A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.
The Dominion Suit Domino Effect
Ray Epps is a 60-something former Marine who lives in the mountains, loves Donald Trump and who attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6 to seek solidarity with those who believed the lies Trump, Fox News and others were spreading about a stolen election.
He’s hardly the type of guy you’d expect to take legal action against Fox News’ biggest star, host Tucker Carlson.
But Carlson did him super dirty.
With the help of Trump allies who were looking for anyone and anything to blame for the violent attack on the Capitol besides Trump, Epps became the MAGA crowd’s number one scapegoat for conspiracy theories about the Deep State being behind the insurrection. And Carlson brought much of the agent-provocateur madness to a national audience with segments about the attack that painted Epps as some sort of undercover agent who riled up the masses and encouraged innocent Trump supporters to storm the Capitol.
Of course, that wasn’t true. Carlson and others seized upon footage of Epps on the night of Jan. 5 encouraging fellow protesters to go inside the Capitol building as rationale for their claims that innocent MAGA fans had been set up by the feds. Epps was also seen moving past the barricades with the crowd on Jan. 6, but never went inside the building himself. In fact, he went to some lengths to try to get people in the crowd to calm down.
But the footage of Epps, combined with his military background and the fact that he was never charged for his actions on Jan. 6 were enough to feed the Carlson fever swamps for months on end. As The Washington Post noted, Epps’ name has been mentioned on Fox News more than 160 times in the past two years.
And now, Epps is demanding an apology.
Epps’ lawyer sent a letter to Carlson on Thursday, demanding a retraction of the false statements the Fox News host has made about Epps being an undercover operative and requesting a “formal on-air apology for the lies.”
This type of letter urging a retraction and an apology can be a sign that a lawyer is preparing a defamation lawsuit. In the letter, Epps’ lawyer Michael Teter even alluded to the Dominion case, indicating that the revelations to come out of hearings on that suit may give his client some leverage for legal action as well.
“Recent revelations from the Dominion Voting lawsuit may help explain why Fox News has allowed the falsehoods about Mr. Epps to continue to spread, and be amplified, through its network,” Teter wrote. “But fear of losing viewers by telling them the truth is not a defense to defamation and false light.”
Department of Defense: U.S. Conducts Airstrikes in Syria in Response to Deadly UAV Attack
DeSantis’ Grand Plan To Ruin Florida To Win White House May Flop
That’s according to this new poll from Reuters/Ipsos.
Meanwhile, Things Are Going Great For DeSantis
Piers Morgan: Now you’re not having puddings?
Ron Desantis: No, no pudding. No way. It’s sugar, man!
In case you need the context: This references a Daily Beast report that will endure in the minds of all who read it. The outlet reported this month:
“He would sit in meetings and eat in front of people,” a former DeSantis staffer told The Daily Beast, “always like a starving animal who has never eaten before… getting shit everywhere.”
Enshrined in DeSantis lore is an episode from four years ago: During a private plane trip from Tallahassee to Washington, D.C., in March of 2019, DeSantis enjoyed a chocolate pudding dessert—by eating it with three of his fingers, according to two sources familiar with the incident.
Insurrectionist Who Barged Into Pelosi’s Office Gets Three Years
The sentencing hearing came complete with a Judge Amy Berman Jackson classic takedown of a dumb defense (the defendant’s lawyers argued their 24-year-old client was too young and small to be responsible for her own insurrection-ing).
“I’m sorry, Riley June Williams was old enough and tall enough on January 6. And to the extent that she comes off as fragile or weak, that all goes away when she opens her mouth.”
AI Trump 2024
Bragg’s Office Not Taking Jim Jordan’s Shit
Bragg’s office pushed back on Jim Jordan (R-OH) and his MAGA allies’ Monday request that the DA testify before Congress about his Trump investigation. The Manhattan DA’s general counsel Leslie B. Dubeck called the Republicans’ request — which came after Trump announced he expected to be arrested on Tuesday — “an unprecedent[ed] inquiry into a pending local prosecution.”
“The Letter only came after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested the next day and his lawyers reportedly urged you to intervene,” Dubeck wrote. “Neither fact is a legitimate basis for congressional inquiry.”
You Know It When You See It?
Carroll v. Trump Will Be Tried In The Dark
The judge overseeing author E. Jean Carroll’s civil lawsuit against Trump said the jurors’ personal information will be kept confidential and other security measures will be taken to protect them from Trump’s history of targeting people who might put him in legal peril.
“Mr. Trump’s quite recent reaction to what he perceived as an imminent threat of indictment by a grand jury sitting virtually next door to this Court was to encourage ‘protest’ and to urge people to ‘take our country back.’ That reaction reportedly has been perceived by some as incitement to violence,” Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote on Thursday. “And it bears mention that Mr. Trump repeatedly has attacked courts, judges, various law enforcement officials and other public officials, and even individual jurors in other matters.”
Right to Repeal
Michigan is poised to repeal its right-to-work law, the first state to do so in over 50 years. These laws allow those in unionized jobs to opt out of paying union dues — while the unions are still required to provide services, like representation in disputes with management, even to those non-paying workers.
Over the past half century, there have been very few wins in this direction. There was a flurry of these laws passed in the 1940s and 1950s, then another batch sprinted through in the early 2010s, as a resurgent Republican right wing looked for ways to establish political dominance on the state level.
But times are changing. And as pro-union sentiment is the highest it’s been in decades, an iconic union stronghold is finally fighting back.
Trio of Trolls Trick Trump’s Truth Social
This week, three friends played a prank on Trump by making #DeSantis2024 trend on Truth Social, his bootleg Twitter app. Then, the site temporarily went offline.
@petermcindoejr It wouod only take 100 of us to make soemthing trend, making an account is super easy #TruthSocial #trumparrest #trump ♬ original sound – Peter McIndoe Jr.
Two More States Fall For Election Deniers’ Conspiracy Theory
Over the course of the last year, a handful of Republican-led states have opted to withdraw from a voter roll maintenance program called Electronic Registration Information Center. ERIC is a non-partisan program that’s been used by over 30 Republican and Democratic states to help clean up voter rolls for years, designed to give states a way to compare voter data and prevent double voting across state lines since there’s no national voter database. The same Republican officials who have recently pulled out of the program have long praised the organization, which has been around since 2012, for helping to root out actual instances of voter fraud, like double voting.
What’s changed? Election deniers, far-right Republicans and the right-wing media have recently declared the program its latest boogyman because something something George Soros.
- The program was partially funded by Pew Charitable Trusts, a major, nonpartisan nonprofit that Soros’ Open Society Foundations once donated $500,000 to. Soros, of course, has never directly contributed to ERIC, but…
- In January 2022 the far-right website Gateway Pundit began publishing a series of blog posts claiming the program was being run and funded by liberal activists because of the Soros tie and because election law expert David Becker sat on the board as a non-voting member.
- As my colleague Kaila Phillo has been reporting: since then seven red states have cut ties with the program, which decreases the value of the system for the states that still use it. Two more red states are weighing a withdraw as well.
- Becker resigned from the board to try to quell the conspiracy theories and company officials have put out a statement debunking the fraudulent allegations, but it didn’t matter – Ohio and Iowa abruptly pulled out last week.
Who Can Blame Him
Manuel Oliver, the father of a Parkland shooting victim, was arrested for interrupting a House Judiciary Committee hearing on gun regulations Thursday after he appeared to shout at a Republican lawmaker. During the hearing titled “ATF’s Assault on the Second Amendment: When is Enough Enough?,” Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX) was asked panelists a series of questions while arguing that guns are “merely a tool” and shouldn’t be banned because they cause deaths when misused.
During his questioning, a man in the room could be heard yelling and interrupting him. In response to the heckling, which is not super uncommon during contentious hearings, Fallon looked across the room and asked, “Is this an insurrection? So will they be held to the same — I don’t want another Jan. 6, do we?”
We won’t waste any ink explaining how utterly unhinged it is to compare this parent’s passionate protest to a deadly, violent insurrection. Leave it to the Gen-Zer in Congress to capture the arrest on camera:
The Arizona Supreme Court has left the tiniest gasp of life in Kari Lake’s neverending election lawsuit, in which she’s trying to get her 2022 gubernatorial loss overturned. The court dismissed six of her seven claims, saying they’d been appropriately examined and dismissed by lower courts. But they resurrected the remaining claim, based on Lake’s allegations that Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, who’s become a primary antagonist in her stolen election narrative, accepted “a material number” of ballot envelopes bearing signatures that didn’t match those in the voters’ files.
They sent that back down to the county judge, who first heard Lake’s case last December. This has been cause for massive celebration on Lake’s Twitter page, where the big lie carousel goes ‘round and ‘round.
Do you like Morning Memo? Let us know!
TPM’s Kate Riga, Kaila Philo, John Light and Emine Yücel contributed to today’s Morning Memo.