We will be studying the significance of the November 2020 election for years, but this much is certain: more people voted for president than ever before. Joe Biden racked up more votes than any winning candidate for president ever — and Donald Trump for any losing candidate ever. So what are Republicans going to do about it? Celebrate high voter turnout while convincing more people to vote for Republicans? Hell no! Just the opposite. Egged on by Donald Trump, they’ve launched a nationwide campaign of voter suppression, trying to depress voter turnout by making it harder, not easier to vote. It’s a frightening, ultimately anti-American crusade we look into with investigative journalist and leading author, Greg Palast.
Bill Press: Greg Palast, good to talk to you. Thanks so much for joining us here on the Bill Press Pod.
Greg Palast: Glad to be back with you.
Press: I wanted to talk to you about voter suppression. You’ve been writing a lot about that, you’ve spent a lot of time down in Georgia. But before we do, let me ask you, we’re just now all recovering from the impeachment trial last week. I know you followed it. You’ve written about some of it. Generally, what was your take? Did the Democrats accomplish their mission or did Republicans and Donald Trump walk free?
Palast: The question is, did it accomplish our mission as American citizens? The Democrats and Republicans, what did they do? Obviously the Republicans punted, despite Mitch McConnell’s he’s guilty, guilty, guilty, but I voted not guilty. Okay…. But the one thing we didn’t get, and I’m not bitching about the Democrats, they have their political purposes and their agenda, I’m concerned about what we still have to get out on the record.
Palast: If you’ve been following it at GregPalast.com or following my associate, Zach Roberts, who’s been assigned for the past five years to concentrate on infiltrating and getting information on these white power groups and these Christian power groups. So for example, one thing that the House Managers, the Dem prosecutors basically picked up from our reporting may have sounded small to most people listening, but it wasn’t. Which is that there was no permit to march from the January 6 rally over at the Ellipse to the Capitol. This is not small. Donald Trump, Don Jr., Eric Trump, Giuliani and the rest of the gang knew that there was no permit to march. Now why is that important? Because the Capitol police were promised and the DC Metro police were promised, there will be no march. You have to understand, to have a march you have to put up like a $2 million bond and payment to the Park Service, because you need cops, you need barriers, you need porta-potties. You need monitors who will make sure that people don’t run wild or get hurt or hurt anyone else. There’s a reason, okay. So the sponsors, Women for American First, they’re real Trumpsters, but they were horrified… They told me anonymously that they were shocked and stunned when suddenly Donald Trump says we’re marching to the Capitol.
Now you have to understand that they had this crazy, alt-right leader named Ali Alexander. He is the founder and leader of something called Stop the Steal. Ali Alexander kept saying, we’re going to march to the Capitol from the Ellipse. [Women for America First] were sending him messages and they sent messages to the White House saying it’s illegal, it’s dangerous, it’s crazy, you can’t do it, don’t do it. They wouldn’t allow Ali Alexander to speak at the rally. By the way, he’s kind of a semi co-hosts for Alex Jones’ Info Wars. And yet Ali Alexander continued and the White House sent emissaries to position him to lead the march after Trump called for that march. So as someone from the group —remember this is a pro-Trump group — said, yeah, it’s not a big stretch of imagination to know that when you send thousands of really angry and some armed people, unaccompanied, unprepared, down the middle of Washington, D.C. — what exactly do you think is going to happen? And so they knew it… And the fact that they hid it from the sponsors meant that they knew that they were fomenting mayhem. They wanted the mayhem. And now we know from the latest information that literally Ivanka went to beg her father [to stop it]. But what she didn’t know is that Eric and Donny were part of this planning… It’s one of those things like if you leave a bunch of loaded guns around in a kindergarten and some kid picks it up and pulls the trigger, you say, my God, I never told him to take the gun and pull the trigger, I just left loaded guns around in kindergarten, it’s not my fault.
Press: You broke this story and I’ve seen it nowhere else but in your column and to my knowledge and I watched most of that trial, I didn’t hear the House impeachment managers raise that issue at all….This was an illegal march right?
Palast: Yes, it was a law-breaking event and actually Stacey Plaskett, the congresswoman from the Virgin Islands, she brought it up. She was the one who did use our evidence. I don’t think that people understood how important it is. And there’s another thing that goes behind this, which is that when you commit an illegal act and someone dies, that’s called murder. Even if you didn’t plan it, didn’t pull the trigger. For example, a guy named Donald Trump, remember he went on an execution spree in the last two months of his office, and the last person he had executed was a kid who… There were two people were killed in a robbery. The kid himself was 18 years old, was in a car, basically in the getaway car. He had no idea that his cohorts who were committing this robbery were going to kill two people. But they did. He went to the electric chair. An 18 year old kid who didn’t know that there’s going to be a murder, had nothing to do with the murder at all, but he was participating in a crime that led to it. So Trump participated in a crime, that is an illegal, dangerous march, knowing it was completely foreseeable that there would be mayhem. Now could he particularly pick out that a cop would have his head crushed by a fire extinguisher? No. That’s not what we’re saying. But it’s really, really important to know that this was a well-planned, law-breaking event.
Palast: No. I think we are now at the point in America where we are really at the beginning of a new civil war. And understand that, one thing that did not convince most Republicans was that they had a president out of control. And this is a big problem. I’m not talking partisanship here… I spent a lot of time in Georgia, actually for the past seven years I’ve been covering Georgia, starting with Al-Jazeera and The Guardian, and then Democracy Now and Rolling Stone. When you go down to rural Georgia, all they see is a guy who’s standing up for them. They don’t see a guy who’s out of control. In fact, he’s abusing and using them. This is not exactly your average working man’s friend… Remember Donald Trump was basically a Democrat. He took out ads against global warming. He supported Planned Parenthood. He was pro-choice. But one thing he loves more than any political philosophy is applause and love and cheers — and that’s what he gets. When I was at a Trump rally in Georgia, let me tell you, this is not about people saying, this is the guy speaking for us. These are people who actually believe he was sent by God. Sent by God. And so even if he appears to be doing things that are crazy, dangerous, illegal, well, they use the phrase “imperfect vessel”. He’s God’s glove puppet. I know, in the coasts we think it’s insane, but if you go into America, that as you leave the coasts, It’s for real baby.
Press: I think Ralph Reed, who certainly knows better, has referred to Trump as an imperfect vessel as well. All that sex stuff, just forget it, right? No, he’s not perfect, but he’s our guy.
Palast: That’s right. And so it doesn’t matter because God has chosen him as the vessel to save America and things like restoring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. These are marks of what they consider the fact that he is divinely chosen. Of course, if they read their Bible carefully, they would know that in Revelations it isn’t the Lord, It isn’t Jesus coming back who restores Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It’s the Antichrist. The Antichrist is the one who makes Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish nation.
Press: Let’s talk about Georgia in terms of voter suppression. Now everybody considers the Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, a hero. Because Donald Trump tried to get him to commit fraud. Actually, he was a partner in Brian Kemp’s effort to suppress the vote down there.
Palast: And the close partner of a guy named Donald Trump in the attempt to suppress the Black vote and the Hispanic and Asian American vote. They really went after the Asian American vote. So, when talking about false narratives, we have this weird narrative that this guy, Brad Raffensperger… By the way, I should disclose that I have sued him twice in federal court, and won once already… As my lawyer, Gerald Griggs who usually represents the NAACP, says, Raffensperger is Georgia’s Vote Suppressor-in-Chief. You have to understand the things that they did. By the way, right now Raffensperger is the guy who just opened up an investigation into Raphael Warnock and Stacey Abrams, saying that they’ve committed crimes of illegally registering people. This is a guy who wants to arrest Senator Reverend Warnock, okay, for supposedly illegally registering people. Now, what is the great crime? They said that the New Georgia Project, which Stacey Abrams founded and Warnock took over as president, that they waited more than 10 days to put in about a thousand of their registration signatures. They registered about half a million people — half a million — and you have to get in the registration forms within 10 days of gathering them. So now they want to put Reverend Warnock in prison because someone who worked under him held those registrations for a couple extra days. I can’t make this stuff up.
Press: Let me ask you, is there any legal deadline…? I’ve done a lot of voter registration drives in my life in California, but is there any deadline for when you have to submit the signatures?
Palast: Yes, you have 10 days from gathering them to put them in. That’s to protect the voters, to make sure that they supposedly get a chance to vote. You don’t want someone saying, oh, I’ve registered you to vote and then throwing it in the garbage can, right? But the idea that Reverend Warnock was trying to take people’s votes away is insane, vicious, and believe me, we know the game. Here’s another one, you know, remember Raffensperger was handpicked by his predecessor, his Secretary of State, Brian Kemp? Kemp who basically stole his race. I broke that story in Rolling Stone and elsewhere…. He illegally and wrongly removed 340,134 voters, most of them voters of color. The reason I have the exact number is that we went through the names with computers, name by name. Kemp said these people left the Georgia or left Atlanta and they couldn’t vote there. Of course not, if you’ve left Georgia, you can’t vote there. But we found a third of a million people were removed who never moved at all, including famously Christine Jordan, the 94-year old cousin of Martin Luther King. I was at the polling station when they threw her out… Her granddaughter was crying hysterically, saying she’s voted here for 50 years. Well, I looked at her record, they said that she had moved. I went to the house that they said she moved out of and there was King’s picture on the wall at dinner at that house, so she had to have been there 60 years. This is the games that Raffensperger and Kemp have been playing to wipe out the Black vote and, again, they especially went after the Asian American vote.
Press: Let’s be sure our listeners remember, at that time Kemp was Secretary of State and also running for Governor. And as Secretary of State, he was purging the vote, right?
Palast: Right. So here’s the guy in charge, he says who gets to vote, where they get to vote, how they get to vote and whose vote counts. Remember, you show up and you’ve been purged. That is, you’ve been removed from the voter rolls. Well, they give you a provisional ballot, they’re supposed to. They’re say here, fill this out. We’ll count it. In most cases, they don’t. It was up to Kemp and then later Raffensperger, these Republican officials. And remember Kemp is running for governor. He got to say which votes against him could be disqualified. That’s how he supposedly won. And Stacey Abrams said, look, I won. She cited my investigation specifically. She says, look, the evidence is I won, but I won’t be inaugurated. And by the way, that’s one thing I’m very, very concerned about, Bill, that there’s a new narrative. An even more dangerous, false narrative, which is that anyone who complains about American elections… somehow that that’s an impeachable offense. No, that’s called journalism. And just because Donald Trump says the election was rigged, he was 100% right. And he knows, cause he rigged it. He just couldn’t rig enough votes. If you see my film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, it was pretty clear he didn’t win in 2016. So as far as I’m concerned, we should have been out there at the Ellipse holding a demonstration saying this election has been rigged. It’s been stolen. That’s not unpatriotic. In fact, there couldn’t be a higher calling than to identify a theft of an election. So we don’t want to get the false narrative. The problem of Trump is not that you should never challenge America’s wonderful democracy — that’s nonsense, that’s bullshit. What the problem was is that the perpetrator pointed to other people as committing the crime.
Press: How did Joe Biden, how did Raphael Warnock, and how did Jon Ossoff win in Georgia despite all of these Republican efforts to suppress the vote?
Palast: The good thing about America is that you can’t steal all the votes all the time. I did a very careful calculation for Rolling Stone, cause I’m also a statistician by training, I used to teach statistics, and we found you get about six, seven, and up to 9 million votes that get suppressed. That is people cast a vote and it doesn’t get counted. That’s something we never talk about in America, the millions of what they call spoiled votes. It’s officially recorded. It’s not like I guessed this stuff. And then the number of people who are purged and prevented from both voting — legal voters — people who register and never get their registrations put on. In fact, I started in Georgia in 2014, when Stacey Abrams was complaining with Raphael Warnock that they had registered over 50,000 young voters of color and six months after they were registered, they were never put on the voter rolls, because Kemp said we don’t have time to add these names.… And that’s, by the way, how a prior Senate race was stolen. Remember Sam Nunn’s daughter was running for Senate against David Perdue — that’s how that knucklehead became a Senator. They literally would not put the names of Black voters on the voter rolls.
Press: After 2018, after Stacey Abram’s governor’s race was stolen from her, right, is when she turned around and just registered more people than they could throw off the ballot, right?
Palast: Right. Exactly. So Georgia, because it’s the place that gave us Martin Luther King and his family, it is the most organized voting rights state in America. So you had massive, massive registration drives, massive turnout drives, and they use all kinds of things [to try and suppress the vote]. Like one trick that people don’t understand… You mail in a ballot, you take a big chance. About one in seven mail in ballots never get counted. That’s a big number, But what Stacey Abrams and other progressive groups did… they were able to get people who had their mail-in ballots rejected to come in and say, okay, no, that is my signature. Don’t challenge that signature. Oh, I made a check mark instead of filling in a bubble, okay, so I’ll fill in the bubble now. So they actually did something called “curing” by the thousands and thousands and thousands. You have to understand that it was a massive work by these voting rights group to overcome the steal. And they did it. They did it.
Press: We’ve heard so much about their efforts to suppress particularly the African-American vote, the Asian American vote. How did they go about that?
Palast: Asian Americans and especially Muslim Americans, they voted Republican until 2000 — till 2004 really. So the Republican party left the Asian American vote alone because it was their vote. But then they started voting as if they turned Black, running about 75% Democratic in Georgia and the Republicans flipped out. So they started going after the Asian American organizations. For example, there’s a group called 10,000 Korean Votes. Now for 10,000 Koreans to vote as Korean Americans, you have to register 10,000 Korean Americans. So a group went out, started registering these voters. And, once again, Brian Kemp, and then later Reffensperger, never put their names on the voter rolls. So the head of the group, a woman named Helen Ho, called up Brian Kemp, the Secretary of State’s office and said, where’s our voters? And they said, well, there were no such voters, we never got any such registration forms. They said, wait, we know that you got the registration forms because we have the photocopies right here in our office. And they said, okay, we’ll be right over. And you know what they did? They brought in the Georgia Bureau of investigation, their own G-Man, kicked in the door, grabbed all the computers and files, and then threatened this Asian American group with felony counts of voter interference because they’ve photocopied registration forms. Basically because they were gathering evidence of the state stealing the vote. They destroyed the group. That group collapsed because they spent two years waiting to be criminally indicted. This is the games that they were playing in Georgia and that’s just one of the little tricks. One trick I especially love that my team caught — I want to give props to Zach Roberts and others on our team — Reffensperger, the great hero who is lauded on 60 Minutes, he came up with a rule that we call No Car, No Vote. Just before the Georgia runoffs for Senate, because there were these massive registration drives, he said that counties don’t have to add the name of a voter to the voter rolls if they don’t also have a car registered in Georgia.
Palast: Exactly. If you don’t have a car registered, you can’t register to vote. Now, of course, that that would be the ultimate illegal poll tax. You have to spend thousands to get a car so you can vote, but their excuse was this. They said, if you don’t have a car, then maybe you don’t actually live here. Maybe it’s a phony. Now, it got busted, of course. The NAACP went in with the Palast Investigative team and said, look, you know we’re going to put you on camera and I got to tell you right now, you know who you’re removing. Who doesn’t have cars? Well, poor people can’t afford cars, students who don’t have cars. And I know one voter who was blocked. My daughter is a student in Savannah. Also people who live in urban areas who use public transportation. In other words, Democrats. I said, you know who you’re removing. So this is the great hero, Raffensperger. What I do know happened with Raffensperger is that he tried to disqualify as many Biden votes as he could, blocked as many Biden voters from the registration roles as he could, He closed voting stations in Black areas. Like the NAACP said, he’s the Vote Suppressor-in-Chief of Georgia. But it wasn’t enough. It was not only Stacey Abrams, you have to understand these massive, organizational groups like the Transformative Justice Coalition. There’s groups that you probably haven’t heard of, like the New Georgia Project, but they registered so many people and got so many people to the polls, you just couldn’t steal it. I think if everyone had been allowed to vote who is entitled to vote, there would have been no runoffs.
Press: Before we go, let me ask you this. What you saw in Georgia, It seems that the response of many Republicans in many red states and the state legislatures is, oh, we had a record turnout and Donald Trump lost and we lost the Senate too. So now our response is going to be, we’re going to make it tougher for people to vote rather than easier, right? The more people who vote, the less likely Republicans are going to get elected, therefore we’re going to basically do what Georgia did nationwide. Is that the way you see it? Do you see that trend?
Palast: Absolutely. In fact, one of the reasons I’ve been covering Georgia for seven years, as well as the rest of the nation. I always start in Georgia because that’s where the GOP takes its voter suppression techniques out for a test drive. And when they work in Georgia, they roll across the nation. As I saw in Florida. I did the story in Florida in 2000 when Bush supposedly won against Al Gore. I uncovered that they removed 58,000 Black people calling them felons and not one, not a single one, Bill, not one was an illegal ex-con voter. Not one. They removed 58,000 people. George Bush supposedly won by 537 votes. And what did they do? They rolled out the Florida system of purging voters across the nation. In fact, one of the great horror shows that I’m very, very concerned about…. After the 2000 election, the Congressional Black Caucus pushed for reforms to make it easier for people to vote, so they passed something called the Help America Vote Act. The Help America Vote Act in practice has been one of the number one vote suppression techniques in this nation. We computerized our registration rolls, allowing some of these vote suppressors to wipe out literally hundreds of thousands of voters in a state with the push of a button, which we didn’t have until after the 2000 election. And what I’m afraid of now is something ironically called the John Lewis HR-1 Voting Rights Advancement Act. It has some really dangerous stuff in there and I hope that they don’t pass it. Because whatever help it provides ain’t close to the damage it will create, including endorsement of a system called ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center list, which is a massive purge list and that law says every state must use it. Well, I went through that list in Wisconsin, where they were about to remove 135,000 voters based on this ERIC list. This list is supposed to identify people who’ve moved. We found 100,000 people on that list never moved. What they were guilty of is not trying to vote from another state. They were guilty of voting while Black in Milwaukee or voting as students out of Madison. We called 800 of them and they said we never moved. So God save us from reform. Because as soon as we have reform, those with evil intent know how to use and abuse that reform. So be careful.
Press: So what you’re saying is for Democrats in Congress, before they rush through the For The People Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, take another look at it, right?
Palast: Yes… Just cause they label something reform, it’s about as phony as Raffensperger being labelled a great hero, protecting America’s votes. We’ve got to be very careful we don’t become a victim of marketing. Let’s take a look at the facts.
Press: And with that warning, Greg Palast, thanks for joining us… Thanks for your great work, thanks for your time today, and keep up the good fight.
Palast: Thank you. I will.
Bill Press began his career as a political insider and media commentator on KABC-TV and KCOP-TV, both in Los Angeles. Over the years, he has received numerous awards for his work, including four Emmys and a Golden Mike Award. He also served as aide to California Governor Jerry Brown and was Chair of the California Democratic Party from 1993 to 1996.
The former co-host of MSNBC's Buchanan and Press, CNN's Crossfire and The Spin Room, Press has built a national reputation on thought-provoking and humorous insights from the left side of the political aisle.
Press is the author of ten books: Eyewitness (Redwood Press, 1988), Spin This! (Atria, 2001), Bush Must Go! (Dutton Books, 2004), How The Republicans Stole Christmas (Doubleday, 2005), Trainwreck (Wiley, 2008), Toxic Talk (Thomas Dunne Books, 2010), The Obama Hate Machine (Thomas Dunne Books, 2012), Buyer's Remorse (Threshold, 2016), From the Left (Thomas Dunne Books, 2018), and Trump Must Go (Thomas Dunner Books, 2018).
Bill Press is host of the twice-weekly The Bill Press Pod - available on Google, Apple, Spotify, or Tune-In. He's a member of the White House press corps. He also writes a weekly column for The Hill and a weekly syndicated newspaper column distributed by Tribune Media Services.
Press resides in the nation's capital with his wife Carol.