This is how cons work: The stakes keep getting increased until the whole thing collapses.”

Philip Bump at the Washington Post reports, Another year, another high-profile voter-fraud summit goes bust:

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It was just over a year ago that MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell convened supporters and data experts in South Dakota for a multiday summit at which he pledged to show his evidence that foreign actors had interfered in the 2020 election.

As presented, the idea was straightforward: Lindell, who believed fervently that the election had been stolen, would finally offer up the raw information that he claimed showed how voting machines had been hacked and the results altered from overseas. This wasn’t his analysis, obviously; he’d hired guys who said they’d uncovered a pattern that could be replicated by others. But when the moment came … it couldn’t. The data was invalid and/or useless. There was no proof. None has since emerged.

But Lindell was in a corner. He’d kept stringing people along for months, promising a big reveal. Whether he knew he didn’t have anything or not, someone did. And this is how cons work: The stakes keep getting increased until the whole thing collapses.

This episode sprang to mind immediately when I started watching “The Pit,” a symposium held in Arizona over the weekend by 2022′s in-vogue election conspiracy theorists, the leaders of the group True the Vote. Same elevation of hype. Same collapse of what was promised.

If you’re at all familiar with True the Vote, this won’t surprise you.

From Source Watch: True the Vote is a Houston-based vote-monitoring initiative committed to stopping voter fraud with a “horrendous record of filing inaccurate voter registration challenges.” Many believe that the organization’s activities are aimed at voter suppression and a right-wing agenda to further a new administration. TTV trains volunteers to monitor elections and report incidents of voter fraud. It also holds local rallies to promote “voter ID” laws, which it staunchly supports. TTV has been accused of voter intimidation and advancing hysterical claims about the pervasiveness of voter fraud. TTV’s current president is Catherine Englebrecht, who is also the founder of the King Street Patriots, a Tea Party 501(c)(4) group based in Texas.

In his book “Everything Trump Touches Dies,” former GOP consultant Rick Wilson describes being engaged by the group at some point before the 2016 election. Wilson and his team prepared to help True the Vote get their message — “millions upon millions of illegal votes are cast in every election” — out to the public.

“[T]here was just one problem,” Wilson writes. “As the leading voter fraud prevention group in the country, True the Vote couldn’t provide enough data to make a convincing case even for us, far less to paint a picture of a massive conspiracy to push illegal voters to the polls.”

He tells that story as context for disparaging Donald Trump’s post-2016 insistence that millions of votes had been cast illegally — a claim that Trump adopted wholesale from a tweet by Gregg Phillips of True the Vote. Phillips never provided evidence for the claim, something that he tried to explain away Saturday as his extrapolation of data on the number of noncitizens who vote in the United States (something that happens extremely rarely).

By 2020, True the Vote’s reputation wasn’t terrific. During a panel discussion in August 2020, a group of conservatives were asked about True the Vote, spurring sharp criticism. Among those warning listeners away was attorney Cleta Mitchell, who would go on to be a prominent figure in Trump’s effort to overturn the election. But True the Vote? Pass.

Got that? True The Vote was too fringe even for Coup Plotter lawyer Cleta Mitchell who tried to overturn the 202 election.

Then the group got lucky, convincing [convicted felon pardoned by Trump] filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza that they had data showing a widespread effort to collect and cast ballots in swing states. The result was “2000 Mules,” a movie that became a sensation on the right this year because it offered what had long been missing: apparent evidence of enough fraud to have affected the election results.

In reality, of course, the film shows no such thing. It shows no example of anyone casting ballots at more than one drop box, as is alleged, and it shows none of the purported data that Phillips collected to cobble together his estimates of how many “mules” were at work. The only map purporting to show someone visiting multiple drop boxes was fictional, as Phillips admitted to The Washington Post.

D’Souza, like Trump and Wilson, was dependent on True the Vote and Phillips in particular for the claims made in the film. The film documents the downside of that credulity: a filmed interaction in which Phillips suggests that their data analysis solved a murder (to D’Souza’s fawning astonishment) was later shown to have not occurred.

After “2000 Mules” was released, True the Vote, like Lindell before them, promised to release all of the data undergirding their purported investigation. In May, they said they would soon “pull the ripcord,” making all of their information public within a few weeks.

Then it didn’t happen. There was no “ripcord” pulled. In interviews, Phillips pledged that new information would be coming out “ten times” as big as what they’d uncovered in “Mules.” But the actual evidence that they claimed to have found in the film remained under wraps. (They had presented it to some law enforcement agencies, including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which didn’t find cause to launch a criminal investigation.)

Finally, True the Vote announced “The Pit.” Phillips said that what would be presented would be “devastating” and include “the part that was left out of the movie.” The media, he insisted, was scared of how devastating the stories would be.

The event was carried on Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN), a streaming channel focused on right-wing content. But it was hardly something taking place at the fringe.

RSBN opened with two hosts, including Donald Trump’s attorney Christina Bobb. Bobb was in the news earlier in the week as having signed off on the FBI’s removal of material at Mar-a-Lago, but the role on Saturday was familiar to her: she used to be a host on One America News. Bobb and RSBN’s other host interviewed two prominent Arizona elected officials before “The Pit” even began: Republican secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem and gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake.

Lake was also the event’s first speaker. Well, after the man who offered the invocation. He expressed his hope that the “communist spirit that’s trying to destroy our nation … would hang on the own gallows that they built.”

Interesting that “Krazy Kari” Lake did not post her speech to her campaign Twiter account, she’ll post any damn thing to her Twitter account. Afraid that the public will see what crazy shit you had to say, Kari?

Finally, it was time for Phillips and his colleague Catherine Engelbrecht to prove the doubters wrong. The result? The announcement of a website Open.ink, at which they promised to dump the drop-box surveillance video they obtained from states and documents from various election lawsuits.

“The ‘pulling of the ripcord’ is Open.ink,” Phillips said. There was no announcement that Open.ink would also include the cellphone geolocation data that Phillips claimed showed the existence of all of the mules in the first place. It’s hard to see what is there, since if you visit at this point, you’re quickly redirected to a sign-up sheet that asks you to create an account that must be approved before you can move forward. But you can catch a glimpse of the underlying site, which includes this appeal.

After revealing the site, the True the Vote team put a coda on that boring-old 2020 stuff.

“And that really I think is …” Engelbrecht said, looking at Phillips — her demeanor indicating uncertainty about taking the next step.

“ … the end of ‘mules,’ we’re done!” Phillips replied with affected enthusiasm.

“The end of ‘mules!’ ” Engelbrecht added. “End scene. We’re done.”

No doubt realizing that this is not what the audience expected — RSBN’s lower-third read “The Pit reveals ‘devastating news on 2020’ ” at multiple points in the program — she tried to contextualize the development.

“Honestly, guys,” she said, “ … it’s time to move on. Not to move on to what happened in 2020, because we still have to understand what happened. That is critical. We have to understand that. But we are 90 some days out from midterms” — and so on.

Sure enough, after the Open.ink announcement, the event itself transitioned away from the claims that made True the Vote famous. A parade of people gave presentations about products they’d developed (an artificial-intelligence lie detector, some sort of phone that prevents being tracked, etc.). A woman from New York described her discovery of a nefarious pattern in voter identification numbers in the state that she alleged gave Democrats an unfair advantage in elections allowing them to indoctrinate children. That sort of thing.

Phillips also gave a presentation loaded with military-style discussions of counterintelligence focused on “protecting” elections moving forward. This was a central thrust of the day: They’d brought everyone together promising to finally demonstrate their 2020 allegations … and then used the day to instead move on to the next thing.

So did Lindell. Shortly before “The Pit” began, RSBN cut away from Bobb and her co-host for a quick ad break. And there was the infamous pillow salesman. But he wasn’t selling pillows; instead, he wanted people to purchase MyCoffee, a brew that leveraged the “volcanic soil and humid climate” of Honduras for the best cup of joe you’ve ever had.

The hustle is ever-evolving.

The Daily Beast reports, Dinesh D’Souza Movie Star Booted From Party for Bringing Gun:

Earlier this year, election-fraud conspiracy theorist Gregg Phillips shot to fame on the right as one of the stars of 2,000 Mules, conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza’s quasi-documentary attempt to prove the 2020 election was stolen. Since the movie’s release in May, however, Phillips has claimed he has proof of election fraud that was “10 times” bigger than 2,000 Mules.

On Saturday, Phillips vowed to finally release his information in front of a crowd of more than 100 conservative conspiracy theorists and influencers at an exclusive gathering he dubbed “The Pit.” But what was meant to be Phillips’s moment of triumph ended in disaster, as police ushered Phillips from his own afterparty for bringing a gun and warned him not to return.

Phillips’ ouster from his event marks the latest blunder for election-fraud conspiracy theorists. For Phillips and his organization, True the Vote, it’s yet another time they’ve tried and failed to prove election fraud.

Phillips’ weekend initially went according to plan, with a rogue’s gallery of QAnon promoters and other far-right figures meeting at an “undisclosed location” near Scottsdale, Arizona to hear Phillips’ much-hyped announcement. Dubbed “The Ripcord,” as in Phillips’s constant threats to “pulling the ripcord www” and releasing his purported evidence.

The big reveal, however, turned out to be a massive flop, with Phillips merely directing his fans to a partially built website that appears to offer supporters a chance to pay money to see proof of election fraud.

That disappointment didn’t stop Phillips and the conservative pundits in his entourage from heading to Scottsdale’s Hotel Valley Ho for the after-party. Soon after the event began, though, hotel security noticed that Phillips was armed with a gun, a violation of hotel policy.

Phillips refused the security guards’ multiple requests that he leave the party, according to a Scottsdale Police Department email to The Daily Beast. The security guards called the police, who warned Phillips in the parking lot outside the hotel that he needed to leave or face a trespassing charge.

Phillips’ argument with a hotel staffer and several police officers in the parking lot took place in front of several partygoers, who were convinced that Phillips’ Second Amendment rights were being violated.

“You’re lying!” Phillips told the hotel employee in a video of the incident. “You never asked me not to carry on the property!”

While carrying a gun is legal in Arizona, a private business like Hotel Valley Ho is still allowed to ban guns. A spokesman for the Scottsdale Police pointed out to The Daily Beast that a hotel’s liquor license may also effectively ban guns on a property.

Phillips eventually left his party, after acknowledging that returning would mean he would face a trespassing charge, according to police.

The gun fracas has turned into a minor controversy on the right, with Phillips’s fans denouncing the hotel for not letting Phillips carry a gun. State Rep. Mark Finchem (R-AZ), the Republican nominee for Arizona’s secretary of state, tweeted that the Hotel Valley Ho had become the “Woke Valley Ho.”

“There are far better properties to stay at than this anti-American establishment,” fumed another Twitter user.

Not everyone was on Phillips’ side. On the social media app Telegram, a conspiracy theorist named “ArchiveAnon” complained to his more than 25,000 followers that Phillips’ decision to argue with hotel staff about the gun ruined the party for everyone.

“All Gregg had to do was take his guns and leave the party and everyone else would have been able to enjoy the night,” the Telegram user wrote. “All those people were left stranded and looking for rides on short notice because of Gregg and his obvious desire for attention.”

Worse, according to ArchiveAnon, was the possibility that Phillips’s encounter with police would result in drug-using partygoers from being busted at the event.

“So you brought illegal drugs to the after party?” Phillips countered in a post on Donald Trump social media site TruthSocial. “Idiot.”

While Phillips’ near-arrest may be embarrassing to his movement, it likely isn’t as damaging as the fact that he once again failed to prove election fraud is real. In a video posted to TruthSocial, a Phillips fan who goes by the name Mary Grace acknowledged that some people who believed in Phillips would be disheartened by the event.

“Some people are going to bow out of the fight,” she said in the video. “Some people are going to be discouraged.”

Let’s hope these gullible marks have finally learned their lesson.

UPDATE: 




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