These voting-system breaches were reportedly funded in part by Powell, a close associate of Flynn and of Byrne (Rand Paul’s 2015 tech advisor) who seems to have had insider knowledge of the breaches in Georgia, Michigan, and Colorado.

Experts warn that the MAGA voting system breaches could enable bad actors to determine how to hack future U.S. elections, including the 2024 election in which Trump is expected to run (again) against President Biden.  

In September 2021, Byrne admitted that he had recently sent a large sum of money to Maria Butina, a convicted Russian agent. He later launched a so-called “voting integrity” initiative with Stone and Flynn because irony is dead. 

This is the seventh installment in our series about Stone and the role that he and his associates have played in perpetuating inflammatory and baseless political narratives that overwhelm the senses and undermine the ability of the public and even the media to discern and remember reality. 

Here are links to parts 1, 2. 3, 4, 5, and 6 in our series. 

***

In Feb 2020, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who had served on Trump’s 2016 transition team, blocked three election-security bills in one day. 

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One of the bills blocked by Blackburn, the Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act, S. 2238, would have banned voting systems that connect to the internet. It also would have banned paperless (unauditable) voting systems and required rigorous manual audits for every federal race. 

I remember because I had provided input on the bill and helped promote it.

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The bill was sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (R-Ore) and supported by Democrats in Congress, as well as former Secretary of State Hilllary Clinton (Trump’s 2016 opponent) who cited my election-security advocacy in a speech. 

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The bill was important because, among other reasons, Russia had targeted America’s election infrastructure in all 50 states during the 2016 election, which did not apparently concern the GOP.

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Russia had wanted Trump to win the 2016 election, as acknowledged by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In particular, the Kremlin had hoped that Trump would lift the sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed against Russia due to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea (a peninsula along Ukraine’s southern border) in 2014. 

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A young woman named Maria Butina, who later pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States, had asked Trump about those sanctions during an event in Las Vegas in 2015. Trump had responded that, “I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, OK? And I mean, where we have the strength. I don’t think you’d need the sanctions. I think we would get along very, very well.” (Butina’s legal defense was reportedly financed by a Russian company that hosted Texas and California secessionists in Moscow in September 2016.)

Meanwhile, Butina infiltrated the GOP through the NRA and Christian Right and established a sexual relationship with Patrick Byrne, the former CEO of Overstock. 

Byrne was serving at the time as a tech advisor to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), whose nephew-in-law illegally funneled Russian money to Trump’s 2016 campaign. (FN1) 

***

After the 2016 election, Russia was officially confirmed to have breached voter registration systems in a small number of U.S. states. 

Russia had reportedly also been in a position to “edit actual vote tallies” in a small number of states, according to the book Rigged, which cites four senior Obama administration officials. 

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Public officials said that they had seen no evidence that vote tallies were actually changed in 2016. But it was impossible to eliminate the possibility due to (among other reasons) the absence of rigorous manual election audits. (Link to tweet.) 

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Nor did it help that Trump attorneys and campaign groups had successfully objected to manual recounts after the 2016 election —or that some states, including Pennsylvania and Tennessee (Blackburn’s home state), still mostly used paperless voting machines, making manual recounts impossible.  

None of this apparently concerned election-security obstructionist Marsha Blackburn, whose family friend and former campaign chairman, Kline Preston, represented Alexander Torshin, Maria Butina’s handler. 

Preston had observed Russia’s elections in 2011, 2012, and 2016, as reported by American Independent. (He did it again in September this year in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.)  

Preston’s Flickr account includes December 2011 photos of Preston with Torshin at Russia’s Central Election Commission in December 2011.

In one of Preston’s photos, you can see Vladimir Churov, who allegedly oversaw massive election rigging, including Russia’s parliamentary election in December 2011. Preston had personally observed that election. 

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The following year, Preston had invited Torshin to the U.S. to observe our election. Below is a photo of Torshin inspecting a U.S. voting machine in Tennessee. Preston is in the background. 

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Blackburn has refused to say whether she met with Torshin during his 2012 U.S. visit, which suggests that she probably did. 

Torshin also visited three states in the U.S. in Feb 2016, including DC and Nevada and, perhaps, Blackburn’s home state of Tennessee (which Butina visited that month). 

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Torshin visited the U.S. again in May 2016 for the NRA Convention in Rand Paul’s home state of Kentucky. The event was attended by Paul, Trump, and Pennsylvania businessman John Yenason, who had met with Torshin and Butina in Moscow in March 2016. 

In August 2018, Paul would travel to Moscow and hand-deliver a letter from Trump to Putin.

According to the Kremlin, Paul and his Russian hosts discussed sanctions and Butina

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A firm owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska would later pour millions into Kentucky after Paul voted to lift sanctions against Deripaska’s aluminum company, as reported in Esquire

***

Meanwhile, in late August 2018, the Trump White House blocked the bipartisan Secure Elections Act, which would have required manual audits in federal elections and incentivized the reduction or elimination of paperless (unauditable) voting machines. 

When Senator Blackburn blocked three more election-security bills in February 2020, the FBI had already warned (in 2019) that Russia planned to interfere in the 2020 election. 

Several days after Blackburn blocked the three election-security bills, the Office of National Intelligence told Congress in a classified briefing that  Russia hoped to help re-elect Trump

The briefing reportedly enraged Trump, who promptly replaced his national intelligence director (Joseph Maguire) with Ric Grenell, a friend of Roger Stone, who would later thank Grenell for supporting him during his criminal trial and call Grenell “one of the most outstanding Americans I’ve ever had the privilege to … be friends with.” 

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Below is a photo of Stone and Grenell from a Trump rally in March 2017. (The photo also includes John Phillips, a political commentator and radio host who works at the same radio station as Leann Tweeden, the woman who accused former Senator Al Franken of sexual harassment in November 2017.)

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The Washington Post correctly called Grenell an “unqualified [Trump] loyalist.” In March 2020, Grenell ghosted a congressional hearing on election security, “citing apprehension about his preparedness to address sensitive subjects that tend to upset the president.”

Trump eventually replaced Grenell with John Ratcliffe, another under-qualified Trump loyalist who helped Trump conceal Russia’s ongoing interference. 

In August 2020, for example, Ratcliffe canceled verbal congressional briefings on foreign election interference after Democrats in Congress had called for the declassification of “shocking” information, which they had received in secret briefings about continuing Russian interference.

Senator Richard Blumenthal had said at the time that, “the classified briefings have been absolutely chilling and frankly terrifying in the magnitude of foreign threat to our election security that we face. It really is a break-the-glass moment.”

Senator Chris Murphy had sounded the alarm too, revealing on Twitter that “American intel agencies” had seemingly been “folded into Trump’s campaign” and that they were “keeping info about Russian interference hidden, and overhyping info about China and Iran helping Biden.”

In October 2020, Murphy further revealed that he had read intelligence reports, which suggested that  Russians were “trying to find Members of Congress to assist their interference operation.” 

Later that month, the New York Times reported that, “Russia … has in recent days hacked into state and local computer networks in breaches that could allow Moscow broader access to American voting infrastructure.” 

The report was soon forgotten, however, due to Roger Stone’s relaunch of “Stop the Steal.”

***

The official “Stop the Steal” relaunch occurred on Nov. 5, 2020, with a strategy memo that Stone sent to an encrypted chat group called “Friends of Stone.” The group reportedly included Alex Jones, as well as Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, Ali Alexander, and Owen Shroyer (Jones’s right hand man). 

Rhodes, a former aide to Ron Paul (Rand’s father), appeared on InfoWars less than a week later to urge Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, which authorizes the president to deploy the military in response to domestic rebellions. 

Stone had given a similar pitch in September 2020, also on InfoWars. During that segment, Stone had claimed without proof that fraud had already occurred in Nevada. 

The Nevada fraud claim was later amplified by Ric Grenell (Stone’s friend) and Matt Schlapp, who had participated in Stone’s “Brooks Brothers riot” in 2000. 

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Politifact gave the fraud claim a rating of “pants on fire.” 

Another problem for Stone and Rhodes was that federal criminal statutes preclude military intervention in an election, as Lawfare explained on Nov 2, 2020. Because the Insurrection Act does not purport to overrule those criminal statutes, it would have been a crime for Trump to “deploy the military or any other armed personnel in a way that could even potentially interfere with voting or election results,” again according to Lawfare

The Insurrection Act does, however, apply to violent domestic uprisings, a prospect that Stone seemed to welcome. On Nov. 2, he told Glock Dara, a pro-Trump rapper, that, “I said “fuck the voting. Let’s get right to the violence.’” 

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Rhodes had a similar mindset. On Nov. 9, he reportedly told members of his organization that, “Let antifa — If things go kinetic, good. If they throw bombs at us and shoot us, great, because that brings the president his reason and rationale for dropping the Insurrection Act.”

Rhodes also claimed that Trump could and should call up the Oath Keepers and other armed “patriots” to help Trump retain power and quash dissent. 

He told Alex Jones during an interview on Nov. 9 or 10 that members of his organization were “already stationed outside DC as a nuclear option in case they attempt to remove (Trump).” 

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Glock Dara—Stone’s “fuck the voting” friend—also promoted the use of violence. In a Nov 5 soundtrack called “Red Insurrection,” Dara declared that, “We gonna shoot when Trump say to shoot.” (See part 5.) 

*** 

Stone also sent his Nov. 5 strategy memo to disgraced retired Lieutenant General Mike Flynn, according to Mediaite. At the time, Flynn had been working with an attorney, Sidney Powell, to retract his own guilty plea on a perjury charge involving his communications with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. 

After speaking with Stone on Nov. 5, Flynn immediately began messaging “Stop the Steal,” per the Washington Post. So did Powell, who emailed Fox News on Nov. 7 and visited the White House on Nov 8

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On Nov. 10, Trump installed Flynn associate Ezra Watnick Cohen as Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security. 

Stone, Jones, Powell, and Flynn then joined with (among others) Trump campaign attorneys Jenna Ellis and Rudy Giuliani, as well as MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and Patrick Byrne, in saturating the information space with falsehoods and unfounded election-fraud allegations. I provide a long list of specific examples in the appendix.

As explained in a 2016 report by the Rand Corporation, the “firehose of falsehood” is a propaganda technique that is characterized by “high numbers of channels and messages” and a “shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions,” which leave the audience confused and overwhelmed.

The firehose technique is “also rapid, continuous, and repetitive, and it lacks commitment to consistency.”

Although the Rand Corporation was describing the Kremlin’s use of this technique during its illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, the same propaganda method was later used by the 2020 “Stop the Steal” campaign in America. 

The 2020 “Stop the Steal” campaign  also utilized a website called “Every Legal Vote,” which was created and maintained by militant Christian supremacists for purposes of messaging and to mobilize MAGA Republicans. (Here’s a link to our earlier reporting on Every Legal Vote and United in Purpose, an affiliated nonprofit.)

***

Another aspect of the 2020 “Stop the Steal” campaign was its focus on a 2018 executive order, which authorizes the imposition of certain sanctions in the event of foreign election interference. 

As early as Nov. 13, Jones had promoted the 2018 Executive Order, calling it “Trump’s secret weapon.” 

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On Dec. 2, Stone had discussed the 2018 executive order with Jones. He claimed to have seen “incontrovertible evidence” of North Korean boats delivering fake ballots through a harbor in Maine. That evidence was never produced. 

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The day before, Flynn had used Twitter to promote a petition calling for “limited martial law.” He later told Newsmax that Trump had authority to order the military to seize voting machines and to re-run the election

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He and Powell claimed that the 2018 executive order gave Trump this type of authority.

In reality, the executive order was silent on such matters. And as noted, separate federal criminal statutes expressly preclude military intervention in an election. 

Another obstacle was that the executive order defined “foreign interference,” with respect to an election, to mean election interference by a “foreign government” or by “any person acting as an agent of or on behalf of a foreign government.”

This definition explains why the “Stop the Steal” coalition tried to pin Trump’s loss on: 

* Hugo Chavez (a deceased Venezuelan president) via Dominion Voting, a baseless claim promoted by Powell and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani,

* North Korea via fake ballots shipped to a harbor in Maine, a baseless claim promoted by Stone on InfoWars, 

* China via Nest brand thermostats, a baseless claim promoted by Flynn, 

* Italy, according to an unsworn affidavit promoted by Flynn and Byrne, the gist of which amounted to, “I know a guy who heard somewhere that someone else had hacked the election for Joe Biden,” and

* Election servers allegedly seized by the U.S. army in Germany, a claim predicated on a random tweet that was then promoted by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), an ally of Powell

Unfortunately for the “Stop the Steal” coalition, the 2018 executive order did not authorize them or even Trump to determine the nature and scope of foreign interference. Rather, it required an official assessment of foreign election interference by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which was led at the time by Ratcliffe.  

On Dec. 3, Ratcliffe reluctantly conceded on live TV that he had seen no evidence of foreign interference affecting vote tallies. 

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Ratcliffe provided a similar report during a private briefing on Dec. 28 with former acting Attorney General Jeff Clark. Ratcliffe also reportedly told Trump directly that there was no evidence of outcome-altering fraud. 

Flynn and Powell nonetheless pitched their 2018 executive order scheme to Trump during a Dec. 18 meeting at the White House. 

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, has described the meeting as “unhinged.”

Flynn and Powell were joined by Patrick Byrne, the guy who had slept with Butina

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At this point, Flynn and another associate, Phil Waldron, had drafted two proposed executive orders (above and beyond the 2018 executive order) to seize voting machines.

One of these proposed orders was presented to Trump during the Dec 18 meeting. But White House counsel Pat Cippollone–who forced his way into the meeting– “vehemently opposed” it. 

The meeting devolved into a shouting match

***

Even Giuliani opposed the idea of deploying the military to seize voting machines. He preferred a separate plan concocted by attorney John Eastman, which involved persuading Vice President Mike Pence to either certify “alternate” Trump electors or delay certification for ten days to enable state legislatures to revoke their prior certifications of Biden’s win. 

(Stone himself had mentioned the use of “alternate electors” in his Nov. 5 strategy memo.)

Eastman seemed to know that his proposals were illegal. But he, Giuliani, and others promoted them anyway. 

A notable exception was Pence, who refused to go along with Eastman’s plan. 

Trump, however, was relentless. On Dec. 19, he sent a tweet inviting his supporters to a “wild protest” at the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

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Trump may have hoped that sufficient wildness would intimidate Pence into submission. 

Alternatively, Trump may have hoped to incite a riot in order to create a  pretext for invoking the Insurrection Act. Trump had allegedly discussed the Insurrection Act or martial law on Dec. 18 before his meeting with Flynn, Powell, and Byrne. 

Jones told Stone that the Insurrection Act was also discussed during the Dec 18 meeting, according to “folks who were there.”

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***

Trump pardoned Stone on Dec. 23, less than a week after the unhinged White House meeting. The pardon was an ominous sign given Stone’s prior orchestration of the Brooks Brothers riot and long-standing ties to the Proud Boys (see parts 1-6). 

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Nor was it comforting that Stone had solicited donations for “protective equipment” on Dec. 11. 

That day, the Supreme Court had rejected an election challenge filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The challenge had been billed as Trump’s “last-chance lawsuit to undo Biden’s election victoryin court. 

Trump did not take the loss well

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Neither did Proud Boys organizer Joe Biggs who wrote “Death to SCOTUS!” on social media that day. 

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In July 2020, Biggs (who has said that Stone is “like family” to him) had registered a company called Warboys, LLC with Proud Boys leaders Enrique Tarrio and Ethan Nordean. 

On the night of Dec. 11, Stone was photographed with Tarrio and Nordean. 

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Stone was also photographed on the night of Dec. 11 walking just ahead of convicted felon Joseph O’Shaughnessy aka “Captain O,” who reportedly views himself “as a captain with the Oath Keepers militia.” 

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A few weeks before, O’Shaughnessy had called Stone his “hero and mentor” and posted a photo of Stone with Alexander

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On Dec. 11, O’Shaughnessy posted a photo of Stone with Pastor Brian Gibson, who is affiliated with a militant pastors movement called the “Black Robe Regiment.” He captioned the photo “Haging [sic] with Stone.” 

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In another post that day, O’Shaughnessy wrote, “if these walls could talk.” 

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Dec. 11 seemed to have lit a fire under Stone. He skipped the big Dec. 12 “Stop the Steal” rallies in DC to return to Florida, where he and Laura Loomer (one of his proteges) hosted a smaller rally on Dec. 12, using the Florida Oath Keepers as security

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The Florida Oath Keepers were a particularly aggressive Oath Keepers chapter, which had recently completed gun-fight oriented training.

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The group was led by Kelly Meggs. who met with Stone in Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 13.

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The next day (Dec. 14), Stone hosted a “Stop the Steal” event at the Conservative Grounds coffee shop in Largo, Florida. 

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The coffee shop contains a replica Oval Office where Stone and the Florida Oath Keepers took a photo. In it, Stone threw the “V” for victory sign

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It appears that Stone’s Dec. 14 event may have been attended by Pennsylvania-based film producer Steve Turley and Turley’s co-producer Ralph Cochran. 

Below are Turley’s Dec 14 social media posts, which feature an outdoor sign from Stone’s event and an image of Cochran grinning inside the coffee shop’s replica Oval Office.

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These images caught my attention because Turley is involved with the same international network of Russia-linked Christian propagandists as Pennsylvania blogger Charles Bausman and attorney John Eastman. 

Bausman (who has ties to Ron Paul) fled to Moscow after breaching the Capitol on Jan. 6, as reported by journalist Michael E. Hayden. 

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Five days after Stone’s Dec. 14 event, Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs wrote in a Facebook message that, “This week I organized an alliance between Oath Keepers, Florida 3%ers, and Proud Boys. We have decided to work together and shut this shit down.” 

***

Soon after, in a since-deleted social media post, Stone announced that he had “thanked President Trump in person tonight for pardoning me” and also “told the president how he can appoint a special counsel with full subpoena power to ensure that those who are attempting to steal the 2020 election are charged and convicted and to ensure that Donald Trump continues as our president.” 

- Bucks County Beacon - Trump and the GOP Blocked Election Security Bills, But 'Stop the Steal' Made Everyone Forget

Stone did not mention the 2018 executive order in his post. But he had previously claimed that it was the 2018 executive order that empowered Trump to appoint a special prosecutor, a decision normally reserved to the Attorney General

A few days later, Flynn associate Ivan Raiklin, who belonged to Stone’s private chat group, said that martial law remained in play. 

- Bucks County Beacon - Trump and the GOP Blocked Election Security Bills, But 'Stop the Steal' Made Everyone Forget

It was also on Dec. 30 that Flynn associate Jason Sullivan (a former Stone aide) told a group of Trump supporters during a conference call that the plan for Jan. 6 involved “spitting” and “kicking” and “descending on the Capitol” and that he expected that Trump would declare a “limited form of martial law.” 

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Likewise, it was on Dec. 30 that a document titled “1776 Returns” was shared with Tarrio. The document called for the storming of government buildings around the U.S. Capitol.  It was signed by “We the People” and included a shout out to Rand Paul

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The document had been delivered to Tarrio by Eryka Gemma, a Miami-based crypto enthusiast who had served as a delegate for Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign

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Stone (who would later plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination) has denied advance knowledge of plans to breach the Capitol or engage in violence, despite having participated in a protest with Tarrio on Jan. 2 and in another protest with the Proud Boys on Jan. 3.

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On Jan. 4, Stone opined in an interview with “Just The News” that Trump still had “options.” He claimed, however, that “the three major peaceful ways to bring reform [the election, the judiciary, and the legislature] are blocked.” (Italics added.) Yike. 

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***

On Jan. 5, Trump told his chief of staff to call Stone and Flynn, who were photographed together that day at the Willard Hotel. 

w - Bucks County Beacon - Trump and the GOP Blocked Election Security Bills, But 'Stop the Steal' Made Everyone Forget

It was also on Jan. 5 that Flynn facilitated a $100,000 donation to Code of Vets, which had tweeted on Nov. 3, 2020, that the Oath Keepers were “trained and standing by.” 

During a Jan. 5 interview with Alex Jones, Flynn again promoted the 2018 executive order, again without the requisite confirmation from the ODNI that foreign interference had affected vote tallies. 

On the afternoon of the 5th, Jones, Stone, and Alexander spoke during a rally outside the Supreme Court. Stone had received top billing for the event. 

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The event had been co-sponsored by Virginia Women for Trump and the American Phoenix Project (APP), which was founded by Alan Hostetter. In December 2020, Hostetter had called for Trump’s foes to be executed

Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs  attended the Jan. 5 Supreme Court rally, perhaps to guard Stone with whom he had spoken on Dec. 30

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Other members of the Oath Keepers had escorted Stone to the event in a golf cart

That night, Stone, Flynn, Jones, and Alexander spoke during a “Stop the Steal” rally at Freedom Plaza. The rally had been organized by the Eighty Percent Coalition whose website directed media inquiries to Stone’s publicist, Kristin Davis, as discovered by researcher @visionsurreal. 

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During the rally, Flynn announced that Trump supporters were “willing to die” for the cause. 

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Pastor Mark Burns, who has called Stone “an amazing mentor to my life,” led the crowd in a chant of “Give me liberty or give me death!

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Pastor Greg Locke, who is close with Stone as well, thanked God for the opportunity to “lock shields” with the Proud Boys and prayed, “help us to fight.” 

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Alexander led the crowd in a chant of “victory or death” while standing in front of a sign declaring “Martial Law Now.” During his remarks, Alexander thanked “my friend Roger Stone” for his guidance. 

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Stone himself had called for “victory or death” during a speech that preceded the storming of Georgia’s Capitol in November 2020, an event that had included Alexander, Jones, Tarrio, and white nationalist leader Nick Fuentes. 

On Jan. 5, Stone focused on provoking Trump’s Christian extremist fans, admonishing them that, “This is nothing less than an epic struggle for the future of this country between dark and light, between the godly and the godless, between good and evil, and we will win this fight or America will descend into a thousand years of darkness.”

- Bucks County Beacon - Trump and the GOP Blocked Election Security Bills, But 'Stop the Steal' Made Everyone Forget

Jones told the crowd that “God be with us” before bellowing that, “the Globalists are in fear, the Globalists wanna play God, they are not God, and the answer to their 1984 tyranny is 1776!” 

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Stone was photographed with members of the Oath Keepers both during and after the Jan. 5 Freedom Plaza rally. 

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After the rally, Stone returned to his hotel before leaving again at about 8:50 p.m.. He claimed to have a 9 p.m. hair color appointment, but his destination remains unknown. 

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At 9:17 p.m. that night, Proud Boys organizer Joe Biggs texted that, “We just had a meeting with a lot of guys. Info should be coming out.” Several minutes later, he wrote that, “We have a plan.” 

That same evening, Flynn, Giuliani, Don Jr, Eric Trump, Mike Lindell, and others attended a private meeting in Trump’s private residence at the Trump International Hotel, as reported by Proof author Seth Abramson. 

Meanwhile, Trump released a bizarre Jan 5 memorandum, which characterized “Antifa” as a domestic terrorist organization, suggesting that Trump hoped or planned to arrest left-wing demonstrators on Jan. 6.

Biggs had previously released a video in which he said that the Proud Boys planned to dress like Antifa on Jan. 6. 

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***

On the morning of Jan. 6, Stone was photographed outside the Willard hotel with Robert Minuta, an Oath Keeper who later participated in the Capitol siege. 

kFoQGDlk8 AZm03wWXlm1g B8Zejr21QMMC - Bucks County Beacon - Trump and the GOP Blocked Election Security Bills, But 'Stop the Steal' Made Everyone Forget

Stone had expected to speak during a morning rally with Trump at the Ellipse and to then lead a march to the Capitol.  (The march was unpermitted and thus illegal.) 

The permit for the morning rally listed Event Strategies, a company with ties to convicted felon Paul Manafort, who had received a conveniently timed pardon on Dec., 23, 2020, the same day as Stone. Jones had arranged funding for the rally. 

But a rally co-organizer, Katrina Pierson, managed to cut Stone, Jones, and Alexander from the speaking lineup at the last minute. “I was able to keep the crazies off the stage,” she would later boast. 

After learning that he had been axed from the lineup, Stone decided to remain at the Willard.

- Bucks County Beacon - Trump and the GOP Blocked Election Security Bills, But 'Stop the Steal' Made Everyone Forget

Jones and Alexander attended the rally without him. After Trump’s speech, they led the march from the Ellipse to the Capitol, while Stone remained in his hotel suite with Pastor Burns and Kristin Davis. 

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- Bucks County Beacon - Trump and the GOP Blocked Election Security Bills, But 'Stop the Steal' Made Everyone Forget

Stone watched as events unfolded on TV. “Wait til you see what I’ve got coming,” he told Burns before the rioting began. 

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The rioting, however, quickly escalated into a breach of the Capitol, which Stone claimed was a step too far, calling it “really bad for the movement.”

An apparent goal of the breach was to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s win on Jan. 6, the constitutionally mandated certification date. The plan failed, however, when Congress reconvened and certified Biden’s victory later that night. 

Pence had also foiled efforts to overturn the election by resisting pressure to implement Eastman’s plan. The pressure had been intense and included calls to “Hang Mike Pence!” during the storming of the Capitol. 

To the extent that Stone wanted Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act that day, “Antifa” had rained on his parade by staying home. 

Stone—who had banished filmmakers from his hotel suite for 90 minutes during the height of the violence—packed his bags and fled DC around 5 pm.

He and Burns later tried to blame the breach on “Antifa,” contradicting incriminating declarations by Stone’s own associates, including:

  • Biggs, who bragged on video that, “we just stormed the Capitol. Took the mother fucking place back,”
  • Tarrio, who gushed in a text message that, “Make no mistake … we did this,” and
  • Rhodes, who told his followers that, “Patriots stormed in. Not Antifa.”

Despite blaming the Capitol attack on “Antifa,” Stone requested a pardon from Trump to shield himself from criminal liability for that attack. Stone was furious when Trump denied the request. 

Unfortunately, Stone seems to have forgiven him. 

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***

Meanwhile, the “Stop the Steal” hurricane, which Stone himself had unleashed, continued in another form. 

On Jan. 7, associates of Powell allegedly breached voting systems in Georgia. Similar breaches or attempted breaches allegedly occurred in five additional states: Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina

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Byrne had previously told Jerome Corsi (Stone’s 2016 Wikileaks intermediary) that he and his colleagues were ready to implement a plan that had been “organized by General Flynn” to “inspect” voting machines.

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Byrne has said that, during the Dec. 18 White House meeting, he (Byrne) proposed imaging “election equipment in the ‘six anchor cities of six swing states, the obvious ones,’ which he identified…as ‘Maricopa (Arizona.), Wayne (Mi.), Milwaukee (Wi.), Fulton (Ga.), [and] Philadelphia (Pa.),’” as reported by journalist Grant Stern. 

The subsequent voting system  “inspections” by MAGA operatives included copying voting system software, ostensibly in an effort to “prove” fraud. Some of the software code was then displayed during a voter-fraud symposium conducted by Lindell in August 2021. 

Byrne seems to have had inside knowledge of the alleged breaches in Michigan, Georgia, and Colorado

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The alleged voting system breaches and published code could in theory facilitate the hacking of future elections, according  to election-security experts who signed a letter spearheaded by the nonprofit Free Speech for People. 

This is alarming because, among other reasons, Congress has yet to pass a bill requiring rigorous manual election audits. Due to “Stop the Steal,” which falsely equated vulnerabilities with “proof” of fraud (and then used this “proof” to inflame and mobilize known violent extremists) congressional Democrats are now skittish about publicly admitting that our systems remain vulnerable. 

This has, in turn, reversed almost all traction for federal election-security legislation. 

Which brings us back to Russia and the specter of foreign election interference. In September 2021, Byrne admitted that he had recently sent a large sum of money to Butina, the Russian agent

Byrne nonetheless had the audacity to launch a so-called “election integrity” initiative with Stone and Flynn in 2022. 

Unlike Powell and Trump, these  individuals remain unindicted, which means they remain free to subvert the 2024 election, while deploying psychological warfare against vulnerable Americans. That election will likely feature a rematch between Trump and Biden with a possible third party run by Robert F. Kennedy, who will siphon votes from Biden. 

As one might expect, Stone and Flynn support Kennedy who is a Putin apologist. 

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If the last two presidential elections are any indication, we can expect this same cabal of miscreants to flood the information space with phony, distracting, and inflammatory narratives about the 2024 election, regardless of whether Trump prevails (with Russian interference, as in 2016) or loses (despite attempted Russian interference, as in 2020). 

As Stone himself is fond of saying, the “past is fucking prologue.” 

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FN1

In 2019, Byrne invested in an internet-voting app called Voatz. He made the investment through Medici Ventures, a wholly owned subsidiary of Overstock. Internet voting is the type of system someone would choose if they wanted to enable Russia or another foreign nation to hack our election remotely. In Feb 2020, security researchers called Voatz dangerously vulnerable

Appendix

The “firehose of falsehood” from the 2020 election (links at the end): 

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- Bucks County Beacon - Trump and the GOP Blocked Election Security Bills, But 'Stop the Steal' Made Everyone Forget
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- Bucks County Beacon - Trump and the GOP Blocked Election Security Bills, But 'Stop the Steal' Made Everyone Forget
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- Bucks County Beacon - Trump and the GOP Blocked Election Security Bills, But 'Stop the Steal' Made Everyone Forget
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(Link to Appendix tweet 1 [Stone claims to have seen “incontrovertible evidence” that North Korea shipped fake ballots to a harbor in Maine, but never provides that evidence]; tweet 2; [Stone implicates Bill Gates in alleged 2020 election fraud]; tweet 3 [Powell implicates Hugo Chavez and Dominion Voting in alleged 2020 election fraud]; tweet 4 [Flynn implicates China and Nest thermostats in alleged 2020 election fraud]; tweet 5 [Guiliani claims that Dominion “whistleblowers” will soon come forward, but they never do]; tweet 6 [Guiliani witness Melissa Carone falls flat]; tweet 7 [Ellis uses a  chopped up video to falsely accuse Georgia election workers of fraud]; tweet 8 [Powell’s “secret intelligence contractor” is a pro-Trump podcaster who faked her own credentials]; tweet 9 [Powell’s “military intelligence expert” never worked in military intelligence]; tweet 10 [Lindell claims pcaps prove fraud, but his own expert calls them “turds”]; tweet 11 [McInerney and Powell implicate Hammer and Scorecard on Newsmax, which then admits that the claim has been “disputed and debunked.”]; tweet 12 [Guiliani uses Ramsland’s swapped data to falsely suggest the existence of a non-existence voting irregularity.]; tweet 13 [Based on a random tweet, Gohmert alleges that the US army may have seized election servers in Germany]; tweet 13 [Mastriano uses image of swapped general and primary election data to falsely suggest the existence of a voting irregularity in PA]; tweet 14 [garbage affidavit from Italy]; tweet 15 [Trump makes up almost 5,000 dead voters].)

Picture of Jennifer Cohn

Jennifer Cohn

Jennifer Cohn is an attorney, election integrity advocate, and political writer whose articles have appeared in the New York Review of Books, Who What Why, The Independent, TYT Investigates, The Brad Blog, and Salon. You can follow her on Twitter at @jennycohn1.

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