- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 9, 2021

Republican Rep. Devin Nunes on Saturday hosted his inaugural “Freedom Festival,” where conservative stars denounced the liberal media and tech billionaire censors while talking up ways to reach California’s middle 40% of voters.

The speaker lineup included Donald Trump Jr., Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona and James O’Keefe of Project Veritas. 

Mr. Nunes’ central California district sits in the conservative San Joaquin Valley, north of Democratic-dominated Los Angeles County and south of San Francisco. Changing demographics have pushed the country’s most populous state, with the most Electoral College votes, to the left and to a guaranteed win for Democratic presidential candidates.

But the successful petition drive to force a recall election of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has created hope that Republicans can successfully sell conservatism to more moderate voters. 

“We’re an oasis of practicality,” Mr. Nunes said of his district’s hardscrabble farmers, lush fields of crops and the campaign event’s host city of Tulare. “And we’re surrounded by socialist absurdity.”

About 2,000 conservatives attended, with the event streaming live on Rumble.com and Big Tech platforms such as Facebook. Using Rumble fit the festival’s theme of urging conservatives to find alternatives to the liberal oversight of YouTube, owned by Google, Twitter and Facebook.

Mr. Nunes talked of the “freak show in Sacramento” that “worried about the gender identity of convicted felons to the high-speed rail boondoggle.” 

“I always tell my colleagues that what happens in California has national significance because we are the laboratory for socialism. Elites and Hollywood leftists concoct bizarre political schemes which are then enacted into law by ‘yes men’ in Sacramento. We’ve seen it time and time again. And it always benefits the Democratic Party.”

An example, he said, is California’s “ballot harvesting” in which any person can act as an intermediary, handling absentee ballots from voters and turning them into election precincts.

Mr. Nunes, while heading the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, gained fame in 2017-18. He exposed the Democratic Party-financed dossier being used to undermine President Trump as a pile of inaccuracies used by the FBI to investigate and wiretap his allies. 

The liberal media put Mr. Nunes on its target list for negative stories. But conservatives hailed him for going against Washington’s Democratic liberal establishment. 

His probe’s bottom line, he told the festival crowd: “We weren’t the ones colluding with Russians. They were.

“It was an information warfare operation that was conducted by the Democratic Party, their mouth pieces in the freak show media and their own government, the FBI and the Department of Justice,” he added. 

A probe by special counsel Robert Mueller concluded in March 2019 that the long 2016-19 FBI investigation did not establish that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

Mr. Nunes talked of the importance of reaching the California “40%,” neither conservative nor socialists who could be swayed to turn right. 

“Without these people we’re never going to be able to turn California around,” he said.

He said liberals talk about right-wing violence but it is Black Lives Matter and Antifa “left-wing shock troops that on a near-nightly basis physically assault Republicans, conservatives and just innocent Americans.”

His biggest applause line came when he announced there are two genders. “I confess. I’m not woke,” he said.

Mr. Trump Jr. appeared remotely, in what appeared to be a cabin-type setting, with a mounted bust of an antlered deer over his right shoulder.

He said his father is looking for “America First” candidates in the 2022 elections and “trying to weed out the RINOs,” or Republican In Name Only — a conservative term for pretend conservatives. 

“When you have the Liz Cheneys of the world supposedly supporting the Republican Party in leadership,” he said of the embattled Wyoming representative and No. 3 ranking House Republican, “you have to wonder. The job is to recruit other candidates and to raise money. I haven’t seen her doing any of those things in a few years, if ever.”

Ms. Cheney is endangered of being voted out of the leadership, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday publicly endorsing New York Rep. Elise Stefanik to replace her. Ms. Cheney has been a harsh critic of President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” movement, and she voted to impeach him for inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters. The former president’s son said Mr. Trump wants to “find people who all have sort of the fire that you have, Devin, to fight for our country to fight for our freedom, to stand up to the establishment and to change out the establishment and to put Americans and the working class first.”

Asked to rank his father’s best accomplishment, Mr. Trump said, “Middle East peace.”

Republican Rep. Mike Garcia of California, who won a special election in May and then squeaked out a win on Nov. 3, said his state is “the most underachieving state in the nation” with high taxes and fuel prices and low-ranked public education.

He said he is moving his staff away from liberal-oriented internet platforms to new alternatives. 

Harmeet K. Dhillon, a lawyer and Republican National Committee member from San Francisco, called on the audience to give up their gmail accounts (Google) and to stop using tech companies “that are strangling our freedom.”

“Stop living behind our scenes,” she said. “We need to get out there and have events like this.”

Mr. Biggs said Big Tech censored the Hunter Biden story in October, denying millions of people the right to read about how President Biden’s son raked in millions of dollars from oligarchs and from Europe as well as communist-connected tycoons in China. 

“That would have changed the election. They suppressed it. They kicked around our elections,” he said.

He said Republicans “utterly failed” in the two Trump years they controlled Congress. 

Mr. O’Keefe presented a slide show of Project Veritas’ greatest hits, such as showing alleged illegal vote harvesting in Minneapolis and penetrating biases at CNN. 

He said the liberal media constantly says he presents “misinformation” when he has aired none. 

“The media is so corrupt in this country,” he said. “They have all the power.”

Most recently, he captured a CNN technical director on a hidden camera saying the network’s focus was to “get Trump out of office.”

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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