MAGA crowd just as dangerous as ever: New study shows ‘messianic’ support for Trump

It’s no real surprise that former President Donald Trump’s supporters would literally go to battle for their leader. It’s a frightening reality, but as we quickly approach the midterms and see the many MAGA nominees the Republican Party is supporting, it’s clear that Trumpsters are desperate to have the twice-impeached former president back at the helm.

CBS News reported on a new study from the University of Chicago that found 13 million U.S. adults believe violence is justified if it means putting Trump back into the White House, and another 15 million believe violence would be warranted to keep Trump from being indicted over the FBI’s investigation into his mishandling of classified government secrets.

During a Sept. 8 appearance on Face the Nation, Dr. Robert Pape, the director of the University of Chicago's Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST), told moderator Margaret Brennan, "We have not just a political threat to our democracy, we have a violent threat to our democracy [...] Today, there are millions of individuals who don't just think the election was stolen in 2020; they support violence to restore Donald Trump to the White House."

RELATED STORY: Roger Stone: ‘F**k the voting, let’s get right to the violence.' Also Stone: 'That's a deepfake'

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According to CBS, there is some good news: The number of members of Trump’s cult has gone down since last year, when it hovered around 23 million willing to fight for the 45th president.

When asked why the group was so invested that they would be willing to use force to put Trump back in office or defend him from an indictment, CBS reports that Pape and his team found that it was both QAnon rhetoric and fears of being replaced, with many in the mostly white group of urban respondents buying wholeheartedly into the “Great Replacement” theory.

"[Great Replacement] is a conspiracy theory, but it's not just on fringe social media like Parler or Gab, 4chan or 8chan ... This is every day on Fox News, it's on Newsmax, it's on One America, it's on talk radio," Pape said.

Politico writer Jack Shafer states that Trump’s support from his most extreme MAGA followers is “messianic.”

“Although evicted from the White House 19 months ago, Trump still postures as if he were president. In addition to calling for reinstatement and a do-over election, Trump ensures that his office calls him the ‘45th president,’ not the former president. He continues to unlawfully use the presidential seal for commercial purposes. And his capricious handling of sensitive and secret documents at Mar-a-Lago — his idea that the papers belong to him and that he’s above the law — make the case that he’s come to believe in his own, permanent divinity. Trump said in 2019 that being president gave him ‘the right to do whatever I want,’ which is consistent with thinking you’re God’s co-pilot,” Shafer writes.

With about six weeks until the Nov. 8 midterm elections, Pape says he is worried about Trump’s supporters and how far they may go.

"If it's just a political threat, well, then we can have elections. Once it's not just denying an election, but using violence as the response to an election denial, now we're in a new game."

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GOP can’t bring itself to stop defending Trump: This time on declassifying documents by thought

Listening to Republicans’ continued support of former President Donald Trump, an unfamiliar onlooker might think the former president’s words hadn’t inspired an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. It’s like the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, didn’t happen, and it didn’t end in the seizure of 11 sets of classified documents, including those related to nuclear weapons.

Only in real life, those events happened. They just haven’t led to the kind of GOP repudiation that would have followed had Trump been a Democrat. The Republican Party just keeps defending him. Rep. Nancy Mace said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that there's “pressure” for House Republicans to act to impeach President Joe Biden, but as of Trump, she isn’t ruling out supporting another presidential run should it happen.

Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming had a hard time answering what ABC This Week host George Stephanopoulos said was a rhetorical question about whether Barrasso agreed that as president, Trump was allowed to “declassify documents by thinking about it.”

RELATED STORY: GOP senator struggles to admit Trump can't declassify documents with his goofy head

"I've not heard that one before ... I don't know anything about the rules for when a president declassifies documents" -- George Stephanopoulos can barely believe it when John Barrasso refuses to say that Trump can't declassify docs by merely thinking about it pic.twitter.com/WticattUtc

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 25, 2022

“I’ve not heard that one before, George,” Barrasso said. “But I’ll tell you, in terms of national security documents, we have to always use extreme caution.”

He went on to say he doesn’t know about the rules regarding when a president declassifies documents. “What I do know is, and what I’d like to see from a Senate standpoint, is I’d like to see the Department of Justice come to us and show us in a classified setting what the information is, what they’ve done,” Barrasso said. “I thought this was a raid at the former president’s home, never seen anything like that before, clearly, and it’s become political.” 

Stephanopoulos cut off the rambling response, to explain that his was a rhetorical question. “You know that a president can’t declassify documents by thinking about it. Why can’t you say so,” the journalist asked.

Barrasso did ultimately say so, but to Stephanopoulos’ point, it shouldn’t have been that difficult to rule out such a ridiculous notion.

For some reason, when it comes to Trump, Republicans often seem to have a difficult time simply calling a wrong a wrong. 

In the same interview in which Rep. Mace spouted off her allegiance to “the future of democracy,” she also said she’s “going to support whomever Republican’s nominate in ’24,” even if that person is Trump.

She also highlighted the fact that she didn’t vote to impeach the former president because she felt “due process was stripped away.” 

“I will not vote for impeachment of any president if I feel that due process was stripped away, for anyone,” Mace said. “I typically vote constitutionally, regardless of who’s in power. I want to do the right thing for the longterm because this isn’t just about today, tomorrow, this year’s election. This is about the future of democracy.”

Mace says she'll support Donald Trump in 2024 if he's the Republican nominee pic.twitter.com/a6BPo9gq2m

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 25, 2022

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Mace explained why she didn’t support new legislation introduced by Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California to protect U.S. elections.

The Presidential Election Reform Act is the only plan to reform the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi backs, Daily Kos staff writer Joan McCarter wrote. 

The legislation the House passed on Wednesday says:

“The Electoral Count Act of 1887 should be amended to prevent other future unlawful efforts to overturn Presidential elections and to ensure future peaceful transfers of Presidential power.”

RELATED STORY: House releases bipartisan election bill, gives Senate GOP chance to put up or shut up on passing fix

Pelosi called it “a historic and bipartisan legislative action to safeguard the integrity of future presidential elections.”

She asked:

“How could anyone vote against free and fair elections a cornerstone of our Constitution? How could anyone vote against our founders’ vision, placing power in the hands of the people? How could anyone vote against their own constituents allowing radical politicians to rip away their say?”

When it comes to Trump, Republicans prove time and time again that any act can be defended. 

The protection the new election legislation would provide isn’t needed, according to Mace. “I was very outspoken about Jan. 6 in the days and weeks leading up to it, and thereafter for months on end. But when you look at what actually happened, the Constitution worked on January 6,” Mace said. “The vice president was not able to, was not allowed constitutionally, to overturn the results of the electoral college, and so for that reason I voted against the bill.”

"The Constitution worked on January 6" -- Nancy Mace on why she voted against an overhaul of the Electoral Count Act pic.twitter.com/FFk3uYCrWq

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 25, 2022

For the sake of Republicans like Mace and Barrasso, who apparently feel beholden to Trump, or “Orange Jesus” for those who know him as such, it’s okay to part ways with someone in your party when they inspire an attempted coup. 

Liz Cheney describes what was happening in the Republican Cloakroom on Jan. 6. One member said under their breath: “The things we do for the Orange Jesus.” pic.twitter.com/NvniqtFVCd

— The Republican Accountability Project (@AccountableGOP) September 19, 2022

RELATED STORY: Trump's Messiah Scam Increases His Threat To America

Pssst. Good judges are more important now than ever. In some states, judges are on the ballot this November. In this episode of The Downballot, we shine a spotlight on elections for state supreme courts: actor and activist Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Together, Daily Kos and Julia are proud to announce their endorsement of seven Democratic candidates running for closely divided courts in Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio. You can support this slate by going to JusticewithJulia.com and donating today.

McConnell was sure the GOP would reclaim the Senate. Too bad he miscalculated every step of the way

Analysts and pundits are finally picking up on the fact that the supposed red wave of 2022 was much more of a red mirage all along. The slow-but-steady downgrading of GOP prospects in November is everywhere. But nowhere is this more apparent than in the Senate, where Republican candidates are consistently underperforming and, in some cases, are downright comically bad (witness Dr. Mehmet Oz, whose political wizardry is already the stuff of legend).

It's important to note that Democrats haven't won anything yet, but it's equally important to note that Democratic chances of keeping Senate have improved dramatically from the doomsday predictions earlier this year (FiveThirtyEight's "deluxe" model—the least favorable to Dems—now gives Democrats a 72% chance of winning the Senate).

That potential loss on the heels of so much GOP hubris has produced a delightful circular firing squad among Republican leaders. Naturally, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was eager to get his version of events out early, fingering the party's dreadful "candidate quality" as the chief culprit for its faltering Senate takeover campaign.

“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,” McConnell said last month, handicapping the GOP’s midterm chances at a Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce luncheon. “Senate races are just different—they're statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”

Despite McConnell's stoic delivery, his downgraded prediction was an obvious swipe at Donald Trump and National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Rick Scott, who both helped saddle the GOP with a crop of candidates who are either full MAGA extremists (Arizona's Blake Masters) or entirely lackluster (Pennsylvania's Doc Oz) or both (Ohio's J.D. Vance).

But the truth is, if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had half the backbone that GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming does, he would be spending his energy rallying the troops right now for potential victory, rather than identifying scapegoats for potential defeat.

Let's review just how badly McConnell mucked up Senate Republicans and the party more broadly this cycle, starting with Donald Trump's post-insurrection impeachment trial:

  1. McConnell had a chance to drive a stake through Trump's political future by leading his caucus to convict Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Once convicted, Trump would have had no path to lawfully run for a second term. But rather than leading, McConnell followed his caucus, leading to Trump's acquittal and a second bite at the presidential apple.
  2. McConnell packed the Supreme Court full of right-wing extremists who in no way reflect the political mainstream, nor do they care. Perhaps McConnell never imagined that they would overturn 50 years of settled abortion law so quickly and callously, or maybe he just wildly underestimated the political backlash to such a ruling. Either way, he badly miscalculated.
  3. After it was clear that Trump was determined to put his thumb heavily on the scales of the election cycle’s GOP primaries, McConnell played along, openly endorsing political misfits like former Georgia football star Herschel Walker—an alleged spousal abuser with violent tendencies and self-admitted psychiatric problems who has trouble articulating a coherent thought. “Herschel is the only one who can unite the party, defeat Senator Warnock, and help us take back the Senate. I look forward to working with Herschel in Washington to get the job done,” McConnell said in a statement last fall.
  4. McConnell intentionally declined to lay out a platform for his caucus should they regain control of the chamber. Asked in January what Republicans would do with their majority, McConnell offered coyly, "That is a very good question. And I'll let you know when we take it back." That giant heap of hubris has cost Republicans dearly. As inflation and gas prices have begun to recede, McConnell's declination has left Republicans without a Plan B. His leadership vacuum also invited NRSC chair Rick Scott to offer up his own agenda, promising widespread tax increases for working Americans and the prospect of phasing out Social Security and Medicare. That landed like a box of rocks dropped from Scott's alien spaceship. But that's not all, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina got in the act last week with his own bit of leadership: a national 15-week abortion ban that he promised would get a vote if Republicans retook the Senate. Graham's head-scratching gambit has sent GOP Senate hopefuls scrambling for cover while prompting a dismissal from McConnell himself. "I think most of the members of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level," McConnell told reporters last week.

Bottom line: McConnell has repeatedly misplayed this election. He believed that he could bend the entire nation to his political will despite the fact that he and his party's views were wildly out of step with the American mainstream. After years of not paying a political price for abusing the power entrusted to him, McConnell concluded that he could get away with virtually anything—including turning the Supreme Court into a GOP-guided missile.

McConnell, the supposed master tactician, also bet that he could benefit more from Trump's continued presence in the party than he would pay for continuing to carry Trump's baggage.

If Senate Republicans fail to retake the Senate this November, McConnell will have no one to thank but himself. If he weren't so morally bankrupt, he might have had the mettle to salvage his party and field a group of competitive candidates. Instead, he's racing to put out fires, point fingers, and brace for a potentially embarrassing defeat that shuts him out from becoming the longest-serving Senate majority Leader.

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Trump’s cruelty has taken over the Republican Party, but his own base is increasingly cult-like

Can we talk about how creepy and cult-like Donald Trump’s following is getting?

I mean, yes, it has been creepy and cult-like all along, what with the people traveling around to rally after rally like Grateful Dead fans and the over-the-top merchandizing and painter Jon McNaughton’s portrayals of Trump as both a towering moral figure and a physically dominant one, to say nothing of the unwavering approval through scandal after scandal, plus an impeachment, a coup attempt, and another impeachment. It’s long been clear that Trump was barely exaggerating when he said, in 2016, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay?”

Yet somehow it’s gotten creepier and more cult-like. That’s probably in part because some fraction of the Republican base has moved on from Trump, leaving the most die-hard core there to show up for events like, say, Trump’s rally in Ohio on Saturday, which was far from full.

RELATED STORY: 'This is the week when Trump became Qanon': Crowd responds with bizarre hand sign at Trump rally

That rally solidified a recent trend of Trump embracing QAnon imagery and messages more openly than in the past, with a recent Truth Social post showing himself in a Q pin along with the QAnon slogan, “The storm is coming.” (Where “the storm” is Trump arresting and even executing his political opponents.) In attendance at the rally was Vincent Fusca, the man QAnon adherents believe is John F. Kennedy Jr.

And, at the end of the rally, many in the crowd raised their arms and extended a single finger in what looked all too much like a Nazi salute as a song played that either was the QAnon anthem “Wwg1wga” or was a "virtually identical" or possibly fully identical song called “Mirrors.”

Trump's rally in Youngstown, Ohio, ends with the dramatic music playing. Strange vibes. pic.twitter.com/wMQwAJ5QfU

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 18, 2022

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The people who showed up had come for the usual menu of Trump lies and bragging and hate speech and more lies. Here in late 2022, Republicans can get the hateful policies and more polished versions of the lies from lots of other politicians. Trump is jealous that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis got to get the headlines from grabbing migrants in Texas and dropping them on Martha’s Vineyard. He can claim credit for the Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade, but he’s not the most relevant factor in Republican-controlled states instituting harsh abortion bans. He’s not personally harming trans kids through exclusionary and abusive policies. Trump may have set the tone, but the Republicans currently in office have been ready and willing to continue carrying out the cruelty while he golfs and fumes about being under investigation.

So the audience that’s there for Trump is there because of his cult of personality. That remains frighteningly strong—he was able to drag J.D. Vance and Mehmet Oz over the Republican primary finish lines in Ohio and Pennsylvania despite their weakness as candidates, for instance, and he’s still the strongest fundraiser among Republicans (sometimes to their regret, since he doesn’t share). Trump is far from irrelevant, and not just because so many Republican leaders are competing to be more hateful than him. But the fact that so many of the people willing to show up for him on a Saturday during a major local college football game are now visibly Q-affiliated is a sign of Trump’s shifting status in his party. The thing about cult leaders, though, is they don’t get less scary when they feel their power waning.

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‘Lying motherf***er’: In private, Lindsey Graham told the truth about Trump. In public, not so much

With few notable exceptions—Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, the drunk gremlin inside Louie Gohmert who controls his mind and wakes him up when he’s about to drown in shallow bowls of SpaghettiOs—congressional Republicans all know damned well that Donald Trump is a dangerous liar.

Yet for some reason, or combination of reasons—cowardice, blackmail, lust for power, free omelets—South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has been a Trump super-sycophant. But it’s unlikely that Graham’s 2016 assessments of Trump—including I think he's a kook; I think he's crazy; I think he's unfit for office”—ever really changed. What changed was Lindsey’s semi-gelatinous backbone, which miraculously—and almost overnight—transformed into a thin slurry of dead spinal tissue.

As if we needed more evidence that Sen. Graham is slouching toward fascism with his eyes wide open, there’s new reporting about his true feelings toward Adderall Hitler.

RELATED: In leaked audio, Sen. Lindsey Graham calls Biden 'maybe the best person to have' as president

The Independent:

In their upcoming book The Divider: Trump in the White House 2017-2021, authors Peter Baker and Susan Glasser recall how they met with Mr Graham outside a Washington DC steakhouse less than 48 hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry into whether Mr Trump had extorted the president of Ukraine in a now-infamous July 2019 phone call. The Independent obtained a copy ahead of its 20 September publication date.

Standing on the sidewalk on 19th Street in Northwest Washington, Mr Graham bragged about his access to Mr Trump and told the husband-and-wife author duo about Mr Trump’s boasts regarding his closeness with evangelical pastors who’d met with him the day before. He said Mr Trump had told him: “Those f***ing Christians love me.”

“Those fucking Christians love me” is one of the Trumpiest quotes I’ve ever read, honestly. I’m sure he uttered that without the barest whiff of irony.

RELATED: As white nationalists, Jan. 6 extremists embrace Christian nationalism, even darker forces revive

Of course, Graham, who voted against convicting Trump in our fugazi führer’s first impeachment trial, nevertheless admitted to the authors that he knew who Trump really was:

“He’s a lying motherf***er,” Mr Graham said, adding the caveat that Mr Trump was also “a lot of fun to hang out with.”

Well, if he’s fun to hang out with, I guess that makes everything he’s done—from blackmailing foreign heads of state to inciting an insurrection to stashing highly classified government documents in random TrapperKeepers in his basement—totally excusable. “Gang, meet Vladimir. He’s committing mass genocide as we speak, but check it out, he brought Pocky!” But Graham didn’t lean on delicious Japanese cookie sticks to justify his defense of Trump. What he actually used as justification for his loyalty is far worse: MAGA devotion to the GOP leader. “[Trump] could kill 50 people on our side and it wouldn’t matter,” he said.

I used to think that if this nation were ever faced with a credible fascistic threat, both major parties—and the mainstream media—would move heaven and Earth to excise the cancer. Instead, they’re leveraging this clear and present danger to Western democracy in order to marginally increase their political influence and sell more books.

RELATED: Maggie Haberman: Just another person 'willing to let democracy die on the altar of a book deal'

RELATED: New book catalogs how Trump worked to weaken American democracy, and to deliberately spread COVID-19

Might have been nice of Baker and Glasser to expose this bit of Graham duplicity years ago, before he helped normalize Goofball Satan and his ongoing quest to turn America into a fascist Cracker Barrel. But hey, if this country is going to irrevocably transform itself into a dystopian hellscape anyway, might as well make a few bucks off it and save it for the book, right?

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Durham investigation ends after three years of searching, $40 million spent, and nothing found

On May 13, 2019, then-Attorney General Bill Barr let it be known that at Donald Trump’s “request,” he was conducting an investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation. To conduct this investigation, Barr appointed his very own special prosecutor, U.S. Attorney John Durham. For the next three-and-a-half years, Republicans made confident predictions that “Bull” Durham was going to be the man to finally “lock ‘er up.” Surely Durham, unleashed with no deadline, budgetary limit, or constraint on where he looked, would prove conclusively that every conspiracy theory pushed by Trump was true.

But after more than three years and more than $40 million spent, Durham managed to produce just a single charge: accusing Democratic-linked attorney Michael Sussmann of lying to the FBI for not revealing secondhand connections to Hillary Clinton’s campaign when talking to them about Donald Trump’s Russia dealings. In May, a jury found Sussman not guilty of the ridiculous charge.

Now The New York Times reports that the grand jury seated in connection with Durham’s investigation has been allowed to expire. Several members of Durham’s team have already left, and those who remain are now working to complete “a final report.” A report that shows they found absolutely nothing.

Durham had a solid background as a man who would twist any law to assist the Republican cause, such as when he decided there was absolutely nothing wrong with the kidnapping and torture the Bush administration practiced before and during the invasion of Iraq. The U.S. attorney signed on to help to create a false narrative about the Russia investigation, rewriting the order of events and insisting that there was no cause to involve the Department of Justice or the FBI. He even accompanied Barr overseas as they tried to talk U.S. allies into lying about intelligence sources.

In the runup to the 2020 election, Republicans regularly played on the idea that Durham was going to provide them with an “October surprise” by reversing the Russia narrative, absolving Trump of the crimes he committed in his first impeachment, and just generally stomping on Democratic faces. That lust for a coming bombshell grew even greater when Durham let it be known that his investigation had “evolved into a criminal investigation” and that a grand jury had been seated. Surely all those “lock ‘er up” chants were about to be fulfilled.

But before that bombshell could arrive, Durham’s lead investigator left the team, there were indications that Durham’s investigation was coming up dry, and sad news that his report “was unlikely to be ready in time for the election.”

There would be no report. Not in time for the election. Not in the next two years.

In fact, by September 2020 Durham seemed to have already lost the thread of what he was supposed to be investigating and was instead taking a deep look at the Clinton Foundation, apparently checking into Q-anon conspiracy theories about “deep state” connections. He found absolutely nothing. By that point, his investigation had already been underway for 16 months, a time period in which Robert Mueller’s investigation issued 31 indictments, accepted five guilty pleas, filed 190 charges, and successfully prosecuted four cases resulting in prison sentences. 

Even though Durham had nothing to show for nearly two years of searching, Barr, supposedly oh-so-upset over Trump’s lies about the election, gave Trump a parting gift before he left the White House: He changed Durham’s status to that of special counsel, expanding his reach still further, and gave him forever to dig up anything he could. 

For MAGA Americans, the Durham investigation was an answer to prayer. They had a prosecutor who could go anywhere, subpoena anyone, and investigate anything in order to find all those pizza tunnels and lizard men hiding at the bottom of the deep state. It all made for a super tasty bit of revenge fantasy. Just as their Q-notes insisted that Trump was always about to return from Mar-a-Lago and reveal that he had really been in charge all along, John Durham was always about to come smashing through the doors at Democratic Party HQ with a fist full of arrest warrants.

After all, the memes were unstoppable!

Some Durham meme the QAnon and MAGAe loved, for your amusement. pic.twitter.com/uRSE9U52pf

— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) September 14, 2022

Now it seems there finally is going to be a Durham report. And like everything else Durham is done, it’s going to be a pointless exercise in finger-pointing unsupported by evidence and good for nothing but boosting his chances of being a “legal commentator” on Fox News.

Durham’s investigation is coming to an end without ever laying a single charge against Hillary Clinton or anyone with more than a passing connection to her campaign. It’s coming to an end without finding anything like a conspiracy to use the FBI against Trump. It’s coming to an end … and that’s about the only good thing that can be said about it.

This is exactly the conclusion that everyone should have expected on day one. John Durham was hired as a professional witch hunter, and there simply are no witches to find. Everything about the FBI’s investigation into Trump was already well known. There were no secrets. No conspiracy.

That didn’t stop Durham from making that claim in court when prosecuting Sussman. The verdict shows exactly what the jury thought of his unsupported statements.

A month before Barr revealed that Durham’s report wasn’t yet baked, the Senate Intelligence Committee, then led by Republican Sen. Richard Burr, issued its own final report on the Trump campaign’s connection with Russia. That report found more than 100 contacts between Trump’s team and Russian agents. It found that Trump’s campaign directly collaborated with Russia on multiple occasions and in various ways to alter the outcome of a U.S. election. It found that multiple members of Trump’s campaign lied to investigators about these connections. It found that the coordination of Trump’s campaign and the Russian government “represented a grave counterintelligence threat.”

Those are the facts of what happened. Durham was never going to find anything that made this any less true. What Durham needs to report is all the conspiracy theories he investigated and found to be false.

But don’t worry. Just because Durham’s investigation is ending without a single conviction to stand on, that doesn’t mean right-wing media is going to stop claiming he found something huge. They’re certainly not stopping today. In fact, the Durham investigation is likely to go on endlessly in the MAGA mind. If Donald Trump can be secret president, running the country from Mar-a-Lago while Biden wonders why his red button does nothing, then surely John Durham can keep on investigating forever. No grand jury? Who needs one. Durham will be always about to come through Democratic doors, laser grenade and electro-whip of justice in hand.

He’ll always be just one rabbit hole away,

Fox News has endlessly touted the Durham investigation. It is ending with a whimper. https://t.co/OtIqNtXhqo pic.twitter.com/5vJFWeI2B5

— Media Matters (@mmfa) September 14, 2022

The last sad cry for help ...

Trump blasts Bill Barr and begs for Durham to do something pic.twitter.com/HsETNRM91T

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 4, 2022

Viral tweet about MyPillow man’s subpoena is a window into the career of a far-right influencer

On Tuesday, the FBI served MyPillow Man Mike Lindell with a search warrant and seized his cellphone at a Hardee’s in Minnesota. That move came as the FBI investigates Tina Peters, the Mesa, Colorado, county clerk under indictment for tampering with voting machines after the 2020 election. Lindell is a prominent election denier who has poured money into trying to overturn Donald Trump’s big loss. 

The MyPillow guy being arrested at a Hardee’s is a fun enough story, but then Millie Weaver, aka Millennial Millie, went and made it better. Weaver is a former Infowars correspondent and minor-league far-right influencer whose Millennial Millie show has recently been airing on “Lindell TV,” and you cannot make me take the scare quotes off those things. Weaver was feeling a little dramatic about the seizure of Lindell’s cellphone, so she reached for the often-quoted words of German pastor Martin Niemöller, written in 1946 about the rise of the Nazis.

Yes, she is comparing cases of people being subpoenaed and searched for evidence of crimes to the Holocaust. She’s doing that. People receiving due process and their day in court are, to Weaver, akin to people being transported to Nazi death camps and concentration camps. The far-right’s victim complex knows no bounds whatsoever.

It would be understandable to read this and think it was a parody. I’m pretty sure there have been parody tweets along these exact lines about earlier cases of far-right figures being served with subpoenas or investigated for lawbreaking. But friends, this is no parody. Not unless it’s an extremely long con, dating back at least to late 2015. Because that’s how long Weaver has been building her Trump babe (more on that in a bit) influencer persona. 

Early on in her time on Instagram, in 2011 and 2012, Weaver was just another young woman posting duck-lipped thirst traps and pictures with friends. Sometimes she wasn’t even wearing makeup. The pictures from this time have almost no comments, and what comments there are are much more recent, from fans who’ve gone back through her feed. “No wonder you have a couple kids bet your husband can't keep his hands off you he's a lucky man,” a 2020 comment on a 2012 picture of Weaver in a bikini reads.

A little more recently, it’s baby pictures. Sprinkled throughout are occasional pictures of animals and organic foods. Then, in January 2016: a “Millennial Millie game face” selfie, followed directly by two brief videos about why she’s not a feminist. 

“There’s nothing feminine about being a feminist nowadays. They pretty much throw out everything it is to be a feminine woman as a whole. Can’t be a mom, can’t be pretty, can’t be hot, can’t be sexy, can’t have a husband.”

May 2016: A posed studio shot in front of an array of Infowars supplements with the comment, “This is Millie. Millie uses Infowars Life products and is very healthy. Millie is not a mindless trendy. Millie is Smart. Be like Millie. #Infowars #Infowarsgear

July 2016: A selfie in a MAGA hat, with the comment, “Make America Great Again! Trump 2016! If you don't like it...Kiss My Ass! #trump #trumpbabes.” (That #trumpbabes hashtag is a whole world of silicone and Trump bikinis and “Let’s Go Brandon” shirts cropped high enough to show ample underboob.)

From there, Weaver’s identity as an Infowars/Trump wannabe influencer mostly takes over her feed. In front of a “Hillary for Prison” sign. Shooting a gun, apparently off the back porch of a home. Promoting her YouTube channel for the first time in August 2016. Pictures with right-wing luminaries like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Nigel Farage, Rudy Giuliani, James O’Keefe, Milo Yiannopoulos, Mike Cernovich, next to Roger Stone and Alex Jones at an event, and more. Pictures of two White House visits.

By now, Weaver has 452,000 YouTube subscribers. In that first Instagram promotion of her YouTube channel, she had just over 3,500 subscribers. The oldest video on her channel is an entry for an Infowars "Make fun of Hillary" contest. A few months later, she’s putting a wig and makeup on her brother and sending him into a Target to ask people if they’d be comfortable with him using the women’s restroom with their daughters. For a while, she’s all over the map of Infowars-type obsessions: “SJW’s Ban St. Patrick’s Day.” “Is Wind Energy Actually Clean?” “EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Secret Pedophile Marketplace.” “Consensus: CNN is Fake News.” “Unsolved Mysteries of Liberal Logic.”

Weaver was fired from Infowars in 2020 after she was arrested for robbing her mother (the charges were dropped). But by the time of her arrest, Weaver was already working on Shadow Gatea “documentary” claiming to have whistleblowers telling how secret contractors “hired by government officials to frame the Trump campaign, set him up for the Russia collusion investigation, provided witnesses for the impeachment hearings and provided administrative support services to the Department of Justice during the Mueller investigation.” On election night 2020, Weaver's livestream had 300,000 viewers as she spread disinformation, claiming a video of a TV cameraman with his equipment was footage of ballot-stuffing in Detroit, and saying to a guest, “It looks like the election is being stolen.” The top video on her channel, the one that autoplays when you visit, is titled “Election Night Coup D’etat Plot Exposed!”

She has built a career, of sorts, around this persona. Pretty, hot, sexy, mom … for Trump, turned hard-hitting “reporter,” where what’s reported is largely conspiracy theory and trolling. Weaver isn’t alone in this. You've heard of Alex Jones and James O’Keefe and Dinesh D’Souza and Diamond and Silk and Candace Owens, but there’s this whole far-right ecosystem of highly specific influencers. Ones who gain their right-wing currency by deploying their Blackness to help insulate Trump and Republicans from charges of racism. Ones who deploy their exaggerated femininity for culture wars leverage and for sheer pervy page views. But they’re tied together by their willingness to embrace conspiracy theories and undermine democracy.

And when they compare Mike Lindell having his cellphone seized in a Hardee’s to the Holocaust, they are not kidding.

Such an abuse’: Bill Barr delivers obvious facts to Fox News about Mar-a-Lago stash of documents

By now, you’ve probably heard that the disgraced former president, Donald Trump, seems to be something of a criminal. No, I’m not talking about his racist landlord violations from the 1970s. No, not his dubious interactions with contractors throughout the 1980s and 1990s. No, not his shady personal bankruptcies of the 1990s and 2000s. No, not even his two impeachments and the fact that there are numerous campaign violations that many believe need more criminal investigations. Trump seems to have broken a slew of laws surrounding the handling, hoarding, and possible treason of taking classified documents to keep at his private golf club and residence at Mar-a-Lago.

The Republican Party, sans a few neocons, is struggling to regain primacy in the toilet bowl that is the Republican Party circling the sewer of fascism. On Friday, former Trump attorney general Bill Barr went on Fox News and took a ginormous rain on the right wing’s parade by making the case—not once, but twice in a two-minute span—that Donald Trump had earned and deserved the search and seizure of government documents from Mar-a-Lago.

Yes, the guy who just a few months ago said he would still vote for Donald Trump were he to run in 2024, the guy who allowed Donald Trump to skate past clear recommendations from Special Counsel Robert Mueller that he should be investigated more thoroughly for breaking federal laws. That Bill Barr. And yes, that Fox News.

RELATED STORY: All you need to read from the memo Barr claimed cleared Trump on obstruction is a single footnote

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Let me premise this by saying that I personally believe Fox News is hedging its bets here. Murdoch and the brain trust at Fox News have already lost favor with Trump after being the news outlet to call Arizona for Biden in 2020. They have had to walk back their full-on dismissal of Trump, as the current GOP leadership didn’t have the backbone to stand up to Trump and offer their base a worthwhile alternative.* Letting Bill Barr come on and slam Trump while vapid hosts made faces and threw softball defenses up is a way for Fox News to have clips if and when Donald Trump ends up in an orange jumpsuit.

On Friday, Barr spoke to two vacuous Fox News mouthpieces and began by pointing out that the idea that Trump could or would make a blanket declassification was ridiculous, and that even if he did, it wouldn’t be much of a defense against any real legal challenges. Barr said he was “skeptical” of that claim in the first place, “because frankly, I think it’s highly improbable; and second, if in fact he sort of stood over scores of boxes, not really knowing what was in them, and said ‘I hereby declassify everything in here,’ that would be such an abuse, show such recklessness, that it is almost worse than taking the documents.”

One Fox deplorable decided the best tactic here was to ask Barr about how the FBI went to Donald Trump’s private residence to get said folders and files. You know, the old GOP chestnut: How could a rich, conservative white guy possibly break the law? Barr did a good job of pointing out that it seemed pretty clear the FBI had a very good idea that there were a lot of very serious documents in a very not-secure location, and Trump wasn’t willingly giving them back.

He then gave a very simple answer that maybe some of the people watching from their MyPillow recliners could maybe understand:

"People say the search was unprecedented. Well, it’s also unprecedented for a president to take classified information and put them in a county club. How long is the government going to try to get that back, you know? They jawbone for a year. They were deceived on the voluntary actions taken. They then went and got a subpoena. They were deceived on that—they feel. And the records are starting to show that they were being jerked around."

"People say this was unprecedented. Well, it's also unprecedented for a POTUS to take all this classified information & put 'em in a country club, ok? And how long is the govt going to try to get that back?" -- Bill Barr bodies Trump on Fox News even as anchors try to defend him pic.twitter.com/7HqOvf9xvp

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 2, 2022

*In the GOP leadership’s defense, they have no meaningful alternative to Trump. Trump is worth 1,000 Ted Cruzes or Josh Hawleys because Trump will unashamedly lie about giving conservative voters everything they want (lower health insurance costs, more and better jobs, all the oil they can guzzle). Most Republicans have spent the last few decades attempting to pretend they had policies that might do that in the face of failure after failure.

RELATED STORY: The classified documents in that DOJ photo were all found in Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago office

Intelligence agencies fear that Trump has been leaking information on U.S. spies overseas

In what may be the most shocking story to emerge from the entire Mar-a-Lago document scandal, The New York Times is reporting that officials at intelligence agencies fear that among the classified information Donald Trump stole was details on U.S. assets embedded in foreign countries. The names, locations, and even the existence of such assets is among the most guarded secrets of the nation. But something mysterious has been happening over the last few years, with an unusual number of foreign sources being killed or arrested.

In the past, officials have worried that documents leaked by outlets like WikiLeaks might, either purposely or intentionally, reveal the identity of U.S. sources, putting their lives at risk. But now, intelligence agencies have a greater concern: A man who has a horde of stolen documents, connections to numerous hostile governments, and a frequently expressed disdain for both sources and the intelligence community. Put it all together, and you get one of the most amazing front pages in recent years.

New York Times, Saturday Late Edition, Aug. 27, 2022
Saturday, Aug 27, 2022 · 6:11:20 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Known Timeline: 1. 7/31/2019: Trump spoke with Putin (NYT) 2. 8/3/2019: Trump issued a request for a list of top US spies (The Daily Beast) 3. 10/5/2021: "CIA Admits to Losing Dozens of Informants". (NYT) 4. 8/26/2022: Documents at MAL Could Compromise Human Intel (NYT) 1/5 pic.twitter.com/rqNqRZUQL2

— The Intellectualist (@highbrow_nobrow) August 27, 2022

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In the days leading up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, one fact stood out: The United States had uncannily accurate information about Russia’s plans. It was crystal clear that, not only did the U.S. have a fleet of high resolution satellites and other resources observing Russian movements on the ground, they also had sources inside the Kremlin that were giving the White House a direct pipeline into Vladimir Putin’s every thought.

It’s hard to put a value on that kind of intelligence. In this one case, it’s even possible that Ukraine would not have survived, had it not received early, accurate warnings of both Russian troop build-ups and Putin’s intentions. Thanks to U.S. intelligence sources.

It can take years to establish a reliable source. It can take moments for that point of light to go dark.

Even before he took up residence in the White House, Trump frequently expressed disdain for the intelligence services. Just as he bragged that he was “smarter than all the generals” and declared that his natural instincts allowed him to declare the climate crisis a fraud, Trump has celebrated his “gut” over the combined efforts of agents and analysts. Stories of Trump’s refusal to engage with intelligence briefings have been all too common over the last five years. Trump sneered that his own intelligence chiefs were “naïve” in their assessments of international events, mocked their findings, and insisted they should “go back to school.”

Even more than intelligence agencies, Trump hates whistleblowers. At every instance, he had ridiculed the idea of an anonymous source, insisted that whistleblowers be revealed, then attacked and endangered them once they were known. In his first impeachment, Trump constantly attacked the whistleblower who revealed his attempt to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He didn’t just ridicule the whistleblower continuously, but insisted that the whistleblower testify in public—Republicans in Congress took up that call.

Most tellingly, when Trump learned an alleged name for the whistleblower, he tweeted it over and over.

Pair Trump’s attitude toward the intelligence services, whistleblowers, and witnesses of all kinds, with his incredible disdain for protecting classified information, and it’s a recipe for utter catastrophe. The revelation of a “NOC list,” giving away dozens of undercover operatives in vital roles, may be the subject of adventure fiction, but it seems like an all-too-real possibility for Trump.

And if the nation needed another reminder of just how lax Trump’s actual security at Mar-a-Lago really is, there was the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story this week in which a 33-year-old Russian-speaking Ukrainian immigrant convinced Trump that she was actually an heiress of the Rothschild banking family. 

In addition to the FBI, law enforcement agents in Canada have confirmed that she has been the subject of a major crimes unit investigation in Quebec since February.

But there she was at Mar-a-Lago, playing golf with Trump and Lindsay Graham. She was there. So  were all those documents suspected to hold key information about U.S. sources in some of the most sensitive areas of the world. 

Even the hint that one of these sources might have been revealed can result in an immediate, emergency exfiltration to bring them to safety in the U.S. That means that it doesn’t even take the death or arrest of a U.S. source to cripple intelligence gathering. All it takes is concern that a source might have been compromised.

Donald Trump has provided plenty of cause for concern.

GOP disarray: Trump blasts Mitch, Bowers calls out GOP ‘fascism,’ Colorado senator switches to Dems

While Joe Biden and fellow Democrats are getting things done, the GOP is increasingly in disarray as it embraces the MAGAverse and the cult of Trump. In fact, so much is going on that it might be time for periodic roundups of the internal fissures within the GOP.

Democrats still face an uphill battle in the November midterms, but the tide is turning in our favor. So let’s start with the dust-up between Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Last week, McConnell conceded that the House has a better chance of flipping than the Senate. During a stop in Kentucky, McConnell told reporters:

“I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,” McConnell said. “Senate races are just different — they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome,” he added, without mentioning any names.

But it was clear that he was referring to Trump-backed candidates in key swing states who are all trailing their Democratic opponents in recent polls—Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, J.D. Vance in Ohio, Herschel Walker in Georgia, and Blake Masters in Arizona. McConnell is backing pro-impeachment incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, while Trump is supporting her 2020 election denier rival, Kelly Tshibaka, in Alaska’s Senate race.  

That didn’t sit well with the master of the MAGAverse. Over the weekend, Trump posted this on his Truth Social platform:

Why do Republican Senators allow a broken down hack politician, Mitch McConnell, to openly disparage hard working Republican candidates for the United States Senate. This is such an affront to honor and to leadership. He should spend more time (and money!) helping them get elected, and less time helping his crazy wife and family get rich on China!

Elaine Chao, McConnell’s wife, served as secretary of Transportation during Trump’s four-year term, but resigned shortly after the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol. 

Immediately after the insurrection, McConnell took to the Senate floor to say that Tump is “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events” of Jan. 6. However, he spinelessly voted to acquit Trump at his second impeachment trial a few weeks later.

As for Chao, whose family emigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan when she was a child, there have been questions raised as to whether she aided her father’s shipping company through her government positions. The U.S. Transportation Department's Inspector General's office investigated Chao for potential violations of ethics rules and misuse of her position, and published its findings in March. Chao's father, James S.C. Chao, founded a shipping company, now called the Foremost Group, which her sister Angela now heads. The firm does significant business in China.

McConnell’s criticism of Trump was relatively mild compared with what Arizona’s ousted House Speaker Rusty Bowers had to say about Trump and his party in an extraordinary interview with The Guardian. Bowers, a staunch conservative, testified in a public hearing of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection about the pressure he faced to overturn Arizona’s presidential election result that gave Joe Biden a narrow win.

Earlier this month, Trump got his revenge when Bowers lost a Republican primary race to challenger David Farnsworth, who claimed that the 2020 election had been satanically snatched from Trump by the “devil himself.”

Bowers detailed to The Guardian how Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and John Eastman pressured him to have the state legislature use an arcane Arizona law to switch the election outcome to Trump. He resisted the bullying. ”The thought that if you don’t do what we like, then we will just get rid of you and march on and do it ourselves—that to me is fascism,” Bowers said.

With the primary loss behind him, Bowers, who is a Mormon, felt unhindered in letting loose on Trump and the GOP. “The constitution is hanging by a thread,” he told The Guardian. “The funny thing is, I always thought it would be the other guys. And it’s my side. That just rips at my heart: that we would be the people who would surrender the constitution in order to win an election. That just blows my mind.”

Bowers said he remains optimistic that the GOP will one day find its way back on to the rails, but said that things are likely to get much worse before they get better. He said the Arizona GOP seems to be lost at the moment. “They’ve invented a new way. It’s a party that doesn’t have any thought. It’s all emotional, it’s all revenge. It’s all anger. That’s all it is,” Bowers said.

And in Colorado, one GOP state senator went even further when he announced Monday that he couldn’t remain a Republican any longer and was defecting to the Democrats. State Sen. Kevin Priola wrote in a two-page letter that there is “too much at stake right now for Republicans to be in charge.” He added: “Simply put, we need Democrats in charge.”

Priola cited two main reasons for switching parties: Many Republicans peddling false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and the party’s efforts to block legislation that would fight climate change even as Coloradans endure worsening wildfires and drought.

Priola has served in the Colorado legislature as a Republican since 2009, first as a representative and then, starting in 2017, as a senator. Term limits bar him from seeking reelection in 2024. His defection increases the Democratic state Senate majority ahead of the November elections.

“I haven’t changed much in 30 years; but my party has,” Priola wrote. “Coloradans cannot afford for their leaders to give credence to election conspiracies and climate denialism,” he wrote, adding: “Our planet and our democracy depend on it.”