'I have never been targeted so specifically': Trans activist blasts Trump campaign’s 'bully-like' ad

Former President Donald Trump's 2024 campaign team ran a new ad last month containing footage of transgender TikTokers, James Rose and Dylan Mulvaney — and without their knowledge, Rolling Stone reports.

Per Rolling Stone, James was heading to rehearsal for an upcoming performance when "her phone began to blow up with texts" alerting her of the ad, which also contained "stark images of war, crime, and nuclear explosions — all threats the ad says can only be stopped by Trump."

James shared a video in response to the Trump ad via Instagram last month, writing, "Trump used me & Dylan in his latest ad for his presidential campaign. Let this be fodder to fight harder for trans rights. I don't know what this election season will bring but I know I will love our community as hard as possible."

READ MORE: 'Making up a boogeyman': Donald Trump Jr. torched for creating anti-trans scenario 'that never happens'

Still, James told Rolling Stone, "The beauty of not having a monolithic community is that there are so many ways to be trans and not one is more right than the other. What the ad reaffirmed for me is that my joy is working. And I use joy as an act of political resistance. If I have somehow become a threat to the 45th President of the United States, I must be doing something right."

The publication interviewed Rose about the impact of the ad.

Rolling Stone: What were some of the emotions going through your head once you saw the ad?

James: I was able to laugh within 24 hours about it, which is, I think, a good turnaround time, but unfortunately, I've had a lot of practice. This is not my first time being targeted by influential people on the right, but I have never been targeted so specifically by somebody of such high power — unpredictable, bully-like power — before. My first thought was the safety of myself and the people around me. And then the second thing I said was 'God, I can't wait to laugh about this. At some point I'm gonna get to the point where this is funny.'

Rolling Stone: With the ongoing political focus on trans issues, were you surprised to see your image being used by the former President? What do you think the purpose of the ad was?

James: This was a moment of trans joy between me and my friend Dylan. And for somebody to weaponize that moment felt very intentional. It is very important to see people who are young and new to their transition celebrating their transness, especially publicly when there is such ridicule, and Donald Trump and his team were using that. The rest of the video was stock images of war and then, James and Dylan are the next villains. That was intentional and dangerous because it emboldens people to continue to target and attack transgender people.

Rolling Stone: How did Dylan take the ad? Were you two able to commiserate?

James: Yes, we have this saying, 'Protect your peace.' I always tell her I love her and she’s always wonderfully supportive. At the end of the day, all we have is community. We look similar but we are different people with different hurdles that we’re facing right now. She has my support and I have her support.

We had a friendship before we started really taking off online and I'm grateful for that. But I have talked to her and I'm grateful for her friendship and for her support. She sent me a picture of her in her author era and I sent her a picture of me on a kayak and we were like 'We're gonna get through this.'

READ MORE: 'Not being hyperbolic': Montana Democrat says GOP-backed anti-trans bills have led to suicide

Watch the video below or at this link.

READ MORE: How a nonprofit led by doctors is using 'recycled false claims' to push anti-trans legislation: report

Rolling Stone's full report is available at this link (subscription required).

'He’s not picking on them': Sarah Palin defends 'loyalist' Donald Trump against those who 'draw first blood'

Ex-Alaska governor, failed vice presidential nominee, and twice-defeated Republican candidate for the United States House of Representatives Sarah Palin gushed over former President Donald Trump's supposedly incomparable loyalty during a conversation with Trump's daughter-in-law Kimberly Guilfoyle on Thursday. Palin also suggested that Trump is a victim of bullying from his political detractors.

"In terms of character of Donald Trump, he is a loyalist and I know that personally for years and years and years, he, he, uh, I don't have anything to offer him, and yet he has been so loyal to me and so caring about my kids, about my family, about what's going on in Alaska, and I so appreciate it. I, I've witnessed firsthand since way before he got so heavily into politics that sense of loyalty and loyalty, man. And that, that's one of the rarest virtues in our country, in our world today. I, I so respect that," Palin said.

"So, yeah. Good question that you're asking is, why in the world would people turn on him and they draw first blood when it's not coming from him? He's not picking on them," Palin added.

READ MORE: 'One of the worst hours I’ve ever seen': Critics erupt at CNN over Donald Trump’s 'spectacle of lies'

Guilfoyle, who is married to Donald Trump Junior, agreed with Palin in her response. She then argued that the 2024 GOP presidential primary is a waste of time because Trump was already president for four years.

"Right. That's the thing, like be realistic about it. And what do you, what do you expect? I mean, no offense, it's actually sort of insane that we have this whole primary, cuz let's be honest, you know, he was the president of the United States," Guilfoyle said. "If he was still in office, there would be no one running against him or primarying him. So now we're gonna spend all this money and time beat each other up when we should be focused on the end game, on the general election."

Watch below or at this link.

READ MORE: 'Disloyalty': Trump goes after evangelicals in fiery new rant

'Say goodbye to reading anything important': Twitter blasts MAGA fixation on Biden’s Thursday tumble

President Joe Biden tripped and fell following his commencement speech at the Air Force Academy Thursday, and social media immediately exploded with reactions — including from former President Donald Trump.

@TheStormRedux shared a clip from Trump's Iowa rally via Twitter, writing, "President Trump just reacted to the news that Joe Biden fell onstage at the US Air Force Academy graduation ceremony. 'We gotta get this thing back on track. That's a bad place to fall… That's not inspiring.'"

During Trump's speech, a rally attendee shouted, "Biden just fell on stage."

READ MORE: 'We like to be courted': Iowa GOP 'pretty open' to 2024 candidates besides Trump and DeSantis

The former president replied, "He did? He just fell on what stage? He's at the Air Force Academy? He actually fell down? Well I hope he wasn't hurt. I hope he wasn't hurt. But it's.. the whole thing is crazy. You gotta be careful about that because you don't want that. Even if you gotta tip toe down a ramp....It's like an ice ska—you know, that was the best speech I ever made."

He continued, "And it was pouring rain and it was horrible and cold and windy. And they have a ramp that was pure like an ice skating rink, and it was like 25 feet long and I was talking to the general and he has boots on, you know, big combat boots and they're rubber soles. I have nice leather. And uh, I say you know what general get ready, if I grab you, you just get ready because I got this stupid ramp that somebody put up and there's no stairs right? And I said, so I tip toed down and I suffered for that. They never covered my speech but everybody, the smart people understood that. That's too bad. If he fell it's too bad."

The MAGA 2024 hopeful was referring to his visit to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in June of 2020, according to The New York Times, where struggled to walk down a ramp as well as "bringing a glass of water to his mouth."

Soon after Trump's incident, The Washington Postreported:

Elements of Trump's explanation strained credulity. Trump’s claim that the ramp had been 'very slippery' was inconsistent with the weather, which on Saturday in West Point, N.Y., was sunny and clear-skied. The grass plain on which the commencement took place was dry.

READ MORE: Robert Reich wonders if Joe Biden is the best presidential candidate for Democrats in 2024

After claps and cheers from the rally-goers, the former president concluded, 'We gotta get this thing back on track. That's a bad place to fall… That's not inspiring.'"

Other Twitter users reacted to the commotion around Biden's fall and Trump's response.

NBC reporter Ben Collins: "Welp, Joe Biden just fell down. Say goodbye to reading anything important on this site for the next 72 hours."

@DecodingFoxNews: "On 'The Five' Biden's fall was brought up 16 times. The cast was horrified by the prospect of a Kamala Harris presidency. Hillary Clinton got mentioned. Jessica Tarlov is the ONLY person who mentioned Franklin D. Roosevelt's 12 years as president in a wheelchair."

Political strategist Linda Li: "So Republicans will NOT invoke the 25th amendment for a President who terrorizes our own Capitol Who steals our nuclear secrets Who brags about hoarding classified docs Who extorts Ukraine Who lies about a stolen election But they will invoke it for a minor trip?! Got it"

General Manager at Edelman PR Martine St-Victor shared a clip of CBS News chief White House correspondent Nancy Cordes' reaction, saying, "About President Biden's fall at the Air Force graduation today, the perfect perspective - courtesy of journalist Nancy Cordes."

Cordes told CBS correspondent Norah O'Donnell, "Almost every recent president has taken a tumble in public at some point. One of the downsides, Norah, of being followed by cameras everywhere they go."

Watch the video below or at this link.

READ MORE: Fox’s Peter Doocy asks Biden about future presidents pardoning Trump — here's his response

The New York Times' full report is available at this link (subscription required). The Washington Post's report is here (subscription required).

Marjorie Taylor Greene says trans Americans 'have the same rights' while pushing gender-affirming care ban

United States Representative and House Speaker Pro Tempore Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) declared on her Battleground podcast this week that transgender Americans enjoy full equality under the law. Greene also ordered private companies — the free market — to refrain from exercising their rights if they have viewpoints with which conservatives disagree.

"Let me remind everyone. As a member of Congress, I can tell you right now people that are trans have the same rights as every single other American, and we want them to have the same rights," Greene proclaimed.

Greene introduced a bill last year call the Protect Children's Innocence Act to restrict access to life-saving gender-affirming care, which Greene and other right-wing lawmakers deem "genital mutilation."

READ MORE: 'How is this idiot in Congress?' Rep. MTG slammed over claim FBI 'set up honeypots' for Jan. 6 rioters

Greene on Thursday begged Congress to hold a vote, tweeting that "we must pass my bill, the Protect Children's Innocence Act, to END the genital mutilation of kids in America." She added that "my bill would charge any person who knowingly performs 'gender-affirming' care on a minor with a Class C Felony and prohibit all taxpayer funding for this barbaric surgery."

Raw Story noted that a circumcision ban is not included in Greene's legislation.

Nonetheless, Greene continued her lecture.

Transgender individuals "have the same freedom of speech. They have the same Second Amendment. They have the same ability to vote. They have the same ability to get an education. They can buy a house. They can get a job. They can identify however they please," Green pontificated. "But when it turns into a political agenda and it's run through major corporations, it's run through businesses and it's shoved in your large percentage of your customer base that doesn't agree and doesn't wanna participate, then you are not acting like a business. You are acting like a political organization, and that needs to stop."

READ MORE: Laughter breaks out on House floor when Marjorie Taylor Greene calls for 'decorum'

Watch below or at this link.

READ MORE: 'I’m literally lol’ing': Marjorie Taylor Greene defends drag-dressing beau after he misgenders Brittney Griner

'My existence should not be an issue to you': Students blast Florida school board over right-wing policies

Parents, students, and teachers expressed their outrage at the Hernando County, Florida School Board meeting on Tuesday amid crackdowns on free speech, civil rights, and education curricula led by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and GOP lawmakers.

On Thursday, The Recount posted videos of two students railing against DeSantis' policies and his attacks on LGBTQIA+ youth.

The first speaker referenced DeSantis' crusade against what right-wingers call "woke indoctrination" in schools:

I am extremely concerned for our future if these are the issues that the Florida state government focuses on, and you should be too. You ever wonder why you don't hear many teachers speaking out on this issue? It's because they're scared. Teacher vacancy has more than doubled since January of 2019, going from 2200 to numbers as high as 5,300. Could it be because students are getting worse? Maybe. Could it be due to the backlash of COVID? Maybe. Or could it be because they're scared to, they're scared to say anything that will get them fired — nonetheless scared to show a Disney movie in class and read a book with a gay character in it, most likely. How are we supposed to get an unbiased education when the teachers are walking on eggshells? To end my point, I'd like to leave you with this. Every person on the school board and the Florida state government most likely has children or grandchildren, and those kids are going to build our future alongside me. While they may build it, teachers are the ones who mold them to be an active member of society, and I am so scared for the future if our teachers, our mentors, are being silenced.

READ MORE: Ron DeSantis accuses teachers of 'forcing' students to pick pronouns

The second individual blasted the school board for ostracizing students.

"And before I begin, I'd like to ask every board member to please give me their full attention as I have not seen that. Good evening. My name is Robert Corden. I am a junior, soon-to-be senior," he excitedly began.

"Calm down," he was told.

Corden restarted:

I'm a junior soon-to-be senior at Nature Coast Technical High School, and I love my school. My school means a lot to me. This county means a lot to me. Over the years of my education here in Hernando County, I have seen a lot of change. Students have changed. School procedures have changed. And what it means to be a student has changed. Members like Member [Shannon] Rodriguez and Member [Mark] Johnson see an issue of teacherless classrooms and instead focus their energy on the LGBTQ community and other problems like getting Superintendent [John] Stratton removed.

READ MORE: Florida law targets education unions that Ron DeSantis says 'defied the state'

News Channel 8 reported on Wednesday that the school board voted 3-2 in favor to keep Stratton, whom conservatives demanded to step down because fifth-grade teacher Jenna Barbee showed Disney's Strange World to her class.

News Channel 8 noted that "the PG-rated movie includes the depiction of a gay teenager" and that "Barbee admitted she didn't receive the required approval before showing the film."

Corden alluded to the incident as he concluded his speech:

This is why teachers are leaving the profession because members like Member Rodriguez and Member Johnson don't listen to the people that they serve. When taking this position, you accepted the responsibility to represent every single student fairly and justly. I do not feel you have done that instead of representing me and other LGBTQ-plus students — cuz yes, we exist — you instead, you instead have alienated and made us feel as if our entire existence is an issue to you. My existence should not be an issue to you, but come next election season, my vote will be.

Watch the clips below or at this link.

READ MORE: 'Bigotry and megalomania': Scientific American Editorial board warns of DeSantis’ 'antiscience agenda'

Ex-DOJ official: Trump keeping 'war plans' makes it 'inconceivable' that he will escape indictment

A former top U.S. Dept. of Justice official says it is “inconceivable” that Donald Trump will not be charged, based on reports Special Counsel Jack Smith has an audio recording of the ex-president admitting he was in possession of a classified Pentagon document detailing a possible attack on Iran.

“I think if this audio tape exists, this is not a question of if there are going to be charges. It’s just a question of when,” announced NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst Andrew Weissmann, the well-known former FBI General Counsel who worked at DOJ for two decades.

Importantly, Weissmann, who made his remarks on MSNBC Thursday, notes that the document in question, if it is as described, contains “war plans.”

“And the proof that we have learned just publicly is so strong. And Jack Smith is such a competent and aggressive prosecutor. It is inconceivable to me that this would not be charged, and having a tape recording of the prospective defendant admitting his possession of a classified document that he had no right to have,” Weissmann says.

RELATED: ‘Absolutely Blockbuster Evidence’: Experts Stunned Over Trump ‘Espionage Act’ Bombshell That Pressures ‘DOJ to Indict’

“And not just any classified document. I think it’s really important to remember that what he talks about reportedly, is a classified document involving something that is unbelievably sensitive, which is war plans of the United States against another country.”

Where news broke Wednesday NYU Law professor of law Ryan Goodman, a former U.S. Dept. of Defense Special Counsel, wrote: “War plans are among the most highly classified documents. Puts pressure on DOJ to indict, and a jury to convict.”

Some say, based on the audio, Trump might have been holding the document as he was being recorded at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf resort, allegedly discussing it.

“Make no mistake. This is squarely an Espionage Act case,” Goodman also said, calling the news a “bombshell.”

Explaining the gravity of the document, Weissmann notes, “this is not just taking love letters of Kim Jong Un or salacious material about the president in France. This is exactly what the Department of Justice and the intelligence community is worried about.”

Continuing to explain just how serious this is, Weissmann served up the ground rules.

“Let’s remember government documents, whether classified or not, belong to the government. They are not to be retained by a private citizen. And the former president is a private citizen. So for instance, when I was in the Department of Justice, the number of documents I could take when I left the Department of Justice would be zero. So you’re not supposed to have that possession of government documents. If they are classified, there can be an additional type of charge, but it’s not required that that material be classified or classified at a particular level.”

READ MORE: Grassley Admits He Doesn’t Care if GOP’s Accusations Against ‘Vice President Biden’ Are True or Not – He Vows to Pursue Them

“What you’re looking at here is whether the person either knowingly took the documents or knowingly retained the documents. Important this tape recording, if it exists, as recorded, is that you’ve got Donald Trump admitting that he has in his possession a classified document – doesn’t matter if it’s Secret, Top Secret, it’s classified, that itself is a crime.”

And then finally, with respect to dissemination, the recording is that there does appear to be at least some dissemination of the information because Donald Trump, although he doesn’t turn the document over or quote from it, he does talk about what is in there. In other words, the reason we’re all talking about the fact that involves war plans involving Iran is because reportedly that is what Donald Trump said was in the document. If that proves out, that is a form of dissemination.”

On social media later Thursday, Weissman tweeted, “Days, not months…” suggesting he believes an indictment of Trump would be coming sooner rather than later.

Watch Weissmann below or at this link.

Elon Musk confirms misgendering 'allowed' on Twitter after site cancels right-wing documentary

Billionaire and Twitter Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk publicly backed the use of anti-transgender rhetoric on the social media app Thursday.

Per the right-wing news outlet The Daily Wire, the site's Co-CEO Jeremy Boreing took to Twitter to share "Twitter canceled a deal with the conservative media company to stream its hit documentary 'What is a Woman?' for free on the social media platform due to 'misgendering.'"

Boreing railed against Twitter in a sixteen-tweet thread:

READ MORE: Right-wing hosts call teachers 'groomers' for showing kids a 'diverse collection' of books and movies

Twitter canceled a deal with @realdailywire to premiere What is a Woman? for free on the platform because of two instances of 'misgendering.' I'm not kidding. Here's what happened:"

2/16 One year ago today, we released What is a Woman?. To celebrate the occasion and expand the movie’s already enormous impact, we decided to give it away for free for 24 hours on Twitter.

3/16 With Twitter's recent commitments to free speech, we thought it would be the perfect place to distribute the film and drive the conversation forward on one of the most important topics of our day.

4/16 Twitter responded with enthusiasm and offered us the opportunity to buy a package to host the movie on a dedicated event page and to promote the event to every Twitter user over the first 10 hours.

5/16 We accepted and signed an agreement. After we signed, Twitter asked to see the film to better understand what parts may 'trigger' users, so they could better prepare their response. They said they were still all hands on deck for launch, so we sent them a screener.

6/16 After reviewing the film, though, Twitter let us know that not only could we no longer purchase the package they offered, they would no longer provide us any support and would actually limit the reach of the film and label it as 'hateful conduct' because of 'misgendering.'

7/16 Specifically: In the film, a father refers to his 14-year-old daughter as 'her,' and a store owner uses the 'wrong' pronoun in a confrontation with a trans person.

8/16 We reminded Twitter they removed 'misgendering' from their policy, that the term 'misgendering' itself is misleading, and that enforcing such a policy places them on the side of the most radical elements in society - the side most opposed to their commitment to free speech.

9/16 Twitter clarified they only removed 'misgendering' from their policy because they didn’t need to be that specific, but that they still consider “misgendering” abuse and harassment. They gave us the opportunity to edit the film to comply. We declined.

10/16 When we asked how much they would limit the visibility if we posted the film anyway, Twitter replied that our own followers would not be able to see it in their feeds. This, they said, is part of their 'speech not reach' policy.

11/16 Of course, saying 'you have the right to speak, but we'll make sure no one hears you' is a bit like saying “you have the right to cast a vote, but we'll make sure it isn't counted.' That's not a right at all!

12/16 We brought all our shows to Twitter Tuesday because we believed Twitter was committed to free speech, especially on this issue. After all, the @TheBabylonBee was silenced on Twitter over this very issue, and that in part prompted @elonmusk to purchase the platform.

13/16 The other tech platforms have already decided where they stand in the trans debate and demonetize and deprioritize all those who disagree. Now, Twitter has joined the ranks of the other tech superpowers in ensuring one side of the debate is suppressed.

14/16 @elonmusk is not beholden to conservatives. He has the right to run his business as he sees fit. But if Twitter is going to throttle one side of one of the most important debates facing society, it cannot claim to champion free speech.

15/16 I hope @elonmusk will reconsider this awful policy. If we can't debate these issues on Twitter, where can we debate them? If conservatives aren't welcome on Twitter, where are they welcome? It’s unlikely another centibillionaire will come along to offer an alternative.

16/16 We plan to post the movie anyway tonight at 8:00 pm eastern. Will Twitter make good on their threat to throttle it and label it 'hateful conduct,' or will Twitter live up to its great promise? We'll all find out together.

READ MORE: Daily Wire host: Having a transgender child is 'like a death of a child while they're still alive'

Seth Dillion, the owner and Chief Executive Officer of the conservative site Babylon Bee, replied to Boreing's thread, saying, "In the interview we just released, Musk reaffirmed his commitment to free speech, saying there will be no compromise, even if it means lost revenue. He also said that Tucker Carlson's main concern was the possibility of censorship. Elon assured Tucker that lawful speech would not be censored. Tucker only announced he'd be bringing his show to Twitter after getting that assurance. Seems like someone over there hasn't gotten the free speech memo."

Musk also replied to Boreing, writing, "This was a mistake by many people at Twitter. It is definitely allowed. Whether or not you agree with using someone's preferred pronouns, not doing so is at most rude and certainly breaks no laws. I should note that I do personally use someone's preferred pronouns, just as I use someone’s preferred name, simply from the standpoint of good manners. However, for the same reason, I object to rude behavior, ostracism or threats of violence if the wrong pronoun or name is used."

The Daily Wire host Matt Walsh later tweeted, "What Is A Woman streams tonight at 8 ET. Elon says that the decision to label the film hate speech was a 'mistake by many people at Twitter.' But currently the clips from the film are still flagged and censored and all trends related to What Is A Woman are still being suppressed," before adding, "We will see what happens tonight."

In November, VICE News reported:

Musk's apparent embrace of the white supremacist community has already led to a rise in hate speech on the platform, and it’s about to get even darker. In far-right forums, extremists of all stripes are salivating at the prospect of being able to share their hateful ideologies on a platform with much greater reach when Musk reinstates accounts that were banned for spreading hate speech.

Furthermore, Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism told VICE News, "As soon as" Musk "took over Twitter, we saw extremists trying to exploit the platform, we've seen hate of all kinds increase, so these messages that he’s sending have to be understood in the context of what is happening to that platform. As it's becoming a hellscape for antisemitism and racism and bigotry, it just so happens that he is putting out the type of language that is appreciated by those who are doing that."

READ MORE: 'A fate worse than death': Matt Walsh launches vicious attack on parenting trans kids

The Daily Wire's full report is available at this link. VICE News' report is here.

'Tell it to God': Evangelical pastor spars with Ted Cruz over Uganda’s 'Kill the Gays' law

A Florida pastor with ties to GOP Governor Ron DeSantis insists his recent remarks attacking U.S. Senator Ted Cruz should not be viewed as an endorsement of the biblical call for gay people to be executed. But he’s not saying he is opposed to it either.

As The Daily Beast first reported, Tom Ascol, the senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida, blasted the Texas Republican Senator, who surprised many when he called Uganda’s new “Kill the Gays” law “horrific & wrong.”

“Any law criminalizing homosexuality or imposing the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ is grotesque & an abomination. ALL civilized nations should join together in condemning this human rights abuse,” Cruz actually tweeted.

That would be the same Ted Cruz who in 2015 claimed gay people were waging a “jihad” against Christians.

Pastor Ascol, who delivered the invocation at Governor DeSantis’ second inauguration, has been called the man who could bring evangelicals from Donald Trump and deliver them to Ron DeSantis.

On Tuesday Ascol tweeted, “Tell it to God, Ted.”

READ MORE: Watch: Ron DeSantis Travels to New Hampshire to Claim Kids Are Being ‘Forced’ to Choose Pronouns

He then quoted the Book of Leviticus, writing: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

“Was this law God gave to His old covenant people ‘horrific and wrong’?” Ascol asked.

Ascol two hours later tweeted, “Amazing how many professing Christians, even self-designated ‘conservative’ ones, are embarrassed by God’s Word. Just quote some unpopular words of God & watch what happens. Many so-called Christians react the same way that unashamed unbelievers do. It’s a commentary.”

Cruz did not reply, but some others did.

David Smith, whose Twitter bio reads, “25 yrs trusting Jesus!” replied: “We no longer live under the Levitical laws @tomascol.”

“If so, we would have to apply the same standard to adultery. (Leviticus 20:10) I agree that all of these things are sin, but where does grace come in? Jesus was clearly in no hurry to condemn in John 8:1-11.”

Pastor Ascol apparently liked the reply from Steven Hasty, which reads: “Many of you are missing the point. If you’re understanding this Tweet to mean Pastor Tom thinks we should start executing homosexuals, you’re missing it. Instead, he’s challenging the standards of Cruz. Where does Cruz derive his standards?”

READ MORE: ‘Barking’: DeSantis Mocked as His Crew Races to Protect Him From Criticism After He Attacks Reporter

Apparently whether or not it’s acceptable to execute LGBTQ people isn’t an issue (except it is, since the entire “debate” its based on Uganda’s new “Kill the Gays” law.)

“Pastor Tom” told Hasty, “You are exactly right. Some people don’t read carefully. Others, evidently, don’t reason well. Thanks for clarifying & accurately expressing what I *actually* wrote. Keep pressing on.”

Ascol didn’t say whether or not he supports the execution of LGBTQ people, he’s merely debating, as Hasty put it, “standards.”

The Daily Beast also reports, “Ascol’s tweet…certainly seemed to suggest that the execution of gay people had a biblical blessing,” and notes that “even on careful reading, most reasonable people would assume Ascol was suggesting that Uganda’s anti-gay law is not intrinsically ‘horrific and wrong.'”

Ascol, The Beast adds, “has repeatedly called for homicide charges against any woman who has an abortion for whatever reason. He has compared choosing to terminate a pregnancy to retaining a killer for hire.”

“’It’s like saying if I don’t murder someone, but I just contracted a murderer to murder someone, I’m not culpable,’ Ascol said on a Christian radio show in 2022.”

The tweet posted to the top of Ascol’s Twitter page says, “If your commitment to the authority of Scripture is limited by cultural sensitivities then it’s not really Scripture’s authority to which you are committed.”

Supporting or opposing the execution of LGBTQ people isn’t about “cultural sensitivities.”

US may suspend alliance with Australian Special Forces over war crimes allegations: report

Australia has long been a close ally of the United States. In fact, it has been one of the United States' top non-NATO allies.

But according to The Guardian, U.S. officials are warning that the U.S. may suspend cooperation with Australian Special Forces in response to reports of alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan.

Gen. Angus Campbell, who heads the Australian Defense Force, said he had "received a letter from the United States defense attaché here in Canberra” in response to credible evidence implicating 25 current or former members of the Australian Special Forces in the deaths of 39 people in Afghanistan — as well as the mistreatment of two other people.

READ MORE: The Taliban and the Islamic State continue to fight for Afghanistan’s future

The U.S. and Australia were allies during U.S. forces' many years in Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Taliban, however, took over Afghanistan after the Biden Administration followed former U.S. President Donald Trump's timeline for withdrawal of troops from the country.

READ MORE: Donald Trump explodes at 'these morons in the White House' after report blames him for Afghanistan debacle

The Guardian's full report continues at this link.

Inside the 'egregious' Texas GOP 'power grab' Republicans nationwide are copying to usurp elections

Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott is likely to sign two pieces of legislation into law that will reshape how elections are conducted in heavily Democratic Harris County.

"One of the bills the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature approved would eliminate the job of county election administrator, who is appointed by a five-member commission that includes the county judge, the tax assessor, the county clerk and the chairs of the Harris County Republican and Democratic parties. Election administration duties would revert to two elected officials, the county clerk and the tax assessor-collector, who performed them before 2020," Stateline reported on Thursday. "The second bill would allow the secretary of state to take over election administration if there are persistent voting irregularities."

Democrats have understandably decried what Republicans are trying to do. State Representative Jarvis Johnson of Harris County — the Lone Star State's largest — called the proposals "an egregious, disgusting, despicable act" and "a power grab on behalf of Republicans to try to take over elections and certainly steer elections their way."

READ MORE: Texas GOP passes bills allowing Abbott appointee to take over Democratic county’s elections

According to Stateline, the effort undertaken by the Texas GOP to potentially render democracy inert in blue districts is metastasizing in other states where Republicans have statehouse control.

"During this year's legislative session, Republican lawmakers in Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Florida, Georgia and Montana have approved measures that restrict election administration, including prohibiting nonprofits from donating to local election offices, tightening the time local election officials get to count votes and limiting local governments' ability to create new voting ordinances," Stateline explained.

Stateline noted that Arizona's Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs recently vetoed proposals that mirrored those in Texas,

"Republican-backed bills in Arizona would have given political parties more powers to observe the signature-verification process when counting ballots, along with setting up livestreaming of that process," Stateline wrote. "The Republican-controlled legislature there also passed measures that would have made more voter information and ballot images public."

READ MORE: Former Texas mayor hails Ken Paxton’s impeachment as a 'substantial bipartisan act of government'

Stateline's report continues here.

Trump’s Scotland golf club booted from Open Championship for 'the foreseeable future': report

The Open Championship has been a Scottish/British tradition for 163 years, going back to the golf tournament's inception in 1860. This year's event is set for July 16-23.

Former President Donald Trump has been pushing for The Open to be held at his Turnberry Golf Resort in Ayrshire, Scotland. But according to sources interviewed by the U.K.-based Telegraph, the R&A — which manages The Open — has ruled out the possibility of holding the event there anytime soon.

The Telegraph, in an article published on May 31, cites "a serious security risk due to potential protests" as a reason for R&A's concerns."

READ MORE: 'He was dead': Trump swipes at 'very disloyal' DeSantis at golf tournament

In 2021, R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers said that R&A "had no plans to stage any of our championships at Turnberry and will not do so in the foreseeable future." And this year, an R&A source told the Telegraph their "position remains unchanged."

The source, interviewed on condition of anonymity, said, "We have no plans to stage any of our championships there in the foreseeable future and will not return until we are convinced that the focus will be on the championship, the players and the course itself."

The Telegraph's full report is available at this link (subscription required).

'Barking': Ron DeSantis mocked as staffers shield him after he snapped at a reporter

Continuing his official presidential campaign kickoff this week, Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis delivered a speech to New Hampshire voters Thursday morning but refused to take questions from the audience. Afterward, when a reporter simply asked why, DeSantis blasted him, saying repeatedly, “Are you blind?” because he was talking to individual supporters at the time.

The candidate’s campaign team immediately swarmed to protect him on social media.

NBC News senior national political reporter Jonathan Allen on Twitter posted the video (below) and wrote that DeSantis had “lashed out at a reporter for asking him about it while he was chatting with members of the crowd individually.”

At NBC News, Allen’s headline reads: “Ron DeSantis loses his temper with a reporter: ‘Are you blind?'”

Allen reports DeSantis “became noticeably agitated” and “lashed out at a reporter — twice barking ‘Are you blind?'”

The reporter who had asked DeSantis why he wouldn’t take questions was Steve Peoples, chief political reporter for The Associated Press, who tweeted: “Here in Laconia, NH at his first stop in state as presidential candidate, DeSantis speaks for 58 minutes. He takes no questions from audience.”

READ MORE: Grassley Admits He Doesn’t Care if GOP’s Accusations Against ‘Vice President Biden’ Are True or Not – He Vows to Pursue Them

“People are coming up to me, talking to me,” DeSantis said. “What are you talking about? Are you blind? Are you blind? People are coming up to me, talking to me whatever they want to talk to me about.”

Allen adds that the Florida governor’s decision to not take questions “was surprising and frustrating to some Republicans who came to hear DeSantis speak.”

On social media, many were also not impressed.

“Some of us warned that DeSantis wasn’t ready for the national media or public spotlight, that he had been coddled in Florida for far too long, and that his media team of Pushaw, Redfern, et al spend too much time trolling on Twitter and not helping him,” observed MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan.

But the question really is why wouldn’t a candidate for president, who has been in politics for over a decade, be excited to talk to prospective supporters and take their questions, especially given the history of states like New Hampshire and Iowa, where establishing that personal relationship historically has been critical to the success of a candidate’s campaign?

Former federal prosecutor, former DeSantis administration official, and former Republican Ron Filipkowski noted, “Ron DeSnowflake lost his cool again and had another freakout. This guy can’t deal with people.”

READ MORE: ‘Absolutely Blockbuster Evidence’: Experts Stunned Over Trump ‘Espionage Act’ Bombshell That Pressures ‘DOJ to Indict’

Observing DeSantis is “so out of his depth,” former journalist Ed Moltzen writes: “There are towns in New Hampshire with the official title ‘Town Moderator’ – people who assist with fielding audience questions to political candidates during forums. That’s how much open Q & A is in the political DNA of New Hampshire.”

Huffpost White House correspondent S.V. Dáte had warned, “Just watch. DeSantis’ social media arsonists will fan this interaction for days.”

And indeed, DeSantis’ crew was quick to attack, which Dáte pointed to.

Governor DeSantis’ press secretary Bryan Griffin quickly moved to falsely frame the interaction.

“This @AP reporter asked this question while @RonDeSantis was surrounded by voters in New Hampshire asking him questions and taking pictures,” Griffin tweeted. “Perfectly illustrative of the modern media shutting their eyes and ears to the truth to push their narrative.”

The question was clearly about DeSantis’ refusal to take questions from the audience, so the audience could hear his answers.

Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ far-right former press secretary who moved to his presidential campaign as his rapid response director, responded to Griffin to attack the reporter.

“Very diplomatic of you to refer to the AP activist as a reporter!” she said.

But journalist Marcus Baram replied to Griffin: “You KNOW what the reporter meant.
Not a meet-and-greet with lots of people in a crowded room.
Questions asked in a setting where the person has time to ask the governor without distractions, and he has the time to respond with a substantive answer.
Campaigning 101.”

Watch DeSantis below or at this link.

'That’s why we're losing': GOP insiders blame flawed 'canvassing operations' for election disappointments

It isn't hard to see why Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' cheerleaders view the Sunshine State as a "blueprint" for right-wing politics. Florida was the one state where the "red wave" that Fox News pundits spent months predicting really did materialize in the 2022 midterms.

But in many battleground states — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, Nevada — Democrats performed much better than expected in 2022. Then, in April 2023, liberal Janet Protasiewicz enjoyed an 11 percent victory over far-right Republican Dan Kelly in a Wisconsin Supreme Court race.

A reason that many Democratic strategists and liberal pundits at MSNBC have given is that Republican ideas are simply unpopular, from draconian abortion bans to defunding Obamacare to election denialism.

READ MORE: 'Write this down': 'Pro-choice' Republican governor warns GOP of electoral doom over abortion

In a report published by NBC News' website on June 1, reporter Allan Smith gives another reason: a weak GOP "canvassing" operation.

"The large-scale voter contact effort that conservatives have put at the center of their political operations in recent years is plagued with issues, according to more than a dozen people who've worked in GOP-aligned field operations and internal data obtained by NBC News," Smith explains. "Those issues include fraudulent and untrustworthy data entries….. as well as allegations of lax hiring practices and a lack of accountability."

Smith reports that according to GOP sources interviewed by NBC News, a big problem for Republican candidates is "the right's increased reliance on paid canvassers rather than volunteers."

According to Smith, Democrats enjoy some "build-in advantages" with "in-person canvassing," including "a more ready supply of younger volunteers, allies in organized labor offering union workers to hit the doors, and a base of supporters who are more tightly concentrated in urban and dense suburban areas where canvassers can hit a lot more doors in a lot less time."

READ MORE:'A perfect storm': Obama’s 2008 Florida director explains why Democrats hit rock bottom in his state

A Republican source, interviewed by NBC News on condition of anonymity, said of problematic Republican canvassing, "That's why we're losing elections. Nobody wants to admit it."

READ MORE:GOP's 'giddiness about a big red wave' ended up blowing up in their face

NBC News' full report is available at this link.

On student loan repayments, McCarthy didn’t get what he said he got

Now that the US House has passed legislation that lifts the debt ceiling, we can expect to emerge an array of narratives that rationalize votes for or against it. With respect to progressive Democrats, one of those narratives will almost certainly be this: It ends the pause of student-loan repayments? No thanks.

That narrative will be rooted not in what Joe Biden has said but in what the House speaker has said. “The pause is gone within 60 days of this being signed,” Kevin McCarthy said after a White House meeting. “So that is another victory because that brings in $5 billion each month to the American public.”

There was never a principled reason to balk at raising the debt ceiling. (The Republicans raised it for Donald Trump.) So McCarthy had to invent one – they were using the borrowing cap as a means of restraining federal expenditures. The three-year moratorium on student loan repayments was costing the government billions, McCarthy said. Ending the moratorium would cut costs.

READ MORE: 'Cruel and shortsighted': Progressives blast Biden-McCarthy debt ceiling deal

But even as McCarthy bragged about what he got, he knew he didn’t get it.

The Biden administration had paused repayments eight times since the beginning of the pandemic. The Supreme Court is likely to block a separate plan to forgive sizable chunks of student-loan debt. Pressure to resume repayments comes not only from Republicans but from Democrats, too. When asked, the US secretary of education seemed to suggest that the question wasn’t whether there will be a new pause but when repayments will restart.

“We are committed to making sure that once a decision [by the Supreme Court] is made that we are going to resume payments 60 days after. No later than June 30, we’re going to begin that process,” Miguel Cardona testified.

McCarthy said repayments will begin 60 days after the debt-ceiling legislation is signed into law by the president, but that’s not what the legislation says. It says what the Biden administration has been saying – that repayments will restart no later than June 30, meaning they will resume sometime in early fall.

READ MORE: 'Cruelty seems to be the point': James Clyburn hammers Republicans over student debt

The House speaker is claiming credit for having ended, through debt-ceiling negotiations, something the Biden administration was already feeling pressured to end, separate and apart from debt-ceiling negotiations. In other words, McCarthy is saying he won. Joe Biden is saying yeah, Kev. Sure, you did.

To be sure, the president reportedly surrendered the administration’s ability to continue pausing student loans as part of his deal with the House Republicans. This has some claiming that he gave up too much. But the likelihood of the Biden administration continuing to pause repayments was extremely low.

Biden would probably prefer not to bring attention to the complete facts of the matter, because, one way or another, they make him look bad. (McCarthy might have done him a favor. Biden can say, somewhat truthfully, that it wasn’t his choice to end the moratorium. He can say the Republicans forced him to.)

The same can’t be said of the House speaker. Though McCarthy didn’t really get what he bragged about getting, his bragging about having got it sailed across the political spectrum to the ears of Democratic progressives in the House who wanted Biden to continue pausing repayments, and who in turn decided that whatever’s good for the House speaker must be bad for them.

So ending the current pause on student loan repayments has emerged as one of the reasonsreasons why some Democratic progressives decided to vote against lifting the debt ceiling. Other reasonsreasons, according toCommon Dreams, include provisions in the bill “that would slash food assistance, require approval of a gas pipeline and end the federal moratorium on student loan payments — all while maintaining hundreds of billions of dollars in Pentagon spending and low taxes for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.”

What’s the moral to be drawn here? I can’t know that I know. What I do know, however, is that McCarthy didn’t get what he said he got. What I do know is that McCarthy seeming to get it became nearly the same as getting it. What I do know is that standing on the line between seeming to get and getting was enough for McCarthy’s adversaries to vote against what he didn’t really get.

READ MORE: House GOP rebuked for 'cruel and reckless' ploy to reverse student debt relief

Grassley admits he doesn’t care if GOP accusations against 'Vice President Biden' are 'accurate or not'

Promising to continue his demands on FBI Director Chris Wray, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) admitted on Thursday he does not care whether or not conservatives’ accusations against President Joe Biden are true or not.

Grassley and House Oversight Committee Chairman Jim Comer have teamed up to pursue what they claim is a document held by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that allegedly accuses President Biden of a corrupt act.

The two Republicans have been ratcheting up their attacks on FBI Director Chris Wray, threatening him with contempt of Congress if he does not hand over the alleged document, which Grassley calls an “unclassified, FBI-generated record alleging a criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Joe Biden and a foreign national.”

On Wednesday, Director Wray, according to Grassley and Comer, discussed the document with them, and has offered to allow them to view it in person. He is, they say, still refusing to release it to the House Oversight Committee. It’s unclear why Grassley is even involved; he is not a ranking member on any Senate Committee that has oversight responsibilities for the FBI, except the Budget Committee.

READ MORE: ‘Absolutely Blockbuster Evidence’: Experts Stunned Over Trump ‘Espionage Act’ Bombshell That Pressures ‘DOJ to Indict’

House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-MD) requested to join Grassley and Comer on the call Wednesday, but Comer reportedly refused to allow him access, Punchbowl News’ Max Cohen reported. NBC News also reported Comer refused to allow Raskin to join the call with Director Wray.

Ranking Member Raskin in a statement characterized the lone document as containing “unsubstantiated, second-hand claims,” and called it a “tip.”

Noting Director Wray’s “extraordinary accommodations” to Comer and Grassley, “and the fact that Republicans have claimed to have access to the very information subpoenaed,” Raskin points out in his statement, “Chairman Comer has continued to insist he will hold the FBI Director in contempt.”

“It is increasingly clear that Committee Republicans have always planned to hold Director Wray in contempt of Congress to distract from the obvious fact that they do not have evidence to support their unfounded accusations against President Biden. This latest political maneuver underscores Chairman Comer’s determination to use the Committee to help former President Trump’s reelection efforts and pander to extreme MAGA Republicans.”

Cohen also reports Raskin said, “Chairman Comer has crafted a hyper-partisan narrative that depicts the FBI as obstructionist. This is a radical distortion of the situation.”

CNN reports that even then-Attorney General Bill Barr questioned the validity of the alleged document, which “has origins in a tranche of documents that Rudy Giuliani provided to the Justice Department in 2020, people briefed on the matter said.”

READ MORE: ‘Sure Wasn’t by Drag Queens’: DeSantis Slammed for Ignoring Florida Mass Shooting That Included Children

“We can’t take anything we received from Ukraine at face value,” Barr said at the time.

“While the 1023 form documents the claims from the informant, it doesn’t provide proof that they are true, people briefed on the matter said. The FBI and prosecutors who reviewed the information couldn’t corroborate the claims,” CNN adds.

“The allegations of wrongdoing by the then-vice president, many originating from sources in Ukraine, were dubious enough that Attorney General William Barr in early 2020 directed that they be reviewed by a US attorney in Pittsburgh, in part because Barr was concerned that Giuliani’s document tranche could taint the ongoing Hunter Biden investigation overseen by the Delaware US attorney.”

Ian Sams, a White House spokesperson, told CNN Chairman Comer “has already admitted this isn’t about uncovering facts but about trying to hurt the President’s poll numbers, so the only question left is how long he will waste time, energy, and taxpayer dollars to support a fact-free politically-motivated goose chase simply to get media attention and the Fox News spotlight.”

Indeed, late last month Comer appeared to tell Fox News that his investigations into Hunter Biden are actually designed to help Donald Trump win the 2024 presidential election.

Asked by Fox News if his investigations are “what’s moved this needle with the media?” – meaning Biden’s poll numbers, Comer replied: “Absolutely. There’s no question.”

“You look at the polling, and right now Donald Trump is 7 points ahead of Joe Biden and trending upward, Joe Biden’s trending downward,” he said, referring to one poll. “And I believe that the media is looking around, scratching their head, and they’re realizing that the American people are keeping up with our investigation.”

Meanwhile, Senator Grassley also appeared on Thursday to make clear he was not interested in the validity or accuracy of the claim against “Vice President Biden.”

“We aren’t interested in whether or not the accusation against Vice President Biden are accurate or not,” Grassley told Fox News, claiming his pursuit of the single document is merely to ensure “the FBI does its job.”

READ MORE: ‘Will Make a Great Trial Witness’: Experts Thrilled Jack Smith Is Investigating Trump’s Firing of Election Security Expert

Even the Fox News host sounded surprised.

“Senator, let me stop you right here. You just said you read the document, is that right?”

“Yes,” Grassley replied.

When asked what it said, Grassley refused to discuss it.

“I’m not going to characterize it,” he declared.

Watch below or at this link.

Trump campaign rips Ron DeSantis for not deciding 'how to pronounce his name'

As much as Donald Trump's critics mock him for harping on trivial, unimportant things, the president's adolescent-like name-calling can be effective with his MAGA base. Trump's names for political opponents are designed to diminish them — for example, "Sleepy Joe" for President Joe Biden, "Crooked Hillary" for former Secretary of State/ex-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, "Crazy Bernie" for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), or "Pocahontas" for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts).

Trump has two names for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running against him in the 2024 GOP presidential primary: "Ron DeSanctimonious" and "Meatball Ron." And according to Axios, his campaign has found a new line of attack against DeSantis: the fact that his last name has been pronounced different ways.

Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesman, told Axios, "Ron DeSantis is a phony who can't decide how to pronounce his name. If you can't get your name right, how can you lead a country?"

READ MORE: Ron DeSantis accuses teachers of 'forcing' students to pick pronouns

Axios reporters Alex Thompson and Sophia Cai, in an article published on June 1, note that DeSantis' last name has been pronounced "Dee-Santis" or "Deh-Santis" by the Florida governor and members of his team.

Axios, in the article and a video posted on YouTube, is referring to English-language conversations. In Spanish-language media such as Telemundo and Univision, one is likely to hear DeSantis' last name pronounced "Day-Sahn-TEESE," with an emphasis on the last syllable.

DeSantis' great grandparents were from the south of Italy, where a "dee" pronunciation would be spelled "di."

"Some presidential candidates struggle to nail their message. Ron DeSantis is struggling to nail his name," Thompson and Sophia Cai note. "In the early days of his campaign, DeSantis has gone back and forth between pronouncing his name 'Dee-Santis' and 'Deh-Santis.'"

READ MORE: How Ron DeSantis is 'trying to out-Trump Trump' on climate: report

The reporters continue, "Why it matters: DeSantis' dissonance on how to say his name — for years an issue of confusion for his campaign teams — is a curiosity as many GOP leaders and donors wonder whether the Florida governor is ready for the scrutiny of a presidential campaign…. Early in his political career, DeSantis, 44, appeared to use 'Dee-Santis' more often — then began a slow and still-incomplete evolution to 'Deh-Santis.'"

READ MORE: Ron DeSantis signs six-week abortion ban into law

Find Axios' full report at this linkand watch Axios' video below or at this link.

Ron DeSantis' flip-flop on how to say his

DOJ slams Jim Justice’s coal empire with 128-page civil lawsuit

On April 27, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced that he is seeking the GOP nomination for his state's 2024 U.S. Senate race. Justice, if he becomes the nominee, is hoping to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

Although Manchin's centrist voting record has been a frequent source of frustration to the liberal/progressive wing of his party, his defenders have been stressing that he is a rare example of a Democrat who can win statewide in deep red West Virginia. Before Manchin was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, he was the state's governor. Justice's allies, however, believe he has a good chance of unseating Manchin if he becomes the GOP nominee.

Justice and Manchin are both strong supporters of fossil fuels and the coal industry, and Justice's coal operation is now facing a 128-page civil lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for — according to Politico's Kyle Cheney — "failing to pay more than $5 million in civil penalties assessed by the Department of the Interior."

READ MORE: 'It is absolutely done': West Virginia governor signs 'strict and 'near-total abortion ban' into law

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday, May 30 and includes 13 of the Justice family's businesses as well as the governor's son, Jay Justice.

Cheney reports, "The suit alleges that the businesses failed to pay fines for more than 100 violations of federal mining regulations that created 'health and safety risks' or threatened 'environmental harm.' Justice Department attorneys are seeking a court order to force the Justice companies to repay the fines with interest. The bulk of the lawsuit spells out the individual violations of federal mining regulations, overseen by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement."

Republicans, according to Cheney, are claiming that the DOJ's lawsuit is politically motivated.

GOP strategists feel encouraged by Justice's performance in polls. An East Carolina University Center for Survey Research poll released in late May found that in a hypothetical Justice/Manchin matchup, Justice would win by 22 percent.

READ MORE: These Republicans are hoping to 'flip Joe Manchin’s seat' in 2024: report

Former Texas mayor hails Ken Paxton’s impeachment as a 'substantial bipartisan act of government'

A major bombshell in Lone Star politics came on Saturday, May 27, when the Texas House of Representatives voted to bring 20 articles of impeachment against far-right State Attorney General Ken Paxton. The vote was 121-23, and that 121 — a combination of Republicans and Democrats — have accused him of corruption, bribery and obstruction of justice.

Paxton's impeachment has set off a civil war within the Republican Party, which has a majority in both houses of the Texas State Legislature. Former President Donald Trump, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are among the far-right Republicans who have rushed to Paxton's defense, while conservative Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan believes that Paxton has become a major liability for the GOP. Paxton's MAGA apologists have been attacking Phelan as a RINO: Republican In Name Only.

In an op-ed published by the Daily Beast on June 1, former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski, a Democrat, hails Paxton's impeachment as a "substantial and meaningful bipartisan act of government." Jaworski sought the Democratic nomination for Texas' 2022 attorney general race, but Rochelle Garza won that that primary before losing to Paxton by 12 percent in the general election.

READ MORE: Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial could 'seriously wound' Texas Republicans

"Last November, (Paxton) seemed bulletproof in victory," Jaworski observes. "Now, he's likely working from home, crafting his defense for a consequential summer impeachment trial in the Texas Senate. There, he will be convicted and permanently removed from office — and possibly banished from ever holding office in the future — or acquitted and restored to lead the Office of Attorney General, assuredly more powerful than ever and ready to punish those who crossed him."

Jaworski applauds the Texas Republicans who voted to impeach Paxton and stresses that his Texas Senate trial in August will have strong "national implications."

"America's toxic political environment burns, while partisans rejoice in their opponents' defeat," the former Galveston mayor observes, "but Paxton's remarkable fall should instead elicit somber reflection on the state of our politics…. Paxton's verdict this summer — the Senate trial will commence in late August — will determine whether Texas' state government is, in this instance, defined by bipartisan cooperation or partisan nuclear war. There are national implications, too, as Paxton and Donald Trump are collaborators."

Jaworski continues, "As an example, Trump explicitly and Paxton reportedly threatened retaliation against certain Texas House members during the impeachment hearing Saturday. The political consensus is that Paxton will do anything to survive this trial. No defense is too extreme; every imaginable play is on the table."

READ MORE: Ken Paxton impeachment fight exposes deep fissures among Texas GOP

Joe Jaworski's full op-ed for The Daily Beast is available at this link (subscription required).

'A perfect storm': Obama’s 2008 Florida director explains why Democrats hit rock bottom in his state

When the election returns for the 2022 midterms came in, Democrats were pleasantly surprised by how well they performed in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and other key swing states. Far-right pundits at Fox News, confined to a MAGA bubble, spent months predicting that 2022 would bring a massive red wave; instead, Democrats increased their small majority in the U.S. Senate and narrowly lost the U.S. House of Representatives.

Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer enjoyed an 11 percent reelection victory over far-right MAGA Republican challenger Tudor Dixon. In Pennsylvania, the ultimate swing state, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro defeated GOP conspiracy theorist Doug Mastriano by 15 percent.

But there was one state where Democrats seriously underperformed in 2022: Florida. GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis ran a far-right campaign and was reelected by 19 percent, while Republican Sen. Marco Rubio defeated Democrat Val Demings by 16 percent. The news across the board was terrible for Democrats in Florida, inspiring many pundits to say that it had gone from swing state to deep red state.

READ MORE: 'Persistent affordability crisis': How DeSantis’ plan to sell his 'Florida blueprint' could backfire

Veteran Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who served as President Barack Obama's Florida director in 2008, examines his party's misfortunes in the Sunshine State in an article published by The Bulwark on June 1. Democrats have lost so much ground in Florida, Schale laments, that percentagewise, they now hold more positions in the Montana State Legislature than they do in Florida's.

"What happened in 2022 was a perfect storm," Schale explains. "A decade's worth of decisions to intentionally defund the state party had left it an empty shell. Republicans had an incumbent governor in Ron DeSantis who was incentivized to run up the score to support his presidential ambitions. An unpopular Democratic president was facing his first midterm election, and Democratic donors were both tired of Florida and focused — rightly — on maintaining a majority in the U.S. Senate and defending key governorships."

The Democratic strategist continues, "All the ingredients were in place for a wipeout, which is what Florida Democrats got."

That "wipeout," Schale observes, went way beyond "Hurricane Ron's" reelection. Most of the U.S. House and state legislature victories in Florida in 2022 went to Republicans.

READ MORE: 'Make him own this': Florida’s 'atrocious' abortion ban could derail DeSantis’ presidential hopes

Nonetheless, Schale doesn't believe that Florida has become far-right ideologically, but rather, reflects the Democratic Party's poor organizing in his state.

The Floridian writes, "I believe Florida remains today what it was when Obama won it: essentially a center-right state, where Democrats, as Obama was, have to be smart in how they talk to voters…. National Democrats can't afford to let Florida become a one-party state, not if they want any margin for error in the Electoral College. Which is why, for Democrats everywhere, the Florida Democratic problem is everyone's problem now."

READ MORE: Ron DeSantis vows to 'destroy leftism' and 'woke ideology' if elected president

Read Steve Schale's full article for The Bulwark at this link.

'Self-help guru who won’t get help': ​Marianne Williamson’s ex-staffers reveal 'demeaning' treatment

Former staffers for 2024 presidential candidate Marianne Williamson have revealed the New York Times best-selling author is not the best boss, The Daily Beast reports.

Citing "poor leadership skills" and "an inability to delegate properly," several ex-employee's recounted the author's "demeaning" behavior that has led "at least 10 staffers" to quit after only two months.

The Daily Beast's report comes two months after Politico reported 12 former Williamson 2020 campaign staffers disclosed details of their experiences.

READ MORE: Marianne Williamson is running for president in 2024

Furthermore, The Daily Beast points out, "While female politicians are often unfairly accused of being difficult bosses on the basis of behavior that is accepted from a male boss, these aides insisted that wasn't the case with Williamson" — one ex-staffer even saying, "I can't go over to her now because she'll have another meltdown.'"

Politico reports:

Those interviewed say the best-selling author and spiritual adviser subjected her employees to unpredictable, explosive episodes of anger. They said Williamson could be cruel and demeaning to her staff and that her behavior went far beyond the typical stress of a grueling presidential cycle.

One of the 2024 hopeful's ex-staffers told The Daily Beast, "We all read that Politico story, and it seems like she hasn't learned anything," adding, "I can't say that I've seen her throw anything, but she demeans her staff in front of other people. It is not private; it is public."

The Daily Beast reports:

With little overlap between her 2020 and 2024 operations, this new round of Williamson staffers came to the campaign 'as fans,' according to one staffer. Aides even went so far as to accept a proposal from former campaign manager Peter Daou to 'even out' everyone's pay at $6,000 per month.

READ MORE: Briefing room erupts in laughter as Karine Jean-Pierre takes shot at Biden rival Marianne Williamson

A staffer emphasized, "People join up as fans, and then they get burned," noting Williamson "burns through people quickly."

Furthermore, one former staffer called the candidate "a self-help guru who won't get help," while another added the list "of alleged Williamson offenses is so extensive that 'yelling is almost the least fatal for her,'" The Daily Beast reports.

"I've worked in dozens of high pressure campaigns," an ex-staffer commented. "Never have I experienced this kind of a tinderbox."

READ MORE: Robert Reich wonders if Joe Biden is the best presidential candidate for Democrats in 2024

The Daily Beast's full report is available at this link (subscription required). Politico's report is here.

Trump attorney Jim Trusty: DOJ 'filtered' recording to 'justify a persecution' of his client

Former President Donald Trump's attorney Jim Trusty insisted to CNN's Kaitlan Collins late Wednesday night that his client had "absolute authority" to take whatever sensitive materials that he wanted out of the White House at the end of his term.

The interview occurred hours after CNN published an exclusive blockbuster report that United States Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith and his team of prosecutors possess a recording of Trump from 2021 in which he admits to keeping a top-secret document related to a potential military strike on Iran. According to CNN's sources, Trump can be heard acknowledging that he did not have the post-presidency power to declassify and share its content despite his desire to do so.

Scores of legal experts quickly noted that the tape is "a hugely significant piece of evidence" indicating that Trump illegally disseminated information and that he is likely to be indicted under the Espionage Act.

READ MORE: Prosecutors obtain recording of Donald Trump boasting about classified documents in 2021: report

Recall, though, that ever since the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a search warrant at Trump's Mar-a-Lago compound in Palm Beach, Florida last August, Trump and his defenders have maintained that the Presidential Records Act provided Trump the authority to remove and retain government property with impunity.

CNN explained in March, however, that "Trump's claims are false. The Presidential Records Act says that, the moment a president leaves office, NARA gets custody and control of all presidential records from his administration. Nothing in the act says there should be prolonged 'talk' or a negotiated 'agreement' between a former president and NARA over a former president's return of presidential documents – much less that there should have been a months-long battle after NARA first contacted Trump's team in 2021 to try to get some of the records that had not been handed over at the end of his presidency."

CNN further pointed out that "the key sentence from the Presidential Records Act is unequivocal" pertaining to Trump's situation: 'Upon the conclusion of a President's term of office, or if a President serves consecutive terms upon the conclusion of the last term, the Archivist of the United States shall assume responsibility for the custody, control, and preservation of, and access to, the Presidential records of that President."

In April, The Washington Postalso quashed Trump's assertions, writing that "Trump cooks up a deceiving stew of half-truths in a misleading effort to suggest that the PRA protects him from prosecution and gives him the right to haggle over whether he can retain presidential documents at his home. NARA is able to enlist the help of the Justice Department to demand return of the documents under another law — and, in any case, the possible criminal case against Trump does not hinge on the PRA at all. That law gives a president leeway to determine whether documents are presidential in nature before he leaves office — but not when he no longer is president. As is often the case with Trump, he's venturing where no recent occupant of the White House has tried to go. The sparse judicial review of the PRA gives him an opening to suggest he has a stronger case than many legal experts believe. But don't be fooled — in sum, this is a Four Pinocchio claim."

READ MORE: 'Absolutely blockbuster evidence': Stunned experts say docs recording is game over for Donald Trump

Nonetheless, Trusty doubled down on Trump's excuses in his interview with Collins — who broke the recording story along with correspondents Katelyn Polantz and Paula Reid.

"You referenced the fact that Trump was still president when he left office. He left Washington. I think he had about an hour left in his presidency. Are you saying that it was in that hour that he declassified the documents that were taken with him?" Collins asked Trusty.

"No. Your, your timing is a little bit off that he, he landed in Mar-a-Lago and was at his residence while still president. It was a little bit after that that Biden was sworn in. So he, he had the absolute authority to take every one of those documents. Any document he wants with him when he left the White House. What happens throughout history, through modern history is that if you take documents and Archives thinks they're entitled to it, they start negotiating and that's what he did. He was telling 'em things like, 'Hey, just ask if you want anything more.' He gave them fifteen boxes in January of 2022," Trusty said.

"Well after some back and forth," Collins interjected. "But just to be clear, you are making the argument right now that by the time he was on the ground in Florida after he left Washington, that that is when he declassified all of these documents that he took with him?" she pressed.

"No, no, no. I'm saying that documents he brought with him are effectively declassified and personalized under the Presidential Record Act. We're talking about constitutional authority under the Constitution to declassify. If he wants to take stuff with him and say anything I take with him is declassified, if he wants to take stuff and say, anything I read at night is declassified, that was absolutely his right as president. And the personal, the Presidential Records Act makes it clear that we don't even care about classified information. It is a statutory scheme that deals with presidential or personal only," Trusty replied.

"But if this was deal classified, Jim, if this was declassified, then why are we told that he's on this tape basically telling the people in the room that he can't share it with them?" Collins wondered.

"You are told by DOJ or FBI or whoever filtered that to you anything they can think of to justify a persecution," Trusty declared.

"No, but Jim, that's..." Collins responded.

"Kaitlan," Trusty interrupted, "I'm telling you, this is, they, they had rumors out yesterday. There's gonna be one every day. They had rumors out yesterday."

Watch below or at this link.

READ MORE: The audio is all special counsel needs on Trump: Former DOJ official

CNN's March fact check is available here. The Washington Post's analysis is here (subscription required).

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