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What Is Dean Phillips Really Up To?

The Minnesota representative has announced a 2024 primary challenge against Joe Biden. Why?

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Representative Dean Phillips announced Thursday that he’s opening a bid as President Joe Biden’s Democratic primary challenger. But as the election landscape shapes up to be another razor-thin rematch between Biden and former President Donald Trump, the effort begs the question: What the hell is Phillips thinking?

Phillips, a multimillionaire former chairman and co-owner of Talenti Gelato, and heir to one of America’s largest liquor dynasties, was elected to Minnesota’s 3rd congressional district in 2018—the first Democrat to win the seat in nearly 60 years.

And for the last 15 months, Phillips has been campaigning for “prominent young Democrats” to challenge the 80-year-old president, reported The Atlantic, believing it’s time for Biden, who he has described as a “president of great competence and success,” to “pass the torch.” Failing to find that candidate, the 54-year-old Phillips has apparently decided to throw himself into the race.

“Democrats are telling me that they want not a coronation but they want a competition,” Phillips said during an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation.

He might be onto something. Although the self-described eternal optimist’s chances of unseating the incumbent president are slim, they’re not zero. A recent poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 77 percent of Americans believe Biden is too old to be effective for another presidential term.

That same poll found that Democrats thought both Biden and Trump, age 77, were too old for the gig, while just 28 percent of Republicans felt that Trump’s age would make him ineffective for another term.

Yet if Phillips somehow, against all odds, beats Biden in the Democratic primary—will he be popular enough to keep Trump from office? It’s probably safe to assume that this is the first time many Americans are even hearing about Phillips.

The Democratic establishment is also still firmly behind Biden.

“Biden’s already beaten Trump once,” Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, Jim Messina, told The Atlantic. “He’s the one guy who can beat him again.”

New House Speaker Conveniently Can’t Remember His Past Homophobia

Mike Johnson has an extensive record attacking LGBTQ rights—and suddenly, he doesn’t want to talk about it.

Mike Johnson
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson is trying to distance himself from his deeply homophobic track record by claiming he can’t remember much of it.

During an interview on Fox News, Johnson was asked about comments he made while he was an attorney for the far-right Christian advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom. During his tenure as senior attorney and spokesperson for ADF, he called homosexuality “sinful” and “destructive,” advocated against same-sex marriage, and pushed for the criminalization of gay sex.

Hearing his own comments repeated back to him by Fox’s Sean Hannity, Johnson said simply, “I don’t even remember some of them.”

Quickly moving on from the “I forgot” defense, Johnson argued that making homophobic statements was just a part of his job in defending the state marriage amendments, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

“I was a religious liberty defense lawyer, and I was called to go in and defend those cases in the court,” he said.

“I am a rule-of-law guy,” Johnson said. “When the Supreme Court issued the Obergefell opinion that became the law of the land, I respect the rule of law,” referring to the case that made same-sex marriage legal.

Despite his attempt to revise history, Johnson’s record speaks for itself. In September 2004, for example, the future House speaker wrote an op-ed for a local paper in Shreveport, Louisiana, in which he called homosexual relationships “unnatural,” “harmful,” and “dangerous.”

Johnson isn’t trying to be confusing. He admitted to Hannity that if people want to know what this “rule-of-law guy” believes, “go pick a Bible off your shelf and read it.”

Trump’s New York Fraud Trial Just Got a Very Fun New Witness

Ivanka Trump, welcome to the stand.

Ivanka Trump in the background looks at Donald Trump (blurred, foreground)
Mark Makela/Getty Images

Ivanka Trump may have a new job in her father’s real estate empire: help dissolve it.

On Friday, a federal court judge ruled that the Trump heiress cannot block the subpoena calling her to testify against her father and brothers, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., in their $250 million New York fraud case.

“A trial is a search for the truth,” Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron said before ruling against her.

Ivanka Trump has until November 1 to appeal the decision, after which she will be required to take the witness stand.

The businesswoman was originally expected to be named as a defendant in the fraud trial, though a New York appeals court struck down her inclusion, ruling that the claims against her were too old.

Judge Arthur Engoron issued a summary judgment in September that found New York Attorney General Letitia James had already proved Trump misvalued his properties and committed business fraud, soon after dissolving the business certificates of Trump’s companies. What remains to be seen in the trial is whether Trump violated other laws and, ultimately, what kind of financial penalty he might have to pay.

Mike Johnson: Guns Don’t Kill People, Hearts Kill People

The new House speaker had an unbelievable answer when asked about the mass shootings in Maine.

Mike Johnson
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

While other GOP leadership stuck to their usual “thoughts and prayers” mantra for the victims of the Lewiston, Maine, shooting, the newly minted speaker of the House tried out a new gun control dismissal tactic.

In a one-on-one interview with Sean Hannity on Thursday, Speaker Mike Johnson made an old Republican line new again, claiming that it’s not guns that kill people—it’s their hearts.

“At the end of the day, the problem is the human heart. It’s not guns, it’s not the weapons,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, we have to protect the right of the citizens to protect themselves, and that’s the Second Amendment. That’s why our party stands so strongly for that.”

“This is not the time to be talking about legislation. We’re in the middle of that crisis right now,” Johnson added.

It’s no surprise the Republicans’ House speaker is dismissing gun control and gun violence so quickly after a mass shooting.

And for what it’s worth, his push to allow citizens to protect themselves in mass casualty events isn’t backed by the data. Between 2000 and 2021, fewer than 3 percent of 433 active attacks in the U.S. ended with a civilian firing back, according to data collected by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University, which described active attacks as shootings of one or more people in which law enforcement are called to the scene while violence is still ongoing.

Wednesday’s assault in Lewiston left 18 people dead, the largest death toll so far out of 565 mass shootings this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Law enforcement agencies are still scouring the woods of southern Maine in a desperate search for the suspect, believed to be Robert Card, a certified firearms instructor who received extensive combat training from the Army Reserve Unit, reported CNN.

Footage Reveals How the Koch Network Plans to Gut Federal Agencies

New footage shows senior operatives from several Koch entities gleefully discussing their next targets.

Protesters hold signs that read "America has a Koch problem"
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Activists protest near the Manhattan apartment of billionaire and Republican financier David Koch on June 5, 2014.

Dead or alive, the Koch brothers continue to have an iron grip on American politics.

The Koch network, an arm of right-wing organizations cultivated by David and Charles Koch, have been working overtime to gut federal agencies that impact Koch Industries’ bottom line, driving a coordinated campaign to bring lawsuits targeted at deregulation to the conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court, according to an investigation by The Guardian.

In a 37-minute panel discussion obtained by Documented, senior employees at Koch-affiliated entities described the court’s new makeup as a “landscape opportunity” that they’re “doubling down on.”

“That’s why we are partnering with organizations that can get the right cases to the Supreme Court,” said Casey Mattox, a legal strategist at the Koch advocacy group Americans for Prosperity.

Some of the issues at stake are pollution, consumer protections from predatory lenders, and workers’ rights. Koch Industries, which makes most of its money in the energy, trade, and chemicals industries, is the second-largest privately owned firm in the United States, with annual revenues exceeding $125 billion.

The initiative appears to have already done the trick, with two cases attempting to curtail the government’s ability to regulate corporations already before the court in its 2023–24 term, thanks to the backing of Koch-linked groups, reported the outlet.

Read more at The Guardian.

Federal Court Deals Blow to Georgia Republicans’ Racist Congressional Map

Georgia Republicans have just suffered a major setback.

Cheney Orr/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Georgia’s legislature will literally have to return to the drawing board after a federal court ruled that the state’s discriminatory congressional maps broke the law.

The new maps, which must be redrawn before the 2024 election, will be required to include one Black-majority federal congressional district, as well as two new Black-majority districts in Georgia’s state Senate and five new Black-majority districts in its House.

Thursday’s ruling consolidates three cases brought against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, which argued that Georgia’s political leaders were not adequately representing the Black communities that fueled the state’s population growth over the last decade.

In a 516-page order, U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones ruled against Raffensperger, deciding that the GOP-drawn maps violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Jones noted that although Georgia has made “great strides” in increasing the political opportunities of Black voters since the law was enacted, “the Court determines that in certain areas of the State, the political process is not equally open to Black voters.”

“For example, in the past decade, all of Georgia’s population growth was attributable to the minority population, however, the number of majority-Black congressional and legislative districts remained the same,” Jones wrote.

The state is expected to appeal the decision, though that effort may fall flat for Republicans. Similar attempts to save GOP-gerrymandered maps have failed in Florida and Alabama.

Other legal challenges to congressional maps are underway across the country, including in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah, reported the Associated Press.

Ford, UAW Deal Is a Lesson to Workers Everywhere: It’s Time To Unionize

The United Auto Workers secured a huge labor victory for its members.

Jim Vondruska/Getty Images

Many of America’s autoworkers are about to see a massive bump in pay.

Ford Motor Company and the United Auto Workers reached a tentative agreement on Wednesday, smashing records with a historic contract that other autoworkers hope will start a radical shift in the industry. The labor victory is a huge win for the UAW—and shows what workers everywhere can achieve with the power of unions.

After a six-week strike, the two organizations have agreed to a staggering 25 percent base wage increase through April 2028, raising union members’ top wages to more than $40 an hour.

Starting salaries will also see a massive bump, growing by 68 percent over the term of the contract to more than $28 an hour. Meanwhile, the lowest-paid workers at Ford will receive an immediate 85 percent pay increase, with a raise of more than 150 percent over the lifetime of the agreement.

The union also finally recouped benefits that workers lost during the Great Recession, including a cost of living allowance that effectively bumps that 25 percent hike to a 33 percent raise, as well as a three-year wage progression (meaning workers can get pay bumps much more quickly). Retirement benefits were also improved, and in a first, the contract also permits union workers the right to strike over future plant closures.

Altogether, the deal will increase union members’ wages more in the next four years than they have in the previous two decades, according to data from the union.

“We won things nobody thought possible,” said UAW President Shawn Fain. “Since the strike began, Ford put 50 percent more on the table than when we walked out. This agreement sets us on a new path to make things right at Ford, at the Big Three, and across the auto industry.”

The eyebrow-raising agreement adds pressure on General Motors and Stellantis, where UAW workers are continuing to strike. So far, Stellantis has temporarily laid off more than 2,000 workers since some 7,000 union members began their strike at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant on Monday.

“It’s usually a domino effect, you know, for the most part. We want to stay optimistic that if they can do it, then we could reach something tentative,” striking employee Sheu Shea Anderson told ABC Channel 7 Detroit.

Both companies have released statements saying that they are working to secure agreements “as soon as possible.”

Screw You, Republicans, and Your Stupid, Useless Prayers

Two deadly mass shootings in Maine—and Republicans are doing nothing but recycling their old “thoughts and prayers.”

Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News/Getty Images
A candlelight vigil in honor of the mass shooting victims in Half Moon Bay, California, on January 27.

Here we go again. At least 18 people were killed and upward of 60 people injured in Lewiston, Maine, late Wednesday evening. This is the 565th mass shooting that has been reported in 2023 alone, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

The senseless violence has also tapped into another fruitless round of Republican leaders issuing “thoughts and prayers” to the families of victims while continuing to pocket large donations from gun lobbyists.

In the last decade, the National Rifle Association has spent more than $37 million on its political lobbying, with GOP legislators reaping the bulk of it, including Senators Mitt Romney and Mitch McConnell, according to data from OpenSecrets. Meanwhile, the money behind “gun rights” lobbying groups has dwarfed that for gun control efforts every year dating back to 1998.

Their unbroken influence over the political right has swept votes on issues ranging from bans on assault weapons to high-capacity magazines, both of which Maine’s own Senator Susan Collins voted against.

Like Collins, other Republicans are once again offering us nothing but their thoughts and prayers.

Recent changes to the House’s leadership are unlikely to change circumstances, either. Just last week, now-Speaker Mike Johnson entertained a meeting with a group against gun control legislation, Women for Gun Rights.

Roughly 63 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with U.S. gun laws, according to a 2023 Gallup poll, which noted that just 54 percent of Republicans were satisfied with their own party-driven policies—a five-point decrease from 2022.

“Praying for everyone’s safety in Maine, and for the victims and their families,” tweeted Florida Representative Maxwell Alejandro Frost. “But unlike some in Congress, I don’t believe the only thing we can do about gun violence is pray. Every minute our leaders fail to act = more people dead to senseless gun violence.”

Sean Hannity Thinks He Can Stop Mass Shooters With His Pampered Millionaire Fists

The Fox News host offered an unbelievable plan after two mass shootings in Maine.

Sean Hannity of Fox News
Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Sean Hannity offers some truly pathetic advice to those afraid of mass shootings: Take up mixed martial arts!

On Wednesday evening, at least 18 people were killed in two mass shootings in Lewiston, Maine. The alleged perpetrator—who at the time of writing, is still being searched for by law enforcement—reportedly used a semiautomatic rifle.

Just hours later, Hannity used his Fox News show to express his frustration at the speed that a mass shooting “becomes politicized,” before careening into his real complaint: the victims’ lack of preparedness in the face of a semiautomatic firearm.

“And then I always ask the question, when something like this happens, what is your plan? What do you do?” Hannity said to his guest, Nikki Haley. 

The Fox News millionaire went on to describe his foolproof plan in case of such an incident.

“I have a personal security plan. I train in mixed martial arts. I’ve been a big believer in the Second Amendment for a long time, with the prayer that I never would have to use it,” he said.

If Hannity is “bothered” by the speed at which mass shootings inspire calls for gun reform, is it fair to say that we are frustrated at the speed at which he offers ridiculous and tasteless advice?

This year, there have been 565 mass shootings in the United States.

New House Speaker Kicks Things Off With Crass Remark About His Wife

Representative Mike Johnson made a gross gaffe about his wife in his acceptance speech.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Usually when a new speaker of the House is elected, they have major plans to unveil, recontextualizing the House’s work. Speaker Mike Johnson, however, had some other priorities. First thing on his agenda? Make a weird joke about his wife.

Shortly after the little-known congressman won the title that he claimed he never sought, Johnson took the podium to thank the hard work of the congressional staff, Speaker Emeritus Kevin McCarthy, and his wife.

“I want to thank my dedicated wife of almost 25 years, Kelly. She’s not here, we couldn’t get a flight in time. This happened sort of suddenly,” Johnson said.

“She’s spent the last couple of weeks on her knees in prayer to the Lord. And, um, she’s a little worn out,” Johnson smirked.

“We all are,” he added.

Johnson, a legislator with a track record of anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion, and anti–election integrity initiatives, won the speakership with a unanimous GOP vote on Wednesday. It was a feat that several of his more prominent colleagues had failed to accomplish in the last three weeks since McCarthy was ousted, and which some speculated may even be impossible.

Johnson’s ascension to a post second in line for the presidency has been the fastest in modern U.S. history, according to The Atlantic. The 51-year-old, who began his congressional career in 2017, was mentored by the likes of House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Representative Jim Jordan. The head-down congressman has also closely aligned himself with Donald Trump, fighting tirelessly during 2020 to help overturn the presidential election results and becoming what The New York Times described as the “most important architect” of the 2020 Electoral College objections on January 6, 2021.