No TrumpsπŸ‘±‍♂️ Newsbites
Manhattan prosecutors are focusing their investigation on Trump's Seven Springs Estate in New York
  • Prosecutors are focused on Donald Trump's New York estate as they probe his finances, the WSJ reported.
  • The investigation is reportedly focusing on whether he misrepresented the property's value for tax purposes.
  • The probe is part of the Manhattan District Attorney's broader investigation into Trump's finances.
Investigators in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office have in recent weeks taken a closer interest in the sprawling 213-acre Westchester estate, which Trump purchased for $9.5 million in 1995, people with knowledge of the investigation told the WSJ.

Trump originally purchased the estate, complete with a 39,000 square-foot mansion, with the aim of turning it into a golf resort, Insider reported.

He was unable to secure the necessary zoning permits, and much of the land was instead placed under conservation easement.
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America needs to learn from the history of strongmen or Trumpism is going to continue to destroy US democracy
  • The history of strongman exits from power holds lessons for democratic protection.
  • The way strongmen leave power, and the continuing hold of their personality cults on people, can weaken attempts of the new government to strengthen democracy.
  • The media must not amplify anti-democratic messages, and we should rethink the long period between between election and inauguration.
"If I lose to him, I don't know what I'm going to do," Donald Trump told attendees of a September 2020 rally held in North Carolina, expressing the utter dread of being defeated by his opponent, now-President Joe Biden. "You'll never see me again."

Instead, when his worst fears were realized and Biden was elected president, Trump was everywhere in the media, claiming he had actually won the election. The "stop the steal" campaign he and his GOP allies promoted culminated in the January 6 coup attempt: an assault on the Capitol building meant to stop the certification of Biden's victory and keep Trump in power.

While Trump left office on January 20, the events of the previous months gave Americans first-hand experience of some guiding principles of strongman history. Once such individuals get into power, it can be difficult to get them out. Their exits from power are rarely peaceful, and the way they leave can open the door to their return to power. Here are a few lessons from this tumultuous history we can heed to strengthen American democratic values.

... No one who has lived in an authoritarian state has looked back and wished its propagandists had gotten more media coverage during the window of transition from democracy to something else — which is potentially our situation if Trump returns to power in 2024. That media outlets are assisting the rehabilitation of an impeached former leader who, in autocratic fashion, made the press a target —journalists were among those threatened with violence on January 6 — is tragic as well as politically obtuse.

The authoritarian playbook has no chapter on failure, and strongmen can become vindictive as the reality of losing power dawns. That's why, in those rare cases when an illiberal ruler is voted out of office, a constitutionally-mandated swift exit is preferable.

Democracy is an honor system: we take it on good faith that its norms and customs will be respected. But strongmen like Trump, whose aim is always to stay in power at any cost, have no respect for democracy. We must refuse to amplify their messages and be ready to revise those laws and procedures that leave us vulnerable. Under the right circumstances, no country is immune from democratic erosion. We must act now to protect democracy or pay the price later.
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Sen. Lindsey Graham fear-mongers about migrant children crossing the US-Mexico border and baselessly claims they could become 'terrorists'
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham baselessly argued that migrant children crossing the US-Mexico border may grow up to become "terrorists."
  • There is no evidence to support Graham's claim that ISIS has or will infiltrate the Southern border.
  • The South Carolina Republican argued that the Biden administration should return to Trump's "remain in Mexico" policy, which forced migrants into camps in Mexico.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, baselessly warned that migrant children crossing the US-Mexico border may grow up to become "terrorists," rehashing an evidence-free GOP talking point in his criticism of President Joe Biden's immigration policies.

Graham, who supported President Donald Trump's harsh immigration policies and border crackdown, invoked the upcoming 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to make his point.

... Graham's assertion is a reflection of years of GOP fearmongering. Trump similarly claimed without evidence that "unknown Middle Easterners," who he implied were terrorists, had infiltrated migrant caravans approaching the US border in 2018. At the time, a US counterterrorism official told The New York Times that there was no evidence of ISIS or other Sunni terrorist groups attempting to infiltrate the Southern border.

... Republicans have already indicated that they intend to center their 2022 campaigns on immigration, having learned from Trump, who successfully ran on promises to build a US-Mexico border wall on Mexico's dime.
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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene forces Congress to delay vote on $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package
  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene delayed congressional business by forcing a vote to adjourn the House.
  • Wednesday's move pushed back the scheduled vote on Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package.
  • Republicans are frustrated with Greene's machinations and 41 GOP lawmakers voted against her motion.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Wednesday once again used procedural tactics to hold up congressional business — this time to delay the House vote on President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.

The Georgia Republican called for a motion to adjourn the House just as the chamber prepared to begin debate on the COVID-19 bill. The move forced every Congress member to cast a vote to keep the House in session, a lengthy process that pushed back the scheduled vote on the stimulus legislation.

"I just made a motion to adjourn to stop Congress from passing the $1.9 trillion dollar massive woke progressive Democrat wish list," Greene tweeted. "The GOP has messaged against this ridiculous bill. We should do everything to stop it. Pay attention if Rs vote to adjourn. Or with the Dems."

... Democrats and many Republicans, however, are fed up with Greene's disruptions. Her motion was unsuccessful and struck down in a 149-235 vote, with 41 GOP members voting against it.

"It's a pain in the a--," Republican Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan told CNN.

Democrats, who are in the majority, are considering ways to prevent Greene from continuing her interference. Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island told reporters on Wednesday that he may propose a rule to bar lawmakers not on committees from calling motions to adjourn.

"I'm dead serious," Cicilline said, per CBS News.

"It's unconscionable that they are doing everything they can to try to, again, delay getting aid to the people, including their constituents who are in desperate need," Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts told Reuters' Susan Cornwell on Wednesday.
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Fox's Brian Kilmeade says Russia, China, and Iran 'plow through' cancel culture because 'they actually know what the threat is'
  • Fox host Brian Kilmeade suggested authoritarian countries don't have a problem with cancel culture.
  • Kilmeade said Iran, Russia, and China "plow through" cancel culture.
  • All three of the countries Kilmeade cited have well-documented records of violently cracking down on dissent.
"Russia and China, our chief adversary I would argue — and Iran — they're not going through this cancel culture. They plow through it. I don't want their system of government, but they actually know what the threat is out there," Kilmeade said.

All three of the countries Kilmeade cited have well-documented records of violently cracking down on dissent. Freedom of expression is severely limited by the governments in Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran, and criticism of their authoritarian leaders or challenging the values promoted by the state could land a person behind bars or worse.

In Russia, for example, President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic, Alexei Navalny, was recently arrested (just months after being poisoned) and sentenced to three and a half years in prison; a journalist was jailed for a joke that referenced a rally for Navalny. China's Communist government has one of the world's most sophisticated surveillance dragnets to shutdown and punish dissenters, and both its regime and Iran's have repeatedly responded to protests with lethal force.

Kilmeade's implication that authoritarian countries are not dealing with cancel culture conflicts with assertions from Republican leaders that such places are the ultimate perpetrators of it.

... In recent years, America's history of racism — and ongoing problems with — has come to the forefront of the national discourse. By 2020, polling showed a record number of Americans, who composed a vast majority, agreed that racism was a major problem in the US. This has faced fierce pushback from Republicans and right-wing media outlets like Fox News, especially when it's involved discussions on removing monuments to past American leaders — including proponents of slavery and racism. GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida in remarks last July referred to this as "cultural genocide."

It's within this context that discussions of "cancel culture" have largely emerged. As Insider digital culture reporter Rachel E. Greenspan defined it, cancel culture is "the idea that people too often pile onto others for bad behavior."

Some contend cancel culture doesn't actually exist, and that people are simply being held accountable based on the evolution of values in America. But those who are concerned about it, such as Kilmeade, essentially see it as a person or thing being unfairly ostracized in a way that's damaging to free expression.

Skeptics of cancel culture say that conservatives have taken a very selective stance on it, noting that Fox News and Republicans were not up in arms about the repercussions Colin Kaepernick faced in his NFL career for protesting police brutality.
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A pro-Trump Capitol rioter asked 'Where's the big Jew?' while searching for Chuck Schumer in the Senate: NYT
  • A rioter was heard asking "Where's the big Jew?" while searching for Schumer's desk amid the Capitol siege.
  • Schumer, the first Jewish person to lead the Senate, had been evacuated to a secure location.
  • He only later found out about the anti-Semitic rioter pursuing him, The New York Times reported.
During former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, House managers showed security camera footage of Schumer's bodyguards escorting him away from the rioters, who he nearly came in contact with.

... Many of the rioters who breached the Capitol espouse or belong to groups, including the Boogaloos and the Proud Boys, that support neo-Nazism and white supremacist ideologies. A number of them displayed anti-Semitic hate symbols as they marched through the Capitol halls hunting for lawmakers, shouting death threats against then-Vice President Mike Pence, and disrupting Congress' certification of the 2020 presidential election.

The rioters also included supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, a set of convoluted pro-Trump lies rife with anti-Semitism. One rioter, who was later arrested, wore a sweatshirt that said, "Camp Auschwitz," referring to the Nazi concentration camp where more than a million people were killed during World War II. An insurrectionist, Bryan Betancur, told law enforcement officials that he's a member of multiple white supremacist groups while another was identified by law enforcement as "an avowed white supremacist and Nazi sympathizer."
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GOP praises Trump after he urges Republican donors to send money directly to him
The leaders of three top Republican Party committees praised former President Donald Trump on Wednesday for pledging his support to them, even as Trump is actively urging GOP donors to send their money directly to him.

The committees' response was the latest indication that the GOP remains firmly in the former president's grip, even as he trashes prominent party members who have criticized him.

... Trump, who commands overwhelming support among GOP voters even after losing his reelection bid, is discouraging Republicans from sending money to "people that do not have the GOP's best interests in mind."

Those people, according to Trump, comprise a yet-unspecified group of "fools" and "RINOs" — a derogatory term that stands for "Republicans in name only."

Trump is instead directing people toward his own political action committee, Save America. Donations to that committee, known as a leadership PAC, can potentially be used to pay for all sorts of personal expenses.

... In the past month, Trump has repeatedly asserted that there is "only one way" to keep the so-called America First movement alive – by contributing to his Save America PAC and through his website.

In his most recent statement Tuesday night, Trump said, "I fully support the Republican Party and important GOP Committees, but I do not support RINOs and fools."

That statement claimed that by donating to Save America, "you are helping the America First movement and doing it right."

Trump's PAC has reportedly raised tens of millions of dollars since it was formed after the Nov. 3 election. That money can be used for "just about anything" Trump wants, experts say — including providing benefits for himself and his family.
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Judge tosses Trump campaign's defamation lawsuit against New York Times over Russia 'quid pro quo' op-ed
A judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit by former President Donald Trump's campaign that accused The New York Times of defaming it with a 2019 opinion column arguing there was a "quid pro quo" between the campaign and Russia in 2016.

The dismissal, by Manhattan state Supreme Court Judge James d'Auguste, was with prejudice. That means the Trump campaign cannot refile the lawsuit over the op-ed, written by former Times executive editor Max Frankel.

The suit by Donald J. Trump For President Inc., which was filed in February 2020, had sought damages of millions of dollars.

It alleged that the Times published false and defamatory claims in the op-ed, headlined "The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo," with the "intentional purpose" of damaging Trump's reelection chances last year.

But d'Auguste, in a three-page ruling, briskly detailed the fatal flaws in the suit that led him to toss the case at the request of the newspaper.

The judge wrote that Frankel's column was legally protected opinion and that the suit failed to establish that Frankel had written his column with "actual malice."

And, d'Auguste said, the campaign in any event did not have the legal standing to file the suit.
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Beth Moore, a Prominent Evangelical, Splits With Southern Baptists
A teacher on biblical topics, she cited the “staggering” disorientation of seeing denominational leaders support Donald J. Trump, among other issues.

From the outside, the marriage of convenience between white conservative Christians and Donald J. Trump looked like a devoted one: White evangelicals voted for Mr. Trump overwhelmingly in 2016 and stuck with him in 2020, brushing aside perpetual lies and sexual impropriety to support a man they saw as their protector.

However, not everyone was content.

Now, one of the most prominent white evangelical women in the United States is breaking with her longtime denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, citing the “staggering” disorientation of seeing its leaders support Mr. Trump, and the cultural and spiritual fallout from that support.

“There comes a time when you have to say, this is not who I am,” Beth Moore, told Religion News Service in an interview published on Tuesday. “I am still a Baptist, but I can no longer identify with Southern Baptists,” she added.

Her stature in the movement poses a serious challenge for the Southern Baptist Convention, which has already been embroiled for years in debates not just about Mr. Trump, but about racism, misogyny and the handling of sexual abuse cases. Its membership is in decline.

... Ms. Moore is not a traditional leader for the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the country. She does not lead a church — she is a woman, and the Southern Baptist Convention reserves the office of head pastor for men. But she arguably wields deeper loyalty and more influence than many of the men often called on as spokesmen for evangelicalism.

For most of her career as a Bible teacher, Ms. Moore, 63, avoided the culture and political battles that consumed the attention of many prominent evangelical men. She wrote extremely popular study guides focused on particular books of the Bible. And she spoke to arenas full of evangelical women about matters both spiritual and personal, mining biblical texts for lessons in purpose and encouragement.

But Ms. Moore has described the election of 2016 as a turning point. She began speaking out after the “Access Hollywood” tape, released just weeks before the election, captured Mr. Trump bragging about forcing himself on women.

Since then, she has become increasingly outspoken online and has exerted her authority and power in new ways that have challenged the male-dominated culture of evangelicalism.

... Within the denomination, her departure has so far been greeted largely by either silence or measured regret.

... Ms. Moore’s decision to step away from the Southern Baptist Convention quickly drew praise from other prominent Christian women who have walked away from white American evangelicalism.

“While there are a thousand ways we can robustly disagree as people of faith, there are and should be deal breakers: the defense of white supremacy, patriarchal abuse, moral bankruptcy, the crushing of human souls for proximity to power,” Jen Hatmaker, a popular podcaster and author, said.

About five years ago, Ms. Hatmaker broke with evangelicalism because of her opposition to Mr. Trump and her support of gay marriage.
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McConnell voted to confirm Merrick Garland as attorney general 2 years after saying blocking his Supreme Court nomination was the 'most consequential thing I've ever done'
  • McConnell voted Wednesday to confirm Merrick Garland as attorney general.
  • The vote came five years after he stonewalled Garland's nomination for a Supreme Court seat.
  • In 2019, McConnell called that decision "the most consequential thing I've ever done."
Garland, a two-decade veteran of the DC Circuit Court, received broad, bipartisan support to lead the Justice Department, with 70 US senators voting in favor of his confirmation and 30 voting against.

Nineteen other Republican senators voted yes along with McConnell, who revealed last month that he would support Garland's nomination.

Politico first reported on McConnell's decision to support Garland for attorney general last month. When asked whether he intended to back the judge, McConnell said, "I do." He did not elaborate.
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Watchdog group requests investigation into 13 GOP lawmakers for misusing proxy voting
The Campaign for Accountability in its complaint requested guidance "explaining that members of Congress may not claim that the public health emergency wrought by Covid-19 prevents them from personally voting on the House floor when, in fact, they simply prefer to attend other political events."

"Submitting such untruthful statements to the Clerk of the House should be considered conduct that does not reflect creditably upon the House," the group added in its letter.

The complaint comes after more than a dozen of former President Donald Trump's closest Republican allies in the House skipped votes last month and enlisted their colleagues to vote on their behalf, signing letters saying they couldn't attend "due to the ongoing public health emergency."

The members were in Orlando speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual meeting aimed at energizing conservative activists and boosting their own profiles.

The Republican Party, in light of the lawmakers' use of proxy voting, has had to reevaluate where it stands on the issue. Prior to CPAC, the party had been unified in its opposition to proxy voting, even going as far as filing a lawsuit arguing that remote voting violated the Constitution.

Although most Republicans are still against it, and have called out their colleagues for using it for false reasons, some have suggested that the party should embrace proxy voting to help keep up with an ever-changing schedule and ensure that all of their votes count against the Democrats slim majority.

"The representatives who chose CPAC over voting made it clear they value political opportunism over their roles as members of Congress. The House Ethics Committee must make clear that members who abuse the privilege of proxy voting will be held accountable," Michelle Kuppersmith, Campaign for Accountability's executive director, told CNN in a statement.
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Trump pressured another Georgia elections official, Frances Watson, to uncover nonexistent voter fraud
  • Former President Donald Trump pressured another Georgia elections official to find voter fraud, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Frances Watson is the chief investigator at the Georgia Secretary of State's office.
  • "Do you think they'll be working after Christmas, to keep it going fast?" Trump asked. "Because, you know, we have that date of the 6th, which is a very important date."
In a six-minute phone call before Christmas, Trump pressured Frances Watson, the investigations supervisor for the Georgia Secretary of State, to scrutinize the signatures on mail-in ballots, while falsely claiming he won the state by "hundreds of thousands of votes."

Trump lost Georgia by over 11,000 votes, an outcome confirmed by audits and the state's Republican elections officials.

The phone call with Watson was a prelude to a more confrontational talk days later with Georgia's Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger. In that conversation, days before the insurrection at the US Capitol, Trump suggested that the GOP official could be criminally prosecuted if he did not help overturn the 2020 election.
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Controversial GOP rep. Lauren Boebert claims she started carrying a gun after a man was beaten to death behind her restaurant. He actually died of a drug overdose.
  • Colorado Rep. Laura Boebert made a speech on the House floor this week backing gun rights.
  • She cited a story of a man who was "beaten to death" outside her Colorado restaurant as justification.
  • But local police debunked her claim, as an autopsy revealed the man had died from a drug overdose.
Colorado lawmaker Lauren Boebert once again used a bogus story about a man being "beaten to death" outside her restaurant to advocate for gun rights, despite the local police department debunking her claims after an autopsy showed that the man had died from a drug overdose.

Boebert was speaking on the House floor during Wednesday's debate on bills that might expand background checks before guns can be purchased.

"There was an altercation outside my restaurant where a man was physically beat to death, there were no weapons involved, he was beat to death by another man's hands," she said, referring to a 2013 incident outside her Shooters Grill restaurant in Rifle, Colorado.

Boebert used the story to justify why she and the staff at her restaurant all carry guns at work.

"I have a lot of young girls who work in my restaurant and we needed an equalizer."

However, it was reported by the Colorado Sun newspaper in September last year that the Rifle Police Department had no record of such a murder.

The police department told the newspaper that a man had indeed died down the street from the gun-themed Shooters Grill restaurant in August, but that an autopsy indicated that he had died after overdosing on drugs.

Yahoo News reported that this was not the first time that Boebert had made this claim, as she told the same story multiple times when running for office.
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An Italian-Jewish US lawmaker said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene could 'get lost' after she referred to him as 'Rep. Mussolini'
  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called a Rhode Island lawmaker who is Italian and Jewish, "Rep. Mussolini."
  • Greene directed the comment toward Rep. David Cicilline after he said he wanted Greene to stop delaying House votes.
  • Cicilline responded by denouncing Mussolini and saying Greene "can get lost."
Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island hit back at Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene after she referred to him as "Rep. Mussolini," a reference to the Italian fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini.

Cicilline, a Democrat, tweeted a response Wednesday, denouncing Mussolini as well as Greene.

"Mussolini was a fascist dictator in league with Adolf Hitler, who murdered six million Jews," Cicilline said. "Marjorie Taylor Greene can get lost."
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or Trump-ism

Trumpism refers to the nontraditional political philosophy and approach espoused by Donald Trump and his supporters. The term Trumpism can also be used to directly refer to an outrageous or idiosyncratic statement made by Donald Trump.

Trump, whom many observers consider an anomaly, left the White House by saying, “We will be back in some form.” His legacy is “Trumpism” – a wave of white nationalism.

Trumpisms are Bushisms on steroids.