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Gov. Hutchinson: Trump 'Disqualified Himself' From 2024 White House Race

The Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, ripped into former President Donald Trump on Monday, describing him as “derelict in his duties” and morally culpable for the attack on Congress by a mob of his supporters on January 6, 2021.

In an interview with the Washington Post on Monday, Hutchinson said the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack had achieved its goal of making a solid case that Trump was “derelict in his duties” during the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“Well, I think [the January 6 hearings] had an impact,” Hutchinson told the Post Live anchor Leigh Ann Caldwell. “They've made the case that he was irresponsible; he was derelict in his duties.”

"This should be a concern of every American," Hutchinson continued. "We had a president during that time that allowed that to go on and threatened the peaceful transfer of power."

The governor confirmed he was speaking from a place of understanding because he had “tuned to the majority” of the select committee’s public hearings.

Hutchinson echoed his previous comments that the select committee’s case, while strong, didn’t provide the “high burden of proof” needed to pursue criminal charges against Trump.

“I don't see how the January 6th hearings themselves are making the case against the president. That's a very high burden of proof. I think the attorney general's got a tough call there,” Hutchinson said. “I haven't seen the actual case being presented effectively in terms of criminal conduct on the president.”

Hutchinson, a former congressman, is one of the few elected Republicans to persist in criticism of Trump. Last month, the governor told CBS Mornings hat the January 6 attack was a “threat to our institutions of government” and that Trump’s response was “not the behavior we want to see in a responsible president.”

In the same interview, Hutchinson assailed Trump’s 2024 bid for the White House, saying the ex-president had disqualified himself from running again with his actions before and on January 6.

"While we're totally focused on 2022, obviously there's talk about 2024, and I had to make it clear that Trump has disqualified himself, in my judgment, from his actions on January 6th and leading up to that," Hutchinson said.

“If we get sidetracked on a personality that is as divisive as Donald Trump, then that does not bode well for the outcome in November,” he said. “We’re going to do well, I have no doubt about that, but we lose ground whenever Donald Trump becomes the issue,” he told CBS Mornings.

Hutchinson told the Post’s Caldwell that he stood by his previous statement criticizing Trump. “I honestly answer questions when I'm asked. And so, yes, I stand by that. I believe that.”

Hutchinson teased a bid for the White House in 2024, which might see him run against Trump. “I'm thinking about it, but not going to be… have any decision until next January.”

“But 2024 is so critical in terms of shaping the Republican Party. And so whether it's as a candidate or whether it's in some other role, I certainly want to be a voice,” Hutchinson said.

“Somehow people think that if you're not 100 percent pure behind Donald Trump, then somehow, you're a moderate,” he lamented. “But I think the test in 2024, can a conservative that has a more optimistic view of America, that doesn't resort to personal grievances, can that person win, and that's what I want to be able to support in the fight for 2024.”

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

GOP, Trump Political Operation Paid Millions To January 6 Organizers

Political operations tied to former President Trump and the Republican Party paid millions to the organizers of the January 6, 2021, rally that preceded the now-infamous assault on the Capitol to thwart the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, according to Open Secrets.

A non-partisan and non-profit group tracking money in U.S. politics, Open Secrets found that Trump’s political operation and other GOP committees have paid over $12.6 million to the January 6 rally’s organizers since the start of the 2020 election cycle.

The “full extent” of the aforementioned payments remains a mystery, said Open Secrets, because the Trump campaign and a horde of GOP groups funneled payments through American Made Media Consultants LLC, a vendor created by the Trump campaign to “act as a clearinghouse for its spending."

The Trump campaign has routed over $771 million through the vendor thus far, and the details of these transactions — including recipients’ identities and how much they received — remain hidden.

The politically divided Federal Election Commission couldn’t decide on whether to look into allegations that the former president’s campaign funneled money through American Made Media Consultants LLC so that it could hide key details of its spending in the 2020 elections.

During the second Capitol attack hearing, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), a member of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, blasted the Trump campaign, saying it “misled donors as to where their funds would go and what they would be used for.”

The campaign finance watchdog found several groups in Trump’s political operations that have paid organizers of the January 6 rally, including the Save America PAC that Trump created after the 2020 elections, which, according to the New York Times, “has become the primary hub of his ongoing political operations.”

Intricate Money-Funneling Operation

Political groups linked to Trump and his campaign have paid $6.9 million to the firm Event Strategies since election day 2020 — $4.5 million of which was paid in the first four months of 2022. Event Strategies obtained the permit for Trump’s January 6 rally at Eclipse Park in Washington, D.C., USA Today reported.

At the helm of Event Strategies are Trump campaign aides Tim Unes and Justin Caporale. Both aides were listed on permit records as stage and production managers for Trump’s January 6 rally.

According to the Open Secrets report, Event Strategies received $3.2 million for its “political works” in 2022 from Save America PAC and Make America Great Again, Again! Inc., both of which are part of Trump’s political operations.

Event Strategies has also been paid by the Trump campaign; the Republican National Committee; America First Works, a dark money group aligned with Trump; and Republican party committees.

Altogether, Open Secrets said, groups linked to Trump and the GOP doled out $12. 6 million to Event Strategies since the start of the 2016 elections.

Trump’s operations also funneled millions into BlueBonnet Fundraising, a firm founded by Caroline Wren, a top fundraiser for the Trump campaign. Wren was listed as a “VIP Advisor” on the permit issued for the January 6 rally at Eclipse Park.

Wren “boasted” of having raised $3 million to support Trump’s January 6 rally. She also “parked” unspecified amounts of money at several Republican-tied groups to “add a layer of confidentiality for the donor,” according to a report by ProPublica last October.

Wren has since denied the allegations of wrongdoing. An attorney for Wren told the Washington Post that Wren “in her role as an event planner, assisted many others in providing and arranging for a professionally produced and completely peaceful event at the White House Ellipse with hundreds of thousands of Americans who were in D.C. to lawfully exercise their first amendment rights.”

Election Defense Fund

On Monday, the select committee, in its second of a series of public hearings, revealed that Trump and his team had conned supporters to the tune of $250 million on the false premise of combatting election fraud.

Amanda Wick, senior investigative counsel for the committee, said Trump had been “so successful” in his scam that “nearly $100 million in the first week after the election.”

The Election Defense Fund didn’t exist, the select committee said, and the pool of donations was shared among a group of individuals and business entities tied to Trump, including the Save America PAC and, of course, Event Strategies.

Lofgren hit at Trump and his allies for the heist, saying, “So not only was there the big lie, there was the big rip-off. Donors deserve to know where their funds are really going."

Republican Candidates Are Advertising On White Nationalist Platform Gab

As if the radicalization of the Republican Party weren’t already clearly enough established, a number of GOP candidates—notably, ex-football star Herschel Walker, the nominee in the race against incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock for Georgia’s U.S. Senate seat—have begun advertising on the white-nationalist-friendly platform Gab.

The list also includes some less surprising names, such as Republicans’ go-to white nationalist in the House, Paul Gosar of Arizona, and the QAnon-loving keynote speaker for the white-nationalist “America First” conference earlier this year, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

As Alex Kaplan reports at Media Matters, Gab last August introduced a new feature enabling people to advertise on the site. Founder Andrew Torba called it “a huge step forward for our vision of a parallel economy” comprising clients who have been removed from other platforms for terms-of-use violations.

Walker has been among the more prolific advertisers. One ad, saying “we need your support today,” depicts Warnock as “celebrity funded” and “celebrity approved,” while another shows a lineup of liberal celebrities who have donated to Warnock’s campaign and asking, “Georgia Values? Or Hollywood Values?,” adding: “I need your help to WIN.”

Other “Team Walker” ads on Gab claim “the race is in a dead heat,” claim that “the Liberal Media is out to get me,” and “the road to defeating the Biden Agenda runs right through Georgia.”

As The Informant’s Nick Martin notes, it’s not clear whether Walker himself has an account at Gab. One unverified page with 7,000 followers uses his name and photo, but it has only posted there once—three days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, when its owner wrote: "Hey everyone. Coming on over to Gab after the sad news about Parler."

Among the other Republican candidates advertising on Gab has been Jerrod Sussler of Washington state’s 4th Congressional District, who is seeking to unseat incumbent Republican Congressman Dan Newhouse, who was targeted for primary defeat by Donald Trump after he voted for Trump’s impeachment in January 2021.

Gosar, who also delivered a taped speech at the white-nationalist America First convention in February, asked “every America First Patriot” to chip in to defend his reelection bid. He has previously praised Gab as comprising “people who respect real diversity, diversity of opinion, thoughts, and views.”

Greene’s ads on Gab have featured her aiming a .50-caliber sniper rifle (“Enter to win MTG’s gun!”) and posing with former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka with an “Impeach Biden” sign. “Joe Biden must be impeached,” the text reads. “Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next year. NOW … before it is too late!”

Gab established itself in 2016 as a friendly environment for right-wing extremists. “When a group of people are being systematically dehumanized and labeled as the alphabet soup of phobias,” Torba wrote, “they will look for a place that will allow them to speak freely without censorship and devoid of Social Justice bullying.”

The reality is that the site has been a free-for-all of bigotry, conspiracism, and violent rhetoric. Posts with headlines like “Satanic PizzaGate Is Going Viral Worldwide (Elites Are Terrified)” are standard fare. Antisemitism flourishes in the comments, where a mere downvote can get users accused of being a “#Jew.”

Pittsburgh mass shooter Robert Bowers was a regular Gab user, and posted his final threat (“Screw your optics. I’m going in”) to the site before embarking on his 2018 rampage inside a synagogue that left 11 people dead. Gab was largely deplatformed in the aftermath of that incident, but eventually found a hosting service with the Northwest-based Epik, which also hosts Alex Jones’ Infowars operation.

Torba’s own anti-Semitism is well established. Speaking at the February America First gathering, he told the audience he “rebukes the Synagogue of Satan.” He also called for “a parallel Christian society,” because “we are fed up with the Judeo-Bolshevik one.”

When criticized, Torba responded: “Sadly many Christians today are so afraid of being called a silly meaningless name by the world (bigot, antisemite, homophobe) that they refuse to even remotely share or discuss the Gospel in their daily lives, let alone live it,” adding: “You reveal your anti-Christian hatred when you refer to Biblical Truth as ‘antisemitism.’”

After its post-Pittsburgh downturn, Gab has worked to reestablish itself among far-right activists; in 2019, it was able to return to financial stability thanks to an online crowdfunding strategy. After the Jan. 6 insurrection—particularly the demise of Parler, which had become an effective competitor for the same audience—it once again became a popular place for extremists to gather and share their violent seditionist worldviews.

Media Matters noted that Gab also introduced targeted advertising recently. That means that there may be other Republican candidates buying ads on the platform whose activity is not immediately visible.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Ex-Trump Aide Navarro Indicted For Contempt Of Congress

A federal grand jury has indicted Peter Navarro, former President Donald Trump’s onetime trade adviser, after his failure to cooperate with a subpoena issued to him by the House Select Committee last February.

Navarro hit the press junket hard to shill his memoirs months before the subpoena rolled in and in that book, Navarro discussed a strategy he cooked up with Trump’s onetime adviser Steve Bannon to stop or delay the certification of Electoral College votes by Congress on January 6, 2021.

They called it the ‘Green Bay Sweep,’ and according to Navarro, its aim was not to “overturn” the election but rather, the plan was to have such a sweeping number of challenges to the certification launched by Trump’s Republican allies in the House and Senate that it would “put the certification of the election on ice for at least another several weeks,” he wrote in his book, In Trump Time.

Navarro faces two charges in the indictment: one count for failure to produce records to the committee as demanded in the subpoena and another count for failure to appear for testimony.

Incidentally, his indictment is similar to the one that was brought against Bannon—his fellow ‘Green Bay Sweep’ strategist—in November. Bannon’s trial is expected to begin this summer. As for Navarro, he made his first appearance in a federal court in Washington, D.C., on Friday at 2:30 P.M. ET.

NBC News reported that Navarro was taken into custody on Friday. Court records have also indicated that prosecutors sought to seal Navarro’s indictment until he was arrested. They were concerned that he might flee or engage in witness tampering. Navarro’s case will go before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, the same judge presiding over the seditious conspiracy trial involving a number of Oath Keepers including ringleader Elmer Stewart Rhodes.

Navarro told reporters earlier this week that he received a grand jury subpoena tied to January 6. He clarified that it was separate from the subpoena first sent by the committee. The 72-year-old vehemently argued that executive privilege invoked by Trump barred him from testifying. But there is no evidence to date that Trump asserted privilege over Navarro. The committee has indicated Trump did not invoke privilege over Navarro.

The grand jury subpoena notably zeroed in on the 45th president by name, ultimately asking Navarro for “all documents relating to the subpoena dated February 9, 2022, that you received from the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, including but not limited to any communications with former President Trump and/or his counsel or representatives."

The former trade adviser has been a vocal critic of the committee’s work and has referred to investigators as “domestic terrorists” running “a partisan witch hunt.”

He had multiple opportunities to cooperate with the House Select Committee. He was allowed to ask for more time to produce records so long as he could explain why. And if there were privilege issues, per the committee, Navarro could have created a list explaining which documents he would want to be shielded and why.

Instead, according to the seven-page indictment, Navarro opted to ignore the probe, resting on specious executive privilege claims instead.

“My hands are tied,” Navarro allegedly wrote in an email to the committee this spring.

Navarro Indictment by Daily Kos on Scribd

Navarro Indictment by Daily Kos

This back and forth went on for a matter of days, with the committee informing Navarro they could limit questions to his public remarks but his deposition, then scheduled for March 2, was mandatory under the subpoena.

He never showed.

Per the DOJ, each count carries a max sentence of up to one year in jail plus a fine of up to $100,000.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

The Right-Wing Scam Mafia Comes For Mickey Mouse

When Disney responded to internal dissent by publicly condemning Florida’s passage of its discriminatory Parental Rights in Education law, the company ran into a right-wing media buzzsaw following a familiar strategy.

Here’s how their approach works. The right-wing propagandists first aggressively smear an existing institution — in this case, Disney — as excessively liberal in order to drive conservatives away from it. That incentivizes the institution to move to the right to preserve its customer base and prevent political blowback from Republican politicians. The right-wingers pair their demagogic critique with the creation of new, explicitly ideological counter-institutions to capture the business — and money — of the wayward conservative customers.

The right has used the same set of tactics against a variety of institutions and companies, notably the press and social media platforms. As I’ve written before about this right-wing “con culture”:

Outlets and personalities use ideological, often paranoid, political coverage to build connections with their audiences. They convince those audience members that mainstream information sources that present contradictory narratives can’t be trusted. And then they bilk those marks for all they are worth.

Now, this right-wing apparatus has come for Disney. All this week, right-wing media outlets have overwhelmingly focused on the company as they try to extract a price for its call for the repeal of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. While conservatives dishonestly portray the law as enacting a narrow ban on teaching “sex-stuff” in kindergarten through third grade, its deliberately vague language could implicate a wide array of discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity across grades. Groups like the Trevor Project have criticized the bill for its potential to silence teachers and have a chilling effect on LGBTQ youth.

Fox mentioned “Disney” more than 350 times and in over three hours of coverage this week. Its commentators claimed the company is “grooming” and “sexualizing children” in order to push a “progressive LGBT agenda.” Neither the bigoted anti-LGBTQ animosity nor the strategy was particularly subtle:

The second shoe dropped Thursday when The Daily Wire, the right-wing digital, streaming, and podcasting empire fronted by Ben Shapiro, announced that it was investing $100 million over three years in animated and live-action children’s entertainment. The announcement had been moved up in response to Disney’s criticism of the “Don’t Say Gay” law, Daily Wire co-CEO Jeremy Boreing told an employee town hall.

“Americans are tired of giving their money to woke corporations who hate them,” Boreing explained. “They’re tired of giving their money to woke media companies who want to indoctrinate their children with radical race and gender theory.”

Two things stand out about this move.

First, when right-wing media figures like Shapiro denounce Disney, they are building a potential audience of conservatives who will instead give their money to Shapiro’s employer. That creates an obvious incentive for those commentators to blow every perceived difference with Disney wildly out of proportion for profit.

Second, while the critique of Disney has little to do with its content, the new alternative is explicitly right-wing. Boreing isn’t saying there’s something wrong with features like Encanto or Moana; he’s trying to harness resentment over the company’s public statements to garner an audience for his competing product. The Daily Wire’s programming for children, however, promises deliberate right-wing messages.

Conservatives frequently deploy this strategy of tearing down a nominally nonpartisan institution as excessively liberal while offering up an explicitly right-wing alternative.

Republican activists, politicians, and conservative media outlets spent decades telling conservatives that the mainstream press is liberal and deceitful, with a particular inflection point during the civil rights era, when journalists were condemned for producing critical reporting about segregation. GOP political operative Roger Ailes took advantage of the opportunity created by the ensuing conservative distrust of the mainstream press when he co-founded Fox News and explicitly branded it as a “balance” to other, presumably leftist, outlets.

Fox and its political and media allies relentlessly highlight supposed excesses of the mainstream press. This is in part an often-successful effort to “work the refs,” criticizing those outlets in order to secure from them more favorable coverage of Republican and right-wing figures and causes. But it is also a business strategy: By presenting other media outlets as corrupt and liberal, explicitly right-wing outlets like Fox help secure a hammerlock on right-wing audiences. Indeed, the greatest threat to Fox’s market share comes from right-wing competitors who try to run the same strategy against it.

The right ran the same play against social media platforms. Right-wing commentators at Fox and elsewhere and Republican politicians baselessly claimed that Facebook and other platforms were biased against conservatives. By turning that lie into a universally held belief on the right, they were able to pressure those companies to take favorable actions. The Daily Wire in particular took advantage of that ref-working to get special dispensation to break Facebook’s rules and become much more influential than it otherwise would have been.

Meanwhile, right-wing entrepreneurs spun up explicitly right-wing alternatives to the major social media platforms, albeit with varying degrees of success. Twitter analogues like Trump’s Truth Social, Trump aide Jason Miller’s Gettr, and white nationalist hangout Gab have been failures to varying degrees. Rumble, a video-sharing platform that functions as a right-wing alternative to YouTube, has been much more successful, thanks in part to financing from the billionaire Peter Thiel and support from right-wing commentators like Fox’s Dan Bongino.

Right-wing media are creating a new type of consumer who builds their lifestyle around “lib-owning” by driving their audiences away from legacy brands and toward explicitly right-wing ones. These “lifestyle conservatives” favor Fox News over CNN and Rumble over YouTube. They buy right-wing razors and right-wing children’s books. Instead of listening to medical experts and taking COVID-19 vaccines, they take ivermectin; instead of making more traditional investments, they buy gold.

It’s all a con designed to channel culture war issues into Republican votes so the party can redistribute wealth upward, while also funneling cash to the party’s propagandists. And now that con is coming for Disney.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

The 'Soft On Crime' Party? It's Not The Democrats

"Soft on crime" is the old dog whistle that Republican senators like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley used to smear Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as they attempted to derail her historic Supreme Court nomination. Their racist deception failed. Jackson is almost certain to be confirmed — and her strong public approval ratings rose after the disgraceful performance of Cruz, Hawley and their GOP colleagues during her nomination hearings.

But let's consider the Republican regurgitation of that familiar phrase, certain to be heard over and over again before November's midterm election. Look back in history, look around today, and one fact is pretty obvious: It's the Republican Party and its leadership that are ridiculously squishy on crime, perhaps due to their continuing propensity for criminal behavior.

The president who most memorably deployed that epithet in my own early political experience was Richard M. Nixon, whose campaigns relied heavily on racialized crime rhetoric. Of course, he resigned from office just ahead of the prosecutors who could easily have sent him to prison for a long roster of felonies — from bribery, extortion, obstruction of justice and witness tampering to conspiracy and tax evasion. His vice president Spiro Agnew also departed under a cloud of criminal prosecution and barely avoided prison after acknowledging various petty bribes.

"I am not a crook," Nixon lied. (His symbolic legacy can be seen in a tattoo on the back of political crook Roger Stone, who made his bones as a low-level Watergate offender and whose more recent felony convictions were pardoned by Donald Trump — but we'll get to that.)

Despite Nixon's epoch-making scandal, he was surpassed in at least one respect by Ronald Reagan, another loud critic of Democrats' supposed coddling of criminals. By the end of Reagan's two terms, his administration had established a new and still unsurpassed record for the number of felony convictions of federal officials in American presidential history. In scandals that ranged from Pentagon procurement scams to influence peddling, perjury and the sale of arms to the Iranian mullahs, the Reaganites displayed an impressive range of delinquency — including Edwin Meese, the law-and-order attorney general who came within a hair's breadth of indictment in a defense contracting scandal and resigned his office in disgrace.

Given that tawdry history, it may be hard to believe that those were the good old days. Yet the Republican Party has since developed an even greater tolerance for villainy of every kind, as epitomized by its Dear Leader and would-be 2024 nominee, Donald J. Trump.

Trump had mastered the art of escaping accountability for felonious misconduct even before he entered the Oval Office — as we know from looking back at his numerous alleged tax crimes, swindles and perjuries. It is an art he has since perfected, as anyone can see by consulting the handy catalog provided by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group. Included there is the copious evidence revealed by former FBI director Robert Mueller, a lifelong Republican, that Trump committed numerous obstructions of justice. He couldn't be prosecuted because he was president.

Certainly, no president has ever been as "soft on crime" as Trump himself. He repeatedly abused the pardon power to protect his own hide from potential testimony by his criminal associates — notably including the aforementioned Stone, his former campaign manager and massive tax criminal Paul Manafort and his former adviser Steve Bannon, who escaped trial for swindling gullible conservatives in his "We Build the Wall" crowdfunding scam. Trump also pardoned Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, two former Republican members of Congress convicted on a raft of felony charges — but then again, Republican voters had already reelected both scoundrels.

If he could, Trump would surely exonerate the mob that attacked police officers, vandalized the Capitol and sought to murder his own vice president on Jan. 6, 2021 — many of them losers, like Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, with extensive prior criminal records. In fact, he praised them even before their excrement was mopped up from the Capitol hallways. To Trump and many of the Republicans in his political entourage, those insurrectionist thugs are "patriots."

Still, the criminal and other deviant behavior among Republican politicians is now worrying party leaders, who fear that prominent GOP midterm candidates are just too sleazy to win. Why is it even possible for a man like Eric Greitens — who resigned as Missouri governor because of his violent crimes against women — to return as a serious contender in that state's U.S. Senate race? Well, Greitens boasts the support of that law-and-order avatar Rudy Giuliani, now under criminal investigation, and members of the Trump family. The former president has enthusiastically endorsed other candidates credibly accused of similar offenses, including Herschel Walker in Georgia and Max Miller in Ohio.

Maybe the Republicans should stop calling anybody "soft on crime" — unless they're talking about themselves.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at