The Right Wing

Trump's delusional supporters will rage and scream no matter what. Democrats should stop trying to make peace

Even after the landslide defeat of Donald Trump, Republicans across the board continue to be terrified by Trump's disciples. Fear of the Red Hats has always been one of the primary reasons why the rest of Trump's party has refused to speak out against his ongoing horror show. It's not the only reason, but it's one of the more potent ones.

It's fascinating to observe how thoroughly they've painted themselves into a corner. While leading Republicans are in love with Trump's policies, not to mention the cover the Red Hats gave them to pass their agenda, they're privately disgusted by the president's total lack of personal restraint and constant self-sabotage.

In fact, Carl Bernstein wrote this week that 21 Senate Republicans have "privately expressed their disdain for Trump." Underscore "privately." Bernstein name-dropped Sens. Rob Portman, Lamar Alexander, Ben Sasse, Roy Blunt, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, John Cornyn, John Thune, Mitt Romney, Mike Braun, Todd Young, Tim Scott, Rick Scott, Marco Rubio, Chuck Grassley, Richard Burr, Pat Toomey, Martha McSally, Jerry Moran, Pat Roberts and Richard Shelby. Most of them have voted with Trump across the board, and only a few — Collins, Murkowski, Romney and Sasse, most notably — have dared to publicly criticize him. Why? Cowardice before the fury of the Red Hats.

The dispiriting enormity of Trump's following (73.8 million in this election) means the rest of the GOP can't win without the Trumpers. So Republicans routinely clam up whenever Trump crosses another Rubicon — thousands and thousands of Rubicons at this point. By clamming up, they empower Trump to curb-stomp more and more of our democratic values, while they quiver in the corner afraid of Trump deploying his Red Hats against them in another late-night tweetstorm. They're locked in a MAGA-induced torpor, unable to act even if they wanted to. After four years of irreparable damage to the country, they're impotent and powerless to stop this weirdo tyrant as he annihilates the integrity of our elections — tweet by tweet, and frivolous lawsuit after hilariously frivolous lawsuit.

While it's pathetic, infuriating and completely unpatriotic, I at least understand why they're doing it. What I don't understand is why the Normals are afraid of Trump's Red Hats, too.

Even before the 2020 election, Democratic leaders, as well as select cable news pundits, have too often repeated a variation on: "Don't do [x] because it'll make Trump's supporters angry." It's been trotted out as an excuse for not impeaching Trump and for pardoning Trump, and as a reason to argue against prosecuting Trump and his henchmen after the new administration is sworn in. Fear of the Red Hats is possibly why NBC News' Chuck Todd felt obligated this past weekend to refer to Joe Biden as the "apparent winner" of the election, days and days after Biden was declared the actual winner of the election by Todd's own network. Simply put: The truth and integrity of the press is being subverted by an irrational fear of screeching Twitter trolls who don't know the difference between "they're," "there" and "their."

Elsewhere, George Washington University Law School professor Randall Eliason published an opinion piece for the Washington Post in which he argued that prosecuting Trump would be a catastrophic error, noting, "Trump and his supporters would inevitably characterize any investigations as a corrupt attempt by the Biden administration to 'take out' a potential 2024 rival." The only response to this is: So what? They're doing that today with the 2020 election. What's another knee-jerk grievance on top of all the others?

Eliason isn't the only one. There will be many more with similarly serious warnings. And the emerging conventional wisdom on this front is entirely based on a fear of the Red Hats and their incoherent rage.

The tragic reality of the Biden years will be this: The Red Hats are going to scream about literally everything anyway. They already are. History has taught us that appeasement only makes the aggressor more aggressive, and trying to unilaterally play nice will only end in unilateral pantsing. In their deluded, brainwashed minds, Biden stole the election from Trump, while professional stooges like Charlie Kirk and Breitbart are already hyping up their fanboys about inevitable "persecutions" that will follow. Ivanka Trump, meanwhile, has expressed outrage over the New York attorney general's comprehensive investigation into Trump's alleged financial crimes. Fox News and the other pro-Trump propaganda outlets will link Biden to all of it, whether Biden wants to be linked or not.

If they don't have actual Biden scandals to latch onto, they'll make 'em up. And since they'll indiscriminately lose their shpadoinkle anyway, why not uphold the rule of law and proceed forward with accountability — whether in the form of bipartisan commissions, congressional reports or actual grand jury indictments? In other words, rather than refusing to investigate anyone and being accused of investigating everyone, why not damn the torpedoes and proceed, full steam ahead? Again, stop fearing what they'll say and just do the damn thing.

Trump's actions have been unprecedented, including the fact that he himself broke the tradition of not investigating previous administrations when he ordered Bill Barr and U.S. attorney John Durham to investigate Barack Obama and "the oranges" of the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane probe. (Notice how the Republicans never flinched over the liberal response to the Durham investigation.) Unprecedented crimes deserve bold, unwavering accountability.

We've never had a president so flagrantly violate the law on countless occasions, from a dozen instances of obstruction of justice enumerated in the Mueller report to Trump's extortion plot in the Ukraine debacle that led to his impeachment. His negligence in the face of the pandemic alone should warrant extensive investigation, and there are myriad other crimes likely waiting to be discovered. Should there be civil or criminal accountability for deliberately deceiving the public on the threat of the pandemic, as revealed by Bob Woodward? What happens if evidence is uncovered that Trump sold national security secrets to an enemy?

Unprecedented times deserve unprecedented accountability. Walking away and burying the past in the past is an excellent way to guarantee another Trump in the future — likely one who's worse than the first Trump.

Americans tend to respond to strong, unflinching leadership, and tend to condemn weakness and half-measures. So whether it's the incoming attorney general or a congressional committee or a state and local probe, if the evidence leads to indictments, Democrats should just own it and ignore the shrieking. The Lincoln Project's Rick Wilson once said, "[Mitch McConnell] doesn't care about screaming." The Democrats on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue would do well to employ the same strategy. Hold fast, power through and stop caring about the screaming.

After all, while there are nearly 74 million Trumpers, there are 80 million Biden voters.

Since 2015, Trump supporters have shown us who they really are. We've learned that they'll go along with whatever the world's most notorious con man says, no matter how ignorant, no matter how destructive, no matter how contradictory. They will continue to gratuitously worsen the spread of the pandemic, and they will absolutely continue to repeat counterfactual gibberish fed to them by the conservative entertainment complex, including dozens of made-up reasons to impeach Biden. They'll never see the light. They'll never accept an olive branch. They're gone.

Given all this, we need to stop fearing these people. If the evidence points to prosecutions, then we need to encourage the investigators to prosecute. When the next election rolls around, we need to give our leaders, including Joe Biden, the electoral cover they need by prioritizing winning at all costs. That, and a series of post-Trump reforms, is the only way to course-correct the trajectory of the republic. Cowardice will only make matters worse.

Gang of young Marines and an ex-porn star moved to Idaho to create Nazi 'death squad' and plot attacks

Three Marine Corps veterans and their porn-star neo-Nazi guru, arrested last month on charges that they engaged in an interstate gun-running scheme, comprised a band of violent fascists who had recently moved to Idaho with the intent of making it a base of operations for their plans to engage in acts of domestic terrorism, federal prosecutors revealed this week.

According to the grand-jury indictment filed this week by prosecutors in North Carolina, the men's schemes went well beyond those with which they have been charged—namely, buying semiautomatic rifles, altering them into automatics, then shipping them from Idaho to North Carolina. The foursome not only engaged in paramilitary training in the Idaho desert, they surveilled two separate Black Lives Matters marches in Boise this summer and discussed killing participants. They also plotted to assassinate BLM founder Alicia Garza.

Three of the four men—Justin Hermanson, 21, who used the code name "Sandman"; Liam Collins, 21, aka "Disciple"; and Jordan Duncan, 25, aka "Soldier"—had met while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. The fourth—Paul Kryscuk, 35, whose nom de plume was "Deacon"—was a porn star (under the stage name "Pauly Harker") who had lived most of his life on Long Island, New York. He met the other men online in the now-defunct neo-Nazi message board Iron March, and was the group's general leader, though all they identified as members of the terrorist organization Atomwaffen Division.

Back in 2017, when Iron March was still active, the men had discussed among themselves how to create "a modern day SS," as one of them put it, referencing the Nazi paramilitary organization Schutzstaffel, the indictment says. Kryscuk outlined the group's long-range plan then:

  • "First order of business is knocking down The System, mounting it and smashing it's face until it has been beaten past the point of death … eventually we will have to bring the rifles out and go to work."
  • "Second order of business ... is the seizing of territory and the Balkanization of North America. Buying property in remote areas that are already predominantly white and right leaning, networking with locals, training, farming, and stockpiling."
  • "Start buying property now in the types of regions mentioned above and get to work on building your own group. …As time goes on in this conflict, we will expand our territories and slowly take back the land that is rightfully ours. ... As we build our forces and our numbers, we will move into the urban areas and clear them out. This will be a ground war very reminiscent of Iraq as we will essentially be facing an insurgent force made up of criminals and gang members."

Kryscuk bought a home in the Boise area in February 2020 and moved there, and Duncan and Collins gradually followed suit. Hermanson—who was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and remains an active member of the Marine Corps—joined them in July for a training exercise in the Idaho desert. The participants in compiled a video of the live footage from that training, showing Kryscuk and another person firing a variety of rifles. At the end, the four men—all outfitted in Atomwaffen masks—are seen giving the Nazi salute beneath a Sonnenrad, an occult Nazi symbol. The final frame reads: "Come home white man."

Prosecutors say the purpose of the gun-running scheme was "to regularly and repetitively manufacture and transport firearms and firearm parts, to include suppressors, in a manner that the government would not know the recipients had them, for criminal purposes"—namely "in furtherance of a civil disorder."

The "civil disorder" included attacking the Black Lives Matter movement, including its leadership. Garza reported in a tweet last week that the FBI had informed her that her name had appeared on a list of targets found in one of the men's homes in Boise.

"This is why this President is so dangerous," she added. "He is stoking fires he has no intention of controlling. I'm ok y'all, but this shit is not ok."

The neo-Nazi gang had twice conducted surveillance on BLM events in Boise: First, on July 21, at a rally on the campus of Boise State University, Kryscuk was observed within visual range of the event, first sitting in a parked vehicle and driving around the gathering slowly.

Then, on August 18, Kryscuk was observed lurking in the vicinity of a BLM rally/protest at a park in downtown Boise.

Kryscuk and Duncan just last month discussed in a text chat how things would go down after their group—which they called "the BSN" (a prosecutors office spokesman declined to explain the meaning of the acronym)—attacked BLM marchers as they envisioned:

"How the BSNs finna be pulling up to chipotle after hitting legs," Duncan asked.

"Death squad," Kryscuk answered, adding: "Assassins creed hoodies and suppressed 22 pistols."

"People freaking tf out," Duncan replied.

"About what," Kryscuk asked.

"'The end of democracy'," Duncan wrote.

"One can hope," Kryscuk answered.

Trump's lasting legacy is the right's open embrace of terrorism

In any sensible society, Kyle Rittenhouse would be shunned across the political spectrum.

The 17-year-old Illinois resident stands accused of shooting three people, killing two of them, during an August Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Whatever the specific facts of that incident, the larger truth is that Rittenhouse is lying in the bed he made for himself. If he had done the right thing, by simply staying at home and leaving the protesters alone, two men would be alive and he would not face homicide charges. But because he got enraptured by violent fantasies of armed confrontation with anti-racists, Rittenhouse picked up a gun, drove across state lines and got exactly what he was looking for. The results were tragic.

In the past, Rittenhouse would have been largely abandoned, even by right-wingers who might otherwise be generally sympathetic to insecure white men playing dress-up with camo and guns. We've seen this pattern from Timothy McVeigh in the 1990s right through the Trump years. Conservatives certainly didn't embrace Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old white nationalist accused of murdering 23 people in an El Paso, Texas, Walmart store last year. The mainstream conservative movement often flirts with right-wing extremists, but when the bullets fly or the bombs go off, conservative leaders prefer to pretend that they had nothing to do with the violence.

But Rittenhouse is free now, on $2 million bail, thanks to the conservative leaders who broke this pattern and rallied to the young man's side. Rittenhouse was aided by Christian websites fundraising for his defense, and according to his lawyer, Lin Wood — who is also involved in Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election — assistance was also offered by My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell and '80s-era child actor Ricky Schroder. Schroder even posted a picture of himself celebrating with Rittenhouse, encouraging people to move to social media platforms like Parler that don't ban people for misinformation or hate speech. (Schroder had his own run-in with the law last year, when he was arrested on domestic violence charges that were later dropped.)

Rittenhouse has Trump to thank for the hero's treatment he's getting on the right. Along with undermining the social prohibitions against blatant racism, overt misogyny and openly trying to steal elections, Trump spent the past five years dismantling the taboo against shamelessly encouraging domestic terrorism. Trump's incitement of violence started shortly after he announced his first presidential campaign, when he fantasized out loud about physical violence against Black Lives Matter protesters in August 2015. He has continued at a steady and intensifying clip over the last five years. By the time Rittenhouse rolled into Kenosha with a gun, Trump had made it safe for conservatives to openly support political violence.

That's exactly what happened in the case of Rittenhouse. In the days after the shooting, Tucker Carlson of Fox News painted Rittenhouse as a hero, rather than a kid who was looking for trouble and found it. Soon, much of the conservative media followed. Then Trump himself got involved, insisting that Rittenhouse was justified in shooting protesters. Trump's administration even pressured the Department of Homeland Security to depict Rittenhouse as a hero, even though there was no reason whatsoever for him to bring a gun to the Kenosha protest in the first place.

Trump mostly encourages right-wing violence for the same reason he does anything: He thinks it may benefit him personally. It boosted his ego to believe people would risk injury, death or prison out of loyalty to him, and he obviously hoped a right-wing army would rise up to keep him in office after the voters threw him out. (That didn't happen, thankfully, probably because most Trump supporters are too old and comfortable to go full Rittenhouse.) When a group of would-be terrorists plotted to kidnap Michigan's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and likely to murder her, Trump made sure to express his delight in public, seeing the plot as a personal tribute.

This newfound enthusiasm for violence is bound to outlast Trump, whose impotent coup attempt won't prevent his eviction from the White House on Jan. 20. That's because none of this was ever about him, no matter what his ego tells him. He enabled it, of course, by using the presidential pulpit to give permission for some of the uglier urges on the right to burble up to the surface.

FBI statistics released last week show that hate crimes have risen to their highest level in over a decade, fueled — as in the El Paso shooting — by Trump's hateful and violent rhetoric.

To make this even more disturbing, as journalist David Neiwert noted at Daily Kos last week, "this floodtide has been accompanied by a notable decline among law-enforcement agencies who take hate crimes seriously."

In other words, police departments around the country are refusing to report their hate-crime data, which Neiwert says is "exacerbated by an increasingly partisan conservativism in police cultures, manifested by the open hostility of many officers to civil-rights groups such as Black Lives Matter."

It's yet another sign that, under Trump, the American right has become a lot more comfortable with domestic terrorism — so much so that many police departments, which tend to be be incredibly conservative, refuse to treat it as a serious threat. This gels with reports of police encouraging or cooperating with far-right groups who are targeting progressives for harassment, as well as fist-bumping and partying with groups who celebrate violence against the left.

Trump himself has been hiding out at the golf course since his electoral defeat, but his followers continue to promote violence against anyone who opposes their fascistic fantasies.

Rittenhouse's lawyer, Wood, went on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon's radio show over the weekend and suggested that Trump supporters back his anti-democratic coup the way "our Founding Fathers did in 1776."

Unicorn Riot, a group that tracks the communications of neofascists, has reported an uptick in violent rhetoric among the Oath Keepers, a far right militia group whose leader, Stewart Rhodes, has openly begged Trump for some kind of order to inflict violence on his opponents. Unicorn Riot tracked Oath Keepers on social media calling for "executing lefties openly and violently" and "killing the news media live on air."

It continues to be unlikely that anything resembling a trained and organized militia will rise up to inflict violence on Trump's behalf. But this kind of rhetoric can lead directly to acts domestic terrorism, as angry young men, start taking it upon themselves to "do something" rather than simply fantasize about violence online. Even when Trump is out of office, the grievances that fuel this rhetoric — the racism, the misogyny, the paranoid delusions about the "deep state" — will continue to fester.

Trump was merely the manure spread on the ground. Now the ground is thoroughly fertilized, and the violent shoots are beginning to grow.

Here's what the rift between Trump and Fox News means for Democrats: report

In recent weeks, President Donald Trump has been angrily railing against Fox News and Fox Business, urging his supporters to watch Newsmax TV or One American News instead. And a Daily Beast article by journalists Sam Stein and Maxwell Tani, published on November 21, contemplates what the bad blood between Trump and Fox News could mean for Democrats going forward.

It wasn't a good sign for the Fox News/Trump alliance when head honcho Rupert Murdoch predicted that former Vice President Joe Biden would win the 2020 presidential election, and Trump was furious when Fox News' decision desk called Arizona for Biden on Election Night — even when many other media outlets were still declining to do so. Fox News' decision desk, like the Associated Press, believed that the math was insurmountable for Trump in Arizona; others took a wait-and-see approach.

Stein and Tani explain, "The cable news behemoth has vexed prior Democratic administrations, darting between acting as the voice of the opposition and a legitimate news outlet with the nation's largest audience. But a series of recent developments — including growing animosity between President Donald Trump and some of the more straight-faced personalities at Fox News — has changed the dynamics of this particular political-media nexus. And it has sparked a renewed argument among Biden allies and White House veterans about how and whether he should engage the network more fully."

Biden has a history of interacting with parts of Fox News. Wallace interviewed him during the Democratic presidential primary and went on to moderate the first presidential debate between the former vice president and Trump. Some pundits believed that interacting with Wallace was good for Biden's campaign, as he needed to answer tough questions from someone who is conservative-leaning but not an extremist. And former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg stressed that Biden shouldn't try to pretend that conservatives don't exist.

Buttigieg told the Beast, "Everyone on our side wonders how 70 million people could have voted for this president with their eyes open. If they believe these 70 million people are evil, then our country is not going to make it. If, on the other hand, you believe they're largely working from different information, or so-called information, than the rest of us, then the real problem is not the character of the voters as it is the nature of the information that's getting to them. Then we have a responsibility to try and change the information they receive."

The former South Bend mayor, in fact, has been willing to appear on parts of Fox News.

"The train has very much left the station as to whether Fox News will be perceived as legitimate by tens of millions of Americans," Buttigieg told the Beast. "That's over. And it happened without us. The time for starving it of oxygen is long gone."

But Tommy Veitor, a former spokesman for President Barack Obama, warns that extremism often prevails at Fox News.

Veitor told the Daily Beast, "You go in there knowing it is not a news network and that it's a Republican propaganda channel. They might play nice in the dayside programming. Chris Wallace might do a decent interview once every few years. But three weeks out from an election, you need to realize it will be wall-to-wall 'ISIS is coming, the caravan is down the street, and they're going to kill your family.'"

With Trump angrily railing against Fox News, Stein and Tani stress, the question for Democrats is: how should the Democratic Party handle the cable news outlet going forward? Buttigieg told the Beast, "It just shows you how far through the looking glass we've come if Fox News is too reasonable and moderate for today's Republican Party." But as Stein and Tani point out, Trump still has plenty of strident supporters at Fox.

Stein and Tani explain, "If an editorial course correction is coming at Fox, it's not yet readily apparent…. Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity have fully touted Trump's recount efforts, even as the preponderance of evidence shows it to be an abject failure…. And last week, Maria Bartiromo, one of Trump's top allies in the financial media world, gave airtime to a bogus voter-fraud conspiracy theory, and continues to promote debunked claims about election integrity regularly on her show."

A notorious GOP extremist could challenge his own party's governor in Ohio

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.

LEADING OFF

OH-Gov: Cleveland.com's Andrew Tobias takes a look at which Ohio Republicans might be interested in challenging Gov. Mike DeWine, who infuriated Donald Trump by recognizing Joe Biden's victory, in the 2022 primary, and he reports the far-right Rep. Jim Jordan is thinking about it.

Jordan, who co-founded the nihilist House Freedom Caucus and has been one of Trump's most ardent allies, has publicly shown no interest in leaving behind his D.C. power base. Unnamed Buckeye State Republicans, though, tell Tobias that the congressman has been talking about a campaign against DeWine. Indeed, hours after Trump fired off a shot at the governor on Monday, Jordan wrote his own message attacking the restrictions DeWine recently put in place to slow the pandemic.

However, one consultant said that it was still unlikely that Jordan would leave behind Congress to run for governor as long as redistricting doesn't place him in danger. "It's on his mind, I'll put it that way," the consultant said before adding, "I would say it's unlikely in the end knowing him, but I'm not going to shut the door on it."

The only Republican who so far has talked about a campaign against DeWine is former Rep. Jim Renacci, who lost the 2018 Senate race to Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown by a 53-47 margin. Renacci didn't rule anything out earlier this month, and Tobias writes that he's "likely to run." However, he adds that the former congressman also has a terrible relationship with state party leaders, and predicted he would "struggle to assemble a statewide staff, having burned through several campaign managers during his U.S. Senate run."

Tobias mentions a few other Republicans as possibilities, though there's no word on their interest. The list includes former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who was Team Red's 2012 nominee against Brown. Mandel spent more than a year waging a second campaign against Brown but suddenly dropped out in early 2018, citing his wife's health. Tobias also mentions former Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who lost the 2018 primary to DeWine 60-40, and Rep. Warren Davidson, who has also made a hobby out of trashing DeWine on Twitter.

SENATE

AL-Sen: Republican Sen. Richard Shelby told The Hill on Tuesday that he would "make a public announcement" about his re-election plans in January. Shelby turned 86 this year, and plenty of politicos are speculating that he won't campaign for a seventh term in this very red state. If Shelby retired, the 2022 contest would be Alabama's first Senate election without an incumbent since 1996, when fellow Republican Jeff Sessions won the race to succeed Democratic Sen. Howell Heflin.

NC-Sen: Republican Sen. Richard Burr said he would not seek a fourth term all the way back in 2016, and it's very unlikely he'd be able to change his mind now that he's under investigation for the large stock transactions he made just before the markets tanked in mid-March as the coronavirus pandemic worsened. There are a number of North Carolina Republicans who could run to succeed Burr in this light red state, and multiple media organizations reported Thursday that Lara Trump, who is the wife of Eric Trump, is considering.

Trump, a Tar Heel State native who worked as an adviser for her father-in-law's failed re-election campaign, was mentioned last year as a possible contender for New York's 2nd Congressional District on Long Island, and she initially didn't rule the idea out before deciding against a run. Trump currently lives in Westchester County, NY, which is quite far from both the Long Island-based 2nd District and especially North Carolina.

Several other Republicans could also compete here. Outgoing Rep. Mark Walker, who decided not to run for anything this year after court-supervised redistricting turned his gerrymandered seat reliably blue, recently reaffirmed that he was interested in a Senate bid. Outgoing Rep. George Holding, who also decided to retire for the same reason as Walker, didn't rule out a bid for the upper chamber last year, though he doesn't appear to have said anything since then.

Oh, and that's not all: Former Gov. Pat McCrory, who lost re-election in 2016, also said in late 2019 that he was mulling a campaign to succeed Burr. In September, McCrory said he was interested in seeking office again, though he added that he was "having fun" pursuing other activities.

A few other GOP politicians are also reportedly thinking about it. the New York Times' Annie Karni writes that outgoing Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who lost this year's gubernatorial contest to Democrat Roy Cooper 52-47, is "expected to be in the field." State House Speaker Tim Moore was also name-dropped as a potential contender, though there's no word on his interest.

However, there's one name we can cross off. While the Times reported that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who resigned from Congress earlier this year, was expected to run, Meadows himself said Friday he'd stay out of the contest, declaring that "in terms of my hat, it won't be in the ring."

The Democratic field is taking longer to develop. Outgoing state Sen. Erica Smith told the News & Observer's Brian Murphy on Friday that she was running for the Senate again, but few national Democrats will want to see her as their nominee. Earlier this year, Republicans spent nearly $3 million on an unsuccessful effort to help Smith, who had raised very little money herself, win the primary against Democratic establishment favorite Cal Cunningham. Democratic groups spent heavily to push back on the GOP meddling, and Cunningham beat Smith 57-35 before narrowly losing this month to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.

Months later, Smith endorsed Republican Sonja Nichols' campaign against one of her colleagues, Democratic state Sen. Jeff Jackson. When Smith was asked about her decision on Facebook, she responded by telling the poster, "[Y]ou cannot see beyond your sexist male privilege. Funny that you are not attempting to deal with the real issues." Jackson ended up prevailing 55-41.

GUBERNATORIAL

CA-Gov: San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has long been one of the few big names in the California Republican Party's bench, said Thursday that he was "seriously considering" a 2022 bid against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. Faulconer, who will step down as leader of the state's second-largest city next month due to term limits, spent much of 2017 sending confusing messages about his interest in this office, but this is the first time he's publicly said he was thinking about a bid.

Faulconer would give Republicans a candidate with a geographic base of support, but he'd still need a lot to go right to have a shot against Newsom in a state where Team Red hasn't won a statewide race since 2006. The San Diego media market only contains about 8% of California's population, so Faulconer also likely would start out with little name recognition in this incredibly expensive state.

MI-Gov: Kyle Melinn of MIRS puts on his Great Mentioner hat and name-drops some Republicans who might challenge Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2022, and the first person on his list is a familiar one.

Melinn says that Macomb County Public Works Director Candice Miller, a former Michigan secretary of state and congresswoman, has been approached by unnamed people about a campaign. He adds that multiple Republicans say that Miller "would be a field-clearing candidate," though Melinn also asks if she'd want to leave her current elected post in this large suburban Detroit county.

Melinn also mentions 2018 gubernatorial candidate Patrick Colbeck; House Speaker Lee Chatfield; Rep.-elect Lisa McClain; and state Rep. Jack O'Malley as possible GOP contenders.

HOUSE

LA-02: Democratic state Sen. Cleo Fields said Thursday that he would decide "after the holidays" if he'd try to return to Congress after a 24-year absence by competing in next year's all-party special election to succeed Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is resigning from Louisiana's safely blue 2nd District to take a job in the Biden administration.

Fields was elected to the House in 1992 from what was then numbered Louisiana's 4th District, a sprawling Z-shaped seat that stretched from the Shreveport area in the northwest corner of the state down into Baton Rouge. Democratic Rep. Bill Jefferson had made history in the New Orleans area two years before by becoming the state's first African American member since Reconstruction, and the 4th District was drawn up so that Louisiana could elect a second Black congressman. Fields, who was 29, was also the youngest member of the House when he took office.

Months after Fields unsuccessfully waged his 1995 bid for governor, though, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that his congressional district was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander, leading to it being redrawn as heavily white. He retired in 1996 but his political career was far from over: Fields was elected to the state Senate the next year, and after being termed-out in 2008, he returned to the chamber by winning a competitive intra-party race in 2019.

Two fellow Democratic state senators, state Sens. Karen Carter Peterson and Troy Carter, are already running to succeed Richmond, and plenty of other politicians are considering jumping in as well. If Fields ran, though, his past experience in Congress wouldn't be the only thing that would set him apart in what could be a very crowded race. Peterson, Carter, and most of the prospective candidates we've heard from so far have bases in the city of New Orleans, while Fields represents a district in East Baton Rouge.

If the race comes down to geography, a candidate from the New Orleans area would have a big edge over someone from elsewhere in the district. Orleans Parish, which is coterminous with the city of New Orleans, makes up 40% of the district, while another 26% lives in neighboring Jefferson Parish. Fields' East Baton Rouge Parish base, by contrast, makes up only 14% of the seat, with the balance coming from seven smaller parishes.

However, there are plenty of other potential factors at play in this all-party primary. Perhaps most importantly, it's quite possible that a Republican could take one of the two spots in a likely runoff, an outcome that would make any Democrat the heavy favorite to win round two.

P.S. If Fields sought and won this seat, he wouldn't be the only sitting member of Congress to return after a 24-year absence. Maryland Democrat Kweisi Mfume, a former Fields colleague who resigned in 1996 to lead the NAACP, returned to Congress earlier this year through a special election. Neither Fields nor Mfume would hold the record for longest gap in congressional service, though: That title belongs to another Maryland Democrat, Philip Francis Thomas, who was elected to his only terms in the House in 1838 and 1874.

LEGISLATIVE

AK State House: Democrats looking to maintain the state House's bipartisan majority coalition got some good news Thursday when state Rep.-elect Josiah Patkotak, an independent who flipped a Democratic-held seat, announced that he would join with members of the "Bush Caucus," a group that includes several Democrats and Democratic-aligned independents representing rural areas. Matt Buxton of the progressive site The Midnight Sun explains that Patkotak's move is "not a full commitment to join with the bipartisan coalition but gives the bloc of legislators representing the rural areas of western and northern Alaska powerful sway as the House works toward a majority."

MAYORAL

Cincinnati, OH Mayor: On Friday, one day after City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld was arrested by FBI agents on bribery charges, the Democrat put out a statement proclaiming his innocence and pledging that he would keep "fighting for our city and its future." Sittenfeld did not directly address whether he would stay in next year's mayoral contest, though the Cincinnati Enquirer noted that he gave no sign that he plans to drop out.

The officially nonpartisan contest to succeed termed-out Democratic Mayor John Cranley currently includes three other candidates, all of whom are also Democrats: City Councilman David Mann, community activist Kelli Prather, and retired firefighter Raffel Prophett.

Mann, who has had a long career in Cincinnati politics, is the most prominent member of this trio. Mann previously served as mayor in the 1980s and 1990s, a time when the post had little actual power and merely rotated among city council members (none other than Jerry Springer held the job in 1977 a few years before Mann), and he was elected to Congress in 1992. Mann lost re-election to Republican Steve Chabot during the 1994 wave, but he returned to elected office in 2013 by winning his current job.

Other candidates may be interested in competing in the May primary, though, especially now that Sittenfeld is no longer the clear frontrunner. City Councilman Christopher Smitherman, a conservative independent who has always enjoyed Republican support, had ended his campaign in 2019 following his wife's death, but he said Friday that he'd decide whether to get back in after Thanksgiving. The filing deadline is Feb. 18, and the nonpartisan primary is in May: The top two vote-getters will then compete in a November 2021 general election.

Detroit, MI Mayor: While Democratic incumbent Mike Duggan has not yet said that he'll seek a third term in 2021, his spokesperson confirmed that the mayor's chief of staff, Alexis Wiley, was stepping down "to be the campaign manager for his re-election."

New York City, NY Mayor: Former non-profit executive Dianne Morales announced Thursday that she was joining the June Democratic primary. Morales, who identifies as Afro-Latina, would be the first woman to serve as mayor, as well as the second person of color to hold the post.

Morales is seeking office for the first time, and she argued in her kickoff, "I'm not a traditional candidate because I've not spent a lifetime jockeying for the job." Morales has also argued that funding should be redeployed from the NYPD, whose officers she called "foot soldiers for a mass incarceration movement," to other areas, and that all New York City residents should be guaranteed a minimum income.

CALLED RACES

NJ-07: On Thursday evening, Republican Tom Kean Jr. conceded to freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski.

MT Ballot: While the AP has not yet called a victory as of Friday for LR-130, a ballot measure that prevents local jurisdictions from regulating the concealed carry of weapons, The Montana Free Press writes that both supporters and opponents have acknowledged that it won 51-49.

Is a conservative coffee company supporting 'Kenosha killer' Kyle Rittenhouse?

Lin Wood, the lawyer of Kyle Rittenhouse – the man who shot two protestors to death on August 25 during a racial justice uprising in Kenosha, Wisconsin — posted a tweet announcing Rittenhouse's recent release on bail. The tweet includes an image of Rittenhouse wearing a shirt advertising Black Rifle Coffee, a conservative coffee company that has advertised on right-wing podcasts.

While a spokesperson for Black Rifle Coffee told The New Civil Rights Movement that it does not sponsor legal advocacy efforts and does not have a relationship with Kyle Rittenhouse, the question raised several important issues to do with those supporting the shooter.

The image led Sleeping Giants, a watchdog group that alerts advertisers of their connections to far-right rhetoric, to question whether the company supports the young murderer. In their tweet, Sleeping Giants showed an image recently posted by right-wing podcaster Elijah Schafer touting the coffee company, which also advertises on his podcast.


The question is particularly salient considering that Rittenhouse recently had his $2 million bail paid in part by Mike Lindell, the conservative CEO of the American company MyPillow, a regular Fox News advertiser, and right-leaning actor Ricky Schroeder.

Rittenhouse has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and other charges for the murders of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, on August 25.

GOP's Josh Hawley doesn't even live in the state he represents

It was 2014, running for his re-election when the Washington Post had to point out something about Kansas Senator Pat Roberts: he didn't live in Kansas. In fact, Roberts made a joke that he had "full access to a recliner" he could use when he wanted. Now, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley seems to be following his lead, in a report by the Kansas City Star.

Hawley, it seems, has been using a $1.3 million dollar home in Virginia as his residence while claiming his sister's home address to vote from in the state of Missouri. Oh, Josh. Instead, when asked about the issue, the Senator's office became indignant, and brushed aside any information about it — after all, this is par for the course.

Hawley's shifting address to maintain registration isn't new. The Kansas City star notes how his family traveled, without, you know, traveling in household registration.

Hawley lived in Columbia during his stint as a professor at the University of Missouri Law School and two years as Missouri attorney general. But in March of 2019 the couple sold the Columbia home, according to the Boone County Recorder of Deeds.

That same month Hawley and his wife were added as co-owners to his parents' home in Springfield, according to the Greene County Recorder's Office. That property was sold in June.

A little more than a month after the sale of the Springfield property, Hawley changed his voter registration address to his sister's home in Ozark. He is also using the Ozark address for his registration with the Missouri Bar.

Don't worry. Hawley has an answer. Of course, it is to go on another conspiracy theory led tirade, saying that George Soros is apparently hiding in the bushes waiting for him. Or, something like that I guess.


FBI is investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton: AP report

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The FBI is investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Associated Press reported Tuesday evening, vetting allegations made by eight of Paxton's former top aides that he illegally used the power of his office to benefit a political donor.

Two unnamed sources told the AP that the bureau was examining claims made by the whistleblowers that Paxton broke the law by intervening several times in legal matters involving Nate Paul, a real estate investor and friend who donated $25,000 to Paxton's campaign in 2018.

On Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, eight aides in total told authorities that they believed Paxton had committed crimes as part of his relationship with Paul, citing bribery and abuse of office. Since then, four aides have been fired, three have resigned, and one has been placed on leave — sparking a whistleblower lawsuit.

Paxton, a Republican in his second term, has denied wrongdoing and said he will not resign his post, even as some in his own party call on him to do so and the state's top leaders call the allegations “concerning."

Earlier Tuesday, before the FBI investigation was made public, Paxton said in a statement that he knows “a little something about being falsely accused" and dismissed the allegations made by the whistleblowers as “overblown, based upon assumptions, and to a large degree misrepresent the facts."

Paxton has been under indictment for more than five years on securities fraud charges but has yet to stand trial. He has dismissed the charges as politically motivated and entered a not guilty plea.

Neither a campaign spokesperson for Paxton nor a defense attorney who is working on his long-running securities fraud case returned a request for comment about the FBI probe Tuesday. A spokesperson for the FBI declined to comment.

The full scope of Paxton's relationship with Paul remains unclear, though Paul has characterized it as friendly. In a deposition earlier this month, Paul revealed that he had employed a woman at Paxton's recommendation, though he said it was not a favor to Paxton. The woman had been involved in an extramarital affair with Paxton, according to two people who said the attorney general told them of the relationship in 2018.

Since the allegations surfaced last month, four examples have emerged of Paxton using his 4,000-employee agency to benefit Paul.

The whistleblowers allege Paxton tried to help Paul on a pair of open-records disputes, urging state employees to release documents that should have been confidential, and that Paxton rushed a legal opinion on foreclosure sales during the coronavirus pandemic, which helped Paul avoid such sales on several of his properties.

The attorney general's office — at Paxton's direction, the whistleblowers say — also took the highly unusual step of intervening in a lawsuit between Paul and an Austin-area charity.

And in September, Paxton hired an outside attorney to evaluate a complaint by Paul that he had been mistreated during an FBI raid on his property in 2019. Paxton's staff, the whistleblowers say, had already vetted the allegations and found them meritless, but Paxton continued to push the investigation.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/11/17/texas-ken-paxton-fbi/.

The Texas Tribune is proud to celebrate 10 years of exceptional journalism for an exceptional state. Explore the next 10 years with us.

Congressman demands investigation of Donald Trump's ‘innumerable crimes against the United States’

In a statement on Tuesday, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) called for a broad, sweeping Justice Department investigation into outgoing President Donald Trump in the coming year.

"Donald Trump and members of his administration have committed innumerable crimes against the United States," said Pascrell. "He has endangered our national security. He ripped families apart. He poisoned the Census. He has personally profited from his office. He has attacked our elections and sought to throttle democracy. He was rightly impeached by the House of Representatives. He has engaged in treachery, in treason. He has all but given up on governing and protecting our nation and if he had a shred of dignity he would resign today."

"Therefore, in 2021 the entire Trump administration must be fully investigated by the Department of Justice and any other relevant offices. Donald Trump along with his worst enablers must be tried for their crimes against our nation and Constitution," added Pascrell. "There must be accountability."

According to NBC News, President-elect Joe Biden does not intend to pressure the DOJ to pursue criminal investigations of Trump, wanting to turn a page on Trump's repeated attempts to weaponize federal prosecutors against his political opponents.

‘Masks are oppressive’: Marjorie Taylor Greene condemns mask-wearing during new member orientation for Congress

Republican Congresswoman-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene is already at the center of controversy following her recent condemnation of masks amid the raging coronavirus pandemic.

Greene, a known QAnon conspiracy theorist, took to Twitter on Friday to offer her take on masks. The newly elected Georgia lawmaker shared details about the first congressional orientation session as she falsely claimed that masks are "oppressive" and used the hashtag #FreeYourFace.

She tweeted, "Our first session of New Member Orientation covered COVID in Congress. Masks, masks, masks.... I proudly told my freshman class that masks are oppressive. In GA, we work out, shop, go to restaurants, go to work, and school without masks. My body, my choice."

Currently, Washington D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has a mask mandate in place which requires masks be worn in the Capitol as well as any other area around the city. For months now, Greene has pushed back against coronavirus mitigation guidelines while continuing to spread misinformation perpetuated by QAnon believers. However, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) claims Greene has denounced QAnon.

While speaking with reporters on Thursday, McCarthy said, "The only thing I would ask of the press is to give these new members, give them an opportunity before you claim what you believe they had done what they will do."

How embracing Trumpism and the far right won NY's Elise Stefanik a fourth term — even as the president lost

Although President Donald Trump lost to President-elect Joe Biden by double digits in New York State in the 2020 presidential election, it wasn't because of New York's 21st Congressional District — where Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik won a fourth term. That rural district of upstate New York favored Trump over Biden, and The Atlantic's Russell Berman outlines the ways in which Trumpism helped the 36-year-old congresswoman and Albany native get reelected even when Trump himself was being voted out of office.

Had Stefanik been running against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in heavily Democratic areas of Queens and the Bronx, her stridently pro-Trump campaign would have resulted in a massive defeat. But Stefanik, as Berman explains in an article published in The Atlantic, is in a much more rural and conservative district — and in that area, Trumpism was a plus for her.

"While a slim majority of Americans nationwide cast their ballots for Joe Biden, the overwhelming majority of voters in New York's Twenty-First — nearly 60%, at last count — went for Trump," Berman notes. "And an even higher percentage in the North Country backed Stefanik, who by her third term in the House, had locked down her constituency so tightly that the national Democratic Party barely contested her reelection this year."

Berman goes on to describe New York's 21st Congressional District, noting how different it is from New York City.

"Nearly as big as Vermont and New Hampshire combined, the Twenty-First is one of the largest districts east of the Mississippi River," Berman points out. "The district's southern edge is 200 miles north of liberal New York City, while its northern tip is just an hour's drive from Montreal. The Adirondack Mountains sit in the middle, and its only population centers — the small cities of Watertown, Plattsburgh and Glens Falls — are spread hundreds of miles apart, like three points on a triangle."

Berman stresses that although the U.S. on the whole rejected Trumpism on Election Day, Stefanik won a fourth term by doubling down on it.

"In winning so definitively," Berman explains, "Stefanik has become a kind of bellwether herself — not for the country as a whole, but for the Republican Party, which like the New York representative, has redoubled its support for an unpopular president and somehow bolstered its standing in Congress and state capitols even as it lost the White House."

Stefanik was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014. She was always conservative, but she went from co-chairing the Tuesday Group and supporting less extreme conservatives like former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (now an outspoken Never Trumper) to being a "vocal Trump loyalist" who "took up the president's defense with unexpected gusto." And Stefanik has embraced Trump's over-the-top rhetoric, describing Biden as someone with "far-left socialist policies;" The decidedly centrist Biden isn't even a liberal, left alone "far-left."

"Seemingly overnight, a rising star in Paul Ryan's Republican Party had been reborn as a star in Donald Trump's," Berman recalls. "Stefanik did not look back."

Frances Kerr, who owns a print shop in Stefanik's district, slammed her as an "opportunist" — telling The Atlantic, "I never saw a Republican flip so far."

But even if Stefanik sold her soul to the far right and Trump's MAGA base, it paid off for her on Election Night in both 2018 and 2020.

"The election proved Stefanik right once again," Berman argues. "She bet on Trump — and though the president lost, her constituents rewarded her."

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