‘Anti-CPAC’ summit draws conservatives together with common goal: Stopping Trump

Hundreds of conservatives gathered in Washington, D.C. over the weekend, but not for the Trumpalooza clown-car event known as the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC. Instead, at the Principles First Summit the message was clear: Donald Trump poses a threat to our democracy, and if he is the Republican nominee many of them will vote for President Joe Biden despite disagreeing with him on many issues.

Speakers at the event made clear that they intend to take their anti-Trump message to the Republican primary voters who have chosen a candidate other than Trump, in particular those supporting former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Republican political consultant Mike Madrid, a co-founder of the Lincoln Project, noted in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that it’s worth targeting these voters, writing “GOP defections will be the single largest factor in the November outcome.”

Now this all may be a pipe dream, but these voters may be more receptive to anti-Trump messaging coming from conservatives rather than from liberals. And if even a small percentage of GOP voters flip to Biden in key swing states, it could make a difference in a close election. Principles First may just help with that. 

RELATED STORY: Trump’s weekend at CPAC was a tour de force of bigotry and incompetence

Principles First was founded in 2019 as a right and center-right movement that says it’s “concerned about the health of democracy.” It was meant to serve as an alternative to CPAC, which has become increasingly dominated by Trump’s MAGA cult.

Last weekend’s fourth Principles First conference drew about 700 participants—more than double the number who attended last year’s event, its founder Heath Mayo said. Meanwhile, at the larger CPAC event, the crowds were sparser than in previous years.

And the MAGA cult message was loud and clear at CPAC where the lobby display included a “J6 Insurrection” pinball machine. Right-wing conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec told a panel hosted by Steve Bannon:

“Welcome to the end of democracy, We’re here to overthrow it completely. We didn’t get all the way there on Jan. 6, but we will endeavor to get rid of it and replace it with this right here,” Posobiec said.

Posobiec then held up his fist, and added: "All glory is not to government. All glory to God." 

In his opening address to the Principles First Summit, Mayo, who had already told NPR that he would vote for Biden over Trump, had a distinctly different message about the need to put “principles first rather than party or personalities.” 

”We don’t have golden statues of politicians rolling around. Our speakers will celebrate the spirit of 1776 instead of Jan. 6. And the people in this room today, we know how to spot and condemn tyranny when we see it rather than to praise it.”

.@HeathMayo welcomes the crowd to the 2024 Principles First Summit: “Here we have our 15 principles out in the hallway. We don't have golden statues of politicians rolling around. Our speakers will celebrate the spirit of 1776 instead of January 6.” pic.twitter.com/eyIR4AAA0n

— Principles First (@Principles_1st) February 24, 2024

And the star of the event was Cassidy Hutchinson, the former White House staffer who provided pivotal testimony to the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Participants lined up in the lobby to receive signed copies of her book “Enough.”

In a touching moment, Hutchinson was presented the Principles First Profiles in Courage award from last year’s recipient, former Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn who held back the mob on Jan. 6 and is now running for Congress as a Democrat. 

Cassidy Hutchinson receives this year's Profiles in Courage award.#PrinciplesFirst pic.twitter.com/3vMFR2kuVV

— Principles First (@Principles_1st) February 24, 2024

Hutchinson, also took part in a panel with two other anti-Trump former White House staffers, Sarah Matthews and Alyssa Farah Griffin (now co-host of “The View”). She described the “horrible attacks” that ruined her life and those of others who testified to the select committee such as Georgia election workers Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman.

“We need to push towards normalcy,” Hutchinson said. “We start in this next election. We start by doing everything we possibly can to make sure that Donald Trump never gets near the Oval Office again, and to make sure that every member of Congress that has enabled Donald Trump’s agenda is also held accountable and voted out of office.”

She emphasized the need to mobilize and educate voters, especially in the handful of swing states, about the choice in the upcoming election. “If the ticket is a binary choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, people need to understand on a very basic, very fundamental level that there’ll be one candidate on that ballot that will support our democracy so we can continue to thrive. And it’s not Donald Trump.”

Cassidy Hutchinson: “If the ticket is a binary choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, people need to understand at a very basic and very fundamental level, that there is one candidate on that ballot that will support our democracy…and that’s not Donald Trump.” pic.twitter.com/SQjty4BGqk

— Principles First (@Principles_1st) February 24, 2024

And that message was underscored by former Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of the two Republicans who served on the House Jan. 6 select committee. Kinzinger encouraged Nikki Haley to remain in the race, but then added: “If it’s Trump against Biden, I’m going to vote for Biden because to me, and this is what I think is important, I can disagree with a lot of stuff but democracy is truly at stake here. “ 

.@AdamKinzinger: "If it's Trump against Biden, I'm going to vote for Biden...I can disagree with a lot of stuff but democracy is truly at stake here." pic.twitter.com/ZDtdO3rJr7

— Principles First (@Principles_1st) February 25, 2024

Sarah Longwell, a founder of Republican Voters Against Trump, totally dismissed any notion of supporting a third-party No Labels ticket, saying it would absolutely help elect Trump.

Ukraine and its fight against Russia was also discussed by several speakers, who declared their unwavering support. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, whose short-lived presidential campaign gained no traction, warned that Trump is going to make the GOP “a pro-Putin party.” He added: “I’m sorry. That’s not what Ronald Reagan would do.”

Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council senior director for European and Russian affairs who testified in the first House Trump impeachment inquiry, said: “We are really seeing Putin eroding the idea of the United States as well. … For Putin, this is a pivotal turning point. If the enterprise in Ukraine fails … if the United States is seen to not be stepping up then we’ve really basically lost our leadership position.”

Fiona Hill: “We are really seeing Putin eroding the idea of the United States as well…For Putin, this is a pivotal turning point. If the enterprise in Ukraine fails…if the United States is seen to not be stepping up than we’ve really basically lost our leadership position.” pic.twitter.com/HcKc7P7A7x

— Principles First (@Principles_1st) February 24, 2024

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, who faced pressure from Trump and threats from MAGA supporters after certifying Biden’s victory in 2020, said he would follow the law and the Constitution and make sure his state has “fair, honest and accurate elections” in 2024.

Former federal appeals court Judge J. Michael Luttig said Donald Trump must be held accountable for his actions relating to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

.@judgeluttig: “If all of the individuals who attacked the United States Capitol on Jan. 6 are prosecuted and imprisoned, that will all be for naught if Donald Trump is not held accountable.” pic.twitter.com/hvxXjcsmBs

— Principles First (@Principles_1st) February 25, 2024

And there was one other reason why speakers at the conference emphasized that Trump must lose the 2024 election: only a big loss could enable a sane center-right party to emerge out of the MAGA ashes. Conservative commentator Charlie Sykes said the country “needs two rational political parties.” And Jonah Goldberg, founder of the online conservative website The Dispatch, said that it’s necessary to build on the minority faction within the GOP that is “sane” and voting against Trump to reclaim the party.

Good luck with that. But there was one hopeful sign in the lobby of the Principles First Summit—and something that you wouldn’t find at CPAC.

Just hanging with @JimSwiftDC & Tay Tay at @Principles_1st summit this weekend. Jim is just as witty & fun as you’d expect. @_VoteSharp #PrinciplesFirst pic.twitter.com/c6T0lru4P7

— lisa S Marie🧂Y (@frequentbuyer1) February 24, 2024

RELATED STORY: 9 super weird things Trump said to a super weird CPAC

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Trump spent years exploiting immigrants he now claims are ‘poisoning’ our country

Former President Donald Trump used language right from Hitler’s playbook when he claimed that immigrants coming to the U.S. are “poisoning the blood of our country.” What’s particularly scary is just how many Trump supporters embrace his fascistic rhetoric about immigrants. Rolling Stone reported on the results of a University of Massachusetts Amherst poll that found that 35% of Trump’s 2020 voters agree with his dark message about the threat posed by immigrants.

But what they probably don’t realize is the total hypocrisy of Trump’s rhetoric. That’s because for decades, including during Trump’s presidency, his company relied on undocumented workers to fill jobs as housekeepers, waitersgroundskeepers, and stonemasons at his properties, The Washington Post reported.

RELATED STORY: Trump's attacking a military family because that's who he is

The newspaper wrote:

Using them brought a double advantage: Trump could reap the financial benefit of undocumented labor — the ability to pay his employees lower wages and fewer benefits — and the political benefit of attacking it.

The subject of immigration and the border crisis has become the hot button issue for Republicans. House Republicans narrowly impeached Cuban-born Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas Tuesday evening for allegedly failing to enforce immigration laws. But for decades, the Trump Organization ignored the employment eligibility of its workers.

RELATED STORY: House GOP votes to impeach Mayorkas, after failing first attempt

In December 2019, The Washington Post shared that its reporters had spoken with 48 undocumented immigrants who had worked for the Trump Organization at 11 of its properties, including five golf courses in New Jersey and New York and the Mar-a-Lago private club in Florida. Trump has said he was unaware that his properties had hired undocumented workers.

One of the undocumented workers, Sandra Diaz, an immigrant from Costa Rica who used a fake Social Security card to get hired, worked as Trump’s personal housekeeper at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey. She described her duties to The Washington Post as follows:

Moving quickly through the two-story house in the mornings, Diaz carried out Trump’s fastidious instructions. In his closet, she would hang six sets of identical golf outfits: six white polo shirts, six pairs of beige pants, six neatly ironed pairs of boxer shorts. She would smear a dollop of Trump’s liquid face makeup on the back of her hand to make sure it hadn’t dried out.

In late 2018, Diaz and her successor as Trump’s personal housekeeper at Bedminster, Victorina Morales, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, approached The New York Times through their immigration lawyer to talk about their experiences working at the Trump golf club.

Diaz, who worked at Bedminster from 2010-2013, is now a legal resident of the U.S., the Times reported. Morales was still working at Bedminster when she went public about her immigration status; she no longer works at the club and has filed an application for asylum status.

Morales told the Times that she could no longer keep silent because she felt hurt by Trump’s public  comments equating Latin American immigrants with violent criminals and by abusive comments from a supervisor at the golf club about her intelligence and immigration status.

“We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” Morales told  The Times. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.”

That led to more reports in The Washington Post and other major news outlets. Here’s an interview the two women gave to NowThis News.

After the women came forward, the Trump Organization began cracking down. It audited employees’ immigration papers and started using the federal E-Verify online system to check documents to confirm employment eligibility for new hires. Dozens of undocumented workers were either fired or quit in the runup to the 2020 election campaign.

In May 2019, CNN interviewed 19 of the undocumented immigrants who had worked at Trump golf clubs in New York and New Jersey:

But after 2020, this story about undocumented workers at Trump properties simply faded away. It’s important to keep Trump’s hypocrisy in the forefront as he has made immigration the major issue of his 2024 presidential campaign and is dehumanizing immigrants with fascistic rhetoric worse than when he ran in 2016.

The New York Times reported that Trump plans to introduce even more draconian immigration laws if elected than he did in his first term, which was marked by such cruel policies as separating children from their parents at the border. Trump’s plans for a second term include: deporting millions of people who don’t have legal status, setting up massive camps along the border to hold people awaiting deportation, a renewed Muslim travel ban, and the end of birthright citizenship.

Todd Schulte, the president of FWD.us, an immigration and criminal justice advocacy group, told The New York Times:

“Americans should understand these policy proposals are an authoritarian, often illegal, agenda that would rip apart nearly every aspect of American life — tanking the economy, violating the basic civil rights of millions of immigrants and native-born Americans alike.”

It’s worth noting that about 200 undocumented Polish construction workers laid the foundation for Trump’s real estate empire when they were hired in 1980 to demolish a department store on Fifth Avenue on the future site of Trump Tower. In August 2016, just months before the presidential election, Time Magazine reported about how the Polish workers were exploited, “putting in 12-hour shifts with inadequate safety equipment at subpar wages that their contractor paid sporadically, if at all.” Trump denied that he knowingly used undocumented workers, instead blaming the contractor. But documents reviewed by Time showed that Trump sought out the Polish workers for the demolition project when he saw them working on another job.

After a protracted legal battle, Trump settled a lawsuit in 1998 regarding the workers over union pension violations, agreeing to pay nearly $1.4 million. Time reported the settlement details in 2017 after going to court to get the records unsealed.

Time reported that in 1990, Daniel Sullivan, a labor consultant and FBI informant hired by Trump in 1980 to deal with the problem of the undocumented Polish workers, told People magazine:

“It was disgusting how he used people,” Sullivan said. “I said, ‘Don’t exploit them like that. Don’t try to f-ck these poor souls over.’ It baffled me then, and it makes me sick even now that he knowingly had these Poles there for the purpose of Trump Tower at starvation wages. He couldn’t give a sh-t because he’s Donald Trump and everybody is here to serve him. Over time he became more and more monstrous and arrogant. I asked myself, ‘How long is it going to take for all of this to catch up with him?'”

It certainly hasn’t so far.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who like other Republican politicians has bowed the knee to Trump, even brought up the issue of Trump’s hiring of undocumented immigrants to work at or construct some of his properties during a February 2016 Republican presidential debate. But that didn’t stop Trump from winning the nomination with his promise to build a wall along the southern border and have Mexico pay for it.

Someone has been poisoning our democracy, and it sure isn’t hard-working immigrants.

RELATED STORY: For Republicans, it's now 'Trump First, Putin Second, America Third'

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Stability or chaos: The turnover rate in the Biden vs. Trump Cabinets speaks for itself

The success or failure of a presidency can often depend on the people chosen for Cabinet-level posts. President Joe Biden has just passed the three-year mark of his first term. His administration has been a model of stability and competence. This follows the four years of chaos and incompetence that marked Donald Trump’s miserable administration.

And that point is clear when you look at the turnover rate in both administrations among the 15 Cabinet members in the line of succession for the presidency as well as the nine additional Cabinet-level positions.

RELATED STORY: Republicans actually published a blueprint for dismantling our democracy. It's called Project 2025

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a visiting fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, has written detailed analyses on overall staff turnover in the Trump administration and the Biden administration. There’s Biden, who kept his promise to make his Cabinet the most diverse in U.S. history with more women and members of color, all of whom had considerable political experience. His Cabinet includes Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay person to be a Cabinet-level secretary, and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve in a president’s Cabinet.

And so far only one Cabinet member has resignedLabor Secretary Marty Walsh, the former Boston mayor, who stepped down in March 2023. A longtime Boston Bruins fan, Walsh accepted an offer to become executive director of the NHL Players’ Association. Julie Su is serving as acting labor secretary because the Senate has yet to confirm her nomination.

And just two of the nine additional Cabinet-level positions have seen change. Longtime Biden aide Ron Klain stepped down as White House chief of staff at the mid-point of Biden’s term, and was immediately replaced by Jeff Zients, who effectively ran Biden’s COVID-19 response operation. He remains in the post.

The second is Cecilia Rouse, the first Black woman to serve as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, resigned in March 2023 to return to Princeton University and resume her work as a professor of economics and public affairs. She was replaced by longtime Biden economic adviser Jared Bernstein.

That means that 21 of 24 of Biden’s original appointees remain in their positions heading into the fourth year of his term. National Journal White House correspondent George E. Condon Jr. wrote:

In his three years in office, the president has been determined to keep his top team mostly intact, and that team in turn has been determined to avoid the leaks, backstabbing, and controversy that have led to purges and makeovers in almost all the nine presidencies Biden has witnessed in his half century in Washington.

National Journal review of past administrations found that one has to go back 171 years to find a more stable first-term administration.”

Condon wrote that Biden’s 87.5% retention rate in these top positions is topped in U.S. presidential history only by Franklin Pierce, elected in 1852, whose seven-member Cabinet remained intact during his four-year term. Condon added:

The contrast is particularly sharp compared with Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, whose Cabinet chaos was matched by no president in almost two centuries. By the end of his term in office, only four of Trump’s original 15 Cabinet members remained and only one of nine Cabinet-level appointees had survived. His retention rate of 20.8 percent exceeded only the president whose picture he brought to the Oval Office—Andrew Jackson, who had only one of six Cabinet members remaining at the end of his first term.

In January 2023, midway through Biden’s term. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware told NBC News, “Not one single member of the Cabinet has left in disgrace, is writing a tell-all book or has bad-mouthed the president. There are no leaks, no backbiting, nothing.”

Only recently has there been a major controversy surrounding a member of Biden’s Cabinet which is under investigationDefense Secretary Lloyd Austin was criticized for his failure to notify the White House, Congress, and the media about his hospitalization resulting from complications related to a procedure to treat prostate cancer.

And House Republicans have scheduled a Homeland Security Committee meeting for Jan. 30 to mark up articles of impeachment for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for his handling of border policy. Democrats have accused House Republicans of launching a “baseless political attack” instead of focusing on a bipartisan solution to the immigration crisis, Axios reported.

Presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky, author of “The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution,” told National Journal:

“Trump’s Cabinet chaos reflected the broader chaos in government. It’s a reason why most people elected Biden. It was because they felt like he would bring calmness and stability back to government and back to the nation.”

She added that this stability is one of the reasons why Biden “has been able to be effective.”

“Up to now, he’s not spending political capital or time on having to get new candidates appointed or finding replacements. It frees up mental space and bandwidth and political capital to get things done,” she said.

Trump promised to bring “the best and the brightest” to his administration. He also said he would run his administration like his business. Unfortunately, as shown in a New York civil lawsuit in which Trump faces up to $370 million in penalties, there was persistent fraud in his business dealings.

And, as The New York Times noted, Trump “created a  cabinet of mostly wealthy, white men with limited experience in government, mirroring himself.”

Vox wrote in May 2017:

CEOs don’t persuade people; they dictate. And they fire those who refuse to carry out their demands. Even more importantly, a CEO of a privately held company (like the Trump organization) operates like a king over his personal fiefdom. His employees work for him; they have no higher obligation to shareholders.

And three years later, during the 2020 campaign, The Hill wrote about just how tumultuous the Trump administration had been:

Trump operates like the federal government is just a backdrop for a never-ending episode of “The Apprentice,” except that he dominates every scene. And, just like “The Apprentice,” Trump is constantly trying to make every scene more outrageous than the one before. After all, dull is death in the TV business.

Trump fired some Cabinet members he considered disloyal or incompetent by his standards. Others resigned because of differences over policy issues.

The turnover in the Trump administration began less than a month after his inauguration when national security adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign following claims he misled the administration over his communications with Russia’s ambassador. In December 2020, Trump pardoned Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Trump then ran through three more national security advisers—H.R. McMaster, John Bolton, and Robert O’ Brien. Bolton, who was fired over policy differences, has warned that Trump could do  “irreparable” damage to the country if elected president again.

There were four White House chiefs of staff under Trump: Reince Priebus, John Kelly, Mick Mulvaney, and Mark Meadows.    

Meadows was among the 19 people indicted with Trump in the criminal racketeering case brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for allegedly conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. 

Kelly became an outspoken critic of Trump. CNN reported that Kelly told friends this about Trump:

“The depths of his (Trump’s) dishonesty is just astounding to me. The dishonesty, the transactional nature of every relationship, though it’s more pathetic than anything else. He is the most flawed person I have ever met in my life,” the retired Marine general has told friends, CNN has learned.

Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon CEO, after he called the president “a moron.” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin called Trump “an idiot,” while Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the president had “the understanding of a fifth or six grader,” according to Bob Woodward’s book “Fear: Trump in the White House.” Mnuchin was one of the few Cabinet members to survive four years in the Trump administration.  

Three of Trump’s Cabinet members left after being linked to scandals involving misuse of government funds for personal purposes: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom PriceSecretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. Zinke, of Montana, is now a member of the House GOP caucus.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced out in November 2018, because he recused himself and appointed a special counsel, Robert  Mueller, to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. His successor, William Barr, resigned in December 2020 after debunking Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud in the presidential  election.

And then, with just weeks left in Trump’s term, two more Cabinet members—Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—were among the administration officials who resigned after the mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. Trump has since derisively referred to Chao, the wife of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, in social media posts as “Coco Chow,” which she criticized as an anti-Asian slur.

In July 2023, NBC News reached out to 44 of the dozens of people who served in Cabinet-level positions during Trump’s term, not all of whom responded. A total of four publicly said they support his reelection bid. Several were coy about where they stood. And there were some who “outright oppose his bid for the GOP nomination or are adamant that they don’t want him back in power.”

“I have made clear that I strongly oppose Trump for the nomination and will not endorse Trump,” former Attorney General Bill Barr told NBC News. Asked how he would vote if the general election pits Trump against President Joe Biden, a Democrat, Barr said: “I’ll jump off that bridge when I get to it.”

At the time, some former Cabinet members told NBC that they were supporting other candidates in the Republican primary. Former Vice President Mike Pence and Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, challenged Trump for the nomination. Haley is hanging on in the primary race by a thread.

It’s not clear how many of these former Cabinet members will join the stampede within the GOP to endorse Trump now that he’s won the first two nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, especially since he’s been acting like a Mafia don in threatening Republicans who oppose him.

But on the third anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was fired by Trump on Nov. 9, 2020, issued this warning about the former president in an interview on CNN.

“I do regard him as a threat to democracy, democracy as we know it, our institutions, our political culture, all those things that make America great and have defined us as, you know, the oldest democracy on this planet,” Esper said.

RELATED STORY: Loyal, angry, and ready to break the law: How Trump plans to staff his Cabinet

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Despite Trump’s current laughable lawyers, his DOJ could be staffed with skilled radicals

Attorney Alina Habba has been widely mocked for her courtroom blunders and behavior as she defends Donald Trump in the business fraud lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James and in E. Jean Carroll’s second defamation trial against the accused rapist.

Former federal prosecutor Ron Filipkowski, who is now editor in chief of the liberal Meidas Touch, had this post on X, formerly known as Twitter:

I’m gonna say you can watch My Cousin Vinny and Legally Blonde back-to-back and you’d be ready to do a better trial than Habba.

— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) January 18, 2024

And “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert said in a monologue earlier this month, “Habba is, to use a bit of legalese, a bad lawyer,” HuffPost reported. He then played a clip from a podcast interview in which Habba, a former fashion executive, said she’d “rather be pretty than smart.” She then added she “can fake being smart.” 

But as Trump has become the first candidate to run a presidential campaign out of a courtroom, Habba has taken on a prominent role in MAGA world by playing the Trump victimization card in numerous interviews on courthouse steps, on Fox News, and other conservative news outlets.

RELATED STORY: How the next Trump-inspired insurrection could unfold and how the administration could respond

And while Trump’s immunity claims may seem a joke, there’s nothing funny regarding the attorney who handled Trump’s appeal seeking immunity from charges brought by special counsel Jack Smith that he conspired to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. The three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is widely expected to reject Trump’s immunity claim.

As Trump sat watching in the courtroom, his attorney, D. John Sauer, in response to questioning from the judges, suggested that even a president directing SEAL Team 6 to kill a political rival would be an action barred from criminal prosecution unless the president was first impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate.

Mother Jones wrote that “it’s hard to overstate the terrifying absurdity of the argument.” But in  social media posts, candidate Trump has argued that presidents deserve complete immunity from prosecution even for acts that “cross the line.” The Atlantic wrote that “Today’s legal argument could very well be next year’s exercise of presidential power.”

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich went even further, stating that “Sauer was arguing for the equivalent of the 1933 Enabling Law in Germany,” which facilitated Adolf Hitler’s success in moving the country from democracy to fascism. That law—approved by the German Parliament in March 1933—gave the new chancellor, Hitler, the power to enact new laws without interference from the president or the parliament for four years.

What’s scary is that unlike Habba, Sauer has a blue-chip legal background. He was a Rhodes scholar and a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School. He served as a law clerk to federal appellate court Judge J. Michael Luttig and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

In 2017, then-Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley appointed Sauer to serve as the state’s solicitor general and he continued to serve in that post under Hawley’s successor, Eric Schmitt, who also was elected to the U.S. Senate. The New York Times wrote:

As Missouri’s solicitor general, Mr. Sauer took part in a last-ditch effort to keep Mr. Trump in power after his defeat in the 2020 election, filing a motion on behalf of his state and five others in support of an attempt by Texas to have the Supreme Court toss out the results of the vote count in several key swing states.

He also joined in an unsuccessful bid with Texas in asking the Supreme Court to stop the Biden administration from rescinding a Trump-era immigration program that forces certain asylum seekers arriving at the southwestern border to await approval in Mexico.

Sauer left the solicitor general’s post in January 2023. He served as a special assistant attorney general for Louisiana’s Department of Justice in a First Amendment lawsuit against Biden administration officials over their contacts with social media platforms about “misinformation.” 

So could Sauer be another politically ambitious conservative lawyer with an Ivy League law degree looking to make an impression on Trump in hopes of securing a top position at the Department of Justice in a second Trump administration? It’s hard to know for sure, as Sauer keeps a low public profile outside the courtroom and shuns media interviews. But it sounds like he would fit right in, according to a November New York Times article on the subject:

Close allies of Donald J. Trump are preparing to populate a new administration with a more aggressive breed of right-wing lawyer, dispensing with traditional conservatives who they believe stymied his agenda in his first term.

The allies have been drawing up lists of lawyers they view as ideologically and temperamentally suited to serve in a second Trump administration. Their aim is to reduce the chances that politically appointed lawyers would frustrate a more radical White House agenda — as they sometimes did when Mr. Trump was in office, by raising objections to his desires for certain harsher immigration policies or for greater personal control over the Justice Department, among others.

The Times said Trump has even become disenchanted with the Federalist Society, the conservative legal network whose members filled key executive branch legal positions when he was last in office. Trump was particularly enraged at White House and Justice Department legal officials who blocked his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

John Mitnick, who was fired by Trump as general counsel of the Homeland Security Department in 2019, told the Times that “no qualified attorneys with integrity will have any desire to serve as political appointees” in a second Trump term.

The Guardian reported that Trump’s former senior adviser Stephen Miller, known for his draconian immigration policy, “is playing a key role in seeking lawyers fully in sync with Trump’s radical agenda to expand his power and curb some major agencies.” The Guardian wrote:

His search is for those with unswerving loyalty to Trump, who could back Trump’s increasingly authoritarian talk about plans to “weaponize” the DoJ against critics, including some he has labeled as “vermin.”

Miller, who is not a lawyer, is president of the MAGA-allied group America First Legal, which has been filing lawsuits against the Biden administration. Miller also sits on the board of Project 2025, an effort led by the Heritage Foundation and other conservative groups to map authoritarian policy plans for a second Trump administration.

And that brings us to who Trump might choose for attorney general if he makes his way back to the Oval Office. Back in November, former Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a member of the House Jan. 6 Select Committee, warned in an episode of The Bulwark podcast:

“If he does get through and he wins this time, he's going to interview 100 candidates for attorney general and only take the one that says, 'Mr. President, in essence, I don't care what the Constitution is. I'm going to do whatever you want as your servant at the Department of Justice.'"

And the scary thing is that there is one lawyer who is media savvy, has a blue-chip legal resume, and is a total right-wing monster. His name is Mike Davis.

Tim Miller, a former Republican National Committee spokesperson and Never Trumper, wrote about an interview Davis gave to conservative political commentator Benny Johnson in which Davis discussed what he would do if he were “acting attorney general” for a few weeks in a new Trump term:

But during my three week reign of terror as Trump acting attorney general, before I get chased out of town with my Trump pardon, I will rain hell on Washington, D.C. ... I have five lists, ready to go and they’re growing.

List number one, we’re gonna fire. We’re gonna fire a lot of people in the executive branch, in the deep state.

Number two, we’re gonna indict. We’re gonna indict Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and James Biden and every other scumball, sleazeball, Biden, except for the five year old granddaughter who they refused to acknowledge for five years until the political pressure got to Joe Biden.

Number three, we’re gonna deport. We’re gonna deport a lot of people, 10 million people and growing—anchor babies, their parents, their grandparents. We’re gonna put kids in cages. It’s gonna be glorious. We’re gonna detain a lot of people in the D.C. gulag and Gitmo.

And list number five, I’m gonna recommend a lot of pardons. Every January 6th defendant is gonna get a pardon, especially my hero horn man. He is definitely at the top of the pardon list.

“This is almost comically pathetic chest-beating of a creepy dork,” says Hayes on far-right lawyer Mike Davis. “But again the history of fascism is full of creepy dorks who…used the power of the state to execute their most despicable, violent fantasies.”pic.twitter.com/dRRVhsRKCw

— IT’S TIME FOR JUSTICE (@LiddleSavages) November 22, 2023

In an article for The Bulwark, Miller wrote:

Davis has become an influential voice in MAGA media and activist circles—understandably so, given his crossover appeal as someone who combines legitimate bona fides as a GOP staffer with the incendiary, burn-it-all-down rhetoric that the MAGA base laps up.

And should, God forbid, Trump win a second term, Davis will be emblematic of the type of person who will staff the government. …

Davis’s current gig is spearheading activist groups that fight for right-wing judicial appointments and oppose “Big Tech.” In this role he makes frequent appearances on right-wing media outlets, including primetime Fox and its MAGA competitors (think Real America’s Voice, Newsmax, Bannon’s War Room), where he preaches the Gospel of Trump on issues ranging from the former president’s many indictments to the Biden impeachment.

Davis has an extensive biography on the Federalist Society website. But Miller also exposed Davis’ dark side, including a rant on X about the “violent black underclass” who are “monsters” and should be subjected to “mass incarceration.” He wrote:

Racist demagoguery. Conspiratorial thinking. Promises for retribution against enemies. This is Trump’s stated agenda for 2024. And people like Mike Davis stand ready and willing to execute it.

Davis now heads the Article III Project, which has run ads defending Trump against his four criminal indictments with messages mirroring Trump’s comments that he is a victim of politically motivated prosecutions.

One 60-second digital ad says, “Activist prosecutors and judges have destroyed the rule of law, the scales of justice forever broken and imbalanced. The worst offenders? Those who have weaponized the legal system for political gain against President Trump. Even now they’re resorting to insane legal theories to take him off the ballot,” the ad continues. “They’ve gone after a president of the United States. Do you think they’ll stop there?”

In November, Mehdi Hasan presented an in-depth report on the dangers posed by Davis on MSNBC.

Davis responded to the report and Miller’s Bulwark article with this tasteless post on X that included a homophobic slur. 

😂 Trump’s Dream Team.@mehdirhasan is now on my Lists 2 (indict), 4 (detain), 6 (denaturalize), and 3 (deport). I already have his spot picked out in the DC gulag. But I’ll put him in the women’s cell block, with @Timodc. So these whiny leftists don’t get beat up as often. https://t.co/Ylhb33KVv2

— 🇺🇸 Mike Davis 🇺🇸 (@mrddmia) November 20, 2023

And here’s the kicker: Donald Trump Jr. actually said on his online show “Triggered” in November that he’d actually like to see Davis as attorney general, even on an interim basis, “just to send that shot across the bow of the swamp.”

Donald Trump Jr. says he wants Laura Loomer as White House press secretary and Mike Davis as attorney general; Loomer has described herself as “pro-white nationalism,” Davis says that he wants to enact a “reign of terror” targeting Trump’s enemies. pic.twitter.com/oy3osluVC4

— Media Matters (@mmfa) November 10, 2023

RELATED STORY: Republicans actually published a blueprint for dismantling our democracy. It's called Project 2025

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New report shows Mike Johnson’s role as pivotal ‘architect’ of 2020 election denial efforts in House

Mild-mannered House Speaker “MAGA” Mike Johnson is not a headline-seeking showboater when it comes to election denialism. Instead, he largely avoided attention as he worked to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. And now he’ll be holding the gavel when the House reconvenes on Tuesday with one of its main priorities being continuing the baseless impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden.

You won’t find Johnson engaging in over-the-top provocative actions, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene did when she posed with QAnon Shaman Jacob Chansley during a December meeting in Arizona of Turning Point USA, a right-wing youth group. And on Jan. 6, 2021, Johnson avoided direct involvement in the “Stop the Steal” rally outside the White House that ended in the attack on the Capitol. But he did play a key role in providing the legal fig leaf that enabled 147 Republican lawmakers—139 House members and eight senators—to vote against approving the Electoral College count and Joe Biden’s victory.

RELATED STORY: Profiles in cowardice: Three years after Jan. 6, GOP leaders won't hold Trump accountable

Johnson was not among the six Republican lawmakers—including current House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan of Ohio and Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Andy Biggs of Arizona—who were subpoenaed to appear before the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.  Johnson received just one passing mention in the committee’s final report, Politico reported.

But a report released last week by the Congressional Integrity Project to mark the third anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection highlighted Johnson’s role as “congressional architect of the effort to overturn the 2020 election, advocating an interpretation of the Constitution so outlandish that not even the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority could swallow it,” reported the Brennan Center for Justice.

Politico wrote:

A relatively junior House Republican at the time, Johnson was nevertheless the leading voice in support of a fateful position: that the GOP should rally around Donald Trump and object to counting electoral votes submitted by at least a handful of states won by Joe Biden.

Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio was the most prominent public face of the congressional effort to fight the results of the 2020 election, his mentee, the newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson, was a silent but pivotal partner.
So let’s take a closer look at Johnson’s record as a propagator of the Big Lie, because it exposes the danger of what might happen if there is another close presidential election and the GOP retains control of the House with Johnson as speaker.

“You don’t want people who falsely claim the last election was stolen to be in a position of deciding who won the next one,” Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told The Associated Press.

“Johnson is more dangerous because he wrapped up his attempt to subvert the election outcomes in lawyerly and technical language,” Hasen said.

Before being elected to Congress in 2016, Johnson, a constitutional law attorney, served as senior legal counsel from 2002-2010 for the Alliance Defense Fund (now known as the Alliance Defending Freedom), a Christian conservative legal advocacy group that opposes abortion and LGBTQ+ rights. Johnson himself wrote opinion pieces against marriage equality and endorsing briefs filed by the ADF meant to criminalize sexual activity between consenting adults, Rolling Stone reported. The Southern Poverty Law Center designated the ADF as a hate group in 2016.

So it was no surprise that Johnson sent out this tweet on Nov. 7, 2020, when media outlets largely called the race for Biden:

I have just called President Trump to say this: "Stay strong and keep fighting, sir! The nation is depending upon your resolve. We must exhaust every available legal remedy to restore Americans' trust in the fairness of our election system."

— Speaker Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson) November 7, 2020

Two days later, Johnson sent out another tweet indicating that he was in regular contact with Trump:

President Trump called me last night and I was encouraged to hear his continued resolve to ensure that every LEGAL vote gets properly counted and that all instances of fraud and illegality are investigated and prosecuted. Fair elections are worth fighting for!

— Speaker Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson) November 9, 2020

Politico wrote that in an interview with a Louisiana-based radio host on Nov. 9, Johnson added details on his call with Trump and made clear that “they already had their eye on a Supreme Court showdown.” Johnson said he thought “there’s at least five justices on the court that will do the right thing.”

Then on Nov. 17, Johnson repeated the debunked claim put forth by Trump lawyers that there was an international conspiracy to hack Dominion voting machines so Trump would lose the election, The Associated Press reported. The AP quoted Johnson as saying:

“In every election in American history, there’s some small element of fraud, irregularity,” Johnson said in the interview. “But when you have it on a broad scale, when you have a software system that is used all around the country that is suspect because it came from Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, when you have testimonials of people like this, it demands to be litigated.”

As more states moved to confirm their election results, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a hail-Mary lawsuit in early December asking the Supreme Court to reject the election results in four states carried by Biden—Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin—on the basis that those states introduced pandemic-related changes to election procedures that were illegal.

In Congress, Johnson, who had served on Trump’s first impeachment defense team in early 2020, helped lead the effort to get 126 Republican lawmakers to sign an amicus brief supporting the Texas lawsuit. Johnson tweeted:

President Trump called me this morning to let me know how much he appreciates the amicus brief we are filing on behalf of Members of Congress. Indeed, "this is the big one!" https://t.co/eV1aoNlpvq

— Speaker Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson) December 9, 2020

Then on Dec. 11, in a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court rejected the Texas lawsuit. On Dec. 14, the electoral college members met in their states to cast their ballots for president. That same day Johnson said in a radio interview that Congress still had the final say on whether to accept Biden’s electors on Jan. 6, 2021, Politico reported.

On Jan. 5, Johnson met with fellow GOP House members in a closed-door meeting to discuss what they should do in Congress the next day.

Politico wrote:

”This is a very weighty decision. All of us have prayed for God’s discernment. I know I’ve prayed for each of you individually,” Johnson said at the meeting, according to a record of his comments obtained by POLITICO, before urging his fellow Republicans to join him in opposing the results.

On the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, just hours before the mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol, Johnson tweeted:

Rep. Mike Johnson, Jan. 6, 2021: “We MUST fight for election integrity, the Constitution, and the preservation of our republic!  It will be my honor to help lead that fight in the Congress today.” pic.twitter.com/4gTYgv3Pc8

— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) October 25, 2023

After the mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol, Johnson condemned the violence, according to The New York Times, but he defended the actions of Republican lawmakers to object to Biden’s victory. And when Congress reconvened, more than half of the House GOP caucus supported objections to Biden’s victory.

In an October 2022 report published weeks before the midterm election, The New York Times emphasized Johnson’s role in the vote:

In formal statements justifying their votes, about three-quarters relied on the arguments of a low-profile Louisiana congressman, Representative Mike Johnson, the most important architect of the Electoral College objections.

On the eve of the Jan. 6 votes, he presented colleagues with what he called a “third option.” He faulted the way some states had changed voting procedures during the pandemic, saying it was unconstitutional, without supporting the outlandish claims of Mr. Trump’s most vocal supporters. His Republican critics called it a Trojan horse that allowed lawmakers to vote with the president while hiding behind a more defensible case. …

Even lawmakers who had been among the noisiest “stop the steal” firebrands took refuge in Mr. Johnson’s narrow and lawyerly claims, though his nuanced argument was lost on the mob storming the Capitol, and over time it was the vision of the rioters — that a Democratic conspiracy had defrauded America — that prevailed in many Republican circles.

Johnson has not wavered from his position that he and other House GOP members had been right to object to the election results. 

In its report, the Congressional Integrity Project noted that Johnson had voted against creating a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack, calling it “a third impeachment.” He also voted against holding former White House adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House Jan. 6 select committee.

And just months before the House GOP caucus voted unanimously in October to install Johnson as speaker, he gave oxygen to the baseless conspiracy theory held by right-wing Republicans that federal agents orchestrated the Jan. 6 insurrection. He alleged that FBI Director Christopher Wray was “hiding something” about the FBI’s presence in the Capitol on Jan. 6, the Congressional Integrity Project reported.

In November, Johnson fulfilled a promise he made to far-right members of the House GOP caucus in order to secure the speaker’s post when he announced plans to publicly release thousands of hours of security camera video footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, blurring the faces of individual protesters. Earlier last year, then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson used selectively edited security camera footage to make the claim that Jan. 6 was largely a peaceful protest and the demonstrators were “not insurrectionists, they were sightseers.”

In its report, the Congressional Integrity Project said one of the biggest dangers is that the attempted Jan. 6, 2021 coup never ended because Johnson and the same Trump allies behind that insurrection are now fully behind the sham Biden impeachment effort.

These Republicans include Johnson, Jordan, Comer, and such firebrands as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Matt Gaetz of Florida, the report said.

With the report, Kyle Herrig, the executive director of the Congressional Integrity Project, issued a statement that read:

“The same MAGA Republicans who led Donald Trump’s deadly insurrection and attempt to overthrow an election he knew he lost, are the same ones pushing the bogus impeachment of President Biden. MAGA Republicans are a threat to all Americans and our democracy. They will stop at nothing to pursue their radical, out-of-touch agenda, including violence. All of their actions on behalf of the disgraced former president in an attempt to distract from his 91 criminal indictments and help him return to the White House in 2024—and they don’t care who stands in their way.”

RELATED STORY: House GOP kicks off a new year of dysfunction with another impeachment

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Profiles in cowardice: Three years after Jan. 6, GOP leaders won’t hold Trump accountable

Sen. John F. Kennedy wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Profiles in Courage” in 1956, focusing on eight U.S. senators Kennedy felt were courageous under intense pressure from the public and their own party. If you were to write a book about Republican House and Senate members in the three years since the Jan. 6 insurrection, you’d have to title it “Profiles in Cowardice.”

Just weeks before the Iowa caucuses, all the members of the GOP House leadership have endorsed former President Donald Trump. That’s the same Trump who sicced a mob on the Capitol, urging his supporters to “fight like hell.” Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a presidential candidate, was asked Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” why Republican politicians remain loyal to Trump. He replied that it’s “a combination of two emotions: fear and ambition.” 

RELATED STORY: Three years of Trump's lies about the Jan. 6 insurrection have taken their toll

That fear can be understood given the results of a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll published Tuesday. It shows that “Republicans are more sympathetic to those who stormed the U.S. Capitol and more likely to absolve Donald Trump of responsibility for the attack then they were in 2021.” That’s despite the twice-impeached former president facing 91 felony counts in four criminal indictments. The poll found:

More than 7 in 10 Republicans say that too much is being made of the attack and that it is “time to move on.” Fewer than 2 in 10 (18 percent) of Republicans say Jan. 6 protesters were “mostly violent,” dipping from 26 percent in 2021. 

The poll also found that only 14% of Republicans said Trump bears a great or good amount of responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack, compared with 27% in 2021. So it’s no surprise that Trump feels comfortable on the campaign trail where he regularly downplays the violence on Jan. 6. Yet nine deaths were linked to the Capitol attack, and more than 450 people have been sentenced to prison for their roles in it. The Associated Press reports:

Trump has still built a commanding lead in the Republican primary, and his rivals largely refrain from criticizing him about Jan. 6. He has called it “a beautiful day” and described those imprisoned for the insurrection as “great, great patriots” and “hostages.” At some campaign rallies, he has played a recording of “The Star-Spangled Banner” sung by jailed rioters — the anthem interspersed with his recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Just Security reported that special counsel Jack Smith has taken notice of “Trump’s repeated embrace of the January 6 rioters” as part of the federal case against him for allegedly plotting to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

Trump probably should have stuck to the script he read in a video released on Jan. 7, 2021. Trump was under pressure to make a statement after two Cabinet members and several other top administration officials had resigned over the Capitol violence. Trump denounced what he called the “heinous attack” on the U.S. Capitol and said:

“Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem  … America is and must always be a nation of law and order.

"The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law, you will pay."

pic.twitter.com/csX07ZVWGe

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2021

Of course, Trump couldn’t stick to that script. But the Jan. 6 attack prompted some to prematurely declare the death of Trumpism. In an opinion piece in The Hill on  Jan. 7, 2021, Glenn C. Altschuler, professor of American Studies at Cornell University, wrote:

Trumpism has been exposed for what it is: a cancer on the Republican Party and a real threat to democracy in the United States. It is in our power — starting with Republican politicians in Washington, D.C. and red states, the mass media news outlets, as well as voters throughout the country — to make Jan. 6, 2021 the day Trumpism died.

Initially, Republican congressional leaders showed some spine. The New York Times wrote:

In the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building, the two top Republicans in Congress, Representative Kevin McCarthy and Senator Mitch McConnell, told associates they believed President Trump was responsible for inciting the deadly riot and vowed to drive him from politics.

Mr. McCarthy went so far as to say he would push Mr. Trump to resign immediately: “I’ve had it with this guy,” he told a group of Republican leaders, according to an audio recording of the conversation obtained by The New York Times.

But within weeks both men backed off an all-out fight with Mr. Trump because they feared retribution from him and his political movement. Their drive to act faded fast as it became clear it would mean difficult votes that would put them at odds with most of their colleagues.

Just hours after the Capitol attack, 147 Republican lawmakers—a majority of the House GOP caucus and a handful of Republican senators—voted against certifying Biden’s election. Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, the current House speaker, played a leading role in the effort to overturn the presidential election results. In a radio interview he even repeated the debunked claim about an international conspiracy involving deceased Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to hack voting machines. 

On Jan. 13, 2021, the House voted to impeach Trump for incitement of insurrection, but only 10 House Republicans supported the resolution. Only two of them remain in Congress. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy read the writing on the wall: He made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago on Jan. 27 to bend the knee to Trump. He realized that he never would become House speaker without Trump’s support. Trump’s Political Action Committee Save America put out this readout of the meeting:

“They discussed many topics, number one of which was taking back the House in 2022,” the statement read. “President Trump’s popularity has never been stronger than it is today, and his endorsement means more than perhaps any endorsement at any time.”

The Senate impeachment trial represented a last chance to drive a stake into Trump’s political career because conviction would have kept him from holding office again. Seven Republican senators voted to convict Trump, but the tally fell 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority required for conviction.
McConnell voted to acquit Trump. In his Feb. 13 speech to the Senate, he said Trump “is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events” of Jan. 6. He suggested that Trump could still be subject to criminal prosecution: “We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former Presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one.” 
In 2023, McConnell stayed quiet when asked for reaction to Trump's criminal indictments. But McCarthy and other Republicans joined in defending Trump and criticizing prosecutors. On Aug. 14, 2023, after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis announced her racketeering and conspiracy indictment against Trump and 18 allies for allegedly trying to overturn the presidential election results in Georgia, McCarthy posted:

Justice should be blind, but Biden has weaponized government against his leading political opponent to interfere in the 2024 election. Now a radical DA in Georgia is following Biden’s lead by attacking President Trump and using it to fundraise her political career. Americans…

— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) August 15, 2023

Trump has now made the outlandish claim that he’s immune from criminal prosecution over his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election because he was serving as president at the time. In a brief filed last Saturday to a federal appeals court, Smith warned that Trump’s claims “threaten to undermine democracy.”

The events of Jan. 6 were a warning that Trump and his MAGA cultists really don’t believe in the Constitution. McKay Coppins, who wrote a biography of Mitt Romney, wrote in The Atlantic that the Utah senator wrestled with whether Trump caused the downfall of the GOP, or if it had always been in play:

Was the authoritarian element of the GOP a product of President Trump, or had it always been there, just waiting to be activated by a sufficiently shameless demagogue? And what role had the members of the mainstream establishment—­people like him, the reasonable Republicans—played in allowing the rot on the right to fester?

The feckless Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has been a weather vane of what’s been happening within the GOP. During the 2016 campaign, he dismissed Trump as a “kook” and “race-baiting bigot” unfit to be president. Then Graham stuck his head up Trump’s posterior once the reality show host became president. On Jan. 6, 2021, Graham declared he had “enough” of Trump and voted to confirm the election results. But in February 2021, Graham made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to make peace with Trump. Graham’s remarks at the time proved to be quite prescient:

"If he ran, it would be his nomination for the having …" Graham told The Washington Post. "Because he was successful for conservatism and people appreciate his fighting spirit, he's going to dominate the party for years to come.” 

Recently, Graham even defended Trump’s presidential immunity claim on CBS’ “Face the Nation”:

“Now, if you're doing your job as president and January 6th he was still president, trying to find out if the election, you know, was on the up and up. I think his immunity claim, I don't know how it will bear out, but I think it's a legitimate claim. But they're prosecuting him for activity around January 6th, he didn't break into the Capitol, he gave a fiery speech, but he's not the first guy to ever do that.”

After Jan. 6, some ultra-right Republicans tried to portray what happened as a largely peaceful protest and absolve Trump of any blame. Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia said many of the people who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 behaved in an orderly manner as if they were on a "normal tourist visit." Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar blamed the violence on left-wing activists, calling it an “Antifa provocation.”

But now the fringe conspiracy theories have moved into the party’s mainstream as MAGA Republicans have gained influence in Congress. As speaker, McCarthy granted then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson exclusive access to 42,000 hours of Jan. 6 security footage. Carlson used the footage for a show that portrayed the riot as a peaceful gathering. “These were not insurrectionists. They were sightseers,” Carlson said.

Trump claimed Carlson’s show offered “irrefutable” evidence that the rioters had been wrongly accused of crimes and called for the release of those jailed on charges related to the attack, the Associated Press reported. In the December Republican presidential debate, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy pushed the conspiracy theory that the Jan. 6 attack looked “like it was an inside job” orchestrated by federal agents.

Trump has pushed these “deep state” conspiracy theories in filings by his lawyers in the case brought by Smith accusing Trump of attempting to overturn the 2020 election results, The Washington Post reported. The Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that 34% of Republicans believe the FBI organized and encouraged the Jan. 6 insurrection, compared with 30% of independents and 13% of Democrats.

In a CNN Town Hall in May, Trump said he had no regrets about what happened on Jan. 6 and repeated the Big Lie that the 2020 election “was rigged.” Trump has also portrayed Ashli Babbitt—the Jan. 6 protester who was fatally shot by police as she tried to force her way into the House chamber—as a martyr. He has cast the jailed Jan. 6 insurrectionists as “patriotic” heroes. That should raise alarm bells because there’s a dangerous precedent. After his failed 1923 Munich Beer Hall putsch, Adolf Hitler referred to Nazi storm troopers killed in the attempted coup as blood martyrs. It took Hitler a decade to become chancellor of Germany in 1933.

RELATED STORY: 100 years after the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, Trump is borrowing from Hitler's playbook

As we mark the third anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection, Trump is on a faster track to become president again, aided and abetted by right-wing news outlets and social media platforms like Elon Musk’s X.

Biden understands the growing threat to American democracy. That’s why he’s following up his Friday speech in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, about democracy on the brink with an advertising push starting Jan. 6. In the Biden-Harris campaign’s first ad of 2024, Biden says: “Now something dangerous is happening in America. There’s an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs in our democracy. All of us are being asked right now, what will we do to maintain our democracy?”

RELATED STORY: Trump attorney leans on Supreme Court to repay their debt to Trump

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Wisconsin GOP Assembly leader backs off threat to impeach Supreme Court judge over redistricting

Almost immediately after Janet Protasiewicz was elected to Wisconsin’s Supreme Court last April, flipping it to a liberal majority, Republican leaders threatened to impeach her if she didn’t recuse herself from a case challenging the state’s heavily gerrymandered electoral maps. This was because after being seated on the court in August, Protasiewicz refused to recuse herself from the Democratic-backed lawsuit seeking to throw out Republican-drawn electoral maps, drawing even more impeachment threats from Republicans.

Protasiewicz’s victory had resulted in a 4-3 liberal majority on the court, ending a 15-year period in which conservative justices held control. But now faced with intense backlash, Robin Vos, the Republican leader of Wisconsin’s Assembly who threatened possible impeachment of Protasiewicz in August, has pivoted and now says that such a move is “super unlikely,” The Associated Press reported.

RELATED STORY: Former Wisconsin GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel is running for the state Supreme Court

The AP wrote:

When asked in an interview Wednesday if he would move to impeach Protasiewicz if she orders new maps to be drawn, Vos said, “I think it’s very unlikely.”

“It’s one of the tools that we have in our toolbox that we could use at any time,” Vos said of impeachment. “Is it going to be used? I think it’s super unlikely.”

However, Vos refused to rule it out.

“We don’t know what could happen, right?” he said. “There could be a scandal where something occurs. I don’t know.”

Wisconsin’s Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler posted this reaction on X, formerly known as Twitter:

The Wisconsin GOP has made official what’s long been clear: they’ve pulled back the impeachment threat. Why did this happen? Because you rose up in outrage and made clear that such an abuse of the constitution would be politically catastrophic—for them. https://t.co/f20bV6dd9c

— Ben Wikler (@benwikler) December 21, 2023

In September, Wikler announced that the state Democratic Party was launching a $4 million effort to to pressure Republicans to back down from impeaching Protasiewicz. At the time he said the Republicans were “holding a political nuclear football” and engaging in “political extortion.”

According to Associated Press analysis, Wisconsin’s Assembly districts rank among the most gerrymandered in the U.S., with Republicans routinely winning far more seats than would be expected based on their average share of the vote in statewide elections. Joe Biden flipped Wisconsin in the 2020 presidential election, defeating Donald Trump by a narrow margin of 49.6% to 48.9%, a difference of 20,000 votes. In April 2023, with abortion rights a key issue, Protasiewicz defeated Republican Dan Kelly by 55.5% to 45.5%, a margin of nearly 200,000 votes.

Yet, as the AP pointed out, the legislative electoral maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011 cemented the party’s majorities. Republicans now control the Assembly by a 64-35 margin, and hold a 22-11 supermajority in the Senate. Last year, the GOP approved maps that were similar to the existing ones.

In October, the state Supreme Court agreed to hear the legal challenge to the Republican-drawn maps. Election lawyer Marc Elias’ group, Democracy Docket, wrote on its website:

The petitioners in Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission allege that the Wisconsin state Assembly and Senate maps are extreme partisan gerrymanders that unduly favor Republicans in violation of the state constitution.

The petition notes that for the past two decades, Wisconsin’s legislative plans have been among the most gerrymandered in the country: “In 2012, Republicans won 48.6% of the statewide vote, which yielded a remarkable 60 assembly seats. … When Democrats received roughly the same vote share, they carried 36 assembly seats. … From the 2012 through the 2020 elections, Republicans never fell below 60 seats—winning up to 64, or nearly two-thirds of the seats. In 2018, Republicans won 63 seats with just 44.8% of the vote.”  

Last month, the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the redistricting lawsuit and is expected to issue its decision by early 2024. The plaintiffs are asking that all 132 state lawmakers be required to stand for election in 2024 under newly redrawn maps. Under current law, all Wisconsin Assembly members and about half the state Senate are up for election next year.

The wheels came off the Republicans’ threat to impeach Protasiewicz in October. That’s when two of three former conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justices asked by Vos to investigate the possibility of impeachment told the Assembly leader it was not warranted. Former Justice David Prosser wrote to Vos:

“To sum up my views, there should be no effort to impeach Justice Protasiewicz on anything we know now. Impeachment is so serious, severe, and rare that it should not be considered unless the subject has committed a crime, or the subject has committed indisputable ‘corrupt conduct’ while ‘in office.’”

Article VII of the Wisconsin Constitution reserves impeachment for “corrupt conduct in office, or for crimes and misdemeanors.”

The Republicans’ threats to Protasiewicz were based on political statements that she made while campaigning for the seat in which she referred to the legislative maps as “rigged.” Republicans claimed that this constituted a predetermination of how she would rule on a case challenging the maps. In early October, Protasiewicz rejected calls from Republican justices to recuse herself from redistricting cases. The AP reported:

Protasiewicz said that while stating her opinion about the maps during the campaign, she never made a promise or pledge about how she would rule on the cases.

“I will set aside my opinions and decide cases based on the law,” she wrote. “There will surely be many cases in which I reach results that I personally dislike. That is what it means to be a judge.”

Democracy Docket also said that Republican lawmakers also took issue with the financial contributions made by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to her campaign. However, Jay Heck, director of the nonpartisan group Common Cause of Wisconsin called the Republicans’ “selected outrage” hypocritical because all but one of the seven sitting justices had accepted contributions from a political party.

The prospect of actually removing Protasiewicz from the court also became a less attractive option. That’s because if she were impeached by the Assembly and convicted by the Senate, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would now get to name her replacement rather than have to call a special election, which would have been required if she had been removed prior to Dec. 1, the AP reported.

And it’s good news for abortion rights activists that Protasiewicz remains in place to keep the liberal 4-3 majority intact. On Tuesday, a Republican district attorney appealed a court ruling that determined that an 1849 Wisconsin law does not ban abortions, the AP reported. That decision cleared the way for abortions to resume in the state. The appeal filed by Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski is likely to ultimately be decided by the state Supreme Court. And Protasiewicz is a supporter of abortion rights.

RELATED STORY: Wisconsin Supreme Court hearing arguments on redistricting that could result in new maps for 2024

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Wisconsin GOP Assembly leader backs off threat to impeach Supreme Court judge over redistricting

Almost immediately after Janet Protasiewicz was elected to Wisconsin’s Supreme Court last April, flipping it to a liberal majority, Republican leaders threatened to impeach her if she didn’t recuse herself from a case challenging the state’s heavily gerrymandered electoral maps. This was because after being seated on the court in August, Protasiewicz refused to recuse herself from the Democratic-backed lawsuit seeking to throw out Republican-drawn electoral maps, drawing even more impeachment threats from Republicans.

Protasiewicz’s victory had resulted in a 4-3 liberal majority on the court, ending a 15-year period in which conservative justices held control. But now faced with intense backlash, Robin Vos, the Republican leader of Wisconsin’s Assembly who threatened possible impeachment of Protasiewicz in August, has pivoted and now says that such a move is “super unlikely,” The Associated Press reported.

RELATED STORY: Former Wisconsin GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel is running for the state Supreme Court

The AP wrote:

When asked in an interview Wednesday if he would move to impeach Protasiewicz if she orders new maps to be drawn, Vos said, “I think it’s very unlikely.”

“It’s one of the tools that we have in our toolbox that we could use at any time,” Vos said of impeachment. “Is it going to be used? I think it’s super unlikely.”

However, Vos refused to rule it out.

“We don’t know what could happen, right?” he said. “There could be a scandal where something occurs. I don’t know.”

Wisconsin’s Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler posted this reaction on X, formerly known as Twitter:

The Wisconsin GOP has made official what’s long been clear: they’ve pulled back the impeachment threat. Why did this happen? Because you rose up in outrage and made clear that such an abuse of the constitution would be politically catastrophic—for them. https://t.co/f20bV6dd9c

— Ben Wikler (@benwikler) December 21, 2023

In September, Wikler announced that the state Democratic Party was launching a $4 million effort to to pressure Republicans to back down from impeaching Protasiewicz. At the time he said the Republicans were “holding a political nuclear football” and engaging in “political extortion.”

According to Associated Press analysis, Wisconsin’s Assembly districts rank among the most gerrymandered in the U.S., with Republicans routinely winning far more seats than would be expected based on their average share of the vote in statewide elections. Joe Biden flipped Wisconsin in the 2020 presidential election, defeating Donald Trump by a narrow margin of 49.6% to 48.9%, a difference of 20,000 votes. In April 2023, with abortion rights a key issue, Protasiewicz defeated Republican Dan Kelly by 55.5% to 45.5%, a margin of nearly 200,000 votes.

Yet, as the AP pointed out, the legislative electoral maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011 cemented the party’s majorities. Republicans now control the Assembly by a 64-35 margin, and hold a 22-11 supermajority in the Senate. Last year, the GOP approved maps that were similar to the existing ones.

In October, the state Supreme Court agreed to hear the legal challenge to the Republican-drawn maps. Election lawyer Marc Elias’ group, Democracy Docket, wrote on its website:

The petitioners in Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission allege that the Wisconsin state Assembly and Senate maps are extreme partisan gerrymanders that unduly favor Republicans in violation of the state constitution.

The petition notes that for the past two decades, Wisconsin’s legislative plans have been among the most gerrymandered in the country: “In 2012, Republicans won 48.6% of the statewide vote, which yielded a remarkable 60 assembly seats. … When Democrats received roughly the same vote share, they carried 36 assembly seats. … From the 2012 through the 2020 elections, Republicans never fell below 60 seats—winning up to 64, or nearly two-thirds of the seats. In 2018, Republicans won 63 seats with just 44.8% of the vote.”  

Last month, the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the redistricting lawsuit and is expected to issue its decision by early 2024. The plaintiffs are asking that all 132 state lawmakers be required to stand for election in 2024 under newly redrawn maps. Under current law, all Wisconsin Assembly members and about half the state Senate are up for election next year.

The wheels came off the Republicans’ threat to impeach Protasiewicz in October. That’s when two of three former conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justices asked by Vos to investigate the possibility of impeachment told the Assembly leader it was not warranted. Former Justice David Prosser wrote to Vos:

“To sum up my views, there should be no effort to impeach Justice Protasiewicz on anything we know now. Impeachment is so serious, severe, and rare that it should not be considered unless the subject has committed a crime, or the subject has committed indisputable ‘corrupt conduct’ while ‘in office.’”

Article VII of the Wisconsin Constitution reserves impeachment for “corrupt conduct in office, or for crimes and misdemeanors.”

The Republicans’ threats to Protasiewicz were based on political statements that she made while campaigning for the seat in which she referred to the legislative maps as “rigged.” Republicans claimed that this constituted a predetermination of how she would rule on a case challenging the maps. In early October, Protasiewicz rejected calls from Republican justices to recuse herself from redistricting cases. The AP reported:

Protasiewicz said that while stating her opinion about the maps during the campaign, she never made a promise or pledge about how she would rule on the cases.

“I will set aside my opinions and decide cases based on the law,” she wrote. “There will surely be many cases in which I reach results that I personally dislike. That is what it means to be a judge.”

Democracy Docket also said that Republican lawmakers also took issue with the financial contributions made by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to her campaign. However, Jay Heck, director of the nonpartisan group Common Cause of Wisconsin called the Republicans’ “selected outrage” hypocritical because all but one of the seven sitting justices had accepted contributions from a political party.

The prospect of actually removing Protasiewicz from the court also became a less attractive option. That’s because if she were impeached by the Assembly and convicted by the Senate, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would now get to name her replacement rather than have to call a special election, which would have been required if she had been removed prior to Dec. 1, the AP reported.

And it’s good news for abortion rights activists that Protasiewicz remains in place to keep the liberal 4-3 majority intact. On Tuesday, a Republican district attorney appealed a court ruling that determined that an 1849 Wisconsin law does not ban abortions, the AP reported. That decision cleared the way for abortions to resume in the state. The appeal filed by Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski is likely to ultimately be decided by the state Supreme Court. And Protasiewicz is a supporter of abortion rights.

RELATED STORY: Wisconsin Supreme Court hearing arguments on redistricting that could result in new maps for 2024

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Ex-prosecutor on Hunter Biden case says GOP falsehoods have led to threats

Lesley Wolf worked in relative obscurity for nearly 16 years as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware, but now the former federal prosecutor says she’s been threatened and harassed after Republicans falsely accused her of going easy on Hunter Biden.

In her prepared opening statement, released to the media, for a closed-door deposition demanded by House Republicans as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, Wolf said:

“My desire to serve my community and my country, such a great source of pride, has recently come at significant cost. As a private person, the once routine and mundane details of my life have become the subject of public interest in an invasive and disturbing manner. Far worse, I have been threatened and harassed, causing me to fear for my own and my family’s safety.”

Her deposition on Thursday came a day after the House, on a party-line vote, formalized the Republican majority’s impeachment inquiry even though they haven’t found any evidence that the president benefited from his family’s foreign business dealings or accepted bribes.

Wolf joins the growing list of prosecutors, judges, obscure government officials, election workers, and others who have been targeted and harassed after incurring the wrath of former President Donald Trump and his minions—for merely doing their jobs.

On Friday, a federal jury in Washington awarded $148 million in damages to two former election workers in Georgia—Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea “Shaye” Moss—for the harm caused to them by defamatory statements made against them by disgraced former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani following the 2020 election. 

Wolf’s problems arose simply because she happened to work for Delaware U.S. District Attorney David C. Weiss, a Donald Trump appointee, who first began investigating Hunter Biden’s financial dealings in late 2018. President Biden retained Weiss in his post so that he could continue the investigation of his son.

Wolf was part of the team that initially worked out a plea deal with Hunter Biden on gun and tax charges this summer. Hunter Biden agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of failing to pay his 2017 and 2018 taxes on time. He also agreed to terms to avoid prosecution on a felony charge alleging that he falsely asserted that he was sober when he bought a handgun in 2018.

But the plea deal collapsed due to differences over the scope of immunity that Hunter Biden would have received from future investigations. In August, Attorney General Merrick Garland elevated Weiss to special counsel status in the investigation. In September, Weiss’ office indicted Hunter Biden on three felony counts for allegedly illegally purchasing the handgun.

Then, earlier this month, Weiss obtained an indictment from a federal grand jury in California, charging Hunter Biden with nine tax-related criminal charges, including three felony counts. Hunter Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said his client would not have been indicted if his surname were not Biden.

Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. And there was nothing in either indictment related to his father.

The president’s son declined to appear for a closed-door deposition in the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday, holding a press conference outside the Capitol at which he said he would only testify in public—so Republicans couldn’t selectively leak excerpts from his testimony. House Republicans have threatened to hold him in contempt of Congress.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee—who himself refused a subpoena from the House Jan. 6 select committee—and other MAGA Republicans still feel that the DOJ has gone easy on Hunter Biden.

HuffPost:

Whistleblowers from the IRS’ criminal division claimed in congressional testimony this year that Wolf blocked them from pursuing certain search warrants and generally disagreed with their plans to be more aggressive in investigating the Biden family.

“She limited what they could do in their investigation,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of the leaders of the impeachment effort, said on Fox News in June, shortly before requesting a transcribed interview with Wolf and other officials. Jordan subsequently sent Wolf a subpoena.

On Thursday, Wolf joined the ranks of other Justice Department officials who’ve said that politics had nothing to do with their decisions in the Hunter Biden case.

After the hearing, Jordan complained to reporters that Wolf had refused to answer most of the questions she was asked during the deposition., NBC News reported.

But in her prepared opening statement, Wolf broadly defended her work and said she was bound by DOJ policies not to discuss an ongoing investigation.

“At all times while serving as an AUSA, I acted consistently with the Justice Manual, DOJ policy directives, and my statutory/legal and ethical obligations. I followed the facts where they led, and made decisions in the best interests of the investigation. This includes, but is by no means limited to, policies and rules governing politically sensitive investigations, election year sensitivities, attorney search warrants, search warrant filter requirements, and professional conduct rules barring contact with represented parties.”

Wolf also revealed that she had recently left her post as a federal prosecutor, but said her decision “was long pre-dated and was unconnected to the baseless allegations against me.” She said she “agreed to stay with the office months longer than planned because of my belief that my family and I were safer when I remained an AUSA.”

Fox News did not mention this in its online story, nor did that story mention the threats Wolf said she has received as a result of the allegations against her. Instead, its story was headlined: “Jordan says former prosecutor who allegedly scuttled Hunter investigation 'refused' to answer questions.”

Rep. Glenn Ivey, a Maryland Democrat, attended the deposition and said that Republicans kept asking Wolf about the Hunter Biden case during the four-hour-plus deposition. Huffpost reported:

“They kept showing her documents and things that they knew that she couldn’t comment on, asking her questions about the ongoing investigation, even though they knew she couldn’t comment on it,” Ivey said in an interview with the outlet.

Ivey does not believe that Republicans deliberately incited harassment against Wolf, but he said it was “irresponsible” for lawmakers to be putting people’s names out in the public to the extent that they have.

“They know at this point that when they put people’s names out there and connect them in these types of investigations, and make suggestions about them being involved in cover-ups and things like that, they know that this is going to be a consequence of that,” Ivey said.

RELATED STORY: Right-wing terrorism fueled by Trump doesn't only focus on Democrats

Weiss voluntarily agreed to respond to the subpoena. She concluded her opening statement by observing all too accurately:

“I have no doubt that after today the threats and harassment and my own fear stemming from them will heighten exponentially. This not only scares me, but as someone who loves this country, it also breaks my heart.  We are living in a day and age where politics and winning seem to be paramount and the truth has become collateral damage.”

Trump lashes out at Laurene Powell Jobs over Atlantic piece calling him ‘fascistic,’ anti-Christian

Former President Donald Trump attacked The Atlantic and its publisher and majority owner, Laurene Powell Jobs, a billionaire philanthropist who is the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. On Saturday, Trump posted a diatribe on his money-losing Truth Social platform.

He did not specify which article in the magazine upset him so much. But last Wednesday, Peter Wehner, who served in the administrations of Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. and Jr., wrote an op-ed for The Atlantic titled: “Have You Listened Lately to What Trump Is Saying?

In the piece, Wehner described Trump’s rhetoric at recent campaign rallies as “clearly fascistic” and anti-Christian. Wehner, a Christian conservative, concluded that by supporting Trump, “far too many Christians in America are not only betraying their humanity; they are betraying the Lord they claim to love and serve.”

RELATED STORY: Donald Trump goes on odd rant about how he's not suffering cognitive decline

Trump posted this on his Truth Social platform:

It’s so good to see how badly the THIRD RATE MAGAZINE, The Atlantic, is doing. 

It’s failing at a level seldom seen before, even in the Publishing Business. False and Fake stories do it every time! They’ve got a rich person funding the ridiculous losses, but at some point, rich people get smart also. Steve Jobs would not be proud of his wife, Laurene, and the way she is spending his money. The Radical Left is destroying America!”

It’s not the first time that Trump has gone after Powell Jobs. In September 2020, Trump got angry after The Atlantic published a story by its editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg that cited four anonymous sources as saying Trump called Americans who fought and died in World War I “losers” and “suckers.” 

In October 2023, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, a former Marine Corps general whose son was killed by a landmine in Afghanistan, went on the record with CNN to confirm details of Goldberg’s story. But back in September 2020, Trump posted this on what was then known as Twitter:

Steve Jobs would not be happy that his wife is wasting money he left her on a failing Radical Left Magazine that is run by a con man (Goldberg) and spews FAKE NEWS & HATE. Call her, write her, let her know how you feel!!! https://t.co/wwuoP85bQE

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2020

Trump’s tweet was responding to a post by Charlie Kirk, who has become a millionaire heading the conservative pro-Trump youth group, Turning Point. 

While Powell Jobs has not responded directly to Trump, she has put her money where her mouth is by donating generously—to the tune of more than $900,000—to Joe Biden’s reelection campaign. Powell Jobs founded the Emerson Collective after she inherited billions of dollars of stock in Apple and Disney after her husband died of pancreatic cancer in 2011. In 2023, Forbes ranked her as the eighth richest woman in the U.S. with a fortune estimated at $13.4 billion.

The Emerson Collective is a social change organization dealing with such issues as education, immigration reform, the environment, health care, and media. In 2017, it purchased a majority stake in The Atlantic, which was founded in 1857 by prominent abolitionists, including writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson.

But Wehner is no liberal. He is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative Christian who served as a speechwriter and senior adviser to President George W. Bush. But he became one of the first senior Republicans to see the dangers posed by a Trump presidency and wrote an op-ed for The New York Times in January 2016 titled: “Why I Will Never Vote for Donald Trump.” He said he would vote for “a responsible third-party alternative.”

And Wehner has only grown more alarmed about Trump’s threat to American democracy, which he expressed in last week’s op-ed. Wehner began by relating how political leaders of the Hutu ethnic group cultivated hatred toward the minority Tutsis in Rwanda by singling them out in rhetoric “as less than human,” eventually leading to the 1994 genocide in which an estimated 1 million people were killed, mostly Tutsis. He noted that one influential Hutu political leader referred to the Tutsi as “vermin.”

And Wehner said that he thought about the events leading to the Rwandan genocide when he heard Trump refer to his enemies as “vermin” in a Veterans Day speech. Trump said in Claremont, New Hampshire:

“We pledge to you that we will root out the Communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical-left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country—that lie and steal and cheat on elections. They’ll do anything, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America and to destroy the American dream. The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous, and grave than the threat from within. Our threat is from within.”

Wehner wrote:

Trump’s rhetoric is a permission slip for his supporters to dehumanize others just as he does. He portrays others as existential threats, determined to destroy everything MAGA world loves about America. Trump is doing two things at once: pushing the narrative that his enemies must be defeated while dissolving the natural inhibitions most human beings have against hating and harming others. It signals to his supporters that any means to vanquish the other side is legitimate; the normal constraints that govern human interactions no longer apply. …

That is the wickedly shrewd rhetorical and psychological game that Trump is playing, and he plays it very well. Alone among American politicians, he has an intuitive sense of how to inflame detestations and resentments within his supporters while also deepening their loyalty to him, even their reverence for him.

After citing Trump’s numerous anti-democracy excesses, Wehner called out those in the Republican Party who, though they know better, have accommodated themselves to “a profoundly damaged human being, emotionally and psychologically.”

And he also expressed alarm about the continuing overwhelming support among white evangelical Protestants, one of the GOP’s most loyal constituencies, for Trump and MAGA world. He noted that in one survey, nearly one-third of white evangelicals expressed support for the statement, “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

Wehner wrote:

It is a rather remarkable indictment of those who claim to be followers of Jesus that they would continue to show fealty to a man whose cruel ethic has always been antithetical to Jesus’s and becomes more so every day. Many of the same people who celebrate Christianity’s contributions to civilization—championing the belief that every human being has inherent rights and dignity, celebrating the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount and the parable of the Good Samaritan, and pointing to a “transcendent order of justice and hope that stands above politics,” in the words of my late friend Michael Gerson—continue to stand foursquare behind a man who uses words that echo Mein Kampf.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Taking a stand for conscience, even long after one should have, is always the right thing to do.

in his op-ed, Wehner also mentioned how Trump once described the press as “truly the enemy of the people.” And he recalled that Trump once demanded that the parent company of MSNBC and NBC be investigated for “treason” over what he described as “one-side[d] and vicious coverage.” Trump’s Truth Social post on Saturday lashing out at The Atlantic and its publisher, Powell Jobs, by name has to be seen in that context. 

On Monday morning, Wehner appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” After host Joe Scarborough sharply criticized Trump’s threatening rhetoric as “evil,” Wehner piled on about the disgraced former president who remains the GOP presidential front-runner despite two impeachments and four criminal indictments. 

"There is a long history of this dehumanization, these passions consuming people, including people of faith. That's why I think there has to be such a pushback from others, to try, in a sense, to shake them and say, 'Do you know what you're doing? Do you know what you're a part of? You've jettisoned everything you claim to most cherish in your life to make inner peace with this man who is a sociopath, an unfiltered sociopath.'

"And he is undisguised … in who he is and what he wants to do. That not only pushes them away, but it brings them toward him. It is just a sickening episode in the history of American politics and the history of American Christianity."