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Pentagon Kicks Off Pride Month by Canceling Drag Show at Air Force Base

Happy Pride!

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley

To mark the start of Pride Month, the Pentagon has canceled a drag show that was scheduled for Thursday at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

This would have been the third year that Nellis hosted a performance by artists from the nearby Las Vegas drag community. The event, which billed itself as family-friendly, has been generally popular among both people on the base and performers.

Air Force leaders had approved the show, but Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley ordered that the show be canceled or moved off base, claiming it is not Pentagon policy to fund drag shows on bases, NBC reported late Wednesday.

“Hosting these types of events in federally funded facilities is not a suitable use of DOD resources,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said in a statement. “Our Service members are diverse and are allowed to have personal outlets.”

Coco Montrese, a drag queen who performed at the first Nellis show and was expected to take the stage Thursday, said she was “shocked and disappointed” by the decision to cancel.

“Recently the attacks on the LGBTQ+ community are getting louder and louder. Fear is a very big business for politicians who use it to control the masses,” she told the local CBS news station.

“Creating a narrative by certain actions is careless because actions do speak louder than words. This action, 24 hours before the event would take place, is a clear message. I think we all know what that message is.”

Florida Representative Matt Gaetz took credit for the decision, hailing it as a “HUGE VICTORY.” Gaetz had grilled Austin and Milley about drag shows on bases during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in March on the defense budget.

Gaetz took particular issue with drag queen story hours being hosted on bases and accused the military of using federal dollars to fund such events. Austin said that “drag shows are not something the Defense Department supports or funds,” and Milley said he wanted to look further into drag shows on bases because “those things shouldn’t be happening.” Gaetz later sent the two officials a letter requesting more information about Pride events held on bases, including the show at Nellis.

Drag shows are a new favorite target among the far right. Tennessee, Florida, and Montana have passed laws banning drag performances (the Tennessee law is currently blocked), and a similar bill has passed the Texas legislature. Governor Greg Abbott is widely expected to sign the measure into law.

One chilling element about the Pentagon’s move is the language the department has used to explain the decision. The statements use words that imply that drag is inappropriate and should be done in private. Similarly, the Republicans backing drag bans argue that the art form is obscene and not suitable for children. In reality, these arguments aim to force LGBTQ people back out of public view.

Lauren Boebert Hated the Debt Ceiling Bill So Much She Missed the Vote

The Colorado representative didn’t make time to vote against the bill she spent so much time criticizing.

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Apparently Lauren Boebert didn’t care that much about the debt ceiling—she skipped the vote!

On Wednesday, the House voted 314–117 to raise the debt limit in return for weakening the IRS, increasing work requirements on social services, restarting student loan payments, and expediting the Mountain Valley Pipeline project.

The bill’s austerity measures and giveaways to corporate America were certainly not as much as Republicans wanted, leaving some unsatisfied, like the far-right House Freedom Caucus—including Boebert herself. She’s been among the Republicans making the rounds everywhere, for instance Steve Bannon’s War Room program, to whip up opposition to an agreement not as extreme as they would like.

And yet, after all that, Boebert was caught like a middle schooler running just late of catching the school bus in the morning:

To Boebert’s credit, the past few weeks for her seem to have been busy. Last week, she admitted she only had her third son because birth control was too expensive.

Also last week, reports came out of 911 call tapes of Boebert’s son desperately calling for help, saying his father (Boebert’s then husband) was “fucking throwing me around the house.”

The boy was crying, saying, “He does this to me so much.” Boebert then is heard intervening in the call, insisting that her son “doesn’t need help.”

Despite the external happenings, it’s astonishing Boebert missed voting on a bill she spent so much time deriding.

In total, more Democrats voted for the debt ceiling bill than Republicans; McCarthy’s alleviating headache is thanks entirely to the Democrats.

The debt limit bill now goes to the Senate, with Democrats like Tim Kaine, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Jeff Merkley expressing discontent or outright opposition to it. Kaine was particularly incensed by the inclusion of expedition of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project. Sanders said he cannot “in good conscience” vote for a bill that cuts programs for working people and gives favors to the fossil fuel industry.

Trump’s Lawyers Reportedly Hate Each Other So Much It’s Undermining His Defense Case

The lawyers don’t trust each other, and some began withholding information from each other.

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Donald Trump with his attorneys (from left) Todd Blanche, Susan Necheles, Joe Tacopina, and Boris Epshteyn during his arraignment at the Manhattan Criminal Court on April 4

Donald Trump’s legal team reportedly has so much internal conflict that it could actually hinder its ability to defend the former president for his alleged mishandling of classified documents.

The infighting began soon after the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago last August, but the division only came to light when Trump’s lawyer Tim Parlatore abruptly quit two weeks ago. Parlatore’s main reason for leaving was irreconcilable differences with Trump’s senior adviser and in-house counsel, Boris Epshteyn.

Most of the problems stem from a lack of trust on the team, The Guardian reported Thursday. The lawyers don’t trust each other and especially not Epshteyn, because they felt he micromanaged them and blocked direct access to Trump.

Some of the lawyers reportedly agreed to quit in solidarity if Parlatore were fired. Parlatore and another lawyer, Jim Trusty, disliked Epshteyn so much that they began withholding information from him.

Trusty chafed at having to run all of his decisions by Epshteyn first, according to a Guardian reporter who overheard him complaining last August. Trusty felt Epshteyn was not a trial lawyer and focused too much on Trump’s P.R. issues, not legal ones.

Parlatore has accused Epshteyn of attempting to block searches of Trump’s properties for classified documents. And both Parlatore and Trusty were frustrated by the fact that Epshteyn was usually included in any phone calls with Trump. They felt Epshteyn was misleading Trump about the state of the lawsuit.

It got to the point that the pair began withholding information from Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran because they worried he would brief Epshteyn without their knowledge. But that hobbled the team’s ability to build a defense, as the different factions had no clue what the others were doing.

Parlatore and Corcoran have since testified in front of the grand jury investigating Trump’s decision to keep classified documents. Special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the investigation, also interviewed Epshteyn in April.

As it turns out, not only were the lawyers hiding things from each other, but Trump was hiding things from his lawyers. A judge ruled in March that some of Trump’s attorney-client privileges could be “pierced” after prosecutors for Smith’s team found that Trump intentionally misled his own lawyers about keeping classified materials when he left office. New reports have revealed that Trump knew he wasn’t supposed to keep classified documents and that he couldn’t automatically declassify them, but he hid the papers anyway.

Smith has not yet issued any criminal charges, but he seems to be circling ever closer to Trump. And that’s not even the end of the former president’s legal troubles. Trump is also under investigation in Georgia for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. He has been indicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records for paying hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Trump was found civilly liable for sexually abusing and defaming writer E. Jean Carroll—and last week, she sued him for defamation again over comments he made about her during a CNN town hall. So his legal team should probably start working together pretty soon.

Atlanta Police Have Arrested Organizers of the Cop City Protest Bail Fund

Attention freedom-lovers: The targeting of a bail fund sets a very dangerous precedent.

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Environmental activists hold a rally and a march through the Atlanta Forest, which is scheduled to be developed as a police training center, on March 4.

On Wednesday, a heavy-duty police truck, flanked by hordes of riot police, descended upon a house in Atlanta to conduct an arrest raid.

Were the police arresting a cadre of heavily armed bandits? A bunker where a mass shooter had holed up? No. The police were detaining three individuals who had been helping organize bail funds and legal defense for the Cop City protesters that Atlanta police injudiciously arrested on the grounds of crimes like having muddy shoes.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, alongside the Atlanta Police Department, arrested Marlon Scott Kautz, Savannah Patterson, and Adele Maclean on charges of “money laundering” and “charity fraud.” The trio are organizers with the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, which has been at the forefront of providing legal support and bail assistance to the at least 42 people who have been entrapped by massively high bonds from the courts and face bewildering criminal charges for exercising their right to assemble or protest.

There has been no public evidence thus far of any mishandling of the funds raised to support arrested protesters.

The harrowing display of fascism is just the latest chapter of an ongoing struggle by waves of people to protest the construction of a gargantuan police training facility—known as “Cop City”—that would raze the Weelaunee Forest in Atlanta.

Governor Brian Kemp celebrated the arrests Wednesday as part of a crackdown on “mostly out-of-state activists” (the trio are all from Atlanta) and “domestic terrorism.” In simpler terms, Kemp is celebrating the police state’s arrest of people who have labored to provide legal support for people facing undue charges by that police state. If needs a more modern example, there you go.

One of the arrested organizers, Kautz, had predicted the forthcoming possibility of Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization, or RICO, charges.

“We understand that this movement is as broad as society itself. It includes environmental activists, community groups, faith leaders, abolitionists, students, artists, and people from all over,” Kautz said back in February. “But police, prosecutors, and even Governor Kemp have been trying to suggest in the media and in court that the opposition to Cop City is actually the work of a criminal organization whose members conspire to commit acts of terrorism. In essence, they’re trying to concoct a RICO-like story about the movement.”

The state escalation against its people comes after revelations confirming that the police unprovokedly murdered a protester and forest defender, Manuel Esteban Paez Terán. Police shot Terán, also known as “Tortuguita,” at least 57 times. What may have been warning bells for more sane actors seemed only to be a rallying call for Georgia’s authorities. As TNR has written previously:

While the police continue to prove why they warrant more scrutiny and less leeway, their behavior has yet to change; it is unclear how much more damage they will need to cause to inspire enough change to stop them from causing such damage at all.

Trump Caught on Tape Bragging About Keeping Classified Pentagon Doc on Attacking Iran

And prosecutors have the recording, making it harder for Trump to just say he declassified all the documents.

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Donald Trump knew that he couldn’t declassify documents—and now the special counsel investigating him over it has a recording of the former president admitting as much.

Federal prosecutors for Jack Smith have obtained a recording of a meeting held in July 2021, long after Trump had left the White House, during which he says he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran, CNN reported. Although CNN has not heard the audio, multiple anonymous sources described it to it.

Trump met with two people working on an autobiography of his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Neither writer had security clearance. In the recording, Trump brings up the classified document, which he says came from chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley. Trump claims that if he could show it to people, the document would undermine previous reports that Milley had convinced Trump not to attack Iran near the end of his presidency.

Trump refers to the document as if he has it in front of him, and at one point there is the sound of paper rustling “as if Trump was waving the document around,” CNN wrote, although it is not clear if it was the paper in question. Sources told CNN that the classified document Trump referred to in the recording was not produced by Milley, but it is a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran.

The meeting took place six months before Trump’s legal team sent 15 boxes of records and classified documents back to the National Archives, and more than a year before the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago, seizing more than 100 documents.

Trump’s acknowledgment that he couldn’t show the document to people demonstrates that he knew full well that he wasn’t able to declassify documents at whim. His allies had previously argued that he had a “standing declassification order” that would immediately declassify any document removed from the Oval Office. Trump himself claimed he could declassify things “just by thinking about it.” But he knew it was all bunk.

And now Smith, who is investigating Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents and role in the January 6 insurrection, has proof on tape.

It’s not clear how prosecutors got the recording, but they also recently acquired a slew of records including handwritten notes, transcriptions of audio recordings, and invoices from Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran. A judge ruled in March that some of Trump’s attorney-client privileges could be “pierced” after prosecutors for Smith’s team found that Trump intentionally misled his own lawyers, including Corcoran, about keeping classified materials when he left office.

Those records reveal that Trump knew he wasn’t supposed to keep classified documents. Not only did he do so anyway, but Corcoran was also prevented from searching Trump’s office at Mar-a-Lago, where the FBI later found some of the most sensitive material.

Smith has not yet issued any criminal charges, but he seems to be circling ever closer to Trump. And that’s not even the end of the former president’s legal troubles. Trump is also under investigation in Georgia for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. He has been indicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records for paying hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Trump was found civilly liable for sexually abusing and defaming writer E. Jean Carroll—and last week, she sued him for defamation again over comments he made about her during a CNN town hall.

Bernie Sanders Says He Cannot “in Good Conscience” Vote for Debt Ceiling Bill

“The future of the world is literally at stake,” the Vermont senator wrote in announcing his opposition.

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Senator Bernie Sanders

Amid the day-to-day rough-and-tumble of Washington, D.C., we become susceptible to forgetting that days turn to months, and months turn to years. But as the sands of time drift, scientists have been loudly warning about the prognosis of our planet as we know it: It’s not “we need to change before it’s too late,” but “we are on the final brink of being too late.”

On Wednesday, Senator Bernie Sanders announced his opposition to the debt ceiling agreement Republicans ironed out with the White House due to its giveaways to fossil fuel companies and its targeting of social services.

“The best thing to be said about the current deal on the debt ceiling is that it could have been much worse,” Sanders began in a statement. “Instead of making massive cuts to health care, education, childcare, nutrition assistance, and other vital programs over the next decade, this bill proposes to make modest cuts to these programs over a 2-year period.”

Sanders panned the agreement for austerely cutting programs for working people, while doing nothing to challenge entrenched power centers in America, like the bloated military budget or Big Pharma. And he also focused on one of the more puzzling add-ins (whose presence in the bill can only be explained as a favor to Joe Manchin, an emblem of fossil fuel corruption): the expediting of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

“At a time when climate change is, by far, the most existential threat facing our country and the entire world I cannot, in good conscience, vote for a bill that makes it easier for fossil fuel companies to pollute and destroy the planet by fast-tracking the disastrous Mountain Valley Pipeline,” Sanders said. “When the future of the world is literally at stake we must have the courage to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them, and the politicians they sponsor, that the future of the planet is more important than their short-term profits.”

Sanders instead offered an alternative path for the Biden administration. “The fact of the matter is that this bill is totally unnecessary. The President has the authority and the ability to eliminate the debt ceiling today by invoking the 14th Amendment,” Sanders said. “I look forward to the day when he exercises this authority and puts an end, once and for all, to the outrageous actions of the extreme right-wing to hold our entire economy hostage in order to get what they want.”

Sanders’s statement was refreshing—not just for its refusal to cave to the hostage situation that Republicans built but for its clarity in reiterating that while the latest episode of D.C. melodrama plays out, indeed, the health of the planet as we know it is “literally at stake.”

Such a statement of opposition stands in stark contrast to those put out by the likes of Nancy Mace or the extremist House Freedom Caucus, as they complain the bill does not do enough to cut government investment in the lives of its people.

“Deficit reduction cannot just be about cutting programs that working families, the children, the sick, the elderly, and the poor depend upon,” Sanders said. “It must be about demanding that the billionaire class and profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes, reining in out-of-control military spending, reducing the price of prescription drugs, and ending billions of dollars in corporate welfare that goes to the fossil fuel industry and other corporate interests.”

Greg Abbott Appoints Election Skeptic as Interim Texas Attorney General

John Scott once agreed to represent Donald Trump in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott

Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday appointed the former Texas secretary of state, who was involved in trying to overturn the 2020 election, as interim attorney general.

The state House voted overwhelmingly on Saturday to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton for a raft of alleged crimes, including bribery and abuse of office. It was only the third impeachment in Texas history. Paxton had to immediately step aside from his duties and could be removed from office entirely, pending the result of a Senate trial.

Abbott announced Wednesday that John Scott, a lawyer and the former secretary of state, would fill in while Paxton’s trial plays out. Abbott appointed Scott as secretary of state in October 2021, and he served through the midterm elections until the end of 2022.

The official press release listed Scott’s many qualifications, including that he “aided then-Attorney General Abbott’s efforts to hold the Obama Administration accountable and sue President Obama more than any other Attorney General.” While working under Abbott as deputy attorney general, Scott also defended the Texas voter identification law that federal courts ultimately found was discriminatory and created an undue burden on Black and Hispanic voters.

Scott’s initial appointment to state secretary was controversial for a few reasons. First, he was appointed after the legislative session had ended, so he never had to go through the traditional confirmation process.

But more significantly, he also briefly agreed to represent Donald Trump in his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Scott signed on as counsel to a lawsuit Trump filed to stop the certification of Pennsylvania’s election results. (He filed a motion to withdraw as attorney for the plaintiffs a few days later.)

Although his stint on Team Trump was brief, he seems to have carried that election skepticism into his role in the Texas government. While he eventually conceded that Joe Biden won the 2020 election and that Texas’s elections were fair and secure, he also continued to fuel election misinformation among voters.

Scott’s office oversaw a nearly yearlong audit of the 2020 election results in four of Texas’s largest counties, including the Democratic-leaning Harris and Dallas counties. None of the audits showed there had been any fraud.

During his time as secretary of state, Scott also helped shepherd in a controversial voting law that had been prompted by Trump’s false claims that fraudulent votes were cast. The law rolled back a lot of initiatives that made it easier for people of color to vote, including drive-thru voting, early voting, and mail-in ballot applications. Instead, the law created new identification requirements for mail-in voting, set up monthly reviews to prove voters’ citizenship, and increased protections for partisan poll watchers.

If Right-Wingers Want to Boycott “Woke” Companies, Add This AR-15 Manufacturer to the List

If all it takes is a DEI director or a celebration of Pride to be woke, the list of companies the right should boycott is actually quite long.

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An attendee views an AR-15-style rifle during the NRA convention in Indianapolis on April 15.

Chick-fil-A, Target, Bud Light, and more have all become targets of the far right for having even a hint of association with LGBTQ people or efforts to promote diversity, equity, or inclusion.

And with Pride Month right around the corner—with millions of people across the country ready to rejoice in the joy of embracing one’s own sense of love and celebrate other people’s liberation too—it might prove difficult for those on the far right to keep track of all the companies they’ll need to bravely rise up against.

Ruger, for instance—one of the top firearm manufacturers in America—has its own set of diversity and inclusion policies.

Here’s a list of other brands the far right can try going after for the high crime of purporting to care about LGBTQ people or diversity, equity, and inclusion:

This list, of course, is not comprehensive. But if the far right really wants to weed out the dregs of the woke agenda, they’re going to have to go after some of their favorite American brands.

GOP Congressman Says Debt Bill Should Go After Low-Income Housing Too

With a House vote on the bill quickly approaching, Glenn Grothman is making one last attempt to cut even more social services.

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Representative Glenn Grothman

Republicans are now upset about the debt ceiling bill for another reason: It doesn’t go after low-income housing.

The White House–backed debt limit deal narrowly cleared the House Rules Committee on Tuesday by a vote of 7–6. During the meeting, several lawmakers proposed amendments to the bill, including Wisconsin Republican Glenn Grothman. He expressed frustration that the bill would only impose work requirements on food stamps.

“They left low-income housing untouched,” he said. “I think as far as discouraging work and discouraging marriage, I think low-income housing is even a more dangerous program than the food stamps. So I’m including low-income housing in the mix of having work requirements.”

This is not necessarily a new line of attack for Republicans. When they pushed through their disastrous budget bill in April, their plan included slashing funding for housing and homelessness programs by nearly a quarter. Housing advocates warned that hundreds of thousands of families could face eviction and possible homelessness if the policy were implemented.

This is one of the first times, though, that the GOP has been so vocal in opposing low-income housing. It’s also definitely the first time that someone has argued affordable housing discourages people from getting married.

Very few people seem to like the debt deal, with far-right Republicans arguing it hasn’t gone far enough with spending cuts and progressives warning it has gone too far in cutting aid. A major sticking point for progressives is the changes to food assistance. The bill would impose work requirements for the SNAP program, or food stamps, and lower the number of people who qualify for work requirement exemptions.

The bill would also change the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, potentially making it harder to get cash assistance. What’s more, the Congressional Budget Office found that food stamp work requirements wouldn’t actually help the deficit.

Grothman put his amendment forward the day before the House’s expected vote and just a few days before the United States is expected to default. His move is a sign that some far-right Republicans won’t go down without a fight. Even if the bill passes, they’re going to try and take down every social service they can in the process.

The Big Problem With Chris Christie’s Presidential Announcement

The former New Jersey governor’s anti-Trump New Hampshire bet isn’t likely to pay off.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

Next week, Chris Christie will make it official: At a town hall on Tuesday in Manchester, New Hampshire, the former New Jersey governor will announce that he is running for president.

Chris Christie’s case for the presidency primarily boils down to two arguments. The first is that he’s sort of like Donald Trump—a brash, loud jerk who says what he thinks and brings a certain WFAN regular caller vibe to politics—but, crucially, is not Donald Trump. The thinking here is that Republican voters want someone who is a jerk (probably true) but would like that person to be more competent and even-keeled than the former president (the jury is still out). On this point, moreover, Christie may have the thinking backward: GOP voters like Donald Trump when he is brashly criticizing other Republicans (like Chris Christie) but may not be quite so keen on hearing an establishment figure go at Trump. Still, Christie is betting that he can outmuscle Trump on the debate stage—the way he once bullied Marco Rubio (but not ... Donald Trump).

On that point, Christie is also betting big that New Hampshire is the place to mount his political comeback. There is some logic to this. In 2020, Joe Biden easily bested Trump in the Granite State, performing five points better than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. New Hampshire voters may be souring on Trump, the thinking goes; in any case, primary campaigns need momentum and Christie is banking on finding some in New England. The big problem with this theory though is that Christie has been here before. Christie famously destroyed Rubio’s presidential campaign on a New Hampshire debate stage shortly before the state’s 2016 primary. Doing so didn’t help Chris Christie—he dropped out shortly after the election after winning a shade over 20,000 votes (7 percent) in the state’s primary in 2016. Instead, the candidate he helped was … Donald Trump. Christie is betting that the game has changed since, but he’s an even more marginal figure in Republican politics now than he was then, even if the taint of Bridgegate has worn off. There’s nothing to suggest that this time around will be any different for Christie.