Travis Gettys

A mystery left over from Mueller's Russia investigation just got solved

Paul Manafort's longtime associate Konstantin Kilimnik was sanctioned by the U.S. government for providing polling data to Russian intelligence during the 2016 election.

The Russian-Ukrainian political consultant was indicted in 2018 as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation for carrying out election interference on behalf of the Kremlin, and the Treasury Department state for the first time Thursday that Kilimnik had provided Russia with sensitive polling data before the 2016 election, reported Axios.

That completes a key link between Mueller's investigation and one conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which found that Donald Trump's campaign chairman Paul Manafort tried to pass sensitive internal polling data and campaign strategy to Kilimnik.

The committee obtained some information that suggested Kilimnik "may have been connected" to Russia's hacking and leaking of Democratic emails, but those findings were largely redacted in the public report.

Kilimnik, who is wanted by the FBI for obstruction of justice, provided sensitive data to Russian intelligence as part of his efforts to blame Ukraine for the hacks and return former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to power.

Manafort, who was pardoned by Trump in the final weeks of his presidency, worked as a political consultant to Yanukovych for nearly a decade.

'Constantly rubbing dirt in our face': GOP senators complain Biden keeps passing bills without them

A handful of the Senate's more moderate Republicans thought they would be at the center of legislative negotiations with President Joe Biden, but instead find themselves on the sidelines as Democrats push ahead with a sweeping agenda.

Members of the so-called G-10 say they're eager to negotiate deals with the White House, after steering COVID-19 relief under former president Donald Trump, but they're instead largely irrelevant and unable to shake the GOP reputation as obstructionists, reported Politico.

"It's a f*cking nightmare," complained one G-10 staffer. "Biden is a horrible villain for us. There are deeply entrenched narratives that have some truth but are no longer totally true. Reporters believe them despite all evidence to the contrary."

Staffers complain that the White House is "constantly rubbing dirt in the face of Republicans" by inviting them to White House meetings as Senate Democrats push through legislation with their narrow majority through reconciliation.

"If you get an invitation to the White House, you go to the White House," said another G-10 staffer. "But regardless, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. When you go to the White House meeting you risk being used in a feigned attempt at bipartisanship. If you don't go then it's, 'Oh, Republicans won't even meet with me.' It all pivots on whether it's a genuine offer from the White House or just part of their messaging strategy."

The senators -- including Susan Collins (R-ME), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) -- may not like the situation, but they grudgingly concede that Biden's White House has firmly grabbed control of the narrative.

"Everything they support is defined as either COVID relief or infrastructure, and everything they oppose is like … Jim Crow voter suppression and evil," said a G-10 aide, "and you constantly just feel like you're in this gaslighting chamber of insanity. But it's working."

Christian author renounces his faith in emotional video: 'I love myself for the first time'

A prominent Christian blogger has renounced his faith -- and says he's never felt happier.

Desiring God contributor Paul Maxwell, an author and former philosophy professor at Moody Bible Institute, tearfully told his Instagram followers that he's "not a Christian anymore" and looking forward to reconnecting with the people around him, reported FaithIt.

"I love you guys, and I love all the support and friendships I've built here [Instagram]," Maxwell said. "I think it's important to say that I'm just not a Christian anymore, and it feels really good. I'm really happy…I'm really happy."

Maxwell, author of The Trauma of Doctrine: New Calvinism, Religious Abuse, and the Experience of God, joins a number of other Christian influencers in renouncing or walking away from their faith, including musicians Jon Steingard and John Cooper and author Joshua Harris.

"I can't wait to discover what kind of connection I can have with all of you beautiful people as I try to figure out what's next," Maxwell told his audience. "I love you guys. I'm in a really good spot. Probably the best spot of my life. I'm so full of joy for the first time. I love my life for the first time…and I love myself for the first time."

Paul Maxwell Leaves Christianity

'Extortion is not a defense!' Florida prosecutor explains why Matt Gaetz can’t talk his way out of trouble

A Florida prosecutor helped MSNBC's Joe Scarborough untangle the allegations against Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

The Republican congressman has claimed that Department of Justice investigators tried to extort him over sex trafficking allegations, but Palm Beach County state attorney Dave Aronberg said Gaetz is still in deep trouble, even if his wild accusations are true.

"He may have made Tucker Carlson a witness," Aronberg said. "'Hey, you remember the woman I was with? She was over age,' and [Carlson] was like, 'I don't remember any of that.' So that's something that struck me."

"I think his main defense is going to be that he has never dated anyone underage," the prosecutor added, "and this whole thing about extortion, as Joe correctly pointed out, that's more of a smokescreen for the court of public opinion. That is not a defense to a charge of child sex trafficking, so let's see what the evidence shows. I have a feeling we're going to learn a lot more very soon."

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Capitol rioter gets comeuppance from ex-employees he berated: 'Karma finally got him'

Former employees weren't surprised to see the self-proclaimed "Sandwich Nazi" taking part in the U.S. Capitol insurrection, and they were happy to turn him in to the FBI.

Sandwich shop owner George Pierre Tanios posted a photo of himself at the Jan. 6 riot on Facebook, where former employees noticed it and helped investigators identify the West Virginia man as the bearded suspect who took part in the assault of a Capitol police officer who later died, reported The Daily Beast.

"I'm surprised it took this long for him to do something stupid," said Kenneth Dufalla, a former business partner who helped identify him as a rioter.

"He's an embarrassment to fellow hard-working, God-fearing, humble citizens of Morgantown and fellow Trump supporters," Dufalla added. "I can't imagine how many of his former employees and fraternities are enjoying his apparent downfall right now. He was easily the most hated man in Morgantown."

Former employee Cory Denkert also reported Tanios to the FBI and helped connect agents to Dufalla, who had sued the sandwich shop owner for the $435,000 he says he's owed, and the ex-employee was happy to do it.

"I was laughing," Denkert told The Daily Beast. "This is exactly what George would do. He's always been angry, trying to start fights with people. It doesn't matter how wrong he is, he's going to be outspoken, in somebody's face, trying to start something."

FBI agents arrested Tanios on March 14 and charged him with attacking police with bear spray, and former employees say the Sandwich U. owner had a history of using chemical irritant at his shop near West Virginia University.

"We always had a can of pepper spray behind the counter, and there's been several times he would pull it out and mace somebody," said former night shift manager Daniel Dantzler. "He would usually come out from behind the counter and, you know, be confrontational with them. Then he'd say to the register girl: 'Give me the mace.'"

Customers complained online for years that Tanios would start fights with drunken students and then threaten or harass them when they responded, and former employees said he skimmed off their tips and frequently used racist and abusive language.

"He's been doing things the same way with no fear of repercussions for so long, and it finally bit him," Denkert said. "Karma is a thing, and it finally got him."

Right-wing donors terrified by conservative support for bill to prevent billionaires from buying elections: leaked recording

A newly surfaced recording shows a senior adviser to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell conspiring with the Koch brothers' network and other conservative groups to torpedo sweeping voting rights legislation.

The Jan. 8 recording obtained by The New Yorker reveals leading conservative activists are alarmed by public support for House Resolution 1 and Senate Bill 1, commonly known as the For The People Act, and they privately admitted they had no effective way to counter the argument that billionaires should be able to buy elections.

"When presented with a very neutral description" of the bill, "people were generally supportive," Kyle McKenzie, the research director for the Koch-run advocacy group Stand Together. "The most worrisome part . . . is that conservatives were actually as supportive as the general public was when they read the neutral description."

"There's a large, very large, chunk of conservatives who are supportive of these types of efforts," he added.

The election reform bill, which would ban large, anonymous political donations, enjoys broad public support, and McKenzie told participants that Senate Republicans would need to use "under-the-dome" legislative tactics to stop the bill because generally everyone but them agreed billionaires should not be able to buy elections behind the scenes.

"Unfortunately, we've found that that is a winning message, for both the general public and also conservatives," McKenzie said.

The Koch-funded group had spent a lot of money to find persuasive arguments against the bill, but found that even claiming it would allow Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to hold Trump administration officials accountable wasn't particularly effective.

"Sadly," he said, conservatives weren't even persuaded when the phrase "cancel culture" was tied to the bill.

"It really ranked at the bottom," McKenzie said. "That was definitely a little concerning for us."

GOP's Marjorie Taylor Greene fumes after admitting defeat in costly legal battle

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) griped after she was prohibited from blocking other Twitter accounts as part of a lawsuit filed by a Los Angeles-based political action committee.

The Georgia Republican agreed to pay $10,000 in legal fees to MeidasTouch LLC, which will donate the money to two nonprofit groups, after Greene blocked the PAC's account for posting criticism of her and former president Donald Trump -- and the lawmaker fumed afterward.

"Because of this PAC's frivolous lawsuit against me, I'm not allowed to block people that threaten my life and my children's lives every single day on social media," Greene tweeted. "And they are bragging about donating the money to organizations that want to take away my guns, so I couldn't defend myself and my children, when people show up to murder us like they threaten."

"This PAC is celebrating that a woman (me) can't block people that want to kill me and my kids," she added. "What an accomplishment for them."

A federal appeals court previously ruled in a suit that involved Trump that political figures cannot block critics from public Twitter accounts, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has also settled a similar suit.

Devastating supercut video perfectly illustrates why Biden is president and Trump is at Mar-A-Lago: Morning Joe

MSNBC's "Morning Joe" opened with a revealing supercut showing the stark difference between President Joe Biden's confident leadership and his predecessor's divisive lies.

Biden gave his first news conference Thursday since becoming president, and he gave in-depth answers to the questions that were asked -- in contrast to former president Donald Trump's personal attacks, racist remarks and outright lies.

"Big difference. and you could talk, I think, most importantly, about the tone of it," Scarborough said. "You know, even Trump supporters, by the end, were talking about how exhausted they were by the man, by the tweets. Many voted for him because they were voting against who they considered to be extreme Democrats, but it was yesterday, even if you didn't agree with Joe Biden ideologically on every point, even if you were concerned about maybe his position on some issues, chances are good if you are an American and you were watching that, you noticed a change of tone."

"You actually heard somebody that was trying to bring Americans together, somebody who said, 'I've been elected to be a problem solver, to bring this country together,' as opposed to, again, Donald Trump being extraordinarily combative, a couple weeks in, talking about no president has ever done as much as I -- again, it was just -- it was all about him. It was all a bunch of lies. It was all intended to divide Americans and, well, he divided Americans and he's in Mar-A-Lago because of it."

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Shadowy group behind Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation spending big to undermine Biden's Justice Department

The right-wing dark money group that helped Donald Trump "capture" the Supreme Court is now working to undermine the Biden administration's efforts to enforce voting rights.

The Judicial Crisis Network is running ads attacking Justice Department nominees Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke -- a pair of widely respected litigators and civil rights activists -- as part of a related new organization, the Honest Elections Project, with an improbable name, reported The Daily Beast.

Conservative legal activist Leonard Leo, the longtime executive vice president of the Federalist Society, is coordinating efforts by the various dark-money front groups to pack the Supreme Court and then to bring voting rights cases in front of those right-wing courts.

The Honest Elections Project has been running negative ads against Democrats, challenging voter rolls, filing lawsuits seeking voting restrictions -- and attacking Gupta and Clarke.

Gupta once ran the Civil Rights Division, where she prosecuted hate crimes and human trafficking, prompted disability and LGBTQ rights, fighting discrimination in all areas of life, and challenging voter suppression, and President Joe Biden has nominated her as assistant attorney general.

Clarke has been nominated to fill Gupta's previous role in the Civil Rights Division, where she would enforce voting rights -- which the Trump administration basically ignored.

Trump accountant will flip to save his sons from prison -- according to Michael Cohen

Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen believes another longtime associate will eventually flip against the former president.

Prosecutors seem to have their sights set on Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg as the Manhattan district attorney's office plows ahead in its investigation of the twice-impeached one-term president's business dealings, and Cohen believes they'll eventually gain his cooperation in the probe, reported The New Yorker.

"He's not going to let his boys go to prison," Cohen told the magazine, "and I don't think he wants to spend his golden years in a correctional institution, either."

The 73-year-old Weisselberg has worked closely alongside Trump for decades, and legal experts and others close to the case agree he would make a star witness.

"Allen Weisselberg knows where all the bodies are buried," said the president's niece Mary Trump.

Weisselberg started out as a bookkeeper for Trump's father after answering a newspaper ad, and by the mid-1980s was doing books for the future president -- and his sons are also linked to the Trump Organization and potentially part of the case.

Barry Weisselberg has managed the cash-only Wollman ice-skating rink and carrousel in Central Park, which have been run for New York City by the Trump Organization.

Younger son Jack Weisselberg works for Ladder Capital, which loaned more than $270 million to Trump and is one of the Trump Organization's largest lenders and is connected to four building projects -- including the 40 Wall Street property that has been examined by the Manhattan district attorney's office.


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