Remember back in December when the wingers spent like a week shouting to each other that Italy had hacked our elections? They got #ItalyDidIt to trend on Twitter, and Italians got to chuckle at the idea that their own famously fractious government had its shit together enough to screw with somebody else's.

But back at the White House, they weren't laughing. In fact Chief of Staff Mark Meadows leaned hard on the Justice Department to investigate various rank allegations wafting up from the nether regions of the internet, including "Italygate." Luckily he did it via email, so the Senate Judiciary Committee won't need his testimony to get to the bottom of this bullshit. Ditto for the House Oversight Committee and the DOJ Inspector General, who are also looking into this hot mess.


The New York Times reports that Meadows violated all protocols meant to preserve independent, apolitical law enforcement in a shockingly inappropriate series of messages frantically trying to enlist Bill Barr's replacement Jeffrey Rosen to investigate nonsensical allegations of election fraud. We already knew Meadows flew down to Georgia to "observe" the recount and that he participated in Trump's infamous phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. But now we find out he was laundering Rudy Giuliani's fantasies about a Trump win in New Mexico, a state Biden took by 11 percent — not exactly a squeaker.

But the Italy theory is the most bizarre. Here's how USA Today summarized the plot in a January 8 debunker.

"The theft of the election was orchestrated in the Rome Embassy, on the second floor of Via Veneto, by an employee, Stefano Serafini, foreign service officer of over 20 years," [wingnut former lobbyist Maria Strollo Zack] said. "Stefano Serafini coordinated with a General Claudio Graziano."

"General Graziano is on the board of Leonardo — the defense contractor, Leonardo SPA," Strollo Zack continued. "Leonardo used their military satellite uplink to load the software and transfer it over to change the votes from Trump to Biden."

She also alleged that recent arrests of employees at Leonardo were related to the incident, and that the plan was orchestrated by former President Barack Obama, with help from former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the CIA.

Worst episode of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" ever!

The Times reports that Meadows actually sent Rosen a rando YouTube video and asked him to launch an investigation based on it.

And in his request that the Justice Department investigate the Italy conspiracy theory, Mr. Meadows sent Mr. Rosen a YouTube link to a video of Brad Johnson, a former C.I.A. employee who had been pushing the theory in videos and statements that he posted online. After receiving the video, Mr. Rosen said in an email to another Justice Department official that he had been asked to set up a meeting between Mr. Johnson and the F.B.I., had refused, and had then been asked to reconsider.

Very cool, very legal.

At the time, the White House was gripped by maneuvering to replace (acting) AG Rosen with Jeffrey Bossert Clark, then the (acting) head of the Civil Division, who promised to announce an investigation of vote fraud in Georgia that would give state officials cover to declare their own election null and void and allow the Republican legislature to cast the state's electoral votes for Trump.

After White House Counsel Pat Cipollone told Trump that half the DOJ's senior leadership would quit in protest if he fired Rosen and installed Clark at the top of the agency, the president backed down. And democracy was saved — but it was another close one.

Do we like being in a position to be grateful for craven hacks like Cipollone and Rosen, and before them Rod Rosenstein, who did a couple of good things right during a period in which they were also helping to massively erode Democratic norms and the checks and balances that made our government work? We do not!

But they did, and we are. So grazie, cretini!

[NYT / USA Today]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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