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Dr. Oz Abruptly Dumps His Pal Trump In General Election Rebranding

During the 2000s, television doctor Mehmet Oz was a self-described “moderate Republican” who compared himself to President Teddy Roosevelt and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — and when the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, was signed into law in 2010, he praised the universal health care systems in Switzerland and Germany. But that was before Oz, now 62, ran for a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania in the 2022 midterms, making a hard-right turn and bragged about an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

Having narrowly defeated fellow Republican David McCormick in Pennsylvania’s 2022 U.S. Senate primary, Oz is now up against the Democratic nominee, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, in the general election. And according to journalist Caleb Ecarma’s reporting in Vanity Fair on July 1, Oz fears that being too Trumpian will put him at a disadvantage against Fetterman — who had a 9% lead over him in a USA Today/Suffolk poll released in mid-June.

“In his closing pitch to Republicans voting in the Pennsylvania Senate primary last month,” Ecarma observes, “Mehmet Oz portrayed himself as pro-life, pro-police, pro-guns, and — most importantly — pro-Donald Trump. That message, along with a Trump endorsement, was enough for Oz to best his opponents in a contentious GOP primary. But since securing the party’s nomination in a recount three weeks ago, the TV doctor turned Senate hopeful has taken steps to distance himself from Trump in a general election rebrand that he hopes will win over independents and even ‘conservative Democrats.’”

Ecarma cites a post-primary appearance on Fox Business as an example of that “rebrand.” The television doctor told host Maria Bartiromo, “If you’re culturally a Democrat, God bless you, I’m with you. Come across, join us — we’ve got a big message and a big tent.”

But that is much different messaging from the primary, when Oz ran ads attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci — who he praised in the past — in order to woo the MAGA crowd. Now, hoping to defeat Fetterman in the general election, Oz is trying to avoid sound too MAGA and has removed “endorsed by Trump” from his campaign website.

“Of course, this shift is far from surprising,” Ecarma explains. “Given Pennsylvania’s status as a battleground state, Oz will have to make inroads with voters outside of Trump’s base to defeat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic Party’s nominee in the race, and fill outgoing Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat.”

According to Pennsylvania-based Democratic strategist Mike Mikus, Oz risks offending Trump loyalists by playing to the center.

Mikus told Vanity Fair, “I understand why Oz is doing it, but you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. He’s known as Trump’s candidate even among casual voters. But he’s playing with fire. To say that Donald Trump demands absolute loyalty is an understatement, and this actually has the potential to turn Trump against him.”

Trump loyalist Sebastian Gorka is already slamming Oz for distancing himself from Trump after winning the primary. One June 22, Gorka tweeted:

That same day, far-right pundit Jack Posobiec pointed out that Oz had removed “endorsed by Trump” from his campaign website:

Mark Nevins, a Democratic strategist based in Philadelphia, argues that Pennsylvania residents view Oz as an outsider. The television doctor bought a house in the Philly suburbs, but not until 2022.

Nevins told Vanity Fair, “The Trump branding issue is not necessarily Oz’s biggest problem. He has his own baggage, namely that I think most people here think he lives in New Jersey. I’m not sure people really see him as a Pennsylvania resident. If not for his celebrity status, I don’t think anybody would take him seriously.”

Oz has done a lot of flip-flopping over the years. For example, he went from calling for universal health care in the past to saying that he wants to overturn Obamacare. And Oz’s flip-flopping isn’t lost on Jack Doyle, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

Doyle told Vanity Fair, “Mehmet Oz is a scam artist and a fraud who isn’t from Pennsylvania and doesn’t care about our values, but will say whatever he needs to in order to get ahead. At this point, he’s been on every side of every issue there is, and Pennsylvania voters know they can’t trust him.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Lauren Boebert's Gun-Nut Grill Is Getting Evicted

For far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, owning a gun-themed restaurant called Shooters Grill has been a major promotional tool among fellow MAGA Republicans and members of the National Rifle Association (NRA). But according to Daily Beast reporter Roger Sollenberger, Boebert’s promotional tool may be in trouble: Sollenberger reports that Boebert’s restaurant is “facing an uncertain” future now that the new landlord of the property she has been renting has announced that he won’t be renewing her lease.

In an article published by the Beast on June 23, Sollenberger describes the property’s new landlord as a “marijuana retailer.”

“As it stands, the landlord has told Boebert he will revoke the restaurant’s lease at the end of August, and send Shooters packing,” Sollenberger reports. “The rest is up in the air. Boebert told The Daily Beast that she and her husband, Jayson Boebert, had been surprised to receive the notice last week announcing that their lease would not be renewed. The building’s ownership changed hands last month, she said, and now, Shooters would either have to find new digs or shut down for good.”

Sollenberger continues, “But the day after that notice arrived, an anti-Boebert political group somehow got word that the timeline was even tighter than that — two weeks, the group said, putting the possible ouster just days before Republicans hit the polls for primary day.”

Boebert’s far-right admirers in the MAGA movement have praised her for owning a restaurant, saying it shows that she isn’t part of the Washington, D.C. “elite.” But these are the same MAGA Republicans who have attacked progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City for having once worked as a bartender — a line of attack that was dumb even by MAGA standards. According to that MAGA logic, or lack thereof, owning a restaurant is respectable but tending bar is not.

Sollenberger notes that as of June 23, the Shooters Grill website is down — and that Boebert “didn’t explain exactly why her business was being kicked out” when interviewed by the Beast. According to Sollenberger, Boebert was undecided on how she would respond to the eviction.

“Boebert told The Daily Beast, at one point, that she and her husband were ‘at peace’ with ending their run, and did not plan to fight the order,” Sollenberger reports. “But as the plot thickened politically, she bought some time. Now, she says she’s entertaining two contradictory options: the original shutdown plan, or buying the building outright from the new owners. She won’t say which she and her husband are choosing until after the primary.”

Boebert’s far-right admirers in the MAGA movement have praised her for owning a restaurant, saying it shows that she isn’t part of the Washington, D.C. “elite.” But these are the same MAGA Republicans who have attacked progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City for having once worked as a bartender — a line of attack that was dumb even by MAGA standards. According to that MAGA logic, or lack thereof, owning a restaurant is respectable but tending bar is not.

Sollenberger notes that as of June 23, the Shooters Grill website is down — and that Boebert “didn’t explain exactly why her business was being kicked out” when interviewed by the Beast. According to Sollenberger, Boebert was undecided on how she would respond to the eviction.

“Boebert told The Daily Beast, at one point, that she and her husband were ‘at peace’ with ending their run, and did not plan to fight the order,” Sollenberger reports. “But as the plot thickened politically, she bought some time. Now, she says she’s entertaining two contradictory options: the original shutdown plan, or buying the building outright from the new owners. She won’t say which she and her husband are choosing until after the primary.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

How QAnon Smears Honest Republicans As ‘Pedophiles’

On Tuesday, June 21, Rusty Bowers — the conservative Republican who serves as speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives — testified at one of the hearings being held by the January 6 select committee. Bowers recalled his refusal to promote the Big Lie following the 2020 presidential election and the abuse from MAGA extremists that he suffered because of it — abuse that included being falsely accused of being a “pedophile.”

Journalist Ali Breland, in an article published by Mother Jones on June 21, points to Bowers’ experiences as a prime example of the type of tactics that QAnon extremists and far-right conspiracy theorists will resort to if a politician stands up to former President Donald Trump and the MAGA movement in any way. And Breland emphasizes that QAnon won’t hesitate to go after Republicans as well as Democrats.

“For years, ‘pedophile,’ often shortened to ‘pedo,’ was used as semi-ironic 4Chan shorthand for anyone internet trolls thought was a weirdo,” Breland explains. “More recently, QAnon’s misplaced ‘save the children’ paranoia has helped this sentiment germinate among the non-4Chan normie masses. For a bit, the pedophile accusations were reserved for elite, liberal gatekeepers — the high-profile Democrats featured in John Podesta’s hacked e-mails, for example. But now, literally anyone who stands even slightly in the way of the right’s agenda might be called a pedophile.”

Breland continues, “Testifying Tuesday before the January 6 committee, Rusty Bowers — the Republican speaker of the Arizona Statehouse — somberly explained how this happened to him after he refused to help Donald Trump overturn Joe Biden’s victory in that state. In response, right-wing protesters began showing up at his home, where he lives with his wife and daughter.”

Bowers is a prime example of the fact that QAnon extremists will not cut a politician any slack simply because they are a conservative Republican. If they consider them disloyal to the MAGA movement or a RINO (Republican In Name Only), they are a target for a false accusation of pedophilia. And Bowers has not been a Never Trumper.

“These kinds of often-unfounded accusations have become increasingly common weapons wielded by conspiratorial right-wingers who believe the election was stolen from Trump,” Breland observes. “But they also fit into a longstanding framework of weaponizing children as a part of far-right political projects. In 2019, while QAnon was gaining steam but had not yet gone fully mainstream, I wrote about the history of political movements baselessly portraying children as being in grave danger, as in the moral and Satanic panics of the 1980s.”

Breland notes that QAnon’s influence asserted itself this year when Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri made “attempts to smear Biden’s Supreme Court Justice nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, as a pedophile sympathizer.”

QAnon believes that the United States’ federal government has been hijacked by a sinister international cabal of pedophiles, child sex traffickers, Satanists and cannibals and that Trump was elected president in 2016 to fight the cabal. And QAnon, Breland warns, has “normalized” such thinking.

“QAnon, and the ‘80s moral panics that preceded it, established a more elaborate and convoluted mythos,” Breland writes. “Children were being kept in tunnels for a sprawling child sex trafficking ring run by elite pedophiles, and the proof was sitting in plain sight for anyone willing to do the research. This has become so normalized that people attacking Bowers might not even waste their time concocting fabulous stories. They just cut straight to the chase and call him a pedophile. They don’t explain any further, because they don’t need to.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

GOP Sabotage Of New Mexico Elections Is A Warning To America

Defenders of U.S. democracy, from liberals and progressives to Never Trump conservatives, have been warning that if “Stop the Steal” MAGA Republicans and promoters of the Big Lie are able to take control of the administration of elections, they will simply throw out any election results they don’t like — which is what they brazenly attempted after the 2020 presidential election. And sure enough, MAGA Republicans in a rural county in New Mexico recently tried to do exactly that.

The county is Otero County, where MAGA Republicans on the country commission refused to certify recent election results — saying that they don’t trust the Dominion voting machines in their area. Legal experts Laurence Tribe and Dennis Aftergut, in an op-ed published by CNN’s website on January 20, warn that this is the type of power grab and attack on democracy to expect from MAGA Republicans in the months ahead.

“The commissioners had evidently fallen hook, line and sinker for the completely debunked 2020 election conspiracy theory spread by Trump and his acolyte, lawyer Sidney Powell, that Dominion Voting Systems' machines secretly switched votes from Trump to Joe Biden,” Tribe and Aftergut explain. “On Wednesday, (June 15), the New Mexico Supreme Court ordered the commission to reverse course and certify the June 7 election results.”

Tribe and Aftergut add, “That's the good news. Courts — at least those below the U.S. Supreme Court — continue to be reliable institutions affirming truth and the rule of law. The bad news is that judges are unlikely to be able to sustain the heavy burden required to extinguish the disinformation wildfires that have now spread to the election certification process. Republican election sabotage, in which GOP officials refuse to certify the winners, has started.”

The legal experts point to Otero County as proof that “Republican election sabotage in which GOP officials refuse to certify the winners has started.”

Tribe and Aftergut point to Jim Marchant, who won the GOP primary for Nevada secretary of state on June 14, as an example of the type of Republican who would refuse to honor election results he didn’t like.

“Marchant says he would not have certified Joe Biden's 2020 Nevada victory,” Tribe and Aftergut observe. “And he has said he is open to sending to Congress a slate of electors in 2024 who would not vote for Nevada's popular vote winner.”

To make matters worse, they observe, some right-wing justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are open to hearing a case involving the Independent State Legislature Theory.

“The anti-democracy premise of ISL is that state legislatures can do whatever they want in federal elections, including ignoring the winner of the state's popular vote,” Tribe and Aftergut note. “The ISL theory is pockmarked with legal holes, as law professors Vikram David Amar and Akhil Amar have ably demonstrated in multiple articles. But if you think that will stop the Court majority from favoring legislatures' ability to destroy majority rule, think again. Over the last decade, the conservative majority has given Republican-controlled legislatures carte blanche to adopt measures suppressing the voting rights of Blacks and other large blocs of voters.”

Tribe and Aftergut conclude their op-ed by warning that Otero County won’t be MAGA Republicans’ last attempt to throw out democratic election results.

“We just saw in New Mexico how broadly the disinformation fueling the conspiracy has spread,” they write. “Only We The People can stop it.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Federal Court Strikes Down Alex Jones’ Bankruptcy Petition

Far-right conspiracy theorist and Infowars host Alex Jones has tried to paint himself as a martyr for both the First Amendment and the Seconnd Amendment, but the courts haven’t agreed — finding that he crossed a line by bullying families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims and claiming that they were part of a “false flag” operation. Now Jones has suffered another legal defeat, this time involving his bankruptcy claims.

On Friday, June 10 in Texas, according to the Associated Press, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez dismissed a bankruptcy protection case involving three companies that Jones controls: InfoW LLC, Prison Planet TV and IW Health.

“The judge's action allows the parents' defamation lawsuits against Jones to continue in Texas and Connecticut, where trials are pending on how much he should pay families after judges in both states found Jones and his companies liable for damages,” AP reports. “The families' lawsuits say they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones' followers because of the hoax conspiracy. Jones, based in Austin, Texas, has since said he believes the shooting did occur.”

The Sandy Hook tragedy occurred in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, when gunman Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people — 20 of them children — before killing himself. Jones, on his show, pushed the nonsense conspiracy theory that the Sandy Hook massacre was a false flag operation designed to attack the Second Amendment rights of gun owners. And the families of the victims suffered a great deal of abuse, according to the defamation lawsuits against Jones, when his followers took his baseless claims seriously.

Earlier this year, Jones agreed to a settlement in the lawsuit from relatives of children who were killed in the Sandy Hook massacre, saying he would pay $120,000 per plaintiff — an offer that they rejected.

InfoW LLC, Prison Planet TV and IW Health filed for bankruptcy protection on April 17. Never Trump conservative Jonathan V. Last, in an article published by The Bulwark on April 30, slammed Jones’ bankruptcy filing as a sleazy maneuver designed to protect his net worth.

AP notes that although the Sandy Hook families recently agreed to drop InfoW LLC, Prison Planet TV and IW Health from their defamation lawsuits, the “lawsuits will continue against Jones himself and his largest moneymaking company, Free Speech Systems.”

According to AP, “The families and the U.S. Trustee’s Office — a Justice Department agency that oversees bankruptcy cases — had questioned the legitimacy of the three companies' bankruptcy filing and sought to throw out the case, saying it was only a tactic to delay the lawsuits. Jones' lawyers denied the allegations.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Voter Suppression Outfit Raised Millions — But Where Did The Money Go?

Long before the rise of Donald Trump’s MAGA movement — long before the Big Lie and the January 6, 2021 insurrection — True the Vote made voter suppression its top priority. Founded in Houston in 2009 by far-right Tea Party activist Catherine Engelbrecht, True the Vote has spent 13 years pushing the false narrative that voter fraud is widespread in Democratic areas. And True the Vote has raised millions of dollars with that narrative. But exactly how that money has been spent, according to Mother Jones reporter Cassandra Jaramillo, remains a mystery.

“A review of thousands of pages of documents from state filings, tax returns, and court records…. paints the picture of an organization that enriches Engelbrecht and partner Gregg Phillips rather than actually rooting out any fraud,” Jaramillo reports in an article published on June 8. “According to the documents, True the Vote has given questionable loans to Engelbrecht and has a history of awarding contracts to companies run by Engelbrecht and Phillips.

Within days of receiving $2.5 million from a donor to stop the certification of the 2020 election, True the Vote distributed much of the money to a company owned by Phillips, (attorney James) Bopp’s law firm, and Engelbrecht directly for a campaign that quickly fizzled out.”

True the Vote, according to Jaramillo, has “engaged in a series of questionable transactions that sent more than $1 million combined to its founder, a longtime board member romantically linked to the founder, and the group’s general counsel, an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.”

True the Vote has a shameful history. The group claims that its mission is to “prevent voter fraud,” but its real mission is making it more difficult to vote — especially if one is African-American. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California has been a vehement critic of True the Vote’s efforts to discourage African-Americans and Latinos from voting, saying that a more accurate name for the group would be “Stop the Vote.”

Nonetheless, True the Vote’s voter suppression efforts have made Engelbrecht a star in the MAGA movement and the right-wing media.

“A former PTA mom-turned-Tea Party activist, True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht has played a pivotal role in helping drive the voter fraud movement from the political fringes to a central pillar in the Republican Party’s ideology,” Jaramillo observes. “Casting herself as a God-fearing, small-town Texan, she’s spread the voter-fraud gospel by commanding airtime on cable television, space on the pages of Breitbart News, and even theater seats, as a new feature film dramatizing her organization’s exploits, 2000 Mules, plays in cinemas across the country.”

A "documentary" by far-right conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza, 2000 Mules claims to offer proof that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump. But the movie proves nothing, and D’Souza’s sloppy reporting has drawn widespread criticism. Never Trump conservative Amanda Carpenter, for example, has slammed 2000 Mules as a badly done, embarrassing cash grab on D’Souza’s part.

According to Jaramillo, Reveal’s findings don’t look good for True the Vote.

“The records show: True the Vote regularly reported loans to Engelbrecht, including more than $113,000 in 2019, according to a tax filing,” Jaramillo notes. “Texas law bans nonprofits from loaning money to directors; Engelbrecht is both a director and an employee.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Video Reveals RNC Scheme To Disrupt Vote In Democratic Precincts

With President Joe Biden continuing to suffer from weak approval ratings and voters expressing considerable frustration over inflation, Democratic strategists fear that the 2022 midterms could bring a major red wave like the red waves of 1994 and 2010. To make matters worse, Republicans have been ramping up their voter suppression campaign. And according to reporting from journalist Heidi Przybyla in Politico, part of the GOP game plan is looking for ways to challenge votes in Democratic-leaning areas.

Politico, Przybyla reports, has obtained “video recordings” of “Republican Party operatives meeting with grassroots activists” that “provide an inside look at a multi-pronged strategy to target and potentially overturn votes in Democratic precincts.” The plan, according to Przybyla, is to “install trained recruits as regular poll workers and put them in direct contact with party attorneys.”

Przybyla writes, “The plan, as outlined by a Republican National Committee staffer in Michigan, includes utilizing rules designed to provide political balance among poll workers to install party-trained volunteers prepared to challenge voters at Democratic-majority polling places, developing a website to connect those workers to local lawyers and establishing a network of party-friendly district attorneys who could intervene to block vote counts at certain precincts.”

The RNC staffer in Michigan that Przybyla is referring to is Matthew Seifried. In a recording of a training session held on October 5, 2021, Seifried told his colleagues, “Being a poll worker, you just have so many more rights and things you can do to stop something than (as) a poll challenger…. It’s going to be an army. We’re going to have more lawyers than we’ve ever recruited, because let’s be honest, that’s where it’s going to be fought, right?”

Seifried, according to Przybyla, “also said the RNC will hold ‘workshops’ and equip poll workers with a hotline and website developed by Zendesk, a software support company used by online retailers, which will allow them to live-chat with party attorneys on Election Day.”

Przybyla notes that “election watchdog groups and legal experts say many of these recruits are answering the RNC’s call because they falsely believe fraud was committed in the 2020 election.”

Nick Penniman, founder and CEO of the election watchdog group Issue One, told Politico, “This is completely unprecedented in the history of American elections that a political party would be working at this granular level to put a network together. It looks like now, the Trump forces are going directly after the legal system itself — and that should concern everyone.”

Penniman believes that the RNC strategy is to “create massive failure of certification” in Democratic precincts.

“The real hope is that you can throw the choosing of electors to state legislatures,” Penniman told Politico.

Law professor Rick Hasen, an expert on election law who also teaches political science professor at the University of California, Irvine, is quite critical of the RNC plan to install poll workers in heavily Democratic precincts.

Hasen told Politico, “You shouldn’t have poll workers who are reporting to political organizations what they see. It creates the potential for mucking things up at polling places and potentially leading to delays or disenfranchisement of voters.”

That is especially true, Hasen added, “if (the poll workers) come in with the attitude that something is crooked with how elections are run.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Rated A+ By NRA, Stefanik Is Married To Major Gun Lobbyist

Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York State, now the third highest-ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, has an A+ rating with the National Rifle Association (NRA). Stefanik has not been shy about echoing NRA talking points, and the GOP congresswoman is not the only gun industry ally in her family.

Stefanik’s husband Matthew Manda, according to Albany Times Union reporter Wendy Liberatore, is public affairs manager for the Newtown, Connecticut-based National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) — and he was one of the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit that is trying to block a New York State law that increases potential liability for gun manufacturers.

Manda, Liberatore notes, “frequently writes for the NSSF website and other outlets about the group’s events and policy stances.”

In April, the NSSF hosted a “Congressional Fly-In” event in Washington, D.C. that, Manda wrote, included “dozens of firearm, ammunition and accessories industry leaders who spoke face-to-face with elected officials.” One of those officials was Stefanik.

Liberatore reports, “When the Times Union called Alex deGrasse, a Stefanik adviser and frequent campaign spokesman, to ask if Manda’s work influences Stefanik’s stance on gun rights, deGrasse called the reporter ‘a very sick person.’ He then sent an e-mail calling the Times Union ‘sexist.’”

DeGrasse, according to Liberatore, wrote, “The Times Union is stooping to another new low and attacking her husband. You should ask both current Democrat challenger candidates what their positions are on Democrats’ gun control proposals.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Trump Doubles Down On Ousting Liz Cheney After Primary Defeats

On Tuesday, May 24, former President Donald Trump suffered humiliating defeats when two Republicans he was backing in Georgia lost GOP primary races by double digits. After that embarrassment, journalists David Weigel and Josh Dawsey emphasize in an article published by the Washington Post, Trump is focusing on his campaign to oust Rep. Liz Cheney via a GOP congressional primary in Wyoming.

Former Sen. David Perdue, campaigning on the Big Lie and falsely claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump, lost to conservative incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp by a brutal 52 percent. Rep. Jody Hice’s loss to incumbent Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger wasn’t that harsh, but it was bad enough: Hice lost by 19 percent.

On Memorial Day Weekend, Trump headed to Wyoming to campaign for attorney Harriet Hageman — one of Cheney’s primary challengers. That election will be held on August 16.

“His crusade was dealt a major blow last week in Georgia, where Republican primary voters overwhelmingly renominated Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger over candidates the former president vigorously supported,” Weigel and Josh Dawsey explain. “Those losses followed a spotty record in earlier races that included high-profile defeats of his preferred candidates in Idaho, Nebraska and North Carolina. In Pennsylvania, the candidate Trump endorsed for U.S. Senate is in a recount. Taken together, the results have raised questions in the party about his influence.”

The Trump-backed Pennsylvania candidate that Weigel and Dawsey are referring to is Dr. Mehmet Oz, who appears to have defeated hedge fund executive Dave McCormick in the Keystone State’s 2022 U.S. Senate primary — but just barely. After all of the state’s counties reported their unofficial results, Oz led McCormick by only 902 votes, according to CNN. And Pennsylvania Secretary of State Leigh Chapman has ordered a recount.

Weigel and Dawsey describe a Saturday, May 28 rally in Caspar, Wyoming as “a moment the former president and his movement used to regroup.” Trump angrily railed against Cheney at that event, associating the arch-conservative congresswoman and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney with the “failed foreign policy of the Clintons, Bushes, the Obamas and the Bidens” and telling the crowd, “Liz Cheney is about America last.”

The Post reporters observe, “The August 16 primary in Wyoming is shaping up as the next big test of Trump’s effort to unseat Republican elected officials who have been critical of him and who fought his falsehood-ridden attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election…. After failing to oust Republicans in Georgia who had rebuffed his attempts to subvert the election, Trump was pivoting to a campaign with better odds of success, due to a strong anti-Cheney sentiment in the Republican ranks in Wyoming.”

Cheney, as Weigel and Dawsey point out, has been campaigning on “the rule of law.”

“Unlike in Georgia, where Kemp and Raffensperger ran more nuanced campaigns when it came to addressing Trump, Cheney — a three-term congresswoman who has raised more than $10 million for her reelection campaign — has been unapologetic about opposing the 45th president, even as local Republicans have condemned her,” the reporters note.

Conservative pundit Rich Lowry, in an op-ed published by the New York Post on May 27, stresses that there is no getting around just how embarrassing Kemp and Raffensperger’s victories in Georgia are for Trump. Lowry’s op-ed is headlined “Trump’s Humiliation in Georgia Was Even Worse Than You Know.”

“If Trump had been rationally calculating his interests,” Lowry argues, “he would have thought twice about making his signature project in the 2022 primary season a challenge to an entrenched, politically shrewd governor. Instead, he pulled the strings to create a statewide vengeance slate challenging everyone from Kemp on down…. Republican primary voters in Georgia clearly favored moving beyond an all-consuming focus on 2020 and opposed Trump continuing to make the state his political plaything.”

Lowry uses a Wyatt Earp analogy to mock Trump in his op-ed.

“Like Wyatt Earp after the gunfight at the OK Corral,” Lowry writes, “Donald Trump and his allies mounted up for a vendetta ride in Georgia. Unlike Earp and his posse, though, Trump didn’t get his man or any of his confederates, and Gov. Brian Kemp and Co. didn’t even have to leave the territory.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Abbott Attended Campaign Fundraiser Hours After Uvalde Massacre

Less than two weeks after a gunman fatally shot ten people in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, the United States suffered yet another mass shooting when, on Tuesday, May 24, a gunman killed at least 21 people in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas — including 19 children. And hours after that massacre, according to the Dallas Morning News, Gov. Greg Abbott attended a campaign fundraising event in East Texas.

The event was held at a time when other Texas officials were canceling similar events because of the Uvalde tragedy. Abbott, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump and is seeking a third term, recently defeated challengers in Texas’ 2022 GOP gubernatorial primary — and he is now competing with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman and 2020 presidential candidate, in the general election.

In an official statement on Wednesday, May 25, Mark Miner — a spokesman for Abbott’s reelection campaign — announced, “All campaign and political activity, including a scheduled fundraiser for this evening, have (been) postponed until further notice.” But Miner, according to Dallas Morning News reporter Allie Morris, “did not answer questions about” why Abbott “went ahead with the East Texas event.”

“Jeff Bradley of Huntsville confirmed hosting the fundraiser for Abbott, but offered no further details,” Morris reports. “It’s not clear who was in attendance or how long the event lasted. The governor showed up after holding a press conference in Abilene, where he briefed the public on wildfires in the area and the shooting.”

O’Rourke has been highly critical of Abbott’s response to the Uvalde tragedy. At a press conference on May 25, O’Rourke told him, “Gov. Abbott, I have to say something…. The time to stop the next shooting is right now, and you are doing nothing.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

D’Souza’s ‘Big Lie’ Movie Is So Bad Fox Won’t Promote It

Sixteen months into Joe Biden’s presidency, far-right pundit and conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza continues to shamelessly promote the Big Lie and falsely claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump — a claim that the 61-year-old D’Souza makes in his new documentary “2000 Mules.” Journalist Anthony L. Fisher critiques “2000 Mules” in a scathing op-ed published by the Daily Beast on May 19, arguing that D’Souza’s documentary is so sloppy and badly done that even Fox News and Newsmax have ignored it.

“The new documentary 2000 Mules, a Dinesh D’Souza joint, is barely more credible than your average rando conspiracy theory video on YouTube, but its production values attach to it a superficial seriousness,” Fisher explains. “The film’s intended audience will see a rational ‘just asking questions’ kinda guy, D’Souza, talking with some ideological allies — like Charlie Kirk, Dennis Prager, Sebastian Gorka, and Larry Elder — who are merely concerned about voter integrity in the America they love.”

Fisher continues, “But the bulk of the film consists of D’Souza’s highly dramatized explainer sessions with a couple of technological ‘experts,’ also credited as executive producers, whose claims that they’ve used geo-tracking data to uncover thousands of vote-harvesting mules fall apart under the barest of scrutiny. Surveillance footage of people taking selfies after dropping their votes in dropboxes is presented as ‘A-ha!’ evidence — while ignoring the fact that people taking voter selfies was a mundanely common thing to do in 2020, and for quite a few years prior.”

According to Fisher, 2000 Mules suffers from “relentless repetition of innuendo” and “almost no verifiable facts.” D’Souza, Fisher notes, complains about Republicans who want to move on from the 2020 election and slams them as cowards.

“D’Souza’s whining extends beyond the film itself, and into coverage of the film,” Fisher observes. “Or in the case of Fox News and Newsmax, the lack of coverage around 2000 Mules — likely because both networks have already been sued for pushing potentially slanderous Big Lie accusations against voting technology companies. D’Souza’s white knight, Donald Trump, came to the film’s defense when he slammed Fox for ignoring ‘the greatest & most impactful documentary of our time.’ But even a Trump-supporting right-wing fire-breather like Ben Shapiro can’t bring himself to say D’Souza made a persuasive case with 2000 Mules, because the film’s central thesis simply isn’t backed by any supporting evidence — much less an overwhelming amount of verifiable, unimpeachable data.”

Someone who doesn’t already buy into the Big Lie, Fisher stresses, won’t change their mind because of 2000 Mules.

“The film isn’t meant to persuade anyone, it’s meant to reinforce the already passionate certainty in people who believe in something that simply does not exist,” Fisher writes. “It is a vile piece of agitprop, pushing a falsehood that could very well tear our country apart. It’s also a very stupid movie, packaged as smart, fearless muckraking. In a sense, it’s a 90-minute safe space for MAGA snowflakes who can’t accept the fact that their hero is a loser.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Pennsylvania GOP Nominates ‘Full-Blown Insurrectionist’ For Governor

In Pennsylvania’s 2022 GOP gubernatorial primary, Republican voters in the Keystone State went with their most extreme option: Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Christian nationalist and far-right conspiracy theorist who has promoted the Big Lie and falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump in his state. The primary election, held on Tuesday, May 17, wasn’t even close: Mastriano defeated fellow Republican Lou Barletta by 24 percent and will be going up against Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro in the general election.

Mastriano’s primary victory is being described as a troubling development by a variety of his critics, ranging from liberal Washington Post opinion columnist Greg Sargent to Never Trump conservative Amanda Carpenter. Sargent, in his May 18 column, stresses that Pennsylvania Republicans went with a flat-out “insurrectionist” when they chose Mastriano.

Sargent has been complaining that mainstream media coverage of Mastriano fails to capture just how dangerously authoritarian his views are. And now that Mastriano is officially Pennsylvania’s 2022 gubernatorial nominee, Sargent is sounding the alarm even more.

Pennsylvania has had a variety of governors in recent decades, from Republican Tom Ridge (a moderate conservative and Never Trumper who was popular in the Philadelphia suburbs during his two terms) to centrist Democrats such as Ed Rendell (a former two-term Philly mayor who chaired the Democratic National Committee in the early 2000s) and the late Bob Casey, Sr. (father of Sen. Bob Casey, Jr.). But if Mastriano defeats Shapiro in the general election, the Keystone State will have a dangerously authoritarian governor who is way to the right of even former Sen. Rick Santorum.

“For the love of democracy, please stop using the phrase ‘election denier,’” Sargent writes. “Now that Doug Mastriano has won the GOP nomination for governor in Pennsylvania, countless news accounts are describing him with that phrase. This is meant to convey the idea that Mastriano won’t accept Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential reelection loss.”

Sargent continues, “That’s true, but it’s insufficient. Let’s state this plainly: Pennsylvania Republicans just nominated a full-blown insurrectionist who intends to use the power of the office to ensure that, as long as he is governor, no Democratic presidential candidate wins his state again.”

The Post columnist also points out that “Christian nationalism” is a key element of Mastriano’s ideology. In other words, Mastriano believes that God Almighty wants him to throw out election results if they favor Democrats.

“Mastriano’s victory also highlights another story that’s bigger than this one contest: the role of Christian nationalism in fueling the growing insurrectionist streak on the right,” Sargent explains. “This nexus underscores the danger this movement poses in a way that also demands more clarity about the worldview of candidates like Mastriano.”

Sargent adds that Mastriano “is running on what is functionally an open vow to use the power of the governor’s office to nullify future election losses, even if they are procedurally legitimate, and even if he knows this to be the case.”

“When Mastriano tried to help Trump in 2020,” Sargent notes, “he adopted the radical argument that the Pennsylvania legislature had the ‘sole authority’ to reappoint new electors for Trump, because (Joe) Biden’s win was ‘compromised.’ Mastriano’s claim of a ‘compromised’ Biden win, of course, wasn’t tethered to actual facts. But here’s the crucial point: It didn’t have to be. The aim of overturning the election was itself such a righteous goal that the creation of a pretext for accomplishing it was justified on that basis.”

Meanwhile, in an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on Tuesday night after the Republican primary election was called for Mastriano, Carpenter declares, “Doug Mastriano is an insurrectionist, period.”

Sargent and Carpenter have their differences politically. While Sargent is liberal, Carpenter is among the Never Trumpers who has been condemning the MAGA movement from the right. But one thing they obviously agree on is that Mastriano is quite dangerous. Mastriano, Carpenter notes, “bused supporters to the Capitol on January 6, was photographed on the Capitol grounds, and ever since has sought to use his limited political powers as a Pennsylvania state senator to overturn the election.”

Carpenter points out that “behind the scenes, Republicans have fretted about Mastriano’s candidacy” — fearing that Shapiro would defeat him in the general election. And Shapiro himself, during the primary, said that Mastriano would be the easiest Republican primary candidate to defeat. But Carpenter isn’t so sure.

Carpenter writes, “Do you want to assume Mastriano is going to get shellacked by the super popular, likable, nice man that is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro? The same Shapiro that was so confident that he put out an ad during the GOP primary that looked like he was trying to boost Mastriano’s prospects with Trump voters?”

The conservative adds that in 2016, some pundits insisted that Donald Trump couldn’t defeat Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania. Indeed, the Biden campaign left nothing to chance in the Keystone State in 2020 because they remembered some famous last words from four years earlier: Trump can’t win in Pennsylvania.

Like Sargent, Carpenter points out that the Pennsylvania secretary of state position is chosen by the governor.

“Republicans are still willing to bet our democracy on someone else cleaning their own house for them,” Carpenter warns. “Oh, and keep in mind that in Pennsylvania, the secretary of the commonwealth — the top elections official — is appointed by the governor. Does anyone doubt that Mastriano would fill that position with someone willing to do whatever it takes to ensure Republicans win the state in 2024?”

Carpenter continues, “There’s an obvious lesson: Hoping that Democrats will solve the problems of the Republican Party has been a grave mistake. It’s not often countries get second chances. But if the GOP now gets behind insurrectionists like Mastriano, it’s January 6th forever. Which is exactly what Mastriano is campaigning on.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Behind The Sham Of Boebert’s ‘Small-Town Business Owner’ Image

Not unlike Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado is a far-right MAGA Republican who has gone out of her way to court controversy since being sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2021. The 35-year-old Boebert, a QAnon supporter and conspiracy theorist, is running on a pseudo-populist platform in her 2022 reelection campaign. But journalist Abigail Weinberg, in an article published by Mother Jones , demonstrates that Boebert’s image as a “straight-talking small-town business owner” is a sham.

“A close look at Boebert’s past reveals cracks in the narrative she’s built,” Weinberg explains. “And for several people who worked at her restaurant and know her personally, Boebert’s American dream has been more like a ‘nightmare.’”

Boebert owns Shooter’s Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado.

“Former Shooters employees tell me that, in the early years of Boebert’s fame, people visited the restaurant from across the country, and that the dining room was often packed with tourists on summer days,” Weinberg reports. “But they also say that the reality of working at Shooters was far removed from the lighthearted atmosphere shown on TV. In fact, five former Shooters employees tell me that Boebert frequently failed to pay her employees on time. Two of the former workers wished to remain anonymous because they feared retaliation; another did not want to be named and publicly associated with Boebert.”

A big part of Boebert’s hyper-MAGA narrative is that she had a tough working-class upbringing and that Democratic policies did nothing to help someone like her. But according to Weinberg’s sources, the Shooters owner has a history of not treating her employees well.

A former Shooters waitress told Weinberg, “The second the restaurant blew up, her head blew up — and it became something entirely different. And I got to meet a new version of her that is a monster.”

Weinberg reports, “Multiple employees say that they were paid in cash, either out of the register or from Boebert’s husband’s wallet, without any taxes deducted. While many workers were struggling to make ends meet, they say Boebert spent exorbitant sums on breast implants, private schooling for her sons, and a new Cadillac Escalade. They describe her as alternately absent, showing up only when news crews were at the restaurant, or demanding.”

Another former Shooters employee told Weinberg, “If she would come into the restaurant, everyone just knew we were just gonna have a bad day, because she would just walk around and nitpick.”

Josh Boyington, who worked as a cook at Shooters before leaving in 2017, alleges that Shooters was losing money in the late 2010s. Boyington told Weinberg, “Shooters don’t make no money. I left because I don’t even think we were topping $500 a day.”

Weinberg managed to get Boebert on the phone. But when the far-right MAGA congresswoman found out that Weinberg writes for Mother Jones, she hung up on her.

But Boyington was glad to talk to Weinberg, saying that while he agrees with many of Boebert’s right-wing views, he has issues with her as a person.

Boyington told Weinberg, “She’s an easy person to love if you don’t know her. It’s just, once you get to know her, you just don’t love her.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Florida Residents Sue DeSantis For Inflicting ‘Damage’ On Taxpayers

When Disney spoke out against Florida’s blatantly anti-gay and anti-trans “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Gov. Ron DeSantis retaliated by ending the special tax/business arrangement that Disney has had in the Orlando area for 55 years. DeSantis’ act of revenge, according to some economists, will cause economic hardship for residents of Osceola County and Orange County — as those counties will have to absorb Disney’s bond debt and can expect to pay higher property taxes (possibly, 25 percent higher). And three residents of Central Florida have filed a lawsuit against the state because of the economic pain DeSantis is inflicting on them.

DeSantis is insisting that Disney will pay the bond debt, not property owners in Osceola County and Orange County. But the three Florida taxpayers who filed the lawsuit, one from Orange County and two from Osceola County, obviously don’t believe him. And their lawsuit challenges the Florida bill that was signed into law by DeSantis and ended the Reedy Creek Improvement District and dissolved Disney’s special tax/business arrangement with the Sunshine State.

“In a lawsuit filed in federal court,” ClickOrlando’s Christie Zizo reports in an article published on May 4, “the plaintiffs say the bill should be declared unconstitutional because it violates taxpayers’ federal constitutional rights, and say the bill will lead to ‘significant injury to taxpayers.’ (In April), the Florida Legislature passed a law dissolving six special districts in the state, including the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The RCID governs Disney property, handles utilities, fire and EMS services, writes permits and takes out bonds to finance infrastructure projects.”

Zizo adds, “The lawsuit cites media reports featuring experts and political officials who say RCID’s $1 billion to $2 billion in bond debt will have to be absorbed by local governments, along with the cost to maintain utilities, infrastructure and other services that the RCID provides the area. That could mean higher taxes for county residents without the approval of those residents, which the suit alleges is a violation of Florida’s taxpayer bill of rights.”

The lawsuit describes DeSantis’ actions against Disney as an act of revenge and specifically mentions the Parental Rights in Education Act of 2022, a.k.a. the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which will go into effect on July 1.

The lawsuit reads, “It is without question that defendant Governor DeSantis intended to punish Disney for a 1st Amendment protected ground of free speech. Defendant’s violation of Disney’s 1st Amendment rights, directly resulted in a violation of plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment rights to due process of law.”

DeSantis, who narrowly defeated Democratic nominee and former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial race, is up for reelection in the 2022 midterms —and polling from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Cherry Communications released in early April indicated that he is likely to be reelected. That poll found that in hypothetical head-to-head matchups, DeSantis enjoyed double-digit leads over his potential Democratic challengers, including Rep. Charlie Crist (a former Florida governor and ex-Republican), Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, and Florida State Sen. Annette Taddeo.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Former Defense Chief Says Trump Wanted To 'Shoot' Unarmed Protesters

Mark T. Esper, who served as secretary of defense under President Donald Trump from June 2019 until November 2020 (when Trump fired him following the presidential election), looks back on his months in the White House in his new book, A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times. And one of the disturbing revelations in the book, according to Axios’ Mike Allen, is that Trump wanted to “shoot” unarmed protesters during the Summer of 2020.

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020 set off huge protests all over the world, including Washington, D.C. Trump’s response, according to Esper, was, “Can't you just shoot them? Just shoot them in the legs or something?”

In A Sacred Oath, due out May 10, Esper recalls that early June 2020 “was surreal, sitting in front of the Resolute desk, inside the Oval Office, with this idea weighing heavily in the air, and the president red faced and complaining loudly about the protests under way in Washington, D.C.”

Esper writes, “The good news — this wasn't a difficult decision. The bad news — I had to figure out a way to walk Trump back without creating the mess I was trying to avoid.”

Allen notes, “Esper enraged Trump by publicly stating, in June 2020, that he opposed invoking the Insurrection Act — an 1807 law that permits the president to use active-duty troops on U.S. soil — in order to quell protests against racial injustice.”

A Sacred Oath, according to Allen, “was vetted at the highest levels of the Pentagon.”

“I'm told that as part of the clearance process, the book was reviewed in whole or in part by nearly three dozen four-star generals, senior civilians, and some cabinet members,” Allen writes. “Some of them had witnessed what Esper witnessed.”

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Why DeSantis Can’t Snatch Disney’s Special Tax District

For 55 years, Disney had a special tax/business arrangement in Florida. But that arrangement has been ended by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was determined to get back at Disney for voicing its opposition to the controversial Parental Rights in Education Act of 2022, a.k.a. the “Don’t Say Gay” law. And according to Miami Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas, Disney addressed its investors in a statement posted on April 21.

Disney, Klas reports, has told its investors “that it would continue to go about business as usual.”

Klas explains, “The statement, posted on the website of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board on April 21 by the Reedy Creek Improvement District, is the only public statement Disney has supplied since lawmakers unleashed their fury over the company’s vocal opposition to the Parental Rights in Education law, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. The statement, first reported by WESH 2, quotes the statute, which says, in part, that the ‘State of Florida pledges.... it will not limit or alter the rights of the District.... until all such bonds together with interest thereon.... are fully met and discharged.’”

In its April 21 statement, Disney writes, “In light of the State of Florida’s pledge to the District’s bondholders, Reedy Creek expects to explore its options while continuing its present operations, including levying and collecting its ad valorem taxes and collecting its utility revenues, paying debt service on its ad valorem tax bonds and utility revenue bonds, complying with its bond covenants and operating and maintaining its properties.’’

Attorney Jake Schumer has said that the State of Florida has a contractual obligation not to interfere with the Reedy Creek Improvement District until the bond debt is paid off. Schumer told the Herald that the State of Florida “simply can’t go forward under the contract clause” and “would have to pass something to address this.”

According to Klas, Scott Randolph — tax collector for Orange County, Florida — “agrees with Schumer that the only way for the state to dissolve Disney’s special district is for the debt to be assumed by the county government.”

Randolph told the Herald, “Orange County gets Reedy Creek’s assets, debts and obligations…. Unless they want to cut services and cut spending elsewhere, they’re going to have to find a way to absorb $163 million.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Abbott's Border 'Inspection' Stunt Cost Texas Economy Over $4 Billion

Democratic former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is running against Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott in Texas’ 2022 gubernatorial race, has been lambasting his political opponent for imposing enhanced inspections on commercial trucks entering Texas from Mexico. Abbott’s recent political stunt, O’Rourke stresses on the campaign trial, was terrible for Texas’ economy — and economic consulting firm the Perryman Group is now saying that Texas suffered losses of $4.2 billion in gross product.

Abbott’s enhanced inspections made it much more difficult for commercial truck drivers entering Texas from Mexico to deliver fresh produce and other goods. Long delays resulted in fresh produce going bad. And the inspections temporarily caused the closing of the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, which links Pharr, Texas with Reynosa, Mexico in the state of Tamaulipas.

Abbott’s political theatrics, according to Perryman, not only affected the Texas economy, but the U.S. economy in general. Texas isn’t necessarily the final destination for Mexican goods that enter the U.S. via the Lone Star State, and those trucks often make their way to the Midwest and other parts of the U.S. to deliver a variety of fruits and vegetables.

The economic losses, Perryman reports, will be difficult or “impossible” to make up.

In a report published on April 20, Perryman explains, “The recent slowdowns due to additional inspections disrupted these patterns, resulting in not only spoilage of perishable items, but also, production delays. Given the strained capacity at the border in normal times, it will be difficult and, in many instances, impossible to ‘catch up.’”

Abbott’s apologists are claiming that Democrats, including those in the Biden Administration, favor “open borders” — which is nonsense. As Perryman is pointing out, border security doesn’t have to come at the expense of the U.S. economy.

Moreover, Abbott’s inspections came at a time when the United States’ supply chain has had to cope with the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic —a global health crisis that, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has caused more than 6.2 million deaths worldwide and over 991,000 deaths in the United States.

In its report, Perryman said, “Inefficiencies in the flow of imports and exports across the border leads to notable economic losses. While border security is certainly an issue that must be addressed, introducing artificial inefficiencies into an important, capacity constrained element of an already overly stressed national supply chain is a costly option.”

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet