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Trump allies are using fake election claims and wartime imagery to recruit ex-military personnel as poll workers


Military planes dropping bombs, ready battleships, dozens of soldiers marching through the streets – and on the screen flash the words “Your country needs you again”.

“Beat the cheat,” the video urges viewers.

The footage comes from a new recruiting video released by The America Project, an organization run by prominent election deniers Patrick Byrne, the former CEO of Overstock.com, and retired general Michael Flynn, a former adviser to Trump’s national security staff, who joined forces in the final weeks before the midterm elections to recruit former military and first responders to staff polling stations across the country.

Wartime footage is seen in a screenshot from a video produced by The America Project.

The American Project

The operation, fueled by false election claims and using recruiting materials containing wartime imagery, was dubbed “One Last Mission” by Byrne and Flynn, who became leading figures in efforts to nullify the election in 2020.

“The America Project has given the deathblow to the enemy,” Byrne said in a separate video announcing the campaign, telling viewers he thought “the bad guys are going to attack us with another platform” — well that there is no evidence that the 2020 election was rigged or stolen.

Poll workers, who set up voting materials, register and process voters, and report results, are generally non-political positions in which candidates must affirm that they will not act for the benefit of any candidate or left.

“AMERICA NEEDS YOU NOW MORE THAN EVER,” read an October post on the band’s Instagram account. “You took an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution. And to defend it is to ensure the integrity of the election.”

“I think that’s the biggest thing going on in America right now,” Byrne said in a recent interview promoting the effort on a conservative internet show. “We ask you to save the country again.”

He said in another interview that the recruitment drive was “going like gangbusters” after it launched in September.

The “One Last Mission” campaign is the latest effort launched by The America Project, which has announced a slate of programs aimed at impacting future elections, many of which are fueled by baseless claims that the 2020 election has been stolen.

The group has also organized a countywide “training” of investigators, called “Operation Eagle’s Wings”, which targets key battleground states including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Michigan , Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The America Project has so far trained nearly 6,000 poll workers in Pennsylvania alone, according to Flynn’s brother, Michael Flynn, who is the group’s president. The training is separate and complementary to the training of election officials.

“They can’t steal this election the way they stole 2020!” he tweeted.

The recruitment of poll workers based on unproven allegations of voter fraud has raised alarm bells with some election experts.

“Recruiting people based on lies is problematic, and to do that and then add the militaristic ‘we’re at war’ imagery I think is inviting people into this process with the wrong perspective,” Sean said. Morales-Doyle, acting director of voting rights at the nonprofit, nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice, told ABC News. “Skepticism is one thing, but coming to this position believing the election was stolen and on the lookout for non-existent conspiracies and fraud is problematic.”

Morales-Doyle said there is a long history of former military personnel serving as poll watchers, and that they “often come to this job precisely because they are people who are dedicated to public service and make sure the process works”.

“However,” he said, “the methods used by groups like The America Project — confusing images of war with false allegations of voter fraud — can be a troubling combination ahead of Election Day.”

And while Byrne says in some videos that the effort must be peaceful, Morales-Doyle warned that the images used by the group send a different message.

PHOTO: In this Sept. 10, 2022, file photo, businessman Patrick Byrne attends the Florida Election Integrity Public Hearing, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

In this Sept. 10, 2022, file photo, businessman Patrick Byrne attends the Florida Election Integrity Public Hearing, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Marco Bello/Reuters, FILE

“The use of militaristic imagery and terminology to recruit people as poll watchers is troubling, in part because there is a history of problems with intimidation by poll watchers in this country,” he said. said Morales-Doyle. “There’s specifically a history of efforts to use law enforcement and off-duty poll watchers to accomplish racially discriminatory intimidation, so it concerns me when you see this type of recruitment.”

The America Project did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

The organization was founded as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit following the 2020 election, according to documents reviewed by ABC News. Michael Flynn said in an online interview published last week that Byrne primarily funded the band by investing “much of his own personal treasury”.

According to a filing with the North Carolina charities regulators, the group said its projected budget for 2021 was $50 million. When ABC News asked to see the group’s Form 990, a filing that tax-exempt organizations file with the Internal Revenue Service, a representative from The America Project said they had filed an extension until after the elections, in February 2023.

In addition to Byrne and Flynn, The America Project is made up of several former Trump administration officials, according to documents. Emily Newman, who served as an adviser in the Trump administration, is listed as chair of the group’s board of directors, and another former Trump administration official, Tim Meisburger, was recently named “director of election integrity.” ” of the group.

PHOTO: Miami-Dade residents cast their ballots during the first day of early voting in Miami-Dade County at Miami-County Hall in downtown Miami, October 24, 2022.

Miami-Dade residents cast their ballots during the first day of early voting in Miami-Dade County at Miami-County Hall in downtown Miami on October 24, 2022.

Carl Just/Miami Herald via AP

Meisburger, who served as deputy assistant administrator in the Office for Development, Democracy, and Innovation at the U.S. Agency for International Development, left the agency after making comments that allegedly downplayed of the attack on the US Capitol shortly after January 6.

Michael Flynn, who served as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser until 2017, was initially a prominent face on The America Project and was featured in one of the group’s first videos promoting its formation. Until a month ago, the retired general was first listed in the ‘About Us’ section of the group’s website – but recently his name was removed. The America Project did not respond to questions about Michael Flynn’s continued involvement with the band.

“We are criss-crossing the country doing everything we can in the last few days to mobilize believers to have courage and stand up to protect our country from this takeover,” Michael Flynn told Charisma News, a news outlet. Christian. “If this is not stopped with an overwhelming turnout and victory in both the House and the Senate, our nation will be lost forever. Now is the time for courage.”

For election experts like Morales-Doyle, groups like The America Project present a dilemma: is it better to sound the alarm about their potential threats, or remain silent so voters aren’t afraid to go to ballot boxes?

“After January 6, there is no way I can tell you that we are not at a higher risk of political violence and intimidation and people responding to [those] types of calls,” Morales-Doyle said. I think there is a real threat and a real concern.”

However, he said. “I just think whenever we talk about this threat and this concern, it’s also important to keep in mind that most people won’t face this when they go to the polls – and people don’t shouldn’t be afraid to vote.”

ABC News

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