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Texas Judge Orders Airline Lawyers to Take Training From Far-Right Hate Group

The lawyers must take religious freedom classes from the Alliance Defending Freedom, the right-wing Christian group that has systematically rolled back civil liberties.

Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images
Kristen Waggoner, president of the Alliance Defending Freedom, speaks to members of the press outside the Supreme Court on December 5, 2022.

A Trump-appointed Texas judge has ordered three senior Southwest Airlines lawyers to take eight hours of “religious-liberty training” from the far-right Christian hate group Alliance Defending Freedom.

In his late Monday ruling, U.S. District Judge Brantley Starr specifically mandated the lawyers take the training as part of court-ordered sanctions for religious discrimination. He described ADF as one of several “esteemed non-profit organizations that are dedicated to preserving free speech and religious freedom.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated ADF as an extremist hate group.

The mandated hate-group training is the latest phase of a lawsuit brought by flight attendant Charlene Carter, who sued Southwest for firing her in 2017 after she sent confrontational anti-abortion messages to her union’s former president. Carter argued she had been discriminated against based on her religious beliefs, and U.S. District Judge Brantley Starr sided with her in December, ordering she be reinstated.

Starr, who was appointed by Donald Trump in 2019, also ordered Southwest to issue a statement telling its employees that the airline “may not” engage in religious discrimination against them. Instead, Southwest said that it “does not” do so, prompting Carter to demand additional sanctions against the company.

Carter had made no request for Southwest to undergo religious liberty training. ADF is not representing Carter, nor is it otherwise related to the case at all, so it’s unclear why Starr felt the need to involve the group.

It’s hard to overstate ADF’s role in rolling back civil liberties. One of its lead lawyers is Erin Hawley, who is married to far-right Senator Josh Hawley. ADF helped overturn Roe v. Wade and then sued to remove mifepristone, one of the drugs used in medication abortions, from the national market. That case is still in limbo, as the Fifth Circuit Court has yet to issue a ruling.

ADF also represented the plaintiff in the recent Supreme Court case 303 Creative v. Elenis. Web designer Lorie Smith was suing to have the right to refuse services to LGBTQ people. The design request she claims she received that prompted her suit appears to have been entirely fabricated.

Andrew Cuomo’s Sister Led the Campaign Slut-Shaming All His Accusers

Madeline Cuomo used a grassroots group to coordinate the attacks—and told them her brother appreciated all their hard work.

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Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

Andrew Cuomo’s sister helped coordinate a campaign attacking the women who accused the former New York governor of sexual misconduct.

Cuomo resigned in August 2021 after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. A report by New York State Attorney General Letitia James found that Cuomo sexually harassed nearly a dozen women, including current and former government workers, through unwanted touching and inappropriate comments. Cuomo and his aides also allegedly unlawfully retaliated against at least one of his accusers for going public with her complaints.

Many of Cuomo’s accusers faced vicious abuse online. Much of that abuse was due to Cuomo’s sister Madeline Cuomo, working in coordination with a pro-Cuomo grassroots group, The New York Times reported Monday.

Madeline Cuomo worked with a group called We Decide New York, whose members mostly consisted of women in their fifties, sixties, and seventies. The group rallied behind Andrew Cuomo, galvanized to loyalty by how he had handled the Covid pandemic, in the spring of 2021 as more accounts of his sexual misconduct came to light.

More than 4,000 texts, emails, and voice memos acquired by the Times show just how much influence Madeline Cuomo wielded over the group and its social media presence. She helped WDNY plan social media posts and fed group members talking points for when reporters asked questions, but she insisted that her involvement be kept secret.

Madeline Cuomo regularly bashed her brother’s accusers, slut-shaming them and describing them as “despicable” and “unsophisticated.” Other choice words she used included “home wrecker,” “unauthentic,” and “bimbo photos.” The group followed her cues, often repeating her attacks word for word publicly. Last August, she told the group that two of Andrew Cuomo’s accusers “need to be frightened into shutting up right now.”

The group began to grow uncomfortable with Madeline Cuomo’s aggressive tactics, which would eventually lead to an irreparable rift. Members started to push back in September, after one of Andrew Cuomo’s accusers, Charlotte Bennett, sued him. “Even a slut has right to not be sexually harassed,” WDNY founding president Sandy Behan texted Madeline Cuomo.

The women compromised by sharing a photo of Bennett wearing lingerie at a bar. “No respectable woman would EVER pose like that,” Madeline Cuomo said over text.

Also in the spring of 2021, Madeline Cuomo got WDNY to hype up her younger brother Chris Cuomo when he filed an arbitration demand against CNN. Chris Cuomo was fired from the network for helping Andrew navigate the sexual harassment accusations, a violation of journalistic ethics.

Madeline Cuomo said she had worked with WDNY, but not recently, and that Andrew Cuomo was not involved at all. But the messages shared with the Times show Madeline Cuomo repeatedly said she kept her brother updated on the group’s work and that he appreciated all their efforts.

Andrew Cuomo gained national attention and praise for how he handled the Covid pandemic. But as the sexual harassment allegations came to light, it was also revealed that he had suppressed the number of Covid-related deaths in New York to make himself look better. He resigned in disgrace.

Judge to Trump: It’s Still “Substantially True” That You Raped E. Jean Carroll

A judge has tossed Donald Trump’s counterclaim against E. Jean Carroll, as the former president’s legal troubles keep piling up.

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A judge on Monday dismissed Donald Trump’s defamation countersuit against E. Jean Carroll because her allegations that the former president raped her are “substantially true.”

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. He was ordered to pay her about $5 million in damages. A few days later, Carroll gave an interview on CNN during which she said, “Oh yes he did, oh yes he did” when asked about the jury’s finding that Trump had not raped her.

Almost two months after that, Trump sued Carroll for her comments. His counterclaim alleged that she had defamed him by saying he raped her when the jury had found he only sexually abused her (which is so much better).

“Ms. Carroll’s statements were substantially true,” Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in his ruling Monday dismissing Trump’s countersuit. “Unlike the jury’s finding on the Penal Law ‘rape’ question, its finding on the sexual abuse question—and specifically its implicit determination that Mr. Trump digitally raped her—is conclusive with respect to this case.”

Kaplan has made clear he will suffer no foolishness from Trump. In mid-July, he rejected Trump’s demand for a new trial. Trump’s lawyers had argued in court documents that the awarded damages were “excessive” because the jury determined Carroll had not been raped and that his assault had not caused her any mental injury.

But Kaplan called Trump’s argument “entirely unpersuasive” and noted that the New York penal law definition of rape is “far narrower” than in common understanding. As a result, not only would Trump not get a new trial, but he is definitely a rapist.

“The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was ‘raped’ within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump ‘raped’ her as many people commonly understand the word ‘rape,’” Kaplan said in his ruling.

Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan (no relation to the judge) lauded Monday’s ruling. “We are pleased that the Court dismissed Donald Trump’s counterclaim. That means that the January 15th jury trial will be limited to a narrow set of issues and shouldn’t take very long to complete,” she said in a statement, referring to Carroll’s second defamation lawsuit against Trump.

“E. Jean Carroll looks forward to obtaining additional compensatory and punitive damages based on the original defamatory statements Donald Trump made in 2019.”

Carroll accused Trump in her 2019 memoir of raping her in the Manhattan Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s. She initially sued him twice for defamation: first in 2019, when he said she made up the rape allegation to promote her book, and again in November for posts he made about her on social media. Carroll is not the only woman to accuse Trump of sexual assault, but her first case was the first to make it to a courtroom.

Trump continues to vehemently deny all of the allegations and launched fresh vitriol at Carroll during the disastrous CNN town hall. She amended her second lawsuit, which is still pending, to include those comments.

Trump and his allies have repeatedly tried to thwart Carroll’s lawsuits, but he has been denied at every turn. And he will go into the second trial, which is scheduled to start in January, having lost a major asset: The Justice Department no longer considers him immune.

Trump Blames Wokeness and Biden for Women’s Soccer Team World Cup Loss

That’s ... not how that works.

Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

Donald Trump—who apparently hates both America and women—went on a wild rant after the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team was knocked out of the World Cup, mocking the players and inexplicably blaming their loss on “wokeness.”

The top-ranked team lost Sunday to Sweden, the U.S. team’s earliest exit ever and a shocking disappointment. Trump has disliked the team, particularly its star player Megan Rapinoe, for years and lost no time in throwing salt on the wound.

“The ‘shocking and totally unexpected’ loss by the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team to Sweden is fully emblematic of what is happening to the our [sic] once great Nation under Crooked Joe Biden. Many of our players were openly hostile to America,” he said Sunday night on Truth Social.

“No other country behaved in such a manner, or even close. WOKE EQUALS FAILURE. Nice shot, Megan, the USA is going to HELL!!! MAGA.”

It should go without saying that (1) Joe Biden had nothing to do with the team’s loss, and (2) nothing will happen to the United States just because its team was knocked out of the Women’s World Cup.

The simple answer is that the team failed to perform to its usual standards throughout the entire tournament. The loss is particularly bitter for Rapinoe, who plans to retire at the end of the domestic season in November.

But Trump couldn’t pass up the opportunity to blame something on a queer woman. He and Rapinoe have traded barbs for years, starting in 2019 when Rapinoe said she considered herself a “walking protest against the Trump administration” and would not be “going to the fucking White House” if her team won the World Cup that year (they did). Trump has repeatedly mocked Rapinoe ever since.

Mitch McConnell Ruthlessly Drowned Out With Chants of “Retire!”

I think Mitch McConnell’s constituents want him to retire.

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Spectators drowned out Mitch McConnell’s attempts to give a speech over the weekend with boos and demands he retire, a week after the Senate minority leader froze during a press conference.

McConnell appeared at a church picnic in his home state of Kentucky on Saturday. But when he got up to give a speech, he got probably the exact opposite reaction he was expecting.

Picnic attendees booed him and chanted, “Retire!” They also called out, “Shame on you, “Ditch Mitch,” and “Lost the Senate!” McConnell futilely attempted to keep speaking, but the chants were far too loud for him to be heard.

The heckling comes about a week after McConnell froze during a news conference and appeared unable to continue speaking. He was escorted away from the cameras, and when he returned later, McConnell declined to comment on what happened or whether it was related to the fall he suffered in March, which resulted in a concussion and his weeks-long absence from the Senate.

In addition to his concussion, McConnell reportedly fell while at the airport just three weeks ago, and he has been using a wheelchair to get around crowded areas. His physical condition isn’t actually that surprising: At 81, he’s the longest-serving Senate party leader, and he’s a member of the second-oldest Senate in history.

His fellow Republicans are also starting to make noise about his stepping down. Another Republican senator told NBC anonymously last week that McConnell is “definitely slower with his gait” and that he declines to discuss his health in private. Another Republican senator, again speaking anonymously to NBC, said that McConnell doesn’t speak nearly as much during the weekly party meetings.

“I think that he is just not processing,” the senator said.

Even those who are brave enough to go on the record seem concerned about McConnell’s ability to remain in leadership.

“He suffered a really bad fall, and that’s actually had an impact on him,” Senator Ron Johnson said last week, without going into more detail about McConnell’s ability to keep working. “Obviously, that fall affected him.”

“Age affects us all,” Johnson said. “You can’t deny that reality.”

McConnell, however, has given no indication that he is leaving anytime soon.

Another Reason to Worry About the Judge in Trump’s Documents Case

Aileen Cannon makes a lot of mistakes—some of which suggest a lack of familiarity with the Constitution.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Everyone knows that Aileen Cannon, the Florida federal judge who will oversee Donald Trump’s trial on charges that he illegally kept classified documents, is in the tank for him. Cannon has already gone out of her way—and broken with long-standing precedent—to show her loyalty to the man who appointed her to the federal bench. But other aspects of her judicial record are now being scrutinized.

According to a Friday morning report from Reuters, Cannon has made a number of costly errors on the federal bench. This is not especially surprising given her overall lack of experience—she was appointed to her current position after only 12 years as an attorney. In a June trial, that lack of experience caused significant problems. While overseeing the trial of an Alabama man who had been accused of spreading images of child sex abuse online, Cannon closed jury selection to the public—a violation of the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a public trial. In the same case, Cannon also forgot to swear in the jury pool, a mistake that forced the judge to restart the jury selection process. The case ended with the defendant pleading guilty before it could go to trial.

The errors, however, only underscore Cannon’s lack of experience. The earlier mistake, Stephen Smith, a professor at the Santa Clara School of Law told Reuters, was “a fundamental constitutional error.”

“She ignored the public trial right entirely. It’s as though she didn’t know it existed.” The mistake suggests more trouble ahead as the former president’s second criminal trial moves forward.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.