Right-Wing Internet Cesspools Suspect A Trick

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Hello it’s the weekend. This is The Weekender ☕

After listening to me mutter to myself and shout into the depths of my laptop for nearly three hours Thursday night, my roommate finally asked me a wild question: Do you think Democrats did that on purpose?

That would be extremely dumb, I explained, a massive waste of time and money during a crucial stretch of the election cycle, all with the purpose of pulling off some elaborate trick to convince the American electorate that Biden is, in fact, way too old to function and should be replaced as the Democratic nominee? Why would Democrats have needed to go to all that trouble? It’s not, after all, the American public that needs convincing on this particular point.

Yet that’s a case that some right-wing influencers have been making, sometimes trollingly and sometimes with seeming seriousness, for months, years even, already.

By Friday morning, the right-wing Twittersphere had, in fact, latched onto said befuddling conspiracy theory as truth.

“All signs indicate this was planned— intentional mutiny maneuvering. This was done purposefully,” right-wing attorney Marina Medvin posted on Twitter.

“This debate disaster was pulled off on purpose by the Democrats as a pretext to replace Biden,” former Trump admin official William Wolfe tweeted.

Thursday night was very bad. There’s no denying it. It’s left Democrats shocked, and questioning how this could have happened. Hard-right Republicans are, apparently, in a similar place. But conspiratorial galaxy brain group think — the idea that nothing can be as it seems — has so infected the MAGA movement that they can’t even accept a win without looking over their shoulder for the deep state’s hidden hand.

Here’s what else TPM has on tap this weekend:

  • Hunter Walker unpacks how Trump used the debate to wink at the far-right extremists who participated in Jan. 6 and Charlottesville.
  • Khaya Himmelman reports on Tennessee Republicans’ latest scare tactic in the right’s war on the non-existent problem of non-citizen voting.
  • Nancy Pelosi responds to Trump’s insinuation that she was actually the one responsible for the insurrection.
  • Emine Yücel explains why Republicans, once again, would like Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) to STFU.

Let’s dig in.

— Nicole Lafond

Trump Flirted With The Extreme Far Right On The Debate Stage 

As President Biden fumbled and faded on the debate stage Thursday night, his opponent took the opportunity to rewrite history. Former President Trump made a series of blatantly false and misleading claims in an attempt to disassociate himself from violent and dangerous right wing extremists including those who challenged his loss to Biden in the 2020 election. However, at the very same time Trump tried to buy some distance and political cover from the most radical elements of his base, Trump also very clearly opened the door to future political violence. 

When he was asked to address concerns voters have about his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building, Trump rejected all responsibility. Trump suggested the “statements” he made at the time were some of the “strongest” you could have in calling to quell the violence. As examples he cited moments in a tweet and speech he gave that day where he urged the crowd to be peaceful. However, it has emerged from Trump’s own staff that he had to be pressed to send that tweet, which occurred after he had spent hours watching the violence unfold. And the speech Trump cites as his call for calm is the same one where he urged the thousands of people he had inspired to come to Washington with false conspiracies about the election result to “fight like hell” and march on the Capitol. Many of the people in the crowd did just that. 

Along with using the debate to falsely minimize his own role in the Capitol attack, Trump also defended his supporters who stormed the building. Trump bizarrely claimed it was “a relatively small number of people that went to the Capitol” and that many were “ushered in by the police.” The former president, who has openly considered pardoning some of the people who are in jail for breaking into the building and attacking law enforcement that day, also claimed some of them are “so innocent.”

Trump’s effort to simultaneously distance himself from the Jan. 6 extremists while also embracing them contains clear echoes of his response to the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. That issue was also relitigated on the debate stage. 

Biden has claimed he was inspired to run for president in the 2020 election after seeing Trump’s response to the rally where a crowd of neo Nazis and other racists marched with tiki torches before violently clashing with counter protesters. Trump infamously responded by declaring there were “people that were very fine people, on both sides.” 

During the debate, Biden again cited Trump’s response to Charlottesville as his reason for running. Trump claimed “the Charlottesville story” has been “debunked all over the place.” His comment seemed to reference an argument that most recently was made in a piece published earlier this month on the “fact checking” site Snopes, which has had some fairly extensive issues in recent years. Snopes declared it “false” to suggest Trump called the neo Nazis and white supremacists “very fine people.” Reporter Kat Abugazaleh released a great, in depth video on Thursday breaking down the Snopes piece and fully detailing how it relies on “little linguistic technicalities rather than the actual meaning” of Trump’s words. 

If you don’t have time for a whole video breakdown, Snopes’ conclusion was based on the fact that Trump later said he wasn’t talking about racists who should be “condemned totally” and was supposedly referencing people “other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists” who were participating in the rally. However, as an editor’s note that was appended to the Snopes piece points out, “virtually every source that covered the Unite the Right debacle concluded that it was conceived of, led by and attended by white supremacists.” In other words, there were no people other than neo-Nazis and white supremacists on the pro-rally side who Trump could have been referencing when he described the “very fine people on both sides.” And, of course, in more recent years, Trump and other Republicans have flirted with Nick Fuentes, a neo-Nazi leader who rose to prominence via the Charlottesville rally. 

That insistence on “very fine people” participating in the event is crucial because, while he tries to take some cover, Trump is expressing some degree of support for extremism. It’s the same tack he’s taken with the Jan. 6 attack, ostensibly distancing himself from far right extremists while also defending them. 

During the debate, Trump didn’t just display a willingness to stand up for violent extremists. He also showed how he might inspire them in the future. 

The Jan. 6 attack came after an extensive coordinated campaign by Trump and his allies to falsely challenge his loss in 2020. On stage Thursday night, Trump was asked at least three different times if he would commit to actually accepting the results this time around. 

Trump only said he would do so if he deemed it “a fair, and legal, and good election.” Obviously, given his rejection of the last one — which even officials from his own administration conceded was fairly run — that isn’t really an answer. Biden responded to this by saying, “Let’s see what your numbers are when this election is over.”

“We’ll see,” Trump said. 

Indeed we will. 

— Hunter Walker

Tennessee Republicans Keep Trump’s Non-Citizens Voting Myth Alive By Harassing Immigrants

Election officials in Tennessee are further perpetuating the baseless myth of non-citizens voting in elections. The Tennessee Coordinator of Elections sent out letters from the GOP Secretary of State’s office to over 14,000 suspected non-citizens asking them for proof of citizenship earlier this month. 

“Our office has received information that appears to indicate that your voter information matches with an individual who may not have been a United States citizen at the time of obtaining a Tennessee driver license or ID card,” the letter reads. 

Those who received the letter, according to reporting from the Tennessean, will remain registered to vote and do not need to respond. 

But, as Democratic state Rep. Gloria Johnson told Democracy Docket, the letter, at its core, is “voter intimidation.”

Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons similarly described the letter in a statement as “an egregious and unlawful act by a state official targeting a certain population of citizens who are lawful voters, with the clear intent to intimidate them.” 

Election deniers and Republican members of Congress have consistently been pushing this baseless narrative of non-citizens voting in elections on behalf of Biden for months now. It’s already illegal for non-citizens to vote in federal elections, and, as we have reported before, there is simply no evidence to suggest that it’s an issue. 

In May, election deniers and Republican members of Congress promoted the SAVE Act, which would make it illegal for people who are not U.S. citizens to vote in federal elections — again, something that is already illegal.

“The biggest single reason not to vote when you’re a non-citizen is that not only is there a serious criminal penalty attached, and not only is there potential for a serious fine attached, but you can be removed from the country,”  Justin Levitt, professor of law at Loyola Law School, said in an an previous interview with TPM. 

— Khaya Himmelman

Republicans, Once Again, Really Wish Rosendale Would STFU

This week, Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) proposed an amendment to the 2025 defense spending bill that would prevent any of the Pentagon funds from being spent on in vitro fertilization.

And as if his amendment wasn’t enough, on Thursday he also smothered the walls around his congressional office door with anti-IVF posters.

Since the Alabama Supreme Court’s February decision that provided embryos with the same legal protection as children, temporarily halting IVF procedures across the state, Republicans have been tiptoeing around the issue.

Most of them, especially those running for re-election, have been VERY loud about their supposed support of IVF. Their actions haven’t matched with their words, of course — as we saw when senators voted on the Right to IVF Act. But regardless there’s been a clear push on the GOP’s end to try and not alienate voters around the very popular procedure.

Well it seems Rosendale does not care much — or at all, from the looks of it — for that Republican strategy.

This is not his first middle finger to his own party.

He also angered many of his colleagues last year when he voted to oust former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and earlier this year when he launched a bid for Senate in Montana, despite the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s leadership spending months trying to convince him to sit out the race.

Rosendale dropped his bid less than a week after he officially launched it. He later announced he is retiring from his position, saying his bid for the U.S. senate led to “a death threat” against him as well as “false and defamatory rumors” about him and his family.

— Emine Yücel

Words Of Wisdom

“He’s a fool. He thinks I planned my own assassination? He’s sicker than I thought…”

That’s Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reacting to former President Trump blaming her for the Jan. 6 riot during Thursday night’s disastrous presidential debate.

If you missed the debate or tuned out parts of it here is what happened: CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump what he would say to “voters who believed that you violated your constitutional oath through your actions and inaction on January 6, 2021, and worried that you’ll do it again.”

Trump, of course, deflected the question, instead blaming Pelosi for the violent riot. 

The former president claimed that at the time, he offered the National Guard to Pelosi, anticipating that hundreds of his supporters would come to Capitol Hill that day and that the Speaker told him that the resulting violence was on her.  

“Nancy Pelosi — if you just watched the news from two days ago — on tape to her daughter who’s a documentary filmmaker … she’s saying, ‘Oh, no, it’s my responsibility. I was responsible for this.’ Because I offered her 10,000 soldiers or National Guard, and she turned them down,” Trump said. 

Just like most of what he said throughout the night, Trump’s statement about Pelosi is a lie. He is referring to a video House Republicans released earlier this month where the former House Speaker says she “takes responsibility” for what happened on Jan. 6.

What the video House Republicans released didn’t show, however, was that the clip was cut up and presented out of context. It was actually part of a roughly 45 minutes long recording — which Politico reviewed — where Pelosi grilled her staff about why Capitol Police were so unprepared the day of the attack.

Same old propaganda from Republicans … doing anything and everything but holding Trump accountable for his actions.

— Emine Yücel

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Notable Replies

  1. Well here is to being first without a cat.

  2. OMG, I hope it was just the cold medicine I took last night that made me wonder this morning before I was fully awake that since Joe’s debate performance really woke people up to the seriousness of our collective situation and it’s time to pay attention to it that maybe that was the plan. Certainly got the donations rolling in and provided motivation to get involved.

    Nah, they wouldn’t take that gamble, too much at stake. But I had to laugh at myself when I read the headline this morning.

    Nevertheless, that debate sure woke everyone the fuck up.

  3. Avatar for tpr tpr says:

    For anybody still worried about Biden’s fitness, check out his rally in North Carolina from the night after the debate.

    But yeah, we gotta wake up. SCOTU$ just revealed the game plan, and we will lose our democracy if we don’t sweep the elections this year.

Continue the discussion at forums.talkingpointsmemo.com

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