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By David Pepper
Tuesday was a big day when it comes to potential accountability for January 6. (Like most of my readers, I still have a hard time seeing Trump ultimately disqualified, so we should plan and prepare accordingly.)
But what’s also interesting is that the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling may have implications far beyond Donald Trump—because that same disqualification clause applies to anyone holding a federal or state office who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
This clearly applies to members of Congress who engaged in the same behavior Trump did. And it even sweeps more broadly than that, into state offices.Which may partly explain the twisted story I’m about to share.
I know this is going to sound crazy.
But you, at least those of you from Ohio (along with a number of other red states), are helping foot the bill to keep secret the involvement of important officials from across the country in the insurrection of January 6.
And not just any officials.
The top law officers of numerous states—the Attorneys General.
Sounds crazy I know, so read on…And as always, I’ve brought receipts.
What is RAGA?
It still doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves, but the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) played a significant role in January 6.
It’s the acronym for the Republican Attorneys General Association.
Who’s part of that outfit?
Pretty much every Republican State Attorney General in the nation.
Now, a state Attorney General used to be one of those positions that felt above politics: Protecting consumers. Supporting law enforcement. Representing the state in court. Protecting victims. And so on. Why would that work be partisan?
Good question. It wasn’t that partisan a few years back.
But recently, these positions have indeed grown more partisan. Far more than we expect from our Attorneys General, these people have now become absurdly political.
When he was Attorney General, Mike DeWine filed or joined cases around the nation trying to stop the Affordable Care Act. And to stop women from accessing birth control coverage through private health plans.
More recently, the Ohio Attorney General (Dave Yost) went on Fox News to cast doubt on the story that a 10-year old rape victim had been forced to go to Indiana for abortion care because of Ohio’s ban. And he was followed in infamy by Indiana’s Attorney General, who lashed out at that Indiana doctor in a way that ultimately led to a reprimand by the Indiana Supreme Court.
So yeah, they’re getting absurdly political.
So if individual AGs are getting political, wait until they all get together privately.
I once stumbled onto a RAGA conference while on a family vacation, and overheard conversations about “CRT” long before the topic became a household name. An Attorney General candidate told others he was going to “run on CRT.” For Attorney General?!? So that’s how political they’ve gotten.
Jan. 6 — “Aid and Comfort”?
But as political as they may have become, it’s still stunning that this group of officials played a prominent role in January 6. After all, these are people who work with law enforcement every day. Their duty is to uphold the rule of law more generally. I mean, look at this GIF from their website:
Each of these stated goals, you’d think, would lead them to be appalled by the events of January 6. So why the hell were they part of it?
And how exactly were they involved?
Well, their 501(c)(4) arm, called the “Rule of Law Defense Fund,” was listed as part of the group of organizations—alongside Stop the Steal, Turning Point Action and Tea Party Patriots—who together organized the “Stop the Steal Rally” with President Trump on January 6: “Take a stand with President Trump and the #StopTheSteal coalition and be at the The Ellipse (President’s Park) at 7am. The fate of our nation depends on it.”
The Rule of Law Defense Fund also sent out a Robocall instructing people when and where to go. And the call made it clear that they knew the plan: “At 1:00 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call on congress to stop the steal. We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our elections.”
(And all of this came after Yost and other AGs had gone to court trying to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania. Like Trump, they lost.)
Think about it…the top law officials of dozens of states encouraging and supporting the Stop the Steal rally…including the march to the Capitol that led to a full-blown insurrection. Does that count as “giv[ing] aid or comfort”?
Of course, these traces of participation beg so many questions about the extent of their involvement, knowledge, communications with others, and so on. Which AGs talked to whom? Were staff involved? Which AGs specifically signed off on or were part of the RAGA involvement? And so on.
Big questions, especially in light of yesterday.
They haven’t been too forthcoming, it appears.
But those details might potentially come out thanks to a group called the Center for Media and Democracy, which started digging in a few years back to find answers about the inner workings of RAGA and Attorneys General like David Yost.And this is where these officials’ attempt to cover their tracks comes in—and yes, where your own tax dollars are potentially being spent to foot the bill to cover their tracks.The Suit.
The Center for Media and Democracy filed suit in early 2020 to get more information about a certain meeting and set of actions involving AG Yost and RAGA that drew suspicion.
And wouldn’t you know it, the man who spends much of his time lecturing governments across Ohio about their need to provide access to public records, and explains (correctly) that public records “belong to the people,”
….wants to shield his public records and avoid a deposition about his interactions with RAGA.
And he’s been fighting turning over those public records ever since, taking the issue all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court. Yost really doesn’t want the Center for Media and Democracy to obtain documents about his RAGA relationship behind closed doors. And he’s spent years pleading with Courts not to require him to testify.
Importantly, the fight has dragged out so long, the documents at issue—and subject to discovery—include documents up to “the present,” which means they include all interactions up to and beyond the timeframe of the January 6, 2021 events described above:
Gee, wouldn’t those be interesting to see.
Like everything else involving January 6, Yost keeps losing his case.
The Tenth District of Ohio—the appellate court—ruled that Yost could not avoid a deposition, and had to turn over documents to the present, which would include documents in the Jan. 6 timeframe. The Court directly rejected Yost’s argument that he should not have to turn over documents up to “the present,” which would include the January 6 timeframe:
The Court also ordered Yost to undergo a deposition:
Yost has appealed this to the Ohio Supreme Court, whining for close to 100 pages why he shouldn’t have to turn over records right be deposed. And he also filed a separate suit against the Tenth Circuit Circuit to try to stop that Court’s order.
Interestingly, Yost isn’t the only one fighting the turning over of these documents. In a sign of how important the secrecy is to them, Yost’s RAGA buddies from around the country have filed a Brief in Ohio, taking his side.
Here’s page one of the brief….just look at how many state Attorneys General are scared to death that they might face the same fate as Yost. Put this in the category of “doth protesting too much.”
A central argument is that having to participate in the discovery process on a case like this would consume the precious time of these Attorneys General.My response is: if you stopped rallying with insurrectionists, gaslighting rape victims on national television, attacking a doctor for doing her job, and filing lawsuits around the country to stop birth control, you’d have more time for a lot of things. Including being fully transparent about this critical relationship each of you has with RAGA and its donors.You’re Paying For It
And yes, you’re paying for this effort. These Attorneys General are using public staff and public resources to wage this fight that’s about to enter its fourth year. Yost has been doing so the entire time.
But believe it or not, Ohioans have also paid for both sides of the argument. Because when Yost sued the Appellate Court at the Ohio Supreme Court, that court needed representation to defend itself. And because the suit was by the Attorney General, the office had a conflict of interest, so it assigned the Court he’d sued outside counsel that you and I paid for. $25,000 was allocated to a law firm to do that work.
And with the assistance of your tax dollars, that outside counsel won the case—the Court dismissed Yost’s suit, the cost of which you also paid for.
But how’s it feel to know, as a taxpayer, that our dollars paid for both sides of the argument that our own Attorney General gets to hide documents from all of us?
Needless to say, given yesterday’s decision about disqualification, what the Ohio Supreme Court decides to do here could have major implications for a number of highly ambitious politicians.
Rick Wilson is joined by attorney Tristan Snell, known for prosecuting Trump University during his time as Assistant Attorney General for New York State. Together, they discuss Snell's upcoming book, "Taking Down Trump," and explore the myriad legal cases involving Trump, including the civil fraud trial in New York and the January 6th case.
Renowned election attorney Ben Ginsberg joins Rick for a look-back at the legal maelstrom of the 2020 Election, focusing on the allegations of election fraud and subsequent (absurd) legal actions undertaken by Trump's legal team.