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Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Justice Department charged a pro-Trump former Twitter user with election interference for posts encouraging users to vote via text in the 2016 election.

Why it matters: The DOJ believes this is the first criminal case charging an American with suppressing the vote via disinformation on Twitter.

Details: Douglas Mackey, 31, who was known on Twitter as "Ricky Vaughn," was arrested Wednesday morning and accused of conspiring with others to use social media platforms to spread misinformation ahead of the 2016 election.

  • He allegedly led a campaign telling people they could vote for Hillary Clinton simply by texting a certain phone number.

Mackey, who was revealed to control the Ricky Vaughn account by the Huffington Post, had 58,000 followers and was named by MIT Media Lab as one of the top influencers ahead of the 2016 election.

  • According to prosecutors, the disinformation campaign led to at least 4,900 unique phone numbers attempting to vote by phone.
  • The complaint does not identify the conspirators, but the New York Times reported one of them is Anthime Gionet, the far-right figure known as “Baked Alaska" who was arrested for his involvement in the Jan 6 attack of the U.S. Capitol.

What they're saying: "There is no place in public discourse for lies and misinformation to defraud citizens of their right to vote," Seth D. DuCharme, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York said a statement.

  • "With Mackey’s arrest, we serve notice that those who would subvert the democratic process in this manner cannot rely on the cloak of Internet anonymity to evade responsibility for their crimes."

Go deeper

Trump supporter found with pipe bombs accused of plot to attack Democrats

Five improvised explosive devices that the FBI says "were fully operational and could cause great bodily harm or injury if handled improperly." Photo: FBI/Justice Department

The FBI believes California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Bay Area headquarters of Twitter and Facebook were targets of a man facing federal explosives charges, according to a criminal complaint.

Driving the news: Prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers after finding weapons including five pipe bombs, 49 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition following a Jan. 15 search of his Napa County home and auto repair business. His alleged goal was to ensure former President Trump remained in office.

Home confinees face imminent return to prison

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thousands of prisoners who've been in home confinement for as long as a year because of the pandemic face returning to prison when it's over — unless President Biden rescinds a last-minute Trump Justice Department memo.

Why it matters: Most prisoners were told they would not have to come back as they were released early with ankle bracelets. Now, their lives are on hold while they wait to see whether or when they may be forced back behind bars. Advocates say about 4,500 people are affected.

The "essential" committee that still doesn't exist

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Nearly five months after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the creation of the bipartisan Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, it's not been formed much less met.

Why it matters: Select committees are designed to address urgent matters, but the 117th Congress is now nearly one-quarter complete without this panel assembling. When she announced this committee, Pelosi described it as an "essential force" to "combat the crisis of income and wealth disparity in America."