The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

@Scout_Finch

Former GOP Staffer Sentenced For Running Child Porn Ring

On Thursday, the Department of Justice announced Ruben Verastigui has been sentenced to 151 months in prison on a federal charge of receipt of child pornography.

A Washington, D.C., resident, 29-year-old Ruben Verastigui has spent his entire career in conservative circles, including as an aide to the Trump re-election campaign and stints as a digital strategist for the Senate Republican Conference and the Republican National Committee.

The Department of Justice detailed the evidence against Ruben Verastigui, and this case is extremely disturbing.

[Warning: Graphic description of the DOJ’s case is listed below]

According to the government’s evidence, from April 2020 through Feb. 2021, Verastigui was active in an online group devoted to trading child pornography and discussing child sexual abuse. Verastigui shared child pornography videos with another member of the group and made numerous comments about sexually abusing children. Verastigui indicated his preference for babies, saying they were his “absolute favorite,” and solicited another group member for videos of babies being raped. The other group member promptly sent Verastigui a video of a baby being raped, to which Verastigui responded enthusiastically. The other group member then sent Verastigui numerous other videos of child pornography.

Verastigui is just one of numerous Republican staffers to face child pornography charges in recent years. Chase Tristan Epsy, a lawyer for Alabama Gov. Kay Ivy, was arrested in 2021 for soliciting a minor.

As usual, it seems the howls of Republicans are pure projection.

And last, but not least, Verastigui was a featured speaker at the 2013 anti-choice rally in Washington, D.C.

Ruben Verastigui speaks at the National March for Life 2013www.youtube.com

Printed with permission from Daily Kos.

The Most Cringe-Worthy Moments Of Sen. Ted Cruz's Career

It’s a day that ends in “y,” so that means Ted Cruz has found a new way to debase and humiliate himself. He’s like a deep sea diver looking for the bottom of the sea of humiliation and folks, I’m not sure he’s ever going to find that bottom. He just keeps sinking and sinking and sinking.

Let’s take a look back at some of the more humiliating events we’ve witnessed in the career of Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz and then take the highly scientific poll: Which of these is Cruz’s most cringeworthy moment?

“Here’s the thing you have to understand about Ted Cruz. I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz. And I hate Ted Cruz.” — Al Franken, in Al Franken: Giant of the Senate.

Let’s get started with the most recent entrant: Cruz’s appearance on Tucker Carlson’s White Power Hour last Thursday night. In case you missed it, Cruz asked to appear on the show to clear up his previous comments in which he called the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol a “terrorist attack,” something Carlson took great offense to and slammed Cruz for on his Wednesday night show. Please watch and tell me if you have ever heard a more slimy answer in your life. It’s incredible that Cruz sat there smiling and groveling after Carlson called him a liar on national television.

Ouch! Thank you, sir! May I have another? That was remarkably uncomfortable. Imagine having to grovel to Carlson and then being so very, very bad at it.

Let’s go further back in Cruz’s career and reflect on some other utterly cringeworthy moments. It is truly going to be hard to pick a “winner” from these options. In no particular order, here they are:

That time he went off on “the libz” from the state of Washington for banning dancing during COVID-19—except in this case, “WA” stood for Western Australia. Wrong country, pal! After quick viral mocking, Cruz deleted this tweet, but not before half the Internet took a screenshot.

.

Screenshot of a deleted Ted Cruz tweet about Western Australia Ope! “WA” is Western Australia, pal.

Next up, we have an incident that was about as big of a Texas-sized fuck up as I have ever seen. In February 2021, a cold front descended on the lower Midwest and into Texas, causing one of the biggest crises in the history of Texas. An estimated 210 Texans died, and the entire state was frozen solid and suffering. So what did Cruz do? He slunk off to the Ritz Carlton resort in Cancun, Mexico. Worse than that, after he was flat-out busted on social media, he had the audacity to blame his daughters. And if it couldn’t get any worse, it was revealed he left the family dog, Snowflake, home alone.

How in the hell did he survive that without resigning? It’s going to be hard to beat that, but we press on.

Let us now recall the time he was falling behind in the 2016 Republican primaries to a two-bit wannabe mobster and television personality and became so desperate that he announced Carly Fiorina as his running mate for a primary he would never come close to winning. Worse, his own pick seemed to hate his guts. Later she revealed that yes, she really does.

“I have to say I’m very disappointed in Ted. I’ve been very disappointed in Ted for some time now,” she responded. “I tried to help Ted’s candidacy because I thought it would be tragic and terrible if Donald Trump were the Republican party’s nominee. Turns out I was right about Donald Trump. And sadly, it appears, I was wrong about Ted Cruz.”

Nonetheless, we were treated to perhaps the single most awkward hand-hold of all time. A very “ I’m in charge—no, I’m in charge!” vibe.

If you didn’t think that campaign appearance could get anymore cringeworthy, think again. He went on to accidentally hit his wife in the face, not once, but twice in the most awkward family hugs we’ve ever witnessed.

via GIPHY

That naturally leads us into another sweet family moment.

Can’t you just feel the love?

Since we are in the 2016 timeline, let’s revisit more of his presidential desperation. I need you to brace yourselves for this one, okay? Know that up front, because I’m about to revisit the booger incident.

Sure it is possible that was something other than a booger, but goodness, I’m gagging at the mere memory of this cringeworthy moment. I’m sorry I had to do that to you, really.

Next up we have the time Cruz’s official Twitter account quite noticeably liked a porn video on Twitter.

Screenshot of Ted Cruz

While that is hilarious all by itself, let us now listen to Cruz explain that it was merely a mistake by a low-level staffer. Because, you know, unnamed, low-level staffers all have the keys to the social media accounts of powerful U.S. senators.

Ted, Ted, Ted, Ted, Ted. Yes, I bet he did identify this staffer. Mmhhmm. His name probably rhymes with Red Ooze.

How about that time Cruz sought and received an endorsement from a congressman who was so shamelessly racist that even his fellow Republicans stripped of him of his committee assignments and eventually ran him out of Congress?

Ted was “beyond honored” to receive that endorsement. Do you know how racist you have to be for Republicans to act? And I guess he thought he could make that vanish, but my colleague Gabe Ortíz didn’t forget.

How about the 2013 Senate debate about the Affordable Care Act, when Cruz filibustered with the cutesy act of reading Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham?

Gosh, isn’t he clever? Eight years later, he would sell autographed copies of the Dr. Seuss classic to “own the libz” again and rail against “cancel culture,” all because the Dr. Seuss Foundation announced they would no longer publish six books that contain racist imagery. And nothing sets Cruz off more than refusing to publish children’s books with harmful, racist imagery.

And last, but not least, there was this 2016 moment: a broken Cruz phone-banking for Donald Trump, even after Donald Trump publicly called Cruz’s wife ugly and hinted in a Republican primary debate that Cruz’s father, an immigrant from Cuba, had a hand in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Before we get to the poll, I’d like to mention that it was difficult to pare this list down because there are a remarkable number of Ted Cruz moments. I asked my colleagues to refresh my memory on some of these cringeworthy memories and we came up with a list of terrible, no good, purely awful Cruz moments. Barb Morrill reminds us of something we cannot overlook: Cruz has long faced accusations that he could be the Zodiac Killer. There were many other moments that didn’t make the poll, but do deserve an honorable mention. They include:

That is a lot to take in, right? Please feel free to add your own recollections in the comments below.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

New Video Emerges Of ‘Deeply Unwell’ Greene Harassing AOC And Staff

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

On Wednesday, two Washington Post reporters witnessed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Karens) chasing and "aggressively confronting" Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, calling her a "terrorist sympathizer." It was another in a growing catalog of incidents of Greene harassing and bullying AOC.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested the House Ethics Committee should open an investigation into Greene's actions as there is increasing evidence that Greene seems singularly obsessed with Ocasio-Cortez, repeatedly publicly challenging her to a debate over the Green New Deal, where she no doubt intends to bully rather than debate facts.

CNN reporters Em Steck and Andrew Kaczynski haveuncovered a since-deleted video showing the now congresswoman visiting the U.S. Capitol in 2019, before she was elected to Congress.

Convicted Sex Offender Was Giuliani’s Key Witness In Philly

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Just when you think you're done laughing at the totally humiliating ending of Rudy Giuliani's career as Donald Trump's personal attorney, it keeps getting more embarrassing for Giuliani and the Trump campaign.

Like most of Trump's unqualified appointees in government, apparently the Trump campaign didn't closely screen who they were putting in front of worldwide cameras in the parking of the Four Seasons Total Landscaping lot. Which I still can't even believe I'm typing, but that was a real thing that happened.

Read NowShow less

Accused Michigan Terrorists Also Discussed ’Taking Out’ Virginia Governor

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Federal courts reporter Robert Snell of The Detroit News has been reporting on Tuesday's hearing to determine whether three accused Michigan terrorists—Kaleb Franks, Brandon Caserta, and Daniel Harris—should be released on bond pending trial. FBI Special Agent Richard Trask outlined new details about the terrorist conspiracy, including the fact the group discussed "taking out" another governor in addition to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

Where would they get the idea to target both Whitmer and Northam? Where indeed.



Make no mistake about it, there's a straight line between Donald Trump's dangerous rhetoric and the violence these men were planning. In fact, as Trask outlined in court today, these men went far beyond brash talk. They mapped out Whitmer's home, did surveillance on her vacation home as recently as September, trained with weapons deep in the woods of Michigan, traveled to Wisconsin for weapons training, used encrypted apps to conceal their communications, discussed using a boat as the getaway vehicle for the Whitmer kidnapping, and even talked about abandoning the governor in the middle of Lake Michigan.

The name of their group chat was "Fuck Around and Find Out." They assigned code names for each member.


Two of the 13 accused men, Harris and Morrison, are former United States Marines.

Given the number of conspirators, the vast amount of evidence the FBI compiled, the growing threat of far-right extremism, the encouragement of the current occupant of the White House, and the disturbingly close connections to law enforcement like Sheriff Dar Leaf of Barry County, Michigan, and elected officials, it is likely these charges are just the beginning of this conspiracy, not the end.

FBI Busts Far Right 'Militia' Gang In Plot To Kidnap Gov. Whitmer, Kill Cops

The FBI made a shocking announcement on Thursday, saying they'd disrupted a violent plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. From The Detroit News:

"Several members talked about murdering 'tyrants' or 'taking' a sitting governor," an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit. "The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message."

The FBI affidavit named six men who were involved in the plot: Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbing, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta. FBI agents raided Ty Garbing's home on Wednesday night.

The group wasn't just planning to kidnap Whitmer; they also discussed killing police officers, which prompted one of the militia members they contacted to do the right thing and reach out to law enforcement. Like a lot of extremists, Fox and the other men named in the affidavit were openly plotting and operating on Facebook.

The FBI affidavit is quite damning. Not only did this group plan to kidnap Gov. Whitmer, they also discussed straight up murdering her, blowing up a bridge to slow police response. They met secretly in a basement, accessible through a trap door hidden by a rug. The confidential informant was at the meeting and wore a wire as they discussed their domestic terrorism plots. They also purchased a taser to use in the kidnapping, surveilled the governor's home on several occasions and more.

The full affidavit can be read at The Detroit News.

In late June, Fox posted on Facebook a video in which he complained about the state's judicial system and COVID-19 restrictions on gyms operating in Michigan.
"Fox referred to Governor Whitmer as 'this tyrant b----,' and stated, 'I don't know, boys, we gotta do something," according to the court affidavit. "You guys link with me on our other location system, give me some ideas of what we can do."

Whitmer has faced several challenges from right-wing extremists in the state during the pandemic after she implemented a statewide mask mandate. Michigan's Republican-packed Supreme Court recently tossed out a law mandating mask coverage, saying the governor did not have the authority to issue it without the approval of the Republican-led state legislature.

You may recall gun-toting extremists flouted the mask mandate when they turned up at the Michigan Capitol building to protest the lockdown at the height of the pandemic this spring.

Make no mistake about it, these extremists have been encouraged by Donald Trump.


Michigan has long had militia extremists. Oklahoma City terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols reportedly attended Michigan militia meetings before carrying out the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995.

Trump Claims He Rejected Wall Scam, But Sponsors Boasted Of His Support

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

After Steve Bannon's arrest on Thursday, Donald Trump tried to put a Grand Canyon-sized gap between himself and the "We Build The Wall" border scheme. Bannon, Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea were indicted on counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The federal indictment says the crew pilfered "hundreds of thousands of dollars" and a Bannon-controlled nonprofit received more than $1 million in funds.

Read NowShow less

With Bannon Indicted For Fraud, Trump Tries To Distance Himself

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On Thursday morning, the news cycle exploded with yet another member of Donald Trump's inner circle facing federal charges, bringing the total to six Trump confidantes who've faced charges since 2016. This time it is Steve Bannon, who joins Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, and Michael Flynn in the Trump Indictment Club. Bannon was the Trump campaign's chief executive officer in 2016. He later followed Trump to the White House as chief strategist, a position he left in August 2017 to return to Breitbart News and attach himself to a series of grifts, including the one he is now facing charges for, which involved soliciting donations for a privately built border wall and then, according to prosecutors, fraudulently creating sham invoices and shell companies to enrich himself and other collaborators. It's quite similar to what the NRA was doing, as well. Makes you wonder if any other campaigns might have similar setups? Curious, indeed.

Read NowShow less

Warren Rakes GOP Fatcat Adelson In His Own Vegas Newspaper

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

On Wednesday night, Democrats held their ninth debate on the way to picking a nominee to take on Donald Trump this fall. Based on social media reactions, it was crystal clear Elizabeth Warren won the night—and it started in the first two minutes when she went straight at Mike Bloomberg with a punch he never saw coming: “I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians, and no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump.”

You can watch that clip again below, but with that remark, Warren was out of the gate and she never relented.

Time after time, Warren took Bloomberg to task for his harmful, racist policies as New York City’s mayor, his defense of racist bank lending practices, and his use of nondisclosure agreements to protect himself and others at his company who have discriminated, sexually harassed, or worse. Warren struck so many blows against Bloomberg that toward the end of the debate, someone edited Bloomberg’s Wikipedia page to note the date of his death and the cause of death: Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Even as people are still talking about the strength of Warren’s debate performance, particularly against Bloomberg, she’s not sitting back. In fact, she went on another offensive in Las Vegas, this time taking direct aim at billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who has been one of the biggest Republican Party donors in history. Adelson is reportedly donating $100 million to Donald Trump and Republicans this year alone. Along with the Robert and Rebekah Mercer and Charles Koch, Adelson and his billionaire counterparts essentially own the Republican Party at every level. They finance Republicans from your local city council all the way to the White House, and they do it because it benefits them financially. Republican policies, which are often written and directed by the aforementioned, directly benefit these billionaires.

Look no further than the tax cut Republicans voted on in the middle of the night. The 2017 tax bill gave billions in tax cuts to the uber-wealthy, forcing cuts to services meant for those who need assistance the most. Although Republicans always feign surprise that the tax cuts didn’t pay for themselves, make no mistake about it: For them, the resulting cuts in services are a benefit, not a glitch. As Republican activist Grover Norquist once said of the federal government, “I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

So how did Warren go after Adelson this morning? By taking out a full-page ad in the The Las Vegas Review-Journal, the largest newspaper in Las Vegas, which Sheldon Adelson purchased in 2016. In the ad, Elizabeth Warren made the case for her wealth tax, noting Adelson would have to pay $2.3 billion in taxes in the first year alone. Warren’s ad further notes how this money would be reinvested to help everyday Americans by canceling student loan debt, investing in childcare to help working parents, and much more. Nevada reporter Jon Ralston, who was a panelist in Wednesday night’s debate, noted Warren’s “chutzpah” for taking aim at Adelson in his own hometown and in the pages of his own newspaper.

Indicted GOP. Rep. Hunter Tries To Blame His Wife

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

By Jen Hayden / Daily Kos

 

Every single day, Rep. Duncan Hunter finds a new way to disgrace himself. You’d think a criminal indictment would humble the California Republican, but no. He took to Fox News to make a public defense of the charges that he used $250,000 in campaign funds on items like a family trip to Italy, flying his pet rabbit across the country, sporting events, and most grotesquely, buying shoes and clothing and then disguising those as donations to the Wounded Warriors Foundation.

So, what was his primary defense? That he himself disclosed this inappropriate spending (he didn’t), that these are Justice Department Democrats out to get him (they aren’t) and that his wife is to blame for all of it (she isn’t.) From CBS News:

They pleaded not guilty in federal court in San Diego Thursday afternoon. Hunter blames “pure politics” and the “Democrats’ arm of law enforcement” of the Justice Department for the charges against him. In the Fox interview, Hunter said his wife has long handled the finances, and worked as his campaign manager.

“When I went away to Iraq in 2003, the first time, I gave her power of attorney,” Hunter told Fox News. “She handled my finances throughout my entire military career and that continued on when I got into Congress. … She was also the campaign manager so whatever she did, that’ll be looked at too, I’m sure, but I didn’t do it.”

No wonder they reportedly sat four seats apart in the courtroom this week as they heard the charges. Something tells me these two will be meeting again in a different courtroom in the not-too-distant future—a divorce court.

Of course, there is another big problem with Hunter blaming his wife, Margaret: his own campaign treasurer repeatedly warned him directly about the illegal use of funds, and it is all documented in the 47-page indictment.

From CNN:

  • “Duncan Hunter facilitated the theft of campaign funds by directing his Treasurer to obtain a Campaign credit card for Margaret at a time when she had no official role with the Campaign and received no official salary, knowing that she would spend campaign funds for the Hunters’ personal benefit.”
  • “Duncan Hunter installed Margaret Hunter as his paid Campaign Manager despite the protests of his Treasurer and with full knowledge of her long history of misuse of campaign funds, in part because as they discussed the Hunters ‘need[ed] the extra money’ that would come from her salary.”
  • “Duncan Hunter facilitated the theft of campaign funds by ignoring his campaign staff’s multiple warnings about Margaret’s improper use of campaign funds, accusing campaign staff of disloyalty by ‘trying to create some kind of paper trail on me’ when they raised concerns about improper spending, and continually refusing to remove her access to campaign funds.”

It’s clear this man doesn’t have the necessary character to represent the people of California’s 50th Congressional District. If he’s convicted, the United States Marines would seem to have little choice other than a court martial and dishonorable discharge. It’s a sad ending for anyone who served this country.