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A Gun Trade Show Is Advertising the “JR-15,” an AR-15 Rifle for Kids

This, just weeks after a 6-year-old shot his teacher

Screenshot/Wee 1 Tactical Website

Just weeks after a 6-year-old shot his teacher, a gun trade show in Las Vegas is hosting a manufacturer promoting its “JR-15,” a child-size AR-15 rifle.

The JR-15 was first launched last year by gun manufacturer WEE1 Tactical. The launch sparked outrage as the company promoted the J.V. death machine with cartoon skulls and crossbones stylized as boys and girls. The presumed boy skull had a blonde mohawk and green pacifier, while the girl skull sported blonde pigtails and pink bows and a pink pacifier. Both cartoons had one eye patched with a rifle sight.

Screenshot/Wayback Machine

The company’s website from last year claimed that the JR-15, while smaller, “operates just like Mom and Dad’s gun.” The site also boasted “SWAG for Adults and Young Shooters” that matched the cartoonized promotional materials. “The BRAND is meant to be EDGY,” the site read.

Now, as WEE1 Tactical heads to the SHOT Show in Las Vegas, where the deadliest mass shooting by an individual in U.S. history took place, it is preparing to re-promote the same gateway gun with a more muted tone. The company’s latest flyer skips the “edgy” branding to focus more on the product specifications of the JR-15. One page is dedicated toward explaining the company’s “tamper resistant safety” switch that “requires strength and dexterity to release.”

Instead of lauding the gun as “just like Mom and Dad’s gun,” the company focuses on the “American Family Values” to be had by buying its gun, which helps “introduce young enthusiasts to the shooting sports.”

“WEE1 Tactical has adopted this supposedly kinder, gentler marketing approach because it knows from experience that most Americans are shocked and disgusted by the idea of manufacturing semiautomatic assault rifles designed for grade schoolers,” said Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center.

AR-15s or similar rifles were the primary weapons used in some of the deadliest mass shootings in recent American history: the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting, the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, and the 2022 Robb Elementary School shooting.

Just among this handful of American shootings, three were at schools. Most might recoil at a gross push to get even more weapons into people’s hands, especially young people’s. (After all, there’s an estimated 120 guns for every 100 people in America.)

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, however, responded to the tragic Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde by suggesting they would have been safer with JR-15s.

Failed MAGA Republican Candidate Arrested in Shootings Targeting New Mexico Democrats

Solomon Peña refused to accept his election loss, and Albuquerque police have called him an “election denier.”

SCREENSHOT/ALBUQUERQUE P.D. FACEBOOK PAGE

A failed MAGA Republican New Mexico legislative candidate, who refused to accept his election loss, was arrested for a series of shootings at the homes of local Democratic leaders.

Albuquerque police arrested Solomon Peña on Monday for conspiring with and paying four men to carry out shootings in recent weeks at the homes of two Bernalillo County commissioners and two state legislators. No one was injured in the attacks.

Police said they suspected Peña was angry that he lost his race for the state House of Representatives. Peña received a mere 26 percent of the votes to Democratic incumbent Miguel Garcia’s 76 percent, according to the New Mexico secretary of state’s office.

“He had complaints about his election he felt being rigged,” police spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said at a press conference Monday evening. “As the mayor said, he was an election denier—he doesn’t want to accept the results of his election.”

Despite the not at all close race, Peña refused to concede, tweeting, “I dissent. I am the MAGA king,” the night of November 9. A few days later, when Donald Trump announced he was running for president again, Peña tweeted his support for the former leader and said he had not conceded his own race.

“Now researching my options,” he added ominously.

Peña embraced Trump’s election denialism, even appearing to attend the January 6, 2021, rally that turned into the insurrection, according to a photo he shared on Twitter. He repeatedly insisted that his own election was rigged. After the results were in, he approached three of the four targeted Democratic officials at their homes, claiming he had proof the election was fraudulent and arguing it should not be certified. The Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to certify the election results.

Over the course of 2022, Peña also made almost two dozen donations to the Lyndon Larouche PAC, which was founded by far-right political activist and conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche.

Albuquerque’s Democratic Mayor Tim Keller praised Peña’s arrest, urging city residents to “push back against hate in all forms and stop political violence.”

Peña is just the latest example of politically motivated attacks, particularly around the midterm elections. Election workers have seen a massive increase in threats and harassment since Trump refused to accept the 2020 election results. States ramped up protections for poll workers ahead of the midterms in November, especially after there were reports of armed self-appointed poll watchers showing up at ballot boxes.

And just weeks before the midterms, a man broke into Nancy Pelosi’s home in San Francisco and attacked her husband with a hammer.

Get Ready for Another Debt Ceiling Showdown

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Congress that the nation will hit the debt ceiling on January 19. But Republicans have promised to hold the debt ceiling hostage until they get what they want.

Kevin McCarthy smiles with a gavel in his hand
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Speaker Kevin McCarthy

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Congress on Friday that the nation will hit the debt ceiling on Thursday, January 19. If lawmakers don’t suspend or raise the debt ceiling, Yellen wrote, there will be “irreparable harm” to the U.S. economy as well as global financial stability.

A breach of the debt ceiling could interrupt federal spending on things like Social Security, Medicare, or even just salaries of federal employees. It would also tank America’s credit rating.

Yellen said the Treasury will go to “extraordinary measures” to avoid default, giving lawmakers until early June to come up with a deal. These measures include redeeming existing and suspending new investments of the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund and suspending reinvestment in separate retirement savings funds for federal workers.

Now Republicans and Democrats have a limited time to negotiate on what happens next in order to prevent a global crisis. Unfortunately, the situation primarily offers no-win scenarios.

Kevin McCarthy promised to leverage the debt ceiling to cut spending in exchange for gaining the House speaker’s gavel. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has said there are no plans for such cuts, or negotiation at all on something that should be a bipartisan move to avoid crisis.

Worse, right-wing media is ratcheting up pressure on Republicans to leverage the debt ceiling for political demands, something that surely could push spineless Republicans to follow suit (even while it would harm their own base).

Democrats, tasked with advocating for good governance, are then stuck between holding the line and forcing Republicans’ hands to cooperate (risking potential national economic crisis if Republicans dig their heels in) and negotiating with them in order to avoid such disaster by potentially agreeing to cut essential social spending.

“What we’re creating is a showdown where Democrats are trying to show that the Republicans are being irresponsible, but the cost of proving that irresponsibility is an economic worldwide catastrophe,” Laura Blessing, senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute, told The New Republic the last time this all happened.

One of the Deals McCarthy Made to Become Speaker Could Create Another January 6

Kevin McCarthy promised to release all January 6 footage, which would include things like where safe rooms and security cameras are located.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy made countless concessions to become speaker of the House, but one of those deals could pose a major risk to security in the Capitol.

Matt Gaetz, who staunchly opposed the California Republican’s bid for the speakership, revealed Thursday evening to CNN that McCarthy had agreed to release all the security camera footage from the Capitol on the day of the January 6 insurrection. McCarthy also indicated Thursday he was open to releasing the video footage.

The Capitol Police Board says the final decision isn’t even up to McCarthy. The board, which is made up of the House and Senate sergeants at arms and the architect of the Capitol, opposes making the footage public because doing so could inadvertently help the people who overran the Capitol two years ago—as well as people who might want to do it again.

Releasing the footage could reveal strategic locations in the Capitol, such as safe rooms and security cameras. It could also help give people a better sense of the building’s layout, thus jeopardizing Capitol security.

The Justice Department and Capitol Police have previously pushed back on releasing the more than 14,000 hours of footage from January 6. USCP Chief Sean Gallagher said in a court affidavit from July that his department “continues to consider any interior footage of the U.S. Capitol to be highly sensitive information, and that access to it should be strictly limited.”

The Justice Department also argued that releasing the footage could reveal sensitive information pertaining to the cases of people arrested in connection to the insurrection. The FBI has arrested about 900 people connected to the insurrection and has the identities of hundreds more. A total of about 3,000 people could be charged over storming the Capitol, when all is said and done.

It’s not clear what Republicans think they will gain by releasing the footage. Many GOP lawmakers, including Gaetz, Andy Biggs, and Louie Gohmert have previously called for the videos to be made public in an effort to exonerate people connected to the riot. House Republicans have also formed a House Judiciary subcommittee dedicated to investigating ongoing criminal investigations, such as the ones into January 6.

There is also a chance, which Republicans do not seem to have considered, that releasing the footage will backfire spectacularly. The videos could reveal even more damaging information about the Republicans already under scrutiny for their actions before and during the attack.

Kathy Hochul Will Do “Everything” to Force an Anti-Union Judge Onto New York’s Highest Court

The New York governor has nominated Hector LaSalle to be the state’s top judge. She’s determined to stand by him, even as fellow Democrats raise concerns.

Lev Radin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

New York Governor Kathy Hochul barely held onto her seat in the last election, and now she’s alienating her own party by nominating Hector LaSalle as chief judge for the state Court of Appeals.

LaSalle, an appellate court judge, is set to have a hearing next Wednesday before the state Senate Judiciary Committee, which will then vote either to advance or tank his nomination. A majority of the committee has expressed skepticism thus far. Hochul for her part has said she will do “everything” to get LaSalle through the committee, arguing the whole Senate should be the one to vote.

LaSalle has built a reputation as a generally experienced, knowledgeable judge. Proponents cite things like the New York State Bar Association deeming him “well qualified.” They also point to the history to be made upon his appointment: LaSalle would be the court’s first Latino chief judge, if confirmed.

Meanwhile, opponents—progressives, moderates, and, yes, Latinos, among others—find parts of his record contrary to the kinds of liberal ideals Hochul would presumably stand for. LaSalle’s record on issues including abortion, criminal justice, and labor would have massive implications on the already-conservative court. And Democrats are still reeling from the impacts of an antagonistic court. During the midterms, the party suffered in part due to unfavorable district maps drawn by the state’s highest court, whose conservative majority was constructed by Andrew Cuomo. So scrutiny on any appointment is warranted, especially one whose record is like LaSalle’s.

Over a decade ago, the New York state attorney general launched an investigation into potential fraudulent practices being carried out by an organization that ran so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” which pose as real health clinics but are actually run by anti-abortion activists. LaSalle voted to intervene, hindering the probe by preventing investigators from reviewing even promotional materials from the centers.

In 2014, LaSalle joined an opinion holding that a criminal defendant could not appeal his conviction of a weapons possession charge because he knowingly waived the right to appeal when he entered a guilty plea. However, when the defendant entered the guilty plea, he was told by the trial judge that he could still appeal “certain constitutional issues.” And he was indeed seeking to appeal his conviction on the basis of a constitutional issue: He claimed he was subject to an illegal police search. Nevertheless, LaSalle signed onto the majority opinion that denied the appeal.

In 2015, LaSalle voted alongside a majority opinion allowing cable television company Cablevision to sue union officials who were criticizing the company—contrary to legal precedent that protected organizing workers from such corporate lawsuits. In other words, LaSalle upended state legal precedent in favor of a company, and against workers.

The Court of Appeals—which LaSalle is now nominated to—overturned the latter two decisions that LaSalle joined.

These are just some of the troubling opinions LaSalle has joined. Others include preventing a victim of vicious domestic abuse from filing suit against the police for repeatedly ignoring her pleas for help, and that a 15-year-old who could only read at a fourth-grade level needed no special protection during interrogation.

That Hochul had many other options and still chose LaSalle shows either a lack of conviction in her purported beliefs or severe political ineptitude. At least 14 of the 42 Democrats in the state Senate have come out against LaSalle, with even more expressing uncertainty. That leaves Hochul with maybe 28 Democrats and 21 Republicans to work with; she’ll likely need Republican support to help push the nomination through. Meanwhile, a massive array of unions, reproductive rights and immigrant advocacy organizations, local and state elected officials, and political organizing groups have all similarly come out against LaSalle.

And yet Hochul has held fast—to an impressive extent.

Just this week, Ironworkers Vice President James Mahoney criticized Hochul’s nomination at a press conference, saying the nomination felt like being put “on the menu,” especially after he and other labor organizers worked so hard to elect Hochul in the first place. Afterward, Hochul allegedly revoked Mahoney’s invite to her State of the State speech the following day (a speech with prepared remarks that did not mention LaSalle or even utter the word “union”).

Hochul’s decision to nominate LaSalle at all is questionable. Her resolve in sticking by it is remarkable. As seems evident, again and again, a certain ineptitude or simple lack of conviction is almost a sufficient condition for powerful New York Democrats.

Laura Ingraham Accuses Biden of Corrupt Family Business in Sign That Irony Is Dead

“If only we had a president who cared more about what was good for the country and less about how to protect his family’s corrupt business interests,” the Fox News host said.

Laura Ingraham speaks at a podium
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images
Laura Ingraham

Laura Ingraham tried to use the discovery of classified documents in Joe Biden’s home as proof the president is corrupt, but she ended up calling out someone else entirely.

The Fox News host argued that Biden was more focused on his family’s “corrupt business interests” than being president.

Her Thursday night comments demonstrate both a staggering lack of self-awareness and excellent ironic timing, as they came the day before the Trump organization was sentenced for a 15-year tax fraud scheme.

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly showed more interest in protecting his business interests than actually leading the country. An analysis of his tax returns by the Joint Committee on Taxation appears to indicate that Trump used his office to steer federal business to his own companies. He and other government officials would stay at his hotels while traveling abroad. Foreign officials spent more than $750,000 at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to curry favor with the president. And at one point, Kellyanne Conway said on television people should “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.”

Trump’s tax returns also show that he paid little to no income tax in the past few years and may have withheld details about certain payments and sales to avoid paying tax on those funds.

When it comes to caring for the country, as Ingraham said, the record is equally clear: Trump was impeached the first time for trying to pressure Ukraine into secretly investigating Biden and his family. The January 6 investigative committee unanimously recommended criminal charges against Trump for his role in the insurrection, and he is under investigation by the FBI for taking classified documents to Mar-a-Lago.

Biden, on the other hand, has sought to pass major legislation that would massively benefit the United States, such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. When his lawyers discovered the classified documents at his former office and private residence, they immediately returned them to the National Archives and have been cooperating with the investigation. Biden is not perfect, but at least he actually seems invested in his job.

Trump Organization Fined $1.6 Million for Tax Fraud and Conspiracy

The Trump Organization received the maximum penalty possible under New York law, after being convicted of running a 15-year tax fraud scheme.

Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Trump Organization was fined $1.6 million Friday morning for tax fraud, conspiracy, and other crimes as part of a 15-year scheme that compensated top executives off the books.

Two subsidiaries of the organization, Trump Payroll Corp. and Trump Corp., were hit with the highest possible fines under New York State law at the Manhattan criminal hearing.

The two companies were found guilty last month—just weeks after Donald Trump announced his third consecutive run for president—on 17 criminal counts, including scheming to defraud, conspiracy, tax fraud, and falsifying business records.

The sentence will not dissolve the company, nor send anyone to jail. But Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg was sentenced Tuesday to five months in jail for his role in leading the scheme to defraud state and federal tax authorities for over 15 years. Weisselberg himself had been accused of receiving some $1.7 million in secret compensation throughout the scheme.

“Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg used his high-level position to secure lavish work perks such as a rent-free luxury Manhattan apartment, multiple Mercedes Benz automobiles and private school tuition for his grandchildren—all without paying required taxes,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in a statement.

Weisselberg was able to net a lighter sentence after agreeing to testify on the scheme.

Trump, denying any wrongdoing even while not being a defendant in the first place, called the case “a continuation of the Greatest Political Witch Hunt in the History of our Country.”

Numerous documents have implicated Trump to some degree. Jeff McConney, the senior vice president at Trump Corp., even implicated Trump in the scheme at first but then walked back that testimony. McConney’s legal fees are paid for by the Trump Organization.

Trump still faces numerous other investigations—on the state and federal level—for his seizure of classified documents after he left the White House, his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and the accuracy of the Trump Organization’s financial records and valuations.

The New York attorney general is also pursuing a $250 million civil lawsuit into whether Trump’s asset valuation statements were indicative of fraud. Last week, a judge denied Trump’s appeal to dismiss the case, calling his legal team’s arguments “frivolous.” Among financial penalties, Trump and his family could be barred from leading business operations in New York ever again.

George Santos: I’ve Lived an “Honest Life,” and Also Don’t Ask Me Where My Money Came From

The New York representative refused to answer where he got the $700,000 he loaned to his own campaign.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Among George Santos’s many lies and embellishments and cover-ups is how, exactly, he came into so much money so quickly.

Just a few years ago, Santos claimed no major assets and a $55,000 salary. Two years later, his net worth skyrocketed and he apparently boasted a nearly seven-figure salary and millions in dividends. He even loaned some $700,000 to his campaign. Santos has thus far refused to answer where this inordinate amount of money actually came from, especially so quickly. And on Thursday, while speaking on friendly territory, he still avoided the question.

On Steve Bannon’s War Room program, guest host and Santos’s colleague Representative Matt Gaetz asked Santos about the $700,000.

“I’ll tell you where it didn’t come from. It didn’t come from China, Ukraine, or Burisma,” Santos quipped with a grin. “How about that?”

Santos has claimed a net worth as high as $11.5 million—all from the newly formed Devolder Organization from which Santos claimed to receive a $750,000 salary and between $1 and $5 million in dividends. Gaetz followed up on Santos’s quip, giving him an easy out to offer any simple explanation for where the money came from. Instead, Santos remained cryptic and even more dishonest.

“Look, I’ve worked my entire life. I’ve lived an honest life. I’ve never been accused—sued—of any bad doings,” Santos said, contributing yet another lie to his already massive pile. “You know, it’s the equity of my hardworking self that I’ve been invested inside of me,” he continued, nonsensically.

“Like I said, it didn’t come from Burisma, it didn’t come from Ukraine, Russia, China—unlike some folks that we all know that get money from those sources,” Santos concluded, relieved to somehow have stumbled his way to the end of his vacuous sentence.

Gaetz marched forward with the conversation, perhaps with second-hand embarrassment after watching Santos fumble even the most generous layup opportunity.

Attorney General Merrick Garland Appoints Special Counsel to Investigate Biden Classified Documents

What to know about new special counsel Robert Hur, and how this case is still nothing like Trump’s.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday he has appointed a special counsel to investigate the classified documents found in President Joe Biden’s home and former private office.

Biden’s personal attorneys found about a dozen documents in total at the two locations. It is unclear what the documents contain or how sensitive they are. The White House immediately alerted the National Archives, returned the documents the following day, and has been cooperating with the investigation into how the papers got there.

After the initial department investigation, “I concluded that under the special counsel regulations, it was in the public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland told a press conference.

He said he had picked Robert Hur, who was nominated to be U.S. attorney in Maryland by former President Donald Trump, to lead the investigation. Before serving as U.S. attorney, Hur worked with the Department of Justice in the early 2000s, focusing on counterterrorism and corporate fraud.

While serving as the U.S. attorney for the district of Maryland, Hur supervised cases dealing with national security and public corruption, including a high-profile case in 2020 in which a white nationalist Coast Guard lieutenant was charged with domestic terrorism.

Since the documents were discovered, Republicans have slammed what they consider a double standard in treatment for Biden and Trump. Senator Lindsey Graham called for a special counsel to be appointed to lead an investigation into Biden.

It’s worth noting that Trump’s and Biden’s situations are nowhere near similar. Trump took hundreds of classified documents, insisted he had done nothing wrong, and resisted all federal efforts to retrieve the papers. Ultimately, the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago residence to find the documents. As for Biden, as late-night host Seth Meyers noted, “The FBI doesn’t raid someone who’s already cooperating.”

Garland’s decision to appoint a special counsel has produced a mixed reaction. Elie Mistal, the justice correspondent for The Nation, criticized the attorney general’s relative speed in appointing Hur, compared to the nearly two years it took him to appoint Jack Smith as special counsel to investigate Trump.

But national security reporter Marcy Wheeler, who goes by the Twitter handle @emptywheel, argued that doing so would essentially throw Republicans a bone, giving Smith more breathing room for his investigation.

People Are Getting Real Heated Over a Gas Stove Ban That Isn’t Even Happening

The government isn’t taking anyone’s gas stove. You wouldn’t know that looking at the tweets.

Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

People are getting incredibly hot under the collar over a gas stove ban that isn’t even happening.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced in mid-December that it was considering health regulations on gas stoves for the first time ever, following a report that gas ranges were responsible for almost 13 percent of childhood asthma cases. But the debate really boiled over this week after Richard Trumka, a CPSC commissioner, told Bloomberg the agency was considering banning gas stoves.

Trumka has since clarified that the agency will not forcibly take anyone’s  gas stove, but will instead seek to decrease the associated health hazards, including by implementing regulations on new products. President Joe Biden has also said that he does not support a ban on gas stoves.

Still, the reactions have been heated, to say the least, and utterly out of proportion.

Representative Ronny Jackson, an actual physician who opposed masking to protect against Covid-19 and said former President Donald Trump could live to be 200, tweeted that the CPSC can pry his gas stove “from my cold dead hands.” He also shared a petition to “Save the Stoves.”

Representative Mark Alford tweeted a photo of a gas stove top captioned, “COME AND TAKE IT.”

Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that the Biden administration is considering banning gas stoves, which is completely untrue.

Even Democratic Senator Joe Manchin got in on the debate. Manchin represents a state that is the second-largest coal producer in the nation, and he chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources, so he has a definite interest in protecting the fossil fuel industry.

Looks like people need to simmer down a bit.