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Republican Senator Loses His Mind Over What His Party Is Doing on Border Deal

Senator James Lankford doesn’t understand why the rest of his party is killing the chance to do something on immigration.

James Lankford is speaking and holds his hand up. Several hands in front of him hold phones to record his speech.
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Senator James Lankford, the primary Republican negotiator on the Senate’s recently revealed border deal, is running out of patience with the rest of his party.

Lankford has been working for months on a bipartisan bill to address the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as funding for Ukraine and Israel. But the measure, which was revealed Sunday, was immediately met with Republican backlash.

And the GOP’s response is starting to wear Lankford down. The Oklahoma senator called out his party’s two-facedness on the border during an interview Monday.

The key aspect of this, again, is, are we as Republicans going to have press conferences and complain the border is bad and then intentionally leave it open?” Lankford said on Fox News.

“Are we going to just complain about things, or are we actually going to address and change as many things as we can?”

The bill has received mixed support on both sides, with some Democrats saying that the immigration measures are too draconian. But Republicans have been quietly working for months to actually tank the bill entirely, out of loyalty to Donald Trump.

Republican lawmakers have repeatedly indicated that they don’t want to support the bill in case it ends up helping Joe Biden get reelected. Instead, they would rather continue to fearmonger about immigration in the hopes that Trump wins the 2024 election and can crack down on the border.

House Speaker Mike Johnson called the border deal “dead on arrival” in the chamber. Lankford noted Monday that Johnson had made that comment before he’d actually read the bill.

Lankford has been steadily losing his mind over Republicans’ response to the bipartisan bill. In late January, he said on Fox News that he was just trying to give his party what they have been demanding: a more restrictive border policy.

“Now, it’s interesting, a few months later, when we’re finally getting to the end, they’re like, ‘Just kidding, I actually don’t want a change in law because it’s a presidential election year,’” he said.

It Seems Mike Johnson May Have Lied Just So He Could Kill the Border Deal

The House speaker was never all that interested in a border compromise.

Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Republican Senator James Lankford is calling B.S. on House Speaker Mike Johnson’s newest excuse for killing the border deal.

After months of brutal negotiations, the Senate on Sunday unveiled a $118 billion bipartisan agreement to address security at the U.S.-Mexico border. The deal would tighten standards for asylum, send billions in long-awaited aid to U.S. allies like Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, and would create a standard for shutting down the southern border if daily benchmarks for illegal crossings are reached. So, in other words, it does exactly what a lot of Republicans wanted.

Johnson, who declared the bill “dead on arrival,” seems keen to continue to drag out the ordeal—this time, apparently, because he felt uninvolved.

“Well, when they began to do the negotiation, I suggested immediately after taking the gavel, I suggested to the Senate leadership that the House should be involved,” Johnson said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.

“We should be in the room. I wanted to send the chairmen of our committees of jurisdiction to be a part of that negotiation. And they said, ‘No, no. Let the Senate take care of it. We’ll send you something … that’s palatable.’ What we’re hearing right now is not,” he continued.

But Lankford, who served as the lead GOP negotiator on the bill, claims that’s completely made up.

According to Lankford, Johnson was asked “early on” if he wanted to be “engaged on this,” reported CNN’s Manu Raju.

“He said the House has already spoken,” Lankford said, referring to House Republican bill H.R. 2, an extreme asylum-limiting immigration bill that has effectively zero chance of passing in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Since then, Johnson has been “loosely briefed” on the Senate talks, according to Lankford, who added that if the Senate deal were already law, “the border would have literally been closed every day for the last four months.”

Johnson’s reluctance to meaningfully act on the border can be traced back to recent Republican confessions that dragging out the border crisis actively helps Donald Trump and hurts President Joe Biden in their race for the White House.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had his own two cents for Johnson on Monday, urging the leader of the lower chamber to “do the right thing.”

“I say to Speaker Johnson: Don’t let the 30 hard-right people in the House who are extreme — they wanted us to default, they wanted the government not to pay its debts, they wanted … the government to shut down. They’re extremists, and they’re running your show,” Schumer said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

“You know what the right thing to do is. You know we need to fix our border. You know that it has to be bipartisan,” he added.

Schumer has promised to hold a procedural vote to advance the package on Wednesday. It’s currently unclear if the deal has the 60 votes it needs to pass, however. A couple dozen Republican senators are expected to vote against the deal, according to Lankford, and several Democrats are also expected to torpedo the package.

“If you believe, as I do, that we must secure the border now, doing nothing is not an option,” Biden said on Sunday, throwing his weight behind the deal.

Important reminder on what the border deal really entails:

Republican Senator Says He’d Totally Do a Coup if He Gets the Chance

Senator J.D. Vance is openly embracing the idea of a coup in a pathetic bid to become Donald Trump’s vice president.

J.D. Vance speaking and holding both hands in the air. The background reads "Protect America Now," out of focus.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senator J.D. Vance has essentially admitted he would have carried out a coup during the 2020 election if he could have, in a bald-faced attempt to be chosen as Donald Trump’s running mate.

The Ohio Republican has been floated alongside Representative Elise Stefanik as a possible Trump vice presidential pick. And in an effort to outdo his reported competition, Vance gave a full-throated defense of autocracy during an interview with ABC on Sunday.

When asked if, had he been vice president in 2020, he would have certified the election results, Vance said he would have done things a little differently.

“If I had been vice president, I would have told the states, like Pennsylvania, Georgia, and so many others, that we needed to have multiple slates of electors, and I think the U.S. Congress should have fought over it from there,” Vance said, referring to the fake pro-Trump electors that some states’ Republicans tried to send to Washington.

“That is the legitimate way to deal with an election that a lot of folks, including me, think had a lot of problems in 2020. I think that’s what we should have done.”

It’s unclear what Vance is basing that supposed legitimacy on, considering the Constitution makes no mention of this. Former Vice President Mike Pence has repeatedly stressed that he certified the votes in 2020, against Trump’s wishes, because he was loyal to the Constitution. There has also been no evidence that the election was fraudulent. Not even investigators hired by Trump have found issues.

Vance also said that the president can ignore Supreme Court rulings he doesn’t like.

The Constitution says that the Supreme Court can make rulings … but if the Supreme Court said the president of the United States can’t fire a general, that would be an illegitimate ruling,” Vance claimed.

This is false: Supreme Court rulings must be obeyed by everyone. That is the whole point of the system of checks and balances established by the Constitution.

Despite being a Trump critic during his career as a writer, Vance quickly changed his tune once he entered politics. Trump even endorsed Vance when he ran for the Senate in 2022. Since coming to Washington, Vance continues to express his seemingly limitless support for Trump, such as by blocking judicial nominations to protest Trump getting indicted.

Jack Smith Torches Trump’s Bizarre Defense on Classified Documents

In a blistering new court filing, special counsel Jack Smith takes Donald Trump to task over his hoarding of classified documents.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Special Prosecutor Jack Smith systematically dismantled Donald Trump’s newest defense in the classified documents case, as well as his revisionist retelling of the August 2022 FBI raid at Mar-A-Lago.

In a series of court filings on Friday, Smith refuted Trump’s claim that the Department of Energy had given him special clearance to personally retain more than 300 classified documents at the Florida estate.

Trump’s legal team had argued that the government had an obligation to search for Trump’s clearance in a database maintained by the intelligence community, Scattered Castles. So, Smith did exactly that.

“Smith pointed out that he had already produced a search in Scattered Castles, ‘which yielded no past or present security clearances for Trump.’ Same result in the Department of Defense system,” wrote Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor, in her Civil Discourse blog on Sunday.

The Department of Energy clearance, which Trump keeps referring to, was also retroactively terminated to the end of his presidency.

“That means that Trump’s ongoing possession of classified material and his failure to return them pursuant to a subpoena—long after the Q clearance was terminated—can’t conceivably be justified on this basis,” Vance wrote.

In the rest of the 67-page filing, Smith said that Trump’s defense had “cherry-picked” quotes from documents in order to fuel its counter narrative that the federal government was orchestrating a political crusade against the GOP frontrunner, “putting a nefarious gloss on innocuous events.”

“As the exhibits and an accurate timeline attest, the defendants’ narrative overlooks the fact that various federal agencies confronted, and appropriately responded to, an extraordinary situation resulting entirely from the defendants’ conduct,” Smith wrote.

“As [the National Archives and Records Administration] attempted to carry out its statutory responsibilities from 2021 into 2022, highly classified documents sat in a ballroom, bathroom, office space, and a basement storage room at a social club traversed by thousands of members, employees, and guests. NARA rightly involved other government agencies that had equities and authorities that it did not, as necessary to navigate an unprecedented situation.”

“That is hardly surprising, and it in no way, shape, or form supports the hyperbolic claim of ‘politically motivated operatives’ launching a ‘crusade against President Trump.’ ... The defendants’ legal problems are solely of their own making,” Smith continued.

Trump is on the line for 40 felony counts in the classified documents case, including 32 counts of willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding documents, and concealing records. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Why Is Tucker Carlson in Russia? It’s Probably Not for the Borscht

The former Fox News host is suddenly in Moscow, and there are rumors that he may soon interview Putin.

Tucker Carlson is speaking on stage and raises his hands in the air as if to shrug
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson is in Moscow right now, and no one’s entirely sure why. But he seems happy to fuel speculation that he’s going to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin, a nightmare pairing that no one asked for.

Carlson traveled to Moscow in recent days, with Russian media documenting his sightseeing excursions. His trip has sparked rumors that he will interview Putin. If he does, Carlson would be the first Western journalist to interview Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine.

But when the Russian newspaper Izvestia asked Carlson Monday if he planned to interview the president, Carlson just smiled and said, “We’ll see.”

The Kremlin said it had “nothing to announce” about Putin’s upcoming interviews with foreign media.

“Many foreign journalists come to Russia every day, many continue to work here, and we welcome this,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, not exactly denying the interview rumors either.

Carlson said in September that he had tried to interview Putin once before, but the U.S. government stopped him. He did not specify when he had tried to interview the Russian president, nor which federal agency prevented him from doing so.

Before he was unceremoniously fired from Fox News last spring, Carlson repeatedly expressed support for Putin on air and echoed Kremlin talking points. He has vehemently opposed U.S. military aid for Ukraine and blamed Western nations for Russia’s invasion because they supported letting Ukraine join NATO.

Carlson’s potential Putin interview comes as the United States is poised to slash funding for Ukraine. Senate negotiators revealed a bipartisan bill on Sunday to tackle the U.S.-Mexico border. The measure also includes billions of dollars in aid for Ukraine and Israel.

But Republicans generally oppose the measure, largely out of fealty to Donald Trump. House Speaker Mike Johnson called the bill “dead on arrival” in the chamber.

Here’s Why Judge Engoron Likely Slammed Brakes on Trump Fraud Trial Verdict

The judge in Donald Trump’s bank fraud trial is awaiting a potentially damning plea deal.

Judge Arthur Engoron
Shannon Stapleton/Pool/Getty Images

While the world waits for New York Justice Arthur Engoron to issue a verdict in Donald Trump’s $370 million bank fraud trial, legal experts believe Engoron is awaiting juicy new details from an emerging plea deal from one of the real estate mogul’s former lieutenants.

Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, is negotiating a plea deal with Manhattan prosecutors, reported The New York Times. That deal wouldn’t require Weisselberg to turn on his boss but would necessitate his admission that he lied on the stand during Trump’s bank fraud trial and in interviews with the New York attorney general’s office.

That could drastically impact Engoron’s ruling, according to legal experts.

“Why has Judge Engoron not issued his decision on the Trump civil fraud? One reason could well be the news that the Trump chief financial officer may be pleading to lying to Judge Engoron in a way to help Trump,” said former Mueller investigation prosecutor Andrew Weissmann on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “And the Judge is waiting for that to support his decision against DJT. This [would] be another big nail in the Trump civil fraud coffin.”

Former federal prosecutor Elie Honig also weighed in, arguing that the plea deal and the verdict’s subsequent delay are a “problem for Donald Trump because he’s going to be on the receiving end.”

“If I’m in Judge Engoron’s position here, and getting ready to issue a big verdict and ruling, and now I hear this, and we’ve all heard it, that one of the key witnesses committed perjury in front of me—I slam on the brakes and I say, ‘I’m not going to rule until I know the specifics of this,’” he told CNN on Thursday.

“If you’re going to issue a ruling and if it turns out Weisselberg lied, that’s going to harm the Trump Organization when it comes time for the verdict,” Honig added.

Engoron ruled prior to the start of the trial that New York Attorney General Letitia James had proved that Trump committed fraud. What remains to be seen in Engoron’s verdict is just how much dough Trump will have to cough up as recompense for his scheme, which was likened by the judge to Bernie Madhoff’s Ponzi scheme. The court has also floated the possibility of stripping the Trump Organization’s licenses to do business in the state.

Is Trump’s Crazy, Baseless Immunity Defense Maybe Going to Work?

A judge has just delayed Donald Trump’s federal election interference trial over the immunity question.

Donald Trump splays both hands outward as if this is a show
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s federal trial for trying to overturn the 2020 election has been delayed until an appeals court decides whether he has immunity—exactly what the former president wanted.

Trump’s trial was originally set for March 4, the day before Super Tuesday, but he insists he has presidential immunity against criminal proceedings. His lawyers argued his case to a panel of three appellate judges in Washington, D.C., in early January. The appeals court has not issued a ruling yet.

Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over Trump’s election interference lawsuit, on Friday officially called off the March trial. In a filing, she said she would set a new trial schedule once the appeals court rules on Trump’s immunity.

Regardless of how the appeals court rules, the question of Trump’s immunity will likely end up before the Supreme Court. This could drag out the lawsuit for weeks or even months.

Special counsel Jack Smith asked the Supreme Court in December to weigh in on the immunity case, so the case could move forward as quickly as possible. The Supreme Court declined to do so until the D.C. appeals court issued its ruling.

In the meantime, Trump benefits from every delay in the proceedings against him. As Politico pointed out earlier this week, delays increase the possibility that Trump could avoid charges altogether. If he has yet to face trial by November and wins the presidency, he could have the Justice Department end the lawsuits or even try to pardon himself.

Trump was indicted in August for his role in the January 6 insurrection and other attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. He faces one count each of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to corruptly obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against the right to vote.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and has insisted the case should be dismissed altogether. He argues that former presidents can’t be criminally charged for actions related to their official responsibilities. He did not explain how overturning an election was related to official presidential duties.

While many critics say Trump’s immunity claim is a desperate attempt to avoid accountability, it could also be an attempt to ease his path toward increased power. As Greg Sargent wrote for The New Republic, “If he wins on this front, he’d be largely unshackled in a second presidential term, free to pursue all manner of corrupt designs with little fear of legal consequences after leaving office again.”

Friday’s delay means that the next trial Trump faces will be in his indictment for his role in hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. That trial is set to begin March 16.

This story has been updated.

Republicans Have Nothing to Impeach Joe Biden On. And They Finally Know It.

A growing number of House Republicans seem to be admitting there’s no point to this.

Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images
House Speaker Mike Johnson

House Republicans are starting to realize that, even after months of investigation, they have no reason to impeach Joe Biden.

The House GOP has for months accused Biden of corruption. But after interviewing dozens of witnesses and sifting through the Biden family’s financial records, they have found no evidence of wrongdoing by the president. Senior Republicans are finally starting to come around to that, CNN reported Friday.

“While I think that it’s pretty clear, I don’t know that the case has been adequately made to the American people,” Representative Scott Perry told CNN.

But it doesn’t seem as if the case has been “adequately made” to the Republican caucus, either. The party hasn’t done a formal count yet, but one GOP lawmaker, speaking anonymously, told CNN there are likely about 20 Republican representatives who don’t think there is sufficient evidence to impeach Biden.

Republicans have such a narrow majority that they can only afford to lose two votes. And even if the House did manage to pass articles of impeachment, the move would fail immediately in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

One Republican source, speaking anonymously, described the impeachment inquiry as a “jumbled mess.” “You’d be hard pressed to say it’s going well,” they said.

A second Republican lawmaker anonymously told CNN they “don’t think it goes anywhere.”

With failure on the horizon, the goal appears to have shifted from impeaching Biden to just waiting and seeing how people vote in November.

“Let the American people decide in November if they want to take this country in a different direction,” Representative Nicole Malliotakis said.

One of the Republicans investigating Biden told CNN anonymously they aren’t “trying to sell any case. We want to collect the facts and tell people what the facts are.”

Multiple House Republicans, including Matt Gaetz and Ken Buck, have previously indicated that the impeachment inquiry is really just a move to discredit Biden in voters’ eyes, instead of actually impeaching him. But the investigation hasn’t turned up anything to actually discredit Biden, either.

Instead, almost every one of Republicans’ witnesses has actually debunked the GOP’s claims. Multiple witnesses said that Biden was never involved in his son’s foreign business dealings and never benefited from them, either.

Even House Oversight Chair James Comer, who spearheaded the investigation, has started backing down from his previously gung-ho attitude about impeachment. Despite spending all of 2023 insisting Biden was guilty and should be impeached, Comer said just two weeks ago that his “job was never to impeach.”

On Thursday, Comer admitted that his star witnesses “have a hard time remembering the bad things” about the Bidens and that his investigation has “hit a brick wall.”

Michigan Mayor to Biden: Heed the Calls of Americans on Gaza

The mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, had some tough words after Joe Biden’s visit to the state.

Adam J. Dewey/Anadolu/Getty Images
A pro-Palestine protest in Detroit, on October 28

The Mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, had some strong words for President Joe Biden on Thursday, condemning the commander in chief for aligning with Israel’s far-right government at a time when American democracy is incredibly fragile itself.

During a segment on CNN, anchor Abby Phillips asked Mayor Abdullah Hammoud if he agreed with an emerging campaign led by some Arab and Muslim Michiganders to “abandon Biden” in the presidential race over his strategy in the Middle East.

“I’ve run for office before. I’ve never pointed at the voters of my district and said, ‘You’re at fault if I’m not elected.’ In fact, it’s me as the candidate, President Biden as the candidate, to put forward a policy platform that is receptive to all Americans,” he continued.

“What we’re asking for, a cease-fire, is not something that only the majority of Arab Americans and Muslim Americans support. In fact, over 60 percent of Americans support a cease-fire. Over 80 percent of Democrats,” he added. “And so for me, I would urge President Biden to heed the calls of Americans from coast to coast.”

But Phillips proposed that a second term under Donald Trump could be even more devastating for Palestine, which in four months of battle with a Biden-backed Israel has suffered more than 27,000 deaths, lost access to power, water, and humanitarian aid, had the vast majority of its hospitals destroyed by bombs, and witnessed its journalists assassinated.

“Trump is a threat to American democracy,” Hammoud threw back. “So what will President Biden do to prevent the unraveling of our American democracy? Why is being aligned with [Benjamin] Netanyahu and the most right-wing government in Israel’s history worth potentially sacrificing our democracy?”

Netanyahu dramatically returned to power in 2022, winning Israel’s election for prime minister despite being on trial on corruption and fraud charges. His win came one year after the country’s Parliament approved a “government of change,” ousting the leader in a shocking 60-59 vote fronted by an unlikely coalition of political groups unified only by their desire to unseat the 12-year prime minister.

Tommy Tuberville May Yet Pay for His Antics, if House Dems Have Their Way

House Democrats have a plan to punish the Republican senator over his military blockade.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee on Friday called for an investigation into Senator Tommy Tuberville’s blockade on military promotions.

Tuberville single-handedly blocked hundreds of military promotions for the majority of 2023, in protest over the Department of Defense’s policy of reimbursing costs for service members who had to travel for an abortion. Despite repeated warnings from military leadership that he was hurting military readiness, Tuberville persisted with his stunt for 10 months.

Ranking Oversight Member Jamie Raskin and Representative Robert Garcia have now asked the Government Accountability Office, an independent and nonpartisan federal agency that audits and investigates Congress, to look into Tuberville’s stunt.

“It is critical that Congress understand the full effects of the hold on military families,” Raskin and Garcia said in a letter, which was obtained by The New Republic.

The pair asked the GAO to look specifically at the effect Tuberville’s blockade had on military readiness, national security, and military families. They also asked the agency to evaluate the processes the Department of Defense uses “when military promotions are stalled for prolonged and indefinite periods.”

Tuberville single-handedly blocked more than 450 military promotions last year, throwing the entire U.S. military into disarray. He finally partially relented in December when he agreed to allow most of those promotions to go forward, with the exception of those for four-star generals. He subsequently dropped those remaining 11 holds, and the Senate promptly confirmed them at the end of December.

Over the course of his protest, Tuberville only managed to succeed at making everyone angry with him. Military leaders called him out by name, accusing him of “aiding and abetting Communist and other autocratic regimes.” Fellow Republicans criticized him, with one calling him “dumb” on the Senate floor.

If the GAO accepts Raskin and Garcia’s request, it will be the first probe into Tuberville’s actions, which hurt both military readiness and military families. Since people weren’t being promoted, leadership positions sat empty for months. When they were finally filled, chief officers often found themselves without deputies, doubling their workload.

In fact, the Marine Corps commandant suffered a heart attack in October.  While there is no indication that his extra workload—caused by Tuberville’s blockade—contributed to his heart attack, working two jobs definitely didn’t help.

Meanwhile, service members couldn’t move to their new locations, meaning their partners couldn’t search for new jobs and their children couldn’t start at new schools.

The GAO has not yet indicated if it will open a review of Tuberville’s actions. If it does, such probes are often precursors to congressional committee investigations.