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Christopher Rufo’s Shockingly Open Appeal: I’ll Fund Right-Wing “Culture War” Projects

The conservative activist is prepared to take his dangerous ideas to the next level.

Thomas Simonetti for The Washington Post/Getty Images
Conservative activist Christopher Rufo addresses faculty at the New College of Florida on January 25.

A conservative activist has unveiled a fellowship that aims to help “conservative journalists, activists, and opinion leaders” foment a culture war.

Christopher Rufo, an ally of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has become a leading figure in conservative education policy. He first gained national attention by instigating the explosive debate of “critical race theory,” which has now become a right-wing buzzword for diversity of thought.

Rufo unveiled the “Manhattan Institute Logos Fellowship” on Monday. “Fellows will bring a specific ‘culture war’ project to the program, which our team will help nurture over the course of the year,” he wrote in the announcement.

“The goal is to help move these independent projects from conception to execution, so that they begin to shape the discourse and change public policy. Some topics that we hope to address are critical race theory, gender ideology, higher education reform, crime and policing, and civil rights law.”

One benefit of the program is that fellows will be able to network with “cable news bookers, policy makers, and aligned organizations to promote the dissemination of ideas and policy proposals.”

Rufo already has considerable sway over school campuses throughout the United States. He was placed on the board of the New College of Florida after DeSantis helped oust the liberally minded school’s former president. Rufo has also helped push to ban books and diversity, equity, and inclusion programs across the country. Now the man who lied about his Harvard degree is trying to extend his influence further by nurturing the next generation of the far right.

Judge Chutkan: Full Steam Ahead With Speedy Trump Trial

Judge Tanya Chutkan has set a date for jury selection in Donald Trump’s D.C. trial.

Donald Trump
Scott Olson/Getty Images

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan is chugging along with jury selection in Donald Trump’s federal election subversion case, despite attempts to delay the proceedings by the former president’s legal team.

On Thursday, Chutkan endorsed a set of jury procedures that note prospective jurors will fill out a preliminary questionnaire on February 9, just over three months away. (As a reminder, Trump’s trial is scheduled to begin on March 4, 2024, one day before Super Tuesday.)

Certain language in the court order also hints that Chutkan is getting wise to Trump’s antics.

After slapping Trump with a gag order in the D.C. trial for leveraging his platform on social media and at speaking arrangements to lambaste prosecutors and office clerks associated with the case, Chutkan’s legal outline reads more like a warning to his defense to keep the former president from trash-talking his own jury.

“The parties must ensure that anyone permitted access to sensitive juror information understands that he cannot publicly disclose the information, and no party may provide jurors’ identifying information to any other entity (e.g., the defendant’s campaign) that is not part of the defense team or Government team assisting with jury selection,” Chutkan wrote.

The date, just three months from now, breezes past concerns over other possible Trump-induced delays in the trial. In October, Trump’s legal team claimed presidential immunity in the D.C. case charging him with plotting to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, in an attempt to argue that Trump’s actions fell within his White House responsibilities.

Trump also ran into issues with his social media addiction in his $250 million bank fraud trial. Up in New York, Trump has already violated his gag order twice so far, first earning a $5,000 fine and then a $10,000 fine, along with the threat of jail time.

Uh-Oh: Eric Trump Stumbles in Key “Gotcha” Moment in Fraud Trial

Eric Trump appeared to make a big error while testifying in the New York fraud trial against the family business.

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Eric Trump got a little testy on the stand Thursday—moments before he was caught lying about his knowledge regarding his father’s financial statements.

After claiming that he had “never worked” on the Trump Organization’s statement of financial condition and wasn’t aware of it until the bank fraud trial “came to fruition,” the taller Trump brother admitted he was in fact aware of it dating as far back as 2013.

The “gotcha” moment has big implications for how the rest of this case will unfold.

Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr. spent the majority of Wednesday and Thursday on the stand, where they conveniently seemed to have forgotten many details about serving as the Trump Organization’s top executives.

The brothers have largely skirted specifics, blaming their faulty memories for the total lapses. Don Jr. claimed he could not remember the period in 2021 in which he was removed and then reinstated as a trustee of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, couldn’t remember if his father was a trustee, had no idea why his father added himself back as a trustee during his presidency, and claimed he could not recall if he had worked on his father’s statement of financial condition.

Instead, the brothers’ testimony has attempted to divert most of the responsibility regarding the faulty financial statements onto the companies’ accounting team, including former CFO Allen Weisselberg, as well as their accounting firm, Mazars USA.

Yet Eric’s contradiction to his own deposition also shines a light on the prosecution’s strategy, which has been to question his credibility without outright calling him a liar. Essentially, Eric has already revealed that his claims of having no knowledge were “at best, based on a very faulty memory and at worst, constituted deliberate falsehoods,” reported NBC News.

Both Donald Trump and his two sons are defendants in the $250 million New York bank fraud trial in which the trio stands accused of deceiving banks and insurers by massively overvaluing the elder Trump’s net worth.

That figure was sometimes off by as much as billions of dollars, the president’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, revealed last week.

So far, Judge Arthur Engoron has ruled that Trump and his sons committed fraud and has stripped the Trump Organization of its business certificates. Trump is also fighting hard to appeal that decision.

Trump and Ivanka are set to testify next week, though the heiress is working to appeal Engoron’s ruling that she must participate.

Leaked Staff Handbook Shows Real Reason Nancy Mace Voted Against McCarthy

The South Carolina representative has some unreal metrics for her staff—in the hopes of getting to be on television.

Nancy Mace
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Nancy Mace may say she fights for the people, but it seems that all she really cares about is being famous, the internal handbook for her congressional staff shows.

In a report published Thursday, The Daily Beast examined the South Carolina representative’s staff handbook and interviewed several of her former staffers. The main message was clear: All eyes should be on Mace at all times.

“Are we in a P.R. firm, or working for a member of Congress?” a former senior aide said they repeatedly asked themselves while working for Mace.

The handbook, which Mace reportedly wrote herself, includes clear instructions for making sure the congresswoman gets the most attention possible.

Staffers are also expected to book Mace at least 15 television appearances per week: a minimum of nine spots on national channels (between one and three times a day) and six or more times on local outlets. And to get on television, she’ll pull stunts—like strip the House speaker of his gavel.

Former staffers criticized Mace’s decision to vote to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Mace later used her vote to cast herself as a maverick, fundraising aggressively off the move.

But according to a former senior aide, she didn’t actually care all that much. “She saw the votes on the board and said, ‘Fuck it, I’m just gonna vote for it just so I can go on TV and talk about it.’”

Mace also has other staff metrics with the hope of getting her on television. Staff are required to send out at least one press release per day, an unusually high rate.

Mace also set the highly unrealistic goal of filing 25 new bills per year. She expected 10 of those bills to pass the House per year and one to be signed into law annually. It’s incredibly rare for almost any member to see a major bill that they wrote become law. Mace has introduced 62 bills since she took office in 2021, and only one—renaming a local post office in her South Carolina district—has actually become law.

The Daily Beast reviewed other internal documents from Mace’s office, including her office budget. She has dedicated more than a third of her office’s annual $500,000 budget for “marketing,” a word almost unseen on Capitol Hill.

“It is not normal for a member to prioritize media and comms over actual legislation like that,” a second former Mace staffer told The Daily Beast. “In my experience with and in other offices, comms serves to promote what the member is doing legislatively. In Mace’s office, legislation served to get her more media opportunities.”

Mace has already shown how willing she is to grab the spotlight. She calls herself a moderate and advocates for more “centrist” approaches to issues such as abortion, but she appears on far-right outlets and votes against abortion protections.

“Shut Up Colonel Sanders”: Republican Drama Is So Messy (and Funny)

Marjorie Taylor Greene is pissed at her colleagues for not supporting her attempt to censure Representative Rashida Tlaib.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene
Alex Wong/Getty Images

It was a battle of the extremes on Thursday as Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene went full meltdown mode on Twitter, hours after losing her bid to censure Palestinian-American Representative Rashida Tlaib.

In a frantic string of tweets, Greene threw daggers at several of her former far-right allies, including “vaping groping Lauren Boebert” and “CNN wannabe Ken Buck.” One representative took most of the heat in the MAGA feud, however: Representative Chip Roy, who voted against the censure effort.

“Tell her to go chase so-called Jewish space lasers if she wants to spend time on that sort of thing,” Roy told The Hill’s Mychael Schnell, early Thursday.

But Greene wasn’t having any of that, wasting no time before returning the dig, via her official congressional account on X (formerly known as Twitter).

“Oh shut up Colonel Sanders, you’re not even from Texas, more like the DMV,” Greene posted, referring to the D.C. metropolitan area. “Chip Roy’s career exist of working for politicians, working for campaigns for politicians, and being a politician himself. Unity Party all the way! Which is why you will never hold anyone accountable.”

Hours after the vote, Roy’s office issued a press release condemning Tlaib’s remarks toward Israel but described Greene’s effort to silence the Michigan Democrat as a “feckless resolution.”

It made “legally and factually unverified claims, including the claim of leading an ‘insurrection,’” Roy wrote.

That set Greene off, who accused the Texas representative of hating Trump over his vote to certify the 2020 presidential election.

“You hate Trump, certified Biden’s election, and could care less about J6 defendants being persecuted,” Greene said.

In total, 23 House Republicans voted alongside Democrats to table the resolution to censure Tlaib, who participated in an October 18 Jewish-led protest demanding a cease-fire in Gaza.

It’s a Drag: Nikki Haley Stokes Ron DeSantis Secret High Heels Rumors

Shoe-gate continues.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nikki Haley had some decent advice for her fellow presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis: If you’re going to wear high heels, then just walk tall.

DeSantis has for weeks sparked theories that he’s wearing lifts inside his cowboy boots to make himself appear taller. Internet sleuths point to the weird way his boots fit and his apparent struggle to walk in them. But the Florida governor’s campaign team has denied the accusations.

During a Wednesday night interview on The Daily Show, guest host Charlamagne tha God asked Haley if she planned on wearing heels to the upcoming Republican primary debate so she can appear taller than DeSantis.

“I don’t know. We’ll have to figure that out,” Haley quipped back. “I can tell you I’ve always talked about my high heels. I’ve never hid that from anybody. I’ve always said, ‘Don’t wear ’em if you can’t run in ’em,’ so we’ll see if he can run in ’em.”

The former U.N. ambassador has never shied away from making jokes about her high heels, even if they are a little cringe. In 2012, she said the news media is “a little frightened of women” because she wears heels “for ammunition.”

In her campaign announcement, she said, “I don’t put up with bullies, and when you kick back, it hurts them more if you’re wearing heels.”

But her advice for DeSantis is pretty good: If the shoe fits, wear it—and wear it proudly. And then focus on actual issues.

The First U.S. Senator Has Officially Called for a Cease-Fire in Gaza

The second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate made a bold statement.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Senator Dick Durbin is officially the first U.S. senator to call for a cease-fire in Gaza—26 days into a brutal airstrike campaign by the Israeli military which, as of Thursday, has killed over 9,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials.

During an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Thursday morning, the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate was asked if he believed there should be a cease-fire.

“Is a cease-fire needed now?” Harlow asked.

“I think it is,” Durbin said. “At least, under the context of both sides agreeing.”

The Illinois senator described what would need to be a “good faith” effort by both Hamas and Israel, leading to the immediate release of Israeli hostages by Hamas and “conversation between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

“Let’s face it, this has gone on for decades. Whatever the rationale for the beginning, it has now reached an intolerable level,” Durbin said.

Durbin said he has not yet communicated his beliefs to President Biden, whose administration is actively avoiding calls for a cease-fire. Durbin joins the ranks of 23 members of Congress who have expressed the need for a cease-fire.

Republicans Have Absolutely Had It With Tommy Tuberville: “Xi Jinping Is Loving This”

Republican senators are publicly attacking their own colleague for refusing to let up on his military holds.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Senate Republicans are starting to turn on Tommy Tuberville over his blockade of military promotions.

The Senate brought 61 individual nominees to the floor for a vote Wednesday night. Tuberville objected to all of them, tanking each officer’s promotion. He has repeatedly insisted that his blockade, a protest of the Department of Defense’s abortion policy, does not harm military readiness.

But his Republican colleagues were finally sick of hearing it. “No offense, but that’s just ridiculous,” Senator Dan Sullivan said. “He knows it. We all know it.”

Sullivan revealed that the military expects Tuberville’s blockade to affect 89 percent of all general officer positions, across all branches.

“Xi Jinping is loving this. So is Putin,” Sullivan said, referring to the presidents of China and Russia. “How dumb can we be, man?”

Joni Ernst slammed Tuberville for previously implying he would consider voting on individual nominees and then blocking them anyway. “I do not respect men who do not honor their word,” she said.

Lindsey Graham called Tuberville out for taking his frustrations out on service members who were not involved in creating the Pentagon’s abortion policy. “Everybody in this body could find an issue with any administration they don’t agree with,” he said.

“There’s a reason this has not been done this way for a couple hundred years,” Graham continued. “No matter whether you believe it or not, Senator Tuberville, this is doing great damage to our military. I don’t say that lightly. I’ve been trying to work with you for nine months.”

Typically, the Senate majority leader brings a list of proposed military promotions to the floor. The chamber votes on all the candidates at once, and unanimous consent is needed to approve the promotions.

Tuberville has blocked almost 400 military promotions since March in protest over the Defense Department’s policy of reimbursing travel costs for service members who have to go out of state for an abortion. Democrats have tried to bring individual candidates to the floor for a vote, but there are too many stalled promotions for this to be efficient.

The Pentagon has warned repeatedly that Tuberville’s blockade harms military readiness, with the secretary of the Navy even accusing Tuberville of “aiding and abetting” Communist regimes by holding up promotions.

Tuberville is holding firm, though. He said he won’t let up, even after the Marine Corps commandant was hospitalized over the weekend due to a heart attack, leaving the military branch scrambling to fill the gaps in leadership caused by Tuberville’s blockade.

It Seems Judge Aileen Cannon Is About to Hand Trump a Massive Win

The Trump-appointed judge is considering a request from the former president in his classified documents trial.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Trump-appointed federal judge overseeing the former president’s classified documents trial seems poised to give Trump exactly what he’s been asking for.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon indicated on Thursday that she may delay the proceedings past their prearranged May 20, 2024, start date. Under consideration in Cannon’s decision are the numerous other trials that the former president faces, along with 1.3 million pages of evidence that his legal team needs to review, according to the Associated Press.

Cannon said she “has a hard time seeing how realistically this (current schedule) would work,” AP reported.

Jay Bratt and other prosecutors on special counsel Jack Smith’s team argued against the concession to Trump, citing his legal team’s long-standing efforts to delay the trial beyond the November 2024 presidential election when Trump hopes to take back the White House.

“I am not quite seeing a level of understanding on your part to these realities,” Cannon pushed back.

Cannon is expected to make her final decision on the trial’s start date in the coming days.

Trump faces 40 felonies in the case, including 32 counts of willful retention of documents in violation of the Espionage Act, six counts for obstruction, and two counts for making false statements.

Those first 32 counts relate to 32 documents that Trump retained at his Mar-a-Lago estate, the vast majority of which were marked classified and pertained to topics of foreign military capabilities and nuclear weapons, according to the indictment.

His valet, Walt Nauta, and a Mar-a-Lago property manager, Carlos de Oliveira, are also charged in the case for allegedly moving boxes housing the sensitive documents in and out of a storage room in an effort to conceal them from FBI investigators. Trump, Nauta, and de Oliveira have all pleaded not guilty.

Cannon has handed Trump several wins in the past, including assigning his legal team a “special master” to review all the material recovered during the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago raid. The Eleventh Circuit Court ultimately threw out Cannon’s decision, ruling that Trump and Cannon had no legal basis for either requesting or granting the master.

Another Trump case brought forward by Smith’s team may also have delays on the horizon. In October, Trump’s legal team claimed presidential immunity in the D.C. case charging him with plotting to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, questioning whether Trump’s actions fell outside of his White House responsibilities.

Guess Who MAGA Mike Johnson Once Blamed for the Fall of Rome

Before he entered office, the future House speaker liked to go on serious anti-LGBTQ rants, new tapes reveal.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
House Speaker Mike Johnson

Prior to launching his political career, Speaker Mike Johnson worked hand in hand with a group promoting “conversion therapy” for gay teens, actively promoting the criminalization of gay sex, and even blaming sexual orientation for the downfall of the Roman Empire.

According to a CNN KFile review that analyzed dozens of the Louisiana Republican’s media appearances between 2006 and 2010, before he entered political office, Johnson spent years providing legal advice to Exodus International, an Orlando-based Christian conversion therapy organization whose practices resulted in quantifiable harm.

He also partnered with the group to run an annual anti-gay event called the “Day of Truth,” a snub of the national youth movement protest “Day of Silence,” which recognizes the silent suffering of LGBTQ teens who are bullied.

According to some experts, Johnson didn’t just pander to anti-gay advocates, “he was the anti-gay and ex-gay advocate,” Wayne Besen, the executive director of Truth Wins Out, told CNN.

“I mean, our race, the size of our feet, the color of our eyes, these are things we’re born with and we cannot change,” Johnson said during a radio promotion of the “Day of Truth” in 2008. “Homosexual behavior is something you do, it’s not something that you are.”

Johnson also claimed that sexual orientation contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire, although Hadrian, one of Rome’s so-called “Five Good Emperors,” publicly identified as gay.

“Some credit the fall of Rome to not only the deprivation of the society and the loss of morals, but also to the rampant homosexual behavior that was condoned by the society,” Johnson said in 2008.

The group, Exodus International, shut down in 2013 after nearly four decades in business with a public apology for promoting the debunked practice, which aimed to make gay and lesbian teenagers straight.

In an email bannered “I’m Sorry,” Exodus’s president, Alan Chambers, wrote that he was apologetic for the “shame and guilt” participants endured.

“I’m sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced,” Chambers wrote. “I’m sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection from Christians as God’s rejection. I’m profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith, and that some have chosen to end their lives.”