Busy with the Sunday column, but presented with easy targets, I am compelled to fire off a quick blog. cjk

The headline for today’s front-page story in The Times-Tribune and hundreds of newspapers across the country is just what right-wing spin doctors ordered:

Feds: Trump votes discarded in Luzerne County

It’s a hard news headline that describes a claim made by federal officials — that nine military mail-in ballots of Trump voters were discarded in Luzerne County. The headline is accurate, but required brevity leaves no room for nuance.

The story beneath is full of it.

So are Republican Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis and Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney David Freed.

As President Trump and his minions in government and right-wing media do and say anything and everything to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election (mail-in ballots especially), Salavantis “happens” to come up with an example of Trump votes being “stolen.”

Who does Salavantis contact to ask for help investigating the diabolical mishandling of nine ballots (which were “found” and will be counted)? U.S. Attorney David Freed, a fellow Republican and Trump appointee.

For some reason, Salavantis bypassed state Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Voting oversight is the job of state officials, but Shapiro is a Democrat who has sued the stop the Trump campaign’s brazen, baseless attempts to limit voter access over fears of “widespread fraud.”

The campaign filed a lawsuit to block drop-off ballot boxes, but when a federal judge asked the campaign to provide evidence of voter fraud in Pennsylvania, Team Trump couldn’t cite a single case.

Not one.

So isn’t it lucky that Salavantis was able to “find” nine ballots (out of millions that will be cast in this election) and “blow the whistle” to a Republican, Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney?

Trump sure thought so.

“So we have to be very careful with the ballots,” the president said Thursday. “The ballots, that’s a whole big scam. They found, I understand, eight ballots in a wastepaper basket in some location.

“We want to make sure the election is honest and I’m not sure that it can be. I don’t know that it can be with this whole situation, unsolicited ballots. They’re unsolicited, millions being sent to everybody.”

Trump was apparently reacting to a statement issued by Freed’s office and later amended to say just seven of the ballots were clearly votes for Trump. The statement itself is suspect in that it flies in the face of Department of Justice protocol not to announce or discuss ongoing investigations.

Freed himself has cited this policy when I and other Times-Tribune reporters pressed him for details of the allegedly ongoing probe of public corruption in Northeast Pennsylvania. Suddenly, Freed is free to speak, as long as he serves his bosses’ preposterous narrative.

I expect this kind of Mickey Mouse dirty trickery from alleged U.S. Attorney General/Trump Personal Counsel William Barr, and I’m not surprised to see a small-time hack like Salavantis play along, but I expected more from Freed, who I once believed was the serious, service-minded prosecutor the people of this region have been waiting for to clean out our chronically corrupt house.

I stand corrected.