More to ignore, Book 21....

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Who is Ray Epps? Just another example of Republicans eating their own
Mark Sumner

When insurgents smashed their way into the Capitol on Jan. 6 both Republican members of Congress and the propagandists at Fox News had no doubt about who was in charge of the violence. From Kevin McCarthy’s frantic calls, to Sean Hannity’s texts, all of them were begging Trump to call off his dogs. Even Donald Trump’s own son was texting Mark Meadows in an effort to get his father to pull back his private army. Not one of those texts was mentioned a belief that the violence was generated by infiltrators from Black Lives Matter, or antifa, or the FBI.

In the critical moment, all of them, from Jim Jordan to Laura Ingraham, knew the truth: Trump inspired the violence, Trump directed the violence, and the mob ripping through the Capitol building was doing the bidding of their master.

But of course, none of that was what they said in public or on the air. Even before the attack began, right-wing media was already claiming that antifa and BLM infiltrators were among the crowd. In the hours after the attack, the need for a scapegoat accelerated, and it didn’t take long for the Q-inspired network of Trump supporters to land a greasy finger on the perfect fall guy. That guy was Ray Epps—a 60-year-old member of their own ranks, and the former president of the largest branch of the Oath Keepers militia. He’s a far-right Trump supporter who has been thrown under the bus by his fellow Trumpists.
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All of this seems to stem from a Jan. 5 video in which Epps is seen calling on people to “go into the Capitol” while insisting that they do so “peacefully.” Add in the fact that Epps has not been arrested in connection with the insurrection, and that was enough for those looking for anything other than the truth.

Epps was declared an FBI mole by social media sleuths. It didn’t take long before the Trump faithful became convinced that Epps had been planted in their ranks to trick them into the invasion. In days, the wedding venue owner from Arizona was transformed into the center of a conspiracy to entrap Trump supporters, and given a starring role in Tucker Carlson’s nightly conspiracies. It wasn’t Donald Trump who was in charge of the insurrection, said the conspiracy theories, it was Ray Epps.

The finger of blame was directed toward Epps when a picture appearing to show Epps among a group of people charging past a fallen police barricade was posted by the FBI. But Epps failed to be arrested and his picture was later removed. This, according to the Q-cognoscenti, was clear evidence that Epps is “a fed”—a plant slipped in amongst the unsuspecting sheep of Trump supporters to lead them astray.

The truth seems to be a whole lot simpler. The FBI talked to Epps. Attorneys for the House Select Committee on Jan. 6 talked to Epps. Neither found any clear evidence that he had been involved in violence, or that he had actually entered the Capitol building on Jan. 6. No video or pictures have subsequently emerged showing Epps inside the Capitol.

Epps—who has denied that he was employed by the FBI, or any other agency, on Jan. 5 or Jan. 6, or on any other day of his life—is an ex-Marine who operates the Knotty Barn wedding venue near Queen Creek, AZ. Epps and his family have owned the location since at least 2010, after a previous career as a roofing contractor. The Knotty Barn is modeled after a barn Epps’ grandfather built on nearby land over a century ago. There is absolutely no evidence that Epps is, or has ever been, some kind of operative. He does keep emus on his farm, though, along with dwarf goats. That surely plays into the conspiracy theory somehow.

However, Epps does have a long history with anti-government militias. That includes at least two stints with the Oath Keepers. In 2011, Epps was the president of the Arizona branch, the largest group of Oath Keepers with a claimed membership of 5,000 and extensive connections to Republican politicians in Arizona.

What this quest to find a fall guy has done to Epps with his camo-wearing buddies isn’t clear, and there’s no word on how it’s affected bookings at the Knotty Barn. But it’s unlikely Epps enjoyed hearing Ted Cruz repeat his name to promote Carlson’s conspiracy theories in the middle of a Senate hearing. And Cruz wasn’t the only one. Sen. Tom Cotton also directed questions about Epps to the assistant attorney general. This also isn’t the first time Epps has been at the focus of a congressional hearing. Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie first ran the video of Epps talking about going to the Capitol during a hearing with Attorney General Merrick Garland back in October.

True to form, following the hearing on Tuesday, Fox News ran with the headline “Top FBI official dodges when Cruz asks if agents participated in Jan. 6 riot,” and then went on to repeat most of Carlson’s conspiracy theory claims in their article.


From the president of the Oath Keepers to an outcast shunned as an FBI operative, Epps is, if nothing else, a sterling example of how willing Trump supporters are to eat their own if that’s what it takes to keep the conspiracies alive.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Fresh from a Tucker beatdown, Ted Cruz flogs Carlson’s Jan. 6 ‘false flag’ theory in Senate hearing
David Neiwert

Wednesday’s announcement at a Senate hearing that the Justice Department is creating a new unit specifically dedicated to domestic terrorism is yet another indication that the Biden administration is proceeding wisely in its announced campaign to reel in far-right extremist violence after the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Problems remain with the definitional language around the subjects of this investigative/prosecutorial work, but in the broader picture, it demonstrates that Biden’s Department of Justice is focused on the right strategy—namely, establishing right-wing extremist violence (which grew significantly worse under the Trump administration) as a major priority for federal law enforcement.

Which means, of course, that this step will induce howls of outrage from Tucker Carlson and his band of denialists. Indeed, one of Carlson’s most obsequious minions—Sen. Ted “Reek” Cruz, fresh from having what remains of his spine surgically removed by Carlson on national television—led a Republican attack on the Department of Justice officials who announced the new unit during the same hearing, while parroting Carlson’s absurd “false flag” conspiracy theory for the congressional record. Carlson himself followed up on Fox News with a typically gaslighting rant promoting Cruz’s appearance.



Cruz’s rhetorical attack in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “The Domestic Terrorism Threat One Year After January 6” followed the announcement by Matthew Olsen, head of Department of Justice’s National Security Division, at the session’s outset of the formation of the new unit.

Noting that the number of FBI investigations of suspected “domestic violent extremists” had more than doubled since 2020, Olsen told the committee that the new unit would “augment our existing approach.”

“This group of dedicated attorneys will focus on the domestic terrorism threat, helping to ensure that these cases are handled properly and effectively coordinated across the Department of Justice and across the country,” Olsen said.

Cruz was having none of that. He barraged Olsen with a series of technical questions about the numbers of people arrested for their Jan. 6 activities and how many were for violent offenses, comparing them to prosecutions for “BLM and antifa” violence in the summer of 2020—none of which Olsen was able to answer.

“Your answer to every damn question is ‘I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know,’” Cruz ranted.

He reserved his more serious vitriol for Jill Sanborn, head of the FBI’s national security branch, after she similarly failed to answer his questions—particularly regarding Carlson’s “false flag” theory. Cruz even brought out screenshots taken from Darren Beattie’s coverage for Revolver News (Carlson’s primary source for his conspiracy theory) showing an Arizona man associated with the Oath Keepers named Ray Epps and his actions that day at the Capitol.

But as Politifact explains, Beattie doesn’t even confirm that Epps is an FBI informant, but rather speculates broadly that he is. His actions on Jan. 6, videos show, are wholly consistent with those of the outspoken Trump supporter he has been for years (notably as a spokesman for the Arizona Oath Keepers). And as with all of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers who had informant relationships with the FBI, if Epps was also himself an informant, the information he was providing was intelligence on their “leftist” opponents, not on their own organization.

Nonetheless, after ranting about Epps at length and insisting he was an FBI informant, Cruz demanded to know whether FBI agents or informants were in the crowd that day, whether they had participated in any criminal activity, or whether they had encouraged “violent criminal conduct” on Jan. 6. Sanborn replied that she was unable to even discuss those matters.

“Ms. Sanborn, a lot of Americans are concerned that the federal government deliberately encouraged illegal violent conduct on Jan. 6,” Cruz said, demanding to know if that was true.

“Not to my knowledge, sir,” she answered.

In fact, Cruz was repeating almost word for word the narrative spun by Carlson in his conspiracist gaslighting campaign, which Cruz eagerly and abjectly embraced on Carlson’s Jan. 6 Fox News show after Carlson eviscerated the senator for describing the insurrection as “terrorism,” which Carlson called “a lie.”

As Media Matters’ Eric Kleefeld observed regarding that segment, Cruz not only bought into Carlson’s conspiracist nonsense, he made it clear that he intended to champion it henceforth. The two also discussed Epps at length:

CARLSON: So who is Ray Epps, by the way? Since you are a senator like there -- he and this other guy are clearly encouraging the crowd to commit crimes. Neither one has been arrested or charged. What is that, do you think?
CRUZ: So, I think that is a very good question. I don't know who Ray Epps is. I've seen that video multiple times.
CARLSON: Right.

CRUZ: It is disturbing. He is clearly urging the crowd to violate the law. When you see the crowd start chanting, “Fed, Fed, Fed.” For him to appear on the FBI’s most wanted list and come off, it certainly suggests he was working for the FBI. That's not conclusive, but that's the obvious implication.

Cruz concluded the segment by assuring Carlson that he would promote the narrative: “They want to paint us as Nazis! Yes, that is what they are trying to do. And I just—look, I’m the one leading the fight in the Senate against this garbage. And it’s what I have been doing and what I’ll continue doing.”

Wednesday afternoon, the Jan. 6 committee’s Twitter posted a response to the theories about Epps:

The Committee has interviewed Epps. Epps informed us that he was not employed by, working with, or acting at the direction of any law enforcement agency on Jan 5th or 6th or at any other time, & that he has never been an informant for the FBI or any other law enforcement agency.

Nonetheless, Carlson went on his Fox show Wednesday night and claimed that Sanborn’s refusal to answer, Cruz’s questions were evidence that, in fact, “DOJ had some role in the events of Jan. 6,” and then speculated baselessly about the Jan. 6 committee’s tweet:



When exactly and under what circumstances did the committee talk to Ray Epps? Supposedly this interview was conducted in secret last November. If that is true—we don’t know that it is, but let’s say it is—then why did the committee wait months to tell us today in a tweet? When the committee got its hands on Mark Meadows’ text messages, we seem to remember they leaked those to the media within hours. And by the way, was this Ray Epps interview conducted under oath? Did Democrats subpoena his electronic communications as they did with Meadows and so many others? Will the information Epps revealed to the committee be available to the many January 6 defendants who are now awaiting trial? Can their lawyers see a transcript of the interview? Can we see a transcript of this interview? If not, why not?

Carlson went on to claim that even though “Epps is a longtime right-wing activist” who “urged protesters to riot,” Democrats on the committee have become “protective” of him. “So what’s going on here? Something is, that’s for sure,” he concluded.

This is how Carlson’s gaslighting campaign has proceeded from the start: Toss odd factoids that in most cases are either wildly distorted or patently untrue into a cauldron brimming with visceral denialism along with an endless stream of conspiracist speculation, and voila! A fresh round of Kool-Aid for his millions of viewers to gulp down heartily.

And now he knows he can count on Ted Cruz to help hand out the cups.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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NPR interview shows an agitated, delusional Donald Trump
Laura Clawson

After a year of hiding from the media, Donald Trump called in for an interview with National Public Radio, only to become agitated and end the interview early.

NPR’s Steve Inskeep pressed Trump on his election lies through much of the nine minutes of what was supposed to be a 15-minute phone interview, with predictable results. Trump has never done well when he had to answer one reporter’s questions and follow-ups, preferring to either do one-on-one interviews with right-wing media sycophants—all he’s done since leaving office—or to pick and choose from questions shouted by groups of reporters, allowing him to respond with a lie and move on to the next question.

This time, Trump didn’t have Marine One’s rotors running behind him and a group of eager reporters clamoring in front of him. He had Inskeep’s questions about his insistence that the 2020 election was rigged, and he didn’t like it.
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Inskeep asked if Republican Sen. Mike Rounds is right to say that insisting the 2020 election was stolen will dissuade Republicans from voting in future elections.

Obviously, Trump did not agree. “No, I think it's an advantage, because otherwise they're going to do it again in '22 and '24, and Rounds is wrong on that. Totally wrong.”

“If you look at the numbers, if you look at the findings in Arizona, if you look at what’s going on in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, by the way, and take a look at Wisconsin, they’re finding things that nobody thought possible,” Trump continued. “This was a corrupt election.”

But, Inskeep pointed out, the guy who ran the Arizona “audit” said that the ballots were counted correctly and there was nothing that would have changed the results of the election.

“The ballots may correspond, but look at the ballots themselves,” Trump responded. “What you really have to do with that report is look at the findings, and the findings are devastating for Arizona, they’re devastating like nobody’s seen before, and other states are just as bad.”

So, Inskeep asked, why did Republicans in Arizona accept the report? “Because they’re RINOs, and frankly, a lot of people are questioning that.”

Trump didn’t just lose the election and the various recount efforts after it. He also lost in court a whole lot, and Inskeep challenged him with statements both by a Trump-appointed judge who heard one of those cases and by two of Trump’s own lawyers admitting that “We are not alleging fraud” and “This is not a fraud case.” That exchange continued the escalation of Trump’s agitation toward the moment when he hung up, as he made more and more allegations of outright election theft.

“You look at the number of votes. Go into Detroit and just ask yourself, is it true that there are more votes than there are voters? Look at Pennsylvania. Look at Philadelphia. Is it true that there were far more votes than there were voters?” (It is not even a little bit true that there were more votes than there were voters. Turnout in Detroit was just 51%, for instance.)

NPR didn’t play the entire interview unedited, but they played snippets from Trump’s increasingly unhinged responses. Republicans like Rounds apparently feel free to tell the truth about 2020 “Because Mitch McConnell is a loser,” for instance.

The interview came to a close as, over Inskeep’s efforts to interject, Trump ranted, “No sitting president has ever gotten the number of votes that I got—no sitting president, do you, I, nobody believes, you think Biden got 80 million votes? How come when he went to speak in different locations nobody came to watch, but all of a sudden he got 80 million votes, nobody believes it.”

“If you’ll forgive me, maybe because the election was about you,” Inskeep answered, then asked if Trump’s endorsement of 2022 candidates was contingent on those candidates pressing his 2020 claims. “The ones that are smart” will do so, Trump responded, then moved on to ranting some more. “People have no idea how big this issue is and they don’t want it to happen again. It shouldn’t be allowed to happen and they don’t want it to happen again, and the only way it’s not going to happen again is you have to solve the problem of the presidential rigged election of 2020, so Steve, thank you very much, I appreciate it.”

And then he hung up before Inskeep could ask about a court case on Trump’s liability for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In short, Trump’s skin hasn’t gotten any thicker in the past year and he hasn’t gotten any more interested in telling the truth. He is a small, weak man huddled in a comforting cocoon of lies he’s constructed for himself. Most days he doesn’t risk talking to anyone who might disrupt his fantasy world. And when he does, as here, we see just how weak and unable to cope with reality he is. It would be pathetic if he wasn’t still so dangerous.
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NPR journo asks tough questions, tfg* chickens out, hangs up
Arthur Bric Elair
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ten Thousan Marbles

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With spirit of Harry Reid back in the Capitol, Democrats tackle saving democracy
Joan McCarter

The U.S. Congress is pausing today to honor the first legislative giant to emerge in the 21st century, former Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who will lie in state in the Capitol rotunda Wednesday. He is only the 33rd person to have that honor in the nation’s history. After the morning service, the Senate will get down to the business promised by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer: voting rights and election reforms.

The promised filibuster showdown is probably not going to happen as early as Wednesday, which Schumer teased Tuesday. Republicans have blocked the Freedom to Vote and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement acts from even proceeding to a floor debate several times over the past year. They won’t even let the bills move forward to debate, requiring a majority of 60 votes to get it done. That filibuster could be broken with a simple majority vote if it weren’t for the two pesky Democrats who refuse to do so.

To that end, Schumer and a group of nine Democrats met with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin Wednesday morning and planned an afternoon meeting with Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema. That’s following “serious, long and intense meetings” with the two yesterday, Schumer said Wednesday morning. As for today, “I met with Sen. Manchin for an hour and we are trying to come to a place. We're not there yet,” Schumer told reporters after the meeting.
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President Joe Biden did what he could Tuesday in his Atlanta speech. “The United States Senate, designed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body, has been rendered a shell of its former self,” Biden told the crowd of college students, civil rights activists, and elected officials. “I believe that the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills.” That means, with no Republican support “we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”

“I’ve been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the last two months. I’m tired of being quiet,” Biden said, the closest he came to calling out Manchin and Sinema for their ongoing obstinance. His message was clearly geared to those two senators.

“Will we choose democracy over autocracy? Light over shadows? Justice over injustice? I know where I stand,” Biden said. “The question is, where will the institution of the United States Senate stand?”

To intensify the pressure, the Congressional Black Caucus will be joining the fray with a news conference Wednesday afternoon on voting rights.

On this day, when the Senate lays to rest one of its most momentous leaders, maybe his spirit will infuse them. Reid led Senate Democrats into doing the necessary thing to fight Mitch McConnell and preserve the institution by ending the filibuster on critical nominees. May his memory spur them to do it again.

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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First, he's booed by Republicans, then ex-Nevada senator boasts about fixing 2024 election for Trump
Rebekah Sager

As poet, performer, and social activist Maya Angelou famously said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” So, when former Sen. Dean Heller boasts about fixing Nevada’s 2024 presidential elections in favor of Trump, believe him.

Heller, who is running for governor of Nevada, boasts constantly about conversations with former President Donald Trump, where he allegedly tells the former president that if he wants to become president then, “one, we have to try to stop this law they’re trying to pass in Washington D.C. to take over our election laws, and two, we have to change the laws we have here in Nevada,” Heller said.
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At a Republican debate on Jan. 6, Heller was booed after claiming to be “the only proven conservative” in the race against Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak.

He used his usual talking points at the debate saying, “I tell [Trump], the only way we can guarantee that, in 2024, we have a Republican president, is we need a leader here in the state of Nevada that understands our election laws and [is] willing to change them.”


After Nevada went for President Joe Biden in 2020, Heller began promoting his version of the Big Lie. Telling The Nevada Independent that although he knew Biden won, “we made it easier to cheat in future elections.” Adding: “After the 2020 election, most Republicans believe President Trump had won that election. This is chaos and this chaos continues over and over.”..........

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ongoing spat between Trump, Senate Republicans previews GOP acrimony throughout 2022
Kerry Eleveld

It was more than a year too late, but several Senate Republicans made an effort this week to tell the truth about the 2020 election: Trump lost.

"The election was fair, as fair as we have seen. We simply did not win the election, as Republicans, for the presidency," Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota told ABC News last Sunday.
For Donald Trump, that was a bridge too far away from his alternative lie-laden universe.
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Trump lampooned Rounds in a statement, saying he "went woke" despite the "massive evidence" of fraud. (Evidence that has actually never materialized.)

"Is he crazy or just stupid?” Trump wondered. “Even though his election will not be coming up for 5 years, I will never endorse this jerk again,” Trump added of Rounds, who's up for reelection in 2026.

Rounds responded Monday with a lengthy statement.

"I stand by my statement. The former president lost in the 2020 election," Rounds wrote. "This isn't new information. If we're being honest, there was no evidence of widespread fraud that would have altered the results of the election."

This is the truth that nearly every congressional Republican has glossed over for a year. Senate Republicans, in particular, have tried to skip right past Trump's fixation on 2020 while laughably claiming their 2022 message would be about the future, not the past.

Rounds made a similar argument toward the end of his statement, but at least he dared to tell the truth about Trump's rabid lies.

“As a Republican Party, our focus should be on what lies ahead, not what's in the past," Rounds wrote. "Elections are about growing support for your party, not further dividing it. Attacking Republicans certainly isn't gong to result in a winning formula. Neither is telling citizens not to vote."

Winning is about addition, not subtraction. Believe it or not, that is a revelatory concept for the present-day GOP, which has spent more than a year rigging elections at the state level to be about both subtraction and subversion.

Rounds' line about "telling citizens not to vote" being a liability is also illuminating. For the past year, Senate Republicans have gambled that they could have their cake and eat it too by entertaining Trump and his lies to win over his cultists while still avoiding his many liabilities. Both he and his message are toxic. For one, you can't tell people the system is rigged against them and then expect them to bother voting. In fact, that's precisely the messaging that helped lift Democrats to victory in two Senate runoffs last January.

Perhaps Senate Republicans are concluding that whatever upsides Trump carries might not outweigh the downsides. After all, if the cultists don't turn out because they don't trust the system and the GOP's fealty to Trump kills them in the must-win suburbs, that's a disastrous mix in a statewide race.

And Rounds wasn't entirely out on an island. As the row ensued, several Senate Republicans rallied to his side, as CNN noted.
  • Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky: "I think Sen. Rounds told the truth about what happened in the 2020 election. And I agree with him."
  • Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota: "I've always said I agree that the election was not stolen -- at least to the degree that it was illegal theft ... I've moved on a long time ago, and most members of Congress have, including Mike."
  • Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia: "I take great exception to anybody that calls Mike Rounds a jerk. Because he's one of the kindest, nicest, most sincere members that we have."
  • Sen. John Thune of South Dakota: "I say to my colleague, welcome to the club ... I don't think re-litigating or rehashing the past is a winning strategy. If we want to be a majority in 2023, we've got to get out and articulate what we're going to do with respect to the future the American people are going to live and the things they're going to care about when it comes to economic issues, national security issues."
For the present-day GOP, that's a lot of push back against the elephant in room they've been tip-toeing around.

Thune, who's up for reelection this year and has already faced the wrath of Trump for opposing efforts to overturn the election, is surely glad to welcome his South Dakota counterpart into the fold. In fact, Rounds' latest revelations clearly provide some cover for Thune, who will continue to draw Trump's ire throughout the year.

In fact, Trump—who lacks a social media outlet through which he can draw immediate blood—felt desperate enough about the whole episode that he agreed to an interview with NPR more than six years after the outlet initially requested the interview back in 2015, after Trump announced his presidential bid. Seriously: Trump was that desperate.

According to NPR's Steve Inskeep, the interview was scheduled to be 15 minutes but lasted just nine minutes and 21 seconds before Trump hung up in a huff. Alongside spewing the myriad conspiracies that have infected his brain, Trump also took at shot at McConnell.

When Inskeep asked why some Senate Republicans aren't standing behind Trump's 2020 lies, Trump responded, "Because Mitch McConnell is a loser," before quickly pivoting to more lies about the free and fair election he lost.

Senate Republicans seem to be cluing in to the fact that Trump isn't a net plus for them more nearly a year after 43 of them breathed new life into Trump's political future by voting against convicting him for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Senate Republicans are fittingly reaping what they sowed.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Trump scorches his little bud DeSantis, insinuates he's 'gutless' for withholding booster status
Rebekah Sager

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis got a reprieve Wednesday after federal regulators approved a three-month extension for the nearly one million expired COVID-19 tests recently discovered stockpiled and forgotten in a state-run warehouse.

As omicron cases explode in the state, and Floridians wait hours in lines for available tests, DeSantis in his usual anti-vaxxer style prioritizes monoclonal treatment over tests, masks, and vaccines.

Since late December, Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat who is running against DeSantis, has begged the governor to do something with the staggering number of unused COVID-19 tests. DeSantis’ office continued to deny their existence and accused Fried of lying.
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But, just as DeSantis was able to breathe again—and that appeared to be difficult for him not long ago, after a two-week disappearance and then a press conference showing him struggling to catch his breath—now his best buddy, former President Donald Trump, kinda threw him under the bus.

Tuesday, Trump gave an interview to One America News, during which he was asked about his comments in another interview touting the value of COVID-19 vaccines. Trump doubled down.

“Well, I’ve taken it,” said Trump plainly. “I’ve had the booster. Many politicians—I watched a couple of politicians be interviewed and one of the questions was, ‘Did you get the booster?’ Because they had the vaccine, and they’re answering like—in other words, the answer is ‘yes’ but they don’t want to say it. Because they’re gutless. You gotta say it, whether you had it or not. Say it. But the fact is that I think the vaccines saved tens of millions throughout the world. I’ve had absolutely no side effects.”



Uhhhh… could Trump be talking about his little racist friend DeSantis, who reportedly received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson, but has refused to say whether he has received the booster?

“I’ve done whatever I did,” he said in an interview with Fox News when asked if he’d been boosted. “The normal shot.” Whatever the **** that means.

Last week, Politico asked DeSantis’ spokeswoman Christina Pushaw if the governor had been boosted.

"I am not privy to the governor's private medical decisions and am unable to share information about his booster status," Pushaw responded. "Governor DeSantis has consistently said that vaccination (and by extension, boosters) should be a personal choice, and anyone who has questions or concerns should consult with a health care provider."

When it comes to COVID-19, DeSantis, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2024, runs a rocky and deadly ship. Both he and his newly appointed clueless Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, deny the validity of taking any protocols to mitigate the virus, and numbers in the state, as a result, have remained out of control. The case positivity rate is over 35%, according to COVID Act Now, making it the third-highest positivity rate, behind California and Texas.

And now, even how his beloved monoclonal antibody drugs are being distributed has come into question.

The Tampa Bay Times reported Tuesday that Florida shipped a scare new COVID-19 treatment to a private clinic in Broward County before sending it to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, the largest solid organ transplant center in the Southern U.S. South Florida hospitals are in desperate need of monoclonal treatments and have been forced to portion out what they do have to their most vulnerable patients.

Evusheld can provide up to six months of protection against COVID-19, according to the Food and Drug Administration, which authorized the treatment for emergency use on Dec. 8.

iCare Mobile Medicine received more Evusheld in the state’s first shipment in December than any other hospital or medical provider in Florida—and no one knows why or if they do, no one is saying.

Up to this point, Florida's health department has refused to explain the state’s prioritization to any media outlet.
 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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Federal grand jury hears from Matt Gaetz's ex-girlfriend as sex crimes probe continues
Brandi Buchman

A federal grand jury has now heard testimony from the ex-girlfriend of Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican who is currently under investigation by the Justice Department for possible sex crimes.

NBC News was first to report the development and noted Wednesday that the cooperation between the woman and federal prosecutors has been ongoing for several months. Her name was not disclosed to protect her privacy and her cooperation is part of her effort to secure immunity.

Gaetz has not been charged with any crimes and has staunchly denied the swirling allegations. But it is believed, according to a wide variety of reported sources with insider knowledge, that Gaetz is under scrutiny for a trio of crimes including obstructing justice, sex trafficking a 17-year-old woman, and violating the Mann Act, a law that bars the transport of minors over state lines.
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Gaetz, nor the Justice Department, immediately returned a request for comment Wednesday.

The probe into the Florida Republican’s conduct has been ongoing for more than a year. It started when former Seminole County, Florida tax collector and friend to Gaetz, Joel Greenberg, was charged with a variety of unsavory crimes including sex trafficking a minor, identity theft, stalking, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe a public official. Greenberg pleaded guilty last summer and began cooperating with investigators to reduce his sentence.

Gaetz, it was revealed last April, sent Greenberg $900 over Venmo in May 2018. The very next day and over just a few minutes, Greenberg used Venmo to send the funds to three young women. The total Greenberg sent? $900.

Gaetz, in the memo portion for a cash transfer to Greenberg first wrote “test” and then “hit up ____.” The blank section, according to The Daily Beast, was not blank in the Venmo transfer memo, but rather it featured the nickname of a woman who was one of the recipients of the cash. Because the woman was a minor at the time, the nickname was not disclosed.

Greenberg, when paying out the $900 listed it as “tuition” and “school” in the memo.

Politico was first to report that Gaetz was the subject of an obstruction inquiry last June, citing two sources who said that this part of the probe began only after a former girlfriend of the congressman patched Gaetz into a phone call she had with a witness to the alleged sex crimes. That witness has since talked to prosecutors. Their testimony could be instrumental in shaping how prosecutors will charge Gaetz, if at all.

One of the alleged sex trafficking victims has told prosecutors Gaetz had sex with her when she was a minor and paid for the exchange. There have also been questions around Gaetz’s trip to the Bahamas in 2018 when he served as an adviser to Florida’s now-governor Ron DeSantis.

According to a Politico report from April, a young woman central to the trafficking probe was on a 2018 flight to the Bahamas courtesy of Halsey Beshears, then a top regulator working in Florida’s state government and Jason Pirozzolo, a DeSantis gubernatorial campaign fundraiser. Bashears, Pirozzollo and Gaetz were meeting in the Bahamas. Instead of flying with the women, Gaetz flew commercial.

While a source told Politico at the time that the women were all of age on the private flight, the report noted: “But questions surrounding the ages of some of the women surfaced immediately upon their return — three of them looked so young when they returned on Beshears’ private plane that U.S. Customs briefly stopped and questioned him, according to sources familiar with the trip, including a woman on the flight.”


News has been slow to trickle out about the career-jeopardizing investigation. In October, however, it was revealed that additional prosecutors—who specialize in sex trafficking—were added to the probe into the Florida congressman.
 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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The Jan. 6 Committee wants you, Kevin McCarthy
Brandi Buchman

Kevin McCarthy once said former President Donald Trump bore responsibility for the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Now, investigators probing the deadly assault have asked the Republican House leader to take some responsibility of his own and voluntarily cooperate with a probe into the insurrection that Trump incited.

The committee did not subpoena McCarthy. Rather, they asked him to engage with the panel voluntarily for a meeting on Feb. 3 or 4. That offer may seem like an overly generous maneuver and could understandably frustrate watchers of the probe but as Thompson pointed out already this week, the committee is still untangling whether it has the legal ability to subpoena fellow lawmakers under the Constitution.
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McCarthy is now the third lawmaker to be called upon in the probe. Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania received letters last month. Both have indicated they will not cooperate and hopes are not high that McCarthy will cooperate either given his very public track record slamming the Jan. 6 Committee.


McCarthy Letter From Jan. 6 Cmte by Daily Kos on Scribd

In its six-page letter to McCarthy, the committee notes how integral the Republican’s testimony would be, however.

McCarthy has openly acknowledged speaking directly to Trump while the attack was unfolding—he shared his account of the conversation with fellow Republican Rep. Jamie Herrera-Beutler ahead of Trump’s second impeachment proceedings.

Herrera-Beutler said McCarthy told her that when he and Trump finally got on the line on Jan. 6, Trump told McCarthy that antifa had breached the Capitol.

“McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said; ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,’” Herrera-Beutler said.

McCarthy also summarized his thoughts rather plainly on Trump during a speech from the House floor exactly one week after the Capitol attack.

“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump: Accept his share of responsibility. Quell the brewing unrest. And ensure that President-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term,” McCarthy said on Jan. 13, 2021.



McCarthy also appeared on CBS while the attack was happening, telling host Norah O’Donnell that he knew Trump had “put a tweet out there” during the attack.
“I told him he needs to talk to the nation. I told him what was happening right then,” McCarthy told O’Donnell.

The California Republican continued, saying he was “very clear” when he called Trump and that he “conveyed to the president” what he thought was “best to do.”

When O’Donnell asked McCarthy if he spoke to Trump’s chief of staff that afternoon, McCarthy admitted again that he spoke to Trump but was less clear with the next part, saying he spoke to “other people in there and to the White House as well.”

Of his own admission, McCarthy has also called his exchange with Trump “very heated.”

“As is readily apparent, all of this information bears directly on President Trump’s state of mind during the Jan. 6 attack as the violence was underway,” committee chair Thompson wrote Wednesday.

Beyond that communication, the panel also wants more details about what happened with Trump after the riot dispersed.

Documents already obtained and reviewed by the committee have suggested that Trump and a team of legal advisers “continued to seek to delay or otherwise impede the electoral count” long after the mob was gone and McCarthy, they note, even after the day’s violence, still objected to electoral results.

“The select committee has contemporaneous text messages from multiple witnesses identifying significant concerns following Jan. 6 held by White House staff and the president’s supporters regarding President Trump’s state of mind and his ongoing conduct,” Thompson wrote to McCarthy, adding: “It appears that you had one more conversation with the president during this period.”

That included a conversation on or around Jan. 11 when, according to McCarthy’s interview with a local news outlet in California, he “implored President Donald Trump during an intense, hourlong phone conversation” to accept his defeat and move on with the peaceful transition of power.

“Stop this!,” McCarthy recalled telling Trump last January when sitting for an exclusive interview for Bakersfield.com.

Investigators also pointed to a Jan. 12 report by The New York Times which said that “three unnamed Republican sources” indicated to reporters that McCarthy suggested Trump should resign in the wake of the attack and welcomed the impeachment because it would be “easier to purge him from the GOP” that way.

McCarthy also made comments publicly about the prospects for new or future violence that would result after the attack, a reasonable position, the committee notes, since the GOP leader received numerous briefings about potential violence following the Jan. 6 attack.

“Did you communicate with the president or White House staff regarding those concerns?” the committee asked in its letter Wednesday.

McCarthy’s insights to Trump are also valuable because the Republican met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago a week before his second impeachment trial began. He reportedly discussed how the GOP could retake the majority in the U.S. House.

While the committee says it has “no intention of asking you about electoral politics or campaign-related issues,” it does want McCarthy to come clean about any information during that meeting that may tie back to Jan. 6.

“Your public statements regarding Jan. 6 have changed markedly since you met with Trump. At that meeting, or at any other time, did President Trump or his representatives discuss or suggest what you should say publicly, during the impeachment trial, if called as a witness, or in any later investigation about your conversations with him on Jan. 6?” the committee wrote.

Investigators also want McCarthy to disclose how Trump’s former White House chief of staff reacted when McCarthy told him that objection to the certification of votes on Jan. 6 was “doomed to fail.”

“How did they respond? Were they nevertheless so confident that the election result would be overturned?” Thompson wrote Wednesday.

McCarthy, who has not returned several requests for comment from Daily Kos since October, has been mum about his potential participation with the probe.

He did say in Dec. 2021 that he “doesn’t really have anything to add” to his existing comments about the attack.

“I have been very public, but I wouldn’t hide from anything,” McCarthy said.

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday appeared before the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, two sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

The meeting was virtual. McEnany, who worked in the Trump White House and was a spokesperson for Trump's 2020 reelection campaign, was initially subpoenaed in November.

McEnany was absent Wednesday from "Outnumbered," the lunch hour show she usually co-hosts on Fox.

The committee has requested a significant number of McEnany's records from the National Archives, which are still tied up in court because former President Donald Trump has asked the Supreme Court to block the committee's access to his White House records.

According to a disclosure from the National Archives made in court in October, the committee is seeking "629 pages from multiple binders containing proposed talking points for the Press Secretary, interspersed with a relatively small number of related statements and documents, principally relating to allegations of voter fraud, election security, and other topics concerning the 2020 election."

The committee's original subpoena of McEnany shows a specific interest in her public statements related to spreading misinformation about the 2020 election results. As press secretary, McEnany served in one of the most highly visible roles in the Trump administration. She spoke not only from the White House lectern, but also from the campaign headquarters as a spokesperson.

The committee specifically pointed to many of her public statements as contributing to the belief there was something wrong with the election.


Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who chairs the committee, said in a statement at the time of the release of McEnany's subpoena, along with other former White House officials, "We need to know precisely what role the former President and his aides played in efforts to stop the counting of the electoral votes and if they were in touch with anyone outside the White House attempting to overturn the outcome of the election."
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Glenn Beck Visits FOX News with a Doomsday Prophesy that Scares the Snot Out of Tucker Carlson
News Corpse

Y'all better get ready, people. The End Times are upon us. And that divine prognosticator, Glenn Beck, sees it all clearly. And, praise Gawd, Fox News is there to welcome the Rev. Beck and disseminate his "wisdom" to the masses who gather nightly to soak in the sermons of Friar Tucker Carlson.

On Tuesday night's episode of Carlson's Fright Wing Glower Hour, Carlson handed his pulpit over to Beck to propound on the impending apocalypse. It's a subject that Beck knows well and has been predicting for years. But this time he really means it. So take heed and prepare yourself for the long awaited and total decline of Western civilization that Beck imparted unto Carlson, saying that...

"This is not an American problem. This is the entire West going away by 2030. And I think - you know the World Economic Forum just war gamed the next economic collapse. I think that's coming in the next couple of years. I could be wrong. I usually am on timing. But when that happens, it is lights out. It is over. They will control your food, your water, your work, your education, your banking, your money, gasoline. [...] They are going to bankrupt the entire West. And only the elites are going to be able to have money, the food they want, the jobs they want, etc., etc. We will be left in the dust. We must educate ourselves right now."



Let that sink in. The Western economy is going to collapse in a couple of years and "the entire West [is] going away by 2030." If that doesn't scare the bejeezus out of you, just take a look at Carlson's glazed over gaze. He has an encrusted expression of utter dread throughout Beck's ominous oratory. If it didn't blink a few times you'd think it was a cardboard cutout. Carlson is clearly frozen with fear.

And why shouldn't he be? With President Biden in the White House orchestrating a socialist takeover of America by mandating life-saving vaccines to combat a deadly pandemic, and democracy zealots trying to make it easier for people of color, undocumented immigrants, and (gasp) Democrats, to cancel out the votes of white, Trumpian Republicans, and climate change (oops, that one's real, and they aren't worried about it). Given the prospects of this nightmarish future, the end can't come too soon.

If you doubt Beck's premonitions, be aware that he has predicted similar catastrophes before, so he must know what he's talking about. Prior to the 2020 election, Beck prophesized that "If the Republicans don’t win in this next election, I think we are officially at the end of the country as we know it." But that's just the most recent warning.

Preceding that Beck said that ObamaCare would be the end of country, and that Obama’s reelection would be the end of the country, and that gay marriage would be the end of the country, and that Common Core education reform would be the end of the country, and that fluorides poisoning our vital bodily fluids would be the end of the country (oh wait, that one may have been Dr. Strangelove), and even that electing Trump would be a disaster because he was "dangerously unhinged."

Never mind that Beck also once said that that “So much of what I used to believe was either always a sham or has been made into a sham." He has since recanted that confession and is now confidant that his shams were the real thing. And Carlson is a true believer, despite the fact that his own Fox News lawyers once defended him in a defamation lawsuit by successfully arguing that no reasonable person would take him seriously.

So perhaps it is finally time to pack it in and set sail for whatever dystopia these Judgment Day deplorables are prepping for. If the Rapture is imminent, you wouldn't want to get left behind, would you?

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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MyPillow's Mike Lindell claims he has evidence that '300 million' Americans committed election fraud
Aysha Qamar

Some people just never learn. Delusional MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has made headlines again, this time for arguing that "300 million" Americans belong in jail for election fraud.

Of course his comment is outrageous, but what’s even funnier is clearly Lindell failed basic mathematics. As of Jan. 11, the U.S. census reported the U.S. population as 332,425,423. Meaning that according to Lindell’s calculations, almost all of the country belongs in jail.

So … in theory, is the rest of the population going to monitor those in jail?
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First reported by Right Wing Watch, Lindell's remarks were made on Real America's Voice.



"Everything you're gonna see over these next seven months, to get rid of the machines, you're gonna see a Supreme Court case coming out, all these great things, everybody,” Lindell said.

He then claimed he was “more optimistic today than I have been yesterday, the day before that” because he has “all the pieces of the puzzle.”

What puzzle? To clarify, Lindell—one of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters—claims he has evidence to prove the 2020 presidential election was stolen. For more than a year, Lindell has consistently shared conspiracy theories as to how the election was stolen from Trump. Of course Trump validates these delusions, which encourages Lindell further.

I mean, Lindell is even an honorable guest speaker at Trump’s Save America rally in Arizona this Saturday, alongside other notable speakers like Rep. Paul Gosar and Rep. Andy Biggs, ABC News 15 reported.

“You talk about evidence, we have enough evidence to put everyone in prison for life, 300 and some million people,” Lindell said. “We have that all the way back to November and December."

But of course, while he claims this he fails to prove any actual evidence that would put all Americans in jail. Not to mention his number is more than double the number of people who voted in 2020.

Lindell clearly has his head in a different place. His conspiracy theories lack evidence, but what he does have is one defamation lawsuit, a quixotic Supreme Court complaint, and of course a loss of $25 million since he allegedly spent at least $25 million of his own money in pursuit of “democracy.”

"I'll mortgage everything I have because we're starting to see so many fruits of what we've been doing," Lindell told Steve Bannon on his War Room podcast. "None of it's in vain. It's all going to come to a beautiful place. Not just an election cleaned up but so many other things we've learned."

Lindell seems to want to stop at nothing to get his way. His goal even seems to have changed with time, from first refusing to accept Trump is not the president to now attempting to prevent voting machines from being used in future elections.

In other Lindell news, the MyPillow CEO told The Daily Beast this week he is still planning to launch his own social media site. This news comes nine months after his first attempt at doing so was a complete fail. Seems like Lindell just loves embarrassing himself.

Why is he doing it? In attempts to dismantle sites like Twitter and Facebook, which have been cracking down on conspiracy theorists like him and his friends. But while Lindell isn’t threatened that his buddy Trump is also making a site, how does Trump feel about this?

As Lindell seems to know no boundaries, the real question is, what will it take for this man to get kicked off Trump's speaker list?
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Two notorious Proud Boys figures now under arrest for felony assault in two separate cases
David Neiwert

Two of the nation’s most notorious Proud Boys figures—Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman and Tusitala “Tiny” Toese—are currently under arrest, facing felony assault charges in two separate incidents in Idaho and Washington, where each of them reside.

Chapman, the 46-year-old commercial diver from California who played a key role in the Proud Boys’ founding and later started a breakaway white nationalist group called the “Proud Goys,” was arrested last month in Boise for a Nov. 11 assault on a health care worker. Toese, a 25-year-old from Vancouver, Washington, who became an infamously violent figure at Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer events on the West Coast in 2017, is being held by Thurston County authorities on multiple assault charges both in Washington and Oregon.
.........
At a hearing Wednesday in Boise’s Ada County Magistrate Court, prosecutors explained the case against Chapman. They claim that Chapman was hospitalized at St. Alphonsus Regional Hospital in early November 2021 with pneumonia and was intubated. He became abusive toward the nurse in charge of his care.

He reportedly complained constantly about the care and medications he was being administered, and used both racist and sexist slurs in his verbal abuse. It all came to a head on Nov. 11, when he grabbed the nurse, who called police. After being charged with assault on Dec. 7, he reportedly also went back to the hospital in an attempt to contact the nurse.

Judge Joanne Kibodeaux listened while Chapman explained that he and his wife were attempting in vitro fertilization and that his detention had created a hardship for them, but in the end kept his bond at $100,000 and signed a no-contact order requiring Chapman to stay away both from his victim and from the hospital where she works.

The charges against Toese, which were listed on a victim-notification website, are less clear. The site lists three second-degree assault charges (along with a weapons charge and two counts of rioting and criminal mischief) in Oregon, as well as third-degree assault, obstructing a police officer, and criminal trespass charges from Thurston County, Washington.

The information released so far indicates that Toese was arrested Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, but the circumstances of the incidents have not yet been made publicly available. Daily Kos has requested the records but has not obtained them at press time.

It’s possible, if not likely, that Toese’s charges in Thurston County are related to the street brawl he led in Olympia in October 2021, at the culmination of which he was shot in the foot. A video of the shooting also apparently showed Toese assaulting a leftist counterprotester with a baseball bat.

Toese has cut a notorious figure while participating in Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys events over the past four years, particularly on the West Coast, where he has played a leading role in the violence the organization brings to events wherever they are. Along the way, he also has racked up a string of at least 18 criminal charges, including both felony and misdemeanor assault, along with harassment and disorderly conduct, but has mostly been sentenced to short probationary terms.

Similarly, Chapman has a criminal record as long as your leg. He first made a name for himself at a “March 4 Trump” in Berkeley on March 4, 2017, by coming to the event prepared for battle with homemade implements: a shield adorned with an American flag, football-style padding and a helmet, and a long wooden sign post he wielded like a baseball bat. A video of Chapman breaking the post over the head of an antifascist protester that day went viral and gave birth to his nickname. Chapman was charged with multiple counts of felony assault, which he eventually plea-bargained down to a single charge and five years’ probation.

His next big moment, however, was also the Proud Boys’ inaugural event: the April 15, 2017, “free speech” rally they dubbed “the Next Battle of Berkeley” and which proved to be a seminal moment for white nationalist groups such as Identity Evropa and the Rise Above Movement, the leaders of which were all present.

Founder Gavin McInnes was so impressed that he promptly anointed Chapman a leader of the Proud Boys and placed him in charge of organizing what he considered the group’s “tactical defensive arm,” dubbed the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights (FOAK). Chapman described FOAK as a “fraternal organization,” a Proud Boys affiliate chapter, “with its own bylaws, constitution, rituals and vetting processes.”

However, over the ensuing months and years, nothing ever came of the FOAK project, mainly because Chapman wound up facing multiple charges arising from a variety of violent incidents: for hitting a Texas man over the head with a barstool, for fighting a person in Berkeley while filming a promotional video, and for operating a vehicle off-road.

In July 2019, Chapman entered a plea agreement in the Texas case, admitting guilt to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, which in Texas is a second-degree felony. The judge in return gave him three years of “deferred adjudication,” meaning that if he commits any further offenses, he can be returned to Texas with a sentence of up to 20 years behind bars.

He recently attempted to set up an explicitly white-nationalist version of the Proud Boys he called “Proud Goys,” a reference to their belief that Jews secretly control American society. Chapman claimed after the November 2020 election that “the coup is complete,” and ranted at length about his plans for his group:

We will no longer cuck to the left by anointing token negros as our leaders. We will no longer allow homosexuals or other “undesirables” into our ranks. We recognize that the West was built by the White Race alone and we owe nothing to any other race. Proud Goy members will pay homage to the White men who gave their lives to build our civilization: White men who provided their intellect inventing the modern world, spreading enlightenment, and providing the framework for lesser civilizations to thrive. ... We will boldly address the issues of White Genocide, the failures of multiculturalism, and the right for White men and women to have their own countries where White interests are written into law and part of the body politic. We will no longer stand by as Whites are murdered in the streets because of the color of their skin. …

At his arraignment on Wednesday, Chapman told Judge Kibodeuax that his violent past was behind him, and that “that’s no longer who I am.” She responded that she saw no reason not to maintain his bond, as well as to sign the no-contact order against the nurse he assaulted.

Idaho passed its law protecting health care workers from assault in 2014. Anyone convicted of violating it faces a felony sentence of up to three years in prison. The problem has grown to intensive levels in Idaho since then.
 

Lion8286

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You should really stop posting about things you know little about. Like test kits, Marbles. Amongst many other things.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Leader of Nazi group Atomwaffen gets another seven years in prison for cyberstalking and threats
Mark Sumner

There are a number of violent, neofascist organizations in the United States that would deny that description fits them—like the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the Republican Party—but that’s not really the case when it comes to Atomwaffen. With uniforms and banners loaded down with swastikas and swastika substitutes, a professed goal of bringing on civilizational collapse, and an organizational statement that declares their admiration for Charles Manson, Atomwaffen seems to exist mostly so all those who feel that time denied them an opportunity to punch a Nazi can get a second chance.

This is an organization with a to-do list that includes attacking Jews, gays, Blacks, Latinos, “frail whites,” and whoever else it can get its pasty fingers on. It’s also dedicated to destroying the government, regularly conducts ceremonial burnings of the Constitution, and has engaged in plots to (in no particular order): destroy the power grid, overthrow the government through terrorism, and blow up nuclear plants. If all this sounds like a bunch of a-holes out to luxuriate in the protections the U.S. provides while they play at bringing on the end times, it is. But it’s also an organization connected to at least eight very real murders, along with numerous rapes, assaults, and kidnapping. Sorry, make that kidnapping and torture.

As David Neiwert reported last fall, a dedicated program of threats and harassment aimed at journalists—particularly journalists who are women and/or Jewish—earned much of Atomwaffen’s leadership a conspiracy conviction. On Friday, the follow-up to that original conviction brought down a whole stack of federal charges on 25-year-old Kaleb Cole.

And this time, the conviction got him seven years in a federal prison.
.......
As the Houston Chronicle reports, Cole, along with his fellow Nazis, was charged with mailing threatening communications, cyberstalking, and interfering with federally protected activity based on religion.

Other Atomwaffen leaders got sentences much shorter than the one handed down to Cole. There’s a reason for that. Despite pleas from Cole’s grandmother that he was “a good man” and claims from his attorney that the hate campaign had not really been Cole’s idea, there was this:

Unlike others sentenced in the case, Cole expressed no remorse, which helped explain why his sentence was more than twice as long as that of the conspiracy's other leader, Cameron Shea. At his sentencing, Shea told the court, "I cannot put into words the guilt that I feel about this fear and pain that I caused.”

It’s hard to know if Shea’s expression of grief was real or simply convenient. However, Cole didn’t even offer that much. He apologized for none of the threats and racist statements that were introduced during the trial. Cole was “promoted” to leader of the Washington faction of Atomwaffen after the previous leader there was sentenced on explosives charges.

As a counter to the words of his grandmother, several of those who had been on the receiving end of Cole’s threats, which included posters covered in skulls, swastikas, and images of Molotov cocktails being thrown into homes, attended court to testify to the terror and disruption he had brought to their lives. Along with the threats, Cole had also led the group in “swatting” journalists and critics of Atomwaffen by reporting violent crimes underway at their locations, causing police to respond with the expectation that they were stopping a murder or kidnapping in progress.

“That was his identity,” said U.S. attorney Thomas Woods. “His life's work to this point: hate, targeting people to instill terror. And it worked.”

It’s hard to find anything “good” in Cole, other than the fact that no one will have to deal with him for some time.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Greg Abbott's response to Texas National Guard suicides is to complain about Joe Biden
Gabe Ortiz

At least five soldiers involuntarily tied to Texas’ Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star border scheme have died, a number of them due to suspected suicide, reports have said. Facing bipartisan criticism over these tragic deaths, Abbott has issued a response befitting a true leader: But Joe Biden.

The Texas Tribune reports that right-wing Republican demanded to know why critics were “not at the very same time saying something” about deaths under President Biden. “Why are they silent about that? The answer—they’re just playing politics,” Abbott complained. “The life of a soldier is far more valuable than the words of a politician playing politics.”

Okay—so why is he sending soldiers on a political mission that retired military have already described as political?
.......

“Abbott is shrugging off the deaths of five Guardsmen as he continues to denigrate the service of all Guard members by asking them to perform as the backdrop for his political photo ops,” challenger Beto O’Rourke responded in a statement reported by The Texas Tribune. “He hasn’t paid them on time, he’s slashed their earned benefits, he has many living without necessities as basic as bathrooms, and he’s left them without any leadership from the governor. This is a mess of Abbott’s making.”

Army Times reported in October that the Texas National Guard had been deployed to Abbott’s scheme as the state had also slashed their tuition assistance by more than half. “The benefit cut for soldiers comes after the Texas legislature provided a $300 million funding boost for the Texas Military Department’s border mission amid a record-high year for Border Patrol apprehensions.”
Priorities.

Abbott was also defensive about soldiers’ late pay, saying that only 84 soldiers were affected. But the Texas Military Department has previously acknowledged nearly double that number. The Texas Tribune reported the department had also acknowledged that these paycheck delays were due to having to add thousands of soldiers to the payroll. Allen West, the disgraced former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who is challenging Abbott from the right, has claimed soldiers have “reached out to him about unsanitary conditions in camps and a lack of proper equipment,” KSAT reported.


If you still need more proof that Abbott’s scheme is truly reprehensible, it was resoundingly applauded by anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies. But that was probably a plus for Greg considering he also welcomed the Border Patrol union’s endorsement.

KSAT reports that state Sen. César Blanco called the deaths “tragic,” adding that the state must “make sure that the Texas Military Department is deploying mental health services to these regions to ensure that these guardsmen are doing OK.” But also not subjecting them to needless, wasteful political operations in the first place.

Abbott’s border scheme has similarly been slammed by the New York Daily News editorial board last last month, saying that “play-acting that the border is a warzone has long been a cheap political trick that needlessly frightens voters and harms migrants, many of whom are merely asking for a chance to go through the asylum process, as is their legal right. Now it is also harming the National Guard troops that Abbott is responsible for. It is past time for Operation Lone Star to end, and for the governor to take responsibility for what his immature antics have wrought.”
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Against backdrop of voting rights fight, Senate GOP can’t hide their racism in nomination hearing
Joan McCarter

It seems a new “get tough” attitude is taking hold among Senate Democrats this week, with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer ready to force his caucus’ hand on ending the filibuster for voting rights. Now Whip Dick Durbin, who is also Judiciary Committee chair, ending Republican games on judicial nominees.

On Wednesday, Durbin made good on his promise to Republicans that if they obstructed President Joe Biden’s circuit court nominees from their states, he would move without them. Up until now, the committee mostly has been churning through blue state vacancies, achieving a confirmation rate that’s unparalleled in recent history.

Now it’s time to start on the red and purple states, so that’s what Durbin did Wednesday, chairing a confirmation hearing for Andre Mathis, Biden’s pick for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, traditionally designated for a nominee from Tennessee. That state’s senators, Republicans Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, have refused to return their “blue slips,” the literal pieces of paper (blue, presumably) that signal a home state senator’s approval of a nominee.

Republicans started playing the blue slip games of refusing to provide that approval during the Obama administration while Democrats were in the majority. Because Democrats were still operating under the delusion that observing Senate traditions would be a thing that brought Republicans around to being serious about governing either through appreciation or shame, then-Chairman Patrick Leahy decided to respect their disrespect and refrain from moving forward on nominees that didn’t have Republican support.
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Of course Republicans didn’t return that courtesy when they took the Senate and for the duration of the Trump administration. Packing the courts with Trump’s Federalist Society-stamped nominees was their priority so they could ensure that the circuits would send cases that would do things like overturn abortion rights or prohibit President Biden’s policy choices to the Trump-dominated Supreme Court.

Durbin noted that Wednesday, reminding Republicans that they approved 18 of Trump’s appeals courts nominees without Democratic “blue slips,” with 17 of them ultimately reaching the floor and getting confirmed. “We are about to enter a four-year—I don’t want to characterize or mischaracterize the situation—four years of trying to balance the books,” Durbin said.

“Republicans chose to abandon this Senatorial courtesy,” he said in his opening statement. “My colleagues across the aisle, I think, would be hard pressed now to demand that Democrats reinstate this practice. Simply put, there should not be one set of rules for Republican nominees … and a different set for Democratic nominees.”

Blackburn did not take it well. In fact, she went full-on racist with Mathis, who would be the first Black man from Tennessee to sit on the 6th Circuit. He has a “rap sheet,” Blackburn said to explain her reluctance. And by “rap sheet” she means three 10-year-old speeding tickets.



That made HuffPost’s Bendery remember the time last year when Blackburn got pulled over by U.S. Capitol Police when she was hurrying to catch a flight to start recess. “Blackburn then jumped out of the car, identified herself as a senator and showed the officer her congressional pin, according to a text message and a source familiar with the matter,” CNN reported. “The officer then let the car go.” Would that count as part of her rap sheet?

For the record, Mathis was greatly taken aback and apologetic over the issue. “I highly regret that I’m in this situation. I feel like I’ve embarrassed my family,” Mathis said. “And I truly regret that. While I deserve this, they don’t.” He explained he had forgotten about the speeding tickets and when he got notice that his license had been suspended, paid them quickly and got it reinstated.

To prove that Blackburn isn’t the only race-challenged Republican on the panel, Louisiana Republican John Kennedy then played the “my Black friend” card by relating that he has met Denzel Washington, and thinks he “is one of the five coolest people on the planet.” It was nominally relevant as both Mathis and Denzel have an interest in the Boys and Girls Club, the basis of Kennedy’s remarks. But it was a damned awkward stretch.

As far as the procedural issue of the blue slips goes, Kennedy acknowledged that Republicans had done exactly the same thing, but said Democrats should disarm and “call off the dogs” and find a “neutral way” to restore the courtesy. Yeah, right. “Perhaps we can agree that prospectively after the 2024 presidential election, there will be a rule,” Durbin said.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse added that a solution is worth exploring, but not one that means blue slips are honored when there’s a Democratic president and tossed when there’s a Republican one. “I think the damage that was done to this institution by the decision to remove the blue slip institution of this committee, the decision to end the blue slip, was very real,” Whitehouse said. “And now your side is feeling the pain of it, that we have felt for the past administration.”


 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Schumer ups pressure on Manchin and Sinema, has a plan to force debate on voting rights
Joan McCarter

Congressional Democrats have determined how to get the Freedom to Vote and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement acts to the Senate floor for actual debate, something the Republicans have been blocking for months. It will allow the Democrats to skip the first, most undemocratic block Republicans have been using on this and all the other legislation: refusing to provide enough votes to even allow the Senate to proceed to debate on a bill. The process will allow Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, probably, to achieve his aim of having a vote on challenging the filibuster for these bills on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

It will force debate on the issue so that Republicans won’t be able to just silently block the bills without having to decide whether they’ll stand on the Senate floor and argue against the concept of free and fair elections, against the principle of “one person, one vote” or if they’ll be cowards and refuse to show up. It will also increase pressure on Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema as Senate Democrats unite on the floor to make the case for saving democracy.
.......
Here’s how it works: the House passes a bill that combines the two pieces of legislation, using a separate bill that has already been passed by the Senate and House and is being reconciled between the two bodies, but is not passed in a final form. They’ll use this bill, in this case a NASA bill, as a shell to carry the voting rights and elections reforms bills. Does it matter that it’s not the same legislation? No. Whatever the House adds in and passes as H.R.5746 - NASA Enhanced Use Leasing Extension Act of 2021 is the bill they pass and is technically and legislatively considered the NASA bill the Senate passed.

Because the Senate has already passed it, and the House and Senate have sent it back and forth as “messages” the requisite number of times, the motion to proceed to the bill cannot be filibustered—just 51 votes will bring the bill to the floor to debate. Republicans can’t kill it even before it gets a debate.

“The Senate will finally debate voting rights legislation, and then every senator will be faced with a choice of whether or not to pass the legislation to protect our democracy,” Schumer wrote in a memo sent to Senate Democrats and obtained by several news organizations Wednesday. “With this procedure, we will finally have an opportunity to debate voting rights legislation—something that Republicans have thus far denied,” Schumer said. “Of course, to ultimately end debate and pass the voting rights legislation, we will need 10 Republicans to join us—which we know from past experience will not happen—or we will need to change the Senate rules as has been done many times before.”

That’s the rub—while Republicans can’t avoid the debate, but they can filibuster at the other end. There has to be a vote to move from debate to final passage, and that requires 60 votes. This is the point at which Schumer will likely move to change the rules, and where Manchin and Sinema will be put on the spot. This process is likely going to take a few days to play out, keeping the Senate in session over the weekend and setting up a potential Monday showdown on the filibuster.

That’s Monday, which is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Schumer doesn’t lay out in the memo just how he would try to change the filibuster—restore the talking filibuster, carve out an exemption for elections and voting related issues, etc.—or exactly when the votes will occur. The Senate is likely to be in all weekend hashing that out and trying to find a process Manchin and Sinema might agree to. If they don’t agree to that process, the failure of this critical legislation will be on their heads. That’s the leverage Schumer is trying to bring to bear here.

There’s also going to be pressure on Sinema back home, so she won’t be able to escape there this weekend. Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of Martin Luther King Jr., will lead a march in Phoenix on Saturday calling for voting rights. The march is organized by Deliver for Voting Rights, which is also holding a march in D.C. on Monday.

The marches will “call on President Biden and the Senate to urgently pass federal voting rights legislation,” breaking the filibuster if needed. “From the Civil War to the Jim Crow era, the filibuster has blocked popular bills to stop lynching, end poll taxes, and fight workplace discrimination,” the organization said. “Now it’s being used to block voting rights. The weaponization of the filibuster is racism cloaked in procedure and it must go.”

 

Ten Thousan Marbles

Well-Known Member
Feb 6, 2014
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In a 4-3 decision, the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down House and Senate district maps drawn by a Republican-led redistricting commission that was required by a new constitutional amendment to be fair.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, broke from her duly noted party affiliation to join the state high court’s Democrats in rubbishing the GOP-designed maps. The court’s Democrats, Michael P. Donnelly, Melody J. Stewart, and Jennifer L. Brunner, joined O’Connor to round out the majority.

Writing for the four-judge majority, Justice Stewart recapped the litigation — and the relevant law — as follows:

Respondent Ohio Redistricting Commission adopted a General Assembly–district plan in September 2021 to be effective for the next four years. The complaints in these three cases allege that the plan is invalid because the commission did not comply with Article XI, Sections 6(A) and 6(B) of the Ohio Constitution, which require the commission to attempt to draw a plan that meets standards of partisan fairness and proportionality. In one case, the challengers also allege that the plan violates the Ohio Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection, assembly, and free speech.

The court held that the proffered maps violated the “proportionality standard” in Article XI, Section 6(B). It also held that “the commission did not attempt to draw a plan that meets the standard in Section 6(A) — that no plan shall be drawn primarily to favor a political party.”

The court did not decide whether the maps violated “the rights to equal protection, assembly, and free speech guaranteed under the Ohio Constitution,” thus skirting the more vexing issues.

“We order the commission to be reconstituted and, within ten days of this judgment, to adopt a new plan in conformity with the Ohio Constitution,” the court ruled.

Justices Donnelly and Brunner concurred with separate opinions. O’Connor also concurred in an opinion joined by Brunner.


Republicans Sharon L. Kennedy and Patrick F. Fischer dissented via their own opinions. Richard Patrick “Pat” DeWine joined Kennedy’s dissent.

Ohio Supreme Court justices are elected in nominally nonpartisan contests but are generally nominated and endorsed by a political party.

The majority immediately noted that a similar case in 2012 failed because it was based on a previous version of the state constitution. The legislature elected under the old version of Article XI remained seated until 2020.

In November 2015, the court noted, “Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the Ohio Constitution that repealed former Article XI and replaced it with a new version, which established a new process for creating General Assembly districts.”


The court then expounded on the meaning of the change:

The amendment provided for the creation of a seven-member Ohio Redistricting Commission, composed of the governor, the auditor of state, the secretary of state, one person appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives, one person appointed by the House minority leader, one person appointed by the Senate president, and one person appointed by the Senate minority leader. The commission is responsible for redistricting the boundaries of the 99 districts of the House of Representatives and the 33 Senate districts in any year ending in the numeral one — after the release of the federal decennial census.

The majority then cited Article XI, Section 6 of the State Constitution to again lay out the ground rules:

The Ohio redistricting commission shall attempt to draw a general assembly district plan that meets all of the following standards:
(A) No general assembly district plan shall be drawn primarily to favor or disfavor a political party.
(B) The statewide proportion of districts whose voters, based on statewide state and federal partisan general election results during the last ten years, favor each political party shall correspond closely to the statewide preferences of the voters of Ohio.
(C) General assembly districts shall be compact.

Nothing in this section permits the commission to violate the district standards described in Section 2, 3, 4, 5, or 7 of this article.

The court then rubbished the upshot which resulted when Ohio lawmakers actually attempted to implement the constitutional goals:

On August 6, 2021, the governor convened the first meeting of the Ohio Redistricting Commission. The commission consisted of respondents Governor Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Auditor of State Keith Faber, Speaker of the House Robert Cupp, and President of the Senate Matthew Huffman—who are members of the Republican party—and House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes and Senator Vernon Sykes—who are members of the Democratic party. House Speaker Cupp and Senator Sykes were appointed as commission cochairs. Other than administering oaths of office and announcing that the commission would schedule public hearings, the commission did not conduct any business on August 6.
Between August 23 and August 27, the commission held multiple hearings during which members of the public gave input about the redistricting process.
The commission held its second meeting on August 31—one day before the deadline to adopt a final district plan. Senator Sykes presented a proposed district plan drafted by the Senate Democratic Caucus. After a presentation by a map drawer from the caucus, the commission members had a discussion that suggested that they had not yet agreed on a process for drafting a district plan. House Minority Leader Sykes asked when the commission intended to present a proposed plan for public comment. House Speaker Cupp replied that a district plan was “being developed” but would not be available by the September 1 deadline due to a delay in receiving census data. Leader Sykes asked who was participating in drafting that plan and when she could expect to participate in the process. She also quoted the portion of Section 1(C) stating that the “commission shall draft the proposed plan.”

What follows in the opinion is a lengthy recitation of the commission’s specific acts and failures. The court repeatedly noted that many — if not all — of the commission’s internal votes were “along party lines” and that even some of the commission’s members (including Gov. DeWine) lamented that the process — and the resulting maps — were both littered with “shortcomings.”

Several of the named defendants in the case, including Senate President Huffman and House Speaker Cupp, argued that Article XI, Section 6 of the state constitution was “not mandatory but merely ‘aspirational,'” the court said.

“[T]the evidence—much of which is undisputed—shows that the commission did not attempt to comply with the standards stated in Article XI, Section 6(A) or 6(B),” the majority concluded. “Moreover, respondents’ arguments are unpersuasive. Section 6 imposes enforceable duties on the commission.”


The majority continued:

At bottom, the process that culminated in the adopted plan, having been directed and controlled by one political party’s legislative leaders, was not an attempt to comply with Section 6(A) or 6(B) standards. When a single party exclusively controls the redistricting process, “it should not be difficult to prove that the likely political consequences of the reapportionment were intended.”
Further, the expert evidence supports the conclusion that the adopted plan’s partisan skew cannot be explained solely by nondiscriminatory factors. Under the adopted plan, Republicans are favored to win between 61 and 68 House seats and between 20 and 24 Senate seats. The expert report of Dr. Michael Latner, a professor of political science at California Polytechnic State University with expertise in electoral-system design and statistical methods in elections and in designing electoral districts, shows that the plan substantially favors Republican voters through targeted “cracking” and “packing” of Democratic voters that “did not occur by chance or accident.”

Another expert who “generated 5,000 possible district plans” using the constitutional criteria found that “none was as favorable to Republicans as the adopted plan” that wound up before the court, the opinion states. “The fact that the adopted plan is an outlier among 5,000 simulated plans is strong evidence that the plan’s result was by design.”

Given a swiftly approaching election cycle which requires candidates to submit petitions and declarations by Feb. 2, 2022, the high court ordered the commission to come up with a new map within ten days. The court also retained jurisdiction to review the new map “for compliance with” the state constitution.

Justice Kennedy’s dissent suggested that the court did not have the power to invalidate the commission’s plans due to what he believed were constraints upon the court imposed by the state constitution.


Justice Fischer agreed with Kennedy but went a slight step further.

“I am strongly convinced,” he wrote, “that it is not even necessary for us to engage in an analysis of the merits of these cases. The text of the Ohio Constitution is clear, and given the allegations in the complaints, this court lacks the authority to act as requested by the petitioners bringing these cases.”


The case is League of Women Voters of Ohio v. Ohio Redistricting Comm., Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-65. Read the full set of opinions and dissents, 146 pages in all, below:

 

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