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Speaker Mike Johnson’s Right-Wing Ties Keep Getting Stranger and Scarier

A new report details the violent history of Mike Johnson’s legal clients.

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

Before joining Congress, Representative Mike Johnson was a lawyer for conservative Christian causes. And one of his regular clients was a violent radical Christian activist who described himself and Johnson as “brothers.”

Johnson worked for years alongside anti-gay activist and former radical Christian preacher Grant Storms, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday. Storms told the Beast that Johnson had done copious amounts of legal work for him in the early to mid-2000s, all for free.

“We were brothers on the path,” Storms told the Beast. “He always had our back.”

Storms met Johnson in the early 2000s when the latter was working at Alliance Defending Freedom, the far-right Christian group that has recently sought to ban the abortion medication mifepristone and public drag performances. Johnson worked at the ADF for nearly a decade.

Storms initially reached out for help removing what he called “lewd” imagery from a bus station ad. He claimed the ad included an image of men having sex.

Johnson continued working with Storms after that, and he helped convince New Orleans officials to grant Storms a permit for a protest against an annual Pride celebration. Storms’s protest ended up getting national attention when an anti-gay protester attempted to murder a man with a steak knife. Storms said the attacker was not part of his organization, but the assailant later told police he went to Storms’s event because he wanted to “kill a gay man.”

Johnson represented Storms a few more times until 2005, when Storms said they lost touch. But just four years later, Johnson represented Storms’s son Jason in a violent anti-abortion case.

Jason Storms is the head of Operation Save America, one of the largest—if not the largest—militant anti-abortion groups in the country. The group made national headlines in 2009 when it was linked to the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortion provider. The group, then called Operation Rescue, said the killer was not a member. But he had been in touch with an Operation Rescue official about Tiller’s whereabouts.

That same year, Johnson represented Jason Storms and several other anti-abortion extremists, arguing their free speech rights had been violated when a federal court barred them from protesting outside abortion clinics.

Jason Storms also participated in the January 6 insurrection—almost fitting given that Johnson led the amicus brief that more than 100 Republicans signed in an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

It is, unfortunately, no longer a shock that Johnson supports far-right beliefs. He has described abortion as a “holocaust,” blamed the fall of Rome on LGBTQ people, and cited the “great replacement theory,” the far-right theory that white people are being replaced by nonwhite immigrants. Johnson flies a Christian nationalist flag outside his office and speaks regularly at far-right events.

But it is shocking—and terrifying—that Johnson is able to espouse these beliefs with no pushback on Capitol Hill. His ideological leanings suggest that the issues he supports and plans to prioritize in legislation will stray further and further into the fringes. And that could come at the cost of democracy.

You Won’t Believe the Edits Republicans Are Making to the January 6 Tapes

House Speaker Mike Johnson confirmed news of the disturbing edits.

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Republicans are leaving nothing up to interpretation. On Tuesday, Speaker Mike Johnson unequivocally admitted that the conservative party is doctoring footage of the January 6 insurrection to prevent the identification of the rioters in an investigation by the Justice Department.

“We have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in the events of that day because we don’t want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ,” Johnson said.

“That’s a slow process to get it done, we’re working steadily on it. We’ve hired additional personnel to do that and all of those tapes ultimately will be out so everybody can see them and draw their own conclusions,” he added.

The blur could also be an attempt to stop armchair sleuths on the internet from identifying the rioters—a process that could help expedite the lengthy investigation required to process more than 40,000 hours of footage and put names and histories to the 2,000 rioters in attendance that day.

Johnson previously claimed he would release the footage so people could see for themselves what happened on January 6. But apparently, he didn’t mean without edits.

Liz Cheney Describes “Chilling” Moment She Learned of Trump’s January 6 Plot

“It wasn’t clear to me what the contours of this particular part of the plan were until I got onto that phone call.”

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Liz Cheney is dishing everything Donald Trump–related in a new book—including details on a phone call that unraveled a “chilling” plan to stop Vice President Mike Pence from ratifying the election, mere days before January 6.

“I had heard, obviously, there had been talk about having these electors meet, but it wasn’t clear to me what the contours of this particular part of the plan were until I got onto that phone call,” Cheney said on The Rachel Maddow Show.

“Listening to them describe how these fake electors would be used, and the fact that they anticipated that Vice President Pence was going to use them to count legitimate electors, was certainly a moment of intense concern,” she added.

As Cheney tells it, she “ran” to the Office of the Parliamentarian of the House to inform them, but little could be done by then.

“If you’re in a joint session of Congress, you’re not in a position where there are a lot of legislative steps that you can take except to basically move to adjourn, so it was a very dangerous and chilling moment,” Cheney said. “I learned later through the investigation that Vice President Pence and his counsel were having discussions with the Senate parliamentarian and that the vice president ultimately, of course, did his duty bravely.”

Cheney’s latest book, Oath and Honor, comes paired with the news that the former Wyoming representative is weighing the possibility of running as a third-party candidate in the 2024 presidential election—a choice that could skim some moderate Republican votes away from Trump.

“Several years ago, I would not have contemplated a third-party run,” Cheney told The Washington Post. “I happen to think democracy is at risk at home, obviously, as a result of Donald Trump’s continued grip on the Republican Party, and I think democracy is at risk internationally as well.”

During an interview with CBS News Sunday Morning, Cheney warned that the U.S. would be “sleepwalking into dictatorship” if it chose to reelect Trump for a second term. She has also come down on Speaker Mike Johnson’s new role as the highest serving member of the House, noting that she would not want to see Johnson in a leadership position come 2025.

“What I learned was he was willing to do things he knew to be wrong in order to placate Donald Trump,” Cheney told Maddow on Monday. “And again, a situation where you have a speaker of the House, who … so clearly set aside what he knew to be the facts, what he knew to be the law, what he knew to be our obligations under the Constitution in order to try to help Donald Trump in his efforts in 2020.”

James Comer Pushes Absurd New Argument on Hunter Biden Truck Repayment

The House Oversight chair’s new argument is so holey you could drive a truck through it.

James Comer
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Representative James Comer is doubling down on his claim that Hunter Biden repaying his father for a loan is proof that the president is corrupt.

Comer, who has spearheaded the investigation into the Biden family, released more of Hunter’s bank records on Monday, claiming they showed illicit payments to his father, Joe Biden. In reality, the documents likely showed repayments for a truck.

But Comer remained adamant that Hunter paying his father back in any form meant Biden had benefited from his son’s overseas business.

“You can loan people money. If they pay you back, then you benefited directly from the influence-peddling!” Comer insisted on Newsmax Monday night.

The Kentucky Republican also claimed no one in his family repays him after he loans money. “When my son needs help, or my daughter, who’s in college, needs it, I just give her money. Nobody ever pays me back!” Comer said.

Comer made no mention of his own business deals with his brother, which reportedly include Comer loaning his brother Chad $200,000 in 2019. His brother repaid him through land swaps.

The bank record released Monday shows Hunter transferred $1,380 to his father in September 2018, when Joe Biden was not in office. Comer’s accompanying press release does not mention that Hunter made only two additional payments to his father in the same amount, on October 15, 2018, and November 15, 2018—a total of less than $4,500.

Comer also does not mention the previously reported emails from Hunter’s laptop that indicate those transfers were paying his father back for a pickup truck. Instead, he makes it seem that Hunter has been making shady monthly payments to his father for years.

Republicans have claimed for months that Biden has benefited from his son’s foreign business dealings, but they have yet to produce any actual evidence of wrongdoing by the president. Ranking Oversight Committee Member Jamie Raskin slammed Comer for pushing the loan repayment as proof.

Chair Comer is digging up old public reporting, distorting the facts, and presenting it as ‘breaking news,’” Raskin said on X (formerly Twitter).

“If Chairman Comer had any actual evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden, he would not repeatedly resort to distorting the facts and recycling Trump-Giuliani conspiracy theories.”

Republicans’ Dangerous New Bill Would Try to Muzzle All Criticism of Israel

The resolution would equate anti-Zionism with antisemitism.

ALI KHALIGH/Middle East Images/AFP/Getty Images

A new House resolution condemning antisemitism isn’t quite what it seems.

House Resolution 894 doesn’t simply call for the public denouncement of antisemitic behavior. It also equates any and all anti-Zionism with antisemitism.

The four-page resolution “clearly and firmly” cements the false conflation that “anti-Zionism is antisemitism.” That would plaster any Jewish anti-Zionist as an antisemite, and would likely warrant character attacks on any lawmaker who objects to the current iteration of the bill.

The resolution, which could be voted on as soon as this week, condemns not just the October 7 assault that claimed 1,200 Israeli lives but also popular chants utilized by peaceful protesters that are plainly protected by the First Amendment, including “From the River to the Sea,” “Palestine Will Be Free,” and “Gaza Will Win.”

The resolution blatantly vilifies pro-Palestinian sentiment, including calls for the end of Israel’s 56-year occupation in the Middle Eastern country. As one example, it mischaracterizes a protest and candlelight vigil at the Democratic National Committee headquarters last month as “endangering” people’s lives.

As of Monday, more than 15,000 Palestinians—mostly women and children—have been killed in the conflict since the initial attack by Hamas, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Fighting resumed on Friday after a weeklong truce to exchange hostages. Since then, an additional 800 Palestinians have been killed in a weekend ground offensive headed by Israeli troops in southern Gaza.

Meanwhile, Americans overwhelmingly support a cease-fire in the war-torn region. Last month, an Economist/YouGov poll indicated that 65 percent of surveyed Americans wanted a cease-fire, while only 16 percent said they didn’t.

Money poses another issue. While Congress battles to pass a foreign aid package to Israel, just 32 percent of Americans felt that the current level of aid to the right-wing government should continue, while 23 percent said they wanted less.

George Santos Joins Cameo as “Former Congressional Icon”

The disgraced former representative has already found a new hustle.

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Newly ousted Representative George Santos already has a new job: making videos on Cameo. And at least there’s proof of this latest addition to his résumé.

Cameo is a website where people can pay for a personalized video from their favorite celebrities. Santos, who has dubbed himself a “former congressional ‘icon,’” is charging $200 for a video or just $10 for a personalized message.

In one of his first videos on Cameo, Santos says, “They can boot me out of Congress, but they can’t take away my good humor or my larger than life personality, nor my good faith and the absolute pride I have for everything I’ve done.”

Santos does not specify what he means by “everything I’ve done,” but if he’s referring to his work in Congress, then perhaps he should have less pride in it. During his 11 months on Capitol Hill, Santos introduced 40 bills or resolutions. All of them died in committee without a vote.

Santos also co-sponsored 152 bills. The only one that became law was an act creating a commemorative coin for the 250th anniversary of the Marine Corps.

Santos did, however, lie about his professional, academic, and athletic background. He has falsely claimed that his grandparents were Holocaust survivors, his mother died in the 9/11 attacks, and four of his employees were killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting. He also lied about founding an animal rescue charity and producing the disastrous Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

He was federally charged with 23 counts of various types of financial fraud. Santos pleaded not guilty to the initial 13 in May, and he has denied the additional 10 that were filed in October in a superseding indictment. Earlier this year, he agreed to a deal with Brazilian authorities investigating him for financial fraud so he could avoid prosecution.

Santos did become the sixth member of Congress ever expelled, when his colleagues finally gave him the boot on Friday. A House Ethics Report revealed Santos repeatedly used his campaign to solicit donations, only to use that money for personal expenses, including buying designer goods and makeup, getting cosmetic procedures, and “smaller purchases at OnlyFans.”

Santos told reporters last week that he plans to write a book and wouldn’t rule out a turn on the reality competition show Dancing With the Stars. But for now, he’s just on Cameo.

If you buy a Cameo video for him, though, maybe try to avoid giving him your credit card information directly. You could end up like Representative Max Miller.

The Huge, Hilarious Mistake in James Comer’s New Biden Corruption Claim

Previously reported-on emails cast doubt on James Comer’s entire argument.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Republicans released more of Hunter Biden’s bank records on Monday, claiming they showed illicit payments to his father, Joe Biden. In reality, the documents likely showed repayments for a truck.

Republicans have claimed for months that Biden has benefited from his son’s foreign business dealings, but they have yet to produce any actual evidence of wrongdoing by the president. Monday’s revelation appeared to be yet another major miss.

“Today, the House Oversight Committee is releasing subpoenaed bank records that show Hunter Biden’s business entity, Owasco PC, made direct monthly payments to Joe Biden,” Representative James Comer, who chairs the committee and has spearheaded the investigation into the Bidens, said in a video.

“This wasn’t a payment from Hunter Biden’s personal account but an account for his corporation that received payments from China and other shady corners of the world.”

The payments did come from an account linked to Owasco, a company Hunter Biden set up to handle income from foreign business deals. The Oversight Committee released one bank statement showing Owasco transferred $1,380 to Joe Biden on September 17, 2018—when Biden was not in office.

What Comer does not say is that Hunter made only two additional payments to his father in the same amount, on October 15, 2018, and November 15, 2018, a committee aide told the Washington Examiner, speaking anonymously. (That’s a total of less than $4,500.)

Comer also does not mention the previously reported emails from Hunter’s laptop that indicate those transfers were paying his father back for a pickup truck. Instead, he makes it seem as though Hunter has been making shady monthly payments to his father for years.

In 2019, Hunter’s then personal assistant, Katie Dodge, sent multiple messages regarding his bills. In one, sent on January 17, she said that Biden would pay his son’s bills “in the short-term as Hunter transitions in his career.”

That email included a PDF of the payments Hunter needed to make. The document showed Hunter owed $1,380 to his father for a 2018 Ford Raptor truck. Dodge had reminded Hunter about the $1,380 truck repayment he owed his father in an email she had sent three days earlier.

“The truth is Hunter’s father helped him when he was struggling financially due to his addiction and could not secure credit to finance a truck,” Hunter’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement Monday. “When Hunter was able to, he paid his father back and took over the payments himself.”

Republicans repeatedly cite Hunter when arguing that the president is guilty of corruption. House GOP leaders could move this week toward a vote on formally opening an impeachment probe into Biden. But Republicans consistently fail to show that Biden is guilty of anything.

NRCC Releases Ad With Fake A.I. Images of Immigrants Flooding National Parks

This new ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee is unhinged.

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NRCC Chairman Representative Richard Hudson

The National Republican Congressional Committee released a wildly xenophobic ad on Monday, depicting several national parks overrun with immigrants.

The ad used artificial intelligence to create images of different national parks in the style of vintage travel posters. The parks, which include the Grand Canyon and the National Mall, are filled with tents that supposedly belong to undocumented immigrants.

“More crime. Less tourism. No beauty,” the ad says. “Democrats’ National Parks.”

The ad is an attempted jab at Democrats who voted last week to block a bill that would prohibit using public lands for temporary housing for migrants applying for asylum. The bill passed in the House on Thursday by a vote of 224203. Six Democrats joined Republicans to support the measure, which is unlikely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Many Democrats have warned that the bill is a Republican messaging tactic ahead of 2024, when GOP candidates are expected to make draconian immigration policies a major part of their platforms.

Those critics were proven right Monday with the RNCC ad. The ad combines two popular Republican talking points: opposing immigration and accusing Democrats of being soft on crime. But not only is the ad deeply xenophobic, it’s also false. A study released in July by a team of economists from Stanford University found that immigration has not caused crime rates to increase in 140 years.

Trump Co-Defendant Appears to Threaten Witness in Instagram Live

Trevian Kutti, one of Donald Trump’s co-defendants, couldn’t help herself.

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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis

Trevian Kutti, one of Donald Trump’s 18 co-defendants in the Georgia election interference trial, seems to have broken her bond with an off-the-cuff Instagram Live last week—and may even be indicted again.

On Tuesday, the publicist implied that she would “fuck up” the life of state witness Ruby Freeman, a former Georgia poll worker whose life was turned upside down by conspiracy theorists, after the trial.

“As a matter of fact there’s a woman sitting somewhere who knows this whole thing is a lie, who knows I never did anything, who knows I never—who knows she begged me for help,” Kutti fumed, according to an Instagram Live video captured by MeidasTouch. “There’s a woman sitting somewhere who knows I’m gonna fuck her whole life up when this is done.”

Kutti, who previously worked for Kanye West and R. Kelly, faces three charges in the election interference case: conspiring to commit solicitation of false statements and writings, violating the state’s racketeering law, and intimidating witnesses to make false claims of election fraud.

She spent the better part of the Instagram Live session asking for donations to help her in her legal battles.

“We got this. So I just wanted to give an update. I think all of you know what I’m dealing with in Georgia. I just want to come and say look, the fight is the fight. I have some things coming up very soon where I’ll be delivering a few blows and I just want to let ya’ll know I’m here for ya’ll,” Kutti shared.

Legal experts predicted that the Live overstepped Kutti’s bond agreement, which plainly bars her not just from intimidating witnesses but also from posting about the case on social media.

“I suspect we’ll see a motion to revoke Trevian Kutti’s consent bond for witness intimidation of Ruby Freeman within the next two hours and would not be shocked if she’s indicted again for an additional racketeering act by the Grand Jury,” posted Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis.

“It’ll be the state’s burden to demonstrate to the court the meaning of Trevian Kutti’s statement and that it was a violation of the terms of her bond and the public interest favors remand if the state so moves. I don’t think they’ll have a hard time with that showing here,” he added.

What Was COP28 President Thinking With His “No Science” Fossil Fuel Claim?

The president of the COP28 climate summit, the UAE’s Sultan Al Jaber, made an absurd claim about fossil fuels.

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Sultan Al Jaber

This year’s oil magnate president of COP28, the United Nations–backed climate change summit, is desperately trying to walk back a string of incendiary comments in which he claimed there was “no science” behind the effort to phase out fossil fuels.

“I respect the science in everything I do. I have repeatedly said that it is the science that has guided the principles or strategy as COP28 president. We have always built everything, every step of the way, on the science, on the facts,” Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber said during a hastily arranged press conference on Monday.

“I know that there are strong views among some [countries], about the phase-down or phaseout of fossil fuels. Allow me to say this again: This is the first [COP] presidency ever to actively call on parties to come forward with language on all fossil fuels for the negotiated text,” he said.

But Al Jaber’s insistence on the “facts” falls in stark contrast to what he said just a few days ago.

Al Jaber—who happens to be the president and host of the Dubai-based COP28 as well as the CEO of the United Arab Emirates’ state oil company, Adnoc—upset the international consortium of climate scientists after he challenged former Irish President Mary Robinson during a She Changes Climate event on November 21.

“There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phaseout of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C,” Al Jaber said at the time.

“Please help me, show me the roadmap for a phaseout of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves,” he added after Robinson cited reports that Adnoc was planning to invest in more fossil fuel initiatives.

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres railed against those claims on Friday, arguing that “the science is clear.”

“The 1.5C limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels. Not reduce, not abate. Phase out, with a clear timeframe,” he said.

Other climate scientists joined the chorus, affirming that Al Jaber’s terminology was “incredibly concerning” and “verging on climate denial,” reported The Guardian.

More than 100 countries signed a joint statement last month calling for the phaseout of the limited energy source.

Last week, the summit released the most damning climate report to date, which noted that 2023 was both the hottest year on record and the coolest for years to come.