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Robert Menendez Is Screwed

The New Jersey Democrat was hit with several new charges on Thursday.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez

Senator Robert Menendez, who was already facing a slew of bribery charges, was hit with a raft of new accusations on Thursday, with federal prosecutors alleging that the New Jersey Democrat and former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had accepted bribes from a foreign government and acted as a foreign agent.

Things already looked pretty bad for the New Jersey Democratic senator, to be fair. Last month, Menendez and his wife were charged in a sweeping indictment and accused of multiple bribery counts. The pair were accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gold bars, and a car (seriously) in exchange for Menendez—who was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until he was forced to resign in September after being charged—“agreeing to use his power and influence to protect and enrich those businessmen and to benefit the government of Egypt.”

Still, Menendez had two things going for him. One was that he had previously gotten away with corruption charges. Way back in 2017—a year before the scheme he is currently charged for is alleged to have begun—jurors were unable to reach a verdict on charges including conspiracy, bribery, and honest services fraud. Menendez, who had then been in the Senate for more than a decade, insisted then that the charges were related to a simple misunderstanding: Menendez and the man who was accused of bribing him were simply friends who enjoyed exchanging gifts and favors.

The other is that the current conservative-led Supreme Court has shown again and again that it does not care about corruption. The charges Menendez was facing were beyond the pale—he and his wife had over $400,000 in cash stashed in their home, along with several gold bars—but this court has consistently been skeptical of all but the most overt bribery and corruption charges. Menendez still had a chance, in other words.

But with Thursday’s charges, that seems to have all but evaporated. A new indictment filed by a federal grand jury in Manhattan on Thursday claims that Menendez “provided sensitive U.S. Government information and took other steps that secretly aided the Government of Egypt.” According to prosecutors, Menendez’s wife and a New Jersey businessman “worked to introduce Egyptian intelligence and military officials to Menendez for the purpose of establishing and solidifying a corrupt agreement.” As part of this agreement, businessmen with ties to Egypt “provided hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes to Menendez and Nadine Menendez, in exchange for Menendez’s acts and breaches of duty to benefit the government of Egypt, [businessman Wael] Hana, and others, including with respect to foreign military sales and foreign military financing,” according to prosecutors.

That’s bad! It’s also, unlike more humdrum corruption, not the kind of thing the Supreme Court bats an eye at. Menendez is stubbornly refusing to resign—and is even suggesting that he might run for reelection in 2024. But the latest charges show that he’s in even bigger trouble than before—and that Democrats need to find a way to push him out quickly.

A Majority of Israelis Think Netanyahu Should Resign

Ninety-four percent of Israelis believe the government bears some responsibility for Hamas’s devastating attacks, while a slight majority think the prime minister should step down after the conflict ends.

Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year

An overwhelming majority of Israelis blame their government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for Hamas’s invasion last week, according to a new poll.

A recent survey by the Dialog Center found that out of 620 Israeli Jews polled, 86 percent felt that the surprise attack from Gaza was the fault of Israel’s government. Seventy-nine percent of coalition supporters also agreed, a damning assessment of Netanyahu’s leadership.

Nearly all of the respondents—a whopping 94 percent—said the government was responsible for the lack of security that led to the infiltration of Israel’s south, reported The Jerusalem Post.

But that doesn’t mean Bibi’s time as prime minister is in imminent jeopardy. A smaller majority, 56 percent, of Israelis polled said that Netanyahu should resign after the current conflict ends, with only 28 percent of coalition supporters feeling the same way.

The war between Israel and Palestine, sparked on Saturday when the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a three-pronged assault on Israel’s southern border with Gaza, has so far killed at least 1,400 people in Palestine and another 1,200 in Israel, ABC reported. At least 27 Americans have also died in the escalating conflict, per reports.

Gaza, a small strip of land sandwiched between Israel, Egypt, and the Mediterranean Sea, is one of the most densely populated areas of the world, housing more than two million people, with some 40 percent of the population under the age of 14.

In a press briefing late Wednesday night, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed that Israeli military forces would “wipe [Hamas] off the face of the Earth.”  Since the initial assault, Israeli defenses have launched more than 6,000 bombs over Gaza, and leadership has cut off access to electricity, fuel, and humanitarian aid. 

“Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electric switch will be turned on, no water tap will be opened, and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home,” said Israel Katz, Israel’s minister of energy, on Thursday.

The fallout of that decision has caused what Gaza’s authorities describe as a “humanitarian crisis,” plunging the country into total darkness as it runs out of water and food.

But the front line is shifting. Early Thursday, Israel sent a large number of the 300,000 Israeli reserve soldiers to the country’s northern border with Lebanon, fearing a possible attack from the Iran-backed Hezbollah, reported the BBC.

While there was a great deal of speculation in the immediate aftermath of the attacks that Netanyahu’s government would be strengthened, that does not seem to currently be the case. 

Donald Trump Praises Hezbollah, Criticizes Israeli Government in Wake of Attacks

The former president called the Lebanese militant group “very smart” on Wednesday.

Donald Trump speaking in West Palm Beach on Wednesday

Politicians on both sides of the aisle came down hard on Trump Wednesday night after the former president praised the Lebanese militant group and longtime Israeli enemy Hezbollah, calling the group “very smart.”

“Two nights ago, I read all of Biden’s security people, can you imagine, national defense people, and they said, ‘Gee, I hope Hezbollah doesn’t attack from the north, because that’s the most vulnerable spot,’” Trump said at a gathering in West Palm Beach.

“You know Hezbollah is very smart, they’re all very smart,” he added.

Trump also took the opportunity to complain about Israel’s leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for refusing to aid his administration in the 2020 assassination of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard chief, Major General Qassem Soleimani.

“I’ll never forget that Bibi Netanyahu let us down, that was a very terrible thing,” Trump said.

Governor Ron DeSantis was quick to slam the comments, taking a hard line against his former mentor, tweeting that it was “absurd” that the GOP presidential front-runner would “praise Hezbollah terrorists as ‘very smart.’”

Trump, who has recently polled as much as 40 percent higher than DeSantis in the GOP primaries, has a long history of vocally supporting authoritarian states and leaders around the world, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un.

The White House also condemned the statement, calling Trump’s language “dangerous and unhinged.”

“It’s completely lost on us why any American would ever praise an Iran-backed terrorist organization as ‘smart,’” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement.

Is the GOP Too Chaotic to Elect a Speaker?

Steve Scalise is struggling to secure enough votes, as more than a dozen Republicans oppose his candidacy.

Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Representative Steve Scalise, who is vying to become the next speaker of the House

Representative Steve Scalise narrowly won the GOP nomination for speaker of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, but a slew of Republicans still have their doubts.

The party’s razor-thin majority requires a nearly unanimous vote to win the speakership, but so far 13 Republicans, including Representatives Nancy Mace and George Santos, have publicly stated that they plan to vote against Scalise whenever ballots are cast.

That’s more than enough to prevent the Louisiana representative from ever grasping the gavel. In order to win, the majority leader will need to earn 217 votes—slightly fewer than usual, since the House holds two vacancies. As of now, Scalise has only 208 Republicans backing him.

Scalise’s job is made more difficult by the fact that his holdouts are far from unified in their opposition: It’s not clear that he could offer a slate of concessions, as his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, did, to appease enough of them to support his candidacy.

Before Tuesday’s nomination, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene told reporters that she feels Scalise isn’t healthy enough to handle the stress that comes with running the House. (Scalise has multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.) Representative Thomas Massie wants assurances from the GOP nominee that the party won’t vote on omnibus spending bills. Meanwhile Mace, who campaigned with Scalise and trumpeted his endorsement in her 2020 race, says she can’t “in good conscience” get behind a candidate who once spoke at a white supremacist event and had compared himself to David Duke, according to Politico.

Team Trump, who had backed Representative Jim Jordan for the role, told The Messenger that the former president won’t be lifting a finger to help Scalise sway the outliers. The drama in the House is familiar: Last winter, McCarthy narrowly won the speakership after a historic 15 ballots—and only secured the gavel after agreeing to a number of concessions that ultimately led him to be removed earlier this month.

That plan of attack didn’t work out well for him. After months spent trying to appease far-right members of his party, McCarthy got the boot for negotiating a short-term bipartisan stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.

But Scalise, who is still the clear favorite after winning over Representatives Jordan and Matt Gaetz, has some advantages that the former speaker didn’t.

Namely, trust. Unlike McCarthy, Scalise has yet to make or break promises to the holdouts in his party—earning favor with members of the far right, who long distrusted the former speaker.

And the Louisiana Republican has already started churning some undecided votes into yeses. On Tuesday, Representative Anna Paulina Luna flipped to Team Scalise after the nominee spoke with her about impeaching President Joe Biden and subpoenaing his son Hunter Biden. Scalise may ultimately turn it around. For now, the deck is stacked against him. House Republicans are increasingly ungovernable. There may be no figure who can unify them.

Mary Trump: My Uncle Is a Deeply Insecure Fascist

The former president’s niece explained his enduring appeal despite his obvious fraud and failures.

Mary Altafeer/Pool/Getty Images

The stakes of the 2024 election could not be clearer, says Mary Trump: It’s “​​a choice between democracy and fascism.”

The psychologist, author, and niece of former President Donald Trump spoke at The New Republic’s Stop Trump Summit on Wednesday about why her uncle still has deep support across much of the country. It’s not what many observers believe, she said.

“They identify not with Donald’s strength … but they identify with his weakness,” Trump said, arguing that his supporters know to some extent that he’s a fraud. In fact, they like that about him. “They identify with the fact that he gets away with everything.”

“To me, one of the biggest scams was this myth that Donald was this successful businessman … that he was a champion of the working man,” she said. “By the way, that’s not something he ever says. Somebody else made that up about him.”

Trump said that Donald’s portrayal in the media as a working-class hero is founded on a misunderstanding—he grew up privileged in Manhattan, after all—and that he then exploited it. “He just then flew his stupid private jet from rally to rally, and I guess that was enough to convince people that he really cared about them,” she said.

Asked by moderator Molly Jong-Fast whether Donald is a “dry drunk,” Trump said, “He acts like one” but declined to “diagnose” him.

“I do think it’s important to understand the roots of what’s going on,” she added. “The deeper cause is his insecurity. This is a man who knows on an unconscious level that he is absolutely nothing of what he claims to be.”

Trump Ghostwriter Reveals How Much of His Royalties Went to Causes Trump Hates

Tony Schwartz admitted what he did with the “blood money” from ghostwriting “Trump: The Art of the Deal.”

Chris Williamson/Getty Images
Author and journalist Tony Schwartz

The ghostwriter behind one of Trump’s most successful books, Trump: The Art of the Deal, says he’s donated several hundred thousand dollars from the book’s proceeds to causes he believes the former president would hate.

During The New Republic’s Stop Trump Summit, author and journalist Tony Schwartz said that since the beginning of Trump’s presidency, he’s given away $375,000 to “causes [Trump] would despise,” including environmentalism, immigration advocacy, and other progressive causes.

“I consider it blood money,” Schwartz added, noting that he’s “thrilled” to be able to donate to causes that Trump has attempted to topple with money that the disgraced businessman himself helped generate.

But for Schwartz, the contribution is bittersweet.

“I still feel like I’m doing penance,” he told panel host and fellow author Meryl Gordon. “I knew while I was doing that book that it was a mistake to do it. I knew who he was. He was not a different person than he is now.”

Schwartz, Trump, and their royalty checks over the New York Times bestseller have a complicated history. After Schwartz shared in a 2016 tell-all in The New Yorker that he felt he had “put lipstick on a pig” and felt a “deep sense of remorse” for making the real estate mogul more appealing than he was, Trump sued his co-author for defamation.

In a cease-and-desist letter drafted to Schwarz hours after the interview’s publication, Trump demanded “a certified check made payable to Mr. Trump” for several million dollars in royalties that the ghostwriter had earned on the book, along with half of the book’s $500,000 advance.

Robert De Niro Rips Donald Trump: He’s “Evil”

In a speech at TNR’s Stop Trump Summit, the actor also called the former president a “wannabe tough guy with no morals or ethics.”

Robert De Niro
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tribeca Festival

Robert De Niro didn’t mince words when describing Donald Trump on Wednesday, branding the former president as “evil.”

De Niro, an outspoken Trump critic, was slated to speak at The New Republic’s Stop Trump Summit, but he was brought down by a last-minute bout of Covid-19. He sent a statement instead, which was read out by former Trump administration official Miles Taylor.

“I’ve spent a lot of time studying bad men. I’ve examined their characteristics, their mannerisms, the utter banality of their cruelty,” De Niro said in his statement, referring to his long career playing gangsters. “Yet there’s something different about Donald Trump. When I look at him, I don’t see a bad man. Truly.

“I see an evil one.”

De Niro noted that there really is such a thing as “honor among thieves,” and even criminals have a moral code. But Trump has none, De Niro said.

“Democracy won’t survive the return of a wannabe dictator,” De Niro warned. “And it won’t overcome evil if we are divided.”

De Niro has never shied away from condemning Trump and his actions. Over the years, he has called the former president “totally nuts,” “blatantly stupid,” and “a real racist.”

You can read De Niro’s statement in full below:

I’m sorry I couldn’t be with you today. A few days ago, I came down with a heavy case of Covid. I was looking forward to being with you, hearing the other speakers, and speaking with Miles. I first encountered Miles when he was still “Anonymous.” Through his writing, commentary, and books, I’ve come to admire his intelligence and courage. I’m grateful that he’s agreed to be my voice today.

I am with you in spirit. I am watching. This is an important conversation. What The New Republic is doing in this “Stop Trump Summit”—what you all are doing here today—can help determine our future.

I’ve spent a lot of time studying bad men. I’ve examined their characteristics, their mannerisms, the utter banality of their cruelty. Yet there’s something different about Donald Trump. When I look at him, I don’t see a bad man. Truly.

I see an evil one.

Over the years, I’ve met gangsters here and there. This guy tries to be one, but he can’t quite pull it off. There’s such a thing as “honor among thieves.” Yes, even criminals usually have a sense of right and wrong. Whether they do the right thing or not is a different story—but—they have a moral code, however warped.

Donald Trump does not. He’s a wannabe tough guy with no morals or ethics. No sense of right or wrong. No regard for anyone but himself—not the people he was supposed to lead and protect, not the people he does business with, not the people who follow him, blindly and loyally, not even the people who consider themselves his “friends.” He has contempt for all of them.

We New Yorkers got to know him over the years that he poisoned the atmosphere and littered our city with monuments to his ego. We knew first hand that this was someone who should never be considered for leadership. We tried to warn the world in 2016.

The repercussions of his turbulent presidency divided America and rattled New York City beyond imagination. Remember how we were jolted by crisis in early 2020, as a virus swept the world. We lived with Donald Trump’s bombastic behavior every day on the national stage, and we suffered as we saw our neighbors piling up in body bags.

The man who was supposed to protect this country put it in peril, because of his recklessness and impulsiveness. It was like an abusive father ruling the family by fear and violent behavior. That was the consequence of New York’s warning getting ignored. Next time, we know it will be worse.

Make no mistake: the twice-impeached, four-time indicted Donald Trump is still a fool. But we can’t let our fellow Americans write him off like one. Evil thrives in the shadow of dismissive mockery, which is why we must take the danger of Donald Trump very seriously.

So today we issue another warning. From this place where Abraham Lincoln spoke—right here in the beating heart of New York—to the rest of America:

This is our last chance.

Democracy won’t survive the return of a wannabe dictator.

And it won’t overcome evil if we are divided.

So what do we do about it? I know I’m preaching to the choir here. What we’re doing today is valuable, but we have to take today into tomorrow—take it outside these walls. We have to reach out to the half of our country who have ignored the hazards of Trump and, for whatever reason, support elevating him back into the White House. They’re not stupid, and we must not condemn them for making a stupid choice. Our future doesn’t just depend on us. It depends on them.

Let’s reach out to Trump’s followers with respect. Let’s not talk about “democracy.” “Democracy” may be our holy grail, but to others it is just a word, a concept, and in their embrace of Trump, they’ve already turned their backs on it. Let’s talk about right and wrong. Let’s talk about humanity. Let’s talk about kindness. Security for our world. Safety for our families. Decency. Let’s welcome them back. We won’t get them all, but we can get enough to end the nightmare of Trump, and fulfill the mission of this “Stop Trump Summit.”

Thank you.

No Labels Is a Bunch of “Powerful, Elite Folks in a Boardroom in D.C.,” Says MoveOn’s Joel Payne

The progressive group’s communications director clapped back at No Labels for accusing its opposition of “anti-democracy.”

John Tully for The Washington Post/Getty Images
Former Senator Joseph Lieberman at an event sponsored by No Labels in July

No Labels, the self-styled centrist political group that might run a third-party candidate for president, claims that Democrats are guilty of waging an “anti-democracy” campaign against them. But Joel Payne of the progressive advocacy group MoveOn says No Labels has it exactly backward—that they’re the ones who have a distaste for democratic principles.

While Democrats and Republicans have a nominating process that involves primary elections, which allows for “the voice of the people to come through,” Payne said, “that does not exist for No Labels. Their process is the modern-day incarnation of the smoke-filled room. It is a small group of powerful, elite folks in a boardroom in D.C.”

Payne, MoveOn’s communications director, was speaking at The New Republic’s Stop Trump Summit on Wednesday, alongside Al From, founder and former CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council, and Tiffany Muller, the president of End Citizens United.

“We all agree on one thing very critically, and that is if you’re going to beat Donald Trump you need to be united,” Payne said. “That’s why we’re here talking about No Labels today, which I know may seem like a little bit of a diversion, but it’s really not,” he added, because the key to beating Donald Trump “is to prevent voters from being distracted by other choices.”

No Labels insists that it is a moderate, bipartisan group, but its financial backers include Harlan Crow, the billionaire who has showered Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with gifts. The group also claims that a significant number of American voters dislike both Trump and President Biden and are craving a third option, but analysts believe a moderate candidate would largely pull voters from Biden, thereby increasing Trump’s chances of returning to the White House.

“No Labels, the people they claim to want to represent, people who want to save democracy, are not going to be well served by No Labels,” he said, “because a No Labels run is going to make it easier for Donald Trump to win.”

To counter No Labels, Payne said, MoveOn is “trying to do more grassroots activation, more direct outreach to voters, to citizens just making sure folks know the real stakes that we’re dealing with here.” He said his group has gathered signatures from more than 50,000 people who want to stop No Labels.

But Payne acknowledged that it’s hard to organize political opposition to No Labels because its work is so “nebulous.”

“You’re asking people to plug in and worry about this kind of inside-the-Beltway group that has like a lot of money, and you know, really operates in an undemocratic, small-d way,” he said. “That’s a high bar that we’re asking citizens to check into.”

Trump Is “Absolutely Petrified” and “Going to Be Found Guilty,” Says Michael Cohen

The former Trump lawyer turned star witness made the prediction at TNR’s Stop Trump Summit.

Seth Wenig/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump will be found guilty in the hush-money criminal case involving adult film star Stormy Daniels.

That’s Michael Cohen’s prediction, anyway.

“I can tell you from everything I know about it, he’s going to be found guilty,” Cohen, the former Trump lawyer, said during The New Republic’s Stop Trump Summit on Wednesday.

Trump pleaded not guilty in April to 34 counts of falsifying his business records related to money he allegedly paid to Daniels in 2016 to keep quiet about a past affair. The case was brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and Cohen is expected to be one of his star witnesses.

“This is the Al Capone theory,” he added. “They didn’t get him on murder, extortion, racketeering, prostitution, etc., they got him on tax evasion. I truly believe the Alvin Bragg case is the easiest case to prove of all of the criminal cases.”

Cohen is also a witness in the civil fraud case brought against Trump by New York Attorney General Letitia James. Trump is facing at least five separate civil and criminal trials.

When asked at the Stop Trump Summit whether Trump was scared as a result of the myriad prosecutions, Cohen said, “I think scared is an understatement. I think he’s absolutely petrified.”

He cited two reasons for his answer.

“One, the worst thing that you can do to Donald Trump is to take away his money, because his money is his id, his ego, his superego all wrapped into one,” he said. “Then the threat and fear of potential incarceration on top of the loss of the money; basically making him into a loser … that’s his biggest fear.”

Republicans Are Finally Coming for George Santos

The New York representative known for his serial lies is now facing a 23-count indictment. And some of his colleagues have had enough.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Representative George Santos

Six Republican representatives will move to expel their fellow New Yorker and serial fabulist George Santos, calling him a “stain” on their party.

Santos, a freshman representative, has caused nothing but controversy since he took office. He fabricated the vast majority of his personal and professional background, and on Tuesday, he was federally indicted for financial fraud and identity theft.

Today, I’ll be introducing an expulsion resolution to rid the People’s House of fraudster, George Santos,” freshman Representative Anthony D’Esposito announced Wednesday on X, formerly Twitter.

He revealed the resolution will be co-sponsored by fellow first-term lawmakers Nick LaLota, Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro, Nick Langworthy, and Brandon Williams. These six lawmakers were some of the first Republicans to call publicly for Santos to resign once his lies were revealed. All of them except Langworthy won in districts that voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, making them more vulnerable to being voted out in 2024.

Speaking separately to CNN’s Manu Raju, D’Esposito said of Santos, “After the latest indictment I think it’s clear he’s not fit to serve in the house of representatives. He’s a stain on the institution, and that’s why the New York freshmen have come together. He’s also a stain on our state.”

In addition to apparently lying about his employment history, Santos has falsely claimed that his grandparents were Holocaust survivors, his mother died in the 9/11 attacks, and four of his employees were killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting. He also lied about founding an animal rescue charity and producing the disastrous Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

Santos has been federally charged with 23 counts of various types of financial fraud. He pleaded not guilty to the initial 13 in May, and he has denied the additional 10 that were filed Tuesday night in a superseding indictment. Earlier this year, he also agreed to a deal with Brazilian authorities investigating him for financial fraud, so that he could avoid prosecution.

Democrats introduced a motion to censure Santos over the summer but have temporarily shelved it, despite bipartisan support. He is under investigation from the House Ethics Committee, but nothing has emerged yet.

Santos told reporters Wednesday that he ​won’t take a plea deal in his indictment, and that he plans to stay in office and run for reelection.​ He said the expulsion resolution is essentially “silencing the people in the 3rd Congressional District of New York.”

Except, the 3rd Congressional District of New York doesn’t even want him speaking for them anymore.