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Ron Johnson Says Dumb Thing Before Casting Pro-Putin Vote

The Republican senator from Wisconsin had an unbelievable explanation for voting against a bill to send aid to Ukraine.

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Ron Johnson speaks and makes weird hand gestures.

The Senate early Tuesday morning passed a $95 billion aid package, which dedicated $60 billion of assistance to Ukraine—but not without objection from some Republican senators, including Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who filibustered through the night.

Johnson’s objection? Certainly not the $15 billion of aid to Israel also included in the bill, or the decoupling of border security funding after Senate Republicans killed the bipartisan border deal last week at Donald Trump’s behest. Instead, Johnson was apparently swayed to vote against the bill after Vladimir Putin’s interview with Tucker Carlson.

Johnson, in an interview on far-right news network Real America’s Voice, explained that, while Putin “is a war criminal [who is] obviously not telling you the whole truth,” his conversation with ousted Fox News host Carlson was “very interesting,” and that “an awful lot of what Vladimir Putin said was right … accurate, and obvious.”

“Putin won’t lose. He will not lose. He’s not gonna lose,” Johnson repeatedly warned in the interview, just hours before he voted against giving more aid to Ukraine.

Echoing Putin’s talking points, Johnson also baselessly claimed U.S. economic sanctions against Russia  threaten the supremacy of the U.S. dollar by forcing Russia to trade with foreign currencies.

Without referring specifically to the $60 billion earmarked for Ukrainian military aid, which has divided the Republican caucus for months, Johnson inveigled against “so many people in Washington ignoring [Putin’s comments] … making people believe that Ukraine can win.”

Twenty-two Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, joined 48 Democratic senators to pass the bill, where it will meet the continued opposition of House Speaker Mike Johnson, who has already attempted to eliminate Ukraine funding from a much smaller aid package exclusively for Israel. GOP holdouts in the Senate and House, including Johnson, have been locked in an intraparty battle over Ukraine for over a year now. Putin’s rambling, off-the-rails interview with Carlson seems to have convinced at least one senator to dig in his heels. Not that he needed another reason to back an authoritarian, anyway.

Immigrant-Bashing GOPer in Santos Seat Race Once Sang Very Different Tune

Republican Mazi Pilip appears to have completely revised her stance on immigration, now that she has a shot at a House seat.

Mazi Pilip speaks at a mic. She is wearing a red blazer and has her curly hair down.
Howard Schnapp/Newsday RM/Getty Images

The Republican candidate vying for George Santos’s House seat has suddenly changed her stance on immigration, as she apparently seeks to fearmonger her way to victory in Tuesday’s special election.

Nassau County legislator Mazi Pilip is running to fill the seat vacated by  serial fabricator Santos in New York’s 3rd congressional district. And in hopes of winning votes, she’s taking some hard-line positions on immigration, despite having emigrated from Israel and, before that, Ethiopia.

Campaign ads for Pilip warn about a “record invasion” of migrants and Democrats’ “open border agenda.” Just last week, she used the same language again, claiming the Senate’s bipartisan immigration deal “puts into law the invasion currently happening at our southern border.”

But only a few months ago, Pilip was singing a very different tune.

In an October interview with local outlet The Island 360, when Republicans hadn’t yet settled on Pilip as their replacement pick for the House seat, she was stressing the need for a humane immigration policy.

Steven Blank, the publisher of The Island 360, asked Pilip what should be done about the migrants coming to New York City.

“As you know, this country was founded by immigrants. I am immigrated twice,” replied Pilip, whose native language is Amharic. She then described migrants as simply “people coming for better life.”

“Right now the way the situation is, it doesn’t help the American people. And it doesn’t help the migrants as well. So I think this is time for the federal and the state to think better plan, how we can help them.”

Pilip went on to shoot down a proposal to use Nassau Coliseum as a shelter for asylum-seekers, urging more care for migrants.

“How you can bring people and put them in Nassau Coliseum? That’s not right. That’s not correct,” she said. “That’s not the way you welcoming migrants. That’s not the way we welcoming migrants, and I’m sorry that’s the plan. That’s not the right plan, not to the Americans, not to the migrants. So the federal government better come up with ideas, and ways, and policies how you are willing to absorb those migrant and give them, you know, the good life they was seeking.”

“Go back to the federal government … to come up with a plan to house those people,” she stressed.

Since then, a whole new Pilip seems to be running for the House.

Tuesday’s special election is so critical that Pilip, and her new anti-immigrant stance, has Nassau County’s entire Republican machine behind her. In fact, she has such strong backing that not a single person is shown on her campaign payroll, according to The New York Times.

Republicans Seem Completely OK With Trump’s Alarming Russia Comments

Republicans are defending Donald Trump’s terrifying remarks that Russia can do “whatever the hell it wants.”

Sam Wolfe/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Conservatives once again fell in line behind Donald Trump on Monday, signing off on comments the GOP front-runner made over the weekend that read more like veiled threats against nations he deems are failing NATO’s guidelines.

“If we don’t pay, and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?” Trump recalled a leader of a “big country” asking him.

“No, I would not protect you,” Trump told a crowd in Conway, North Carolina, on Saturday. “In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills,” Trump said he replied.

By Monday, several GOP leaders, including Senators Marco Rubio, John Cornyn, Tom Cotton, and Lindsey Graham, defended incendiary remarks against America’s strongest allies.

“NATO countries that don’t spend enough on defense, like Germany, are already encouraging Russian aggression and President Trump is simply ringing the warning bell,” Cotton told The New York Times.

“Strength, not weakness, deters aggression. Russia invaded Ukraine twice under Barack Obama and Joe Biden, but not under Donald Trump,” he continued, seemingly ignoring the notoriously cushy—and sometimes subservient—relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Graham took the same stance, completely giving the bombastic former president the benefit of the doubt in a seemingly black and white scenario.

“Give me a break—I mean, it’s Trump,” Graham said. “All I can say is while Trump was president nobody invaded anybody. I think the point here is to, in his way, to get people to pay.”

Cornyn also brushed off the explosive comment, telling Politico that he doesn’t take Trump “literally.” Meanwhile, the Texas Republican uplifed comments by House Speaker Mike Johnson that the U.S. should not “allow Vladimir Putin to prevail in Ukraine because I don’t believe it would stop there. It would probably encourage and empower China to perhaps make a move on Taiwan.”

Representatives from NATO have slammed Trump’s remarks, condemning the presidential candidate for double-crossing the 31 member-state alliance by inviting violence from one of its largest and most vocal international adversaries.

“You can’t put enough adjectives on this to describe how treasonous such a comment is,” former NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark told CNN.

Trump has long aggressed America’s relationship with the international military alliance, baselessly asserting that other NATO members have failed to pay their dues, which are determined by guideline rather than mandate, and even though the United States has never been shortchanged by other members. The Cold War organization has “no ledger that maintains accounts of what countries pay and owe,” according to former Obama staffer Aaron O’Connell, who explained to NPR in 2018 that “NATO is not like a club with annual membership fees.”

Trump Said Dems Will Rename Pennsylvania—and Even Weirder Things

Donald Trump’s ramblings this weekend were truly deranged.

Donald Trump stands at a podium that reads "Text SC to 88022 Trump Make America Great Again 2024." He quints and makes an ok hand signal on both hands.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s gaffes are becoming more frequent and more indecipherable by the day.

At a National Rifle Association gathering in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Friday, Trump made plenty of strange blunders in front of his thousands of supporters, in his rambling, incoherent auctioneer style.

“I didn’t need this—I had a very nice life—nice Saturday afternoon,” Trump began the speech, apparently mixing up the days of the week.

He went on to claim he won Pennsylvania twice (he didn’t win in 2020) and warned voters that Democrats plan to “change the name of Pennsylvania” if Joe Biden wins this election.

“We have to win in November, or we’re not going to have Pennsylvania. They’ll change the name. They’re going to change the name of Pennsylvania,” Trump said.

There haven’t been any moves to change Pennsylvania’s name, and it’s not clear what he was referring to.

In the same speech, Trump said that if he wasn’t running for president, he wouldn’t be in Harrisburg and would instead be in a “very nice place,” a slight dig at the state capital. He then suddenly tried to walk back those comments, making mention of “beautiful columns” and “powerful tractors” and assuring he knows “all about the marbles—I can tell you every marble.”

He also appeared to suggest that Barack Obama is still in office, a mistake he has made repeatedly on the campaign trail.

The gaffes come amid rising concern about mental acuity of both party’s front-runners. Last week, a Department of Justice investigation by special counsel Robert Hur presented President Joe Biden as an “elderly man with a poor memory.”

According to the report, which Democrats have slammed as a “partisan hit job,” Biden could not recall key dates, like when his son Beau died or when he was vice president.

While Biden is 81 years old and Trump is 77, and as both seem to be stumbling on the campaign trail, notably, even the remaining third-party candidates in the race, Cornel West and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., are over 70. This makes them older than Ronald Reagan was when he was elected as the oldest president at the time.

Over the past several months, Trump has confused fellow GOP candidate Nikki Haley with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, mixed up countries and major world leaders, and described missile defense as “ding, ding, ding, boom, whoosh!”

It’s hard to say if the gaffes Trump continues to make are any worse than what he says with full cognition.

Also this weekend on the campaign trail, the Republican front-runner seemed to imply that Russia should attack NATO countries, encouraging Russia to “do whatever the hell they want.”

When The New York Times asked Senator Lindsey Graham about the former president’s statements, he replied, “Give me a break—I mean, it’s Trump.”

Spineless Marco Rubio Is Totally Unbothered by Trump’s Russia Remark

Republican Senator Marco Rubio claims he has “zero concerns” about Trump’s alarming comments on Russia and NATO.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Senator Marco Rubio came to Donald Trump’s defense on Sunday, claiming he had “zero concern” about Trump’s recent threat against nations he deems are failing NATO’s guidelines.

“That’s not what happened, and that’s not how I view that statement,” Rubio told CNN’s State of the Union, when asked what he thought about Trump’s recent admission that he had told a president “of a big country” that he wouldn’t defend NATO allies from Russian invasion if they “don’t pay.”

“No, I would not protect you,” Trump said, recalling the conversation, once again, to a crowd in Conway, North Carolina, on Saturday. “In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills.”

“Donald Trump is not a member of the Council on Foreign Relations,” Rubio clarified. “He doesn’t talk like a traditional politician, and we’ve already been through this. You would think people would’ve figured it out by now.”

It’s an odd bump from Rubio, who, despite endorsing Trump in January, has recently worked to pass a bipartisan bill that he sponsored alongside Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, specifically designed to prevent presidents from withdrawing from NATO without congressional approval.

“He was talking about a story that … happened in the past,” Rubio said, brushing off the remark. “By the way, Donald Trump was president, and he didn’t pull us out of NATO. In fact, American troops were stationed throughout Europe as they are today.”

“What he’s basically saying is … NATO was broke or busted until he took over because people weren’t paying their dues, and then he told a story of how he used leverage to make people step up to the plate and become more active in NATO,” Rubio continued. “Virtually every American president at some point in some way has complained about other countries in NATO not doing enough. Trump’s just the first one to express it in these terms.”

But America’s Western allies did not feel similarly.

“Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the U.S., and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a statement. “I expect that regardless of who wins the presidential election, the U.S. will remain a strong and committed NATO ally.”

Trump has long aggressed America’s relationship with the international military alliance, baselessly asserting that other NATO members have failed to pay their dues, even though the country has never been shortchanged by other members. The Cold War organization has “no ledger that maintains accounts of what countries pay and owe,” according to former Obama staffer Aaron O’Connell, who told NPR in 2018 that “NATO is not like a club with annual membership fees.”

RFK Jr. Forced to Apologize to His Own Family for That Super Bowl Ad

A Super Bowl ad for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spotlighted some famous Kennedys—and the rest of the family is now pissed.

Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Super Bowl ad may have reached millions of Americans, but it also reached his family—who weren’t too jazzed to have their images leveraged as fodder for his dimming bid for the White House.

During Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday, a super PAC supporting the independent candidate aired a familiar commercial: a 1960 John F. Kennedy campaign ad. Except the face behind the iconic “Kennedy for Me” jingle wasn’t JFK. Instead, it was his vaccine-rejecting, conspiracy-touting nephew, RFK Jr., hocking his dead uncle’s legacy and riding on the family name for 30 seconds of fame.

“My cousin’s Super Bowl ad used our uncle’s faces—and my Mother’s,” wrote Bobby Shriver, referring to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, in a statement that his brother signed off on. “She would be appalled by his deadly health care views. Respect for science, vaccines, & health care equity were in her DNA.”

“She strongly supported my health care work at @ONECampaign & @RED which he opposes,” Shriver added, referring to the nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations dedicated to the end of extreme poverty and finding a cure for AIDS.

RFK Jr., meanwhile, chalked the mishap up to a genuine mistake, claiming he wasn’t able to sign off on the ad due to Federal Election Commission rules.

“I’m so sorry if the Super Bowl advertisement caused anyone in my family pain,” RFK Jr. wrote late on Sunday night. “The ad was created and aired by the American Values Super PAC without any involvement or approval from my campaign. FEC rules prohibit Super PACs from consulting with me or my staff. I love you all. God bless you.”

But that might not be all true. Even though federal law technically prohibits super PACs from coordinating with or donating to candidates and their campaigns, there aren’t exactly any super PAC cops preventing them from doing so. The FEC, in practice, remains unable to investigate claims of fraud thanks to extremely limiting parameters that fail as soon as “allied outside groups … simply converse with one another,” according to TNR’s Jason Linkins.

And his sentiment might not be all there, either. At the time of publishing, RFK Jr. still had the ad pinned to the top of his X profile, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

That one time RFK Jr. made a good point:

Ted Cruz Airport Security Bill Is Actually Moving Forward in Senate

With apparently nothing else going on in the world, Republican Senator Ted Cruz has introduced a bill on the urgent need for private security escorts.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Ted Cruz is taking the law into his own hands to make sure he isn’t caught in another paparazzi snafu.

On Thursday, the Senate advanced a piece of legislation that would give politicians extra security to whisk them through airport security lines, minimizing their exposure to the U.S. public.

The language of Cruz’s proposal would require the Transportation Security Administration to offer lawmakers, federal judges, Cabinet members, and some of their family and staff the privilege of expedited screenings and security escorts—though other agencies, like local airport police, could also be called in to assist.

Unsurprisingly, the TSA responded that the task would be too much of a burden, while a nonprofit representing airport police said that it was already too underfunded to take on such an initiative. The effort would also, ultimately, pull police away from “crime suppression and security functions at airports, which is our fundamental duty,” according to the Airport Law Enforcement Agencies Network’s Kevin Murphy, who spoke with Politico.

“It has been a long road, with ‘delays’ and a little bit of ‘turbulence,’ but I am glad we have reached a compromise and are marking up this bill,” Cruz said before the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday.

“This bipartisan bill will help ensure the FAA can improve at its core mission of keeping the flying public safe,” Cruz noted in an emailed statement to The Hill. “With the aviation industry facing serious challenges, this legislation charts a course to address many of them while also modernizing and transforming the FAA’s operations.”

It’s probably not a stretch to assume that Cruz got the idea after he was caught catching a flight to Cancun, bailing on his constituents—and his dog—during a historic winter storm in 2021 that shut down power in large swaths of Texas.

Florida Goes Full McCarthy With Proposed Change to Kindergarten Curriculum

Florida Republicans have introduced a new bill that could require kindergarteners to learn about the “threat of communism.”

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In Florida, alongside lessons in reading, writing, and arithmetic, kindergarteners may also soon be required to learn about the “threat of communism in the United States.”

Republicans’ House Bill 1349 would require that public students in grades K-12 learn about the history of communism. Specifically, that includes the “increasing threat of communism in the United States and our allies through the 20th Century.” Under current state law, kids don’t receive lessons about communism until the seventh grade.

Should the bill pass, students as young as 5 could soon be forced to learn about “the history of domestic communist movements and their tactics within the United States, the philosophy and lineages of communist thought, including Marxism, [and] foreign communist movements of the 20th century, the atrocities committed by such movements, and the threat they posed to the United States and its allies.”

The bill would also create a “Communism Education Task Force,” with members appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis, to shape curriculum and standards for instruction on the history of communism.

This isn’t just some crazy proposal. After all, Republicans have a trifecta hold over the state’s government, with majorities in the state House and Senate as well as a Republican governor who, having lost a shot at the White House, now has renewed vigor in his personal crusade against all things woke.

A parallel bill, Senate Bill 1264, is moving forward in the Senate, increasing the chances that it could land on DeSantis’s desk before the end of the legislative session on March 8.

The House version is more extreme, however, also requiring kids to learn about the threats of “cultural Marxism.” Many Democrats pushed back on the inclusion, including Representative Susan Valdes.

“Cultural Marxism, isn’t that a very politically charged terminology that’s being used?” Valdes asked. “I don’t know, is it?” James Buchanan, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, replied.

If it passes, the curriculum change would take effect in the 2026–2027 school year.

As The Miami Herald noted in its coverage of the bill, starting this year, Florida high school students in U.S. government classes must receive at least 45 minutes of instruction on “Victims of Communism Day” before they can graduate.

“Partisan Hit Job”: Legal Experts Slam Special Counsel’s Biden Report

The special counsel’s Biden report is “entirely inappropriate,” one former prosecutor said.

Joe Biden delivers remarks in the White House
Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Legal analysts blasted special counsel Robert Hur’s report on President Joe Biden on Friday, deriding the Department of Justice investigation as a “partisan hit job.”

“Special Counsel Hur report on Biden classified documents issues contains way too many gratuitous remarks and is flatly inconsistent with long standing DOJ traditions,” former Attorney General Eric Holder said in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Had this report been subject to a normal DOJ review these remarks would undoubtedly have been excised.”

Andew Weissman, former lead prosecutor in Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, called the report “entirely inappropriate.”

“It is also exactly what you’re not supposed to do, which is putting your thumb on the scale that could have political repercussions,” said Weissman. “You either decide to go forward, that there is proof here, or you don’t say anything at all with respect to your opinions about the case.”

A top Biden campaign official described Hur’s report as a “Comey moment,” while former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer dubbed the report a “partisan hit job.”

And Vice President Kamala Harris offered her own aggressive defense of the president Friday, calling for the special counsel to have a “higher level of integrity” after the report accused the 81-year-old president of having a memory with “significant limitations.”

“What I saw in that report last night, I believe, is—as a former prosecutor—the comments that were made by that prosecutor [are] gratuitous, inaccurate, and inappropriate,” Harris told reporters on Friday.

“October 7, Israel experienced a horrific attack, and I will tell you we got the calls, the president and myself, in the hours after that occurred,” Harris continued. “It was an intense moment for the commander in chief of the United States of America, and I was in almost every meeting with the president in the hours and days that followed.”

“The president was in front of and on top of it all,” she added.

“So, the way that the president’s demeanor in that report was characterized, could not be more wrong on the facts, and [is] clearly politically motivated.”

The report, which claimed Biden struggled to remember basic details like what year his vice presidency under Obama ended and what year his son Beau died, during an interview just days after October 7, challenged the president on an already crumbling front. Polling indicates that three-quarters of Americans think that Biden is too old for a second term.

Jack Smith Hits Back at Judge Cannon’s Dangerous Order on Trump Case

Special counsel Jack Smith is warning the judge in Donald Trump’s classified documents case about her recent decision.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Special Counsel Jack Smith on Thursday night warned that the judge in Donald Trump’s classified documents case has made a “clear error” that could put witnesses at risk.

Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, ruled that some unredacted discovery documents should be made available to Trump’s legal team. Those documents could expose sensitive information, including the names of potential witnesses.

It’s hardly surprising that Smith has spoken out about the ways in which Cannon’s decision could end very badly. In a court filing on Thursday, the special counsel urged the judge to reconsider.

“That discovery material, if publicly docketed in unredacted form as the Court has ordered, would disclose the identities of numerous potential witnesses, along with the substance of the statements they made to the FBI or the grand jury, exposing them to significant and immediate risks of threats, intimidation, and harassment, as has already happened to witnesses, law enforcement agents, judicial officers, and Department of Justice employees whose identities have been disclosed in cases in which defendant Trump is involved,” he wrote.

Smith also reminded Cannon of an Eleventh Circuit decision that goes against her recent decision.

“The Eleventh Circuit has held that the compelling-interest standard applied by the Court does not apply to ‘documents filed in connection with motions to compel discovery,’ which instead may be sealed or redacted simply upon a showing of ‘good cause,’” he wrote.

The Eleventh Circuit, coincidentally, is the same court that once struck down Cannon’s decision to grant Trump’s request to appoint a special master in the classified documents case.

It won’t be hard for Smith to demonstrate the “good cause” for not releasing those documents. Throughout his legal trials, Trump has made a habit out of harassing courtroom staff, plaintiffs, and witnesses.

The threats that Trump can bring to bear against his perceived enemies are so well documented that legal experts have raised the alarm about the safety of witnesses and jurors in his future trials—and jurists have acted on their advice. In the E. Jean Carroll trial that wrapped up last month, the jury was partially sequestered and fully anonymous. Jurors were warned not to share their names even with each other, using numbers instead. Judge Lewis Kaplan took those steps precisely because he was worried about Trump’s behavior.

Moments after the jury delivered its massive $83.3 million verdict against Trump, Kaplan gave them an ominous warning: “My advice to you is that you never disclose that you were on this jury.”

Trump is facing 40 counts for keeping classified documents long after he left the White House. His aide, Walt Nauta, and a Mar-a-Lago employee, Carlos De Oliveira, are also facing charges.