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James Comer Doesn’t Seem to Care If Biden Probe Evidence Is Legit

The House Oversight chairman acknowledged the Republican Party doesn’t have a lot.

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House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer

Representative James Comer on Tuesday admitted again that he has no basis for his investigation into President Joe Biden.

The Kentucky Republican has led the months-long probe into the Biden family but has been unable to provide any actual evidence linking Biden or his son Hunter to any wrongdoing. Most recently, Comer had threatened to hold FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress if he didn’t hand over a document Comer claimed would prove some of the allegations. House members were finally allowed last week to see a redacted version of the FBI document, which includes an unverified allegation of audio recordings of Biden and Hunter Biden accepting a bribe.

When asked Tuesday morning on Newsmax if the recordings were legitimate, Comer hedged. “I can confirm that the recordings were in the 10-23,” Comer said, referring to an FD 10-23, a form the FBI uses to note unverified information from confidential sources.

Newsmax host Rob Finnerty pressed him to confirm the recordings were real, and Comer replied, “I can confirm they were listed in the 10-23 that the FBI redacted. We don’t know if they’re legit or not.”

After lawmakers saw the redacted version of the form, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene said it contained information about Hunter Biden’s time on the board of Ukrainian oil company Burisma Holdings. She also said that the information alleges two unnamed members of the Biden family accepted a $10 million bribe to remove former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin in 2016 to stop a probe into Hunter Biden’s role at the company (a narrative first pushed years ago by Donald Trump, and one refuted by Ukrainian prosecutors and activists).

Comer said he and Senator Chuck Grassley were allowed to see an unredacted version of the form. Grassley called Monday for the FBI to release the unredacted version of the 10-23, claiming it mentioned 17 audio recordings of Biden and Hunter Biden accepting a bribe from a Burisma executive.

Comer also accused the FBI Tuesday of not investigating these claims. Except the FBI did: The bureau, alongside a U.S. attorney appointed by then-President Donald Trump, reviewed the bribery accusation when it was made in 2020 and found it to be unsubstantiated.

Republicans have repeatedly admitted that they have nothing of substance against the Biden family. Grassley even went so far as to say that the party isn’t “interested in whether or not the accusations against Vice President Biden are accurate or not.” But they have begun to turn up the heat in recent weeks, particularly as the federal indictment against Trump seemed to draw closer.

Nikki Haley Finally Calls Donald Trump “Incredibly Reckless”

All it took was a second indictment.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Just a few days ago, before the details of Donald Trump’s second indictment were released, Nikki Haley joined many Republicans in lambasting the unseen charges as phony, as dangerous. But on Monday, three days after the indictment was unsealed, the 2024 presidential candidate and former South Carolina governor finally sang a different tune.

“If this indictment is true, if what it says is actually the case, President Trump was incredibly reckless with our national security,” Haley said on Fox.

Here was Haley just days ago, for context:

Still, Haley anchored herself in the generic conservative attack on the FBI and Department of Justice (not for anything related to their histories targeting civil rights leaders, for instance, but for actually getting it right by going after one of the more prominent serial criminals of our time). She insisted that “two things can be true at the same time,” that the agencies have “lost all credibility with the American people” and that if the charges against Trump are true, he was “incredibly reckless.”

“My husband’s about to deploy this weekend. This puts all of our military men and women in danger, if you are going to talk about what our military is capable of or how we would go about invading or doing something with one of our enemies,” Haley continued. “And if that’s the case, it’s reckless, it’s frustrating, and it causes problems.”

Haley also pointed out that this is the second, and potentially third indictment Trump faces, hedging her concern about Trump’s never-ending list of crimes with electability for the general election.

It ain’t much (and it’s not honest work), but Haley’s comments are now among the strongest of the 2024 primary field, let alone the Republican Party more broadly. It’s refreshing that someone running against Trump is remembering that she is in fact running against Trump. The other handful of candidates might do well to remember the same. All the candidates have very little chance of winning as it is. Why not at least lose with a smidgen of dignity? If nothing else, their narrow chances increase ever so slightly if they don’t waste all their time and limited campaign air dismissing the litany of very real criminal charges against their main opponent!

John Bolton Says Classified Documents Case Should End Trump’s Career

The former Trump adviser isn’t mincing his words following Donald Trump’s indictment.

John Bolton speaks
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A former adviser to Donald Trump said Monday that the indictment against the former president is already bad enough that it should end his political career.

Trump was indicted last week (for the second time) for his alleged mishandling of classified documents. John Bolton, who served as Trump’s national security adviser, noted to CNN that while he doesn’t know the exact material Trump allegedly kept, he was familiar with the type of documents Trump had access to.

“They did go to absolute, the most important secrets that the United States has, directly affecting national security, directly affecting the lives and safety of our service members and our civilian population,” Bolton said. “If he has anything like what … the indictment alleges, and of course the government will have to prove it, then he has committed very serious crimes.”

“This is a devastating indictment,” Bolton continued. “This really is a rifle shot, and I think it should be the end of Donald Trump’s political career.”

Trump was charged with a total of 37 counts for keeping national defense information without authorization, making false statements, and conspiring to obstruct justice. The investigation revealed that Trump had kept hundreds of documents and stored them everywhere, such as on the stage of the Mar-a-Lago ballroom and in a bathroom. He also reportedly showed the documents off to people who did not have security clearance, such as a representative of his PAC and members of staff.

Since Trump left office, Bolton has repeatedly criticized him for how he behaved during the presidency. But it’s worth noting that Bolton firmly had Trump’s back while he was a Cabinet member.

Kevin McCarthy Says National Security Secrets Are OK in the Bathroom

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had a bizarre explanation for why it’s OK that Trump stored classified national security documents in a Mar-a-Lago bathroom.

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The most powerful House Republican in Congress says it’s OK Donald Trump hid top secret government documents in his lavish resort’s bathroom, because, well, at least the door locks.

“Was that a good look for the former president to have boxes in a bathroom?” a reporter asked Kevin McCarthy.

“I don’t know,” McCarthy started, glancing up in sardonic thought. “Is it a good picture to have boxes in a garage that opens up all the time? A bathroom door locks.”

Kevin McCarthy’s remarks follow the second indictment of the already twice-impeached and liable-for-sexual-abuse former president. Trump was indicted for taking boxes upon boxes of classified government documents upon leaving the White House and subsequently mishandling them. He repeatedly refused government appeals to return the documents, flouting subpoenas and eventually forcing the government to conduct a search in his swanky Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

In the search and investigation, it was discovered that Trump hid the documents everywhere from a Mar-a-Lago ballroom to a bathroom, and showed off the secret documents (from agencies like the CIA, Defense Department, and NSA) to a representative of his PAC as well as staff members.

U.S. Department of Justice/Getty Images

McCarthy’s comments were in reference to classified documents from the Obama administration found in President Joe Biden’s home garage earlier this year. Biden, like Mike Pence who also found classified documents in his possession after leaving the White House, has cooperated with government efforts to retrieve them. Trump definitively has not, and was actively involved in both removing the documents from the White House, and in showing them to an array of individuals without government clearance.

Beyond the marked differences between Trump and other former White House occupants, the comparison between a garage door and bathroom door itself is obviously meaningless. If it needs to be spelled out: Bathroom doors generally lock with a simple click from the inside. Anyone who might have had a vested interest in taking a peep at a CIA or NSA document wouldn’t have too much trouble getting through a bathroom door. Garage doors may actually be a degree more secure, but you don’t see Hakeem Jeffries making the comparison McCarthy is anyhow—because it’s dumb!

McCarthy’s remarks followed similarly sophomoric ones from Senator Lindsey Graham. Some seven years after warning “if we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed … and we will deserve it,” Graham took to the Sunday show circuit to snarl and stutter at ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, refusing to definitively say it was wrong for Trump to take and hide secret government documents.

Meanwhile, other Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene and do-nothing Representative Tim Burchett are going even further, calling to literally defund the Department of Justice.

Ohio Supreme Court Delivers Blow to Republicans Trying to Stop Abortion Rights

Conservatives have been trying to stop efforts to protect abortion rights with a confusingly worded ballot.

Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post/Getty Images
People cast their votes at a polling place in Columbus, Ohio, on November 8, 2022.

The Ohio State Supreme Court delivered a partial blow to an ongoing effort to make it harder for Ohioans to pass constitutional amendments—which would directly affect things like abortion rights.

Republicans have set up a $20 million taxpayer-funded August election to raise the threshold for constitutional amendment elections to a whopping 60 percent, rather than a straight-up majority.

But on Monday, the court ordered the state ballot board to update proposed ballot language that inaccurately summarizes the Republican-led effort.

Since 1912, voters have just needed a simple 50-plus-one majority to add an amendment to the Constitution. Now Republicans want to raise that number to 60 percent, allowing a smaller minority of voters to stop any potential amendments from passing.

The effort is widely seen as an effort to head off a likely November ballot initiative to codify Ohioans’ right to an abortion. Also, next year, Ohioans will likely vote on raising the state’s minimum wage.

Four states—Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, and Michigan—voted by simple majority to affirm abortion rights just in the past year. Two others, Vermont and California, voted above the 60 percent threshold. Nevada and Nebraska meanwhile both voted in simple majorities to raise their minimum wages.

Advocacy group One Person One Vote filed a lawsuit in late May, arguing that the ballot language for the effort was misleading and biased.

The court’s majority opinion, written by its four Republicans, found two errors in the ballot language. For one, the ballot summary is titled, “Elevating the Standards to Qualify for and to Pass any Constitutional Amendment.” The court found the use of “any” to be inappropriate, as the proposed change only applies to amendments proposed by the public. Amendments from lawmakers can be passed with a 60 percent vote from the House and Senate, or through a constitutional convention.

Another error found by the court is that it incorrectly explains the minimum number of signatures amendment campaigns need to collect from each of Ohio’s counties. The ballot summary language says 5 percent of eligible voters from each county would need to sign on to the campaign, but the actual amendment’s language says it’s 5 percent of the number of votes cast in each county during the most recent gubernatorial election.

The court’s three Democrats dissented from the majority, finding that the ruling didn’t go far enough. Justice Michael Donnelly found the word “elevating” in the title to be “plainly prejudicial” and said it “should not be part of the title.” Opponents of the amendment have argued the word is misleading, as if the amendment is about security, rather than about what it really does, which is to make the threshold for democracy higher.

Justice Jennifer Brunner wrote another dissenting opinion, saying the ballot language ought to clearly describe the difference between the new standards for amendments posed by citizens and those brought by lawmakers.

“The incongruous impact of these changes is clear: [State Issue 1] would make it onerously oppressive for citizens to amend the Ohio Constitution through the initiative process, but it would leave unaffected the General Assembly’s ability to propose amendments that serve its interests at elections established to fulfill its own desires,” Brunner wrote.

Meanwhile, One Person One Vote has another lawsuit out against the effort the court still has to rule on. The group argues that Republicans set the August election in complete violation of their own recently passed law that broadly outlawed August elections.

Meanwhile, mail ballots for the August election go out on June 23. The court-ruled language changes must be made, and the court must rule on this second legal challenge, in less than two weeks.

GOP Congressman Brazenly Calls to Defund Justice Department After Trump Indictment

Tim Burchett does not seem to care about the details in the indictment.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Republicans are livid that Donald Trump was indicted, slamming it as a political attack and the greatest injustice of all time. Their proposed solution? Defund the Department of Justice.

Tennessee Representative Tim Burchett accused the department Monday of being overly politicized.

“This has been the modus operandi … for the Department of DOJ to use this kind of tactic,” he told Newsmax. “I think it’ll continue until we get their attention. We need to bring them down before the committee, and if not … we need to start talking about cutting their funding.”

Republicans have previously proposed defunding the Department of Justice—a call led by Trump himself. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene also threatened in March to withhold her vote for government funding legislation unless it included spending cuts that would hamper the criminal investigations into Trump.

Representative Jim Jordan too has proposed cutting funding for the Department of Justice and the FBI because both agencies are investigating Trump. Jordan chairs the powerful House Judiciary Committee and is overseeing an investigation into the alleged weaponization of the FBI.

It’s shocking, though, to see Republicans dig their heels in despite the mountain of charges against Trump. Special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of the former president was unsealed on Friday, and Trump has been charged with a total of 37 counts for keeping national defense information without authorization, making false statements, and conspiring to obstruct justice.

Beyond that, he has already been charged with 34 counts of business fraud in New York, found liable for sexual abuse and defamation, and sued for defamation twice more. And Trump is still under investigation by Smith and separately by Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis for his alleged role in trying to overturn the 2020 election.

But sure, the Justice Department is the one that needs to be kept in check.

Thousands of Dead Fish Wash Up on Texas Shores, in Eerie Reminder of Global Warming

There’s only more of this to come.

Thousands of dead fish on the beach shoreline
QUINTANA BEACH COUNTY PARK/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A view from Quintana Beach in Texas on June 11

As one-third of the nation comes out of an ominous smog from rampant wildfires, tens of thousands of dead fish washed up along the Texas Gulf Coast.

And unless we change, there’s more where that came from.

Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Kills and Spills Team Region 3 said Sunday that the mass fish deaths were caused by “a low dissolved oxygen event” brought about by rising temperatures, with the Gulf menhaden species being the most impacted. “If there isn’t enough oxygen in the water, fish can’t ‘breathe,’” the agency said, noting that such events are more common in the summer, when temperatures increase.

That’s not to imply that such an event is common generally.

Patty Brinkmeyer, a 17-year employee of Quintana Beach County Park, told CNN she has only seen such an event three times, and this was “by far the most” dead fish she’s ever seen float ashore.

Brinkmeyer’s observation is not surprising. According to NASA, 2022 was the warmest recorded year for earth’s ocean temperatures and saw the highest sea levels. In other words, the effects of global warming are not abstract or to be observed over decades; the misery is already here.

“Often before a kill event occurs, fish can be seen trying to get oxygen by gulping at the surface of the water early in the morning. Some fish may also be lying on the bottom or at the edge of the water,” the Texas Kills and Spills Team said.

Officials explained that it was a “perfect storm” for such a tragic event to occur. For one, once water temperature rises above 70 degrees, it becomes more difficult for fish like menhaden to receive enough oxygen; cooler water holds more oxygen than warmer water. For another, the area had been experiencing “little wave action” for the past three weeks; oxygen can enter water through “surface mixing,” or when air meets the water through the crashing of waves. Finally, photosynthesis can bring oxygen into the water, but recent overcast days slowed down the process, leaving less and less free oxygen in the ecosystem.

“There was NO evidence of a chemical release of any kind, so please put those theories to rest and do not spread misinformation. The Brazoria County Parks Dept., nor [Texas Parks & Wildlife] has any interest in covering for the chemical industry if a spill of any kind were to happen,” officials assured. “We are in the business of protecting the environment and creating safe spaces for the public to enjoy nature.”

Such a philosophy is one America and the world more broadly will have to adopt, if we aim to protect the plant and animal wildlife already dying and the broader natural ecosystem we too are a part of, not separate from.

“It appears the last of the fish have washed in. The most recent are deteriorated to the point of being shredded skeletons,” park officials reported on Sunday.

Yes, You Should Worry That Aileen Cannon Will Be Trump’s Judge

Aileen Cannon could make the classified documents case much, much easier for Trump.

Judge Aileen Cannon headshot (looks like a yearbook photo, blue background)
Southern District of Florida

Aileen Cannon, the judge initially assigned to oversee Donald Trump’s latest indictment lawsuit, could single-handedly sabotage the Justice Department’s case against the former president.

Cannon came under nationwide scrutiny last year at the start of the investigation into Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents. The Trump-appointed judge cut him and his legal team multiple breaks, including assigning a special master to the lawsuit, intervening in the special master’s work, and generally stalling the case. The Eleventh Circuit court ultimately ruled she had no legal basis for her actions and threw her decision out entirely.

But now she has been randomly assigned to oversee the trial. Cannon will not preside at Trump’s arraignment on Tuesday because preliminary hearings are usually done by a magistrate judge. But she has already received multiple calls to recuse herself from the case entirely.

There are multiple ways that Cannon can sink the Justice Department’s case, and she has already shown herself willing to take such steps. For starters, she sets the date of the trial, so she can delay when it actually starts, perhaps till after the 2024 election. She can also take steps to ensure the jury is filled with Trump supporters.

Cannon could rule that attorney-client privilege was improperly breached, which would mean some crucial evidence would have to be tossed. (Many of the most damning things in the indictment came from notes from Trump’s lawyer.)  She could also disqualify the prosecution’s witnesses or evidence and humor the defense’s objections or requests.

She can determine that there’s no reason for a jury to find Trump guilty and rule for an acquittal, or she can even declare a mistrial altogether. None of her decisions can be appealed until after the trial concludes, so it could be a long time before the Justice Department is able to follow up.

Cannon is unlikely to recuse herself, but special counsel Jack Smith can request a different judge. Legal precedent allows such a request if it appears the presiding judge “would have difficulty putting his previous views and findings aside.” Cannon would certainly qualify.

But that could also draw out proceedings. And in the meantime, Trump will still be able to hit the campaign trail and falsely claim that he is being unfairly targeted. So in a way, Cannon is already helping him.

Lindsey Graham Bends Over Backward Trying to Defend Donald Trump

The South Carolina senator engaged in some impressive mental gymnastics to justify Trump’s hoarding of classified documents.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

“If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed … and we will deserve it.”

Lindsey Graham’s famous words seven years ago are a stark reminder of how the South Carolina senator has since showcased the remarkable flexibility wielded by one whose spine is as invented as one’s convictions.   

On Sunday, Graham appeared on George Stephanopoulous’s program to defend the now twice criminally indicted Donald Trump.

The former president was indicted last week for taking and mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House. He went as far as hiding the documents in a Mar-a-Lago ballroom and bathroom, and showing off the documents (from agencies like the CIA, Defense Department, and NSA) to a representative of his PAC and staff members.

Graham was asked whether he believes that Trump did nothing wrong. Instead of answering, Graham went straight to whataboutism about Hillary Clinton (reminder, the year is 2023). Stephanopoulos tried to interject—perhaps to ask for a simple answer to the question—and Graham snapped, at hair-trigger speed.

“No, let me finish!” he snarled, as the host tried to ask for a direct answer. “I’m trying to answer the question from a Republican point of view—that may not be acceptable on this show.”

Stephanopoulous did not let up, however, insisting that Graham used the show to attack President Biden and Clinton; he had little to say in actually defending Trump.

“I-I’m, I’m, I’m not justifying [Trump’s] behavior,” Graham said.

“But you’re endorsing him for president of the United States,” Stephanoupoulos pointed out.

“Yeah, yeah, I-I think wh-what’s happening here is trying to, delegitimize him,” Graham responded, verbally slipping on a banana peel.

Graham simply couldn’t find the basic gumption to say Trump was wrong, but rather, “None of this is OK,” in reference to anyone who has ever been in possession of secret documents.

Graham prides himself on being a statesman, often being the co-sponsor of high-potential and very palatable bipartisan bills that, perhaps by design, tend to go nowhere (the Afghan Adjustment Act, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, to name just a few). With a record of putting his name on such bills but clearly not using the clout of a 20-year senatorial career to actually get them passed, his most obvious traits are what he displays in public. And over the past seven years, Graham has shown himself to be what he has been all along: a pathetic, meek inhabitant of the D.C. swamp with no broader ambition other than to stay there.

Broadway Actress Compares Ron DeSantis to KKK “Grand Wizard” at Tony Awards

Denée Benton called out the governor of her home state while presenting an award at the Tonys.

Denée Benton clasps her hands together at the mic onstage
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Production
Denée Benton speaks onstage during the 76th Annual Tony Awards on June 11, in New York City.

Actor Denée Benton compared Ron DeSantis to the leader of the KKK while she presented an award at the Tony’s, a clear jab at the Florida governor’s recent attacks on human rights.

Benton presented an award for theater education to a school in Florida. The actor, known for shows including Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, noted that she is also from Florida.

“I’m certain that the current Grand Wizard—I’m sorry, excuse me, governor of my home state of Florida,” Benton said during her presentation speech. She was cut off by cheers.

“I am sure that he will be changing the name of this following town immediately.”

Benton then presented the award to the South Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida.

While Benton did not elaborate on her remark, it was a clear comment on the recent policies that DeSantis has passed or pushed in Florida. He defunded diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, helped gut the A.P. African American Studies course, and backed measures to ban books in public schools. In May, the NAACP issued a travel advisory for Florida, calling the state “openly hostile towards African Americans and other communities of color.”

DeSantis’s attacks on civil rights also include a “Don’t Say Gay” law, banning classroom discussion of gender or sexuality in all grades, and a six-week abortion ban. He has enacted multiple laws targeting LGBTQ people, particularly drag queens and transgender children. A recently signed law banning gender-affirming care for minors has been partially blocked by a judge.

DeSantis has also gone to war with two major Florida institutions: the liberally minded New College and Disney. DeSantis installed a board packed with allies at the New College, who then ousted the school’s president. Students across the state have repeatedly protested DeSantis’s actions.

He tried a similar move with Disney, also installing an ally-packed governing board. But Disney fought back, and DeSantis is now locked into the weirdest legal battle ever.