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Trump Crowns Vivek Ramaswamy the Debate Winner … for Praising Him

Vivek Ramaswamy loves lavishing praise on Donald Trump, who he’s supposedly running against.

Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Vivek Ramaswamy went out of his way to suck up to Donald Trump during the first Republican presidential debate, and it seems to have worked.

Trump praised Ramaswamy’s performance in a Truth Social post early Thursday morning and included a clip of Ramaswamy calling Trump, “the best president of the twenty-first century.”   

In the post, Trump expressed his pleasure with Ramaswamy. “This answer gave Vivek Ramaswamy a big WIN in the debate because of a thing called TRUTH. Thank you Vivek!” Trump wrote.

Ramaswamy snagging the Trump-bestowed title of winner has only fanned the flames of speculation around whether Ramaswamy is only running to secure a spot as Trump’s running mate in 2024.

During the debate, when the candidates were asked whether they would support Trump as a nominee even if he were convicted, Ramaswamy was the first to shoot his hand in the air, while other candidates seemed a little more hesitant. Still, seven of the eight Republican candidates ultimately raised their hands, showing just how much power Trump still has over the Republican Party.  

Trump has of course not yet made any formal indication of whom he would consider as his pick for vice president if he does snag the nomination, which it currently seems like he will. If Ramaswamy isn’t tapped by Trump, all of his cringy flattery, 9/11 denying, and conspiracy-theory spreading may have been for nothing.

Either way, how do Trump’s boots taste, Vivek?

Hours Before His Arrest, Donald Trump Switches Up His Legal Team—Again

Trump is hoping the last-minute Hail Mary will save him.

Brandon Bell/Getty ImagesD

Just hours before he is due to surrender to authorities in Fulton County, Georgia, Donald Trump has replaced his top defense lawyer.

Trump and 18 co-defendants have been charged with felony racketeering for their role in efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia. The majority of the co-defendants, including Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, and Kenneth Chesebro, have already turned themselves in. Trump is set to surrender Thursday evening.

But Thursday morning, Trump added Atlanta defense lawyer Steve Sadow to his team, The New York Times reported. Sadow will replace Drew Findling, who was one of the key negotiators behind setting Trump’s $200,000 bond.

Sadow is reportedly considered to be one of Atlanta’s top criminal defense lawyers. He has experience working on racketeering cases and defending reality television celebrities. In one of his previous cases, he represented the rapper Gunna, who had been charged with racketeering. In another case, Sadow represented Howard K. Stern, who was accused of conspiring to give prescription drugs to his then-girlfriend Anna Nicole Smith, which contributed to her death. Stern was ultimately found guilty.

It’s not unusual for Trump either to change up his legal team or to throw last-minute Hail Marys. A day before he was arraigned the first time in New York for business fraud, Trump switched up his legal team and hired white-collar criminal defense lawyer Todd Blanche as lead counsel.

Trump’s need for legal representation is growing rapidly, as his legal battles continue to pile up. In addition to the indictments in New York and Georgia, Trump has also been indicted in Florida for mishandling classified documents and in Washington for trying to overturn the 2020 election. He has been found liable of sexual assault and defamation, and he has another defamation lawsuit set to go to trial in January.

Good luck to all those lawyers getting paid, though. Giuliani recently flew to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort to beg his employer to pay for Giuliani’s services—and Trump still refused to pay up.

Trump Won the Republican Debate He Didn’t Even Attend

Nearly every Republican candidate on stage said they’d support Trump for president, even if he is convicted.

Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Six of the eight Republican presidential candidates said during the debate Wednesday that they would support Donald Trump if he got the nomination, even if he were convicted in one of his many legal battles, a sign of how much influence he still has over the party.

The eight leading presidential candidates, minus frontrunner Trump, took the stage in Milwaukee. When moderator Brett Baier referred to Trump as “the elephant not in the room,” the crowd cheered.

Baier then asked the candidates to raise their hand if they would still support a convicted Trump as nominee, reminding them that they signed a pledge to support whoever wins the party nomination.

Doug Burgum, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Ron DeSantis all raised their hands. So did Mike Pence, despite the fact that an angry mob of Trump supporters wanted to hang him during the January 6 insurrection.

Chris Christie also half-heartedly raised his hand, but later clarified that it was in disapproval. “Here’s the bottom line: Someone has got to stop normalizing this conduct,” Christie said. “Whether or not you believe the criminal charges are right or wrong, the conduct is beneath the office of president of the United States.” His comments were met with both cheers and boos.

Asa Hutchinson also did not raise his hand and said Trump has been “morally disqualified from being president again.”

Still, the majority’s weird hand-raising is a sign of how powerful Trump still is. He isn’t even at the debate, he is facing 91 charges and will be arrested for the fourth time later this week, and yet everyone is still too afraid to criticize him.

This article has been updated to clarify that Chris Christie raising his hand was in disapproval, not support, of Trump.

Chris Christie Delivers Absolutely Amazing Burn of Vivek Ramaswamy

Unfortunately, you have to hand it to him.

Chris Christie
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Chris Christie had the first zinger of the Republican debate Wednesday night, attacking Vivek Ramaswamy for being like Barack Obama.

The eight leading presidential candidates, minus front-runner Donald Trump, took the stage in Milwaukee. As Ramaswamy tried to portray himself as an outsider and a dark horse, Christie took aim.

“I’ve had enough already tonight of a guy who sounds like ChatGPT standing up here,” the former New Jersey governor said. “The last person in one of these debates … who stood in the middle of the stage and said, ‘What’s a skinny guy with an odd last name doing up here?’ was Barack Obama, and I’m afraid we’re dealing with the same type of amateur standing on the stage tonight.”

While this was probably the most devastating comparison Christie could have made, it is also highly inaccurate. Obama is ideologically open-minded. Ramaswamy is a 9/11 denier who is mainly interested in battling “wokeness,” taking away rights, and, apparently, caving to Russia and China.

Republican Debate Bingo

Play Bingo with The New Republic as we watch the Republican Party’s first presidential debate.

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Eight presidential candidates have qualified for the Republican Party’s first primary debate on Wednesday evening.

Sure, the debate might not mean much when Donald Trump, the party’s front-runner, is skipping out on the whole thing. Still, it is a chance for the American public to hear directly from candidates on what they really stand for.

If you are watching the Republican debate, join us in a game of Bingo.

The New Republic

Secret Service Agents Were in Contact With Far-Right Oath Keepers

A new report reveals members of the Secret Service were in communication with the group’s radical leader, Stewart Rhodes.

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Stewart Rhodes

Secret Service agents were in contact with Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes before he helped lead an insurrection on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, according to a new report.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, published emails on Wednesday revealing that a member of the Secret Service told other agents in September 2020 that he had received a call from Rhodes informing him that the far-right white nationalist group planned to provide “security details” around Donald Trump’s visit to Fayetteville, North Carolina.

The email detailed that the Oath Keepers security detail would be composed of “primarily retired law enforcement/former military members who are very pro-LEO [law enforcement officer] and Pro Trump. Their stated purpose is to provide protection and medical attention to Trump supporters if they come under attack by leftist groups.”

The Secret Service member who spoke to Rhodes even admitted to other members in the agency that he was an Oath Keeper himself. “I am the unofficial liaison to the Oath Keepers (inching towards official),” he wrote.

The CREW report confirms Rhodes’ claims last year that the far-right group had a contact within the Secret Service. Rhodes admitted this during his trial, when he was charged with seditious conspiracy for attempting to stop Joe Biden’s presidential win.

It’s not clear from the CREW report whether the contact continued past September 2020, but the government watchdog notes that the agent claiming to be an “unofficial liaison” suggests a longer-term relationship.

In addition to having ties to the January 6 insurrection, Oath Keepers have worked alongside the Ku Klux Klan, deploying members at polling sites to watch voters, and have compared Hillary Clinton to Hitler on their website.

Republicans Have Pushed Nearly 400 “Educational Intimidation” Bills Since 2021

A new report documents the worrying surge in attacks on academic freedom.

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Demonstrators during a “Walkout 2 Learn” rally in Miami, on April 21

Nearly 400 “educational intimidation” bills have been introduced by state lawmakers over the last two and a half years, a troubling sign of where academic freedom in this country is headed. 

Between January 2021 and June 2023, Republicans in state legislatures introduced 392 educational intimidation bills, according to a new report published Wednesday from PEN America. While only 38 of those bills actually passed, this tidal wave of legislation represents an ongoing campaign to make teachers afraid to teach.

PEN America classifies educational intimidation bills as different from traditional “educational gag orders,” which explicitly prohibit materials and subject matter that can be taught in classrooms. Educational intimidation bills do not act as direct censorship, but rather encourage self-censorship from teachers, librarians, and administrators by creating environments where free speech is chilled. They often bill themselves as “parental rights” bills, hiding their radical nature behind more neutral language.

Missouri has introduced 30 such bills, the most of any state in the country, but all of the measures failed. Florida was able to pass the most, with 15 pieces of legislation signed into state law, thanks in large part to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who has led a “war on woke” in education.    

According to PEN America, these bills have been able to become so popular because of clever rhetorical framing.

“By framing such bills in terms of ‘curriculum transparency’ and ‘parental rights,’ supporters hope to make them appear benign—as simple common sense,” the report by PEN America said. “They are not.”

The bills contain provisions allowing for enhanced inspection of curricula, teachers, and library facilities. Some allow opt-outs so that parents can remove their children from certain kinds of instruction, or institute opt-ins requiring parents to proactively approve certain material, thus making restriction the default of education. Many of the bills also expand student and classroom monitoring.

These educational intimidation bills are based on model legislation prepared by conservative think tanks such as the Manhattan Institute, the Goldwater Institute, No Left Turn in Education, and the Parental Rights Foundation.

Manhattan Institute senior fellow Chris Rufo is quoted in the report, explaining the rhetorical shift from gag orders to educational intimidation.

“The Left will expect that, after passing so-called ‘CRT bans’ last year, we will overplay our hand. By moving to curriculum transparency, we will deflate that argument and bait the Left into opposing ‘transparency,’” Rufo said in 2022.

Around 45 percent of the bills PEN America tracked also included an anti-LGBTQ provision, like the mandatory outing of students via reporting mechanisms for parents to be alerted of any “perceived changes to students’ gender identity and sexual orientation.”

Other anti-LGBTQ provisions include banning the use of preferred pronouns, discouraging discussions about gender and sexuality, and placing pressure on teachers and administration to limit their speech, as well as to monitor and police the expression of their students.

So far in 2023, 17 educational intimidation bills have passed. Perhaps with the introduction of the “educational intimidation” label, the left will have its own rhetorical device to fight those who seek to limit free speech, the rights of students, and the rights of other parents.

Giuliani Doubles Down on Election Lie Minutes After Georgia Arrest

Trump’s former lawyer somehow seems undeterred by all the charges against him.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday doubled down on the idea that the 2020 election may have been stolen—minutes after he was arrested for trying to overturn said election.

Trump’s former personal attorney repeated the big lie while decrying Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for charging him.

“She has violated people’s First Amendment right to advocate the government, to petition the government for grievances like an election they believe was poorly conducted or falsely conducted,” Giuliani told reporters after his arrest. “People have a right to believe that in America. Biden and the Biden state doesn’t have a right to tell you what the truth is.”

Giuliani was arrested after agreeing to a whopping $150,000 bond.

Giuliani was indicted alongside Donald Trump and 17 other co-defendants on charges of felony racketeering for their role in efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election in Georgia. The former New York mayor is now the fourth Trump lawyer to turn himself in, a day after John Eastman and just hours after Kenneth Chesebro and Ray Smith.

Giuliani insists that he and the rest of Team Trump have done nothing wrong but instead are sticking up for voters’ rights. But they allegedly actually tried to take voters’ rights away by ignoring legitimate election results.

This is just the latest of Giuliani’s legal troubles. His former associate Noelle Dunphy sued him in May, accusing him of promising to pay her a $1 million annual salary but instead raping and sexually abusing her over the course of two years. Her lawsuit alleges that Giuliani was constantly drunk, talked openly about trying to overturn the 2020 election, and even plotted to sell pardons with Donald Trump at the low, low price of $2 million each.

As the legal battles drag on, Giuliani is increasingly hurting for cash. He visited Mar-a-Lago in April to beg Trump to help pay all of his legal bills. Part of the problem is that Trump is simply refusing to pay Giuliani for all of his work as Trump’s personal attorney.

Rather than pay up, Trump will instead host a dinner event in September to fundraise for Giuliani’s legal fees. Tickets will cost $100,000 per person. With Giuliani facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs, perhaps the hope is that just a few people will need to show up in order to make a dent.

Kevin McCarthy Threatens to Impeach Biden Over … His Bank Statements?!

Republicans’ impeachment quest is getting more absurd by the day.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy
Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says that Republicans will launch an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden in September unless the president hands over his personal financial records.

Republicans have insisted for months that Biden is guilty of corruption and influence peddling overseas, despite producing no actual evidence. McCarthy has previously suggested opening an impeachment inquiry into Biden so that Republicans can access more information and witnesses, which will supposedly lead them to the truth. But he made his most bald-faced threat yet on Tuesday.

McCarthy told Fox News that Republicans want the Biden family’s “bank statements, the credit card statements, and others.”

“Show us where the money went. Show us, were you taking money from outside sources?” he said. “If they withhold the documents and fight like they have now to not provide to the American public what they deserve to know, we will move forward with impeachment inquiry when we come back into session.”

The House Oversight Committee, which is leading the charge against the Bidens, has already obtained and released three large batches of the first family’s bank records, so it’s unclear how much more evidence Republicans need to acquire before they can prove wrongdoing. But the investigation isn’t really about proving anything at all.

Republicans have already (accidentally) admitted that they don’t have the evidence to back up their claims. What they’re really trying to do is distract from Donald Trump’s legal battles and make Biden look bad ahead of an election.

Representative Matt Gaetz said last week that Republicans should go straight to impeachment proceedings, not just an inquiry. “The purpose of that impeachment, from my standpoint, is not to force a vote that loses,” he said. “It’s to put on a trial in the Senate and, by the way, not for the sake of conviction.”

Gaetz argued that the Senate should try Biden, and then voters can render a verdict at the ballot box in November 2024.

If everyone is talking about a potential impeachment inquiry, then fewer people will be talking about Trump, who is set to turn himself in to Georgia authorities on Thursday for allegedly trying to overthrow the state’s 2020 election results.

Not all Republicans are on board with the impeachment plan. Colorado Representative Ken Buck slammed McCarthy in July for using talk of impeachment as a “shiny object” to distract from serious issues.

South Carolina’s All-Male Supreme Court Upholds Radical Abortion Ban

The ban effectively wipes out abortion access in the South.

Abortion rights advocates protest indoors. One person in the foreground holds a sign reading "Abortion is health care." Another in the background reads "Bans off our bodies."
Abortion rights advocates protest the six-week abortion ban before it passed the South Carolina state House on May 16.

The South Carolina all-male Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the state’s brutal six-week abortion ban, decimating access to the procedure in the Southeast.

Governor Henry McMaster signed the bill into law in May in a closed-door session, with no fanfare or warning to doctors who could be about to perform a newly illegal procedure. The measure passed only because McMaster called a special legislative session to weigh the abortion ban.

A lower court temporarily blocked the law in May, but the all-male state Supreme Court ruled 4–1 to overturn the decision, arguing that abortion is not covered by the state constitution’s language about the right to privacy.

Chief Justice Donald Beatty was the sole dissenting vote. He slammed the law for banning abortion after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected. Medical professionals warn that the term “fetal heartbeat” is misleading because six-week-old fetuses only have electrical pulses. There isn’t actually a heart yet, just clusters of cells.

“As such, it is the quintessential example of political gaslighting; attempting to manipulate public opinion and control the reproductive health decisions of women by distorting reality,” Beatty said in his dissenting opinion.

Beatty pointed out that even the Republican legislative majority has admitted that the language about fetal heartbeats is unclear, but they still “undertook no factual review” when arguing in favor of the law.

Today’s result will surely weigh heavily upon the public and our state’s medical professionals, in light of the threat of criminal penalties placed upon practitioners and the serious harm that could occur to women who could be denied reproductive health care,” Beatty said.

The law bans abortion after six weeks, before many people even know they are pregnant. It technically includes exceptions for rape and incest up to 12 weeks, but health care providers are required to tell patients that they will report the assault to law enforcement. This will likely discourage people from seeking abortions because they don’t want to report the attack.

The measure also prohibits mental health from being considered a medical emergency, so even if someone is diagnosed as suicidal, they still cannot get an abortion. Doctors who break the law face fines and up to two years in prison.

While the law does require child support payments be made from the moment of conception, writer Jessica Valenti pointed out that this is less to help the pregnant person and more to establish that personhood begins at conception.

South Carolina had previously enacted a six-week trigger ban after Roe v. Wade was overturned, but the state Supreme Court blocked that measure in January. The new law was an attempt to circumvent the ruling.

A similar ban had died in the legislature in late April after all the female senators, who span the political spectrum, banded together to filibuster the measure. But Republicans were able to force the current law through when McMaster called the special session.

With this ruling, abortion access is likely to crumble across the Southeast. After Roe was overturned, North Carolina became an abortion haven—until Republicans overrode the governor’s veto in May to pass a 12-week abortion ban. Florida currently has a 15-week abortion ban, which goes before the state Supreme Court in September. If the court upholds that law, then a six-week ban will go into effect. If all three states lose abortion access, it will devastate reproductive health in the region.

This article has been updated.