Thursday, January 28, 2021

Reply brief in $75-million lawsuit from former Drummond exec focuses on attorney-client issues that, with correct rulings, will put Balch back under the gun

David Roberson
 

An Alabama trial-court judge unlawfully dismissed a former Drummond Company executive's claims against Balch and Bingham by wrongfully finding David Roberson had an attorney-client relationship with the law firm, according to a reply brief filed yesterday with the Alabama Supreme Court. (The full brief is embedded at the end of this post.)

The brief, by Orange Beach attorney Houston Howard, focuses on several points we addressed in an Oct. 26 post. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tamara Harrison Johnson's primary error came from her holding that Roberson's claims against Balch fall under the Alabama Legal Services Liability Act (ALSLA) and its tight two-year statute of limitations. But Johnson went off track on at least two key points, as we wrote in December:

Case law holds that a claim falls under the ALSLA only when there is an attorney-client relationship. The Robersons' complaint plainly states that David Roberson had no such relationship with Balch's Joel Gilbert or Drummond in-house counsel Blake Andrews, the two lawyers who allegedly gave him false or incomplete information, essentially making him the fall guy and leading to his conviction in the North Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal. As a result, David Roberson lost his job, and the Robersons lost their house and many of their possessions. The Roberson conviction currently is under appeal.Per Ex parte Austal USA (2017), Johnson was obligated to take the Robersons' allegations as true; she did not. She also was obligated to find, as a matter of law at this early stage in the litigation, that the Robersons' claims did not fall under the ALSLA, and thus were not time-barred; she did not. That means her finding has almost no chance of holding up on an appeal.

In his reply brief, Howard focuses heavily on these same points, noting with irony that both parties had admitted before the trial court that Roberson was not Balch's client:

In applying the ALSLA, Judge Johnson first held that “[a]n attorney-client relationship is an essential element of a claim under the Legal Services Liability Act”. She then held that Roberson had created an attorney-client relationship with Balch by asking Gilbert a single question.

In his opening brief, Roberson asked the Court to reverse the dismissal because (1) both parties had admitted that Balch was not Roberson’s attorney and (2) the facts alleged in the complaint did not establish an attorney-client relationship. 

In its brief, Balch admits Roberson was not its client, but argues that Judge Johnson erred in holding that an attorney-client relationship is required. “[W]hile Roberson personally is not, and was not Balch’s client, the fact is not determinative because the ALSLA does not require an attorney-client relationship.” Balch then devotes twelve pages to arguing that “[t]he ALSLA does not require an attorney-client relationship.”

 This leads into some heavy-duty legal argument -- and Howard's brief nails it:

Nevertheless, Balch never mentions Judge Johnson’s holding—and never says that her holding is erroneous. Nor does Balch acknowledge the decisions on which Judge Johnson relied:

 “An attorney-client relationship is an essential element of a claim under the [ALSLA] ...” Ex parte Daniels, 264 So. 3d 865, 869 (Ala., 2018).

“An attorney-client relationship is an essential element of a claim under the Legal Services Liability Act ...” Brackin v. Trimmier Law Firm, 897 So. 2d 207, 229 (Ala. 2004).

“An essential element of a claim under the ALSLA is the existence of an attorney-client relationship.” Bryant v. Robledo, 938 So. 2d 413, 418 (Ala. Civ. App. 2005).

Can the Alabama Supreme Court possibly uphold the Balch dismissal? It's hard to see how, as Howard makes clear:

Because Balch has admitted that Roberson was not its client, Judge Johnson’s application of the ALSLA may be affirmed only if these cases are overruled. Yet, Balch does not acknowledge these holdings or ask the Court to overrule them. Consequently, this case is due to be reversed based on Judge Johnson’s erroneous finding that Roberson was Balch’s “client.” See American Bankers Ins. Co. of Florida v. Tellis, 192 So. 3d386, 392 n.3 (Ala. 2015) (the Court follows “controlling precedent” unless “invited to” overrule it).

Ouch. That seems to put the state's high court -- and Balch -- into somewhat of a box. That doesn't mean Balch's lawyers won't try to squirm out of it, with the help of some clever lawyering -- the kind Howard spotlights in his brief:

Balch asserts that “[c]ourts in Alabama have applied the ALSLA in cases where a non-client sought recovery for common law tort claims.”

Balch then quotes from San Francisco Residence Club Inc. v. Baswell-Guthrie, 897 F Supp. 2d 1122 (N.D. Ala. 2012)—but deletes the court’s finding that the plaintiff was a client. 

 That's not all the clever lawyering that Howard spots:

Balch asserts, “The ALSLA is properly invoked because Roberson’s claims arise out of Balch’s provision of legal services to its corporate client, Drummond.” Balch did not make this argument in the trial court, and it has no merit.

First, considering the allegations of the complaint, as the Court must, there is no basis for holding that “Roberson’s claims arise of Balch’s provision of legal services to ... Drummond.” The complaint alleges, “Balch and Bingham was not functioning as Drummond’s legal counsel for or concerning the acts or omissions on which the plaintiff’s claims are based.”

Second, Roberson alleges that Gilbert’s misrepresentations were made in response to specific questions that he (Roberson) asked Gilbert: “[T]he Plaintiff asked Gilbert if he had inquired with the ethics lawyers at Balch & Bingham whether the Plan was legal and ethical.” “In June 2016 ... the Plaintiff again asked Gilbert if Balch’s in-house ethics attorneys had any ‘problem’ with the Plan or his association with it ...” There is no allegation that Roberson asked the questions on behalf of Drummond.

Third, Balch cites no authority that the ALSLA applies to suits by corporate employees against the corporation’s attorney. Consequently, it has waived the argument. Ala. R. App. P. 28(a)(10) & (b).

Finally, if the ALSLA applies to suits by corporate employees against the corporate attorney, then that would require the employee to be a third-party beneficiary of the corporation’s attorney-client relationship. But this Court has held that third-party beneficiary concepts do not apply to the ALSLA: “[A]n intended beneficiary has no standing to bring a legal-malpractice action against an attorney ...” Robinson v. Benton, 842 So. 2d 631, 634 (Ala. 2002).

Thus, if the ALSLA does not provide a remedy for a corporate employee, such as Roberson, then it cannot be his “exclusive remedy,” as Balch argues. Fogarty v. Parker, Poe, Adams & Bernstein, LLP, 961 So.2d 784, 789 (Ala. 2006).

The reply brief addresses a number of other issues raised in the trial court. But if the Alabama Supreme Court gets it right on the attorney-client matter -- and forces Judge Johnson to get it right -- those other issues won't matter much. Correct findings on this one issue will mean Balch is back in the Roberson lawsuit -- as it should be, under the law.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

"The Plague of Fascist Cops" is not a new problem, but pro-Trump rioters at the U.S. Capitol brought the issue front and center for all Americans to witness on Jan. 6



If anything positive has come from the siege at the U.S. Capitol, it might be this: Americans finally have received a glimpse of the warped mindset that apparently pervades our law enforcement. Robert Kuttner, of The American Prospect, calls it "The Plague of Fascist Cops." Writes Kuttner:

One of the ugliest secrets exposed by the assault on the Capitol is a fact long hidden in plain view—that local police departments are crawling with racists and fascist sympathizers. Numerous rioters were revealed to be off-duty cops.

Law enforcement was slow to defend the Capitol, mainly because Trump and his henchmen wanted the invasion to succeed and blocked reinforcements, but partly because many police were sympathizers.

 A prominent police official in one of our largest cities revealed his feelings in a stunning interview:

The president of Chicago’s police union, John Catanzara, blurted out in an interview with WBEZ his support for the violent insurrection:

There was no arson, there was no burning of anything, there was no looting, there was very little destruction of property. It was a bunch of pissed-off people that feel an election was stolen …

I don’t have any doubt that something shady happened in this election. You’re not going to convince me that that many people voted for Joe Biden. Never for the rest of my life will you ever convince me of that.

Catanzara later walked back his comments and apologized, but does anyone doubt what he really believes?

Kuttner says it is time for federal intervention:

As countless efforts at failed police reform have made clear, most big-city police departments are beyond civilian control. As Harold Meyerson has reported in the Prospect, mayors are captive of police unions.

But the mayhem at the Capitol at last provides an opening for the federal government to crack down on racist rogue cops. Until Donald Trump shut it down, the Justice Department had a program, authorized ironically by the same lock-’em-up 1994 legislation that rightly outrages progressives, to have the Justice Department in effect take bad-actor police departments into receivership.

The need for federal involvement became apparent in Los Angeles:

The Rodney King beating of 1991 and the out-of-control L.A. Police Department was the stimulus for this program. At its peak, there were upwards of 15 police departments cleaning up their acts under reform programs monitored by the Justice Department and supervised by courts under consent decrees.

But 15 was a drop in a rotten bucket, and as the Prospect has reported, these programs produced mixed success at best. Meanwhile, police brutalization of young Black men only worsened, and people with openly fascist views found havens in local police departments.

The problem has been brewing for years, Kuttner reports, and now is the time to attack it:

For decades, according to Michael German, a former FBI agent who now works with the Brennan Center, the FBI has been warning about infiltration of local police by far-right militiamen and white supremacists. “Yet the justice department has no national strategy designed to protect the communities policed by these dangerously compromised law enforcers,” German writes.

Now, however, we have an opportunity to revive, repurpose, and dramatically expand the Department of Justice receivership program scrapped by Trump in 2017. The process is exactly parallel to the Justice Department takeover of racist local voting systems, which was the law between the original Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Shelby County Supreme Court decision of 2013 gutting federal monitoring and preclearance.

Just as we need to revive federal supervision of racist voting systems in order to guarantee basic voting rights, we need federal authority to protect the civil rights of local citizens against armed fascist thugs in blue.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Josh Hawley was seen as "decent and kind" at Yale Law School, so how did he become the face of sedition and the deadly January 6 U.S. Capitol riot?

Josh Hawley
 

How did U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) step on a path that led him to become pretty much the face of the U.S. Capitol riot?  Hawley, under an ethics complaint from Senate Democrats, hardly seems chastened. He has written a New York Post op-ed denouncing the "muzzling" of right-wing voices.

How did Hawley reach this place? Some associates say they never saw it coming; others say they saw clear signs along the way. From an investigative piece at the Kansas City Star (pay wall):

Josh Hawley was a precocious 15-year-old in 1995, writing a regular column for his hometown paper, The Lexington News, when he was still in high school.

He used the early platform to opine on politics, culture and those he believed had been unfairly maligned by the media — among them anti-government militias and Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman.

Hawley warned against depicting all militia members as domestic terrorists after the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people, including 19 children. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who carried out the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, had ties to the Michigan Militia.

“Many of the people populating these movements are not radical, right-wing, pro-assault weapons freaks as they were originally stereotyped,” Hawley wrote two months after the bombing.

He argued that middle class Americans had gravitated to anti-government organizations out of genuine concerns about federal overreach and a disillusionment with mainstream politics.

“Dismissed by the media and treated with disdain by their elected leaders, these citizens come together and form groups that often draw more media fire as anti-government hate gatherings,” Hawley said.

“Feeling alienated from their government and the rest of society, they often become disenchanted and slip into talks of ‘conspiracy theories’ about how the federal government is out to get them.”

Hawley even defended Mark Fuhrman, from the O.J. era? That's a tough one to pull off:

Fuhrman, whose use of racial slurs came to light during the O.J. Simpson trial, was the victim of a new censoriousness that plagued the culture, in Hawley’s estimation.

“In this politically correct society, derogatory labels such as ‘racist’ are widely misused, and our ability to have open debate is eroding,” he wrote.

Twenty-six years later, the junior senator from Missouri is the face of the failed effort to overturn the 2020 election, captured in a photograph that shows him raising a fist in solidarity with a crowd of former President Donald Trump’s supporters shortly before they laid siege to the U.S. Capitol.

The insurrection left five people dead, including a police officer, after a mob made up of militia members and racists with Confederate flags and neo-Nazi paraphernalia stormed the Capitol. Their deadly rage was fueled by the election of President Joe Biden, whose victory was due in large part to Black voters.

Hawley's "out there" views might have been obscured because he checks a lot of academic and professional boxes. (See Lincoln Project video at the end of this post):

Prior to Jan. 6, Hawley had enjoyed an uninterrupted trajectory from Rockhurst High School valedictorian to the U.S. Senate — by way of Stanford University, Yale Law School, a clerkship for Chief Justice John Roberts and a brief tenure as Missouri attorney general.

Hawley, an evangelical Christian, has long championed the view that political leaders should be guided by their religious faith and that secularism runs counter to the country’s founding principles.

Hawley’s classmates at Yale Law School remember him as politically ambitious and a deeply religious conservative. But they say they witnessed a startling transformation when he railed against elites as a Senate candidate.

“Josh came across as decent and kind and thoughtful at Yale. Today he seems like a steaming mass of grievance,” said Ian Bassin, who attended Yale with Hawley before going on to work in the Obama White House and found the group Protect Democracy.

Bassin was one of 12 Yale Law alumni to sign a letter in 2018 warning that the Hawley they saw campaigning in Missouri was unrecognizable compared to the person they knew in school.
 

 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Swamp creature Jeff Sessions, with his close ties to scandal-plagued Balch and Bingham, takes cover-up mode during Justice Department probe into Trump-era immigration policy of family separations

Jeff Sessions (The Guardian)

After learning in recent days about Oath Keepers' apparent plot to commit mass murder at the U.S. Capitol, we have concluded that Hillary Clinton was being kind when she referred to right-wing loons as "deplorables." In reality, they are much more unhinged and dangerous than that term implies. Now, we learn that former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who probably is Alabama's No. 1 GOP swamp creature, is even worse than we thought he was. While serving as Donald Trump's attorney general, Sessions impeded his own agency's investigation into the administration's family-separation policy on immigration. That's quite a trick, even for a guy who is close to the scandal-plagued Balch and Bingham law firm. (Al.com's Kyle Whitmire writes here of coming upon evidence of Balch skulduggery during the North Birmingham Superfund scandal.) From a report at the UK Guardian

Former attorney general Jeff Sessions and other senior justice department officials impeded an internal departmental investigation into their role in implementing the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policy that separated thousands of children from their parents on the border, according to interviews and government records.

Sessions declined to be interviewed by investigators for the department’s inspector general, who conducted an inquiry of the family separation policy, according to a report made public last Thursday by the IG detailing the findings of its inquiry.

As attorney general, Sessions was one of the Trump administration’s most senior officials who devised and implemented the family separation policy. The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, called Sessions and his top aides a “driving force” behind the policy.

A second senior justice department official, Edward C O’Callaghan, who served as the justice department’s principal associate deputy attorney general during the family separation policy, similarly refused to answer questions from investigators, according to the report.

Former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who now says he regrets his role in implementing the policy, was twice interviewed by investigators, but made misleading statements to them that understated and obscured his role.

As a result of the refusal by Sessions and O’Callaghan to speak to investigators, and Rosenstein having misled the IG, a full historical accounting may never take place into what is perceived as a dark chapter in the nation’s history when more than 3,000 children were separated from their parents. Many of its victims younger than the age of five, some even infants, were held alone at substandard facilities under inhumane conditions.

Is it any wonder that, while in the Senate, Sessions' top financial backers were the deplorably corrupt Birmingham law firm Balch and Bingham , with its roots firmly planted in Wallace-era segregation, and Southern Company. Veteran Justice Department officials are baffled by Sessions' response to the inquiry:

A senior federal law enforcement official said that while other former justice officials have refused to cooperate with various other IG’s investigations, they could not recall another instance in which an investigation was impeded because an attorney general refused to cooperate, a second senior department official refused to as well, and the deputy attorney general misled investigators.

That combination raised questions, the official said, as to whether there was a coordinated effort emanating from the highest levels of the justice department to sabotage the investigation.

Sessions and O’Callaghan were the only two government officials asked to provide information who refused to cooperate. Of all the other 45 individuals with whom the IG sought to speak to, all agreed; some sitting for several interviews, others doing so in adverse circumstances because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

O’Callaghan’s potential testimony was crucial to the investigation not only because his own role in implementing the family separation policy was under scrutiny, but also because he was such a close adviser to the attorney general and Rosenstein.

O’Callaghan declined to comment.

Some investigators also concluded Rosenstein misled them by downplaying his own role in the family separation policy.

Rosenstein told the IG that “he did not think he saw the draft of the [family separation] policy before it was issued; and asserted that while “the AG and his staff were intimately involved” in devising and implementing the policy, Rosenstein himself was “less likely to have been engaged”.

But records previously published by the Guardian and The New York Times directly contradict those claims – clearly demonstrating that Rosenstein ratcheted up the policy by pressing US attorneys on the US-Mexico border to detain more children.

The records further indicate that several US attorneys and their aides had severe reservations regarding the inhumanity of the policy, and concerns that by diverting resources to carrying out the policy would interfere with the prosecution of far more serious crimes. One federal prosecutor in Texas complained that, as a result of so much energy and resources being devoted to the effort, “sex offenders were released” who otherwise would have remained imprisoned.

So much for the law-and-order bona fides of the postmodern GOP.

After release of the report, Rosenstein said that he now regretted his involvement in the policy: “Since leaving the department, I have often asked myself what we should have done differently … It was a failed policy that never should have been proposed or implemented.”

Those comments stand in sharp contrast to earlier comments Rosenstein made to the inspector general defending the policy in high-minded terms by saying: “The attorney general I think was very clear in his view that [there was a] failure by the department to sufficiently prosecute immigration with the rule of law, and the statistics bore that out.”

As a former attorney general, Sessions was evading questions from the very department he once headed. To do so, he relied on a loophole in the law that allowed former department officials to escape any consequences from cooperating with investigators once they were out of office.

Justice officials who refuse to cooperate with investigators, while in their job, are subject to and are almost always fired from their jobs – a firing carried out by the attorney general. Thus Sessions, by regulation and longstanding norms, was tasked with firing officials for the very thing he himself did.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

With his political roots in the rough-and-tumble world of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Ali Alexander was an unlikely candidate to become a pro-Trump radical

Ali Alexander
 

How did Ali (Akbar) Alexander, instigator of a Stop the Steal rally that turned into an assault on the U.S. Capitol, descend into right-wing extremism? We know Alexander has legal and political ties to Alabama's band of Republican swamp creatures, but his personal roots are in Louisiana and Texas. A veteran chronicler of Louisiana politics says Alexander was an unlikely candidate to become a Trump-supporting radical. Writes Lamar White Jr., under the headline "Theater of the Absurd: How A Louisiana Extremist Helped the Trump Campaign Manufacture Outrage," at the Bayou Brief:

After amassing more than 350,000 followers, Facebook banned the group “Stop the Steal” once members began posting calls to incite violence at planned protests across the country.

The protests were the brainchild of Ali Alexander, a controversial far-right operative who boasts more than 140,000 followers on Twitter, where he’s simply @ali.

“Alexander appears to be involved with Stop The Steal both through his tweets promoting it and through his links to one of the websites boosting it,” Mother Jones reported. “Stopthesteal.us’s domain is registered to Vice and Victory, a possibly defunct political consultancy he’s affiliated with. After clicking the site’s donate button, visitors are prompted with the option to donate money to one of several cryptocurrency addresses associated with Alexander, or given links to his Paypal, CashApp, and Amazon wishlists.”

Here in Louisiana, Alexander is better known by his legal name, Ali Akbar. Although he now lives in Texas, for the past four years, Alexander resided in Baton Rouge, a fact that has gone virtually unnoticed in the torrent of coverage he’s recently generated.

How did Alexander become a national figure in the 2020 elections? White provides insight:

In June 2019, Alexander made national headlines for a racist tweet that asserted Kamala Harris was not “an American Black” because her father was Jamaican. His comment was retweeted and then later deleted by the president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr. The next month, Alexander was one of several controversial figures invited to the White House’s “social media summit.”

Alexander has a talent for separating right-wing financial backers from their money, and that has helped fuel his rise:

According to a 2018 Politico report, the night before the 2016 election, ​a PAC advised by Alexander received a $60,000 donation from hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer​, the pro-Trump billionaire,” Right Wing Watch’s Jared Holt reported in September. “Alexander has associated with far-right figures including Unite the Right white supremacist attendee Matt Colligan, and made a habit of noting when members of the media he criticizes are Jewish, ​according to The Observer.

In an August profile of Alexander, the Daily Dot reported that he had “found a niche among the likes of anti-Muslim activist and Republican Florida congressional candidate Laura Loomer and blundering political fraudster Jacob Wohl….The trio went to Minneapolis in June 2019 to film a documentary called Importing Ilhan, which was severely mocked online for lacking credibility. The video they produced was aimed at proving Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) had married her brother. While filming, they also wore bulletproof jackets only to report fake death threats against themselves to authorities.” 

Weeks before the election, Alexander promoted a website that floated the bogus claim that Joe Biden secretly suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

Alexander recently confirmed his role in the Stop the Steal protests to me via text message. He was not present at the event in Baton Rouge; instead, he attended a protest in Austin, alongside Infowars founder Alex Jones. 

Although he tells me that the event in Baton Rouge came together in only 23 hours, he previously announced plans for the event—and similar events across the nation—nearly two months ago. (He says he abandoned these plans some time in October).

“In the next coming days, we’re going to build the infrastructure to stop the steal,” Alexander said in a Periscope video posted in early September. “What we are going to do is we’re going to bypass all of social media. In the coming days, we will launch an effort concentrating on the swing states, and we will map out where the votes are being counted and the secretary of states. We will map all of this out for everyone publicly and we will collect cell phone numbers so that way if you are within 100 mile radius of a bad secretary of state or someone who’s counting votes after the deadline or if there’s a federal court hearing, we will alert you of where to go. We’re going to bypass all of Twitter, all of Facebook, all of Instagram, OK? We’re going to bypass it all.”

A few days prior, Alexander claimed to be at least partly responsible for organizing an armed mob outside of the Maricopa County Election Center, and when it started to become clear that Joe Biden would pull off an upset in Georgia, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the count, based solely on an affidavit provided to them by Sean Pumphrey of South Carolina, who the Bayou Brief has discovered to be connected to Alexander via Facebook. The lawsuit was quickly dismissed.

White has watched Alexander operate up close, and he reports that Alexander's initial reaction to Trump was unenthusiastic:

I’ve known Ali since 2015, when he served as the Digital Director of Republican Jay Dardenne’s gubernatorial campaign. We’ve appeared opposite of one another at least twice on Jim Engster’s statewide talk radio show, where the conversations were always civil and substantive, which is one of the reasons I’ve been so surprised to discover how dramatically different the “Ali Alexander” of social media stardom is from the Ali Akbar I knew through Louisiana politics. (After learning that he was the owner of the Twitter handle @louisiana, I also unsuccessfully lobbied him at least twice to let me take over the dormant account).

Engster’s impression of the young activist was similar to mine. “Ali was a passionate and true believer of conservative politics, not an opportunist like many of his cohorts,” Engster recalled.

To those who know him exclusively through his work in Louisiana, Ali’s evolution into full-blown MAGA diehard—and his transformation into an outspoken and notorious firebrand—seems remarkable for a few reasons, not the least of which being that he was initially a reluctant supporter of Trump. In hindsight, however, it now seems obvious that his ambivalence was largely performative.

“I think he destroyed my party, and I hate the campaign he’s running,” Ali wrote on Facebook about Trump a few days before the final round of primary contests in 2016. He added, “But I’ll gladly choose him over Hillary Clinton and the violent leftist mob.”

The two had actually met well before Trump descended down the golden escalators. According to Ali, he had been “the only person sitting in the room” when an unnamed Republican candidate sought Trump’s support at the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. The future president was impressed by how much Ali resembled Sammy Davis, Jr., he said, and they ended up talking with one another for close to 45 minutes. Apparently, he’d left an impression. Years later, when Ali visited the White House, Trump remembered the Sammy Davis lookalike.

At the 2014 RLC, Ali also snapped a photo of the Donald being interviewed for a podcast hosted by the new head of Andrew Breitbart’s media empire. 

Alexander launched his political brand in Louisiana. Writes White:

Notably, Ali’s involvement in Louisiana predates the 2015 gubernatorial campaign. A few months after the RLC in New Orleans, a mysterious new political action committee, Black Conservatives Fund, announced they would be opening their first-ever state chapter in Louisiana. “It’s unclear who will be leading the group’s efforts in Louisiana or the scale of those efforts,” The Advocate reported at the time

The Black Conservatives Fund, as it turns out, was Ali Akbar. (He has recently used the PAC’s Twitter account to amplify his other endeavors). Although it’s been dormant since 2016, according to the organization’s last FEC report, it’s still sitting on more than $200,000 in cash.

The Black Conservatives Fund appears to have largely been a proxy for former Louisiana state Sen. Elbert Guillory, a Black Republican from Opelousas. The PAC emerged during the 2014 Senate race between three-term incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican congressman Bill Cassidy. At the time, Guillory was putting together what would be an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor.

The PAC first made waves after releasing secretly recorded audio of Landrieu’s then-Chief of Staff, Don Cravins, Jr. (whose father, one of Guillory’s political nemeses, was then serving as Mayor of Opelousas) promising a gathering of Democrats that Landrieu would continue supporting President Obama “97 percent of the time” if re-elected.

Cassidy’s entire campaign had been built on the message that Landrieu was merely a rubber-stamp for the Democratic president, who was deeply unpopular in Louisiana. The statistic, however, was grossly misleading. Landrieu was known for her independent streak, and using the same metric, Cassidy, as a member of the House, had also voted in support of bills that were later signed into law by President Obama 97 percent of the time.

To many, Cassidy’s message was nothing more than a dog whistle, and Cravins’ comments, which were delivered in front of a majority Black audience, were not a confession of anything duplicitous; rather, they were a statement of support for the nation’s first Black president. The Black Conservatives Fund’s other major play in the 2014 campaign was an expensive robocall targeting Black voters that selectively edited comments Landrieu made to conservative talk radio host Jeff Crouere about the Affordable Care Act in order to imply that she had voted against President Obama.

At the time, Alexander had still been living in Fort Worth, and when the Dardenne campaign hired him as a Digital Director, he hadn’t yet built an online persona. Even his role in the Black Conservatives Fund had been obscured; he called himself a “senior advisor” and, for the most part, preferred to stay behind-the-scenes. Privately, those involved in Dardenne’s campaign have expressed regret over hiring Alexander and claim to be appalled by the dirty tricks that have become a hallmark of his brand.

When I asked him about his Stop the Steal campaign, Ali provided what, to me, seemed like a perfectly reasonable argument in favor of free, fair, and transparent elections; he also distanced himself from the theories espoused by Whitney. “(The) only uniting message for StopTheSteal is that the election should be predictable and the counting should be transparent,” he wrote. “It’s not. And we feel like things are being hidden so open it up or we’ll assume the worst.” But the measured words and tone he expressed to me privately are belied by his online antics, and it’s impossible not to be alarmed and deeply concerned by the very real chance that Ali endangers himself and others with his reckless hyperbole. (He’s taken to wearing a bulletproof vest when he appears in public).

But more than anything else, Ali’s decision to begin planning the infrastructure for Stop the Steal long before the first ballot had ever been cast suggests that these protests were going to happen regardless of how the election actually shaped up.

Like Sammy Davis, Jr., Ali Alexander is one helluva performer, and the show must go on.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Special prosecutor brings no criminal charges against sheriff's deputy who fatally shot Hannah Fizer, 25, of Sedalia, MO, during a traffic stop last June

 

Hannah Fizer

 A Missouri sheriff's deputy is back on the job after a special prosecutor refused to bring criminal charges in the fatal shooting of a 25-year-old Sedalia woman during a traffic stop last June.

Hannah Fizer was unarmed, but the prosecutor apparently bought the deputy's story that Fizer threatened to shoot him. The traffic stop was caught on video, embedded at the end of this post. From a report at kshb.com:

A Pettis County, Missouri, sheriff's deputy is back at work after no charges were filed in the shooting death of Hannah Fizer.

A special prosecutor appointed to examine the case decided last September not to file charges against the deputy.

The deputy shot and killed Fizer, 25, on June 13 in a parking lot between the Sedalia Asian Buffet and Catfish restaurant.

Fizer was on her way to work when the deputy pulled her over for careless driving, according 41 Action News coverage of the shooting.

Captain Tolbert Rowe of the Pettis County Sheriff's Office told 41 Action News Fizer told the deputy she had a weapon and was going to shoot the deputy.

She went for something in the car and the deputy shot her, Rowe said.

How did the prosecutor reach a conclusion that no charges were warranted?  From a news account, at kmbc.com:

The special prosecutor appointed in the case of a Sedalia, Missouri, woman shot and killed by a Pettis County Sheriff’s Deputy during a traffic stop said in a letter that he won’t file charges in the case.

Attorney Stephen Sokoloff, appointed as special prosecutor on the case in August, addressed the judge in a letter Monday stating he reviewed the investigation file, which included reports from DDCC investigators, witness statements, statements from the officer involved as well as from other officers, a copy of victim Hannah Fizer’s toxicology report, surveillance video from a nearby business and dispatch audio recordings around the time of the shooting. 

“There are aspects of the case that lead me to believe that an alternative approach might have avoided the confrontation that led to the officer having to discharge his weapon,” Sokoloff wrote, also adding that is not relevant to any criminal liability in the case.

Sokoloff said that “the shooting, albeit possibly avoidable, was justifiable under current Missouri criminal law.”

The letter states that evidence shows Fizer was stopped for multiple traffic violations before refusing to provide any information to the officer. Fizer reportedly told the deputy she was recording him, and then shortly after that, that she had a gun and was going to shoot him.

The attorney said that just before the deputy shot Fizer, that Fizer had reached down into the floorboard of the car and raised up toward the deputy. Fizer’s movements inside the vehicle were reportedly clear on surveillance video. Fizer’s threats stating that she had a gun and was going to shoot the deputy were also heard on the officer’s radio dispatch just before he shot Fizer.

“Based on the information and circumstances available to the officer during the event, it cannot be said that the officer did not have a reasonable belief that he was in danger of serious physical injury or death from the actions of the deceased at the time he fired,” Sokoloff wrote.

Sokoloff stated in the letter that under Missouri law, when an officer is in a position of using deadly force in self-defense, the legal standard requires a reasonable belief by the officer that the officer is in imminent danger.

“The reasonableness of the officer’s belief must be evaluated based on how circumstances reasonably appeared to the officer at the time, not based on how those circumstances may have later been discovered actually to have been,” Sokoloff said. 

Sokoloff suggested in his letter that law-enforcement officers need improved training to defuse tense situations. Why the Fizer traffic stop became tense remains unclear. The deputy's name apparently has not been released to the public, although the sheriff is touting his department's transparency:

In the letter Sokoloff said more training on de-escalation techniques, and more experience, may be needed in many situations like this one. “The recent spate of these types of avoidable deaths would certainly suggest that a reexamination of training techniques is in order.”

Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond said he and his department ensured the case would be handled in a professional, independent manner.

“This has ensured transparency and thoroughness of the investigation and subsequent prosecutorial review,” Bond said. “We at the Sheriff’s Office have allowed to Rule of Law to properly take its course, and we await delivery of the report to complete our internal investigation into the matter.

“Our hearts continue to go out to the Fizer family, and we encourage calmness in the community as we work together to reduce the polarization this emotional and traumatic event has caused.”

Fizer's family and friends are struggling with the prosecutor's decision:

Janet Uplinger has been a friend of Hannah's parents for many years. "There was no justice here. At all."

June 13th was supposed to be another night of work at a Sedalia gas station for Hannah. Uplinger said the 25-year-old was well-known by all of her customers.

"She was so nice when they went in there, and helpful," Uplinger said. "It seems like she never had a bad day at all."

As she headed to work that night, Hannah was stopped by a Pettis County Sheriff's Deputy. According to court documents, the deputy said she told him she was recording him, she had a gun, and was going to shoot him.

Investigators said Hannah was reaching into the floorboard of the car and when she raised up, that's when the deputy fired his weapon.

After an investigation and search of the car, The Missouri State Highway Patrol stated no weapons were in her car.

"It was all what the deputy said. Of course, it was 'she had a gun. She told me she was going to shoot me." Uplinger added.

The deputy was not wearing a body camera, as cameras purchased four years prior had technical failures and were never reinstated.

Stephen Sokoloff, General Counsel for the Missouri Office of Prosecution Services, was appointed to the case to decide whether or not charges would be filed. In Sokoloff's decision, he said although the fatal shooting may have been avoidable, it was justified.

"He said avoidable but justifiable. That never made any sense to us," Uplinger said. "How do you just tell a family the case is closed whenever so many questions have not been answered?"

Uplinger said the case is far from closed as work continues through family attorneys.

"Things are happening all the time in this county and it just feels like everything gets swept under the rug. There's just too many things here that don't add up.

 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Stop the Steal leader Ali (Akbar) Alexander ratchets up violent images in his rhetoric, speaking of stabbing "motherfu--ers" and making life hell for adversaries


Is Ali (Akbar) Alexander, who has been in hiding since organizing the protest that turned into an assault on the U.S. Capitol, a warped and dangerous guy? A video he reportedly released on Jan. 10 (see above) should erase any doubts. Reports Roger Sollenberger at Salon, under the headline "Stop the Steal denied inciting violence: Now its leader wants to "bring hell" to his enemies: 'I pray that I'm the tool to stab these motherf**kers,'" Ali Alexander says in a new video:

In the aftermath of the [Jan. 6] attack on Congress, Ali Alexander, chief organizer of the "Stop the Steal" election conspiracy movement, rejected any blame for the unprecedented political violence that flowed naturally from his event in Washington.

"I didn't incite anything," Alexander claimed in a video shared to Twitter. "I didn't do anything."

Hours after the riot, Alexander said bluntly: "I do not denounce this."

It's a common refrain for Alexander, a convicted felon who shed his given name Ali Akbar years ago while trying to establish himself as a Muslim face in Tea Party circles. For the last two months, since the election, Alexander has popped up at "Stop the Steal" rallies around the country, peddling lies and conspiracy theories and telling people he was prepared to die for the cause — denying that he endorsed violence while walking his rally crowds right up to the edge of insurrection. But two days after he shrugged off allegations that he played a central role in the unprecedented political crime last week, with authorities apparently on his trail and his Twitter account suspended, Alexander live-streamed his open embrace and endorsement of political violence.

"Rest assured in this," he says at one point in the 24-minute monologue. "The lord says vengeance is his, and I pray that I am the tool to stab these motherfuckers."

 Alexander then descends into otherworldly babble:

At another point in the video — which Alexander appears to have streamed sitting under a dome light in a vehicle moving through the night — the self-styled provocateur, who trades on his association with larger-than-life right-wing personalities such as Alex Jones and Roger Stone, teases viewers that the next step will be violent on a biblical scale.

"When I do unleash the plan, I will unleash ..." Alexander says, then closes his mouth and stares at the camera for seven seconds. He continues: "I will unleash a legion of angels to bring hell to my enemies."

(Alexander often sews talk of "hexes" and mystical beings and QAnon and other fantasy lore into his rambling sermons. At one point in Sunday's video he plunged into the QAnon universe: "The nation is imperiled. They are trying to rape your children. They are closing our churches and keeping us from the sacrament so that they can open a gateway to hell.")

Does anyone have a clue what that means? There is no doubting the use of violent imagery

The open invocation of violence marks a clear shift from just two days prior, when the co-founder of the original "Stop the Steal" movement pushed back on the firestorm of blame, saying he would not "take an iota of blame that does not belong to me." But while Alexander moves about freely, some of his connections at the federal level do not have that luxury — such as Republican congressmen Mo Brooks of Alabama and Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, both of Arizona, who Alexander has said collaborated with some of his efforts in Washington.

"We four schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting," Alexander said in a video posted before the riot.

Alexander did an interview with Alex Jones, spouting open threats as authorities across the country pour resources into bringing Capitol attackers to justice and heading off what some people believe is an inevitable second attack.

Officials across the government are still reeling from the catastrophic security failure to assess and prepare for the event, widely publicized on social media, where scores of domestic terrorists came tactically equipped to take hostages, fight riot police and hunt down elected officials. Some of the invaders chanted "Hang Mike Pence" while a noose swung from a makeshift gallows outside one of the world's iconic symbols of democracy.

Now law enforcement is racing against those same groups as they settle on the next target, with President-elect Joe Biden's Inauguration on Jan. 20 being a top choice: "That is the next date on the calendar that the Pro-Trump and other nationalist crowds will potentially converge on the Capitol again," read one message posted to a white supremacist Telegram channel, according to The Washington Post.

What could lie ahead? That question is, and should be, unsettling:

To avoid repeating the Jan. 6 disaster, in which five people were killed, including two Capitol Police officers — one from injuries at the scene and another taking his own life days later — Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy has said that the military will surround the Capitol with unscalable fencing. Upwards of 6,000 National Guard troops are also deploying to help secure the city ahead of the inauguration.

Twitter has also taken precautions, purging bots and accounts that peddle dangerous conspiracy theories. The company permanently suspended Alexander's account on Sunday evening, citing his influence on last week's mayhem and fears that he would use the platform to inspire and organize more violence. In Sunday night's video — which he managed to share via Twitter's broadcast app Periscope, which gave him the boot on Tuesday — Alexander framed the move among others as an act of violence.

"The fact that they keep crawling me out of here to drag my dead body through the streets is very sick and sadistic, but here we are," he said in the video. "But I want to tell you, please share my GiveSendGo link — I need to raise that $40,000 immediately." (GiveSendGo is a Christian fundraising site that doubles as safe harbor for extremists no longer welcome on other more mainstream platforms — Alexander, for instance, has been banned from PayPal, Venmo and CashApp, but maintains a GiveSendGo. His monetized YouTube page is also still active.)

Alexander then declares that he is so committed to the cause that he will never go back to his previous life as a political consultant — unless he doesn't get that $40,000 in the next week, in which case, he says, he will disappear entirely. The money, he says, is for "security."

Monday, January 18, 2021

Dissident-mag portrays Ali Alexander's life as "a grifter's dream come true," but now he's in hiding because of his role in organizing U.S. Capitol riots

Ali Alexander (from Dissident-mag.com)
 

Not only does Stop the Steal organizer Ali (Akbar) Alexander have a sketchy personal background, his organizations present a flimsy appearance, too. Dissident-mag.com examines both in a post titled “Stop The Steal”: A GOP Grifter’s Dream Come True."

Alexander remains in hiding, apparently wanted by federal authorities for his role in spearheading a protest that turned into a deadly assault at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. James Allsup, of Dissident-Mag provides enough background on Alexander, including his ties to Alabama, to remove any surprise that might linger about the Capitol riots. Writes Allsup:

The organizer of “Stop The Steal,” and operator of StopTheSteal.us, is a Twitter personality known as Ali Alexander (real name: Ali Abdul Razaq Akbar). The website lists rallies across several states in which voter fraud has been alleged and encourages Trump supporters to attend. . . . 

An IRS organization search finds no tax-exempt organizations named “Stop The Steal,” and a WHOIS record lookup reveals the site was registered by “Vice And Victory,” an Akbar-owned private company. . . 

Clicking the link redirects users to founders.alialexander.org, Akbar’s personal website. There, users have the choice to donate to Akbar’s personal crypto wallets, or via his personal PayPal and CashApp links. This site is archived here.

Users also have the option to buy him things from his Amazon wishlist, including weight benches, mass gainer supplements, and soap.

On November 7, Akbar tweeted that he “[doesn’t get paid to do this],” a statement contradicted by the hamfistedness of his self-enrichment scheme. . . . 

With donations headed to Akbar’s personal bank account, and not the accounts of any legally registered nonprofit bound by disclosure requirements, it is unlikely donors will ever be able to see where their funds were actually used.

 Allsup asks, "Who is Alexander?" -- and the answer isn't pretty:

Before reinventing himself as “Ali Alexander,” he was Ali Abdul Razaq Akbar- a convicted felon and conman with multiple arrests for burglary and credit card fraud.

Ali’s crime spree began as early as 2006. According to police reports, he stole “Five MP3 Players, Twenty CD’s, Three Camcorders, Two DVD Players, One Back Massager One Clock, Four Shirts, Two Belts and a Piece of Luggage” from someone he knew beginning on or around November 1 until approximately November 26.

An arrest warrant was issued and he was arrested on January 1, 2007.

Seven months later, on August 18, he was arrested again, this time for credit card fraud and burglarizing a vehicle.

Akbar’s campaign against voter fraud is ironic, considering he was once credibly accused of planning to perpetrate voter fraud on behalf of John McCain. As LibertarianRepublican.net reported at the time, Akbar- then a John McCain campaign staffer- was caught planning voter fraud strategies to use against the Ron Paul campaign in the upcoming Nevada caucuses.

One witness, Joey Dauben, Akbar’s boss at the Ellis County Observer, recalled the events:

I sat in on a meeting in my downtown Dallas office and heard an e-campaign staffer with the John McCain campaign – Ali A. Akbar – openly discuss ways to manipulate, rig and otherwise “take” an election.

At the time, Akbar was the “E-Campaign Coordinator” for the McCain campaign, and served as a McCain campaign spokesman in Texas.

Allsup suggests that Akbar was "groomed to grift" and mentions Alabamians he has targeted -- including yours truly and Siegelman-case whistle blower Jill Simpson:

Akbar’s arrests for fraud, burglary, and theft did not seem to hamper his rise as a low-level GOP fixer. In fact, they may have served to pad his resume.

At the time of his Fort Worth arrests, Akbar’s day job was with the Ellis County Observer, a local news site. According to journalist Roger Shuler, “Akbar’s work apparently involved covering up the misdeeds of a former police chief named Michael Meissner, who was charged with posing as a woman and soliciting photos of underaged boys.”

Akbar, who served as the Observer’s executive editor and webmaster, allegedly worked with Meissner to suppress online records of his crimes.

How did Akbar rise from a small-time fraudster to president of the National Bloggers Club by 2012? By making the right (sleazy) connections.

In a now-deleted YouTube video, Akbar acknowledges having worked for GOP fixer Karl Rove. The specifics of Rove and Akbar’s relationship are unclear, but it has been credibly reported that the two were engaged in a homosexual relationship over a number of years.

Akbar’s profile on a gay dating site was discovered by Alabama attorney Dana Jill Simpson in 2012. Undated screenshots of Akbar’s profile on Grindr, a gay sex hookup app, have also been discovered.

Akbar’s connection to Rove is likely how he was able to insert himself into the orbit of Conservatism Inc. In 2012, he became president of the National Bloggers Club (NBC), which received startup capital from GOP megadonor Foster Friess. Over the next two years, NBC hosted events featuring GOP celebrities including James O’Keefe, Ted Cruz, and Erick Erickson.

NBC, like Stop The Steal, was never registered as a nonprofit organization.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Toxic Ketona Lakes, in Tarrant, could spell another environmental headache for Drummond, especially if the President Joe Biden EPA takes immediate notice

Ketona Lakes (from Ban Balch)

Drummond Company might be facing another enviornmental nightmare in the North Birminghm/Tarrant area, according to a report at banbalch.com. This time, the problem revolves around Ketona Lakes. Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes, under the headline "Bombshell: Drummond’s Environmental Racism at Ketona Lakes Exposed":

In one week, the Biden Administration enters office and the first order of business will be to investigate Drummond Company and the alleged secret toxic landsite known as Ketona Lakes.

Will Biden’s EPA and U.S. Department of Justice force Drummond to finally atone for its  sins?

For over 35 years, the site of two former quarries has been hidden from public view. Located in Jefferson County, not far from North Birmingham and smack in the middle of the City of Tarrant, the Ketona Lakes are quarries now filled with water.

The water is allegedly extremely contaminated and toxic.

What is Drummond's history with Ketona Lakes?

Sources tell us that Drummond acquired the property when it purchased ABC Coke, and the site had extensive underground pipes that used to go directly underground to ABC Coke.

Drummond allegedly sealed off the pipes, tore down all physical structures, and then secured, fenced, and fully abandoned the site in 1985, thinking no one would know or care.

Ketona Lakes was the site of a former chemical company and decades of harmful chemicals and toxins have allegedly stayed in the soil and water.

Could the incoming Biden Administration spell trouble for Drummond, and does this story involve matters of race?

Now the incoming head of the EPA Michael S. Regan needs to investigate Drummond and ask, have these toxins from Ketona Lakes poisoned or polluted the water table? Should the EPA create a new EPA Superfund Site at Ketona Lakes? Should Drummond Company or their executives be held criminally liable for the alleged misconduct?

Tarrant is over 60 percent African-American and the behavior of allowing an alleged toxic and polluted site to remain hidden for over 35 years is environmental racism at its worst.

Another awful allegation is law enforcement was allowed to enter Ketona Lakes to practice scuba diving maneuvers for several hours some years back.

Although divers did not come out with six toes on one foot or glowing in the dark, those law enforcement divers who dipped into the alleged toxic waters should be contacted to see if they suffered any detrimental or long-term illnesses.

Finally and with such irony, the Ketona Lakes are located immediately behind Thompson Power Systems and Thompson Lift Truck, both of which are across the street from parent company Thompson Tractor Company. 

How ugly does the Thompson angle get? It brings Luther Strange into the loop:

Mike Thompson, CEO of Thompson Tractor, was a director of the money laundering entity Alliance for Jobs and the Economy (AJE), the alleged brainchild of Alabama Power, that was at the core of the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal.

As we reported in December, Thompson allegedly took Balch & Bingham’s biggest stooge, former U.S. Senator and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, directly to Drummond’s headquarters to meet Drummond family members and pick up a $25,000 check.

A few days later, Strange signed a letter ghost-written by Balch & Bingham attacking the EPA’s efforts to put the North Birmingham Superfund Site on the National Priorities List and expanding the site to include the City of Tarrant.

Now we know why Drummond funneled the money and danced dirty tango with Balch & Bingham.

Ketona Lakes. The excruciating pain!

Ketona Lakes. The horrific nightmare!

Ketona Lakes. Biden’s first priority!

Legal expert notes that Ali Alexander admits Stop the Steal was designed to intimidate Congress, meaning the protest organizer likely will face federal charges

Ali Alexander and Donald Trump
 

A Legal Schnauzer lawyer source, having reviewed recent reports about last week's Capitol riot, says Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander almost certainly is headed for time behind bars. Our source particularly focuses on a report at Yahoo! by Alex Montrose. Says our source:

Ali Alexander admits that the purpose of the Stop The Steal was to make congressional members so afraid of the mob that the House would not want to be on the wrong side of the mob (i.e., to intimidate Congress to stop the Electoral College state certification process; send certification back to states; and allow states to recertify in favor of Trump so Trump wins the election instead of Biden).  On CNN Today, Ali Alexander said essentially the same thing which guarantees he will be convicted of federal crimes for organizing a mob and encouraging the mob to lay siege to the Capitol; intimidate congressional members to stop and delay the Elec. College certification process; help Trump buy time to get certifications sent back to states for re-certification in Trump's favor.  In other words, a complicated coup that is doomed to fail and Trump shall never recover.

From the Yahoo! report:

One lead organizer of last week's "Stop the Steal" rally that morphed into an attack against the U.S. Capitol claims that GOP congressmen Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs of Arizona, and congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama all participated in planning of the Jan. 6 catastrophe.

As CNN points out, Arizona resident and pro-Trump activist Ali Alexander implicated the three members of the House of Representatives during a December livestream on Periscope, where he told followers the four of them had been "planning something big."

“I’m the guy who came up with the idea of January 6 when I was talking with Congressman Gosar, Congressman Andy Biggs, and Congressman Mo Brooks. So we’re the four guys who came up with a January 6 event — #DoNotCertify — and it was to build momentum and pressure, and then on the day change hearts and minds of congresspeoples who weren’t yet decided, or saw everyone outside and said, ‘I can’t be on the other side of that mob,’” Alexander said in a livestream on Dec. 29.

Alexander's alleged conspirators deny involvement in the plot:

Biggs, who is chair of the House Freedom Caucus, denied associating with Alexander.

"Congressman Biggs is not aware of hearing of or meeting Mr. Alexander at any point -- let alone working with him to organize some part of a planned protest," his spokesperson told CNN. "He did not have any contact with protestors or rioters, nor did he ever encourage or foster the rally or protests. He was focused on his research and arguments to work within the confines of the law and established precedent to restore integrity to our elections, and to ensure that all Americans -- regardless of party affiliation -- can again have complete trust in our elections systems."

The Arizona Republican Party, which Gosar and Biggs belong to, faced backlash last month after promoting one of Alexander's tweets and asking republicans if they were willing to die to overturn the legitimate outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

FBI intelligence warned of "war" and "violence" at last week's pro-Trump rally, but law enforcement failed to prevent assault on U.S. Capitol, leading to 5 deaths

(From Washington Post)

Why was law enforcement so lax at last week's Stop the Steal riot, which led to five deaths in and around the U.S. Capitol? It's not because various police agencies did not have warning, according to a report at The Washington Post. Write Devin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky:

A day before rioters stormed Congress, an FBI office in Virginia issued an explicit internal warning that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and “war,” according to an internal document reviewed by The Washington Post that contradicts a senior official’s declaration the bureau had no intelligence indicating anyone at last week’s pro-Trump protest planned to do harm.

A situational information report approved for release the day before the U.S. Capitol riot painted a dire portrait of dangerous plans, including individuals sharing a map of the complex’s tunnels, and possible rally points for would-be conspirators to meet up in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and South Carolina and head in groups to Washington.

“As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence in response to ‘unlawful lockdowns’ to begin on 6 January 2021 in Washington. D.C.,” the document says. “An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”

 It's not as if the information wasn't timely disseminated: From The Post:

An FBI official familiar with the document said that within 45 minutes of learning about the alarming online conversation, the Norfolk FBI office wrote the report and shared it with others within the bureau. It was not immediately clear how many law enforcement agencies outside the FBI were told, but the information was briefed to FBI officials at the bureau’s Washington field office the day before the attack, this official said.

The official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss ongoing investigations, added that the report was raw intelligence and that at the time it was written, the FBI did not know the identities of those making the online statements.

The FBI already faces tough questions about why it was not more attuned to what was being discussed in public Internet conversations in the days leading up to the attack, and why the bureau and other agencies seemed to do little to prepare for the possibility of mass violence.

The document notes that the information represents the view of the FBI’s Norfolk office, is not to be shared outside law enforcement circles, that it is not “finally evaluated intelligence,” and that agencies that receive it “are requested not to take action based on this raw reporting without prior coordination with the FBI.

The law-enforcement failure at The Capitol is leading to uncomfortable conversations at the FBI:

Multiple law enforcement officials have said privately in recent days that the level of violence exhibited at the Capitol has led to difficult discussions within the FBI and other agencies about race, terrorism, and whether investigators failed to register the degree of danger because the overwhelming majority of the participants at the rally were White conservatives fiercely loyal to the President Trump.

“Individuals/Organizations named in this [situational information report] have been identified as participating in activities that are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” the document says. “Their inclusion here is not intended to associate the protected activity with criminality or a threat to national security, or to infer that such protected activity itself violates federal law.

“However,” it continues, “based on known intelligence and/or specific historical observations, it is possible the protected activity could invite a violent reaction towards the subject individual or others in retaliation or with the goal of stopping the protected activity from occurring in the first instance. In the event no violent reaction occurs, FBI policy and federal law dictates that no further record to be made of the protected activity.”

The document notes that one online comment advised, “if Antifa or BLM get violent, leave them dead in the street,” while another said they need “people on standby to provide supplies, including water and medical, to the front lines. The individual also discussed the need to evacuate noncombatants and wounded to medical care.”

On Jan. 6, a large, angry crowd of people who had attended a nearby rally marched to the Capitol, smashing windows and breaking down doors to get inside. One woman in the mob was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer; officials said three others in the crowd died from medical emergencies. Another Capitol police officer died after suffering injuries.

On Friday, the head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Steven D’Antuono, told reporters “there was no indication” of anything planned for the day of Trump’s rally “other than First Amendment-protected activity.” D’Antuono added, “we worked diligently with our partners on this.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

As Parler data leak spews forth files about planning of deadly Trump rally, organizer Ali (Akbar) Alexander goes into hiding, with legal problems likely looming

Ali (Akbar) Alexander

Stop the Steal organizer Ali (Akbar) Alexander, he of the Alabama ties via Montgomery lawyer and talk-show host Baron Coleman, has gone into hiding, according to a report at the Daily Beast. Is Alexander's disappearing act driven, in part, by reports that security researchers have cracked all the files at Parler, the site reportedly used by right wingers to plan last week's protest-turned-riot at the U.S. Capitol? Does Alexander know the security pros plan to provide Parler files to law enforcement, perhaps posing serious legal implications for planners from the Trump fringe  who launched the rally that turned into a deadly assault on Congress? 

It's too early to have definitive answers to those question, but it appears likely Alexander knows he's gone too far and might need to lawyer up shortly. Under the headline, "Stop the Steal’ Organizer in Hiding After Denying Blame for Riot," the DailyBeast's Will Sommer writes:

            Two weeks before thousands of Trump rioters breached Congress, “Stop the Steal” organizer                Ali Alexander said his group wasn’t violent—“yet.”

“One of our organizers in one state said, ‘We’re nice patriots, we don’t throw bricks,’” Alexander told a crowd at a Dec. 19 rally at Arizona’s state capitol. “I leaned over and I said, ‘Not yet. Not yet!’ Haven’t you read about a little tar-and-feathering? Those were second-degree burns!”

Alexander, who has described himself as one of the “official originators” of the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, went on to use “yet” as a code word for violence. Then Alexander told the Phoenix crowd about his plans for Washington.

“We’re going to convince them to not certify the vote on January 6 by marching hundreds of thousands, if not millions of patriots, to sit their butts in D.C. and close that city down, right?” Alexander said. “And if we have to explore options after that…‘yet.’ Yet!”

 Alexander apparently is not quite so glib these days. Writes Sommer:

Alexander led a host of activists in ratcheting up the rhetoric ahead of Congress’ certification of the electoral votes, threatening to “1776” opponents of Trump’s re-election. Now that five people, including a Capitol Police officer, are dead, however, Alexander has gone into hiding, and the website promoting his Jan. 6 rally has been wiped from the internet.

Alexander is defiant, saying he won’t “take an iota of blame that does not belong to me.”

“I didn’t incite anything,” Alexander said in a video posted Friday to Twitter. “I didn’t do anything.”

That last statement suggests Alexander already is thinking of a defense to federal incitement charges that could be coming. Does Alexander's claim that he "didn't incite anything" mesh with reality? Not exactly. Writes Sommer:

Alexander’s voice grew more menacing in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 rally. He tweeted that he would “give my life for this fight,” a call that was promoted by the Arizona Republican Party.

Alexander also began tweeting frequently about “1776,” a reference to the start of the American Revolution. Alexander wrote in one post that the choice was “45”—Trump’s re-election—“or 1776.” In another message, he wrote that “1776 is always an option for free men and women.”

Most pointedly, Alexander responded to a tweet from QAnon-supporter Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) claiming that top congressional leaders were working to block objections to the electoral vote. If that happened, Alexander said, he and hundreds of thousands of other protesters would “1776” the Capitol.

“If they do this, everyone can guess what me and 500,000 others will do to that building,” Alexander tweeted on Dec. 30. “1776 is *always* an option”

The night before the Jan. 6 rally, Alexander riled up Trump supporters in Washington with a “victory or death” chant and once again brought up “1776.”

“1776 is always an option,” Alexander told the crowd. “These degenerates in the deep state are going to give us what we want, or we are going to shut this country down.”

For now, Alexander is out of sight and begging his followers for money:

Alexander claims to be in hiding, alleging in a video posted Friday that he needs $2,000 a day to fund his security detail and other expenses and hitting his fans up for donations. In a bizarre moment in his fundraising pitch, Alexander claimed that he was being targeted by the supernatural: “Witches and wiccans are putting hexes and curses on us.”

It’s not clear how, however, if Alexander’s supporters can send him money at all. On Saturday, he posted on Parler that he had been banned from Venmo and PayPal.

In his Friday video, Alexander claimed that his “rally never turned violent.” But Alexander also read a quote from talk radio host Rush Limbaugh that positively compared the rioters to the heroes of the American Revolution, and said rioters who entered the Capitol should suffer light consequences, if any.

“I think people should be rowdy, I think people should be messy,” Alexander said. “I do believe that we own that U.S. Capitol. So I’m not apologizing for nothing.”

As for Parler, the story of its downfall -- and the resulting data leak -- broke early yesterday, and that could prove to be a gift from heaven for federal investigators. Writes Dell Cameron at Gizmodo

In the wake of the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by scores of President Trump’s supporters, a lone researcher [from Austria] began an effort to catalogue the posts of social media users across Parler, a platform founded to provide conservative users a safe haven for uninhibited “free speech” — but which ultimately devolved into a hotbed of far-right conspiracy theories, unchecked racism, and death threats aimed at prominent politicians.

The researcher, who asked to be referred to by her Twitter handle, @donk_enby, began with the goal of archiving every post from January 6, the day of the Capitol riot; what she called a bevy of “very incriminating” evidence. According to the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, among other sources, Parler is one of a several apps used by the insurrections to coordinate their breach of the Capitol, in a plan to overturn the 2020 election results and keep Donald Trump in power.

Operating on little sleep, @donk_enby began the work of archiving all of Parler’s posts, ultimately capturing around 99 percent of its content. In a tweet early Sunday, @donk_enby said she was crawling some 1.1 million Parler video URLs. “These are the original, unprocessed, raw files as uploaded to Parler with all associated metadata,” she said. Included in this data tranche, now more than 56 terabytes in size, @donk_enby confirmed that the raw video files include GPS metadata pointing to exact locations of where the videos were taken.

@donk_enby later shared a screenshot showing the GPS position of a particular video, with coordinates in latitude and longitude.

The privacy implications are obvious, but the copious data may also serve as a fertile hunting ground for law enforcement. Federal and local authorities have arrested dozens of suspects in recent days accused of taking part in the Capitol riot, where a Capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick, was fatally wounded after being struck in the head with a fire extinguisher.

@donk_enby describes herself as hacker, in the sense that she’s “someone with a creative, but skeptical attitude toward technology,” to paraphrase a definition offered by the Chaos Computer Club, Europe’s largest hacker association. “I want this to be a big middle finger to those who say hacking shouldn’t be political,” she said. @donk_enby work has aided other researchers, including one at New York University’s Center for Cybersecurity.