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Radical Freedom Caucus Torches McConnell After Retirement Announcement

The far-right wing of the House is overjoyed Mitch McConnell is stepping down from Senate leadership.

Mitch McConnell stands in profile next to an American flag

The far-right House Freedom Caucus couldn’t hide its glee after Mitch McConnell announced that he’ll step down as Senate minority leader by the end of the year.

The 82-year-old Kentucky Republican said Wednesday he’ll resign from his leadership position by November, and the Freedom Caucus responded by calling him a RINO.

“Our thoughts are with our Democrat colleagues in the Senate on the retirement of their Co-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-Ukraine),” the caucus wrote in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, clearly labeling McConnell a Democrat.

“No need to wait till November,” the statement continued. “Senate Republicans should IMMEDIATELY elect a *Republican* Minority Leader.”

A tweet from the House Freedom Caucus

Perhaps this statement shouldn’t be a huge surprise from the far-right caucus, which has bullied House Republicans into adopting more extreme stances at every turn. Most of the members who blocked former Representative Kevin McCarthy’s first bid for the speakership in January 2023 were members of the Freedom Caucus. And seven of the so-called “Gaetz Eight” representatives who successfully kicked out McCarthy just nine months later were also members of the caucus.

More recently, the group has pressured House Speaker Mike Johnson to resist voting on the border deal and on Ukraine aid, in line with the wishes of former President Donald Trump. McConnell, meanwhile, had tried to rally Senate Republicans in support of the legislation.

All this to say: It makes sense that the Freedom Caucus is excited by McConnell’s departure. But calling McConnell—the man who blocked campaign finance reform and helped Donald Trump appoint conservative judges and reshape the courts for decades to come—a RINO is truly next level.

McConnell’s decision to step down, and the Freedom Caucus’s immediate response, is a sign of where the Republican Party is headed. And it’s not looking good.

“Believe me, I know the politics within my party at this particular moment in time,” McConnell said during his resignation speech Wednesday. “I have many faults. Misunderstanding politics is not one of them.”

Want Some Good News? Another State Has Booted Trump From the Ballot

A third state has determined Trump committed insurrection.

Donald Trump leans towards a microphone
Kent Nishimura/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Donald Trump could be about to get kicked off another state’s 2024 ballot.

An Illinois judge ruled Wednesday that Trump’s name should be removed from the ballot because he engaged in insurrection on January 6, 2021. Illinois is now the third state to try to punish Trump for trying to overthrow the 2020 election, following similar decisions in Colorado and Maine.

“Based on engaging in insurrection on January 6, 2021 ... his name should be removed from the ballot,” Cook County Circuit Judge Tracie Porter wrote in her ruling.

For now, Trump hasn’t actually been removed from Illinois’s ballot. Porter put her ruling on hold until Friday, knowing that Trump’s legal team would likely try to appeal the decision to the Illinois appellate or the Supreme Court. That means Trump will appear on the ballot at least until then.

Porter also said her ruling would remain on hold if the Supreme Court hands down a ruling “inconsistent” with hers in the Colorado case it is currently hearing.

Another important note: Early voting in Illinois’s March 19 primary has already started. And Trump is still on that primary ballot. So for now, no real changes have occurred at the ballot box, and voters can cast their vote for Trump.

Trump, of course, has promised to appeal this decision as soon as possible.

“Today, an activist Democrat judge in Illinois summarily overruled the state’s Board of Elections and contradicted earlier decisions from dozens of other state and federal jurisdictions,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement Wednesday.

With the decision in Illinois, that makes three states that have ruled that Trump violated the Fourteenth Amendment when he tried to overthrow our democracy. We’ll see if other states choose to follow that path and whether the rest of America agrees in November.

Supreme Court Throws Huge Wrench Into Trump Trial Schedule

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Donald Trump’s case on whether he has presidential immunity.

Donald Trump stands with his hands clasped
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Supreme Court—with its three Trump-appointed justices—agreed Wednesday to weigh in on whether former President Donald Trump can claim presidential immunity to get out of his federal election interference trial.

The court announced in a brief order that it would hear arguments and issue a ruling on Trump’s presidential immunity claim. Until the Supreme Court does so, the January 6 trial is completely on hold, according to the order.

The high court agreed to expedite the case and hear arguments the week of April 22, more than a month after the Super Tuesday primaries. It’s not clear why the case is beginning in April. It could take months before we get an actual ruling—potentially by June at the earliest.

If the Supreme Court decides quickly to reject Trump’s bold immunity claim, it may permit a final trial on the 2020 election interference to occur later this summer or fall. But there’s no guarantee a final decision will actually come before November.

Former appeals court Judge Michael Luttig predicted that it is now probably “unimaginable” that Trump will be tried in special counsel Jack Smith’s federal election interference trial before the 2024 election.

Trump views the Supreme Court’s order on Wednesday as a win “for now,” one source told CNN.

Many legal experts do expect the Supreme Court to rule against Trump’s immunity claim, but Trump’s entire strategy in his legal cases thus far has been to delay, delay, delay. And the Supreme Court’s order Wednesday helps him do just that. The Supreme Court could have decided to weigh in on this case sooner, but by the time the federal election interference trial returns to Judge Tanya Chutkan’s court, Trump’s legal team could try a new excuse to get out of the whole thing: that it’s too close to an election to hear this case now.

The federal election interference trial was originally scheduled to begin on March 4, a date that certainly won’t happen now.

Trump has repeatedly tried to claim presidential immunity to get out of his federal election interference case. At one point, his legal team even tried to argue that a president would be immune from criminal prosecution if he ordered Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival, as long as Congress did not vote to impeach him first.

That argument didn’t hold up in a Washington, D.C., appeals court, which ruled earlier this month that Trump did not have “presidential immunity” when he tried to overthrow the 2020 election.

Trump’s first criminal trial, the New York hush-money case, is set to begin on March 25.

Hunter Biden Drags Republicans for Double Standard on Jared Kushner

Hunter Biden pointed out Republicans’ apparent indifference about Jared Kushner’s foreign business dealings.

Hunter Biden walks while flanked by two men
Kent Nishimura/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Hunter Biden brilliantly exposed Republican hypocrisy during his closed-door deposition on Wednesday with one simple question.

“How come they’re not curious about the $2 billion Jared Kushner got from the Saudis?” the younger Biden reportedly asked House lawmakers.

Democratic Representative Dan Goldman explained during a break in testimony that Biden was highlighting the difference “between what he has done in a business world with independent businessmen, versus foreign governments, which he did not do any business with—unlike Jared Kushner.”

Representative Jamie Raskin also said the questioning was largely cordial Wednesday morning, but Hunter Biden became more “assertive” when discussing the Kushner double standard.

“He may be a little bit frustrated by some of the double standards relating to Jared Kushner and money that’s just been openly pocketed by Donald Trump in office,” Raskin said. “And Jared Kushner of course brought back $2 billion from Saudi Arabia. And all of that has been a part of the conversation, and he was assertive about that.”

It’s a smart point to bring up, and one that begs repeating as we get closer to November. Shortly after he left the White House, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of former President Trump, accepted at least $2 billion from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That money went directly to Kushner’s new private equity firm, Affinity Partners. According to the original documents, The New York Times reported, in return for their hefty investment, the Saudis would receive at least a 28 percent stake in Kushner’s firm and be recognized as a “cornerstone” investor.

If that wasn’t concerning enough, a later report from The Intercept revealed that the pitch from Affinity Partners focused almost entirely on Kushner’s official roles in the Trump administration and the potential political connections he could offer the Saudi investors in return for their investment. Perhaps none of this is a huge surprise, given that during the Trump years, MBS reportedly bragged about having Kushner “in his pocket.”

The whole thing reeks so badly of corruption that even House Oversight Chair James Comer warned last year that Kushner “crossed the line of ethics,” before he suddenly renewed his focus on supposed Biden corruption and the GOP impeachment crusade that’s going nowhere.

On Wednesday, that fruitless impeachment quest hit another dead end with Hunter Biden’s deposition, as Republicans seemed to come up with virtually no new evidence.

“Hunter Biden is being defiant and also dishonest,” Republican Representative Nancy Mace told reporters in the middle of Biden’s deposition. “I would tell you that his testimony is in direct conflict with other witnesses that so far the House Oversight has interviewed.”

After a reporter asked which witnesses Mace exactly was referring to, she quickly ended her impromptu press conference.

“You’ll read the transcript. I’m not going to go into details,” Mace replied before walking away. She declined to specify whether Hunter’s testimony conflicted with statements from the indicted Chinese foreign agent or the man who reportedly confessed to spreading Russian disinformation.

Republicans' progress on the Biden investigation:

You Won’t Believe Mike Johnson’s Wild Plan to Avoid a Government Shutdown

The House speaker seems to think one week is enough time to get Democrats and Republicans to agree.

Mike Johnson walks away from the White House
Roberto Schmidt/Getty Images

Lawmakers had until Friday to do their primary job and coordinate a spending package to continue funding the government and avoid a partial shutdown. But now, that’s next week’s problem.

House leadership have indicated that they plan to vote Thursday on a one-week continuing resolution, and will use next week to vote on a combined five to seven appropriation bills, according to Fox News’s White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich.

But have no fear: Despite wasting the better part of nearly six months on in-party bickering, holding foreign aid measures hostage in exchange for a more aggressive border deal, and subsequently nixing that too, at the behest of Donald Trump, Republicans seem incredibly confident that they can get it done on time.

“We are not going to shut the government down,” House Speaker Mike Johnson told Fox News reporter Chad Pergram on Wednesday.

“We’re going to keep it moving forward with all the good work of all the committees and everyone who has been engaged with this for weeks will come together in due course,” he continued.

“Is there enough time to get this done?” asked Pergram.

“Yeah. There’s enough time,” Johnson said briskly.

A stopgap bill “would be part of a larger agreement to finish a number of appropriations bills, ensuring adequate time for drafting text and for members to review prior to casting votes,” a spokeswoman for Johnson told The New York Times.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats appeared optimistic at the relative progress, claiming the parties were on the verge of a deal for a budget that was supposed to close in October.

“We continue to make very good progress on an agreement, and we are very close to getting it done,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday morning, following an “intense” three-on-one meeting at the White House in which Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries ganged up on the freshman speaker. Schumer, McConnell, and Jeffries urged Johnson to find some sort of solution to avoid a shutdown.

“I’m hopeful that the four leaders can reach this agreement very soon so we can not only avoid a shutdown on Friday, but get closer to finishing the appropriations process altogether,” he added later.

Billionaire Donald Trump Can’t Post His New York Fraud Bond

The former president’s lawyers offered an 1,800-page explanation for why he shouldn’t have to pay up.

Donald Trump stands in front of a large American flag
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

For all his bravado about his fabulous wealth, Donald Trump clearly doesn’t have the cash to handle his legal comeuppance.

On Wednesday, the former president counter-offered his now $454 million penalty in his New York civil fraud trial, suggesting instead that he could post a $100 million bond until his appeal concludes.

In a nearly 1,800-page court filing, Trump’s attorneys argued that it would be “impossible” to secure a bond covering the full amount of the multimillion-dollar ruling.

“The exorbitant and punitive amount of the Judgment coupled with an unlawful and unconstitutional blanket prohibition on lending transactions would make it impossible to secure and post a complete bond,” Trump’s lawyers wrote, instead suggesting that Trump’s New York real estate could be used as collateral should he lose his appeal.

It’s unclear why Trump—who reportedly holds roughly $600 million in liquid assets—is struggling to pay off his legal debts, especially with all the help from his newly launched sneaker campaign and a fan-funded GoFundMe. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. New York Attorney General Letitia James has said that she would seize some of his assets if he can’t muster the moolah.

“If he does not have funds to pay off the judgment, then we will seek judgment enforcement mechanisms in court, and we will ask the judge to seize his assets,” James told ABC last week.

Justice Arthur Engoron had originally slapped a $354 million fine on Trump for committing real estate–related fraud in New York, but by last week, that sum had grown to $454.2 million thanks to added interest, which is tacking on an additional $112,000 with each passing day.

The penalty also came with an addendum that Trump cannot serve as an officer or director of a New York company for three years, including his own Trump Organization. His two adult sons were also penalized by the ruling: They’ll have to stay out of New York business for two years. All in all, Trump will owe roughly $354 million for the real estate–related fraud. His two sons will owe $4 million each.

They will also be prevented from obtaining loans from any New York financial institutes for three years.

Alabama Republicans Suddenly Have an IVF Bill. It’s Worse Than It Seems.

Alabama Republicans have proposed a bill to protect IVF...but only temporarily.

Culture dishes are prepared for egg collection after egg retrieval
Jens Kalaene/Picture Alliance/Getty Images

In a transparent attempt to salvage votes, Alabama Republicans have introduced a bill that would save in vitro fertilization across the state—but only until after the upcoming election.

On Tuesday, the Alabama legislature introduced Senate Bill 159, which would grant third-party fertility clinics immunity from IVF lawsuits. The measure follows a devastating ruling issued by the all-conservative Alabama Supreme Court earlier this month that classified single-celled, fertilized eggs as children, and which effectively stalled IVF access across the state.

The new bill would offer a great solution for a decision that affects roughly one in five married couples—if it weren’t for the fact that a 2025 automatic repeal date is baked into it.

Republicans have been roundly slammed for the restrictive ruling, with critics deriding it as the Handmaid’s Tale–esque outcome of the party’s decades-long crusade on reproductive rights across the country. As a result, the party has been on a tear in an attempt to save its “pro-family” branding.

The Senate Republican campaign arm recently issued a memo urging its political candidates to “clearly and concisely reject efforts by the government to restrict IVF.” But the effort casually glosses over the fact that many GOP lawmakers (including 166 House Republicans) supported the 2021 Life at Conception Act, which sought to recognize fertilized eggs as children at the federal level.

Republicans’ recent promises will be put to the test as early as Wednesday, when Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth will introduce legislation to protect IVF at the federal level.

On Tuesday, Duckworth told NPR’s All Things Considered that she wasn’t happy to see the Republican-led effort to protect IVF in Alabama, claiming the party was only “covering their butts.”

“This is not just about one state and one Republican state politician who wants to try to cover his butt on this,” Duckworth said. “This is about the fact that Republicans across the nation have for decades now worked as hard as they can to give rights to a fertilized egg that are far greater than a living, breathing human being and to take away women’s access to reproductive health care.”

Duckworth’s bill is seeking unanimous consent to pass, calling the method the “fastest way to move forward”—assuming Republicans actually put their money where their mouths are. “And if they truly believe it and support IVF, then they won’t show up to object,” Duckworth said.

Read more about Republican hypocrisy:

Goodbye and Good Riddance to Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell had two passions. Both totally sucked for America.

Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Wednesday that he is stepping down as GOP leader this November. The Kentucky Republican is the longest-serving Senate leader, and has served in Republican Senate leadership for nearly two decades.

McConnell, who is now 82 years old, will be leaving the post after a series of episodes last year where he seemed to freeze and shut down entirely in front of the press. The news comes as a wave of longtime members of Congress (especially Republicans) are also announcing their retirements, many of them exhausted by the infighting in recent years. McConnell will serve the remainder of his Senate term, which ends in 2027.

“I think back to my first days in the Senate with deep appreciation for the time that helped shape my view of the world,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “I’m unconflicted about the good within our country and the irreplaceable role we play as the leader of the free world.”

“Believe me, I know the politics within my party at this particular moment in time. I have many faults. Misunderstanding politics is not one of them.”

“One of life’s most underappreciated talents is to know when it’s time to move on to life’s next chapter,” McConnell concluded. “So I stand before you say that this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. However, I’ll complete my job my colleagues have given me until we select a new leader in November and they take the helm next January.”

Republican senators were shocked by McConnell’s announcement, reportedly not having been informed of his resignation beforehand.

As Senate leader, McConnell had two main objectives in the role. First, he wanted to completely block campaign finance reform. Second, he wanted to stack the courts with conservative reactionaries.

McConnell’s main goal as Senate leader seemed to be to encourage more money in politics, welcoming the role of corporate America in U.S. democracy. It’s impossible to go through the full history of how he has blocked campaign finance reform efforts over his nearly 20 years in leadership, but he has opposed any real change at virtually every turn.

A big reason for his decades-long fight with former Senator John McCain, for example, was over McCain’s signature campaign finance law.

In 2002, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act, aimed to limit the role of “soft money” in political campaigns as well as the political advertising of corporations and nonprofit organizations in elections. Almost immediately after it became law, McConnnell took the law to court, challenging its constitutionality. By 2010, the Supreme Court weighed in with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, overturning key aspects of the law and effectively freeing corporations to spend money directly advocating for the election or defeat of specific candidates.

This was a recurring theme for McConnell during his leadership. More recently, in 2021, he helped kill Democrats’ sweeping voting rights and election overhaul bill, which would have required additional disclosures on funding and stiffened campaign law enforcement. McConnell at the time called the bill, which would have also expanded voter registration and vote by mail options, “jaw-droppingly audacious.”

On the courts, McConnell was just as cruel in his leadership.

He single-handedly held up the appointment of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court during President Barack Obama’s tenure—arguing that the president couldn’t appoint a Supreme Court justice in an election year. But when it came to President Donald Trump’s term, McConnell suddenly sang a very different tune.

He helped Trump appoint three Supreme Court justices, including Amy Coney Barrett in 2020. That Supreme Court, of course, overturned Roe v. Wade and repealed the right to abortion just two years later.

And it wasn’t only the Supreme Court. McConnell helped Trump completely reshape our judiciary, allowing Trump to appoint 54 appeals court judges during his 4-year tenure. For comparison, President Barack Obama appointed only 55 appeals court judges over his eight years in the White House. The court of appeals, it’s critical to note, handles tens of thousands of cases annually and is reshaping laws in ways that don’t get nearly as much attention as what the Supreme Court is doing.

All this to say, McConnell did nothing good for this country as Senate leader. He used his position in power to help only himself and his party.

This story has been updated.

Who might succeed McConnell?

You Will Not Believe—We Mean Not Believe—This James Comer Quote

The Kentucky Republican is finally, hilariously, giving up on the Biden investigation.

James Comer speaks to reporters
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

House Oversight Chair James Comer is finally laying down his cards. Republicans’ Biden corruption impeachment crusade is over, at least for now.

“I am ready to try to begin to close this investigation,” Comer told reporters in the Capitol Wednesday. “This has been a very difficult investigation. This administration has been very obstructive. They haven’t been cooperative, [feels] like we are having to battle the Department of Justice and the FBI on a daily basis to get basic information.”

“Many of our witnesses that we brought in would be what I consider hostile witnesses, but at the end of the day I think with every interview we’ve learned new information and the basis of what we’ve learned is that the Bidens didn’t have a legitimate business,” he said.

It’s an amazing and last-minute reversal by one of the main House Republicans spearheading the entire Biden impeachment quest. In fact, embattled first son Hunter Biden testified in a closed-door hearing on Wednesday as part of the GOP’s investigation. But what should have been a major win for Republicans instead was accompanied by Comer’s admission of loss.

The sign of defeat comes as two major developments have essentially doomed Republicans’ impeachment efforts.

First, earlier this month, Republicans lost their key witness, Alexander Smirnov, who made up the very foundation of the GOP’s corruption claims about the president. Republicans had for months pointed to an FBI informant who in 2020 reported that President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden received $5 million each in bribes from a Ukrainian oligarch, thanks to Hunter Biden’s businesses. That claim, while unverified by the FBI, was the main piece of evidence Republicans pointed to in their impeachment quest. Republicans last year went so far as to publicly release the FBI’s report, over the agency’s objections.

But two weeks ago, Smirnov was indicted for lying to the FBI and essentially making up the whole thing. As if that wasn’t bad enough, upon arrest, the Justice Department reported that Smirnov confessed to law enforcement that the story actually came from Russian intelligence officers.

Republicans have been desperate to pretend that losing Smirnov wasn’t a big issue, but Comer’s admission on Wednesday seals the deal.

The other big problem, which Comer surely realizes, is that Republicans now have an even narrower majority in the House. Representative-elect Tom Suozzi will be sworn in on Wednesday, taking over George Santos’s House seat. House Republicans will soon hold a majority of just 219–213, with three vacancies in the chamber. As a reminder, they rushed through the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas with just one vote, hours before Suozzi was elected.

The numbers are no longer in Republicans’ favor, and the evidence definitely isn’t, either. Finally, Comer is waking up to that reality.

Lauren Boebert Slams “Biden Crime Family” After Her Own Son Was Arrested

The Colorado representative’s teenage son was arrested for a string of crimes.

Representative Lauren Boebert looks forward
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Republican Representative Lauren Boebert accused President Joe Biden of running a “crime family”—while just a couple hours before, her 18-year-old son was arrested in connection with a crime wave in Colorado.

Tyler Jay Boebert is facing 22 charges over “a recent string of vehicle trespass and property thefts” in Rifle, a town in Colorado’s 3rd congressional district, which his mom currently represents, said police.

The teen faces “four felony counts of Criminal Possession ID Documents—Multiple Victims, one felony count of Conspiracy to Commit a Felony, and over 15 additional misdemeanor and petty offenses,” according to the Rifle Police Department.

A Facebook post from the Rifle Police Department explains why Tyler Boebert was arrested and shows his mugshot

On the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office website Wednesday morning, Tyler Boebert was listed as a current inmate at Garfield County Jail.

To be clear, the criminal justice system in this country is not a joke—and neither is dragging politicians’ family members (let alone teenage kids) into the news cycle. But the irony is a bit startling given Representative Boebert’s own post on crime families Tuesday afternoon.

According to the Rifle Police Department, Tyler Boebert was arrested at around 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday. At 4:35 p.m., his mom took to social media to warn about the “Biden crime family.”

A tweet from Representative Lauren Boebert

House Republicans including Lauren Boebert have been leading a fruitless crusade to impeach President Joe Biden while exposing his family’s corruption. But so far, their efforts have revealed no real evidence.

Just this month, their star witness, Alexander Smirnov, was indicted for lying to the FBI about claims that Joe Biden and Hunter Biden both received bribes from a Ukrainian oligarch. According to the Justice Department, upon arrest, Smironv admitted to law enforcement that the story came from Russian intelligence offices.