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Author: ProPublica

Graves of Black ancestors: How government officials and developers worked to erase the Moseley Cemetery

Nobody working to bring a $346 million Microsoft project to rural Virginia expected to find graves in the woods. But in a cluster of yucca plants and cedar that needed to be cleared, surveyors happened upon a cemetery. The largest of the stones bore the name Stephen Moseley, “died December 3, 1930,” in a layer of cracking plaster. Another stone, in near perfect condition and engraved with a branch on the top, belonged to Stephen’s toddler son, Fred, who died in 1906. “This is not as bad as it sounds,” an engineering consultant wrote in March 2014 to Microsoft...

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How fanatical election deniers in Wisconsin use Trump’s “Big Lie” to reshape the battleground state

Ever since claims of election fraud arose in 2020, Wisconsin has seen its share of quixotic attempts to taint the presidential results. A group of phony electors tried to claim the state’s electoral votes for Donald Trump. Wisconsin’s top lawmaker launched a yearlong inquiry led by a lawyer spewing election fraud theories. And its courts heard numerous suits challenging the integrity of the 2020 election and the people administering it. All those efforts failed, sometimes spectacularly. But on a more fundamental level, the election deniers succeeded. They helped change the way Election Day will look in 2022 for crucial...

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Embracing Demagogues: Why the vital signs of a healthy democracy are in decline around the world

Voters in Sweden recently gave a leading role to a far-right party with neo-Nazi roots. Italy also put a party in power that has fascist origins. And of course, in the United States, one party has increasingly embraced election denialism and attempted to undermine the legitimacy of the electoral process. To try to understand what, exactly, is happening, we talked with Barbara Walter, a political scientist at the University of California San Diego who studies democracies across the world. Her book How Civil Wars Start has become a bestseller. Rather than talk about the prospects for political violence, we discussed...

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Classified Intel: Trump’s document scandal follows a history of weaponizing sensitive info for his benefit

Ever since the FBI came out of Mar-a-Lago in August with box after box of documents, some of them highly sensitive and classified, questions have wafted over the criminal investigation: Why did former President Donald Trump sneak off with the stash to begin with? Why did he keep it when he was asked to return it? And what, if anything, did he plan to do with it? It is true that Trump likes to collect shiny objects, like the framed Time magazine cover that was stowed, according to the U.S. Justice Department, alongside documents marked top secret. It’s true,...

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Fabricating the Big Lie: An inside look at how the stolen election myth was constructed by Trump

By the time Leamsy Salazar sat down in front of a video recorder in a lawyer’s office in Dallas, he had grown accustomed to divulging state secrets. After swearing to tell nothing but the truth so help him God, he recounted that he was born in Venezuela in 1974, enlisted in the army and rose through its special operations ranks. He described how in 2007 he became the chief of security for Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan leader whose electoral victories had been challenged by outside observers and opposition parties. After Chávez died in 2013, Salazar said he provided intelligence...

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Punished by the System: Why Julie Valadez is determined to be an active mother to her children again

After the judge in her Wisconsin divorce case ruled that her ex-husband, a man who had sought treatment for anger and alcohol issues, would get legal custody of and equal time with their four children, Julie Valadez vowed to fight back. But in every key ruling that followed, the Waukesha County Circuit Court judge overseeing her case, Michael J. Aprahamian, found Valadez’s concerns about her ex-husband not credible and her actions unacceptable. Aprahamian took away her ability to co-parent her children. He held her in contempt four times. And after Aprahamian ordered her arrest, she braced herself for jail....

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