Zachary Petrizzo

Latest far-right Virginia take: Maybe Youngkin win was 'part of a larger psyop' to steal future elections

Republican Glenn Youngkin won the hotly contested bellwether race for governor of Virginia last week, even after many on the right had issued dark warnings about the supposed possibility of election fraud in the Old Dominion. Yet the GOP victory has done nothing to squelch the "Big Lie," otherwise known as the belief that the 2020 election was "stolen" from Donald Trump through voting machines somehow compromised by China and the Democrats.

Many observers assumed that Youngkin's win over Democratic former governor Terry McAuliffe would leave right-wing media and online characters alike mute, at least temporarily, on the topic of election fraud. Except that wasn't how things played out. Instead, conspiracy theories seemed to build on each other, Jenga Tower-style, creating an unstable and even indecipherable mess.

Last Wednesday, far-right Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft floated the imaginative notion that Youngkin's win could have been the result of a sinister "larger psyop" carried out by Democrats in order to distract from the really big election fraud being committed. In other words, maybe Glenn Youngkin was a false flag.

"On Tuesday, Glenn Youngkin won the governor's race in Virginia. He was an impressive candidate, and it was a stunning win," Hoft wrote, then continuing by citing the work of his twin brother, Joe Hoft, to reiterate the baseless claim that "one year ago 300,000 votes magically appeared for Joe Biden in the middle of the night to give him the win in Virginia."

What this added up to, in the Hoft brothers' universe, was that Youngkin's victory was a kind of fake-out, with the hapless McAuliffe serving as "a sacrificial lamb."

"So where were the magical votes this year? Was this omission on purpose?" Hoft demanded rhetorically. "Was this part of a larger psyop on the American public? Was this part of their game? Throw in McAuliffe as a sacrificial lamb knowing they can steal any future election at will?"

The question marks did not conceal the intended message delivered to Hoft's massive right-wing audience: The Big Lie goalposts were being moved to accommodate the story of Youngkin's victory. "So, was the 2021 Virginia race a head-fake by Democrats on the American public?" Hoft added, summarizing his grand claim.

Hoft did not respond to Salon's request for comment.

Fellow 2020 conspiracy theorists have also had to refine their messaging in the days following Youngkin's victory, with the similar goal of somehow bolstering their claims of continuing massive voting-machine fraud in elections across the nation.

"You guys, there was so much corruption and fraud through them machines," MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell said on his live stream last week, responding to the Virginia result. "You can't even believe it. And we do have spots where they didn't do anything in the algorithm. They didn't do anything. Now we have proof." Lindell appeared to mean, but did not exactly say, that the Virginia election was one of those "spots where they didn't do anything."

Lindell didn't respond to Salon's request for clarification. He declared on Friday night, however, that "rotten" Salon had a chance to beat out Fox News as "worst outlet of the year."

As for the Hoft brothers, whose Gateway Pundit site attracted 30 million page-views last month, their mix of half-baked conspiracy theories and blatantly one-sided reporting recently earned the ultimate award: praise from Donald Trump.

"You guys are great," the twice-impeached ex-president told the brothers last Saturday night during their visit to Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Palm Beach. "Really good!" he added, shaking their hands and beaming.

Lauren Boebert's QAnon pal is running for local office — but isn't legally eligible

A friend and employee of far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert who works as the general manager of Shooters Grill, Boebert's bar and restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, is mounting a campaign for city council even though he does not meet the residency requirements.

According to a series of Facebook posts initially discovered by Salon, Bud Demicell — an apparent devotee of the QAnon conspiracy theory —moved to Rifle with his wife Mona late in 2020, not in time to meet the residency requirement for local elections.

On Nov. 13, 2020, Mona Demicell, who worked in Boebert's campaign office employee, posted on Facebook that the couple was "moving to Rifle, CO to work for Lauren Boebert at Shooters Grill!" She added that "Bud's last day with his current employer is next Friday. He'll go to Rifle ahead of us. We're planning to all be in Rifle by Dec 1, but we're having trouble finding a place to live."

That clearly implies that Bud Demicell was not a resident of Rifle on Nov. 2, 2020, the date that would have established residential eligibility for this year's local election. It appears that as of that date, the couple was still living in Pueblo, Colorado, more than 250 miles away

The City of Rifle website makes clear that any candidate for municipal office must "have resided in the City of Rifle for one year before the date of the election." Additional Facebook posts by both Bud and Mona Demicell confirm that the couple most likely arrived in town on or around Nov. 21 of last year, missing the deadline by less than three weeks.

"We need a place to live!! Preferably in Rifle. 2-3 bed, 2 bath. Pet friendly," Mona wrote on Nov. 17, in a now-deleted Facebook post. "Bud will be there Saturday and couch surf with gracious friends." That date was a Tuesday, so Bud's Saturday arrival presumably meant Nov. 21.

A post from Bud a few weeks earlier, on Oct. 22, featured a photo of a camouflage "Veteran for Trump" hat and stated, "I just finished voting at the polling location in Pueblo West," indicating he was a legal resident in Pueblo as of the 2020 presidential election.

Both of the Demicells, as reported by Salon in September, have ties to both the QAnon movement and the right-wing militia group known as the Three Percenters.

Demicell didn't return a Salon request for comment for this story, but his campaign website remains live. "Bud's vast business management and financial experience, and his strong leadership skills make him the optimum candidate for Rifle City Council," his site reads. "He believes in leading by example, open lines of communication, complete transparency, and accountability for his actions as well as the actions of others."

Over the past week as Salon began reporting on this matter, a large number of Mona Demicell's Facebook posts were either made private or deleted.

Salon made numerous efforts to contact the Rifle City Clerk's office about Demicell's eligibility but received no response. The local election is less than two weeks away.


Why even the far-right outlet Newsmax seems to be cutting ties with MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell

As Republicans and denizens of TrumpWorld increasingly distance themselves from MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, he even finds himself at odds with Newsmax, a previously supportive far-right news channel.

Last week, Lindell said on his live-streaming site Frank Speech that Newsmax, which increasingly seeks to position itself as a further-right alternative to Fox News, had pulled all its ads from his site. He suggested that Newsmax was concerned about "competition" with Frank Speech, which seems objectively unlikely. A Newsmax spokesperson did not return numerous Salon requests for comment on the reasons for pulling back ads, which might also include the $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Lindell filed by Dominion Voting Systems over his outlandish and largely disproven 2020 election claims.

"We had Newsmax call up, and they canceled all their ads on Frank Speech," Lindell said last week on the nightly program he hosts on his clumsily-engineered site. He turned to co-host Brannon Howse and joked, "I'm blaming this one on you, Brannon [Howse]. They said a different reason. They said you're too much competition for them." Howse also hosts an evening program on Frank Speech that often involves hostile segments about immigrants and praise for Lindell's conspiracy theories.

After an exchange with Howse, Lindell continued: "They said it wasn't because of Dominion, which they [had] proven. They just said they're not going to put ads up because they said it's a competitive brand." It's not clear what Lindell believes Newsmax has "proven" regarding Dominion Voting Systems.

"It's kind of, like, weird," the pillow magnate continued. "I guess it'd be, you know, advertising another station on a station. But, you know, that's too bad because for me this is about saving our country. It's not about any competition with Newsmax or anyone. It's about getting our voices, so we can get the word out."

Howse then pivoted by claiming tha Lindell's blundering media operation has a "great relationship" with One America News, more commonly referred to as OAN, and Real America's Voice, the organization that produces Steve Bannon's podcast. There's "a lot of cross-promotion between those networks," Howse said. He and Lindell have claimed that Lindell's primetime show, "The Lindell Report," reaches millions of homes nationwide, which is highly implausible.

"Absolutely," Lindell replied. "He made a bad decision, but, you know, I'm not gonna dwell on it," likely referring to one of his Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy, a close friend of Donald Trump's.

Howse concluded by claiming the Newsmax decision was a sign from higher powers that Lindell's media operation is "rising."

Lindell and his legal counsel didn't return a Salon request for comment. He has largely ended communication with Salon after deeming the site "evil" for requesting for the raw data behind his infamous claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent.

Newsmax's apparent turnabout is something of a surprise. Lindell has previously received vocal support from both Ruddy personally and his entire operation. In August, a Newsmax reporter took to the Manhattan streets outside the Fox News headquarters building, berating the network for refusing to run Lindell's "cyber symposium" ads.

"Here at Newsmax, we believe in a good night's sleep, so we're running that ad," Newsmax correspondent Mike Carter said at the time. "And today, we're taking Fox News to the mattresses!"

Glenn Youngkin’s Trump-adjacent balancing act is wearing thin

Last week's TrumpWorld event spearheaded by former White House strategist Steve Bannon and fellow radio host John Fredericks in Richmond, Virginia, was not attended by Glenn Youngkin, the Republican gubernatorial nominee. Indeed, Youngkin was later forced to issue a statement denouncing part of the event, after attendees recited the Pledge of Allegiance before a flag allegedly present at the Jan. 6 insurrection.

But at least one powerful Youngkin ally was at the event cozying up to MAGAWorld allies, lending credence to charges that the nominee is, if not a full-on Trumper, at least Trump-curious. A man who identified himself as a board member at a Youngkin-connected PAC told Salon the GOP candidate was at the gathering "in spirit."

Although this "campaign adviser" did not identify himself, further investigation makes clear that he was Phil Rapp of nearby Midlothian, Virginia, who serves on the executive board of the Middle Resolution PAC. At the Bannon event in a suburban restaurant, he was wearing a navy blue Youngkin cap and a button-down shirt, and was surrounded by self-identified Youngkin volunteers, many with and yard signs.

A biography on the Middle Resolution website identifies Rapp as a onetime "activist member within the Tea Party movement" and former "Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor and Campaign Manager" to Rep. Dave Brat, a far-right Republican who unseated Rep. Eric Cantor in a 2014 GOP primary and lost his seat to Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger in 2018. Indeed Rapp showed Salon a photo of himself with Brat and Donald Trump taken during his days on Capitol Hill.

In April, the Middle Resolution PAC endorsed Youngkin for governor "following an extensive interview and vetting process." The multimillionaire Republican candidate said at the time that the "powerful endorsement" was a sign that "conservative momentum is with our campaign, and I'm the only candidate strong enough to beat Terry McAuliffe in November."

Youngkin's running mate, Republican lieutenant-governor nominee Winsome Sears, was originally slated to speak at the Bannon gathering in Richmond gathering but did not appear. A campaign spokesperson did not respond to questions about the last-minute no-show.

The delicate needle Youngkin is apparently attempting to thread with Trump supporters has not gone unnoticed. Bannon's co-host recently described Youngkin's strategy as "brilliant." by hardcore Trump supporters, who believe the idea of duping voters into believing he is "moderate" is rather genius.

"He doesn't go around talking about Nov. 3 [2020], but here's what he's done," Fredericks told Bannon last Thursday. "Glenn Youngkin has put together the greatest voting integrity infrastructure in the history of Virginia. He's got the RNC behind it, they have lawyers, they have a hotline, they have this whole thing. Obviously, Glenn Youngkin believes that the election in 2020 got stolen, because he's pouring millions and millions of dollars into Virginia to set up a voting integrity infrastructure that will stand the test of time."

Late last week, Youngkin issued a statement denouncing the presence of the supposed Jan. 6 flag at the Richmond event, in which he also denied any connection to the evening. "I wasn't involved, and so I don't know" anything about the flag incident, Youngkin told The Hill. "But if that is the case, then we shouldn't pledge allegiance to that flag."

Virginia GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin forced to ask white supremacist supporter to leave campaign event

MANASSAS, Virginia — A routine campaign stop for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin turned chaotic on Saturday night after the candidate's team was forced to boot a local Republican leader and apparent white nationalist from the event, causing a scene that a spokesperson called "antithetical" to the Republican hopeful's message.

The incident happened just before Youngkin was slated to give a stump speech to a crowd of "Latinos for Youngkin" at a local restaurant, when campaign officials approached a man, named Fredy Burgos, who was wearing both a red pro-Trump hat emblazoned with "Build the Wall" and a pin promoting white nationalist and Unite the Right rally attendee Nicholas Fuentes.

Burgos is a longtime far-right activist and former local Republican party official who made waves during the Trump years with a series of bombastic statements that earned him plenty of enemies in local conservative circles. The Washington Post, reporting on a 2018 drive to oust him from his post on the Fairfax County Republican Party committee, wrote that he was a "verbal bomb-thrower whose attacks against Muslims, immigrants and others have turned off moderates."

He even appeared alongside several of Fuentes' white nationalist followers — known online as Groypers — at a Loudoun County School Board meeting recently, which has become a local flashpoint in the nationwide right-wing campaign to ban anti-racist lessons in public schools.

As Saturday's Youngkin event was getting underway, Burgos, who sported a thick mustache and vintage suit vest for the occasion, made a short-lived walk around the inside of the venue, only to be forced out after Salon inquired about his pin and associations.

Notably, Burgos said he only became a Youngkin supporter recently, after Virginia state Senator-turned-"toxic [Youngkin] surrogate" Amanda Chase lost her bid to Youngkin. Prior to the loss, she had taken to calling herself "Trump in heels."

(Zachary Petrizzo/Salon)

Despite Burgos being booted from the event Saturday, he told Salon he remains a steadfast supporter of the candidate and that he hopes to appear at future rallies.

"I'm a supporter of the ticket," Burgos told Salon after being removed from the "Latinos for Youngkin" event. "They are concerned about the [Build the Wall] hat. I think that they have a problem thinking that other people may have a problem with the hat."

(Zachary Petrizzo/Salon)

Asked about his white nationalist pin, Burgos added, "I support the America First movement."

"I believe that we need to put the interest of the American people and America First on every issue."

In a subsequent statement to Salon, a Youngkin campaign spokesperson said Burgos, who told Salon he has attended numerous other campaign events without incident, espoused beliefs "antithetical" to the candidate's message of unity.

"At today's Latinos for Youngkin event, a Salon reporter informed a staffer of an attendee's pin that associated the attendee with [an] element of the white nationalist movement. The white nationalist movement and those associated with it are entirely antithetical to tonight's event — to celebrate the end of Hispanic Heritage Month and the Latinos for Youngkin efforts — and Glenn's message to unite ALL Virginians, so the attendee was asked to leave," Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter told Salon in a statement. "There will never be room for white nationalism or any form of hatred or bigotry on this campaign."

It's not the first run-in with right-wing extremism for the Youngkin campaign, either: the candidate himself has appeared on former Trump official Sebastian Gorka's radio show. Notably, Gorka found himself in hot water after wearing the pin of a Nazi-linked group to Trump's inaugural ball.

Last week Youngkin also found himself the recipient of high praise from the former president himself during an event in which attendees pledged allegiance to an American flag that supposedly flew over a rally that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection — a bizarre show of support for the rioters who attempted to stop the certification of President Joe Biden's electoral victory over Trump.

Youngkin later tried to distance himself from the gathering, and the former commander-in-chief, by calling the incident "weird."

It's a delicate needle Youngkin is attempting to thread on the campaign trail — appealing to hardcore Trump supporters by embracing election conspiracies and anti-vaccine sentiments, while simultaneously claiming to hold moderate beliefs.

"Here is what Glenn Youngkin has done, which is brilliant. He doesn't go around talking about November 3rd, but here's what he's done," right-wing radio host John Fredricks, the organizer of last week's flag incident, said during a Thursday morning appearance on Bannon's "War Room" podcast.

"Glenn Youngkin has put together the greatest voting integrity infrastructure in the history of Virgina. He's got the RNC behind it; they have lawyers, they have a hotline, they have this whole thing."

"Obviously, Glenn Younkin believes that the election in 2020 got stolen," Fredricks added.

It's these beliefs that Burgos cited as the reason he plans to continue supporting Youngkin despite being booted from the campaign event Saturday. He even said he planned on attending another Youngkin event later that evening in Northern Virginia.

The controversial 2013 Republican candidate for Virginia House of Delegates did say he might have to leave his hat at home from now on.

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Accused war criminal’s foundation forced to refund MAGA donors angered by anti-Trump posts

Bitter TrumpWorld donors want their money back after Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, once an outspoken pro-Trump voice opposed to President Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal, apparently turned on his far-right supporters and slammed former President Trump in a Facebook post.

This latest TrumpWorld internal drama began last month when Scheller faced discipline from his Marine Corps superiors after speaking out against his bosses over the Afghanistan withdrawal.

In what became a viral video in right-wing media, on Aug. 26 Scheller said: "People are upset because their senior leaders let them down. And none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying, 'We messed this up.'"

Shortly thereafter, the Marine officer lost his post and was briefly jailed for his social media posting, in violation of orders to halt his online activities. On Tuesday afternoon, he was apparently "released from the brig." Throughout the multi-week affair, his parents, Stu and Cathy Scheller, have spoken out, claiming that the Marine Corps told them their son could face "a long prison term."

That's possible: Scheller now faces a series of serious charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including charges of "willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer" and "failure to obey an order."

The right-wing ecosystem roused itself, and financial aid from pro-Trump online forces poured in on Scheller's behalf, directed to his family and legal defense team.

Eddie Gallagher, who was accused of murdering an Iraqi POW in 2017 but later acquitted, stepped in with his Pipe Hitter Foundation, which to date has raised north of $2.5 million on Scheller's behalf. But here's the rub: After Scheller expressed mild criticism of the twice-impeached ex-president in a recent Facebook post, TrumpWorld donors are livid and want their money back.

This donor backlash appears to have been sparked by a Sept. 25 post in which Scheller said, "President Trump. I was told by everyone to kiss the ring because of your following and power. I refuse. While I respect your foreign policy positions, I hate how you divided the country. I don't need or want your help. You do not have the ability to pull [the] U.S. together. You may even win the next election. But your generation's time is running out."

Next Schiller took aim at Donald Trump Jr., the former president's eldest son, stating: "Tell your son to stop tweeting about me. Your whole family knows nothing about [the] U.S. or our sacrifices. I could never work with you. I'd rather sit in jail and be released with a dishonorable [discharge] than make compromises in my beliefs."

Oh my word: Trumpist donors, by the hundreds, are beside themselves. One donor who identified herself as Barbra wrote: "What a scam artist you are! Worse than BLM last year! Give the money back! Cry baby! You are mental and your kids and wife will suffer. Karma all the way here. You knew damn well what you were doing to prey on people for Money!"

Barbra, by her own account, had given $3. She concluded: "A real Marine doesn't have mommy and daddy crying for him!"

Gallagher and his Pipe Hitter Foundation didn't return Salon's request for comment on this story.

Another anonymous donor wrote: "You and to your family [sic] are frauds! Tell your parents to cry on the fake news channels. You hate Trump, his kids, and you think he divided this Country? You need help? Tell your loser family this E9 said [to] go to hell."

"Yes, I am making the MINIMUM $3 donation to let everyone else know to look you up before they consider any $$ support for you," another disgruntled donor wrote, in an apparent effort to warn away other Trump supporter.

Another unhappy donor named Gretchen Smith wrote, "I sent Pipe Hitter an email for a refund of my $52.23 on 10/05/21."

"How dare you disrespect President Trump," wrote Marc. "Please refund my earlier donation. If the election wasn't stolen, you wouldn't be in jail right now because Trump would NEVER have allowed it. Thanks for your service, but maybe it's your big mouth that's causing all your issues."

Since Scheller went rogue with his anti-Trump comments, Gallagher's organization has been tasked with issuing refunds to angry Trump supporters who had initially flocked to the cause.

"We have been working all day today in giving people their money back, if they are asking for it," Gallagher told Steve Bannon on his "War Room: Pandemic" podcast earlier this week. "It's understandable," the former Navy SEAL added.

Gallagher insisted his foundation would not back down from supporting Scheller and his family, despite the backlash from Trump loyalists: "We are going to continue to raise money for them and help them out." How that will be received remains to be seen.

Trumpers stand up for Kyrsten Sinema — suggest bathroom protesters should be 'deported'

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., found herself the recipient of some unwanted attention over the weekend, as the "centrist" senator continues her apparently intractable opposition to President Biden's legislative "Build Back Better" agenda.

In a video posted to Twitter on Sunday, young activists with the organization Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) confronted Sinema outside a classroom at Arizona State University, where she has taught classes since 2003.

The video captures the senator stating, "Actually, I am heading out," and locking herself into a bathroom stall as hecklers pepper her with remarks from the bathroom's entryway.

Following the sound of a flushing toilet, an activist speaks up, arguing they are holding her "accountable."

"We need to hold you accountable to what you told us, what you promised us that you were going to pass when we knocked on doors for you," the activist who identified herself as Blanca says. "It's not right!"

A Sinema spokesperson didn't return a Salon request for comment about the confrontation. In a statement released on Twitter, however, Sinema said the bathroom encounter "was not legitimate protest."

"It is unacceptable for activist organizations to instruct their members to jeopardize themselves by engaging in unlawful activities such as gaining entry to closed university buildings, disrupting learning environments, and filming students in a restroom," her statement added.

Right-wing media quickly seized upon the unlikely task of defending a Democratic senator against people who (very likely) voted for her.

Coup-crazed former Trump adviser Steve Bannon suggested that the progressive activists who confronted the senator might have been "Illegal aliens."

"By the way, no illegal aliens vote in Arizona. They are bragging about it," he added Monday morning on his podcast. "Out there, they're stalking Sen. Sinema and bragging about how they organize and vote out in Arizona. Just saying."

"Watch — Leftist Protesters Stalk, Harass Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in a Restroom," the far-right Breitbart site flashed on its homepage early on Monday. The conservative blog RedStateasked its readers a rhetorical question: "Did Leftists Who Stalked and Filmed Sinema in the Bathroom Commit a Crime?" (The answer would almost certainly be no.)

Stephen Miller, the former speechwriter and adviser to Donald Trump, who has often expressed an affinity for white nationalist views, also took up Sinema's cause, expanding on Bannon's illogical views.

"An illegal alien is stalking a US Senator to demand passage of Biden's reconciliation bill [because] it includes mass amnesty for illegals," he tweeted, citing the ruckus on the Arizona State campus. "In a functioning democracy, ICE would swiftly deport this person, but under Biden's new edict (as the lawbreaker knows) she's immune from removal."

"Did we #DeportBlanca yet?" former Trump official Steve Cortes asked aloud on Twitter.

On Monday afternoon, President Biden said the Sinema protesters' actions were "not appropriate," but observed shortly thereafter that such events are "part of the process."

"I don't think they're appropriate tactics, but it happens to everybody," the president said from the White House. "The only people it doesn't happen to are people who have Secret Service standing around them. It's a part of the process."

Jen Psaki mocks Newsmax reporter for yelling questions after briefings end

White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki has apparently had enough of Newsmax White House correspondent Emerald Robinson's tendency to continue shouting additional questions after White House press briefings have concluded.

On Monday afternoon, near the conclusion of the daily White House briefing — which has become a "circus" of late, according to one veteran White House reporter — Psaki doubled down on the administration's criticism of the "horrific" behavior of some U.S. Border Patrol agents in their handling of Haitian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

"I don't think anyone could look at those photos and think that was appropriate action or behavior or something that should be accepted within our administration. There's an investigation. That's ongoing. We'll let that play out," the press secretary said. "But our reaction to the photos has not changed."

That was the end of the briefing — except apparently not for Robinson, the accredited corresponded for far-right cable news channel Newsmax.

"Thank you, everyone," said Psaki. An unidentified reporter responded, "Thank you, Jen," making clear that the briefing was over.

Robinson kept going, calling out, "I have a question. On the polling. The president's polling continues to collapse ..." but got no further.

"Emerald, I know you like to shout at the end," Psaki responded. "Next time, we'll do it during the briefing."

As Psaki departed, briefing book in hand, Robinson made one more try: "Well, if you'd call on me..."

"Thank you so much," Psaki said on her way out with the door.

For her part, Robinson appeared to be pleased with the aftermath of the encounter when down, responding to a video of the exchange by stating, "223,000 views and counting." Robinson also received words of encouragement from Newsmax primetime host Greg Kelly, who wrote, "WOW! PressSec ("Jennifer") really SUCKS at being PressSec."

Psaki's online fans, who refer to her as "#PsakiBomb," naturally believed she had emerged unscathed. But Monday's minor scuffle highlights a challenge that the White House press office continues to face under Biden: rogue right-wing White House reporters, including some with dubious qualifications.

As Salon reported last week, Psaki and her team have also wrestled with how to handle eccentric Christian White House reporter Matthew Anthony Harper, who does not appear for a reputable news agency of any kind. Nevertheless, Harper continues to call for an investigation into both "upper" and "lower" press officials in the Biden White House, against whom he has made highly unspecific allegations of wrongdoing.

Watch the exchange between Robinson and Psaki below, via YouTube:

Jen Psaki slams Newsmax reporter Emerald Robinson over yelling question at end of briefing

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Christian reporter — who once sang in press room — claims Biden administration is persecuting him

White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki has an odd problem on her hands: a longtime White House correspondent from an obscure Christian website — that publishes little or no actual reporting — is raising a fuss over no longer being allowed to enter her personal office whenever he wishes. This previously unreported West Wing drama has led the reporter in question to call for an investigation.

Matthew Anthony Harper, a former chaplain who is the self-appointed White House correspondent for a little-known media outlet called InterMountain Christian News, says his access to administration sources is being restricted. Harper says this started last week, and now claims he is the target of a "harassment" and "intimidation" campaign crafted by White House press assistants.

"A Secret Service person was giving me a hard time, saying I couldn't be there," he told Salon in an interview, referring to Psaki's office. He said the agent told him "that I didn't have clearance," adding that he was "confused about why I'm being banned from this." That incident, Harper said, occurred last Wednesday, Sept. 15.

After that incident, Harper said he now has to travel around the White House press area with an "escort," which he claims no other reporter is compelled to do. Harper does not have a "hard" (i.e., permanent) press pass, and says the White House took this measure as part of a systematic "harassment and intimidation" campaign by the Biden administration over his specific questions about "human rights." He added, "I know they're singling me out."

Harper believes there is only one way to get to the bottom of this convoluted tale: through a broad investigation into alleged White House wrongdoing. He sent what he calls a formal "complaint" by email to Psaki and press office chief of staff Amanda Finney last Thursday, calling for them to investigate their own operation.

"I've had unrestricted access without an escort to the Press Secretary's office for almost 5 years but now after my continuing and challenging Human Rights violation questions, they are giving me this problem," Harper wrote in an email with the subject line "Christian media complaint." He reiterated his claim that a Secret Service officer had given him a "hard time" and barred him from Psaki's office unless he was escorted.

"It's sometimes difficult to get appointments with any press secretary," said longtime White House correspondent Brian Karem, now a columnist for Salon. "You have to do your job and keep working till you get what you need. I cannot fathom that anyone in that press office would just categorically dismiss any reporter." As for the complaint filed by Harper, Karem said it struck him as "inappropriate."

Other established White House reporters who spoke with Salon, as well as other sources familiar with the matter, said that Harper was only recently prevented from "floating" around Psaki's office in the "upper press" area of the White House. That is not customary for reporters without a hard press pass, which Harper does not possess.

Reporters who have attended countless White House press briefings told Salon that Harper has occasionally appeared at Q&A sessions in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. One, however, said they had legitimately never heard of him, while several others said they had never read any of his reporting. Harper also describes himself as White House correspondent for an Israeli news service called Newsrael, which appears to be a small-scale news aggregation blog, with very few articles under his byline.

that he is a legitimate news reporter of any description. His most memorable moment in the White House may have come in July 2012, when he asked Jay Carney, then-President Obama's press secretary, a somewhat bewildering "spiritual question."

Harper told Salon, "I was very popular with the media that day. That was an electrifying experience."

Other members of the White House press corps said Harper was known for asking oddly specific and seemingly irrelevant questions about Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's former prime minister.

Harper explains his mission at the White House on his LinkedIn page: "In November 2001, I felt God calling me to establish a Christian News Source for our Treasure Valley Idaho/Oregon area beginning with our online 'Christian Resources and Events Directory' which later developed into the Treasure Valley Christian Newspaper and recently into the InterMountain Christian Newspaper covering the states of Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming and now Colorado."

Harper describes himself as co-founder, publisher and president of the InterMountain Christian News group. Salon's research could not find evidence of actual reporting or other journalism created by Harper and InterMountain, beyond a large number of amateurish YouTube videos watched by only a handful of people.

Harper apparently first appeared in the White House's briefing room in the summer of 2011. In 2019, during Donald Trump's presidency, he created a minor media moment for his singing in the briefing room.

Last month, Harper got in a question to national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

In a video Harper posted last week from the White House, he discussed "the plight of the Uighurs in the Chinese internment camps and those in southern Mongolia and Tibet and also Taiwan that are greatly impacted by the aggression of the Chinese Communist Party," which appears to be the issue he believes has led to his supposed persecution. The video then cuts to Harper inside the briefing room, saying, "I am Dr. Anthony Harper here in the James Brady press room in the White House — so many crucial issues to talk about."

Asked whether he merits a White House press pass given his apparently minuscule audience, Harper responded that he's not at the White House to "win a popularity contest." He admitted his audience "might not be as large as CNN," but said it is "important," and that national news outlets are "promoting" and "playing" his questions lobbed at Biden officials. "One of my questions went viral in Jerusalem," he said.

"There are a lot of Jewish and Christian people in America," Harper continued. "They are really speaking against the Muslim Uighurs issue," Harper added that he has repeatedly asked the White House for comment and has not received a satisfactory answer. "Rare earth elements!" he added, just before the end of the conversation.

On Monday night, Salon learned that Harper has asked fellow members of the White House press corps to "pray" about his West Wing access problems. He said he plans to apply for a hard White House press pass in October, and hopes not to have "any problems with that."

A senior White House official originally told Salon they would comment on Harper's claims, but no response was received before this article was published.

'Justice for J6' rally in D.C. was a total bust as TrumpWorld says 'stay away'

WASHINGTON — With officials warning Washington D.C. to brace for potential violence this weekend, all attention turns to a pro-Trump rally slated to occur on the grounds of the United States Capitol Saturday dubbed "Justice for J6," organized by a little-known former Trump campaign aide.

The organizer of the Saturday rally, which is intended to spotlight those who are serving time for participating in the failed insurrection on Jan. 6, is a former Trump campaign aide by the name of Matt Braynard. He also leads the right-wing nonprofit, "Look Ahead America."

A few weeks back, while the rally was in its earlier stages, Braynard told Salon that the event has "a permit," just as two previous events he held in Washington did. Both "occurred without incident," he said.

Braynard furthermore said the goal of the Saturday's event following the deadly Capitol riot is to "raise the profile of the abuse of the non-violent political prisoners" and "demand equal treatment of the 500 plus protestors who are being politically persecuted." He also said he plans to promote the conspiracy theory that the FBI was involved in the planning of Jan. 6.

And though Braynard's ties to Trump are well-publicized, in mid-August he added the rally "is not about the election, about any candidates, about any outside organizations (other than LAA). We are asking everyone who comes to not wear or bring anything with any organization/candidate/party logos. Just the American flag/patriotic symbolism and signs that are on message with the abuse of these political prisoners."

Despite these assurances, over the past week almost all TrumpWorld royalty has made a point to call on their own followers not to attend the rally in D.C. and distance themselves from the event.

"Do not attend the FBI rally in DC on the 18th," Ron Wakins, the former administrator of 8chan who has long been rumored to be behind the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory, wrote on Telegram. Earlier this week, longtime GOP operative Roger Stone also urged all Trump supporters of good faith to stay away from the Saturday rally in D.C. "I don't know a single person in the MAGA movement who's going. It's a setup," he said. "No, patriots, stay away from Washington!"

Even Trump himself called the event a "setup" in an interview with The Federalist Thursday.

"On Saturday, that's a setup," Trump said. "If people don't show up they'll say, 'Oh, it's a lack of spirit.' And if people do show up they'll be harassed."

Though he did signal support for the march's overarching theme in a later statement.

"Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election," Trump wrote in a press release. "In addition to everything else, it has proven conclusively that we are a two-tiered system of justice. In the end, however, JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL!"

Jared Holt, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council's DFR Lab, who researches and tracks right-wing social media posts and conversations told Salon in a phone interview there isn't any evidence to suggest that the Saturday rally will be a Jan. 6 repeat.

"The fact of the matter is, the Capital Police response to this event has elevated it into something important, regardless of what ends up happening on the ground Saturday," Holt said. "From our analysis, we are not seeing any of the usual tale telltale signs of a mass mobilization towards the Washington D.C. area. We have seen a few passing comments or individual remarks that do suggest that there may be some bad actors that show up to DC, but certainly nothing that even holds a candle to Jan. 6."

That said, The Department of Homeland Security said that there had been a "small number of recent online threats of violence" stemming from the event.

Asked about the remarks made by Stone and others who are not going anywhere near the rally, Holt said it's not in their best interest to aid in such an effort following Jan. 6.

"I think a lot of these groups don't have an interest in coming to DC for this kind of event — that they're willing to put themselves on the line, and particularly in regards to figures like Roger Stone and The Proud Boys, because their name has come up so many times in conversations about Jan. 6."

Holt believes that those pro-Trump figures that have been caught up and/or connected to the Jan. 6 Capitol siege might be seeking to get out ahead of the rally this time around. "I think they have a little bit of extra motivation to try to get out ahead of it, and put some public distance between whatever does happen on Saturday and themselves," he added.

Despite there being little evidence of a massive rally on the horizon, Capitol Police are taking precautionary measures to ensure things don't get out of hand, including re-assembling fencing around the perimeter of the building. "The decision to put fencing back up around the U.S. Capitol strikes me as perhaps even overly cautious, but I certainly understand where Capitol police are coming from," Holt said.

"They do not want to give the perception or any leeway to suggestions that they are underprepared for this event," he added. "So it strikes me as kind of a better safe than sorry decision."

In a Monday statement, the US Capitol Police outlined that they have been tracking "online chatter about a demonstration planned for September 18," adding that "the Capitol Police Board approved a plan to temporarily put up a fence around the Capitol Building. When the inner-perimeter fence was taken down in July, USCP leaders noted that from time to time, they may exercise the ability to enhance security around the Capitol Complex."

As for Braynard himself, Holt said the former Trump campaign aide lacks credibility in pro-Trump circles, and that turning out a substantial crowd for the event will be a struggle due to a lackluster network of allies.

"Above all, Matt Braynard is a low-rent propagandist. And as far as organizing goes, he simply doesn't have the kind of network on his own that he would need to pull off a really massive event by himself," Holt said. "He's the kind of guy that has to rely on the people that he does have in his network, which includes people like Steve Bannon, to try to get a lot of that work done for him."

On Friday morning, during an appearance on C-SPAN, Braynard argued that there is a lot of "misinformation out there" about the rally and that his organization "condemn[s] all violence," despite advocating on behalf of individuals who committed violence on Jan 6.

A robust and noteworthy police presence and countless dump trucks — acting as barricades — were on scene early Saturday morning in the district. As of an hour before the event, it appeared there were more journalists than attendees present.

Former Trump official Sebastian Gorka attacks former MSNBC intern on Twitter — because he got pranked

Right-wing radio host and former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka, the self-styled "Dragon of Budapest" who drives around the nation's capital in his 2.3L EcoBoost Mustang, was duped by a fake Twitter account on Tuesday — which in a bizarre turn of events led to a former MSNBC intern being the recipient of an outpouring of online hate instigated by Gorka.

On Tuesday morning, Hajah Bah, a USC Annenberg journalism student, and former MSNBC intern, woke up to numerous Twitter notifications. Many of those notifications stemmed from Gorka's tweet accusing her of being a "bigoted ableist."

The former Trump adviser had clearly been duped by a fake account pretending to be the journalism student. As of Wednesday morning, after Salon had reached out to Twitter, the social media company suspended the spurious Bah account, which appeared to have been operated by a troll who frequently retweeted right-wing content, such as tweets from Fox News host Dan Bongino.

"This person works for NBC12. Why is MSNBC OK with their employee calling someone she politically disagrees with a 'retard?'" Gorka posted, implying that the fake account actually belonged to Bah. "What protects foul-mouthed bigoted ableists like @Hajahbahh?"

That tweet sent out to Gorka's over 1 million followers tagged a profile page of a troll account that used a picture of Bah, a former MSNBC and NBC12 Richmond newsroom intern. Then, as too often happens on Twitter, Bah's real account was rolled into the drama.

In a phone interview with Salon, Bah said the incorrect Gorka tweet had provoked hatred from his followers and tarnished her reputation in the industry.

"Wow, this is not what I said to him," Bah explained, citing messages that the dubious account had sent Gorka pretending to be her. "I don't even know who he is. So I'm like, what is going on!"

Neither Gorka nor a spokesperson for Salem Radio Network, the conservative radio empire that employs him, returned a Salon request for comment.

Speaking to the impact this incident has had on her young career, Bah said that Gorka's irresponsible tweet had "tarnished MSNBC and NBC 12, which are amazing companies." As to how and what needs to be done to correct the situation, Bah suggested the nattily attired but notably hot-tempered former Trump associate, who has built a subsequent radio career on his iconic baritone voice, should retract his tweet and issue a public apology.

"He should at least acknowledge, 'Oh, this is not her,'" Bah said, noting that she is "a young journalist trying to break into the industry, it's just really wrong. I would like an apology."

Bah said that she and some of her friends had attempted to make Gorka aware of the error via Twitter, but that Gorka had rapidly blocked them.

In 2019, Gorka, a self-proclaimed free-speech warrior, told a reporter at the White House that he had blocked thousands of users on Twitter. "I block whoever I want to," Gorka said. "I block 16,000 people because they're asshats."

Gorka holds a somewhat dubious doctorate from a university in Budapest, and has been long criticized as a "fake terrorism expert." According to established national security experts who spoke to CNN, he "lacks practical experience in government, is not an expert on terrorism, and has never served in a diplomatic agency."

Highlighting a persistent problem in the right-wing media ecosystem, Bah noted that the hate directed at her was genuinely horrific for no apparent reason. "It's really ridiculous," she said. "I have been receiving a lot of hate because of the tweet, and it's not a reflection of my character at all."

Right-wing youth organizer Charlie Kirk illegally threatened employees over COVID precautions

Over the weekend, youth right-wing organizer Charlie Kirk threatened to fire any employee of his organization, Turning Point USA, who asks about COVID-19 safety precautions in the workplace. According to labor law experts, that was clearly illegal.

After speaking with an expert in the field of United States labor law, one thing has become increasingly clear: Kirk's most recent attempt to be a right-wing provocateur might come back to present a series of legal challenges for the frequent Fox News guest.

At a gathering on Sunday evening at the Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Newbury Park, California, Kirk responded to a an audience question about COVID vaccinations by saying that if one of his employees were to ask about vaccine mandates, they would be fired.

"And somebody asked me the other day: 'So Charlie, are you going to require the vaccine at Turning Point USA?' He's like a reporter," he stated at the event, clearly not joking. "I said, look, you don't work for me, but if you did, you would be fired for asking such a ridiculous question!"

Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, told Salon that Kirk's threat to fire employees simply for asking about COVID safety issues was not only "illegal" but also "dangerous."

"It is not only dangerous, it is illegal to threaten firing or any other form of retaliation against a worker who asks about health and safety protections in their workplace. Employer retaliation is, unfortunately, a very serious problem," Goldstein-Gelb said. "It prevents workers and employers from working together to identify and correct safety problems."

The labor rights expert added that "threatening workers who ask questions about how to protect themselves and their families is demeaning, dangerous and dumb."

As Goldstein-Gelb pointed out, Kirk's remarks both broke the law and violated the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) workplace violence policy, which outlines the following:

Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors. Acts of violence and other injuries is currently the third-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), of the 5,147 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2017, 458 were cases of intentional injury by another person. [More...] However it manifests itself, workplace violence is a major concern for employers and employees nationwide.

OSHA didn't return numerous Salon requests for comment on Kirk's threat.

Turning Point USA has argued that Kirk's remark was meant as a "joke," but in a statement to Salon again attempted to justify it, arguing that if a TPUSA staffer were to bring COVID concerns to the attention of management, it could constitute a "fireable offense" because that employee wouldn't be a good "cultural fit."

"The comment was made as a joke, clearly, but to be clear, the quote is 'fired for asking such a ridiculous question,' not for vaccination status," TPUSA spokesperson Andrew Kolvet told Salon on Wednesday. "TPUSA literally sponsors a No Forced Vax campaign to protect students from draconian vaccine mandates. If an employee of TPUSA then turned around and asked whether or not TPUSA was planning on mandating vaccines, the questions would be absurd to the point of demonstrating either a bad cultural fit, gross incompetence or workplace intoxication. All of which are fireable offenses."

That wasn't the only comment offered to Salon from TPUSA. Troy Meeker, the group's administrative director of human capital, sent a statement reading, "Turning Point USA has both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees and the organization does not ask status. TPUSA is in full compliance with both federal and state laws."

It isn't exactly new for right-wing media-oriented entities to violate the rights of their own workers. Most notably, in June of 2019, Federalist co-founder Ben Domenech threatened via Twitter to send his staff members back to "the salt mine" if they attempted to unionize, which would later be deemed unlawful by the National Labor Relations Board.

Whether labor agencies will review Kirk's remarks remains to be seen.

You can watch Kirk's comments below, via YouTube:

Charlie Kirk broke the law by threatening to fire TPUSA employees who ask about Covid-19

Candace Owens reportedly hit with 'sudden illness' — claims it's absolutely not COVID

Right-wing firebrand Candace Owens can't stress it enough: She totally doesn't have COVID-19, despite a speaker telling a conservative gathering over the weekend that she could not attend due to a "sudden illness."

On Friday night at the Texas Youth Summit, a conservative gathering of college students, a speaker on the main stage told the audience that Owens wasn't there and would not be making her scheduled speech.

Although the nature of this alleged illness was not mentioned, the issue caught fire on Twitter, with many users wondering whether Owens — a fervent and outspoken right-wing opponent of vaccine mandates and mask requirements — had contracted COVID-19. That speculation was further fueled by Owens' recent social media remarks boasting that family members around her had fallen ill while she herself remained healthy during the pandemic.

"I'm unvaccinated. I've been to six countries and 28 states since the start of this pandemic (maskless outside of planes), and I still don't have Covid," Owens tweeted last week. "I slept next to my husband every night that he had it (what amounted to a light chest cold), and I still never got it. How?"

Owens, who was spotted in London late last week, took to Twitter on Monday to announce that she doesn't have COVID, saying that she was hanging out on an "Aspen mountain."

"This might rank as the best conspiracy theory ever drafted about me. Unfortunately for you — I'm at the top of an Aspen mountain with my family and limited reception," she stated. "I'm still proudly unvaccinated and unmasked."

Last week Owens was hit with a $20 million defamation lawsuit over statements she made about former Republican congressional candidate Kimberly Klacik, who last year ran unsuccessfully for the Maryland seat formerly held by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings. The hefty alleges that Owens, in a June Instagram video, made defamatory comments about Klacik, including allegations that she had "committed campaign fraud, money laundering, illegally used drugs and was a 'madame' of a strip club."

At the Texas eventy where Owens was booked to speak, there was no shortage of other headlines in her absence.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, suggested to the throng of college students on Friday night that instead of taking the COVID vaccine they could treat the disease with ivermectin, the antiparasitic drug that has become wildly popular among conservatives. There is no scientific evidence that ivermectin, more commonly administered to horses, is effective against the coronavirus.

"The anti-parasite drug is allegedly flying off shelves of local farmer supply stores, according to various local news reports who say some feed stores are struggling to keep it in stock," Salon's Nicole Karlis reports. "That's because the drug has become a political flashpoint, enveloped by the culture wars just like nearly everything else related to the pandemic."

Lauren Boebert admits to campaign finance problems: 'I under-reported a lot of stuff'

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., knows a thing or two about not following rules that apply to her. In light of recent reports of Boebert's alleged or apparent violations of House ethics rules, an old interview from February reveals just how blatant her violations were and understood to be, all while acting with apparent impunity from the letter of the law.

According to the FEC, "When candidates use their personal funds for campaign purposes, they are making contributions to their campaigns. Unlike other contributions, these candidate contributions are not subject to any limits. They must, however, be reported." Such rules are meant to apply to all elected officials, independent of party affiliation, but appear to have been ignored in the case of Boebert, who has claimed she walks around Washington strapped with a Glock handgun, which would violate District of Columbia law. The far-right lawmaker brazenly declared in February that she "under-reports" her expenses, stating, "They want to come against me for legitimate expenses, go ahead. I am doing the work of the people. I had to make those connections. And really, I under-reported a lot of stuff."

FEC records reviewed by Salon suggest that Boebert's campaign spent $2.6 million in the 2020 cycle yet only made a total of 147 payments to a total of 32 recipients. Moreover, 40 of those payments made went to the ride-sharing platform Uber in December 2020, around the very same time Boebert attended a "Stop the Steal" rally in Washington. In the maze of FEC filings, seemingly obvious expenses the campaign incurred were not included in those disbursements.

Dating back to November of 2019, Boebert purchased two domain names she used as campaign sites, one of which,, was for sale on a third-party site called Huge Domains, likely with a high price tag attached. Both that domain and the more straightforward were operational by the time Boebert declared her candidacy in Colorado's 3rd congressional district in December 2019.

It's a safe assumption that those domains were purchased, but no campaign payments relating to website purchases or website design were registered with the FEC.

The campaign website featured a custom campaign logo, professional photographs of Boebert and her family, and a professional studio photograph of her posing with a group of Bikers for Trump. The campaign didn't file any record with the FEC that Salon could find for that graphic design creation. Additionally, the campaign didn't pay for photography until almost a year later, in September 2020, when she purchased "advertising" from photographer Patrick Cavan Brown, whom Politico magazine had commissioned to shoot Boebert for a lengthy profile.

This past week, CNBC reported that Boebert's campaign has come under scrutiny for Venmo payments to the congresswoman herself for personal expenses. In a July 2020 letter to the FEC, Boebert's treasurer, Marjorie Ann Klein of SWS Polifi, wrote, "There was no intent to try to report contributions illegally as I just plain forgot to watch for large donations as I was preparing the report." Boebert further failed to file financial disclosure forms covering 2019 and 2020 as required by law, which allowed apparent or possible conflicts of interest to remain invisible, most notably her husband's ties to the energy industry.

Rep. Mo Brooks gets backlash at Trump rally when he says they should move on from the 2020 election

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., is a hardcore Donald Trump loyalist and alleged architect of the "Stop the Steal" movement, which led to the Jan. 6 insurrection. That didn't prevent him from being the target of ire on Saturday night at a Trump rally in Cullman, Alabama, after encouraging the crowd to move on from the 2020 election.

Brooks was in the process of introducing Trump himself — who may or may not be planning to run again in 2024, and claims it's "illegal" for him to make that clear (it's not) — when the congressman suddenly wandered into dangerous terrain.

"Now, our choices are very simple," Brooks said from the stage. "There are some people who are despondent about the voter fraud and election theft in 2020. Folks, put that behind you. Put that behind you!"

As noted by Tuscaloosa Patch editor Ryan Phillips, who was present at the rally, the crowd did not respond kindly to the unsolicited advice.

With more and more boos cascading from the pro-Trump crowd, Brooks continued urging attendees to look ahead. "Yes! Look forward!" he exclaimed, trying to avoid being shouted down. "Beat them in 2022! Beat them in 2024!"

Finally, Brooks threw his hands in the air and appeared to capitulate. "All right, well, look back at it, but go forward and take advantage of it!"

Right-wing media quickly expressed the required dismay atBrooks' remarks, making clear he had crossed a line with the Trump faithful. "Mo Brooks learns his lesson," the right-wing news aggregator Citizen Free Press declared. Breitbart News took a different route, highlighting the fact that Brooks faces a primary challenge from a GOP opponent even further right than he is (which is challenging to imagine). But as former Trump adviser Steve Bannon says daily on his "War Room: Pandemic" podcast, getting "to the bottom" of what happened on Election Day in 2020 is a high priority for many in TrumpWorld. To state the obvious, "Trump lost" is not an adequate answer.

While many pro-Trump pundits ripped Brooks, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., defended her congressional ally on Bannon's show Monday, stating that while Brooks "did mess up in his speech ... he was the very first member of Congress to say he was going to object to Joe Biden's Electoral College votes."

MTG on Mo Brooks Speech Getting Boo'

"Do not judge [Brooks] on that speech," Greene advised.

Watch the interview above, via YouTube.

Lauren Boebert fails to file 2019 financial disclosure — sale of cargo plane remains a mystery

Last Friday was the deadline for members of the House of Representatives to file their 2020 financial disclosure reports to the Clerk of House. It passed without Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., the firebrand pro-gun conservative, filling on time. On Tuesday of this week, the congresswoman filed her 2020 disclosure, but a Salon investigation revealed that she has failed to file the mandated reports for previous years, including 2019.

With Boebert's financial dealings from both 2019 and 2020, for the most part, remaining unclear, one fascinating question has emerged: What happened to the plane? Specifically, to the red Aviat Husky, a two-seat light aircraft that Boebert either did or did not own at one point.

On Tuesday, Boebert filed her "new filer" disclosure form, a few days late, which detailed financial dealings for the 2020 calendar year. To begin with, the lawmaker's salary last year from Shooter's Grill, the gun-themed restaurant she owns with her husband, Jayson, in Rifle, Colorado, is listed as exactly $1. Jayson Boebert, however, brought home nearly half a million dollars working for the energy firm Terra Energy Productions in 2020 and is on track to earn $768,000 in 2021.

With Boebert earning an additional $174,000 as a member of Congress, the couple is on track to earn almost $1 million in 2021, placing them within the top 1% of earners in the United States, as well as in the upper echelon of the wealthy Colorado mountains, where they live. Tuesday's filing outlined that Boebert currently owns no stocks, bonds or income property and that her personal assets in a checking account were valued at less than $15,000 with Shooter's Grill valued between $50,000 and $100,000.

Boebert's congressional boss, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy earns $193,400 a year, and his wife has earned roughly $47,000 annually in a "work from home" position with the California Republican Party for the past seven years. Back-of-the-envelope math suggests the Boeberts will earn nearly four times as much as the McCarthys this year.

It's unclear why Boebert disclosed her husband's salary since she was not required to do so under House Ethics rules. In fact, doing so revealed that while Boebert has presented herself as a working-class entrepreneur who spent her childhood on welfare, she is now in one of America's highest-income brackets.

The only previous disclosure Boebert has filed with the House Ethics Committee covered the 2018 calendar year 2018 and showed that Shooters Grill, had a net operating loss of $242,347. Since then, the Boeberts' second restaurant, Smokehouse 1776, went out of business following a 2017 food poisoning incident at a local fair. Jayson Boebert's consulting company also became delinquent with the state of Colorado after failing to file a periodic report.

And then there's the plane

Boebert's 2018 filing did not include the sale that October of the single-engine Aviat Husky A-1 cargo plane (see photos here) owned by Shooter's Grill since June of 2016, when the restaurant was a limited liability entity. Both Boebert and her husband received student pilot licenses through the FAA in 2015, although neither was ever licensed to carry passengers.

It remains unclear whether the plane was used to avoid taxes by depreciating the aircraft as a business asset, and why its apparent sale was not mentioned in her disclosure filing. Boebert did not return a Salon request for comment on this story.

Missing 2019 financial disclosure report

On Dec. 10, 2019, Boebert — then a Republican primary candidate in Colorado — crossed the threshold of $5,000 in contributions threshold and had 30 days to file a financial disclosure form with the House Ethics Committee, which she did on Jan. 9, 2020. In that disclosure, however, Boebert only addressed questions stemming from the 2018 calendar year only, leaving blank the requested information pertaining to 2019. Additionally, because Boebert became a mandatory filer in 2019, once she was elected to Congress ethics rules required her to file a second financial disclosure by May 15, 2020, covering all of 2019 and 2020 up to that date. No such form was ever filed.

Shooter's Grill did not take a PPP loan or receive a Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) grant during the pandemic. Boebert, however, did pay off $20,000 in liens against the restaurant just before winning election to Congress last November. Why she didn't take advantage of pandemic relief options signed into law by former President Trump remains unclear.

On Wednesday afternoon, news broke that federal officials are questioning Boebert regarding the alleged use of "thousands of dollars in campaign funds" for personal expenses.

"A letter from the Federal Election Commission to the treasurer of Boebert's 2022 reelection campaign inquired about four Venmo payments totaling more than $6,000," CNBC reported. "FEC filings show the payments came between May and June for what's described on the forms as 'personal expense of Lauren Boebert billed to campaign account in error.' The filings then note that the 'expense has been reimbursed.'"

Lauren Boebert's midnight run: Investigation reveals Capitol tour happened after she attended 'Stop the Steal' rally

Salon's continuing investigation of Rep. Lauren Boebert's unexplained late-night tour of the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 12, 2020 — three weeks before the Colorado Republican became a member of Congress — has revealed further information. Earlier that day Boebert attended a march in Washington to support Donald Trump's baseless theory that the 2020 election was stolen. Evidence suggests that the Capitol tour itself — involving Boebert, her mother, her teenage son and a Capitol Police officer — apparently took place close to midnight, at an hour when the Capitol complex is normally completely shut down.

Amy Kremer, chairwoman of the pro-Trump group Women for America First, posted a tweet on Dec. 12 thanking Boebert for attending what some participants called the "Million MAGA March," which involved a number of street clashes between marchers, counter-protesters and police, four stabbings and at least 33 arrests.

As Salon reported last week, later that night Boebert gave what appears to be have been an unauthorized after-hours private tour of the Capitol building to a group of her family members. It remains unclear how this tour was arranged since everything about it fell outside the normal regulations regarding such visits, which require the presence of a member of Congress and a Capitol guide and must be scheduled between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays. There is no evidence that anyone accompanied Boebert and her family members, other than a single Capitol Police officer visible in one family photo posted to social media.

Metadata reviewed by Salon from Boebert's son's Instagram post of the Dec. 12 tour indicates the post was created at 11:53 p.m. That is consistent with a photo taken from the observation deck at the top of the Capitol, showing the National Mall completely deserted (it is open 24 hours a day), and showing the permit parking areas near Pennsylvania Avenue and Maryland Avenue, close to Union Square, almost entirely vacant.

None of the Boebert group's photos from the tour show any other people present in the Capitol building, except for the single police officer who accompanied the group to the observation deck overlooking the city. It would seem reasonable to speculate that a highly-placed government official, either in Congress or the Trump White House, must have approved this extraordinary visit, but Salon has not found any evidence of that.

It's not surprising that Boebert attended the Dec. 12 march, given her involvement in several other pro-Trump rallies focused on the then-president's false claims of election fraud. According to a permit issued Jan. 4 by the Department of Interior, Boebert was scheduled to speak at the "Rally to Revival" event on Jan. 5, along with a long list of MAGAWorld celebrities, including retired Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump confidant Roger Stone and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Boebert was scheduled to speak on the morning of Jan. 6, at the "Save America" event sponsored by Amy Kremer's organization, Women for America First, which had joined efforts with right-wing activist Ali Alexander's "Wild Protest." That event, of course, fueled and preceded the mob assault on the Capitol a few hours later.

USA Today reported on Jan. 4 that Boebert and another new member of Congress, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., had "co-signed" the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally. Boebert was added to the speaker lineup on Dec. 29, shortly after the event website was launched. She did not in fact speak at the Jan. 6 rally, but as Salon had reported, attended the event that morning with her mother and can be seen in photographs with event organizers.

Leading up to those rallies, Boebert tweeted and almost immediately deleted "President Trump shouldn't pack up yet" on Dec. 30 and retweeted and then deleted a post from @MediaKane that said "BOOM...RISE UP!" with a link to a Gateway Pundit article titled "Report: 100+ GOP Lawmakers may Vote Against Stolen Election on January 6th" on Dec. 31.

Earlier, Boebert had attended the first "Stop the Steal" rally in D.C. on Nov. 14, according to a tweet from co-organizer Kylie Jane Kremer. Other incoming members of Congress present that day included Greene, Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Mary Miller of Illinois and Bob Good of Virginia, along with sitting Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania. There were no U.S. senators or senators-elect in attendance.

The newly elected members were in Washington that week for freshman orientation that week. The day before that November protest, Boebert posted to her Parler account, "Orientation today at the United States House of Representatives. Going to make Colorado proud!" with a photo of herself in the House chamber.

MAGA civil war: Why Trumpworld is suddenly lashing out Fox News and Dan Bongino

A MAGA civil war, of sorts, is starting to bubble up.

On Sunday, Trump spokeswoman Liz Harrington accused Fox News and host Dan Bongino of censorship after the Trump aide discovered that a Saturday evening interview posted to the network's YouTube channel was edited to exclude a part in which Trump calls the 2020 election a "fake."

"It's a disgrace what's happening, and I don't think the country's gonna stand for much longer; they are disgusted. You have a fake election; you have an election with voter abuse and voter fraud like nobody's ever seen before, and based on that, and based on what happened, they are destroying our country, whether it's at the border, whether it's on crime, and plenty of instances, including military," Trump said in a part which was cut out from the segment before Fox News uploaded the interview to YouTube.

After the "jump edit" was discovered by Harrington, a former Free Beacon writer and Steve Bannon associate, she ripped into not only Fox News but stanch pro-Trump pundit, known for creating a right-wing mini-media empire. "WOW. So I went to post a clip from President Trump's great interview from Fox News last night, and lo and behold, Fox News EDITED and CHANGED what President Trump said, censoring out 45 accurately describing the Fake Election," the former Republican National Committee spokeswoman tweeted. "Fox News DELETED President Trump's words," she added.

In a now-deleted tweet, Harrington took an additional swing at Bongino, stating, "They are putting President Trump's honest statement, and the concerns of tens of millions of Americans, down the Memory Hole. I guess it's FILTERED, after all, Dan Bongino," referring to the Fox host's show name, which features the phrase "unfiltered."

Shortly after Harrington took swipes, the Fox News host responded by heading to war with the spokesperson with a quote from the Batman movie, The Dark Knight. "If you can't tell the difference between your allies, and your enemies, then maybe you shouldn't step on the battlefield," Bongino declared on Parler. "Alfred was right that some people 'just want to watch the world burn.'"

But the drama didn't end with the two sparing, fellow TrumpWorld figures, including former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis and conservative radio host Todd Starnes.

"Idiots. Fox should issue a public apology to Dan and Trump," Ellis tweeted. Starnes took a swing at Bongino a different way: "Hey Liz Harrington - the president is more than welcome to come on my national radio show. We don't tolerate censorship on our program."

Once steadfast supporters of Bongino on Parler, a platform he claims to be an investor in, also expressed frustration regarding the Fox News host's role in the "censorship" of Trump.

"It's really very simple, Dan: If you stay with Fox after they've committed this fraud, then you're fraudulent yourself," one Parler user wrote. Another added: "Dan will not go against faux news [Fox News]. He is like the rest of them. A paycheck is all he is after, [the] country last."

"Your move to Fox [News] let me know what battlefield you entered! I think your 'truth' will show itself one day just as everyone else's has. All about the $$," a different user with a profile picture of a bald eagle stated.

The right-wing website, The Gateway Pundit, summed up the incident as"truly a new low from FOX News," adding that "on 'Unfiltered' no less!"

Bongino and a Fox News spokesperson didn't return Salon's request for comment on this story.

Why did Lauren Boebert lead a late-night Capitol tour three weeks before Jan. 6?

On the night of Dec. 12, 2020, the day of the first Stop the Steal rally in Washington and three weeks ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, several guests of then-Rep.-elect Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., received an exclusive after-hours tour of the Capitol building from the far-right firebrand.

There are several unanswered questions about this visit, which appears to have violated normal Capitol protocol in various ways. It's not clear who authorized it, since Boebert was not yet a member of Congress and had no official standing in D.C. It's perhaps even stranger that it occurred on a Saturday night, when the Capitol complex is closed. Later, in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack, Boebert repeatedly denied rumors that she had offered "reconnaissance tours" to would-be rioters shortly before that event. But her ambiguous comments appeared to avoid any specific discussion of this unexplained December tour.

According to materials reviewed by Salon, the Dec. 12 tour led by Boebert involved various parts of the Capitol complex, including the staircase in the Senate's empty Brumidi Corridors, Senate room S-127 and the Senate briefing room, as well as the then-vacant Capitol Rotunda.

A maskless Capitol Police officer accompanied Boebert's mother and teenage son to the observation deck at the top of the Capitol Dome for a photo taken by a fourth person, presumably Boebert herself. This is the culmination of any Capitol tour, only available to visitors hosted by a member of Congress, and involves an arduous climb up roughly 300 steep and winding stairs to reach the high perch overlooking the city.

Boebert's guests were clearly enjoying themselves, as can be seen in the photos. But everything about their presence on the observation deck alongside a Capitol Police officer remains unexplained. As mentioned above, the rules for observation deck tours stipulate that a member of Congress and an official guide must accompany each group that climbs the Capitol Dome. There's no indication that either a member or a guide was present on this occasion.

Furthermore, spots for such tours are not readily available, with only eight reservations available on any given day. It's true that Boebert was a member-elect at the time, but that's an important distinction: She certainly was not a sworn member of Congress and had no office, no staff and no official status in the Capitol complex. It's even more puzzling that this tour took place on Saturday night. The guidelines for member-led Capitol tours state they are only available on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and also that all visitors must sign liability waivers and all tours must be led by official Capitol guides, not Capitol Police officers.

U.S. Capitol Police didn't immediately return Salon's request for comment on this story.

After Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and other lawmakers accused Boebert of "involvement in instigating and aiding the violent riot at the Capitol Building" after Jan. 6, Boebert responded by saying that she hadn't given tours to anyone but her family during the 117th Congress, which began on Jan. 3, the day she was sworn in as a member.

Her choice of words was notably specific, and potentially significant: "I haven't given a tour of the U.S. Capitol in the 117th Congress to anyone but family," she said, specifically not addressing the unauthorized tour she seems to have given during the 116th Congress.

In a January interview with Salon, Boebert denied giving "reconnaissance tours" on Jan. 5, the day before the Capitol assault, saying, "I did not. No." She has issued similar denials to numerous other publications.

This video makes clear that Boebert was in Washington on the day of the first "Stop the Steal" rally on Dec. 12, and also that on Jan. 6 Boebert and her mother visited the Save America rally at around 8:15 a.m., posing for photos with VIPs at the front of the stage.

Jan. 6 rally organizer Ali Alexander can be seen directly behind Boebert in the clip. She is visible in the video for about 10 minutes. Around that time, at 8:30 a.m., Boebert tweeted, "Today is 1776."

The House met at 12 noon that day, and Boebert said on the floor during that session, "Madam Speaker, I have constituents outside of this building right now. I promised my voters to be their voice."

Boebert later told the Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction, Colorado, that her mother took no part in the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, declaring, "During the riot, my mother was barricaded inside of my office alongside my staff until the all-clear was given by Capitol Police."

In another report published by the Colorado site News9 after the Jan. 6 attack, Boebert said, "Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, I haven't given any Capitol tours except to show my children around where I'll be working while I'm away from home."

It is unclear whether Boebert or her family members attended the Dec. 12 "Stop the Steal" rally, and exactly how they managed to tour the Capitol Dome that evening without a member of Congress and an official guide. Boebert's office did not respond to Salon's request for comment.

Mike Lindell promises his 'cyber symposium' will be bigger than Elvis' 1973 Hawaii concert

Nearly a year and a half ago, I began covering MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. He's an oddly charismatic character, a former crack addict and fervent evangelical Christian willing to preach the word of God at the drop of a hat. He became a star in TrumpWorld nearly overnight after speaking at the White House alongside former President Donald Trump in March of 2020.

Lindell reminded me of my own Uncle Bob, a Vietnam War veteran with a greased-lightning demeanor who bears the horrid wounds of Agent Orange. Bob has a similar physique to the pillow tycoon, also rocks an old-school walrus mustache and isn't afraid to tell you what's on his mind. Uncle Bob and Mike Lindell would, without question, get along.

We are now drawing near the climactic moment of Lindell's career as top exponent of Donald Trump's "election fraud" theories: A much-publicized "cyber symposium" event in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which will allegedly bring to light evidence that will cause the scales to fall from America's eyes. The Supreme Court, or so Lindell believes, will uproot the results of 2020 election by a 9-0 vote (on what grounds and by what mechanism remains mysterious), leading to the immediate reinstatement of President Donald Trump.

With this high-stakes event, on which Lindell's reputation seems to rest, fast approaching, Salon gave him a ring to check in on his progress. And in true Lindell fashion, he didn't disappoint.

Relishing in the glory of "crushing" this Salon reporter at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) event two weekends ago in Dallas, Lindell struck a different tone than in his often combative and utterly baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in last year's election. Instead, he was positively jovial, wanting to make sure Salon would attend his South Dakota "cyber symposium."

"Are you coming? And the cyber guy?" Lindell asked. "We just sent out the invites, we're getting flooded with them."

He continued with a note of concern. "Get it in right away if you can, Zach, I do want you there, because I want the bad media that writes discrediting things, so they can actually write apologies to the whole country. That will be nice!"

Lindell went on to promise Salon that if his evidence doesn't provide the goods he has long promised, this reporter and his "buddy" might be the ones to take home his $5 million jackpot. The "buddy" Lindell referenced is indeed a "cyber guy" (who has requested anonymity), a highly qualified expert who advises this Salon reporter on data science and technological matters.

Lindell then complimented Salon for covering his Wednesday announcement that journalists, politicians and "cyber experts" are eligible to win his $5 million bounty if they can prove his 2020 election data is not legitimate.

"That was nice. You wrote an article," Lindell said. "I actually retweeted one of your articles — that's the first time in history I retweeted [one]." Then he had to clarify: Since he's banned from Twitter, he instead posted it to Facebook.

Lindell then made an ambitious prediction: His August event will attract more eyeballs than Elvis Presley's "Aloha From Hawaii" concert, which was beamed around the world by satellite on Jan. 14, 1973, and witnessed by a billion people.

"Elvis Presley in 1973," Lindell reminisced. "Over a billion people watched that 'Aloha From Hawaii' because at that time, it was epic. This is going to be so important for the whole world to see — I'm hoping the word keeps spreading so that everybody at least tunes in," he added.

A devoted Elvis fan, Lindell wasn't shy about the prospect of upstaging the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Asked whether his event could really be bigger than the legendary Elvis concert — one of the first global satellite pay-per-view spectacles — Lindell expressed optimism. "I'm hoping it is. I just hope a lot of people see it," adding earnestly that no matter your political party, by the final day of the gathering, the entire world will be convinced to "right the wrong" of the 2020 election.

"This is so important to the world. To the world!" Lindell added. "I believe that if we get the word out, it's going be seen by — not millions. I'm hoping a billion, and I've used that correlation to Elvis. I am hoping that. I'm hoping that!"

Salon pushed forward with a series of questions about the details of Lindell's August event. According to the King of Restful Sleep, the symposium will feature a "mock election" every two hours, in which a hacker "flips votes" while a "cyber guy" goes into a "soundproof room with headphones on" and reappears moments later to decipher the meaning of packet captures.

"He's going to say, because packet captures — you can't change, can't alter, 100%. He's gonna say: 'You flipped 20 votes!'" Lindell explained.

Near the end of our friendly 20-minute conversation, Lindell reported he had to adjourn for a cable interview on One America News, then sternly told this reporter that I should contact Fox News to ask whether they will be present in Sioux Falls for the big event. "Ask Fox!" he demanded. "Shame on Fox that they haven't come. You should reach out to them!"

Gaining a second wind and apparently no longer concerned about his OAN cable news hit, Lindell took a few more swings at Fox News for ignoring his entire election-fraud enterprise his $5 million jackpot. Fox's nonexistent coverage of his efforts, Lindell said, were part of "the biggest cover-up this country's ever had in history."

A Fox News spokesperson did not return Salon's request for comment.

Wrapping up the interview, Salon asked Lindell about the Smartmatic, ES&S and Dominion voting machines he claims to have in his possession. "We've had machines for, I don't know, months now," he said. "You realize you can buy them on eBay, right?" Lindell asked.

When asked if that's how he acquired them, Lindell responded, "No, no, and I'm not gonna say how we got them. You know, we were — we didn't take them, we were given them." Asked if these machines were with him now, or still in an undisclosed location ahead of the big event, he said, "I don't carry machines around with me!"

A few minutes after we hung up, Salon received a text message from Lindell, featuring a TikTok video. That cleared up an important question: Lindell's CPAC beef with Salon has been squashed, since he has unblocked this reporter's phone number.

'Conservative pornstar' Brandi Love derails Turning Point USA's right-wing youth gathering

Turning Point USA, the right-wing youth student organization led by Charlie Kirk, found itself in an unusual controversy Saturday night after "conservative pornstar" Brandi Love was allowed into a Florida conference and welcomed as an "Adult VIP," sparking backlash.

The drama began early in the night when the adult entertainer's presence in Tampa was first discovered by a follower of white nationalist Nicholas Fuentes and former Kansas State student Jaden McNeil, who wrote on Telegram, "Turning Point USA has a pornstar as a VIP at their Student Action Summit."

"Imagine sending your kids to this conference think they're gonna learn about Christian Conservative values, and they come home with photos with pornstars," he added, attaching a photo of Love snapping a picture with a TPUSA attendee.

Quickly thereafter, white nationalist "groypers" began to approach Love both in person at the event and feverishly online, hurling insults again and again at the adult star.

After a while, more mainstream conservative figures and student activists began to join in as well, calling out Turning Point USA for the alleged misstep. "A new low for TPUSA. Zero class left in that organization," Liberty University student Carley Dehnisch said. Right-wing writer Alec Sears penned, "Absolutely fucking speechless that 'conservative' org TPUSA has invited an actual porn star to a conference that minors attend." Young America's Foundation (YAF) intern Jacob Porwisz wrote, "Great job TPUSA, for inviting a porn star to their conference that features kids under 17; very conservative of them!"

Reached for comment by Salon, TPUSA spokesperson Andrew Kolvet declined to comment on the drama. Shortly thereafter, Love was banned from the gathering.

"We regret to inform you that your SAS 2021 invitation has been revoked," an email from TPUSA stated, posted to Twitter by the adult entertainer. "This decision is final. This revocation does not impact application to future events, and we hope that you will consider applying again in the future."

However, Love wasn't buying it and said the Republican Party is "broken" due to TPUSA officials giving her the boot. "Can't make this shit up lol!! I just watched Charlie Kirk, Dan Bongino, Rick Scott, Kat Timpf, speak about freedom, censorship, how inclusive the 'movement' is," she stated. "And then they had me thrown out of the Turning Point USA conference. The Republican Party is broken."

While many right-wingers cheered the ban on Love, an unlikely oppositionforce led by Federalist co-founder and frequent Fox News guest Ben Domenech also emerged: "I'm disappointed that TPUSA kicked out Brandi Love for no reason whatsoever. She's a Florida conservative businesswoman who loves America," he tweeted. "The right has an opportunity to be the big tent party. Don't be a bunch of prudes."

As of Sunday morning, the ban remained.

Turning Point USA is no stranger to such type of controversy, as back in December of 2020, the organization came under fire during their Student Action Conference in Palm Beach, Florida, over Bang Energy's "Bang Girls" blasting free cash into the crowd of college and high school students.

Following publication, factions on the right emerged over TPUSA's decision to ban Love. Notably, New York Post opinion editor and event speaker Sohrab Ahmari agreed with the move, tweeting, "Here at the TPUSA Student Action Summit, and I'm proud of Charlie Kirk and his team for revoking the pass of a pornstar who'd signed up as an adult attendee. There are kids as young as 15 here."

Right-wing student group Turning Point USA struggles to bar white nationalists from gathering

Turning Point USA, the conservative student organization led by Charlie Kirk, kicks off its summer "Student Action Summit" on Saturday morning in Tampa. But the group now faces faces a battle to ward off white nationalists who hope to infiltrate the gathering, whose headliners include Donald Trump Jr. and former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

Far-right youth activist Nicholas Fuentes hopes to lead a group of his white nationalist supporters, known as the "groyper army," into the Tampa conference, despite TPUSA organizers' attempts to ban Fuentes and his followers

After Fuentes' attempts to derail or disrupt the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) event last weekend in Dallas, TPUSA staffers have begun to connect the dots on "groypers" who had previously been invited to the Tampa conference, and are informing them they're not welcome.

One such individual is a 15-year-old ally of Fuentes who often live-streams on the internet and goes by the Twitter handle @OneYoungPatriot. This person was uninvited to the TPUSA summit in an email reviewed by Salon.

"We regret to inform you that your SAS 2021 invitation has been revoked," reads the email sent to @OneYoungPatriot. "This decision is final. This revocation does not impact applications to future events, and we hope that you will consider applying again in the future. Please do not attempt to attend the summit as any attempt to disrupt may affect consideration for future participation." Several other people associated with Fuentes, along with another person who has expressed support for him on social media, were informed this week they would not be welcome at TPUSA's Tampa conference.

In group chats on the messaging platform Telegram, various Fuentes' followers claim they will be at the TPUSA summit anyway, and have floated the idea of disrupting the event.

"Defidently getting a fat 'groyper' chant going while I'm down there," wrote one user. Another user replied, "Let's link and make it happen." A third groyper responded, "Let's get loud."

Fuentes, who has been accused of being a Holocaust denier over comments he has said were "jokes," didn't return Salon's request for comment.

TPUSA supporters and Fuentes followers have feuded in public over the past two years, beginning in to late 2019, when white nationalists appeared on college campuses across the country to challenge Kirk during Q&A sessions.

Ben Lorber, a research analyst at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank that studies right-wing movements, told Salon that Fuentes' followers have long targeted TPUSA gatherings as a recruitment opportunity.

"The white nationalist groyper movement has long viewed TPUSA as a strategic site for recruiting and spreading their ideology among conservative youth," Lorber said. "Since 2019, the groypers have pursued a dual strategy of publicly pressuring TPUSA to move further rightward while quietly infiltrating its chapters to effect change from within. In the 2021 school year, white nationalist movements like the groypers continue their efforts to target right-wing college students in order to further radicalize the next generation of conservative leaders."

Last week, Fuentes continued to attack TPUSA, specifically deriding TPUSA employee Alex Clark, who hosts a daily politics show called "Poplitics."

Amid a tirade after his eviction from the CPAC gathering in Dallas last weekend, Fuentes complained about being called a "sexist ... by so-called right-wing women, like, for example, you know, Alex Clark. Man, she is ugly."

TPUSA spokesperson Andrew Kolvet didn't return Salon's request for comment on this story.

TPUSA organizers continue to hawk tickets to the Student Action Summit even as they try to detect possible Fuentes followers and prevent them from showing up.

"LAST CALL on tickets for this historic event," read an email sent out by TPUSA on Thursday night. "Join us July 17th - 20th in Tampa, FL, to hear from the nation's top leaders such as Governor DeSantis, Kayleigh McEnany, Donald Trump Jr., Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and dozens more. We are near capacity, so don't miss out as we continue to make history with the largest event of the summer!"

It isn't just Fuentes and the groypers who are trying to outflank Turning Point USA on the right. Lorber told Salon that another group of far-right activists is planning a competing "American Populist Union" event, where a loosely affiliated group of extremists and white nationalists will attack TPUSA as fake conservatives or "cucks."

"Leaders and followers of the American Populist Union, most of whom are college-age or younger, slander feminists and LGBTQ people as 'degenerate,' argue for a moratorium on all immigration, view themselves as victimized by 'anti-white hatred' in universities and popular culture, and oppose a conservative establishment they view as weak and ineffectual," Lorber said. "Multiple movement leaders have signaled alignment with and organized alongside Nick Fuentes and the groyper movement. In their private chat rooms and servers, open support for the groypers and their white nationalist agenda isn't hard to find."

The three-day TPUSA event is definitely drawing high-profile speakers from the conservative movement and the MAGAverse, including Fox News host Dan Bongino and Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., as well as those mentioned above. Whether it can prevent incursions by far-right extremists and overt racists remains to be seen.

Mike Lindell pushes election fantasies at CPAC -- and accuses reporter of destroying the country

MyPillow CEO turned 2020 election truther Mike Lindell, whom I have interviewed many times by phone, got his first chance to meet me in person on Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) gathering here. He did not waste the opportunity, accusing me of being "evil" and "destroying the country"

While taking in the carnivalesque sights and of CPAC early on Sunday afternoon, I noticed Lindell by his booth on the conference floor. I approached and introduced myself, beginning to ask some of the questions he has avoided answering during our multiple phone conversations.

Much of the following exchange was captured on video and later posted by Raw Story. "I'm going to tell you something, and I'm going to tell everybody," Lindell began. "In our country's history, every single election official, if there's fraud involved, there's not a statute of limitations. They take the guy that won, and they put him back in office, and it's just never happened at the presidential level." (In fact, cases of courts overturning certified elections at any level are vanishingly rare. At the federal level, it is likely a legal and constitutional impossibility.)

"The Supreme Court will vote 9-0 to pull this [the election] down," Lindell continued. "And you can sit here and go, 'Come on, Mike.' You know what? I'm just telling you what's going to happen, and if it doesn't happen — if they don't watch it, that's when the whole public is going to go, 'You have to protect our country.'"

Lindell continued explaining his proposed path to reinstate former President Donald Trump, which he has been discussing for months. His original deadline of an Aug. 13 deadline for Trump to return to power is now barely a month away.

Nearing the end of the interview, I asked Lindell about the raw data he claims to possess relating to the 2020 election, specifically the "packet-captures" (PCAPS) he has mentioned on several occasions. If the information is so explosive, I wondered, why doesn't he share it with the media?

"Sorry, Zachary. Sorry, Zachary," he responded, dodging the question by repeatedly asking whether I enjoy "destroying this country."

Later on Sunday afternoon, Salon learned from sources close to Lindell that he participated in a behind-the-scenes roundtable event with Trump ahead of the former president's keynote address.

You can watch portions of my exchange with Lindell above, via YouTube.

Mike Lindell accuses reporter of trying to 'destroy the country'

Stewart Rhodes, founder of right-wing Oath Keepers militia, spotted at CPAC

Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of right-wing militia group the Oath Keepers, was spotted by a Salon reporter Friday evening strolling the halls of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Texas.

Multiple federal agencies are currently investigating the Oath Keepers for their alleged role in the planning and execution of the Jan. 6 insurrection — and though Rhodes did not himself enter the U.S. Capitol building that day, several members of his group did, according to news reports. As of this week, 16 Oath Keepers have been charged for their involvement in the storming of the Capitol building.

In the months since Jan. 6, Rhodes has voluntarily turned himself over for questioning by federal agents — against the advice of his attorneys, according to a New York Times. He reportedly told authorities that the only reason Oath Keeper members entered the Capitol that day was to provide aid after hearing someone inside had been shot, though the Times notes that an extensive investigation of visual evidence conducted by reporters was not able to verify the claims.

When asked why he was in attendance at the conservative conference, Rhodes quickly became enraged and yelled, "f**k off." A female associate, identified as Marcia Strickler on her CPAC pass, also came within inches of this reporter, yelling various obscenities.

CPAC security also approved Rhodes for an official pass, which was photographed by Salon Friday before the encounter.

Yet according to a high-ranking CPAC official that spoke with Salon exclusively on Friday evening, conference leaders have been in touch with federal law enforcement authorities to seek guidance as to whether Rhodes is considered a threat to attendees' safety and well being.

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White nationalists prep for 'physical' altercation with security at Dallas CPAC conference

DALLAS —White nationalist and Unite the Right attendee Nicholas Fuentes, de facto leader of the ultra-far-right "groyper" movement, has announced that he plans to attending a Conservative Political Action Conference gathering this weekend in Dallas, although he has not been welcomed at previous CPAC events.

A years-long feud between Fuentes and CPAC organizers appeared to escalate on Wednesday after Fuentes' declaration.

"I'm going to CPAC in Dallas on Saturday," he tweeted to his loyal "groyper army," many of whom responded with excitement. "Well, most likely, I'll be getting physically removed from CPAC in Dallas on Saturday, but you can come watch if you want," he added.

"I will be there! Can't wait!" one follower responded to Fuentes' tweet. Another wrote, "groyper swarm incoming." In other online forums reviewed by Salon, many of Fuentes' followers posted plans to attend CPAC and partake in a "White Boy Summer" meetup in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Since 2019, Fuentes has made a point of showing up at CPAC gatherings, likely to create friction and push the bounds of acceptable rhetoric at the American Conservative Union's events, at times making participants and organizers distinctly uncomfortable.

Interview: Nick Fuentes shows up at

This year will apparently be no different. At CPAC gatherings both last year and this year, Fuentes has staged his own competing event, dubbed the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC), designed to make the more "mainstream" conservatives of CPAC appear to be RINOs or "cucks."

During the CPAC convention in Florida earlier in 2021, Fuentes attempted to enter the event along with a group of 25 or so fellow white nationalists. They were denied entry.

'Fuentes didn't return a Salon request for comment on this story.

Jared Holt, a resident fellow at Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab and a former reporter for Right Wing Watch, discussed the fraught relationship between Fuentes and CPAC in an interview with Salon this week. "Nick Fuentes and his followers seem to only go to those conferences to antagonize other participants," Hold said in a phone interview. "It creates situations that have resulted in them being kicked out of the conference. I imagine if they have similar plans in Dallas ... their time inside the conference will be short-lived."

Holt added that Fuentes and the "groypers" see CPAC as a way to "boost their own visibility" and attempt to "siphon off" attendees from more mainstream conservative groups.

More mainstream Republican and conservative pundits, including fervent Donald Trump supporters, generally want nothing to do with Fuentes' overtly racist rhetoric, while he derides them as "shills." Some degree of confrontation is more than likely this weekend in Dallas, where Trump himself will deliver the keynote address on Sunday afternoon.

Right-wing outlet quietly deletes article claiming Roger Stone did 'nothing wrong' on Jan. 6

Right-wing outlet The Gateway Pundit silently deleted an article over the weekend written by Kristin Davis, a sidekick to veteran Republican operative Roger Stone, which cast blame for the U.S. Capitol attack of Jan. 6 onto the pro-Trump organization Women for America First, while arguing that Stone did nothing wrong in Washington on that infamous day.

Davis' lengthy defense, which Salon has archived, contends that Stone bore no responsibility for the events of Jan. 6, despite being pictured with members of the Proud Boys, who, according to Just Security, may have been involved in planning the Capitol attack.

"So what exactly happened on January 6th in Washington D.C. as it pertains to Roger Stone. The facts are simple and crystal clear," Davis wrote in the now-deleted post.

I booked Roger to speak at the Rally to Save America the night prior and was led to believe by Women for America First that he was supposed to speak the following afternoon on January 6th, at a rally they organized which featured President Donald J. Trump. After a completely peaceful rally on January 5th, which attracted thousands of brave American patriots, we woke up the next morning expecting to attend the rally at the Ellipse.

Davis goes on to claim that Women for America First was behind the ensuing chaos, notably tossing the group's leader, Amy Kremer, a prominent TrumpWorld figure, under the bus.

However, despite Women for America First promoting Stone as a speaker and insisting that they were sending a transport for Mr. Stone and our team to the Willard Hotel, the escort never came. As we were waiting, the staff at the Hotel Willard asked anyone congregating in the lobby to stay out of the cold to step outside in order to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines set forth by the Mayor of Washington D.C. A simple walk outside, which lasted mere minutes, is the first part of the dishonest conspiracy theory by the mainstream media and Democrat elected officials that Mr. Stone was somehow organizing the insurrection or had some sort of advance knowledge of what was going to happen later that day.

The article has been deleted and now links back to the website's landing page for a standard error message: "Not found, error 404. The page you are looking for no longer exists."

Stone didn't return Salon's request for comment on the matter, including whether he demanded the article be taken down. Gateway Pundit founder and editor Jim Hoft also did not return a Salon request for comment, leaving alert readers to wonder whether this deletion amounts to a retraction of Davis' claim that Roger Stone did nothing wrong on Jan. 6.

Feds zero in on Roger Stone's 'shady' condo purchase

Veteran Republican operative Roger Stone is yet again in the crosshairs of the Department of Justice, this time over after a questionable mortgage deal that is the centerpiece of an ongoing civil case which alleges he owes millions in back taxes.

"The government's complaint lays out a complicated scheme. It describes the condo purchase as an overt act of fraud, and claims a right to seize the property. Essentially, prosecutors say, Stone and his wife Nydia used $140,000 from a private company they already held (Drake Ventures) for a down payment on a condo," The Daily Beast reported on Friday. "Picking up the rest of the tab—almost exactly $400,000—was a mortgage lender."

The lender who provided Stone the loan in question spoke to the outlet and said they had been misled, adding that they "likely wouldn't have granted the loan if he had known the full picture."

Former IRS criminal investigator Martin Sheil cast doubt upon the idea that any lender could overlook the Stone's hefty legal problems, let alone miss them entirely while researching a potential deal.

"For this transaction, I'd use the term 'shady.' I don't know why anybody would loan them money," Sheil said. "The ignorance is profound, and I almost can't believe what you're telling me."

A lawyer representing Stone responded to the news, arguing that "nothing whatsoever improper" occurred. Following the publication of the Beast's story, the self-described "dirty-trickster" took aim at Roger Sollenberger, the Daily Beast reporter who penned the original piece.

"The trail of smears from the haters at the Daily Beast continue. There was nothing improper or illegal with my wife's down payment on a small condominium where she could live if I was railroaded to prison. Now Roger Sollenberger is attacking a woman battling stage four cancer," Stone wrote on the far-right social media site Gab. "Too many outrageous falsehoods in this piece to address here," he added, without citing a single one of those falsehoods.

Stone didn't return a Salon request for comment.

Now Sebastian Gorka claims NSA spied on him and Steve Bannon in White House

Right-wing radio host and former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka has now claimed that he was spied on by the National Security Agency, joining a parade of evidence-free claims that began with Tucker Carlson Monday night on Fox News and continued with former Trump White House strategist Steve Bannon.

Gorka, a colorful if unpredictable figure of the early Trump administration, who was often seen on Fox News at the time railing against the "era of the pajama boy," made the accusation in a Newsmax broadcast on Tuesday evening.

"There is a part of the NSA, it is the most aggressive cyber arm of the NSA called the 'Tailored Access Operations,'" Gorka said, then claiming "there was a small unit of contractors in the TAO who had been tasked to actually surveil members of the Trump administration, me, Steve Bannon and others included."

Asked by Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield why he waited so long to bring forth this allegation now, the tough-talking right-wing radio host — infamous in D.C. for an inability to park his Mustang convertible correctly — appeared to duck the question.


Later in the interview, Gorka told Stinchfield that a "very highly respected journalist" has the evidence to back his claims, and that this unnamed person would come forward at a time yet to be determined.

Gorka went on to claim that his communications were being routed through Malaysia and treated as foreign communications — and therefore subject to NSA surveillance — in an elaborate scheme targeting Trump allies. He did not explain this strange accusation further.

Asked by Salon about Gorka's claims, an NSA spokesperson said they had "no further comment to offer" beyond the previous statement sent out regarding Carlson Tuesday night.

Gorka didn't return Salon's requests for comment on the matter. Steve Bannon couldn't be reached by Salon for comment on these allegations.

In fact, on Wednesday morning's "WarRoom: Pandemic" podcast, Bannon expressed skepticism about Carlson's claims, wondering aloud why Fox News' reporters hadn't pursued a story on the accusations.

Since leaving the Trump administration to become a right-wing radio firebrand, Gorka has made various improbable claims, including that he was infected with the coronavirus before it was prevalent in the United States and once had a near-death experience at a 7-Eleven convenience store because he wasn't wearing a mask.

This wave of accusations that the NSA was spying on prominent conservatives began with Carlson's on-air claims on Monday night.

The prime-time Fox News host told his audience that an NSA whistleblower had reached out "to warn us that the NSA, the National Security Agency, is monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air."

On Tuesday night, Carlson refused to retract his claims even though the NSA, a highly secretive agency that rarely engages with media or the public, released a statement saying that "Tucker Carlson has never been an intelligence target of the Agency and the NSA has never had any plans to try to take his program off the air."

Fox News host Brian Kilmeade mocked on Twitter after claiming he read Mein Kampf in school

Fox News host Brian Kilmeade claimed that he was required to read Adolph Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" during his high school years.

The questionable admission came Monday morning during a discussion on "Fox & Friends" about U.S. military Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley arguing in front of Congress last week that he is supportive of being well-read on the topic of "critical race theory."

"I thought General Miley totally missed the point last week. He said, 'Oh, I read Mao, I read Stalin' that has nothing to do with it," Kilmeade stated.

"We read 'Mein Kampf' in school; no one thought we were Nazis, that is part of the curriculum, you find out about other things and other insurgencies, we get it, that has nothing to do with critical race theory," the Fox News host added.

" a U.S. school?" White House Playboy reporter Brian Karem responded to Kilmeade's claim.

Another Twitter user wrote, "It's interesting to me that Brian Kilmeade is so upset about CRT being taught in schools — even though it's not — but he doesn't seem to have an issue with Mein Kampf being assigned in high schools. (Which it isn't.)."

"Mein Kampf," an anti-semantic book penned by Adolf Hitler while in prison, was a lengthy diatribe about the Nazi Party, which Kilmeade claims was required reading at Massapequa High School in Long Island, New York, where he attended high school in the 1980s.

Milley faced accusations this past week by Republicans in Congress that he was far too "woke" and embracive of "critical race theory." He pushed back on that GOP lawmaker characterization, calling it "offensive" over merely "studying some theories that are out there."

The high-ranking military official further stated that he reads an assortment of literature from Lenin, Karl Marx, and Mao Zedong, claiming that doing such "doesn't make me a communist." Milley added during the hearing, "So what is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend?"

Inside the undercover plot to infiltrate the Dems in the West

A former British spy and Republican mega-donor Erik Prince, a founder of the private military contractor Blackwater (now rebranded as "Academi) and brother to former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, recruited a motley crew of home-grown American operatives from the conservative group Project Veritas and elsewhere to lead an initiative to infiltrate state-level Democratic party organizations and campaigns, according to a new report.

Prince, alongside the ex-MI6 officer he recruited to head the project, Richard Seddon, also targeted moderate Republican officials and those deemed as insufficiently dedicated to the hardline right-wing agenda favored by former President Donald Trump, The New York Times reported Friday.

The duo were bankrolled by the longtime conservative donor and heiress to the Gore-Tex fortune, Susan Gore, and trained their operatives on a remote Wyoming ranch in areas like the "basics of espionage" and "political sabotage," according to the newspaper.

It remains unclear what level of success they were able to accomplish, though the Times notes Seddon and Prince placed two spies — Beau Maier, the nephew of conservative commentator Glenn Beck, and Sofia LaRocca, deep into Democratic political organizations in Wyoming, Arizona, and Colorado.

But then, at some point, Democratic operatives became suspicious of the story LaRocca was claiming, according to The Times:

Her behavior raised some suspicion. Ms. LaRocca and Mr. Maier lived in Fort Collins, Colo., only about 45 miles from Cheyenne, Wyoming's capital, but their residence prompted some Democrats to ask how they planned to organize a grass-roots campaign to flip the state while living in Colorado. Ms. LaRocca told others she could not rent a home in Cheyenne because she had a dog, an implausible explanation.
Ms. LaRocca had also introduced herself to party officials as Cat Debreau. She eventually told a story about why she later went by the name Sofia LaRocca: She had been the victim of an online stalker, she said, but decided to once again use her original name because the police had told her that her stalker had reformed.
"Her story from the start rang very untrue," said Nina Hebert, who at the time was the digital director for the Wyoming Democratic Party. "The police don't call you and say, 'Hey, your stalker is better.'"

Neither Project Veritas nor its longtime head and frequent Fox News guest James O'Keefe returned a request for comment Friday.

One of the most prominent targets of the operation was Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican who many in Trump's corner viewed as overly moderate and whose candidacy Gore had vigorously opposed.

Maier and LaRocca were also able to install themselves within the Wyoming-based progressive organization, Better Wyoming, which only discovered the plot months later, after they had been well integrated into Better Wyoming operations. Nate Martin, the group's head, told the Times he suspected the idea was to "dig up this information and you sit on it until you really can destroy somebody."

Maier and LaRocca were married last week in Wyoming, according to the report. Glenn Beck delivered a toast at the reception.

Charges may be near for Roger Stone over Jan. 6 Capitol riot: legal expert

Longtime Republican operative Roger Stone, who allegedly owes nearly $2 million in back taxes, is reportedly still on the Justice Department's radar for his purported role in organizing the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Alongside right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Stone is now being investigated by federal prosecutors over his role in organizing and inciting the attempted Jan. 6 insurrection — an allegation he refutes.

News that was previously reported by The Washington Post near the end of February found new life on Twitter early this week when former United States Attorney-turned-Los Angeles Times legal affairs columnist Harry Litman tweeted, "Just wouldn't be a real scandal and outrage without the presence of, you guessed it, Roger Stone, whom DOJ now investigating for his role in 1/6 insurrection."

Litman followed up his statement Monday on MSNBC, where he discussed the ongoing DOJ investigations into Stone and Jones.

"I think they are leaving no stone unturned to kind of portray and determine the color of what happened here," he said. "Were the insurrectionists influenced by staff, members of Congress, Trump loyalists like Roger Stone and Alex Jones?"

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While Jones and Stone didn't actually enter the Capitol building themselves, according to footage circulating online, Litman said investigators could be looking into whether the provocateurs incited Trump superfans ahead of the deadly events that day.

"They were not just there. They made really incendiary comments and, look, we already do have a conspiracy," he said. "Nine people have been charged, so anyone, including Stone, Jones, [Ali] Alexander who adopted that unlawful purpose and did any overt act would be guilty of conspiracy.

"In the case of a Stone, we know from previous conduct that the [Justice] Department isn't spoiling generally to go after him and former Trump people, but the paramount goal here is to really leave, forgive the expression, no stone unturned with respect to Jan. 6."

The longtime Republican strategist strongly dienes any wrongdoing stemming from the events that day.

"I have no involvement whatsoever in the illegal events of Jan. 6," Stone told Salon Monday night.

Litman finished his segment on MSNBC by speculating that charges could be in the pipeline for Stone and Jones over the radicalization of their followers. "Could it progress to potential charges? You bet," he said.

In a Tuesday afternoon appearance on the right-wing cable network Newsmax, Stone hinted at the U.S. Secret Service possibly being behind the Capitol riot carried out by Trump supporters — while also giving air to the baseless theory that the FBI was behind the attempted insurrection. "The Secret Service does not do political chores. [They] do not perform logistical tasks. I find it rather suspicious," Stone said.

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