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Elena Kagan Hits Back at Samuel Alito, Endorses Supreme Court Ethics Reform

At least one Supreme Court justice thinks something needs to change.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan has broken ranks with some of her colleagues—most notably Samuel Alito—to call for a formal code of ethics for the nation’s highest court.

The Supreme Court has been mired in controversy since the spring, in the wake of reports that Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have accepted lavish gifts from billionaire Republican donors. Many people have called on the court to establish an ethics code to help prevent such situations in the future—which the justices have resisted.

But “it just can’t be that the court is the only institution that somehow is not subject to checks and balances from anybody else. We’re not imperial,” Kagan said Thursday at a judicial conference. “Can Congress do various things to regulate the Supreme Court? I think the answer is: yes.”

It’s hard to see Kagan’s comment as anything other than a direct response to her fellow justice Samuel Alito, although she said it was not. Alito recently said Congress should back off from trying to regulate the court.

“I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it,” he said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court—period.”

This is untrue, as Section III of the Constitution explicitly says that Congress can determine how to organize the court, and Kagan stated as much. “Of course, Congress can regulate various aspects of what the Supreme Court does,” she said. “Congress funds the Supreme Court. Congress historically has made changes to the court’s structure and composition. Congress has made changes to the court’s appellate jurisdiction.”

Chief Justice John Roberts has also begged Congress to stay out of the court’s business—but that may be because he has since come under fire for shady behavior too, albeit of a much less brazen variety than his colleagues Thomas and Alito. His wife, Jane Roberts, has allegedly been paid more than $10 million by multiple law firms—at least one of which argued a case before her husband, after it had already paid her hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Thomas has for years accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts from GOP megadonor Harlan Crow, in the form of island-hopping yacht vacations. The Nazi memorabilia collector also paid for Thomas’s nephew’s tuition, and he bought a Thomas family property, where Thomas’s mother still lives.

Thomas also has repeatedly refused to recuse himself from cases that relate to the January 6 riot—despite the fact that his wife, Ginni Thomas, is a major right-wing activist who encouraged then–chief of staff Mark Meadows to overturn the election.

Alito accepted a luxury vacation from a billionaire Republican megadonor as well. Right-wing activist (and then–head of the Federalist Society) Leonard Leo helped organize the trip, and also attended.

And the scrutiny is not limited to the conservative justices: Justice Sonia Sotomayor is under fire after the Associated Press reported that her staffers pressured institutions where she was scheduled to speak to buy hundreds, even thousands, of copies of her books.

Congress finally made a move to rein in the court two weeks ago, when the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill that would require the justices to adopt a code of ethics. The measure would create rigorous new financial disclosure rules, as well as establish a process for submitting and investigating ethics complaints against the justices.

The bill will have a hard time passing the Senate, though, where Democrats have a razor-thin majority. It is unlikely to pass the House at all because the chamber is controlled by Republicans, who have accused the left of trying to “delegitimize” the Supreme Court (although the court seems to be doing that just fine on its own).

The GOP’s New Trump Defense: Juries Are Bad

Republicans want Trump’s conspiracy trial moved because Washington D.C. is too Democratic.

Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Donald Trump speaking at a rally in Washington shortly before his supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021

Republicans are demanding that Donald Trump’s trial for trying to overthrow the 2020 election be moved outside of Washington, D.C., suggesting that he won’t get a fair trial in the city because a lot of Democrats live there.

Trump was arraigned Thursday in the nation’s capital for attempting to overturn the election. He pleaded not guilty to four counts of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to corruptly obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against the right to vote.

The GOP, which has staunchly maintained that he did nothing wrong, has now begun to insist that there’s no way Trump will get a fair trial in Washington. “Washington, DC is a ‘swamp’ and it is unfair to have to stand trial before a jury that is reflective of the swamp mentality,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is theoretically running for president against Donald Trump, tweeted. He also admitted he has not read the indictment yet.

By “swamp mentality,” he likely means “left-leaning.” Washington is an overwhelmingly Democratic city, and 95 percent of residents voted for Joe Biden in 2020. On Thursday, only a handful of Trump supporters showed up to the courthouse, while nearly 100 people stood outside to celebrate Trump’s arrest.

That doesn’t mean the city’s potential jurors can’t do a fair job, though. And the answer is not to move the trial to the “politically unbiased nearby State of West Virginia,” as Trump has demanded. Trump’s lawyer John Lauro has also pushed to move the trial to West Virginia. (By the same logic of why Washington would be biased, Trump won West Virginia by more than 30 points in 2020, his second-largest margin of victory in the election.)

The answer is to leave the trial exactly where it is. The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution states that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.”

Trump is not just accused of conspiracy and obstruction; he is accused of conspiring and obstructing in Washington. The only person Trump has to blame for the location of his trial is himself.

More on Trump's (Third) Indictment

Ron DeSantis’s Reset Needs a Reset

The struggling presidential candidate is banking on Iowa to win the nomination. It’s not going well.

Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
Ron DeSantis being normal in Iowa.

Ron DeSantis’s presidential campaign is not going well. The Florida governor has money problems. He has charisma problems. But mostly he has a Donald Trump problem: His candidacy is based on the idea that he is electable and competent and yet he is lagging far behind his main rival while running an inept, flailing, campaign.

Still, presidential campaigns can change on a dime and DeSantis has long banked on doing well in early primaries and caucuses and using that momentum to capture the nomination. In keeping with that strategy, he has spent seemingly as much time in Iowa as he has in his own state of Florida—despite the fact that he is, at least ostensibly, the governor of the Sunshine State. There have been times over the past few months when it seems like he’s running for president of Iowa as much as he is running for president of the United States. He is in the state practically every week. He even suggested he would consider Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds as his running mate.

And yet it has gotten him almost nowhere. On Friday, The New York Times closed out its week of polls with a survey of Iowa voters. The Times did its best to put a positive spin on the results. Donald Trump, they found, is doing 10 points worse in Iowa than he is in the country as a whole: Only 44 percent of voters in the state plan on caucusing for him at this time. But this is hardly good news for DeSantis: He is only doing three points better in Iowa than he is nationally. Twenty percent of Iowans support him, compared to 17 percent nationally. In a head-to-head matchup between the two—something that almost certainly won’t happen—DeSantis still lags far behind. Trump leads him 55 to 39 percent when the choice is whittled down to the two front-runners, though there is a sliver of good news: Those numbers are more or less flipped among college-educated Republicans.

Still, this is yet another dreadful sign for DeSantis. He needs an early win to show Republicans that he can take on Donald Trump. Yes, the caucuses are a long way away. But there’s no evidence that DeSantis’s strategy is working, even after an early reset.

Pro-Gun Control Tennesse Democrats Overwhelmingly Win Reelection

State representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who were pushed out of office by Republicans for gun control advocacy, just won landslide victories.

Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Tennessee State Representatives Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson in April

Democratic state Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who were expelled from the Tennessee legislature for protesting for gun control in April, were reelected to their seats in landslide victories on Thursday.

Jones and Pearson brought national scrutiny to Nashville in the wake of a school shooting in March, when they and fellow Democrat Gloria Johnson joined thousands of pro–gun control protesters in the Capitol building. Republicans voted to expel Jones and Pearson, both Black men, for allegedly violating chamber rules, but they fell one vote short of expelling Johnson, a white woman. Jones and Pearson were unanimously reinstated by their district councils until a special election could be held.

The two men swept handily to victory in that special election on Thursday. Jones defeated his Republican opponent with nearly 80 percent of the vote, while Pearson took home more than 90 percent of the votes in his district.

“Today is a landslide victory by the people, for the people, and in a community with the people,” Jones told The Tennessean in a statement. “Republicans tried to expel our democracy and then tried to buy it, but the voters of District 52 sent a message to extremist Republicans: we will not be silenced.”

Pearson told supporters Thursday that they had sent a “crystal clear” message to the state Republican Party: “You can’t expel a movement. You can’t expel hope.”

Both men have continued to advocate for gun legislation reform since they were reinstated by their district councils. Meanwhile, Johnson—who celebrated Jones’s and Pearson’s victories Thursday—is reportedly planning to challenge Marsha Blackburn for Senate.

Florida Bans AP Psychology for Violating Draconian “Don’t Say Gay” Law

Ron DeSantis’s war on education is getting more extreme every day.

Ron DeSantis

Florida has effectively banned Advanced Placement Psychology in all public schools because the course includes content on sexual orientation and gender identity, a violation of the state’s draconian “Don’t Say Gay” law.

The College Board revealed the ban on Thursday, adding that it has heard from teachers across the state who are heartbroken by the news.

“We are sad to have learned that today the Florida Department of Education has effectively banned AP Psychology in the state by instructing Florida superintendents that teaching foundational content on sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal under state law,” the College Board said in a statement. “The state has said districts are free to teach AP Psychology only if it excludes any mention of these essential topics.”

According to the Orlando Sentinel, nearly 27,000 students in Florida took A.P. Psychology last year, and the course has been offered in the state since it was first launched in 1993.

A.P. Psychology asks students to “describe how sex and gender influence socialization and other aspects of development.” Florida’s Department of Education had asked the College Board to omit these sections from the curriculum, a move the organization rejected.

“We have learned from our mistakes in the recent rollout of AP African American Studies and know that we must be clear from the outset where we stand,” the College Board said in a statement in June.

The College Board stressed that the lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity are part of the class and, if they are erased, the course will not be able to carry the A.P. designation.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis expanded the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law in May, banning lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in every grade. He has waged a war on education in the state, targeting anything he perceives as too “woke.”

Earlier this year, DeSantis forced the College Board to water down its A.P. African American studies course, stripping Black Lives Matter and the work of many queer Black writers from the curriculum. Last month, the state Department of Education announced that middle school students will be required to learn that “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Trump’s Idiot Lawyer Undermines His Case Moments Before His Arrest

Alina Habba undercut the entire premise of Trump’s defense against the January 6 charges.

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

As Donald Trump entered a Washington, D.C., courthouse Thursday to be arraigned for his alleged role in trying to overturn the 2020 election, his lawyer was busy outside, undermining his entire case.

Trump was charged Tuesday for attempting to overthrow the 2020 presidential election. He faces four counts that include conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to corruptly obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against the right to vote. His record third indictment hinges on the argument that Trump knew he had lost the election but still actively worked to overturn the results.

Which means Trump’s legal team should be arguing that he genuinely didn’t know he lost. But Trump’s lawyer argued the exact opposite.

“I think that everybody was made aware that he lost the election, but that doesn’t mean that that was the only advice he was given,” Alina Habba told reporters. “There are a numerous amount of advisers and politicians and lawyers, not just one or two, that are giving you advice and telling you what they believe is true.”

“The president has the right, as every one of us do, to listen to several opinions and make their decision.”

In other words, Habba admitted what the indictment said: A long list of people warned him not to do this.

The problem is also not how many advisers Trump had in the room. He and anyone else can simply say the election was rigged. That is technically protected by the First Amendment. The problem is that he acted on those words, despite knowing better, and encouraged others to do the same (this would constitute the “conspiracy” portion of the charges against him).

Habba’s other arguments in Trump’s defense weren’t much stronger. “What is it that he did to try and switch the votes?” she demanded at one point. “By bringing cases, by using the law in an appropriate manner?”

“What President Trump did is he said, ‘Go patriotically and peacefully, and protest.’ That is an American right.”

Habba seems to have forgotten that Trump was caught on a recording begging Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” thousands of votes. Trump also told his supporters that January 6 “will be wild” and urged them to “fight like hell,” which does not exactly sound peaceful (but maybe she’s paraphrasing).

Shockingly, this isn’t the first time that a member of Trump’s legal team has decided the best defense is just to admit to everything. John Lauro bluntly confirmed Tuesday that Trump had pressured Mike Pence to delay certifying the votes (which is against the law) and had tried to use fake electors (also illegal).

New Transcript: Star Hunter Biden Witness Refuted Every GOP Talking Point

Hunter Biden’s former business partner, Devon Archer, undermined all of Republicans’ claims in his testimony.


Republicans’ latest key witness in their investigation into the Biden family’s supposed corruption actually said the exact opposite of everything the GOP has alleged.

The House Oversight Committee on Thursday released a transcript of testimony from Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s former business partner, who gave a nearly five-hour interview in a closed-door session earlier this week. The hearing was the latest phase of Republicans’ months-long investigation into the Bidens, which has yet to produce any actual evidence. The GOP has accused Joe and Hunter Biden of influence peddling and accepting bribes.

Oversight Chair James Comer, who has spearheaded the investigation, has called Archer a “hero” and insisted for the past week that the businessman would prove that Joe Biden was directly involved in corrupt business practices. Other Republicans, including Nancy Mace, also claimed Archer would unequivocally prove how corrupt Biden is. But the hearing transcript shows nothing could have been further from the truth.

Republicans have insisted that an FBI report that contains unverified information and relies on a Rudy Giuliani conspiracy theory proves the Bidens accepted bribes from Burisma executive Mykola Zlochevsky.

If someone were to conclude from this that this [form] is evidence … that Joe Biden was bribed by Mykola Zlochevsky, would you disagree with that conclusion?” Archer’s attorney, Matthew Schwartz, asked at one point.

“Yeah, I would,” Archer answered.

Schwartz also asked if Archer knew of any wrongdoing by the president.

“No, I’m not aware of any,” Archer replied.

Instead, throughout his testimony, Archer repeatedly stated that Biden was never involved in his son’s business and Hunter never asked his father to step in. Although the two men spoke often, it was either small talk or to catch up.

Archer said that Hunter tried to make himself seem more impressive by giving the impression that he could sway his father, then vice president, in certain directions. But nothing ever actually happened. Archer compared it to the anonymous source in the FBI form, who accused the Bidens of accepting bribes but then said that it’s common for Ukrainian businessmen to “brag or show-off.”

“As such, CHS is not able to provide any further opinion as to the veracity of Zlochevsky’s aforementioned statements,” the document concluded.

Archer explained that “people send signals and those signals are basically used as currency. And that’s kind of how a lot of D.C. operators and foreign tycoons and businessmen work.”

None of that stopped Comer from appearing on Fox News Monday night, though, and blatantly lying. “Every day this bribery scandal becomes more credible,” he said.

Comer claimed that Archer “said Hunter Biden was under immense pressure while serving on the Burisma board to get the Ukrainian prosecutor fired,” referring to Viktor Shokin, who was fired in 2016 for corruption.

He made similar claims on Fox News the following night. But everything he said was completely contradicted by Archer’s testimony.

Maybe Comer would have known that had he actually attended his own hearing.

DeSantis Promises to Start “Slitting Throats on Day One”

Why is Ron DeSantis like this?


Ron DeSantis has promised to start “slitting throats on day one” if he’s elected president.

“We’re going to have all of these deep state people, you know, we are going to start slitting throats on day one,” the Florida governor told New Hampshire voters on Sunday, during what was supposed to be a chill barbecue event.

For the most part, his message went over OK, New Hampshire Public Radio reported, but not everyone was a fan of the “slitting throats” word choice.

“If I was in charge of his P.R., I would have said, ‘Don’t use that terminology,’” one Republican primary voter from Portsmouth, who called himself a “Sununu Republican,” told NHPR.

This isn’t the first time DeSantis has used this terrifying choice of words. Last week, during an interview with the right-wing outlet Real America’s Voice, DeSantis said he wanted a defense secretary who was ready to “slit some throats” and change the Defense Department’s hierarchy.

“You know, they may have to slit some throats. And it’s a lot harder to do that if these are people that you’ve trained with in the past or that you know,” DeSantis said. “So we’re going to have somebody out there, you know, be very firm, very strong, but they are going to make sure that we have the best people in the best positions, and there’s not going to be necessarily prior relationships that would cloud that judgment.”

DeSantis is in the midst of a campaign reboot, as he continues to trail Donald Trump by a wide margin. A New York Times/Siena College poll published Monday found Trump is crushing every other candidate in the race. Even when voters were given fewer options and told to imagine a two-person Republican primary race between Trump and DeSantis, 62 percent of Republican voters picked Trump, compared to just 31 percent for DeSantis.

Last week, DeSantis fired more than a third of his campaign as part of a desperate attempt to reset things.

Trump’s Rape Trial Testimony Is Coming Back to Bite Him in Hush-Money Case

The Manhattan D.A. will be able to use Trump’s damning testimony in the E. Jean Carroll case against him.

Dustin Franz for The Washington Post/Getty Images

The Manhattan district attorney is officially allowed to use Donald Trump’s deposition from his sexual assault trial, meaning that the most devastating testimony in the upcoming trial over alleged hush-money payments could come from the former president himself.

Alvin Bragg indicted Trump in April, charging him with 34 counts for business fraud for his role in alleged hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. Bragg asked Monday if he could use Trump’s deposition from his civil trial with writer E. Jean Carroll, in which Trump was found liable for sexual abuse.

And on Thursday, Judge Lewis Kaplan, who presided over the Carroll trial, granted that request.

In his deposition in the Carroll case, Trump defends the infamous Access Hollywood tape, a 2005 recording of the show in which he brags about being able to “grab” women “by the pussy” whenever he wants because he is famous. When asked about it during deposition for the Carroll case, Trump said, “Well, historically, that’s true with stars. Well, if you look over the last million years, I guess that’s been largely true. Not always, but largely true. Unfortunately, or fortunately.”

Bragg argued that the Access Hollywood tape shows “the way in which [Trump] dealt with allegations of a sexual nature by women in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election.” Bragg could use the testimony to prove that Trump could and would do anything to avoid prosecution for his behavior.

Trump was unanimously found liable in May for sexual abuse and battery against Carroll in the mid-1990s and for defaming her in 2022 while denying the assault. Trump did not testify during the trial, but his depositions proved her case all the same. Carroll also has another defamation lawsuit pending against Trump.

Cornel West Owes the IRS More than $500,000 in Taxes

A new report found that the Green Party candidate hasn’t been paying his taxes.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Cornel West

Presidential candidate Cornel West, who has spent most of his career advocating for higher taxes on the wealthy, owes the IRS more than half a million dollars in unpaid taxes.

Throughout his decades in the public eye, West, who is an academic at elite institutions and a bestselling author, has blasted the concentration of wealth at the top of U.S. society. Since announcing his run for president, first on the People’s Party ticket and currently on the Green Party’s, he has argued that taxes on the wealthiest Americans need to be “higher, much higher.”

But West hasn’t been putting his money where his mouth is—literally. An investigation by The Daily Beast, published Thursday, found that West owes $543,778.78 in unpaid taxes. The Beast cited tax filings in Mercer County, New Jersey, where West owns a house in the town of Princeton, and in Los Angeles, where West’s personal attorney is.

The IRS has filed liens against West for the years 2005, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017, when he failed to pay anywhere from more than $62,000 to nearly $137,000 in taxes. The liens, or federal claims against property for unpaid debts, are all still open.

Federal liens don’t officially close until 30 days after the debt has been paid, so it’s possible West has paid some of his taxes within the past few weeks or has set up a payment plan. But West offered no such explanation to the Beast. Instead, he denied that he hadn’t paid his taxes and said his accountant would provide more information. The accountant never reached out.

This is apparently not new behavior for West. By 2004, he had accumulated $724,397.26 in liens over the previous six years. He didn’t pay the balance until 2010. In 2012, he paid $34,069.93 in taxes owed for the year 2008.

Documents form California show that West owed $46,904.57 in taxes for 2011 and $112,449.79 in taxes for 2012. He didn’t resolve these liens until two months ago, about a week after he announced he was running for president.

West also has yet to pay a 2003 child support payment of $49,500.

These revelations are an important reminder to West, or anyone thinking of running for public office. Campaigning can be all fun and games, as it lets you travel around the country and spread your chosen message. Donors give you money or throw fancy parties for you.

But it also means that you are subjected to more intense scrutiny than ever before. If you have a single skeleton in your closet, it will be found.