Tom Boggioni

Trump kids’ refusal to pay their bills is coming back to haunt them in DC investigation: report

According to a report from the Daily Beast, the Trump Organization -- and by extension Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump -- may have created another legal headache for themselves due to their history of not paying their bills.

As reported by the Beast's Jose Pagliery, Washington D.C, District Attorney Karl Racine is incorporating a dispute between the family's business and a D.C. hotel over an unpaid $49,358 bill into his investigation over the misuse of inauguration funds dating back to 2017.

At the center of the dispute was the Trump Org's refusal to pay for the block of rooms they booked at the Loews Madison Hotel after 13 people didn't show up -- which then led to the bill being sent to a collection agency.

According to Pagliery, that financial dispute put Trump and family back in the "crosshairs in an ongoing investigation into how the Trump kids used the Presidential Inauguration Committee to throw lavish parties of their own."

Lending credence to the charges is Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who help coordinate the inaugural festivities and now is working with investigators.

According to Winston Wolkoff, "It was their friends. It should never have been sent to the PIC. That’s misuse of funding. The Trump Organization being involved in any way and getting the PIC to pay any sort of balance anywhere on their behalf? It just doesn’t seem legitimate."

While the bill was eventually "paid by the Presidential Inaugural Committee at the direction of Rick Gates," the investigation has turned up a series of communications that show that Don Jr's aides was in the loop over the fight over the money.

"In the typical fashion of an aggressive collections agency, Campbell Hightower & Adams in Arizona started bombarding the company with phone calls and emails in June 2017, picking up where the Loews Madison Hotel had left off," the report states. "A collector, identified only as 'Sherie,' jotted down notes when she repeatedly communicated with Don Jr.’s executive assistant, Kara Hanley," which led Hanley to deny the company had anything to do with the bill.

That, in turn, led to another Don Jr. aide to enter the conversation, with the report noting, "A few weeks later, Sherie notified the Trump Organization that she had just found out that yet another Don Jr. executive assistant, Lindsey Santoro, had initially requested the rooms and added Beach as the main contact for the deal. That information seemed to cement even further that the company was indeed involved."

According to the report, that raised red flags.

"The District of Columbia’s AG hopes this evidence proves that the Trump Organization should remain part of the lawsuit, which seeks to seize money it deems was misused and divert it instead to another nonprofit. Otherwise, the civil investigation would continue only against the PIC (which is no longer active) and the Trump International Hotel Washington (which is being sold anyway)," the Beast reports, adding, "When approached by The Daily Beast, the AG’s office pointed to the arguments it made in court. The Trump Organization’s lawyer didn’t respond to a request for comment. The collection agency didn’t return calls on Friday.

Notably, none of these documents described yet another layer of Trump Organization involvement: how company chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg puzzlingly assumed the responsibility of auditing the nonprofit PIC’s finances. Last summer, D.C. investigators wanted to interview him under oath, but he was then indicted for criminal tax fraud in New York City."

You can read more here.

'Smoking guns all around': Conservative connects dots showing Trump 'election fraud on a massive scale'

In his weekend wrap-up, conservative Bulwark founder Charlie Sykes makes the case that there is more than enough proof that Donald Trump and his inner circle made a provable attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election through fraud.

Jumping right into it, Sykes pointed to a CNN report that stated, "...then-President Donald Trump's allies sent fake certificates to the National Archives declaring that Trump won seven states that he actually lost," which have also been labeled forgeries.

According to the political analyst, "In other words, what we have here is attempted election fraud on a massive scale," adding, "Some perspective: If an average voter lied on their registration forms or forged an absentee ballot, they would face criminal charges and a world of legal hurt. But this case is far worse because the forged electoral certificates were coordinated, and part of a larger conspiracy to overturn the presidential election."

Writing, "...the smoking guns are littered all around us," Sykes turned to Bulwark colleague Bill Kristol who tweeted on Saturday, "The forged electoral certificates show coordination across seven states. Those fake certificates were key to the plan of the Eastman memo and to the Jeffrey Clark DOJ draft letter to Georgia. The conspiracy involved fraud and force. At the head of the conspiracy: Donald Trump."

That, in turn, elicited a response from conservative lawyer George Conway who chipped in, "Makes you wonder how there could 𝙣𝙤𝙩 have been a conspiracy or attempt by Trump or Eastman and others to 'corruptly ... obstruct[], influence[], or impede[]' the electoral-vote count proceedings within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2)."

Adding, "The forgeries were not a side-show — they were an integral part of Trump’s attempt to overturn the election," Sykes went on to point to a "a group of prominent 'movement' conservatives signed an open letter call for swing states to 'appoint clean slates of electors to the Electoral College to support President Trump,'" back on December 10th, but also comments made by former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany who "talked about an 'alternate slate of electors' that Congress would vote on, when it met on January 6."

Bolstering his case, the conservative political analyst recalled, "Around the same time, Trumpists in the Department of Justice were drafting letters to states alleging election fraud, and John Eastman was writing a detailed memo laying out a scheme for overturning the election on January 6," before concluding, "Let’s go back to George Conway’s question: How does this not constitute a criminal offense? And why on earth would the DOJ not launch an investigation into the fake/forged election certificates?"

You can read his long examination here.

Ted Cruz’s former speechwriter issues a dire warning about his 'frightening' radicalization

According to a former speechwriter for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), her former boss's "abject humiliation" at the hands of Fox News personality Tucker Carlson last week over comments the senator made about January 6th rioters should be cause for concern for anyone watching the Republican Party to see where it's going.

While reviews of Cruz's groveling before Carlson became fodder for critics from both sides of the aisle, Amanda Carpenter took a more dour look. Writing in the The Bulwark on Monday, she said it demonstrated how far the GOP has fallen since Donald Trump was elected.

Beginning, "Every last member of the punditocracy has taken a turn dunking on the Texas senator whom everyone loves to hate. Hope they enjoyed it. Because once you really understand what Cruz is apologizing for, it’s not all that funny," the conservative commentator added, "The worst part of that interview wasn’t Cruz’s abject humiliation, but his radicalization. And yes, that’s saying something considering that Cruz was one of the leaders of the charge to object to the Electoral College count on January 6, 2021."

Carpenter wrote that Cruz could have easily defended his comments but instead waved the white flag and let Carlson degrade him.

"One has to ask why the Harvard- and Yale-educated Supreme Court lawyer didn’t stand his ground and defend himself. Rather, Cruz shifted into bargaining mode," she wrote before elaborating, "I understand the urge to dunk on Cruz, what happened on Carlson’s show is more than just an example of Cruz’s weaselly pleading being worthy of a laugh. It’s ultimately not funny at all."

According to Carpenter, the Cruz on display on Fox News last week is not the man she once worked for.

"Cruz once strove to convey that he cared about justice and truth. He used to believe that violence was violence, and that the rule of law (and the rules of language) should be equally applied," she recalled. "That’s no longer the case. What he did on Jan. 6th himself last year and what he said on Carlson’s show last week goes far beyond pandering."

"Cruz’s humiliation is hardly the point. His radicalization is far more frightening," she confessed.

You can read her whole piece here.

Legal expert makes case for Congress to bar Trump from running again if he’s not indicted

In a column for Politico Magazine, a University of Baltimore law professor urged Congress to step in and make sure that Donald Trump can’t run for office again on the off-chance he is not indicted on criminal charges that could derail a 2024 presidential run.

According to legal expert Kimberly Wehle, Congress has the ability in place to bar Trump from a third presidential run and should seriously consider it in light of his attempts to overturn the 2020 election where he lost decisively to now-President Joe Biden.

As Wehle wrote, the House Jan 6th committee’s Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) has indicated “that the committee has an overarching goal of ensuring Trump never occupies the Oval Office again — one that might be achieved by different means.”

In a conversation with CBS’s Margaret Brennan last weekend, Cheney referred to “legislative activity going forward,” which Whele suggests may mean that lawmakers have a back-up plan for Trump.

“Cheney’s reference to ‘legislative activity’ is telling. While many have expressed frustration that Attorney General Merrick Garland has not yet charged anyone who might have fomented the riot from inside the government, Cheney’s remarks remind us that Congress has a powerful tool at its disposal to hold former officials such as Trump accountable. And it might be more effective than any potential criminal prosecution. It’s legislation,” she wrote. “What Cheney and her congressional colleagues might have in mind is the 14th amendment, which was ratified in 1868 after the Civil War to prevent former Confederates from holding state or federal office and thus disrupting the fragile Reconstruction effort.”

Noting that Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) has also hinted at a legislative approach, calling its use “a live proposition,” the attorney suggested “it’s worth revisiting this legislative avenue, and whether the damning revelations already unearthed by the committee’s investigation have sufficiently changed the political landscape within Congress that passing such a law might now be possible — maybe even preferable.”

Quoting Section 3 of the amendment that states, “No person shall … hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same,” and then Section 5 that adds, “The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article,”

Wehle then explained, “This is important.”

“It gives Congress express constitutional authority to pass legislation implementing a ban on insurrectionists holding office, rather than requiring Congress to fall back on other powers — such as its power over interstate commerce — that are more general and thus less focused on the task at hand,” she elaborated. “For example, Congress’ power to gather information as part of its legislative efforts is not express but implied in the Constitution, thus opening up for debate the Jan. 6 Committee’s subpoena power. But Section 5 is crystal clear: Congress can pass legislation to keep anyone who engaged in insurrection or rebellion out of public office.”

The law professor then provided a roadmap that Congress can follow.

In a column for Politico Magazine, a University of Baltimore law professor urged Congress to step in and make sure that Donald Trump can’t run for office again on the off-chance he is not indicted on criminal charges that could derail a 2024 presidential run.

According to legal expert Kimberly Wehle, Congress has the ability in place to bar Trump from a third presidential run and should seriously consider it in light of his attempts to overturn the 2020 election where he lost decisively to now-President Joe Biden.

As Wehle wrote, the House Jan 6th committee’s Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) has indicated “that the committee has an overarching goal of ensuring Trump never occupies the Oval Office again — one that might be achieved by different means.”

In a conversation with CBS’s Margaret Brennan last weekend, Cheney referred to “legislative activity going forward,” which Whele suggests may mean that lawmakers have a back-up plan for Trump.

RELATED: Riot committee ‘aggressively’ shifts focus to criminal conspiracy charges against Trump and GOP lawmakers: report

“Cheney’s reference to ‘legislative activity’ is telling. While many have expressed frustration that Attorney General Merrick Garland has not yet charged anyone who might have fomented the riot from inside the government, Cheney’s remarks remind us that Congress has a powerful tool at its disposal to hold former officials such as Trump accountable. And it might be more effective than any potential criminal prosecution. It’s legislation,” she wrote. “What Cheney and her congressional colleagues might have in mind is the 14th amendment, which was ratified in 1868 after the Civil War to prevent former Confederates from holding state or federal office and thus disrupting the fragile Reconstruction effort.”

Noting that Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) has also hinted at a legislative approach, calling its use “a live proposition,” the attorney suggested “it’s worth revisiting this legislative avenue, and whether the damning revelations already unearthed by the committee’s investigation have sufficiently changed the political landscape within Congress that passing such a law might now be possible — maybe even preferable.”

Quoting Section 3 of the amendment that states, “No person shall … hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same,” and then Section 5 that adds, “The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article,”

Wehle then explained, “This is important.”

“It gives Congress express constitutional authority to pass legislation implementing a ban on insurrectionists holding office, rather than requiring Congress to fall back on other powers — such as its power over interstate commerce — that are more general and thus less focused on the task at hand,” she elaborated. “For example, Congress’ power to gather information as part of its legislative efforts is not express but implied in the Constitution, thus opening up for debate the Jan. 6 Committee’s subpoena power. But Section 5 is crystal clear: Congress can pass legislation to keep anyone who engaged in insurrection or rebellion out of public office.”

The law professor then provided a roadmap that Congress can follow.

“The most conspicuous option would be to pass a law creating a civil cause of action enabling, say, a competing candidate to file suit seeking an injunction against Trump if he chooses to run for office. In that lawsuit, Trump’s role in Jan. 6 presumably would be litigated under criteria that Congress would establish in the legislation,” she wrote before cautioning, “To be sure, the legal nuances and hurdles of potential legislation are impossible to probe in the abstract, and court challenges to any legislation would assuredly follow. Moreover, Congress must be exquisitely careful not to craft legislation that can be used as political ammunition to keep legitimate candidates off the presidential ballot.”

Here’s how Mitch McConnell could take control of the Senate before the midterm elections

In a column for Politico, longtime political analyst Jeff Greenfield explained that a combination of state laws and fate could combine to hand control of the Senate to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) before a single vote is cast in the 2022 midterms.

With election experts predicting control of the House could easily flip to the GOP in November, the tenuous nature of the Senate where the chamber is split 50-50 could hold with several Republican-held seats -- particularly in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- facing a flip of their own.

However, as Greenfield notes, "the end of Democratic control could also come earlier. Much earlier."

Beyond the intransigence of Sens Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) who have held up President Joe Biden's agenda, is the threat that a Democrat Senator in a certain states with Republican governors could step down or even pass away leaving their seat open.

According to Greenfield, "there’s another possibility that should also have the Democrats reaching for the Maalox: A random act of fate could turn the Senate over to the Republicans not next January, but next summer, or next month, or next week. An illness or death could well trigger a political earthquake — by almost instantly switching control of the nation’s top legislative body."

"States have a range of laws about replacing a departed senator, but the large majority — 37 — call on the governor to pick a successor. Of those, only seven require the governor to pick someone in the same party. So there are 30 states where the governor can pick whatever new senator he or she wants," he wrote before adding, "What that adds up to, in practical terms, is that in nine states (as of Jan. 15), a Republican governor has the authority to replace either one or two Democratic senators. If a single Democratic senator in any of those states had to leave office, the Republican governor of that state could appoint a GOP replacement that would immediately give the party a 51-49 Senate majority."

According to the analyst, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maryland, Georgia and Arizona fall into that category with a Republican governor at the helm and Democrats holding Senate seats.

Greenfield added, "It might seem morbid to think too concretely about what happens when a senator dies or is compelled by illness to leave office. But in a way it’s irresponsible not to. While only three senators have died in office in the last decade, the actuarial reality — 26 senators are 70 years old or more — deserves attention."

You can read more here.

'Genuinely insane' decision by Trump when he was president could lead to New York City devastation: author

In an interview with the Daily Beast's Molly Jong-Fast, Stephen Marche, author of The Next Civil War: Dispatches from the American Future , described a decision by Donald Trump administration in the last year of his four-year term as "genuinely insane" and one that could come back to haunt New York City.

At issue, Marche told the host as part of her New Normal podcast, was the federal government pulling the plug on building a much-needed seawall that would protect Manhattan in the event of a possible hurricane that would devastate the city's infrastructure.

As the New York Times reported back in February of last year, "The Trump administration has unexpectedly halted a project to protect the New York City region from flooding during dangerous storms like Hurricane Sandy — a decision that came six weeks after President Trump took to Twitter to ridicule the study’s most expensive proposal, a giant sea wall that could have cost billions of dollars."

The report continued, "While Mr. Trump cannot single-handedly cancel a Corps project — the funding is allocated by Congress, and its work plan is determined jointly by Corps officials, the Department of Defense and the White House Office of Management and Budget — the unusual suspension of an ongoing project quickly led to speculation that politics had played a role," before adding, "Mr. Trump’s tweet, in January, criticized one of the five possible proposals to reduce storm flooding along New York Harbor and its rivers: a sea barrier with retractable gates that would stretch from New Jersey to Queens."

Recalling the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy that was downgraded to a tropical storm before it hit the city, Marche explained that 'The models when a hurricane hits New York are incredibly strong, " before adding, "Miami and New Orleans are very nice towns, but New York is New York and 88 percent of the world’s international currency goes through, it's still the capital of the world really."

"It's also unrebuildable, " he continued. "When it floods, the density of the infrastructure is so thick that, unlike Miami or Houston or New Orleans, they won't won't bee able to rebuild it."

That led both March and host Jong-Fast to agree the decision was "genuinely insane."

You can listen to the interview here -- subscription required.

'Good luck with that': Devin Nunes’ hometown paper takes final slap at lawmaker as he heads off to work for Trump

On the day that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) officially stepped down from Congress to go head up Donald Trump's new social media company, the Republican lawmaker's hometown paper --which has harshly criticized him over the past several years and led him to sue them for $150 million -- took one final shot at him as he entered the private sector.

The editorial board of the Fresno Bee got off what likely will be their last attack on Nunes by declaring to their readers, "See ya, Devin Nunes. We deserve a representative who will actually meet with citizens."

With that setting the stage, the editors used the Monday editorial page to sarcastically run a help wanted ad seeking "A new member of Congress to represent Tulare County, Clovis and much of Fresno in the House of Representatives," who is willing "to work long hours in Washington, D.C."

Pointedly writing, "Nunes decided to leave Congress rather than face a tough re-election prospect in a newly drawn district that is much more favorable to a Democrat than a Republican," the editors added continued by pointing out, "He is moving on to work for former President Donald Trump, a career change that The Bee Editorial Board had recommended for the past several years, given how Nunes had morphed into being a leading foot soldier for Trump, defending the president at every turn in countless Fox News appearances."

As part of their list of grievances with Nunes' time in public service, the editors wrote, "... the new representative should have the courage to face the press. Nunes was infamous for only granting interviews to friendly media outlets, such as Maria Bartiromo’s Sunday program on Fox News or Ray Appleton’s KMJ radio show. Nunes refused to engage with reporters from news outlets like The Bee who might ask probing questions. This, despite the fact he was one of the most senior and powerful Republicans in Congress."

After adding, "the next representative should be committed to the truth and facts," the editors lamented, "It is amazing that such a sentence needs to be written."

"The bottom line," the concluded is that, "Whoever fills out the remaining months of Nunes’ term must be committed to telling the truth. In light of the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, there can be no exception."

You can read more here.

How Kevin McCarthy's decision to yank GOPers off the riot committee is now blowing up in his face

Reacting to revelations made by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) this weekend, one CNN correspondent claimed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) may have made a fatal mistake by not keeping Republicans loyal to him on the House select committee investigating the Jan 6th insurrection.

Speaking with host George Stephanopoulos, Cheney revealed that "the Committee has firsthand testimony" about Trump's actions on January 6, 2021.

With CNN's Jamie Gangel first explaining that Cheney's revelation was a warning shot to Trump that White House insiders are turning on him, she later explained to hosts John Berman and Brianna Keilar that McCarthy may now be regretting his decision.

"Politico noted that there are some Republicans close to Kevin McCarthy who think he made a tactical mistake by not putting other Republicans besides Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) onto the committee after they said you couldn't have Jim Jordan and Jim Banks -- they may be witnesses here. How much of an impact is that having?" host Berman asked.

"I think it's having a huge impact," Gangel asserted. "Look, Liz Cheney is a Republican. Adam Kinzinger is a Republican. The argument that there isn't -- there are Republican staffers on the committee, there is bipartisan input. If Kevin McCarthy had other Republican members on the committee, he would know what was going on. He does not know that now."

Watch below:

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Jim Jordan looking at 'jail time' if he defies Capitol riot committee: former US attorney

During an appearance on MSNBC's "The Sunday Show," former U.S. Attorney Barabra McQuade agreed with host Jonathan Capehart that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) doesn't "have a leg to stand on" if he defies the House select committee and refuses to talk if they subpoena him.

Stating it would be "unprecedented" McQuade said Jordan could nonetheless end up in jail while talking about the lawmaker and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) who could also be subpoenaed

"You know, the word unprecedented is sometimes overused I think in these days," the former Justice Department official told the host. "But this is absolutely a situation that's unprecedented, subpoenaing a member of Congress. As a professional courtesy, they have first been requested to come forward, but if they continue to refuse, Chairman [Bennie] Thompson (D-MS) said they will use subpoenas if necessary."

"I imagine they will fight them, you know, asserting some of the same legal arguments we heard from others," she continued. "But I think, if Congress wants this information, there is nothing in the law that prohibits them from issuing subpoenas to fellow members of Congress."

Focusing on Jordan after watching a clip of him admitting he spoke with former president Donald Trump, the smirking McQuade added, "Well, I think at some point if he continues to fight, then the committee will demand that he come by issuing a subpoena. At that point his options are to be held in contempt, which can include jail time if he is prosecuted for that crime; so the same path that we have seen for Steve Bannon. So I think it is going to be difficult for him to manage, because unlike Steve Bannon, he's an elected official."

"At some point I think his refusal to testify could impact his candidacy down the road," she added. "Of course, he represents a base that perhaps would see that sort of defiance as being more attractive rather than less attractive. He's clearly somebody who has information. I think if I put somebody on the stand with that kind of evasive answer, I would use that as evidence of consciousness of guilt. I want to know what they discussed that day, before that day, and after that day."

Watch below:

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'It's insane': Conservatives furious over Trump's hold on the GOP one year after insurrection

In interviews with Politico, as the anniversary of the Jan 6th insurrection looms later this week, conservative activists and some Republican Party officials expressed dismay and anger that Donald Trump continues to have a hold on the party as the 2022 midterm election lurks over the horizon.

Speaking with Politico's David Siders, one adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) summed up the feeling of others with Scott Jennings complaining, "He is not the leader of any Republican Party I recognize.”

According to the Politico report, Trump plans to give a speech on the anniversary of the riot this week and has already "telegraphed" what he plans to say.

"If he follows the script laid out in his announcement of the news conference, he will commit a whitewashing of the day, repeating the lie that the 2020 election was rigged and defending his part in fomenting the insurrection — all while a solemn prayer service is held at the Capitol, in a vivid split-screen moment," Politico reports. "And, as Trump castigates Republicans not toeing his line, his event will also serve as a marker of Trump’s extraordinary dominion over the GOP."

The threat of Trump inflaming his fans as the House select committee ramps up their investigation has conservatives livid.

With Siders suggesting, "One year ago, many prominent Republicans predicted Trump’s behavior on and ahead of Jan. 6 would relegate him to the fringes of the right, shaming the GOP back into the mainstream. Instead, the opposite has happened. When Trump speaks, he will set the table for a midterm election year with him firmly at the Republican Party’s center," Cobb County, Ga., GOP chair, Jason Shepherd, expressed his frustration with what the former president has done to the party.

“It’s become almost a religion in the Republican Party,” he confessed. "You have your believers, and you have your heretics, and anyone who isn’t willing to follow Trump 100 percent, or wants to question Trump, that’s now the new definition of a RINO.“

That sentiment was seconded by one GOP campaign consultant, who didn't want to give their name and remarked, "He will torture everyone, and campaigns will have to have a segment of their strategy based on Trump, and how he’s going to react.”

Jeff Roe, a GOP strategist who has worked with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) added, "It’s insane what he can do. Crazy. It’s almost like we’ve gotten used to it, but you stand back from it, it’s insane.”

You can read more here.

Clergy fleeing their ministries due to fights with parishioners over politics: report

According to a report from the Washington Post, religious institutions in the United States are seeing an exodus of clergy members who have grown weary of secular politics invading their conversations and counseling with parishioners.

As Michele Boorstein documents, churches are undergoing a "crisis" as pastors and clergy members abandon their posts and look for greener pastures with the past few years of political strife taking its toll.

As Boorstein writes, there has been an "exodus of clergy who have left ministry in the past couple years because of a powerful combination of pandemic demands and political stress. Amid fights about masks and vaccine mandates, to how far religious leaders can go in expressing political views that might alienate some of their followers, to whether Zoom creates or stifles spiritual community, pastoral burnout has been high."

Citing a recent poll that revealed 38 percent said of Protestant pastors claimed, "they’d considered quitting full-time ministry in the past year," the report notes that "stress levels are through the roof" for the clergy in recent years.

According to Matthew Manion, director of the Center for Church Management at Villanova University, "Clergy are meant to be there for all their people — so if their people are having more challenges, more stress — and what’s made it particularly challenging is they can’t be together in their normal ways of being together. Spiritual counseling and being present for people is very, very difficult."

Case in point, Joel Gustafson, a church youth leader who has butted head with his superiors in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Gustafson, "was planning to make a career of ministry. Soon he was struggling with the segment of his 100-person church that saw mask-wearing as an issue of individual rights and refused to wear them. Gustafson found himself at odds with higher-ranking clergy... Then came fall 2020, and President Donald Trump’s comment in a presidential debate to right-wing extremists that they should “stand back and stand by.”

After taking his complaints to Facebook, he explained, "...he was getting pushback from some congregants and clergy. One told him, he said, that half the church members were Trump voters and that his problem was that he didn’t love them. He put in his notice at the end of 2020 and left in March."

"Since then he joined his fiancee’s church and is grateful leadership is encouraging of vaccines and what Gustafson sees as an active way to love one’s neighbors," Boorstein wrote. "He also reconsidered the ministry career path and is now working for a nonprofit with youth in the judicial system."

In an interview, he admitted, “I think I would have wound up leaving, but covid and a lot of stress exacerbated things and accelerated the timeline."

You can read more here.

Trump headed for another major defeat in the courts adding to his string of brutal losses: legal expert

In a column for MSNBC, contributor Jessica Levinson claimed that Donald Trump's latest lawsuit, this one filed against New York Attorney General Letitia James, will likely crash and burn thereby extending his streak of legal maneuvers that have been slapped aside by the courts.

As Levinson notes, Trump has been a study in perseverance, continuing to file lawsuits since he was unceremoniously booted from the Oval Office over a year ago -- few of which have succeeded other than working as stalling tactics as he battles multiple investigations in New York City, by the state of New York, the Justice Department and a House committee looking into the Jan 6th insurrection.

Writing "There are few truisms in life, but here’s one: Trump is litigious. Very litigious. Before the 2016 election, a USA Today analysis found that he and his businesses had been involved in 4,095 lawsuits over three decades, and in more than 2,100 of those suits as the plaintiff," the legal analyst added, "It should therefore come as no surprise that lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies claiming there was fraud in the 2020 election failed. 'Failed' might be too tepid a word to describe the fate of these election-related lawsuits: These suits belly-flopped into a pool containing nothing but air and concrete. By one estimate, Trump and his allies have a win-loss record of 0-40 when it comes to post-election lawsuits."

According to Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, Trump's latest, filed against the New York AG, is likewise bound for failure.

"Just when we thought the year might end before another big Trump suit hit, the former president sued New York Attorney General Letitia James. Her office is investigating whether the Trump Organization may be civilly liable for, among other things, inflating property values to obtain loans and deflating property values to get beneficial tax treatment," she wrote adding that Trump, as is his custom, has called her investigation a "witch hunt."

"As is often the case with his lawsuits, Trump's only problem with his suit against James is that the law is against him," Levinson explained. "Prosecutors can have political biases without violating the constitutional rights of the people the prosecutor is investigating. That prosecutor simply must set them aside while doing her job."

Needling the former president even more, she added, "So, kids, aim high, try hard and persevere. But if you’re thinking of filing a lawsuit, check to see if you have a legally recognizable claim. With that, let’s say goodbye to 2021 and the many hours Trump’s lawyers have billed on his behalf."

You can read more here.

'Ambitious cowardice at its worst': North Carolina Republicans are furious with Madison Cawthorn

According to a report from the Citizen Times, Rep. Madison Cawthorn's (R-NC) decision to switch districts -- and derail a popular Republican Party lawmaker's plan to run for that seat -- has rankled GOP insiders in the state who are growing tired of his act.

Cawthorn -- who has allied himself with attention-seeking GOP lawmakers like Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA) -- decided to abandon North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District for another the 13th that has been made even more Republican-friendly which led to Tim Moore of Cleveland County to step aside after Cawthron launched a broadside at him.

With the report stating, "Moore was the longest-serving speaker in the history of the North Carolina House. And never mind that, thanks to Moore’s legislative allies, the new 13th Congressional District had been tailor-made for him so he could fulfill a dream to serve in Washington," Tom Fielder adds that Cawthorn's move has set off an "uncivil war" among North Carolina Republicans.

According to Charles Jeter Jr., an influential ex-Republican state representative, "This isn’t a noble effort. This is ambitious cowardice at its worst."

More to the point, Jeter wrote, "He's an embarrassment that we need to defeat.”

Republican political strategist Jim Blaine echoed that sentiment, tweeting out: "In what universe does this make sense?”

"Cawthorn’s me-centered vision isn’t widely shared within his own party. His ambition to extend his 'impact on the affairs of our state and our nation as he said in a [recent] video, is colliding violently against North Carolina’s Republican establishment, which itself is a bastion of conservatism. His move eastward has ignited a power struggle within the GOP between Cawthorn’s insurgents demanding the party remake itself in the image of Trump, and the establishment wing determined to retain its domination over the machinery of government."

In an interview, Catawba College professor Michael Bitzer explained, "We are in this divide of us-versus-them in the party. And you cannot pursue the middle ground because there is no middle ground in the Republican Party.”

The report adds, "Reflecting the existential stakes, the fire and fury triggered by Cawthorn’s move toward the Charlotte metroplex may have no precedent within the modern Republican Party. Bitzer sees this as a major battle within a national war by Trump loyalists to seize all the levers that control the GOP’s power, including party voters, party functionaries and, in their sights, the party’s elected office holders."

You can read more here.

'Troubling' questions raised about disappearing millions from Trump’s dark money machine: report

According to a deep dive by the Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger, the “dark money” machine that is raking in hundreds of millions of dollars to promote Donald Trump recently changed ownership hands and questions are being raised about where all the money is going and who controls it.

As the report notes, Trump’s ouster from the White House in 2020 set in motion a collection of allies creating PAC’s aimed at promoting him as he ostensibly plans to make another presidential run in 2024, and that the non-profit formerly known as America First Policies underwent an ownership change that further has obscured how the money is being used.

Pointing out that the changes “cast another layer of opacity over millions of dollars in already obscured donations the group made to controversial far-right causes in 2020,” the report quotes University of Notre Dame non-profit law expert Lloyd Mayer calling the changes “troubling.”

“Whatever your views of so-called ‘dark money’ may be, these groups are further obscuring money flows,” he explained.

Mayer went on to explain that the selling of a non-profit is quite unusual, telling the Beast, “Nonprofits generally do not have owners as a matter of state law, so I am not sure what they mean by ‘sold.’ Nonprofits can sell their assets, including their name, as long as they do so for fair market value,” before adding, “the nonprofit itself would have received the proceeds.”

According to Sollenberger, “The sale also shows that the byzantine pro-Trump dark money machine is reconfiguring itself ahead of the 2022 midterms, as well as Trump’s possible candidacy in 2024,” before continuing, “All the confusion has one immediate upshot: It makes it even more difficult to understand who exactly is responsible for millions of dollars in shady grants that [Trump affiliated group] America First Policies doled out last year.”

“Those grants appeared in the tax report covering America First Policies’ activity last year, which was filed by America First Works and first obtained by the Center for Public Integrity. Some of the listed recipients have been tied to voter-suppression activity, and one of them is a hotbed for bigoted anti-LGTBQ rhetoric,” the report continues. “But paper trails vanish almost immediately, with some entities appearing to have evaded scrutiny after failing to file tax reports for several years—a pattern which raised concerns among experts in nonprofit law.”

After noting several other off-shoots that have also undergone multiple name changes — and in many cases have not made IRS filings — Sollenberger wrote, “Of course, the Trump money machine has never been easy to follow. But the connections appear even blurrier now that Trump is out of office. And thanks to IRS filing deadlines, voters may not know what these groups are currently up to until next November, after the midterms.”

Non-profit expert Mayer added, “Timing matters. The longer it takes for the information to come out, the less it’s on the public’s mind. And by delaying flings and obscuring who these groups are, that information only gets older and colder and staler. Even if it all comes out accurately and on time in 2022, it still may not make the news.”

You can read the detailed report here — subscription required.

Gavin Newsom proposes bounty on assault weapons after Supreme Court Texas abortion law ruling

In a move predicted by legal experts, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has proposed enacting a law in California that would allow Californians to sue manufacturers and sellers of assault weapons or ghost gun kits used in crimes.

Reacting to a Supreme Court ruling on the restrictive Texas abortion law that allows $10,000 bounties for turning in abortion providers who assist women with an abortion after six weeks, Newsom took aim at the plague of assault weapons in the United States often used in mass shootings.

In a tweet (which can be seen below) on Saturday night, he wrote: "SCOTUS is letting private citizens in Texas sue to stop abortion?! If that's the precedent then we'll let Californians sue those who put ghost guns and assault weapons on our streets. If TX can ban abortion and endanger lives, CA can ban deadly weapons of war and save lives."

RELATED: The Supreme Court's abortion ruling is a 'time bomb' for Republicans to use later: legal expert

He added that has directed his staff to work with the Democratic-majority legislature and California's attorney general to enact a new law that would allow Californians to sue "anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon of ghost gun kit or parts in the State of California."

As in Texas, successful lawsuits would result in at least $10,000 per violation plus the cost of their legal fees.

Newsom added, "If the most efficient way to keep these devastating weapons off our streets is to add the threat of private lawsuits, we should do just that."

You can see his tweet below:

Former GOP lawmaker lays out plan to boot Boebert and Taylor Greene from Congress

Appearing on CNN to talk about the conduct of Republican lawmakers who have been threatening and disparaging their Democratic colleagues to the point where they have been censured, former Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) discussed the work she is doing to oust Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from Congress.

Speaking with host Jim Acosta, Comstock slammed Boebert for her highly-publicized and vile comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN) where the Colorado Republican compared the Democrat to a terrorist.

"We know since January 6th and even before, there have been more threats to members of Congress than ever," Comstock told Acosta. "This year is going to be the highest sort of threat level that there's ever been. When you have this kind of just unconscionable attack -- and it's not just that she needs to apologize to the congresswoman who she attacked, she needs to apologize to the American people. She needs to apologize to the Republican party and a lot of other people. It goes way beyond that."

Continuing speaking on Boebert, she added, "I'd also like to point out that she has a Republican opponent, Marina Zimmerman, who in response to [Rep] Adam Kinzinger pointed out Lauren Boebert is 'trash,' I would agree, and Marina Zimmerman said help me take out the trash and that's what I think needs to be done here."

"Both Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Greene have Republican women who are running against them in the primary," she explained. "I'm on two PACs that support Republican women who we specifically do not support Marjorie Greene or Lauren Boebert, and you know, even -- those are very red districts, you're going to end up with a Republican. You can have a conservative Republican woman without having a crazy, you know, very unpleasant, you know, nasty, you know, unconscionable congressperson who, by the way, neither of these women are getting anything done in Congress for their constituents. Zippo, nothing."

"These women aren't doing anything of help to the country, and they're divisive, and they are dangerous," she added.

Watch below:

DOJ insiders growing frustrated with Merrick Garland's foot-dragging on charging Trump's coup plotters: columnist

In his column for the Daily Beast, political analyst David Rothkopf expressed dismay at the lack of indictments of those who helped plot the January 6th insurrection aimed at keeping Donald Trump in office, and explained that his frustration is shared by some in the DOJ who are working under Attorney General Merrick Garland.

As Rothkopf notes, the clock is ticking as the midterm election looms and Republicans look to take over the House whereupon they will likely shut down the select committee investigating the Capitol riot.

That, in turn, is all the more reason for the DOJ to expedite indictments that would compel associates of Trump to be more willing to offer up information that could make the House's work easier.

Admitting that the criminal indictment of former White House advisor Steve Bannon is a start, the Beast columnist explained that Garland needs to pick up the pace.

"A widely respected jurist, Garland was picked by [President Joe] Biden to depoliticize the DoJ and end the abuses of its power we saw under Trump appointees Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr. Certainly, he has made some strides in that direction. But if the result of his de-politicization is tiptoeing around the egregious serial wrongdoing of the leaders of the Republican Party, then his efforts will have exactly the opposite of the intended effect," he wrote before adding. "By failing to hold Trump and Co. accountable, Garland will set the stage for them to continue unabated their efforts to turn the U.S. into a one-party state in which only Republicans can win elections and any tactics they may use to hold on to power will have been effectively validated by the inaction of Garland and his DOJ."

According to Rothkopf, legal experts he consulted urged patience, with former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade stating that a full investigation could take up to two years. But, he added, people he spoke with at the DOJ shared his dismay with Garland's work rate.

"Garland's behavior to date has left me apprehensive," he wrote. "Conversations I have had with folks inside DOJ have not eased those concerns. There, frustration with Garland begins with his management style (which insiders liken to that of a judge running his chambers in which his office is a kind of bubble apart from the department and staffed by a small team akin to the clerks he had when he was in the judiciary)."

"It extends to concerns that he will err too far in the name of caution and a desire not to be perceived as political," he added. "This too is a hold-over from his court days and ignores that A) he is a political appointee, B) the issues he is dealing with are hyper-politicized and c) there is no way to prosecute politicians for crimes committed in the name of partisanship without appearing political."

The columnist then added, "Given that the stakes are so high and seeing some of the decisions Garland has made, I am wondering when it is ok to become alarmed, when it is ok to become angry."

You can read more here.

Trump's grip on the GOP is 'slipping' as advisers scramble for reasons to bail on 2024 run: report

According to a report from the Atlantic's Peter Nicholas, a close adviser to former president Donald Trump admitted they are "rehearsing" arguments intended to convince the former president that another presidential run in 2024 could end in disaster and embarrassment.

As Nicholas wrote, despite polls showing Trump to be the odds-on choice to be the Republican Party presidential nominee in 2024, there are signs that there is a building movement against him among conservatives who are being more vocal about moving on without him.

Noting the election of Republican Glenn Youngkin as the new governor of Virginia who kept his distance from the twice-impeached former president as one key data point, Nicholas wrote that Trump's influence over GOP lawmakers is showing cracks.

According to Nicholas, "If Donald Trump tries to run for president again, one of his former campaign advisers has a plan to dissuade him. Anticipating that Trump may not know who Adlai Stevenson was or that he lost two straight presidential elections in the 1950s, this ex-adviser figures he or someone else might need to explain the man's unhappy fate. They'll remind Trump that if he were beaten in 2024, he would join Stevenson as one of history's serial losers. 'I think that would resonate,' said this person, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to talk more freely. 'Trump hates losers.'"

"Trump might not listen to his former campaign confidante. But the mere fact that someone who worked to elect Trump the first time is rehearsing arguments to stop a comeback suggests that the former president's tight grip on the Republican Party may be slipping," Nichols suggested.

While there have been many accusations made that Trump is only teasing a 2024 run to keep donations flowing into his PAC -- as well as his obsession with keeping his names in the news -- a former Trump White House adviser believes Trump will bail when push comes to shove.

According to Nicholas, "Trump's most potent means of retaining his hold on his party is perpetuating the idea that he'll be back on the ballot in three years. Whether he goes through with launching a reelection campaign may be beside the point. Stepping aside would be tantamount to inviting a slew of Republican candidates to jump in the 2024 presidential-nomination race and fill the space he's vacating. Trump is not about to let his relevancy plummet," adding that John Bolton has his doubts that Trump will risk the embarrassment of a second loss.

"Imagine what would happen if he said, 'After careful consideration, I won't be a candidate in 2024,'" Bolton suggested. "You can hear the spotlight switches turning off. He'll talk about it [running for president again] right up until the point when he doesn't."

According to the report the true test of whether Trump will run again will be how the candidates he endorsed in the 2022 midterms fare.

According to another Trump adviser who wished to remain anonymous, "Trump will 'look like a f*cking dummy because he endorsed the wrong people."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) agreed Trump will likely bow out, telling Nicholas, "I don't think he wants to risk losing twice. Once, you can argue about the outcome. Twice, it becomes a repudiation."

You can read more here.

GOP-linked nonprofit funneled millions to white supremacists and Jan 6th organizers: report

According to a report from the Daily Beast's Roger Sollenberger, a dark money nonprofit with ties to the Koch family has been funneling millions of dollars into organizations promoting white supremacy as well as supporters of Donald Trump linked to the Jan 6th insurrection.

Based upon an IRS filing from Donors Trust, reported upon by CNBC, the Beast explains that the nonprofit took in $360 million last year to disperse as it sees fit.

According to the report, beneficiaries of donations have been linked to the organizers of the Jan 6th rally -- that turned into a riot at the U.S. Capitol -- as well private universities.

Calling Donors Trust the "dark money ATM of the right," the report states the organization that does not have to reveal who gives it money, "... gave more than $2 million to groups linked to white supremacists, including the VDARE Foundation."

Government ethics expert Norm Eisen claimed, after reviewing the IRS filing that it is "profoundly concerning for the future of our democracy."

With the Beast reporting, "the group channeled major support for entities which fought to overturn President Joe Biden's 2020 victory and organized the Jan. 6 rallies in Washington, D.C." Eisen claimed, "The Donors Trust is taking advantage of the dangerous opacity of our tax and related laws and regulations to fund alleged white supremacist and white nationalist associated groups, those who were bad actors in wrongly attempting to spread misinformation about or overturn the legitimate 2020 election results, and even groups that were responsible for the rally that helped trigger the Jan. 6 insurrection."

According to the Beast's Sollenberger, "Donors Trust posted record numbers in 2020. The group, which has hauled in more than $1 billion since 2016, raised more than $360 million last year, while spreading around $182 million across 339 organizations. Donors Trust itself held on to about $174 million in contributions, bringing its total assets to $607 million."

You can read more here.

Trump’s economic record is being 'soundly beaten' by Biden as economy bounces back: Forbes

According to an analysis by Forbes that will likely displease former president Donald Trump, current President Joe Biden is blowing by his predecessor's economic records he was so proud of as the U.S. economy comes roaring back.

Chuck Jones of Forbes reports that Trump was in the habit of boasting about economic gains during his administration, but now his records are being "soundly beaten" according to the S&P 500.

Writing, "The S&P 500 closed at a record high on Thursday at 4,704.54 (its third close above 4,700) and fell just short of another record on Friday when it dropped 6.58 points or 0.14% to 4,697.96. The Nasdaq closed at a record high of 16,057, its first close above 16,000 while the Dow Industrials is the laggard at 35,601, almost 1,000 points below its record," Jones added despite rising inflation and the possibility that interest rates could rise the economy under Biden is thriving.

"By President Trump's favorite measure of success President Biden's post-election gains in the S&P 500 Index have soundly beaten Trump's equivalent at just over their one-year election anniversary," he wrote before explaining that, "Charlie Bilello, Founder and CEO of Compound Capital Advisors, has created a chart that shows how many times the S&P 500 has hit record highs in any year since 1929. For 2021 the Index has eclipsed the record 66 times, which is the second highest number to 1995's 77 times. Biden's record number also eclipses Trump's best year in 2017 when the Index broke its all-time high 62 times."

For good measure, he pointed out: "Using the Index's returns from when Biden's election was called the weekend after the election to Friday Biden's market returns are substantially above Trump's by 13.3% and 9.7% from his inauguration."

You can read more here.

Trump is tying Mitch McConnell's hands as Senate GOP leader scrambles to find candidates: report

According to a report from the New York Times, a Republican governors' meet-up this past week found lawmakers looking expectantly at the 2022 midterms while also worried about what Donald Trump will do in the next year that could damage the party.

As the NYT's Jonathan Martin and Shane Goldmacher report, Republicans were putting on a happy face about their prospects when the press is around -- and privately worrying, "What could be done about Donald J. Trump?"

During the conference, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) was upfront about the next year, telling his colleagues that Trump's attacks on incumbents are "outrageous, unacceptable and bad for the party," before calling the former president's comments "Trump cancel culture."

"One year after his defeat, Mr. Trump is not only still looming over the G.O.P., but also — along with his imitators — posing the biggest threat to what is shaping up to be a fruitful year for Republican candidates. With President Biden's approval ratings mired below 50 percent — in some surveys, below 40 percent — and voters in a sour mood, Republicans are well positioned to make gains in Congress and statehouses across the country," Martin and Goldmacher report.

However, they report, "But there is Mr. Trump, threatening primary challenges to some House Republicans in key swing districts, endorsing Senate candidates who make party leaders uneasy and recruiting loyalists to take out Republican governors from Idaho to Georgia."

Case in point, they note, has been Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's efforts to recruit strong candidates for seats that are either held by retiring Republicans or open seats that could be a GOP pick-up.

"Trump is now threatening to unseat lawmakers who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill. He taunts Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell as an 'old crow' on a near-daily basis, while demanding that Mr. McConnell be removed from his leadership post. And, most alarming to the clubby cadre of Republican governors, Mr. Trump has already endorsed two challengers against incumbent governors and is threatening to unseat others," the Times is reporting.

"More broadly, Mr. Trump is complicating Mr. McConnell's recruitment campaign by making clear his contempt for the sort of center-right Republicans who refuse to echo his lies about last year's election," the report states. "Two New England governors, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire and Phil Scott of Vermont, indicated this month that they would not run for the Senate, Mr. Hogan appears more intent on pursuing a long-shot presidential campaign, and Mr. [Doug] Ducey [of Arizona] continues to insist that he will not challenge first-term Senator Mark Kelly."

You can read more here.

Pence promises incumbent GOP governors facing Trump-approved challengers that he 'has their back'

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Donald Trump's attempts to only get Republican lawmakers who support him re-elected will be running into an unexpected roadblock.

That would be former Vice President Mike Pence.

As the report notes, Trump is handing out endorsements left and right and, in many cases, is picking challengers to the incumbents in the hopes of making the GOP even more beholden to him.

The report notes that many Republican governors are keeping their distance from Trump who not only lost the White House in 2020 -- but had a hand in the loss of the House and the Senate during his four years in office.

According to the Journal's Michael Bender, "Republican governors around the country have flashed streaks of independence based mainly on political calculations that they are better off giving priority to local issues and constitutional obligations. As a result, about half of the 16 Republican governors up for re-election next year also face primary challenges from opponents endorsed by the former president or otherwise inspired by him."

The report goes on to note that Pence, who has presidential aspirations of his own, told governors in a private meeting that he will support them -- even if that means opposing the man who picked him as his running mate back in 2016.

During his address, Pence stated, "I want to be clear. I'm going to be supporting incumbent Republican governors."

Add to that, Bender wrote, the GOP governors are closing ranks and supporting each other, with the Journal report stating, "Several said in interviews that the group has grown closer during repeated governors-only calls during the pandemic."

According to one Democratic observer, the rift between Trump and some of the Republican governors is good news for Democratic challengers.

"These extreme primary challengers are going to push Republican governors further to the right and out of the mainstream," explained David Turner, a spokesperson for the Democratic Governors Association. "The political environment is only going to improve for Democrats."

You can read more here.

Legal jeopardy is far from over for Kyle Rittenhouse — here's why

Appearing on MSNBC on Saturday morning, less than 24 hours after a jury in Wisconsin found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty after shooting and killing two Black Lives Matter protesters, a former New York prosecutor suggested that families of the victims could file civil suits with an expectation of success.

Speaking with host Kendis Gibson, Charles Coleman said it would be up to the families if they want to pursue Rittenhouse further.

"Charles, the criminal case is over, but could Rittenhouse still face anything civilly, any civil penalties?" host Gibson asked.

"He could," the attorney conceded. "I don't know how likely it is, but it is very possible. I think that the outcome of this criminal case certainly gives the chance of a civil case some degree of difficulty in terms of being able to get a liability verdict in civil court but it's important that viewers understand that the standard for a civil case is much lower in terms of the standard of proof than it is for a criminal case."

"A criminal case requires that it is beyond a reasonable doubt," he elaborated. "Whereas a civil case requires that it is beyond a preponderance of the evidence, which is basically 50.0001% of being able to prove or establish liability. With a lower bar perhaps it may be that plaintiffs decide that they want to try to sue for wrongful death, or some other sort of injury, and make Kyle Rittenhouse responsible -- that remains to be seen at this point."

MSNBCBACK 11 20 2021 07 09 04

Trump’s endorsements of 'incredibly damaged' candidates has GOP strategists in a panic: report

According to a report from the conservative Washington Examiner, Republican insiders worry Donald Trump may cost them a chance at reclaiming control of the Senate in the 2022 midterm election by endorsing candidates whose negatives far outweigh the positives of his support among GOP voters.

Of particular concern is the prospect of losing two GOP-held U.S. Senate seats in Pennsylvania and Missouri and a chance at a pick-up in Georgia.

As Kate Scanlon of the Examiner wrote, "To win a majority, Republicans would need to maintain their 50 current seats and pick up just one additional seat," however, "some Republicans are growing increasingly concerned that candidates in states crucial to winning a majority in the chamber may have baggage that could sink their bids."

Focusing on on Pennsylvania, where Sen. Pat Toomey (R) is retiring, the report states that the rising prominence of Sean Parnell, who is dogged by allegations of spousal abuse and violence, could destroy his chances in the general election if he gets that far.

Speaking of Parnell, who lost a bid for a House seat in 2020, political strategist Christopher Nicholas lamented, "I think you have some people asking, why further complicate it for ourselves?"

Republican insiders are encouraged by the prospect of Parnell falling by the wayside, with Scanlon writing the candidate's "...campaign has reported less-than-stellar fundraising numbers since the domestic abuse allegations surfaced, although Trump has shown no signs of rescinding his endorsement."

In Missouri, Republicans are in open revolt over the possibility that former Gov. Eric Greitens -- who has yet to receive Trump's endorsement and also has a sordid and highly publicized sex scandal in his past -- will be the nominee.

"Republicans will win this seat in a walk, provided we don't nominate an incredibly damaged candidate like Eric Greitens," Missouri GOP campaign consultant Gregg Keller bluntly stated before adding, "We win this thing unless we do something silly like nominate someone with as much baggage as Eric Greitens."

Keller added that Greitens' history is too much to overcome in a general election, saying, "They need to be reminded, and will be reminded, Greitens quit as governor, not after he'd been impeached, he didn't wait."

In Georgia, Republicans are worried about former NFL player Herschel Walker who is seeking the GOP nomination to face Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) with Trump's blessing.

Once again, Walker has a history of accusations of marital abuse -- including pointing a gun at his wife and threatening "I'm going to blow your f***ing brains out."

The Examiner's Scanlon adds, "Walker's primary opponent Gary Black has said the violent episodes should disqualify him as a candidate."

You can read more here.

'He blew us up': Why Kevin McCarthy is facing a revolt from House Republicans

According to a report by Politico's Olivia Beavers, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's path to the House speakership is fraught with pitfalls that are largely the fault of his allegiance to Donald Trump and some of the president's extremist allies in the House.

According to Beaver's report, should the GOP not see a massive influx of new Republican House members after the 2022 midterm election, the California lawmaker could be blamed -- making his chances of ascending to the speakership in place of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) no sure thing.

"While the GOP is widely favored to take back the House, McCarthy needs a majority of votes on the floor in early 2023 in order to ascend to speaker. The minority leader's math problem is simple: The fewer seats Republicans pick up in the midterms, the more powerful his skeptics will become," she wrote, adding that one Republican willing to go on the record claimed McCarthy needs a massive flood of GOP newcomers.

"Five or eight [pick-ups] is a whole different ball game than 20 to 30," explained Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), a member of the far-right "Freedom Caucus."

According to the Politico report, McCarthy is feeling heat from both the extremist wing -- while hoping that ally Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) will rally them to his side -- and the moderate wing which has felt disenfranchised since he went all-in for Trump despite his complaints about having the election stolen from him.

"As assiduously as the affable 56-year-old has fundraised and recruited to turn the House red, he's expending just as much effort to please both the often-unruly right without alienating the handful of centrists whose support he may need," Beavers wrote before adding, "His decision to visit Trump in Florida three weeks after Jan. 6 alienated some GOP members who'd hoped the ex-president's power would wane. Since then, a small but potentially pivotal clutch of centrists has privately vented about feeling swept to the side following the deadly siege."

One point of contention was his decision to back off supporting the Jan 6th riot commission, setting aside a GOP House member's proposal.

"McCarthy fumbled bipartisan efforts to establish an independent Jan. 6 commission, telling members he wouldn't whip against an agreement Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) helped negotiate, then later reversing himself — one day after speaking with Freedom Caucus chief Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.)," the Politico report states.

That led one GOP lawmaker -- who wished to remain anonymous -- to complain about McCarthy's flip-flop, telling Politico, "He blew us up. He didn't have to do that."

The lawmaker then warned, "He's raising a lot of money, but Kevin should be worried about his reasonable flank."

Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) seconded that sentiment when complaining about McCarthy's closeness to Trump.

"I have repeatedly requested at conferences and other places that we don't wrap ourselves too much around former President Trump. For us to continue to embrace him in the face of [his Jan. 6 response] is a huge mistake," he complained.

You can read more here.

'Distrust' of leadership sets off a civil war inside the House Republican Conference: report

According to a report from Punchbowl News, the Republican Party is dealing with a host of problems since the passage of the massive infrastructure bill in the House that received an assist from 13 GOP lawmakers who crossed the aisle and handed President Joe Biden a big win.

As the report notes, the House GOP leadership is already dealing with the federal indictment of Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) for allegedly lying about campaign contributions to the FBI -- joining Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL) who is under investigation at both the state and federal level for alleged sexual escapades with underaged women.

Following the House vote on infrastructure, Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) caused a ruckus by attacking the 13 GOP House members who voted for passage, calling them "traitors" and publishing the phone numbers to their congressional offices, which then led to Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) getting a vile death threat that he made public.

Now the GOP leadership -- in both House and the Senate -- is under fire for remaining silent after Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) tweeted threats at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and President Joe Biden.

With Punchbowl calling the current state of affairs "the most bizarre, the most troubled, in American history," they are reporting that the turmoil caused by the infrastructure vote is evidence of a civil war within the caucus.

"The House Republican Conference is facing a big internal fight after 13 GOP lawmakers voted for the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package last week," the report states. "Ideological diversity is so taboo that a group of Republicans want to strip committee assignments from the offenders. And the GOP leadership is so distrusted by the moderates in the party that they were unable to convince them to force Democrats to come up with 218 votes to pass the bill before casting their own votes for the package."

The report notes that internal tensions belies the fact that "Republicans are in a good place politically. They have momentum, money, history and redistricting on their side, and even many House Democrats admit their majority is in trouble of disappearing after only four years in power," before asking, "Now imagine what happens when Republicans are in a tough spot."

You can read more here -- subscription required

How Fox’s Judge Jeanine may have blown up Trump's executive privilege claims

According to Vanity Fair's Bess Levine, Donald Trump's ability to assert executive privilege to keep members of his inner circle from testifying before the House Jan 6th riot committee may have suffered a major blow due to the involvement of Judge Jeanine Pirro.

Following the day the committee issued subpoenas to Trump allies who were worked out of the Willard Hotel "command center" that was operating as a war room up the insurrection, Levine notes that the campaign paid for the rooms used --with an assist from Pirro.

Writing, "In arguing why various congressional subpoenas from the House committee investigating the insurrection should be ignored, Trump and his lawyers have asserted executive privilege, insisting, among other things, that it could hurt future officeholders if such information is released," Levine cited a report from the Washington Post that asserted Pirro's involvement may throw sand in the gears.

With Trump ally Bernie Kerik refusing to pay for the rooms over fears he might not get reimbursed by the Trump campaign, Pirro reportedly stepped in.

"The bills went unpaid until after Fox News personality Jeanine Pirro went to bat on their behalf, according to a Republican official, who like some others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Soon after, the campaign cut Kerik a check—with Trump's approval, according to a former senior campaign official," the Post reported before adding, "The fact that campaign funds were used to finance efforts to subvert Biden's victory could complicate the former president's ongoing attempt to use claims of executive privilege to shield documents and testimony from the congressional committee investigating January 6, according to some legal scholars."

As Levine notes, attorney Richard Ben-Veniste, of Watergate fame, said Pirro's payments could prove problematic to Trump.

According to the report, Ben-Veniste explained, "the use of campaign funds 'further undermines a wildly broad assertion of executive privilege.… Executive privilege is typically limited to the protection of communications involving a president's official duties—not to those relating to personal or political campaign matters.'"

You can read more here.

'You can’t fix stupid': Former GOP lawmaker flattens Marjorie Taylor Greene over her latest meltdown

Appearing on MSNBC with host Alex Witt, former Florida Rep. Dave Jolly (R) ridiculed currently seated Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) for her furious meltdown on her 13 GOP colleagues who voted for President Joe Biden's historic infrastructure bill, saying she was beyond help.

After the host read from a New York Times article detailing how Republicans — including Taylor Greene starting a fight within their own party — Jolly was asked about her meltdown.

"She accused of those 13 of having voted to pass Joe Biden's 'communist takeover of America' and tweeted the phone numbers to their congressional offices, for some reason only listing 12 of the 13," Witt prompted. "Okay David, this one's for you."

"I would say you can't fix stupid, Alex," he smirked. " I suppose if we really want to put some legislative analysis to this, by the numbers, this is right. Democrats did not hold their entire caucus together. It did pass with Republican votes. but it also passed in the Senate with I believe 19 Republican votes."

"The important thing for Democrats to take from this, this is a good thing. take the victory lap, sell this as a jobs bill, sell this as economic stimulus, and also realize you have to really lean into this victory," he suggested. "Because there will be zero Republican votes on the Build Back Better legislation — you have to get your caucus in line for that final vote."

Watch below:

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DOJ officials offer reasons why Steve Bannon’s criminal referral is languishing

Faced with pressure from lawmakers as well as political commentators over the fact that it has been sixteen days since the House voted to send Steve Bannon's criminal referral to the Department of Justice only for nothing to happen, CNN is reporting that DOJ officials are pushing back

Earlier on Saturday, CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza noted that MSNBC commentator Kurt Bardella expressed disgust that no indictment has been issued for contempt of Congress with a tweet that bluntly stated, "How the f*ck is Steve Bannon still a free man?" CNN is now reporting the DOJ officials believe they have good reasons for the delay.

According to CNN's Zachary Cohen and Evan Perez, the DOJ isn't ignoring its critics but is instead proceeding slowly out of fear they won't get it right and have their case thrown out or dismantled.

The CNN report notes, "…the longer it takes for the Justice Department to make a decision on whether to prosecute Bannon, the more questions swirl around whether this was the right strategy for congressional investigators. Democratic critics, already frustrated with Attorney General Merrick Garland over other moves, have focused their impatience over the Bannon referral on Garland because he has ultimate say on whether Bannon is prosecuted."

DOJ officials were prepared for the criticism because they have already become aware of Garland's "methodical" approach to cases and the Bannon case presents its own set of problems, they explained.

"Justice Department officials tell CNN that prosecutors don't feel pressure to act more quickly. Given that criminal referrals are rare and even more rarely enforced by the department, the Bannon decision will be dissected for years to come so the lawyers have to be sure they get it right, officials say," CNN report before adding that a change in leadership at U.S. Attorney level also has caused a delay.

'The referral also came amid a transition at the Washington, DC, US Attorney's Office, which is handling the matter. The Senate approved the new US attorney, Matthew Graves, on October 28 and he took office Friday, " the CNN report states before adding, "At Justice, the two weeks it has taken to review the referral isn't seen as consequential, officials say."

The report adds "members of the House select committee that's investigating the Capitol riot believe a quick indictment of Bannon is needed — not only to send a message to other potential witnesses but also to reaffirm the power of the congressional subpoena."

You can read more here.

Georgia’s Raffensperger confronted after attempt to blame Stacey Abrams for Trump’s election lies

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's attempt to plug his book on MSNBC's "The Sunday Show" went sideways this morning as host Jonathan Capehart called him out for dragging Stacey Abrams into Donald Trump's claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Republican Raffensperger has been making the cable rounds to promote his book "Integrity Counts" and appeared to try to blame Abrams for Trump's attempt to steal the election when speaking with MSNBC's Yasmin Vossoughian on Saturday -- only to have Vossoughian cut him off.

On Sunday, Capehart blindsided the Republican with the clip from Saturday and asked him to explain himself for claiming, "If you look at what Stacey Abrams did, she lost the state of Georgia in 2018 by 55,000 votes. She questioned the legitimacy of our elections. She actually set the table along with all the leaders, national Democrat leaders that supported Stacey Abrams in her big lie and set the table for President Trump to ramp it up and take it to the next level."

"Is it not dangerous and disingenuous to equate questioning legitimate voter suppression with false claims of voter fraud?" Capehart pressed. "And couldn't you be doing more to convince voters that our elections are safe and secure?"

"Well, that's the point," the Republican parried. "Elections are safe and secure in Georgia. I think it is really disingenuous when the left has not really fessed up to the part they played when Hillary Clinton and the other people supported Stacey Abrams."

"Three weeks ago in Virginia, she said sometimes when you win, you haven't won-- what is that all about?" he continued. "It has been three and a half years since we had the governor's race here in Georgia and they lost by 55,000 votes. President Trump then did a flip side and talked about voter fraud, but neither one of them were supported by the facts. We have record registrations, record turnout, 4 million for the governor's race in '18 and 5 million for the presidential race last year."

"We now have 17 days of early voting, we have no excuse for absentee voting, we have election day voting, we have record registrations, and we have safe and secure elections," he insisted. "It is not helpful for either party. They need to realize, when you lose, you lose. Accept the facts you have lost and move on. If you want to run again, by all means, but accept the results of the results."

"For a lot of people listening, they have not forgotten the fact that her [Abram's] opponent in that election was also the secretary of state in Georgia, the referee in that election," the MSNBC host pointed out.

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Merrick Garland under fire for dragging his feet on Steve Bannon indictment: CNN

According to a report from CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza, Attorney General Merrick Garland is coming under increasing fire for not handing down a criminal indictment against former Donald Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon over two weeks after the House voted on a criminal referral.

It has been sixteen days since the House cited Bannon for criminal contempt after he refused to provide testimony or documents to the select committee investigating the Jan 6th insurrection. and patience with the methodical and circumspect Garland is wearing thin.

As Cillizza points out, former GOP spokesperson and now MSNBC contributor Kurt Baredlla spoke for more than a few Americans when he openly blurted on Twitter: "How the f*ck is Steve Bannon still a free man?"

According to the CNN analyst, "One liberal group —

Free Speech for People — went so far as to call on Garland to resign — suggesting that since he 'Is unwilling to step up, it is time for him to step down" before adding, ' Amid this rising chorus of criticism, Garland — and his Justice Department — have been silent."

After the House made their referral, the now-the embattled AG stated, "The Department of Justice will do what it always does in such circumstances: We'll apply the facts and the law and make a decision, consistent with the principles of prosecution."

But, after sixteen days, questions are being raised at the disposition of what appears, from the outside, to be a slam dunk case that should lead to Bannon's arrest.

"While President Joe Biden has repeatedly emphasized that he will not meddle in affairs of the Justice Department — seeking to strike a clear contrast with the active role that President Donald Trump played in trying to steer the actions of the department — he did complicate that position shortly after the House contempt vote," Cillizza reports before adding, "Garland's position is an unenviable one — caught between liberal demands that Bannon be thrown in jail for refusing to comply with the committee's subpoena and a desire to keep the Justice Department above any allegations of settling political scores for the administration."

More importantly, members of the House committee want to use the threat of jail to get Bannon to comply so that their investigation can fill in some holes over what led up to the Jan 6th riot.

As the CNN editor notes, "Bannon also talked to Trump on the night of January 5 — after Vice President Mike Pence had informed Trump that he would not be overturning the Electoral College votes the following day in Congress," adding, "Bannon himself has owned up to his role in plotting with Trump to undermine the Biden presidency on January 6 — and he's even sort of declared victory."

You can read more here.