Samaa Khullar

'Would make Alex Jones blush': Republican says land conservation is a plot to 'control' and 'kill' people

Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyo., spewed conspiracy theories about an environmental plan to conserve 30% of US land and waters by 2030 ahead of her election last year.

Speaking at R-CALF, a convention for independent cattle producers, Hageman in August 2021 and 2022 baselessly claimed that conservation plans like the global initiative 30x30 are a government plot led by President Joe Biden to control Americans through starvation.

The congresswoman likened the environmental plans to African dictators starving their people to stay in power.

"Anytime their dictator needed to control the masses and needed to make sure that there would be no uprising, he just starves his people," Hageman said in the previously unreported video. "You can look at Somalia, you can look at the Congo, you can look at country after country after country after country, and what they've done is they control their people with food. That's what 30 x 30 is about. That's what the Green New Deal is about."

The-then candidate's statements are similar to a number of anti-government conspiracy theories shared by anti-public land extremists. Many of these conspiracy theorists have also equated 30x30 with the Holocaust and Stalin's genocide of Ukrainians in the 1930s.

"History repeats, and I think it's being done again," said one 30x30 conspiracy theorist on Facebook. "They did the very same thing in Ukraine, and they intend to do it to us."

In another video, Hageman claimed that 30x30 is the first step towards government-led "starvation" in order to "control" citizens.

"Whenever those leaders want to control the masses, they starve them. They kill them. And that's how they keep control. And that's where the 30 x 30 program is headed," she claimed.

"We need to stop looking at this as preserving the environment," she added. "We need to stop talking about protecting water and natural resources. That isn't what it's about, it's about control. It's about control of you."

This is not the first, or second, time that Hageman has boosted conspiracy theories: she has a long history of espousing misinformation and fighting against conservation and public lands. Hageman proudly bears the nickname "Wicked Witch of the West," which she earned after opposing the Clinton administration's roadless forest rule.

"Harriet Hageman's unhinged conspiracy theories show that her motivations for 'oversight' are completely unrooted in reality," Jordan Schreiber, director of the Energy and Environment program at the left-leaning watchdog group Accountable.US, said in a statement to Salon. "The next time she alleges wrongdoing remember that she subscribes to a set of falsehoods that would make Alex Jones blush. She cannot be taken seriously as a legislator or an investigator."

During her unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2018, Hageman suggested transferring one million acres of federal land to the state of Wyoming, which would have sold off significant hunting, fishing, and hiking areas, according to a report from The New York Times.

Two months before the midterm election in 2022, Hageman also claimed that the federal government controls too much land in the United States.

"Joe Biden has absolutely no authority whatsoever to try to take more private land out of production and use in this country," she said during a September R-CALF conference. "The federal government already has 612 million acres, and frankly, that's too many."

She further accused the World Wildlife Federation of trying to "destroy the livestock industry," calling them "evil people."

"They will put you out of business if you do not comply with their mandates that are going to be coming down the road," she said of the environmental organization. "They want to either destroy the livestock industry or make sure that it is only the elite that are able to eat beef in the future."

In addition to conspiracy theories, Hageman has also previously shared that she believes regulatory agencies such as the United States Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Land Management are "destroying our republic."

Republicans blasted as 'hyperbolic hypocrites' for double standard on Biden and Pence documents

Several congressional Republicans are swiftly moving past Tuesday's news that classified documents were discovered in former Vice President Mike Pence's Indiana home, but still suggest there is something more suspicious about the documents found at President Joe Biden's home and former office.

In a letter to the National Archives, Pence's lawyer Greg Jacobs wrote that there were a small number of classified documents that were "inadvertently boxed and transported to the personal home" after Pence's term ended in January 2020.

Outside counsel "with experience in handling classified documents" were hired to conduct the search, which Jacobs says was performed "out of an abundance of caution" after Biden's home was searched.

Some GOP lawmakers have appeared to be more sympathetic to Pence while criticizing Biden.

While appearing on Fox Business on Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Biden's situation was "just a mess."

"It is incompetent. It is corrupt," Cruz said. "That is an enormous political problem for the Biden White House."

However, when he was asked about Pence just moments later, Cruz said that the former Republican vice president is "a good man" and that his collection of classified documents was simply "a mistake."

House Republican Conference chairwoman Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., was also quick to distinguish the two cases during a Wednesday news conference.

"In the case of Vice President Mike Pence, he came forward and proactively reached out and is following the process," she said. "In the case of Joe Biden, he has had classified documents going back to his time in the Senate, where he started serving before I was born. So this is a longstanding national security threat."

Stefanik also shared her concern that Biden's son may have had access to the documents, claiming it was a "very important fact that Hunter Biden also had access and used as his home address where those classified documents were improperly and illegally stored."

Other Republicans, who have defended Trump for his hoarding of over hundreds of classified documents in his Mar-a-Lago home, have condemned Biden for keeping documents from his Senate tenure.

"I do not understand how a U.S. senator can take a classified document out of a SCIF [sensitive compartmented information facility] if they're not stuffing it in their pants or somewhere else," House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters Tuesday.

Cruz also called for the FBI to search Hunter Biden's homes and offices to check for more classified documents.

"If these classified materials in particular implicate Burisma, Ukraine, Communist China, payments going to Hunter Biden or Joe Biden's brother or the Biden family, then this shifts from a political problem to a very serious problem of criminal liability and major crimes," Cruz said on Fox Business.

A Senate investigation led by Republicans in 2020 found no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden regarding the latter's work with Burisma Holdings, a private natural gas company in Ukraine.

Cruz and Stefanik have been blasted for their reactions to the two situations, with many critics pointing out the hypocrisy of their statements.

When asked about Pence in his Fox Business interview, Cruz immediately said the story is "still early" and that it is "very different from what Joe Biden has done." Twitter users immediately criticized these remarks.

"Like so many in the @GOP, @SenTedCruz will completely ignore their own party members' actions while attacking the actions of others. Cowards and hypocrites is all you get with conservatives," one user said.

Former Biden staffer Chris Strider tweeted that "Ted Cruz is/was/will always be a joke," and another user called him a "hyperbolic hypocrite."

"It's like 'hypocrisy' punches him square in the face and Ted simply responds with 'thank you sir, may I have some more?'" Myles Davies wrote.

"Can I just say again that Ted Cruz sucks?" tweeted former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh. "He doesn't have the honesty, the decency nor the fair-mindedness to simply say 'It was wrong for Biden to have classified docs at home, and it was wrong for Pence to have classified docs at home' and leave it at that."

Other observers labeled Stefanik's statements during her press conference "soulless" and "shameful."

"These people are unbelievable," replied one user. "How do they not smell what they're shoveling?"

However, not all Republicans were ready to dismiss Pence's handling of classified information.

"It is a serious matter for any government official to mishandle classified documents," tweeted Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. "I plan to ask for the same intelligence review and damage assessment to see if there are any national security concerns."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., wrote in a tweet that he doesn't believe Biden, Trump or Pence had any "sinister motives," but added that "we have a classified information problem which needs to be fixed."

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the top Democrat on the Republican-led House Oversight Committee that is investigating Biden's handling of classified documents, aired out his frustrations with GOP lawmakers in a statement on Tuesday.

According to Raskin, Republicans' "glaring failure to acknowledge that former President Trump refused to cooperate with the government and continually rebuffed calls to turn over thousands of presidential records and hundreds of classified documents" shows that they are "simply not serious about" preserving and protecting presidential records and classified information.

'Acting in bad faith': Trump lawyer in 'judge’s sights' over courtroom stunts and 'frivolous' claims

The judge overseeing New York Attorney General Letitia James' $250 million civil lawsuit against former President Donald Trump said he is prepared to sanction his attorneys if they don't stop their bad-faith delay tactics.

Judge Arthur Engoron refused to dismiss the case against the Trump Organization for business and tax fraud, saying he was unmoved by the arguments repeatedly given by Trump attorneys Alina Habba, Christopher Kise and Clifford Robert.

Habba in particular has "found herself in this judge's sights, after repeatedly trading barbs with him in court in a manner rarely seen in the profession—frequently interrupting him on the bench, accusing him of unfairly siding against the former president, and making snide remarks about his law clerk," The Daily Beast's Jose Pagliery reported.

Trump's own legal team has quietly criticized Habba's behavior, urging her to cut the theatrics and save it for her many appearances on right-wing TV channels, according to the report.

Legal ethics scholars say it's unusual for legal proceedings to be this dramatic. New York University law school professor Stephen Gillers told The Daily Beast that a situation such as this is "quite rare."

"The lawyers have to worry not only about monetary sanctions, which may not be as much of a worry, but also court discipline that can lead to a public censure, license suspension or disbarment," Gillers said.

In an email to Trump's attorneys on Wednesday, Engoron said he "is considering imposing sanctions for frivolous litigation" over Trump's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. On Friday, he issued an order rejecting their request to dismiss the case, noting that a "sophisticated defense counsel should have known better."

Engoron made clear he is growing tired of the lawyers' delay tactics, writing in the email that "reading these arguments was, to quote the baseball sage Lawrence Peter ('Yogi') Berra, 'Deja vu all over again.'"

New York Law School professor Rebecca Roiphe told The Daily Beast that Trump's lawyers' repeated claims are a "signal to the court that they are acting in bad faith."

"Courts do sanction lawyers when they believe the lawyers are abusing the courts in this way," the legal ethics expert said.

While Engoron's email was a strong warning of what is to come, he did not explicitly name the lawyers or their possible punishment.

James celebrated the news in a statement on Friday, pointing out how Trump's delay tactics are nearing their end.

"Once again, Donald Trump's attempts to evade the law have been rejected," James said. "We sued Mr. Trump because we found that he engaged in years of extensive financial fraud to enrich himself and cheat the system."

'Cash grab': Knives out in TrumpWorld as his closest allies rage over his 'worthless' NFT stunt

Former President Donald Trump's "major announcement" that ended up being $99 non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has frustrated even his closest supporters, making him the target of ridicule online.

The cash grab had many of his opponents and supporters rolling their eyes, with some criticizing Trump for not focusing on his 2024 reelection campaign, and calling on him to fire the person who thought of the NFT idea.

"I can't watch it again, make it stop," conservative host Steve Bannon said of the video of Trump promoting the NFTs on his podcast. "Anybody on the comms team and anybody at Mar-a-Lago — and I love the folks down there — but we're at war. They oughta be fired today."

Trump supporter John Cardillo took to Twitter to complain about the former president's "weird" announcement. "I supported Trump for years but this is ridiculous," he wrote on Thursday. "Pushing a worthless NFT for $99 a week before Christmas on the heels of the #FTX collapse is beyond wrong. Who advised him to do this?" Cardillo called the announcement "ridiculously tacky" on Twitter, adding that Trump "can't help himself in making these unforced errors."

Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn said on the conservative video hosting platform Rumble that he would fire whoever advised Trump "immediately."

"I can't believe I'm going to jail for an NFT salesman," tweeted far-right media personality Baked Alaska, who pleaded guilty to unlawfully protesting on Jan. 6.

Trump announced the cards on Truth Social, writing "AMERICA NEEDS A SUPERHERO." The sold-out NFTs featured images of Trump in a variety of muscular costumes posing in front of various backgrounds with MAGA iconography. Some cards feature the former president ripping off his shirt, or surrounded by raining gold bricks that read TRUMP.

Former Trump advisers Sebastian Gorka and Steve Cortes joined Bannon on his "War Room" podcast and agreed that the president should have stayed far away from this stunt.

"The president should not be involved with this," said Gorka. "Whoever wrote that pitch should be fired and should never be involved" in Trump's 2024 reelection campaign.

Far-right talk show host Ben Shapiro sarcastically mocked Trump's move, tweeting "Thank God, the digital trading cards are here. It was indeed a MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT."

Some also took the NFTs as a sign of Trump's political decline, including conservative streamer Tim Pool who tweeted that the former president is "basically retired."

"Demand improvement. Put the pom poms down," tweeted talk show host Jesse Kelly. "We need a better Trump."

Even QAnon supporters had enough of Trump's antics, calling his announcement a "foolish NFT cash grab," according to a report from Vice. "QAnon John," a conspiracy theory influencer, called the NFTs "tone deaf to a VAST MAJORITY of Trump's base."

Despite the widespread criticism and mockery, Trump's die-hard fans still rushed to get their trading cards. The 45,000 NFTs that were initially available are now sold out, with some being traded for more than $8,000.

Devil in details: Democrats probing Jared Kushner's 'financial conflict of interest' in 666 5th Avenue

Democrats on two congressional committees have begun an intensive effort to find out whether Jared Kushner's policy actions in the Persian Gulf while working as a senior White House advisor were influenced by the bailout of a property that his family business owned.

Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and House Oversight Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., cited previously undisclosed emails related to Kushner in letters to the Departments of State and Defense on Monday requesting other materials that they believe could reveal whether "Kushner's financial conflict of interest may have led him to improperly influence U.S. tax, trade and national security policies for his own financial gain."

The letters, obtained by The Washington Post, seek information about the actions of Kushner and his father, Charles Kushner, to bail out a 41-story office building at 666 Fifth Avenue in 2018. As a result of a deal with Canadian company Brookfield Asset Management, which invested $1.2 billion for a 99-year lease, the Kushner family company was able to avoid defaulting on a loan that was due the next year.

The deal has been questioned by Democrats for years due to the involvement of the Qatar Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund that had a stake in one of Brookfield's investment arms.

Brookfield stated in 2018 that during the negotiations with the Kushner family company, "no Qatar-linked entity has any involvement in or even knowledge of this potential transaction," but Democrats have long been suspicious about whether Qatari money was used in the bailout.

Wyden and Maloney are now broadening their search, seeking documents related to their concerns that the deal could have impacted Kushner's U.S. policy in the Middle East. Neither Kushner — who is married to former president Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump — nor Charles Kushner, who currently serves as chairman of the Kushner real estate company, responded to the Times' requests for comment.

The Fifth Avenue property — known as 666 Fifth Ave. at the time and now known as 660 Fifth Ave. — has continued to haunt Kushner and his career.

After his father was convicted of federal tax evasion in 2005 and went to prison, Kushner set his eyes on rebuilding the family's real estate business. After selling many of the company's New Jersey apartments, Kushner was able to gather $1.8 billion for the Fifth Avenue property — the most expensive purchase of an office building in the United States at the time.

Kushner called it a "great acquisition," but after the 2008 real estate crash, the value of the property decreased significantly and threatened the family business. "There was no way I was going to let the investment fail," Kushner wrote of the property in his recent memoir. "I had very little leverage, so I was willing to talk to anybody," he admitted.

While working on the Trump campaign in 2016, Kushner was also trying to find an investor to buy the property. A new email obtained by the committees found that Kushner spoke with top Brookfield officials regarding the property on April 15, 2016.

In an email with the subject line "re 666," sent five days after the meeting, Brookfield's then-chairman, Ric Clark, wrote: "Jared — thanks for coming down last Friday. We are excited about your project."

Clark ended the email congratulating Kushner on Trump's victory in the New York Republican primary the day before, which helped secure his nomination.

Months later, in December 2016, Kushner was working on Trump's transition team while simultaneously meeting with a Chinese insurance firm to discuss their potential investment in the property, according to reporting from The New York Times. Kushner also met with a Russian banker at the time. While Kushner told Congress that they never approached the subject of the family business, the bank said they discussed "promising business lines and sectors."

Just as Kushner began his role in the White House, he cut ties with the family company and divested himself of his interest in the Fifth Avenue property. However, he kept real estate assets valued between $132 million and $407 million, reporting from The Post revealed.

In April 2017, Charles Kushner held a meeting with Qatar's finance minister to discuss the property while his son was working on Middle East policy in the Trump Administration. He later told The Post that even if the Qataris had offered him the money on the spot, he would have declined due to any appearance of a conflict of interest.

During his time at the White House, Jared Kushner had a significant influence in changing policy affecting Qatar. He persuaded his father-in-law to help foster ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia during the former president's trip to the nation in May 2017. Just one month later, Saudi Arabia announced that they would break their diplomatic relationship with Qatar, alleging that the country was financing terrorism, and joined several Arab nations in imposing blockades against them.

In his memoir, Kushner said that despite accusations from people in the administration that he influenced Saudi Arabia's decision, he was not responsible for the severing of ties, as he "tried to convince them to delay the decision." He also claimed to help lift the blockade against Qatar. Brookfield was not mentioned in his memoir.

While Charles Kushner told The Post in January 2018 that he purposefully avoided doing business with sovereign investment funds to avoid a conflict of interest with his son's job, emails show that he spoke with Clark, the Brookfield chairman, about investing in the Fifth Avenue property a month later. Charles Kushner's associate then emailed Clark a deal proposal summary.

Qatar's leader visited the White House two months after the emails, and the Trump Administration officially called for the end to the blockade. The committees claimed in their letter that the Trump Administration's support for the blockade "evaporated shortly after Charles Kushner's discussion with Brookfield," but did not cite evidence linking the two events.

Toward the end of the Trump Administration, Charles Kushner received a pardon from Trump for his tax-related conviction and Jared Kushner traveled to the Persian Gulf to finalize a deal ending the blockade of Qatar.

One day after the end of Trump's presidency, Kushner created a private equity firm, receiving a $2 billion investment from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Crown Prince was found by the CIA to have ordered the killing of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

In the past few days, Kushner traveled to Qatar, which is hosting the FIFA World Cup, and has been photographed with leaders of the nation. At the same time, Democrats are seeking more information into the bailout of the Fifth Avenue property from Brookfield.

In December 2020, Wyden wrote to Brookfield saying that despite their assurances that no Qatari money was involved in the business deal, "it appears that is exactly what happened," and requested further documentation regarding the matter.

On Oct. 13, 2022, Wyden sent a follow up letter to Brookfield, claiming the company was "stonewalling on whether it intentionally misled the public" about the use of Qatari funds, as the company's previous statements "turned out to be false."

Brookfield issued a statement to The Post regarding Wyden's allegations but did not address whether Qatar was involved in the transaction: "We have been fully transparent and responded to all requests. As we have said all along, the decision to acquire this building was based purely on its own merits — it was an iconic, underperforming building in a prime location in need of significant redevelopment. The building has now been transformed, and we believe it will exceed our expectations in delivering value for our clients."

The Qatar Investment Authority said in an email to The Post that it would not comment on the matter.

Qatari officials have maintained that they had no knowledge of Brookfield's investment until it was announced in the media. Reuters reported in 2019 that due to the controversy, the Qatar Investment Authority triggered a "strategy revamp" that avoids putting money in investment funds they do not control.

The committees this week have taken on a more aggressive approach to their mission, requesting all relevant information and correspondence on the Kushner family company, Brookfield, the Qatari fund, the blockade and other matters. The committee added that they are seeking any correspondence that refers to "Kushner seeking to influence, interfere with, or supersede the normal operations and responsibilities" of the State and Defense Departments.

Manhattan DA taps ex-DOJ official who went after Trump to lead renewed investigation

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has hired a former senior Justice Department official to lead the criminal investigation into former president Donald Trump and his family company.

Matthew Colangelo will likely lead the district attorney's criminal investigation into Trump, according to reporting from The New York Times. Colangelo previously worked in the Obama administration as a senior Labor Department official and also led the New York attorney general's civil inquiry into Trump before joining the Justice Department as third in command. His former work may guide his work in the criminal investigation that he is slated to join.

Prosecutors in New York have been focusing on whether Trump illegally inflated the value of his assets and in recent months, have been looking into whether he paid off a porn star who alleged she had an affair with the former president.

Colangelo is expected to join the district attorney's office as senior counsel in order to help with its "most sensitive and high-profile white-collar investigations." He will also focus on his top priorities which include housing and tenant protection and labor and worker protection.

"Matthew Colangelo brings a wealth of economic justice experience combined with complex white-collar investigations, and he has the sound judgment and integrity needed to pursue justice against powerful people and institutions when they abuse their power," Bragg said in a statement confirming the hiring of Colangelo.

Attorney General Merrick Garland added in a statement that since his first day in office, he has relied on Colangelo's "wise counsel and excellent judgment."

Colangelo and Bragg previously worked together in the New York attorney general's office where Colangelo led several lawsuits against the Trump administration. He also oversaw the investigation into the Trump Foundation that led to the dissolution of the former president's charity, leading the civil inquiry office to look further into his financial practices, ultimately resulting in the September lawsuit from Attorney General Letitia James.

At the Department of Justice, Colangelo helped to oversee the Civil, Civil Rights, Antitrust and Tax divisions, among others. He left the position after the appointment of the permanent associate attorney general, Vanita Gupta, but has continued to work as her deputy, supervising lawyers in those departments.

In a statement, Colangelo said he was "honored to reunite with District Attorney Bragg," and by working on financial crimes, he is prepared to make it clear that "the same rules apply to everyone — no matter how powerful."

"Expanded enforcement of worker-protection and tenant-protection laws will make our communities safer for all New Yorkers and level the playing field for responsible employers and landlords," he said in the statement.

Colangelo has never been a line prosecutor or criminal defense lawyer and has spent little time working on white-collar criminal prosecutions. However, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez said that Colangelo is a fast learner.

"Matthew is the perfect person for a job of this sensitivity, because he's unflappable, he's legally brilliant, he has impeccable judgment and he's humble enough to involve people who have been around the block," Perez said in an interview with the Times.

Colangelo's appointment is likely to spark outrage from Trump, who has frequently referred to the criminal and civil investigations against him as a political "witch hunt.

'They are going to slam this judge': Experts say appeals court will shut down Trump judge’s 'circus'

Legal experts predicted that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will soon shut down the special master process in the Mar-a-Lago probe that was ordered by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon.

The special master process ordered by Cannon, a Trump appointee, effectively allows former President Donald Trump to challenge the search warrant at his office and residence before he is indicted — an extremely rare opportunity for a criminal defendant.

The oral argument by prosecutors, who are now under the direction of the newly appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith, shows that the 11th Circuit may be close to reversing Cannon's process. The three judges on the panel — two of whom are Trump appointees — shared their skepticism that Cannon had jurisdiction to take action before an indictment, and that even if she did, she had no factual predicate to appoint a special master.

Judge Britt Grant, who was appointed by Trump, asked the former president's legal team whether they tried to appeal Cannon's finding that the Justice Department did not demonstrate a "callous disregard" for Trump's rights. Trump's attorney, James Trusty, said that they did not appeal the finding and Grant responded that the finding required a reversal of Cannon's order.

Judge Andrew Basher also confronted Trump's attorneys with two questions that stumped them: whether there was any precedent to prevent the DOJ from using the seized materials in its investigation before any indictments and whether there is any reason that Trump should be treated differently in the case than other defendants other than his status as the former president.

Trump's attorneys were unable to give a satisfactory answer to the judges. After hearing the oral argument Trusty tried to keep the special master appointment by disparaging Cannon's injunction against the DOJ. He argued that the DOJ was not harmed by the injunction because of an order issued by the 11th Circuit that allowed the department to use the 100 documents that were originally labeled "classified" in the investigation.

"Then, in language that I have never heard an attorney use in the more than 25 years I have worked as an attorney in criminal law, Mr. Trusty said that the injunction was 'overblown' and that what really mattered was preserving the Special Master," wrote former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner for The Daily Beast.

"The 11th Circuit judges and the DOJ attorneys jumped on that statement, noting that it was unprecedented for the DOJ to be barred by the judiciary from using documents seized by search warrant during their investigation," said Epner.

Epner added in his analysis that he rarely makes predictions on court rulings, but "this is the exception."

"I would be shocked if the 11th Circuit does not overturn Judge Cannon's order," Epner wrote, "I also think it will happen quickly. The judges have asked for the upcoming schedule in front of the Special Master."

Special Master Raymond Dearie has scheduled the next hearing for Dec. 1, when he is expected to hear arguments about the remaining 900 documents in the investigation. On Dec. 16, Dearie would be required to give his report and recommendations to Cannon, and the parties will then have the ability to object to Cannon or the 11th Circuit. This process would likely last months.

"I cannot imagine the 11th Circuit allowing this circus to continue until Dec. 1, and that's part of why I expect that the 11th Circuit will promptly overrule Judge Cannon, ending the entire process," Epner predicted.

Former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne on Saturday also said that she expects the 11th Circuit to come down on Cannon for her protection of Trump. Speaking with MSNBC's Ali Velshi, Alksne said that Cannon can expect to be reprimanded soon.

"It sounds like after reading the transcript of the appellate hearing in the 11th Circuit that they are going to get rid of the special master and they are going to slam this federal judge [Cannon] who put a wrinkle in the process that was totally unnecessary," she said.

"And that will speed up the process and allow the government to really dive into those documents because, remember, it is not only — when you look at this case to a prosecutor — it is not just does he have the documents, where they willfully maintained and did he not return them when he was asked to. You also have to have sort of a global outlook on it like, why did he do it?" she elaborated.

"In order to do the prosecution, you kind of want to know that," she added. "Is it an ego thing, as somebody leaked from the Justice Department or did those documents make it into the stream of his financial considerations? Is that why he ended up with these deals in the Middle East? Has Jared Kushner seen the documents? Who has touched them, who has seen them, who knows about them, who has used them?"

"The sooner we get rid of the special master process, or we complete it, the sooner we can get to that point and we can move forward with the prosecution," Alksne stated.

If the 11th Circuit does rule against the former president, there will likely be an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court which will be denied almost immediately, according to Epner. The former U.S. attorney predicted that Smith and his team will then quickly move in to indict Trump on multiple counts. Despite Trump's attempts to keep the case in the Southern District of Florida, the indictment will likely be issued from the District Court for the District of Columbia due to the removal of national security documents from the White House.

Trump's worst fears will be realized if the trial happens in D.C. where he received only 5 percent of the vote in 2020, the lowest total in the entire country, Epner wrote.

The indictment may also go beyond the Espionage Act to include a felony charge relating to Trump's demands that the IRS conduct audits of his political enemies. "I would not be surprised if each of those IRS employees cooperated with the DOJ, with all fingers pointing in Trump's direction," Epner said.

"The nice thing about prosecuting tax crimes is that the crimes are very clearly delineated. Few jurors have any sympathy for people who cheat on their taxes or wrongfully sic the IRS on an individual to carry out a personal vendetta," Epner concluded.

Early data shows big shifts in followers among Republicans and Democrats weeks after Twitter deal

Several high-profile Republican representatives gained tens of thousands of new followers on Twitter after billionaire Elon Musk acquired the social media network, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

The report found that Democratic members of Congress have suffered a decline, with lawmakers like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., all losing around 100,000 Twitter followers after three weeks on Musk's Twitter. In comparison, Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene, Ga., and Jim Jordan, Ohio, both gained more than 300,000 followers in the same time span.

Follower fluctuation is affected by several factors, including the mass suspension of bot accounts, but the patterns found in the report suggest liberals are leaving the site in the tens of thousands while conservatives are enthusiastically joining, starkly changing the demographics of the site under Musk's control.

Republicans on Twitter gained an average of 8,000 followers while Democrats lost 4,000, according to The Post's analysis of data from ProPublica's Represent tool which tracks congressional Twitter activity.

The Tesla owner bought Twitter for $44 billion last month with the promise of free speech on the site without a "free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!" However, Twitter users have already started abusing the site's platform, with reports of hate speech rising.

Musk also declared — using an unscientific Twitter poll on Nov. 19 as a popular vote — that he would reinstate several accounts that broke community guidelines in the past, including former President Donald Trump who was banned following the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

"I'm fine with Trump not tweeting," Musk tweeted on Friday night after the former president said he would stay on his own site Truth Social. "The important thing is that Twitter correct a grave mistake in banning his account, despite no violation of the law or terms of service."

Shortly following the informal poll, Greene gained 45,000 followers while Warren and Sanders each lost more than 22,000. Jordan's follower count also increased by 290,000, nearly 10 percent more, in the past month. These trends continued for days according to the report.

Since Musk's acquisition, several advertisers and celebrities have left the site, raising concerns that they will be unable to make money to maintain Twitter's functionality. More than a third of the site's top marketers have halted advertising, according to an analysis from The Post.

While Musk has previously stated that he is a political moderate, he increasingly sided with far-right figures on the site who have claimed they were censored by Twitter in the past, despite producing no proof.

Since Musk's takeover, the quality of conversation on Twitter has "decayed" due to a surge of extremism and misinformation, according to a report from researchers at Tuft University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Social media CEOs rarely endorse political parties, but Musk has swiftly broken this tradition, tweeting on Friday night that he would back Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis if he runs for president in 2024, calling him a "sensible and centrist choice."

Musk also advised his 119 million Twitter followers to support Republicans the night before the midterm elections.

"While it's true that I've been under unfair & misleading attack for some time by leading Democrats, my motivation here is for centrist governance, which matches the interests of most Americans," Musk said after urging his followers to vote red.

Musk made his allegiance to the Republican Party clear long before his acquisition. While onstage at a tech conference in September 2021, Musk said Biden's White House was "not the friendliest administration" after Tesla was not invited to a meeting on electric car production. He later claimed that the Biden administration was "controlled by the unions," in apparent stark contrast to his own company, which has resisted unionization efforts.

In May, he also tweeted that while he previously voted for Democrats because "they were (mostly) the kindness party," they have since become "the party of division & hate, so I can no longer support them and will vote Republican."

During a company-wide meeting earlier this month, Musk claimed that he is undergoing a "moderate-wing takeover of Twitter," and proposed a "dual-headquarter" in California and Texas to cater to "people with a wide array of views even if we disagree with those views."

Musk has amplified several far-right accounts, spending his weekends interacting with people like Ian Miles Cheong — a Ron DeSantis supporter who falsely claimed the Buffalo mass shooter was a leftist — and the ultraconservative anonymous account Catturd. He also agreed with far-right fans such as Tom Fitton who tweeted: "[Musk] should prepare for increased attacks and retaliation from Biden administration, leftist politicians, media competitors."

"Sure as night follows day," Musk replied.

In addition to reinstating Trump's account, he has also restored Greene's account on the site. Greene was suspended in January after spreading misinformation on the pandemic, a violation of Twitter's policies.

Other account restorations went to self-described "misogynist" Andrew Tate, "anti-politically correct" speaker Jordan Peterson, and the anti-trans conservative satire account The Babylon Bee.

Furthermore, an analysis of hundreds of Musk's replies since he took control of the platform shows that he has created a "filter bubble" of right-wing opinions, according to French outlet Le Monde.

Musk has also given attention to several openly conspiratorial figures such as Kim Dotcom, who is wanted under an extradition warrant to the United States for his role as CEO of a Megaupload, a host server that spreads conspiracy theories about the pandemic and election. Dinesh D'Souza, an election denier, also got a personalized reply from Musk after claiming Twitter was censoring conservatives.

Trump launches Truth Social war on new special counsel's wife

Former President Donald Trump raged online after finding out that the wife of the special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland is a Democratic donor who was involved in a documentary about former first lady Michelle Obama.

Justice Department career prosecutor Jack Smith was appointed by Garland to oversee investigations into Trump with the apparent goal of shielding the department from accusations of partiality.

Katy Chevigny, Smith's wife, was listed as a producer on "Becoming," the former first lady's 2020 documentary. She also donated $2,000 to President Joe Biden's 2020 campaign, according to FEC records.

Trump took to Truth Social to rant about Chevigny and Smith, attaching screenshots of her Tweets supporting the Democratic Party and accusing the Department of Justice of being biased in their investigation

"This is just a small amount of information from the wife of the hard-line Radical Left Special Counsel (prosecutor), an acolyte of Eric Holder and Barack Hussein Obama," he wrote on Tuesday night.

Eric Trump joined his father on the conservative social media website, attaching a screenshot of Chevigny's producer credit on the Wikipedia page for "Becoming" as proof of a supposed vendetta against the former president.

"The wife of the Special Counsel Biden chose to investigate @realDonaldTrump (his likely opponent in 2024) reportedly produced the Michelle Obama documentary," he wrote. "Yes America, you are reading this correctly."

Conservatives are up in arms over Chevigny's Democratic ties, claiming that Biden is using the Justice Department as a political weapon against Trump, though there are no federal laws that restrict spouses of federal law enforcement agents, prosecutors or other officials from political donations or campaign activity.

"You just can't make this stuff up," tweeted Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., who infamously likened those who stormed the capitol on Jan. 6 to tourists. "America cannot stand with a corrupt, two-tiered justice system."

Former Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich added on Twitter: "No wonder Jack Smith accepted this special assignment…The swamp is hard at work!"

"You would think that if the stated purpose to avoid any type of concern about bias were sincere, then they would at least check to see whether or not when you shake the family tree of the special counsel, any virulent Trump haters, Never Trumpers, Biden supporters fall out," Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said in an interview with Steve Bannon on Tuesday,

Notably, many conservatives did not express the same indignation when Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote to Wisconsin and Arizona lawmakers to overturn the results of the 2020 elections and begged Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows in text messages to not concede.

The former president is currently in the middle of two separate investigations by the Justice Department: one regarding his involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and another into his keeping classified records from the White House in his Mar-a-Lago home after leaving office.

The Trump Organization, and several Trump family members, are also involved in a civil case involving tax fraud launched by New York Attorney General Letitia James. Trump continues to claim that the various charges brought against him in state and federal court are simply a witch-hunt perpetrated by his political enemies.

'That was my understanding, yes': Allen Weisselberg pins tax fraud scheme on Donald Trump

Former Trump Organization financial chief Allen Weisselberg took the stand in Manhattan State Supreme Court on Tuesday in the company's criminal trial on tax fraud charges. He testified that he received $1.76 million in untaxed, off-the-books perks from the Trump Organization, confirming several aspects of the district attorney's case against the former president's company.

Prosecutors allege that the Trump Organization was involved in an illicit compensation scheme that lined the pockets of executives like Weisselberg. After pleading guilty to a 15-count indictment in August, Weisselberg agreed to "testify truthfully" against the Trump firm.

He testified that Trump suggested in 2005 that he move into a luxury Riverside Drive apartment using company funds, and even signed the lease for the property. In addition to paying for Weisselberg's rent, the Trump Organization covered his utility and parking fees, according to the indictment.

"It's your understanding that was authorized by Mr. Trump?" Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger asked about the payment of utilities at the rent-free apartment on Tuesday.

"That was my understanding, yes," Weisselberg responded.

"He said it would help me be able to spend more time at the office rather than sitting on a train for three hours back and forth [from Long Island] … and make my life easier," Weisselberg told the jury.

Trump's companies also paid for Weisselberg's "homes and for an apartment maintained by one of his children," including "new beds, flat-screen televisions, the installation of carpeting, and furniture for Weisselberg's home in Florida," according to prosecutors.

Weisselberg admitted that he knew he owed taxes on the Upper West Side apartment, as well as leases on two Mercedes-Benz and his grandchildren's private school tuition. He confirmed that he underreported his income and thus knew his tax forms were false.

When asked if Trump paid for the private schools personally, Weisselberg said "correct" and added that he knew that these perks should have been taxed, but both he and the Trump Payroll Corporation did not treat them as reported income on his W-2s.

"Did you know at the time you owed taxes on those amounts, sir?" Hoffinger asked.

"Yes," Weisselberg replied.

Hoffinger then asked whether Jeffrey McConney, senior vice president and controller for Trump Corporation, helped Weisselberg in the tax fraud scheme.

"In my mind, I absolutely felt that [McConney] knew it should have been reported," Weisselberg said. "I asked Jeffrey McConney to back those amounts out of my bonus and salary."

Weisselberg also told prosecutors that Trump entities would often provide cash to him around Christmas so he could give out "personal holiday gratuities."

He said he knowingly withheld information about the perks from accountants because he knew they were inappropriate. "They may not have wanted to sign my tax return and prepare my taxes," he said in court.

Weisselberg attested that the tax fraud helped both him and the company, as the Trump Organization would have had to give him a raise that was double the amount that they spent on his personal expenses in order to provide the same benefit if taxes were withheld.

Trump authorized Weisselberg's compensation and that of other senior executives, and had an "open door policy" within the company according to Weisselberg's testimony.

"Who authorized executive compensation?" Hoffinger asked Weisselberg.

"Donald Trump," he responded.

"Did you authorize compensation for Matthew Calamari?" she asked.

"No," he responded.

"Jason Greenblatt?" Hoffinger asked, referring to the Trump Organization's general counsel.

"No," he repeated.

As per the terms of his plea deal, after the trial ends, Weisselberg is expected to be sentenced to five months in Rikers Island prison, with an additional five years probation. However, if he violates the agreement, he could face up to 15 years, according to Judge Juan Merchan. He is also expected to return $2 million in unpaid taxes.

However, Weisselberg revealed that even after stepping down as CEO, pleading guilty, and testifying against the company, he is still receiving his full six-figure salary, and continues to show up to work in Midtown Manhattan. He still personally advises Eric Trump on business dealings and oversees company cash management.

Weisselberg even celebrated his birthday at Trump Tower after finalizing his plea deal. "It was a small cake. It was a cake. That was the party," he said of his birthday celebration.

Weisselberg is now on a paid leave of absence and told the jury that he will "hopefully" receive his $500,000 bonus in January in addition to his $640,000 yearly salary.

As for the Trump Organization, if convicted, they could be fined $1.6 million. Trump is not on trial, but prosecutors have closely connected him to the alleged illegal activity. In the opening statements on Oct. 31, prosecutors said that "when most of the criminal conduct occurred," between 2005 to 2017, the companies were "owned by Donald Trump."

Even after Trump became president, the enterprises "were still effectively owned by Donald Trump through a trust called the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust," according to Hoffinger.

Trump's companies have pleaded not guilty, with his team dismissing the entire case as a political witch hunt. During her opening statement, Susan Necheles, who represents the Trump Corporation, said that Weisselberg was the guilty party when it came to the company's tax fraud, but that he was "paraded in front of cameras in handcuffs" and will endure "public humiliation."

"This was a man who had a beautiful life, he was a chief financial officer of a prestigious company, at his peak he made over $1 million a year and lived very well," Necheles said. "Allen Weisselberg had everything a man could want. But once he was arrested, he realized he was in danger of losing all of that and being sentenced to jail for years."

Necheles told the jury that the tax shenanigans "started with Allen Weisselberg and it ended with Allen Weisselberg."

"It was Allen Weisselberg who wanted to clean things up. Allen Weisselberg knew that he had been cheating on his personal taxes and all of a sudden the Trump Organization was going to get a lot of scrutiny," she claimed. "Donald Trump did not know that Allen Weisselberg was cheating on Allen Weisselberg's personal tax return[s]."

However, the prosecution dismissed this argument when they called Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney to the stand. Despite McConney's attempt to play dumb about his role in the tax scheme, assistant district attorney Joshua Steinglass was determined to get a straight answer out of him.

"You have a college degree in accounting, correct?" Steinglass asked. "You worked at an accounting firm for eight or nine years before you joined the Trump Organization, correct? You were in charge of payroll at a multi-billion dollar corporation for 30 years… you're a paid tax preparer. That requires at least some familiarity with the tax code, correct?"

McConney continued to insist that he wasn't aware the company needed to report untaxed corporate benefits.

Tensions have been rising since Monday, when McConney testified that he didn't know creating a fake job for Weisselberg's wife so that she could gain taxpayer benefits like Social Security was illegal.

"I knew it wasn't correct," McConney said. "Wasn't sure it was illegal."

Jurors also heard from Trump Organization accounts payable supervisor Deborah Tarasoff, who admitted that Weisselberg instructed her to go back and deleted evidence of a crime.

When asked why a copy of the company's ledger the DA's office obtained via a subpoena was missing the instruction "per Allen" next to a listed, untaxed company perk, Tarasoff responded: "somebody went in and deleted the name." Asked who, Tarasoff said "me." She also admitted that on Sept. 26, 2016, she and McConney deleted a dozen of those lines from the company's ledgers.

Inside the Freedom Caucus’ 2-step scheme to sideline McCarthy’s speaker bid unless he agrees to their demands

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is preparing a bid for House speaker but conservatives on the House Freedom Caucus are plotting to block him from the position if he doesn't give into their legislative demands.

After the "red wave" failed to materialize in this year's midterm elections, Republicans have started to grapple with the idea that they will have a much smaller majority in the House next year than they anticipated. McCarthy's nomination is relatively straightforward, as he only needs a majority of House Republicans to support him, but many members of the pro-Trump Freedom Caucus are preparing a two-step plan to keep him from the speakership, according to reporting from Politico.

Conservatives are pushing to postpone Tuesday's scheduled leadership elections until the GOP is confirmed to control the House. If McCarthy doesn't comply, their plan is to nominate Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., as an internal candidate for speaker to prove that McCarthy does not have the 218 GOP votes needed for the full-chamber vote on Jan. 3 2023, an anonymous Republican source with knowledge of the plan told Politico.

If they are able to postpone the Tuesday election, conservatives would discuss an alternative candidate to put forward in consensus, said the anonymous Republican, who also added that Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is the most likely choice for the Freedom Caucus. Biggs is acting as a symbolic alternative for step one, according to CNN.

"Kevin McCarthy has done nothing in two years to earn my vote," said Rep. Bob Good, R-Va.

Russ Vought — a former budget director for the Trump White House — made the end goal of their plans clear.

"This is about building to January," he told far-right host Steve Bannon in a Friday interview.

"And we have an opportunity to have a paradigm-shattering victory [on] the speakership, to either be able to get Jim Jordan in as speaker — I don't care if he's not running right now — or to have a coalitional-style government where every decision goes through HFC," Vought added.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who is not a member of the Freedom Caucus, also publicly backed Jordan as the best speaker candidate, despite Jordan's frequent statements of support for McCarthy. Speaking on Gaetz's podcast, Vought touted the need for a "wartime speaker" in the House.

The Freedom Caucus is also publicly pressuring McCarthy to concede to their legislative demands if he wants the speakership. Some of their demands include restoring the ability for lawmakers to depose the speaker, adding more Caucus members to the influential Steering Committee and ensuring a floor vote on any amendment if 10% of the GOP conference cosponsors it, among others.

According to Politico, these demands act as a strategy to allow members to oppose McCarthy even if all their conditions are met — they would also drastically reduce McCarthy's control over the legislative process if elected.

However, allies of McCarthy are not convinced that the Freedom Caucus will be successful, and are frustrated by their preemptive plans. They are also warning that McCarthy will not part quietly with the speakership role like he did in 2015; his supporters are encouraging him to push back against the caucus.

"These palace intrigue stories are premature and they are still counting votes," said Jordan spokesperson Russell Dye when asked about the anti-McCarthy plan according to Politico. "What I can tell you for sure is that Mr. Jordan looks forward to chairing the Judiciary Committee next Congress."

Other representatives that are rumored to be the Freedom Caucus' pick for speaker are House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, GOP Vice Chair Mike Johnson, and Good; however, few see them as legitimate opponents especially since Scalise and Johnson have already officially backed McCarthy's campaign.

"There's a point of leverage in these leadership votes," said House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry, R-Pa. "We want to have a conversation, devoid of the politics about who is leading, on how the House should operate, how legislation should pass."

"There's a fairly easy solution here," a source close to the Freedom Caucus told Fox News. "McCarthy can support popular reforms to decentralize the speaker's power and empower individual members, or he can roll the dice that someone else won't make that compromise and get the speaker's gavel."

House leadership aides also informed Fox News that McCarthy is expected to cut a deal with the Freedom Caucus to accept at least a few of their demands.

As it stands, the Republican majority is projected to be around 218 seats — the minimum for control of the House — to 230 seats if the GOP sweeps all remaining races, including some that Democrats are favored to win. However, these numbers still fall short of the 60 seats that McCarthy predicted from the failed red wave.

North Carolina Republican wants 'rape panels' to decide whether victims can get abortions

A North Carolina Republican congressional candidate floated a proposal to create a community review process that would determine whether survivors of rape and incest can get abortions.

Bo Hines, the GOP candidate for North Carolina's 13th Congressional District, wants to outlaw all abortions unless the mother's life is at risk.

"He wants victims of rape and incest to be allowed to get an abortion on a case-by-case basis through a community-level review process outside the jurisdiction of the federal government," local news outlet WRAL reported.

The proposal was widely panned by critics.

Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall described the proposed review boards as "rape panels."

"Something from a nightmare," wrote civil rights lawyer Sherrilyn Ifill.

"The anti-choice agenda is about removing women's control over their own lives, and making them subject to the rule of others. They differ on who they think those others should be—fathers, husbands, random vigilantes, local jerks—but they agree that women will not rule themselves," wrote Moira Donegan, a gender and politics columnist for The Guardian.

Hines' comments are a backtrack on his previous remarks to the Raleigh News & Observer, in which he said he would support blanket prohibitions on abortion.

His changing stance on reproductive rights is an example of how Hines is trying to appeal to North Carolina's far-right conservatives, as well as more centrist voters who could be the deciding factor in the midterm election.

His more moderate statements on abortion and immigration also come after greater criticism from outside groups and his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Wiley Nickel.

After winning the May 17th primary, Hines removed the "life and family" section from his website, which previously included links to a fundraising page that claimed "life begins at conception" and the "rights of the unborn" must be protected, the 19th News reported.

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