Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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If online agitators spark a wave of harassment by publishing damaging, dishonest stories about private individuals’ personal lives, can the victims do anything to stop them?

Brennan Gilmore hopes so. A counter-protester at the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Gilmore has brought a defamation suit against InfoWars, Gateway Pundit and other right-wing conspiracy-peddling sites that he says smeared his reputation.

The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday comes not long after some of those same sites falsely dismissed the student activists who survived the Parkland school massacre as “crisis actors,” and at a time of broader concern about the growing, destructive influence of fake news.

But the hurdles the suit appears to face speak to the challenges of using the courts to hold fake news purveyors accountable.

A complaint put together by lawyers at the Georgetown Law School’s Civil Rights Center details false stories about Gilmore’s involvement in a “deep state” plot to undermine the Trump administration by staging the murder of anti-racist activist Heather Heyer. Those stories have led to threats to Gilmore’s personal safety and caused potential damage to his career, he contends.

Gilmore, a foreign service officer on long-term unpaid leave, became a target after sharing on Twitter a video he’d captured from the rally, showing neo-Nazi James Fields’ car ramming into a crowd, injuring dozens and killing Heyer. In response, a number of far-right sites quickly noted that Gilmore had worked for the State Department and donated to Democratic politicians. They used this to suggest he was part of a conspiracy funded by philanthropist George Soros to effect an anti-Trump coup.

In one example, Infowars’ Alex Jones claimed in a video posted online that he “did research” and “confirmed” that Gilmore was a “high-level CIA” operative and “State Department insider with a long history of involvement in psy-ops.” Jones definitively stated that Gilmore helped orchestrate the chaos at Charlottesville and was paid $320,000 a year by Soros.

Within days, Gilmore was subjected to death threats, doxxing and in-person harassment on the streets of Charlottesville that made him fear for his personal safety, according to the complaint. He claims the enduring consequences of these false stories have “compromised” his career, deterring companies from wanting to work with him while he’s on leave and putting him at risk if he rejoins the foreign service and returns abroad, as he plans to. The result has been emotional distress, he says.

Gilmore told TPM he won’t settle for any amount of money, and wants his case to set a precedent. His goal, he said, is “to try and prevent someone else who is in my shoes to be victim to the same type of predation that Alex Jones and his fellow conspiracy theorists directed to me.”

“They knew what they were saying was false and they made no attempt to verify anything,”Andrew Mendrala, supervising attorney of Georgetown Law’s Civil Rights Clinic, told TPM. “[They were] putting this out there with the intention of smearing him and unleashing their followers to sort of carry that out in real life.”

Beyond defamation, the case aims to hold the creators of false online content responsible for their followers’ responses to that content.

That’s why it may be a heavy lift. Although Gilmore may have suffered real personal trauma, strong constitutional protections for publications that traffic in opinion pose a major challenge, First Amendment experts told TPM.

Not all of the defendants used language as unequivocal as Jones’. Derrick Wilson, a writer for former U.S. congressman Allen West’s website, wrote a story suggesting Charlottesville “was a complete SET-UP” and that it was “fishy” that Gilmore formerly worked for the State Department.

That could shield Wilson from the legal standard for defamation, which explicitly relates to false, damaging factual assertions, experts said. Call it the “a lot of people are saying” defense.

“It’s a tough argument to make,” preeminent first amendment attorney Bruce Johnson told TPM of Gilmore’s suit, calling it “path-breaking in terms of the First Amendment issues presented.”

“I could see the core of a defamation case lurking there,” Johnson, a litigator at Davis Wright Tremaine, told TPM. “And I can understand the plaintiff’s frustration because the prevalence of these fake news organizations has clearly infected our political dialogue.”

But, Johnson added, although people can be held liable for false and defamatory facts, “the courts are very reluctant to police individual opinions.”

Then there are the threats. Though the defendants could reasonably be expected to know that their legions of social media followers would go after Gilmore as a result of their bogus stories, it’s difficult to hold them accountable for the actions of others, according to Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment expert at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law. Volokh noted that the defendants did not direct their followers to threaten Gilmore.

“Outright solicitation of violence or other kinds of crimes, like vandalism, against a specific identified target is probably unprotected,” Volokh said. But condemning somebody or publishing demeaning hypotheses about them is “generally protected, even when the foreseeable result given the audience is that a fraction of it is going to act improperly or even criminally.”

Many of the defendants in the Charlottesville suit have publicly brushed off the case as a concerted effort to silence conservative voices.

Compare the case to a recent lawsuit targeting the far-right brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Last year, the civil-rights group sued Andrew Anglin, the founder of neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer, for directing his followers to carry out a months-long, anti-Semitic harassment campaign against a Montana Jewish woman and her family.

The SPLC accuses Anglin of invading Tanya Gersh’s privacy, intentionally inflicting emotional distress, and violating Montana’s Anti-Intimidation Act. First Amendment attorneys told TPM the case is strong, pointing to the over 700 messages the Gershes received on their personal devices at all hours of the night, on Anglin’s orders, including death threats and promptings to commit suicide.

Still, both cases represent a burgeoning effort to provide legal redress for private individuals suffering real-world consequences caused by chronic bad online actors.

As Mendrala, the attorney in the Charlottesville case put it: “They feel there’s some anonymity afforded them [online], combined with some vague notion that the First Amendment protects anything that they say about anyone, and that they can operate with impunity. And that’s not the case.”

“We feel like we’re sort of seeking to hold them accountable in ways that maybe they have not yet been,” he said.

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As far as the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee is concerned, their investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election is complete.

Not so for their Democratic colleagues, who on Tuesday released an exhaustive list of investigative leads and witnesses that the majority didn’t pursue before shuttering its probe.

The list represents a forceful condemnation of the Republicans’ investigation, which Democrats have long seen as a half-hearted effort aimed at exonerating the administration.

“The HPSCI Democrats remain fully committed to conducting this investigation as originally envisioned, leaving no stone unturned in determining the facts of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and the steps we need to take to ensure the future integrity of our democratic process,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the committee’s ranking Democrat, wrote in the status update.

Those stones include interviews with “more than 30 key witnesses” who either have yet to respond to requests for testimony or weren’t identified as pertinent until late in the months-long probe. Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller, and former deputy national security adviser KT McFarland are among those listed.

The House Democrats also say a “legitimate investigation” would require interviews with certain people caught up in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Schiff says the committee deferred talking to people like ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos out of respect for the federal inquiry, but that doing so was essential to gaining a “complete understanding” of Russia-Trump connections. Both Flynn and Papadopoulos are currently cooperating witnesses in Mueller’s probe.

Unlike the now-closed official committee investigation, any ongoing probe by Democrats, of course, would lack subpoena power to enforce its demands.

Unanswered lines of inquiry identified by the minority include detailing the hacking and dissemination of Democratic operatives’ emails; determining the financial leverage Russia may have had over Trump and other members of his campaign; and concluding whether the President obstructed justice by asking former FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn, among other moves.

Democrats on the panel are also interested in obtaining documents from entities including Deutsche Bank and the social media giants that Russia used to disseminate false information.

They will likely be alone in these pursuits. The panel’s GOP majority announced Monday that the investigative phase of their work was over, and they were moving on to producing a report on their conclusions. The Republican summary of their draft report said that there was “no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”

It also made clear that Republicans were focused on starkly different lines of inquiry, including alleged anti-Trump bias at the Justice Department and FBI and intelligence community leaks to the media.

Democrats insisted they’ll continue on with their more comprehensive inquiry “to the best of our ability,” per Schiff’s status report.

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The wife of Matthew Heimbach, who leads the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party, told police that during a domestic altercation, her husband kicked a wall, grabbed her face, and threw her violently on a bed, according to a police report obtained by TPM. The incident occurred in the presence of the couple’s two young sons.

As TPM reported, Heimbach, 26, was arrested early Tuesday morning and charged with one felony count of domestic battery in the presence of a child under 16, and one misdemeanor count of battery.

The arrest followed a bizarre sequence of events stemming from an extramarital affair Heimbach was conducting, according to the police report.

The white nationalist leader is married to Brooke Heimbach, the step-daughter of Matt Parrott, the Traditionalist Worker Party’s chief spokesman. Matthew Heimbach was also carrying on an affair with Parrott’s wife, Jessica Parrott. Per the police report, when Brooke Heimbach and Matt Parrott confronted Matthew Heimbach about the relationship, Matthew physically attacked both of them.

The group all live in the same trailer park compound in rural Paoli, Indiana, where the Traditionalist Worker Party is based. In statements to the police, all four listed their professions as “white nationalists.”

Per the report, Brooke Heimbach and Matt Parrott tried to set Matthew Heimbach up to see if he would continue the affair after agreeing to call it quits. On Tuesday, they spied on him and Jessica Parrott through the window of the Parrotts’ trailer.

Matt Parrott and Matthew Heimbach got into a physical confrontation, and Matt Parrott later told the police that Matthew Heimbach grabbed him and “choked him out,” leaving him briefly unconscious.

Shortly after police arrived on the scene, the officer heard Matthew Heimbach arguing with his wife and “scuffling.” Brooke Heimbach told the police that her husband kicked the wall, grabbed her face, and “threw me with the hand on my face onto the bed” — a violent exchange she said she recorded on her cell phone. The couple’s two young sons were present for the altercation.

Matthew Heimbach was released from Orange County jail Tuesday on $1,000 bond, according to court records.

This complicated situation leaves the future of the Traditionalist Worker Party, one of the most outspoken groups in the modern white nationalist movement, uncertain. Matt Parrott announced last week that he is resigning his post and leaving the group.

Matthew Heimbach is already on probation for a previous violent incident. Last year he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for shoving a young black protester at a Trump campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, agreeing to pay a $145 fine, take anger management classes, and stay out of trouble with the law for two years.

Read the full police report below.

This post has been updated.

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White nationalist figurehead Matthew Heimbach was arrested on felony domestic violence-related charges Tuesday, according to court records filed in Orange County, Indiana.

The online records show Heimbach was charged with one count of battery and another of domestic battery committed in the presence of a child under 16 years old. He was released on $1,000 cash bond.

Heimbach, 26, is the head of the Traditionalist Worker Party, a neo-Nazi group that advocates for the establishment of an “independent White ethno-state in North America.” He lives in rural Paoli, Indiana with his wife and young sons.

The Orange County prosecutor’s office and court were both closed by the time TPM reached out on Tuesday afternoon. Heimbach did not respond to TPM’s call, email or text message requesting comment.

Heimbach last year pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for shoving a young black protester at a Trump campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky. He had to pay a $145 fine, take anger management classes and stay out of trouble with the law for two years—a provision he may have violated with his latest domestic violence arrest.

Heimbach has been a fixture at other recent white nationalist events, helping organize a “White Lives Matter” rally in Tennessee last fall and brawling with counter-protesters outside of Richard Spencer’s speech at Michigan State University last week.

That event exposed deep fissures in the already strained U.S. white nationalist movement. Spencer announced that he’s quitting his flailing college tour as the events, which are often met with mass protests by anti-racist activists, are no longer “fun.” Spencer’s longtime ally and attorney Kyle Bristow quit the movement outright.

Traditional Worker Party spokesman Matthew Parrott, who is Heimbach’s father-in-law, has announced that he is walking away from the group. In a Monday night post on Gab, a social network popular among the racist far-right, Parrott announced that he would “fully and permanently resign.”

Reached by the Southern Poverty Law Center on Tuesday, Parrott said, “I’m done. I’m out. SPLC has won. Matt Parrott is out of the game.”

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A witness of the deadly car crash at last year’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia is suing Infowars and other far-right purveyors of “fake news conspiracies” for instigating a targeted harassment campaign against him.

Counter-protester Brennan Gilmore alleges that he was defamed by false stories after sharing a video he’d captured of neo-Nazi James Fields allegedly ramming his car into a crowd, injuring 36 and killing anti-racist activist Heather Heyer. Fields was charged with first-degree murder in December. Georgetown Law School’s Civil Rights Clinic on Tuesday filed the defamation suit in federal court in Virginia on Gilmore’s behalf.

“Defendants thrive by inciting devastating real-world consequences with the lies they publish as ‘news,’” the suit reads. “From ‘Pizzagate’ to the Sandy Hook and Las Vegas shootings, Defendants have subjected innocent people to relentless threats of violence and death, bullying, and online harassment.”

Gilmore’s cameraphone video of the August 2017 attack went viral on Twitter, making him a target of online conspiracies alleging that he was part of a “deep-state” plot to undermine the Trump administration by staging the deadly incident.

Infowars’ Alex Jones and Lee Stranahan; Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft; and former congressman Allen West are among the defendants accused of promoting these bogus stories.

The defendants seized on details of Gilmore’s personal life, including his work as a foreign service officer, to allege that he was a “deep state shill linked to George Soros” and that he had “foreknowledge that this event was going to happen.”

As a result, per the complaint, Gilmore faced death threats, hacking attempts and the publication of his and his parents’ personal information. His career as a diplomat was “compromised,” and he was sent a letter containing suspicious powder.

Gilmore is seeking monetary damages for his “emotional distress” and “reputational, emotional, and professional injuries.”

Georgetown’s civil rights clinic last October sued the organizers of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally and the militia groups that guarded them, pointing to an obscure provision of the Virginia Constitution barring the formation of armed paramilitary groups who intend to commit violence.

Both suits use innovative legal arguments to try to hold the perpetrators and defenders of the chaotic event accountable.

As the latest complaint alleges, Jones and Hoft have smeared victims of tragedies before, most recently pushing reports that the teenage survivors of the mass shooting at Florida’s Stoneman Douglas high school were hired “crisis actors.”

Jones responded to the filing in one of his characteristic rambling first-person videos, alleging that he was targeted for “questioning leftist PR surrounding Charlottesville.”

Other defendants told Reuters that they stood by their comments on Gilmore.

Read the full complaint below.

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Editor’s Note: The New York Times report on Haspel’s role in the torture program, cited in the TPM story below, has been corrected. The Times now reports that Haspel didn’t begin supervising the Thailand facility until after the water-boarding of Abu Zubaydah had ended. 

The correction does not affect reporting on Haspel’s role in the torture of al-Nashiri, or in the later destruction of tapes showing the torture.

Original Story:

President Trump’s nominee to replace outgoing CIA director Mike Pompeo had a key role in the agency’s clandestine torture program, running the US’ first overseas detention center.

Gina Haspel was nominated to lead the CIA on Tuesday morning after Trump abruptly fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, reassigning Pompeo to serve as as the country’s top diplomat.

As the New York Times reported last year when Haspel was named CIA deputy director, the post she currently holds, she oversaw the torture of two high-profile terrorist suspects at the agency’s secret prison in Thailand in 2002, and helped destroy videotapes documenting their gruesome interrogations.

One of the suspects, Abu Zubaydah, was subjected to waterboarding 83 times in one month and had his head repeatedly slammed into walls. The other, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, had a handgun loaded and a power drill revved next to his hooded head in order to frighten him into talking.

Haspel was also instrumental to the coverup of these brutal sessions, which were recorded on tapes that were stored in a safe at the Thailand facility until 2005. At that time, Haspel was working at CIA headquarters, and her name was on a cable carrying the order to destroy the tapes. The agency has said Haspel’s then-boss Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, was behind the decision to destroy the recordings.

In brief remarks to the press pool on Tuesday, Trump praised Haspel, emphasizing that she was the first woman picked to lead the agency.

“She’s an outstanding person who also I have gotten to know very well,” the President told reporters, as he prepared to embark to California to review prototypes for his signature border wall.

Trump has repeatedly expressed his approval for torture, saying it “absolutely works” and that he’d like to “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

His nomination of Haspel, who will need to be confirmed by the Senate, will revive debates over the CIA’s secretive interrogation program. The 2012 Senate Intelligence Committee report on the program determined that so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not an effective means of acquiring intelligence, and detailed shocking instances of abuse including forced rectal feedings, “mock executions,” and days-long sessions of standing sleep deprivation.

In 2013, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who led the committee at the time, blocked Haspel’s promotion to run the CIA’s clandestine operations over her role in the torture program.

Democrats were quick to condemn Trump’s decision.

Noting her opposition to Pompeo’s nomination for his failure to condone the torture program, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) said Haspel has “done much worse.”

“Her reprehensible actions should disqualify her from having the privilege of serving the American people in government ever again, but apparently this President believes they merit a promotion,” Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, said in a statement. “I could not disagree more.”

Senate Intelligence Committee member Ron Wyden (D-OR) told the Daily Beast that Haspel’s “background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director.”

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Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) is the latest member of Congress to ask the National Rifle Association for answers about its ties to Russian officials close to the Kremlin.

Lieu, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, pointed to a spate of recent news reports about Russia’s efforts to cultivate relationships with members of the influential gun group and associates of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Particular threads of interest are a 2015 trip to Moscow taken by NRA top brass, and the reported FBI investigation into whether Aleksander Torshin, a Russian banker and accused criminal, illegally funneled money to the NRA to boost Trump’s campaign.

“This complex web of Russian officials, NRA officials, and Trump campaign associates raises serious concerns,” Lieu wrote.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has sent two letters to the gun rights giant asking similar questions.

In a Feb. 15 response to Wyden, NRA general counsel John Frazer said the group has procedures in place to prevent it from accepting foreign money for political activities. And Frazer said Torshin, not the NRA, was the target of the FBI probe.

“As the article itself makes clear (and as the author of the article has made clear to counsel for the NRA) the article refers to an investigation of Mr. Torshin, not of the NRA,” Frazer wrote, referring to a McClatchy report that broke news of the FBI investigation.

“There has been no contact between the FBI and the NRA,” Frazer added.

Lieu wants to know whether the NRA communicated with Torshin or other “Russian-linked individuals” about efforts to interfere with the 2016 election; whether the NRA facilitated meetings between Trump associates and Russians; and whether the NRA received money from Russia or Russia-linked individuals during the presidential race.

Read Lieu’s full letter below:

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A group of former Justice Department officials is raising concerns that President Trump may have influenced the department’s decision to block AT&T’s merger with Time Warner to punish Time-Warner-owned CNN for its news coverage.

Such politically-motivated interference would be unconstitutional, the former officials said in an amicus brief filed Thursday night in the lawsuit filed by DOJ to block the merger. It would also be part of a pattern of Trump appearing to use the DOJ to try to advance his political agenda.

“President Trump has urged a criminal investigation of his political rivals; he has suggested that he can instruct the Department to halt investigations into his associates; and he has claimed an ‘absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,’” the filing reads.

“The president neither has the absolute right to do what he wants with the Justice Department nor the constitutional authority to punish a news organization for its critical coverage,” it adds.

The DOJ denies that Trump’s criticisms of the network he derides as “fake news” played a role in its decision, saying the merger would raise prices for American consumers.

Signees on the brief include heavyweights like former Watergate counsel John Dean; former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara; and John McKay, one of the U.S. attorneys fired as part of the politicized dismissal of some of those officeholders under the George W. Bush administration.

Protect Democracy, a bipartisan nonprofit made up of former White House lawyers, filed the brief on the ex-DOJ officials’ behalf.

“As an example of the power structure I am fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN — a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few,” Trump told rally-goers in Gettysburg, Penn. in October 2016, the day the planned merger was announced.

As TPM previously reported, Trump’s involvement in the DOJ’s case would jeopardize the independence of both the U.S. justice system and the free press.

Congressional Democrats have warned the DOJ that they believe Trump is improperly blocking the merger to influence the coverage of Time Warned-owned CNN.


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Over the last few weeks, reporters have seen a number of signs that special counsel Robert Mueller is still conducting a robust collusion probe. This goes against earlier assumptions that his investigation was pivoting towards a focus on obstruction of justice by President Trump. We also learned this week that Mueller has already gained evidence that Russia may not be the only country that interfered in the election: Another key country in his probe is the United Arab Emirates.

George Nader, a UAE adviser who became a cooperating witness in January, told Mueller that he helped organize a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles between Blackwater’s Erik Prince and Putin-linked banker Kirill Dmitriev. Nader said the purpose of the meeting was to create a backchannel between the Trump team and the Russian government. This goes against Prince’s testimony about the meeting before Congress.

But Prince, who served as an informal adviser to the Trump transition, does not seem concerned: On Thursday, he held a lavish fundraiser for pro-Russia congressman Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

Nader also admitted to holding multiple meetings during the transition and in the White House with Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner.

Kushner is reportedly under scrutiny by the the special counsel for potentially using his political power to benefit his businesses. Mueller is interested in whether Kushner’s interactions with officials from the UAE, Qatar, Turkey, China and Russia were efforts to secure funding for Kushner Co.’s struggling properties, and whether they influenced the administration’s policy decisions.

Mueller is also looking into former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who sought to advance a Trump Organization project in Moscow during the election and passed a pro-Russian peace plan drawn up by a Ukrainian lawmaker to the administration. Separately, Cohen’s lawyer in the Russia investigation reportedly received inside information on witness testimony to the House Intelligence Committee.

Ex-Trump adviser Sam Nunberg testified before the grand jury on Friday — but only after appearing on every cable network under the sun threatening to tear up Mueller’s subpoena, which requested information on his communication with other Trump aides, including Hope Hicks, Carter Page, Cohen, and Roger Stone. Nunberg, who dared Mueller to arrest him on national TV, ultimately said he would comply with the subpoena.

Over at the White House, Trump has put himself at risk by asking witnesses including counsel Don McGahn and former chief of staff Reince Priebus about their testimony before the special counsel. This news surfaced days after Hicks resigned, and Josh Raffel, a member of the White House communications team who worked with Kushner and Ivanka Trump, announced he would resign. Both were involved in drafting a misleading statement to the press to explain the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between members of the Trump campaign and Kremlin-connected Russians.

This big picture is this: As we head into next week, evidence continues to mount that Mueller is deep into a collusion probe that would encompass the campaign’s dealings with multiple countries.

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Nearly a decade ago, Republicans launched REDMAP, an audacious bid to win key statehouses and governorships in order to give themselves control over the redistricting process that followed the 2010 Census, so they could gerrymander district lines in their favor.

The project succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, giving them a major edge in successive election cycles.

Now, they’re looking to do it again.

The GOP has launched its first ever national group focused exclusively on how congressional and state legislative maps are drawn, with an eye on the next round of redistricting, which will follow the 2020 Census. And they have help from deep-pocketed, state-based super PACs devoted to holding onto their gains.

Last September, Republicans created the National Republican Redistricting Trust (NRRT) as an umbrella group for its redistricting plans—and an answer to Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which aims to give Democrats a louder voice in the redistricting process this time around.

The NRRT bills itself as the hub for a 50-state effort “solely focused on redistricting legal and data matters,” freeing up other GOP entities like the state legislative and congressional campaign committees to “focus on winning races and expanding their Republican majorities.” It says it plans to raise $35 million by 2020. (A spokeswoman didn’t respond when asked how much it had pulled in so far. Holder told the New York Times in February that his group had raised a bit over half of the $30 million it hopes to have by the same date.)

The group will work closely with the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), which masterminded REDMAP. In 2015, it launched REDMAP 2020, which aims to repeat the GOP’s success last time at winning statehouses and governorships in key redistricting battlegrounds. REDMAP 2020 initially had a $125 million fundraising goal through the 2022 cycle, but Matt Walter, the RSLC’s president, told TPM in a Thursday phone call that the number would balloon to counter Democratic efforts.

“That number was set in advance of this effort that has been robust and well-funded and highly focused by the left, so the commitment to match that by Republicans, conservatives and the right of center world is imperative,” Walter said.

“We see a variety of areas where the left of center world is focused on redistricting: state level offices beyond the legislative level, the advancement of ballot initiatives, and the courts as well,” Walter added. “The field of engagement and connection points have expanded.”

In addition to this centralized effort, there are local groups like #ProjectRedTX, a super PAC run by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s former campaign manager that recently pulled in $500,000 from a single donor.

The group did not respond to TPM’s request for comment, but its website features a pledge “to make sure that those that seek to turn Texas into a leftist haven cannot get a foothold by mis-using the redistricting process.”

Last time around, in 2010, Republicans poured money into winning control of key redistricting battlegrounds like Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Virginia. Then, they used that control to draw district lines in their favor in those statehouses and in Congress. The result was to skew political outcomes in each of last three elections: In 2012, for instance, Democratic congressional candidates got over 1 million more votes that Republicans, but, thanks to gerrymandering, the GOP came out with 33 more seats.

That gerrymander also means Republicans have key advantages baked in for next time, as David Daley, the author of “Ratfucked,” an account of the GOP’s most recent redistricting master plan, told TPM.

“Republicans are really sitting pretty,” said Daley, now the communications director for the anti-gerrymandering group Fair Vote. “A blue wave really is going to have to be a blue tsunami in these states. And it’s going to take two of them. It’s not going to be enough for Democrats to have a blue wave in 2018; they’re going to need to replicate it in 2020.”

Republicans sound unconcerned by charges that they’re planing to once again enthusiastically rig the system in their favor. For one thing, they note that Democrats have gerrymandered on their own behalf in blue states like Maryland and Illinois. A brief launch memo for the NRRT devotes a page to criticizing Obama for denouncing GOP gerrymandering, after using redistricting to create a more favorable map for himself while serving in the Illinois legislature.

Republicans could still be stymied, in part, by the Supreme Court, which is considering three major redistricting cases that could impose limits on how extreme partisan gerrymanders can be.

Voting experts agree that the courts are the best hope for Democrats and those who want less partisan maps. But they caution that the lawsuits against the last round of maps wound through the courts for years. In some states, 2018 could be the fourth cycle in which voters cast ballots in districts that courts have deemed unconstitutional.

As Holder has said, “success” for Democrats going into the next two cycles is primarily a matter of shattering GOP trifecta control of state legislatures and governorships. For Republicans, it means painting an already-red national map several shades darker.

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