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A City in Tennessee Banned Public Homosexuality—and We All Missed It

Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is already beginning to implement the law.

Two people walk by a railing with several pride flags on it
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A city in Tennessee is using a recently passed ordinance essentially prohibiting homosexuality in public to try to ban library books that might violate the new rules.

Murfreesboro passed an ordinance in June banning “indecent behavior,” including “indecent exposure, public indecency, lewd behavior, nudity or sexual conduct.” As journalist Erin Reed first reported, this ordinance specifically mentions Section 21-72 of the city code. The city code states that sexual conduct includes homosexuality.

Anyone who violates the new ordinance is barred from hosting public events or selling goods and services at public events for two years. Anyone who violates the ordinance “in the presence of minors” is barred for five years.

An ACLU-backed challenge to the ordinance has already been launched, but that hasn’t stopped city officials from implementing the measure. Last Monday, the Rutherford County steering committee met to discuss removing all books that might potentially violate the ordinance from the public library. The resolution was met with widespread outcry from city residents.

“When have the people who ban books ever been the good guys?” local activist Keri Lambert demanded during the Monday county meeting.

Murfreesboro city officials have already used the ordinance to ban four books that discuss LGBTQ themes. In August, the county library board pulled the books Flamer, Let’s Talk About It, Queerfully and Wonderfully Made, and This Book Is Gay.

The board also implemented a new library card system that categorizes books into certain age groups. When it takes effect next year, children and teenagers will only be able to check out books that correspond to their age group; they will need permission from a parent or guardian to check out “adult” books.

Library director Rita Shacklett worried in August that the new rules would prevent students from accessing books they need for a class. She explained that many classic high school books, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, are now classified as “adult.”

It’s unclear if the county steering committee plans to pull books such as the A Song of Ice and Fire series, which includes multiple depictions of heterosexual sexual conduct.

Murfreesboro’s new ordinance is part of a much larger wave of attacks on LGBTQ rights in Tennessee and the rest of the country. In the past year, the so-called Volunteer State became the first state to try to ban drag performances. That law was overturned in court.

In March, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow people to refuse to perform a marriage if they disagree with it, essentially gutting marriage equality. The bill was introduced in the Senate but deferred until next year.

This Jenna Ellis Testimony Could Be the Writing on the Wall for Trump

New video shows Donald Trump’s former lawyer blaming him entirely for the attempted overthrow of the 2020 election.

John Bazemore/Pool/Getty Images

One of Donald Trump’s former attorneys told Georgia prosecutors that Trump knew he had lost the 2020 election but was simply “not going to leave” the White House, testimony that could signal his death knell in the Fulton County case.

Jenna Ellis struck a plea deal with Fulton County prosecutors in late October, agreeing to testify against Trump in exchange for a lighter sentence. ABC News managed to acquire footage of her testimony, which it published Monday evening.

The video footage shows Ellis describing how senior Trump aide Dan Scavino told her during the 2020 White House Christmas party that “the boss” intended to simply stay in office. Ellis explained that everyone knew “the boss” meant Trump.

Ellis said she pointed out that Trump had lost the election and they had lost all of their attempts to challenge the result in court. Scavino replied, “Well, we don’t care, and we’re not going to leave.”

“And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘Well, the boss … is not going to leave under any circumstances. We are just going to stay in power,’” Ellis said.

“And I said to him, ‘Well, it doesn’t quite work that way, you realize?’ And he said, ‘We don’t care.’”

ABC also obtained footage of former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell’s testimony. Powell, who claims she never actually worked for Trump, struck a plea deal with Georgia prosecutors in mid-October.

In her testimony, she describes being in frequent contact with Trump as she worked to seize voting machines nationwide. Powell also “reiterated the false assertion that Trump won the election—but acknowledged in the video that she didn’t know much about election law to begin with,” ABC reported.

Trump was charged with felony racketeering in Georgia for trying to overturn the state’s 2020 election results. He pleaded not guilty to all 13 charges. A big part of his defense is that he truly believed he won the election and was acting based on legal advice.

But Ellis’s testimony could prove to be his undoing. Neal Katyal, the former principal deputy solicitor general of the United States, said it was significant that Ellis’s conversation with Scavino took place after all of Trump’s election challenge cases were rejected, including by the Supreme Court.

“This evidence goes to criminal intent that Donald Trump wasn’t thinking about whether he won or lost, he was just going to stay in power no matter what,” Katyal said Monday night on MSNBC.

“All of this together paints a really damaging picture for Donald Trump.”

Why Michael Cohen Fears an Imprisoned Trump Will Sell Out America

Donald Trump’s former fixer had an interesting warning about what will happen if he ends up behind bars.

Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Michael Cohen doesn’t think that Donald Trump should be put behind bars—all because of his big mouth.

The former Trump fixer claimed imprisoning the former president could be “dangerous,” arguing that he belongs under house arrest instead.

“He needs to be held accountable,” Cohen told CNN on Monday. “Do I believe if it was anyone else that that individual would already be in prison or jail? The answer is emphatically yes.”

“But, because he was president of the United States, and for four years he was debriefed on a daily basis on our national security secrets, I personally as an American citizen, I would be concerned,” Cohen said, “because Donald is the kind of guy to sell any of that information for a bag of tuna or a book of stamps, and I do really mean that.”

“It’s dangerous for America to have somebody like Donald Trump in an environment where he can share the information,” he added. “Look, he’s shared it already with members of Mar-a-Lago as well as other individuals that came to visit, so why would he not do it if it benefited him somehow, in some way, in a prison situation?”

Last month, Cohen testified in Trump’s $250 million New York bank fraud trial that Trump made up numbers and then told Cohen to artificially inflate the real estate mogul’s net worth, sometimes by as much as billions of dollars, in order to broker better deals with banks and insurance companies.

“I was confused on how I was going to be,” Cohen said, recalling the moment he came face to face with Trump for the first time in years while taking the stand. “And actually, I felt nothing. It was so weird that here I am, sitting directly across from Donald Trump, and I felt absolutely nothing.”

But while Trump doesn’t face the ultimate consequence of prison time in that particular trial due to its nature as a civil case, he does in several other upcoming criminal trials, including the Georgia election interference case, the January 6 insurrection case, the classified documents case, and the hush-money case in which Trump surreptitiously paid off porn actress Stormy Daniels during his presidential campaign and then paid off Cohen while in the White House for helping him do it.

Trump Jr. Just Uttered the Word That Could Trip Up His Family’s Entire Defense

Donald Trump Jr. may have made a big error when testifying in the fraud trial against his family.

Donald Trump Jr.
Adam Gray/Pool/Getty Images
Donald Trump Jr.

Donald Trump Jr. might have tripped up his legal team’s entire defense on Monday, slipping into his testimony that the family’s Florida property, Mar-a-Lago, is an “estate” rather than a club.

“My father purchased what was one of the finest estates anywhere in the world,” Don Jr. said Monday morning in reference to the building, which he called “amazing” and likened to an “American castle.”

But no amount of embellishment will hide Trump Jr.’s admission: The family’s beloved Florida home at Mar-a-Lago—which, incidentally, Trump has used as his primary residence since leaving the White House in 2021—is perceived by the family as an estate, or residential property.

The contested valuation of Mar-a-Lago is at the heart of the fraud trial against the Trump Organization. Last week, attorneys for the New York state attorney general’s office highlighted incongruous deeds and assessments for the former president’s various international properties, including a development deed for Mar-a-Lago that restricts the status of Trump’s primary residence to a club.

Despite the deed restrictions, the New York Attorney General’s Office argues, Trump overinflated the value of Mar-a-Lago on the basis that it was used as a private home and could be sold as such.

The $250 million bank fraud case hopes to prove that Trump deceived banks and insurers by massively overvaluing his net worth—with properties like Mar-a-Lago. So far, New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron has already ruled that Trump and his two sons, Don Jr. and Eric, committed fraud.

After All That Pressure, Supreme Court Adopts Most Pathetic “Code of Ethics” Ever

It doesn’t seem like the court’s new code of ethics will do all that much.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Supreme Court unveiled a new, incredibly vague “code of ethics” on Monday, following several high profile ethics scandals.

All nine justices signed the 14-page document, which includes five canons of conduct under which the justices should recuse themselves and is based on similar codes used by lower courts.

It requires justices to “uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary” and “avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities,” according to the code. The code does not mention any enforcement mechanisms, however, and disclosures are completely voluntary.

In a statement attached to the code, the justices highlighted that the court has “long had the equivalent of common law ethics rules,” which they believe added to confusion around the court’s behavior.

“The absence of a Code, however, has led in recent years to the misunderstanding that the Justices of this Court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules,” the justices said in a statement. “To dispel this misunderstanding, we are issuing this Code, which largely represents a codification of principles that we have long regarded as governing our conduct.”

Yet the new set of rules fails to outline possible consequences should ethics violations persist.

“This is a long-overdue step by the justices, but a code of ethics is not binding unless there is a mechanism to investigate possible violations and enforce the rules,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, noting that the court’s “honor system” holding justices accountable hasn’t worked in the past.

The court has faced increased scrutiny since several ProPublica investigations revealed that Justice Clarence Thomas had been pocketing favors from Republican real estate developer Harlan Crow, including private school tuition for his nephew, the renovation of the home where his mother still lives, and undisclosed trips on the billionaire’s yacht, private jet, and at his private resort. Two months later, the outlet unveiled a similar scandal with Justice Samuel Alito, who failed to report a luxury fishing vacation to Alaska with hedge fund billionaire ​​Paul Singer in 2008.

Trump’s Idiot Lawyers Just Shared Faulty Evidence in Fraud Trial

Apparently, it can keep getting worse.

Stefan T. Jeremiah/Pool/Getty Images
Attorney Christopher Kise, Donald Trump Jr., attorney Cliff Robert, and attorney Alina Habba sit in the courtroom for Trump’s civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on November 13.

Donald Trump’s lawyers shared faulty evidence on Monday during his business fraud trial in New York, accidentally adding further fuel to the allegations against him.

The New York attorney general has accused Trump, his sons Don Jr. and Eric, the Trump Organization, and other company executives of fraudulently inflating the value of various real estate assets to get more favorable terms on bank loans. When Don Jr. took the stand Monday, Trump’s lawyers appeared to demonstrate exactly how the family overrepresented their assets.

Trump’s lawyers displayed a screenshot of a property tax document for 40 Wall Street, now called the Trump Building. The slide described the property as a “72 story landmark building in the Financial District, directly across from the New York Stock Exchange.”

The Trump Building is only 63 stories, according to filings from New York City and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and is actually around the corner from the Stock Exchange. The Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, Alan Garten, explained to Forbes a month ago that 40 Wall Street has 63 floors of commercial space, but “when you add the space from 63 to the cupola, the building totals 72 floors.”

Trump’s lawyers also showed a slide claiming the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas is 64 stories. But an architectural drawing shows it likely has fewer levels because the floor numbers jump from eight to 16.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has alleged that Trump lied about the size and value of his many real estate holdings. His lawyers’ evidence, shared to make Trump’s case, actually appears to undermine it.

Trump may want to consider getting new lawyers, as his team seems to continually blow up his defenses in his various legal disputes. In addition to the New York fraud trial, Trump’s lawyers stumbled trying to defend against his federal indictment for attempting to overthrow the 2020 election.

His lawyer Alina Habba, who is also working on the fraud trial, undermined his defense in the other case by admitting that “everybody was made aware that he lost the election,” and his lawyer John Lauro also publicly confessed that Trump asked then–Vice President Mike Pence to delay certifying the nation’s votes (which is illegal).

Trump Team Responds to Hitler Accusations by Proving Accusers Right

Donald Trump’s rhetoric is becoming more dictatorial with each passing day.

Alon Skuy/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s team defended his authoritarian comments over the weekend by doubling down on dictatorial language, a frightening preview of what could happen if Trump wins the presidency.

During a Veterans Day speech on Saturday, Trump called his political opponents and critics “vermin” and accused them of being a bigger threat to the U.S. than countries such as Russia, China, and North Korea. Historians and researchers were quick to warn that his language was reminiscent of authoritarian leaders including Hitler and Mussolini.

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung defended the former president’s comments with some reasonable language of his own.

“Those who try to make that ridiculous assertion are clearly snowflakes grasping for anything because they are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome and their entire existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House,” Cheung told The Washington Post on Monday.

Cheung later added that he meant to say their “sad, miserable existence” instead of their “entire existence.”

Cheung’s statement is a chilling example of just how extreme Trump has become. His team isn’t even trying to downplay or explain away his authoritarian tendencies. Instead, his team is leaning into it.

During his speech, Trump promised to “root out the Communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections.”

“The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous, and grave than the threat from within. Our threat is from within,” he said.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a historian at New York University, warned that Trump is following in Hitler and Mussolini’s footsteps.

“Calling people ‘vermin’ was used effectively by Hitler and Mussolini to dehumanize people and encourage their followers to engage in violence,” she explained to The Washington Post.

Brian Klaas, a political scientist, told MSNBC on Monday that Trump is “lifting not just rhetoric but actual plans from the authoritarian playbook.”

I study the breakdown of democracy, and I don’t know how to say this more clearly: We are sleepwalking towards authoritarianism,” he said.

Because of Course He Is: QAnon Shaman Now Running for Congress

Jacob Chansley, known as the “QAnon shaman” during the January 6 insurrection, has filed paperwork to run for office.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

The spear-wielding conspiracy theorist convicted for attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election results on January 6, 2021, has decided it’s his time to run for the very government he attempted to overthrow.

Jacob Chansley, a 35-year-old convicted felon better known as the Qanon Shaman, filed a candidate statement of interest Thursday in the Arizona race to fill Representative Debbie Lesko’s seat, apparently hoping to return to the scene of the crime. Chansley plans to run for Congress as a Libertarian, reported the Associated Press, and has officially filed his paperwork.

Lesko, a Republican, announced in October that she won’t be seeking reelection after her term ends in 2025.

In late 2021, a federal judge sentenced Chansley to 41 months in prison for his role in the January 6 insurrection. Prosecutors described him as the “public face of the Capitol riot,” who used his platform on social media to spread “false information and hateful rhetoric” in the days immediately preceding the assault.

Once at the Capitol Building, Chansley was one of the first group of rioters to break inside. Wielding a bullhorn, he worked to “rile up the crowd and demand that lawmakers be brought out,” according to a sentencing memo.

Inside the Senate gallery, Chansley climbed the dais, photographing himself and leaving a note that read: “It’s Only a Matter of Time. Justice Is Coming!”

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel Is in Fantasy Land on Abortion

The head of the Republican National Committee is straight up delulu.

RNC chair Ronna McDaniel speaking at a Republican debate
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel appears to be living in an alternate reality, insisting that Republicans can actually win elections on their abortion message.

Republicans suffered bruising losses last week in Ohio and Virginia, as state residents voted overwhelmingly for measures and candidates that will protect abortion access. But on Sunday, McDaniel claimed Americans actually want abortion restrictions.

I’m proud to be a pro-life party, but we can win on this message,” she told NBC. “The American people are where we are, and they want commonsense limitations. They want more access to adoption. We want to make sure that there’s pregnancy crisis centers. These are things we can win on.”

McDaniel also said that Republicans can’t avoid the issue of abortion anymore. “I think there’s a lot of discussion to be had, but we can’t just say it’s a states’ issue and be done,” she said.

The RNC chair is onto something there, but it’s entirely the wrong thing. The American people are not at all where Republicans are: More than 60 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center.

And if that data weren’t enough, in every election since Roe v. Wade was overturned, Americans have voted to increase abortion rights. This is true even in otherwise red states such as Ohio, Kentucky, and Montana.

Candidates who campaign heavily on protecting abortion have pulled off amazing feats: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was overwhelmingly reelected in November 2022, while her Democratic Party flipped the state legislature for the first time in 40 years. In neighboring Wisconsin, pro-abortion state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz won her April 2023 election handily.

McDaniel has sought to soften her party’s overall stance on abortion. She urged the GOP in January to “go on offense” against abortion rights and pass new restrictions, including six-week bans. But a few months later, McDaniel began telling candidates to back a 15-week ban instead, a move that’s still incredibly unpopular.

Republicans don’t win on their abortion messaging. So instead, they lose and try to subvert democracy to get their way anyway.

Trump Allies Are Creating an Army of Loyalists to Implement His Every Whim

Donald Trump’s allies have a dangerous plan to make sure he can do whatever he wants as president.

Mike Segar/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s allies are already working overtime to create an army of tens of thousands of Trump loyalists who they can install at every level of government should he win the presidential election.

The consolidated effort attempts to block Republican moderates from weighing in on Trump’s decisions in a potential second presidency like they did in the early days of his first, allowing an echo chamber of the most extreme voices in U.S. politics.

Allies are looking to install as many as 54,000 pre-vetted Trump loyalists in the executive branch while purging anyone who dissents from the new administration, reported Axios.

The massive political project, orchestrated by the Heritage Foundation under the banner Project 2025, has already collected more than 4,000 résumés, though the process is more focused on political philosophy than experience or other credentials, the outlet reported.

“Never before has the entire movement ... banded together to construct a comprehensive plan to deconstruct the out-of-touch and weaponized administrative state,” Project 2025’s director, Paul Dans, told Axios.

Trump will use this army to implement his every whim. That includes using the Justice Department to target his political enemies and unleashing a new set of extreme anti-immigration policies, like setting up deportation camps for undocumented immigrants.

Also behind the effort are Stephen Miller and John McEntee, both of whom advised Trump during his last presidency and are expected to play key roles should Trump reclaim the Oval Office. McEntee, in particular, has prior experience rooting out obstructive staffers—in 2020, he was appointed to sniff out those working against Trump’s agenda, as Trump’s personnel chief.

Earlier this month, Trump allies made it clear they were cutting ties with the Federalist Society, which staffed most of the hard-line, conservative legal advisers during his first term. Trump allegedly wasn’t satisfied with their brand of politics, however, and was left frustrated by their objections to harsher immigration policies and Trump’s bid for a tighter grip on the Justice Department, reported The New York Times.