@DevilsTower
Arizona Republicans Pushed Abortion Ban -- And Now They're Terrified

Arizona Republicans Pushed Abortion Ban -- And Now They're Terrified

The Arizona Supreme Court ruling that restores an 1864 law banning abortion at any stage has Republicans scrambling to distance themselves from the archaic law. The result is some textbook examples of hypocrisy and Republicans screaming in frustration over the results of getting exactly what they insisted that they wanted.

The best example of what happens when a dog succeeds in catching the car may be found in a statement from Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake. Lake now says she “opposes” the ruling and is asking Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs—who defeated Lake in the 2022 gubernatorial election—to pass “an immediate common sense solution” to block the court’s ruling.

But just two years ago, when an appeals court ruled against the law in the exact same case, Lake declared that the ban passed when Arizona was still a territory was “a great law.” During a debate with Hobbs, Lake insisted that she would enforce the 1864 law if elected.

Now Lake is begging Hobbs to bail Republicans out of the disaster they supported and caused.

Lake is far from alone in her frantic backpedaling. Other Arizona Republicans are attacking the ruling and the effect goes far beyond one state.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, the Arizona decision blows up the pretense behind Donald Trump’s claim that he can both destroy Roe v. Wade and somehow remain neutral. It even has Republicans in Florida quaking as they look at how the Arizona law threatens their political security.

As much as Republicans would like to pretend that the Arizona Supreme Court just happened to glance at the Big Book of Ye Olde Laws and randomly weigh in a century and a half ago, that is not how this happened. Republicans did this.

This case was brought in 2022 by Arizona’s Republican attorney general at the time, Mark Brnovich, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Attorneys general in 17 other states, led by Arkansas’ Tim Griffin, filed an amicus brief in support of reinstating the ban. It was also supported by Republican Speaker of the Arizona House Ben Toma by Republican President of the Arizona Senate Warren Peterson.

At every level, this ruling is exactly what Republicans said they wanted. What they told their supporters they wanted. It is literally what Lake and other Arizona Republicans campaigned on. There are reportedly enough votes in the House and Senate to overturn the law, but Toma is blocking a vote.

Also signing on in support of the case were half a dozen big right-wing groups, including the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Pediatricians, and the Charlotte Lozier Institute, all of which also filed amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that overturned Roe.

Republicans can lie about it all they want, but the Arizona Supreme Court acted because Trump ended Roe, and Republicans persuaded the Arizona court to enforce a law made when Arizona was only about half a territory.

This is the promise Republicans made to radical anti-abortion forces to secure their funds, fervor, and support in every campaign since Roe. Like Pontius Trump trying to wash his hands of the results he bragged about, Republicans are finding that getting what they asked for isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Meanwhile, organizers said earlier this month they have collected enough signatures to put the Abortion Access Act on the ballot this November, which would enshrine the right to an abortion in the state constitution. Voters in seven states, including some that are regarded as dark red, have sided with reproductive rights, and as many as 13 more could see the issue on the ballot in 2024. In Arizona, such a ballot measure—especially in light of the recent ruling—could bring voters to the polls in a way that would be very unfavorable to Republicans this November.

That’s also why DeSantis and other Republicans are shaking in Florida. That state will also have a similar ballot measure this November. Actions like the IVF ruling in Alabama and this latest ruling in Arizona are a wake-up call for Florida voters to remind them that they need to get out and fix this in a way Republicans can’t easily reverse.

Every time this issue is in the news, it increases the chance that voters in those states will want to ensure their abortion rights. And it increases the chance that Republicans lose more elections. That includes increasing the chance that Trump goes down hard.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Richard Grenell

Still Pretending To Be President, Trump Even Has An 'Envoy'

Ever since he sullenly departed from the White House in January 2021, a portion of Donald Trump’s supporters have maintained that he is actually still in charge of the “real” government and running the military while President Joe Biden is left with a fake government and a ”bad military.” That view may be deep into the land of deplorable delusions, but in a way, Trump really has been running his own government.

That “shadow government” has been making promises and deals with authoritarian leaders, attempting to overturn democratic elections, and making moves that seem connected to lucrative real estate deals. That includes Trump holding a pseudo state dinner with Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán, using a shadow veto to crush a border security bill, and even dispatching former diplomat and intelligence official Richard Grenell to negotiate with governments around the world.

Trump has described Grenell as “my envoy,” and his work includes not just attempting to overthrow the government of Guatemala but also returning to the Balkans to talk to the successors of a democratic American-allied government that he helped destroy while Trump was in office. And of course, there’s money involved.

The Washington Post reports on Thursday that when Bernardo Arévalo won the 2023 presidential election in Guatemala on a pro-democracy, anti-corruption platform, the Biden administration moved quickly to acknowledge the victory and to help the new president shore up his incoming government against threats from right-wing election deniers.

But Grenell took the opposite approach. Trump’s shadow ambassador showed up in Guatemala days before Arévalo was due to be sworn in and immediately met with right-wing authoritarians trying to reverse the results of the election. He then met with a group trying to block the inauguration, supported an effort to throw out election results, and criticized the U.S. State Department for sanctioning those who tried to block the peaceful transfer of power.

Thankfully, though Guatemala's highest court granted right-wing parties a temporary injunction that prevented certification of the election results in the first round of voting, and continued tensions in Guatemala City caused a delay in the eventual inauguration ceremony, Arévalo was sworn into office just one day late.

Grenell may have failed in his efforts to end democracy in Guatemala, but he had more success in Kosovo when he visited as a diplomat for Trump in 2020. As NPR reported at the time, Kosovo had long had the support of the United States in its conflict with Serbia, while Serbia had connections with Russia, but Grenell arrived with demands that seemed to match those of Serbia.

Former diplomat Molly Montgomery told NPR that Grenell put “extraordinary pressure” on the Kosovo government. Trump and Grenell appeared to have “given up the United States' traditional role as Kosovo's main champion,” she said. The result was that Kosovo's Parliament voted to remove Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who, like Arévalo in Guatemala, had run on a platform of fighting corruption and democratic reform. According to NPR reporter Joanna Kakissis, Kurti called his removal “a parliamentary coup d'état supported by Grenell.”

In Kurti’s place, a new prime minister promised a deal with Serbia. However, following Trump’s departure from Washington, Kurti—who continued to express his support for America—was elected a second time as prime minister in February 2021.

But if Kurti is back, so is Grenell.

In November 2021, shortly after visiting Trump at Mar-a-Lago, Grenell headed for Kosovo and Serbia, according to the Post. He has reportedly used his visits to undermine the Biden administration’s diplomatic efforts in the region and damage the prospects for a new peace deal between the two sparring nations. Grenell appears particularly tight with Serbian officials, who regard him as a “friend,” one source told the Post. That includes partying with Serbian officials tightly aligned with the Kremlin.

Grenell’s visit was followed by an amazingly generous real estate deal featuring Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. As The New York Times reports, the deal would give Kushner “a 99-year lease, at no charge, and the right to build a luxury hotel and apartment complex and a museum” on a site in central Belgrade.

Grenell’s work didn’t stop there. He was also on hand in Turkey when that nation’s vote was the only barrier to Sweden’s entry into NATO. According to The Washington Post:

Amid those tense negotiations, Grenell, a fierce critic of NATO and the Biden administration’s foreign policies, made a startling offer: a meeting between Trump and [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, who was coming to New York City for the United Nations General Assembly, according to the two people close to the former president.

Grenell’s actions in Kosovo in 2020, however contemptible, enjoy the protection of his role as a U.S. official. His subsequent trips to that region, his meddling in Guatemala, and his attempts to sway Turkish officials do not.

In 2021, there were questions about whether Grenell’s actions were a violation of the Logan Act, which forbids private citizens from dealing with foreign governments “in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States.” But there are no mentions of the act in more recent coverage from The Washington Post or The New York Times.

Maybe, like the Hatch Act, this is just one of those laws now seen as optional if you’re a Trump supporter.

President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have been improving since his fiery State of the Union speech—as we predicted. At the same time, the Republican Party cannot stop the infighting, even as Donald Trump’s takeover seems to be complete. Markos and Kerry get into Biden’s improving fundamentals as the race to save America heats up.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Joe Biden

As Impeachment Fizzles, Republicans Struggle For Effective Attack

Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing with special counsel Robert Hur showcased Republican desperation to find some way to attack President Joe Biden.

Despite the release of a full transcript of the interview between Hur and Biden that showed complaints about the president’s memory to be exaggerated, if not outright lies, many Republicans continued to pursue the Biden-so-old route. Texas Rep. Nathaniel Moran went so far as to suggest that Biden should be placed under guardianship for diminished mental capabilities.

At the same time, committee Chair Jim Jordan was one of multiple Republican members who asked Hur to envision fantasy scenarios in which the president was 15 or 20 years younger. That was part of an extended, and sometimes laughably desperate, effort by Republicans to get Hur to say that somehow, somewhen, somewhere in the multiverse, he might have considered charging Biden. They did not succeed.

But the biggest reason for the Hur hearing wasn’t just to give a chance to alternate between asking whether Biden should be in a care facility or if he’s a criminal mastermind. The reason that the Republicans called in Hur is that their big impeachment scheme has fallen apart. Now they are madly searching for something, anything, that they can throw against the walls of the White House.

As Politico reported on Wednesday, the Republican plan to impeach Biden appears to be all but dead. That effort began as soon as Republicans had their hands on the machinery of the House, with Rep. James Comer chairing the House Oversight Committee running a parallel “investigation” with Jordan on the Judiciary Committee and Chairman Jason Smith on the Ways and Means Committee. It reached its ludicrous peak on Sep. 12, 2023, when then-Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy announced a formal impeachment inquiry in a blatant effort to hang onto his big office. That didn’t work.

By the time Hunter Biden made his way to a closed-door meeting of the inquiry on Feb. 28, 2024, it seemed clear Republicans were only spinning their wheels. Despite hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents, Republicans had produced nothing more than some truck payments, family loans, and a heavily debunked claim from an indicted foreign agent.

However, as the Politico article notes, Republicans see it as a high priority to “antagonize the White House.”

It might seem that getting some legislation passed after a session in which Republican infighting resulted in just 27 bills escaping the House (that includes renaming some Veterans Affairs clinics and issuing a commemorative coin). But Republicans are convinced that demonstrating competence in governing doesn’t matter to their voters.

So they are just going to throw crap against the walls of the Capitol in the hopes that some of it might stick.

Among the Republican Plan Bs under consideration are:

  • Sending criminal referrals for Hunter Biden to the Justice Department.
  • Keep investigating, but save any announcements for closer to Election Day.
  • Just keep investigating and making false claims—because that’s worked so well so far.

There’s also a plan to sue the Department of Justice, though it’s not clear why.

There’s even a suggestion that Republicans might do something that seems anathema to them so far—draft legislation. In this case, it would be legislation to tighten rules for financial reporting and foreign lobbying.

However, not only would this require them to break out a pencil stub and do the work they’ve resisted since taking control of the House in 2023, it would also mean drafting something that would pass the Senate. It could be exceedingly difficult to craft a bill on financial reporting that didn’t have a much bigger impact on Donald Trump than Biden. Ditto on issues of foreign lobbying.

The problem for Republicans is that Trump and his family did all the things they’ve been attributing to Biden and his family. Which would seem to make the legislative route difficult without netting the wrong fish.

Other options, like the idea of making a criminal referral on Hunter Biden, would be an obvious exercise in toothless grandstanding. But that hasn’t seemed to bother Republicans so far, so this is likely what they’ll do.

Republicans are reportedly so far away from mustering enough support for a Biden impeachment that even Speaker of the House Mike Johnson can see that such a move would fail. But they’re unwilling—and possibly incapable—of trying to dig their way back to respectability by passing legislation that addresses the nation’s needs.

So they’re going to sit among the ashes of their very fine impeachment inquiry and try to find something else ugly enough to please MAGA voters. So far, they’ve got nothing.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Joe Biden

After Biden Speech, Republicans (And Media) Need A New Narrative

Well, that settles it. President Joe Biden can’t possibly win this thing.

Just like Republicans have been telling Americans all along, Biden is too aggressive, too energetic, too fiery, too feisty, too forceful, too loud, too partisan, and definitely too political.

Also, he talks too long, tells too many jokes, and too often goes off-script to spar with opponents. If all that isn’t bad enough, Biden wants to talk to members of Congress when it’s late and decent Republicans are very, very sleepy.

It’s just like they’ve been saying all along. Biden’s age is an issue. Maybe he’ll be more presidential in 2032.

Biden’s 2024 State of the Union speech clocked in at 1 hour, 7 minutes, and 17 seconds. That doesn’t make it the longest speech on record, but considering the clip at which Biden blasted through the material (about 6,400 words in the transcript, more in real life), he packed a lot into that space.

“I know I may not look like it,” said Biden, “but I’ve been around a while.” And in his time in Washington, Biden has clearly learned how to deliver a speech that absolutely confounds both his opponents and a media that had already scheduled plenty of lazy “Biden too old” editorials between now and November.

Three weeks ago, The New York Times was explaining how the age issue that they’ve been pushing 24 hours a day sticks to Biden so much more than to Donald Trump. “Mr. Biden’s voice has grown softer and raspier,” wrote reporter Rebecca Davis O’Brien, and he “moves more tentatively than he did as a candidate in 2019 and 2020, often holding his upper body stiff, adding to an impression of frailty.”

When it comes to Trump, the same article explained that he “holds forth in speeches replete with macho rhetoric and bombast that typically last well over an hour, a display of stamina.”

After Thursday night, both The New York Times and the Republican Party are going to need a new playbook. The Joe Biden who stepped to the podium on Thursday and then stayed in the House chamber so long that the perpetually dyspeptic Speaker Mike Johnson, who dashed home to find his rapture-ready PJs, was not the Joe Biden they’ve been describing.

Biden’s forceful entry into the chamber on Thursday evening, his fast-forward, high-energy delivery, and his absolute eagerness to engage whenever Republicans booed or refused to applaud the most fundamental issue was an absolute joy. He came in hot, only seemed to grow in energy and confidence through the night, and came off the winner every time he sparred with just-say-no-to-everything Republicans.

In his speech, Biden was the happy warrior of American politics. If he had the occasional stumble, it was seemingly because he just could not wait to tell you not just about the things he had done, but also about all the things left to do in making American lives better.

Meanwhile, Johnson sat behind him like a bobblehead whose spring had been wrongly inserted, shaking his head so many times that he is likely spending this morning at the chiropractor. Out in the audience, Republicans intent on mocking Biden instead ended up being an obvious self-parody—something that should have been obvious the moment Biden strolled down the aisle, saw Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s clown suit, and took her apart with no more than an expression.

Only a few minutes into the speech, Republicans were claiming that the guy they’d been describing as little short of comatose was too fast, too loud, and definitely too political. That last part was especially offensive to classy Republicans and the memory of Trump’s completely nonpartisan performances (I mean, it’s not as if Trump had a campaign rally at the White House).

In one night, Biden went from “Sleepy Joe” to “Jacked-Up Joe” as Republicans scrambled for a new handle on the president.

In his speech, Biden made some very gutsy announcements, such as laying out plans for an aid port in Gaza, forcefully talking about America’s role in expanding NATO and the need for Ukraine assistance, and putting abortion issues front and center while telling the Supreme Court to prepare to hear from American women.

If Republicans didn’t like what they were seeing, Americans watching the speech certainly did. As Daily KosKerry Eleveld reported, potential voters in Arizona were turning up the live-reaction dials for Navigator Research, highlighting many parts of the speech that had them excited. A CNN quick poll found that 64 percent of those watching had a positive reaction to the speech, and after watching the speech, there was a 17-percentage-point increase among those saying that Biden’s policies will move the nation in the right direction.

Republicans were left sputtering over Biden’s display of vigor and command. Much of the press was left scrambling to find more synonyms for “energetic.” And viewers were largely left convinced that Biden had the right plan for America.

It’s hard to describe a more successful combination.

Meanwhile, down at Mar-a-Lago, Trump had promised to provide his own live commentary on the speech, but technical issues had him fuming on the sidelines for much of the evening. When he did get his chance to talk, Trump became obsessed with the fact that Biden was occasionally coughing and convinced that the president’s rapid-fire delivery was the product of stimulants.

It’s hard to dispute that Trump may be the expert when it comes to a White House allegedly “awash in speed.” But as Biden’s speech moved toward its conclusion, Trump delivered a meme-worthy “Truth.”

If by that Trump means the drugs that kept America complacent while he speed-walked the nation toward an authoritarian regime, then he’s absolutely right.

In his speech, Biden told everyone to “wake up.” And maybe, just maybe, it worked.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Haley Is Out, But Deep Wound In Republican Party Remains Unhealed

Haley Is Out, But Deep Wound In Republican Party Remains Unhealed

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley suspended her campaign on Wednesday, leaving Donald Trump as the last Republican presidential candidate standing. Again.

But as she announced the end of the campaign, Haley did not endorse Trump. “I have always been a conservative Republican and always supported the Republican nominee,” said Haley. Then she cited former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in saying, “Never just follow the crowd. Always make up your own mind.”

“It is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it who did not support him,” she continued. “And I hope he does that.”

While her departure may mean that Trump can coast through the remaining primaries, it certainly doesn’t mean that the open wound in the Republican Party is going to heal.

A better understanding of how the Haley campaign feels about Trump and Trump supporters might be gleaned from this exchange between Haley’s communications director, Nachama Soloveichik, and Trump supporter Kari Lake, the front-runner for the Republican nomination in Arizona’s Senate race.

Haley’s whole primary campaign was based on the knowledge of the subset of Republican voters who say they won’t vote for Trump in November. Even in Trump’s wins on Super Tuesday, Haley picked up 23 percent of Republican votes in North Carolina, 29 percent in Minnesota, and 35 percent in Virginia, with 95 percent or more of the total vote reported in each state. Those are all states that Trump desperately needs to keep in his win column.

Even in deep-red states like Tennessee and Arkansas, Trump is walking away with less than 80 percent of the vote. That doesn’t mean these states are likely to swing to President Joe Biden in November, but it is a good signal that a significant portion of the GOP is unwilling to hold their nose and go MAGA. It’s fair to read much of the vote Haley has received not as showing their love for the ex-governor, but as showing their distrust of the party’s authoritarian leader.

“I don’t know. I did not vote for Biden the last time,” said one former Republican who bolted from the party in the last year. “I don’t know that I could do it this time. But I don’t know if I could vote for Trump.”

The schism goes both ways. As Daily Kos’ Kerry Eleveld reported on Tuesday, Trump is engaged in a purge of the Republican Party. He has declared that moderate Republicans are no longer welcome and that Haley supporters are “permanently barred” from joining the MAGA elite.

With Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump set to empty the party’s remaining funds into Trump’s account, and Trump making it clear that there is no party outside of MAGA, those voters who have voted against Trump in the primaries may find there’s no home for them remaining in the Republican Party. Though they may have a home elsewhere.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell may have managed a half-hearted endorsement, but former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney can’t bring himself to go even that far.

“I think we agree that we have looked at his behavior, and his behavior suggests that this is a person who will impose his will if he can, on the judicial system[,] on the legislative branch, and on the entire nation,” Romney said on “Meet the Press” in December.

Meanwhile, Trump says the Republican Party is getting rid of the Romneys. “We want to get Romneys and those out,” Trump told the crowd at a Virginia rally recently. Haley responded with a statement that “Trump is actively rejecting people from the Republican Party — a losing strategy in November and a recipe for extinction in the long run.”

We can only hope.

For at least two decades, the Republican Party has become increasingly hostile to anyone who didn’t hold to a very specific set of conservative beliefs. That requirement already cost Republicans the moderates and liberals who used to exist in their party.

The entry of Trump has upended the entire Republican platform, replacing it with the One Commandment: Obey Trump.

The party going to the polls in November is not McConnell’s party, or Romney’s party, or anything that would be recognized by any Republican candidate going back to Abraham Lincoln. It’s a classical authoritarian party, devoted to the rule of just one man—the one who says he’d beat Lincoln even if the 16th president teamed up with George Washington.

There’s no doubt that Trump’s cultish followers are enthusiastic to see their golden calf perched back on his altar, and Republican dissidents may wander home before November. But right now, the Republican Party appears to be split between those who want to see democracy only weakened and those who want to see it completely stripped away.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Donald Trump

Trump Calls GOP's Most Toxic Candidate 'Martin Luther King Times Two'

It’s hard to imagine a Republican Party candidate being even more offensive than Donald Trump, but North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is pulling out all the stops.

Over the years, the so-called pastor has called the Holocaust “hogwash” while defending Adolf Hitler. He’s posted Hitler quotes to his social media, accused actresses involved in the #MeToo movement of soliciting sex, called survivors of school shootings “media prosti-tots,” declared Barack Obama’s presidential portrait a reflection of “Marxist Socialism,” and told a nonbinary activist that they should only be allowed to go to the bathroom “outside with the dog.” Naturally, he has joined in delusional right-wing claims that Michelle Obama is a man.

This past Saturday, Trump endorsed Robinson and had something equally powerful to say about the man who has been consistently antisemitic, anti-gay, Islamaphobic, and simply disgusting.

“This is Martin Luther King on steroids,” Trump told a rally crowd in North Carolina. “I told that to Mark. I said, ‘I think you’re better than Martin Luther King. I think you are Martin Luther King times two.’”

Trump went on to say that he was not sure Robinson liked the comparison.

“He looked at me,” said Trump, “and I wasn’t sure he was angry, because that’s a terrible thing to say or was he complimented? I have never figured it out.”

Robinson is currently running for governor of North Carolina and has a big lead in the polls going into the primary on Tuesday.

As Daily Kos Elections editor Jeff Singer noted on “The Downballot,” Robinson may skate through the Republican primary but is expected to face a much tougher fight in the fall.

“So pretty much from the beginning, everyone's been expecting this to be a race pitting the Republican Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson against the Democrat, Attorney General Josh Stein,” said Singer. “And it looks almost certainly like that's going to happen. Republicans have fretted for a long time that Robinson is going to be just a toxic nominee because he just has a long history of bigoted writings against, well, pretty much everyone. Again, antisemitic writings, Islamophobic writings, anti-trans writings, and just the statements he said about abortion. And just weird things he's written about, well, Beyoncé, about the moon landing. He's testing whether, even in the Trump era, some Republicans are just too toxic.”

Stein is Jewish, which can’t help but direct attention toward Robinson’s Hitler quotes, Holocaust denial, and years of antisemitism. His likely opponent’s religion probably plays into why Robinson has been making an effort in recent weeks to walk that part of his hate speech back, though he doesn’t seem alarmed enough to clean up his social media.

Despite the widespread visibility of Robinson’s remarks, supporters, including Republican Party officials, claim that reports of Robinson’s statements are “fake news.”

“I can’t help but think that that’s been manufactured by some opposition,” said Ed Broyhill, a national committeeman for the North Carolina Republican Party.

The only thing that may be more offensive than Robinson’s tirades are Trump’s statements comparing Robinson to Martin Luther King Jr. And this isn’t even the first time that Trump has told a similar story. The likely Republican presidential nominee first mentioned making this outrageous comparison in December.

Following a baseless claim that 20% of the mail-in vote was rigged, Trump reassured his supporters that Robinson would have things under control as governor.

”You know, I swear you’re better than Dr. Martin Luther King,” said Trump at that appearance, “And I wasn’t sure if he was happy about that comparison. Because Dr. Martin Luther King was great, and I think he didn’t like that comparison, but he accepted it.”

Why is Trump drawing a line between Robinson and King? It certainly wasn’t prompted by anything that Robinson said or any shared policy with the beloved civil rights leader.

It’s genuinely difficult to convey just how consistently horrible Robinson’s comments have been. His language is insensitive, sneering, vindictive, and ugly. But Robinson is Black, and he supports Trump. For a guy who believes Black people like him because he’s been indicted, treating all Black men as interchangeable seems perfectly in character for Trump.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Nancy Mace

Here's How We Know Republicans Are Lying About Their 'Support' For IVF

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) has taken the bold step of defending in vitro fertilization by introducing a nonbinding resolution. That way Republicans in the House can pretend that they’re taking steps to protect IVF without actually protecting IVF.

That’s a Republican idea of a win-win: taking credit for something while doing nothing.

It’s also a perfect illustration of where the GOP stands on IVF. Two weeks after the conservative Alabama Supreme Court ruled that embryos are children and several hospitals and clinics halted IVF procedures as a result, Republicans are struggling with a fundamental issue: how to convince the general public that they support this popular procedure while reassuring their extremist base that they won’t do anything to address this issue.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that over 10 million children worldwide have been born through IVF and approximately 500,000 more are born each year. In the United States, roughly 97,000 babies are delivered each year thanks to assisted reproductive technologies like IVF, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control.

Families that use IVF are often desperate and have exhausted all other options before facing a physically strenuous process that costs roughly $20,000 per attempt and has an average success rate of 37 percent. Republicans jumping between these families and what they may view as their last opportunity to have a successful pregnancy and build a family comes off as needlessly (and thoughtlessly) cruel.

A YouGov poll shows a solid 67 percent of Americans believe IVF should be legal. Only eight percent believe that IVF should be illegal.

In the same poll, a 46 percent plurality of Americans believe a law should be passed to legalize abortion nationally. Only seven percent of those responding insisted that abortion should be illegal at any time, in any circumstance, no exceptions.

It’s not hard to understand that these two groups who don’t approve of IVF or abortion are likely to have an almost 100 percent overlap. According to the poll results, those saying that IVF should be illegal were more than twice as likely to consider themselves Republicans and to support Donald Trump.

Many abortion laws are based on the idea that life begins at conception. This is a religious concept that dates back only to the 20th century, as early religious figures had no idea about the stages of reproduction. However, the position was rapidly adopted by the Roman Catholic Church and by some evangelical groups. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and conservative Catholic leaders are still officially (and vehemently) opposed to IVF. So are many evangelical leaders and theologians.

The Republican dilemma is simple: Only a small percentage of Americans oppose IVF, but many of those who do oppose it are among the most devoted, fanatical supporters of Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

It might only be a tiny percentage, but it’s their tiny percentage.

Republicans know that losing that portion of their most vocal base would doom any hope of winning a national election. And there is more at stake for Republicans than just votes.

Right-wing figures like Federalist Society co-chair Leonard Leo are deeply enmeshed in what happened with the Alabama decision. Leo is also the tip of a dark-money iceberg involved in promoting extremist positions on all aspects of reproduction. Republicans are terrified of losing that connection to outside groups, especially when their coffers are nearly bare and the incoming party co-chair is promising to spend every penny paying her father-in-law’s legal bills.

Republicans are left utterly dependent on outside groups to run ads, do opposition research, and take care of all the other things that their own campaigns might do if they had any money. So they don’t dare upset this dark conservative apple cart.

That’s why, no matter what they are saying, Republicans moved immediately to block legislation introduced by Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth that would have provided nationwide protection for IVF.

It’s why there are spectacles like this, where Rep. Anna Luna withdrew her name as the co-sponsor of a bill protecting IVF, even as Republicans are claiming that they support IVF.

Republicans in Alabama may have pushed a bill through the state Legislature that protects IVF facilities (though not parents) from potential prosecution, but the initial version of that bill was very deliberately set to sunset this protection within months of the upcoming election. Legislators removed that April 1, 2025, deadline after it became clear this would have prevented anyone from beginning an IVF procedure for three months before the election, which would have only put this issue right back on the front page at a very inconvenient time.

But absolutely nothing is stopping them from moving to limit or block any IVF protections once the election is over.

Moving to protect IVF through legislation would risk cutting Republicans off from their most fanatical supporters and from sources of cash that Trump can’t directly purloin. It would also leave them vulnerable to questions about why the millions of fertilized eggs destroyed in IVF attempts each year (far more than the number of embryos destroyed in abortions) don’t represent an annual holocaust. If Republicans really believe life begins when a unique genetic signature is created, IVF is unsupportable. If they don’t continue to voice that belief, almost all abortion legislation is left hanging from nothing.

Republicans are flailing, making gestures of support for IVF in hopes the issue will disappear until after the election. They want to pretend to be supportive of desperate families while quietly reassuring their base that they will actually continue to support a position held by only a tiny minority.

Duckworth’s move in bringing forward her bill was a good way to call their bluff. There should be more of this … right up to Election Day.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Gun Violence

Louisiana's New Gun Law: Concealed Carry, No Permit Or Training

A bill that will allow Louisiana residents to carry a concealed firearm without a permit is headed to the desk of Republican Gov. Jeff Landry. The bill would also remove current requirements for new gun owners to have their fingerprints taken and attend a training course on firearm safety. Landry has already indicated he intends to sign this bill into law.

The Republican governor is also set to sign a new batch of “tough on crime” bills authored and approved by a GOP-dominated state Legislature. These bills increase the number of crimes that are subject to prison sentences and lengthen sentences for existing crimes.

Louisiana currently has the second-highest incarceration rate in the nation. It also has the second-highest firearm mortality rate and the second-highest homicide rate. How are Republican legislators addressing these issues? By putting more people in prison and increasing potential gun violence.

When you add in people held in local jails, Louisiana has the nation’s highest overall rate of imprisonment. Thanks to relatively low spending per prisoner, it doesn’t make the top 10 when it comes to the overall cost of incarceration. However, it still manages to blow through better than $1 billion per year on correctional facilities.

The new legislation would add 60 crimes to the list of those ineligible for probation or a suspended sentence, ensuring that every conviction results in prison time. It would also increase the time prisoners must serve before they are eligible for parole.

The new legislation also makes juvenile court records public, even though they are typically sealed to protect minors. That means even a crime committed as a juvenile will now be visible to potential employers and others for the rest of a young offender’s life.

Meanwhile, the state Legislature is also pushing through a permitless concealed carry law that dumps the state’s previous requirements for training. An 11-state study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health showed that dropping training requirements for those carrying concealed weapons resulted in an average of 21 additional gun assaults per 100,000 population.

Considering how closely Louisiana trails Mississippi for the top spot in gun deaths (28.6 gun deaths per 100,000 population in Mississippi vs. 26.3 per 100,000 in Louisiana) this seems like just the ticket to move the Bayou State to the top of the chart.

For comparison, Louisiana’s rate of gun deaths is three times greater than California's and almost five times greater than New York’s. But then, those states both require permits.

Meanwhile, as it prepares to spend more money on prisons, Louisiana turned down federal funds to feed 594,000 hungry children this summer and falls 20% below the national average on spending for education.

Still, Landry is looking at one cost-cutting move to shorten some prison sentences: The governor reportedly wants to add hydrogen gas as a death row execution method and make electrocutions a thing again.

Maybe he’ll try using both at once. Oh, the humanity.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

How Trump Encourages Death Threats To Judges -- Including Republicans

How Trump Encourages Death Threats To Judges -- Including Republicans

When attorney Michael Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee in 2019, he delivered a key insight into his former boss Donald Trump. “He doesn’t give you questions,” said Cohen. “He doesn’t give you orders. He speaks in code, and I understand the code because I’ve been around him for a decade.”

Since Trump launched his run for office in 2015, millions of his fanatic supporters have learned to parse that code as well. Trump is counting on it. And when he tells them that a prosecutor is a racist or that a judge is “crazy, totally unhinged, and dangerous,” or when he falsely accuses the judge’s wife of running an anti-Trump social media account and sows conspiracy theories about a law clerk, his followers read Trump’s desires loud and clear.

Judges, prosecutors, and others who earn the ire of Trump are experiencing an “unprecedented wave of threats,” according to a Reuters report published on Thursday. So many that it has exploded the number of threats across the whole judicial system.

Trump’s social media attacks frequently include the names of prosecutors and judges. These attacks are so frequent that for most of the first half of 2023, Trump’s attacks on the legal system exceeded the number of posts for his presidential campaign.

He frequently claims that all of the charges against him are part of a single scheme controlled by President Joe Biden, and accuses judges of being part of a system that has been directed against him for political purposes. He also presents his indictments not as the result of crimes he has committed, but as something he suffers for all his followers.

“Joe Biden has weaponized law enforcement to interfere in our elections,” Trump told the audience at a conservative conference last June. “I’m being indicted for you.”

That theme has been repeated over and over on both his social media and at his rallies. Trump presents himself to his followers as the Christ-like victim of unwarranted persecution, suffering bravely against forces that, if they weren’t busy with him, would come after the humble people paying his legal bills. That helps to explain, though certainly not excuse, why threats against judges, prosecutors, and their staffs have more than tripled since Trump rode down the golden escalator.

It’s not just judges and prosecutors in Trump’s current civil and criminal cases who have come under threat. Well before the current round of cases, Trump was attacking judges, prosecutors, and even members of the jury.

As Trump and his allies were losing over 60 cases in his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, judges came under intense pressure.

“I could not believe how many death threats I got,” U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth told Reuters. When Lamberth’s home phone number reached the public, one man reportedly called his home repeatedly and graphically promised to kill him.

The U.S. Marshals Service is responsible for tracking and responding to threats against the judiciary. In the decade before Trump’s 2016 campaign, they fielded an average of 1,180 incidents a year. Over the seven years following his candidacy, that number rose to 3,810.

Retired Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor told Reuters that, “Donald Trump set the stage.” The former Republican justice said that Trump “gave permission by his actions and words for others to come forward and talk about judges in terms not just criticizing their decisions, but disparaging them and the entire judiciary.”

Most of those making threats against judges are reportedly not found. Others, like the man who made repeated death threats against Lamberth, get off with a warning from the Marshals Service. In the past four years, Reuters identified 57 federal prosecutions for threats to judges. It’s hard to know how this compares to past periods because no one appears to be keeping a public database of these prosecutions. However, based on the rising volume of threats, it would be frightening if this number were not higher than in the past.

Halfway through his trial for fraudulently overvaluing his real estate holdings, Trump was well aware that his social media posts attacking Judge Arthur Engoron and law clerk Allison Greenfield had received hundreds of credible threats. But when his gag order was briefly lifted, Trump used that time to go back on the attack. And when the order stopped him from attacking Greenfield, Trump leveled his false accusations at Engoron’s wife.

As Cohen said in his 2019 testimony, Trump “doesn’t give you orders.” But his meaning is clear. Trump no doubt knows the kind of violent threats that his social media posts and statements inspire. It’s hard to believe this isn’t exactly why he does it.

Direct threats are a crime, but incitement to violence is very difficult to prove. As the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University explains, “The First Amendment does not protect speech that incites imminent violence.” But the bar for committing incitement is set very high, high enough that simply telling your followers that someone is a terrible racist who is unfairly prosecuting you out of hate is still protected … even if you have a very good idea of what your followers might do in response.

When Trump includes people like staffers and family members, who have no say in his case but whose safety is concerning to the judges and prosecutors working the case, he knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s sending a signal to his followers, and to everyone in the judiciary.

Trump’s words are the lever. The threats are the result. The fear is what he wants.

And if someone acts on those threats … Well, it’s not like Trump gave them any orders.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

House GOP Persists In Biden 'Probe' Despite Arrest Of Top Witness

House GOP Persists In Biden 'Probe' Despite Arrest Of Top Witness

On Wednesday, the Republican-led House of Representatives impeachment inquiry questioned James Biden behind closed doors on the very critical matter of how he repaid a loan to his brother. Banking records have already revealed that there is absolutely nothing to find in this investigation. Joe Biden loaned his brother James $200,000. Two months later, James paid him back. Neither did one thing wrong.

This hearing is a perfect example of why everyone called before this inquiry should demand to testify publicly. Not only has House Oversight Committee Rep. James Comer accused both the president and Democrats in Congress of lying about the loan, even though Comer already had all the evidence in hand to show everything was accurate and above board, but Democrats are being denied their rightful opportunity to rub Republican noses in the ugly collapse of every piece of “evidence” behind this so-called investigation.

In the last few days, the FBI form that Republicans demanded to see, then released themselves after threatening to hold the FBI director in contempt, turns out to be the product of a Russian mole who was fed false information by Russian agents. Meanwhile, a picture of “cocaine” that was included in a court filing in charges against Hunter Biden turns out to be an image of sawdust.

The only real questions that remain in this investigation are: How much did James Comer, Jim Jordan, and Chuck Grassley know, and when did they know it?

As Spiderman might say, let’s do this one last time

In 2019, Rudy Giuliani went to Ukraine on orders from Donald Trump and came back with a story. That story was so ludicrous that everyone passed on it, including Fox News. But there was one place where Giuliani could still get this mess published: The New York Times.

According to that story, Joe Biden went to Ukraine and demanded the firing of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin because Shokin was investigating Burisma, the energy company where Hunter Biden served on the board. Biden allegedly threatened to withhold U.S. aid from Ukraine until Shokin was canned so Hunter could continue to collect his paycheck, and this oh-so-good prosecutor was unjustly fired.

The Times ran the story verbatim, without seeming to do anything like check Giuliani’s sources or look at public records. However, within a few days, Bloomberg dispatched a reporter to Ukraine to check on what Giuliani was selling, and sure enough, it was all bullshit.

Not only had Shokin not been investigating Burisma, he was so notoriously corrupt that officials in both the U.S. and the U.K. called for his removal for years. Biden didn’t start the push to remove Shokin, and he didn’t act alone. Everything that happened in Ukraine was very public, and European officials celebrated when Shokin was finally sacked.

There was no story. There never had been a story. But that didn’t stop Republicans from continuing to repeat Giuliani’s fairytale.

Then a miracle happened. Republicans learned that the FBI had been given a tip about this subject, one that resulted in an FD-1023 form that seemed to back up everything Giuliani had said in 2019. Over objections from the FBI, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Jim Jordan demanded the form. Then Grassley and Comer released the form to the public, and it became the beating heart of the Republican “impeachment investigation.”

And the form was perfect. Referring to Joe Biden as the “big guy” was in there. A claim that Hunter Biden was hired to "protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems” was right on the front page. The “17 recordings” of phone calls that supposedly included Joe Biden getting directly involved with his son’s business came from this form. Best of all, it included the claim that a Burisma executive complained about how "it cost 5 (million) to pay one Biden, and 5 (million) to another Biden.”

The form was everything. The absolute proof that Republicans wanted.

Except, of course, everything in it completely contradicted years of public records and statements from those involved. Republicans didn’t let that bother them. Comer defended this form repeatedly, calling Democrats who challenged its contents liars. Grassley declared the importance of those recordings mentioned in the form, even while admitting they might not exist. Jim Jordan practically quoted the form in his questioning of Devon Archer, and then lied about Archer’s testimony when it failed to match up.

Then last Thursday, Alexander Smirnov, the man behind that FD-1023, was charged with lying to the FBI and creating false records. According to CNN, Smirnov has informed investigators that he has “‘extensive and extremely recent’ contacts” with Russian spies. And in an interview after his arrest, Smirnov admitted that “officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story about Businessperson 1.”

“Businessperson 1” is Hunter Biden.

So, Republicans have not only spent the last year pressing an investigation of the president’s son largely instigated by a document that turns out to have been tailor-made for them by Russian intelligence, they opened an impeachment inquiry with a Russian agent as the “heart” of their investigation.

The answer to why the FBI was so reluctant to release the document is simple: They don’t release unfounded accusations (unless they come from James Comey or Robert Hur, of course). And that ongoing investigation that had Republicans so excited was the investigation of Smirnov, not Hunter Biden.

All of this was a lie, and Republicans knew it. Just ask one of the men who toured Giuliani around Ukraine in the first place.

Republicans are plowing on, keeping up the pretense that this source they made such a big deal about for so long was just “ancillary” to their investigation into what they love to call “the Biden crime family.” They have other evidence, dammit. Like how Joe Biden once loaned his son some money for a truck.

But in the last day, another part of the investigation into Hunter Biden has crumbled into dust. As in sawdust.

Federal prosecutors mistakenly claimed in a court filing that a photo of sawdust they found while searching Hunter Biden's electronics was cocaine, attorneys for the president's son said Tuesday.

How anyone could have ever thought that this material, which was tan in color and sitting on a table saw, was anything other than sawdust is astounding. But a picture of any kind of dust seemed to be convincing to Sean Hannity, so Fox News audiences aren’t likely to be threatened by the truth. (This also raises questions about just what Hannity has been putting up his nose.)

A Russian agent. A fake document. A pile of sawdust. That’s what Republicans have to show for their big investigation.

It would be really great to hear what’s happening behind those closed doors today. Democrats should be having fun.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Ron DeSantis

Republicans Do Have Policy Ideas For 2024 -- They're All Just Terrible

Republicans are heading into a 2024 election where their only policy is whatever Donald Trump said in his latest social media post. Being totally dependent on the passing whims of a single mercurial and vindictive leader is not a great position for any political party. But for Republicans, this might actually be a good development.

Not because Trump is anything less than a monster. But because, while Republicans do have ideas, they’re all terrible ideas.

No place illustrates that better than Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis is just starting to realize that his book bans are a total disaster. This cornerstone of anti-woke policies, which was eagerly adopted by Republicans in school districts nationwide, has led to such ridiculous levels of censorship that it’s now under attack by Ron DeSantis himself.

After DeSantis signed a bill that allowed anyone, even people from outside the state, to force schools and libraries to remove books or face criminal consequences, the state became America’s book-banning leader. By last fall, Sunshine State schools had more than double the bans of runner-up Texas and accounted for 40% of book bannings nationwide.

It’s become bad enough that DeSantis has finally recognized that those tagging books for removal were “intentionally depriving students of rightful education by politicizing this process.” But of course, it was an explicitly political process from the start.

DeSantis is speaking out against provisions of the bill he signed, like those that allow a single person to flag an unlimited number of books. But DeSantis is still insisting that many of those bans are “appropriate,” and he doesn’t seem to be talking about repealing the part of that same bill that made it a crime to use someone’s preferred pronouns.

Even if DeSantis gets Florida to back off slightly on the book bans, Republicans there are still hot to take up the critical issues of outlawing pride flags and preserving Confederate monuments. And if that’s not enough, the Florida commissioner of agriculture is attacking the United Nations for “woke” and “left-wing” policies that try to help the environment.

Republicans spent much of the last two years declaring themselves “anti-woke,” attacking trans people, and trying to chase down programs that encouraged diversity and protected the environment. But elections in both 2022 and 2023 have shown that voters don’t like these policies.

That even seems to be true of Republican voters, with poll results last fall showing that this was all a big meh, even on the right. The economy matters to Republican voters. National security matters. But “anti-woke” barely moves the needle.

The same has been true for corporations that tried to leverage anti-woke politics to ditch diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts or environmental policies. A study from November found that shareholder support for anti-ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) programs was “essentially nonexistent.” People don’t seem interested in investing in companies that are polluting, unfair, and out of control … which is nice.

But just because Republicans couldn't manage to make anti-woke happen, doesn't mean they don't have other policies that are just as bad. Or even that they’ve given up on woke. Because woke means anything they want it to mean.

For example, an Idaho state representative has declared that he is against federal funds for rural internet, because giving people in his state internet access is woke.

If they can't win on woke, Republicans can always go back to their sure winners, like the 14 states that refused money to feed hungry school children, the 26 states that refused additional federal unemployment benefits during the pandemic, a push to raise drug prices, and the brilliant idea to eliminate not student loan debt, but student loans.

Join Republicans in keeping Americans broke, hungry, uneducated, and unable to buy the medications they need! That’s a little long to fit on a yard sign, but they can workshop it. If that’s not too woke.

If none of that works, Fox News isn’t afraid to unlimber their anti-woke guns against the biggest target of all: Taylor Swift. According to Fox, Native American activists are worried that Swift could cost them a sacred part of their culture.

America’s most famous Chiefs fan right now, Taylor Swift, is being hailed by some as the great woke hope who can force the franchise to cave to charges of racism and end its "tomahawk chop" chant.

Republicans can surely put that near the top of the 2024 platform. Right above denying people the internet and right below “whatever Trump says.” Attacking Taylor Swift has been such a winning issue for them so far.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Perfect Together: History's Worst President And His Wretched First Lady

Perfect Together: History's Worst President And His Wretched First Lady

Melania Trump hasn’t been associating with her husband, Donald, on his retribution tour across America. She hasn’t been at his side during his trials for fraud or for defaming a woman he sexually assaulted in a dressing room. She didn’t even show up for her spouse’s New Year's Eve party. That level of dedicated absence may lead to suggestions that the Einstein visa-winning former nude model doesn’t really care for her ketchup-hurling husband.

But over the weekend, there was more evidence that the pair are perfect for each other. They may not be a match made in heaven, but in whatever spiritual sweatshop cranks out rich-old-guy-and-much-younger-trophy-wife relationships, these two are a chef’s kiss.

That fresh evidence starts with Fox News fuming over the latest presidential rankings from a survey of political scholars who specialize in presidential history. Those rankings once again have Abraham Lincoln in the top spot. It’s also no surprise who is riding in the historical caboose. Not only is Trump ranked dead last, he’s last by a huge margin. It’s bad. Like, way behind James Buchanan bad.

And to really get MAGA fans grinding their molars: Both Barack Obama and Joe Biden are in the top 15.

The survey notes that since the last survey of political professors in 2018, Obama’s star has risen significantly, bringing him up nine slots, No. 16 to No. 7. Biden has entered the list at a more-than-respectable No. 14.

Trump is reliably at the end of the line, picking up so few votes that it’s genuinely amazing. Just three points separate the top three spots on the list, making the difference between fans of Lincoln, FDR, and Washington. But Trump is six points behind Buchanan—the biggest difference between two slots on the whole list. It certainly gives the impression that, no matter how many names are added in future surveys, Trump will have no problem defending his territory.

But how does this make him perfect for his disinterested import?

As a weekend article in The New York Times shows, Melania isn’t just disinterested in Donald; she’s disinterested in everything. Especially anything that looks like work.

As the Times put it, Melania spent “spent four years flouting many of the expectations about what a modern first lady should be.” Especially, it seems, when those expectations are visible, engaged, and giving a damn about the nation.

“For months, Mrs. Trump had taken to walking around the Executive Residence in hotel-style terry cloth robes,” insiders told the Times.

Throughout her husband’s presidency, she often perched on the bed in his room to listen to or join his calls with advisers and allies, Stephanie Grisham, Melania’s former press secretary, said in an interview. By the time her White House tenure came to an end, Melania was described as “checked out” and “exhausted,” but there’s not much evidence that she ever really checked in.

Between “Who gives a fuck about Christmas?” and wearing a jacket stamped with "I really don't care, do you?" on her way to a detention center for migrant children, Melania never seemed to even make a gesture in the direction of being concerned about the institution of first lady, the White House, or the nation.

Her office in the East Wing was so rarely used, that it was converted into a space for wrapping gifts. Whether those gifts were for fucking Christmas or some other occasion isn’t clear.

There was one thing that Trump’s wife did seem to like about her time at the White House: how much she got to murder the aesthetics. Whether that was the “evisceration” of the Rose Garden or the hallways of nightmare trees, Melania loved the changes she had made to the White House. And she loved to arrange photo albums of those changes.

“All she cared about was those photo albums,” Grisham said. Though Grisham apparently tossed in an expletive that the Times chose not to print.

The Times also has a perfect description of how Melania spent her days leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

In the days before the attack on the Capitol, Mrs. Trump had been cataloging the contents of her swag room, including the small mementos and gifts that she would hand out to friends and allies of the Trump family. An aide traveled back and forth to the Executive Residence with a binder listing the current inventory, according to two former Trump White House officials.

In the middle of the assault on the Capitol, as Grisham was trying to get Melania to issue a statement against the violence, the first lady turned her down. Instead, Melania spent Jan. 6 taking pictures of herself with a new rug she had selected for the White House residence. More pictures for her photo albums. Because that was her priority.

Could we please get a fresh ranking of first ladies? It’s safe to say that Eleanor Roosevelt’s spot really isn’t in doubt. But if there was a new list, it seems a pretty good bet that Melania Trump could take the badge of dishonor with the same laziness and disdain she has displayed toward everything else.

Because she and her husband may hate each other, but they are also perfect for each other.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Matt Gaetz

House Ethics Panel Expands Probe Of Gaetz As 'Ex-Girlfriend' Testifies

The House Ethics Committee is conducting an investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) that includes reaching out to a woman he reportedly had sex with while she was still a minor. CNN reported Thursday that this investigation is now expanding, with the committee seeking information from a former Capitol Hill staffer described both as Gaetz's “ex-girlfriend” and a “key witness.”

In CNN’s words, the investigation includes “allegations of sex crimes, drug use, and illicit benefits.” But Gaetz is reportedly adamant that the whole thing is just “payback” for his role in ousting former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.

Despite the source, there may be some truth to Gaetz’s claims. McCarthy may no longer be in the House, but he is reportedly "out for blood" and going on a "revenge tour" to get back at Gaetz and others he feels betrayed him.

While members of the House Ethics Committee have declined to comment, an attorney for Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend informed CNN that she is a potential witness in the ongoing investigation. The woman’s relationship with Gaetz reportedly goes back to 2017, which is the same period in which Gaetz was reportedly involved in sexual contact with a 17-year-old girl.

A federal probe into allegations that Gaetz was involved in sex trafficking ended in 2023, with no charges filed against Gaetz. That investigation was connected to a scheme involving Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg—a reported friend of Gaetz—who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for six federal charges including sex trafficking, identity theft, and wire fraud.

The House Ethics Committee resumed its investigation into Gaetz in June 2023, several months before McCarthy was ousted. According to private correspondence that The Daily Beast reviewed, Gaetz told a friend that his effort to undercut and remove McCarthy from the speaker position was payback for launching the ethics probe. Gaetz ultimately forced the vote that ousted McCarthy, and was obviously pleased with the outcome.

“We heard Speaker McCarthy say that he wanted us to ‘Bring it on!’ Gaetz told reporters after the vote ended McCarthy’s term as speaker. “So I guess we did.”

In addition to the satisfaction of seeing McCarthy sidelined, the move also seems to have generated an infusion of cash for Gaetz. According toPolitico, six of the eight Republican House members who voted to oust McCarthy saw an increase in small-dollar fundraising over the next quarter. Gaetz had a quarter-over-quarter jump of $725,000 from donors giving under $200.

In December, the angry and humiliated McCarthy resigned from the House. But even though Gaetz won the battle, McCarthy doesn’t seem to be finished with the war.

Vanity Fair describes McCarthy as “out for blood,” and Politico says he is overseeing an effort to find primary challengers for the “Gaetz Eight.”

The New Republic calls it McCarthy’s “revenge tour” and says he knows exactly who he is targeting first: Reps. Nancy Mace, Bob Good, and Eli Crane. McCarthy’s allies judge these three to be the most vulnerable. Mace may be at the front of the line because she is described as having been a member of McCarthy’s “inner circle” before she voted for his removal.

After being removed from office and resigning from the House, McCarthy may seem to be a less-than-fearsome opponent when it comes to launching a campaign of revenge. However, previous to his ouster, he was known as the Republican’s best fundraiser. According to The New Republic, McCarthy is still able to tap his donor network to power primary challenges against the Republicans on his hit list. There are even indications that McCarthy’s vengeance tour could continue beyond this election cycle, as he works his way through Gaetz’s supporters.

Whether or not McCarthy is successful, the idea that the best Republican fundraiser is busy raising funds to take down Republican incumbents seems like a very good thing for Democrats, as well as another battle in the Republicans' intraparty warfare.

Maybe McCarthy should pick up a yellow jumpsuit and a katana.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Donald Trump

Trump Authoritarians Are Preparing To Purge Anyone Who Isn't 'MAGA' Enough

Coming out of the Iowa caucuses, there was a moment when Donald Trump seemed almost gracious. His victory speech largely ignored the campaigns of Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley as Trump concentrated on thanking his supporters and wandering into a strange interlude about how former President Jimmy Carter must be happy despite his wife’s recent death. That line drew applause and cheers from the Republican crowd.

Trump lavished admiration on withdrawn candidate Vivek Ramaswamy and barely mentioned DeSantis or Haley. For Trump, that’s as good as it gets.

But things changed in New Hampshire. In the aftermath of an unimpressive win, Trump ripped into not just Haley but her supporters. Now Trump is warning that anyone who gives Haley a contribution will be “permanently barred from the MAGA camp.” Any illusion that someone could be a Republican but not totally loyal to Trump is over.

Trump’s threat, posted to Truth Social on Wednesday, makes it clear that anyone who sends a dime to Haley will never be accepted into his red hat movement. The post came on the same evening when Trump released a video statement outlining his plan to remove “rogue bureaucrats,” saying, “I will wield that power very aggressively.” Then he ticked off his intentions to liquidate security officials, intelligence agents, and justice officials, whom he says are targeting “conservatives, Christians, or the left’s political enemies.”

Trump is making it clear that if he is elected, being MAGA will be a requirement of government employment. His threat to Haley drives home that only unwavering, slavish devotion to Trump makes one MAGA.

This echoes Trump sycophant Marjorie Taylor Greene’s call for “completely eradicating” from the Republican Party anyone who doesn’t support Trump. The representative from Georgia also recently said that Trump supporters “will not forget” Haley’s failure to fall in line behind Trump.

MAGA is not a philosophy. It’s not a political platform. It’s a loyalty oath to one man over everything else.

There is a month remaining until the South Carolina primary, where Haley hopes that her home state will rally to keep her in the presidential race. But Trump is making it absolutely clear to Republicans that the time in which they might support someone else is over. Anyone who contributes to Haley is going on a blacklist for life. He’s not quite threatening to sew a giant red or yellow “H” on their clothing … but it’s close.

Give it time, and a good MAGA rating might soon also be required to get a government contract. Or to travel freely around the country. Or to stay out of the massive internment camps Trump is planning. Trump has dropped all pretenses. Anyone who wants a future in Trump’s America had better get in line, and they better get in line now.

And that’s exactly what Senate Republicans are doing.

Within the past 10 days, Senate Republicans were praising a new deal on immigration, with conservatives like Sen. James Lankford calling it “by far, the most conservative border security bill in four decades.” Senators warned Republicans in the House that they wouldn’t get a better deal.

“To those who think that if President Trump wins, which I hope he does, that we can get a better deal—you won’t,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham. “You got to get 60 votes in the United States Senate.”

“The Democrats will not give us anything close to this if we have to get 60 votes in the United States Senate in a Republican majority,” said Sen. John Thune. “We have a unique opportunity here. And the timing is right to do this.”

Then, on Wednesday, Trump told Republicans to kill the deal so that he could continue to talk about the border for his campaign. And just like that, what Republicans were calling a crisis and an invasion became something that could be put off. Because nothing, nothing, nothing matters more to them than pleasing Trump. “I think the border is a very important issue for Donald Trump. And the fact that [Trump] would communicate to Republican senators and congresspeople that he doesn't want us to solve the border problem because he wants to blame Biden for it is really appalling.” But it is already clear that Romney is never getting his MAGA hat.

That’s what it means to live in a dictatorship, doing what the dictator says even when you know it’s wrong. Republicans are there already. Now they want to bring America with them.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Frustrated Trump And His Thuggish Stooges Are Threatening Nikki Haley

Frustrated Trump And His Thuggish Stooges Are Threatening Nikki Haley

On Tuesday, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley took 43 percent of the vote in New Hampshire’s Republican primary. That allowed her to nab nine of the state’s 22 delegates. With this finish, Haley declared that she was staying in the race and moving on to campaign in South Carolina.

That Republican primary in South Carolina is a full month away. That gives Haley time to grow her voter base and reach out to her network of supporters in a state that elected her governor. Twice.

Naturally, Donald Trump is boiling over about Haley’s refusal to get out of his way and Trump’s legions of sycophants are hurrying to apply pressure. But some statements stand out from the crowd because they lower the bar on Republican hypocrisy. And that bar was already on the ground.

As might be expected, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) jumped straight to claims that the vote for Haley included “fake numbers” and said that “Nikki Haley does not have this much support.”

Then Greene went after Haley’s donors and said her consultants “should go to jail,” as captured by Acyn on X:

Turning the pressure level up to 11, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel also called for Haley to drop out in a Fox News appearance.

“I do think there’s a message from the voters which is very clear,” said McDaniel. “We need to unite around our eventual nominee, which is going to be Donald Trump.”

Trump topped off his primary night festivities with none-too-subtle threats that he knew “five reasons why” Nikki Haley should be under investigation.

But threatening opponents with investigations is old hat. When it comes to genuinely smashing all previous barriers of hypocrisy, it was Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway who really went there. So much so, that you may want to put away anything breakable before watching the video below.

"This is a democracy, a constitutional republic. We must respect the will of the people,” said Conway, “and Nikki Haley can't become an election denier. She’s been rejected. She can say tonight she came in second, or you can say she came in last.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

With Trial Delayed, Trump Posts 44 New Attacks On E. Jean Carroll

With Trial Delayed, Trump Posts 44 New Attacks On E. Jean Carroll

At the start of Monday’s session in Donald Trump’s trial for defaming writer E. Jean Carroll, one of the jurors reported they were sick. However, a civil trial can proceed without the full complement if both sides agree, and Carroll’s lawyers told Judge Lewis Kaplan they were ready to carry on.

At that point, Donald Trump’s attorney Alina Habba stood up to tell Kaplan that she wasn’t feeling well herself—possibly because her latest motion for a mistrial was immediately smacked down—and that she wanted a delay. Habba also stated that her client wanted to testify, but didn’t want to do so before Tuesday’s New Hampshire primaries.

After further discussion, Kaplan agreed, and the day’s events were gaveled to a close. Then, within seconds of being dismissed from the courtroom, Trump got down to the serious work of the day: sending out at least 44 social media attacks on the woman he is liable for sexually assaulting.

Most of Trump’s attacks on Monday consisted of posting Carrol’s old social media posts, portions of old articles, and interviews with Carroll. Few of the items posted have any relevance to the case, and none of them contain exculpatory evidence for Trump.

The purpose of these posts seems to be to imply that Carroll was someone who often talked about sex. But after boiling down over a decade of posts, Trump managed to come up largely with material that would barely raise an eyebrow in an office conversation.

Of course, the posts weren’t intended to impact the trial, and they will never be seen by the general public. They’re there just to keep Trump’s base rabid and to help them see the 80-year-old Carroll as some sort of deviant for talking about men, sex, and people she found attractive. Or even more bluntly, they’re designed to make her seem like someone who got what she deserved.

This sort of attack is exactly why Trump is in court in the first place. After Trump was found liable in May of last year, Judge Kaplan clarified that the only reason Trump wasn’t found to have raped Carroll was because of the technical definition of the act under New York law.

“The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was ‘raped’ within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump ‘raped’ her as many people commonly understand the word ‘rape,’” wrote Kaplan.

In September, Kaplan ruled that Carroll’s claim of rape was “substantially true under common modern parlance.”

The whole reason Trump is back in court on this case is that after Carroll publicly described her rape in a 2019 book, Trump issued a statement—from the White House—in which he not only denied her claim but also said he had never met Carroll, accused her of just “trying to sell a new book,” and suggested Carroll was working with the Democratic Party to attack him. He also accused Carroll of hurting actual rape victims with her “false accusations.”

The question this new jury has to answer is how much Trump owes Carroll for defaming her in his statements. Based on his actions during Monday’s delay, the best answer may be: Keep the meter running.

At the moment, Trump is still saying that he will testify in the case. That doesn’t mean it will happen. Trump was due to testify for the defense at his real estate fraud trial in New York, but he withdrew at the last minute. If he does testify, it will be very interesting to see if Trump can stay within the bounds the court has set for him.

In saying that she wasn’t feeling well at the beginning of the trial, Habba also revealed that at least one of her parents had COVID-19 and that she had been exposed, but she also claimed to have tested negative. Habba, of course, took absolutely no precautions and did not wear a mask in court. So the delay could potentially stretch out for some time.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.