Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Goodyear, speaks at a Jan. 26, 2023, press conference about border security. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror
An event dubbed “Border 911” that will take place Saturday and feature at least one Arizona lawmaker will also feature QAnon connected speakers as well as some connected to hate groups.
The event is being put on by The America Project, a 501(c)(4) created by former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne and disgraced former General Michael Flynn that funds far-right causes.
The America Project was largely responsible for funding the Arizona Senate’s partisan review of the 2020 presidential election, as well as creating a conspiracy theory film made by QAnon filmmakers who were given access to the “audit” floor.
Byrne, who heads The America Project, has been a leading voice in 2020 election fraud claims and has railed against the so-called Deep State. Byrne was also an attendee of an hour-long meeting at the White House during the final days of Trump’s presidency in which he, former Trump attorney Sidney Powell and Flynn urged the president to overturn the election.
Byrne is listed as one of the speakers at the event, alongside Rep. Steve Montenegro, who is the organization’s national policy director. Montenegro, a Republican from Goodyear, has received $5,300 from Byrne and $1,500 from Joseph Flynn, the retired general’s brother and part of the leadership of the organization.
Montenegro was one of the people who had control over the combative and controversial “Audit War Room” Twitter account. Montenegro has also appeared alongside Bryne, Flynn, Jovan Hutton Pulitzer and election conspiracy theorists in his capacity as an executive with The America Project.
The event on Saturday is the first in a series of events that will take Byrne and others to Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan and California.
A Capitol press conference Montenegro organized with Arizona Republican lawmakers on Thursday featured several people scheduled to speak at the Border 911 event.
“We are going to be talking about real consequences, real data,” former Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tom Homan said. Homan was appointed to the position during the administration of President Donald Trump and famously said that politicians who run sanctuary cities should be charged with crimes.
Homan also was slated to speak at white nationalist Nick Fuentes’ America First Political Action Conference last year, but left after he learned that Fuentes had praised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
It wasn’t the first time Homan has been tied to far-right extremists. He also tapped an anti-Muslim hate group to help with issues surrounding the border. The founder of that group, Tom Trento, claimed that former CIA Director John Brennan is a “secret Muslim.”
Trento is also slated to speak at the Border 911 event.
Trento is the founder of the group United West, which has claimed that mosques are bases of operations to launch a “‘Cultural Jihad’ against America!” Trento’s group also opposes the building of any new mosque in the United States and believes that 80% of them are teaching “sedition.”
Lawmakers during the press conference Thursday focused on the issue of fentanyl, pointing out that Arizona has been seeing spiking numbers in fentanyl overdoses. The issue of fentanyl is slated to be one of the issues discussed during the “Border 911” event.
Montenegro praised a bill proposed by Sen. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, that issues stiff penalties that could result in life in prison or the death penalty for fentanyl dealers that critics say could sweep in drug users. Other lawmakers offered other solutions.
“This is the public health crisis of our time,” Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, said. “This is going to be about turning lives around.”
Shope suggested increased data reporting and sharing from the Arizona Department of Health Services on fentanyl and other opioid related issues, as well as fostering “trust” between public health and public safety agencies as well as increasing training for deploying the lifesaving drug narcan.
Other Republicans were far more stern, placing blame on newly elected Gov. Katie Hobbs for her proposed budget that would get rid of the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Border Strike Force, instead replacing it with what she calls Local Border Support. Out of the total reallocation, she is calling for $11 million in one-time spending to go to grants for law enforcement agencies in border communities to “conduct border-related activities.”
Hobbs’ budget proposal has been panned by the GOP-controlled legislature.
The Border Strike Force was implemented by Ducey in 2015 to target border crimes and work to stop transnational criminal organizations. And while his administration touted its work, investigations by the Arizona Republic found that it routinely inflated its successes and largely didn’t do any work in border counties.
“As Republicans we are ready to take this into our hands in the state of Arizona,” Rep. Leo Biasiucci, R-Lake Havsau, said.
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