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The Department of Justice Is So “Corrupt” It Just Indicted a Democratic Senator

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez is alleged to have received over $480,000 in cash and numerous gold bars in exchange for favors.

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez has been indicted on federal bribery charges, the Department of Justice announced Friday.

The indictment alleges that Menendez, who is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his wife, Nadine Menendez, received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gold bars, and “luxury vehicle and home furnishings,” from three New Jersey businessmen.

In return for the bribes, Menendez reportedly used his office to send aid to the Egyptian military, “to pressure the Department of Agriculture to protect a business monopoly [one] contact had from Egypt,” per CNN, and to help other alleged bribers’ businesses. The “corrupt relationship” detailed in the indictment spanned from 2018 to 2022.

Menendez and his wife did little to hide their allegedly ill-begotten gains, despite the fact that the New Jersey senator had previously been indicted on similar charges in 2015—although Menendez was let off the hook after the jury failed to return a verdict. “Over $480,000 in cash—much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets and a safe—was discovered in the home,” according to the indictment.

Envelopes of cash were allegedly discovered hidden inside jackets that literally had Menendez’s name on them. Additionally, the gold bars that were discovered at Menendez’s home had serial numbers, making them traceable.

Another $70,000 in cash was allegedly found in an envelope in Nadine Menendez’s safety deposit box. According to the indictment, the envelope containing the cash had fingerprints from Fred Daibes, one of the three businessmen implicated in the indictment, or his driver. Menendez didn’t even bother to switch the envelope after he received the payment.

Menendez has been under investigation for a year led by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams.

The charges are significant. They also undercut numerous allegations made by Donald Trump and others that the numerous federal charges he is currently facing are a heinous plot meant to undermine his surging presidential campaign.

The Clarence Thomas Corruption Saga Just Got Even Worse

A new ProPublica report reveals deep, unethical connections between the Supreme Court justice and the Koch brothers.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas stands in his office.
Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas has secretly participated in events for the Koch donor network for at least a decade, despite the fact that the group has brought cases before the Supreme Court, according to a bombshell new ProPublica report.

“I can’t imagine—it takes my breath away, frankly—that he would go to a Koch network event for donors,” John E. Jones III, a retired federal judge appointed by George W. Bush, told ProPublica. “What you’re seeing is a slow creep toward unethical behavior. Do it if you can get away with it.”

The Koch network is one of the biggest and most influential political organizations in the United States. Over the past 50 years, brothers Charles and David Koch have helped bring about the rise of the Tea Party and sought to slash government regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

The first mention of Thomas in connection with the Koch network, recently rebranded as Stand Together, was in 2010, when donors received an event invitation that said the Supreme Court justice had spoken at a previous summit.

He also spoke at an event in 2018, when he was flown in on a private jet. In now classic Thomas fashion, he revealed none of these connections on his financial disclosure forms. It is unclear who paid for the private jet that took him to the 2018 fundraising event. But all of his appearances were arranged with the help of dark-money king Leonard Leo.

Aside from appearing at Koch network events as a draw to donors, Thomas has also interacted more personally with the Koch brothers for a long time at the Bohemian Grove, which ProPublica describes as a “secretive all-men’s retreat in Northern California” that attracts major corporate and political players.

Thomas has attended Bohemian Grove retreats for more than two decades as a guest of his longtime, increasingly problematic friend Harlan Crow. It costs thousands of dollars for a member to bring a guest to the Grove, but witnesses told ProPublica that Thomas was there almost every year. He did not disclose many of those trips.

Crow, a Republican billionaire megadonor and Nazi memorabilia collector, has repeatedly lavished Thomas with expensive gifts. These include island-hopping yacht vacations, private school tuition for Thomas’s nephew, and buying and renovating a Thomas family property, where Thomas’s mother still lives.

During the period when Thomas has been documented spending time with the Koch network, his position on government regulation has shifted dramatically. The most significant example is the 1984 case of Chevron v. NRDC, which found that government agencies are responsible for determining the rules that put laws into effect.

The Koch network has repeatedly challenged this precedent over the years. Thomas wrote the majority opinion in a 2005 case that expanded the protections from Chevron. By 2020, he had rejected his own opinion as unconstitutional.

In the upcoming Supreme Court term, the justices will hear a case that could overturn the Chevron precedent. Thomas’s shocking switch could help deliver the Koch network a major victory.

“What we’re seeing emerge is someone who is living his professional life in a way that’s seeing these extrajudicial opportunities as a perk of the office,” Charles Geyh, a judicial ethics expert at Indiana University law school, said to ProPublica about Thomas. “There’s a culture of impartiality that’s really at risk here.”

Ex-White House Aide Reveals Why Trump Refused to Wear Mask During Covid

Cassidy Hutchinson explains why Donald Trump would never wear masks, even during the height of the pandemic.

Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Donald Trump staunchly refused to wear a mask during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, and a big reason why is that he didn’t want to smudge his makeup, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson has revealed.

Hutchinson worked as the top assistant to Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, and she eventually became a star witness for the House January 6 investigative committee. She reveals Trump’s turning point on masks in her new book Enough, The Guardian reported Thursday.

Trump toured a Honeywell mask-making factory in May 2020, and he sparked criticism for not wearing a mask during the tour. He told reporters he chose not to after the Honeywell chief executive gave him the go-ahead.

But Hutchinson writes that Trump initially chose to wear a white mask, and then asked staffers what they thought.

“I slowly shook my head,” Hutchinson says. “The president pulled the mask off and asked why I thought he should not wear it.”

“I pointed at the straps of the N95 I was holding. When he looked at the straps of his mask, he saw they were covered in bronzer.”

Trump immediately decided to forgo the mask, according to Hutchinson, who wrote, “‘Why did no one else tell me that?” he snapped. “I’m not wearing this thing.”

Trump has regularly been mocked for his distinct orange complexion. People often speculate whether he uses makeup or fake tan to get his skin to that particular shade.

Trump’s refusal to wear a mask backfired spectacularly, and he tested positive for Covid on September 26, 2020. He and Meadows hid his diagnosis for several days and didn’t announce it publicly until October 2. Those six days were just enough time for Trump to infect Chris Christie.

Christie said in December 2021 that it was “undeniable” Trump had given him Covid. He also blasted Meadows for not warning anyone that Trump was sick.

I would have worn a mask if I knew that,” Christie told PBS. “[Meadows] didn’t tell us.”

“I went into the hospital in the intensive care unit. He didn’t call and tell me. So I think that’s inexcusable.”

David Brooks Is Getting Absolutely Roasted Over His $78 Airport Meal

The New York Times columnist seems to have left out some details about his tab.

Kris Connor/Getty Images for NAMM

David Brooks is getting absolutely roasted over a picture of a burger. It all began on Wednesday evening when Brooks, a political columnist for The New York Times, shared a photo of his meal at Newark Airport on X, formerly known as Twitter:

Brooks claimed that the burger, fries, and liquor cost him $78—a clear sign of why “Americans think the economy is terrible.” It didn’t take long, however, for the internet to pounce on Brooks for the sheer impossibility of the price that he’d suggested.

Author and minor Twitter celebrity Joyce Carol Oates was one of many to jump on Brooks’s claim.

Like Oates, users mostly wanted to know what exactly was in Brooks’s glass… 

… and how many of those he’d ordered before he decided to begin posting his astute economic analysis.

Soon, the Newark Airport restaurant was identified—and a small disclaimer appeared beneath Brooks’s original post with a link to the menu from the restaurant. The reader context noted: “Based on the similar table, glass, chair, sheet and cut of fries, this is the Smokehouse Restaurant in Newark Airport Terminal A. The burger and fries cost $17.”

(The additional reader context then briefly disappeared, despite being very helpful.)

Even the restaurant responded to Brooks’s post, confirming the insanity of his claim. “Looks like someone was knocking back drinks,” the restaurant posted on Facebook. “Bar tab was almost 80% and he’s complaining about the cost of the meal.”

Americans don’t think the economy is terrible because of inflated prices at the airport. But they might be swayed by commentators like Brooks who alternate between touting how great American capitalism is and cherry-picking details from their own upper-class lifestyle as proof that we’re nearing the end.

Airport food is expensive—but it’s not that expensive. Maybe Brooks could use this opportunity to pivot into speculative fiction, but in the meantime, if he ever wants to comment on economic news, he may want to lay off the whiskey first.

Democrat Trolls Kevin McCarthy With Bill Blocking Congressional Pay During Shutdown

As we near a government shutdown, a Democratic congresswoman has introduced the “My Constituents Cannot Afford Rebellious Tantrums, Handle Your Shutdown Act.”

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Democratic Representative Angie Craig is taking aim at House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the looming Republican-prompted government shutdown with an excellently named bill.

Craig introduced the “My Constituents Cannot Afford Rebellious Tantrums, Handle Your Shutdown Act,” or the “MCCARTHY Shutdown Act,” Wednesday afternoon. The bill would temporarily block the paychecks of Congress members during a government shutdown. Currently, shutdowns do not affect pay for lawmakers, but they stop pay for all other federal employees.

“It’s ridiculous that we still get paid while folks like TSA workers are asked to work without a paycheck,” Craig said in a statement announcing the bill.

The bill is unlikely to pass (or even make it to a floor vote in) the Republican-controlled House, but it makes a major point as the shutdown looms ever closer.

Congress is just days away from its September 30 deadline—and House Republicans can’t even begin debate on the Defense Department appropriations bill. The House failed yet again to pass the bill on Thursday, when five Republicans broke from their party to block a procedural rule to begin debating the appropriations measure.

The Republican Party is in full shambles, and they have begun to turn on each other over government spending. Tim Burchett called his party “very dysfunctional,” while Mike Lawler said it was “pathetic” that Republicans are “throwing a temper tantrum.”

But the farthest-right wing of the House is insisting that they will force a government shutdown unless federal spending is cut dramatically. Part of the reason they don’t fear a shutdown is that it has no consequences for them. As Craig pointed out, they still get paid.

Republican Party in Complete Shambles as They Lose Yet Another Spending Vote

“We are very dysfunctional right now,” one Republican congressman said shortly after the vote.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

House Republicans failed Thursday to pass a Defense Department budget bill, a sign of how much internal chaos the party is struggling with.

The House rejected a procedural rule to begin debate on the bill by a vote of 212–216. Far-right Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene, Dan Bishop, Andy Biggs, Eli Crane, and Matthew Rosendale broke from their party to kill the measure.

It was the second failed rules vote in a week on defense appropriations. It is incredibly rare for rules votes like this to fail, an indication of the fact that Republicans are in full disarray.

Mike Lawler, a moderate Republican, slammed his fellow party members. “They have to come to a realization: If they are unable or unwilling to govern, others will. And in a divided government where you have Democrats controlling the Senate, a Democrat controlling the White House, there needs to be a realization that you’re not going to get everything you want,” he said.

“Just throwing a temper tantrum and stomping your feet, frankly, not only is it wrong—it’s pathetic.”

Tim Burchett criticized Republicans for being “very dysfunctional right now.” He then made a rare and shocking admission: “Speaker Pelosi, love her or hate her, she put something out there and they’d rally around it.”

The farthest-right wing of the House has insisted it will block all appropriations bills unless funding is cut dramatically. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was confident Wednesday night that he had the votes to pass the defense bill, which would have been a major step forward in the stalemate. But he failed to convince the last five holdouts, even after a two-and-a-half-hour party meeting.

The danger now is that the House will not reach a resolution by the September 30 deadline. McCarthy has insisted on passing bills with just Republican votes, but given his razor-thin majority, that clearly isn’t always possible.

Even if House Republicans do manage to pass a bill, if it isn’t a clean bill, it will likely fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The risk of a government shutdown after the September 30 deadline is looming ever larger.

And Republicans, rather than trying to come together, are turning on each other instead. Most of the Republican holdouts are members of the Freedom Caucus, which was largely responsible for the 15 agonizing rounds of voting for House speaker in January.

McCarthy ultimately won, but only after making multiple concessions to the caucus. One concession was agreeing to restore the motion to vacate, which would allow any single member of the House to call for a vote to remove him. Some lawmakers are threatening to strip McCarthy of the gavel over the spending bills.

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Successor Is His Son. And He’s Just As Bad.

Lachlan Murdoch will follow in the steps of his father as the new chair of Fox and News Corp.

Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images

There’s a new boss in town: Lachlan Murdoch will take the reins at News Corp and Fox Corp, after his father Rupert Murdoch announced Thursday he was stepping down.

Although he previously fled from both his father’s business and the spotlight, Lachlan Murdoch has slowly made his way back up the ranks over the past nearly two decades. In that time, he has ceased to shy away from making his positions clear.

And if anything, he’s even farther right than his father. Here are five things to know about the new head honcho.

1. He defended the “great replacement theory.”

In 2021, then–Fox star Tucker Carlson did a segment promoting the “great replacement theory,” which the Southern Poverty Law Center defines as a “racist conspiracy narrative [that] falsely asserts there is an active, ongoing, and covert effort to replace white populations in current white-majority countries.”

Murdoch defended Carlson against criticism from the Anti-Defamation League, brushing off concerns that Carlson was promoting the theory. Murdoch argued that Carlson had said, “White replacement theory? No, no, this is a voting rights question.” But considering the racist nature of the conspiracy, it’s hard to see how framing it as “people of color voting” is any better.

2. He doesn’t see an issue with Fox’s programming strategy.

After Carlson was unceremoniously fired in April, Murdoch assured investors that the network’s approach to programming wouldn’t change.

“There’s no change to our programming strategy at Fox News,” he said in a May earnings call. “It’s obviously a successful strategy.”

If by “successful,” he means, “resulting in a slew of defamation lawsuits for spreading lies,” then sure. But Murdoch appears to have stayed true to his word, as host Jesse Watters took over Carlson’s coveted prime-time slot.

3. He helped push 2020 election conspiracy theories.

After the 2020 election, Murdoch said that Fox’s coverage should be “a huge celebration” of Donald Trump. During a pro-Trump rally, Murdoch criticized the Fox reporter for covering it in a way that was “smug and obnoxious.” That reporter was later fired.

In its defamation lawsuit against Fox, Dominion Voting Systems specifically named Lachlan as a key figure in spreading election falsehoods. Dominion said he had “direct” involvement in broadcasting the lies about election fraud.

Rupert Murdoch and other Fox executives have since admitted they knew that the election fraud conspiracies were false, but they continued to allow Trump’s allies to push the theories on air.

4. He used the Ukraine War to attack The 1619 Project.

During a March 2022 speech in Sydney, Murdoch discussed the importance of defending democracy and sovereignty, for instance in Ukraine. He said he was “shocked” to see a poll that found that a “bare majority” of Americans would defend the United States against an invasion.

Murdoch blamed The 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones’s seminal work on slavery and its legacy in the U.S. He said the piece “recast American exceptionalism as racist from inception.”

“It has done great damage,” Murdoch said.

5. He said Fox is the “loyal opposition” to the Biden administration.

A few months after Joe Biden took office, Lachlan Murdoch abandoned all pretense of Fox being a reasonable news outlet. Speaking at a Morgan Stanley investor conference in March 2021, Murdoch said Fox News would act as “the loyal opposition” to the Biden administration.

He reasoned it would be good for the company’s bottom line. “The main beneficiary of the Trump administration from a ratings point of view was MSNBC … and that’s because they were the loyal opposition,” he said. “That’s what our job is now with the Biden administration, and you’ll see our ratings really improve from here.”

Here’s Why Trump is Cheering On the Government Shutdown

Trump has a new demand for Republicans, as the government shutdown looms closer.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Donald Trump is hoping that House Republicans will use the government shutdown to stop the criminal prosecutions against him.

As House Republicans continue to fight over what to include in the spending bill, Trump took to Truth Social late on Wednesday night to instruct them to use this opportunity to defund the Justice Department.

“Republicans in Congress can and must defend all aspects of Crooked Joe Biden’s weaponized Government,” he wrote. “That is also the last chance to defund these political prosecutions against me and other Patriots.”

Even if the GOP-led House were somehow able to pass a bill slashing the Justice Department’s budget, it would never make it through the Senate. So, in effect, Trump is cheering on a government shutdown.

In 2019, Trump oversaw a 35-day government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, costing the U.S. economy $11 billion, in hopes of passing a bill allocating $5.7 billion for the construction of a border wall. Trump eventually folded, and the government reopened after nearly one million federal workers had gone without a paycheck for more than a month.

But it seems that experience didn’t teach Trump how ineffective a government shutdown can be. The former president ended his post on Truth Social by telling Republicans to “use the power of the purse to defend the Country.” Of course, what he really wants is for Republicans to once again dangle the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of federal workers in the balance, all in the hopes that he can avoid jail time.

Rupert Murdoch’s Response to Fox Legal Jeopardy? Retire.

The longtime chairman is resigning as chairman of Fox and News Corp. as the lawsuits pile up around him.

Rupert Murdoch
Jean Catuffe/GC Images

Rupert Murdoch announced Thursday that he is leaving his roles as chairman and CEO of News Corp and chairman of Fox Corp, amid a P.R. firestorm almost entirely of his own making.

Murdoch’s son Lachlan will now take the helm of both companies.

“I am writing to let you all know that I have decided to transition to the role of Chairman Emeritus at Fox and News,” he said in an internal memo. “But the time is right for me to take on different roles, knowing that we have truly talented teams and a passionate, principled leader in Lachlan who will become sole Chairman of both companies.”

Neither excessive pride nor false humility are admirable qualities. But I am truly proud of what we have achieved collectively through the decades.”

The 92-year-old media mogul’s resignation comes amid major struggles for both News and Fox Corps. News Corp reported more than a 75 percent drop in profit in August, primarily due to lower print and digital advertising at News Corp Australia, as well as low print advertising in the U.K. Prince Harry is also suing News Corp’s British arm for multiple unlawful acts allegedly committed over several decades, including hacking his phone.

Fox News, meanwhile, is facing down a barrage of lawsuits and scandals, mostly related to the network continuing to spread lies about the 2020 presidential election. Murdoch has admitted in depositions for one of those lawsuits that he knew the stolen election conspiracy theory was false but he continued to let his network give airtime to its biggest proponents.

One lawsuit is from Smartmatic Voting Systems, which accused Fox of defaming it when network hosts said its voting machines contributed to election fraud. A Smartmatic attorney compared Murdoch to a mob boss during a hearing Wednesday.

“The mafia boss doesn’t give the direction of exactly how the henchman carries out that hit,” J. Erik Connolly said. “But, unquestionably, we would all say the mafia boss participated in the hit when the hit happened. Exact same thing happened here.”

Donald Trump supporter Ray Epps has also sued Fox, and its former host Tucker Carlson, for defamation. He alleged Fox spread a bizarre conspiracy that he led an FBI plot to incite the January 6 insurrection. Epps pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of disorderly or disruptive conduct on restricted grounds for his participation in the riot.

Earlier this year, Fox reported a $54 million loss after its costly settlement deal with Dominion Voting Systems, which also accused Fox of defamation after network hosts said Dominion voting machines had contributed to election fraud.

Fox also settled with former producer Abby Grossberg, who alleged that company lawyers coerced her into giving misleading testimony in the Dominion lawsuit. She accused Fox of having a culture of “poisonous and entrenched patriarchy.”

This story has been updated.

Florida Is Leading the Rest of the Country on Book Bans—by a Long Shot

A new report from PEN America documents a frightening rise in book bans in public schools—but especially in the Sunshine State.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Public schools across the country are banning books at a frightening rate—but no state is infringing on academic freedom quite like Florida.

A new report from PEN America found that the number of public school book bans across the country increased by 33 percent in the 2022–23 school year, compared to the year before. Nearly half of those bans, or 40 percent, happened in Florida.

PEN America recorded 3,362 instances of books banned in the last academic year, with 1,406 of those cases in Florida. This was the first year that Florida bested Texas in this dubious competition, according to the organization, which has been tracking book bans since 2021.

Following Florida, the worst states in this field were Texas (625 bans), Missouri (333 bans), Utah (281 bans), and Pennsylvania (186 bans).

Predictably, an overwhelming number of the bans targeted books on race or racism (30 percent) or featured LGBTQ characters (also 30 percent). But in an equally troubling finding, PEN found that nearly half of all book bans dealt with violence or physical abuse. Many banned books also focused on health and well-being, or featured themes concerning grief or death.

“The toll of the book-banning movement is getting worse. More kids are losing access to books, more libraries are taking authors off the shelves, and opponents of free expression are pushing harder than ever to exert their power over students as a whole,” said Suzanne Nossel, chief executive officer of PEN America. “By depriving a rising generation of the freedom to read, these bans are eating away at the foundations of our democracy.”

PEN America also reported that 86 percent of the book bans happened in school districts near a prominent “parents’ rights” organization. The organization specifically tracked chapters of Moms for Liberty (which initially formed in Florida), Citizens Defending Freedom, and Parents’ Rights in Education.

It’s no surprise that Florida is leading the rest of the country in such draconian book bans. In addition to the heavy influence of Moms for Liberty in the state, Governor Ron DeSantis has made gutting academic liberties part of his personal brand—depriving students of the freedom to read under the guise of waging war on anything he deems “woke.”

This year alone, DeSantis has expanded the state’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law, banning classroom discussion on gender and sexual orientation from kindergarten through high school. He went to war with the College Board and successfully got it to water down its A.P. African American Studies curriculum, stripping entire course sections on Black Lives Matter, queer Black writers, and critical race theory. He defended new Education Department guidelines that require middle school students be taught that “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” On the university level, he has banned diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, banned degrees in gender and studies and critical race theory, and limited what teachers can actually teach about race and gender.

Public schools in the state have followed suit. Florida school districts have banned books such as The Kite Runner, the Court of Thorns and Roses series, Little Rock Nine, and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Individual schools in Florida have also banned the Ruby Bridges movie, which shares the story of the first Black student to integrate her elementary school in New Orleans, and Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb, the poem read at Joe Biden’s inauguration. Some of these bans have been instigated by a single parental complaint.