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The origins of the big lie

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If you’re wondering where the specific insane conspiracy theories propounded by Trump’s whatever-the-opposite-of-crack-is Legal Strike Force came from, here you go:

No candidate agreed to bring a challenge, and the idea of widespread vote manipulation remained on the political fringe — until 2020, when Ramsland’s assertions were seized upon by influential allies of Trump. The president himself accelerated the spread of those claims into the GOP mainstream as he latched onto an array of baseless ideas to explain his loss in November.

The enduring myth that the 2020 election was rigged was not one claim by one person. It was many claims stacked one atop the other, repeated by a phalanx of Trump allies. This is the previously unreported origin story of a core set of those claims, ideas that were advanced not by renowned experts or by insiders who had knowledge of flawed voting systems but by Ramsland and fellow conservative activists as they pushed a fledgling company, Allied Security Operations Group, into a quixotic attempt to find evidence of widespread fraud where none existed.

To assemble a picture of the company’s role, The Washington Post obtained emails and company documents and interviewed 12people with direct knowledge of ASOG’s efforts, as well as former federal officials and aides from the Trump White House. Many spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private matters or out of fear of retribution. Three individuals who were present in the hangar for those 2018 meetings spoke about the gatherings publicly for the first time.

By late 2019, ASOG’s examination had moved beyond audit logs. Among other claims, Ramsland was repeating the ominous idea that election software used in the United States originated in Venezuela and saying nefarious actors could surreptitiously manipulate votes on a massive scale. As the 2020 election approached, he privately briefed GOP lawmakers in Washington and met with officials from the Department of Homeland Security, documents and interviews show.

ASOG’s examination by last summer had already cost more than $1 million, according to a document the company gave government officials that was obtained by The Post. Ramsland had sought funding from Republican donors whose fortunes were made in the oil, gas and fracking industries, Pressley said.

Of course, pretending to believe this shit is now a prerequisite for retaining your leadership position in the House Republican conference. What a country!

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