Raw Story

A far-right Republican is considering leaving Congress for CNN: report

Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), a member of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, has reportedly been considering leaving Congress for CNN.

Buck, who is reportedly facing a "serious" primary threat over his reluctance to impeach president Joe Biden, has recently made headlines for breaking with his party on issues involving Biden. He also wrote an op-ed explaining why his GOP colleagues are wrong on impeachment evidence.

According to the New York Post, Buck has been talking behind the scenes about going to CNN.

"Buck said privately last month that he was interested in a job at CNN, a source told The Post, after he weighed other options over the past year — including joining a DC-based law firm or seeking Biden’s nomination to the Federal Trade Commission," the outlet reported Tuesday. "Buck, 64, confirmed to The Post he’s exploring his options and said it would be 'great' to join CNN."

“I am interested in talking to folks at CNN and other news organizations — on the, I don’t want to call them left, but sort of center-left — and having an opportunity to do that full-time or do that as a contributor would be great also,” Buck said in a phone interview, according to the article.

He also reportedly hasn't ruled out working for some right-wing networks.

"The congressman called back later in the day to say that he had also expressed interest in a position at right-leaning Fox News or Newsmax," The Post reported. “I didn’t want to give you the impression that I’ve only talked to folks at CNN, on the left. I’ve also talked to others about this,” Buck said.

Read the piece here.

Trump is ripping off his Georgia legal defense from less wealthy co-defendants: report

Former President Donald Trump is relying on the legal counsel of his less-wealthy co-defendants in the Georgia election racketeering case, reported The Messenger on Tuesday — effectively "cribbing" his defense off of them.

"By the numbers, at least nine of Trump’s recent defense motions seeking to quash the indictment from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis have been very brief items that essentially adopted the arguments of fellow co-defendants," reported Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon and Adam Klasfeld. "Trump is 'letting them do the heavy lifting,' said Caren Morrison, a Georgia State University law professor who has attended key recent Trump-related court hearings. 'Just basically let your co-defendant do the work and spend the money and then just be like: ‘Okay. I'll just add my name to that, please.''"

According to this report, Trump's strategy has already effectively gotten him to delay his trial, because lawyers Sidney Powell and Ken Chesebro, two of his co-defendants, successfully moved to sever their cases from his, requiring that he and at least some of the others stand trial at a later date.

Trump is also reportedly watching intently as his former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and high-ranking DOJ ally Jeffrey Clark have moved, with little success, to get their cases removed to federal court, which could inform his decision about whether to try this himself.

"It remains unclear when or whether Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee will subdivide the remaining 17 co-defendants' case further, potentially spelling more delay," said the report. "But legal experts note that Trump's ability to sit back and watch the Fulton County proceedings play out over the next four or so months could work to the former president's advantage by giving him an early preview of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ evidence and strategy."

Willis is charging Trump and his allies' electoral scheme under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute, which is much stronger in Georgia than on the federal level or in most states; numerous criminal conspiracies not conventionally considered organized crime can be charged under this law.

'It’s the obstruction, stupid': Ex-prosecutors show why Trump’s docs defense falls flat

Former prosecutors Kristy Greenberg and Catherine Christian outlined for MSNBC's Chris Hayes on Thursday why Donald Trump aide Molly Michael is such a devastating witness against the former president in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case.

Specifically, they argued, Michael — who allegedly received a "to-do" list from Trump written on the back of a classified document and was told by the former president to play dumb about the boxes in his country club — lays out a clear fact pattern of obstruction of justice.

"I mean, [former prosecutor] Harry Litman said this, and I think it was interesting," said Hayes. "He said, 'It's not just that Molly Michael confirms obstructionist statements to [Trump attorney Evan] Corcoran and fields her own hush statement from him. It's also that she's an unblemished witness, totally credible, not vulnerable or impeachable on criminal charges. For Trump, she's the witness from hell."

"No ax to grind, nothing to gain by being subjected to cross-examination, which she will be by his attorneys," agreed Christian. "And the — it's the obstruction, stupid. As Trump, not you, as Trump goes around waving the red herring of the Presidential Records Act, it's that he had, he concealed, he attempted to destroy evidence after he received a grand jury subpoena."

"This is an important point," said Hayes. "The argument that they're declassified anyway, that he can do what he wants, is nonsense. But you're right. This has been the central focus of the defense here, and you can't do this. You can't just, like, tell the FBI that you don't know anything about the boxes. That's just classic obvious obstruction of justice. And if people who were a part of the conspiracy to obstruct justice tell the jurors on the witness stand — like, you're in a tough spot."

"Not only that, if you thought you were entitled to have these and you declassified them, then say that," said Greenberg. "But what you can't do is get a subpoena, and then say we've given you everything, we've given it to the National Archives, and now to you, FBI. And then know that you're holding some back. That, you can't do. That's obstruction."

Watch the video below or at the link here.

MSNBC panel on Trump's obstruction in Mar-a-Lagowww.youtube.com

Busted: Tommy Tuberville invested in defense contractor while blocking military nominations

WASHINGTON — Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) recently purchased up to $250,000 worth of stock in telecommunications technology company Qualcomm Inc., a federal defense contractor, while serving on the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services and actively blocking hundreds of military nominations and promotions, new congressional financial disclosures indicate.

Qualcomm and its subsidiaries have been the recipient of several dozen defense and homeland security contracts during the past two decades, according to federal contracting records reviewed by Raw Story.

Among these is a Department of the Army contract with Qualcomm Intelligent Solutions, worth nearly $11.7 million with the possibility of growing to $30.4 million, related to a government program exploring "innovative, energy-efficient, and reliable computer architectures that can address the intelligence community’s large-scale data-analytic applications."

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The Senate Armed Services Committee on which Tuberville sits has jurisdiction over "military research and development," among a host of other responsibilities.

Tuberville spokesman Steven Stafford did not reply to a question about whether it's a conflict of interest for Tuberville to invest in defense contractor stocks while serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He also did not respond to a question about whether Tuberville, in principle, supports or opposes any of the several bills introduced this year that would either ban, or limit, members of Congress and their spouses from personally trading stocks. Tuberville has previously described the idea as "ridiculous".

"Senator Tuberville has long had financial advisers who actively manage his portfolio without his day-to-day involvement," Stafford wrote in an email to Raw Story.

Asked to name the financial advisers, he did not respond.

ALSO READ: A deafening silence from Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s Black football players

Tuberville's Qualcomm stock purchase is not the first time the senator has bought or sold defense contractor stocks since joining the U.S. Senate in 2021.

Earlier this year, he separately bought and sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Qualcomm shares. Tuberville also has five-figure stock holdings in defense contractors Honeywell International and Lockheed Martin Corp., according to his most recent annual personal financial disclosure.

More recently, Tuberville has made headlines for blocking the nominations or promotions of hundreds of senior members of the U.S. military in protest of a government policy that provides funding for servicemembers and their dependent children who cross state lines to obtain abortions.

'Ethically preposterous'

A government ethics watchdog took a dim view of the latest stock trade by Tuberville, whose months-long blockade of nominations and promotions for high-level military officers stems from his objection to a Biden administration policy that allows military personnel to charge the government for travel related to obtaining an abortion.

"Senator Tuberville being a member of the Armed Services Committee and investing in defense contractors is ethically preposterous and a textbook example of a conflict of interest," Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, senior government affairs manager with the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan group that exposes conflicts of interest in the government, told Raw Story.

"The senator’s personal financial position is directly tied to the financial position of specific companies that receive billions of dollars in taxpayer funded government contracts," Hedtler-Gaudette said. "I can’t think of anything more inappropriate and unethical than that, especially given the role that the Armed Services Committee plays in authorizing defense spending toplines and priorities around specific defense projects and programs."

Tuberville's personal investments have proved problematic for him in other regards.

In 2021, Insider reported that Tuberville violated the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 by failing to properly disclose more than 130 stock trades that, taken together, were worth as much as $3.56 million.

Since then, dozens of other federal lawmakers have similarly violated the STOCK Act with late or otherwise incomplete disclosures.

During 2023 alone, Raw Story has identified 23 members of Congress — Republicans and Democrats alike — who've violated the law.

Jack Smith convinced judge that Trump 'presents a significant risk of tampering with evidence': documents

Special counsel Jack Smith earlier this year convinced Judge Beryl Howell that former President Donald Trump should not know about a subpoena for his Twitter account data on the grounds that he "presents a significant risk of tampering with evidence."

As reported by Politico's Kyle Cheney, Smith argued to Howell that letting Trump know about the warrant could "precipitate violence" and lead to Trump engaging in "obstructive conduct" aimed at derailing the investigation.

In making their case to Howell, Smith and his team of attorneys cited Trump's conduct after losing the 2020 presidential election as evidence that he was liable to commit crimes in order to hide evidence from investigators.

"Following his defeat in the 2020 presidential election, the former President propagated false claims of fraud (including swearing to false allegations in a federal court filing), pressured state and federal officials to violate their legal duties, and retaliated against those who did not comply with his demands, culminating in violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6," they wrote.

Smith's attorneys also cited Trump being "determined to pay the legal fees of potential witnesses against him" and his "repeatedly [disparaging] the lead prosecutor on his Truth Social platform" as evidence that he should be kept in the dark about the warrant.

This was enough to convince Howell.

"The Court finds reasonable grounds to believe that such disclosure will result in destruction of or tampering with evidence, intimidation of potential witnesses, and serious jeopardy to the investigation," the judge wrote, according to The Messenger.

The scientific reason why Trump's supporters won't believe any evidence

When delving into the perplexing world of politics and the enigmatic figure of Donald Trump, we often encounter a peculiar phenomenon amongst his supporters: a staunch refusal to accept any criminal allegation or felony charge against him, no matter how compelling the evidence.

There are many neurological and psychological reasons for this irrational behavior. But today, we will focus on the mental phenomena I feel are most urgent to explore ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

First, a disclaimer: I am not a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist — I am a cognitive neuroscientist with a research focus in clinical psychology (in particular, anxiety’s effect on attention). In fact, much of my published work has appeared in psychology journals. As a science journalist, I have been covering the psychology of Trump and his supporters since he emerged on the political scene in 2015.

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

Now that Trump is running for president again while facing 91 felony charges, I feel a moral responsibility to illuminate all the mental factors that are driving Americans to support a man who is a master manipulator, and incapable of telling the truth. Unfortunately, these are qualities that are too common among presidential candidates, but Trump is a particularly egregious example, and therefore we must be vigilant. This article is meant to inform but also to warn voters of what is to come.

Cognitive challenge of disbelief

In 2009, a study published in PLOS ONE challenged our understanding of belief systems.

Researchers placed participants into the confines of an fMRI scanner and presented them with a mixture of factual and abstract statements. The results were illuminating. Disbelief, it turns out, is cognitively demanding. It requires more mental effort than simply accepting a statement as true. From an evolutionary perspective, this preference for easy belief makes sense; a perpetually skeptical individual questioning every piece of information would struggle to adapt in a fast-paced world.

ALSO READ: How Trump could run his campaign – and the nation – from behind bars

What does all this have to do with Trump supporters? Well, it’s far less cognitively demanding for them to believe anything their leader tells them. Any challenge to what Trump tells them is true takes mental work. This means there is a psychological incentive for Trump loyalists to maintain their loyalty. (I wrote about this phenomenon in a slightly different context in the Daily Beast article "Religious Fundamentalism: A Side Effect of Lazy Brains?")

Molding of belief: neuroplasticity at play

Now, let's consider the unique predicament faced by individuals who staunchly support Trump and want him to again become president. From the moment Trump began his political career and his social engineering career, his supporters have been exposed to narratives — Trump doesn't lie, Democrats are communists, the media is an enemy of the people — that emphasize loyalty and trust in their political idol. These narratives often steer away from critical examination and instead encourage blind faith. When coupled with the brain's inherent tendency to accept rather than question, it creates an ideal environment for unwavering allegiance. No matter that Trump, time and again, has been revealed to be a serial liar, habitually misrepresenting matters of great consequence, from elections to economics to public health.

ALSO READ: Trump is embracing five ‘fake news’ outlets he supposedly hates

For example, in the Psychology Today article "Why Evangelicals are Wired to Believe Trump’s Falsehoods," I explain that the children of Christian fundamentalists typically begin to suppress critical thinking at an early age. This is required if one is to accept Biblical stories as literal truth, rather than metaphors for how to live life practically and with purpose. Attributing natural occurrences to mystical causes discourages youth from seeking evidence to back their beliefs.

Consequently, the brain structures that support critical thinking and logical reasoning don't fully mature. This paves the way for heightened vulnerability to deceit and manipulative narratives, especially from cunning political figures. Such increased suggestibility arises from a mix of the brain's propensity to accept unverified claims and intense indoctrination. Given the brain's neuroplastic nature, which allows it to shape according to experiences, some religious followers are more predisposed to accept improbable assertions.

A supporter of former President Donald Trump gather outside of the Fulton County Jail ahead of Trump's surrender on Aug. 24, 2023 in Atlanta, Ga. Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

In other words, our brains are remarkably adaptable and continuously evolving landscapes. For ardent Trump supporters, residing in an environment that prioritizes faith over empirical evidence can reshape the neural circuits within their brains.

Imagine these neural pathways as trails in a forest. The more one traverses the path of unquestioning belief, the clearer and more entrenched it becomes. The path of skepticism, however, grows over with doubts and becomes difficult to navigate. This cognitive reshaping primes individuals to accept, and even defend, far-fetched statements and suggestions presented by manipulative politicians.

The Dunning-Kruger effect

This cognitive bias occurs when individuals with low ability at a task overestimate their capability. Translated to the context of understanding complex legal matters, some Trumpists might believe they have a superior grasp of the former president’s predicament and dismiss expert opinions, thinking they're immune to being misled.

The Dunning-Kruger effect becomes especially concerning in the context of polarizing issues, such as climate change. A research study from the University of New Hampshire in 2017, for example, revealed that a mere 25 percent of those identifying as Trump supporters acknowledged the role of human actions in climate change. This is in stark contrast to the 97 percent consensus among climate scientists on the issue.

This troublesome cognitive bias could be making it easier for Trump to deliver unchallenged falsehoods to his more uneducated followers. In some cases, not only are these individuals uninformed, they are unlikely to seek new information on their own. In their minds, they have nothing to learn because Trump and his acolytes have already told them what they need to know.

Reevaluating our cognitive reflexes

It is important to state that these phenomena are not exclusive to Trump supporters or any particular political group; this article serves as a broader reflection on the cognitive shortcuts that our brains favor.

If we aspire to build a society less susceptible to misinformation, we must embark on a paradigm shift. Our educational approach should pivot from passive acceptance of supposed “facts” to the exhilarating pursuit of questioning authority and healthy skepticism (as too much skepticism can also lead to irrational thinking). Recognizing that belief, in many ways, is the brain's default mode rather than a conscious choice, can serve as the first step in this cerebral revolution.

In conclusion, the unwavering belief in Trump, despite the felony charges against him, is not solely a political matter but, for some, a manifestation of our brain's intrinsic tendencies. Understanding this cognitive dynamic is pivotal in addressing the challenges posed by misinformation and fostering a more critical and discerning society.

Bobby Azarian is a cognitive neuroscientist and the author of the new book The Romance of Reality: How the Universe Organizes Itself to Create Life, Consciousness, and Cosmic Complexity. He is also a blogger for Psychology Today and the creator of the Substack Road to Omega. Follow him @BobbyAzarian.

Trump is embracing five ‘fake news’ outlets he supposedly hates

WASHINGTON — Each afternoon since last week, former President Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign has fired off an email titled "ICYMI: Important Articles and Posts from President Trump".

Most of these missives contain predictably Trumpian fare from decidedly far-right outlets peddling MAGA propaganda and culture war outrage.

“Trump is the greatest defender of the Constitution alive today,” declares the headline of a column from the Washington Times’ Charles Hurt.

“Energy sector sees 88% increase in ‘nonbinary’ workers from last year,” reads one story from John Solomon’s Just the News.

Many other Trump touts paint President Joe Biden with the gloomiest shade of drab, alternately asserting he’s cowardly, corrupt, weak, lazy and losing the support of Black voters.

But Trump’s daily brag sheets are also peppered with articles from news organizations that — taking Trump at his own word — are straight-up terrible, filled with lying, no-good agents of “fake news” who are hell-bent on harming him.

Among them is “disgusting,” “bad,” “totally biased” and “truly unprofessional” NBC News, which Trump in March called “one of the worst” as he ordered reporter Vaughn Hillyard off his private Boeing 757 jet following a campaign rally in Waco, Texas.

On Wednesday, Trump used his daily email to highlight the reporting of NBC News’ Monica Alba and Carol E. Lee, who wrote that “attorneys for President Joe Biden and the special counsel appointed to investigate his handling of classified documents have been negotiating for about a month over the terms under which he would be interviewed.”

In 2020, Trump issued a blanket Twitter declaration that “WSJ is Fake News!” after the Wall Street Journal chided the then-president for the quality of his daily White House press briefings.

But Trump’s Sept. 3 email news round-up led with a story from the Wall Street Journal reporters Aaron Zitner and John McCormick, headlined: “Trump Is Top Choice for Nearly 60% of GOP Voters, WSJ Poll Shows

Even the ultimate “enemy of the people” — the “failing,” “inaccurate,” “corrupt,” “sick,” "discredited” and “totally dishonest” New York Times — earned not one, but two slots in Trump’s sizzle reel.

The top of a daily "Important Articles and Posts from President Trump" email that Donald Trump's 2024 campaign began sending out last week. Screengrab

One was a nearly 23-year-old New York Times story about a plan in Florida to appoint George W. Bush electors “with no Jeb Bush signature” — a not-so-subtle tie-in to Trump’s own 2020 fake elector scheme that has landed him and many of his associates in vat of legal magma.

The other, in Trump’s Sept. 6 email, is a piece from 2015 by Michael Barbaro about a 1987 letter to Trump from former President Richard Nixon. In it, Nixon says that his wife, Pat Nixon, saw Trump on the Donohue show and finished the program convinced that “whenever you decide to run for office you will be a winner!”

The “ultra liberal” and “failing” Des Moines Register and perennial “total joke” frenemy Fox News — “Fox has become fake news, too,” Trump said in 2020 — also got Trump email shout-outs in recent days.

So, has Trump, who is facing 91 felony counts across four separate criminal cases while maintaining a commanding lead for the 2024 Republican nomination, warmed to the coverage of his sworn media enemies?

The Trump campaign didn’t directly answer Raw Story questions about whether Trump still considers the New York Times, NBC and the rest to be "fake news". Nor did it explain why the campaign decided to highlight news articles from outlets Trump had previously deemed untrustworthy.

But in an email to Raw Story, Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung wrote: “When Fake News is forced to print the truth, you know it's dire for Crooked Joe Biden.”

For Kathy Kiely, the Lee Hills chair in free-press studies at the University of Missouri's Missouri School of Journalism, Trump’s desire to have it both ways is a potential teaching moment. She challenged Trump supporters to think critically about when Trump cites mainstream news organizations to his advantage.

“Look at the record. Are they really fake if Donald Trump quotes these outlets?” Kiely said, while acknowledging that Trump’s “contradictions and hypocrisies don’t seem to bother his most hardcore supporters.”

Trump’s hypocrisy is, at least, transparent, Kiely added.

“He bludgeons the media when it’s convenient. He uses the media when it’s convenient. He’s happy to cite the media organizations he hates when they publish something that is helpful to him,” she said.

True to form, Trump’s email on Thursday featured the republication of an Associated Press story about conservative Christians’ attraction to Trump.

The article to which Trump linked appeared in the Milwaukee Independent, a small, nonprofit news organization in Wisconsin that features this quotation in its “about us” page: “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

The quote is from Marianne Williamson, who is also running for president in 2024 — as a Democrat.

Ramaswamy campaign hats made in repressive nation with ‘one of the worst governments in the world’

“Truth. Vote Vivek.”

Black baseball caps emblazoned with this message made their way around the Iowa State Fair last month, and Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy sported the hat before participating in Fox News’ Republican presidential debate held in Milwaukee, Wis., less than two weeks later.

But the hats have a truth of their own.

They’re made in Myanmar, a country rife with human rights atrocities and led by a military junta. The Myanmar military has propagated torture, sexual violence and mass murders, including killing children, according to press accounts and Human Rights Watch.

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“It’s clearly one of those countries that’s sliding back on the freedom scale very much so,” said Irina Tsukerman, a foreign policy expert, human rights and national security lawyer and president of communications advisory company, Scarab Rising. “The fact that Vivek has chosen that place as opposed to another country where such issues are not really as prominent, like India or the Philippines maybe, it raises questions why. What is he willing to do for money?”

Ramaswamy’s campaign acknowledged purchasing the hats, explaining that they were from one “rush order for an event.”

“When this was brought to Vivek’s attention, he said we were changing it. He was not aware at all of the source, and it has been changed,” Stefan Mychajliw, deputy communications director for Ramaswamy’s campaign, told Raw Story.

The “Truth. Vote Vivek.” hats are made by a company called Otto, which calls itself “America’s largest source for blank caps and custom headwear.” The caps distributed by the Ramaswamy campaign show tags that say “Made in Myanmar,” and the company’s website also shows images of tags that say “Made in China."

Two Raw Story sources saw the hats in person and confirmed that the labels indicate they were made in Myanmar.

“This is bottom of the barrel,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division for Human Rights Watch. “This is amongst one of the worst governments in the world. It is right at the top of the list of the worst human rights abusers in Asia.”

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, a London-based nonprofit organization, is just “seeing the tip of the iceberg of allegations” in terms of the labor rights abuses in Myanmar since it tracks such abuses from publicly available news sources, which is limited due to a lack of press freedom in the country, said Natalie Swan, labor rights program manager for the organization.

A tag inside a "Truth. Vote Vivek." hat distributed in Iowa by the Vivek Ramaswamy presidential campaign shows that the cap comes from a company called Otto and was made in Myanmar.

“There's not some special zone where things are better in Myanmar,” Robertson said. “It's not like somehow that Otto is going to be this shining paragon of good practice in a country where the military is controlled and the workers are repressed.”

Members of Otto’s leadership team did not respond to Raw Story’s request for comment. Otto has offices in Ontario, Calif.; Arlington, Texas; and Fairburn, Ga.

China-Myanmar relationship

While the choice of where a presidential campaign sources its promotional hats might seem trivial, merchandising “is a very important part of his foreign policy because it normalizes his positions with the public,” Tsukerman said.

Ramaswamy, who is running third behind former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in some recent national polls, wants an “America first” approach to foreign policy, according to an article he wrote for The American Conservative on August 28.

The merchandise for sale on his website also boasts “Made in USA” as a selling point.

Ramaswamy has been particularly critical of China, which has a close relationship with Myanmar. When asked about “Made in America” stickers on The Fifth Column podcast, Ramaswamy said, “I’ve actually called for total decoupling from China, total economic independence from China, not on protectionist grounds at all but on grounds of long run national security … I think it is not good for the long run security interests of the United States when we are dependent economically on our enemy for our modern way of life.”

Ramaswamy says the United States should no longer have economic dependence on China.

ALSO READ: Trump is embracing five ‘fake news’ outlets he supposedly hates

“I will admit that it is unacceptably dangerous that so much of our way of life is dependent upon Chinese manufacturing and Taiwanese semiconductors. I will declare economic independence from China,” Ramaswamy wrote in The American Conservative. “I will incentivize American companies to move supply chains away from China and rebase them in allied markets, especially in our own hemisphere, and I will use trade deals as the main way to do it.”

Mychajliw says Ramaswamy’s support for America’s independence from China is unwavering.

“As far as Vivek Ramaswamy is concerned, the major part of his foreign policy platform is declaring independence from China. We cannot be dependent on America's biggest adversary for the shoes on our feet or phones in our pockets. That does not change, and that's very consistent,” Mychajliw told Raw Story.

But factories in Myanmar, which shares a border with China, often are operated by Chinese factory owners, Robertson and Swan said.

ALSO READ: A neuroscientist explains why Joe Biden's cognitive health could hand Donald Trump the White House

China is a strong supporter of Myanmar’s military government, Tsukerman said, with the Council on Foreign Relations writing that China has “gone all in with the Myanmar regime”.

“It's really rather astonishing to me that he would stoop so low to have a piece of merchandise coming from a country that is one of the worst rights abusing situations in the world,” Robertson said. “It boggles the mind, frankly, that somehow they think it's alright to source something like a hat from Myanmar when any sort of brief Google search can come up with a full page of atrocities that have been committed by that military government.”

Ramaswamy’s foreign policy views were called out during the August Republican presidential debate by his challengers.

“You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows,” said Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina, The Hill reported. Haley’s campaign did not respond to Raw Story’s request for comment.

Republican presidential candidates, Vivek Ramaswamy (L) and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (R) participate in the first debate of the GOP primary season hosted by FOX News at the Fiserv Forum on Aug. 23, 2023, in Milwaukee, Wis. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former Vice President Mike President, another Republican presidential candidate, said Ramaswamy is “just wrong” on foreign policy on Fox News this week. Pence’s campaign also did not respond to Raw Story’s request for comment.

“It's hypocritical on his part to claim that he wants to move away from China but nevertheless is supporting products in places where China is very dominant, where it basically is behind many of these manufacturing companies,” Tsukerman said.

Last month, Ramaswamy wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that his “progressive ‘elite’ former peers in places like Harvard, Yale & Wall Street” are “dripping sanctimony and condescension toward the so-called ‘rubes’ in the rest of the country.” Minutes later he shared another post with a similar message.

“They remain cloistered in their enclaves and think they’re worldly because they’ve been to London, backpacked in Prague, and took a photo with some starving child in Myanmar — yet they’re downright ignorant, bigoted, and unwilling to hear out their own fellow citizens in their own country. Do that first. Then you can feel good about yourself for going to Haiti or Myanmar *after* that. I know how to give them the dose of reality that they need. I will not be shy about prescribing it,” Ramaswamy wrote.

‘One of the worst governments in the world”

In February 2021 a military coup took place in Myanmar, sending the country into “effective civil war,” where the military has bombed civilians and engaged in” systematic commission of war crimes,” Robertson said.

In April 2023, the military bombed a Myanmar village, killing at least 157 civilians, with at least 25 of them children, the Washington Post reported.

The U.S. State Department has issued a Level 4 travel advisory — it’s most restrictive — for Myanmar, and warns of “significant ongoing challenges and human rights issues” across the nation.

Conditions for garment workers in Myanmar are particularly concerning to human rights activists.

ALSO READ: Ron DeSantis birthday card advertisement goes up in flames

In its August 2023 report, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre describes “gender-based violence, wage violations, unpaid and mandatory overtime, inhumane working conditions and other forms of abuse” as common, with wages around $2 per day.

As for Ramaswamy’s campaign hats, “It is very, very problematic that this is being produced there, and any claim that somehow this was produced under fair conditions, this is produced in a way that was ethical, I think doesn't hold any water,” Robertson said.

Unions aren’t currently allowed in Myanmar, forcing union leaders to flee the country, and protests are put down by military force. Factory owners are supported by the military and take advantage of workers’ poverty and inability to strike, Robertson said.

ALSO READ: Vivek Ramaswamy campaign took money from a notorious Islamophobe

In one case in March 2021, the military massacred at least 65 people as part of a protest by factory workers, Human Rights Watch reported. More than 4,000 pro-democracy activists and civilians have been killed by the junta and nearly 25,000 arrested, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

“You see an immediate crackdown of the right to freedom of association and the right to join and form a trade union in the country, persecution of existing labor rights,” Swan said. “Leaders, you're no longer able to get your union registered in the country, and what that means is that you've lost that foundational framework with which workers can call for better terms and conditions.”

The U.S. Department of State has levied numerous sanctions against Myanmar since 2021.

How the far-right Virginia governor could be stopped by a loyal MAGA follower

The balance of power in the Virginia State Senate comes down to a campaign this November where a member of his own party is waging a war against the Republican Party's candidate.

Matt Strickland lost the June primary race by 14 points, but that doesn't count him out. He wants to run a write-in campaign for November," explained Virginia Scope.

"The seat is competitive and has big implications for control of the state Senate and whether or not Gov. Glenn Youngkin can fully implement his agenda," the report said.

Strickland argues that the GOP establishment has been fighting him for far too long and he is refusing to be quiet about it anymore.

“Folks have started a write-in campaign for me for state senate and delegate. I can’t take credit for the idea, but I support it,” he tweeted Monday. “The Republican Establishment accepts millions of dollars in donations from corrupt corporations just as my opponent Tara Durant did. Pfizer and Dominion Energy just to name a couple.”

The small Facebook group "The Write Matt In Initiative" appeared over the summer. It has fewer than 150 people in it, but it's a movement that could ultimately help the Democrat in the race win by splitting the GOP into establishment vs. MAGA. The group is no longer available online, the report explained.

Strickland said that the "establishment Republicans" told him after he lost he must support the GOP nominee.

“We always blindly support the Republican nominee, and they always screw us over,” Strickland said. “I will no longer blindly vote Republican. I’ll never vote for a Democrat, but I will most definitely write in a true candidate for The People [from] now on.”

Strickland isn't a fan of Gov. Glenn Youngkin either, calling the far-right lawmaker a RINO, or Republican In Name Only. It's a commonly used insult used by former President Donald Trump.

“I’m fighting the war on two different fronts: fighting Democrats and fighting these establishment Republicans in Name Only,” he said to conservative talk radio host John Fredericks in May.

Strickland isn't just the MAGA candidate, he said on Tuesday that he firmly believes that the 2020 election was "rigged. If we had free & fair elections Trump would be President right now.”

Democratic opponent Joel Griffin thinks it could be beneficial to have Strickland in the race.

State Delegate Tara “Durant barely broke 50% in Spotsylvania in her primary and a Strickland write-in campaign will be more than enough to doom her in a Biden +5, Spanberger +2 seat,” Griffin campaign manager Jeremy Levinson, told Virginia Scoop. “Joel Griffin looks forward to defending a woman’s right to choose once elected as the next state senator from the 27th state Senate district.”

Read the full report here.

Ron DeSantis birthday card advertisement goes up in flames

The flagging presidential campaign of Ron DeSantis thought it was a good idea to pay for an ad on X, formerly known as Twitter, encouraging people to wish the Florida governor a happy birthday next Thursday.

The ad comes in the form of a tweet from Casey DeSantis, Ron DeSantis’ wife, and says, “Wish Ron DeSantis Happy Birthday!”

There’s a photo of a smiling DeSantis and his family.

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

Well, users had wishes for DeSantis, all right, and they weren’t shy about expressing them.

A sampling:

  • “This card is brought to you by the letters G F & Y” above a Sesame Street gif.
  • Six puke emojis.
  • “This is soo lame.”
  • “Right after I sign the one for Benito Mussolini.”
  • A gif of thick brown sludge coming out of a pipe.
  • “Two words, one finger.”
  • “I doubt you would want him to read what the overwhelming majority of us would write.”
  • “I’ll go as far as to say I hope he has a SAD birthday!”
  • “I would rather saw my arm off with a rusty saw.”
  • “I’m here for the ratio” with two crying laughing emojis. (Comments — 1,385 in all, as of Friday afternoon — were indeed overwhelmingly negative.)

The DeSantis campaign’s birthday card ad is the latest variation on what’s become one of the most clichéd come-ons in digital political advertising, used by prominent Republicans and Democrats alike to collect supporters' personal information and prod them for money.

Those who click on the DeSantis ad, which does not appear publicly on Casey DeSantis’ X feed, receive a form to fill in their name, email and phone number — along with a countdown clock showing (down to the second!) how long it is until DeSantis’ birthday.

If you provide a phone number and click the “Sign His Card” button, the fine print says you consent to his robocalls and texts.

Whoever goes that far received a thank-you message for signing the card — and a pitch for a campaign donation, with suggested contributions ranging from $20.24 to $6,600.

“Thanks for signing his card!” it says. “We can’t wait to show him how many Americans are standing beside him.”

In the meantime, six days before DeSantis’ birthday, many Americans have used this opportunity to laugh at him.

Former President Donald Trump continues to laugh, too, as he remains at least 35 percentage points ahead of DeSantis in most recent national polls for the 2024 Republican presidential primary.

'Tough guy' Trump fans are demanding their 'feelings become our reality': Morning Joe

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough bashed Donald Trump's fans for crudely mocking their opponents' feelings while insisting everyone to tread lightly around their own emotions.

The "Morning Joe" host highlighted sharply critical comments Mike Pence made about the anti-democratic direction the Republican Party had been steered toward by Donald Trump, although he didn't actually mention him by name, and Scarborough pointed out that was just a coping mechanism for the GOP's inability to field candidates who voters like.

"You talk about the height of irony," Scarborough said. "Republicans that I grew up with, conservatives that I grew up with said, 'Oh, liberals are concerned about their feelings, they create their own realities.' Well, that's where we are now, right? What I found some interesting is when Mika [Brzezinski] and I were up in Maine in 2020, you actually saw boats with flags that said, I won't say exactly what it said, but it said, 'F- your feelings, Trump 2020,' like they were the tough guys -- forget your feelings, it doesn't matter what you think. Trump is going to win 2020. So Trump loses, what do we hear? 'You know what, his feelings, just give him some time to get used to this new reality, he's not really ready to accept the fact that he lost -- let's just be patient.'"

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

"An incredible thing happened -- these so-called conservatives were suddenly the people who wanted us to believe their reality, who wanted us to believe their feelings," Scarborough added. "Their feelings have become their reality. Suddenly, again, custom, Constitution, American institutions that have sustained this, whether you're talking about the Justice Department or the United States military or America's colleges and universities, the greatest in the world by far, suddenly, they all come under attack and ... anything that doesn't support the continued power grab by Trump and Trumpists is suspect and comes under attack. That's not conservatism, that's radicalism, and it's why we are fighting to preserve American democracy right now."

Watch the video at this link.

Rudy Giuliani loses defamation case filed by Georgia election workers

Two Georgia election workers Rudy Giuliani allegedly defamed have won their case against him.

Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea "Shaye" Moss sued Giuliani for defamation and false statements following the 2020 presidential election.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell entered a default judgment against the former New York mayor. A defendant can be ruled in default if they don't answer a complaint against them or fail to attend hearings.

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

The order states that a "default judgment will be entered against defendant Rudolph W. Giuliani on his liability for plaintiffs' defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, and punitive damage claims, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure."

The judge ordered both sides to agree on a future trial date for damages. Giuliani was also ordered to pay attorney fees for the plaintiffs.

"As a sanction for defendant's failure timely to reimburse plaintiffs' $89,172.50 in attorneys' fees by July 25, 2023, the jury will be instructed that they must, when determining an appropriate sum of punitive damages, infer that he is intentionally trying to hide relevant discovery about his financial assets for the purpose of artificially deflating his net worth," Howell concluded.

Read the order here.

Webcam footage shows Gulf Coast town entirely underwater as Hurricane Idalia barrels ahead

Webcam footage taken on Wednesday morning shows the town of Steinhatchee, Florida entirely underwater as Hurricane Idalia barrels toward landfall.

Miami Herald reporter Joey Flechas reports on Twitter that a webcam broadcasting from the Steinhatchee Marina shows waters completely overrunning the town.

A resident of the town also sent Flechas a text message reacting to the footage: "Steinhatchee is underwater right now … heartbroken."

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

Hurricane Idalia overnight strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane as it approached the Gulf Coast, which means it is delivering sustained winds of between 130 and 156 miles per hour.

The storm weakened slightly as it first made direct contact with the coast, although it is still delivering sustained winds of 125 miles per hour.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday warned residents about the dangers of the storm during a news conference.

"That level of storm surge is life threatening," the Florida governor explained. "There will be impacts far behind the eye wall, and those will extend to places like Tallahassee."

See some footage at this link.

Undisclosed 'emergency' delays Proud Boys sentencing

An undisclosed "emergency" has delayed the sentencing of Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio for his role in enacting a seditious conspiracy during the January 6th Capitol riots.

As reported by CBS News' Scott MacFarlane, the United States Department of Justice sent out a message on Wednesday morning saying that "due to an emergency, the court is not proceeding today with sentencings in the Proud Boy cases."

It is unclear at this time what the emergency is or why it would prevent sentencing of Tarrio and other members of the Proud Boys gang.

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

The government has been seeking some very stiff sentences for the Proud Boys who were convicted earlier this year of committing seditious conspiracy for their role in inciting the deadly January 6th riots, including 33 years for both Tarrio and fellow Proud Boy Joseph Biggs, 30 years for Proud Boy Zachary Rehl, and 27 years for Proud Boy Ethan Nordean.

Federal prosecutors are also seeking 20 years for Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola, who was acquitted of the headline seditious conspiracy charge but was found guilty on other charges and was seen as a key instigator of the Capitol breach when he smashed a window at the building with a riot shield he had stolen from a law enforcement officer.

Did anyone do a damned thing to damage Trump or help themselves?

On the day before Donald Trump, who's leading the GOP primary field by an average of 41 points in the polls, is expected to surrender to Georgia authorities, eight of his competitors took to the debate stage to kick off what promises to be a long and painful election cycle.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was leading Trump in some polls as recently as February and has since crashed spectacularly as voters got to know him better, and “anti-woke” entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy — whose surprising rise to third place in the crowded field has been fueled by effusive coverage in the conservative press and who may prove to be the Andrew Yang of the 2024 cycle — came into the debate vying for sole possession of second place among GOP primary voters.

They did so in the hope that as Trump's indictments work their way through the courts, the Republican base, which currently believes that President Joe Biden is so weak that electability shouldn't factor into their choice of a nominee, will get skittish and seek an alternative.

The task for former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and others polling in the single digits was to show that they have good reason to remain the race.

ALSO READ: For Trump: A screaming silence from 18 of Congress’ most vulnerable Republicans

While Trump was physically absent, his disdain for debate rules was present as Fox News moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum struggled from the onset to control the proceedings. Candidates ignored their time limits and shouted over one another. There were frequent interruptions from the audience.

When Baier asked the candidates how they would deter China, only one — North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, attempted an actual answer. Scott offered a rambling detour about finishing Trump's wall on the Southern border. Baier had described China as our nation’s top national security threat, but quickly abandoned any effort to get the question answered.

At one point, an exasperated Haley said, “y’all have to get control of this debate.”

But it was a combative Ramaswamy bickering with the other candidates that will likely come to define the first debate.

Early on, when asked if he believes human-caused climate change is real, he blasted his opponents’ super PAC support and replied, “as the only candidate on this stage who isn't bought and paid for, I can say the truth: the climate change agenda is a hoax.” Neither the moderators nor Ramaswamy’s opponents challenged him on the fact that Ramaswamy enjoys the support of a super PAC, which is bankrolled in part by a coal outfit. (And in an entertaining flub, Baier then asked Scott if he was “bought and paid for” and the senator responded, “absolutely.”)

Ramaswamy's dig led former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to call Ramaswamy “a guy who sounds like ChatGPT” and compare him to Obama. But it was former Vice President Mike Pence who spent much of the evening squabbling with the 38-year-old businessman. At one point, Pence said derisively, "Let me explain it to you, Vivek. I'll go slower this time. Joe Biden has weakened this country at home and abroad. Now is not the time for on-the-job training. We don't need to bring in a rookie."

According to NBC News, Ramaswamy delivered the most attacks on his fellow candidates — 16 — and was also the target of the most return fire, with 11. During the commercial breaks, a panel of Fox News analysts rated his performance as “polarizing,” with one commenting that she had come into the night without an opinion on the brash upstart but had come to dislike him during the chaotic proceedings.

One surprise on Wednesday was the near absence of DeSantis. He held back for most of the night (and never once uttered the word “woke”). That might be a decent strategy if he wasn't trying to arrest a dramatic decline in support over the past few months.

Republican presidential candidate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis participates in the first debate of the GOP primary season hosted by FOX News at the Fiserv Forum on Aug. 23, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wis. Eight presidential hopefuls squared off in the first Republican debate as former U.S. President Donald Trump, currently facing indictments in four locations, declined to participate in the event. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A strategy memo laid out by a strategist with DeSantis's super PAC last week and obtained by The New York Times urged the Florida governor to “Attack Joe Biden and the media 3-5 times... State [his] positive vision 2-3 times... hammer Vivek Ramaswamy [and] Defend Donald Trump in absentia in response to a Chris Christie attack.”

DeSantis managed to get in two hits on Biden and two on the media, but he left Pence, Haley and others to hammer Ramaswamy. His attempts to offer a “positive vision” were lackluster at best.

On abortion, an issue that's energized Democrats and left Republicans struggling for a coherent response, the Biden campaign was probably happy that all but one of the candidates pledged that they'd sign a 15-week national abortion ban into law if elected.

Haley, the lone woman among the eight debating candidates, said that such a pledge was unrealistic because it would require 60 votes in the Senate to get to her desk. But only Burgum, whose voice many voters were hearing for the first time ever on Wednesday, argued that the issue should be left up to the states.

While aid to Ukraine has divided the GOP base, only Ramaswamy came out forcefully against it, saying, “we should use those same military resources to prevent the invasion across our southern border.”

That drew a sharp rebuke from Haley. In one of the sharpest exchanges of the evening, she shouted over Ramaswamy that he has no foreign policy experience “and it shows.” DeSantis, who had previously taken heat for referring to Russia's expanded war against Ukraine as a “territorial dispute,” said that he didn't oppose more aid outright but insisted that European countries need to contribute their fair share. Haley, a former ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, responded that only 3.5 percent of our defense budget had gone to Ukraine and noted that 11 European countries had offered more assistance than the U.S. relative to the sizes of their economies.

Republican presidential candidates, Vivek Ramaswamy (L) and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley participate in the first debate of the GOP primary season hosted by FOX News at the Fiserv Forum on Aug. 23, 2023, in Milwaukee, Wis. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The pundits may anoint Haley the winner of the evening for coming off as serious and pragmatic, or Ramaswamy for featuring so prominently and elevating his name recognition or DeSantis for not exacerbating his likability problems in any obvious way.

But Trump was the real winner in absentia as he came out of the debate almost completely unscathed. He wasn't even mentioned by name until the 52-minute mark. An hour passed before the moderators posed a question about his massive legal problems and the very real possibility of him being convicted of felonies. When they asked if the candidates would support Trump if he were convicted, only Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said they would not.

While Haley offered that Trump “is the most disliked politician in America,” only Christie, an early Trump supporter turned apostate, was eager to talk about him, saying, “someone's got to stop normalizing this conduct. Whether you believe these charges are right or wrong, this conduct is unbecoming for the president of the United States.” He received a mix of boos and applause.

The other candidates tried their best to navigate the fundamental challenge of this campaign: bucking a front-runner with a commanding lead without alienating the majority of Republican base voters who believe Trump is the best president since Abraham Lincoln. Several dodged the Trump question; Burgum responded that "China loves it when we're talking about the past."

Wednesday night's debate generated some moments that will give the pundits a few days of fodder. But there were no “you're no Jack Kennedy” moments to go viral. Instead, we got Ramaswamy conjuring James Stockdale with a dash of Barack Obama.

Nothing Wednesday night changed the structure of the race. And that should come as no surprise. Given his current incumbent-like lead, if voters are to deny Trump his party's nomination in 2024, it would be the result of a presentation in a courtroom rather than on a debate stage.

'I literally am furious!' Marjorie Taylor Greene loses it after being 'blocked out' by Fox News

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) lashed out at Fox News after she was not allowed to participate in a post-debate event on behalf of Donald Trump.

Moments after the first 2024 Republican presidential primary debate on Wednesday, Greene told RSBN host Brian Glenn that Fox News refused to let her enter the so-called spin room as a surrogate for Trump because he boycotted the event. Fox News made it clear ahead of time that Trump surrogates would not be admitted if he did not participate.

"Now, this is a Fox News-hosted debate, Brian, and they have something called the spin room, which is common at presidential debates," Greene explained. "I'm a surrogate for President Trump. I'm also a member of Congress."

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

"And I just want to go ahead and let you know, and for the audience listening, they just blocked us out," she complained. "They would not allow myself, Matt Gaetz, any other Trump surrogates to go into the spin room... So this is censorship from Fox News. This is censorship, not allowing surrogates for President Trump to go into the spin room."

Glenn tried to move on to another subject, but Greene said she was too angry.

"I'm sorry," the lawmaker fumed. "I'm still so mad that we just were blocked out. I literally am furious."

"We have freedom of speech," she insisted. "President Trump's speech is constantly being canceled, Brian. He's being arrested and indicted in Fulton County tomorrow because of his speech, because he said the election was stolen in 2020."

"And now us as surrogates for President Trump supporting his candidacy, wanting to talk about his message in the spin room tonight have been censored and blocked out," she added.

Watch the video at this link.

'Driven by rage': MSNBC host says Trumpless GOP debate still showed his fury

Donald Trump was missing from Wednesday night's GOP debate, but his anger was front and center, according to MSNBC host Alex Wagner.

Speaking on a panel immediately following the Republican presidential primary debate, Wagner noted that, during the second half of the debate, she noticed "the shroud of anger and grievance" that colored everything.

"I mean, when you talk about people's good moments, it's not because they are offering some brilliant vision or showing humor or humanity or charisma," she said. "It's like Nikki Haley got mad at Vivek Ramaswamy and said he has no foreign policy experience, and it shows. Or, you know, Chris Christie landed one on Vivek Ramaswamy -- Vivek Ramaswamy being the whipping post and all of this."

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

This was true even with observers, Wagner said.

"Even the crowd, the Bret Baier moment, having to school the crowd, there was a time in American politics where winning wasn't about who was the angriest, who was the meanest, who landed the punch most directly. It is so clear to me that one of the myriad ways in which Trump has transformed the GOP is by making it a party that is driven by rage, and is powered by a sense of grievance and injustice and there is no offering of a vision for the country. There is a slamming of Democrats, liberal elites, Joe Biden and American society is poisoned."

Watch the video at this link.

19 good questions Fox News should ask candidates at the first GOP presidential debate

Eight Republican presidential hopefuls will take the Fox News debate stage tonight for a game of “kill the man (or woman) with the ball” as the candidates seek to emerge as Donald Trump’s top challenger.

In normal times, the frontrunner — Trump — would face attack from all the others. But these times are anything but normal, with Trump planning to skip the Republican debate. So the event is widely viewed as a battle to occupy the second-place spot now tenuously held by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

ALSO READ: ‘Right-wing misinformation’ newspaper gave a GOP presidential candidate up to $5M in salary

No matter how Fox News hosts Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum tackle their role in Milwaukee, Trump will almost certainly dominate the debate in absentia. The instant headlines will focus on which candidate best handled the elephant not in the room. Honorable mention will go to whoever achieved the most compelling, made-for-video-clip one-liner or gotcha moment at another candidate’s expense.

So expect plenty of Trump questions. And setups for pre-programmed talking points.

Also, expect many well-rehearsed ad-lib lines from the participating candidates, who in addition to DeSantis, include former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.

Former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are slated to be two of the eight participants in a Republican presidential debate on Aug. 23, 2023. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

But don’t expect candidates themselves to debate accusations of Republican hypocrisy surrounding Trump’s legal troubles. There’s no reward for reasonableness in the GOP primary because party leaders have rushed away from moderation and toward the most extreme and intolerant elements of a party that’s packed up its storied “big tent” in favor of a MAGA personality cult.

With that in mind, here are some knuckleball questions the moderators should ask and the candidates should answer:

1.) Will you guarantee that your administration will not bring criminal charges against Joe Biden — regardless of the allegations he might face — to assure that the Department of Justice not be weaponized against a former president of the opposing party?

2.) The Log Cabin Republicans, which supports LGBTQ rights, is a decades-old organization that endorsed Donald Trump in 2020. Why do you deserve this group’s support in 2024?

3.) During the Trump administration, the Department of Defense estimated there were 14,700 transgender troops serving in the armed forces. Do you honor their service without reservation?

4.) Do you favor federal gun-possession laws restricting the Second Amendment rights of people who have never been convicted of a crime but were aware that they were using and addicted to unlawful drugs at the time they had a firearm?

5.) If not, do you believe these gun-possession charges should nevertheless be pursued against Hunter Biden – even to the point of prison time — if he’s found guilty of federal criminal allegations he’s facing?

6.) By 2045, the United States will become a minority-white country, according to U.S. Census projections. In what ways is this good or bad for the country?

7.) What is your message to white Americans who are alarmed at the prospect of becoming a minority race in America?

8.) Do you consider the United States a Christian nation?

9.) Would you describe most Democrats and Democratic elected public officials as “patriots”?

10.) Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others who oppose abortion on religious grounds have argued against having to participate in abortion-related activities they claim violate their faith. Do you agree?

11.) Women of religious faiths whose teachings differ on abortion from mainstream Christianity have argued against having their pregnancies controlled by anti-abortion laws they claim violate their faith. Do you agree?

12.) How do you, personally, define the term “woke”?

13.) Some companies have come under fire from many Republicans over their “diversity and inclusion” policies. Why should the government forbid – or at the least, discourage – race-conscious efforts like these?

14.) Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement. Biden reversed that decision in 2021. Which path would you follow in 2025?

15.) As president, what would you do if a new strain of COVID-19 began killing tens of thousands of Americans during the winter of 2025?

16.) With so many states having legalized marijuana, would you favor national decriminalization of pot?

17.) What steps, if any, would your administration take to facilitate the establishment of ethical standards at the U.S. Supreme Court?

18.) Would you continue Trump’s approach of outsourcing some judicial selections to the Federalist Society?

19.) Do you plan pardons for people convicted in connection with the January 6 Capitol riot, and if so, what criteria would you employ?

BUSTED: ‘Right-wing misinformation’ newspaper gave a GOP presidential candidate up to $5 million in salary

Long-shot Republican presidential candidate Larry Elder made between $1 million and $5 million from The Epoch Times, according to a new financial disclosure submitted three months past a federal deadline.

The Epoch Times — accused by the New York Times of being “a leading purveyor of right-wing misinformation” — spent heavily on Facebook ads for Donald Trump in 2020 and was later banned from the platform for violating political transparency rules. The Epoch Times is associated with the Chinese religious movement Falun Gong.

Elder’s filing, covering the past year and first reported by Raw Story on Monday, characterized his earnings from The Epoch Times as “salary.”

As Politico reporter Kimberly Leonard observed, Elder failed to report the exact amount of the money as required by federal regulators.

“Despite facing numerous challenges and setbacks, we have never lost hope in our mission to report the truth. Our commitment to journalistic integrity has not wavered, even in the face of adversity,” The Epoch Times states on its “about us” page.

Its stated vision: “To be recognized as the ‘paper of record,’ the world’s most trusted and admired media company, and the organization that will restore, by its example, the best practices and highest principles of journalism.”

Neither Elder nor The Epoch Times responded immediately to requests for comment.

ALSO READ: Trump earned $250,000 from gay Republican event: disclosure

Before he announced his run for president in April, Elder had a talk show on EpochTV that promoted far-right political views.

Raw Story reported in July that Elder, a tough-on-crime conservative, missed a May 20 deadline to file the financial disclosure. Elder then asked federal regulators for an extension, saying he didn’t know about the requirement.

The FEC granted an extension to Aug. 18.

Elder revealed multiple additional sources of income on the federal financial disclosure, including salaries each in the $100,001 to $1 million range from Relief Factor, a pain relief supplement, and Old Glory Bank, where he serves as a director alongside 2016 presidential candidate Ben Carson, who later became Trump’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Elder also reported salaries from a machining company, CNC Broach Tools, educational consultancy Yrefy and media companies Creators Syndicate, Breaking Battlegrounds and Salem Radio Network.

His consulting for Elder for America and Baric and Associates earned him up to $1.5 million collectively, according to the disclosure.

ALSO READ:Trump maintains trademarks with Russia, China and numerous other U.S. enemies and frenemies

Elder, who has been a vocal opponent of abortion rights, earned up to $370,000 additional income from honorariums, including from anti-abortion centers like the Crisis Pregnancy Clinic of Southern California and Avenues Pregnancy Clinics.

Elder is not slated to appear in the Republican Party’s first presidential candidate debate on Wednesday in Milwaukee, with the Republican National Committee ruling he didn’t meet pre-set fundraising and polling thresholds.

Elder has disputed the ruling, and on Tuesday, asked his supporters to contribute to a lawsuit against the RNC, accusing it of unfairly sidelining him.

“The RNC told us they would be fair in their qualification for the August debate happening tomorrow night,” an email solicitation said. “They lied. And to prove their lies, we’re going to take them on in court.”

Elder contends he met the RNC’s criteria for participation.

'I was in the eye of the storm': Inside Roger Stone's plan to help Trump overturn the 2020 election

Former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants — many of them relatively obscure figures involved in the fake electors scheme — were indicted in Georgia last week, while top leaders of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers militias have been convicted of seditious conspiracy for their role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

One person linked to the fake electors scheme, as well as to the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers has not faced any charges to date over Jan. 6. That would be political operative Roger Stone, who has been Trump’s friend and adviser for more than three decades.

Stone’s role in the effort to overturn the 2020 election is increasingly coming into focus through the halting, start-stop release of the new documentary “A Storm Foretold” by Danish filmmaker Christoffer Guldbrandsen. Footage shot by Guldbrandsen’s crew showing Stone dictating a plan to an assistant named Enrique de la Torre that calls for lobbying Republican-controlled state legislatures to send Trump electors on the basis of claims of fraud before Joe Biden was declared the winner was shown by MSNBC host Ari Melber last week.

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

On Aug.18, Guldbrandsen released the film on Vimeo, and then pulled it back while negotiating a deal for U.S. distribution. On Monday, Melber again showcased footage from the film on his MSNBC show.

One scene from before the election that was reviewed by Raw Story shows Stone vociferously articulating a strategy for Trump to use the authority of the office of president to prevent legitimate Biden electoral votes from being counted.

“Oh, these are the California results? Sorry, we’re not accepting them,” Stone says, jabbing his index finger for emphasis. “We’re challenging them in court. If the electors show up at the Electoral College, armed guards will throw them out. I’m the president. F--- you. You’re not stealing Florida. I’m challenging all of it. And the judges we’re going to are judges I appointed. F--- you.”

De la Torre was deposed by the January 6th House select committee in May 2022. A senior investigative counsel asked him about Stone’s tirade, in one of at least three instances they referenced footage from Guldbrandsen’s film. The question by the senior investigative counsel indicates that Stone’s statement was addressed to de la Torre in July 2020. Gulbrandsen reportedly provided clips of his film to the committee, some of which were shown during one of its hearings in October 2022.

De la Torre invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination in refusing to answer the committee’s questions. Stone likewise declined to answer the committee’s questions while invoking the Fifth Amendment and declined to produce any documents.

ALSO IN THE NEWS: Inside the MAGA plan to track and control your life

Stone could not be reached for this story, but he indicated on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, on Monday night that he had watched Melber’s segment on Guldbrandsen’s documentary, proclaiming that the footage “had all the hallmarks of Danish disinformation.”

Stone defended his statement about Republican-controlled legislatures submitting Trump electors based on purported claims of fraud during his podcast on Monday evening.

“I was in the eye of the storm late last week because I had the audacity to correctly cite Article II of the U.S. Constitution, which says that the state legislatures have the authority to certify the electors that go to the Electoral College,” he said. “And within that context, they have the authority to examine the election results. This was days before the election that I said that if there was evidence of theft, that process — which would be a very, public, open, transparent process — may have to take place.”

Three Trump electors are under indictment as co-defendants in the racketeering case brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in Georgia, while 13 others are cited as unindicted co-conspirators. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has separately charged 16 Trump electors in that state with conspiracy to commit election law forgery and other crimes.

In the statement he dictated to de la Torre on Nov. 5, 2020, Stone said, “We must be prepared to lobby our Republican legislatures by personal contact and by demonstrating the overwhelming will of the people in their state — in each state that this may happen.”

It remains unclear who, if anyone, might have received the memo from Stone or his associates. De la Torre could not be reached for comment for this story.

The Fulton County indictment describes one component of a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn the 2020 election as making false statements “to persuade Georgia legislators to reject lawful electoral votes cast by the duly elected and qualified presidential electors from Georgia.” The indictment describes a phone call by Trump and Giuliani to Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, in which Giuliani allegedly made false statements about fraud while Trump “importuned Bowers to unlawfully appoint presidential electors from Arizona” as “overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy.”

ALSO IN THE NEWS: 'Seething' Melania furious at Trump's use of Barron as 'political pawn': report

Similarly, the federal indictment brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith cites as one component of Trump’s alleged conspiracy to defraud the government that “on the pretext of baseless fraud claims,” Trump “pushed officials in certain states to ignore the popular vote; disenfranchise millions of voters; dismiss legitimate electors; and ultimately cause the ascertainment of and voting by illegitimate electors” in his favor.

Responding to a commentary published in the Philadelphia Inquirer questioning why he has not been criminally charged, Stone scoffed on X on Sunday: “Sorry there is no evidence whatsoever that proves my involvement in the effort to delay the certification of the Electoral College in the U.S. Senate, the riot at the U.S. Capitol, or the effort in the states to challenge the certification of electors. Guilt by association is an ugly tactic used by ignorant haters. A video in which I correctly state the effect of Article II of the Constitution, and which is both historically, and legally correct, proves nothing whatsoever.”

‘Looking for any retired military or law enforcement officer’

While maintaining a close relationship with President Trump, Stone also cultivated ties with the Proud Boys, a neofascist street-fighting group founded in 2016, which underwent a recruitment explosion after Trump signaled during a presidential debate shortly before the election: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”

When a graphic depicting federal judge with crosshairs superimposed over her face was published on Stone’s Instagram account in 2019, he testified that Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio was among a small number of people who had access to his phone. (Stone was subsequently convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and later pardoned by President Trump.)

During the 2018 midterm election, future Proud Boy Joe Biggs volunteered for an early iteration of “Stop the Steal,” a mobilization by a handful of conspiracy theorists surrounding Stone to protest a recount in the Florida Senate race between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Bill Nelson.

Biggs, a U.S. Army veteran who was a correspondent for InfoWars, posted on Twitter in November 2018: “I’m no new Floridian. I’ve spent most of my life there and in Texas. I love both places more than life itself. Which is why I will be helping #StopTheSteal. I will back home to Florida [sic] from my other home in Texas tomorrow. We will not let radical leftists destroy our home!”

Footage from “A Storm Foretold” shows Stone describing his plan to resurrect the campaign to Guldbrandsen on Nov. 5, 2020.

“We are relaunching Stop the Steal,” Stone said. “I’m looking for any retired military or law enforcement officer who would go on the committee. Don’t care what rank, don’t care how old. Old, young, disabled, doesn’t matter.”

Around the same time, the film shows Stone speaking into a cell phone and dictating the inaugural message of the “F.O.S.” — short for “Friends of Stone” — chat on Signal, an encrypted messaging platform.

“We provide information several times a day, so please monitor the F.O.S. feed so you can act in a timely fashion,” Stone said. “Let me stress that the F.O.S. feed is not a chat room, and this is not the place for prolonged discussion.”

The Signal group included protest organizers and militant leaders, allowing them to coordinate security for a series of rallies in Washington, D.C. and other cities that set the stage for Jan. 6. A copy of the chat obtained by the January 6th House select committee shows that both Tarrio and Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes were members.

The Oath Keepers made outreach to military veterans and retired law enforcement the centerpiece of their recruitment pitch. According to an analysis by Raw Story, at least 14 of the 52 Proud Boys members and associates arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 attack were either military veterans or active-duty military service members.

A document turned over to the January 6th House select committee shows that Roger Stone and Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes participated in the "F.O.S." chat on Signal.January 6th House select committee

The chats show Stone pushing out messaging to the protest organizers and militants, including a Nov. 10, 2020 post urging them to read a forthcoming “manifesto” that he promised would expose “the HOAX claiming Joe Biden has been elected President” and outline “President Trump’s path forward in the Courts, in the House and in the Electoral College.”

The chats also show Rhodes pledging that Oath Keepers members would provide security for VIPs at the Nov. 14, 2020 Millions for MAGA rally in Washington, D.C. as well as another pro-Trump rally held in Austin, Texas on the same day.

Rhodes also used the chat as a forum to issue a call for the Trump to use the military to declassify government secrets and to invoke the Insurrection Act “to suppress the communist insurrection” while using the military “to go after the domestic enemies at the top.”

Rhodes is currently serving an 18-year sentence at Cumberland Federal Correctional Institution in Maryland for seditious conspiracy for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Stone said on his podcast on Monday night that he doubts that former Vice President Mike Pence will be able to testify that Trump told him he knew that he lost the election, adding, “I don’t think Trump believed it then. I certainly don’t think he believes it now.”

But the footage in Guldbrandsen’s film suggests that Stone himself harbored doubts about whether Trump could win in the waning days of the 2020 election.

Speaking on the phone while riding in a car one week before the election, Stone can be heard telling an unidentified woman: “Don’t know. Totally up in the air. Not looking good. Not looking good. I say that as a professional. I’m trying to divorce my emotions from it. But it does not look good.”

The woman can be heard asking whether Stone thinks Giuliani — now a co-defendant with Trump in the Fulton County racketeering case — would be able to help Trump turn around his dim election prospects.

“Rudy is — he’s a great guy; he’s been very helpful to me,” Stone says. “He’s very loyal, but he likes booze and p---- a little too much. And he’s a single guy, so he’s getting a lot of ass.”

Trump’s bail bond set in Fulton County case: report

Former President Donald Trump’s bond in the Georgia election interference case has been set at $200,000, according to court documents the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Tamar Hallerman posted on social media.

Trump and 18 co-defendants were indicted last week on allegations they conspired to overturn the results of Georgia’s 2020 election results.

The indictment alleges that Trump or his associates sought to "undo his defeat including beseeching Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to find enough votes for him to win the battleground state; harassing an election worker who faced false claims of fraud; and attempting to persuade Georgia lawmakers to ignore the will of voters and appoint a new slate of electoral college electors favorable to Trump," The Associated Press reports.

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

His lawyers had been expected to meet with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis today.

Why Trump indictments haven’t triggered another Jan. 6 — and why the worst may be yet to come

A grand jury handed up a 41-count indictment against Donald Trump and 18 alleged co-conspirators late Monday night inside a courthouse in Atlanta. Outside, law enforcement prepared for a Jan. 6-esque riot.

But as Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis announced her case against Trump, no right-wing MAGA supporters, equipped with tactical gear and assault rifles, descended on the courthouse.

No one stormed any government buildings.

The scene was quiet — eerily so — and largely replayed the relatively orderly, if not placid scenes outside courthouses in New York City and Washington, D.C., where authorities have also charged Trump with felony crimes.

Even one of Trump’s most ardent bomb-throwers urged MAGA-ites to restrain themselves.

“Don’t go to the Fulton County courthouse. Don’t give them an ounce of your flesh. Let them have their empty streets, barricades, and media circus,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) cautioned on Twitter, now X, the morning after the indictments.

ALSO READ: 11 ways Donald Trump doesn’t become president again

But while the arrests of more than 1,100 people for participation in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — and more recently, charges against high-profile Trump allies such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani — appear to have temporarily deterred a broad mobilization of violence, far-right unrest is simmering under the surface as Trump’s legal troubles mount.

It occasionally emerges in the form of one-off violent acts, such as when an Ohio man who attacked the FBI office in Cincinnati in response to federal authorities searching Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago died in a shootout with law enforcement last year.

More recently, a Utah man died in a shootout with the FBI after he posted threats to kill President Joe Biden.

A Texas woman is accused of threatening the U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the federal case against Trump for attempting to overturn the 2020 election.

And just this week, after the names of the grand jurors were published in the Fulton County indictment against Trump and 18 co-defendants, trolls reportedly posted their names and purported addresses on a fringe website.

On another site that allows users to post anonymously, users reportedly encouraged one another to shoot members of the grand jury, with one invoking a notorious white supremacist text that provides a blueprint for political terror. The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office has announced it is investigating the threats.

And as Trump’s legal troubles mount and his supporters become increasingly desperate going into the winner-takes-all stakes of the 2024 presidential election, analysts who monitor right-wing extremism warn that political violence is only likely to worsen over the next 18 months as 2024 election approaches and the next president is inaugurated in 2025.

The seeds of such a scenario are being planted right now, largely out of view, in some of the darkest corridors of the internet.

Mixed messages: Culture war and vigilance

Just because there wasn’t an instantaneous reaction to the Fulton County indictment doesn’t mean the news didn’t push someone over the edge and cause them to start plotting, security analysts say. Violent plots take time to plan and carry out.

Online reaction among far-right influencers and groups to the indictment has been mixed, with the news jostling for attention alongside other conservative fixations, like the viral right-wing populist folk song “Rich Men North of Richmond” and the apology from the “crazy plane lady.”

Samantha Kutner, an extremism and terrorism analyst with Glitterpill LLC, told Raw Story that the current moment is a “focus-testing period for many extremist groups.”

“Right now, it might be safe to say their reaction is similar to their reaction to Barbie,” she said. “Culture war fodder with attempts to fundraise.”

On Telegram accounts linked to the Proud Boys, posts about the Maui wildfires — typically suggesting sinister causes or accusing the Biden administration of neglect — appear to outnumber references to the Trump indictment roughly four to one.

Dozens of members of the Proud Boys face criminal charges for their role in the attack on the Capitol, and high-profile leaders, including former national chairman Enrique Tarrio, have been convicted of seditious conspiracy. This potentially dampens enthusiasm for physically rushing to the support of a former president who infamously told them during a 2020 campaign debate to “stand back and stand by.”

But that shouldn’t offer peace-loving Americans comfort.

ALSO READ: Trump maintains trademarks with Russia, China and numerous other U.S. enemies and frenemies

Kutner predicted that as the consequences of Trump’s legal troubles become increasingly tangible, the Proud Boys will “martyr him and use the event to organize and they’ll get more and more desperate as the 2024 elections pick up.”

One indication of that line of discourse is evident in a recent commentary posted on Telegram by the Cape Fear Proud Boys, one of the most influential and active chapters to emerge in the aftermath of Jan. 6.

The commentary posted on Aug. 1 following Trump’s first Jan. 6-related indictment accused Democrats of “plotting to subvert the 2024 election” while claiming “they will do anything to see Trump in jail.”

The post included a vague call to action by urging readers to “come to the realization that you have to do more than ‘just vote,’” adding, “See you in the streets.”

Following Trump’s new indictment in Fulton County, Ga., on Monday, the Cape Fear Proud Boys chapter warned, “If he loses this he goes to jail, just like they have been planning all along.”

The Cape Fear Proud Boys’ call to “do more than ‘just vote’ is echoed in the messaging surrounding an “Election Summit” in Springfield, Mo., on Wednesday and Thursday.

Hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who helped finance a bus tour to fuel protests against the outcome of the 2020 election, the “Election Summit” promised an all-star cast of pro-Trump election deniers.

Businessman and election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell talks with reporters outside the club house at the Trump National Golf Club hours ahead of a speech by former U.S. President Donald Trump on June 13, 2023 in Bedminster, N.J. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The MAGA luminaries billed as speaking at the event include Giuliani, who has been ordered to turn himself in for arrest in Fulton County by Aug. 25, Laura Loomer, an anti-Muslim provocateur who recently met with Trump at his Bedminster club in New Jersey; former White House strategist Steve Bannon; retired Lt. General Michael Flynn; and criminally indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Lindell has been promising to unveil a “plan” on Thursday, the second day of the summit. Details of the “plan” have been teased by the Gateway Pundit, a far-right outlet that traffics in conspiracy theories.

ALSO READ: National security at 'high risk' as 'old school' methods degrade government security practices

A recent article quoted Kurt Olsen, a lawyer who reportedly assisted Paxton with his unsuccessful lawsuit to invalidate Biden’s 2020 electoral victory in Pennsylvania, as being among a select group of Trump allies who have reviewed Lindell’s “plan.”

“We can no longer cast our vote and walk away,” Olsen said in the quote published by the Gateway Pundit. Through exposure to the “plan,” Olsen said viewers of Lindell’s livestreamed event will “learn how to become the watchman for elections — not just to cast a ballot — and you will be equipped for that task in ways we’ve never seen before.”

Lindell’s event has received promotion from Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, along with “The Pete Santilli Show,” whose host pleaded guilty to conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer in the 2014 armed standoff at Bunkerville, Nev., over rancher Cliven Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees for use of federal lands.

Discussing his plans to travel to the “Election Summit” during his show on Aug. 12, Santilli suggested some unspecified “wingnuts” might try to intercept him, before imploring listeners: “Anybody messes with me, everybody get your bulldozers and come get me. Okay? Bulldozer brigade. They do not want what is coming on the 16th and 17th.”

Santilli’s “bulldozer brigade” reference likely resonated with far-right antigovernment listeners who have lionized Marvin Heemeyer, who rampaged through the town of Granby, Colo. in an armored bulldozer in revenge for a zoning dispute before taking his own life.

During the same show, Santilli instructed his listeners: “Any time you see CNN, you smash their cameras, okay?

“I say ‘smash their cameras,’ figuratively, I don’t know,” Santilli continued. Laughing he added, “Constitutionally.”

Then he showed footage of himself harassing a camera crew at one of Lindell’s previous events.

Radicalized by election disinformation

Trump is continuing to stoke fear and conspiracy theories, just as he did during the 2016 and 2020 elections, with predictable consequences, said Daryl Johnson, a former senior analyst at the Department of Homeland Security who was pushed out of the agency after authoring a prescient reported that highlighted the threat of right-wing extremism early in the administration of President Obama. Johnson told Raw Story that the “heightened threat environment” can be largely attributed to one man: Donald Trump.

“We’re at the precipice of another national election, and he’s continuing to do the same thing he did in 2016 and 2020,” Johnson said. “He’s talking about how the last election was stolen, and a significant number of people believe it, despite the courts and the media saying otherwise. He continues to perpetuate the lie that the election was stolen. He’s radicalizing his base of supporters, and now that he’s facing all these indictments, unfortunately the hardcore Trump supporters believe this was orchestrated to keep him from becoming president again.”

A key question is whether Trump still has the ability to mobilize mass crowds in the streets, as he did following the 2020 election, when he tweeted, “Be there, will be wild,” summoning his supporters to Washington, D.C. for the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

Jan 6 InsurrectionRioters before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (AFP)

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The absence of large-scale extremist mobilization fits a pattern from the 2022 mid-term election, when many election-denialist candidates loyal to Trump were on the ballot, to the previous indictments earlier this year in New York, Miami and Washington, D.C., said Jared Holt, a senior researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

Holt said a post by Trump on his TruthSocial platform on Election Day 2022 suggests that the former president’s command over his most violence-prone supporters has weakened.

Trump, for example, attempted to capitalize on a temporary software glitch at one of the city’s polling locations, and urged his supporters to “protest, protest, protest” in Detroit.

Yet, “there was no major protest beyond a few dozen people,” Holt recalled. “That was a really interesting moment for me, as Trump explicitly saying, ‘I want people to protest here,’ and his supporters didn’t respond.”

More recently, in March, as his arrest in New York City neared, Trump issued a Jan. 6-like charge to supporters.

“PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!” Trump’s Truth Social message concluded.

The former president also warned of "potential death and destruction" if he was charged with a crime.

But few protesters came, and the scene was more comedic than chaotic.

The massive federal crackdown on rank-and-file Trump supporters who took part in the Jan. 6 insurrection has prompted the far-right movement to retreat from mass-scale events, and strategically redirect energy towards small-scale local actions targeting local institutions and marginalized communities.

During the past two years, the targets have included school boards and hospitals over issues such as COVID-19 restrictions, teaching race and gender identity and books that highlight marginalized people.

More recently, drag shows have come to the forefront as a target of far-right harassment.

It's hard to tell how that model might be applied to a presidential election cycle with a sequence of events playing out on a national scale, Holt said.

But he suggested Moms for Liberty, a far-right group at the forefront of battles over COVID restrictions and gender identity that has forged strong ties with Republican officeholders such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, as the kind of group that might be able to harness the disparate impulses of the far right.

“There’s a lot of infrastructure on the right to support small, local stuff,” he said. “You can see how Moms for Liberty has exploded into this major force in a couple years after getting money dumped on it. Moms for Liberty is both grassroots and Astro-turfed. It exists in this weird gray area. A lot of organizing is local, but there’s a really strong reward structure on a national scale that gives them talking points and hands out targets.”

The culture war issues pushed by Moms for Liberty, building on the backlash to the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020, are all examples of an “activism and organizing muscle that the right is very good at keeping exercised,” Holt said.

He added that “if someone stepped up and tried to use it in that way” during the election, “in theory it could cause a lot of havoc.”

Holt said he expects that the Republican primaries and the Republican National Convention will be key pivot points in the potential emergence of a far-right movement capable of mass action.

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“That’s when I’ll be looking to see who can flex the muscle and show that willingness to act on a broader scale,” he said.

Regardless of whether the leadership and organizational infrastructure falls into place to cause major chaos, Johnson observed that the far right now has something it’s been missing since January 2021 — a unifying objective.

“The 2024 election and Trump’s ongoing legal problems begins to create a cohesion and glue for people to rally around,” he said. “What we could see in the coming 12 months is these scattered groups of people coming together under a banner and fighting for a cause again.”

Given the far-right’s reorientation toward more small-scale actions and localized targets, Johnson said it’s hard to imagine Trump’s supporters storming the U.S. Capitol again. But he said it’s not out of the question that something like that might happen at a capitol building in a swing state such as Georgia or Ohio.

The Jan. 6 arrests have had some deterrent effect, Johnson said, while Holt noted that the conspiracy mindset of many of Trump’s supporters causes them to look with suspicion on anyone who proposes large-scale political action, often accusing them of being federal agents intent on setting them up for arrest.

Johnson added that the law enforcement crackdown on Jan. 6 rioters, similar to a previous period after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, drove many of the most violent extremists underground. That increases the likelihood of more incidents like the Ohio man who attacked the FBI office last year, or the two individuals who threatened Biden and Chutkan earlier this month.

“What this boils into is more violence towards Democrats, judges, juries, the FBI and the Justice Department, more plotting assassinations and carrying assassinations,” Johnson said. “It’s very reminiscent of the 1960s, when we saw the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy.”

As Trump and his supporters continue to falsely claim that the 2020 election was stolen and that Democrats are scheming to steal the next one, while demonizing political opponents and embracing aggressive tactics, the conditions appear ripe for unrest.

Johnson, the former Department of Homeland Security analyst, Trump being convicted or put in jail could be a catalyst for violence. He noted that a few of Trump’s supporters have already been “pushed over the edge,” while others are already mobilizing by training with firearms.

“The catalyst is the event that triggers violence — Trump gets convicted and goes to jail, running for election and losing,” he said. “Even the fact that Trump wants to run and all of a sudden he can’t — that’s another triggering catalyst.”

'Most people lie': George Santos blames 'insecurities' for his fictitious resume

Embattled Rep. George Santos (R-NY) has no plans to resign despite a mountain of scandals surrounding his fabulism and federal fraud indictments — because, in his view, everyone basically tells the same lies on their resume as he did.

Santos made the comments in an interview with Fox 5 News, reported by The Daily Beast on Friday.

In the interview, Santos claimed voters would have elected him to his Long Island congressional district even if he had not made the original false claims because, "Those are insecurities. A lot of people have insecurities. …Most people lie on their resumes." He said he will not step down because, "I want to be judged by the people who elected me."

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

Santos was exposed shortly after his surprise upset election victory in 2022 of having lied about everything from his educational and professional background, to having Jewish ancestry, to his mother having been in the South Tower on the September 11 attacks.

Further investigations uncovered a number of suspicious patterns in his campaign finance reports, including payment amounts that didn't make sense, donors that don't appear to exist, and a consulting firm that seems to have looted the campaign accounts of other Republican candidates.

Earlier this year, Santos was indicted on federal charges, with prosecutors alleging he deceived campaign donors and fraudulently claimed unemployment benefits. He has admitted that many of his campaign claims to voters about his life were not true, but maintains his innocence from the charges against him.

Feds to MTG: Tell us more about that anti-Islam, Nazi-adjacent provocateur who used your credit card

The Federal Election Commission has questions for Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) about a credit card charge that ties her congressional campaign to far-right agitator Milo Yiannopoulos and and rapper Kanye West.

Greene’s congressional campaign committee received a letter from the FEC on Tuesday asking for “information essential to full public disclosure of your federal election campaign finances” regarding reimbursement of $7,020.16 that was labeled as “use of campaign credit card for personal expense.”

Let’s back up.

Last month, Raw Story reported on the receipt, which appeared on a financial disclosure submitted to federal regulators by Greene for Congress.

Seemingly, the receipt was reimbursement for Yiannopoulos’ use of the Greene campaign’s credit card in November to purchase a campaign website domain for the yet-to-be-launched 2024 presidential campaign of West.

RELATED ARTICLE: Milo Yiannopoulos settles up with Marjorie Taylor Greene for Kanye West website scandal

Yiannopoulos, who is known for online harassment and making bigoted and controversial statements, including comments seemingly defending pedophilia, worked for Greene as an unpaid intern in 2022, Insider reported.

The reimbursement amount matches the GoDaddy expense on Nov. 22, 2022, for “domain registration and hosting” that Greene previously reported, according to The Daily Beast.

Yiannopoulos’ initial transaction was for the purchase of ye24.com and occurred on the same day that West, who now goes by Ye, dined with former President Donald Trump and white nationalist Nick Fuentes, The Daily Beast reported.

Shortly afterward, West and Fuentes, a Holocaust denier, appeared together on right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show where West made anti-Semitic comments praising Hitler and Nazis, Politico reported.

West reportedly fired Yiannopoulos, who took credit for setting up the dinner at Mar-a-Lago, in December but rehired him as “director of political operations” in May, according to The Daily Beast.

West ran for president in 2020 but hasn’t officially announced a 2024 run.

The FEC’s request for additional information addressed to Greene’s treasurer, Jason Boles, said, “This receipt appears to be related to an apparent unauthorized use of Committee funds. The Commission notes your explanation of the unauthorized activity. Although the Commission may take further legal action regarding this apparent improper use of Committee funds, any further clarifying information that you can provide will be taken into consideration.”

Boles did not respond to Raw Story’s request for comment at the time of publication.

'Melania has had her fill': Ex-senator unloads on Trump family's distance

Donald Trump's family hasn't been with him during the criminal cases he's facing, and that could be because they are sick of him, according to a former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

McCaskill on Tuesday evening appeared on The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle, when she jumped in to answer a question that was asked of another panelist. The panelist had said Trump might bring his family to a trial in Georgia because there would likely be cameras in the courtroom.

"And I've got to jump in on your previous question. I'm going to tell you the truth," McCaskill said. "I don't think this family wants to be anywhere near him right now, unless it's Don Jr. and his girlfriend and Eric. I think the rest of them have said... I think Jared Kushner is counting his money from the Saudis, I think Ivanka knows he's bad news now for her brand and I think Melania has had her fill of it ever since the ridiculous stuff he refused to do on the day that people were attacking police officers in our capitol."

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

Watch here.

Brad Raffensperger takes veiled shot at Trump in first statement after Fulton County indictment

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Tuesday broke with many of his fellow Republicans by taking a veiled shot at former President Donald Trump in the wake of his criminal indictment in Fulton County.

Although Raffensperger did not mention Trump by name in his statement, he made pointed remarks that left little doubt about his feelings on the twice-impeached former president's actions.

"The most basic principles of a strong democracy are accountability and respect for the Constitution and rule of law," he said. "You either have it, or you don't."

Raffensperger refused to go along with Trump's demands to "recalculate" the vote totals in Georgia during an infamous phone call on January 2nd, 2021, where Trump argued that he needed to "find" enough votes to overtake Biden in the Peach State.

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

That phone call has now led to Trump being charged with trying to get a public official to break their oath of office, among dozens of other felony charges unveiled by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on Monday night.

Trump in 2022 supported a primary challenger to run against both Raffensperger and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp for their refusal to help him overturn the Georgia election results, but both efforts failed.

Trump ally mocked reporter's purported ignorance of Georgia law — now she's been indicted

An ally of former President Donald Trump once mocked Politico legal affairs reporter Kyle Cheney for his supposed ignorance of Georgia state law — but now she's facing criminal charges for her efforts in trying to overturn Trump's 2020 loss in the Peach State.

As Cheney documents on Twitter, he sent an email in November 2020 to Cathy Latham, the former Coffee County GOP chair and fake Trump elector.

In the email, Cheney asked Latham about the proposed fake electors scheme that at the time was in the early stages of being hatched by the former president's allies.

Latham responded to Cheney's email with derision.

"Bahahaha," she wrote. "You think I'm going to respond to you? You don't know GA law. Read the Constitution."

It seems, however, that Latham might have wanted to do some brushing up on Georgia law because Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on Monday charged her over her alleged role in helping pro-Trump operatives breach voting machines in Coffee County, Georgia, in an effort to prove Trump lawyer Sidney Powell's baseless conspiracy theories about voting machines being rigged by late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez to steal the 2020 election from Trump.

Trump’s own press statement is used as evidence of 'solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer'

A press release from Donald Trump that he published on the social media accounts of his aides is being used to charge him with solicitation of fraud.

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell sorted through the recently released indictment live on air Monday evening and found the document among the exhibits.

On Sept. 17, 2021, Trump wrote a letter to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, with language cited in the indictment. It was on social media by his press spokesperson.

"Dear Secretary Raffensperger," the letter read. "A large scale of voter fraud continues to be reported in Georgia."

Trump goes on to say "I would respectfully request you announce the true winner."

Willis lists that as "solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer."

Another sentence in the letter says, "As stated to you previously, the number of false and or irregular votes is far greater than needed to change the Georgia election result."

That falls under the charge of false statements and writings.

The letter is still live online from Trump's press aide.

You can read it below or at the link here.

'Voluntarily surrender by noon on Aug 25': Fani Willis demands Trump and his allies to submit for arrest

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told Donald Trump and others charged that they must submit for arrest by Friday at noon.

"Subsequent to the indictment, as is the normal process in Georgia law, the grand jury issued arrest warrants for those who are charged. I am giving the defendants the opportunity to voluntarily surrender no later than noon on Friday the 25th day of Aug., 2023," she told the press late on Monday night.

After announcing the names of those who are being indicted, she also listed off the premise of her indictment of the 19 individuals and 41 counts.

"Specifically, the participants in association took various actions in Georgia and elsewhere to block the counting of the votes of the presidential electors who were certified as the winners of Georgia's 2020 general election. As you examine the indictment, you will see acts that are identified as overacts and those are that are identified as predicate acts, sometimes called acts of racketeering activity," she explained. "Over acts are not necessarily crimes under Georgia law in isolation but are alleged to be acts taken in furtherance of the conspiracy."

She went on to say that many occurred in Georgia, while some happened in other places, but are included because they are part of the effort to overthrow the 2020 election results in Georgia.

"The acts identified as predicate acts or acts of racketeering activity are crimes that are alleged to have been committed in furtherance of the criminal enterprise," Willis explained. "Acts of racketeering activity are also charged as separate counts in the indictment against those who are alleged to have committed them. All elections in our nations are administered by the states which are given the responsibility of ensuring a fair process and an accurate counting of the votes. That includes elections for presidential electors, congress, state officials and local offices. The state's role in this process is essential to the functioning of our democracy. Georgia, like every state, has laws that will allow those who believe the results of an election are wrong, whether because of intentional wrongdoing or unintentional error, to challenge those results in our state courts. The indictment alleges that rather than abide by Georgia's legal process for election challenges, the defendants engaged in a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia's presidential election result."

Willis went on to say that she intends to try all 19 defendants together.

See her full statement and answer questions in the video below or at the link here.

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Ex-Mueller prosecutor predicts 'clash' between Trump and Georgia judge that could see ex-president jailed

Andrew Weissmann, a former senior prosecutor for special counsel Robert Mueller, predicts an early "clash" between Donald Trump and his judge if he's indicted in Georgia on election interference charges.

A grand jury in Fulton County is meeting on Monday and Tuesday, and indictments are expected to be handed down imminently. As reporters wait, the former president spent much of Monday ranting on his personal social media site, attacking witnesses and District Attorney Fani Willis.

This won't fly with whichever judge gets assigned the case, Weissmann suggested.

Admitting it "may sound a little out of left field," Weissmann explained that bail for Trump might be a problem.

"Now we have seen the former president get bail in Manhattan, in Florida, and in D.C.," he explained. "We have also seen the former president continue to make statements that, at least arguably, are obstruction of justice or intimidating witnesses. Why is that important? Because in Georgia, the statute that may apply here depending on what is charged is one where the presumption is one that the defendant has the burden of rebutting."

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Simplified, it means that the defendant, Trump, must demonstrate "that he will not commit crimes and is not a risk of flight."

In Georgia, is has to be demonstrated that, "The defendant poses no risk of intimidating witnesses or otherwise obstructing the administration of justice." Georgia's laws are different from the federal laws as well as New York's and Florida's, which is why things could be unusual this time around, Weissmann explained.

Donald Trump has consistently shown that he will attack witnesses, lawyers, investigators and judges, while also threatening "retribution," regardless of the instructions from the court. So, his lawyers will argue that he will stop, but there is considerable evidence to the contrary, even after similar warnings from judges. That could give the judge license not to grant Trump bail.

"To me, that is going to be for a judge who is going to treat Donald Trump or anyone else like any other defendant, that could be a problem," Weissmann said. "Because just today, we saw a continuation of attacks on the D.C. federal judge on Truth Social saying that Jeff Duncan, the former [Georgia] lieutenant governor, should not comply with the grand jury subpoena in Georgia. You can't tell a witness not to comply with a grand jury subpoena unless there is some legal ability to do that. But that is not what the former president did. So, it will be interesting to see how the judge deals with bail as we go forward."

MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace stepped in to ask if he believes there will be a "clash as early as right away?"

"Yes, absolutely," he agreed. "Now, I know a lot of people, including myself, were thinking, how could somebody who is running for president be thrown in jail pending trial? But remember, you could run for president without intimidating witnesses. So, if you make the choice to intimidate witnesses — I know this is incredible that we're having this conversation."

See the full discussion in the video below or at the link here.

Former White House official claims Bill Barr killed investigation into alleged 2020 voter fraud scheme

During an appearance on Steve Bannon's show last Thursday, the former General Counsel Personnel Police Operations during the Trump administration claimed that he was blocked by then-Attorney General Bill Barr after he tried to bring attention to voter fraud.

Last week, authorities in Michigan referred a 2020 investigation into thousands of voter registrations submitted by a person in the city of Muskegon to the FBI. Attorney General Dana Nessel's spokesman Danny Wimmer said that the person submitted 8,000 to 10,000 fraudulent forms to the Muskegon clerk just ahead of the 2020 election.

Wimmer said, the "attempted fraud" was caught before Election Day and the supposed applicants' names were not added to the state's voter rolls.

During his appearance on Bannon's show, Andrew Kloster claimed that when he learned of the scandal, he notified Barr – but the then-attorney general killed any inquiry into the matter.

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"There were standing orders not to deal with election matters, both from the White House counsel and from Barr," he said.

"I happened to know Barr’s Chief of Staff, Will Levi, because I had worked at Heritage and ran into him at a lunch basically for Senate staffers. And he had been a Senate counsel when I was there. So I knew him. I called him up and tried to put the flag up into the voting rights section, CRD-DOJ and White House Counsel in a couple different places and got stiff-armed. And then later on I hear ...that basically then the White House counsel swoops in and starts screaming, what the hell are you guys doing? So that’s really the nuts and bolts of it."

Watch the video below or at this link.

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