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Election denier spreads lies in talk at East Midd church

NATIONALLY KNOWN 2020 Election denier David Clements on Oct. 19 addresses a crowd of around 35 people in East Middlebury, whom he urged to call for decertification of any 2022 election results counted by an electronic vote tabulator.
Independent photo/John Flowers

EAST MIDDLEBURY — The final flickers of the day’s sunlight were gently kissing the western horizon on Oct. 19 as folks trickled into East Middlebury’s Valley Bible Church, a grand, pearl-white edifice fronting a backdrop of trees stubbornly clinging to the last of their fiery-red leaves with a frigid Vermont winter approaching.

They took to the pews, around 35 of them, to receive a message — not from a pastor, but from nationally known 2020 election denier David Clements. He exhorted them to challenge the certification of their communities’ upcoming 2022 election results and demand that their municipal leaders jettison all electronic vote tabulators and return to hand counts.

“I’m signing you up for war,” Clements told his audience, who were predominantly (like this reporter) part of the over-50 set. “There is no full assurance you’ll get what you want, because the problem is corruption, and the reason why we haven’t fixed corruption is a lack of courage.

“We’re looking for pit bulls that are going to hold the bone here in Middlebury and won’t let go,” he added, seeking to fire up an audience residing in a state of 640,000 people where around 100 communities continue to count votes by hand and where polling stations are fortified by locally elected justices of the peace, selectboard members and town clerks.

“I want to hear through the grapevine a few weeks from now someone mixing it up at your town meeting, changing the fortunes of Middlebury. Demanding, hounding.”

Clements, a former deputy district attorney in New Mexico and a recently fired assistant professor at New Mexico State University’s business school, used a combination of Biblical scripture, complex graphs, black-and-white video footage of alleged ballot counting improprieties, and references to widely debunked source material — some of it his own — in making false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and that the Nov. 8 midterms are now in peril.

His contention: Voting machines can be manipulated by bad characters seeking to change the outcome of elections. The Dominion Voting Systems Co., a nationwide provider of tabulating machines (including in Vermont), has filed numerous lawsuits seeking billions in punitive damages from several entities — including Fox Corp. and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell — for “Lies and misinformation (that) have severely damaged our company and diminished the credibility of U.S. elections, subjecting hardworking public officials and Dominion employees to harassment and death threats.”

Clements at his local talk referred more than once to a conspiracy-laden documentary film called “2000 Mules,” which claims, among other things, that President Joe Biden won key swing states thanks to 2,000 people allegedly hired to stuff drop boxes with potentially fake ballots.

An investigation and fact-check of the film by the news agency Reuters and its consultants concluded no “concrete, verifiable evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.”

Valley Bible Church was Clements’ latest stop in what has been an 18-month tour during which he’s traversed 43 states, taking his “election integrity” message to more than 60 small communities. He said he hasn’t taken a day off since the Nov. 3, 2020, election that he continues to claim was rife with fraud perpetrated by insiders who sought to remove then-President Donald J. Trump in favor of his Democrat opponent, current President Joe Biden.

Costly recounts in key counties of Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia and Pennsylvania all have affirmed vote majorities for Biden.

Clements has had no formal training in election systems, but he’s mastered the lexicon, employing hefty terms like “source codes,” “histogram of deltas,” “count total increment distribution,” and “linear regression of unproblematic voting districts” in his online reports and in-person presentations.

He’s articulate, charismatic and his experience as a professor and litigator has helped him construct, polish and sell his narrative to others unwilling to accept the explanation that most local, county, state and federal elections officials nationwide have provided for Biden’s late election-night surge on Nov. 3, 2020: With the COVID-19 pandemic surging, many more Democrats than Republicans chose mail-in voting, creating a stockpile of ballots that took longer to verify and then feed into tabulating machines.

Yet to the chagrin of many secretaries of state and election workers, Clements has been scoring points. Last June, as reported by the Washington Post, officials in three New Mexico counties where he made his case either delayed or voted against certification of this year’s primary results, even though there was no credible evidence of problems with the vote.

Also, a Rasmussen national telephone and online poll conducted last month posited that “84% of likely U.S. voters believe the issue of election integrity will be important in this year’s congressional elections.”

The myth of a stolen election continues to resonate among some voters, and Clements is tapping into it. More than 300 candidates across a variety of races this fall “are perpetuating former President Trump’s assertion that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him and that American elections are deeply flawed,” reads an Oct. 7 report published the non-profit Brookings Institution.

‘EXHAUSTING & DANGEROUS’

Clements received more than a few citations in the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reforms’ Aug. 11 report titled, “Exhausting and Dangerous: The Dire Problem of Election Misinformation and Disinformation.”

Among other things, the Oversight Committee investigated what it called a “concerning ‘audit’” and canvass of voters in Otero County, New Mexico. That audit had been authorized by the Otero County Commission at the behest of who the committee referred to as “conspiracy theorists” David Clements and his spouse, Erin.

“In his advocacy for the audit, David Clements called for ‘arrests,’ ‘prosecutions’ and ‘firing squads’ for those who carried out the imaginary fraud he was pursuing,” reads the committee report. “The committee found that these efforts were inspired by unproven conspiracy theories, and that the canvass in particular posed a substantial threat of voter intimidation.”

EchoMail, the software company hired for $50,000 to conduct the audit, withdrew after the committee launched its investigation, the report states.

“Mr. and Mrs. Clements, however, continued the canvassing effort and used their notoriety to attract attention and donations as part of a network of election conspiracy theorists,” according to the committee report. “As unvetted volunteers knocked on doors, spreading confusion and fear among voters, the Clementses went on the road and on the air, using their work in Otero to spread further misinformation and gain personal wealth and notoriety.”

Clements conceded during his East Middlebury appearance that he and others alleging a “rigged” 2020 election have been unsuccessful in making their case through the courts. Trump and his allies after the election saw dismissal of 61 of the 62 lawsuits they filed in state and federal courts seeking to overturn election results in states that Trump lost, according to USA Today.

“Everyone wants the ‘magic lawsuit,’” Clements said. “I’ve personally reviewed 400-plus lawsuits relating to fraud from 2020, and 99% of them were dismissed on (legal) standing.”

That means the alleged evidence filed by the plaintiffs couldn’t be heard by the courts, he noted.

But rather than ascribing those lawsuit dismissals to a lack of foundation, Clements said he believes the judges “punted” from hearing evidence because they “don’t want to see their cities on fire.”

So Clements is now taking his battle to small towns, like Middlebury, hoping to shake up the system in the same way he’s done in his home state of New Mexico.

“When I am home, which isn’t often, every county commissioner meeting in my home county is operated my Marxist socialists,” he said. “I show up like I’m punching a timecard. I know they can’t stand me. I show up at the meeting and make it a point to say … for three minutes, how lawless they are and how corrupt they are.”

He asked the crowd how many counties there were in Vermont. He was told there are 14.

“You don’t need to control all 14 counties; control two with the machines and start deploying mules in your surrounding counties and you’ll get the job done,” he warned.

RELIGION & GOVERNMENT

His listeners on this occasion didn’t challenge his assertions, which on a few occasions elicited audible gasps. Clements, a small wooden cross tucked into the top pocket of his red blazer, urged his listeners to appear before their local selectboards and/or elections officials and, “like mini-Moseses, talk to town pharaohs … and ask them to withhold certification.

“You’re not just ministering to the five thugs that aren’t going to minister to you, you’re trying to awaken everyone else in the room,” he added.

He also evoked the name of Saint Peter, who according to the Bible feigned ignorance of Jesus at the latter’s trial before finally acknowledging him after he had risen from the dead.

“If you haven’t gotten into the action yet, you’re a pre-resurrection Peter,” he admonished. “You hung out with Jesus, you like his stories, you like the fact he gave you a lot of fish, he was cool to hang out with … But when push comes to shove, and someone asks Peter to go to the town meeting, he’s got better things to do, because he was scared. You need to act like a post-resurrection Peter, whose fear was conquered because this guy named Jesus was apparently the real deal.”

At the same time, he claimed a civil-rights angle to the fight against purported election fraud.

“These (electronic tabulating) devices are enslavement devices and if you don’t look at them with the same moral repugnance that you would if a slave master was in this room whipping a Black man in chains, you’d better wake up,” he said. “The same righteous indignation needs to be applied to these machines.”

Although he was big on exposing what he said was made-in-America election corruption, Clements’ election integrity presentation didn’t touch upon evidence — reported by the U.S. Senate and others — of Russian interference during the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election.

GOP CANDIDATE

Among the listeners at the Valley Bible Church gathering was Peter Caldwell, a Middlebury Republican who is seeking one of the two Addison-1 House seats on Nov. 8. Caldwell, among other things, said he was impressed with Clements’s “stunning level of commitment to spreading the word about what he has discovered.”

Clements stressed it wasn’t enough to commiserate with like-minded people in online chat rooms, which he said can become ineffective “echo chambers” for election-related criticism. But he did urge followers to use YouTube, Facebook and other social media vehicles to livestream their views and expose what they believe to be irregular election procedures.

But it’s a strategy that can run into trouble when social media gatekeepers apply their quality control, decency and veracity standards to content. Clements warned the crowd “you will be de-platformed,” as he has been on occasion, and urged them to then take their content to such app services as Telegram — which the Anti-Defamation League has called the latest “safe haven” for white supremacists — and Rumble, a video-sharing platform labeled by its chief executive as “immune from cancel culture,” according to a March 29 article in the New York Times.

The Addison County Democratic Committee provided a statement to the Independent upon learning that Clements was speaking locally. That statement, courtesy of committee Vice Chair David Silberman, reads in part:

“The Addison County Democrats note with alarm how conspiracy theories and anti-democratic ideals have spread both nationwide and in our own community. Mr. Clements’s appearance at a local evangelical church should be viewed within the context of the national movement to deceive the public and cause them to lose faith in our democratic systems — with the ultimate goal of legitimizing Christian Nationalism as a governing philosophy, where White Evangelicals hold all power, and the Constitution and two centuries of democratic rule are rejected.”

FIRED OVER VACCINE

Clements said he’ll continue to make his “election integrity” crusade his full-time job.

The Albuquerque Journal, among other publications, reported last October that Clements had been fired from his teaching job at New Mexico State after having refused to comply with the institution’s COVID-19 vaccine and masking mandates.

Here’s how Clements described his termination to those who attended his Valley Bible Church engagement:

“One of the things I specialize in is consumer protection. I will teach young students consumer protection law and business law, employment law and as an expert, I realize there are certain times where the government can be sued. And for whatever reason, big pharma has blanket immunity and the informed consent they were giving us was not legal. Informed consent gives you a choice to not take certain things that are experimental, and I pointed that out. A couple months later, the Supreme Court took a lot of the arguments I raised. I was vindicated, but I was not given my job back with an apology, because they don’t care.”

He was asked about how he’s getting by without his professor’s salary.

“In God’s mercy, he’s given me enough resources to do what I’m doing,” Clements said. “I can’t do this forever. I don’t charge for these events. What we do is we ask people to give a donation to keep gas in the car, rental cars, flights, a roof over my head, and we’ll do that until I can’t do it anymore.”

It should be noted that Clements’s financial hardship has also been eased by an online fundraiser that’s been established for him on a crowdfunding website whose past causes celebres have included participants in a Canadian trucking convoy protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions, as well as Kyle Rittenhouse, the-17-year-old who shot three people — killing two of them — during civil unrest in Kenosha, Wis., in August 2020. Rittenhouse was arrested, tried, and found not guilty on all charges.

As of last week, donors to the crowdfunding site had raised more than $305,000 to help cover Clements’ expenses. The Clements’ donation site was spearheaded by Joe Oltmann of Colorado, host of the “Conservative Daily” podcast. A Denver District Court judge this past May allowed a defamation lawsuit brought by a former Dominion Voting Systems employee to proceed against Oltmann and several other parties in connection with false conspiracy allegations pertaining to the 2020 election.

Clements concluded by saying he continues to pay a price for his election fraud beliefs.

“I was once an award-winning prosecutor with eight first-degree murder convictions; I was on the short list — if you have a bad guy, you come get me,” he said. “That’s gone; I’m going through my fifth complaint and fifth investigation to remove my law license for merely commenting and showing the stuff I’m showing you tonight, because it’s so dangerous. I’m not going to feed my family based on the doctorate I earned.”

With that, he gave supporters a final few words of encouragement.

“I’m not asking you to storm the beaches of Normandy,” he said. “I’m asking you to go into an airconditioned building and yell at some officials that need to be yelled at. Can I get an ‘amen?’”

He got a chorus of “amens.”

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