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Matt Gaetz Desperately Tries to Dismiss New Ethics Probe

The Florida Republican dismissed the new probe as “frivolous.” It’s anything but.

Matt Gaetz speaks
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Representative Matt Gaetz has already denounced the new ethics probe into his alleged misconduct as “frivolous” and “Soviet”-esque—but the details of an unusual release by the House Ethics Committee suggest that he may be in even deeper trouble than initially thought.

The committee announced Tuesday that it would be expanding its investigation into Gaetz. After interviewing more than a dozen witnesses, issuing 25 subpoenas, and reviewing thousands of pages, the committee said in a statement that it had identified new allegations, including obstruction of an investigation, that it deemed “merit review.”

Gaetz was previously investigated by the Justice Department in 2020 on allegations that he had sexual relations with a minor several years prior. That probe didn’t result in charges, but it did spur an investigation by the Republican-led House Ethics Committee, identifying witnesses who accused the MAGA acolyte of sexual misconduct, drug use, and public corruption.

“The House Ethics Committee has closed four probes into me, which emerged from lies intended solely to smear me. Instead of working with me to ban Congressional stock trading, the Ethics Committee is now opening new frivolous investigations. They are doing this to avoid the obvious fact that every investigation into me ends the same way: my exoneration,” Gaetz posted on X.

He then continued, once again, to steer the blame toward former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, claiming that “McCarthy and his goons” were still digging for a crime. 

Gaetz was one of eight House Republicans who voted to strip McCarthy of the gavel in November. At the time, Gaetz claimed that his divisive action was motivated by allegations that McCarthy was caving to Democrats, but private communications between Gaetz and a close friend have since revealed that he was actually motivated to punish McCarthy after the California Republican  refused to stop the renewed House Ethics Committee probe into Gaetz’s alleged payments to a minor for sex. 

“I’ll give you the truth why I’m not speaker. It’s because one person, a member of Congress, wanted me to stop an ethics complaint because he slept with a 17-year-old. An ethics complaint that started before I ever became speaker, and that’s illegal and I’m not going to get involved,” McCarthy told C-Span in April.

Trump’s Desperate Gag Order Appeal Gets Shut Down in Court

Donald Trump’s gag order in his hush-money trial isn’t going anywhere, ruled a New York appeals court.

Donald Trump speaks and looks to the side (profile shot)
Seth Wenig/Pool/Getty Images

The highest court in New York state declined to hear Trump’s appeal of the gag order still in effect from his hush-money case, stating the appeal lacked “substantial constitutional” basis. The rejection is the latest setback amid Trump’s ongoing legal turmoil after being convicted on 34 felonies.

Trump’s attorneys filed an appeal to end the order on May 15, prior to his conviction. His attorneys argued that the gag order prevented Trump from engaging in “core political speech on matters of central importance at the height of his Presidential campaign.” In recent weeks, Trump’s campaign has largely focused on racist tirades about migrants, electric vehicles, and sharks—not on the witnesses, jury, and family members of authorities involved in his hush-money criminal trial, thanks to the gag order that prohibits Trump from attacking them.

On Tuesday, the New York Court of Appeals declined to hear Trump’s appeal, stating that “no substantial constitutional question is directly involved.” The court’s decision may matter little, as Judge Juan Merchan is expected to issue a ruling on a defense request to lift the order this or next week, according to AP. Trump’s gag order was enacted ahead of his hush-money trial out of concern his proclivity for running his mouth would impact the trial proceedings, and was fined $10,000 for violating the gag order.

Trump’s lawyers argued that the gag order should be lifted because the trial has ended and told AP earlier this month, “It’s a little bit of the theater of the absurd at this point, right?”

According to AP, the gag order is still in effect because the case is still active—Trump’s sentencing hearing is slated for July 11, after which point the gag order will automatically end as the case concludes.

Judge Who Tried to Kill Abortion Pill Now Takes Aim at Gun Control

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk has blocked a rule from the ATF expanding gun control regulations.

An abortion rights activist holds a sign with a sketch of Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk and Donald Trump
Probal Rashid/LightRocket/Getty Images
An abortion rights activist holds a sign with a sketch of Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk and Donald Trump at a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., in April 2023.

The Donald Trump–appointed federal judge responsible for suspending federal approval for mifepristone is back, and he’s once again attempting to undermine the authority of a federal agency.

Last week, Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk issued a preliminary injunction preventing the federal government from enforcing a controversial new rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which expanded the definition of being “engaged in business” as a gun seller.

The new rule would require more sellers at gun shows to perform background checks on their buyers, shrinking—but not entirely solving—the long-standing “gun show loophole” that allows gun show vendors to skirt the accountability measures taken by other firearms dealers.

The rule, which went into effect in May, sparked a lawsuit from GOP-led states Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Utah, as well as one gun owner in Amarillo, Texas, where—wouldn’t you know it—Kacsmaryk happens to be the only federal judge. Any group that files a lawsuit in Amarillo can essentially guarantee that the far-right judge will be the one to hear it, making that district a hot spot for lawsuits from conservative groups.

The gun owner in the suit is backed by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, the Tennessee Firearms Association, and the Gun Owners of America.

In his 22-page ruling, Kacsmaryk wrote that the plaintiffs would likely succeed in their argument that the ATF had overstepped the Administrative Procedure Act by changing the rule without congressional approval and that expanding the definition of gun sellers put the burden on “gun owners [to] prove innocence, rather than the government [to] prove guilt.” He enjoined the ruling, meaning that the new ATF rule cannot be enforced in any of the plaintiff states, until the lawsuit is resolved.

Kacsmaryk’s injunction follows a similar tactic in his infamous ruling last year threatening nationwide mifepristone access: to undermine the authority of a federal agency. He issued a ruling overturning the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the abortion pill, which had been on the market for nearly 20 years. Kacsmaryk, who has long-standing ties to the anti-abortion movement, deployed a Victorian-era rule in his argument to ban the drug, which he also cited in a separate ruling to ban drag performances.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court declined to override the FDA’s authority. It is unclear if it will follow the same line of thinking should the gun seller case reach the high court.

MAGA Pushes New Conspiracy to Prep for Trump Losing Biden Debate

Donald Trump’s allies have a new conspiracy theory on the Trump-Biden debate—and it sure sounds like they’re preparing for Trump to lose.

Donald Trump grimaces
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

With Donald Trump’s debate with President Joe Biden approaching on June 27, conservatives are quickly scrambling for excuses in case Trump performs poorly.

Speaking to Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump Monday night on Fox News, Sean Hannity speculated that “the Joe Biden that we’re talking about tonight; I don’t think will be the Joe Biden we’re gonna see on debate night.”

“I think the Joe Biden we see on the debate night is gonna be the guy that we saw at the State of the Union,” Hannity said, using some gibberish to mock the president. “He’s going to be all hyped up, hyper-caffeinated, whatever ‘it’ is.”

It’s not the first time Hannity has speculated about Biden taking some kind of drugs to go head to head with Trump, and he made similar remarks last week on his TV show evoking Republican complaints about Biden ruining their “Sleepy Joe” narrative at the State of the Union earlier this year.

“Whatever Joe drank, ate, took before the State of the Union—maybe it was just Red Bull and caffeine pills. I don’t know,” Hannity said last week. “Whatever it was, that was not the normal Joe. We never saw it before, and we haven’t seen it since. But we will see it for the debate.”

It’s also telling that Hannity’s latest remarks came in an interview with Lara Trump, who told the conservative pundit in May that she thought the debates would be rigged in favor of Biden.

Hannity’s remarks were echoed by Representative Ronny Jackson, who went on Donald Trump Jr.’s podcast Monday and speculated with the son of the convicted felon about the drugs he thinks Biden is taking.

​​“Some of those are drugs that are engineered to try and help with your cognition. Some of them are just to try and make you more awake—the amphetamine-type drugs like Adderall and things of that nature, and then there’s things like Provigil that increase your alertness,” Jackson said. “So, I think they’re probably trying to find just the right mix of stuff that can wake him up and make him a little bit more alert and with it.”

Under Jackson’s watch as Trump’s personal physician while he was president, the White House Medical Unit reportedly prescribed those very same drugs along with other sedatives and stimulants in large quantities to officials in the Trump administration, even earning nicknames like “Candyman” or “Dr. Feelgood” within the White House.

It seems like Jackson should be looking in the mirror when speculating about Biden, or perhaps he is engaging in projection. Or Jackson should be keeping an eye on his former patient. Over the weekend, Trump repeatedly called him “Ronny Johnson” at a Detroit rally, fumbling through his remarks while bragging he had aced a cognitive test for the umpteenth time.

Biden Used “Unhinged” Strategy to Prepare for Trump Debate

Will Joe Biden’s strategy work again for his upcoming debate against Donald Trump?

Joe Biden gestures as he and Donald Trump stand at podiums
Morry Gash/AP/Bloomberg/Getty Images

In a rude reminder of how debased U.S. politics have become, a close ally of President Joe Biden revealed the secret sauce behind his approach to helping the Democratic nominee prep for his debate in the 2020 election cycle: embody Donald Trump at his “Trump-worst.”

In a new book, The Unraveling, former White House counsel Bob Bauer explained the mechanics behind his unusual approach, which ultimately projected Biden as a poised, no-nonsense candidate beside the notoriously bombastic forty-fifth president: Be “as personally insulting and unhinged as Trump can be.”

To help Biden prepare for their first face-off on September 29 in Cleveland, Bauer wrote that he “got into the role” and “watched hours of tapes of the 45th president, as a businessman, a 2016 candidate, and then in office, and read transcripts of his extemporaneous remarks on every conceivable topic,” according to an advance copy obtained by The Daily Beast.

He also took notes from Biden’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens, observing that the younger sibling really knew “how to get under her brother’s skin.”

But unlike other debate prep approaches to Trump, Bauer writes that he didn’t attempt to look like the former president. Instead, he was laser-focused on verbal insults, hand gestures, and the intonation of Trump’s voice.

“I needed to become comfortable with heaving insults at Joe Biden,” he wrote.

The results were clear. Bauer’s conditioning helped Biden remain calm and collected during the two debates, and the prep even helped to elicit arguably the most iconic line of the match-ups, with Biden asking Trump: “Will you shut up, man?”

Meanwhile, political advisers and news outlets have attempted to identify Trump’s own battle tactics for the presidential debates since he first appeared as a legitimate candidate in 2016. The Atlantic argued that Trump relies heavily on a rhetorical approach called the Gish gallop, which they describe as a “torrent of incorrect, irrelevant, or idiotic arguments” in which one can bury their opponent.

One political insider told Politico Magazine that Trump has “no strategy, just kill and eat.” And Vox created a seven-part taxonomy of Trump’s approach, observing that he “turns tough policy questions into simple stories,” filibusters until the clock runs out to avoid giving details, and leans on his poll numbers and meaningless, three-word slogans.

Four years later, it’s not entirely clear what strategy Biden will employ for his next face-off against Trump, scheduled for June 27 in Atlanta. But whatever it is, let’s hope it’s a good one.

Marjorie Taylor Greene Falls for Clearly Fake Trump Video

The far-right representative was duped by the fake video ahead of the Supreme Court’s Trump immunity ruling.

Marjorie Taylor Greene speaking looks off camera
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

They say a lie travels around the world before the truth has time to put on its pants. Lies shoot through MAGAworld before the truth even has time to wake up and figure out what the heck is going on. On Monday, far-right accounts began circulating videos purporting to show fencing and barricades lining the Supreme Court. The only hitch? There aren’t any fences or barricades around the Supreme Court. The claim originated out of thin air.

QAnon conspiracy theorists and, of course, Marjorie Taylor Greene shared the footage, with many speculating the fences and barricades were put up ahead of an impending ruling from the Supreme Court on presidential immunity. “Are they afraid that the left is not going to like the ruling?” asked one far-right aggregator account in a now-deleted post. “This could be for the Presidential Immunity case later this week,” speculated Greene in response. According to The Daily Beast, the account MTG boosted deleted its bogus post, with Greene’s speculation continuing to stick around like a dense fart before she finally quietly deleted it on Tuesday.

NBC News court reporter Daniel Barnes posted a photo outside the Supreme Court debunking the spreading rumor, quote-tweeting serial plagiarist Benny Johnson’s assertion that there was fencing around SCOTUS. Barnes’s debunk was succinctly captioned, “No there’s not.” Turns out much of the footage Johnson used originated from a post made by D.C. radio reporter Mitchell Miller reporting around the building following protests ahead of the high court overturning Roe v. Wade in May 2022.

The Supreme Court has until July 1 to issue its decision on presidential immunity, a case Trump brought to the court that will determine whether he can claim immunity from federal charges stemming from his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. A federal appeals court unanimously denied his claim in February, declaring, “We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter.” The Supreme Court has multiple options on how to decide the case, with some indications in April that they may kick it back down to lower courts.

The Supreme Court has a hilarious opportunity to rule against Trump and foil the aspirations of his staunchest supporters concocting nonsense for clicks. In the meantime, there are plenty of better options to meet your thirst for content other than spinning silly yarns. Subscribing to The New Republic is a fantastic one.

Sinclair Has Bizarre Defense For Its Shady Propaganda Coverage

The network says it isn’t repeating Republican talking points.

Lara Trump stands behind her father-in-law Donald Trump
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Right-wing media behemoth Sinclair Broadcast Group has doubled down on its misleading reporting about President Joe Biden, insisting that they stand by their coverage despite basing their assumptions on highly questionable edited footage and verifiable misinformation distributed by the RNC.

The cable news network has advanced a coordinated story across 86 of its local news websites over the course of June, targeting Biden’s age and physical ability based on social media posts made by RNC Research, a wing of the Lara Trump–run Republican National Committee. But some of the stories went beyond the facts and into the realm of fiction, including accusing Biden of physically freezing and being in a “stupor” during a White House Juneteenth event. Another article baselessly claimed that Biden had pooped himself at a D-Day memorial event in France, all based on a video of the president sitting down, reported freelance accountability journalist Judd Legum.

Responding to an issue of Legum’s newsletter, Popular Info, which examined the company’s deceptive tactics, Sinclair responded that the claims were “FALSE.”

“We do not ‘work with’ any political party and to insinuate otherwise is spreading disinformation,” Sinclair’s corporate account wrote on X. “Our political reporting includes sources/comments/posts/research from both sides of the aisle. We stand by our journalists and their reporting.”

In a private notice, Sinclair further accused Legum of failing to be “objective” while examining its reporting tactics—tactics that included automatically syndicating identical, questionable stories across dozens of its affiliates on the same day at the same time, seemingly without any editorial discretion or vetting time allotted to the local editors and reporters staffing the channels.

But denying the accusations didn’t stop Sinclair from trying to clean up its image. Shortly after responding to Legum, Sinclair’s national desk published a new story acknowledging that Donald Trump has his own “problems stumbling over words and mixing up dates.”

Trump’s Black Church Stunt Was Bad. His Next Event Was Even Worse.

After his failed appeal to Black voters, Donald Trump appeared at an event hosted by someone who says the Civil Rights Act was a “huge mistake.”

Donald Trump speaks at a podium
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Donald Trump visited a half-assed, half-white event at a Black church on Saturday, in a desperate and botched attempt to stir up support among Black voters in Detroit—but none of that is as bad as what he did next. 

Trump went on to deliver the keynote speech at the Turning Point USA “People’s Convention,” alongside his old buddy, far-right activist Charlie Kirk. 

Kirk, a meme-loving fascist who is known for getting booed off of college campuses and then whining that the girls there don’t like him, happily announced that he’d be partnering with the Trump campaign earlier this month. For someone trying to court the support of the Black community, taking the stage with someone as openly racist as Kirk is nothing less than mind-boggling. 

Earlier this year, Kirk tried to make waves by suggesting that the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, was a “mistake” and that the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped to create a “permanent DEI-type bureaucracy,” which he believes to be harmful to white men like himself.  

Last year, Kirk posted to X (formerly Twitter), “Whiteness is great. Be proud of who you are.” Earlier this year on his podcast he fretted over flying in an airplane flown by a Black pilot. 

“I’m sorry. If I see a Black pilot, I’m going to be like, ‘Boy, I hope he’s qualified,’” he said, before insisting that it’s not what he believes, but how DEI initiatives make him feel. To Kirk, unabashed racism is a necessary “thought crime,” one that sets him apart and gives him power. 

Kirk founded Turning Point USA in an attempt to consolidate the conservative youth movement and then systematically draw them further and further right. Trump hopes to harness this power to reach the conservative youth vote, which Kirk purports to influence, but honestly, even that doesn’t seem like it’s going well. 

If Trump’s Black church roundtable failed to draw in Black audience members, it seems that Turning Point USA’s pull for the youth vote was also unsuccessful: The crowd skewed distinctly old, according to Mother Jones

More about Trump’s appeal to Black voters:

Steve Bannon’s Prison Time Will Be Far Worse Than He Expected

A new report says that Steve Bannon’s prison time will be nothing like the “Club Fed” setup he hoped for.

Steve Bannon frowns
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Racist sunspot and far-right Trump adviser Steve Bannon won’t be spending his upcoming time in the clink at Club Fed, according to sources who spoke with CNN. Bannon and his legal team had expected he’d go to a minimum-security prison camp, which is still not a walk in the park, but where conditions are more comfortable and relaxed than most. As it turns out, Bannon is ineligible because he still has an open criminal case against him, and will instead report to a low-security prison—with the possibility of doing time at Rikers.

Bannon was ordered earlier this month to report to prison on July 1 to begin a four-month stint for contempt of Congress. Bannon was convicted by a federal jury in 2022 for refusing a subpoena from the House January 6 committee’s investigation into the Capitol insurrection, the flames of which Bannon had gleefully stoked in the lead-up to the deadly riot. In 2022, Bannon refused to be interviewed or to produce documents to the subcommittee—only later, after Donald Trump abstained from using executive privilege to protect him, offering to testify in a public hearing—an offer that prosecutors and the House deemed too little, too late.

Lowest-security federal prisons for nonviolent offenders convicted on federal charges are referred to informally as “Club Fed,” a dark moniker inspired by the all-inclusive luxury resort, though they bear no resemblance to its inspiration. Incarcerated people are afforded the luxury of freedom of movement and sleep in barracks-style rooms packed with dozens of other people instead of being locked in a cramped cell, without air conditioning during the summer months or heat during the winter. It is not, by any length of the imagination, cushy or comfortable—the only perk is it’s slightly less inhumane than most prisons.

Bannon is expected to report to prison in Danbury, Connecticut. That low-security federal prison holds more than 1,000 men, according to CNN, and its neighboring women’s prison was the inspiration for Orange Is the New Black. Due to his upcoming trial in New York City, it’s possible—but currently undetermined—that Bannon may be transferred to the infamously inhumane Rikers Island during his upcoming criminal trial.

Bannon’s pending criminal case, which precludes him from being able to ride out his time in “Club Fed,” stems from charges in New York where he is accused of defrauding donors with empty promises to build a border wall. He pleaded not guilty to charges from state prosecutors of money laundering, fraud, and conspiracy in September 2022 and is expected to stand trial this September in the same courthouse that convicted Trump.

In other (more troubling) Bannon news:

Fauci Recalls Trump’s Final Enraged Call: “That F**ker Biden”

Dr. Anthony Fauci revealed his last “unnerving” conversation with Donald Trump in 2020.

Donald Trump stands to the side, looking serious, and Dr. Anthony Fauci stands closer to the center of the White House briefing room, holding his glasses in his hands and pursing his lips.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Dr. Anthony Fauci and Donald Trump participate in the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on April 22, 2020.

Dr. Anthony Fauci’s  final conversation with Donald Trump was “unnerving,” according to the infectious diseases expert.

With his new book, On Call: A Doctor’s Journey in Public Service, released on Tuesday, Fauci spoke in more depth about the conversation on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Live Monday night, detailing how Trump, in a phone conversation, called Joe Biden “that fucker” and promised to “kick his fucking ass” in the final days before the 2020 election.

Maddow read an excerpt from the book, quoting Fauci’s narration of that call:

“Everybody wants me to fire you,” the president said to me during [a] call [that day], “but I’m not going to fire you. You have too illustrious a career, but you have to be positive. The country cannot stay locked down. You have got to give them hope.

“I like you but so many people, not only in the White House but throughout the country hate you because of what you are doing. I’m going to win this fucking election by a landslide, just wait and see. I always did things my way, and I always win no matter what all these other fucking people think. And that fucker Biden, he’s so fucking stupid. I’m going to kick his fucking ass in this election.”

Maddow asked Fauci if the conversation “unnerved you a little bit.”

“You know, it did,” Fauci replied. “It was a little incongruous because he ended it by saying take care, see you soon, something like that. I wasn’t quite sure.

“It was unnerving. Even though you’re convinced you’re doing the right thing, which I had been, you know, trying to say all along, just level with the American public, you wind up being better off to do that; it is not a pleasant thing to have the president of the United States, when you have such a great deal of respect for the presidency of the United States, for the president to get on the phone and scream at you the way he did. So that was very tough,” Fauci added.

Fauci’s new book includes many new details about how Trump dealt with Covid-19 and how he felt about Fauci. Trump would “announce that he loved me and then scream at me on the phone,” Fauci wrote. Their contentious relationship was apparent even in the early days of the pandemic, with Trump reportedly flying into a rage after hearing incorrectly reported information and attributing it to Fauci.

Fauci’s time as the public face of the government’s efforts during the pandemic, as well as Trump’s treatment of him, earned him attacks from conservatives, who spread conspiracy theories about him and attacked efforts such as lockdowns and masks. He was the target of several smears on a recent visit to Capitol Hill, with Republicans proposing getting hold of his personal emails. More new revelations from his book, along with more public appearances, will likely draw him more vitriol and attacks, despite his career in public service.