McAuliffe campaign to Fox reporter: Let's kill Fox's story on hiring election-challenge lawyer

AP Photo/Cliff Owen

The word gaffe doesn’t do justice to this latest episode from the imploding campaign of Terry McAuliffe. Fox News had learned that McAuliffe had hired Marc Elias to handle its post-election litigation — the same Marc Elias that tried to overturn the Iowa House race in last year’s election, and the same Marc Elias that may yet run afoul of the John Durham investigation into the Russiagate hysteria. Team McAuliffe then sent out an e-mail to allies seeking their help in attempting to “kill” the story.

Unfortunately, they included a Fox reporter on the “can we try to kill this” e-mail — the same reporter who asked for comment in the first place:

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s campaign raised eyebrows by spending nearly $60,000 to hire a high-profile attorney known for masterminding election-related legal challenges. When Fox News sent the campaign a request for comment, the McAuliffe campaign scrambled to “kill” the story, according to emails mistakenly sent to Fox News. …

Fox News reached out to the McAuliffe campaign for comment on Turley’s suggestion. McAuliffe spokesperson Christina Freundlich responded to the email with a message apparently meant for colleagues, not for Fox News.

“Can we try to kill this,” Freundlich wrote.

“To dispute the challenges of the election,” she clarified, ostensibly responding to an email that did not go through to Fox News.

Why did they feel the need to “kill” a legitimate and accurate report on Elias? His hiring makes clear that McAuliffe is not just preparing for post-election recounts, as all campaigns do. He’s preparing to do exactly what Donald Trump did in 2020 and what Hillary Clinton and Stacey Abrams did before that — claim to be the victim of a stolen election. That would be astonishing, given McAuliffe’s attempts to tie Glenn Youngkin to Trump’s post-election actions:

Less than a month before Election Day, McAuliffe’s campaign spent $53,680 on the services of the Elias Law Group, a firm that Marc Elias started earlier this year, Fox News previously reported. Elias had formerly worked as a partner at the law firm Perkins Coie, which the Hillary Clinton campaign hired in 2016 in order to conduct opposition research on Donald Trump – research that included the infamous Christopher Steele dossier. Republicans have accused Elias of lying to hide the Clinton campaign’s role in funding the dossier.

Elias has represented Democrats in efforts to contest elections. Going into the 2020 election, he represented Democrats challenging a Texas law barring “straight-ticket voting.”

House Republicans accused Elias of having a “serious conflict of interest” when he represented Iowa Democratic candidate Rita Hart in her effort to overturn the results of her extremely narrow loss to Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. GOP members House Administration Committee said that Elias had a conflict because he and Perkins Coie – where he still worked at the time – also represented half of the Democratic committee members who would be deciding the case.

“Astonishing” is the word Jonathan Turley uses as well to describe Elias’ hiring:

Elias’ work embodies the inherent hypocrisy of some advocates and some in the media on election challenges. He often solicits contributions to challenge election results while denouncing Republicans for challenging election results.

That contradiction has been readily apparent in the Virginia election. McAuliffe brought in Stacey Abrams to campaign for him. She has repeatedly declared that the Republicans stole the election when she ran in Georgia. (Abrams was criticized for not conceding after the election). At one rally, McAuliffe repeated the claim that “she [Abrams] would be the governor of Georgia today had the governor of Georgia [Republican Brian Kemp] not disenfranchised 1.4 million Georgia voters before the election! That’s what happened to Stacey Abrams. They took the votes away.”

Elias, McAuliffe, and others the media have denounced Republican challenges as advancing “the Big Lie” of stolen or rigged voting in the last election. Yet, Abrams’ defeat is being attributed to a rigged system in Georgia.

Elias has not been criminally charged in his actions related to the 2020 election. Yet, bringing Elias into the Virginia race in the midst of the Durham investigation is an astonishing decision by McAuliffe. There are a host of election lawyers but McAuliffe selected an attorney accused of lying to the media, advancing rejected conspiracy theories, and currently involved in a major federal investigation that has already led to the indictment of his former partner.

That’s bad enough, but having made this story explode with this errant e-mail is  a *chef’s kiss* perfect bookend to McAuliffe’s campaign. Of course, we have four days left in the campaign, so it’s always possible that Team McAuliffe could top this faceplant before Election Day. Is it likely? I’m rooting for ya, Terry Mac!