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Most Powerful Republican in Congress Complains He Has No Influence

Mitch McConnell has admitted he can’t control the Republican Party.

Mitch McConnell looks up
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

One of Congress’s most powerful Republicans apparently feels powerless in the face of Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign.

Sitting for an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell explained that he didn’t see any other option than to endorse the GOP presidential nominee—despite having made previous declarations against Trump, including blaming him for the violent events that unfolded on January 6.

“The issue is, what kind of influence, even if I had chosen to get involved in the presidential election, what kind of influence would I have had?” McConnell said after insinuating he was duty-bound as the most powerful Republican in the Senate to support the candidate that Republican delegates voted for.

“I’m the Republican leader of the Senate. What we do here is try to make law,” McConnell continued. “I like us to be in the majority. I’m spending my political time and my political capital, whatever amount I have, on trying to flip the Senate so that my successor is the majority leader and not the minority leader.”

In a heated back-and-forth with host Margaret Brennan, McConnell continued to dodge questions that poked at his purported policy agenda, skirt overtly offering advice to Trump’s campaign, and refuse to admit that he was ideologically more aligned with President Joe Biden’s idea of American leadership.

“Look, I wouldn’t have withdrawn from Afghanistan. I wouldn’t have submitted four budgets in a row for defense that don’t even keep up with inflation. I’ve got plenty of differences with the current administration,” McConnell said, referring to actions taken during Biden’s administration. “Whether I will have differences with the next administration remains to be seen. And so I’m not going to predict what might happen on this issue. I know what I think and it doesn’t make any difference what the outcome of the presidential election is. I’m going to be focusing on this remainder of my time in the Senate.”

McConnell has struggled in recent months to unify his party, even around typically popular Republican issues. He is one of a shrinking number of GOP lawmakers who support sending more military aid to Ukraine in its counteroffensive against Russia, and he was forced to watch as his party tanked a bipartisan border security bill at Trump’s behest.

The Kentucky Republican has spoken out against the right’s fight for a new brand of American isolationism—which includes Trump’s threats to withdraw from NATO and Republican infighting over aid for Ukraine, among other national security issues—but he placed the blame on former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson rather than Trump.

“He had a huge audience among rank and file Republicans. And I think it was very destructive, very impactful on regular Republican voters and created a big problem,” McConnell said about Carlson, adding that the political conspiracy peddler “certainly ended up where he should have been all along, interviewing [Russian President] Vladimir Putin.”

The RNC Keeps Choosing Election Deniers for Its Top Ranks

The organization is fast turning into a machine that’s all about Donald Trump.

Michael Whatley speaks in front of the RNC logo
Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg/Getty Images
RNC Co-Chair Michael Whatley addresses the group on March 8, 2024

An Arizona state lawmaker indicted for his involvement in Donald Trump’s 2020 fake elector scheme has announced that he’s getting a promotion in the Republican Party.

State Senator Jake Hoffman was charged by Arizona on Wednesday alongside 17 other people, including Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former attorney Rudy Giuliani, for orchestrating a scheme to use fake electors to flip Arizona’s 2020 election results over to Trump. The former president is named in the documents as an unindicted co-conspirator. But on Saturday, Hoffman revealed that the conservative party had rewarded that behavior by electing him as a state delegate for the GOP.

“I’m humbled and honored to have been elected as the next RNC National Committeeman for Arizona!,” Hoffman said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“For the next 4 years I will work tirelessly to ensure that the RNC makes Arizona its #1 priority not only in 2024, but every year,” he wrote, continuing to decry Democrats as “fascists” who want to “destroy opportunity and prosperity” for Arizonans.

“Make no mistake, our Party is unified, focused, and motivated to win the White House for President @realDonaldTrump, the US Senate seat against far-Left extremist Ruben Gallego, the Legislative Majority at the State Capitol, and other offices up and down the ballot,” Hoffman said.

On a web page that lists the lawmaker as a 2021 fellow with the The Club for Growth Foundation—a fiscally conservative nonprofit funded by billionaires Richard Uihlein and Jeff Yass that donated roughly $20 million to the campaigns of 42 Republicans who worked to overturn the 2020 presidential election results—Hoffman is described as someone whose work on a digital campaign for Trump “played a key role in helping elect” the former president in 2016. The site also notes that Hoffman was invited to attend Trump’s inauguration, had visited the White House for several meetings, and was allegedly described by Trump as one of his “very good friends.”

Still, Trump didn’t seem to outwardly notice the local win for his supposed good friend, failing to acknowledge it on TruthSocial and opting instead to spend the day posting about his New York hush-money case, 2024 presidential election polls, and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

All of the indicted individuals in Arizona are facing the same slew of charges, which includes counts for conspiracy, forgery, fraudulent schemes and practices, and fraudulent schemes and artifices—the last of which holds a potential sentence of up to five years in prison.

Kristi Noem Defends Puppy Murder—and It Goes Downhill From There

Trump world is completely baffled by Kristi Noem’s story of shooting her dog.

Kristi Noem speaks at a podium

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has doubled down on her decision to shoot and kill her pet puppy—and the Trump camp isn’t happy.

“The fact is, South Dakota law states that dogs who attack and kill livestock can be put down. Given that Cricket had shown aggressive behavior toward people by biting them, I decided what I did,” Noem said in a long post on X (formerly Twitter) Sunday. “Whether running the ranch or in politics, I have never passed on my responsibilities to anyone else to handle. Even if it’s hard and painful. I followed the law and was being a responsible parent, dog owner, and neighbor.”

The story, which comes from Noem’s new book, was seen by many as a plea to Donald Trump (who doesn’t like dogs) as to why she’s the right choice for his vice president. But perhaps unsurprisingly, a story about puppy murder has not earned her any plaudits from Trump’s campaign.

“Governor Noem just keeps proving over and over that she’s a lightweight,” one person close to the Trump campaign told Semafor. “We can’t afford a Kamala problem.”

Trump has enough problems of his own these days, especially with damaging new information coming out of his hush money trial each day. The last thing he wants is for a running mate who attracts her own negative coverage. In addition to her dog shooting story, several Native tribes in Noem’s state have banned her from their territories over her racist comments. Her mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic also led to a spike in cases in Native communities, and she tried to prevent the tribes from implementing their own pandemic safety measures. Meanwhile, she’s also in the press for a rumored affair with longtime Trump advisor Corey Lewandowski.

The latest speculation about Trump’s VP choice is someone with a lot less drama and a bit more moderation just south of Noem: North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, whose major issue would be the same one that plagued him during his failed run for president: a lack of name recognition.

Even Trump’s Advisers Stunned by Details from Hush-Money Trial

Members of the former president’s inner circle are glued to trial coverage.

Curtis Means/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s hush-money trial is revealing new details from his life, including things that even some of the people in his inner circle didn’t know.

“I’m talking to these Trump senior advisers… a lot of them are learning about this in real time,” reporter Kristen Holmes said Friday on CNN. “They have no idea what’s going on inside the courtroom.”

Trump can’t communicate with anyone while he’s in the Manhattan court, and only a small number of his aides are in the (apparently frigid) courtroom with him. That means the rest of them have to keep up with media reports—and find out new revelations at the same time as the public.

“It is exactly as salacious as they thought it was going to be. There was no mistake. We know what is at the heart of this alleged cover-up for an alleged affair with a porn star,” Holmes said.

So far, the court has heard testimony from David Pecker, the former CEO of American Media Inc. and ex-publisher of the National Enquirer, who has provided damaging information about Trump’s activities and even how many of Trump’s associates were involved. Trump has been hesitant to attack Pecker, leading some observers to suspect that he’s afraid of the tabloid magnate.

Trump faces 34 felony charges for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime for having his former fixer and attorney, Michael Cohen, pay off adult film actress Stormy Daniels to cover up an affair before the 2016 presidential election. Both Cohen and Daniels are expected to testify in the trial, meaning that more shocking details are forthcoming.

Why Did Elon Musk Just Kick Nelson Mandela’s Grandson Off X?

Mandla Mandela had just set off with a flotilla of aid for Gaza.

Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/Getty Images

X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, suspended an account owned by the grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela on Friday.

It is currently unclear why the social media platform, owned by Elon Musk, banned Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela, a member of the National Assembly of South Africa. The company has issued no statement regarding its decision to restrict the South African politician’s speech, but the timing is questionable.

Mandela has spent the last week making multiple public appearances in support of Palestinian liberation, quoting his grandfather ahead of his voyage aboard a Freedom Flotilla trip sailing to Gaza from Turkey with the intention to provide more than 5,000 tons of aid to the war-torn enclave.

“He regarded the Palestinian struggle as the greatest moral issue of our time,” Mandela said in a speech posted on social media Friday, referring to his grandfather while donning a keffiyeh. “He made a commitment to the Palestinian people by saying that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinian people.”

In a separate statement issued on Thursday, Mandela explained that the “Freedom Flotilla for Gaza aims to draw the attention of the international public to the atrocities, genocide and war crimes being committed against the people of Gaza.”

So far, the departure of the flotilla of ships has been waylaid due to a bevy of ship inspections triggered by an Israeli pressure campaign, reported Al Jazeera, even though a retired U.S. Army colonel and State Department official organizing the flotilla said the ships had already passed all of their inspections and were ready to set sail.

In order to reach Gaza, the flotilla will need to break through an Israeli blockade originally set in place in 2007. Previous efforts to break the blockade by humanitarian missions have ended in death. In 2010, the six-vessel Freedom Flotilla I was intercepted by Israeli forces, who boarded the ships via helicopters and speedboats on international waters, shooting and killing nine activists.

Having eyes on the flotillas is critical for their safety, according to one of the aid shipment’s organizers.

“We’re trying to get all eyes on the Flotilla to make sure the world knows and Israel knows we’re coming so that they can’t fire a missile on us and say it was unintentional,” Huwaida Arraf, a Palestinian-American attorney and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, told Al Jazeera.

More about the war in Gaza:

Alina Habba Once More Presents Bizarre Defense of Trump’s Actions

Habba rushed to explain the former president’s actions at his hush-money trial.

Dave Sanders/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s attorney Alina Habba shared an interesting explanation for why the former president has been holding on to printouts of news articles in court:“He’s educating himself.”

During an interview on Fox News, Habba was asked about Trump’s current mood during his hush-money trial. She replied that Trump is “the biggest fighter I know,” before mentioning why Trump carries papers around.

“He’s reading. He’s educating himself, and he’s educating the country on what is happening,” she said.

It’s not the first time Habba has mentioned Trump’s reading habits. She used them to defend against reports that the former president dozed off in court last week, claiming that it was because “he reads a lot.” Carrying printouts of news articles even in court would seem to back up Habba’s words, except for the fact that Trump notoriously has a short attention span. While he was president, memos and policy papers were kept to a single page, with plenty of graphics and maps to hold his attention.

Trump is a voracious reader of print media, though, particularly when it’s all about him. Even after his presidency, Trump still maintains print subscriptions to The New York Post and The New York Times at his Mar-a-Lago residence, and aides print out articles from the internet for him to read, according to a recent Politico report.

Since he’s legally required to be in court every day, Trump may just be trying to keep up with his usual reading habits by taking those printouts into court. They may be a distraction from the courtroom’s cold temperatures or part of an effort to stay awake. Regardless, when you’re facing 34 felony counts for allegedly falsifying business records to hide an affair with an adult film actress before an election, you can’t say publicly that you find your trial boring and need something to read.

You’ll Never Guess What the Right Is Blaming George Soros for Now

Conservatives are blaming protests they claim are antisemitic on a Jewish man.

Selcuk Acar/Anadolu/Getty Images
Students participate in a protest encampment in support of Palestine on Columbia University's campus on April 25, 2024

The New York Post found a way to peg the nationwide, pro-Palestine student protests on billionaire investor and hedge fund manager George Soros on Friday, once again reviving the right’s favorite antisemitic conspiracy theory.

The publication tied the overarching group organizing the campus-based protests, Students for Justice in Palestine, to some nonprofits funded in part by Soros. Those include the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, which received funding from Open Society Foundations, which was founded by Soros.

“The cash from Soros and his acolytes has been critical to the Columbia protests that set off the national copycat demonstrations. Three groups set up the tent city on Columbia’s lawn last Wednesday: Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Within Our Lifetime,” wrote the Post, taking aim at purchases of tents, pizza, coffee, rotisserie chickens, “organic tortilla chips,” and sandwiches, allegedly paid for by groups tied to Soros.

“An analysis by The Post shows that all three got cash from groups linked to Soros. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund also gave cash to JVP,” the publication wrote.

But the complicated, antisemitic trope forgoes the reality that American opinion has aggressively soured on Israel’s war in Gaza since it began. A poll conducted by Gallup in March revealed that just 36 percent of Americans approved of the military action Israel has taken in Gaza—down from 50 percent in November. According to the poll, Republicans are practically the only demographic still holding on to U.S. support for the war, which some U.S. lawmakers have decried as “genocide.”

Don’t be surprised if the “it’s all Soros” trope quickly picks up among others on the right. Conservative leaders like House Speaker Mike Johnson have flown up to Columbia University to stoke the flames of an otherwise peaceful encampment of students who pay more than $68,000 per year in tuition to utilize the grounds, warning individuals practicing their First Amendment rights that he may call upon the National Guard to break them up. That violent call came after the university’s president, Minouche Shafik, authorized the New York City Police Department to sweep and arrest protesting students on school grounds, and after the school’s sister institution Barnard suspended and evicted at least 53 students participating in the encampment.

More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 77,000 Palestinians injured in the conflict, according to data from the Gaza Health Ministry. Israel has advanced its attacks on the beleaguered nation by engaging in what the U.N. Human Rights Chief Volker Turk has described as war crimes, including blocking humanitarian aid from reaching those who need it. Israel has also utilized mass starvation, as well as blocking or destroying access to critical resources such as water, food, fuel, electricity, and medical aid.

“Open Society has funded a broad spectrum of US groups that have advocated for the rights of Palestinians and Israelis and for peaceful resolution to the conflict in Israel and the OPT,” the group said in a statement provided to the Post. “The Open Society Foundations proudly support the right of all citizens to peaceful protest—a bedrock principle of our democracy.”

Trump Is Paying Attention to Just One Detail About Hush-Money Trial

The former president has started to claim that the courtroom temperature is a conspiracy against him.

Former President Donald Trump on April 26, 2024 in New York City.
Mark Peterson/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump has yet another complaint in his hush-money trial: the courtroom is too cold, and he thinks it’s deliberate.

Trump made the claim Friday in the hallway of Manhattan District Court just before the start of proceedings, according to The Hill.

“We have another day in court in a freezing courthouse,” Trump said. “It’s very cold in there, on purpose, I believe. They don’t seem to be able to get the temperature up. It shouldn’t be that complicated.”

He’s not the only one to point out the less-than-ideal temperatures. Journalists, his defense team, and prospective jurors all complained about the cold during jury selection last week, with some people reportedly even shivering. One of Trump’s attorneys, Todd Blanche, asked Judge Juan Merchan last Thursday if it were “possible just to warm it up a degree or two? It is so freezing in here.”

“Honest answer to that question is if I did that, it would probably go about up about 30 degrees,” Merchan said.

It’s not surprising that the courtroom would have temperature issues, considering that the building is more than 80 years old. Trump, though, has been complaining constantly about his trial, particularly that he is legally required to attend the proceedings, and can’t attend his other legal cases, such as his presidential immunity case before the Supreme Court.

But at least the current courtroom temperatures will make it harder for Trump to nod off during the trial.

Trump faces 34 felony charges for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime by having his fixer and former attorney, Michael Cohen, pay off adult film actress Stormy Daniels to cover up an affair before the 2016 presidential election. Trump has pleaded not guilty on all counts. Several of his former employees, including Cohen and White House aide Hope Hicks, are expected to testify against him. Daniels will also take the stand, which means Donald Trump is going to be spending many more uncomfortable days in court.

Is Trump Afraid of This Key Hush-Money Trial Witness?

Trump has been surprisingly hesitant to attack former American Media Inc. CEO David Pecker.

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

An old-friend-turned-witness against Donald Trump in the former president’s New York hush-money trial has spent the better part of the week throwing Trump under the bus—but for whatever reason, Trump still hasn’t slung any mud back.

David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer and former CEO of its parent company, American Media Inc., has so far told the court under oath that Trump coordinated a scheme to pay off his former mistresses ahead of the 2016 presidential election, that Trump administration officials Hope Hicks and Sarah Huckabee Sanders would lend their own approval for the scheme once Trump was in office, that Trump’s effort to bury the affair rumors was singularly intended to sway the 2016 presidential election, and that the payments apparently skirted FEC campaign finance laws. And yet Trump has remained uncharacteristically quiet about Pecker, refusing to take down the former tabloid executive—causing some legal experts to ask why.

“He hasn’t done a darn thing to tear down Pecker,” trial lawyer Michael Popok told the “LegalAF” podcast. “Pecker is dumping willingly on Donald Trump and supporting the entire case.”

That’s notably different from Trump’s treatment of his other ex-allies. His former fixer Michael Cohen, for instance, has become a frequent target of Trump’s social media vitriol, even though Cohen, a witness in the criminal trial, is technically protected by the gag order imposed on Trump.

But some legal experts believe that Trump’s silence could be an indication that Pecker has even more dirt on the GOP presidential nominee.

“My guess is that from Trump’s vantage point, Pecker has a lot of power, because he can create stories (including negative and even fake ones) about HIM! So he has power/leverage; not in Trump’s interest to antagonize him,” wrote former FBI agent and attorney Asha Rangappa on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Pecker can’t lie, he is already on record and AMI has a non prosecution agreement stipulating to certain facts, so I doubt that is the expectation,” she added.

Trump is accused of using Cohen to sweep an affair with porn star 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.

Read about the dirt David Pecker has already dished:

Potential Trump VP Pick Brags That She Murdered a Puppy She Hated

Kristi Noem made a wild admission clearly aimed at Donald Trump.

Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s shortlist for his running mate is full of the right wing’s worst political stars—aside from himself, that is. But reported vice presidential hopeful Kristi Noem has one skeleton in her closet—er, in the woods—that will not be helpful in the polls.

The South Dakota governor admits to deliberately killing her 14-month-old pet dog Cricket in her upcoming book No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong with Politics and How We Move America Forward, reported The Guardian, which obtained an advance copy of the book, on Friday. The book is due out next month.

“I hated that dog,” Noem writes, calling her “untrainable,” “dangerous to anyone she came in contact with,” and “less than worthless… as a hunting dog.”

After repeated failed attempts to train Cricket as a hunting dog, the straw that broke the camel’s back was when Cricket mauled a family’s chickens when Noem stopped at their house following a pheasant hunt.

Cricket had escaped Noem’s truck and attacked the family’s chickens, “grabb[ing] one chicken at a time, crunching it to death with one bite, then dropping it to attack another.”

Noem wrote that she repeatedly apologized, wrote the family a check “for the price they asked, and helped them dispose of the carcasses littering the scene of the crime.”

“It was not a pleasant job,” she writes, “but it had to be done. And after it was over, I realized another unpleasant job needed to be done.”

Noem recalls getting her gun and leading Cricket to a gravel pit before executing her.

Critics were quick to point out that the fault was not with Cricket, but with Noem herself. A 14-month-old dog is a “baby that doesn’t know any better,” Dan Lussen, a professional hunting dog trainer, told Rolling Stone.

“To me, it’s a lack of guidance by the owner, or training by the owner, or discipline by the owner,” he said, explaining that training a young hunting dog is a lengthy and slow process. “There’s a lot of steps that you take before you take it to a field and shoot birds over it.”

Noem’s record as governor of South Dakota isn’t clean, either. Several Native tribes in the state have banned her from their reservations over her racist assertions that Natives in the state work with drug cartels and neglect their children. Plus, Noem’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a high number of cases in the state, and she tried to prevent Native tribes from implementing their own Covid safety measures.

Her attitude towards canines may not put her in Trump’s VP doghouse, though. He has repeatedly called his opponents dogs as an insult, mentioned on multiple occasions about how much he doesn’t like them, and famously avoided having a pet dog as president because he said it “feels a little phony to me.”