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Texas Dems Finally Push Back on Their Own D.A. Who’s Been Investigating Them

Texas Democrats have had enough of Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.

Brett Comer/Houston Chronicle/Getty Images
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg

In Houston, the country’s fourth-largest city, the feud between District Attorney Kim Ogg and her own party has reached a boiling point.

On Monday, more than 60 Democratic Party leaders submitted a resolution to formally condemn Ogg’s role in weakening voter rights and attacking criminal justice reform, and her tacit approval of Republican voter-suppression laws. The move also comes after reports of Ogg using her power to investigate members of her own party over personal feuds.

“The primary mission of the Harris County Democratic Party is to elect Democrats who support the U.S. Constitution, share our values, and are willing to stand up against extremist Republicans,” the resolution penned by local precinct chairs begins. But Ogg has “stood silent” on Republican efforts to squeeze the life out of Harris County’s blue voting bloc, going so far as to bring criminal charges against a 64-year-old Black man for voting while on parole (the charges were quickly thrown out), and standing by while the Texas Rangers—an agency with a sordid history—opened a criminal investigation against election workers based on “debunked conspiracy theories and outright lies invented and promoted by Republican Party officials.”

Ogg has also used her position to attack political opponents with onerous court cases, effectively punishing them for challenging her. In mid-September, a county court-at-law judge told the Houston Chronicle that he warned colleagues not to cross her: “If you piss her off, you’re going to a grand jury and you may or may not be indicted.” In 2022, Ogg indicted three ex-staffers of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, a young progressive in charge of the local Commissioners Court, for steering $11 million in Covid-19 vaccine outreach funds to a politically connected vendor, but since then the case has hung in limbo. Hidalgo denies the charges, and no trial date has been set.

Previously a Republican, Ogg ran as a Democrat in 2016 promising reforms to fix the broken cash bail system, decriminalize drug offenses, and create “a system that doesn’t oppress the poor.” She quickly changed her tune, accepting thousands in campaign contributions from the local bail bond industry while claiming that progressives were trying to “defund” her department. In 2022, she attempted to have a self-described democratic socialist judge removed from the bench due to his criticism of the criminal justice system and his hesitancy to accept plea bargains, which often lock up low-income defendants for crimes they have not committed. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Ogg also noted she would prosecute those who violate Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s abortion ban, among the most extreme in the country, on a “case by case basis.”

The precinct chairs’ resolution is an early step toward the local party distancing itself from Ogg in the lead-up to her March 2024 primary, signaling that they’re not afraid of her any longer and are ready to fight.

It “says out loud what a majority of Democrats in Harris County have become increasingly alarmed about,” precinct chair Cameron Campbell said in a statement. “Her divisive bullying and appalling abuse endangers our community and undermines our civil rights.”

Trump’s New Sidney Powell Hot Take is a Desperate, Obvious Lie

Now that his former lawyer has accepted a plea deal, Donald Trump is trying anything to avoid repercussions.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Sidney Powell, then attorney for President Donald Trump, conducts a news conference at the Republican National Committee on lawsuits regarding the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, on November 19, 2020.

Donald Trump isn’t so buddy-buddy with his former star attorney these days. In fact, the former president appears to be panicking, claiming that Sidney Powell, who took a plea deal on Wednesday in the Georgia election conspiracy case, was never his attorney to begin with.

Powell cut the deal with Fulton County prosecutors last week, pleading guilty to six misdemeanor charges. She was sentenced to six years’ probation and a $6,000 fine, and ordered to testify against her 17 co-defendants, including her onetime client Donald Trump.

“Despite the fake news reports to the contrary, and without even reaching out to ask the Trump campaign, Ms. Powell was not my attorney, and never was,” Trump wrote on Truth Social on Sunday, alleging that the election fraud conspiracy theorist was actually former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s attorney, not his own.

And the jokes were quick to come in.

“We’ve officially reached the ‘I don’t know her’ phase of Donald Trump’s relationship with Sidney Powell,” tweeted podcaster Ed Krassenstein.

Others were quick to point out the immediate pitfalls of Trump’s new, never-have-I-ever defense.

“If she was never his attorney, then there was NEVER attorney-client privilege either,” tweeted Star Trek actor George Takei.

Powell was a key member of Trump’s inner circle throughout the election conspiracy, claiming at one point that she would unleash a national wave of litigation she described as “the kraken” to secure Trump’s win. In the waning days of his presidency, some of Trump’s most extreme supporters implored him to name Powell as special counsel to investigate unfounded claims of voter fraud.

“Her testimony, more than peripheral players like Scott Hall, will provide first-person insight into those critical moments in her part of the larger conspiracy. Powell’s role is only one prong but as dominoes continue to fall it is likely those other prongs will also be corroborated by Trump’s other co-defendants,” Bradley P. Moss, a Washington-based national security attorney, told ABC News in an email.

Kenneth Chesebro, another Trump attorney, also folded in the Georgia conspiracy case last week, pleading guilty to a felony charge tied to Powell’s own crimes. Together, their turning tide against Trump could potentially initiate a wave of new plea deals from the 17 other co-defendants, including former Trump attorneys John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani.

Nine New Speaker Candidates—and Nearly Every One an Election Denier

Republicans have nine new candidates for House speaker, almost all of whom share a dangerous worldview.

Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post/Getty Images
A House member holds a list of Republican House members who didn't vote for Representative Jim Jordan during the previous round of voting, October 20, 2023.

It’s day 20 without a House speaker, and Republicans have offered up nine new candidates, nearly all of whom have one thing in common: They rejected the 2020 election results.

Seven of the nine candidates refused to certify that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election. They are:

  • Representative Tom Emmer
  • Representative Mike Johnson
  • Representative Byron Donalds
  • Representative Kevin Hern
  • Representative Jack Bergman
  • Representative Austin Scott
  • Representative Pete Sessions
  • Representative Gary Palmer
  • Representative Dan Meuser

Only two speaker candidates voted to certify Trump’s loss in the last presidential election: Majority Whip Tom Emmer and Georgia Representative Austin Scott. But even Emmer has worked to spread election falsehoods.

Emmer emerged as an early favorite for the bid as soon as Friday, a day before he actually announced he was running. So far, Emmer has curried key endorsements, including that of McCarthy, who described him as “the right person for the job,” according to Punchbowl News.

“If given the opportunity to be your Speaker, we will use that same culture of teamwork, communication, and respect to build on the moments that brought us success, learn from our mistakes, and keep fighting for each and every one of you and our Republican majority,” Emmer wrote in a letter announcing his candidacy.

What Emmer conveniently failed to mention in his statement was his work to help Donald Trump fight the 2020 election.

Despite the fact that he voted to certify the election results, Emmer was one of more than 100 Republicans who signed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to throw out Biden’s winning numbers in Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

That leaves Scott as the only Republican speaker candidate who accepted the election results. He is in his seventh term in Congress, is pro–defense spending, and has called for federal bans on abortion and gay marriage.

He also urged his peers not to object to the Electoral College results in 2020, is part of a cohort of Republicans who loathe Jordan, and helped Georgia Democrats remove the confederate battle emblem from the state flag in 2001.

Scott made headlines nearly two weeks ago when he first threw in his bid for the coveted seat, claiming that he didn’t “necessarily want to be Speaker of the House” but just wanted “a house that functions correctly.”

“If we are going to be the majority we need to act like the majority, and that means we have to do the right things the right way,” Scott tweeted on Friday.

The Republican candidate forum is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. E.T. Monday, with a floor vote anticipated as soon as Tuesday, according to Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry.

The new effort comes after more than two weeks of failed floor votes for other candidates, including Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Trump ally Jim Jordan, who backed down Friday after a secret ballot party vote revealed that 112 members were ready to move on from his candidacy and find another alternative.

Meet Tom Emmer: The New Front-Runner for the Worst Job in Washington

The Minnesota lawmaker announced his plans to pursue a bid not long after his Republican colleagues nixed Jim Jordan.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Hours after the House GOP conference met and ended Jim Jordan’s futile quest for the House speakership, Representative Tom Emmer is apparently the latest Republican to launch his own gambit for the seemingly unattainable gavel. CBS News reported that the lawmaker was “making calls in pursuit of a nomination” on Friday evening, hours after Republicans kicked Jordan to the curb. Emmer, the current majority whip, had previously said that he would not seek the speakership. The Minnesota Republican has already been cast as the new front-runner; Representatives Kevin Hern and Jack Bergman have apparently also said they would be pursuing bids in the wake of Jordan’s failure to launch.

Prior to becoming the House Majority Whip, Emmer served as the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, or NRCC, where he presided over the GOP’s strategy to win back the House of Representatives.

While Republicans spent the year in anticipation of a “red wave” that would sweep their members into office in the typical way that the party out of power makes gains during the midterm following the presidential election, those hopes were dashed on election night when the party fell far short of expectations. But Emmer distinguished himself as a voice of temperance in the lead-up to the election, where he urged Republicans not to count their still-incubating chickens: “Don’t be measuring the drapes,” Emmer told his colleagues. “This isn’t the typical midterm that we’re talking about.”

Emmer wasn’t always known for circumspection; his career in Minnesota marked him as more of a far-right firebrand. In a 2022 profile for The New Republic, Patrick Caldwell described Emmer as a “stealth bomber” who’d learned to “mute his rhetoric” so that he could more successfully fit in within the party’s Beltway institutions and become a party up-and-comer. Nevertheless, as Caldwell reported, Emmer’s time in the Minnesota statehouse found him promoting a lot of weird ideas:

His tenure was defined by pushing far-right policy: proposals that Minnesota should chemically castrate sex offenders, impose strict voter ID laws, and outlaw abortion in all instances (as well as proposals that would also potentially outlaw certain forms of contraception and in vitro fertilization). He questioned evolution and was one of the loudest, most influential opponents of same-sex marriage. And despite two earlier DUI infractions, Emmer put forth bills to lessen penalties for drunk driving, which became fodder for opponents in later political campaigns.

Another of Emmer’s obsessions was pushing cockamamie ways that Minnesota could nullify federal laws. He was one of three co-authors of a 2010 proposal for a state constitutional amendment that would have required the governor and a two-thirds vote by legislators to approve a federal law before it could be enforced in Minnesota. “Citizens of Minnesota are sovereign individuals, subject to Minnesota law and immune from any federal laws that exceed the federal government’s enumerated constitutional powers,” Emmer’s would-be amendment read. (The idea went nowhere.)

As Caldwell summed up, “While Emmer may be successful—perhaps even winning himself a leadership post atop a House majority—he’ll have gotten there on the backs of insurrectionists and conspiracy theorists.”

In Memoriam: Jim Jordan’s Bid to Become House Speaker

House Republicans voted to end the Ohio congressman’s tenure as speaker-designate in a Friday afternoon secret ballot.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

House Republicans won’t have Jim Jordan to kick around anymore. After three ill-fated attempts to secure the majority of votes needed to become the next speaker of the House, his GOP caucus put his ambitions on ice, removing him as speaker-designate in a secret ballot on Friday afternoon.

The Washington Post reported that while it was “unclear if Jordan would honor the decision,” it was still “likely he would have to follow the directive” if a majority of the conference came out against him continuing his increasingly fruitless bids. The Post would subsequently report that Jordan “received just 86 votes in favor of him continuing his campaign.”

Republicans who spoke to The New Republic seemed ready to put the events of the past few days swiftly behind them. “My goal has always been to just move forward, and get back to the Republican conservative agenda, and that’s what we have to do,” said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, who voted against Jordan in all three votes. “It was pretty evident from day one that Mr. Jordan was never going to get the votes.”

“Our conference needs to unite. We need to heal, we need to reset, and we need to focus on our mission,” said Representative Jodey Arrington, one of many Republicans mulling a speaker bid.

Representative Jake Ellzey, who similarly opposed Jordan on all three ballots, said that he would take under consideration how a speaker candidate voted last month on a measure to temporarily keep the government funded. McCarthy was ousted in large part because he supported a stopgap continuing resolution, which was passed on a bipartisan basis. Ellzey also supported that measure, calling it a “hard vote.”

“I think if you want to lead me, every once in a while, you got to take a risk. And that wasn’t a popular vote for me, but it was the right thing to do,” Ellzey said. “You want to lead me? Lead. I want to be inspired in my vote.”

Not all Republicans emerged from their conference content, however. Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, whose shivving of McCarthy touched off this two-week-long hullabaloo, stuck up for Jordan, telling reporters, “The most popular Republican in the United States Congress was just knifed by a secret ballot, in a private meeting in the basement of the Capitol. It’s as swampy as swamp gets. And Jim Jordan deserves better than that.”

On Monday evening, the House Republicans will hold a speaker candidate forum to try to determine a new speaker-designate, with a new round of voting on Tuesday.

The GOP’s Last-Resort Speaker Solution Is Going Down in Flames Too

Some Republicans had thought that they could hand the gavel to temporary fill-in Patrick McHenry. Looks like they'll need to think again.

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Republican Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry

The bedlam in the House Republican caucus that has finally ended Jim Jordan’s quest to become speaker seems to have pushed their temporary speaker to the edge as well. Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry, who has been presiding over the chamber in a limited capacity as his colleagues have spent the past two weeks attempting to appoint a new permanent speaker, has threatened to quit if Republicans push him to pass legislation above the authority of his position, reported NBC News. McHenry’s warning comes as some Republicans debate whether they need to take a full floor vote to expand the temporary speaker’s powers, which are currently more or less restricted to permitting him to facilitate and tally the votes to elect his permanent replacement.

“If you guys try to do that, you’ll figure out who the next person on Kevin’s list is,” McHenry told Republican members in a closed-door meeting on Thursday, referring to the secret succession list drafted by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. McHenry was temporarily handed the seat when McCarthy was ousted more than two weeks ago by a fringe group of Republicans fronted by Representative Matt Gaetz.

Expanding McHenry’s temporary speakership was seen by many Republicans as a plan of last resort to conjure some kind of alternative to Representative Jim Jordan, whose own run for the House speakership repeatedly failed to secure the majority needed to give him the gavel. But the plan to leave McHenry in the seat faces similar headwinds, as a majority has vocally opposed the resolution to promote him thus far.

Ultimately, McHenry may not even need to quit, with some Republicans apparently hoping to fire the fill-in. On Friday, Florida Representative Greg Steube was caught with a resolution to remove McHenry from the temporary position, though when confronted, the congressman claimed the motion wasn’t his and that he did not support the measure.

Jordan had planned to enter a weekend series of voting rounds, but his colleagues finally came out against his continued attempts to secure the nomination—first by threatening to boycott future votes in protest, according to Fox News. That move could have handed the speakership to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who, in the face of a large absence, might swing the majority with 212 unified Democratic votes behind him. The caucus, in the end, forced Jordan to stand down.

The Democratic party leader nevertheless teased that path to resolving the weeklong farrago. “We are saying to traditional Republican colleagues, good men and women on the other side of the aisle, end the attachment to the extremist Jordan and join with Democrats in finding a bipartisan path forward,” Jeffries told a press huddle ahead of the speaker vote.

Judge to Donald Trump: STFU or Go to Jail

The judicial system is being forced to reckon with the physiological impossibility of the former president ever not talking.

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump speaks after returning from a break during his civil fraud trial at New York state’s Supreme Court on October 18, in New York City.

Donald Trump learned a fundamental legal lesson Friday morning: Actions do have consequences. The former president is currently staring down the very real prospect of jail time after he “blatantly” violated a gag order imposed in his New York bank fraud trial, reported The Daily Beast.

“In the current overheated climate, incendiary comments can and in some cases already [have], led to serious physical harm and worse,” said Justice Arthur F. Engoron as the trial began on Friday, demanding that Trump’s legal team explain the former president’s recent actions. Engoron would go on to levy a $5,000 fine on Trump, “payable to the New York Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection,” according to the order.

At issue was a post made by Trump on Truth Social earlier this month, in which he claimed that Engoron’s principal law clerk, Allison Greenfield, was dating Senator Chuck Schumer. Trump also shared Greenfield’s Instagram details, effectively ushering a scourge of far-right sympathizers onto her social media accounts. Then, hours after Engoron issued his gag order, Trump launched more vitriol at the judge.

Trump attorney Chris Kise claimed the gag order was violated in error, blaming Trump’s “campaign machinery” for forgetting to remove a web page that mirrored the Truth Social post, which Trump had deleted. That answer wasn’t enough for the “typically easygoing” judge, who noted that the 2024 Republican presidential candidate is “still responsible for the large machine.”

“Despite this clear order, last night I learned that the subject of the offending post was never removed from the website, and in fact had been on that website for the past 17 days. I understand that it was removed late last night, but only in response to email from this court,” Engoron noted.

To say that this all could have been avoided is an understatement. The threat of jail time is an interesting turn in a civil case that was never actually going to lead to Trump facing the prospect of jail time. Rather, the case challenges the validity of his real estate business, the Trump Organization, and some of its dealings.

Engoron hasn’t been the only judge to slap Trump with a court order. On Tuesday, Judge Tanya Chutkan imposed another gag order on the former president in his D.C. trial, which focuses on his effort to subvert the 2020 election. In a statement, Chutkan said that Trump’s First Amendment protections “yield to the administration of justice” and that his presidential candidacy does not give him “carte blanche” to vilify public servants “who are simply doing their job.”

Engoron went to some lengths to impress upon Trump that there would be further consequences for further violations: “Donald Trump has received ample warning from this Court as to the possible repercussions of violating the gag order,” the judge wrote. “He specifically acknowledged that he understood and would abide by it.” “This Court is way beyond the ‘warning’ stage,” he added.

* This post has been updated.

Jim Jordan Makes a Clean Break From Reality in Rambling Rant

The freshly rebuffed would-be speaker of the House gave Capitol Hill reporters several pieces of his mind on Friday morning.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Hours ahead of a third vote for speaker of the House, Representative Jim Jordan insisted that he’s not backing down.

For about 10 minutes, the continuously imperiled House speaker nominee offered his thoughts to reporters in a bizarre speech that name-checked the Wright brothers, ironically emphasized the need for unity, and even managed to sprinkle in some conspiracy-mongering about the validity of the 2020 presidential election.

But if there was any purpose to the ultraconservative’s brief message, it was that he plans to plough ahead with yet another floor vote, despite intraparty insistence that he should back down after two rounds of voting in which he’s lost ground.

This did not seem to trouble Jordan at all. “There’s been multiple rounds of votes for speaker before,” Jordan quipped, referring to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s 15-ballot bid to land the House’s highest position, while the prospect of a series of weekend votes for the position looms over the legislature.

But momentum is not on Jordan’s side, as meetings between the Trump ally and his holdouts have gone south. Several of Jordan’s detractors have hardened in their opposition, in reaction to the nominee’s strong-arming campaign, in which Jordan allies sent anonymous threats to congressmen and their spouses. Now Jordan’s antagonists are unwilling to negotiate further, reported Punchbowl News’s Jake Sherman. Instead, they want Jordan to know that he will not be speaker.

Even among his allies, Jordan’s shtick is beginning to “wear a little thin,” and he has possibly “worn out his welcome,” one senior House GOP member told Fox News’s Chad Pergram.

Jordan’s long-shot bid to become speaker has only grown more fraught as the days have dragged on. In his first floor vote, 20 Republicans voted against him. In the second, another two joined their camp. And dozens more may be waiting in the wings to hop into this chorus of refusal: On Wednesday and Thursday, some party members warned that the tribe against Jordan is much larger than the “no” votes that have been tallied, with some alleging that more than half of the Republican members in the House are prepared to vote “no.”

Meanwhile, the House is unable to act on any policy without someone behind the gavel. On Friday, the White House asked Congress for $100 billion in an emergency national security funding package that would provide $61.4 billion to Ukraine, $14.3 billion to Israel, and another $10 billion in humanitarian aid. But if Jordan spends the next few days still fruitlessly chasing a vote he seems destined to lose, there’s no telling when, or if, these measures will get approved.

House Republicans Melt Down, Boil Over, and Spill to Reporters About It

Their plan to empower fill-in Speaker Patrick McHenry went up in flames, and Jim Jordan continues to lose supporters.

Rep. Jim Jordan after Thursday's meeting on Capitol Hill
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Representative Jim Jordan after Thursday’s meeting on Capitol Hill

It’s Day 16 without a House speaker, and congressional Republicans are no closer to electing someone to replace Kevin McCarthy than they were two weeks ago. Meanwhile, tensions appear to have reached a breaking point.

The GOP’s four-hour, closed-door meeting on Thursday began with a debate over extending Representative Patrick McHenry’s temporary speakership, but instead devolved into a full-blown meltdown, with party members pointing fingers at one another and somehow leaving the caucus even less unified than before.

McCarthy and Representative Matt Gaetz, one of the former speaker’s ousters, got especially heated. When Gaetz went to speak at the mic, McCarthy reportedly “screamed” at him to sit down. Representative Michael Bost then got “all emotional” and began cursing at Gaetz, huffing that the current predicament was “all his fault,” reported CNN’s Melanie Zanona.

“I think the whole country is screaming at Matt Gaetz,” McCarthy told Axios’s Juliegrace Brufke, denying allegations that he raised his voice.

One member of the House GOP turned to prayer. Another left for lunch. Still others took to a joint study session, scouring copies of the U.S. Constitution amid an unprecedented bid to expand McHenry’s power as speaker pro tempore so that he could run the House for weeks (or longer) while the party worked on electing a speaker.

But that plan—just like Representative Jim Jordan’s nomination for speaker, and Steve Scalise’s before him—lacks the necessary Republican votes to pass, which means only Democratic support could salvage it.

Jordan emerged from the GOP’s epic meeting to declare, “I’m still running for speaker, and I plan to go to the floor and get the votes.” But it’s not clear how he’ll get there.

The number of House Republicans on record opposing Jordan has grown from 20 to 22, and some of his detractors warn that the real number could be as high as 40. Which means there’s no end in sight to the GOP’s impasse.

GOP Representative Jim Banks said it best: “We don’t deserve the majority if we go along with a plan to give the Democrats control over the House of Representatives.”*

* This piece has been updated with the full quote from Banks.

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