"A weird thing happened right after the Nov. 3 election: nothing," Time national political correspondent Molly Ball began her report. "As President Trump refused to concede, the response was not mass action but crickets. When media organizations called the race for Joe Biden on Nov. 7, jubilation broke out instead, as people thronged cities across the U.S. to celebrate the democratic process that resulted in Trump’s ouster."
According to Ball, the "second odd thing" that happened after the election was that "corporate America turned on" Trump.
It was all very, very strange... Within days after the election, we witnessed an orchestrated effort to anoint the winner, even while many key states were still being counted," Ball quoted Trump as saying Dec. 2.
"In a way, Trump was right," Ball wrote. "There was a conspiracy unfolding behind the scenes, one that both curtailed the protests and coordinated the resistance from CEOs. Both surprises were the result of an informal alliance between left-wing activists and business titans. The pact was formalized in a terse, little-noticed joint statement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO published on Election Day. Both sides would come to see it as a sort of implicit bargain – inspired by the summer’s massive, sometimes destructive racial-justice protests – in which the forces of labor came together with the forces of capital to keep the peace and oppose Trump’s assault on democracy."
"The scenario the shadow campaigners were desperate to stop was not a Trump victory," Ball's report later alleged. "It was an election so calamitous that no result could be discerned at all, a failure of the central act of democratic self-governance that has been a hallmark of America since its founding.
"Their work touched every aspect of the election. They got states to change voting systems and laws and helped secure hundreds of millions in public and private funding. They fended off voter-suppression lawsuits, recruited armies of poll workers and got millions of people to vote by mail for the first time. They successfully pressured social media companies to take a harder line against disinformation and used data-driven strategies to fight viral smears. They executed national public-awareness campaigns that helped Americans understand how the vote count would unfold over days or weeks, preventing Trump’s conspiracy theories and false claims of victory from getting more traction. After Election Day, they monitored every pressure point to ensure that Trump could not overturn the result."
The report described American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CFO) political director Mike Podhorzer as the "architect" of this effort, in partnership with "resistance" organizations.
"That’s why the participants want the secret history of the 2020 election told, even though it sounds like a paranoid fever dream – a well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information," Ball wrote. "They were not rigging the election; they were fortifying it. And they believe the public needs to understand the system’s fragility in order to ensure that democracy in America endures."
Prominent social media users reacted to the report with alarm.
"According to Time the election was 'Fortified' but not rigged. Definitely not rigged," Donald Trump Jr. reacted. "This is insanity, but everyone should read to learn exactly how bad it was."
"@Time comes right out and admits it," wrote Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.
"Dear God, did they just validate what Trump was saying the whole time??" asked journalist Andray Domise.
"So the election wasn't rigged. There was only a secret cabal of powerful elites and corporate interests that worked together to overhaul election laws, influence media coverage, and convince big tech to crush dissent," The Daily Caller's Greg Price concluded.
"Turns out many of Trump’s "conspiracy theories" about how the country’s most powerful forces conspired to remove him were...true," GOP strategist Blair Brandt tweeted.
"If you had said this out loud on Twitter a few months ago, it would have gotten you banned," RealClearInvestigations senior writer Mark Hemingway said.