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You can believe in UFOs without believing Trump's election lies

A version of this story appeared in CNN’s What Matters newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
There are Covid origin mysteries we may never solve. Now, there are unidentified flying objects the government believes to exist but cannot or will not explain. And then there are the election lies we still know are untrue.
The biggest mystery. We still don’t know whether Covid occurred naturally or sprang from a lab accident. We may never know. Read this Washington Post account of how Chinese scientists, one of whom they call the “Bat Woman,” have gone mostly quiet, perhaps under Chinese government pressure, since the virus took hold.
The origin of Covid is now an intelligence operationThe origin of Covid is now an intelligence operation
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is increasingly a bogeyman in conservative media, says the evidence suggests natural occurrence, but we have to keep an open mind.
He also addressed the redaction of an email he wrote about the lab leak theory that was recently released with redactions. Fauci argues to keep an open mind about how the virus came to be, but is not buying the idea that the Chinese government did it intentionally is the least likely scenario.
“I don’t remember what’s in that redacted, but the idea I think is quite farfetched that the Chinese deliberately engineered something so that they could kill themselves as well as other people,” Fauci told CNN’s John Berman. “I think that’s a bit far out, John.”
Unexplained phenomena. There really are UFOs that neither science nor the military can figure out, recorded on video accelerating, swerving and diving in ways not thought possible.
NASA is taking a fresh look at UFOsNASA is taking a fresh look at UFOs
A forthcoming report from American intelligence officials will say there is no evidence these are alien spacecraft, according to The New York Times, but will also not rule it out.
It will suggest objects recorded by Navy pilots in more than 120 such UFO incidents are not part of some secret US program. Although, if it’s a secret program, could we take the government’s word for it? What the public will see is an unclassified version of the report.
Maybe it’s Chinese or Russian technology, but the official government position is, essentially, we don’t know.
Many people will take the lack of evidence to itself be a form of evidence, which proves nothing.
Things we know are not true. There’s still no evidence of a massive conspiracy to rob the presidential election from former President Donald Trump. And yet here we are, months after his loss, and the lie that the election was stolen from him continues to grow.
The long tail of Trump's Big Lie: 9 ways it continues to affect American politics  The long tail of Trump's Big Lie: 9 ways it continues to affect American politics
A sketchy recount of votes is being conducted behind closed doors in Arizona to cast doubt on the results there. Republicans in other states are pushing for their own reviews.
Compare what we know with what we don’t know about Covid or UFOs with what people are willing to believe, without evidence, to be true about our democratic system. CNN’s Eric Bradner writes about the inspiration Trump-supporting Republicans are taking from what even many fellow Republicans agree is a deeply flawed process in Arizona.
Trump is among those clinging to the lie. He is listening to “the bottom of the bottom of the crazies in the barrel,” one former adviser told CNN.
Trump’s fellow pushers of conspiracy theories — like Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene and disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn — have pumped up the Arizona audit to willful believers around the country.
What do Americans actually believe? I asked CNN’s director of polling, Jennifer Agiesta, how to responsibly compare belief in aliens with belief in election fraud.
Here’s what she said:
AGIESTA: So, the most recent polling I’ve seen that’s alien-adjacent is a Quinnipiac University poll from late May which found that 35% of Americans said that the “unexplained sightings of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” that the government recently acknowledged were “aircraft from another world,” 42% said they were man-made aircraft and 22% said they didn’t know. The same survey found that 64% of Americans felt Biden’s victory in the 2020 election was legitimate.
WHAT MATTERS: So in that poll, about the same portion of the country believes in Aliens as The Big Lie?
AGIESTA: A few more believe in aliens. The “not legitimate” number was 29%. But you have to remember the Quinnipiac poll was limited to beliefs about these specific sightings, which is the subject of the report, but it’s clearly more limited than belief in aliens broadly given a CBS News poll from March that found 66% “personally believe that there is intelligent life on other planets.” The Quinnipiac poll might actually underplay the size of belief in aliens. (Today in sentences I did not expect to type).
So, it’s fair to say that more Americans believe in aliens than the Big Lie, despite how much Trump pushes it and how much attention it gets. Maybe that should be reassuring — although theories about aliens and UFOs are as old as humanity, while Trump’s election lies are relatively recent.
The fringe can still have real power. While the US government and intelligence community are intently considering the UFOs, it’s the election lie that has yielded tangible changes in law this year, as Republican-led legislatures in key states move to make it more difficult for voters to cast ballots early and by mail.
Conspiracy theory road show. Trump’s sure to be pushing them when he goes on tour this summer with a series of rallies and speeches, starting Saturday in North Carolina when he addresses that states’ GOP. Republicans there aren’t calling for an audit of the state’s election results, perhaps in part because Trump won there.
What we don’t ultimately know about the election lie is what happens next with it.
Trump’s increasingly boxing out advisers who want him to move on and focus on issues that affect everyday Americans as he considers whether to run again in 2024. But instead he’s focused almost entirely on the lie, according to a new report from CNN’s Gabby Orr, Dana Bash and Michael Warren, who were told that Trump’s bored by the issues his advisers wish he would focus on — inflation, infrastructure and the economy.
“He is so obsessed with his unsuccessful quest for reelection, one ex-Trump official said, that he has been moving himself toward irrelevance.
“It’s like a slow leak of a balloon that is now laying on the floor,” is how the ex-Trump official described it.”
Reinstatement theory. They also write that “Trump’s obsession with 2020 has also led him to indulge unhinged and false notions about being “reinstated” as commander-in-chief, according to three people familiar with these conversations, one of whom said he has been constantly watching the conspiracy-laden TV channel One America News and intensely following an ongoing Republican-demanded audit of votes in Arizona’s Maricopa County.
Trump has claimed the Arizona audit could lead to similar investigations in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Georgia that would ultimately prove he won the 2020 election, one person close to Trump said.”
It’s happening in front of our faces. Republicans in Washington just want to move on. They beat back an effort to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 storming of the US Capitol, which drew inspiration from Trump’s lie about having the presidency stolen from him.
The election conspiracy to be increasingly worried about, though, is the one playing out before our eyes where people start to question whether the whole system can be trusted at all.
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