The media gives Trump benefit of the doubt on abortion. He doesn’t deserve it

This was the week when the corporate media decided to mansplain Donald Trump to women and anyone else who might care about their reproductive rights.

“Don’t worry your pretty little heads about what he says,” we were told. “We’re going to tell you what he means.”

First, let’s tease out the most charitable take. The media always wants a ”story.” Thus, the thinking goes, Trump’s video statement this week describing his position on abortion must have been rooted in some political necessity. The Republican Party’s 2024 electoral hopes are obviously hemorrhaging on the issue of reproductive choice, so Trump must recognize his vulnerability on that issue, and must have felt it necessary to accommodate all of us by moderating his position. After all, it’s common for politicians to shape-shift on policy matters, even marginally. Those subtle changes in policy are eagerly picked up and parsed by the news media because they create conflict and drama that, in turn, provides a narrative for the press. 

But Trump is not a “normal” political candidate. For Trump, to acknowledge any shift or change on his abortion position would have gone against every ingrained aspect of his personality. It would be an admission, in effect, that he had miscalculated, or done something wrong. 

RELATED STORY: Trump's attempt to address abortion loses big—with everyone

So when Trump issued his scripted video—because he clearly couldn’t handle the intense discomfort of a live press conference—it was carefully crafted to acknowledge no error on his part. There was no sense he felt he’d miscalculated the impact of his long-asserted intent to overrule Roe v. Wade through his appointment of three virulently anti-abortion Supreme Court justices.

Instead, he bragged about it, spewing a bunch of ambiguous verbiage deliberately designed to say nothing else. For someone incapable of owning up to his mistakes, on abortion or anything else, it really couldn’t be otherwise.

But nearly all the mainstream media—Reuters, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, NPR, and CBS—wanted that “story,” that sensible, rational narrative to present to their viewers. So what they all did—every one of them, in fact—was invent a story out of whole cloth: that this was evidence that Trump was actually behaving like a normal political human being and moderating, ever-so-slightly, his position on abortion.

In doing so, they did all Americans a grotesque disservice, because Trump didn’t change a thing about his position. It was the media that did that for him, as astutely pointed out by Media Matters’ Matt Gertz:

Former President Donald Trump’s strategy of ducking questions on abortion requires mainstream reporters to let him off the hook and leave pro-choice swing voters with the false impression that he is more moderate than he actually is. So far, it’s working.

Major news outlets are falsely claiming that Trump said abortion “should be left to the states” in a video announcement Monday on his Truth Social platform. In fact, Trump said only that abortion “will” be left to the states, a statement of law that does not address how he would respond if Congress passed a federal abortion ban or how regulators would treat abortion under a second Trump administration.

Gertz has the receipts. As he posted on the social platform X, the media complicity in distorting what Trump said was as repetitive as it was egregious:

The inaccurate claim that Trump said abortion "should be left to the states" is everywhere in mainstream coverage.

— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) April 8, 2024

This is not some minor quibble. What Gertz illustrates here is literally serial misinformation being spun by every recognized paladin of  “mainstream” news. And that misinformation was dutifully picked up and disseminated by subsidiary outlets to foster and spread a phony narrative that Trump has somehow moderated his position on abortion. He hasn’t.

By reporting in headline after headline that Trump said abortion “should”—rather than “will”—be left to the states, the media have created the impression that for Trump, the abortion issue is now settled, and implicitly, that he won’t take abortion restrictions further should he be elected again in 2024.

So, to the casual reader of these headlines, which is as far as many readers go, that means he’s abandoned his intent, expressed just last month, to establish a national abortion ban, and It means no effort to outlaw mifepristone through the FDA. However, as Kaili Joy Gray and Kos have both written on this site, that is not what Trump said at all.

Anyone in the mainstream news who has followed Trump over the past eight years should have known that he does not ever acknowledge his own misjudgments. He didn’t do it for his disastrous COVID-19 response. He never gave the slightest indication that he erred in the heinous conduct that led to either of his impeachments. 

So he wasn’t about to do it for an issue, such as abortion, for which he clearly has no personal sentiments. The problem here is that the media still continue to treat Trump as a normal politician, equivocating in a way that the media have come to expect. That conventional narrative may be a way to reassure themselves or their audience, but it’s false.  

Trump is fundamentally incapable of making such an admission. There has not been a single instance in Trump’s public career where he has admitted any error in judgment, let alone admitted it to the news media. His past actions can’t be questioned, and if they are questioned his response, invariably, is to become angry and dismissive. This peculiarity of Trump’s personality was entrenched by his mentor, Roy Cohn, one of the most malignant and ruthless political operatives of the 20th century. Cohn had a singular rule that he hammered regularly into his young protege: Never, ever admit mistakes.

Gertz observes that Trump’s statement was simply a reiteration of what the existing law on abortion actually is: nothing more, nothing less. The media ran with that and assumed that Trump was “limiting” himself by those statements. As Gertz points out, he did no such thing:

Trump did not say whether he would sign a federal abortion ban if Congress passed it. Nor did he say whether federal regulators under his administration would move to ban medication abortions or restrict sending them through the mail, or how he will vote on the abortion referendum in his home state of Florida, or whether he will continue to appoint judges who will further curtail abortion rights.

So the media narrative as implied—and literally spelled out in many headlines—was wholly false. Instead, what we got were headlines that had the pernicious effect of minimizing the threat Trump actually represents, and more importantly, misrepresenting what he does or does not intend to do on abortion.

Nor did the situation improve on the nightly news. Gertz followed up by examining Monday’s broadcasts for ABC’s “World News Tonight” and “Good Morning America,” NBC’s “Nightly News” and “Today Show,” and CBS’ “Evening News.” All of them reiterated that Trump said abortion “should” be left to the states. CBS’s broadcast put it in a chyron, while a reporter falsely intoned that Trump had “suggested today that the federal government should stay out of the abortion rights debate.”

Again, no such language appears anywhere in Trump’s video speech. As Gertz notes, ABC egregiously characterized Trump’s statements as a “reversal” of Trump’s prior statements regarding a national abortion ban. And, as Gertz observes, none of the networks addressed Trump’s ludicrous claim that Democrats support “infanticide.” 

Viewed in the most charitable light, this is a massive, disturbing failure on the part of nearly every major news outlet in this country. The damage will reverberate well into the campaign season as voters are now going to have to reconcile what they they were told by their feckless media, whose misleading headlines are typically the solitary source of their information, with what is actually at stake for voters as the 2024 election approaches.

But it’s also difficult to reconcile the glaringly collective aspect of this. As Gertz points out, Trump is someone who habitually, routinely lies, to the point where very little he says can be given any credulity at all. It’s difficult to fathom why nearly every major news outlet leapt to the same erroneous conclusion about what he said, and pushed it to their viewers and readers in the exact same fashion. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow also pointed this out, while acknowledging her high regard for all of the sources involved. 

And now it’s even harder to argue with those who suggest that the media has normalized Trump and his pathologies, that its fixation on the horse race aspect of the 2024 election has clouded its own ability to distinguish facts from fiction.

That doesn’t mean we need to cynically reject everything the corporate-owned media decides to report about Trump, but it also doesn’t make us conspiracy theorists for calling out such blatant and obvious failures. Again, to reiterate a common phrase, despite eight long years of Roy Cohn’s protege living rent-free in our heads, none of this is normal. It’s not normal for the American public, and it should never, ever be normalized for those whose job it is to keep that public informed.

RELATED STORY: Rachel Maddow dissects pathetic media coverage of Trump's abortion video

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Trump’s communications are ‘erratic and unmoored from truth,’ says former Georgia Lt. Gov

Former Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) said Monday that former President Trump and his legal team’s recent communications are “erratic” and “unmoored from truth.”

Duncan made the comments when discussing the former president's continuing legal challenges during an appearance on CNN’s “The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer.”

They were in response to Blitzer mentioning that Trump’s legal team argued on Monday that the former president should not be the subject of a protective order to limit what he can say in his Jan 6. criminal case. 

“Well, I think everything's on the table for that team, right? Everything. He's very unpredictable,” Duncan told Blitzer. “We've seen this play out, even the communications that we've seen in the last 48 to 72 hours that he has put out on social media just seem erratic and unmoored from truth.”

Judge Tanya Chutkan recently ordered Trump’s attorneys to respond to Special Counsel Jack Smith's request for a strict protective order by Monday, which would prevent Trump from discussing case evidence in public.

Duncan, who served as lieutenant governor of Georgia from 2019 to 2023, also told Blitzer that Trump’s recent social media posts and remarks on his legal challenges remind him of Trump's lead up to the Capitol attack on Jan. 6. 

“It's very concerning,” Duncan added. “And unfortunately, there's similar hallmarks I'm watching play out in the last few days, that really bring me back to a terrible place and that was the lead up to January 6, where it's just a continued deluge of misinformation, and a feverish pitch through 10-second sound bites and short little social media posts.”

Trump was indicted last Tuesday by a Washington, D.C., grand jury on four charges stemming from his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to President Biden.

Smith’s 45-page indictment accuses Trump of trying to conduct a campaign to block the transfer of power. It alleges Trump was the director of a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and played a central role in an attempt to block the certification of votes on Jan. 6.

Duncan also said that he received a subpoena to testify before a grand jury investigating the efforts Trump and his allies made to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia.

Federal workers told to leave early as severe weather threatens DC, Northeast

Federal workers have been told to go home early as severe weather is expected to hit the Washington, D.C., area and parts of the Northeast region of the country. 

In a news release Monday, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) said federal employees located in the D.C. area were authorized to leave their workplaces two hours earlier than expected, and that all employees must evacuate their buildings “no later than 3:00 at which time Federal offices are closed.”

The OPM added that emergency federal employees are expected to remain at their worksite unless otherwise directed by their employer. 

The National Weather Service (NWS) declared a tornado watch for D.C. and parts of the southeastern region of the country through 9 p.m. Monday. The NWS said widespread storms with strong winds, hail and tornadoes are likely to happen throughout the day across parts of the mid-Atlantic region and cautioned area residents to plan to be inside when the storm hits.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) also announced that it will prepare to deploy additional services.

“Due to severe weather expected today, we understand many are heading home. Our trains & buses are operating on time,” WMATA said in a statement. “We strongly advise our customers to avoid traveling later this afternoon.”

NWS’s Baltimore-Washington center already informed residents of Hagerstown, MD to take shelter as a severe thunderstorm capable of producing tennis ball sized hail is moving to their region.

Parts of Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky are under the tornado watch.

It's been a decade since the D.C. metropolitan area was placed under a Level 4 risk Tornado watch. According to NWS Prediction Center, a set of severe storms brought six tornadoes to the area in June 2013. 

Updated at 5:24 p.m.

Pelosi calls Trump indictments ‘exquisite,’ ‘beautiful’

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the federal indictments against former President Trump "exquisite” and “beautiful and intricate” in a new interview published Monday. 

“The indictments against the president are exquisite,” Pelosi said in an interview with New York magazine. “They’re beautiful and intricate, and they probably have a better chance of conviction than anything that I would come up with.”

Pelosi was referring to the two latest indictments against Trump unveiled by special counsel Jack Smith.

Last week, Trump was arraigned on four criminal charges related to his efforts to cling to power after losing the 2020 election. In June, he was indicted over his retention of classified documents after he left the White House.  

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges in both cases.

Pelosi, as Speaker at the time, pushed for an inquiry into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, ultimately creating the Jan. 6 select committee, which many credit with providing the basis for the latest indictment against Trump on related charges.

In the interview, which was conducted Friday afternoon, Pelosi resisted taking credit for any of the work of the committee, apart from appointing its members. She praised the panel for providing a “beautiful balance” in its approach and a “seriousness of purpose.” 

Pelosi warned in the interview about what she saw as the dangers of another Trump term in the White House.

“Don’t even think of that,” she said when asked in the interview. “Don’t think of the world being on fire. It cannot happen, or we will not be the United States of America.”

“If he were to be president,” she added. “It would be a criminal enterprise in the White House.”

Pelosi last week called the latest charges against Trump “heartbreaking,” noting in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, “It’s heartbreaking for our country to have a president of the United States with this list of charges against him.”

New York is key to Democratic House, and Jeffries is in the redistricting driver’s seat

Editor's note: This file has been updated to correct Rep. George Santos's party affiliation.

Democrats are looking to pick up three, four or even five seats in New York to win back the House majority and make Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) the Speaker.  

Jeffries, the House minority leader, has longtime relationships with leaders in the New York state Senate and state Assembly and will have a major say over the state’s congressional map, New York Democratic sources say. The state is drawing a new map after a court determined a version drawn by a court-appointed special master for the 2022 midterm election was a temporary solution.

Current and former Democratic officeholders and party officials from New York who spoke to The Hill on condition of anonymity say Jeffries will wield significant influence over the redistricting process — and they note that New York stands to benefit substantially if he becomes Speaker.  

If Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) keeps his job as Senate majority leader and Jeffries gains the Speaker’s gavel, it would put two New Yorker Democrats in charge of Congress.  

“If they don’t listen to Jeffries, they’re crazy,” one Democratic official said of the upcoming redistricting process. “They’re going to want to follow Hakeem’s lead. He’s very well-respected, he’s very well-liked.” 

Among the seats New York Democrats are eyeing is the one belonging to disgraced Rep. George Santos's (R-N.Y.). Santos represents the state’s 3rd Congressional District, to which they are likely to add more Democratic voters to ensure it flips.  

Retired Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) is eyeing a comeback to Congress and has indicated he would run as the Democratic candidate for his old seat in the 3rd District if Santos steps down or is expelled from Congress before his term is over, New York Democratic sources say.  

If Santos stays in his job through the end of the 118th Congress, which he says he intends to do, there would be a crowded Democratic primary race to run against him in the 2024 general election. In that case, Suozzi is expected to announce his decision about whether to run again for Congress in the fall.  

Former state Sen. Anna Kaplan, The Next 50 co-founder Zak Malamed and Nassau County legislator Josh Lafazan are in the mix of candidates who would run for the seat if there isn’t a special election to replace Santos.

Rep. Suzan DelBene (Wash.), chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), announced in April that House Democrats will target five other first-term New York Republicans in addition to Santos: Reps. Nick LaLota, Anthony D’Esposito, Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro and Brandon Williams.  

A gain of six congressional seats would be enough to flip the House to Democratic control. Republicans currently hold 222 seats while Democrats have 212. 

One of those targeted incumbents, Molinaro, told reporters last week that New York voters are getting “exhausted” by the battles over the House district boundaries. 

“However the lay of the land, you know, adjusts, I’ll roll with the punches. I do think, though, voters are getting a little bit exhausted by the multiple changes in districting and it’s just an utterly confusing situation for too many voters,” he said.  

Democrats are feeling increasingly optimistic about picking up three to five congressional seats in New York next year, given their party’s disappointing performance in the state last year, when Republicans picked up three seats and defeated DCCC Chairman Patrick Maloney.  

“Anything is possible. I wouldn’t take any seat off the table, personally. So we will be fighting to mobilize in all of the districts held by Republicans,” said Rep. Grace Meng, who represents New York’s 6th District in Queens.  

Former Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) says Democrats should be able to pick up four or five seats in the Empire State. He ranked the 3rd and 4th congressional districts on Long Island and two upstate as the best pick-up opportunities.  

He also predicted there will be “close coordination” among Democratic leaders in New York and Washington and “Jeffries will get what he wants.” 

Putting out a Democratic-friendly map is no sure thing. The New York Independent Redistricting Commission is in charge of writing the map, which must be approved with two-thirds majorities in both state chambers.  

Democrats got too greedy in the last election cycle and had their map thrown out, but party officials tell The Hill they believe the legislature can draw up a new map that will help Democrats pick up as many as five House seats while staying within the bounds of state law. 

Several Democratic officials who spoke to The Hill predicted that the bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission will fail to reach an agreement and that drawing a new map will fall to the New York state legislature, where Democrats control supermajorities in both chambers.  

If that happens, they say Jeffries will wind up playing a significant role in influencing the new congressional district boundaries. 

The redistricting debate is heating up behind the scenes because New York officials are talking about moving up their 2024 primary to earlier on the calendar — April 2 instead of June 23.   

Jeffries told reporters at the U.S. Capitol last week that he just wants New York to have a “fair map” and urged the Independent Redistricting Commission to do its job.  

“All we want is fair maps to be drawn all across the country,” he told reporters. “We want a fair map in Alabama, a fair map in Louisiana, fair maps in North Carolina and Ohio, in Wisconsin, certainly fair maps in New York.”  

Jeffries kept his distance from the redistricting debate and insisted it will be up to the Independent Redistricting Commission to draw the new lines. 

“In the case of my home state, I think it’s important that the Independent Redistricting Commission, which is bipartisan in nature be given the opportunity to complete its work to try to find common ground and present a congressional map to the legislature that gives every community — urban New York, suburban New York, rural New York — an opportunity to have its voices heard in deciding in what the congressional delegation emerging from New York should look like,” he said. 

A New York appeals court ruled last month in Democrats’ favor that the state must redraw its congressional map before the 2024 presidential election. Republicans, however, have appealed that ruling to New York’s Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, putting the legal battle on hold until September.  

If the Court of Appeals rules for Republicans, then Democrats will be stuck with the same map they had in 2022.  

In the meantime, the Independent Redistricting Commission will be able to hold hearings and solicit input for a new map.  

But Democratic officials are skeptical they will come up with any proposal that can muster the necessary bipartisan support within the commission as well as approval by supermajorities in the state Senate and state House.  

“Either the Independent Redistricting Commission makes a deal or more likely gives it their best effort, fails and then the Democratic legislature steps in, which is what happened last time but they overreached and the rest is history,” said a Long Island-based Democratic party official and former officeholder.  

Jeffrey Wice, a professor at New York Law School and an expert on redistricting, said if the Independent Redistricting Commission deadlocks, Democrats in the state legislature should be able to come up with a map that meets court approval.  

“I think the legislature can draw a lawful map that complies with the criteria included in the Constitution,” he said. “It’s the legislature’s responsibility to comply with the new constitutional amendment’s rules and to produce a map that meets population equality, minority voting rights and other criteria. 

“If it does that, then they’re not going to have a problem. If they violate any of the criteria, they could end up in court all over again."  

Mychael Schnell contributed. 

--Updated at 7:41 a.m.

Raskin says Trump ‘met his match’ in special counsel Jack Smith

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said Sunday he thinks former President Trump has “met his match” in special counsel Jack Smith, as Trump has managed to avoid facing repercussions for actions he’s taken in the past, including in the events surrounding Jan. 6.

“I think that he's met his match now in his special counsel, who is holding him to the letter of the criminal law,” Raskin said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Raskin pointed to Trump’s second impeachment, when all 50 Democrats and seven Republicans voted to convict the former president — falling short of the necessary threshold — as an example of Trump avoiding repercussions.

“It was a 57-43 vote to convict him of inciting a violent insurrection against the Union, which was the most widespread bipartisan vote in American history to convict a president. And of course, Trump is bragging about the fact that only 57 senators voted to convict him of that. He beat the constitutional spread in his way,” Raskin said. 

Raskin noted that many Republicans who voted against convicting Trump still believed that Trump was responsible for his actions, but they voted against conviction because he was a former president. 

Raskin said he was hopeful the former president would now be held accountable.

Smith led investigations that resulted in two federal indictments against the former president, one for his alleged mishandling of classified documents and another related to his efforts to cling to power after he lost the 2020 election. 

Trump is also seeking another term in the White House and is currently the front-runner among GOP presidential primary candidates.

GOP statements on Trump indictment clash with initial Jan. 6 remarks

House Republicans flocked to former President Trump’s side following his indictment on charges stemming from his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, criticizing it as politically motivated and accusing the Department of Justice (DOJ) of malpractice.

But some of their responses were notably different from what they were saying privately and publicly around the time of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot — which marked the culmination of Trump’s attempts to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s win and keep himself in power.

The contrast between the reactions underscores the evolution of how GOP lawmakers talk about Jan. 6, which has been fueled in large part by Trump and the firm grip he continues to have on the Republican Party.

The epitome of that shift has been Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who said Trump bore responsibility for the riot shortly after the rampage before careening back to the former president’s corner in the weeks that followed. He cemented that position Tuesday, when he accused the DOJ using the indictment of trying to “distract” from investigations into President Biden and his family.

“[J]ust yesterday a new poll showed President Trump is without a doubt Biden’s leading political opponent. Everyone in America could see what was going to come next: DOJ’s attempt to distract from the news and attack the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, President Trump,” McCarthy wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

McCarthy also referenced a series of points Republicans have been citing in their investigations into the Biden family’s business dealings — which the White House has denied — but did not comment on the charges at hand, a strategy that has become the Speaker’s norm when discussing allegations against Trump.

Days after the Capitol riot, however, McCarthy did not mince words.

“The President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” declared McCarthy, then the minority leader, on the House floor as lawmakers debated Trump’s impeachment. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”

“These facts require immediate action by President Trump, accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure President-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term,” he added.

Within a month of his floor speech, as it started becoming clear that the GOP would remain squarely behind Trump, McCarthy began softening his criticism of the former president, telling reporters he did not think Trump “provoked” the Capitol riot. Later that week, he said Trump “had some responsibility when it came to the response,” before adding “I also think everybody across this country has some responsibility.”

And days after, McCarthy visited Trump at his Mar-a-Lago residence for a meeting largely focused on the upcoming midterm elections. But the gathering — and a photo of the two men standing side-by-side that circulated after — was perceived by many as an effort to mend the relationship between the two top Republicans as the party was fracturing amid fallout from Jan. 6.

Since then, McCarthy has remained a close ally of Trump on Capitol Hill, defending him amid his various legal troubles and going as far as to endorse an effort to expunge his impeachments — including the one that followed the Jan. 6 riot.

The dynamics reflect the strong influence Trump continues to wield with Republicans on the national stage and within the House GOP conference. Trump threw his support behind McCarthy’s bid to be Speaker, which helped him secure the gavel, and the former president has far more congressional endorsements in his 2024 bid than any other GOP candidate.

Poll after poll has shown Trump remains the unequivocal front-runner in the 2024 GOP primary for president. A New York Times/Siena College survey released this week found Trump more than 30 points ahead of his closest opponent.

Even Republicans who have endorsed one of Trump’s 2024 opponents and were critical of the former president following the Capitol riot are slamming this week’s indictment as an example of the “weaponization” of the federal government.  

In remarks on the House floor on Jan. 13, 2021, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) — who has endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for president over Trump — said Trump “deserves universal condemnation for what was clearly impeachable conduct, pressuring the vice president to violate his oath to the Constitution to count the electors.”

“His open and public pressure — courageously rejected by the vice president — purposefully seeded the false belief among the president's supporters, including those assembled on Jan. 6, that there was a legal path for the president to stay in power. It was foreseeable and reckless to sow such a false belief that could lead to violence and rioting by loyal supporters whipped into a frenzy,” he continued, before going on to criticize the impeachment articles as “flawed.”

But this week, Roy criticized the very indictment that penalized Trump for the actions he condemned in 2021 as “flimsy.” 

“If you profess to care about preserving the ‘Republic,’ you must firmly reject a flimsy political indictment of a former President & political challenger of a current President immersed in a bribery & corruption scandal,” Roy wrote on X.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), another DeSantis supporter, told The Dispatch days after the riot, “I think Trump is at fault here,” adding “people did mislead the folks that came here, and Trump was among them.”

“He insinuated that states wanted their electors thrown out, which was not true. I kept a spreadsheet of every document every state produced, and in no case did a majority of any legislature even put their name on the letter,” he added.

This week, however, Massie said it was shameful for Trump to be charged.

“As Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly pointed out, the AG and DOJ work for the President as a fixture of the executive branch. They are not, nor have they ever been, an independent branch of govt. Biden has now shamefully criminally charged & indicted a political opponent twice,” he wrote on X.

There are also some Republicans who texted Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows amid the chaos of Jan. 6 asking to have the president quell the violence who spoke out about Trump’s indictment this week.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), texted Meadows “POTUS needs to calm this shit down,” according to messages obtained by CNN, but on Tuesday he said Trump  was “a victim of Biden’s weaponized government.” Similarly, Rep. Will Timmons (R-S.C.), who told Meadows, “The president needs to stop this ASAP” on Jan. 6, called the charges against Trump a “politically motivated indictment.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), an ardent Trump supporter, texted Meadows amid the riots, “Please tell the President to calm people,” and, “This isn’t the way to solve anything.” 

This week, she railed against the indictment, re-upped her calls to defund special counsel Jack Smith’s office and expunge Trump’s impeachments, and vowed to vote for Trump in the 2024 election even if he is behind bars by the time Election Day rolls around.

“I will still vote for Trump even if he’s in jail,” Greene wrote on X. “This is a communist attack on America’s first amendment to vote for who THE PEOPLE want for President by an attempt to take Trump off the ballots through a politically weaponized DOJ. People know exactly what this is.”

Pelosi takes shot at ‘scared puppy’ Trump

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday said former President Trump had looked like a “scared puppy” a day earlier as he traveled to Washington, D.C., to appear in court in his arraignment on charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and his efforts to remain in power.

“I wasn’t in the courtroom of course, but when I saw his coming out of his car and this or that, I saw a scared puppy,” Pelosi said in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “He looked very, very, very concerned about the fate," adding she did not see any "bravado or confidence or anything like that" from Trump.

“He knows the truth, the truth that he lost the election,” she continued. “And now he’s got to face the music.” 

Trump appeared at Washington’s federal courthouse Thursday afternoon where he pleaded not guilty to four counts alleging he led a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and attempted to block the certification of votes Jan. 6, 2021. The Department of Justice’s 45-page indictment alleges Trump led a campaign of “dishonesty, fraud and conceit” to obstruct a “bedrock function” of a democracy. 

Pelosi appointed the nine members of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, which investigated the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and surrounding events and communications from those involved.

“Very proud of the Jan. 6 committee, which took us, laid the foundation, created a path or us to get to this place, to seek the truth," she said Friday.

When asked about Trump’s defense’s strategies to delay the trials until after the election if he is the Republican nominee, Pelosi said it’s because the former president is “afraid of the truth.” 

“Instead of having this back-and-forth publicly about delay and that, there are certain options that are available to a person who has been arraigned,” Pelosi said. “But that’s up to the judges to decide. But it’s not up to the arraigned person to say the justice system is not on the level.”

5 takeaways from Devon Archer’s interview with House Oversight

The House Oversight Committee on Thursday released the transcript of Devon Archer’s closed-door testimony, offering insight into the business dealings of his former business associate, Hunter Biden, and an eye into the GOP investigation of the Biden family.

Archer sat for a transcribed interview before the Oversight panel Monday, after which lawmakers on each side of the aisle offered conflicting interpretations of his testimony as observers awaited the release of the transcript.

The clashing narratives continued on Thursday, with the Republicans on the committee saying the testimony from Archer — who they view as a key witness in their probe — “confirmed several critical pieces of information in our investigation of the Bidens' influence peddling schemes,” while the top Democrat on the panel said the interview “failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden.”

According to the transcript, Archer testified that Hunter Biden put his father, then the vice president, on speakerphone during some meetings with associates, and the interview covered the Biden “brand” at length, but Archer said he was not aware of President Biden committing any wrongdoing.

Abbe Lowell, counsel for Hunter Biden, in a statement this week said House Republicans “keep swinging and keep striking out” on their pursuit of President Biden through his son.

The release of the testimony was, nonetheless, a notable development in the House GOP’s probe, which for months has sought to connect President Biden to his son’s business dealings — especially as Republicans eye an impeachment inquiry targeting the White House.

Here are five key takeaways from Archer’s interview.

Archer says he’s not aware of wrongdoing by President Biden

Devon Archer, Hunter Biden's former business partner, is pursued by reporters as he arrives on Capitol Hill to give closed-door testimony to the House Oversight Committee in the Republican-led investigations into President Joe Biden's son, in Washington, Monday, July 31, 2023.

Archer said he had “no knowledge” of whether Biden altered any U.S. foreign policy while he was vice president to benefit his son.

When flat-out asked if he is aware of any wrongdoing by the then-vice president, Archer said, “No, I’m not aware of any.” 

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He also said he had no direct knowledge of the older Biden having any involvement with Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company Archer and Hunter Biden sat on the board of.

Archer said it’s “fair” to say that Hunter Biden was falsely giving the Burisma executives the impression that he had influence over U.S. policy — not that he was actually influencing any policy. He added that Hunter Biden never told him he could get his father to change policy and that he was not aware of him ever asking his father to do so.

Archer says he is not aware of bribes to Bidens

Devon Archer

Devon Archer, a former Hunter Biden business associate, leaves the O'Neil House Office Building at the Capitol after being interviewed by the House Oversight Committee on Monday, July 31, 2023.

Archer couldn’t corroborate allegations that Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky made two $5 million payments to Hunter Biden and his father.

Republicans last month released an FBI form that contains an unverified tip that Biden, as vice president, was involved in a bribery scheme to benefit Burisma. The White House has denied any wrongdoing.

Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) on Monday pressed Archer about a statement attributed to Zlochevsky, in which he allegedly said, “It costs five to pay one Biden and five to another.”

“Were you ever made aware of Mr. Zlochevsky paying $5 million to two different Bidens?” Goldman asked.

“No, I’m not. I would assume he’s probably talking about me and Hunter, but I don’t know. But I don’t know anything about those five,” Archer replied.

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Archer also said he would disagree with the conclusion that then-Vice President Biden was bribed by Zlochevsky.

The tip in the FBI form rests on a years-long allegation that Biden, as vice president, threatened to withhold $1 billion in funding to Ukraine unless then-Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin was ousted. Burisma had been the subject of a probe by the prosecutor’s office.

But President Biden wasn’t alone — numerous U.S. and international officials called for Shokin’s removal over his failure to prosecute corruption.  

Evidence has never been raised showing that Biden called for Shokin’s ouster to help his son, and Archer said he had no basis to believe that the then-vice president’s call for him to be removed was connected to Hunter Biden.

“I have no — I have no other — I have no proof or thought that that — that he fired him for that reason,” Archer testified.

Archer described frequent calls between the Bidens

President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, step off Air Force One, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, N.Y. The Bidens are in Syracuse to visit with family members following the passing of Michael Hunter, the brother of the president's first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Archer recalled that Hunter would sometimes put his father, then-Vice President Biden, on speakerphone during meetings. 

Archer recalled “maybe 20 times” that Hunter Biden made it apparent to investors or other business contacts that he spoke to his dad and said he had occasionally placed his father on speakerphone.

Archer described the conversations he heard as “generally about the weather and, you know, what it's like in Norway or Paris or wherever he may be.” He recalled one phone conversation Hunter Biden put his father on the phone for, with Chinese businessman Jonathan Li.

“Beijing, how great Beijing is — or Chengdu, whichever city we were in. But, you know, same answers — nonspecifics relative to business and just, you know, an expression of hellos, I guess,” he testified.

Archer described numerous periods of time during which Biden and Hunter Biden would speak every day, which is in line with the close family dynamic the Bidens have, and said the frequency of interactions between them increased when Hunter Biden’s brother, Beau Biden, died in 2015.

But, Archer said he never witnessed them discussing the substance of Hunter Biden’s business during those calls. Rather, he said, they spoke about Beau’s illness and coping.

When he would overhear the vice president and Hunter Biden talking on the phone, the conversations were “not related to commercial business, politics, that kind,” Archer said.

Archer describes the Biden “brand”

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, followed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his wife Charlene Austin, walk out to the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 4, 2023, during a barbecue with active-duty military families to celebrate the Fourth of July. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Archer said the Biden family’s “brand” provided value to Burisma.

At one point in his testimony, he said he did not consider the “brand” to be “Joe directly,” but noted that the then-vice president “brought the most value to the brand.”

Archer later said he thought “Burisma would have gone out of business if it didn't have the brand attached to it.”

“But that’s different than Joe Biden’s action,” Goldman pressed him.

“Right,” Archer responded.

He said that he thinks having Hunter Biden on the board is why Burisma “was able to survive for as long as it did … just because of the brand.”

Asked by Goldman how that had an impact, Archer responded, “The capabilities to navigate D.C. that they were able to, you know, basically be in the news cycle.”

“And I think that preserved them from a, you know, from a longevity standpoint. That's like my honest — that's like really what I — that's like how I think holistically,” he added.

Archer talks about two Cafe Milano dinners

President Biden and Vice President Harris arrive for an event to establish the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument, in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus, Tuesday, July 25, 2023, in Washington.

President Biden and Vice President Harris arrive for an event to establish the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument, in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus, Tuesday, July 25, 2023, in Washington.

Archer spoke to the committee about two dinners that then-vice president Joe Biden attended at Cafe Milano in Washington: one in 2014 and one in 2015 — both during the Obama administration. 

After the 2014 dinner, he recalled a wire transfer of $142,300 from Kenes Rakishev, a Kazakh businessman, to the Rosemont Seneca Bohai account for “an expensive car” for Hunter Biden. Rosemont Seneca Bohai LLC was the private equity firm controlled by Archer at the time.

The 2015 dinner centered on the World Food Program, and then-vice president Biden made an appearance at it. Archer described it as “just a regular dinner where there was a table of conversation,” and he denied that Hunter Biden or business associates talked about business at the dinner.

GOP releases Devon Archer transcript after lawmakers give conflicting accounts

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) on Thursday released the transcript of a closed-door interview the panel conducted with Devon Archer, the former business associate of Hunter Biden whom Republicans view as a key witness in their investigation into the Biden family’s business dealings.

In the days between the interview and the release of the transcript, House members have offered conflicting interpretations of the testimony, with Republicans arguing it proved that President Biden “lied” when he said he had never spoken to his son about his foreign business dealings, and Democrats claiming the opposite and saying the testimony showed the president was not involved in his son’s business dealings.

Archer sat for a transcribed interview with the Oversight Committee for more than five hours on Monday. The transcript spans 141 pages, and is accompanied by 24 pages of documents discussed during the interview.

“Today, we are releasing the transcript from Devon Archer's interview with our committee,” the House Oversight Committee wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

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Following Archer’s closed-door interview, lawmakers said the witness testified that Hunter Biden sometimes put President Biden, then the vice president, on speakerphone with foreign business partners. Lawmakers also said Archer discussed Hunter Biden selling the “illusion of access” to his father.

Comer on Thursday pointed out several “key exchanges” from Archer’s testimony, including a claim from the Archer that Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company he and Hunter Biden sat on the board of, “would have gone out of business if it didn't have the brand attached to it.”

He also highlighted exchanges about two dinners Joe Biden attended with Hunter Biden’s foreign business associates in 2014 and 2015 at Cafe Milano in Washington, D.C.

But in another part of his testimony, when asked if he was aware of any wrongdoing by President Biden, Archer responded “no, I’m not aware of any.”

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In a statement on Thursday, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the ranking member of the Oversight panel, fired back at Comer and reiterated that Archer’s testimony shoots down the idea that President Biden was involved in his son’s business dealings.

“Once again, Committee Republicans’ priority investigation into President Biden has failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden,” Raskin wrote. “On Monday, Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s former business associate, confirmed in a transcribed interview that President Biden was never involved in Hunter’s business dealings, never profited from such dealings, and never took official action in relation to these business dealings.”

“Mr. Archer repeatedly explained that across a decade-long relationship with Hunter Biden, he was not aware of President Biden ever discussing Hunter Biden’s business.  Instead, Devon Archer described how Hunter Biden sold the ‘illusion’ of access to his father—access he never actually provided,” he added.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.)

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) speaks to reporters as he leaves the Capitol following the last vote before a five-week district work period on Thursday, July 27, 2023.

House Republicans for months have been trying to link President Biden to his son’s business dealings. Last month, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) floated launching an impeachment inquiry into Biden, pointing to testimony from IRS whistleblowers that accuse prosecutors of slow-walking the investigation into Hunter Biden’s tax crimes.

Comer released the transcript of Archer’s testimony hours before former President Trump is scheduled to be arraigned in Washington, D.C., after he was indicted on four counts stemming from his efforts to remain in power following the 2020 elections. When news broke of the charges on Tuesday, several Republicans — including McCarthy — said the indictment was an effort to distract from Archer’s testimony and other GOP-led investigations.

“Everyone in America could see what was going to come next: DOJ’s attempt to distract from the news and attack the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, President Trump,” McCarthy wrote in a tweet, pointing to claims Republicans have made throughout their investigations and a poll that has Trump well ahead of his GOP primary opponents.

FILE - Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., holds a news conference as the House prepared to leave for its August recess, at the Capitol in Washington, July 27, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Raskin, meanwhile, argued that Comer released the transcript on Thursday in an effort to distract from Trump’s indictment and upcoming arraignment.

“The transcript released today shows the extent to which Congressional Republicans are willing to distort, twist, and manipulate the facts presented by their own witness just to keep fueling the far-right media’s obsession with fabricating wrongdoing by President Biden in a desperate effort to distract from Donald Trump’s third indictment and the overwhelming evidence of his persistent efforts to undermine American democracy,” he said.

The White House slammed Republicans following Archer’s highly-anticipated transcribed interview earlier this week, claiming that the testimony showed that the president did nothing wrong.

“It appears that the House Republicans’ own much-hyped witness today testified that he never heard of President Biden discussing business with his son or his son’s associates, or doing anything wrong,” Ian Sams, White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations, said in a statement. “House Republicans keep promising bombshell evidence to support their ridiculous attacks against the President, but time after time, they keep failing to produce any. In fact, even their own witnesses appear to be debunking their allegations.”

Updated at 12:42 p.m.