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Biden’s Wealthiest Donors Are Quite Pleased by Israel Policy: Report

A new report details how many of Biden’s top donors are also funding pro-Israel organizations.

Joe Biden walking. Chandeliers and a red carpet are in the background.
Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

Joe Biden’s support for Israel’s brutal war on Gaza has drawn protests across the country, from college campuses to public streets, and has even led to the president minimizing events that could potentially be interrupted by protesters.

To his top donors, though, Biden’s stance has largely been music to their ears, according to a new report from the Quincy Institute’s Responsible Statecraft. The publication reviewed campaign contributions, philanthropy, and public statements from people who gave more than $900,000 to the Biden Victory Fund, and found heavy sympathy for Israel sometimes coupled with bigotry against Muslims and Palestinians.

For example, longtime Democratic donor Haim Saban, who contributed $929,599 to the Victory Fund, also serves on the board of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. The billionaire has also donated $1 million to the United Democracy Project, an independent arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. After Biden briefly paused a weapons shipment to Israel last week, Saban sent an email to Biden aides saying, “Let’s not forget there are more Jewish voters who care about Israel than Muslim voters who care about Hamas.”

Compare that to a recent New York Times poll that found that 13 percent of 2020 Biden voters who planned to defect from him in 2024 cited his foreign policy and stance on Israel’s war in Gaza as the reason. But Biden isn’t likely to hear about those concerns at his big fundraising events.

The article names several other top Biden donors who support Israel’s military actions, described by many as war crimes, and attack Palestinians and the protesters who support them. These include pundit George Conway, mobile gaming magnate Mark Pincus, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

Another separate report Thursday revealed the extent to which billionaires are affecting U.S. policy on Israel. The Washington Post exposed a WhatsApp chat group set up in late April by business titans and wealthy individuals who pressured New York City Mayor Eric Adams to use police force to shut down Columbia University’s Gaza Solidarity Encampment. These billionaires included Kind snack company founder Daniel Lubetzky, hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb, billionaire Len Blavatnik and real estate investor Joseph Sitt. Other prominent billionaires were also in the group chat advising on Israel policy, including former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell, and hedge fund manager Bill Ackman.

The fact that wealthy donors seem to have more influence than public opinion over a city mayor, let alone a sitting president, is a travesty. Israel’s war on Gaza has killed over 35,000 people, including more than 15,000 children, much of it thanks to U.S. military aid and weapons. Calls for the Biden administration to end its support for the war and halt weapons shipments to Israel seem to fall on deaf ears. While this might make his donors happy, perhaps Biden should be more concerned about voters and a growing humanitarian crisis.

Michael Cohen Buries Trump in One Exchange on Hush-Money Trial

Cohen said he always sought Trump’s sign-off, even if it upset the 2016 campaign team.

Donald Trump sits with his hands folded
Victor J. Blue/Pool/Getty Images

Michael Cohen’s latest testimony just added another dent to Donald Trump’s crumbling legal defense in his hush-money case.

While on the stand Thursday, Cohen revealed that he didn’t do anything without Trump’s knowledge and his send-off, even if the excessive measures infuriated his campaign. That extra insurance was largely out of fear of any repercussions for doing or saying something on Trump’s behalf that the testy former reality TV star might not approve of.

During a string of questions probing Cohen’s relationship with the press, Trump attorney Todd Blanche asked if Cohen had ever answered a question without first checking in with Trump.

“It was my routine to ask him,” Cohen said, noting that Trump would “blow up” at him if Cohen got something incorrect, potentially costing him his job.

“So over the course of nine and a half years, you never commented on a story on your own?” continued Blanche.

Cohen testified that, for an initial comment on the story, he would “always get a comment to something” from Trump. But after that, he would effectively copy and paste the response to subsequent outlets running similar stories.

It’s just another instance in which Cohen has undercut Trump’s legal defense, which has attempted to frame Trump as a boss totally unaware of the hush-money payments and that the funds for the payments came from Cohen alone. Instead, Cohen has repeatedly outed Trump as a “micromanager” who was aware of his every move, telling the court on Monday that the pair spoke “every single day, and multiple times a day.” And, if they weren’t able to communicate one-on-one, Cohen said he would often communicate with Trump via one of his other close confidants, including his former assistant Rhona Graff, Trump Organization employee turned director of Oval Office operations Keith Schiller, Trump’s children, or Hope Hicks.

Other witnesses in the criminal trial have also testified that Trump was the originator of the hush-money payments, including Daniels’s former attorney Keith Davidson, who said that he understood at the time the agreement was drawn up that the ultimate source of the money was Trump.

The Republican presidential nominee 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.

Greg Abbott’s Pardon of Daniel Perry Includes a Dark Detail

The Texas governor is pardoning a self-identified racist who killed a Black Lives Matter protester. But that’s not all that comes with the pardon.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

On Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott approved a full pardon for Daniel Perry, an Uber driver who shot and killed anti–police brutality protester Garrett Foster in 2020. Perry was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a Texas state district court judge in May 2023.

But that’s not all that came with the pardon. In a disturbing move, Abbott also restored Perry’s firearm rights.

“Texas has one of the strongest ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws of self-defense that cannot be nullified by a jury or a progressive District Attorney,” Abbott said in a statement announcing the pardon.

Abbott, a far-right governor who has openly feuded with the federal government about migrants and LGBTQ+ rights—and sent swarms of state troopers to violently clear college Gaza solidarity encampments—has sought to pardon Perry since he was convicted.

Stand Your Ground laws were popularized and brought into law by conservative legislators following the vigilante murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. The laws serve to negate “duty to retreat,” which are contrasting sets of laws prohibiting the use of deadly force in situations where a person could reasonably flee to safety.

In 2020, at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests that year, Perry encountered a protest while driving for Uber in Austin, Texas. According to Austin police, Perry stopped his car, honking at the protesters, before driving his car into the march. Perry then shot Garrett Foster, who was legally open-carrying an AK-47 while pushing his fiancée’s wheelchair. Perry’s attorneys argued Foster raised his rifle at Perry and he acted in self-defense, but witness testimony and video from the march disputed these claims. After his murder conviction, messages and posts by Perry self-identifying as “a racist” and wanting to “go to Dallas to shoot looters” were released to the public.

Abbott pushed to secure a pardon for Perry immediately after he was sentenced, directing the parole board to review the case the day after the 2023 verdict. Abbott’s pardon was announced almost immediately after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended it, The Texas Tribune reported Thursday.

Michael Cohen Schools Trump’s Dumb Lawyer

The key witness in the hush-money trial was forced to remind Donald Trump’s attorney how the law works.

David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

At Donald Trump’s hush-money trial Thursday, his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen had a legal lesson for Trump’s counsel.

Cohen, a witness for the prosecution, was being cross-examined by Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche, who asked Cohen about conversations that the former Trump employee had secretly recorded

Blanche, in a stern tone, asked Cohen if he ever told anyone that he was recording them, and reportedly seemed surprised when Cohen said no.

Cohen calmly told Blanche, “It’s not illegal in New York.” Blanche seemed offended at this answer.

“Mr. Cohen, I did not ask you if you were breaking the law,” Blanche replied.

In the state of New York, for a recording to be made legally, one-party consent is required. This means that one party to the recorded conversation has to give their permission to be in accordance with the law, and Cohen, as the one making the recordings, had that consent from himself.

Earlier, Blanche pressed Cohen about recorded conversations that were privileged, like those between attorney and client, but then probably wished he hadn’t.

“You understand that it is not ethical to record a conversation with your client, there’s lots of New York bar opinions on this. But you are not supposed to record your client,” Blanche said.

“Well, there’s the crime-fraud exception rule,” Cohen replied, alluding to the case in question.

Cohen has been testifying all this week on his role in Trump’s scheme to cover up an affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election by paying her off with Cohen’s help. The Republican presidential nominee faces 34 felony charges for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime. Trump has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Jared Kushner’s Latest Massive Foreign Investment Deal Sparks Uproar

Nepo baby Jared Kushner just got another big gift from a foreign government.

Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

Jared Kushner secured a massive $500 million contract with the state of Serbia to build a hotel on the memorialized ruins of a former military base in Belgrade, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The announcement of the contract reportedly provoked protests in Belgrade against the deal, which is being bankrolled by Kushner’s Saudi-backed investment company, Affinity Partners. In defense of the contract, a Serbian government official described Kushner’s company primarily funded by foreign interests as a “reputable American company.”

“The government of Serbia has chosen a reputable American company as a partner in this venture, which will invest in the revitalization of the former Federal Secretariat for National Defense complex,” the statement read. The deal with Kushner’s company inked by Serbian officials includes a 99-year lease to convert the site into a luxury hotel, commercial space, and over 1,500 residential units.

This is one of the biggest investment deals Kushner has landed while his father-in-law, Donald Trump, runs for president.

Prior to approval of the contract, public officials in Serbia heavily opposed the deal for its insensitivity and potential for political manipulation. Serbian politician Borko Stefanovic described the location as “one of the pearls of pre-war architecture” to The Daily Beast, noting, “Most Serbs believe this site should not be desecrated in any way.”

A petition was launched in Serbia against the contract with Kushner in late March that generated 10,000 signatures in a matter of hours and over 25,000 within days, according to The Daily Beast. The location has long been sought after by Trump and his acolytes: In 2013, Trump expressed interest in turning the site into a hotel. In 2020, while serving as a diplomat for Trump, Richard Grenell—who joins Kushner on this contract—suggested “repairing” the complex.

The Yugoslav Ministry of Defense military complex was bombed by NATO forces in 1999 during a U.S.-backed campaign that killed an estimated 2,000 civilians and lasted until the Yugoslav Army retreated from Kosovo during the Kosovo War. The prospect of a U.S. company building anything on the site was described by Politico as “if the Taliban wanted to build a luxury apartment compound on the site of New York’s Twin Towers.”

Calls to Remove Kansas City Chiefs Kicker Explode After Grad Speech

Is Harrison Butker regretting that catastrophic speech yet?

Harrison Butker looks up
Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Kansas City Chiefs Harrison Butker upset more than just a few women online with the misogynistic commencement speech he gave at Benedictine College over the weekend. As of Thursday, more than 120,000 people had signed an online petition calling on the NFL team to give the kicker the boot.

“We demand accountability from our sports figures who should be role models promoting respect for all people regardless of their race, gender identity or sexual orientation,” the petition reads. “We call upon the Kansas City Chiefs management to dismiss Harrison Butker immediately for his inappropriate conduct.”

In the span of just a few minutes, Butker managed to rail against abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia, the LGBTQ community, and the “tyranny of diversity, equity, and inclusion” programs. He also encouraged the women in the crowd at the private Catholic college to forget the “diabolical lies” sold to them and to return to the “vocation” of bearing children and cooking in the kitchen instead of beginning careers related to their degrees. The strangest part is that Butker holds these beliefs in spite of the fact that his own success is in part due to his mother’s career as a medical physicist at the Emory University Department of Radiation Oncology.

But the growing chorus of people calling for Butker to face consequences for the remarks hasn’t translated into action by the NFL. Instead, the football league issued a lukewarm response, scarcely acknowledging Butker’s disturbing views.

“Harrison Butker gave a speech in his personal capacity,” Jonathan Beane, the NFL’s senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer, told People. “His views are not those of the NFL as an organization. The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger.”

Still, the chauvinistic messaging could stir up problems for another Chiefs player, team captain Travis Kelce, whose relationship with pop superstar—and self-described feminist—Taylor Swift has launched him and the football team into national celebrity status. Especially since Butker specifically called Swift out in his speech, quoting a line from her song “Bejeweled” that “familiarity breeds contempt.”

Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert Brutally Roasted Outside Trump Trial

The Republican representatives at Trump’s hush-money trial tried to hold a press conference. It did not go to plan.

Matt Gaetz yelling in front of mics. Other Republican representatives including Anna Paulina Luna and Andy Ogles surround him.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Some of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters in Congress showed up at his hush-money trial on Thursday. They didn’t plan on being publicly embarrassed.

Representatives Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert were among those who made the trek to Manhattan, ostensibly to support the former president. They quickly found themselves the object of scorn from local New Yorkers.

The audience at the trainwreck press conference also heckled the members of Congress, even chanting “Beetlejuice” at Boebert, a reference to her inappropriate behavior at a live theatrical performance of Beetlejuice last fall. To make matters worse, the heckling came as she tried to get some microphone time as her colleagues quickly left her behind.

The MAGA politicians had other plans for their New York trip. Perhaps they wanted to get out of their actual legislative work, tease a second insurrection, make a cringey campaign ad with Trump, or help him skirt his gag order (which would be illegal). Maybe they think their support will help the presumptive Republican nominee for president’s self-esteem, as his trial is certainly not going well for him.

Trump is facing 34 felony charges for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime by using  his former fixer, Michael Cohen, to pay off adult film actress Stormy Daniels to cover up an affair before the 2016 election. Each day of the trial brings more damning testimony and evidence against Trump.

Clarence Thomas Goes Rogue, Does the Right Thing for Once

The Supreme Court justice authored the majority opinion protecting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Clarence Thomas looks to the side
Eric Lee/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday, ending a case that would have had wide-ranging implications for federal agencies.

In a shocking move, Justice Clarence Thomas took the lead on the 7–2 decision, in which the court decided that the funding mechanism for the financial sector regulator—which comes from a standing pool of funds issued by Congress outside of its typical appropriations bill process—was completely legitimate.

The case reached the Supreme Court after the ultraconservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the method violated the appropriations clause and was thereby unconstitutional.

“Under the Appropriations Clause, an appropriation is simply a law that authorizes expenditures from a specified source of public money for designated purposes. The statute that provides the Bureau’s funding meets these requirements,” Thomas wrote in the majority opinion. “We therefore conclude that the Bureau’s funding mechanism does not violate the Appropriations Clause.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito argued that the current structure effectively allows the agency to “bankroll its own agenda without any congressional control or oversight.”

“There is apparently nothing wrong with a law that empowers the Executive to draw as much money as it wants from any identified source for any permissible purpose until the end of time,” Alito wrote.

But a conversation about constitutionality is not where the case originated. In 2018, the Community Financial Services Association of America and the Consumer Service Alliance of Texas, a trade association that represents payday lenders and credit-access businesses, sued the bureau in an attempt to plug a crackdown on payday loans.

“For years, lawbreaking companies and Wall Street lobbyists have been scheming to defund essential consumer protection enforcement,” a CFPB spokesperson said in a statement. “The Supreme Court has rejected their radical theory that would have devastated the American financial markets. The Court repudiated the arguments of the payday loan lobby and made it clear that the CFPB is here to stay.”

In another surprise move, Thomas hit back hard at Alito’s dissent, saying his usual far-right comrade in arms had failed to connect his argument to the actual case at hand.

But legal experts were quick to qualify that the high court’s rational decision wasn’t a sign of its moderation, but rather a symptom of how unhinged the Fifth Circuit has become.

“We’re going to come back to this a lot over the next six weeks, but *please* don’t confuse ‘#SCOTUS slaps down a wackadoodle Fifth Circuit decision’ with ‘#SCOTUS is more moderate than its critics claim,’” wrote University of Texas at Austin law professor Steven Vladeck. “‘Not as radical as the Fifth Circuit’ is not the same as ‘moderate.’”

The court will hear more high-profile challenges to the authority of federal agencies in the coming weeks, with two cases focusing on guns and abortion rights.

Stable Genius Trump Once Again Violates Gag Order in Incoherent Rant

Donald Trump keeps putting his foot in his mouth at his hush-money trial.

Donald Trump speaks and holds a stack of papers out in his left hand, standing in front of a metal barricade. Todd Blanche stands behind him. Others in the background are blurry.
Steven Hirsch/Pool/Getty Images

On Thursday morning, before his hush-money trial resumed, Donald Trump ranted and raved outside of court and, in the process, likely violated his gag order by attacking one of the prosecutors.

“A lead person from the DOJ is running the trial, so Biden’s office is running this trial. This trial is a scam, and it shouldn’t happen,” Trump said.

Trump was referring to Matthew Colangelo, the lead prosecutor on the case and a former attorney for the Department of Justice. Earlier this month, the New York Post reported that Colangelo was a political consultant to the Democratic National Committee. Trump’s gag order prohibits him from attacking court staff, jurors, the prosecution, witnesses, and their families. He has already violated the order 10 times, resulting in being fined $10,000, and Merchan has warned that any further violations would result in jail time.

Complaining that he wasn’t allowed to respond to damaging testimony from his former fixer and attorney Michael Cohen, as well as adult film actress Stormy Daniels, Trump had his legal team appeal to have the gag order tossed out—only to be denied by a New York appeals court on Tuesday. That didn’t stop Trump from trying other methods to get around the gag order Wednesday, having his political allies criticize the people off-limits to him.

Trump is accused of paying off Daniels in order to keep their affair under wraps before the 2016 presidential election with the help of Cohen, and faces 34 felony charges for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime. If found guilty, he would likely serve prison time. With these repeated gag order violations, though, Trump might see the inside of a jail very soon.

Lauren Boebert Admits Exactly Why Trump Stooges Descended on Trial

They’re not even trying to hide it anymore.

Lauren Boebert stands in a crowd behind a metal barricade. A security guard stands to the left of her.
Mike Segar/Pool/Getty Images

Representative Lauren Boebert admitted exactly why she and her conservative coterie appeared at Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday for Donald Trump’s hush-money trial: to help him circumvent his gag order.

The firebrand representative of Beetlejuice fame immediately took to X (formerly Twitter) to denigrate lead witness Michael Cohen and Judge Juan Merchan’s daughter on Trump’s behalf.

Boebert seemed to acknowledge that she was acting as a surrogate to violate Trump’s gag order, writing on X, “They may have gagged President Trump. They didn’t gag me. They didn’t gag the rest of us.”

“I wonder if I’ll run into Judge Merchan’s daughter here in court today,” Boebert wrote, accusing her of “being paid millions and millions of dollars by Democrat campaigns all across the country.”

Boebert also threw some barbs at key witness Michael Cohen, asking, “Why is that fraud Michael Cohen allowed on TikTok with a shirt of Trump behind bars but Trump can’t speak out?”

Conservative attacks against Merchan’s daughter—an attorney who operates a progressive political consulting firm—have raged on for weeks, spearheaded by Trump in an effort to remove Merchan from overseeing the case. Trump’s attacks have led to threats against family members of prosecutors overseeing the case. Merchan criticized the behavior as an effort to impede the rule of law.

Merchan’s gag order prohibits Trump from speaking about people participating in his hush-money trial, save for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Merchan himself. The order also bars Trump from speaking about the judge’s and prosecution’s family members. Trump is similarly prohibited from tapping surrogates to speak on his behalf.

While none have yet explicitly acknowledged they’re acting as surrogates for Trump, multiple conservative politicians have criticized the gag order while making denigrating statements in line with Trump’s against those Trump is prohibited from speaking about. Earlier this week, Senator Tommy Tuberville admitted he went to the trial to help Trump “overcome his gag order.”

When asked on Tuesday if Trump was using people to speak on his behalf, Trump declared, “I do have many surrogates, and they’re all speaking very beautifully.”

Merchan previously noted that, as Trump has violated his gag order 10 times, he may have to consider jail time should he violate it again. For Merchan to take action on surrogates, there would need to be proof that Trump directed them to speak. With these blabbermouths, direct admission seems to be just a matter of time.