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Republicans Are Planning to “Deal With” Matt Gaetz and His Allies

House Republicans are fed up with Matt Gaetz after he forced out Kevin McCarthy.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Republicans are calling for Matt Gaetz to face some form of consequences for kicking Kevin McCarthy out of the speakership and plunging the chamber into chaos.

Gaetz is bearing the brunt of his colleagues’ ire, after he introduced a motion to vacate the speaker last week and then led seven other Republicans to break ranks and vote to oust McCarthy. The House is now scrambling to find a new speaker, a situation made all the more urgent by the war between Israel and Palestine. Without a speaker, the House can’t pass aid packages or approve resolutions condemning the militants’ actions.

“Matt Gaetz is frankly a vile person,” Representative Mike Lawler told CNN’s Manu Raju late Monday. “He’s not somebody who’s willing to work as a team. He stands up there, he grandstands, he lies directly to folks.”

Lawler has been particularly outspoken about how much he dislikes Gaetz. He has previously called Gaetz “disgraceful” and called for him to be expelled from the Republican conference.

Representative Derrick Van Orden told Raju that he won’t support either of the new candidates for speaker “until we deal with the fact that we have people in our conference who could shut this House down on a whim again.”

Representative Don Bacon accused the eight anti-McCarthy voters of having “kicked us in the shins really bad.”

“They don’t support our party, and it’s all about media clicks,” he told CNN.

Representative Tom Cole, who chairs the House Rules Committee, suggested raising the threshold for the motion to vacate. “I think it’s time to take the sharp knives away from the children,” he told Axios.

One of the concessions McCarthy made to become speaker in January was to restore the motion to vacate, which would allow any single member of the House to call for a vote to remove him. Gaetz had repeatedly threatened to use that power against McCarthy, but finally made good on his promise last week.

Gaetz may be headed for some form of consequences for his actions. Some members of the GOP were already weighing whether to expel Gaetz from Congress should the Ethics Committee find him guilty of sexual misconduct, illegal drug use, and other wrongdoings.

Why Are Biden Officials Deleting Tweets Calling for Israeli Restraint?

The State Department has mysteriously deleted its tweets on the conflict, more than once.

Amir Levy/Getty Images

The Biden administration has sparked backlash for posting and then deleting tweets that called for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestine.

Fighting broke out on Saturday when Hamas launched a surprise airstrike attack on Israel, killing about 900 people. Israel has since responded in kind, imposing a total siege on the Gaza Strip, cutting off food, water, and electricity. More than 680 Palestinians have been killed in the counteroffensive—and the death toll on both sides is expected to quickly rise.

On Saturday, before the conflict really escalated, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan to discuss a solution. Blinken then shared a statement on X, formerly Twitter, saying he “encouraged Turkey’s advocacy for a ceasefire and the release of all hostages by Hamas immediately.”

He quickly deleted the post and replaced it with a statement that said only, “Israel has the right to defend itself, rescue any hostages, and protect its citizens.”

Blinken’s fast 180 was the second time the State Department backtracked on a statement calling for Israeli restraint.

Hours after the initial attack, the State Department’s Office of Palestinian Affairs said on X that it “unequivocally condemned the attack of Hamas terrorists and the loss of life that has incurred. We urge all sides to refrain from violence and retaliatory attacks. Terror and violence solve nothing.”

The office soon deleted the post and shared a statement saying only that it “unequivocally” condemned the attack.

Hamas said Monday that it would be open to discussing a truce or “something of that sort” with Israeli officials. The group said it had “achieved its targets.”

The State Department flip-flopping on a ceasefire is confusing at best. The agency’s entire job is to promote diplomacy, so surely its ultimate goal should be an end to all fighting. Instead, it is letting right-wing backlash determine its next moves.

RFK Jr. Finally Admits He’s Not a Democrat

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has announced he is running as an independent, not a Democrat.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
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Robert Kennedy Jr. announced Monday that he is switching his presidential candidacy to run as an independent, confirming what everyone knew all along.

Kennedy Jr. raised eyebrows when he first announced in April that he would run as a Democrat. Since then, he has spent more time courting conspiracy theorists and far-right extremists than actual Democratic voters.

So when he told a press conference Monday that he is declaring himself “an independent candidate for president of the United States,” it didn’t come as much of a surprise.

Kennedy Jr., a prominent anti-vaxxer, has repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories such as that Covid-19 is the fault of Chinese people and Jewish people. Despite being a renowned environmental lawyer, Kennedy invited a climate change conspiracy theorist to one of his fundraising events.

The vast majority of his campaign donors are Republican, as are growing numbers of his campaign staff. Kennedy Jr. also initially agreed to speak at the far-right Moms for Liberty summit over the summer, although he ultimately backed out.

And the right wing has opened its arms to Kennedy Jr., drooling over his muscles and commiserating with him about supposedly being silenced on social media. One of Kennedy Jr.’s earliest campaign events was an audio space on X (then called Twitter) with platform owner Elon Musk. For nearly two hours, the two men just swapped compliments.

Independent candidates historically perform poorly in the general election. They are more often viewed as spoilers who strip just enough votes away from one major candidate to tip the election toward the other.

In the case of RFK Jr., his embrace of far-right talking points is expected to woo voters away from Donald Trump. Current polling indicates his favorability ratings are far higher among Republicans. It’s unlikely he’ll pull a lot of voters away from Trump, but he could pull just enough to turn the election decisively for Joe Biden.

Russian State Media Fact-Checks Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Ukraine/Hamas Conspiracy

The far-right representative is using the conflict to push her own agenda, and even Russian state media called her out.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s newest conspiracy theory about the ongoing war in Gaza is so outlandish that even Russian state media is fact-checking her.

Greene was expanding on a conspiracy theory floated by Donald Trump Jr., who suggested late Saturday that Palestinian militants were using guns supplied by the Taliban. But Greene took things a step further the next day by saying that the weapons may also have come from Ukraine.

“We need to work with Israel to track serial numbers on any U.S. weapons used by Hamas against Israel,” she tweeted Sunday. “Did they come from Afghanistan? Did they come from Ukraine?”

“Highly likely the answer is both.”

Hours later, Russian state news outlet RT had fact-checked her: “Thus far, no solid evidence has emerged to support these claims,” RT said.

Greene and Trump based their theory on the same video, which supposedly shows a Hamas militant thanking Ukraine for providing U.S.-made weapons. The video has not been verified and therefore cannot be cited as fact.

Fighting broke out on Saturday when Hamas launched a surprise airstrike attack on Israel, killing more than 700 people. Israel has responded in kind, imposing a total siege on the Gaza Strip. More than 550 Palestinians have been killed in the counteroffensive.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sworn to completely “change the Middle East” over Hamas’s attack.

Nikki Haley’s Trump Comment Exposes GOP’s New Authoritarianism Low

Even authoritarianism experts are sounding the alarm.

Nikki Haley puts her hand in Donald Trump’s.

Nikki Haley refused to condemn Donald Trump for saying that people he doesn’t like should be killed, a chilling sign of how the Republican Party is starting to embrace authoritarian violence.

Trump went off the deep end two weeks ago, accusing former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley of treason and implying the now-retired general should be put to death. Republicans have been quick to echo Trump’s call.

In a Sunday night interview, Haley tried to avoid explicitly condemning Trump himself. “I just think it’s irresponsible,” she said blandly, when asked by NBC’s Kristen Welker if Trump should be disqualified from the presidential race over his statement.

“You don’t need to say things like that,” Haley continued, with all the force of reprimanding a mildly misbehaving toddler. “I think that any man or woman that has served our country deserves the highest respect.… They sacrifice a lot, their families sacrifice a lot, and we should honor them every chance we get.”

It should go without saying, but Trump making comments like this is incredibly dangerous. His followers have shown themselves quick to spring to action. Hundreds of January 6 defendants have said they descended on Washington because Trump personally called on them.

The fact that Haley refused to give a straightforward answer (which would have risked angering Trump and alienating his supporters) is a sign of how much influence Trump still holds over the Republican Party. And this is just as dangerous as his statement about Milley.

“Apparently the idea of executing Milley is now the Party Line,” historian and authoritarianism expert Ruth Ben-Ghiat tweeted about Haley’s interview. “We are living through real-time preparation for an authoritarian crackdown.”

“We are in [the] phase of ‘getting the public used to the idea of violence.’ Having authoritative voices like Haley endorse violence is key.”

Trump Organization Exec Admits He Considered Fraud Part of the Job

Jeff McConney is blowing the door wide open on exactly how the Trump Organization operated.

Michael Nagle/Bloomberg/Getty Images

One of the witnesses in Donald Trump’s New York business fraud trial admitted Friday that he regularly committed tax fraud.

Jeff McConney served as a Trump Organization executive from 1987 until February of this year. He was granted immunity in exchange for helping prosecutors, and has previously admitted to breaking the law to help company executives avoid taxes. On Friday, he shed even more light on what exactly that entailed.

Andrew Amer, a lawyer for the Office of the New York State Attorney General, asked McConney whether he had been asked more than once to help Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg commit tax fraud. McConney said yes.

McConney also admitted that Weisselberg had told him to process a payroll check for Weisselberg’s wife so she could get Social Security benefits, even though she was not a Trump Organization employee.

McConney has previously acknowledged he knew he was breaking the law. He testified Friday that he continued to commit fraud because Weisselberg was his boss, and McConney knew he would likely lose his job if he stopped obeying.

McConney also admitted to helping fraudulently inflate the value of multiple Trump Organization real estate assets. One such property was the Seven Springs estate in Westchester, New York. Trump’s son Eric was planning in 2012 to develop the property for seven houses.

The houses were valued at $161 million—how much they would be worth if they were immediately available. The Trump Organization did not take into account that the value would actually be lower in the present due to the years it would take to actually build the homes, the cost of building them, and the cost of marketing them.

McConney continued to value the homes as producing a $23 million profit for the next three years. In 2015, the homes had not been built, and the Trump Organization instead donated the land rights to conservation, giving the organization the right to a hefty tax deduction.

New York Attorney General Letitia James sued Trump and the Trump Organization in September 2022 for business fraud. She has accused him of dramatically inflating his net worth by lying about the value of his real estate holdings, including his Trump Tower apartment and his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Trump has denied the charges, but he more or less admitted to fraud earlier this week. He insisted Tuesday that his organization’s financial documents were not the least bit fraudulent—but even if they were, he couldn’t be held responsible because it was up to the lenders and insurers to fact-check that.

House Republicans Finally Did Something Smart

Republicans wanted to have a televised House speaker debate. Then they came to their senses.

Rep. Jim Jordan
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Representative Jim Jordan

The televised debate to be the next speaker of the House of Representatives is off—for now.

On Friday, only hours after speaker candidates Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan, and Kevin Hern apparently agreed to a live, televised debate on Fox News, all three backed out. It’s not entirely clear why the trio suddenly decided to cancel the debate, but it’s likely that it was the result of an entirely warranted freakout from their caucus’s more moderate members: A televised debate for the speakership was a monumentally stupid idea, one that would have made the already difficult job nearly impossible to do.

House Republicans have never been more ungovernable than they are now. On Tuesday, Matt Gaetz and seven confederates managed to oust Kevin McCarthy from his job as speaker, which he had held for less than nine months. Their objections basically boiled down to McCarthy failing to do every single thing they asked him to—even though many of those things either lacked the votes to pass or would have literally shut down the government for an indefinite period of time.

Speaker of the House may be the worst job in America, and yet the race to fill it is growing more crowded. Steve Scalise—a Louisiana Republican who once boasted he was “David Duke without the baggage”—is probably the front-runner; a longtime member of party leadership, he has the type of deep connections within his caucus that are necessary to run the show. Jim Jordan, a loudmouthed, bomb-throwing, Fox News favorite, is the candidate of the insurgents; he has the support of Donald Trump and much of right-wing media, where he is a mainstay.

Normally, the way these races unfold is fairly simple: Candidates make their case to the members of their caucus that they are the most effective person to lead the chamber. In some cases, deals are made—such a deal with Gaetz and his allies was ultimately what doomed McCarthy’s speakership. But this is not a normal Republican Party or a normal race for speaker. As such, the candidates hatched a plan: What if they debated the job, live on Fox News?

This was, to put it lightly, a self-defeating idea. A debate for speaker would force each candidate into grandstanding and promises that would arguably make whipping votes and bringing bills to the floor impossible. McCarthy’s speakership was just ended in part because of Gaetz’s ability to wield the kind of naked, fantastical partisanship represented by Fox News as a cudgel. A debate would accomplish nothing, but it would virtually guarantee that the kind of dysfunction we have seen over the past week would play out indefinitely. (It also made little sense from Scalise’s perspective, given that Jordan is far better suited for a Fox News debate.)

In any case, the candidates came to their senses: A few hours after the debate was announced, it was reported by multiple outlets that all parties had reconsidered. It still isn’t clear how the race for speaker will play out. It is still very likely that whoever becomes speaker will have many of the same problems McCarthy did. But one thing is certain: Whatever happens, it won’t be televised.

Donald “Never Surrender” Trump Surrenders

Trump is giving up on the lawsuits he initiated himself.

James Devaney/GC Images

Donald Trump is so sick of winning that he withdrew two major lawsuits in 24 hours just to give himself a break.

The former president talks a big game about how successful he is and how he never gives up until he wins. After he was arraigned in Georgia for trying to overthrow the state’s 2020 election results, his campaign released a line of merchandise featuring his mug shot and the phrase “Never Surrender.”

But on Friday, Trump surrendered: He dropped a lawsuit against Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the former president’s business fraud case in New York. Trump had sued Engoron last month for allegedly ignoring an appeals court order, a move that was widely seen as an attempt by Trump’s lawyers to delay the trial.

Engoron has handed Trump a steady stream of losses before the trial even began. The judge ruled last week that Trump committed business fraud and ordered that all his New York business certificates be canceled. This makes it nearly impossible to do business in New York and could effectively kill the Trump Organization as it exists today.

After the trial began Monday, Engoron issued a partial gag order for all involved parties after Trump tried to bully a court clerk. Engoron then ruled late Wednesday that Trump and his co-defendants must tell a court-appointed monitor if they transfer any assets of their companies.

Trump also moved Thursday to dismiss a lawsuit against his former lawyer Michael Cohen. Trump had sued Cohen in April for $500 million, accusing him of breaching his “fiduciary duty” and violating attorney-client privileges so he could be “unjustly enriched.”

At the time, Trump had just been indicted in New York for his alleged role in hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. Cohen was a key witness in the investigation, appearing multiple times before a grand jury.

Trump withdrew the lawsuit against Cohen “without prejudice,” meaning he reserves the right to refile it at any point.*

* This article was corrected to note that Trump withdrew the Cohen lawsuit without prejudice.

Trump Loves Sharing National Security Secrets With Random Strangers

A new report says Donald Trump shared nuclear secrets with an Australian billionaire. This isn’t the first time he’s shared classified intel.

Donald Trump
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Donald Trump allegedly shared sensitive nuclear information with a random member of his Mar-a-Lago club, who then went on to share that information with dozens of other people.

Trump allegedly told Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt in April 2021 that Australia should start buying its submarines from the U.S. Trump then told Pratt the supposed exact number of nuclear warheads a U.S. sub can carry, and how close it can supposedly get to a Russian sub without being detected, ABC News reported late Thursday, citing anonymous sources.

Pratt then told at least 45 other people—including six journalists, 11 employees at his company, 10 Australian officials, and three former Australian prime ministers—about Trump’s comments before he was approached by special counsel Jack Smith’s team.

Smith’s team was looking into whether Trump had mishandled national security secrets after leaving the White House. Pratt told investigators he didn’t know if Trump’s comments were true or just showing off, but investigators told him to stop sharing the numbers, “suggesting the information could be too sensitive to relay further,” ABC wrote.

Smith indicted Trump two years later for hoarding classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Of the 40 total charges against Trump, 32 are for willful retention of national defense information. He is accused of keeping an array of classified national security material after leaving the White House, despite being unauthorized to do so.

The incident with Pratt is far from the first time that Trump shared classified information with people unauthorized to hear it. In May 2017, Trump shared highly classified information with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador to the United States that the U.S. hasn’t shared with some of its closest allies. Current and former U.S. officials warned that Trump had jeopardized a crucial intelligence source on the Islamic State group.

Later that month, Trump told then-Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that the U.S. had positioned two nuclear submarines off the Korean peninsula. The locations of nuclear subs are meant to be kept secret, as a matter of national security. In fact, only the captains and crews know the sub’s exact location.

Then, in July 2017, CNN reported that the U.S. was forced to extract a spy embedded in the Russian government after concerns that Trump had shared classified information that could have exposed them.

Rather than learn his lesson, Trump met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit (also in July 2017). Trump confiscated the interpreter’s notes at the end of the meeting, an unusual move that led intelligence officials to believe he had shared more classified information.

Trump tweeted a video in December 2018 of the Al Asad Airbase in Iraq, exposing a SEAL team’s faces and location. The next year, he bragged about U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities to reporter Bob Woodward and tweeted photos that revealed the location of U.S. spy satellites.

And of course, it didn’t stop after he left office. One of the documents he allegedly kept detailed a plan to attack Iran. He is accused of waving the paper around in front of people.

King of Political Stunts Matt Gaetz Calls Biden Impeachment a Political Stunt

When you’ve lost even Matt Gaetz

Matt Gaetz outside the Capitol. Women reporters surround him.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Representative Matt Gaetz

Just days before he successfully booted Kevin McCarthy as House speaker, Representative Matt Gaetz dismissed the Republican impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden as a pointless stunt.

Gaetz made the comments last week during an invitation-only Zoom fundraiser, where he spoke alongside Representative Matt Rosendale, NBC reported Friday. Rosendale was one of seven other Republicans who voted with Gaetz to oust McCarthy.

“I don’t believe that we are endeavoring upon a legitimate impeachment of Joe Biden,” Gaetz said.

“They’re trying to engage in a, like, ‘forever war’ of impeachment,” he continued. “And like many of our forever wars, it will drag on forever and end in a bloody draw.”

House Republicans launched an impeachment inquiry into Biden in September. They have for months accused the president of wrongdoing via his connection to his son Hunter’s business dealings, but they have yet to provide any actual evidence.

“I just don’t get the sense that it’s for the sake of impeachment. I think it’s for the sake of having another bad thing to say about Joe Biden,” Gaetz said.

The comments are surprising coming from Gaetz, who has previously admitted that the impeachment inquiry is not supposed to end in an actual impeachment. He said in August that the point of the inquiry is simply to undermine Biden’s credibility in the 2024 presidential election. Gaetz seemed fairly on board with the Republican plan at the time.

His comments last week struck a different tone, and that may have something to do with the fact that he was gearing up to kick out the man who launched the impeachment inquiry. McCarthy allowed Representatives James Comer and Jim Jordan to lead pointless investigations into Biden’s supposed corruption. McCarthy then formally opened the inquiry and tapped both Comer and Jordan to lead it.

McCarthy was then historically removed from power when Gaetz—whom members of his own party have since denounced as desperate for attention—started the process to vacate the speaker.