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Tennessee GOP Has a Devious New Plan to Kick Out Democratic Lawmakers

Tennessee Republicans tried to kick out Democratic representatives once before, with the Tennessee Three. Now, they have a plan to make sure it’ll stick the next time around.

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The Tennessee House of Representatives has passed a bill prohibiting local governments from reappointing lawmakers who were expelled for “disorderly behavior,” a clear jab at two Democratic representatives in particular.

House Bill 2716 passed the Republican-dominated chamber Monday by a vote of 69-22. The measure, which now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate, states that if a local legislature needs to elect a successor for a vacant seat in the state General Assembly, “and the vacancy was created due to the expulsion of a member for disorderly behavior, then the local legislative body shall not elect the expelled legislator to be the successor to fill the vacant seat.”

The bill is a blatant attempt by Republicans to kick out any Democrats they don’t like—and make sure they don’t find a way back into the state legislature. After all, Tennessee Republicans have tried to kick out Democratic lawmakers once before.

If the bill becomes law, it is guaranteed to be held up in the courts. The Tennessee constitution and current state law both give local governing bodies full power to appoint anyone they choose to fill vacant seats, so long as that person is legally qualified to hold office.

The General Assembly’s legal staff warned lawmakers just last week that the bill is not backed by either constitutional language or historical precedent. But Republicans forged ahead anyway.

The bill is an obvious response to the reappointment of Democratic Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson last year. The two men are part of the Tennessee Three, three Democratic lawmakers who gained national attention last March when they joined thousands of pro–gun control protesters in the state Capitol in the wake of a school shooting in Nashville.

Republicans accused Jones, Pearson, and Gloria Johnson of violating House decorum rules and voted to expel the two men, both of whom are Black. The GOP fell one vote short of expelling Johnson, who is white.

Jones and Pearson were unanimously reinstated by their district councils until a special election could be held. When that special election was held in August, both men swept handily to victory.

“It’s real interesting when my colleagues on the other side talk about, ‘We need less government, we need less government overreach in our lives,’” Pearson told The Tennessean about Monday’s measure. “This exact bill, this very legislation, overreaches the Constitution of Tennessee.”

Since their return to the state Capitol, tensions between Republicans and Jones and Pearson have remained high. The two lawmakers have made gun control a key issue, despite Republican rejection. On Thursday, Jones called House Speaker Cameron Sexton “drunk with power” after the Republican posted state troopers outside a press conference, barring entry.

Things started to boil over Monday night when the House debated a separate bill about immigration. Sexton ruled Jones out of order and refused to recognize him again to speak on the measure. Pearson then said he was “tired of racist” and retaliatory measures, prompting Sexton to threaten to call him out of order, too.

In Leaked Audio, Texas Judge Whines About “Brainwashed” Republicans

Texas Supreme Court Justice John DeVine, a conservative himself, is fed up with his Republican colleagues.

SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images

Newly obtained audio of a Texas Supreme Court justice has unearthed some unexpected opinions from a member of the typically reserved and insular judiciary—including that he believes he’s a singular cure to the “Big Law” backgrounds of his “brainwashed” conservative colleagues.

Speaking to a group of East Texas voters in September, Supreme Court Justice John Devine—a former anti-abortion demonstrator—was recorded bemoaning his colleagues’ deference to procedure over their moral and legal responsibility to the U.S. Constitution, according to audio obtained by The Texas Tribune.

“At times I feel like they would sacrifice the Republic for the sake of the process,” Devine said in the recording. “My concern is that they all bow down to the altar of process rather than to fidelity to the Constitution. And when I say that, it’s not meant to be malice towards my colleagues. I think it’s how they were trained—how they were brainwashed.”

Elsewhere in his speech, Devine attacked several Texas officials, decried the “RINOs” and “trans-Republicans” occupying the state’s all-GOP Court of Criminal Appeals, and claimed that Democratic leaders in Harris County were using “Democrat dirty tricks” in an effort to “bastardize our election code.”

Devine also used the event to vent his frustrations over his bench’s ruling against Jeff Younger, a former Texas House candidate who asked the high court to prevent his ex-wife from moving to California with their child on the basis that the state had recently passed a refuge law that shielded parents escaping states with restrictive transgender care statutes. The court refused to hear the lawsuit, arguing that it was founded on “tenuous speculation” that Younger’s ex-wife would violate a standing order to avoid gender-transition therapy for their child, according to the Tribune.

“I’m not going to stand here sanctimoniously and say, ‘Well he didn’t cross a T or dot an I,’” Devine said of Younger at the September event. “We are talking about great constitutional issues here that will determine whether we survive as a representative republic or not. Are we going to just have it stolen from us? Over process, for crying out loud?”

Devine will face off against his Republican primary opponent, Brian Walker, a judge on the Texas Second District Court of Appeals, on March 5.

Biden World Is Privately Panicking About the Michigan Primary

Those close to President Biden are privately worried about what could happen with the “Abandon Biden” vote in the Michigan primary.

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Joe Biden is expected to win Michigan’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, but those around him are reportedly “freaking out” about a growing call to vote “uncommitted.” And they have every right to be nervous.

An increasing number of voters throughout the country, but particularly in Michigan, are expressing their intent to vote “uncommitted” in the Democratic primaries. Many may even sit out the general election entirely. Their frustration with Biden is due to policies in Gaza, including his refusal to demand a cease-fire and his support of Israel amid its relentless bombing campaign.

While the Biden campaign is outwardly acting calm about it, “they are freaking out about the uncommitted vote,” a Democrat close to Biden, speaking anonymously, told Politico.

Biden’s stance on Gaza has alienated many Muslim and Arab Americans, who make up a large portion of Michigan’s Democratic voters. But it’s also costing him support among young voters, progressives, and other voters of color. These are crucial voting demographics that helped deliver multiple swing states—including Michigan—for Biden in 2020.

There are two main uncommitted vote campaigns. One is called “Listen to Michigan,” whose supporters hope that voting “uncommitted” will send a strong enough message to Biden that he will change his stance. Another campaign, “Abandon Biden,” is similarly urging voters to check the “uncommitted” box.

It has been nearly five months since the war broke out in Gaza, and in that time, nearly 29,900 Palestinian civilians have been killed. The vast majority of Americans support a cease-fire, which they have repeatedly made clear through huge protests.

But it appears that Biden has only just begun to listen. During a Monday night appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers, Biden said that he hoped there would be a cease-fire, at least a temporary one, by Monday.

But by Tuesday morning, both Israel and Hamas had said that they weren’t close to a breakthrough.

Representative Ro Khanna, who often works as a liaison between the White House and the progressive caucus, confirmed that Biden’s shift was because “the president is hearing that a large part of his coalition wants this war to end.”

Khanna said he warned Biden ahead of the South Carolina primary over the weekend that he was losing the progressive vote.

“He said, ‘Ro, I hear you. I understand. I understand that people are upset and I am pushing Bibi,’” Khanna said, using the nickname for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But the White House continues to push for billions of dollars in military aid to Israel, and Biden has yet to explicitly call for a cease-fire.

Even if he were to demand a cease-fire tomorrow, that wouldn’t be enough to swing the full support of Arab Americans back to him, warned Abdullah Hammoud, the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan. Hammoud is the first Arab mayor of the majority-Arab city, and he is one of more than 40 Michigan Democratic elected officials who have pledged to vote “uncommitted.”

Hammoud told NPR that calling for a cease-fire would get Biden “another conversation at the table,” but the president has to earn voters’ support back. Hammoud said he hopes that Arab and Muslim Americans’ “uncommitted” vote is a big enough rebuke to make Biden start listening.

“We’re not sizable enough to make a candidate win,” Hammoud said. “But we’re sizable enough to make a candidate lose.”

Trump Has a Hilarious New Excuse for Why He Can’t Put Up Bond

Donald Trump is now trying to get out of posting the bond in his E. Jean Carroll case.

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Donald Trump is arguing that he shouldn’t have to post the massive bond in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case against him … because he’s simply too rich.

Trump owes Carroll $83.3 million for defaming her in 2019 when she first accused him of sexual assault. The former president had 30 days to either pay the damages or post a bond required by New York state law to appeal the decision. But Trump’s legal team filed a motion on Friday to delay payment.

“Having argued to the jury that President Trump has great financial resources, Plaintiff is in no position to contradict herself now and contend that she requires the protection of a bond during the brief period while post-trial motions are pending,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.

They argued that Trump’s extreme wealth was security enough that he would eventually pay. The lawyers also suggested that the court project that the total judgment would be reduced on appeal to $22.25 million, requiring a bond of about $24.48 million.

Presiding Judge Lewis Kaplan on Monday declined to grant Trump a stay until Carroll’s lawyers had a chance to reply. Carroll’s legal team has until Thursday to respond, and then Trump’s team has until March 2 to reply to them. Kaplan also noted that Trump’s team had waited almost until the end of his payment window to file the request for a stay.

Under New York law, if a person wants to appeal a civil case ruling, they must first post a bond equal to 110 percent of the judgment. In this case, Trump would have to pay $91.63 million in order to appeal the Carroll ruling.

While Trump claims to have plenty of financial assets, the bond would definitely eat significantly into his cash coffers. Trump reportedly holds only about $600 million in liquid assets, not nearly enough to pay the millions he owes in this and other legal penalties.

Trump currently owes Carroll a total of $88.3 million. In addition to the $83.3 million from January, a jury determined last spring that he owes her $5 million for sexually abusing her in the mid-1990s and then defaming her in 2022 while denying the assault.

He was also fined $354 million two weeks ago for real estate–related financial fraud in New York state and temporarily banned from doing business in the state. The presiding judge in that case, Arthur Engoron, gave Trump 30 days to pay the fine. But Engoron also ordered Trump to pay prejudgment interest dating back to March 2019, when New York Attorney General Letitia James first began investigating the Trump Organization.

James’s office has calculated that, including interest, Trump owes more than $450 million. And as Trump tries to delay paying that fine, interest keeps increasing the total amount he owes. According to a penalty calculator created by Associated Press journalist Mike Sislak, as of Tuesday, Trump owes the state of New York $454,604,719.

And all of that still doesn’t cover the thousands of dollars in fines that Trump racked up during his recent trials for attacking courtroom staff, or the $400,000 he owes to The New York Times.

Republican Congressman Throws Cold Water on GOP Impeachment Crusades

Representative Ken Buck has had enough of his own party.

Ken Buck looks concerned or angry
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Representative Ken Buck is getting increasingly frustrated with his party’s endless impeachment inquiries.

On Newsmax’s Rob Schmitt Tonight on Thursday, the Colorado Republican pushed back on emerging theories regarding Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, whom the GOP spent the better part of January attempting to unseat.

“I don’t understand how that doesn’t meet the bar of impeachment for Mayorkas,” Schmitt prompted, suggesting that murders caused by immigrants around the country constituted a basis to strip Mayorkas of his title.

“What’s the crime?” Buck responded, frankly. “You tell me, Rob, what is the crime?”

“I think lying to the public over and over again, telling them that the border is secure, I think that should be a crime,” Schmitt wavered. “I think it should be a crime to take a job and exploit it for just the opposite, is it not?”

“Well it’s not a crime to take a job and exploit it for the opposite,” Buck continued. “But in terms of lying to Congress, that is a crime, and in his opinion the border was secure. In my opinion it’s not secure, in your opinion it’s not secure, but when you start getting into opinions, and charging people under 18 U.S. Code 1001 with a false statement, that gets very specific and he would not be convicted by a jury.”

“I believe that it’s a crime to lie, I don’t believe that he had a specific enough statement that it is a lie,” he added.

Elsewhere in the interview, Buck pushed back against the idea that he was duped into telling CNN’s Kaitlan Collins last week that House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan and House Oversight Chair James Comer had both been warned ahead of time that the story sold by their primary Biden impeachment witness, Alexander Smirnov, was full of holes.

“Well, Rob, I didn’t play into anything. She asked about a particular allegation that was made, that Smirnov made, that Joe Biden received $5 million. That particular allegation is not credible at this point in time,” Buck said.

“So, there is no evidence that Joe Biden received money,” he continued. “When Senator [Ron] Johnson talks about the Biden crime family and talks about the ‘don’ of the ‘Biden crime family,’ you have to have evidence that Joe Biden received money or took some act, specifically, as a result of Hunter Biden receiving money from these various countries.”

More on Politics:

Will Mitch McConnell Cave to Trump Again?

Trump wants the Senate Majority Leader’s endorsement.

Mitch McConnell looks at Donald Trump in that goofy turtle like way he looks at people.
Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump in happy times (for them, at least) in 2017

Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are not friends. They have not spoken since December 2020, when the powerful lawmaker recognized that Joe Biden had won the presidency, undermining Trump’s election interference campaign.

And yet there is a coordinated effort by key advisers behind both politicians to reconcile the rift, according to unidentified members of both camps that spoke with The New York Times.

Should he get it, McConnell’s endorsement of Trump would prove an incredible vote of confidence amid unparalleled legal troubles for a presidential candidate, suggesting to Republican voters and (more importantly) donors that the front-runner could still have a shot at retaking the White House. That could translate to a much-needed spending boost for Trump, who is so far on the hook for $354 million for committing real estate–related bank fraud in New York state; $88.3 million to E. Jean Carroll after he sexually assaulted her, lied about it, and defamed her twice; $50 million in legal fees; and $400,000 he owes The New York Times.

Trump and McConnell have both been aware of the back-channel communications since at least January, when Trump acknowledged to members of his team that he would be expecting McConnell’s endorsement.

Even without the added communications, that would make sense. McConnell has pledged to endorse the GOP nominee, even if that nominee turns out to be Trump. It is still unclear, however, if the GOP intends to nominate its front-runner amid a flurry of ongoing criminal trials, the first of which is set to begin in late March.

“President Trump is the presumptive nominee and it is time for the entire party to coalesce behind him to defeat Crooked Joe Biden,” Trump’s communications director, Steven Cheung, told the Times.

“Senior members of the campaign have had many conversations,” he continued, “but only engage with those who are actually willing to fight for America First principles and to take back the White House.”

Special Counsel: The Hur Report Is Bad for Trump, Actually

Special counsel Jack Smith argues that the controversial report shows how egregious Trump’s handling of classified material was.

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Donald Trump at a campaign event in Las Vegas last month

Special counsel Jack Smith argued Monday that a blistering report on Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents actually demonstrates just how bad Donald Trump’s handling of sensitive material is.

Smith indicted Trump in June for hoarding classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Trump claimed two weeks ago that the charges are part of a pattern of selective prosecution by attorneys working at the behest of the Biden administration. Trump had argued that his behavior was no worse than that of Biden, who was found to have kept classified documents after leaving the vice presidency.

Smith’s team said in a Monday court filing that the report on Biden shows that the two cases are not comparable at all.

“T​here has never been a case in American history in which a former official has engaged in conduct remotely similar to Trump’s,” assistant special counsel David Harbach wrote.

“The defendants have not identified anyone who has engaged in a remotely similar suite of willful and deceitful criminal conduct and not been prosecuted. Nor could they. Indeed, the comparators on which they rely are readily distinguishable.”

Trump faces 41 criminal counts for willful retention of national defense information, making false statements, and conspiracy to obstruct justice, among other things. Smith’s indictment revealed Trump stored the sensitive material in the ballroom and in bathrooms.

Trump also refused to give the documents back, despite requests from the National Archives and urging from his lawyers. The material wasn’t recovered until the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago in 2021, and even then, Trump may still have some documents hidden in the Palm Beach compound.

The report on Biden’s handling of classified documents, which was released two weeks ago, painted a damning portrait of the president as senile and unable to recall basic facts of his life, including his time as vice president or the death of his son Beau. Special counsel Robert Hur described Biden as having “significant limitations” with his memory. But Hur also found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing and did not issue charges against Biden. Biden also made sure to cooperate fully with the investigation.

“Trump, unlike Biden, is alleged to have engaged in extensive and repeated efforts to obstruct justice and thwart the return of documents bearing classification markings,” Harbach wrote in his filing. “And the evidence concerning the two men’s intent—whether they knowingly possessed and willfully retained such documents—is also starkly different.”

One of Trump’s Election Fraud Lawyers Just Got Caught in a Big Lie

Kenneth Chesebro had a secret Twitter feed that undermines the core of his legal defense.

Kenneth Chesebro looks into the camera and smiles at court.
Alyssa Pointer/Getty Images
Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro (center) at a hearing in which he accepted a plea deal for charges relating to his attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

Donald Trump ally Kenneth Chesebro is suddenly up to his neck in his own legal troubles.

On Monday, the architect of Trump’s 2020 fake elector plot was discovered to have been lying to Michigan prosecutors about his social media presence at the time, hiding the presence of an account with dozens of posts that reveal his role in the plot and  illustrate a far more aggressive election subversion strategy, according to a CNN investigation.

In a recording of Chesebro’s interview with Michigan investigators obtained by the outlet, Chesebro repeatedly denied having any social media presence or alternative identities online, claiming he didn’t do “any tweeting.”

But attorneys for Chesebro have since confirmed the presence of one such hidden ID to CNN, after the outlet tied the anonymous account—BadgerPundit—to the Trump ally via matching “biographical information regarding his work, family, travels and investments” and its notable interest in the Electoral College process.

In a series of posts starting even before the 2020 election, Chesebro used the account to make arguments that he would later disavow when interviewed by Michigan prosecutors, including claims that Republican legislatures could override the electoral system and that former Vice President Mike Pence could be leveraged to throw the election for Trump—the last of which he posted about more than 50 times.

“You don’t get the big picture. Trump doesn’t have to get courts to declare him the winner of the vote. He just needs to convince Republican legislatures that the election was systematically rigged, but it’s impossible to run it again, so they should appoint electors instead,” wrote BadgerPundit on November 7, 2020, the day after the majority of U.S. media outlets called the election for President Joe Biden.

That could mean bad news for Chesebro, who struck a plea deal in Trump’s Georgia election interference case and has so far managed to skirt charges in other states impacted by the fake elector scheme thanks to his cooperation with prosecutors.

“Chesebro appears to have pursued a legally perilous path in his dealings with Michigan authorities,” Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University, told CNN after reviewing some of Chesebro’s posts, noting that the cover-up could put Chesebro “at great legal risk.”

“The Twitter posts strongly suggest Chesebro committed the crime of making false statements to investigators … his entire cooperation agreement may now fall apart,” Goodman added.

Republicans Are Lying About Supporting IVF

After a draconian Alabama ruling banning the procedure, Republicans claim they’ll protect it—but many have sponsored recent efforts that mirror the court decision.

Nancy Mace stares into space in front of a black background
Allison Joyce/Getty Images
Representative Nancy Mace

Republicans are working on a mass rebranding following a devastating ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court that effectively stalled in vitro fertilization across the state. The instant backlash to the decision has led droves of GOP lawmakers to issue statements in which they claim to be champions of the procedure—despite the fact that many of them had supported a bill to ban the practice just three years ago.

On Friday, the Senate Republican campaign arm issued a memo urging its political candidates to “clearly and concisely reject efforts by the government to restrict IVF.” The National Republican Senatorial Committee derided the all-conservative court’s decision in a deep-red state as “fodder for Democrats hoping to manipulate the abortion issue for electoral gain,” according to a copy of the memo obtained by Axios.

Since then, several lawmakers, including House Speaker Mike Johnson and Representatives Nancy Mace and Byron Donalds, have come out in support of the medical procedure, claiming that they would do anything in their power to thwart restrictions to the practice.

“I totally support the procedure,” Donalds said on NBC News’s Meet the Press
on Sunday. “We really want the Alabama legislature to make sure that that procedure is protected for families who do struggle with having children, that helps them actually create great families, which is what our country desperately needs.”

But that doesn’t quite square away with their recent voting records. In 2021, those legislators and 163 other House Republicans co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, which hoped to recognize fertilized eggs as children at the federal level in an attempt to ban abortions nationwide.

On Friday, Johnson issued a statement supporting IVF, correctly arguing that it “has been a blessing for many moms and dads who have struggled with fertility.” That is, however, not how he felt just one year ago. In 2023, Johnson affirmed his legislative stance against the medical procedure, supporting another iteration of the Life at Conception Act, which garnered 124 Republican co-sponsors.

Donald Trump Jr. Has a Gross New Obsession

Why is the former president's son obsessed with the current president's sex life?

Joe Biden smiles.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Donald Trump Jr. managed to get even more crass over the weekend while leveling a new attack on Joe Biden’s age.

In previews of an upcoming book about first ladies throughout the past few decades, the president reportedly quips the secret to his marriage is “good sex.” The author notes Biden has said this before, “much to his wife’s chagrin.”

Apparently it was also to Trump Jr.’s chagrin, because he took to social media on Sunday to air out his grievances.

“There’s literally no amount of Viagra on earth that’s going to give Joe Biden (who can barely walk without falling over) wood. Just stop!” he tweeted.

“The more desperate they become trying to make him seem young and vibrant the more obvious it is to everyone that he’s not up to any task!”

Trump Jr.’s gross and wholly unnecessary comment is just the latest in one the GOP’s favorite refrains on Biden. Republicans have repeatedly argued (and some Democrats worry) that Biden, who at age 81 is the oldest president ever, is mentally and physically unfit to hold office.

But those attacks ignore the fact that Trump, at a spry 77 years old, doesn’t seem to be doing so well, himself. The Republican primary front-runner has made multiple slip-ups recently, including mixing up the names of two authoritarian leaders, confusing Nancy Pelosi and Nikki Haley, and describing a missile launch as, “Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding…Missile launch. Woosh. Boom.”

Most recently, on Saturday, Trump completely forgot to name one of his children in speech—despite the fact he appeared to be using note cards to aid his memory. After winning the South Carolina primary, Trump thanked his family members for supporting him.

“My family, Melania, Barron, Don Jr. and Kimberly, Ivanka and Jared, Tiffany and Michael, they are so, so supportive,” Trump said, noticeably looking down at notes in between listing names. “So supportive of me, and we really appreciate it and love them. We have a great family.”

He failed to mention his son Eric Trump or his daughter-in-law Lara Trump, despite the fact that they were standing on stage with him, just a few feet away.

What’s more, Trump has tapped Lara to be the Republican National Committee co-chair. Since she’s clearly central to his plan for a total Republican Party takeover, you’d think he’d remember her.