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You’ll Never Guess Who Doesn’t Want to Repeal a Zombie Abortion Ban

Democrats are getting pressure from abortion rights groups to keep the Comstock Act in place.

People hold pro-abortion protest signs
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Just months away from a presidential election that could decide the future of reproductive rights, congressional Democrats and abortion rights groups are not on the same page.

Many Democrats are warning that the right wing plans to revive the Comstock Act, a “zombie” law from 1873 banning the shipment of “every article or thing designed, adapted or intended for producing abortion.” The act could be used as a de facto national abortion ban in the post-Dobbs environment, a move that conservative Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have backed.

Several Democrats are pushing to repeal the law before the election, claiming that leaving it on the books would hand Donald Trump a loaded weapon with which to outlaw abortion nationwide without having an explicit ban on the procedure. But, NOTUS reported Thursday, they’ve received pushback from mainstream abortion rights groups. The organizations warn that passing legislation to repeal the law could cause complications with active litigation they are pursuing to challenge abortion restrictions.

“There’s a lot of litigation playing out that’s specific to this that many of the reproductive rights groups are in the middle of. They’re actually wanting to, they’re not wanting to see [the Comstock Act] change in the middle of that litigation. So that was at the request of Planned Parenthood and other reproductive freedom groups that have been fighting this for a long time,” Democratic Representative Pat Ryan said.

Critics of inaction on Comstock have called this strategy “akin [to] leaving [a potential Trump administration] a nuclear bomb.” Under a government willing to wield it, the Comstock Act could be used to ban birth control, condoms, and even sex toys.

“In this era of abortion winning elections, if Democrats don’t force votes in both chambers—yes, even the House—and campaign on this very out-in-the-open Republican plan to further subjugate women and pregnant people, it will confirm the party’s antipathy to delivering anything of substance on abortion,” Susan Rinkunas wrote for The New Republic in March. “But if Democrats do sound the alarm on Comstock, they might save us all from a Victorian prison—and they could even win in November.”

Trump recently declined to publicly endorse a national abortion ban, instead saying restricting access to the procedure should be left to the states. But in doing so, Trump tacitly condoned every single Republican-backed law on abortion. And the Republican record speaks for itself.

Read more about abortion rights:

Columbia University Horrifyingly Turns on Its Own Students Over Gaza

The university sent New York police officers after its own students.

People hold protest signs and a Palestinian flag on Columbia University's campus
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Columbia University students protest in support of Palestine in November 2023

Columbia University brutally cracked down Thursday on ongoing student protests against Israel’s ruthless war on Gaza, sending in city police officers to arrest some demonstrators.

Students at both Columbia and Barnard College have been protesting for months, demanding the university divest from companies doing business with Israel. As part of the protest, students set up an encampment in the middle of campus on Wednesday.

In response, police on Thursday deployed a drone and brought five corrections buses, according to Talia Jane, a freelance journalist at the scene.

Videos of the encampment showed police entering campus on Thursday and beginning to arrest students. Meanwhile, university officials have reportedly barred people visibly carrying food from entering school grounds, in an attempt to prevent protesters from getting supplies.

Another video shows students flooding the streets outside of Columbia’s campus, preventing the corrections buses from leaving with the arrested protesters.

Three students have reportedly been suspended for participating in the protest, and their college IDs were reportedly deactivated. One of the three is student organizer Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Democratic Representative Illhan Omar.

The university’s dramatically heightened response comes a day after university President Minouche Shafik testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on antisemitism on college campuses. Shafik insisted that “antisemitism has no place on our campus, and I am personally committed to doing everything I can to confront it directly.”

The hearing, however, seemed to be more focused on the opinions of college faculty members, with Republicans Elise Stefanik and Tim Walberg specifically asking about disciplinary measures against two professors who made comments that were perceived as antisemitic.

Omar, on the other hand, asked Shafik about protests specifically, pointing out several attacks against antiwar as well as Palestinian solidarity protests, including an alleged chemical attack against pro-Palestinian protesters in January that is still under police investigation, according to Shafik.

Columbia has also been sued by five Jewish students and two student organizations after the university suspended the student groups Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine in November.

Thursday’s police involvement at Columbia is further evidence that the response to campus protests over Gaza across the country has mostly been one of censorship and hysteria designed to suppress pro-Palestinian activism, as Osita Nwanevu wrote for The New Republic in December. The crowds at protests both on and off college campuses are diverse, with Jews, Muslims, Black, and brown demonstrators. Critics, particularly Republican lawmakers, often hide behind allegations of antisemitism as a way to launch attacks on academic freedom.

Read more about the war in Gaza:

Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Wild Strategy to Delay Foreign Aid Package

The Georgia representative keeps trying to add bizarre amendments to the House foreign aid bills.

Marjorie Taylor Greene gestures as she speaks into a microphone
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Funding for Ukraine and Israel has been hotly contested in Congress. For Marjorie Taylor Greene, it’s just fodder for trolling.

As two separate supplemental aid packages make their way through the House, Greene has proposed a series of outlandish amendments to both bills. For a measure on Ukrainian military aid, Greene submitted amendments requiring members who vote for the aid to “conscript in the Ukrainian army,” and directing President Joe Biden to withdraw from NATO.

And for Israel, Greene, far from requiring aid to be conditioned on Israeli compliance with international law, played one of her old hits: She proposed that funding in the bill be allocated to “the development of space laser technology on the southwest border,” a callback to her previous antisemitic remarks about “Jewish space lasers,” with a bit of gratuitous eliminationist rhetoric about migrants.

There are plenty of good reasons to oppose military aid to Israel, and opposition to arming Ukraine has become a signature position of the hard right. But Greene appears to have no interest in engaging with the subjects on their merits at all. Instead, the amendments are part of Greene’s campaign against House Speaker Mike Johnson, whom she has threatened to oust for bringing aid bills to the House floor.

Johnson has struggled to get his caucus behind the aid packages; it’s the reason why he divided up the countries into separate bills. Greene is one of the faces of Republican resistance to Johnson’s leadership, but hard-line GOP dissatisfaction with Johnson dates back to his first days as speaker.

Greene’s opposition to aid for Israel puts her in the minority of her party, while Ukrainian aid has divided the Republican Party, prompting senior members to declare that their colleagues are repeating Russian propaganda. Greene has come under fire recently for praising Vladimir Putin and suggesting that Ukraine is waging a “war on Christianity.” But her latest stunt, emblematic of a distinctive style of conservative politics, suggests that her positions aren’t particularly principled. She’s just happy to get off a few jokes.

Republicans’ New January 6 Conspiracy Is Their Most Deranged Yet

Someone please explain the logic here.

Greg Murphy looks forward
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

A Republican representative has a new conspiracy about the January 6 insurrection, and despite the GOP’s laundry list of theories about the attack, this might be one of the strangest yet.

Representative Greg Murphy floated the idea Wednesday night that Donald Trump’s secretary of the army “slow-walked” the deployment of National Guard troops to the Capitol on January 6 “in order to allow more chaos to occur” so that he could get a job in the Biden administration.

“They were ready to act, and they were slow-walked by the Secretary of the Army, apparently with some thoughts that he was going to join the Biden administration,” Murphy told Newsmax. “I don’t have first-hand knowledge of that, but that’s one of the general working diagnoses is, as we say.”

This is an incredible theory, to say the least. If anyone is guilty of delaying a response to the riots, it’s Donald Trump. Those close to the president that day even claim that he wasn’t interested in any swift action. This is coupled with the fact that many of those arrested in connection with the riots say that they were answering a call to action from then-President Trump himself.

Republicans have repeatedly downplayed the attack, insisting that it was full of fake Trump supporters who arrived on “ghost buses, that the government instigated the whole thing, and even that rioters were just taking a walk.

For a party with a reputation of pushing military pride and “support the troops” rhetoric, Republicans have engaged in baseless attacks against U.S. military leaders in the post-Trump era, from holding up military promotions to attacking “supposed wokeness” within the armed forces. Murphy’s new theory really goes to show that to MAGA Republicans, no American institutions are considered off-limits if you can use them to score political points.

What else Republicans have to say about January 6:

Trump Hush-Money Trial Juror Shows Peril of Being Identified

Days after being sworn in, a juror has already excused herself.

Donald Trump looks down as he sits with his hands folded
Jabin Botsford/Pool/Getty Images

Just days after a former federal prosecutor warned that publicizing information about potential jurors in Donald Trump’s hush-money trial could put them in danger, an outed jury member came forward to express concern about being identified.

“Juror number two,” a nurse, explained that friends and colleagues were able to identify her based on personal details revealed during the screening and selection process.  

“I definitely have concerns now … about being in public. Yesterday alone, I had friends, colleagues push things to my phone questioning my identity as a juror. I don’t believe at this point that I can be fair and unbiased and let the outside influences not affect my decision to be in the courtroom,” she said.

Judge Juan Merchan, the Manhattan Supreme Court justice presiding over the case, allowed her to be excused. Merchan then took extra measures to protect the identities of jurors, asking journalists not to report on jurors’ places of employment, a detail included on the questionnaires filled out during selection. 

“There’s a reason why this is an anonymous jury and we’re taking the measures that were taken. And it kind of defeats the purpose of that when so much information is put out there that it is very, very easy for us to identify who the jurors are,” Merchan said.

“I’m directing that the press simply apply common sense and refrain from writing about physical descriptions. It’s just not necessary. It serves no purpose,” he continued. “There’s no need for anyone to mention that one of the jurors had an Irish accent. I don’t see how that advanced any interest whatsoever.”

Fox News host Jesse Watters had revealed information about the juror, including her and her fiancée’s occupations, during a segment about the trial on Tuesday night. “I’m not so sure about juror number two,” he said.

Trump elevated Watters’s segment the following day, claiming that “Liberal Activists” were trying to sneak onto the jury and bias the outcome against him.

As critics have pointed out, enough information on the lives of the jurors has already been reported to identify many of them, potentially putting them in danger. Judges presiding over January 6–related cases have faced right-wing intimidation and harassment campaigns. Fears of similar mob-like tactics being employed against jurors, particularly in Trump’s myriad lawsuits, are well founded.

Judge Lewis Kaplan warned jurors in E. Jean Carroll’s January defamation suit against Trump to “never disclose that you were on this jury.” If juror number two’s experience is indicative, staying silent may not be enough.

More on why the jury is being kept anonymous:

Trump’s Weird Hush-Money Trial Lie That Finally Ticked Melania Off

Did the former president go too far?

Donald and Melania Trump walk next to each other
Giorgio Viera/AFP/Getty Images

Melania Trump is not happy with her husband for mentioning their son Barron’s high school graduation in court, according to a new report.

Stephanie Grisham, a former White House press secretary under Donald Trump, told The Daily Mail that she thinks Melania wasn’t happy that her husband would be bringing unwanted attention to their son.

“He talked about missing Barron’s graduation to the cameras and then again on TruthSocial because it caused a lot of coverage about that, and it’s just not something she would have liked,” Grisham said.

The former president complained at his hush-money trial earlier this week about not being able to attend his youngest child’s graduation. In fact, the judge has yet to decide whether to grant him an exception. Donald Trump is required by New York state law to attend every day of his hush-money trial over his alleged paying off of adult film actress Stormy Daniels to cover up an affair. Judge Juan Merchan said granting the exception would depend on whether the trial is running on schedule—something that hinges largely on whether Trump continues to try to delay proceedings.

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former fixer and lawyer, dismissed Trump’s complaints as “comical” in an interview with the MeidasTouch, saying that he “wasn’t aware” that the former president had attended the graduations of any of his four other children. Cohen also recalled how Trump’s requirements caused Cohen to miss his own family events.

“I missed my twenty-fifth anniversary and my wife’s fiftieth birthday because I was in Otisville, in part because of things that I had done at the direction of and for the benefit of Donald Trump,” Cohen said.

“So, before I start shedding a tear for him, for Barron, and I’m sure Melania is extremely excited he’s not going to be there,” Cohen continued. “Rest assured, I’m not losing any sleep, nor am I going to shed a tear that Trump can’t go to Barron’s graduation.”

There’s no love lost between Cohen and the former president. Trump’s ex-attorney will be a key witness in Trump’s hush-money trial, as he allegedly set up the illegal payments to Daniels.

“He should be worried about the Manhattan district attorney, the district attorney of New York prosecutors, he should be worried about the documentary evidence, he should be worried about all of the witnesses that are going to be coming into that trial simply because, as others have also appropriately put it, this is a simple case,” Cohen told MSNBC in March.

Trump Starts Day 3 of Hush-Money Trial in the Trumpiest Way Possible

The former president just can’t resist pushing back against his gag order.

Donald Trump looks up
Jeenah Moon/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s disregard for the law seemingly knows no bounds. His latest violation? A judge-mandated gag order.

On Wednesday, Trump, facing trial in Manhattan in his hush-money case, appeared to violate—again—Judge Juan Merchan’s prohibition against making public statements about prospective jurors. He echoed comments made by Fox News host Jesse Watters, who accused jurors of hiding left-wing sympathies during jury selection so as to stack the jury against the former president.

“‘They are catching undercover Liberal Activists lying to the Judge in order to get on the Trump jury,’ Jesse Waters,” Trump posted on Truth Social.

Screenshot of a TruthSocial post

There is, of course, no evidence for the claim that jurors are smuggling in their anti-Trump beliefs. The screening process, which included a questionnaire that asked jurors about their media consumption habits, has turned up potential jurors who have expressed distaste for Trump, but nothing suggests that these jurors have been specifically selected to serve. Trump has maintained, also without evidence, that he cannot receive a fair trial in Manhattan, and has pushed to move the trial to Staten Island, the only New York City borough Trump won as a presidential candidate.

Merchan’s gag order against commenting on jurors is hardly the first imposed on Trump. Merchan has already expanded the gag order after Trump criticized his daughter and ruled that Trump must attend a contempt hearing next about his various alleged gag order violations. Prosecutors have asked Merchan to fine Trump $3,000 for disparaging witnesses.

Trump’s struggle appears not to be with Merchan specifically, but with the very concept of a gag order. Judge Tanya Chutkin imposed one on him in his D.C. election interference trial. So did Judge Arthur Engoron, who presided over his civil fraud case. Trump’s legal team has its work cut out for it: Their client faces a total of 91 felony counts and has already lost the civil fraud case. The least they can do is tell him to stay off his phone.

McConnell’s Trash Reason Why Senate Should Have Held Impeachment Trial

The Senate voted to adjourn the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Mitch McConnell walks
Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

The Senate shot down House Republicans’ attempt to remove Secretary of Homeland Security Antonio Mayorkas from office Wednesday, adjourning his impeachment trial by a 51–49 vote, along party lines. 

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was not happy, claiming that the upper chamber  is setting “a very unfortunate precedent here.” 

“It doesn’t make any difference whether our friends on the other side thought he should have been impeached or not. He was,” McConnell said, taking a shot at the Democratic Party. “And by doing what we just did, we have in effect ignored the directions of the House, which were to have a trial. No evidence, no procedure—this is a day that’s not a proud day in the history of the Senate.” 

McConnell’s comments are completely disingenuous. House Republicans’ reasoning for impeaching Mayorkas is specious at best, as Matt Ford wrote for The New Republic in January, and is clearly aimed at impressing Donald Trump. The two articles put forth by the GOP, “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and “breach of public trust,” do not rise to anything resembling a high crime or a misdemeanor, as stated in the Constitution. The charges that Republicans made essentially amounted to policy differences between themselves and the Biden administration. 

Republicans know it’s bogus. Representative French Hill couldn’t even offer any examples of Mayorkas’s guilt to a friendly Fox News audience in February, spewing a word salad about Joe Biden paying a public relations price for failing to “shut the border.” Former Representative Ken Buck also thought impeaching Mayorkas was pointless, as he told Newsmax in February. 

And as for the policy differences on border security and immigration, they are based on a misguided right-wing myth, fueled by breathless media coverage, that the southern U.S. border is being overrun with migrants bringing crime, with no moves to stop it. If that were true, or more importantly, if Republicans actually believed it to be true, they would have agreed to pass the bipartisan border security bill in January instead of shooting it down at Donald Trump’s behest. At the time, McConnell reportedly even told his fellow Republican senators that a deal could undermine Trump’s reelection campaign.

In reality, the impeachment of Mayorkas is another example that Republican rhetoric over the southern U.S. border is just political theater designed to hurt Biden and the Democratic Party. The same fearmongering was trotted out in previous elections and failed. How will it work this time around? 

Read more about the Mayorkas impeachment effort:

Trump Has Found Yet Another Scammy Way to Fundraise

The former president is basically renting out his image to other campaigns.

Donald Trump speaks
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is trying to make a buck in any way that it can, from hawking ugly sneakers to hosting parties in Florida. And now, his campaign is attempting to pull off a novel tactic: making money off of Trump’s name and likeness.

In a letter sent to GOP digital vendors on Monday, the Trump campaign is asking down-ballot candidates who use his name, image, and likeness for their own fundraisers to send at least 5 percent of the money raised back to them, Politico reported.

“Beginning tomorrow, we ask that all candidates and committees who choose to use President Trump’s name, image, and likeness split a minimum of 5% of all fundraising solicitations to Trump National Committee JFC. This includes but is not limited to sending to the house file, prospecting vendors, and advertising,” the campaign’s co-managers, Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, wrote in the letter.

Wiles and LaCivita also hinted that sending more money than that could net favors from both the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign.

“Any split that is higher than 5% will be seen favorably by the RNC and President Trump’s campaign and is routinely reported to the highest levels of leadership within both organizations,” the letter stated.

It’s the latest moneymaking scheme from the campaign, which not only has to keep up with Joe Biden but also partially funds Trump’s many legal bills. As of late March, almost a third of campaign donations—$27 million—have gone to pay those bills.

Trump also has a huge fine from his fraud trial that he’s appealing, and he couldn’t even get a surety firm to back his appeal until the bond was lowered. His new media company’s stock is plummeting, and he’s not allowed to dump the shares for six months. So far, in order to make some extra cash, he’s resorted to selling golden sneakers and “God Bless the USA” Bibles, and he even has a supporter-backed GoFundMe. Now that he’s taken over the RNC, he probably will use party funds as his own personal bank too.

Trump Will Be Haunted by E. Jean Carroll in Hush-Money Trial

The Manhattan district attorney wants to cite Carroll’s defamation lawsuits to impeach Trump’s credibility.

E. Jean Carroll waves
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s long legal record is very likely going to bite him in his New York hush-money trial.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office filed its Sandoval notice in the case on Wednesday, revealing that it intends to leverage some of Trump’s past legal troubles as evidence of his poor credibility. According to the document, those cases include the New York civil fraud trial in which Trump was ordered to pay nearly half a billion dollars to the state, and the defamation trials brought against him by E. Jean Carroll, who won a payout of $83.3 million.

In addition to those cases, the Sandoval notice also cites the 2023 lawsuit Trump brought against his former 2016 opponent for the presidency, Hillary Clinton. The court in that case fined Trump nearly a million dollars for bringing a “completely frivolous” lawsuit to court “for improper purposes” and found that Trump had repeatedly used the courts to “seek revenge on political adversaries.”

“He is the mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process, and he cannot be seen as a litigant blindly following the advice of a lawyer,” the court wrote in its 2023 determination. “He knew full well the impact of his actions.”

Bragg, noting that the cases had already been cited in a February 22 motion, wrote that “the People hereby give notice that we intend to use the acts identified in those motions to impeach the credibility of the defendant.”

Judge Juan Merchan can trim down the list, deeming some of the cases Bragg wants to cite inadmissible. It is not yet clear when Merchan will issue his final decision.

Trump is accused of using former fixer Michael Cohen to sweep an affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels under the rug ahead of the 2016 presidential election. He faces 34 felony charges in this case for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime. Trump has pleaded not guilty on all counts.