Editors’ Blog

DeSantis's public comments offer some helpful clues about who is actually behind those flights to Martha's Vineyard.

I’ve said a few times that the consistent testimony of all those Venezuelan migrants describes an operation that is simply not a government operation, not an operation managed by government employees: people with business cards with only a first name, fabricated government brochures, contract quotas, all the rest. Governments and government workers can act with horrible callousness and brutality. But they do so in certain formal and bureaucratic ways. These were clearly not government employees. And on this there are actually some clues in DeSantis’ public statements.

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Sheriff from San Antonio Opens Investigation

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar (San Antonio) opened a criminal investigation into DeSantis/Martha’s Vineyard flights. He says he’s working with the lawyers representing the migrants who were shipped to Martha’s Vineyard. “I believe there is some criminal activity involved here, but at present, we are trying to keep an open mind and we are going to investigate to find out and to determine what laws were broken if that does turn out to be the case,” Salazar said in a press conference Monday.

Where Things Stand: That Was The Most Ominous QAnon Embrace Yet. We Checked.
This is your TPM evening briefing.

Like the soft piano chords of an old time hymn underscore a fire-and-brimstone tent revival service, the chords of a QAnon ballad filled the arena at a Trump rally this weekend — as the former president angrily bemoaned just how “in decline” our nation is.

At a campaign event for Ohio Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance Saturday, Trump delivered a speech about the perceived failures our nation has experienced in the two years since he was booted from the White House. The rally featured a speech from QAnon congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and the event was filled with standard fare MAGAworld grievances.

But toward the end, we witnessed the former President embracing the dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory movement more explicitly than he ever has in the past.

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The Search for “Perla”

The national news media seems to have lost interest entirely in the story of the Venezuelan immigrants shipped off to Martha’s Vineyard as part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s reelection campaign. The meta-story of course continues to get some attention — how it plays into the midterm, who it helps or hurts as a political story, etc. But I mean what actually happened. That’s unfortunate both in journalistic and political terms because even the barest look at the details we know make it very unlikely this was an official or on-the-books government operation. And yet it’s one Gov. Desantis has publicly taken credit for and said was paid for with taxpayer funds from Florida.

In the absence of any national press interest the search for answers has been left to a few local news outlets and LULAC, the Latino civil rights organization. Representatives of LULAC, including national president Domingo Garcia, went to Martha’s Vineyard on Friday to talk to the asylum-seekers and get more details about what happened. They were able to flesh out the story about “Perla” and her team in San Antonio. Basically all the stories matched to a T. LULAC has posted a $5,000 reward for information leading to her identification. LULAC is also canvassing this week in San Antonio trying to find out more information.

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Annals of Incitement Prime Badge

Another thing I wanted to flag for you. At his rally in Youngstown, Ohio on Saturday Donald Trump appeared to take a decisive new step in embracing the QAnon conspiracy theory. He’s been dog whistling about it for years. But at this rally there was an especially dark and fetid tone and the rally concluded with what was either the Q movement song or one that was so similar as to be indistinguishable from it. (Yes, there’s a movement song.) The crowd responded with an index finger salute — also a Q movement trademark — as they swayed to the music and Trump’s rhythmic incitement. This comes after various posts on Trump’s “Truth Social” Twitter clone site which now openly embrace Q.

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Back to the Polling Dramas Prime Badge

Since I’ve noted the “will the polls be wrong again” debate a few times I wanted to share another article with you. This one is by Nate Silver. He basically argues that the confidence that 2022 is likely to see the same kind of hidden GOP strength is misplaced. He doesn’t prove this idea is wrong. And I don’t think he would say he does. (We can’t ‘prove’ anything about a future we don’t know.) What he does is lay out a series of counter-arguments or rather arguments and evidence that leads to the opposite conclusion.

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Doesn’t Add Up Prime Badge

Most of the news discussion about the DeSantis/Martha’s Vineyard saga appears to have moved on to chin-scratching pieces about what it all means or how the politics might shake out. That’s premature. The fact that DeSantis would pull a stunt like this is entirely unsurprising if also morally obscene. But if it was his work why did he fly migrants from Texas? There’s been no clear or really any explanation for why this would be the case. He’s vaguely suggested that he was flying them from Texas before they could come to Florida. But the details about how the migrants were found in San Antonio doesn’t suggest anything like that. DeSantis won’t discuss it.

It also seems clear that this wasn’t arranged by actual government employees. At a minimum it was delegated to private parties who quite possibly broke a few laws to do it. The woman “Perla” seems to have disappeared and gave one migrant a card with only her first name and a phone number. That’s not a government employee, at least not one working on the books.

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Perla Spoke of “Anonymous Benefactor”

Here’s more pieces of the puzzle. We now learn that “Perla,” the woman who coaxed the migrants on to the DeSantis Air flights under false pretenses, paid another migrant, a 27 year old Venezuelan named Emmanuel, for the contact information of the migrants Perla would eventually coax onto the plane. Emmanuel gave her contact info for about 10 migrants he’d met at the migrant center where they were saying.

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Trump the Master Prime Badge

Important context here from TPM Reader and Alum WT

Cannon’s order denying the DOJ’s stay request is insane enough that it seems to have overshadowed the other thing she did yesterday: issuing the attached “order appointing a special master.” The actual details of the order are gobsmackingly bad: the order neuters Dearie’s authority before the process begins, boxes in the DOJ, and puts Trump’s counsel in the driver’s seat of the entire process.

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Perla and the Thirsty Governor Prime Badge
LAKELAND, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2021/08/21: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference to announce the opening of a monoclonal antibody treatment site for COVID-19 patients at Lakes Church in Lakeland, Florida. DeSantis stated that the site will offer the Regeneron treatment, and will operate 7 days a week, treating 300 patients a day. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Aaron Blake and TPM alum Greg Sargent both had pieces in the Post yesterday looking at whether these immigrant transport stunts might break the law. There are a number of interesting legal complexities. One has to do with whether they’re “illegal” or “undocumented.” There are laws against knowingly transporting such immigrants or doing so to further them committing crimes. But in most cases these are people who have been processed as asylum seekers and are awaiting an asylum hearing. So until that hearing they are in the country legally. So that doesn’t really apply. It’s also unclear what state government authorities might be authorized to do as opposed to federal authorities. But the operative issue seems to be whether people are coerced or deceived into being transported.

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