McAuliffe spox mistakenly includes reporter on ‘kill this’ story email

A top spokesperson for Democrat Terry McAuliffe's Virginia gubernatorial campaign accidentally looped in a Fox News Digital reporter Thursday on internal deliberations over how to "kill" a story about the campaign hiring a top Democratic lawyer known for spearheading election challenges.

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Earlier Thursday, Fox News reported that the McAuliffe campaign had spent more than $53,000 on the services of a law firm founded by Marc Elias, the former general counsel for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

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Reporter Tyler O'Neil reached out to the McAuliffe campaign to ask why it had hired Elias' firm and give it a chance to respond to the suggestion by George Washington University law professor and Fox News contributor Jonathan Turley that the Democrats had done so to contest a potential victory by Republican Glenn Youngkin.

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Nine minutes after sending his email, O'Neil received a response from McAuliffe campaign spokesperson Christina Freundlich — but rather than a professional statement, he received a request apparently meant for her colleagues.

Terry McAuliffe'sTerry McAuliffe's campaign spent more than $53,000 on the services of a law firm founded by Marc Elias.AP

"Can we try to kill this," Freundlich wrote before clarifying in a second message: "To dispute the challenges of the election."

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After O'Neil published his story about the misdirected email, Freundlich — who caused a wave of internet outrage in 2015 by posing for a selfie at the site of a deadly gas explosion in Manhattan's East Village — attempted to shrug off her error, tweeting: "I think it's clear based on this story that we did in fact…kill the story."

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Before launching the Elias Law Group, he was a partner at high-powered firm Perkins Coie — where he retained opposition research firm Fusion GPS to target Donald Trump. In June 2016, their research included Christopher Steele's dossier, the debunked file that served as the premise for the three-year investigation of "collusion" between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. 

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Earlier this year, Elias was sanctioned by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for filing a "redundant and misleading" motion in a case challenging a Texas law forbidding "straight-ticket" voting. The court said Elias and his legal team from Perkins Coie filed a motion in February that was nearly identical to an earlier motion that had been denied.

After O'Neil sent his email, Christina Freundlich sent him an email apparently meant for her colleagues.After O'Neil sent his email, Christina Freundlich sent him an email apparently meant for her colleagues.

"This inexplicable failure to disclose the earlier denial of their motion violated their duty of candor to the court," the court said in ordering Elias and his team to pay attorney fees incurred in connection with the second motion as well as "double costs."

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Elias also led an unsuccessful effort to overturn the 2020 election result in Iowa's 2nd Congressional District, in which Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks defeated Democrat Rita Hart by just six votes.

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Despite McAuliffe's attempts to tie his Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin to former President Donald Trump and his false claims about the 2020 election, McAuliffe himself is no stranger to embracing conspiracy theories alleging stolen votes.

In Terry McAuliffe's attempts to tie his Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin, he is no stranger in coming across conspiracy theories alleging stolen votes.In Terry McAuliffe's attempts to tie his Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin to Donald Trump, he is no stranger to conspiracy theories alleging stolen votes.AP

On Sunday, McAuliffe introduced 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams by claiming that "she would be the governor of Georgia today had the governor of Georgia not disenfranchised 1.4 million Georgia voters before the election."

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"That's what happened to Stacey Abrams," McAuliffe went on. "They took the votes away."

Terry McAuliffe claimed Stacey Abrams would be the governor of Georgia had the governor of Georgia not disenfranchised 1.4 million state voters before the election.AP

At another event earlier this month, McAuliffe nodded in tacit agreement as Abrams said: "I'm here to tell you that just because you win doesn't mean [you've] won … I come from a state where I was not entitled to become the governor, but as an American citizen and as a citizen of Georgia, I'm going to fight for every person who has the right to vote to be able to cast that vote."

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Abrams has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that current Republican Gov. Brian Kemp used his former position as Georgia's secretary of state to unlawfully prevent millions of voters who would have backed Abrams in 2018 from going to the polls.

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McAuliffe's remarks in support of Abrams earned him a scolding from the liberal Washington Post editorial board, who warned the Democrat to avoid "unprovable allegations that will contribute to the corrosion of trust."

Brian Kemp used his position as Georgia's secretary of state to prevent voters who would have backed Abrams in 2018.Abrams has claimed Brian Kemp used his position as Georgia's secretary of state to block voters who would have backed Abrams in 2018.AP

McAuliffe has also refused to disavow his claim, dating back to his tenure as head of the Democratic National Committee, that the 2000 election was "stolen" by Republicans for George W. Bush.

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"We actually won the last presidential election, folks," McAuliffe told delegates at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. "They stole the last presidential election."

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When confronted with that claim during an interview with a Virginia TV station this month, McAuliffe refused to say whether Bush had been "legitimately elected" in 2000, saying only: "He got sworn in. Once you're sworn in, we've gotta move on."

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Thursday's report emerged as a new Fox News poll showed Youngkin leading McAuliffe among likely Virginia voters by eight percentage points with five days remaining until Election Day.

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"His campaign is absolutely failing," Youngkin said of McAuliffe in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity Thursday. "I mean, the sun is setting on his 43-year political career. And by the way, they're not gonna need lawyers because this isn't gonna be close."

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