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Seedy Trump Loyalist Punted From Key National Security Post

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The Washington Post's Ellen Nakashima reports that long-time Trump loyalist Michael Ellis had resigned from his position as top lawyer for the National Security Agency after almost three months of being "sidelined" during Joe Biden's presidency. Journalist Steve Benen, in an op-ed for MSNBC's website, lays out some reasons why Ellis' departure from the NSA is an important development and a positive thing.

"Last fall, the day after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential race, Team Trump tapped Ellis to serve as general counsel of the National Security Agency, but the news wasn't well received," Benen explains. "Gen. Paul Nakasone, the NSA's director, didn't want Ellis for that post. In response, Christopher Miller, Trump's acting defense secretary, ordered the NSA director to install the Trump loyalist as the agency's top lawyer, whether Nakasone wanted him or not."

Benen notes that after Biden was sworn into office almost three months ago, "a gradual process began in which the new administration cleaned house, at least to the extent possible" — and Nakasone placed Ellis on administration leave.

"NSA general counsel is an important job, and not a position for partisan operatives," Benen points out. "With this in mind, it didn't come as too big of a surprise when Nakasone put Ellis on administrative leave literally the same afternoon as Biden's inauguration — at which point, the NSA director no longer had to worry about Team Trump's directives."

To understand just how Trumpian Ellis' history is, one should take a look at his activities during Trump's presidency. Ellis is a major ally of GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, and he was a counsel to the House Intelligence Committee when it was still being chaired by the far-right California congressman. During the Trump era, Ellis and fellow Trump loyalist Ezra Cohen-Watnick were the two White House officials who gave Nunes intelligence reports claiming to show that former officials in ex-President Barack Obama's administration had improperly "unmasked" members of the Trump transition team in late 2016 -- early 2017. Sen. Richard Burr, chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that the "unmasking" narrative was "all created by Devin Nunes."

Ellis' name was also heard in connection with the Ukraine scandal. Trump's first of two impeachments stemmed from a July 25, 2019 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who Trump tried to pressure into helping him dig up dirt on now-President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. And Ellis was the White House lawyer who ordered NSC officials to move the transcript of that conversation to a classified server.

Biden was the Democratic presidential hopeful Trump feared the most in 2019, and it isn't hard to understand why he dreaded the possibility of Biden receiving his party's nomination. Biden, in November 2020, defeated Trump by more than 7 million in the popular vote.

Trump was hardly the first politician to pursue opposition research on a political rival, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — when she called for Trump's impeachment in 2019 — stressed that it was wildly inappropriate for Trump to make that request from a foreign leader. And to make matters worse, Pelosi said, Trump made that opposition research a prerequisite for military aid to Ukraine.

In March 2020, Politico's Kyle Griffin reported that Ellis had been named senior intelligence director on the NSA.

Benen wraps up his op-ed by making it clear that he is glad to see Ellis resigning from his NSA position.

"There are still plenty of Trump appointees who've 'burrowed' into career civil-service positions," Benen observes, "but as of now, they won't be in the NSA's general counsel's office."

GOP Civil War Erupts Again Over  Primary Challenge To Murkowski

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In the minds of Trumpistas, conservative Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska committed an unpardonable sin when, earlier this year, she voted "guilty" during former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial for "incitement to insurrection." Trump devotees are hoping to unseat Murkowski via a 2022 GOP senatorial primary, and Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka is campaigning on an overtly Trumpian platform — slamming Murkowski for failing to honor Trump,

CNN reporters Manu Raju and Alex Rogers explain, "Nearly a dozen years after overcoming a Tea Party-inspired challenge from the right, Murkowski again is facing a Republican seeking to claim the mantle as the most aggressive version of today's GOP — or in this case, the Trumpiest. Republican Kelly Tshibaka, a former Alaska Department of Administration commissioner, has offered herself as a vessel for the supporters of the former president, who won the state twice, as she lambasts Murkowski for her penchant for deal-cutting and breaking with Trump."

Raju and Rogers, in an article published by CNN's website on April 19, describe the Murkowski/Tshibaka competition as "the first proxy battle between Trump, whose top political advisers have joined Tshibaka's campaign, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is backing the nearly 20-year incumbent." And they note that the Alaska GOP senatorial primary puts Republican senators and the National Republican Senatorial Committee "in an awkward position as they remain divided about the former president's role in the party" and "try to unify ahead of the 2022 midterms with control of Congress at stake."

In an interview with CNN, Tshibaka promoted the false claim that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election — in contrast to Murkowski, who acknowledged Joe Biden as the legitimate president-elect after the 2020 election.

Tshibaka told CNN, "We don't know the outcome of the 2020 election. In the 2020 election, there were questions raised in several states, and we're not allowed to look into the questions of those allegations to see what actually happened. I still have questions, and I think millions of other Americans do too."

In fact, now-President Biden defeated Trump by more than seven million in the popular vote, and cybersecurity experts for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have stressed that the election was undeniably secure. Even former Attorney General Bill Barr, a Trump loyalist, said he saw no evidence of the type of widespread voter fraud that Trump alleged.

Raju and Rogers note, "There was no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, which President Joe Biden won resoundingly with 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232. And Trump and his allies' many lawsuits contesting the election were roundly rejected in court, including before conservative judges and the U.S. Supreme Court. But Tshibaka's willingness to cast doubt over the legitimacy of the election illustrates how those eager to win over the former president must adopt his baseless claims."

Voting to impeach Trump was not the first time Murkowski infuriated Trumpistas, who were disappointed when — along with Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona — she voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare. Trump loyalists have never forgiven Murkowski for helping Obamacare to survive or for voting against the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.

Murkowski has not officially announced that she will seek reelection in 2022, but she filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on March 9. And Tshibaka is obviously looking forward to taking on Murkowski in the primary.

Murkowski told CNN, "We'll see how much is invested in the sense of time and energy and resources by those that think that I should have been a more loyal Trump supporter."

House Republicans Launch ’Nakedly Nativist’ America First Caucus

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Although former President Donald Trump has been gone from the White House for almost three months, many far-right Republicans in Congress continue to push an equally nativist "America first" agenda — and Punchbowl News is reporting that some of Trump's Republican allies in the House of Representatives are putting together an "America First Caucus" based on "Anglo-Saxon political traditions."

According to Punchbowl, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona are "distributing materials" calling for a caucus that would express a "common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions." Punchbowl reports that according to an e-mail invitation it has obtained, House Republicans who have been invited to join the America First Caucus include Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Rep. Barry Moore of Alabama.

"We've been covering Congress for a long time, and this is some of the most nakedly nativist rhetoric we've ever seen," Punchbowl reports.

The e-mail, according to Punchbowl, is trying to recruit House Republicans who are willing to "follow in President Trump's footsteps." The pitch reads, "History has shown that societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en masse into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to positively contribute to the country."

Elections Daily's Eric Cunningham tweeted that even Gohmert found some of the anti-immigrant rhetoric in a description of the America First Caucus troubling:

Politico reporter Andrew Desiderio notes:

Fox Host Shocks By Praising Biden’s ‘Iconic’ Kindness And Empathy

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Fox News' Harris Faulker is great at reciting GOP talking points, like so many of her colleagues. But the conservative cable news host had something surprisingly nice to say on Tuesday about President Joe Biden — who she praised as "iconic" after he gave a speech in memory of Billy Evans, the Capitol Police officer killed during the April 2 attack in Washington, D.C.

Faukner told viewers, "We have just watched the president of the United States give his words, kindness, and empathy like he does so well. He's iconic at it. He is so present and so kind."

The Fox News host added, "He was speaking to the family of Officer Billy Evans and to (his) children to think ahead. In the future, those words will come into focus for them."

Faulkner's words come as a surprise in light of how much Biden is vilified by far-right Fox News pundits such as Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham. But then, not every conservative at Fox News has been consistently hostile to Biden. Fox News' Chris Wallace has interviewed Biden and members of his administration — including White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki — on his show, asking them tough questions but maintaining a polite, respectful tone.

Twitter has been full of reactions to Faulkner's comments. Here are some of them:

Biden Will Withdraw From Afghanistan By 9/11 Anniversary

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, intervening militarily in that country following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and fighting al-Qaeda's presence there. But President Joe Biden, according to the Wall Street Journal, is planning to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan before 9/11's 20th anniversary.

Wall Street Journal reporters Nancy A. Youssef and Gordon Lubold explain, "Mr. Biden is expected to formally announce the decision Wednesday, officials said, revising a Trump Administration plan for a withdrawal by May 1. The U.S. is coordinating the withdrawal with North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, which now contribute the bulk of forces to the conflict, officials said."

This withdrawal, according to the Journal''s sources, is a firm deadline rather than one that is subject to change depending on conditions.

A senior Biden Administration official, quoted anonymously, told WSJ, "The president has judged that a conditions-based approach that has been the approach of the last two decades is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever."

GOP Senators Abuse Power To Punish Major League Baseball

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah are proposing so-called "antitrust" legislation designed to punish Major-League Baseball for moving its 2021 All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado to protest the Peach State's new voter suppression law. And the far-right GOP senators are being slammed on Twitter for their grandstanding.

The GOP senators have said they want to "end MLB's special immunity from antitrust laws." MSNBC's Chris Hayes tweeted a response:

Here are some other responses to the senators' proposal:

Report: Chat Logs Show Greenberg ‘In A Panic’ Over FBI Investigation

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Unlike his ally Joel Greenberg — the Florida county tax collector who is facing federal sex trafficking charges — Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida hasn't yet been charged with federal crimes. Gaetz has vehemently denied suggestions that he was sexually involved with a 17-year-old girl, but that possibility is reported to be investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice. And a WhatsApp chat from August 14, 2020 that Politico has obtained information on sheds some light on the charges that Greenberg is facing.

According to Politico reporters Marc Caputo, Josh Gerstein, and Matt Dixon, Greenberg was part of that WhatsApp chat along with a Republican ally and was "in a panic" because he knew that "the feds were closing in."

"The Florida county tax collector was five days away from a federal indictment for sex trafficking involving a 17-year-old — the same one Gaetz is now being investigated over," the Politico reporters explain. "So, Greenberg reached out to mutual friends on August 14 last year and tried to enlist them in his defense, according to a WhatsApp chat shared with federal investigators and obtained by Politico."

In those WhatsApp messages, according to Caputo, Gerstein, and Dixon, Greenberg "fumed that the prosecutor should be fired. He suspected that a political consultant 'was the rat here'…. Greenberg also said he was paying the legal fees for the woman, who is now 20 years old."

Greenberg, the reporters note, "even went so far as to push Gaetz to use his influence with" then-President Donald Trump "for a pardon, according to two sources familiar with the discussions — including one who heard Greenberg say it repeatedly."

But Gaetz, according to Caputo, Gerstein and Dixon, has said that he didn't ask Trump to pardon Greenberg.

In that August 14, 2020 WhatsApp chat, Greenberg communicated with a Republican who the Politico reporters describe as "politically influential" and a "mutual friend" of Greenberg and Gaetz. That person discussed the chat with Politico, saying that Greenberg referred to the 17-year-old girl — who is an adult now — as "Vintage 99" during the chat.

Greenberg wrote, "I'm having to pay for vintage 99 to retain (a) lawyer. They (federal agents) contacted her and are wanting her to talk. She doesn't want to talk to them."

Caputo, Gerstein and Dixon note that "Vintage 99" does not want to talk to the media either, adding, "She blocked a Politico reporter on social media and her iPhone after she was called and texted to discuss the case Monday. Her attorney couldn't be reached. Politico is withholding her name because she is the alleged victim of a sex crime."

Nevada GOP Censures Republican Official For Certifying 2020 Election Results

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In Nevada, a southwestern state with a Democratic governor and two Democratic U.S. senators, Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske has maintained that now-President Joe Biden won the state fair and square in the 2020 presidential election — much to the chagrin of Nevada wingnuts. And now, the Nevada Republican Party has voted to censure Cegavske for accepting last year's legitimate election results.

In an official statement released on April 11, Cegavske lamented, "Regrettably, members of my own political party have decided to censure me simply because they are disappointed with the outcome of the 2020 election. While I have been loyal to the Nevada Republican Party during my over two decades as an elected official, I have been unwavering in my commitment to oversee elections and administer Nevada's election laws in a neutral, nonpartisan manner. My job is to carry out the duties of my office as enacted by the Nevada Legislature, not carry water for the state GOP or put my thumb on the scale of democracy. Unfortunately, members of my own party continue to believe the 2020 general election was wrought with fraud — and that somehow I had a part in it — despite a complete lack of evidence to support that belief."

The Associated Press' Michelle L. Prince reports that the Nevada Republican Party's vote to censure Cegavske passed on a 126-112 vote on April 10.

Republicans have suffered a series of disappointments in Nevada in recent years. Former Republican Sen. Dean Heller was voted out of office in 2018, which also saw Democrat Steve Sisolak winning the state's gubernatorial race. And in 2020, Biden defeated then-President Donald Trump and won Nevada's six electoral votes.

Gen. Flynn Repeatedly Took Foreign Payments Despite Official Warnings

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is among the many allies of Donald Trump who faced criminal charges and was granted a presidential pardon while the former president was still in the White House. Flynn's foreign interactions were a major source of controversy during the Trump years, and according to Guardian reporter Murray Waas, Flynn was warned about accepting foreign money even before Trump was elected president in 2016.

The office of the Defense Department's inspector general, Waas reports, "has uncovered evidence that Michael Flynn accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from foreign interests and governments, despite repeated warnings by the DoD and the Justice Department that his conduct might be illegal."

In 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. But Trump defended Flynn vigorously, claiming that his former national security adviser was a victim of political persecution from "the deep state."

"While pleading guilty in 2017," Waas explains, "Flynn also admitted to committing another crime: related to his acceptance of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the government of Turkey without registering with the Justice Department as an agent of a foreign government, which was required by law. Now, according to people familiar with the confidential findings of the recently completed IG investigation, The Guardian can reveal Flynn was warned years earlier that his acceptance of foreign money and his not registering as a foreign agent likely would be illegal."

Waas adds, "Moreover, Flynn's conduct occurred while he was a private citizen, long before Trump became president. Taken together, this appears to constitute powerful new evidence discrediting Trump and Flynn's claims of political persecution by those opposed to Trump's agenda."

Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign in 2015, and according to Waas' reporting, Flynn was first warned about accepting foreign money in 2014. Flynn resigned as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in August 2014.

"The new disclosures portray how a former military officer, despite his training to obey rules and orders, was instead driven by personal profit to break the law," Waas reports. "The Defense Intelligence Agency first warned Flynn, in an 8 October, 2014 letter, that his acceptance of foreign money might be a potential violation of federal law, as well as the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which similarly prohibits such foreign payments to government officials." In that letter, the DIA warned Flynn, "The Emoluments Clause.… as interpreted in Comptroller General opinions, and by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, prohibits receipt of consulting fees, gifts, travel expenses, honoraria, or salary by all retired military personnel" from foreign interests.

Flynn received another warning on November 30, 2016 — this time, from the Department of Justice. At issue was his work for a lobbyist for the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an authoritarian who has gone to great lengths to undermine the system of checks and balances in what was once one of the more democratic countries in the Middle East. Flynn, according to Waas, was warned that he might be violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938.

But despite that "warning not to take foreign money," Waas notes, Flynn "still accepted $45,000 from RT — a Kremlin-controlled media organization described by…. intelligence agencies as the 'Kremlin's principal international propaganda outlet' — $22,000 from other Russian interests, and $530,000 to serve as a lobbyist for Turkey. And despite the warning from the Justice Department, Flynn did not comply with the FARA statute."

Clark Cunningham, a professor at the Georgia State University College of Law and expert on the Constitution's Emoluments Clause, told The Guardian, "There is little doubt that money received by Flynn to lobby on behalf of the Turkish government or to promote Russian interests would be considered emoluments."

GOP Fundraisers Mimic Trump’s Deceptive Tactics To Swindle Donors

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Although former President Donald Trump has been gone from the White House since January 20, he continues to aggressively raise funds for his political operation. According to Never Trump conservative pundit Tim Miller, Trump's fundraising tactics are still as sleazy as they were when he was in the White House — and recent fundraising from the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to Miller, is just as bad.

In an article published by the website The Bulwark this week, Miller describes the NRCC's offers to join Trump's "new social media site" — which, Miller stresses, has yet to be created. The anti-Trump conservative notes that on Tuesday, he received a text message from the NRCC that read, "Friend request expiring in 10 minutes! Trump needs to know if you're joining his new social media site, Timothy. We won't ask again."

Miller explains, "For starters, Donald Trump has not started a new social media site yet, he's just talked about it…. But even if Trump Social does come into existence, the NRCC — which is a Republican Party committee not affiliated with Donald Trump — would have no operating control or ability to sign people up for this private enterprise. Which creates an ontological conundrum: Can an offer that doesn't exist expire in 10 minutes? "

The Never Trumper notes that he received these NRCC texts only a few days after the New York Times published a "bombshell" article by journalist Shane Goldmacher, who reported that Trump's campaign was repeatedly billing supporters who had only agreed to single contributions.

Miller observes, "The crux of the grift was the Trump campaign's deceptive e-mail practices which, among other things, chose to make recurring donations the default setting for supporters who were lured in by the campaign's hyperbolic and conspiratorial fundraising pitches. As a result, elderly Trump supporters on fixed incomes had their bank accounts depleted, causing their rent and utilities checks to bounce. Altogether the Trump campaign had to refund $122 million in online donations from their own supporters who had been duped."

In his Bulwark article, Miller also describes an NRCC text in which Trump supporters are insulted as "defectors" if they uncheck a box for recurring donations. That box reads, "If you UNCHECK this box, we will have to tell Trump you're a DEFECTOR & sided with the Dems…. Make this a monthly recurring donation."

The checkbox itself isn't even next to the phrase "recurring donation," leaving the effect of the checked box potentially unclear to many donors, some of whom may not be that familiar with computers. The Times report found that these types of tactics led to many more Trump donors seeking refunds and unintentionally giving more money — sometimes much more than they could possibly afford — than is common in political fundraising.

"I'm sure there's some formal legal difference between the NRCC tricking someone into signing up for a nonexistent social media site — and then having a default box opting them in to both double their pledged amount and make it recurring—and the criminal advance-fee scams made famous by the imaginary Nigerian princes," Miller writes. "But as a moral matter, the difference is awfully hard to suss out."

The NRCC has come under fire for opting people into making multiple donations, which many experts argue is manipulative and can border on fraud. The organization pushed back on some of the reporting, pointing out to Forbes that Democrats, too, have used in opt-out mechanisms to push donors into greater contributions. However, the examples provided appeared to show a much clearer choice between recurring donations and one-time donations and did not include the manipulative language calling one-time donors "defectors:

Chauvin Defense Seeks To Blame Witnesses, Not Cops, In Floyd's Death

The criminal trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin entered its seventh day on Tuesday, with the prosecution trying to show jurors that Chauvin used seriously excessive force constituting murder and manslaughter during the arrest of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 and Chauvin's defense attorney, Eric Nelson, arguing that he didn't. And one of Nelson's tactics during the trial has been claiming that bystanders wanted to intimidate Chauvin during the arrest.

Nelson, questioning Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, asked, "If they're cheering on and saying, 'Good job, officer,' that's one consideration, correct? But if they're saying, 'I'd slap the fuck out of you' or 'You're a pussy, you're a chump,' would that reasonably tend to rise alarm in a police officer?" And Mercil responded, "Yes, sir."

On cross-examination, however, the prosecution brought up the fact that some of the bystanders who witnessed Floyd's arrest weren't insulting Chauvin — they were pleading with him not to end Floyd's life when the officer had him pinned to the ground with his knee on his neck.

The prosecution asked Mercil, "And if they're saying, 'Get off him, you're killing him,' should the officer also take that into account and consider whether their actions need to be reassessed?"

The Recount, reporting on the trial on Twitter, noted that trying to blame witnesses for Floyd's death has been a recurring tactic with Nelson. On March 29, The Recount tweeted:

Nelson said the officers perceived the crowd watching Chauvin kneel on Floyd as a threat and that diverted "their attention from the care of Mr. Floyd."


DeSantis Favored Pharmacy Chain For Vaccines After $100K SuperPAC Donation

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Critics of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have often accused the far-right Republican of cronyism, and now —according to CBS News' 60 Minutes -- he is being scrutinized for the preference that pharmacies in Florida's Publix supermarket chain have been given when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines. Publix, 60 Minutes has reported, donated $100,000 to a Republican super-PAC that supports DeSantis, and Publix was chosen to distribute almost one-fourth of COVID-19 vaccines in the Sunshine State.

HuffPost reporter Mary Papenfuss notes that "the money trail" with Publix and the super-PAC "was one of several linking wealthy supporters of DeSantis to special vaccine access, whether it was a greenlight to boost business as a vaccine provider, or special access to getting the shots." Many "desperate Floridians," she points out, have been "scrambling for vaccination" while areas with "wealthy GOP contributors" are "almost always coming out on top."

Publix, however, insists that there is no connection between the donation to the GOP super-PAC and being chosen to administer so many COVID-19 vaccines in Florida.

Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat, has called for an investigation of "red carpet vaccine distribution" under DeSantis' watch. Papenfuss points out, "Fried cited reports that included nearly every individual over the age of 65 in Ocean Reef Club, a wealthy Key Largo enclave of GOP contributors, received vaccines by the middle of January. At the same time, people in most of the rest of the state were desperately scrambling to obtain vaccines."

At a press conference in March, Fried complained, "If this isn't public corruption, I don't know what is." And former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, in an official statement, said, "In Gov. DeSantis' Florida, money and power rule and everyone else is at the back of the line. This callous, cruel and compassionless policy makes 'Hunger Games' an apt metaphor."

Greene Pipes Up With ’Support Matt Gaetz’ As Scandal Swamps Him

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Although former President Donald Trump has been gone from the White House for over two months and Democrats control both the executive and judicial branches of the United States' federal government, Trump's grip on the Republican Party continues —and in the U.S. House of Representatives, one of the most Trumpian alliances is that of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. With the 38-year-old Gaetz facing allegations that he was sexually involved with a 17-year-old girl — allegations he has vehemently denied — Greene is rising to his defense just as he recently rose to hers.

Gaetz finds himself caught up in a broad sexual trafficking investigation being carried out by the U.S. Department of Justice. The far-right GOP congressman and devout Trump supporter is not the main target of the probe, but the allegation that he had a sexual relationship with an under-age girl and paid her to travel with him is one of the things the DOJ is investigating.

The brash and snarky Gaetz has alienated a lot of people on Capitol Hill, including fellow Republicans — and he has been quick to attack others in his party for being insufficiently devoted to Trump. But Greene, on March 31, proudly expressed her support for Gaetz.

The far-right congresswoman and QAnon supporter tweeted, "Remember all the conspiracy theories and lies like Trump/Russia collusion and propaganda that the media has spread around. Take it from me rumors and headlines don't equal truth. I stand with @mattgaetz."

Another far-right House Republican and Trump devotee who is standing by Gaetz is Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. Jordan, a Tea Party activist and co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, told CNN, "I believe Matt Gaetz."

The 46 year-old Greene is no stranger to controversy. In September 2020, she posted, on Facebook, an image of herself holding an AR-15 next to photos of progressive House Democrats Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib and called for "strong conservative Christians to go on the offense against these socialists who want to rip our country apart" — a post that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced as a "dangerous threat of violence."

Greene has a long history of making anti-Islam remarks. When Tlaib and Omar were elected to the House in 2018, for example, she described their victories as an example of "an Islamic invasion of our government."

In January 2019, Greene accused Pelosi of treason and called for her execution, saying, "A crime punishable by death is what treason is."

But despite all that, Gaetz defended Greene on March 19 when he posted:

One of the things that has kept the Gaetz/Greene alliance strong is their mutual support of Trump. After Trump lost to now-President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election by more than 7 million votes, both of them promoted the debunked conspiracy theory that he was robbed of a victory by widespread voter fraud. (She's also suffered a series of embarrassing disclosures about her colorful extramarital hijinks, though none that provoked a federal criminal investigation.)

Many Republicans are now distancing themselves from Gaetz. A GOP staffer, quoted anonymously, told the Daily Beast, "I don't think you'll find a lot of people who are desperate to keep him involved in Republican politics."

But Greene is an obvious exception, and their unholy alliance continues.

New Report Depicts Trump Voters As ‘Angry, Despondent, Powerless’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville, who has been married to conservative consultant Mary Matalin since 1993, has long said that in order to defeat Republicans, Democrats need to understand where their voters are coming from. That includes Donald Trump supporters, who Carville and fellow Democratic strategist Stan Greenberg examined via some focus groups in March.

Carville and Greenberg are the leaders of Democracy Corps, a Democratic polling/research organization. Although its primary goal is to help Democrats win elections, Democracy Corps sometimes studies GOP voters in order to determine why they vote the way they do — its Republican Party Project has been studying trends among the GOP electorate. And in March, Democracy Corps used focus groups to compare diehard Trump voters with "non-Trump conservatives and moderates."

In a March 26 report, Democracy Corps explained, "We conducted focus groups in March with Trump loyalists in Georgia and Wisconsin and Trump-aligned, non-Trump conservatives and moderates in suburban and rural Georgia, Ohio and Wisconsin. It took a long time to recruit these groups because Trump voters seemed particularly distrustful of outsiders right now, wary of being victimized, and avoided revealing their true position until in a Zoom room with all Trump voters — then, they let it all out."

Democracy Corps found that "the Trump loyalists and Trump-aligned were angry, but also, despondent, feeling powerless and uncertain they will become more involved in politics…. The Trump loyalists and the Trump-aligned are animated about government taking away their freedom and a cancel culture that leaves no place for White Americans and the fear they're losing 'their' country to non-Whites."

Democracy Corps also found that "Trump loyalists and the Trump- aligned" were "angered most of all by Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Antifa" and believe those movements "were responsible for a full year of violence in Democratic cities that put White people on the defensive — and was ignored by the media."

Meanwhile, Democracy Corps found "the non-Trump conservatives and moderates bloc" to be "marginally smaller but vocal in opposition to Trump's direction and animated by his alienation of non-Republicans, the extremism, the 2nd Amendment and guns, and role of government and more."

During the 2020 election, President Joe Biden enjoyed a broad range of support. Everyone from progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City to prominent conservatives like Cindy McCain, former Sen. Jeff Flake, and columnist Mona Charen endorsed him. But diehard Trump voters were bitterly disappointed that he lost the election, and Democracy Corps' focus groups found that they are in a state of total despair.

Democracy Corps explained, "They felt powerless to reverse these important national political decisions, and frustrated that their divided party failed to act with the same determination and unity as the Democrats. They believed Democrats were smarter, rigged the election, had a plan to grow their support, and stuck to their guns — unlike the fickle Republican leaders who gave up on Trump."

Democracy Corps found that the "Trump loyalist" voters didn't feel threatened by Biden himself the way they felt threatened by President Barack Obama — as Biden is a White male in his late seventies. But they viewed Biden as a puppet of the far left. Meanwhile, the "non-Trump conservatives and moderates" expressed a willingness to give Biden a chance.

"The moderates and non-Trump conservatives are just 30 percent of their party, but it makes clear how divided the Republican Party is," Democracy Corps explained. "They know they are a minority, but events since the 2020 election are forcing them to challenge Trump and his party."

Democracy Corps concluded its report on the focus groups by stressing that opponents of Trumpism need to understand the divisions among conservatives.

"Forestalling the worst scenarios and empowering those intent on marginalizing a Trump-dominated Republican Party begins with understanding its new factions and what motivates them," Democracy Corps concluded. "These first focus groups provide rich insights into an angry, despondent and divided party. And Democracy Corps hopes to use these groups and innovative survey methodologies to understand this Trump-dominated party and all its factions and provide its opponents with the tools they need to defeat it."

Barr Avoided Public Appearances With Gaetz After Sex Probe Began

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Rep. Matt Gaetz's name has been in the headlines a lot this week — not only in connection with an Axios report that he is considering leaving Congress to work as a pundit at Fox News competitor Newsmax TV, but also in connection with two federal criminal investigations. And an article written by reporters Matt Dixon and Betsy Woodruff Swan and published by Politico this week explains why former U.S. Attorney General William Barr avoided being seen in public with Gaetz at one point in 2020.

Gaetz is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of a broad sex trafficking probe, and one of the things being examined in that probe is allegations that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid her to travel with him across lines — which the congressman has vehemently denied. Gaetz has also claimed the FBI is investigating a related extortion plot that Gaetz and his father, former Florida State Senate President Don Gaetz, allege was organized by former federal prosecutor David McGee.

The Politico report points out that the investigation of Gaetz's conduct began under the Trump administration, undercutting allegations that it's driven merely by partisan bias.

In 2020, the Politico reporters add, "Then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr was briefed on the Gaetz probe and did not take issue with it, a source familiar with the matter told Politico. Barr and the Office of the Attorney General received multiple briefings on the Gaetz probe, beginning in the summer of 2020, a second person familiar with the probe said. They encouraged Florida prosecutors to move as quickly as they needed to and take whatever steps were appropriate."

According to Dixon and Swan, Barr even avoided attending a GOP event because of Rep. Gaetz's presence.

"The briefings were consistent with Barr's memo requiring notification to department leadership on probes of candidates," Dixon and Swan explain. "The briefing was important because — among other reasons — Barr didn't want to accidentally appear anywhere with Gaetz, the person said. At one point, Barr was scheduled for a meet-and-greet with Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee. But DOJ canceled his appearance at the event when they saw that Gaetz, a member of that committee, had RSVP'd for it."

Don Gaetz discussed the other federal investigation — the one involving the alleged extortion plot — with Politico. The older Gaetz told the publication, "The FBI asked me to try and get that information for Matt and an indication we would transfer money to Mr. David McGee."

However, Dixon and Swan note that that the older Gaetz did not specify "what information he was referring to." And Don Gaetz said that he was cooperating with the FBI during that investigation.

Politico quotes the older Gaetz as saying, "I said to the FBI, 'I'm willing to wear a wire and be cooperative,' but I was asked to say things that are not true to draw out an admission. I wanted there to be an understanding committed in writing that I'm working for the FBI and at their request, not operating on my own."

McGee, in an interview with the Daily Beast, said that the allegation that he was behind an extortion plot involving the Gaetz family is "completely, totally false."

‘I Witnessed A Murder’: Weeping Man Describes Floyd’s Death At Chauvin Trial

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer facing criminal charges in connection with George Floyd's death on May 25, 2020, is now underway. And one of the witnesses, Donald Williams, testified that he believed he was witnessing "a murder" that day.

The witness, who is Black, laid out, in graphic and disturbing detail, what he saw in Minneapolis when Floyd was being arrested by Chauvin and other police officers.

"You could see that he was going through tremendous pain, and you could see it in his face from the grunting," Williams testified. "You could see his eyes slowly rolling back in his head and him having his mouth open, wide open. He would slowly drool and slob and dryness on his mouth. You could see that he was trying to gasp for air, you know, trying to be able to breathe as he's down there — and trying to move his face side to side so he can, you know, I believe — I'm assuming, gasp for more air there."

Williams testified that as he was witnessing the events of May 25, 2020, he "was totally scared for my safety and people around me." And he testified, matter-of-factly, "I believe I witnessed a murder."

Williams recalled, "I felt the need to call the police on the police." And when he was asked if police were present during Floyd's arrest and why he didn't talk to them, he responded, "I believe that they didn't — I just — we just didn't have no connection. You know, I spoke to them, but not on a connection of a human being relationship."

During Williams' testimony, a recording of his call to 911 the day of Floyd's death was played in the courtroom. And Williams, during the recording, can be heard saying of Chauvin, "He just pretty much killed this guy that wasn't resisting arrest…. The man stopped breathing. He wasn't resisting arrest or nothing. He was already in handcuffs."

Watch the videos below:

Chauvin 2 www.youtube.com



Chauvin trial www.youtube.com