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Clarence Thomas Took Free Trip to Putin’s Hometown, Democrats Say

Senate Democrats are compiling all the shady gifts Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas looks off camera and smiles weirdly
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Buried deep in a letter Democratic senators sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting a special prosecutor to investigate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s potential federal ethics and tax violations is something shocking: Democrats claim that the Supreme Court justice accepted a 2003 yacht trip to Russia and a helicopter flight to Yusupov Palace in St. Petersburg, Putin’s hometown—both paid for by Republican billionaire donor Harlan Crow.

Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts, and Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, issued a letter to Garland just before Congress took a break for the Fourth of July wherein they detailed several “likely undisclosed gifts” alleged to have been given to Thomas over the years from Crow and “affiliated companies.” Among those gifts are a 2003 yacht trip to “Russia and the Baltics” and a “helicopter ride to Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg.”

The site of Rasputin’s assassination by monarchists in 1916, Yusupov Palace is in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg. Putin has held and attended events at Yusupov Palace over the years, meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin in 2002 and attending the birthday party of Germany’s former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in 2014.

The trip and flight were first reported by ProPublica in May 2023 and buried among a slew of other undisclosed gifts. While it’s unclear whether Thomas met with Putin during his 2003 visit to Yusupov Palace, Whitehouse and Wyden’s letter to Garland paints a dizzying picture of years of luxurious trips and gifts showered on Thomas that were not disclosed, begging further questions.

“The scale of the potential ethics violations by Justice Thomas, and the willful pattern of disregard for ethics laws, exceeds the conduct of other government officials investigated by the Department of Justice for similar violations,” the letter, dated July 3, reads. “The breadth of the omissions uncovered to date, and the serious possibility of additional tax fraud and false statement violations by Justice Thomas and his associates, warrant the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate this misconduct.”

GOP Representative Refuses to Disavow Armed Rebellion Against U.S.

This should really be an easy question—and Jim Banks still won’t answer.

Representative Jim Banks smiles
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Representative Jim Banks

Representative Jim Banks is running to represent Indiana in the Senate, but he categorically refuses to reject an armed rebellion against the federal government.

Banks was asked four times in person by a NOTUS reporter if he opposes a rebellion, and each time failed to give a clear answer. The fourth time, he even insulted the reporter.

“I don’t take you seriously enough to answer your question,” Banks said on Tuesday, following three previous attempts on Monday when he instead chose to complain about Democrats. Why has a question with a clear easy answer become such an issue? It stems from a social media post from Banks on May 30, the same night Donald Trump was convicted in his hush-money trial.

Banks’s post on X (formerly Twitter) is pinned to the top of his profile, and has a picture of the Appeal to Heaven flag without any words. That flag today is attributed to Christian nationalism and the far right. It was also a symbol of the “Stop the Steal” movement created by Trump’s followers following the 2020 election, and carried by rioters at the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has attracted criticism for flying the same flag outside his vacation home in New Jersey.

When asked about the flag post, Banks initially replied, “I’ll let you make your own conclusions,” without elaborating. One of his answers on Monday did mention this year’s election, though.

“We’re in unprecedented times, and November will be the result of regular people taking our country back,” Banks said to NOTUS. “And then we’ll have a reset, and then we’ll take back our government and our country from the elites and those who are trying to destroy it. So you can infer whatever you’d like from that post.”

These remarks, coupled with Banks’s refusal to condemn violence, show the levels that the Republican Party has sunk to in the Trump era. Republicans fail to disavow any violence against those they disagree with, even when a politician’s family member is attacked with a hammer. Candidates seeking higher office seem to endorse violence against their enemies, especially those on the left. These calls have only emboldened the far right, who seize upon this rhetoric as a mandate to physically attack those whom they hate.

Thanks to Alito and the rest of the Supreme Court putting the presidency above the law, Trump probably won’t be held accountable for his incitement of violence at the Capitol in 2021. It’s a big green flag, bigger than the Appeal to Heaven flag, for his supporters and allies to do the same without the fear of consequences.

More on when Alito was discovered with this flag:

Watch: Eric Swalwell Roasts Ben Shapiro’s Sex Life in House Hearing

Poor Ben Shapiro

Ben Shapiro rests his hand on his leg and sits in front of a Politicon backdrop
Rob Latour/Variety/Penske Media/Getty Images

Representative Eric Swalwell dragged peewee free speech absolutist Ben Shapiro before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, brilliantly calling out his support for the Trumpian Project 2025.

Shapiro appeared before the GOP-led hearing—titled “Collusion in the Global Alliance for Responsible Media”—to testify in support of the far-right conspiracy that media collusion is suppressing conservative voices.

During the hearing, Swalwell asked Shapiro point-blank about the right-wing Project 2025’s proposal to ban same-sex marriage.

“You think it’s a sin to have same-sex marriage?” Swalwell asked. “I’m just asking, is it a sin to be gay?”

“From a religious Jewish perspective, orientation is not a sin, but activity is,” Shapiro replied.

Swalwell then presented a large printout of a quote from Shapiro during a 2018 interview with Slate where he justified his opposition to “homosexual activity” by referring to himself, saying, “For example, I may have a desire to sleep with many women, but I do not.”

“I agree with me,” Shapiro interjected, at which Swalwell coyly hit back, “I’m sure it’s very hard to restrain yourself.”

The absurd back and forth followed questions where Swalwell asked Shapiro his opinions on various other aspects of Project 2025, much of which he expressed agreement with. Shapiro spent the rest of the hearing arguing against responsible media practices, claiming that restrictions against hate speech and misinformation inhibit free speech of conservatives and hurt propagators of far-right content, such as Shapiro’s own Daily Wire, the far-right website Breitbart, and conservative media outlet Fox News.

“It is time to stand up for the First Amendment in this Congress,” Shapiro declared in his testimony.

A multitude of research has found disinformation proliferates among the far right, stoking waves of extremist activities such as the election-denialist January 6 Capitol riot and far-right anti-vax protests that followed it.

In 2021, it was discovered that Facebook’s algorithm promoted inflammatory content and disinformation that incited violence in Myanmar, with researchers declaring Facebook was complicit in genocide. During the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, racist disinformation touted by Donald Trump falsely claiming China created the virus as a bioweapon led to violence against Chinese Americans. Research has found disinformation poses a serious threat to democracy in the United States and abroad as conspiracy theories fueled by the far right continue to spread relatively unchecked.

More on the dangers of Project 2025:

Tim Kaine Sure Sounds Like He Wants Joe Biden to Drop Out From Race

The Virginia senator is appearing to hint that Biden should be replaced on the ballot.

Tim Kaine rests his glasses on his forehead and makes a grim face
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Senator Timothy Kaine gave a vague answer when asked about his thoughts on Joe Biden continuing his campaign to be reelected as president.

Speaking to NewsNation’s Joe Khalil Wednesday, Kaine said, “I have complete confidence that Joe Biden will do the patriotic thing for the country. And he’s going to make that decision. He’s never disappointed me. He’s always put patriotism and the country ahead of himself, and I’m going to respect the decision that he makes.”

What decision would that be, though? Biden has already said that he will not drop out of the race, so the ominous wording hints at what Kaine really thinks the president should do. The Virginia senator is a senior member of the party, having also served as the state’s governor and lieutenant governor, and was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2016. His opinion carries a lot of weight and signals that Biden has not won over his party, even after he has declared that he wants to stay on the ticket.

Virginia, normally a solid Democratic state, was not polling well for Biden even before his disastrous debate two weeks ago. An internal Democratic poll taken 72 hours after the debate showed the state in play for Donald Trump, so Kaine’s opinion could be reflecting that of the state’s electorate at the moment.

Kaine’s words also echo another leading Democrat, Representative Nancy Pelosi, who said on Wednesday morning that “I want him to decide whatever he decides to do, and that’s the way it is, whatever he decides, we go in.” Both Pelosi and Kaine were given chances to give their unequivocal support to Biden’s reelection campaign, and each declined.

Right now, the mood among Democrats appears worried at best. A closed-door meeting of the House Democratic caucus revealed a party very much divided on Biden’s prospects. While Biden is trying to tamp down calls for him to withdraw, many Democrats want just the opposite and are willing to say so privately and publicly. If party leaders like Kaine and Pelosi continue to hedge, will Biden’s stance lead to a party revolt?

Boebert Gets Brutally Schooled on Supreme Court Ruling

The Colorado Republican was trying to start another culture war, but it backfired spectacularly.

Lauren Boebert looks up
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Representative Lauren Boebert made an embarrassing display Wednesday when trying to speak about a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, and got slammed with a sorely needed fact-check from one of her Democratic colleagues.

During a House Oversight Committee hearing, the MAGA Colorado Republican attempted to interrogate Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan about the fallout of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, which changes how the courts answer questions about ambiguous statutes.

It became clear from her questions, however, that Boebert had no clue what Loper Bright was, or how it affects federal agencies, as she began insisting that Regan tell her what environmental regulations he planned to repeal.

“I’m asking about the EPA, and I’m asking about your rogue bureaucrats that have enacted these unconstitutional regulations. Are you going to repeal them, are you going to continue to implement them? Or are you going to stop altogether, since it’s been overturned?” Boebert asked.

“Do you understand the ruling?” Regan asked, incredulous.

“Do you understand the ruling of the Supreme Court?” Boebert shot back.

“I do. So, your question is ill-formed. No, we’re not going to stop,” Regan replied, but the far-right politician would not relent. Boebert continued to interrupt Regan as he insisted that “the Supreme Court didn’t tell us to repeal anything.”

“Absolutely, they have,” Boebert said. “This was a huge victory.”

Boebert’s blatant ignorance and time-wasting questions did not go unaddressed. It wasn’t long before Representative Daniel Goldman, a Democrat from New York, hit Boebert with a brutal fact-check.

“Mr. Reagan, I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but I would just like to clarify a few things for my colleague from Colorado,” Goldman said.

“The Loper-Bright ruling, as you know, said that the courts should not defer to agency rule-making if a statute is ambiguous, and instead, the courts get to determine whether or not, what the statute means,” Goldman explained. “Is that your understanding, as well?”

“Yeah, absolutely,” Reagan said, laughing.

“So that would not require any regulations to be reversed or overturned, correct?” Goldman asked.

“Correct,” Regan said.

Regan appeared before the House Oversight Committee to discuss a completely different Supreme Court decision from last month: the court’s 5–4 decision to block the “good neighbor” rule, which aimed to reduce the air pollution from industrial facilities from “upwind” states, a ruling that will negatively impact downwind states.

AOC Files Impeachment Articles Against Shadiest Supreme Court Justices

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has filed articles of impeachment against the two worst Supreme Court justices.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gestures as she speaks
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday formally filed articles of impeachment against U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, days after the court’s presidential immunity ruling.

“The unchecked corruption crisis on the supreme court has now spiraled into a constitutional crisis threatening American democracy writ large,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement.

“Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito’s pattern of refusal to recuse from consequential matters before the court in which they hold widely documented financial and personal entanglements constitute a grave threat to American rule of law, the integrity of our democracy, and one of the clearest cases for which the tool of impeachment was designed.”

Her articles of impeachment have been co-sponsored by seven other Democratic House members: Barbara Lee, Rashida Tlaib, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Delia Ramirez, Maxwell Frost, Ilhan Omar, and Jamaal Bowman.

It also comes a day after Democratic Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Ron Wyden requested the Department of Justice criminally investigate Justice Thomas over possible ethics and tax violations.

Articles of impeachment would have to pass the House with a majority vote. After a trial, the Senate would need to convict with a two-thirds supermajority. These both seem like slim possibilities given the party breakdown in both chambers.

Since the Supreme Court was created, only one justice has ever been impeached: Associate Justice Samuel Chase in 1805, who was later acquitted by the Senate. Despite never having a success story at the highest court, there is a precedent for impeaching federal judges, which has happened 15 times over the country’s history.

So how would impeaching a Supreme Court justice work?

Looking at the Constitution, Ocasio-Cortez could try to get Thomas and Alito on “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” or perhaps on Article 3 of the Constitution, which requires that federal judges “hold their Offices during good Behaviour.”

If that seems near impossible, there is also a precedent of shaming a justice out. In 1969, Abe Fortas resigned under the threat of impeachment after a financial scandal regarding securities fraud ruined his career.

How else Democrats are trying to rein in the Supreme Court:

Deep Blue New York Becoming Battleground State Thanks to Biden

Democrats are warning that New York is becoming a swing state this election.

Joe Biden speaks at a lectern. A giant U.S. flag is behind him.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Time to check your voter registration, New York: According to Politico, the deep blue Big Apple is teetering on the brink of becoming a battleground state as support for Joe Biden dissolves like the remnants of a bad dollar slice tossed into the Hudson.

According to Politico, Democratic elected officials, union leaders, and political consultants are worried that Biden’s team is ignoring New York and are trying to get it to boost his campaign in the state. They’re also deeply concerned about the Democrats in six swing districts that could determine whether the party maintains control of the House come November.

One high-level New York Democrat who spoke with Politico anonymously assessed that Democratic politicians facing tough races should avoid association with Biden, instead focusing on building their brand independent from him.

“Biden isn’t going to be handing out coattails, no matter what,” the Democrat said. “He’s only got anchors.”

According to two private polls reviewed by Politico, one taken in September 2023 and the other in March 2024, Donald Trump leads Biden by one point in New York House swing districts—putting candidates in those six districts in the crosshairs. Public polls show Biden’s lead against Trump across the state has shrunk to just eight points, according to a Siena College poll conducted in June. In the lead-up to the 2020 general election, Biden led Trump by nearly 30 points across New York, an astonishing plummet.

“We’re still acting like this is a one-party state, which for pretty much 20, 25 years it has been,” Democratic Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine told Politico. “I truly believe we’re a battleground state now.”

Meanwhile, Biden’s team expects him to easily win the state in November and have shown little interest in committing resources to it. During the 2024 election, Biden has largely only visited the Empire State for closed-door ritzy fundraisers, which are consistently protested by New Yorkers denouncing Biden’s support for Israel’s devastation of Gaza. He made one public appearance—a dedication ceremony for the Stonewall Inn Visitor Center in late June—but that too was overshadowed by protests.

While Biden’s polls have sent alarm bells ringing ahead of the 2024 general election, New York has been in a backslide for at least the past two years: During the 2022 midterm elections, New York Governor Kathy Hochul barely eked out a win against ultraconservative election-denialist Lee Zeldin, whose campaign largely focused on fearmongering about crime in New York City. Four blue congressional seats flipped red that year, including the humiliating defeat of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney to Republican Assemblymember Mike Lawler. A number of other races across New York State also faced surprisingly close contests. The midterm turnout in New York showed voters across the state swung to the right, falling for Republicans heavily stoking fear about crime.

Moderate Democratic Representative Pat Ryan—whose seat is at risk in New York’s 18th congressional district, north of New York City, and who narrowly won in 2022—called for Biden to bow out on Wednesday. “I’d be doing a grave disservice if I said he was the best candidate to serve this fall. For the good of our country, for my two young kids, I’m asking Joe Biden to step aside in the upcoming election and deliver on the promise to be a bridge to a new generation of leaders,” he told The New York Times. “I really hope, with all my heart, that he will listen.”

Still, many New York electeds continue backing Biden, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Both have expressed support for Biden as the Democratic nominee as he continues facing headwinds of doubt following his disastrous debate performance. “As I’ve said before, I’m with Joe,” Schumer said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

“The matter is closed,” Ocasio-Cortez told the press on Monday. “Joe Biden is our nominee. He is not leaving this race. He is in this race, and I support him.”

Democratic Party spokesperson Jen Goodman brushed aside concerns with confidence of New Yorkers’ long-standing hatred for Donald Trump, telling Politico, “Time and again New Yorkers have rejected Donald Trump.

“He’s the most unpopular person in New York politics, and there is no doubt that voters will once again turn out for President Biden in November,” Goodman added.

“Wait Until 2025”: Top Trump Ally Makes Terrifying Revenge Threat

Donald Trump’s Project 2025 buddy just made a clear threat on what a second-term agenda will look like.

Tom Homan speaks and makes a hand gesture
Kent Nishimura/Bloomberg/Getty Images

A former director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under Donald Trump has an ominous warning for a second Trump administration.

“Trump comes back in January, I’ll be on his heels coming back, and I will run the biggest deportation force this country has ever seen,” said Tom Homan at a panel on immigration policy at the National Conservatism conference (NatCon 4) Monday afternoon. “They ain’t seen shit yet. Wait until 2025.”

Homan’s words match what Trump is promising to do if he’s elected in November, which is enlist police officers in a massive immigration crackdown and give them immunity from prosecution and lawsuits. The more he says about it, the worse it gets. Trump has claimed that there are 20 million people who will have to be deported and repeatedly compared them to horror movie character Hannibal Lecter.

Homan’s threat could also hint at the Project 2025 planning document, a 900-page playbook written by Homan and other conservative ideologues with the backing of the right-wing Heritage Foundation. It explains how a dramatic overhaul of the federal government could happen in line with Trump’s authoritarian aspirations, opening the floodgates for extreme policies to be enacted.

In recent days, Trump has tried to distance himself from the document, even as many of its authors are former staffers from his presidential administration. Even some of his current staffers have promoted it, including his campaign press secretary, Karoline Leavitt. The Biden-Harris campaign, as well as other Democrats, has pounced on the controversial document, attempting to tie it to the former president and convicted felon.

But not only are Trump’s disavowals not believable, they also are alienating some of his right-wing supporters, including extremist Alex Jones and white nationalist Nick Fuentes. That segment of Republican voters aren’t put off by the more extreme items in the Trump–Project 2025 agenda but are in fact eager for them to come to fruition.

George Clooney Calls on Biden to Withdraw: “The Dam Has Broken”

Clooney urged the president to “save democracy.”

George Clooney looks to the side
David Livingston/WireImage/Getty Images

Academy Award–winning actor George Clooney on Wednesday joined the growing chorus of voices calling for Joe Biden to drop out of the presidential race. 

Since Biden’s disastrous appearance at CNN’s presidential debate last month, many have urged him to demonstrate that his halting, confused performance was not indicative of his mental acuity. 

But in an op-ed for The New York Times, Clooney confirmed that things are exactly as bad as everyone feared. 

“It’s devastating to say it, but the Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at the fund-raiser was not the Joe ‘big F-ing deal’ Biden of 2010,” wrote Clooney, referring to a fundraiser he co-hosted for Biden last month, which raised $28 million for the president’s campaign, per Variety. “He wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate.  

“Was he tired? Yes. A cold? Maybe. But our party leaders need to stop telling us that 51 million people didn’t see what we just saw. We’re all so terrified by the prospect of a second Trump term that we’ve opted to ignore every warning sign,” he wrote. 

“We are not going to win in November with this president. On top of that, we won’t win the House, and we’re going to lose the Senate,” Clooney said. “This isn’t only my opinion; this is the opinion of every senator and congress member and governor that I’ve spoken with in private. Every single one, irrespective of what he or she is saying publicly.

“We love to talk about how the Republican Party has ceded all power, and all of the traits that made it so formidable with Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, to a single person who seeks to hold on to the presidency, and yet most of our members of Congress are opting to wait and see if the dam breaks. But the dam has broken,” he wrote. “We can put our heads in the sand and pray for a miracle in November, or we can speak the truth.”

Clooney concluded that “Joe Biden is a hero; he saved democracy in 2020. We need him to do it again in 2024.”

Although a staunch Democratic supporter and donor, this isn’t the first time Clooney has broken with Biden. In May, the actor and director called a top aide at the White House to voice his opposition to Biden’s denunciation of the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. One anonymous source told The Washington Post that Clooney was concerned that sanctions on the ICC would penalize his wife, Amal Clooney, who worked on the case. 

Biden has previously relied on celebrity spokespeople, such as Robert DeNiro, to help him set the stakes for his fight against Trump. Should Clooney’s dissent spark a wave of calls from high-profile public figures to drop out, public opinion of the president could nosedive even further. 

Read more about Joe Biden:

Bombshell Report Exposes Trump’s Mar-a-Lago GOP Grift

Donald Trump has transformed Mar-a-Lago into an “essential rite” for Republican candidates as he quietly rakes in millions.

Donald Trump smiles weirdly and makes a fist. A row of U.S. flags are behind him, as are massive drapes, and a huge chandelier can be seen above him. He is at Mar-a-Lago.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

A stunning new investigation by The New York Times exposes how Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago has become the lucrative “epicenter” of the MAGA movement, shifting from a nonpartisan venue that hosts galas for charity to a hub for the conspiratorial far right to extol Trump’s greatness and sing songs in his honor at the low, low price of $600,000 a head.

According to an analysis of evidentiary records in New York’s fraud case against the Trump Organization, Mar-a-Lago pulled in a net profit of $22 million in 2022. While the remainder of Trump’s clubs and properties also saw an increase in profits through and after Trump’s presidency, Mar-a-Lago—where Trump spends most of his time and to which conservatives flock, hoping for a glimpse of their dear leader—has seen more than double in profits, according to an analysis by the Times.

According to the Times, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club increased its initiation fee from $100,000 in 2016 to $600,000 by 2022. With approximately 500 members, that’s roughly $12 million being given to the club Trump owns, which is effectively money straight into Trump’s pocket.

According to campaign finance filings through the first quarter of 2024 reviewed by the Times, candidates and political committees have spent more than $4.7 million at Mar-a-Lago since Trump left the White House, with Trump’s campaign and super PAC accounting for roughly a quarter of that total.

Some of Trump’s grift was known during his presidency: Mar-a-Lago collected a pretty penny from the federal government, charging more than $1.4 million for rooms rented to Trump’s mandatory Secret Service entourage during his presidency and even charging the White House for liquor consumed by his aides.

Prior to Trump’s political career, the Times notes, Mar-a-Lago was largely a venue for glitzy charity galas and few political events. In the 2014–2015 season, the last before Trump announced his run for president, the Times counted 52 fundraiser events at Mar-a-Lago, with only one being political.

After his infamous “very fine people” comment about the neo-Nazis and white supremacists at the deadly Unite the Right rally in 2017, many traditional charity events stopped using Mar-a-Lago and set up shop elsewhere, according to the Times. All but six fundraiser events abandoned the venue—and have since been replaced by far-right events, such as an annual gala hosted by Turning Point USA, a conservative group using Christian nationalism to target college campuses, which began taking place at Mar-a-Lago in 2018.

The Times identified 130 people who attended three or more events at Mar-a-Lago since Trump left office. Many are election denialists and Capitol rioters, and 44 are members of Congress, state officials, or Republican candidates running for office. Thirty-four of those candidates received endorsements from Trump after they made the pilgrimage and kissed the ring.

“We don’t do too many of these things at Mar-a-Lago,” Trump claimed in March 2022 at a fundraiser for Vernon Jones, who was running for the Republican nomination in Georgia’s 10th congressional district. “I don’t want to make it a totally political place,” Mr. Trump added.