Matt Laslo

Federal regulator’s verdict: 'Judge' Jeanine Pirro committee is breaking the law

Federal regulators are going after Fox News personality Jeanine Pirro — again — for failing to follow the law.

Last month, for at least the 55th time — that isn’t a typo — the Federal Election Commission sent Pirro’s still-technically-active U.S. Senate campaign committee a letter warning it of accounting errors and missed deadlines. It threatened consequences.

“The failure to timely file a complete report may result in civil money penalties, an audit or legal enforcement action,” the FEC’s letter said. “The civil money penalty calculation for late reports does not include a grace period and begins on the day following the due date for the report.”

But Pirro knows better than most that nothing is likely to happen. In these cases, the FEC famously huffs and puffs without following through.

Pirro for Senate dates back to Pirro’s aborted 2006 challenge to Hillary Clinton for the U.S. Senate in New York. Late in 2005, Pirro quit after an inept campaign and polls showing Clinton would trounce her on Election Day.

The Pirro campaign committee failed to file required FEC financial reports for at least seven years before trying to dissolve in 2019.

That year, Pirro for Senate said in a hand-written FEC filing that its debts of about $600,000 “are not collectable as the (state) 6 year statue (sic) of limitation has long passed.”

It’s unclear from FEC filings whether the agency refused to accept the campaign’s explanation about the debt. The campaign’s most recent filing listed no money on hand, no fundraising and no spending.

Bruce Bellmare, treasurer for the committee, couldn’t be reached for comment.

The FEC said it wouldn’t comment on individual candidates or committees.

Generally, the FEC won’t let a political committee terminate itself until it’s resolved outstanding debts accounting issues.

Pirro’s “Justice with Judge Jeanine” show was a long-running Fox News staple until last year, when Pirro became a co-host of “The Five” — the highest-rated program in cable news across all networks, according to AdWeek’s TVNewser.

Despite her own unpaid creditors, Pirro last year criticized the idea of student loan forgiveness, saying, “This is a giveaway and it's disgusting.”

'It all came flooding back': Trump indictment hard on lawmakers left in House Gallery on January 6

WASHINGTON – This week’s indictment and arraignment of former President Donald Trump was something some lawmakers trapped in the U.S. House Gallery on Jan. 6, 2021 didn’t expect to see, but there were no celebrations when the moments arrived. A part of them still mourns.

The first thought to flash through many minds wasn’t of Trump arrested, it was flashbacks of themselves and others facing likely injury and potential death — “hang Mike Pence” still rings in many ears.

January 6 and being trapped in the Gallery with my colleagues, worrying about my staff and all of the staff inside the Capitol and around the campus. It truly, it all came flooding back to me,” Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) told Raw Story the night the indictment was announced.

Escobar attended most of the House Jan. 6 select committee’s 10 hearings last year, along with a rotating cast of close to three-dozen other lawmakers who were also trapped alongside her Jan. 6, 2021, in the balcony overlooking the House floor.

That includes Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA). She says this week’s Trump indictment sent a wave of thoughts and emotions through her that have ebbed and flowed throughout the week.

“For me, it was stunning and shocking. Staggering … Sad for our country,” Dean told Raw Story. “Crazy yet not surprising.”

Congress is in recess for the month of August. While many of the members left stranded in the House gallery — the “Gallery Group,” to some — on Jan. 6 have remained quiet this week, a handful have shared their reactions to Raw Story and on social media.

Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO)

“I remember consoling my friend and colleague who had just spoken to her family. I remember telling my fellow members to take off their pins so we couldn’t be identified. My Ranger training kicked in and I remember gripping my pen to use as a weapon if necessary.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)

“I was in the House Gallery on January 6 as insurrectionists attempted to take over our nation’s capital. Trump urged these actions and then simply sat there as they unfolded, refusing to even immediately tell his supporters to go home. Our democracy survived, but barely.”

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS); chairman of Jan. 6 select committee

“January 6th was a test of American democracy, but the fair trials of those responsible will further demonstrate this Nation’s commitment to the rule of law and hold accountable those who attempted to undermine it.”

Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT), then a member of the House

“January 6th will be remembered as one of the darkest days in American history. I was in the House chamber when rioters breached the Capitol, and I saw firsthand the devastation of the insurrection. Make no mistake: the tragic events of that day — and the lies and conspiracies pushed by former President Donald Trump and his followers — did tremendous damage to our democracy.”

Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH)

“We have an independent judicial system for a reason — to ensure no one is treated with a separate standard of justice. No one is above the law.”

'Watch the trial'

Rep. Escobar of Texas and the others say they’re eagerly awaiting the trial.

“The indictments and a trial are so important. We cannot forget what happened January 6. We cannot ignore it. We cannot give anyone a pass,” Escobar said. “And frankly, the American public needs to read those indictments and they need to watch the trial.”

Still, Escobar fears Trump, who as a 2024 presidential candidate is leading all others for the Republican nomination, damaged American democracy for years to come.

“The fact that there are millions of Americans who are so deeply radicalized by Fox News and by extremist Republicans and by the MAGA movement, that they are willing to look past everything that Donald Trump has done, and that they actually see him as a victim,” Escobar said. “It is shocking to me. It is terrifying to me. Far more than what Donald Trump is doing, what is terrifying to me, is the millions of Americans who cannot see the truth through all the lies that they've been told.”

It’s already 2024 at the Capitol, and lawmakers are busy doing nothing

WASHINGTON — Your wall calendar may read “2023”.

But in the nation’s capital, 2024 is already raging. Election season firmly on lawmakers’ minds. Making laws? Not so much.

So far this year, Congress has only passed 12 public laws, including approving a 250th Anniversary of the United States Marine Corps commemorative coin and renaming the Veterans Affairs clinic in Indian River, Mich., the "Pfc. Justin T. Paton Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic."

Congress also averted a crisis of its own making when at the last minute they reached a deal to pay the nation’s debt obligations.

In the Senate, three-day work weeks have become the norm, while the House has now devolved into a perpetual digital dunk contest where the most cringe-worthy memes and statements win. Most of what passes for business this year on Capitol Hill are proposals that have little or no chance of ever becoming law — but what’s a law when you can rile up your base?

“Not very productive so far and there’s not a sense among the majority of members that productivity is what they’re after. What they’re after is messaging to their, unfortunately, most hardline base,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) — the former majority leader — told Raw Story while walking into the Capitol last week.

RELATED ARTICLE: Trump fake elector prosecutions could soon ensnare members of Congress

Lawmakers are now on their month-long summer break. When they return to Washington, D.C. after Labor Day, House Republicans and Senate Democrats will need to come together and hammer out their competing federal funding measures or risk a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

The clock is ticking.

Not everyone — particularly far-right Republicans — says the 118th Congress is hopelessly gridlocked and unproductive.

“No, we’ve done a whole lot,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) told Raw Story last week when asked about the 118th Congress’ record.

Norman, like others, pointed to the 10-year balanced budget House Republicans crafted. But this budget proposal will never pass the Senate, which you wouldn’t know from talking to Republicans, especially members of the Freedom Caucus, who have fought for deeper and deeper spending cuts than Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden agreed on in their debt-ceiling deal earlier this year.

“Things are going well. We’re having a really robust discussion, but at the end of the day, it's math,” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) told reporters in July as the Freedom Caucus was demanding further budget cuts than party leaders wanted. “This isn't a policy discussion. This is a math discussion.”

While a government shutdown looms in September, Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) spent much of July pushing for votes on their respective measures clearing former President Donald Trump of his two impeachments.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Flickr/Gage Skidmore

“We’re still working on that,” Greene told Raw Story outside the Capitol in July. “Expungement is important. It’s writing the wrongs that were done here, impeaching President Trump twice, politically. Weaponizing the government against him just to smear his name and affect presidential elections.”

To be clear, the second impeachment involved charges Trump incited an insurrection after the 2020 election, on Jan. 6, 2021.

And Trump, for his part, is scheduled to be arraigned today in Washington, D.C., on his latest set of felony charges — these pertaining to his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“I believe we're witnessing the collapse of what used to be one of America's great political parties,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) told Raw Story. “I mean, there's an utter [Republican] descent into conspiracy theory, paranoia, pornography and extremist antics. I mean, it's just like a bag of desperate tricks and there's no program for the country.” Raskin calls the far-right turn of the House “dangerous.”

“Their lurching from antic to antic masks the collapse of their party into right wing authoritarianism,” Raskin said.

To others, the GOP under McCarthy is turning the House into “kind of a laughingstock.”

“Under McCarthy, we just see the House, as an institution, continue to decline,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) told reporters at the Capitol recently. “One thing that has really shocked me over the last several years is, I thought so many of my Republican colleagues stood for something. That they cared about the institutions, took their political office seriously, but time after time, they really debase themselves in the service of Donald Trump.”

While Trump and his presidential campaign feel ever-present in the House, over in the Senate, lawmakers’ own 2024 reelection bids seem to be setting the tempo And the tempo, with its aggressive fundraising schedules and plenty of travel, has resulted in many three-day Washington work weeks.

ALSO READ: Censuring Rep. MTG is mostly hopeless. Here's why this freshman Democrat will try doing it anyway.

“It's a little schizophrenic,” Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) told Raw Story just off the Senate floor last week. “Members of both parties are not delighted. So, I know I'm circumspect about how I choose my words, but, yeah, it would be nice if things were predictable, and I don't know why they’re not.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) brushed aside criticisms of his new three-day Senate.

“We're working all the time,” Schumer (D-NY) told reporters last week. “Look at how much we're getting done. In the last month and a half a [National Defense Authorization Act] bill. Huge, with ramifications in many areas. Twelve appropriations bills and avoiding default, I'd say in a month and a half. That's a damn good record.”

Those appropriations bills may have made it out of committee, but they have yet to hit the Senate floor and the pressure campaigns that often accompany measures that are taken up by the full Senate.

The Senate floor schedule is also affected. As of July 27, the 118th Senate has held 212 roll call votes, compared to the 280 votes taken by the 117th Senate at the same point.

Fewer Washington work days has meant less time for Senate investigations, or hearings — along with more double-booked senators forced to choose one hearing over another — and less time for voting on measures touching just about every aspect of Americans lives, including stalled technology, climate and health care measures.

A light schedule while in Washington isn’t how the Senate ran when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) first arrived — in 1981.

“When I started the United States Senate, we started at 10 a.m. on Monday and finished at 4 p.m. on Friday, and nobody complained about it,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) complained to Raw Story. “And it's hard to get all the work of the country done when you only work two and a half days.”

Chuck Grassley jumps ship: Joe Biden should have access to classified briefingsSen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP

While Schumer denies the 2024 elections are top of his mind, Republicans say it’s obvious the leader’s running the Senate to help his long list of vulnerable incumbents next year — and to save the Democrats’ narrow Senate majority.

“I think Democrats recognize that they had a real challenging map for ’24, so they wanted to give their folks more time back in their home states,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) told Raw Story last week. “Once the House was Republican, they figured they weren't going to get much done in terms of a Democrat agenda. So why spend the time here when they could be home trying to regain the Senate?”

The Senate worked two back-to-back three-day weeks in its lead up to recess. Those short weeks meant a couple late nights wrapping up work on the sprawling, must-pass National Defense Authorization Act, which frustrated senators — especially those who had to change out of their shorts and into a suit so they could preside over an empty chamber past midnight.

“It's just surreal. I'm going to have to get dressed in my suit at like 11 p.m.,” Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) told Raw Story last Wednesday, predicting an audience size of “two people watching C-SPAN.”

ALSO READ: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign taken for a ride by Lyft-hailing fraudster: documents

With end-of-summer politics eating up the Senate’s time, Fetterman’s heart was far from last week’s overheated Washington.

“I just want to go home and be hanging out with my kids and wife,” Fetterman said. “I promise, as a senator, I will never put out an amendment that is guaranteed to go down, because then that's performance art. That's kind of the thing that's frustrating.”

At the end of July, Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Jon Tester (D-MT) reintroduced their Transparency in Congress Resolution requiring members of Congress to publish their official schedules online, which the two senators already do, in contrast to most of their colleagues.

It’s not aimed at the Senate’s three-day work week, specifically. But, especially with his own much-watched 2024 race hovering over all he does, Tester thinks a little transparency will go a long way, especially when opponents can point to the Senate voting three days a week for much of the 118th Congress.

“Well, we work more than that. But you're right, voting [days],” Tester told Raw Story while heading to cast a vote on the floor last week. “I think you got to look at getting things done. If we're gonna get things done, that isn't an issue. If we're not able to get things done, like the appropriations bills, then that becomes an issue.”

Trump fake elector prosecutions could soon ensnare members of Congress

WASHINGTON – The justice system is closing in on former President Donald Trump, and soon, some expect that dragnet will ensnare elected members of Congress.

Before lawmakers left town for a month-long recess, Raw Story caught up with two Republicans the U.S. House January 6 select committee named as central to the scheme to get then-Vice President Mike Pence to certify slates of fake electors after Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election.

The two lawmakers were dismissive and said no prosecutors, either local or federal, had contacted them in their quest to hold fake electors and their enablers accountable.

“Not me. I've gotten nothing,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) –who allegedly tried to pass Wisconsin fake electors to Pence — told Raw Story at the Capitol. “There’s nothing to come after me for.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Johnson also dismissed the fake elector case in Michigan as “absurd.”

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) – chairman of the House Freedom Caucus – also brushed aside concerns and said he hasn’t been contacted.

“No,” Perry – whothe January 6 select committee flagged to the House Ethics Committee for refusing to sit for an interview – told Raw Story while walking to the Capitol. “I don’t have any concerns.”

Others aren’t so sure. During the Jan. 6 select committee proceedings, former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) accused Perry of asking Trump for a pardon after the failed insurrection.

ALSO READ: Mark Meadows ‘flipped hard’ on Trump: ex-January 6 committee adviser

“Look at the congressmen and their text messages, they obviously were in some coordinating function. The issue is, does it rise to the level of indictment?” former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) – who served as an adviser to the Jan. 6 committee –told Raw Story this week. “But as this testimony comes out, I think they're going to get on one of those things called aPucker Factor 10. I think they're going to be biting buttonholes in their underwear when the actual evidence comes out.”

Perry and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows exchanged at least 62 text messages between the 2020 election and President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. In one exchange, Perry informed Meadows they’d begun the “cyber portion” of their efforts to overturn the election results in Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona.

Hot pursuit of fake electors

In July, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel dropped felony charges on 16 Republicans she alleges were at the center of her state’s fake elector scheme. Last week, the Associated Press reported the FBI and Justice Department questioned Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe earlier this year.

The scheming around fake electors is also central to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s case against Trump. He dubs the “criminal scheme” to send slates of fake electors to Congress the “Wisconsin Memo.”

“The plan began in early December,” the indictment reads, “and ultimately, the conspirators and the Defendant’s Campaign took the Wisconsin Memo and expanded it to any state that the Defendant claimed was “contested” — even New Mexico which the Defendant had lost by more than ten percent of the popular vote.”

The indictment then quotes a Dec. 6 email from former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that accompanied the Wisconsin Memo.

“We just need to have someone coordinating the electors for states,” Meadows is quoted on page 23 of the indictment as sending campaign staff.

Then, on Dec. 27 – just over a week away from the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. – the acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, told Trump, according to the indictment, “that the Justice Department could not and would not change the outcome of the election.”

“Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen,” Trump is quoted as replying.

The evidence speaks for itself, Riggleman tells Raw Story.

“To quote Hunter Thompson: facts are a million-pound s— hammer. And fact-based insights based on data is a 2-million-pound s— hammer,” Riggleman said.

All eyes are now watching to see if other state attorneys general follow Michigan’s lead and seek prosecutions for those involved in the fake elector plot, including Republicans on Capitol Hill.

“I give credit to the attorney general because people are not above the law, and they broke the law,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) recently told Raw Story. “These are people that lied about the most important thing, which is our democracy.”

Inside the Trump arraignment circus outside the D.C. courthouse

WASHINGTON — The Trump circus is back to witness the former president, Donald Trump, make history again: One insurrection, two impeachments and now three separate arraignments on felony charges.

The former president himself is nowhere to be seen, having entered the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse through its parking garage.

But his divisive presence is everywhere. And for some, it’s a celebration — even as they don’t dare give reporter’s their last names out of fear of what they see as a standing threat from the MAGA mob.

“Why am I so happy? Because the motherf—-- deserves to go to jail,” Nimesha, who’s holding a “Donald is the nastiest skank b—- I’ve ever met,” tells Raw Story.

Shauna and Nimesha, two people who were demonstrating outside Donald Trump's federal arraignment on Aug. 3, 2023. Matt Laslo / Raw Story

Nimesha called out of work and trekked two hours from Pennsylvania just to wave signs outside the arraignment with her bestie Shauna, whose sign reads “Donald, you are going from the Gold Throne to the Stainless Steel COMMODE!”

The two started doubting Trump, who pleaded not guilty to charges today, would ever face charges for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“They’re finally doing something after 2 ½ years,” Shauna says. “It’s taken this long and it's going to continue to take a really long time for all of us, but we are getting there.”

They’re also not fans of President Joe Biden, calling him “senile.” They just don’t like Trump that much.

“It really scares me, because no other president has been like this where they’re, like, untouchable,” Nimesha says. “And it’s very much cult-y, so to see that Trump isn’t God, is huge.”

Police barricades are everywhere. So are security forces, including Secret Service, U.S. Marshals, Park Police, Homeland Security, D.C. Metropolitan Police, Capitol Police and others. So are journalists, photographers and video cameras, as there seems to be more reporters than law enforcement officials.

Matt Laslo / Raw Story

An older couple walks up, standing out because the woman is carrying a black umbrella – emblazoned, “Lock him up!” – on a hot summer day.

Why the umbrella?

“I don't want anyone to mistake me for a Trump supporter, you know what I mean?” Paula, a retired nurse, tells Raw Story.

Paula and her husband, Mark, were scheduled to be in D.C. for sightseeing, but things changed.

“We decided to come here and see a little history,” Mark says.

Because they’re from Georgia they say the black umbrella was essential.

Matt Laslo / Raw Story

“We fit the criteria of the MAGA people. It’s disgusting to me,” Paula says.

No Trump circus would be complete without an awkwardly unfunny, yet loud, Trump impersonator rocking an orange jumpsuit.

Matt Laslo / Raw Story

There’s also a massive inflatable rat. And at least one D.C. street rat, which scurried past the inflatable one to the shrieks of unsuspecting onlookers.

Because, if anything, Washington is still predictable, even after four years of the Trump show – a show that special counsel Jack Smith wants to end with a conviction of a former U.S. president who, at present, is the hands-down leader for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

Mark Meadows 'flipped hard' on Trump: ex-January 6 committee adviser

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House January 6 select committee had a lot of power.

But it never could access White House call records, which the Department of Justice now seems to rely on in itslatest federal indictment against former President Donald Trump over his alleged involvement in Jan. 6, 2021, and quest to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“First reaction? They got the other end of the call records,” former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) – a senior adviser to the January 6 committee – exclusively told Raw Story on Tuesday evening.

Riggleman’s second reaction?

“Somebody flipped hard,” Riggleman says.

In hisNew York Times bestseller, “The Breach,” Riggleman calls former White House Chief of Staff Meadows’2,319 text messages in the weeks before January 6 the “crown jewels”.

“Think about the Mark Meadows text messages. I never got his call detail records, but I'm pretty damn sure the DOJ did and that is a huge, huge thing,” Riggleman says. “And when you're looking at the indictment for the co-conspirators, I did not see a description for Mark Meadows in there.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Trump's co-conspirators are almost certainly being told to flip or face charges: ex-president's former lawyer

Riggleman, who was a military intelligence officer before coming to Congress, says the calls are damning.

“I think they got more data on the other end of the White House calls with the interaction between Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and White House staff and rally planners, alternate electors,” Riggleman told Raw Story. “I think they put together sort of a map of everybody who was involved. They had the metadata on the other side of the calls, and I think people flipped that they could validate that they weren't lying based on the data.”

Without warrants or law enforcement authority, Riggleman and the committee couldn’t get geolocation data and other information he viewed as vital.

“We couldn’t get the White House numbers which were part of the call records, which I thought were the smoking gun. When you have Oath Keepers texting Andrew Giuliani, the son of Rudy Giuliani, in November/December of 2020, that’s a pretty big indicator,” Riggleman said. “They seem very confident, when you look at a 45-page indictment, my guess is they did get the other end of communications.”

While in office, Riggleman served as a Republican, but he no longer calls the party home. He’s hoping some of his former GOP colleagues look in the mirror and stop peddling dangerous conspiracy theories.

“As this evidence comes out, I think you're gonna have people getting angry or angrier because they know that they were part of this ridiculousness,” Riggleman tells Raw Story. “That type of dangerous rhetoric and pushing fantasy to their base, this is what happens, and that just means that you have some incredibly irresponsible legislators.”

Censuring Marjorie Taylor Greene is mostly hopeless. But this freshman Democrat will try anyway

WASHINGTON – Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is a lot of things, but she’s not a “normal” congresswoman on Capitol Hill.

Normalized by House Republican leaders this session, sure.

But not the norm.


Just ask freshman Rep. Becca Balint (D-VT), who’s sponsoring a new — and probably hopeless — effort to censure Greene.

“How do we break this cycle of extremism?” Balint told Raw Story on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. “We can't continue to normalize it.”

Balint’s message isn’t in response to the myriad censure resolutions Republicans have proposed during this hyper-political non-election year. It’s also not in response to the actual censure of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who was censured in June on an along-party-line vote for "misleading the American public” and “conduct unbecoming of an elected Member of the House of Representatives” in relation to his efforts to investigate now-former President Donald Trump.

And while the resolution only names the unrepentant Georgian who rakes in millions of campaign dollars off her perpetual bomb-throwing ways, it’s also not only aimed at MTG.

Balint hopes to wake up the denizens of the nation’s wayward political capital — from Speaker Kevin McCarthy to her own Democratic leaders — to what she considers reality, one where distortions, deceit and perpetual dunking is derided, not rewarded.

“I’ve just had enough – just had enough. And it's just not normal. It's not,” Balint said on a swampier-than-usual summer day. “And all of us who don't say anything, we are part of the problem.”

As a freshman, Balint lacks the seniority that fuels this power-hungry town, but she’s equipped with something most veteran politicians, pundits and many in the nation’s beleaguered political press corps seem to lack: fresh eyes.

And she said she saw clearly last week — and we’re not talking about Hunter Biden’s barely redacted junk, which she displayed on posters earlier this month during a congressional hearing.

“The juxtaposition last week of the pornography and committing to needling him never mind trying to work on behalf of flood victims, like — it was just too much,” she said.

Early tallies are that freak storm waters earlier this month wreaked havoc on upward of 4,000 homes, 800 businesses and roughly 10,000 acres of farmland (i.e., people’s livelihoods) in Balint’s tiny state, the nation’s sixth smallest by land and water area.

Rep. Becca Balint (D-VT) says she's not afraid to go after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) in an effort to censure her. Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Small, yes, but sprawling and sparse when you hit its largely unpopulated back roads.

Balint knows them well. She’s an educator, by trade and nature, cutting her teeth teaching in some of Vermont’s rural middle schools where she learned the wisdom of youth.

That’s partly why she’s fed up with MTG’s “antics,” as she calls them.

“I have my own kids. They want to know, like, I come home every Friday, ‘what important work are you doing?’” Balint said. (Ever the educator, the teacher did stop to scold herself for saying ‘like’.)

While MTG’s perpetual soundbite- and donation-driven ways embarrass many, there’s one person who’s never batted an eye: the Georgia congresswoman herself.

During a House vote Wednesday, as Raw Story asked MTG about Balint’s censure resolution, we were initially cut off by a young tourist who approached Greene.

“Do you hate me because I’m Jewish?” he asked.

MTG didn’t answer, and moved away from the young man, who was wearing a Rush band T-shirt.

“No comment on the censure resolution against you?” Raw Story asked, as MTG showed us the back of her hand as her communications staff laughed.

“Nothing? Just hand up?” we asked, not even getting waved off in our second attempt to discuss her.

Greene may not want to pause and contemplate Balint’s accusations, but the freshman from Vermont can’t not think about the Congress she’s now helping steer through her close relationship with McCarthy and former President Donald Trump.

That includes being the name and face on a series of National Republican Congressional Committee fundraising emails — solicitations that underscore how much of a draw she is for the GOP’s small-dollar donor base.

Balint may be new to Washington, but she’s not new to politics. In 2014, she became the first lesbian elected to the Vermont legislature. She then climbed up the proverbial ladder, becoming Senate majority leader and eventually elected as president pro tempore. She didn’t lead from behind — she led from the humility that accompanies any honest glance in even a poorly-polished mirror.

“Nobody's perfect. I'm not. I don't expect perfection from my staff or from my colleagues, but this is next level,” Balint said. “And there's never any comment from the speaker's office. Not when she yelled obscenities at the president. Not when – there's never anything.”

The ways of Washington are largely foreign to Vermonters, which is why Balint wants to instill the Vermont spirit in Washington.

“‘I go home to Vermont and they say, ‘Is it as bad as we think?’ I say, ‘No. It's worse. It's worse than you think,’” Balint said.

For now, at least, which the educator hopes to change. One censure resolution at a time. Though she hopes she only has to teach this lesson once, even if the chances of it resulting in Greene’s censure are small in the Republican-controlled House.

“Every time nobody says anything – and I get it, there's that tension of not wanting to draw more attention to it ... when norms are upended and eroded, you should be scared,” Balint said. “When we allow things to go unchecked they become norms.”

James Comer suggests GOP is targeting Biden as retaliation for Trump impeachments

WASHINGTON — Rep. James Comer (R-KY) has been leading the way on the House Oversight Committee that's investigating Hunter Biden – and promising to hold two impeachment votes on cabinet appointees of Biden's before the Aug. recess, he told reporters Thursday.

"We've got a lot of members that want to impeach," Comer told Raw Story. "And we've got some members that would probably not go that route for the simple reason that they don't think that the Senate is going to do anything. And, you know, it gobbles up valuable floor time.

"But, look, [Speaker Kevin] McCarthy is gonna make that call. I think you see in recent days he's taken steps to move forward with impeachment on both [Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro] Mayorkas and [Attorney General] Merrick Garland. I think they're waiting to see what more evidence we come up with in the Oversight Committee for Biden."

Raw Story went on to ask Comer if Washington is now going to be nothing but non-stop impeachments against an opposing party.

"Well, you know, if it is, it's because the Democrats impeached Donald Trump twice," complained Comer, indicating that the impeachments are about retaliation.

"And I blame this impeachment craze on the Democrats and a lot of voters feel like, well they impeached Trump twice and we should impeach Biden. And again, that's irresponsibility on the Democrats' side. I think that Biden's committed a lot more suspicious activity than Donald Trump ever did. So, we're in this situation talking about impeachment because the Democrats used their impeachment power."

A nationwide survey of registered voters conducted in March by Public Policy Polling asked, “Generally speaking, would you rather Congress spend time investigating the Biden administration, or would you rather Congress focus on issues like rising costs and health care?”

The results revealed 63 percent favored a focus on health care, inflation, and similar policies. Just 29 percent preferred Biden administration investigations.

Marjorie Taylor Greene: 'I’ve looked into' if UFOs and aliens are really angels

WASHINGTON — The House Oversight Committee will move on from its attacks on Hunter Biden to address UFOs next week.

According to the GOP's schedule, Oversight Chair Rep. James Comer (R-KY) will hold a hearing Wednesday on UFOs after intelligence agencies submitted a new report of incidents over the past year.

Republican lawmakers had promised a study of "unidentified aerial phenomena" after a former intelligence official made claims that the U.S. military may have found a crashed alien spacecraft, ABC News reported.

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) has become the Republican's leader in Congress on UFOs, but he swears there will be "professionals" before the committee to answer questions.

Speaking to reporters Thursday morning, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who sits on the Oversight Committee, appeared to reject the idea of aliens from space.

"I'm a Christian," she explained, "and I believe the Bible. I think that, to me, honestly, I've looked into it, and I think we have to question if it's more of the spiritual. Angels or fallen angels."

In the past, the Pentagon has said that many of the UAPs have been explainable, like space debris falling into the atmosphere, weather balloons and drones.

'Not worried': Lauren Boebert says Democrats’ big-money plan to 'buy' her congressional seat will fail

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and the Republican Party have a problem on their hands: The congresswoman’s offensively headline-grabbing ways in Washington have turned her safe Republican seat into a toss-up that promises to be one of the most expensive House races in 2024 — if not in history.

In 2022, Boebert beat local businessman Adam Frisch by a mere 546 votes, but Frisch — who is angling for a rematch — continues to lap her in fundraising for the 2024 cycle.

With a haul of more than $2.6 million for the second quarter, Frisch raked in more than three times Boebert’s roughly $818,000, which she says is because Democrats want to “buy this seat.”

“Democrats would love to have my scalp. They won’t get it,” Boebert told Raw Story. “I’ve got a job to do. Not worried.”

If Boebert isn’t worried yet, Democrats say she should open her eyes. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and the GOP’s tenuous hold on power is dependent on a mere four seat majority. While Democratic party leaders see their easiest path back to the majority winding through states like New York, California or even North Carolina, a pickup is a pickup. And Colorado’s 3rd District is a prime target.

“Democrats can capture it. Obviously, we're down by four seats, so if we can win one seat, that would be very important to win that seat,” Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) told Raw Story.

ALSO READ: 'She confronted me': Marjorie Taylor Greene defends cussing out Lauren Boebert on House floor

During last year’s midterms, Boebert and Frisch combined raised upward of $16 million – the seventh most of any House race nationwide, according to OpenSecrets.

While Frisch took a few months off, he ramped up his 2024 fundraising in February 2023.

Boebert now has$1.44 million cash on hand to Frisch’s$2.49 million, as of June 30. If he keeps up at this pace, he’ll obliterate his midterm fundraising totals, which has senior Democrats such as DeGette smiling.

“Adam Frisch really represents that district quite well. He's moderate. He's a businessman, and I think he'd be great for the third season: fundraising. He never stopped,” DeGette said.

Earlier this year, Boebert was one of a handful of Freedom Caucus members who heckled and booed President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address. Last month, she introduced articles of impeachment against Biden. Boebert is also embroiled in a spat with another far-right congresswoman — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) — who recently called her a “little bitch” on the House floor.

Watch the moment Rep. Lauren Boebert interrupts, heckles President Biden during State of the

That’s only helped Frisch.

“Fundraising’s not hard when you're in that position,” DeGette said.

Frisch says he has received donations from Democrats in all 50 states. But Republicans say all of Frisch’s outside money will only help Boebert.

“She'll do better this time,” Richard Hudson (R-NC), chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee told Raw Story. “I’m confident she’ll be reelected, because she works her district.”

While Boebert’s fundraising is lagging behind, the NRCC says it’s prepared to step up and help her.

“Absolutely. We support our incumbents. We’re a member organization,” Hudson said. “That's always been a race on our target list, that we're concerned about and we'll continue to do everything we need to do to help her get reelected.”

Colorado Democrats aren’t counting Boebert out, even as they say she’s in trouble with independent-minded voters in the state.

“She's proven she can fundraise, she's got charisma, but she's tied herself very closely to the MAGA side of the Republican Party and in large parts of Colorado that's not popular,” Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) told Raw Story. “Even on the Western Slope it’s not popular in large portions.”

Hickenlooper also points out that Frisch still has a primary to win. While there’s little competition at the moment, the former governor expects Grand Junction Mayor Anna Stout to challenge Frisch, which he says will only strengthen Democrat’s chances against Boebert in 2024 – regardless of whether she faces Frisch

“Who knows how good Frisch is? He's only run one campaign,” Hickenlooper said. “There's gonna be a primary, and Frisch certainly has a huge head start. He’s got that network put together, and I think Frisch demonstrated that he's got a story to tell. He's got a vision of what he thinks that district needs in representation.”

'Get a good bag of popcorn and enjoy the show': Lawmakers react to news of possible Trump indictment

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he received a target letter from the Justice Department relating to the 2020 election overthrow attempt and Jan. 6 violence. Republicans responded online with profanity and hyperbole.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) claimed that the only reason that Trump has been given a target letter is that his poll numbers went up against President Joe Biden.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) told Raw Story the same thing, claiming that the move against Trump is purely political.

"DOJ just keeps it up, I mean, for who knows how long, the whole, the whole double standard and why it's ridiculous what they're doing. It's wrong, and it's why, like, what, four in five Americans think there's a two-tiered system of justice. They see it," said Jordan.

In the case of Trump, a federal grand jury would vote to decide whether to indict or not. It isn't a decision by the Justice Department.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) told Raw Story that Trump "should be" a target of the investigation. When asked about the excuse that the DOJ is only targeting him because his poll numbers went up, Cohen called it "typical Trump."

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) took it a bit further, calling it "full of crap."

Top Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD) agreed that the idea that a grand jury is making its decisions based on poll numbers is "baloney."

"They're going after him because he's done bad things," Hoyer continued. "I mean, you know, it's as simple as that. You know, he does things — he's so arrogant and so convinced of his own 'I can shoot people on Fifth Avenue and people would not care,' that he does things with impunity. And that's not the country we are. You know, we hold accountable wrongdoing. Now, he has a right to argue his case, obviously. But that's why he acts outrageously and is surprised people respond."

Far-right House Freedom Caucus chair Scott Perry (R-PA) called the target letter "all the same stuff."

"The federal government, DOJ, justice system, so-called, being used as a political weapon," he continued. "Now, I'm not going to characterize every single person at DOJ, but obviously the leadership, the people making decisions on the kind of cases."

Perry thinks that Trump's poll numbers continue to go up despite indictments because "the American people recognize these occurrences for what they are. Look, you're juxtaposing the person that's in the White House and his family right now with the person that just left the White House in real-time. One guy is getting a walk on everything, and the other side is being mercilessly persecuted for every single thing under the sun. Even things that oftentimes in the past were proven they were made up."

It's unclear what his reference was to things that were "made up."

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) called this kind of thinking absurd. "We all saw it!" he said.

"It's been obvious for a long time he was behind the insurrection," he continued. "And the phone call to [Georgia Secretary of State] Brad Raffensperger, and everything else he did. I'm not at all surprised. I'm surprised it took so long."

When asked about the Republican claims that it's political or that Trump was being treated unfairly, Nadler explained, "The Republican Party, the people in the House, some people supported the insurrection."

Two of Trump's former colleagues also spoke to Raw Story: Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), who was chased out of office after allegations of his misuse of federal funds, and Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX), the president's former person physician who was accused of handing out pills without proper examination.

Zinke said he's "not surprised" by the charges, claiming that "high hurdles" are being set up for Trump. He thinks that the reason Trump's poll numbers are increasing among Republicans is that there is "pushback" as a result of DOJ "overreach."

"Look, he's being hit by so many different sides — at some point it just becomes theater," Zinke continued. "I'd say to my friends, get a good bag of popcorn and enjoy the show."

Jackson, by contrast, acted as if he hadn't even heard the news about the letter. A strident supporter of Trump's, he told Raw Story, "honestly I haven't heard his latest."

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) agreed, somewhat, saying that he's been targeted by "so many different people for so many different things. Think it'll help him raise money this week?"

Beyer noted that the news came from Trump himself and that he often tries to get out ahead of things. "There's clearly a bright line between what prosecutors in the Department of Justice — the wheels of justice are about and what the political engineers would think."

He confessed he's not sure how Democrats deal with it because they're not supposed to be involved in the Justice Department's activities, despite allegations from Jordan that they already are.

"On the one hand, there are so many Democrats who would rather have Trump as the nominee because he is so damaged and we know his core base is very, very loyal, but that's 20 percent or 24 percent. He's chased off so many Independents, so Biden could beat Donald Trump. On the other hand, if he wins, it would be terrible. So, on the off chance a Republican wins, you'd rather have somebody who's sensible."

Expand the Supreme Court? Activists livid Senate Democrats are holding out

WASHINGTON — Support for expanding the size of the Supreme Court continues growing at all levels of the Democratic Party.

Except one crucial one: the U.S. Senate — an institution brimming with elderly institutionalists who are about to hear an earful from those who want to add justices in a bid to pull the current court’s ideological tilt from the right back toward the center. Abortion, voting, guns and LGBTQ issues are at the top of their minds.

“We want to make sure that we are bringing the real-life impact on our patients and the people who are most impacted, bringing those stories forward for senators in 2024 and beyond,” Jacqueline Ayers, Planned Parenthood’s senior vice president for policy, campaigns and advocacy, told Raw Story. “As advocates, our role is going to be continuing to make sure that we're pushing the conversation forward.”

In a sea change, themajority of Democratic voters,dozens of grassroots organizations and many House Democrats, including constitutional lawyer Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), are now pushing to expand the current nine-member Supreme Court by four seats.

Instead, in the wake of recent reports from ProPublica revealing billionaire donors lavished Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito with free gifts and lodging, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled this week to consider reforms that would force justices to adopt a code of ethics and enable everyday Americans to lodge formal complaints against members of the high court.

It’s not nearly enough for some.

While advocates, like Demand Justice co-founder Christopher Kang, are praising Whitehouse and Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) for “finally seeing Congress has a role and it needs to assert itself” Kang says increased disclosure alone falls short.

“I do think that at the end of the day, forcing Clarence Thomas to fill out more paperwork and disclose what trips he’s going on is not going to solve the problem of the Supreme Court,” Kang told Raw Story.

The court’s 2022 Dobbs decision that upended Roe v. Wade was a wakeup call to many Democrats and independents, but these advocates say the problem is deeper and wider. Kang says the Supreme Court has all but barred Congress from re-authorizing the Voting Rights Act, overturned local gun reform efforts, ended affirmative action and blocked student debt relief for 43 million Americans.

“The court is inserting itself and taking power away from the other two branches of government, and its excuse is ‘separation of powers,’ and I think that that has been also the excuse they’ve been using around ethics reform,” Kang said. “I think the first step is ethics, but then that naturally leads to even more institutionalist Democrats in Congress coming around to saying that we also need to reassert the balance between the branches of government by expanding the court.”

‘Fresh leadership’

Demand Justice is far from alone. The group has more than 65 allies among federally elected officials for expanding the size of the Supreme Court now occupying historically stuffy offices on these slave-built Capitol grounds, but only three of them are senators.

“We are an archaic institution with tradition that is often discriminatory entrenched in how we operate, so it takes the strongest crowbar imaginable to move people,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) told Raw Story.

The American people are crying out for “fresh voices, new fresh leadership,” according to Bowman, who argues fresh leaders need freshened up institutions.

“We are a more diverse, complex, larger country than we've ever been. So we need to look at everything with fresh eyes, especially the Supreme Court,” Bowman said. “Seven-thousand cases are submitted to the Supreme Court every year, they hear 80 of them. They're not responding to the American people, just in terms of a numbers perspective.”

Ketanji Brown Jackson, then a circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, makes brief remarks on Feb. 25, 2022, after President Joe Biden introduced her as his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate later confirmed her. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As with all things, the progressive movement is far from monolithic, even in Congress. President Joe Biden was “Senator Biden” for his first 36 years in Washington and remains an institutionalist’s institutionalist — and a court-packing skeptic — which is why Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) doesn’t think expanding the Supreme Court should be the party’s top priority.

“Personally, while I am supportive of expanding the court, I think we should be focusing on where there's more immediate possibility,” Ocasio-Cortez told Raw Story.

Ocasio-Cortez says as long as Biden is in the White House and Democrats control the Senate, the party’s main focus needs to be making the case to the American people.

“I think it'll be a lot easier to kind of ramp up activity on the Judiciary Committee, for example, in securing further investigation into the court’s misconduct than it is to try to get dozens of senators to agree to expanding the court when the president’s already spoken out against it,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

SCOTUS ethics reform ‘possible’

That’s in line with what Senate Democrats – even over Republican cries of, “foul!” – are attempting as they move ahead with ethics reform this week.

“What we're trying to do is to proceed within the realm of the possible,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the sponsor of the reform package, told Raw Story. “The key step is to get the facts before there are people, and that will help determine the aperture for ambition.”

Some Senate Democrats are open to it, but they say now isn't the time.

“We've contemplated it for years. To me, what seems the most urgent is an enforceable code of ethics at the Supreme Court. It's not partisan – just long overdue,” Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) told Raw Story.

Many longtime Democrats, such as Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), have never even considered expanding the court.

“No. A lot of people have contemplated it over the years, including FDR,” Carper told Raw Story. “The problem here is the lack of ethical guidelines and the failure to comply with what I think are common sense, reasonable guidelines.”

Senate Democrats are going by the old Washington playbook, though, according to the grassroots and their progressive allies in Congress who accuse Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) of burning that playbook when he was majority leader.

While AOC and others will be making the case for a corrupt court on cable, social media and in-person, other progressives expect senators to hear calls to expand the court coming from all levels of the party soon.

“When we are able to get local elected [officials] and community leaders and people on the ground, those are the ones that push up,” Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) told Raw Story. “They're the ones that are mobilizing every day and they're the ones that are reaching out in those communities. So, hopefully, pinpointing those Democrats that we really want to get on our side right now, hopefully, some of the effort they'll be looking at.”

The grassroots doesn’t just want Democrats to see their efforts – they’re set on making them feel their presence, displeasure and pain.

‘We are definitely coordinating’

No need for a new playbook, either. It’s worked before.

“Every event that Elizabeth Warren was at – you know, actually, every Dem candidate – we had folks there asking questions about expansion,” Julia Peter, co-director of advocacy and mobilization at the Center for Popular Democracy, told Raw Story. “The folks in Iowa, most of them either lived in Iowa or the Midwest and were traveling in for campaign events. Same for New Hampshire, South Carolina, etc.”

In 2018, the Center for Popular Democracy started calling for court expansion. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) opposed Supreme Court expansion during her presidential primary bid in 2020. The following year, she joined the grassroots she’d heard so much from on the trail and backed an expansion plan. Warren knows her colleagues won’t be able to hold out forever.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in response to the leaked Supreme Court draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade May 3, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty Images

“The Senate is full of people who are elected, and that is the ultimate accountability. As more people across this country become more alarmed about the Supreme Court, we'll see more movement in the U.S. Senate,” Warren told Raw Story.

Warren is still a lonely voice calling out in the wilderness. Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Ed Markey (D-MA) are her allies. They’re all bullishly – naively, to critics both inside and outside of the Democratic Party – optimistic, if in their muted-senatorial way.

“Piece by piece we’re building a powerful coalition of groups that are going to be demanding change,” Markey told Raw Story. “Dobbs is just a preview of coming atrocities and each new judicial atrocity is gonna create a demand that we expand the court. And so, it will happen. It’s inextricable, it’s inevitable that we will get many more members calling for an expansion.”

The coalition is increasingly optimistic, even if they know they’re still laying the groundwork ahead of 2024 and beyond.

In May, Markey, Warren and Smith, along with Reps. Hank Johnson (D-GA), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Cori Bush (D-MO), introduced the Judiciary Act of 2023, which would expand the Supreme Court’s membership from nine justices to 13 justices. Advocates expect a little pressure to go a long way.

“Elizabeth Warren being such a huge champion on the issue really happened fast, and I do think it was the grassroots push,” Peter said. “But it wasn’t a lot. Sometimes people overestimate these things, and I don’t think that building momentum in the Senate is unachievable. And I do expect in the next year to get a lot more cosigners on that bill.”

This time, it’s not one progressive group here and a fringe-left professor over there – it’s a 40-plus coalition of advocacy groups are coming together, including the likes of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, National Action Network, Color of Change, Latino Victory andmore than a dozen gun reform advocacy groups.

“We are definitely coordinating,” Peter said, though she and the others say there’s nothing top-down about the effort. “The grassroots movement is growing. In a lot of ways, the Supreme Court is making it easier and easier. With every egregious decision that comes, more people are paying attention.”

In just more than a week, on July 24 and July 25, advocates from over a dozen states are taking part in a lobby day on Capitol Hill on voting access. Voting rights come through the Supreme Court.

“We’re also going to focus on the freedom to vote, but The Judiciary Act will be a big topic in all of those meetings,” Peter said.

Then, during Congress’ annual August recess – a hallowed time for politicians and advocates alike – they plan to pressure other Democrats, especially Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and others.

“We want to pressure Dem leadership. We are looking to Schumer and Jefferies to first endorse, and then take this on,” Peter told Raw Story. “I don’t know if we’re ready to say too much, but we’ve got some big stuff planned over August recess kind of targeting them on expansion. So, I do think that’s a big piece of it.”

Trump’s forgotten inquisitor: How the Jan. 6 committee 'forced' DOJ to investigate former president

WASHINGTON — Since December, when the U.S. House’s Jan. 6 select committee released its damning final report, its chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), has attempted to resume his usual low profile.

But in an exclusive interview this week with Raw Story, the quiet-tempered lawmaker said his special committee “forced” the Department of Justice to finally investigate the role then-President Donald Trump and his closest associates played in fomenting the failed insurrection.

“The work of the committee kind of forced DOJ to get engaged, because a lot of what we did we passed on to them,” Thompson told Raw Story just outside the Capitol on a muggy summer day.

Thompson — with a scraggly gray beard and the unhurried gait of a 75-year-old Southern gentleman — walks alone these days. Gone is his security detail and phalanx of staffers. No more idling SUV ready to whisk him away at a moment’s notice. The gaggle of Capitol Hill reporters that used to flock about him now professionally-stalks Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), George Santos (R-NY) or the other GOP political flavors of the week.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), who served as chairman of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Everything changed when Republicans took over control of the House at the start of this 118th Congress.

Instead of investigating those who stormed the Capitol, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced a censure resolution against Thompson last month, which – after more than 30 days of being public now – has only garnered one cosponsor, Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC).

Greene and Gaetz also held a hearing into the J6 attack where the FBI, DOJ and Capitol Police were portrayed as guilty or culpable parties. The hearing took place at the very moment federal officials were arranging Trump in Miami on 37 felony charges related to his alleged mishandling of classified and other sensitive government documents.

“They're trying to normalize the abnormal,” Thompson said. “And so if that's how they see democracy at working, then that's who they are.”

Thompson told Raw Story his committee’s work speaks for itself — no matter how much Republicans try and rewrite history.

WATCH: Rep. Bennie Thompson delivers opening statement | Jan. 6 final

“The notion that somehow you can change the material facts in this situation, is just not the way it is,” Thompson said. “So I thought they would really legislate, come with their agenda, but their whole agenda is to undo everything that Democrats did. You gotta be in favor of something. It's like, okay, what are you gonna do? Wait until one of your wild cards say something stupid again?”

Thompson says he is proud the Jan. 6 special committee’s work is now being used by prosecutors who are convening a special grand jury in Fulton County, Ga., to investigate whether Trump attempted to illegally affect the outcome of the state’s 2020 presidential vote. The Jan. 6 committee, Thompson added, laid out an airtight case in its 800-plus page final report.

“There's no question in my mind, he knew everything that was going on. There was nothing that went on in Georgia that Donald Trump didn't know,” Thompson says.

Thompson says Georgia is key to it all, because of the recording of Trump’s call where he allegedly pressured Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to overturn the will of his people and fraudulently tilt the election against Democrat Joe Biden, who narrowly won the state.

"I just want to find 11,780 votes,” Trump said on the Georgia call.

“He got caught,” Thompson said.

“How’d he get caught? What’s the smoking gun?” Raw Story asked.

“The Raffensperger call. And now I think there’s a couple calls out in Arizona,” Thompson said, referring to a newly revealed attempt by Trump to seemingly pressure then-Gov. Doug Ducey to overturn election results in Arizona, which Biden also won.

While Thompson thinks the Georgia case is airtight, he says that doesn’t mean it’s a lock.

“I would say based on the fact that, [Trump’s] role talking to the Georgia secretary of state, him having other people serving as his surrogates go talk to people, him promoting the electors who were not duly elected — all that is part of his orchestration,” Thompson said. “Now how the district attorney presents that [evidence] and on what charges?”

Thompson is the top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee where he’s been busy this year defending Biden from attacks over his handling of security on the southern border.

WATCH: Jan. 6 committee shows new footage of Capitol

Thompson doesn’t hold press conferences and generally remains silent these days. He points back to the Jan. 6 committee’s body of work and findings.

“Under no circumstances can anybody say, ‘No, we’re gonna erase it, because what you saw with your own eyes, wasn’t what you saw.’ So the work on the committee was tremendous,” Thompson told Raw Story. “Not only did we save our democracy, but in the long run, I think we strengthened it.”

House Republican: Trump’s impeachment unfair because BLM 'actually hurt people' and J6 riots did nothing

WASHINGTON — Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) doesn't understand why former President Donald Trump was impeached for the Jan. 6 attacks and the attempt to overthrow the 2020 election. Speaking to Raw Story on Wednesday, she implied that no one got hurt as a result of Jan. 6 or due to Trump's actions.

"Um, so, I think based on what happened with the [John] Durham report and the information that we're finding out now — as you know, I led out the censure effort against [Rep.] Adam Schiff (D-CA) — you know, when you have a sitting president that — now that the facts have come out, was very much so politically targeted, and then had this egregious campaign run against him for years, I think it's important for history to reflect that it was not accurate."

Luna did not clarify what in the impeachment was not accurate.

When asked about the findings from the House Select Committee that investigated Jan. 6 and the attempt to overthrow the 2020 election, Luna argued that what is happening to Jan. 6 attackers is a grave injustice.

"Look at how the people were treated, how they are still being treated — as a result of that committee — was wrong," said Luna. "You know, they don't have the same standards of justice, for example, with people from BLM [Black Lives Matter] that actually hurt people. Obviously, I don't condone violence, but you know there was definitely a double standard, and I think a lot of people are realizing that."

The House Select Committee didn't prosecute any Jan. 6 attackers. Only those connected with the militia groups were mentioned, but the individuals weren't the focus of the committee's work. The Justice Department is trying the Jan. 6 defendants, and the process began during Donald Trump's administration.

The Jan. 6 attackers also were observed physically harming police officers on the day. In total, more than 140 officers were injured in some way on Jan. 6, and it doesn't include PTSD that has surfaced after the fact.

“I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained head injuries," said Gus Papathanasiou, the police union chairman in a statement. “One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake, to name some of the injuries."

There were burns, a heart attack, traumatic brain injuries, and other injuries from the attackers.

Michael Fanone was among those who have since left the force but spoke out about the violence experienced. While he was roughed up, the worst came when an attacker grabbed his taser and tased him in the neck until he was unconscious.

Black Lives Matter protesters were hurt by police during the summer and the New York Post claimed that the Department of Justice cited 700 law enforcement that were harmed. The problem with the figure being that the DOJ told PolitiFact that they didn't have actual numbers on law enforcement injuries during the 2020 summer.

The New York Times reported July 3, 2021, four polls that "suggest that about 15 million to 26 million people in the United States have participated in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd and others" in the weeks following Floyd's murder. Thousands were arrested.

A June 22, 2020, report from The Washington Post counted over 14,000 arrests made in one month, since the May 26 murder. The Hill counted over 17,000 arrests just in the first two weeks of protesting.

Jan. 6 attackers numbered in the tens of thousands but fewer than 2,000 have been arrested and tried.

According to a statement from the Secret Service, "There are approximately fifty nine (59) groups identified as potentially participating in First Amendment activities on January 6, 2021 at or around the White House Complex (WHC) ... Expected attendance is around 20,000 participants."

According to "classified numbers still not released by the Secret Service and the FBI but seen by Newsweek," there were approximately 120,000 people on the Mall on Jan. 6.

Republican compares Trump impeachment to extermination of Native Americans

WASHINGTON — Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) compared Donald Trump's two impeachments to some of the greatest atrocities in American history Wednesday.

Speaking to Raw Story at the U.S. Capitol, Issa said that the impeachments were "wrong" and they should be made right – in the same way that the nation should have apologized for the extermination of Native Americans and the interment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Talking about the push to erase the impeachment, spearheaded by Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, he went on to falsely claim, "There is a track record of expunging impeachment, so it wouldn't be inconsistent."

Only three presidents in history were impeached: Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. None of them were convicted, but none of the impeachments have been expunged. Issa didn't give examples.

Greene told Raw Story that she's pushing forward with the attempt to expunge an impeachment involving a call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump attempted to solicit a bribe. Meanwhile, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) is seeking to expunge Donald Trump's impeachment for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and the alleged attempts to overthrow the 2020 election. The latter issue may ultimately result in further indictment by the Justice Department.

Issa said, "Why should we apologize for imprisoning the Japanese during World War II? Because it was wrong and we want to make sure it's said. Why do we deal with what we did to Native Americans? Because it was wrong. Why are we looking at Medal of Honor candidates from decades ago? Because they were overlooked."

"It's never too late to right a wrong."

While there aren't exact figures, it is estimated that "European settlers killed 56 million indigenous people over about 100 years in South, Central and North America."

During the Japanese internment, 125,284 people were registered to be imprisoned because they were considered a threat to the security of the U.S. Of them 1,862 people died due to medical issues.

In a conversation with Newsweek, Georgetown University Professor Joshua Chafetz explained, "an impeachment cannot be expunged because it has effect outside of the House."

The House passes the impeachment, and the trial is in the Senate. While the House might vote to expunge the impeachment vote, it wouldn't remove the impeachment trial in the Senate unless there were 60 votes supporting it.

Even George Washington Law Professor Jonathan Turley, known for aiding the Republicans during the impeachment, told Reuters, "It is not like a constitutional DUI. Once you are impeached, you are impeached."

When asked about the expungement, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) told Raw Story there are important challenges that the country is facing, and implied rewriting Trump's record isn't one of them.

"Focusing on things that make no difference — suggesting that Logan Roy had a point, 'These are not smart people,'" Romney said, quoting the fictional character from "Succession," based on News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch.

"It's a classic Trump move," he continued. "There's nothing unusual about it. You ain't seen nothin' yet. There's no bottom to this pond."

'I don’t care': Marjorie Taylor Greene waves off Freedom Caucus

WASHINGTON — House Freedom Caucus drama broke out on Tuesday evening as Republicans were cagey about whether or not there was a full caucus vote to expel Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from their ranks.

On Wednesday, Greene told Raw Story she couldn't possibly care less about the Freedom Caucus.

When asked about whether she had heard about anything involving her status from Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), Greene said she hadn't spoken with him.

"I'm mostly focused on what I'm doing and serving my district," she said. "Not interested in any drama just interested in working on the NDAA."

The NDAA is the defense-funding bill from which Greene wants to remove Ukraine. She called the Ukraine funding a "red line" for her, and she thinks that they could simply remove Ukraine from the bill to appease her.

Her other top issue for defense funding is to "put the Hyde Amendment in there." The Hyde Amendment is already a law and doesn't need to be added to any other bills. It prevents the government from paying for abortions for employees. Currently, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is holding up military promotions over the idea that women who need to travel to other states for an abortion can be compensated for the travel. She also wants to remove funding for transgender medical services.

When asked if she would consider running for caucus chair, she said it wasn't something she was interested in pursuing.

She was then asked if she'd attend the next caucus meeting. Greene said she's only in Congress for "my district."

Reporters brought up the dichotomy of the Freedom Caucus, saying that you can't support leadership and be in the caucus at the same time.

"I'll say this, is Freedom Caucus' purpose to be anti-leadership, or is it to promote conservative policies and protect the Constitution?" she asked, pointing to her record.

When asked if she was waiting for the caucus to approach her or if she was going to contact Perry, she simply said: "I don't care. I don't care. I don't think I can say that loud enough."

She went on to point out her devotion to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

"I'm very grateful for his support, and I support him," she said of McCarthy. "I think he's doing a great job. He's very conservative and he's in a tough job; I don't think people recognize that enough."

She also celebrated him as the highest fundraiser of any Republican speaker in he past. The comments come amid McCarthy headlining an event for Greene on the Hill.

'It’s none of your business!': Freedom Caucus member loses cool when asked about MTG’s ouster

WASHINGTON — Republicans in the U.S. House got a slow start this week, not holding their first vote until 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday after being gone over the Independence Day holiday week.

But behind the scenes were more spats over Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and what really happened in the House Freedom Caucus. Greene herself says she still hasn't been officially told she's been booted, despite caucus members reportedly making the decision last month.

And it's not known who, if anybody, voted against the member’s removal.

"Ask her," Ralph Norman (R-SC) told reporters asking about it outside the Capitol. He was judgmental when it came to questions about what happened with Greene. Raw Story asked what the Freedom Caucus meant to him, and he rattled off a few issues, so Raw Story asked if transparency was no longer a part of that.

"Yes, it's part of it," Norman said.

"Is it?" asked another reporter. "Is it in the Freedom Caucus Bylaws that you can throw a member of the Freedom Caucus out?"

"Any organization's got a mechanism for dis-relocating somebody," said Norman.

As of Tuesday morning, Greene still hasn't been told formally by the caucus that she'd been booted.

Caucus chair Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), when asked about Greene, he said he doesn't discuss Freedom Caucus "personnel decisions." As a fact-check, a caucus member isn't an employee or member of personnel.

Perry was asked about Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), who was the member who first shared that she'd be expelled.

"I like Andy Harris. I think he's a good guy," said Perry.

The rules for the Freedom Caucus state that for a member to be expelled, there must be a vote. Not having such a vote would break the rules. But it doesn't say that the results of that vote need to be public.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) refused to give any more details, saying "No comment!" before losing his temper.

"Why is the chair unable to confirm whether she was voted out," another reporter asked.

"Because it's his business!" yelled Harris. "It's none of your business! It's our business! It's none of your business!"

The sudden outburst drew chuckles from those standing near him.

"I'm sorry, all that's going on in the world, you guys are worried about — that's why nobody likes the press anymore!" Harris continued ranting.

"We've got a war going on!" Harris shouted. "And you're worried about this? Come on. Come on. No comment. Come on, guys."

Harris then rushed away.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) said that a person has "to work really hard to get kicked out of the Freedom Caucus. It's like getting kicked out of the bar in Star Wars, right? Like, you really have to really, really try hard. They're the fringe of the fringe. For them to throw her out, I don't know what that says about them or her."

When asked about the refusal to be transparent about what happened, Swalwell said that they should be as forthcoming with the public as they would want others to be with them.

'Crazy': Inside the fight that got Marjorie Taylor Greene booted from the Freedom Caucus

WASHINGTON – Two years ago, Democrats booted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from her committees over racism, conspiracies and threats.

Greene is back in the committee game. But some two weeks ago, the far-right Freedom Caucus in part ousted her for cursing: specifically, for calling Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) “a little b----” on the House floor.

Politicians talk dirty. But not that dirty, at least not within the ranks of the Freedom Caucus — a gleefully brazen band of far-right rabble-rousers with a history of fighting GOP leadership.

In exclusive interviews with Raw Story, one current and two former members of the Freedom Caucus — who requested anonymity to speak candidly about a colleague — described the inner-workings of the group and why its members could no longer tolerate Greene’s antics.

“That’s a big damn deal in there. You don’t have to agree with everybody. What you do have to f------ do is not violate anyone's confidence,” one former Freedom Caucus member told Raw Story. “I can never remember anyone ever yelling at anyone in a Freedom Caucus meeting. Ever.”

The Freedom Caucus is notorious for its methodicalsecrecy. For one, the group keeps its full membership rolls hidden from the public. And members prize having candid meetings with one another even when there’s fierce intellectual disagreements within the group.

“The sort of code of the members: You disagree with somebody, you still don't burn them down because it's important for you to be able to have an honest discourse,” the former Freedom Caucus member said.

While the former member doesn’t know Marjorie Taylor Greene personally, the former member questioned whether Greene knows herself.

“What’s important to MTG? I don't know the answer to that question — that's rhetorical,” the former Freedom Caucus member asked. “It may have backfired, but it may not have. She may have gotten exactly what she wanted. Who knows?”

Tactics are one thing. Just ask now-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). At the start of the year, over 15 Groundhog Day-esque ballots, a mere handful of Freedom Caucus members — along with some of their far-right allies — kept McCarthy in political purgatory until he doled out concession after concession.

Greene — whose aides didn’t make her available for an interview — wasn’t a part of the speaker standoff. She was fully in Camp McCarthy, which also left bitter feelings among some corners of the Freedom Caucus. McCarthy has since rewarded Greene.

Tact is another value Freedom Caucus members prize, and critics say Greene doesn’t have much.

“You can’t say things like that,” the Republican lawmaker told Raw Story. “I really don’t understand these people who will say crazy things just to get in the papers, and — maybe that’s her personality — I would never say anything like that.”

The Freedom Caucus lawmaker fears populist politics is overtaking prudent policy making.

“There are some of the newer members who would prefer to be hardlined, and it does worry me for the future of the Freedom Caucus — because if you push out the intellectual debate aspect, I’ll think you’ll chase off a lot of people,” he said.

While the Freedom Caucus is only eight years old, it’s already strayed from its fiscal conservative roots, according to another former member who has since left the U.S. House but remains in elected office elsewhere.

“When I joined the Freedom Caucus, I was hoping that I’d finally found a place where fiscal conservatives could go — and I think that’s why a lot of other people went there,” the former Freedom Caucus member said. “And then it turned out that, maybe, that wasn’t the major driver even for the Freedom Caucus.”

In the past, the Freedom Caucus was more selective on the front end.

“I don’t think we ever kicked anyone off when I was there,” the former member told Raw Story. “But there were people that wanted to join that we decided not to invite to join and it tended to be people who struggled so hard to articulate their positions in a pleasant way without insulting groups of people that we didn’t want to be identified with them.”

Top Democrats ignorant of 'extremist' Moms for Liberty despite warnings the group is dangerous

There’s a new face of the far-right: moms.

A vocal subset has taken the fight to recast America in the image of arch-conservatism to local school boards nationwide. And, at least when it comes to Congress, key Democrats are blissfully unaware of their activist umbrella group, Moms for Liberty, which many Republicans love but the Southern Poverty Law Center deems an ‘extremist’ threat.

Moms for Liberty has only been around since 2021, yet it’s cultivated considerable sway in Republican circles.

This week, GOP presidential aspirants — from former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to former governors Nikki Haley (R-SC) and Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) — are flocking to Philadelphia to address the second annual Joyous Warriors National Summit, hosted by Moms for Liberty.

But in interviews this month with Raw Story, several prominent Democrats appeared completely unaware of Moms for Liberty.

“Never heard of them. Should I have heard of them?” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) told Raw Story. “I originally thought you said ‘Bombs for Liberty.’”

Other Senate Democrats also shrugged when Raw Story asked about the group.

“Who are they?” asked Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) is among the congressional Democrats who weren't familiar with Moms for Liberty. Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images

“Hmmm,” wondered Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). “I don’t know.”

It’s the same amongst some House Democrats, including party leaders.

“I haven’t heard of them,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, recently told Raw Story.

A staffer then reminded the congressman that Moms for Liberty came up in the Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation. Aguilar was one of just nine members of Congress who served on the panel.

‘I don't think that the left is aware’

After gaining electorally-impressive ground for a newcomer — a smidge over half of the candidates it endorsed won last year — Moms for Liberty is tripling down. Its Philadelphia gathering is a training seminar for local school board candidates who want to ban “woke” books, control school lunches and otherwise ensure that far-right priorities become standard operating procedure within the walls of schoolhouses.

Moms for Liberty is also eagerly exporting their agenda to blue states, undercutting Democrats, seemingly, right under their noses. They’ve fought to ban critical race theory in southern California, gone after a gay school superintendent in New York and targeted books from Oregon to New Jersey.

Local chapters of Moms for Liberty have reportedly teamed up with more well known, far-right extremist groups, such as the Proud Boys and Three Percenters militia. The group is helping put a maternal face on the fringe-right while attempting to normalize Christian nationalism and even some QAnon conspiracies.

It's alarming to those taking note.

Moms for Liberty founders Tiffany Justice (L) and Tina Descovich give the opening remarks before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during the inaugural Moms For Liberty Summit at the Tampa Marriott Water Street on July 15, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. Octavio Jones/Getty Images

“The left isn't even in tune to some of these groups that are getting very powerful at the grassroots level,” former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) tells Raw Story. “I don't think that the left is aware of even what's going on at the local level. I don't think they have any clue. I don't think the center – independents who are going to work every day – have any clue what the right is doing and how they're mobilizing, where their funding is coming from.”

Riggleman served as an adviser to the special Jan. 6 committee where he helped investigate domestic extremism. He says Moms for Liberty is especially dangerous because it’s serving as a melting pot for the new right – a place where traditional conservatism commingles with crazies.

“There's going to be very well-intentioned people in Moms for Liberty, but there's some absolute wackos. It's a very evangelical group, and it is a group that really does thrive on using evangelicalism as sort of a cudgel for hate, in some instances,” Riggleman says.

The group claims it’s now active in 44 states, with some 120,000 members spread across 285 chapters.

In Florida, where the group first formed, Moms for Liberty has harassed students, teachers and gotten an Anne Frank book yanked off the library’s shelves in Indian River County. The Moms for Liberty chapter in Brevard County challenged the appropriateness of 41 library books and forced its longtime school superintendent to resign.

Moms of Liberty’s reach is now far beyond the Sunshine State’s borders. In Indiana, a Moms for Liberty chapter recently quoted Adolph Hitler in its newsletter. In Arkansas, a member threatened librarians with gun violence, and in Virginia, a debate over LGBTQ policies devolved into violence and led to one arrest and one injury. In Pennsylvania, a local Moms for Liberty leader allegedly hacked a dead woman's Facebook page.

‘My experience with them has always been very positive’

On the right, Moms for Liberty is the new normal, hence Republican presidential hopefuls are storming Philly this week in spite of all the promised protests from groups left-wing groups such as PA STOP Moms for Liberty, People for the American Way, Defense of Democracy, ACT UP Philadelphia and Campaign for Our Shared Future.

“My experience with them is they’re just trying to get people elected as school board members that believe in parental rights and parents being involved in their kids’ education,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) – a former Florida governor – tells Raw Story. “My experience with them has always been very positive.”

Some congressional Republicans didn’t want to discuss any of the negative accusations against Moms for Liberty.

Instead, they praised them as a ‘parental rights group.’

“They happen to be parents that say, ‘Hey, I should have a voice in the education of my child,’ and that's a good thing in America for parents to be more engaged,” Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) tells Raw Story.

To Lankford and other Republicans, the Southern Poverty Law Center is itself an extremist group — of the left. After it labeled Moms for Liberty extremists, Republican lawmakers rushed to defend the conservative moms and, instead of focusing on the allegations, dismissed SPLC as biased.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke during the inaugural Moms For Liberty Summit at the Tampa Marriott Water Street on July 15, 2022, in Tampa, Florida. DeSantis is now running for president. Octavio Jones/Getty Images

“They're allowed to be a left-wing group in America, but they shouldn't be somebody that's actually referenced and used by any federal document or any federal agency to be able to use them as a source,” Lankford says. “And they just show their bias again, again.”

Moms for Liberty’s founders have turned the “extremist” label from the Southern Poverty Law Center into a right-wing badge of honor.

“Name-calling parents who want to be a part of their child’s education as ‘hate groups’ or ‘bigoted’ just further exposes what this battle is all about: Who fundamentally gets to decide what is taught to our kids in school — parents or government employees?” reads part of a statement sent to Raw Story by a spokesperson for Moms for Liberty Co-founders Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich. “We believe that parental rights do not stop at the classroom door and no amount of hate from groups like this is going to stop that.”

’Doesn’t mean they can’t be racist’

While Moms for Liberty isn’t on the radar of many powerful congressional Democrats, some of the party’s rank-and-file members are all too familiar with the group.

“There in my district. They’re showing up to our local school board meetings and trying to ban books and using homophobic, hateful rhetoric,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) tells Raw Story. “I’ve seen them in action. I’ve seen how incredibly unsafe my residents feel in their presence.”

For Tlaib, the fight has been personal, because she sees them reaching out to her fellow Muslims. And having success.

“I’m really worried, because some of these marginalized communities, like the Muslim community and others who have very conservative views have been lining themselves up with Moms for Liberty, and that’s been a great concern of mine,” Tlaib says. “They’re basically going to the Muslim community and using their radical views on LGBTQ stuff to get my Muslim neighbors to join them in these efforts. It’s been really hard to watch.”

The group presents itself as harmless, minivan driving moms. But the trope-ridden, 1950s veneer the group is selling nationwide is misleading, at best, detractors contend.

“Just because they say they’re moms doesn’t mean they can’t be racist or homophobic,” Tlaib says. “They’re a group to very much pay attention to. The name is misleading, but the actions are very clear.”

And as culture warriors, Moms for Liberty is formidable.

“They've been putting in a lot of harm,” Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) tells Raw Story. “First of all, I do appreciate when parents are involved with their kids’ school. That's very important for kids, but right-wing extremists shouldn't be taking over our school boards.”

And Frankel says national Democrats need to start focusing on the hyper-local issues that have national importance.

“Everyone has to care, and it's going to take all of us to defeat these extremist, rightwing trends,” Frankel says. “People need to speak up.”

Senate Republicans threaten to defund FBI if it doesn’t kill Trump indictment

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump's indictment from the grand jury turned top Republicans in the Senate to look for ways to go on the attack.

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) explained that he's prepared to defund the federal police branch.

"I think we certainly need to use financial pressure to force some reforms at the FBI," Vance told reporters on Wednesday at the Capitol. "We're always going to have a federal law enforcement. We're always going to have a Justice Department. But we should absolutely use our financial pressure and leverage to get these guys to change course because, man, they've got really out of control."

Republicans in the House have accused Democrats of "weaponizing" the government, namely the Justice Department, against political foes. Vance is proposing using the power of Congress to force the Justice Department to stop investigating Trump.

Vance said that he is willing to look in any place that Congress can use its funding power to force the FBI to submit to the demands, including refusing to fund a new FBI headquarters.

"I'm willing to sort of look any place, anywhere in order to use our constitutional authority to apply pressure to the FBI to wake up and do the job of law enforcement, not politics," said Vance.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) agreed, saying that it's clear "we've got to have a change." Now that Trump has been indicted, he wants to ensure that can't happen, but acknowledged it can't look "politicalized."

"The FBI and the Justice Department are targeting [President Joe] Biden's opponents," Scott told Raw Story.

The Justice Department began its investigation into Trump prior to him declaring he was running for president in 2024. Trump is the only Republican "opponent" that the Justice Department is investigating.

"I'm very disappointed Justice and FBI is doing this. It looks like what happens in Latin America. So, I think everyone's going to have to look at how we — how we fix it," Scott continued.

Going after the DOJ and the FBI doesn't mean he's not a member of the "party of law enforcement," he claimed. "I still support law enforcement. We have to make sure it's not politicized. It's not fair to the normal people doing law enforcement."

During his speech Tuesday night, Trump announced that under his administration, he would appoint a special counsel to look into Biden. A Trump-appointed Republican has already been appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to serve as a special counsel and look into Biden's classified documents. Biden self-reported finding documents and then worked to ensure they were handed over to the National Archives once discovered.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said of the Trump special counsel, that he understands "the way he's been treated, why he'd want to do that."

When asked how it's political to appoint a special counsel for Trump but not political to appoint one for Biden, Johnson confessed, "that's the problem, okay?" Still, he said that it should be allowed for Republicans to politicize a special counsel because Democrats did it.

"We just keep violating these norms and let's face it, it's the Democrats that are violating these norms of this country," he told Raw Story.

'We’re in a post-fact world': Former GOP congressman blasts colleagues for failing to admit Trump reality

WASHINGTON – Former President Donald Trump has now pleaded not guilty to 37 charges ranging from lying to federal investigators and concealing evidence to obstructing justice and willfully retaining national defense information.

Besides being historic, the charges are serious – as a handful of elected Republicans have admitted. But at the Capitol, most GOPers are mirroring the former president’s "witch hunt" rhetoric as they rally to his defense, yet again – and it's appalling to some of their colleagues.

“It was stunning for me to read the indictment, and for anybody to defend him at this point, I think you're stupid and ignorant or you're just part of this cynicism of wanting to win regardless of what's right for the American people,” former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) exclusively told Raw Story.

Before coming to Congress, Riggleman – who was defeated by Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) in 2020 – was an officer in the Air Force before becoming a contractor at the National Security Agency. Over his career, he’s held numerous special access clearances. He’s alarmed with the overwhelming reaction from the right, though he’s not surprised by it.

“We have to admit we're in a post-fact world now, he said. "We're post-truth, post-fact – it’s about who wins or loses and it's about magical thinking as policy in the government, and I would say the MAGA movement has perfected magical policy or magical belief systems as something to run a government on,” Riggleman contends.

What would have been considered fringe to far-right in the past is now mainstream, especially in the House of Representatives and conservative media, he said.

“This media, they make their money on Trump's name, and they're making their money off outrage,” Riggleman says.

And the right is not just good at harnessing that, Riggleman contends. They’ve mastered it, and Democrats have utterly failed to combat or keep pace with today’s new right and their media machine.

“When you look at the far-right, they perfected their media channels and messaging in a way that I don't think the Democrats can even imagine,” Riggleman says. “I do think the Democrats have put their head in the sand. I don't think they have the ability to see what the MAGA ecosystem looks like. Either they're incapable, or they're afraid to look under the hood.”

That’s why Riggleman’s eyes are on Trump in 2024, and he warns Democrats – a party he’s never belonged to and opposes, policy-wise – not to spike the proverbial football going into next year’s general election.

“Trump should not be a viable presidential candidate, but more than likely he's going to be the nominee,” Riggleman predicts. “What the Democrats have to figure out is: What does that messaging world look like? How do they combat disinformation and, on the other hand, how do they combat it without their own disinformation?”

Riggleman also served as a senior adviser to the select January 6 committee. He was charged with helping analyze millions and millions of data lines – from emails or phone records to Twitter and 4chan posts – that the intelligence community either missed or bungled ahead of the attack on the Capitol in 2021.

“So the issue that you have with these kinds of information battles, is now you only have two parties that are slugging it out with really no moderator,” Riggleman says. “That's what scares me about what's happening in the United States right now is, how does the two-party system survive social media, especially when one party is in a hold my beer moment?”

That’s why Riggleman’s dubious of all these elected Republicans rushing to Trump’s defense.

“Either they're true believers or they're cynical and winning means more to them than our country. That's it, and listen, I was in Congress, so nobody can tell me anything about Congress,” Riggleman says.

While some on the left are eager to see Trump imprisoned, Riggleman also warns that could backfire spectacularly.

“If he's actually handcuffed and taken away, I think his polling just explodes in a great way for him,” Riggleman says, “because now he's a political prisoner of the deep state and the globalists who are run by the ‘one world government’ and satan has taken over America.”

‘Remember, Hitler went to prison’: moderate Republicans warn Trump prosecutors to ‘get this right’ or risk chaos

Even as some Democrats are cheering this latest pending Trump indictment, some more moderate Republicans fear the former president will ride his mounting legal troubles back into the White House next year.

“I’m waiting for the smoke to clear, but in the short term, in the context of the Republican Party, this probably strengthens Trump, because they feel he’s being picked on,” former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) told Raw Story in an exclusive interview Thursday evening. “There are a group of Americans who are going to feel this is a double standard.”

Davis has history on his side. This spring, Trump saw his poll numbers shoot up after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg dropped 34 felony counts on the former president for his alleged hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Even after Trump was found liable in May for sexually abusing writer E. Jean Carroll – as the GOP presidential primary field kept expanding — Trump’s popularity amongst his GOP base has remained historically strong.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for special counsel Jack Smith.

“You better get this right. You’re in a new area here,” Davis said. “I just have this uneasy feeling, at a time when you’re trying to keep people together and bring the country together to maybe have this guy ride into the sunset due to being prosecuted.”

Optics matter now more than ever, especially with a former president who made a name for himself on “reality” TV. That’s why Davis and others are hoping the case is tried in Florida, far away from the Beltway and all its baggage.

Trump is reportedly due to appear Tuesday in federal court in Miami, Fla.

“The more removed this indictment is from the Biden administration, the more damaging it will be to Trump,” former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) told Raw Story in an exclusive interview Thursday evening. “Trump is already connecting the indictment to Biden, so I think choosing this venue – a Florida court where Trump actually lives, in a Republican state – I think that will make the case more damaging to Trump.”

When it comes to the GOP political class – along with the conservative media machine – Trump seemingly could get away with shooting a Democrat on Fifth Avenue. But Curbelo says the fealty of the Republican rank and file is paper thin.

“Politicians endorsing Trump, they're just protecting themselves. They see the poll numbers, they see that Trump is popular in their districts and they perceive Trump as a safe place for them to station themselves,” Curbelo said. “If Trump's numbers start coming down, they’re going to flee. A lot of these people don't even like Donald Trump.”

Still, Trump is playing the victim card – “witch hunt” this and “witch hunt” that – which has worked with his base.

That’s not likely to change any time – or potential indictment – soon, said Davis of Virginia.

“A lot of this goes to intent. I understand the subtleties, the nuances, but the public doesn’t get it. All they see is a guy who the media’s been after, the establishment’s been after forever,” Davis said.

Davis fears this could all backfire – and backfire badly.

“Remember, Hitler went to prison…that’s when he wrote Mein Kampf,” Davis said. “This is not good.”

Still, moderate Republicans are waiting for their fellow party members to come back to the party’s conservative roots. Populism can only be popular for so long, no?

“Every television show gets old at some point. And, at the end of the day, Trump is much more of a celebrity than he is a political leader,” Curbelo, of Florida, said. “Certainly, a majority of Americans are over it and ready to move on. The question is whether a majority of Republicans will get to that point. I think the weight of all these indictments and controversies will eventually tip the scales against Trump.”

PGA-Saudi LIV merger has Congress teed off. But one senator won't commit to quitting his golf money.

Republicans and Democrats alike have been blasting the planned mega-merger this week of the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf.

But one leading merger critic — Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) — wasn't so enthusiastic about discussing a recent campaign donation he received from the PGA's political action committee.

“I’m really focused on what can be done, what is appropriate to do about the merger, given the possibility, the goal of sports-washing by the PGA," Blumenthal said Thursday when asked by Raw Story whether he would return or otherwise dispose of the $1,000 the PGA Tour Inc. Political Action Committee contributed to his re-election campaign committee in October, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Blumenthal is one among several federal lawmakers to have received four- or five-figure contributions from the PGA's PAC in recent years, Federal Election Commission records indicate.

Others include Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who received $10,000 in 2021, and Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD), who got $10,000 in 2022. Schumer and Thune could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (C-SPAN)

While fairly uncommon, federal lawmakers may legally dispose of unwanted or surplus campaign cash by returning it, donating it to charity or disgorging it to the U.S. Treasury's general fund.

Blumenthal, who defined "sports-washing" as “the use of investment in a sport to give credibility or to redeem the reputation of a country or interest that is in disrepute," said Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund "seems to be buying control of an American sport.”

Given this, "I think there is a role and responsibility for Congress” to investigate the matter, Blumenthal told Raw Story.

Blumenthal easily won a third term in the U.S. Senate in November.

The Saudi kingdom has been widely panned for repressive policies and human rights abuses, with Amnesty International accusing the nation's government of a litany of wrongdoings.

American intelligence agencies concluded in a report that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the 2018 assassination of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a leading critic of Saudi Arabia's government.

'PGA is gonna get what it deserves': Condemnation of Saudi LIV merger unites some House members

WASHINGTON — Members of both sides of the political aisle spoke out against the PGA merger with the Saudi Arabia-owned LIV Golf Tuesday. Just last year, the PGA said that the LIV tournaments were unacceptable and that they would refuse to allow "sports washing" of the Saudi royal family, which has been accused of aiding 9/11 hijackers and human rights violations over the years.

Then, on Tuesday, both groups announced they were merging into a "new, collectively owned, for-profit entity."

Speaking to Raw Story, some lawmakers expressed concern.

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), an avid golfer, confessed he was "irritated" at hearing the news.

"The PGA Tour has its own issues, obviously, but they can't just brush aside the source of the [LIV] tour's money and the business model is a problem, I think, too," Kildee explained. "Like you're just paid to show up. The advantage of PGA is that every week you show up, and if you do well, you do well, and if you don't, then you might be looking at some other tour at some point."

He agreed that a lot of frustration has to do with the assassination and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. A February 2021 FBI report confirmed that "Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia approved the assassination," The New York Times reported at the time.

"But it's also just the notion that after the Khashoggi killing, the idea, whether it was clearly intentional, it felt intentional, to sort of try and buy a reputation by creating this LIV tour and it's validated by these great tour pros," Kildee continued. "You put enough money on the table you can get some real talent. You know?"

When asked if he thought there should be a hearing into the merger, he said that he worries about the potential anti-trust implications and he does have concerns, but the idea of targeting a private business is something he's also worried about.

Republican Rep. Chip Roy (TX) gave Raw Story a frank comment on the merger: "It's s--t!" he shouted as he raced to the House floor.

Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX), who is taking on Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in 2024, had a unique perspective as a former professional football player.

His face sinking when informed of the news, Allred told Raw Story that it's an example that "sports-washing" of golf, and previously soccer, is increasing. In 2022, the World Cup was hosted by Qatar; in 2018, Russia hosted the soccer tournament. Both nations were accused of attempting to use the event as a means to appear respectable on the world stage despite human rights issues, corruption, labor abuses and hostility to LGBTQ people, The Nation explained.

"It's not just that it's Saudi-backed that it's a problem," Allred explained. "But it's because it's about accountability. And professional sports already has enough negative impressions without adding in politics."

He went on to cite Khashoggi but also mentioned "women's rights, LGBT rights" and said, "There are a lot of concerns, which, in the geopolitical context, you could say still strategically very important to the United States, when we're talking about who you want to watch on Sunday when you're watching The Masters, you don't want to be thinking about that."

Donald Trump has expressed his excitement over it.

"I think they're going to get what they deserve, no question in my mind," said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ). "And I think that Saudi Arabia has thought, in dealing with the supply of oil, that they had suited themselves finely in the world's position. I think that not only have they made a huge mistake, but it makes us move toward independence, and a lot of other countries."

He went on to say that the Saudis were "striking out, as far as I'm concerned."

Deepfake democracy: How AI is bamboozling Congress and threatening the 2024 election

WASHINGTON — America’s in the midst of its first AI-fueled election. Duping voters in 2024 — a year where “deepfakes” are expected to supplant our current meme-driven political unreality — will be easier than ever.

Bogus but hyper-realistic videos of Donald Trump secretly plotting with Russian President Vladimir Putin or President Joe Biden in a secret White House confab with antifa activists? Entirely fake speeches delivered by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) or Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN)?

All possible now. Just watch the wouldn’t-have-been-possible-in-2020 deepfake video starring a computer generated Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s depicted as desperately trying to convince his colleagues in “The Office” that he’s not wearing women’s clothes. Donald Trump Jr. is among the people who've shared it on social media in recent days.

Among the most unprepared for AI-infused election shenanigans: members of Congress themselves.

“I haven't heard it talked about here,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) told Raw Story when asked about deepfakes and AI impacting Election 2024.

It’s not that the the Capitol isn’t buzzing with AI regulatory chatter since OpenAI CEO Sam Altman testified before lawmakerslast Tuesday — including telling Hawley that even he is “nervous” about large language learning platforms, such as his company’s ChatGPT, being used to manipulate voters. The problem: this was news to many at the Capitol.

That’s why experts are nervous, too, especially since AI technology is evolving at warp speed.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman: "If this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong."

“Congress should have been proactive yesterday — decades ago,” Woodrow Hartzog, professor of Law at Boston University, told Raw Story.

Congress has a ton of catching up to do, mainly because U.S. policymakers — at the behest of Silicon Valley’steams of Washington lobbyists — have dithered for years in writing rules for the digital road, more or less allowing tech companies to police themselves.

“At the very least, it needs to think about the fact that this is not just a technology and deepfakes problem, that the problem of deepfakes in our democracy is rooted in significantly broader structural concerns around tech accountability, generally, mixed with our laws surrounding privacy, surveillance, free expression, copyright law, equality and anti-discrimination,” Hartzog continued. “All of those seemingly disparate areas — and the cracks that have been growing in our protections around them — are part of this story.”

How dangerous, really?

Artificial intelligence offers great promise of taking humanity to new technological heights.

But the ability to create increasingly realistic fake media is getting easier by the nanosecond, too. What formerly required specialized expertise — not to mention days and weeks worth of time; thus dedication — only to concoct clunky deepfakes is now available to all. The democratization of fakes has many experts freaked out.

It’s easy to see how AI-based deceptions, propaganda and scams could damage an election’s status as truly free and fair, even if just a small fraction of voters are affected.

Consider that the 2016 election was decided by some 80,000 votes across three states. Countless bots and Russian intelligence officers involved themselves (if Senate Republicans are to be believed). Campaign operatives — domestic and foreign, and as bad as they can be — have nothing on AI’s powers (if its creators are to be believed). Especially when combined with today’s always-improving deepfake technology, the ability to dupe is almost easy.

“Think about this as nuclear technology,” Siwei Lyu, a SUNY Empire Innovation Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University at Buffalo, told Raw Story. “Right now, instead of just the U.S. government and a few governments in the world knowing the techniques for making atomic bombs, like everybody now can have a toolkit off of Amazon to make their own atomic bombs. How dangerous that could be, right?”

Lyu continued: “Of course, somebody may use that as a generator to power up my house and then I don't need to be on the electricity grid anymore, but there are people for sure who will misuse it — and those are the things we have very little control over. So that's really where the problem is.”

The fear for Election 2024 isn’t, necessarily, one big, earth-altering digital atomic explosion; the fear is dozens, hundreds or even thousands of personal smart bombs — polished, powered and propelled by generative AI — being quietly dropped on susceptible-to-vulnerable populations in swing states.

They might originate from domestic sources: say, unscrupulous super PACs or lone-wolf political agitators unconcerned about the nation’s largely antiquated election laws and regulations that, in some cases, haven’t been updated since the dawn of the World Wide Web. If that.

Worse, they could come from foreign actors — think Russia, or perhaps Iran and North Korea — who’ve already demonstrated an insatiable appetite for sowing chaos in U.S. elections.

“The makers of deepfakes will create those fake media to reinforce, strengthen your belief, and then the recommendation algorithm will actually push that to you as a user so you will start to see more of this stuff,” Lyu said.

This will all be guided by the private data of millions of Americans, which Silicon Valley firms already have access to because of congressional inaction. When fed into generative AI platforms like ChatGPT the algorithmic loop of fear-drenched, truthy sounding falsehoods and fakes could prove infinite.

'Got to move fast'

Back on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is now a part of bipartisan negotiations – along with Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Todd Young (R-IN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) – focused on legislating artificial intelligence.

“We can’t move so fast that we do flawed legislation, but there is no time for waste, or delay, or sitting back,” Schumer told his colleagues on the Senate floor after Altman testified. “We've got to move fast."

There’s only a short window to act, because generative AI is becoming more ubiquitous – more than 100 million people have already signed up for ChatGPT alone.

“And so while it is important for Congress to act, I hope that they realize that they can't just pass one anti-deepfake law of 2023 and dust their hands and call it a day, because this problem is one that is significantly larger than just a few algorithmic tools,” Hartzog, the BU law professor and co-author of Breached: Why Data Security Law Fails and How to Improve It, told Raw Story. “It's fundamental to our whole sort of media information distribution networks and free expression and consumer protection laws.”

Other lawmakers don’t feel the same pressure. Many assume America’s safer than other nations when it comes to AI-powered deepfakes.

“I think in a more advanced ecosystem, like our new system, it's probably easier for campaigns to jump on it pretty quickly and knock it down. I think in the developing world it could start riots and civil wars,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently told Raw Story.

Others in Congress – including party leaders – think the government is largely helpless when it comes to preventing the deepfake-ification of American elections.

“All we can do is tell the truth and appeal to the public not to believe everything they hear and see,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Senate majority whip, told Raw Story.

While 2020 was the "alternative fact” election, 2024 is primed to be the alternative reality election. “Fake news” isn’t just a bumper sticker anymore; it’s now reality.

“We’re in it,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) told Raw Story, “and AI is making it exponentially easier to create a false narrative, to project that false narrative worldwide, to make the false narrative believable by creating much more detailed and thorough content and it will be very hard to take something that’s disseminated worldwide and knock it down as false.”

Gillibrand has been calling for the creation of a new federal Data Protection Agency for years now, arguing the Federal Trade Commission is toothless when it comes to regulating big tech. The Federal Election Commission, meanwhile, often takes years to reach any agreement on even the most modest updates to its political advertising regulations.

“I think we have to keep focusing on the truth and making sure we have levers of government and a legal system to create accountability and oversight to make sure the truth is protected,” Gillibrand said.

Legislating "truth" in a post-truth political universe may prove impossible, but we really won’t know until the dust settles after Election 2024. That’s why many lawmakers, experts and privacy advocates are bracing for an election like no other in U.S. history.

“Every anti-democratic trick in the book will be played in 2024. No doubt,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) – a Trump impeachment manager and member of the select Jan. 6 committee – recently told Raw Story. “The guy dines with racists and anti-Semites, Trump seems determined to prove that he can do anything he wants, including shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue, and his cult following will not budge. So this is where we are in the 21st century.”

Some Democrats fear a mass shooting on House floor — by a QAnon-Republican

WASHINGTON—Surprise quickly morphed into alarm for some at the Capitol this week as a post-Jan. 6 security measure vanished without warning just before Republicans reclaimed control of the House. Some Democrats fear there could be a mass shooting on the House floor at the trigger of one of the GOP’s newly expanded ranks of conspiracy-believing lawmakers.

“A lot of my Republican colleagues glorify violence and proudly display the firearms they have in their offices, so it just makes me nervous that we could have a workplace violent event. They’re not the most stable people,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) told Raw Story after voting for Speaker this week.

The airport-esque contraptions—technically, magnetometers—surrounded the House chamber since the mob of Trump supporters violently attempted to take over the historic chamber on Jan. 6, 2021. In their two-year stint as beeping plastic monuments to a failed coup, they were cursed, mocked, and even sued by lawmakers.

They also stopped at least one gun from entering the House chamber. Soon after the extra security went up, Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) set the metal detectors off before ditching the weapon, though likely others too, as many Republicans initially refused to comply.

It’s a bipartisan problem, but the fear is one-sided. It’s palpable. Yet Democrats aren’t scared (publicly, at least). Alert.

Not based—braced.

We all know Democrats can’t even agree on the definition of ‘monolithic.’ But after being some of the main targets of that violent mob just two years ago—and one tangible, terrifying memory—an unmistakable realism now pervades the party. Awoke. Focused.

It’s the opposite on the right. Dismissing, deflecting, or denying all things Jan. 6 has become en-vogue in today’s GOP (at least to those who’ve avoided being labeled ‘Never Trump’ before being retired).

Democrats can’t not think about it. Especially the handful of their GOP colleagues many suspect to know are seditious felons.

“They already have a history of letting insurrectionists in the building and showing them around,” Swalwell—who made public some of the vile death threats his family has endured—said. “So it just seems like a recipe for disaster.”

Metal detectors or not, the nation’s politicians—right, left, and indie—are now bigger targets than ever before.

The 117th Congress was the most threatened in history

Death threats are the new norm on Capitol Hill.

Just in 2022, lawmakers across Capitol Hill reported receiving more than 9,000 threats. All told, in the past six years, members of Congress have faced a400 percent increase in personal threats, according to Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger.

The rhetoric has become reality in a series of tragic, politically-motivated mass shootings, including when a deranged-progressive shot up a Republican baseball practice or a conspiracy-fueled Trump devotee attacked an FBI field office in Ohio, to name two of many.

Most Republicans maintain they’re not alarmed—concerned, yes, but they often rebuff questions on gun violence. Guns have become a part of the party’s DNA.

It’s different with Democrats. They still feel—or admit to the unforgettable feelings—the real world sting of memes, tropes, and misinformation that were literally being weaponized. And after you see an American flag, weaponized in the heart of American democracy, then you surely know a gun on the Capitol grounds is weaponized the second the trigger is purposefully pulled inside an already contentious office.

“There have been increased threats to members of Congress. There's been an increase in political violence in this country, and I think we have a responsibility to make sure that people come to work—this is a workplace—that they could do so safely and free from any fear of violence, particularly gun violence,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) told Raw Story this week. “I think it should concern everyone.”

In this pitched political atmosphere, Democrats don’t like what they’ve heard about Trump’s new block of political allies on Capitol Hill.

“There's a frightening group of people over there,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) told Raw Story of the growing ranks of conspiracy theorists who don’t just deny Biden‘s legitimacy, they flirt with or peddle dangerous QAnon tropes. “I used to assume that nothing crazy could happen here. I no longer assume that. After Jan. 6, I don’t assume anything anymore. So it’s a little concerning.”

Throughout this week, GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and many of his rank-and-file members have grown increasingly frustrated with a block of Freedom Caucus members who’ve stymied House proceedings by repeatedly blocking McCarthy’s Speaker-bid. Kildee says this is an ominous start to the 118th Congress.

“Scary people,” Kildee continued, “and the real problem too is that they seem to have taken the keys to the car from the party.”

Is the Supreme Court culpable?

The nation’s capital had one of the strictest firearm bans in the nation, but the Robert’s Court put an end to that in 2008 with its Heller decision. Its sweeping ruling overturned Washington’s strict handgun ban while also eviscerating the local mandate that shotguns be stored with a safety lock or needed to be emptied and disassembled.

Prior to Heller, many of the nation’s lawmakers disregarded local D.C. gun laws and secretly packed heat while in town. Hell, in 2007 former Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA)—a former Navy Secretary—got one of his senior aides arrested after Capitol Police found the senator’s loaded pistol in the staffer’s bag. The main infractions weren’t the weapon itself, but rather the fact the senator left it loaded and that the aide—a former Marine, nonetheless—wasn’t licensed.

That’s because in 1967 the Capitol Police board ruled members of Congress and their aides could legally have firearms on the Capitol grounds, though they had to be empty and securely stored. The regulation focused on member’s personal offices, and it strictly prohibited members from bringing weapons on the floor of the House or Senate.

Needless to say, even before the Obama presidency—when American firearms outpaced the number of living, breathing American citizens for the first time—lawmakers flaunted the rules and packed while in D.C. That’s why many Democrats welcomed the inconvenience of metal detectors.

“I do feel better walking through them. It's annoying, but I definitely feel more confident,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) told me after leaving a Democratic caucus meeting this week.

“Knowing that the metal detectors aren't there and that there are gonna be guns on the floor,” I ask, “does that worry you?”

“Okay, you just created a new sense of anxiety,” Schakowsky replied as we both awkwardly laughed. “Thank you very much!”

“But that does worry you?” I follow up with. “Because if they get mad in the heat of debate, you don’t want firearms on the floor?”

“That is a concern, and I think that it’s not a wise decision given the tensions that we have right now, which are at a real high pitch,” Schakowsky replied.

It's more than just fear though. It’s also compassion.

“We have members who have been either witnesses of or even victims of gun violence,” Schakowsky said. “We’re not happy about it. Thanks for the bad news!”

There’s no Speaker, so who made the call?

Many Democrats are also asking: Where did the order to remove the magnetometers come from? Because there’s currently no Speaker of the House.

“I was surprised, because I don’t know who gave the order?” Rep. Kildee of Michigan said. “I assume that the incoming majority communicated with the clerk, but I only assume that. So I don't know.”

GOP Leader McCarthy’s office hasn’t responded to multiple requests for a comment.

No matter who gave the order, the speed with which the extra layer of security evaporated also caught many lawmakers off guard.

“The security folks were laughing at me because I took all the stuff out of my pockets and I put it on the table and then looked up and there was no detector to go through,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) recounted to Raw Story while on an elevator in the Capitol. “They said, ‘You’re the second one who’s done that.’”

While Democrats are now up to speed on the security change, many remain nervous about what the future may hold.

“I hope it’s safe. I think we all have some concerns about it,” Schiff said.

Democrats have been raising these alarm bells for some time now, even as Republican leaders have come behind their own members, including those accused of threatening their fellow lawmakers with violence.

The congressional session that just ended this week was the first since the Jan. 6 attack. In the wake of the unprecedented assault on the heart of America’s government—the people’s branch—the rhetoric inside the Capitol’s recently-bloodied marble halls only grew more pitched and personal.

In a rare move, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) was censured and kicked off his committees for posting an anime video depicting cartoon-him beheading Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). A mere two Republicans—Jan. 6 committee members and now former-Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger—crossed the aisle. Another Republican voted "present."

Democrats also stripped committees away from then-freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) after posts were uncovered of her, as CNN put it, that “indicated support for executing prominent Democrats in 2018 and 2019 before running for Congress.” It too was hyper-partisan. Only 11 Republicans voted with Democrats.

The list goes on. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) accused Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and her meme-ified lexicon—“Jihad Squad,” to name one—of making her the focus of sadistic threats. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) predicted“bloodshed.”

Republicans have also felt the right’s rage for crossing former President Trump in recent years. After joining a mere eight freshman Republicans in certifying Biden’s 2020 victory, then-Rep. Peter Meijer braced for violence from Trump loyalists.

“We realize that was a vote we cast that put our safety at risk and going forward, I am expecting there will likely be more political violence,” Meijer told CNBC’s Shepard Smith before he lost his 2022 Michigan primary to a Trump-backed candidate who lost the seat for the GOP in the general election.

That’s the backdrop. and also the reason many Democrats don’t dwell on the fact that some of their Republican colleagues carry weapons in the Capitol.

“I try not to think about it,” Schiff said. “Let's just hope we don’t have a tragedy on our hands.”

Some Democrats say, ‘good riddance!’

The metal detectors were little comfort to other Democrats though.

Unlike other members of her party, Rep. Abigail Spanberger is used to being armed. In her past life as a Postal Inspector, the moderate Democrat worked drug and money laundering cases. She then hopped federal agencies and spent a decade serving as CIA operations officer where she…well, it’s still, basically,CLASSIFIED (or, at least, redacted to the point of mystery).

Now a Virginia congresswoman, Spanberger was one of a few dozen lawmakers left trapped in the galleries overlooking the House floor on Jan. 6, 2021 due to COVID social distancing measures. Even while she still carries emotional scars from that day, the congresswoman hated the detectors from the beginning.

“[They] slowed down votes. Frankly, put the Capitol Police in a bit of a challenging circumstance of: we’re going to vote and they’re opening up bags,” Spanberger joyously complained after they were removed earlier this week.

The former CIA officer does note that the attack on the Capitol revealed the myth behind Republicans's Second Amendment talking points.

“As somebody who used to carry a firearm every single day—and trained; had to qualify—what we saw on Jan. 6 is that, when circumstances got challenging, the people who would otherwise kinda like to pretend that they would play a central role evacuated themselves right out,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) told Raw Story just outside the House chamber. “Thanks to Capitol Police—and later in the day Metropolitan Police—we were protected at great expense to so many Capitol Police officers who were beaten and bloodied…”

It’s not just badass congresswomen. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) has spent the last 20 years in Congress, including serving on the committee that funds the Department of Homeland Security. To him, the metal detectors were more than annoying—they were unnecessary in a building protected by a small army.

“We have enough cops. We have security,” Ruppersberger told Raw Story in the Capitol’s dingy basement.

The Baltimore-trained prosecutor has witnessed a lot over the decades, especially in his time studying domestic terrorism threats from his perch on the Appropriations Committee. Sadly, if realistically, Ruppersberger says the House floor is no different than any other American workplace, school, place of worship, night club, festival, or home—they’re all at risk of a uniquely American mass shooting.

“It can happen anywhere. It could happen in our caucus room, it could happen in the cafeteria,” Ruppersberger continued. “I have confidence in our safety. When you have a riot, like on Jan. 6, that’s a different story, and we were able to repel that.”

Jan. 6 changed everything

The removal of the metal detectors comes the same week as the second anniversary of the brutal attack on the Capitol, which also happened to be the last week of the special Jan. 6 committee’s mandate to investigate the insurrection.

The wounds from that historic assault on American democracy still haven’t healed—even as the permanent scars are now ever-present to many of the victims, including the heroic officers who defended the Capitol that dark day, and many of the lawmakers who are still coming to grips with the enormity of the failed coup.

“Jan. 6 has changed everything for us in terms of what we expect, what we feel like we have to be prepared for,” Rep. Primilla Jayapal (D-WA) told Raw Story as she headed to a meeting with her party’s new minority leaders.

“Some of these newer members—who I don’t know well,” I ask the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, “but knowing some live in a ‘QAnon reality’ and that they might be strapped, that’s scary?”

“It is,” Jayapal replied. “Yeah.”

“But this is the new reality?”

“This is the new reality,” Jayapal said. “Unfortunately.”

How the Senator from Sandy Hook beat the NRA by caving to the GOP

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Chris Murphy may still look like a kid, but he doesn’t legislate like a sophomore these days. In 2006, he was first sent to Washington as an anti-war thorn in President George W. Bush’s side, which is exactly what voters in the western Connecticut district he moved seven miles south to live in wanted. The area is treated as a suburb of New York City by many, including some of the roughly 9,200 people who call the once sleepy town of Sandy Hook home.

Murphy’s youthful zeal, coupled with his law degree, delivered results in Washington. He also set his sights on rooting out the culture of corruption that pervaded the nation’s capital back then (think Abramoff scandal), and he was credited with successes in increasing ethical standards in the House.

By 2012, Democratic Party leaders ensured the rest of the state knew his name. They helped bankroll his race against Linda McMahon, who spent roughly $50 million of her family’s WWE wealth on the race — roughly the same amount she spent losing to Richard Blumenthal, the state’s senior U.S. senator, in the previous cycle. Murphy outperformed pollsters and it was an early election night for the fresh-faced 39-year-old eager to shake up the staid Senate.

Everything was shaken up on December 14, 2012 – the day a once unfathomable school shooting transformed America, including aging Chris Murphy countless years, while also transforming an anti-war zealot into the senator from Sandy Hook. He’s spent countless hours with survivors in the ensuing decade, but only now was he able to hand them a victory they’ve prayed, cried, pleaded, marched, and begged lawmakers for: tangible changes to America’s gun laws.

With President Joe Biden’s signature now affixed, lawmakers defied critics and cynics alike when Congress passed the nation’s first gun-control law in roughly three decades. Many Democrats, advocates, and survivors are praising Sen. Murphy for helping accomplish what was viewed as impossible a mere 30 or so days ago – defeating the gun lobby and the powerful conservative messaging apparatus that does their bidding.

To secure passage, the coalition dropped Biden’s top gun-control priorities, risked stigmatizing mental health disorders, and even agreed to abandon all the measures proponents think might have possibly prevented the Newtown and Uvalde massacres. All those sacrifices proved necessary for Congress to ultimately defy all odds and make history. The effort’s success this time around is in no small part due to the Sandy Hook families and the everlasting grip they hold on Murphy. We’ve seen the lasting impact of that bitter December day on Murphy before; it’s manifested itself in speeches (lectures, according to some), filibusters, sit-ins, marches. This time the Senate and nation met a new Chris Murphy, a senator with a newfound mastery of the art of negotiation.

Even Murphy Thought It Would Fail

The group came together after a visibly broken Murphy took to the Senate floor the night of the Uvalde school shooting to call out his colleagues for senatorial inaction, before he begged them to come together to honor the memories of all the children slain at school. To attract and maintain the support of the 15 Republican senators whose votes proved decisive in turning a decades-long legislative dream into reality, Murphy methodically acquiesced to GOP demands, which resulted in a measure that increasingly narrowed into something critics say falls short. The proposal was whittled down further and further until it eventually emerged from behind closed doors as a skinny compromise measure focused on problems many Americans hadn’t previously considered.

From the start of talks, the far-right media machine, gun advocates, and the vast majority of elected Republicans unleashed a sustained and powerful disinformation campaign against the measure and its supporters, Democrats and ‘RINOs’ alike. As the gun lobby reached into its old playbook and sought to derail even a debate over American guns, at times, the now fresh-faced 48-year-old and his senatorial counterparts struggled to just keep talks alive.

Proponents also found themselves tasked with educating the public on the minutiae of their often confusing and always controversial policy talks. That came naturally to Murphy. He’s not Ivy League, but there’s a country club aura about him – like the one thick in the air in much of Connecticut.

While Murphy’s remained youthful – his voice still cracks occasionally – he’s not overconfident. Unlike many of his colleagues, he never comes across as greedy to be on TV, which is likely why he’s on our screens a fair amount. He’s not a slave to the lights, cameras, and action. Rather, he regularly exhausts every question from the ever-evolving cast of mostly print reporters who dwell in the mechanically lit Senate subway – missing tram car after tram car, even as he honestly, if half-heartedly, repeats an iteration of, “I really do need to go” before he inevitably fields another question. He’s rarely the first senator to speak publicly, though he’s often found himself batting cleanup and gently correcting the record after his colleagues misspeak.

That dedication to accuracy coupled with his patient appreciation of nuance was on display throughout the gun-control negotiations. Murphy rarely was divulging new details to the press – but he’d tell us when our information was dated, off, or just wrong. And the legislation morphed daily – at points, almost hourly – as negotiators frantically reworked the fine print until the proposal was formally enshrined in final legislative text. That physical bill was only finalized and released publicly Tuesday evening – a mere two-ish hours before 64 senators bucked the contemporary Senate tradition of filibustering most everything and voted to formally begin a gun debate.

“I'm less nervous than I was 24 hours ago,” Murphy told Raw Story at the Capitol the following day. “I couldn't have lived many more days on this Earth at the blood pressure level I've been operating at for the last four weeks. So I am – I'm a little bit more moderated today after last night's vote.”

Just a tad over a month ago, the Senate and nation met a new Chris Murphy. After being sad as hell in 2012 and 2013, Murphy turned mad as hell in 2016 after a domestic terrorist used legally acquired firearms to slaughter 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub while wounding 53 others.

Sen. Murphy stormed the Senate floor and launched into a 15-hour talking filibuster. The move garnered headlines, while also capturing hearts. He concluded that performative, if powerful, televised address, by pulling the veil back.

Besides offering a rare glimpse into the lasting impact the Newtown tragedy had on him when he recounted that he “saw and heard things that I…wish we didn't hear” that day, the senator focused on the tragic heroism of 52-year-old educator Anne Marie Murphy whose bullet-riddled body was found protectively laying atop the lifeless body of 6-year-old Dylan Hockley.

“It doesn’t take courage to stand here on the floor of the United States Senate for two hours or six hours or 14 hours. It doesn’t take courage to stand up to the gun lobby when 90% of your constituents want change to happen,” Murphy told his colleagues as he closed the filibuster. “It takes courage to look into the eye of a shooter and instead of running, wrapping your arms around a six-year-old boy and accepting death as a trade for just a tiny little itty bitty piece of increased peace of mind for a little boy under your charge.”

With the Orlando shooter having briefly been on the terrorist watch list, House Democrats piggybacked off of Murphy’s successful protest, and more than 40 of them stormed the House floor for a 26-hour long sit-in led by civil rights icon, former Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. Sen. Chris Murphy joined his former House colleagues for some of their impromptu protests and the party won many news cycles, even if Republicans refused to relent and Democrats tasted defeat once again.

The NRA Flexed

The NRA felt bullish, initially, when Republicans took over the House in 2017, and they pushed a measure to relax federal gun laws to make it so concealed carry permits from one state had to be recognized in states with stricter gun laws. The so-called sportsman measure also would have prohibited the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives from using “armor piercing” in describing bullets, and it removed some restrictions on silencers. With Democrats – and a gun-control movement that was growing in strength and stature – calling to bolster the National Criminal Instant Background Check System (or NCIS), the NRA convinced then-Speaker Paul Ryan to combine those background check enhancements with the pro-gun sportsman, or reciprocity, bill.

Republicans did that near the 5th anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

“This is appalling,” Rep. Elizabeth Esty – who replaced Murphy in the House – told me at the time. “To take a good bill, to then combine it with something that is unnecessary and reckless, and to do it on the day of the already scheduled 5th national vigil to honor victims of gun violence is beyond offensive.”

In the ensuing years, the gun-control movement got more sophisticated – from building an impressive fundraising machine to getting its own think tank to change the NRA narrative through data and polling – and they got more bullish at the ballot box, racking up impressive electoral victories in key suburban districts nationwide. But the movement also got more grassroots, especially in the wake of Parkland. Unlike Newtown survivors, the teenagers who survived the rampage could tell their own stories, and demand changes themselves.

They demanded better background checks in their March For Our Lives demonstration in Washington – which also witnessed rallies in cities across America.

“This is very personal,” Doug Edwards – the father of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students – told me at the time.

That year Republican governors in Florida, Nevada, Ohio, and Vermont bucked the NRA and passed an array of measures, including measures that enhanced background checks, raised the age to purchase firearms, banned bump stocks, etc. With the success in state capitals, they thought they’d see results in Washington.

“I grew up in the sixties,” Edwards said, “and I remember protesting Vietnam and Nixon and all of the things that were the woes of the time. For a long time, I felt a lack of hope, and now with these kids, I feel very hopeful.”

While their hope remains, they met the cruel reality of a Washington dominated by the NRA. Congressional Republicans refused to even hold votes on gun reform that summer.

Newtown Became a Part of Murphy

Now the father of a fourth-grader, Sen. Murphy opted against antics this time around. Instead, he only needed some five minutes of floor time to rebuke the Senate in the knowing way only a member of that exclusive club of 100 can, especially when it’s the senator from Sandy Hook.

“What are we doing?” Murphy asked from the well of the historic Senate chamber on May 24, hours after we first learned of the tragically predictable shooting in Uvalde. “Days after a shooter walked into a grocery store and gunned down African American patrons, we have another Sandy Hook on our hands. What are we doing?”

When Murphy was compelled to deliver that passionate rebuke of business as usual, we only knew of 14 dead children in Texas. By the next morning we learned 19 were lost.

A decade ago, the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in his native Connecticut ended with twenty 6- and 7-year-olds in tiny caskets, along with five teachers and their beloved principal. Republicans in Congress refused to engage. A stance they’ve mostly stuck to over decades of mass shootings. Flashes of rage glowed in Murphy’s red, sad eyes before turning to sorrow the next moment during his impromptu floor speech.

“I understand my Republican colleagues will not agree to everything that I may support but there is a common denominator that we can find,” Murphy said on the Senate floor, “but by doing something we at least stopped sending this quiet message of endorsements to these killers.”

An impassioned speech in the wake of a mass shooting has, sadly, become somewhat regular at the contemporary Capitol. But something changed. This time around a few GOP senators answered his cries for negotiating partners.

Critics predicted the effort would unravel. Eyes rolled across Washington when it was reported Murphy was in talks with one of Mitch McConnell’s most trusted lieutenants, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). The whispers of doubt were loud and everywhere.

How can a proudly A-rated NRA member from Texas find common ground with a Connecticut progressive? Murphy himself didn’t have an answer.

“I understand the prospects for getting 60 votes are slim – they're always slim,” Murphy – an attorney and political activist by trade – told some in the congressional press corps the day after the Uvalde massacre. “I've begun to talk to some of my Republican colleagues about some ideas – some old ideas, some new ideas. And I'm not going to talk about it on the record, but my hope is that we can find some common ground.”

Murphy may have been so hesitant at first because he’d been here before.

Cornyn and Murphy Have Talked Past Each Other Before

In 2013, as former President Obama was pushing and pleading with Congress for action in the wake of Newtown, the families of those slain at Sandy Hook also took to the marble halls of the Capitol to demand action. A day after Cornyn met with some of those families close to a decade ago, the Texas conservative stood on the Senate floor and calmly dismissed pleas for new gun-control measures.

“I am not interested in a symbolic gesture, which would offer the families of the Sandy Hook shooting no real solutions that they seek,” Cornyn dispassionately intoned. Cornyn, as he did in negotiations this time around, called for mental health reform to counter mass shootings.

“We need to make sure the mentally ill are getting the help they need – not guns,” Cornyn said at the time.

Eerily enough, Murphy gave his maiden Senate floor speech the day before Cornyn’s speech – the very day Cornyn was meeting with the families of those slaughtered in Newtown.

“I never imagined that my maiden speech would be about guns or gun violence. Just like I could have never imagined that I'd be standing here in the wake of 20 little kids having died in Sandy Hook or the six adults who protected them,” Murphy told his colleagues. “Sometimes there are issues that find you.”

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) was in the president of the Senate’s chair during Murphy’s maiden speech.

“I presided when he gave his first speech after the massacre in Newtown, so I’ve known him for 10 years,” Schatz told Raw Story at the Capitol. “It just shows everything is impossible until it's done.”

Soon after those back-to-back Cornyn and Murphy gun-control speeches, the Senate took up – at President Obama’s urging – gun-control. There were speeches, but there was no debate. Cornyn and other Republicans filibustered the motion to even debate enhanced background checks (the so-called Manchin-Toomey plan) along with a longshot proposal to ban some long guns.

The NRA unleashed an aggressive pro-gun campaign, because the tragedy touched a nerve nationwide, including in Republican cloakrooms at the Capitol. Instead of leading with compassion and compromise, the lobby clenched its vice-like grip on politicians on Capitol Hill. It worked.

Moments after the measure was defeated, the Newtown families held, hugged, and consoled the other inconsolable families at the Capitol. They did everything right. They had lobbied the nation’s political class since losing their loved ones. While office doors were open to them across Capitol Hill, most lawmakers’ hearts and minds were closed. They’d already pledged allegiance to the gun lobby.

“Next time there’s a mass shooting it’s going to be on their hands,” Erica Lafferty, the daughter of slain Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung,told me just off the Senate floor after that 2013 defeat. “It will be on their hands, absolutely.”

Biden, Democrats and Advocates Got Rolled

Even as Cornyn secured mental health reform in this week’s gun package – something that makes many Democrats and public health officials nervous, because the mentally ill are usually on the other end of a smoking barrel – Murphy focused on ushering in what he hopes is a new day in Washington: One was gun-control can debated, if not passed.

The final measure didn’t include Biden’s top laundry list of demands. There’s no assault weapons ban. It doesn’t raise the age to buy firearms. It doesn’t ban extended clips. Ghost guns aren’t mentioned. While that makes the measure fall woefully short in the eyes of most progressives and advocates – not to mention the permanently scarred survivors and perpetually grieving family members – to Murphy, enough was enough.

This time around, Murphy set out to break the NRA’s logjam, not appease his party’s progressive wing.

“I think he knew exactly the kind of political risk he was taking by being relentless and never giving up,” Schatz said, “but he just couldn't stomach more kids dying.”

The bipartisan group of negotiators bucked Washington norms, especially Murphy.

“I think what I admire most is that this town rewards people who act savvy by saying ‘nothing is ever possible,’ because it's a sort of safer bet to bet against something happening,” Schatz said. “Worked and worked and worked, and suddenly it became possible.”

Rather than heading into negotiations with a list of demands, each senator – well, each Democrat – spent the first couple weeks giving up their preferred policy proposals; the ones they clung hardest to over the years. Those talks were surely hardest on progressives from the northeast, according to a southern conservative who was a part of them.

“The important part of the first two weeks was what we weren’t going to do,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) told a couple of reporters while riding the tram under the Capitol. “There were specific things: We were not going to create mandatory waiting periods. We were not going to prohibit certain firearms that can be legally purchased today. We were not going to implement a federal red flag law.”

It’s almost like the negotiators spent their first days together sizing each other up – testing the seriousness of the other side’s commitment to getting to "yes."

“So that first week or two was like, ‘are you willing to have a discussion knowing that these are not on the table?’ and people negotiated in good faith,” Tillis recalled. “And we had a productive outcome.”

Conservative Media Machine & Progressive Purists

Republicans were viewed as apostates for even sitting down to talk, and progressive purists complained each time one of their favored proposals was unceremoniously banned from the talks.

Pressure to abandon the deal only increased as negotiations stretched on past the first weeks. Some rank-and-file Republicans, those who just showed an openness to review the final package before judging it, received blistering blowback at home. In some cases, it was effective. Local voters were compelled by many far-right and alt-right pundits who accused supporters, including Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, of abandoning a core tenet of contemporary conservatism: Guns, guns, guns. The pundits' pressure campaign never let up.

"Has there ever been a greater, more brazen sellout of any group of voters than what Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn and the rest are doing right now?” Tucker Carlson asked in primetime on Fox Tuesday evening during the initial Senate vote, which officially launched three days of debate on the measure. “Talk about a subversion of democracy. If they keep this up the system will collapse. You have to represent the interest of your voters. That’s why you’re there.”

Tucker Carlson Tears Into GOP Senators Who Voted for Senate Gun Control

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, even some Republicans were surprised by the outpouring of calls and emails they received from constituents begging them to act.

“There were lots of them: ‘Do something.’ Just lots of ‘do something’ calls,” Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) told Raw Story. “Those calls just said, ‘do something.’ They didn't say specifically what.”

Those calls slowed as the tragedy receded from the headlines. When negotiators announced the contours of their deal, a flood of new, more animated and some aggressive calls started pouring into congressional offices across Capitol Hill.

For Lummis, the bulk of the calls after Uvalde were from Wyoming area codes, so not out-of-state activists. After the deal came out, Lummis was also flooded with local calls. It was night and day.

“Now it's people calling with concerns about gun restrictions,” Lummis continued. “So it really just flipped dramatically. It's just like, overnight.”

The misinformation campaign from the right ultimately worked on 70% of Senate Republicans, including Lummis, who opposed the watered-down measure.

The GOP orthodoxy paraded by pundits and that pressures all elected Republicans is now increasingly being enshrined in law by the conservative Supreme Court justices handpicked by the far-right Federalist Society. The day before Congress passed its historic gun measure, the high court upended a New York law that restricted resident’s ability to carry concealed firearms outside their homes.

“This Supreme Court is clearly an activist Supreme Court,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) told Raw Story at the Capitol Thursday. “They believe in states’ rights to take away women’s reproductive freedom, but they don't believe in states’ rights on issues of public safety and common-sense gun laws.”

On Friday, as protestors flooded the Supreme Court grounds in anguish and anger over the decision abolishing Roe v. Wade, the U.S. House of Representatives made history and joined the Senate in passing the compromise gun measure.

"Yesterday (the court said) the states cannot make laws governing the constitutional right to bear arms," Pelosi told the congressional press corps Friday, “and today, they're saying the exact reverse, that the states can overturn a constitutional right (that was) for 50 years a constitutional right."

Pelosi on Supreme Court abortion ruling: ‘The harm is endless’ l ABC

The speaker spoke for most Democrats when she unleashed on the justices.

"The hypocrisy is raging, but the harm is endless," Pelosi added.

Hypocrisy to Democrats is now party orthodoxy on the right. The contrast between last week’s actions to tighten gun laws by an elected, representative branch of government and the move to loosen restrictions made by unelected, lifetime tenured justices could not have been more stark.

This is a trend. The court looks to be systematically outlawing local gun-control measures, which happen to be restrictions adopted in blue states. In 2008, the court started with the District of Columbia and itsHeller decision, which declared it unconstitutional for local leaders in the nation’s capital to require things like trigger locks or that firearms be stored empty. Two years later, inMcDonald v. City of Chicago the conservatives on the court again dismantled a law that banned handguns while also restricting long guns.

“Them not understanding the moment we're in,” Gillibrand continued to berate the justices. “We are a country that is trying to do something on a bipartisan basis to have common sense gun reform – to ensure public safety for our children and our communities – to come up with this decision shows number one, how out of touch they are. And number two, how activist and political they are.”

Dismantle What?

While there’s some fear the court could dismantle parts of the new gun law Congress just passed at breakneck speed, many progressives say there actually isn’t that much to unravel.

“This is one step forward and two steps back,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) told Raw Story of the measure she and every other Democrat in Congress supported, if begrudgingly.

The new law increases mental health funding and allows the federal government to entice states into passing ‘red flag laws,’ which make it easier for family and friends to petition for guns to be removed from those who are a danger to themselves or others.

The thing is, most everyone agrees the new gun law would not have stopped the very tragedy that awoke – and broke the hearts of – Congress.

“Nothing in these bills is going to prevent an 18-year-old from impulsively buying an assault weapon, and we have to address that. It makes no sense,” Speier told Raw Story at the Capitol after it passed.

Speier contends the compromise doesn’t represent the sea change some are claiming – or hoping – it does. The broad opposition from House Republicans is damning to the Californian. While 15 GOP senators supported the gun law in the end, only 14 House Republicans joined them. That means 93% of House Republicans voted with the gun lobby.

Put another way: The measure only won the backing of 29 GOP lawmakers across Capitol Hill, which means 88.85% of all federally elected Republicans voted against even a watered-down measure which Cornyn and Republicans characterize as a mental health law – not a gun-control measure.

“Look at all the things President Biden said he wanted: None of that’s in there,” Cornyn boasted to me as we walked under the Capitol the morning negotiators announced the compromise. “We’re going to focus on safety and mental health.”

In spite of it feeling like a pyrrhic PR victory, Speier says there’s one undeniable bright spot.

“We have broken the spell that the NRA has had on Congress,” Speier contended. “I like to think it's a chink in their armor, yes, but it only is a chink in their armor if we can get universal background checks. Do you realize that 300,000 people are denied guns every year through universal background checks? So we need that law to be expanded to gun shows and internet sales. I mean, it is the law, so it should cover all of the circumstances.”

The congresswoman is a survivor of gun violence. In 1978, she was shot five times during the Jonestown massacre that left 909 dead in Guyana at the hands of deranged cult leader Jim Jones in Guyana. Speier still bears the scars, including the internal ones. Her then-boss, Rep. Leo Ryan of Pennsylvania, three journalists, and a defector of the People’s Temple were killed on the runway as they tried to escape. Speier and the other wounded victim lay bleeding for 22 hours on that remote bloodstained runway littered with dead bodies before help came. She eventually underwent 10 surgeries and remained hospitalized for two months.

As a survivor, Speier knows the victory is important to the families of victims – from Newtown to Uvalde, along with and all those grieving and struggling to heal in between.

“Well, they just desperately wanted a victory, and this is a small but important victory – in that the NRA didn't win and that's the solace,” Speier said.

While Congress passed a new law, according to Speier, lawmakers failed to do their basic duty.

“But the next mass shooting at a local elementary school – what are we going to do?” Speier asked, “Are we going to say we fixed it? We clearly didn’t.”

Solace for Some Survivors

Survivors aren’t monolithic.

“Be happy with the wins that we've made and know that we're making progress, and that we're going to save lives,” Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA) told Raw Story through a sigh at the Capitol, “And that's really pretty much what I'm trying to focus on. Of course, we know there's more to be done, but there's another day.”

In 2012, McBath lost her 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, to three of the 10 bullets an older white man unleashed into the car full of teens he was a passenger in. That tragedy never leaves her – it’s what drove her to run for Congress in the first place. That permanent loss coupled with her determination has made her a leading voice on gun violence in Washington since arriving in 2019.

Even if the new law won’t stop a Uvalde, she finds immense solace knowing the measure will save another mother, father, sister, or brother from enduring the unspeakable pain she carries daily.

“It's a momentous victory, because every piece of legislation in this package will save lives,” McBath said. “And that's all that really matters, is just: it will save lives. And it gives hope to people. It gives hope to Americans who just truly want to feel safe in their own environments, in their own communities, and it does that. It doesn't do everything, but it does that and we’re excited for this.”

Other longtime proponents of gun safety measures are also focusing attention on the bright spots. One of the biggest – and, arguably, most unexpected – victories is Congress taking concrete steps to end the so-called boyfriend loophole. It’s something Sen. Murphy and other gun-control proponents have discussed for years, but, besides survivors and victim’s families, few outside of advocacy circles even knew it was an issue. The new law Biden signed extends gun restrictions on spouses convicted of domestic violence to boyfriends and other partners. In recent years, proponents have repeatedly failed to pass it. Until now.

“We've been trying to close the boyfriend loophole forever. Republicans have prevented [the Violence Against Women Act] from passing because we tried to close that loophole,” Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) told Raw Story moments before joining Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she officially signing the gun bill at the Capitol Friday afternoon. “So, if we did nothing else but that, it’s a lifesaver.”

While many progressives and gun-safety advocates remain upset the measure doesn’t go further, it’s an undeniable win for this movement that didn’t exist – at least not in its current, cohesive form – a decade ago. The NRA had claimed Washington as its own for years. But after Newtown, Murphy joined the survivors in upending regular order and now there’s a new, increasingly powerful lobby in the nation’s capital.

The movement gained new energy in the wake of the 2018 Parkland, Florida school shooting in Florida, after being informally launched in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Tragically, its ranks grow daily as communities across the nation bury loved ones senselessly lost to gun violence. With this win under their belt, And they’re more optimistic now than ever as they gear up for the midterms. But last this week, they did something new. They cheered.

Getting to Yes Wasn’t Easy

The final gun deal came about because senators ripped up the tired Washington script and instead started negotiations from a new place. The core, bipartisan group of Senate negotiators remained bound together by a personal pledge each vowed from their grieving hearts in the wake of losing 19 schoolkids in Uvalde, just as 20 children were snuffed out in Newtown some 10 years ago.

“There was an overriding desire here to do what could be done, rather than let everything each individual wanted – including Sen. Murphy – become the obstacle to getting things done,” retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) told Raw Story. “I think this is one of those cases where there was a broad base desire to see what we could do as opposed to what individual members thought was the perfect solution.”

The unlikely bipartisan group of senators defied the odds in no small part because of Murphy – the man whose Senate career is forever marked by Newtown; he was their Representative in the House before becoming their senator, after all. And that's the way he likes it. Tears, heartache, dreadful memories, and all. It’s also something his colleagues can’t help but see in him – an unrelenting fight driven by the all too fresh memories of one of America’s saddest days. A horrific day Murphy couldn’t erase from his being if he tried.

That’s why many in Washington sensed this day coming for some time. And not just because the NRA has been scandal-ridden as it’s dealt with internal turmoil and mismanagement. The NRA being on the ropes surely helped the effort, but the movement for common sense gun laws is being driven by an immovable force: the survivors themselves. They have many allies in Washington, but Murphy, their senator, was molded by the same tragedy that transformed their lives. It’s something never far from his mind, which is why Murphy knew how to help steer negotiations away from the landmines that have prevented even a gun debate, until last week.

“I'm not surprised. Chris has been very engaged, very persistent on gun safety issues for years,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) told Raw Story while walking through the Capitol. “I'm really impressed with how well he led this effort and really grateful for his role in this.”

Even as many survivors of gun-violence never cared – and still don’t – for politics, they tuned in last week. It’s their fight. And in a town marked by big egos and bipartisan dysfunction, they witnessed the unthinkable, as Murphy pushed aside his long list of preferred gun-control measures and instead focused on the politics of the possible. It was new. Even novel.

A palpable air of optimism permeated the Capitol – one that hasn't been there in decades. That optimism flowed from the countless communities – small and large; wealthy and impoverished; conservative and liberal alike – dotting the nation where families are still reeling from senseless violence delivered at the hands of perpetrators with easy access to handguns, long guns, short barreled guns, shotguns, ghost guns, extended clips, and more body armor than the average street cop will ever need.

No one gets all they want at the Capitol. But in contemporary Washington, few if any get even a sliver of what they want. That’s why – even as proponents ready to build on these new gains – last this week not only made history; it also gave many grieving hearts a momentary respite from their pain as they tasted victory and handed the NRA its first real legislative defeat in roughly 30 years.

The episode instilled a renewed sense of hope in many on and off Capitol Hill. Survivors demanded change. They persisted. They changed Washington.

A decade ago, they changed Murphy before he was even sworn into the Senate. He was transformed in their sorrow, and to this day he represents them and their loved ones – ones he never met but who he represents daily. The two are forever linked. That’s why they shared the victory together.

“I'm always careful not to speak too broadly for victims and for survivors, but it's been gratifying to know that many of the Newtown families I've come to know are really emotional about this bill passing,” Sen. Murphy said. “This is the first time since the death of their children that they've seen Congress step up and act in a way that makes these shootings less likely. And for them, of course, it's 10 years too late, but it's still gratifying.”

Democratic Congresswoman explains why Rep. Scott Perry is 'mighty afraid' of Jan. 6 Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) spoke to Raw Story after the first hour of the House Select Committee's Thursday night hearing before the public. Dean was among the impeachment managers for the House in the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump.

She explained that she was crying a lot about what has been shown in the committee hearing thus far.

"It sucks," she confessed. "It's incredibly sad. I'm so sad for our country. I'm not sad for me. We're reliving, of course, what we went through, but I'm just so damn sad for our country. So many people were lied to — to the extent of coming and attacking police, lawmakers, the seat of our democracy. I'm just, I'm so sad for our country."

When asked about Republican attempts to whitewash the Jan. 6 attacks, Dean said that there's no way that they can whitewash it, particularly after seeing those videos.

"Look at people being beaten by American flags, flagpoles with Trump flags," she continued. "There's no whitewashing this."

She went on to say that the way that Republicans claim to be supportive of police is just as absurd given their refusal to support the supplemental bill for Capitol Police after their injuries.

"They're not pro-police," she said.

Dean then explained that what doesn't make sense is what a former member of Congress, Mark Meadows, was saying and doing and that he refused to help protect the vice president and his own former colleagues.

"Can you imagine, how many hours the president did not do a single thing to save us? Can you imagine Ronald Reagan — if a single member of Congress — if his own vice president was threatened — No. 1, he'd be whisked away to a secure space. Not Donald Trump. No. 2, he would have been impeached so quickly for spending hours watching and doing nothing."

She closed by saying that while the Congressional body isn't something that can charge and convict a former president, they can do one important thing: "tell the truth."

"These aren't alternative facts," she said. "These are facts. They are telling the American people the facts. The Department of Justice will do their job. Different states will do criminal investigations and indictments, including Georgia, where the president said...'I just need you to find 11,780 votes.' And I remember a gasp from a Senator in that moment. He will be indicted for that. This is all closing in on the former president. Then we have a job to do as Congress. We have to do like Congress did after Watergate. We have to do reforms."

She then cited some of the Republicans she serves with, like Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) who is refusing to cooperate with the committee. He was the one who put Eastman in touch with President Trump, she explained. "Then fearfully seeks a pardon? And of course, you know he's not cooperating with the 1/6 committee. What's he afraid of? I said on the day that it happened if I have one inch of information that will help you in this committee, and understand what the hell happened here, I'm here. I volunteered. I don't have that valuable a set of information. Scott Perry has valuable information. And he's mighty afraid."

Senate Republicans still haunted by January 6th riot – but more than half refusing to watch tonight's hearing

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More than half of Republicans in the Senate tell Raw Story they have no plans to watch the historic Jan. 6 select committee hearing this evening.

“That's the House’s business,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) told Raw Story at the Capitol.

“Even though it was an attack on the U.S. Capitol?” I asked the attorney and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“That’s all I got for you,” Kennedy says as he turned.

More so, many Republican senators say don’t care what the House select committee finds, which was evident while asking 40 of the Senate’s 50 Republicans what they think of the special committee.

“I was here, and I saw it and know what I saw,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) told Raw Story.

During the Watergate hearings, Republican senators were as inquisitive, transfixed, appalled, and eventually as angered as the American people became as the facts unfolded. Not so today.

“It has nothing to do with reality,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) told Raw Story of the select committee. “I think it’s completely partisan.”

Granted, there are Republicans on the committee. Two of them, Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who a slew of Senate Republicans only recently served alongside in the House, including Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND).

“They don’t count. I mean, they were appointed by the Speaker because they hate Trump,” Cramer told Raw Story. “So whether they’re Republicans or – I mean, I like both of them personally – their only criteria for being on that committee is that they hate Donald Trump.”

Mitch McConnell cleared his throat before I asked about his Thursday evening plans, which was more emotion than the deep stare I shared with former Vice President Mike Pence’s brother when I asked.

The collective narrative from the right is that the prime time slot and made-for-TV production is reason enough to dismiss the investigation.

“It's theater,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) – who used to chair the Intelligence Committee – told me. “You just hired a TV guy to produce a congressional hearing? Give me a break.”

The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed – but only after disagreeing.

“Obviously, I care about what they found,” Grassley said, “but it doesn’t matter what they found because just the fact they’re having their hearing on primetime on television speaks that it’s a political operation, rather than a legitimate congressional investigation.”

Democrats laughed off this new collective GOP charge.

“I wasn't aware that senators started to boycott appearances on TV,” Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD) told Raw Story on his way to a House vote.

A handful of Senate Republicans who won’t be watching the proceedings and don’t trust its underpinnings said they’re open to hearing new information from the committee.

“Obviously I’ve got questions. Everybody has questions in every different area – there’s no way you can’t,” Sen. James Lanford (R-OK) told Raw Story while exiting the Capitol. “This doesn’t appear to be fact-finding. This appears to be something very different.”

Lankford contends he’s in no rush because over time a fuller picture will be painted, which he admits the special committee will contribute to – just not complete.

“They’ll bring some things out,” Lankford said. “The facts and info will come out. There's just too many people involved.”

The Senate moderates also don't plan to be watching, but they have questions -- and staffs.

“I probably won’t watch it, because I just don’t watch any of that stuff. I just read about it the next day,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) told Raw Story. “So yeah – I’ll be interested.”

Others don’t like the bitterness and bickering that’s marked the special committee, but they still have questions they’d like answered about Jan. 6.

“Of course. What? Who? How did it get to that point? What were they thinking? What were they?” Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) told Raw Story while walking in the Capitol. “So yeah, I think there are lots of questions out there – and what were the involvements of everybody?”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is receiving an award tonight, and senators say they’ve already got plans -- most of which involve flying home. And at least one GOP senator who actually wants to see the evidence – or lack thereof – himself knows there’s an app for that.

“I’ll probably have to call my wife and tell her to DVR it for me,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) told Raw Story after voting on the Senate floor. “I think it’s a political stunt, but I’m going to watch it like I do everything. You’ve got to take in all the information, but in this case, I think it was ill-founded from the get-go.”

As for the special committee’s audience? Its chair says their audience isn’t the staid Senate anyway, they have one audience tonight.

“The American public,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) told Raw Story on the Capitol steps. “We plan to tell the truth as we have discovered it and share that truth with the public. And obviously, at the end of the day, it's the public's decision as to who's truthful and who's not.”

Exclusive: Progressives have a blueprint to unpack Mitch McConnell’s court

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For nearly five decades the GOP has promised to eradicate Roe v. Wade, yet in the month since we learned the Supreme Court plans to do just that Democratic Party leaders still haven’t laid out a plan to save women’s reproductive rights as we’ve known them. That’s why three progressive Democratic senators say it’s time the party reconsiders their concrete, if highly disagreeable, blueprint to unpack Mitch McConnell’s court: Pack it themselves.

At the start of this Congress, both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed calls to expand the size of the Supreme Court, but that was before news leaked that the court plans to overturn Roe. Progressives say the Democratic Party has already been outflanked by McConnell who they accuse of stealing President Obama’s final Supreme Court selection, and they say it’s foolish to pretend he didn’t.

“The deck is already stacked. I mean, talk about being a chump,” Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) told Raw Story through an uncomfortable laugh. “All of this happened and then you say, ‘Oh, now we have to protect the integrity of the court. Now we have to do everything we can not to politicize the court.’ No. If you really believe that that’s happened, you have to get real.”

Since the leak, Democratic leaders have been holding show votes, steadily filling their campaign coffers, and reminding the base to vote in November. None of those efforts would rebalance the court, which is why Smith says the party needs to get its recent history straight on Merrick Garland never getting a vote, let alone nomination hearings.

“The first step is recognizing what's happened, and then this next step is to figure out what to do about it,” Smith recently told us at the Capitol. “I think the court needs reform, and adding justices to the court is, to me, an obvious step to take.”

Even as the Democratic Party is derided as ‘the radical left’ by the right’s messaging machine, in the Senate the proposal to expand the Supreme Court from 9 to 13 justices is only supported by Sens. Smith, Elizabeth Warren, and Ed Markey. While the latter both represent solidly blue Massachusetts, Smith is technically a member of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (or DFL) whose ranks once included the likes of Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale.

The three senators aren’t necessarily more progressive than their Democratic colleagues, yet they remain outliers. Smith says they shouldn’t be. She endorsed the so-called court-packing measure at the end of last year, when the Supreme Court upheld a restrictive Texas anti-abortion law.

“I was like, ‘if you can't see in this moment that the Supreme Court has become a political arm of the extreme right-wing of the Republican Party, then you're never going to be able to see it,’” Smith continued.

The House proposal to expand the size of the Supreme Court has 56 cosponsors. But even in the wake of the Roe leak, the progressive measure isn’t attracting much attention in the staid Senate.

“I haven't had a lot of conversations with my colleagues about this,” Smith said.

Neither has Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), but she predicts that will change in the coming weeks, months, and years.

“I think the magnitude of the Roe decision is still seeping through Congress and through the rest of the country,” Warren recently told Raw Story at the Capitol. “The impact of an extremist Supreme Court isn’t just overturning Roe – it’s so much more.”

Warren opposed expanding the size of the court while running for president, but at the end of 2021 she announced her change of mind in a Boston Globe op-ed where she described today’s 6-3 conservative majority as a “Republican hijacking”.

“I don’t come to this conclusion lightly or because I disagree with a particular decision; I come to this conclusion because I believe the current court threatens the democratic foundations of our nation,” Warren wrote at the time.

While Democratic leaders have yet to unveil their strategy for rebalancing the Supreme Court, they’re keeping their distance from this proposal to expand the number of justices.

When asked about court-packing proposals, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin was quick to distance not just himself, but the whole party, from the proposal.

“No,” Durbin (D-IL) responded when Raw Story recently asked him about the measure at the Capitol. “No party position.”

Even with women and young girls nationwide on the brink of losing their reproductive rights, most rank-and-file Democrats are also refusing to consider a potential expansion of the Supreme Court.

“I don't think that's even on the table,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) told Raw Story at the Capitol. “The focus right now is trying to win a bigger majority.”

Booker is on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He maintains, even with polls steadily showing the GOP riding high going into the midterm elections, the answer for Democrat’s current quandary lies in the voting booth.

“I think this is clearly a point where a woman's bodily autonomy is on the ballot in November,” Booker said, “and if we are returned with a big enough Senate majority, we can protect the most sacrosanct principle in America, which is: the government can't tell me what to do with my body.”

Progressive darling, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), has also refused to sign onto the court expansion proposal. He says the answer to this conservative court is eradicating the filibuster, even if that means Mitch McConnell and Republicans could then ban abortions federally every time they regain the majority.

“That’s the way life is,” Sanders told Raw Story when asked about future Republican majorities outlawing abortion federally. “I think it’s terribly important in this moment that we do the right thing.”

The Senate proposal to re-pack the court is sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). When he first introduced it in the spring of 2021, he argued four additional justices were needed to protect vulnerable Americans.

“Republicans stole the Court’s majority, with Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation completing their crime spree,” Markey said. “Of all the damage Donald Trump did to our Constitution, this stands as one of his greatest travesties. Senate Republicans have politicized the Supreme Court, undermined its legitimacy, and threatened the rights of millions of Americans, especially people of color, women, and our immigrant communities.”

These progressive senators also support further ethics reform for the justices, along with proposals to increase transparency at the Supreme Court. But Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota says those measures don’t address the current problem: That Roe’s days are numbered.

“I don't think ethics reforms by themselves are going to restore the balance to the court that is required now,” Smith argued.

Smith and the other progressives are open to other ideas to restore the makeup of the court, but those have been lacking.

“If anybody has a better idea, like, I'm all ears,” Smith told Raw Story, “but I haven't heard anything.”

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