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Cognitive Decline? Trump Mixes Up Autocrats Who Love Him

The gaffe says quite a bit about the fascists in Donald Trump’s Rolodex.

Donald Trump
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Donald Trump blundered the name of one of his international friends during a campaign speech on Monday, mispronouncing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s name as “Viktor Orbán”—prime minister of Hungary.

The gaffe underscored a worrying detail about the 2024 GOP presidential candidate: Clearly, Trump has too many adoring fascists in his Rolodex to keep them straight.

“The whole world is exploding. You know I was very honored—Victor Orbán, did anyone ever hear of him? He’s probably one of the strongest leaders anywhere in the world. Right? He’s the leader of Turkey,” Trump said to a quiet crowd in Derry, New Hampshire.

In some ways, it’s not too hard to confuse the two. Erdoğan and Orbán both lead authoritarian regimes, they both belong to NATO, and they’re both obsessed with the concept of an “illiberal democracy” that doesn’t protect individual rights or freedoms.

Then again, there are some big differences, like the countries they come from. Orbán, who has violated the Geneva Convention and warped his country’s constitution to keep himself in power, was described by the late Senator John McCain as a “neo-fascist dictator.” He’s also curried a certain level of idolatry from the contemporary American right. Meanwhile, Erdoğan has rigged elections, restricted the press, and been described as an “electoral autocrat.” And again, they run completely different countries. You’d think a former president would be able to remember the difference.

Mike Collins Is the Republican Troll We Need Amid Speaker Drama

One Republican representative won’t stop making fun of his own party for the House speaker drama. His name is Mike Collins.

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Georgia Representative Mike Collins

Not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes, they just make us laugh.

While nine GOP candidates for speaker of the House were unveiling their platforms, Georgia Representative Mike Collins was at it again, cooking up some of the freshest memes from inside the caucus.

“Press releases are out, memes are in,” Collins wrote in a parodistic platform release on Monday.

“Carmines for dinner after every conference,” read another bullet point.

One name-check turned some heads, however. Collins’s deepest jab was directed at conservative pollster and talking point consultant Frank Luntz: that there would be “no more having to listen to Frank Luntz at retreats.”

Since former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was booted from the seat on October 3, Collins has repeatedly found a way to vent his frustrations, and ours, through humor.

The congressman’s gags grew markedly more absurd after Majority Leader Steve Scalise lost his bid for speaker. Since then, Collins has taken the helm of his own Twitter account, grabbing laughs in equal parts to relieve the exhaustion and to snipe at his own blundering peers.

Last Wednesday, in a post anticipating Representative Jim Jordan’s first floor vote, the chief memer shared a video of himself rolling a Magic Eight Ball as its die tumbled around. “Don’t count on it,” the ball predicted.

In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Collins shared that he writes most of his viral tweets down himself, though it can require a little collaboration with staff.

Check Out These Activists’ Ingenious Idea for Wiping Out Student Debt

The Debt Collective has just wiped out $10 million in student debt and is calling on Joe Biden to do his part.

Morehouse College graduates wearing caps and gowns participate in the commencement ceremony. A student smiles in the foreground.
Paras Griffin/Getty Images
Morehouse College graduates participate in the 2023 commencement ceremony on May 21, in Atlanta.

About $10 million in student loans were canceled on Monday—all thanks to the work of an activist group.

The action helps 2,777 former students who owed a collective $9.7 million to Morehouse College, a historically Black liberal arts school in Atlanta.

To accomplish the feat, Morehouse agreed to transfer the debt it held in collections to the Debt Collective, a self-described “debtors’ union,” which in turn, chose to unilaterally cancel the privately held loans. Notably, the erased loans were owed directly to the college by way of attendance fees, unpaid tuition, or even parking fees, reported USA Today. They did not impact any outstanding federal loans held by the cohort.

“In many ways, Black Americans are bearing the brunt of the student debt crisis,” tweeted the activist organization. “And now, Biden is resuming costly payments for the first time in 3 years. Shame.”

The $10 million comes as one small drop in the bucket for tens of millions of Americans who owe a collective $1.6 trillion in federal student loans, but the road to forgiveness has been a rocky one.

In July, the Biden administration skirted expectations when it canceled $39 billion in student debt for more than 800,000 Americans, just weeks after an ultraconservative Supreme Court ruled 6–3 to shoot down Biden’s federal student loan forgiveness plan, which would have erased as much as $20,000 per borrower for 43 million Americans under the Heroes Act of 2003.

The forgiveness of $39 billion was primarily the result of fixing bureaucratic errors in the files of thousands of borrowers who had long ago earned their forgiveness but were omitted due to partial or late payments or even claiming temporary pauses to further pursue their education.

Earlier this month, the president announced another $9 billion that amounted to more technical fixes for students who repaid their dues via public service.

But the Biden administration hasn’t given up on outright loan forgiveness. The latest plan hinges on the Higher Education Act, which allows Biden to direct the education secretary to “compromise, waive, or release loans under certain circumstances.”

“This new path is legally sound,” Biden said when he rolled out the initial proposal in June. “It’s going to take longer, but in my view, it’s the best path that remains to provide for as many borrowers as possible with debt relief.”

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.

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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.