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

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

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

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

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

Trump posted this on his Truth Social platform:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wehner wrote:

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

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

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

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

Wehner wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s long-delayed securities fraud trial set

By Patrick Svitek 

The Texas Tribune

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Attorney General Ken Paxton’s long-delayed trial on securities fraud charges has been set for April 15.

State District Judge Andrea Beall scheduled the trial during a hearing Monday morning in Houston. Paxton attended the hearing but did not speak at it.

Paxton was indicted on the charges over eight years ago, months into his first term as the state’s top law enforcement official. The charges stem from accusations that in 2011 he tried to solicit investors in a McKinney technology company without disclosing that it was paying him to promote its stock. Paxton has pleaded not guilty.

The trial is a reminder that Paxton's legal problems persist even after the Texas Senate acquitted him last month in an impeachment trial on unrelated allegations. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick presided over that trial and has faced intense criticism for taking $3 million from a pro-Paxton group in the lead-up to the trial.

"Unlike the impeachment, this is going to be a fair trial," special prosecutor Kent Schaffer told reporters after the hearing. "This judge is not corrupt. This judge is not on the take."

The hearing was brief and did not settle one lingering pretrial issue: how much the special prosecutors should get paid. The judge also scheduled a February pretrial conference.

Paxton's lawyer Philip Hilder told reporters his side was "gratified" with the trial date and criticized the special prosecutors for their focus on their pay.

"It's show-me-the-money," Hilder said. "It's all about the money to them."

The prosecutors say they have not been paid since January 2016. A Paxton supporter filed a lawsuit challenging their fee schedule in the early months of the case, and both sides have been wrangling over the issue ever since.

The trial has been delayed for years over a number of pretrial disputes, including the prosecutors' pay and the venue. The case began in Paxton’s native Collin County but was moved to more neutral territory in Harris County at the prosecution’s urging.

Paxton faces two counts of securities fraud, a first-degree felony with a punishment of up to 99 years in prison. Paxton also faces one count of failing to register with state securities regulators, a third-degree felony with a maximum of 10 years in prison.

The impeachment trial centered on different allegations of bribery and malfeasance made by former top deputies in his office. When the House impeached Paxton in May, it included multiple articles of impeachment related to the securities case, but the Senate set those aside for the trial and dismissed them afterward.

While the prosecutors emphasized they expect a fairer trial than the one the Senate conducted, Hilder declined to draw any comparisons. The impeachment trial "was unrelated to what we're defending against," Hilder said.

The impeachment articles focused on allegations that Paxton misused his office to help his friend investigate claims that he was being targeted by federal and local law enforcement, in exchange for favors that included giving a job to a woman with whom he was having an affair.

While the Senate's acquittal was a political triumph for the third-term Republican, Paxton still has significant legal issues. In addition to the securities fraud case, he faces a federal investigation into the claims by his former top staffers, who allege he abused his office to help a friend and donor, Nate Paul.

In the securities fraud case, the prosecutors' pay may be the last major pending issue before the trial. In 2018, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals struck down the fee agreement, arguing that it fell outside legal limits for what such attorneys may be paid. The court ordered a previous Harris County judge overseeing the case to come up with a new payment schedule, but that never happened and the prosecutors have continued to go unpaid.

During the hearing Monday, Paxton lawyer Bill Mateja sought to propose an order addressing the pay issue from his side's perspective. But Beall repeatedly said she would decide on her own.

The judge did not indicate when she would make a ruling on the pay, according to one of the prosecutors, Brian Wice.

Wice said Paxton's lawyers are so focused on their pay because they have known "the only way to derail this prosecution was to defund it." Wice said he is owed "a lot" and Schaffer estimated he has "500 unpaid hours" dating back to 2016.

The prosecutors have previously raised the possibility they could withdraw from the case if they are not paid. Asked about that Monday, Schaffer said "we have to see what happens," while Wice promised he is "not going anywhere."

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at

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Sen. Fetterman zings GOP: ‘America is not sending their best and brightest to Washington’

While Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania may not boast the sartorial resplendence of, say, Jacketless Jim Jordan or disgraced former whatever-that-was Donald Trump—whose chichi Queen-meetin’ duds appeared to shrink in real time before our infinitely astonished eyes, threatening to pop his skull off his torso like a wonky Kirkland champagne cork—it’s fair to say he’s a more serious legislator than every current Republican member of Congress.

Granted, it’s not a high bar, but Fetterman’s style, such as it is, certainly must give Republicans fits. They’re continually getting owned by a guy who looks like he just spent the day bowling with Willie Nelson’s roadies. He may not be a sharp dresser, but he sure as shit has a sharp tongue. And that ample sass was on full display Wednesday night on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

RELATED STORY: Sen. John Fetterman gives moving speech at disability hearing

After praising Fetterman for his excellent meme game, Colbert asked if it can be awkward running into the resultant smoldering heaps in the halls of Congress. After all, he never had that problem with Dr. Mehmet Oz, whose proud New Jersey guts he left on the abattoir floor after unceremoniously dispatching him last fall.


Senator @JohnFetterman is known for his devastating memes and after tonight, maybe his one liners!#Colbert

— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) October 12, 2023

COLBERT: “Is it awkward to be in the Capitol and then run into people that you have put up a devastating meme about, because you’ve got excellent meme game. But then you have to see these people in the cafeteria.”

FETTERMAN: “Ah, no, it’s … you all need to know that America is not sending their best and brightest to Washington, D.C. Like, sometimes you literally just can’t believe these people are making the decisions that are determining the government here. It’s actually scary, too. And, you know, before the government almost shut down—I mean, it came down to a couple hours. I was in my office, and they finally came over from the House, and they’re like, okay, well, this has to be unanimous in the Senate, and out of 99 of us, if one single one of us would have said no, the whole government would have shut down. That’s how dangerous that is to put that kind of power in one tent, because you have some very ... less gifted kinds of people there that are willing to shut down the government just to score points on Fox.”

Of course, it’s somewhat ironic that the man who’s perhaps most responsible for Congress’ current dysfunction has gone out of his way to criticize Fetterman’s clothing. Last month, as Rep. Matt Gaetz was preparing to shove ex-Speaker Kevin McCarthy out to sea on an ice floe, he joined convicted criminal and well-known fashion plate Steve Bannon to discuss Fetterman’s clothing choices.

Here’s how that went:

The evidence against Joe Biden is overwhelming. A first-year law student could win this case for impeachment before a fair jury. Unfortunately, the United States Senate isn’t a fair jury. It’s full of fashion icons like John Fetterman. While the Senate will be the platform,…

— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) September 13, 2023

BANNON: “Congressman Gaetz, I can tell you from my sources around Washington, D.C., they’re blaming you [for the impeachment inquiry]. They’re saying McCarthy was rattled by you. He knew you were going to make the speech today, he knew it was going to be powerful, he knew you would put him on notice, and put him on the clock, and this is why he ran out and made the hostage video. Your response and observations, sir.”

GAETZ: “First of all, that is the best dressed we have ever seen John Fetterman. His shirt had both buttons and the entire pant was not elastic. There were elastic features, but it was not exclusively elastic. And so, I don’t know what tent store he bought that muumuu at, but it appears to be new and I am grateful that he is really upping his game in that regard ...”

BANNON: [Giggles with glee while curb-stomping irony to death with his dandruff-mottled joggin’ Crocs.]

RELATED STORY: 'Do your job, bud': There's a lot to learn from Fetterman's takedown of Gaetz

And then there’s the X (formerly known as Twitter) account of RNC Research, which represents the party of former Rep. Louie Gohmert—who once asked if the National Forest Service could change the moon’s orbit to fight climate change. (It can, of course, but it’ll run into miles of red tape and face fierce resistance from the powerful and entrenched original-moon-orbit lobby.) Those super-geniuses responded with this: 

John Fetterman, completely unironically: "America is not sending their best and brightest, you know, to Washington, D.C."

— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 12, 2023

For the nontweeters:

John Fetterman, completely unironically: "America is not sending their best and brightest, you know, to Washington, D.C."

“Completely unironically?” Well, yeah. He can say such things entirely unironically. Did Fetterman force Fitch to downgrade the U.S. government’s credit rating? Did he bring us within a hair’s breadth of shutting the government down (yet again) for no good reason? Does he fight against urgently needed climate change legislation? Or support giving the already obscenely wealthy every tax break they ever wanted, and then some?

No? Then what the fuck is RNC Research even talking about? His hoodie?

Republicans have no ideas and nothing substantial to run on. They’ve replaced coherent policy with pointless chaos—and it shows. Fetterman is just stating the obvious, and doing so with an impish glint in his eye.

Maybe in 100 years or so, baggy shorts and hoodies will be de rigueur on the floor of the Senate, and then our government will be able to focus on the really important issues—like staying open. That said, it’s becoming ever-more obvious that good-faith Republicans will never come back into style.

RELATED STORY: Republicans ignore national security to go DressCon 1 over Fetterman's casual attire

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Sunday Four-Play: Matt Gaetz vows to shiv Kevin McCarthy, and AOC says she may help

Wait, so Congress actually managed to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government open for another 45 days? And here two of the Sunday shows had already booked Matt Gaetz. This should be fun.

Will Gaetz 1) complain that this is brutally unfair to hardworking American taxpayers like Donald Trump and his next-door neighbor Vladimir, erm, Peterson, 2) introduce the world to his next wife, whose ultrasound photo he recently favorited on OkCupid, 3) slurp Jonathan Karl up like a hunk of Fazoli’s linguine while pugnaciously humming “Flight of the Valkyries,” or 4) promise to take another go at ruining the lives of millions of Americans who depend on government paychecks?

Or maybe he’ll be grilled about the Republicans’ fake impeachment of President Biden. In case you missed it, they held a hearing on Thursday that proved Joe Biden unconditionally loves his son. Republicans also called a witness who admitted there was no basis for impeachment. In other words, it was the shittiest shitshow you’ll ever see, even if you survive past the heat death of the universe. But hey, this is a resilient bunch. They can restart their impeachment crusade at another time. Maybe they’ll launch seven separate impeachment weeks before they eventually get bored and forget any of this ever happened.

Also, Kristen Welker is taking some time away from the 24/7 grind of undermining Western democracy. She’ll have to both-sides Donald Trump’s backyard orphans vs. puppies fight club some other time. “Meet the Press” has been preempted by NBC’s Ryder Cup coverage.

RELATED: Sunday Four-Play: The elephant in the room plops down on 'Meet the Press'

And as the House Judiciary GOP knows, if you can’t make up impeachable crimes, at the very least you can blame Joe Biden for our nation’s increasingly concerning golf gap

Joe Biden's America.

— House Judiciary GOP 🇺🇸 (@JudiciaryGOP) September 29, 2023

Finally, will any of the shows mention that Donald Trump gave a speech on Friday that made Ozzy Osborne biting the head off a bat look like Demosthenes' Third Philippic?

Oh, yeah. It was bonkers, yo. Here’s just one excerpt of the team coverage from “The Weekly What in the Ever-Living Fuck Is This Now, Gladys?”

“All the currently dry canals will be brimming and used to irrigate everything, including your own homes and bathrooms and everything,” Trump promised drought-beleaguered Californians as trillions of Filet-O-Fish particles from past lunches circled his head in a state of superposition waiting to be observed and become a sandwich. “You’re going to be happy, and I’m going to get it done fast.”

When asked for clarification, a Trump campaign spokesperson said the former president’s comprehensive 10-point plan for irrigating your bathroom will be released in two weeks.

And now on to the (un)usual nonsense.


Speak of the devil! No, really. Please speak of the devil. Summoning Satan to feast on my steaming viscera as I claw my gobsmacked face off with my newly gargoylish Howard Hughes hands for the rest of eternity might be preferable to transcribing this clip.

Gaetz broke news on the Sunday shows this week, announcing that he plans to punish House Speaker Kevin McCarthy for working with Democrats to ensure that 1.5 million hardworking Americans don’t immediately lose their paychecks for no reason

ABC News:

Hard-line Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz plans a vote this week to try and remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his role as punishment for McCarthy orchestrating a bipartisan stopgap government funding bill to stave off a shutdown, Gaetz said Sunday.

Removing McCarthy would essentially halt all legislative business in the House until a replacement is picked. It remains unclear if Gaetz currently has more than a handful of votes for such a dramatic move. McCarthy has dismissed the risk of a vacate motion.

"Bring it," he has said.

On Sunday, Gaetz responded, "Kevin McCarthy's going to get his wish."

Here’s Matt talking with Jonathan Karl of ABC’s “This Week” about his plans to shut down the House because Kevin didn’t agree to shut down the government:

“I am relentless and I will continue pursue this objective,” GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz tells @JonKarl of his push to vacate Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker.

— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) October 1, 2023

KARL: “So you’re not accomplishing anything here.”

GAETZ: “That’s not true.”

KARL: “Well, you don’t have the votes to remove him.”

GAETZ: “Well, I—by the way, I don’t know until we have him, and by the way, I might not have him the first time, but I might have him before the 15th ballot. That’s the number of ballots Kevin McCarthy needed.”

KARL: “So are you going to do this every day like you suggested? Are you going to go through this process of voting over and over and over again?”

GAETZ: “I am relentless, and I will continue to pursue this objective. And if all the American people see is that it is a uniparty that governs them and that it is always the Biden-McCarthy-Jeffries government that makes dispositive decisions on spending, then I am seeding the fields of future primary contests to get better Republicans in Washington who will actually tackle these deficits and debts.”

First of all, Matt Gaetz is pretty much the last person I want to hear say “seeding the fields.” Coming from him it just sounds gross. I can’t put my finger on it—it just does. It’s not the phrase itself necessarily. It’s his association with it. It might sound marginally less gross coming from a farmer, of course—even if that farmer was Ed Gein

Secondly, accomplishing nothing is kind of the whole point of Republicans, isn’t it? Matt is determined to hold the line on deficits when a Democrat is in the White House so he can choke the life out of the economy and return Dear Leader to his gilded throne. If he has to create unprecedented chaos to do so, that’s just gravy. 

RELATED: Sunday Four-Play: Auntie Maxine Waters scorches GOP, and Matt Gaetz makes a startling admission


Speak of this other devil! House Speaker Kevin McCarthy appeared on “Face the Nation” with host Margaret Brennan to respond to Gaetz’s perduring and performative Trump-humping. Brennan asked Evil Opie what he thought of Gaetz’s shoving-nerds-into-gym-lockers style of governing, and McCarthy did his best to project a sense of calm.

McCarthy: Gaetz is more interested in securing TV interviews than doing something. He wanted to push us into a shutdown… only because he wants to take this motion. Bring it on, let's get over with it

— Acyn (@Acyn) October 1, 2023

BRENNAN: “There is a lot to get to with you. I want to start, though, on the news this morning from Congressman Matt Gaetz who says he is going to seek a motion to vacate. He’s going to try to oust you as speaker of the House.”

MCCARTHY: “That’s nothing new, he’s tried to do that from the moment I ran for office.”

BRENNAN: “Well, this time he says he’s going to keep going. May not get there before the 15th ballot, but it took 15 for Kevin McCarthy. He says he’s coming for you. Can you survive?”

MCCARTHY: “Yes, I’ll survive. This is personal with Matt. Matt voted against the most conservative ability to protect our border, secure our border. He’s more interested in securing TV interviews than doing something. He wanted to push us into a shutdown, even threatening his own district with all the military people there who would not be paid, only because he wants to take this motion. So be it, bring it on, let’s get over with it [sic], and let’s start governing. If he’s upset because he tried to push us in a shutdown and I made sure government didn’t shut down, then let’s have that fight.”

Oh, boy! This should be fun. I’m sure y’all remember January’s protracted House speaker vote. It was like watching two greased hippos trying to screw on an elevator. Well, now we get to watch two hippos trying to screw on an elevator in reverse


McCarthy is still trying to blame Democrats for this 100% Republican-manufactured crisis.

McCARTHY: I wasn't sure it was gonna pass. You know why? Because the Democrats tried to do everything they can not to let it pass. BRENNAN: Democrats were the ones who voted for this!

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 1, 2023

BRENNAN: “Were you confident we wouldn’t shut down?”

MCCARTHY: “I was confident I could get something on the floor to make sure the option that we would not ...”

BRENNAN: “But you weren’t sure it was going to pass.”

MCCARTHY: “Well, I wasn’t sure it was going to pass. You want to know why? Because the Democrats tried to do everything they can not to let it pass.”

BRENNAN: “Democrats were the ones who voted for this in a larger number than Republicans to keep the continuing resolution alive.”

MCCARTHY: “Did you watch the floor yesterday?”

BRENNAN: “Oh, yes, 90 Republicans voted against it.”

And … scene.

Thanks, Speaker McCarthy, and good luck. You’ll need it because …


Gee willikers, Aunt Bee! Looks like Kevin isn’t going to get much help from Democrats! At least without having to give them something in return.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” and said she absolutely would vote to vacate the speaker’s chair. Because, you know, McCarthy really, really sucks.

AOC on CNN says she'd "absolutely" vote to oust McCarthy as speaker

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 1, 2023

TAPPER: “So you just heard Congressman Matt Gaetz say he’s going to move to oust McCarthy as speaker this week. If a motion to vacate the chair comes to the floor, how would you vote?”

OCASIO-CORTEZ: “Well, my vote beginning this term for speaker of the House was for Hakeem Jeffries. And I do not intend on voting for a Republican speaker of the House, but I believe that it’s up to the Republican conference to determine their own leadership and deal with their own problems. But it’s not up to Democrats to save Republicans—from themselves, especially.”

TAPPER: “Do you think that there will be any Democrats that might vote to save McCarthy?”

OCASIO-CORTEZ: “I mean, I certainly don’t think that we would expect to see that unless there’s a real conversation between Republican and Democratic caucuses and Republican and Democratic leadership about what that would mean, but I don’t think we’d give up votes for free.”

TAPPER: “But would you vote to vacate? Would you vote to get rid of McCarthy as speaker?”

OCASIO-CORTEZ: “Would I cast that vote? Absolutely. I think Kevin McCarthy is a very weak speaker. He clearly has lost control of his caucus. He has brought the United States and millions of Americans to the brink waiting until the final hour to keep the government open, and even then only issuing a 45-day extension, so we’re going to be right back in this place in November. And, you know, I think that our main priority has to be the American people and we’re going to keep our governance in a cohesive and strong place, but unless Kevin McCarthy asks for a vote, again, I don’t think we give something away for free.”

McCarthy should have learned this universal maxim long ago: If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. And now everyone hates him. And he might lose his job. And likely go down as one of the worst and weakest House leaders in U.S. history. 

But hey, at least he got to be speaker! Much like Anne Boleyn got to be queen and Eva Braun eventually managed to wrangle a marriage proposal out of Hitler

RELATED: Sunday Four-Play: It's Chuck Todd's last day! And we're ridin' with Biden


GOP Rep. Nancy Mace appeared on “Sunday Morning Futures” with Maria Bartiromo, whose show is roughly the journalistic equivalent of drinking from a firehose of curdled Yoo-hoo.

But even Fox News journalists are starting to wonder WTF Republicans are trying to accomplish with their Biden impeachment push, and so Bartiromo must have felt empowered to ask a legitimate question for once.

Of course, no matter how many different ways Republicans try to answer the question at the heart of their efforts—i.e., what did President Biden actually do that’s even remotely impeachable?—they still whiff every time.

BARTIROMO: Have you been able to identify specific policy decisions Joe Biden made that he was paid for? NANCY MACE: I have not had the ability to research that

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 1, 2023

BARTIROMO: “Have you been able to identify specific policy decisions that Joe Biden made that he was paid for?”

MACE: “I have not had the ability to research that. I’ve been looking more at the LLCs, the bank records, all of the lies that Joe Biden has told, and what evidence we have so far in meetings, dinners, appointments, White House records, etc., phone messages, text messages, emails, etc., connecting the dots with Joe Biden.”

Oh, look! More nothing! Wait, this is the same nothing we’ve already reported on. Let’s find a fresh angle on this old pile of nothing and reintroduce it as a new pile of nothing! But don't rush us! It took us more than two years to dig up all this nothing, and nothing doesn’t grow on trees. You’ll just have to be patient. Like Job, that nice man from the Bible who did nothing wrong but was relentlessly harassed by Satan anyway.

For some reason that Bible story seems relevant right now. Much like the one where Jesus cast a legion of demons out of Donald Trump and into a nearby herd of pigs. Or maybe it was the other way around. I forget. It’s been a while since I darkened the door of a church, to be completely honest with you.

But wait! There’s more!

That’s all for now. Have a great, productive, and shutdown-free week!

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE

Media buries the lede (again) on Biden’s urgent address on dangers of Trump, fascism

On Thursday, Joe Biden gave one of the most important speeches of his presidency. But because it didn’t include bitter complaints about low-flow toilets, his secret plan to avoid World War II, or stream-of-consciousness musings on perennial kitchen table issues like whale-murdering windmills, the legacy media largely gave it a pass.

And though the speech at times focused on the honor and heroism of Biden’s late friend, Arizona Sen. John McCain, at no point did Biden get confused and forget that he never ran against him

What Biden did do was give a fierce defense of democracy, the Constitution, and American values—all while name-checking Donald Trump and the extreme MAGA movement that threatens the basic foundations of our republic. Unfortunately, he didn’t do it while falling over on his bike, so most Americans still don’t know about it.

RELATED STORY: Biden warns Trump is an existential threat to democracy. The media whiffs it

You’d think the current president (rightly) calling out his top political rival for being a power-mad, wannabe tinpot dictator who disdains the Constitution would merit searing, front-page coverage across the legacy media. But you’d be wrong.

Biden’s speech failed to make the front page of either The Washington Post or The New York Times, proving once again that these venerable leading lights of our fourth estate—and the herds of pundits and reporters who follow their lead—are still not taking the clear and present danger a plainly fascist Trump poses seriously enough. On the bright side, there's nothing on the Times’ front page about Hillary's emails today.

Yes, @washingtonpost, “Democracy Dies in the Darkness.” You know where else it can wither? A3, inside, which is where you buried the fiercest, highest stakes pro-democracy speech I’ve heard from a president in my lifetime.

— Jeff Sharlet (@JeffSharlet) September 29, 2023

So because American newspapers are tending to shoehorn Biden’s rhetorical triumphs somewhere between The Jumble and “Marmaduke”—if not in “Marmaduke”—these days, we in the non-legacy media are forced to take up the slack.

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You can watch the speech yourself or read the full transcript, but there are some takeaways that simply need to be repeated here verbatim, because to quote the guy who’s doing his level best to save democracy from a largely somnambulant media, “This is a big fucking deal.” 

At one point, Biden lends some outside perspective to the MAGA stew we currently find ourselves swimming in. As frogs in boiling water, we may no longer experience the right’s resurgent fascism as the four-alarm fire it is, but the rest of the world sees what’s happening in America very clearly.

For centuries, the American Constitution has been a model for the world, with other countries adopting “We the People” as their North Star as well. But as we know, we know how damaged our institutions of democracy—the judiciary, the legislature, the executive—have become in the eyes of the American people, even the world, from attacks from within the past few years.

I know virtually every major world leader. That’s what I did when I was a senator, as vice president, and now. Everywhere I go in the world—I’ve met now with over a hundred heads of state of the nations of the world—everywhere I go, they look and they ask the question, “Is it going to be okay?”

Think about this: The first meeting I attended of the G7—the seven wealthiest nations in the world—in Europe, the NATO meeting, I sat down—it was in ... January, after being elected—so late January, early February—and it was in England. And I sat down, and I said, “America is back.” And Macron looked at me, and he said, “Mr. President, for how long—for how long?”

And then, the chancellor of Germany said, “Mr. President, what would you think if you picked up the paper tomorrow—tomorrow, the London Times—and it said a thousand people broke down the doors of Parliament, marched, and killed two bobbies in order to overthrow an election of the new prime minister? What would you think then? What would America think?”

What would America think? We’d think the fish and chip shops were using lead-based newsprint to wrap their wares again. But beyond that, we’d rightly be horrified.

But that wasn’t even the biggest takeaway from the speech. Our current president also directly confronted his predecessor—and, by extension, the entire MAGA movement—over his ongoing attempts to remake this country into something more like Vladimir Putin’s Russia than LBJ’s Great Society or Ronald Reagan’s shining city on a hill.

They’re pushing a notion the defeated former President expressed when he was in office and believes applies only to him. And this is a dangerous notion: This president is above the law, with no limits on power.

Trump says the Constitution gave him, quote, “the right to do whatever he wants as President,” end of quote. I’ve never even heard a president say that in jest. Not guided by the Constitution or by common service and decency toward our fellow Americans but by vengeance and vindictiveness.

We see the headlines. Quote, “sweeping expansion of presidential power.” Their goal to, quote, “alter the balance of power by increasing the president’s authority over every part of the federal government,” end of quote.

What do they intend to do once they erode the constitutional order of checks and balances and separation of powers? Limit the independence of federal agencies and put them under the thumb of a president? Give the President the power to refuse to spend money that Congress has appropriated if he doesn’t like what it’s being spent for? ... Get rid of longstanding protections for civil servants?


Just consider these as actual quotes from MAGA—the MAGA movement. Quote, “I am your retribution.” “Slitting throats” of civil servants, replacing them with extreme political cronies. MAGA extremists proclaim support for law enforcement only to say, “We …”—quote, “We must destroy the FBI.”

It’s not one person. It’s the controlling element of the House Republican Party.

Whitewash attacks of Jan. 6 by calling the spearing and stomping of police a ... quote, a “legitimate political discourse.”

Did you ever think you’d hear leaders of political parties in the United States of America speak like that? Seizing power, concentrating power, attempting to abuse power, purging and packing key institutions, spewing conspiracy theories, spreading lies for profit and power to divide America in every way, inciting violence against those who risk their lives to keep America safe, weaponizing against the very soul of who we are as Americans.

This MAGA threat is the threat to the brick and mortar of our democratic institutions. But it’s also a threat to the character of our nation … that gives our Constitution life, that binds us together as Americans in common cause.

Biden also happened to notice another story that should have generated screaming front-page headlines in every major newspaper in the country as well as blanket condemnations from every sitting lawmaker, regardless of party:

Tomorrow, I have the honor of overseeing the change of responsibilities of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States military from one genuine hero and patriot, Gen. Mark Milley, to another, Gen. CQ Brown—both defining leaders of our time.

And yet, here is what you hear from MAGA extremists about the retiring patriot general honoring his oath to the Constitution: quote, he’s “a traitor,” end of quote. “In times gone by, the punishment…”—quote, “In times gone by, the punishment would’ve been death,” end of quote.

This is the United States of America. This is the United States of America.

And although I don’t believe even a majority of Republicans think that, the silence is deafening.

In case you somehow missed it (you could be forgiven, because the media didn’t cover it with nearly the urgency it deserved), the quote Biden references about Milley deserving the death penalty came from Trump, who was upset that Milley failed to show him the abject loyalty he thought he deserved.

RELATED STORY: Gen. Mark Milley responds to Trump's threats while the press largely looks away

Seems like a really important story, but then the nation’s biggest outlets can’t thoroughly cover all of a fascist presidential candidate’s fascist statements, can they? You need to balance them with horse race coverage about the advanced age of the man who stands as our sole remaining bulwark against the return of an avowedly authoritarian former president. It’s just basic fairness.

In short, Biden’s speech was clear, forceful, urgent, at times funny—Biden is a charming, witty guy, despite all the chatter about his age—and most importantly, grounded in the reality of our current fraught political climate. He also showed genuine emotion when talking about the cancer that claimed the lives of both his friend McCain and his son Beau. And he was funny and gracious when responding to a group of hecklers who tried to interrupt his speech, offering to speak with them after his address instead of, say, urging members of the audience to “knock the crap out of them.”

As Biden stated in his address, “We’re at an inflection point in our history. One of those moments that not only happens once every several generations, it happens once every eight or nine generations, where the decisions made in the short period of time we’re in now are going to determine the course of this country and the world for the next six or seven decades. So you, me, every American who is committed to preserving our democracy and our constitutional protections, we carry a special responsibility. We have to stand up for American values embedded in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, because we know the MAGA extremists have already proven they won’t.”

Clearly, Biden knows what time it is. If only legacy media—which stands to lose the most under a second Trump term—would take a side. It’s okay to take a side if that side is pro-democracy and anti-fascist. No, really. Preserving our ever-fragile democracy is actually that important.

RELATED STORY: Media complicit in Trump's false claims about wooing union members


This recent commentary from MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan on “Donald Trump’s Extremely Fascist Week” is a must-watch. Though maybe you’re not the one who needs to watch it—unless, of course, you happen to be one of the key decision-makers at The Washington Post or The New York Times.

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE

Trump’s messy abortion switcheroo is latest proof he and Republicans are running scared

Donald Trump has done something remarkable over the past week: He’s actually remained focused on something. During Sunday’s “Meet The Press” debacle, he told his hapless interlocutor, Kristen Welker, that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had made a “terrible mistake” in signing a six-week abortion ban. He also vaguely claimed that, if reelected in 2024, he’d be able to negotiate a “compromise” and impose some type of national abortion prohibition acceptable to everyone.

Facing predictable hand-wringing and consternation from his fellow Republicans, on Wednesday Trump did what he always does: He doubled down, telling an audience in Iowa that Republicans need to learn how to “properly talk about abortion,” and warning Republicans that they could lose the House majority “and perhaps the presidency itself” if they kept pushing more violent and draconian intrusions into people’s personal reproductive lives.

First, let’s be clear on one thing: As Adam Serwer concisely puts it in the title to his latest essay for The Atlantic, “Trump Is the Reason Women Can’t Get Abortions,” and, of course, that’s true for anyone who may become pregnant. 

RELATED STORY: Republican couple's shift: From party loyalty to pro-choice advocacy

As Serwer writes:

The person most responsible for what might be the greatest assault on individual freedom since the mid-20th century is Donald Trump, who appointed fully one-third of the justices on the Supreme Court, hard-core right-wing ideologues who overturned Roe just as he promised they would.

If you cannot get an abortion, if you fear leaving your state to get an abortion, if you are afraid to text your loved ones or type abortion into a search bar, if you are scared to ask a friend or loved one to help you get an abortion, if you know someone coerced into remaining in an abusive relationship because they fear prosecution, if you cannot find an obstetrician in your state, if you have a relative who was left at the edge of death by doctors afraid to risk prosecution by violating an abortion ban—you have Donald Trump to thank.

Trump, of course, is not changing his tune on abortion because he’s actually had a change of heart. He is, in typical fashion, simply running a con, his dirty work having been accomplished. He may not have personally cared about abortion, but he knew what to say in 2016 to earn the votes of the white evangelicals who elect Republicans in this country, and he knew exactly what to do to please them once he attained the presidency. Most importantly, Trump realizes how much credit those religious voters grant him, how blindly devoted to him they are, and that they’ll never, ever vote for a Democrat, no matter what Trump says or does.

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So since those voters are already in his pocket, he’s searching for what he can say to try to neutralize the abortion issue among those who voted against him in 2020.

The short answer is “nothing,” and anyone who takes what Trump says seriously should rightly have their head examined. No one should even entertain the possibility of giving Trump any credibility—on any issue, but especially abortion. In that vein, Serwer’s article skewers the wholly predictable, knee-jerk reactions of the press to Trump’s statements. 

So let’s go beyond just gawking at Trump’s obviously cynical trial balloon, and instead look at what he’s really acknowledging: This issue is hurting him and Republicans, badly, and it’s not going to go away.

Republicans have been tying themselves into knots over the past few months trying to find a way out of the abortion trap they’ve caught themselves in. Some think there is a perfect number of weeks where punishing pregnant people feels okay; if they could just find it, an American public that overwhelmingly supports abortion rights will somehow be mollified and move on.

Others contend they can finesse the problem they’ve created with magical language: It’s not “pro-life” anymore, but “pro-birth control” or most recently, “pro-baby.” Or, as Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley suggests, politicians just “need to be specific” about what it is they mean when supporting laws imposing state controls and surveillance over pregnant patients’ choices. Does that mean prohibiting people from searching on the internet for information, punishing them for leaving the state to obtain an abortion, or inflicting criminal penalties on doctors, nurses and medical providers? Republicans just need to clarify the terms a little better, it seems.

RELATED STORY: Kentucky's Democratic governor shames Republican rival into retreating on abortion stance

No one is fooled by this nonsense. When given the chance, Trump used his power in office to strip away a right in place for 49 years. Republicans in state legislatures around the country then followed up by turning on the tools of state control, and they’re manifestly intent on finishing what they’ve started. There’s no getting around that fact, even if the (overwhelmingly white and male) proponents of these laws remain oblivious to the horrific, real-world implications of what they’ve done. 

For Trump to even raise this issue—multiple times in a week—confirms that both he and the Republican Party are simply running scared. On a national level, those voter-rich, highly-educated, suburban enclaves that can spell the difference between a Democratic or a Republican Congress, a Democratic or Republican governor, or a Democratic or Republican president? Those districts are swiftly falling out of reach for Republicans, specifically because of the abortion issue. The GOP is losing young people as well, because (among other reasons), it’s younger people who tend to have unwanted pregnancies.

Below is an ad currently being run by Kentucky’s Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

KY Gov Andy Beshear’s new ad on abortion. Democrats, this is the way.

— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) September 20, 2023

And yet Republicans continue to double down. In Ohio, a right-wing state Supreme Court rubber-stamped pejorative forced-birth ballot language inserted by Republicans desperate to dissuade Ohioans from voting Yes on a November referendum enshrining reproductive freedom in the state’s constitution. In Wisconsin, Republicans in the state Legislature continue to threaten baseless impeachment proceedings against a newly elected state Supreme Court justice who won her seat largely because of her pro-choice positions. In Texas, a Trump-appointed federal district judge and his right-wing Court of Appeals issued rulings threatening to outlaw mifepristone (the “abortion pill”), sending the issue to the same Trump-riddled Supreme Court responsible for this situation in the first place.  

And all this time, the horror stories of patients who were denied abortions even when their life was at risk continue to mount. Obstetricians and gynecologists, fearing criminal prosecution, simply pack up and leave states like Idaho, leaving patients to fend for themselves. A new bill in Texas would block internet service providers from allowing sites that inform users about abortion, much like China blocks sites about democracy.

No “magic language” or “consensus ban” is going to solve these problems for Republicans, and nothing Trump says is going to help him on this issue in 2024, or “separate” him from other Republicans.

As Serwer emphasizes in his Atlantic article, what Trump and Republicans say means nothing; it’s what they’ve done—and continue to do—that matters.  

They were always in this together. And now they’re going to have to face the consequences. Together.

RELATED STORY: Republicans don't want to talk about a federal abortion ban, but make no mistake: It's on the agenda

Romney reveals what he really thinks about Trump, GOP senators, but it’s too little, too late

McKay Coppins, a journalist and staff writer at The Atlantic, is the author of a forthcoming biography about Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney. That book, “Romney: A Reckoning,” appears to dovetail quite well with the senator’s plans to retire, announced Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, Coppins published a piece in The Atlantic featuring some excerpts from his book. They are eye-opening, to say the least, not so much for what they reveal about Romney himself, but for their frank and brutal assessment of Romney’s Republican colleagues in the U.S. Senate, particularly their slavish fealty to Donald Trump.

According to Coppins, when he and Romney began to meet privately for the book in 2021, the senator had not advised any other senators that he’d begun working with a biographer, meeting most often at Romney’s Washington, D.C., residence. Coppins acknowledges that he didn’t expect the level of candor Romney exhibited towards him.

From acknowledging that a “very large” segment of the Republican party “really doesn’t believe in the Constitution,” to his frank accounts of other Republican senators’ true feelings about Donald Trump, Romney doesn’t appear to have held anything back from his biographer, often providing unedited texts, emails and documents for Coppins’ thorough perusal. Even though Romney had privately advised Coppins early on that he wasn’t going to seek reelection, Coppins came away with the impression that there was something “beyond his own political future” that accounted for his startling honesty.

That “something,” Coppins believes, was “not just about the decomposition of his own political party, but about the fate of the American project itself.”

RELATED STORY: Romney is rare Republican who bucks Trump, but he's no hero

It appears that the greatest catalyst for Romney’s pessimism was the events of Jan. 6, 2021.

Coppins notes that Romney became noticeably preoccupied with world history and the fall of global empires after he witnessed the insurrection of Jan. 6. Romney concluded, in large part, that it was history repeating itself, noting that the rise of particularly oppressive tyrants inevitably preceded the dissolution of empires. According to Coppins, Romney said, “Authoritarianism is like a gargoyle lurking over the cathedral, ready to pounce.”

It’s clear that Romney sees Trump as that gargoyle. In one incident Romney shared, he reached out via text message to then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after a concerning phone call.

“In case you have not heard this, I just got a call from Angus King, who said that he had spoken with a senior official at the Pentagon who reports that they are seeing very disturbing social media traffic regarding the protests planned on the 6th. There are calls to burn down your home, Mitch; to smuggle guns into DC, and to storm the Capitol. I hope that sufficient security plans are in place, but I am concerned that the instigator—the President—is the one who commands the reinforcements the DC and Capitol police might require.”

According to Romney, McConnell never responded.

A significant section of the book addresses the evolution of Romney’s own feelings toward Trump, which apparently rapidly descended into complete disgust, culminating in Romney writing a 2019 opinion piece in for The Washington Post excoriating Trump as unfit to lead the nation. He emphasizes to Coppins that this sentiment was and is shared by almost all of his Republican Senate colleagues.

Romney and Trump’s famous dinner after the 2016 election

From Coppins’ book:

“Almost without exception,” he told me, “they shared my view of the president.” In public, of course, they played their parts as Trump loyalists, often contorting themselves rhetorically to defend the president’s most indefensible behavior. But in private, they ridiculed his ignorance, rolled their eyes at his antics, and made incisive observations about his warped, toddler­ like psyche. Romney recalled one senior Republican senator frankly admitting, “He has none of the qualities you would want in a president, and all of the qualities you wouldn’t.”

According to Coppins’ account, when Romney would criticize Trump, his fellow GOP senators would “express solidarity” with him, sometimes saying they wish they had a constituency that would allow them to express their true feelings. As Coppins reports, Romney also described an incident where Trump attended a private meeting with Republican senators, who remained “respectful and attentive,” only to burst out laughing when Trump exited the room.

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Romney also quoted McConnell as calling Trump an “idiot,” and saying Romney was “lucky” he could say what he actually thought of Trump. According to Coppins, McConnell denied this conversation. Romney also confirmed what many of us have already assumed: His Republican colleagues were cynically dismissive of the (first) impeachment proceedings against Trump. 

“They didn’t want to hear from witnesses; they didn’t want to learn new facts; they didn’t want to hold a trial at all,” Romney told Coppins. Romney also claimed that McConnell warned that a “prolonged, polarizing Senate trial would force them to take tough votes that risked alienating their constituents,” something that McConnell felt would lead to a Democratic Senate majority. As Romney told it to Coppins, he was appalled that there was not even the slightest pretense of impartiality in Republicans’ strategy to handle Trump’s impeachment.

RELATED STORY: McCarthy is sealing the fate of both House and Senate Republicans

Coppins report, quite honestly, paints a picture of a Romney desperate to actually do the right thing and approach the Trump impeachment as an impartial juror would, and as he felt his constitutional duty demanded—an approach which led Romney to conclude that Trump was guilty. Even so, he spoke to his 2012 running mate and former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan on the phone, and Ryan apparently did his level best to convince Romney that he’d be killing his future political prospects by voting to convict Trump. According to Coppins, after Romney cast that vote—the lone “guilty” vote cast by a Republican senator in Trump’s first impeachment—he “would never feel comfortable at a Republican caucus lunch again.”

Coppins’ biography also examines Romney’s reaction to the Jan. 6 insurrection, describing in detail Romney’s reactions to the Capitol being attacked, even as he and his fellow senators were being evacuated.

At some point, Romney’s frustration and anger appears to boil over. As Coppins writes:

He turned to Josh Hawley, who was huddled with some of his right-wing colleagues, and started to yell. Later, Romney would struggle to recall the exact wording of his rebuke. Sometimes he’d remember shouting “You’re the reason this is happening!” Other times, it would be something more terse: “You did this.” At least one reporter in the chamber would recount seeing the senator throw up his hands in a fit of fury as he roared, “This is what you’ve gotten, guys!” Whatever the words, the sentiment was clear: This violence, this crisis, this assault on democracy—this is your fault.

Coppins confirms that Romney was aware of and disapproved of his GOP colleagues’ plan to reject electoral slates and thus perpetuate Trump’s hold on power. Late into the evening on Jan. 6, he had believed that the harrowing Trump-incited assault on his own colleagues’ safety would prompt them to abandon their plans. He was surprised when the unctuous Josh Hawley nevertheless stood up and delivered his speech supporting Trump’s position, a decision that Romney attributes to pure “political calculation.”

But one of the most telling passages excerpted by Coppins addresses not Trump’s first, but his second impeachment, and the refusal of Romney’s fellow Republicans to convict Trump for instigating the insurrection of Jan. 6.

According to Coppins’ account, Romney attributes this to his colleagues’ fear for their personal safety.

But after January 6, a new, more existential brand of cowardice had emerged. One Republican congressman confided to Romney that he wanted to vote for Trump’s second impeachment, but chose not to out of fear for his family’s safety. The congressman reasoned that Trump would be impeached by House Democrats with or without him—why put his wife and children at risk if it wouldn’t change the outcome? Later, during the Senate trial, Romney heard the same calculation while talking with a small group of Republican colleagues. When one senator, a member of leadership, said he was leaning toward voting to convict, the others urged him to reconsider. You can’t do that, Romney recalled someone saying. Think of your personal safety, said another. Think of your children. The senator eventually decided they were right.

Coppins emphasizes that Romney believes his colleagues’ fear was—and is—well-founded. Romney says he began to observe an increasingly “deranged” quality in Republican voters, even among his most loyal constituents back in Utah. As the 2022 election approached, Romney grew increasingly appalled by the MAGA fanaticism exhibited by his party’s senatorial candidates. He regarded J.D Vance of Ohio, whom, as Coppins writes, Romney felt “reinvented his whole persona overnight,” as particularly loathsome.

According to Coppins, “[w]hat Romney couldn’t stomach any longer was associating himself with people who cynically stoked distrust in democracy for selfish political reasons.”

By that point, according to Coppins, Romney had begun to gradually let his colleagues know that he wouldn’t be running again. He briefly toyed with the idea of making a third-party run for president in 2024, but abandoned it after concluding it would more than likely siphon votes from President Joe Biden and possibly lead to a Trump victory. Since then, he has had some discussions about forming a quasi-political party with like-minded “centrists” such as West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, with a view toward ultimately endorsing whichever party’s nominee—Democrat or Republican—aligns most closely with their own views.

Coppins suggests this idea is still in the “brainstorming” stage.

By taking himself out of the running, it appears Romney’s quest for political relevance may be quixotic. But Coppins’ piece in The Atlantic may be the closest thing to a fair assessment of what the modern Republican party actually thinks about Trump, and why it behaves in the sycophantic manner it does.

RELATED STORY: Cheney's jab at 'Putin wing' of the Republican Party is an electoral masterstroke … for Democrats

‘Do your job, bud’: There’s a lot to learn from Fetterman’s takedown of Gaetz

There are lots and lots of legitimate things to criticize Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz over, as the fashion-allergic Sen. John Fetterman clearly knows. So when Gaetz called Fetterman out over his seven (or more) thread-ly sins, Fetterman was prepared.

Haute couture isn’t for everyone, of course. Some people are Beau Brummells and Dapper Dans, while others are more than content to be Dumpster Dons. Gaetz’s own sartorial history suggests he’s keen on dressing for the ladies (and allegedly girls)—when he’s not busy dressing down teens.

And during a recent interview with convicted criminal Steve Bannon—who, ironically, looks like a pair of Kirkland sweatpants trying to screw a sack of mulch—Gaetz launched a few tepid bons mots in Fetterman’s direction. Fetterman responded with a bracing dose of reality for the Lilliputian across the aisle.

Gaetz, in a clearly prewritten monologue (he literally checks his notes about a minute and a half in), seems determined to take down the good senator from Pennsylvania after he mocked House Republicans and their revenge impeachment inquiry earlier in the week.

The evidence against Joe Biden is overwhelming. A first-year law student could win this case for impeachment before a fair jury. Unfortunately, the United States Senate isn’t a fair jury. It’s full of fashion icons like John Fetterman. While the Senate will be the platform,…

— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) September 13, 2023

In over two uninterrupted minutes, Gaetz doesn’t get around to answering Bannon’s question, so here’s a partial transcript, Why? Because I love you.

BANNON: “Congressman Gaetz, I can tell you from my sources around Washington, D.C., they’re blaming you [for the impeachment inquiry]. They’re saying McCarthy was rattled by you. He knew you were going to make the speech today, he knew it was going to be powerful, he knew you would put him on notice, and put him on the clock, and this is why he ran out and made the hostage video. Your response and observations, sir.”

GAETZ: “First of all, that is the best dressed we have ever seen John Fetterman. His shirt had both buttons and the entire pant was not elastic. There were elastic features, but it was not exclusively elastic. And so, I don’t know what tent store he bought that muumuu at, but it appears to be new and I am grateful that he is really upping his game in that regard ...”

BANNON: [Giggles with glee while curb-stomping irony to death with his dandruff-mottled joggin’ Crocs.]

Gaetz then waxes rhapsodic about Biden impeachment bullshit that hasn’t been remotely proven—according to these Republicans, anyway—and, in a weird detour for a Republican, goes after George W. Bush’s WMD lies. Then he doubles down on the fashion insults while predicting the failure of the GOP’s wholly made-up impeachment case: “This is not a hard story to tell. A first-year law student could win this case before a fair jury. Now, the United States Senate isn’t a fair jury. It’s full of great fashion icons like John Fetterman. But I think that the Senate will be the platform, and the American people will be the jury when we put that case on before them.”

Our fearless Fetty minced no words in his response.

Government shutdown in t-minus 16 days. Instead of crying about how I dress, how about you get your shit together and do your job, bud?

— Senator John Fetterman (@SenFettermanPA) September 14, 2023

For the nontweeters:

FETTERMAN: “Government shutdown in t-minus 16 days. Instead of crying about how I dress, how about you get your shit together and do your job, bud?”

Now, if you need the lowdown on why Republicans’ entire impeachment case is naught but frothy horseshit, Daily Kos’ own Mark Sumner dropped his latest wonderful primer on the manufactured allegations on Thursday. Gaetz’s—and the GOP’s—strategy is clear: Muddy the waters among low-information (i.e., Republican) voters enough to make President Joe Biden look corrupt—all so they can shove the most corrupt human on the planet down our throats for another four years.

After all, if everyone’s dishonest, you might as well vote for the one with the most felony convictions.

So instead of getting down into the wonky weeds on this “issue” here, let’s take a cue from Sen. Fetterman, who’s treated the GOP’s disingenuous efforts with the dismissiveness they deserve. 

Again, here was his response—which is also included in the above clip—to questions about the GOP’s fake impeachment push. And it was exactly as snarky and scornful as warranted.

LMAOOOO John Fetterman's reaction to impeachment for the WIN!!!🤣🤣

— BrooklynDad_Defiant!☮️ (@mmpadellan) September 12, 2023

That’s really the only reaction anyone should bother to have over this impeachment nonsense, but even before House Speaker Kevin McCarthy unilaterally announced the launch of a formal impeachment inquiry this week, Fetterman was being unusually blunt about the GOP’s upcoming, and no doubt soon-to-be-disastrous, Fyre Liar Festival.

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On Sept. 6, as Republicans were telegraphing plans for their latest waste of time, Fetterman literally dared them to go ahead with their half-baked schemes.

“Go ahead, do it. I dare you,” Fetterman said. “Your man has what, three or four indictments now? Trump has a mug shot, and he’s been impeached twice.”

Fetterman also correctly noted that the impeachment push “would just be like a big circle jerk on the fringe right” and “would diminish what impeachment really means.”

Well, yeah, that’s at least part of the reason they’re doing this. If impeachment no longer means anything, Trump’s long-demonstrated penchant for double-fisting big, frosty mugs o’ crime might not seem like such a deal-breaker. Nor will his (likely) upcoming felony convictions. 

In fact, Democrats should think about letting Fetterman lead on this issue, if only because he’s a genuine human being who abhors political double-talk and can connect with ordinary voters on a host of real issues. When he says, “Sometimes you just gotta call their bullshit,” people will be more likely to listen than if, say, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says it.

RELATED STORY: Sen. John Fetterman is back—and telling it like it is

And if we hit on the right messaging—with a combination of Fetterman-like bluntness and ordinary, workaday fact-checking—the GOP’s impeachment push might end up pushing them right off the table, as happened to the party following Newt & co.’s dogged pursuit of Bill Clinton in the ‘90s

NBC News, Sept. 6:

Some vulnerable Republicans ... are skeptical about opening an impeachment inquiry.

Fetterman said impeachment would be a political "loser" for House Republicans, along with the looming threat of a government shutdown if they can't reach a funding deal before the end of the month.

“I’m just tired of a couple of them over there, talking like they’re hard a--es," Fetterman said. "They just keep pushing it.”

Yeah, they do, and they’re clearly not being honest about their motivations. Luckily Sen. Fetterman is here to push their lying faces in their own barmy bullshit. Let’s join him!

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Donald Trump is digging his own political grave with that mugshot

In his pre-recorded interview with Donald Trump, broadcast Wednesday evening via his Twitter (now “X’) platform to intentionally conflict with the GOP’s presidential debate, Tucker Carlson could barely contain himself. Over and over, he relentlessly questioned Trump about the prospect for violent action in response to Trump’s ever-increasing pile of indictments.   

As reported by Isaac Arnsdorf, writing for the Washington Post, even when it became clear that Trump (no doubt after being advised by his attorneys that any incendiary verbal outbursts were incompatible with his precarious position as as criminal defendant) was not actually taking the bait, Carlson still persisted.

“The next stage is violence,” Carlson said. “Are you worried they’re going to try to kill you? Why wouldn’t they try to kill you?

Trump did not directly answer. Carlson tried again later. “If you chart it out it’s an escalation,” Carlson said, recounting the two impeachments and four indictments against Trump. “So what’s next? They’re trying to put you in prison for the rest of your life, that’s not working. So don’t they have to kill you now?” Trump again avoided answering directly.

At the conclusion of the 46-minute interview, Carlson returned to the subject of potential violence. “Do you think we’re moving toward civil war?” he said. “Do you think it’s possible that there’s open conflict?”

“I don’t know,” Trump said.

But by Thursday evening, Trump’s coy (and decidedly out-of-character) reticence regarding violence had yielded to reality. The grim and threatening mugshot Trump presented when faced with the uncomfortable situation of being booked for criminal charges at Fulton County’s jail revealed an attitude in stark contrast with his prior restraint to Carlson’s crude goading.

Thanks to the unusually harsh warnings he has already received from Judge Chutkan in the federal indictment filed against him in Washington D.C.,  Trump knows by now that explicit appeals to violence — towards witnesses or otherwise —  can land him in serious trouble. But while an unthinking, honest and on-the-record answer to Carlson’s leading questions might have legitimately threatened Trump’s continued personal  freedom, a mugshot by definition is left to the eye of the beholder. The mugshot, unmistakably aimed solely at his voting base, served as the message Trump really wanted to send: That it’s OK for his supporters to become violent on his behalf, even if he wasn’t willing to risk his own skin by actively promoting such violence.

The problem that Trump faces, however — and the reason his strategy will backfire — is that far more Americans are repelled by actual violence than they are attracted to hypothetical, imagined violence. 

Because it is so unpredictable and disruptive, violence is the antithesis of the methodical, punctilious, institutional order of our criminal justice system. Consequently, Trump, whose mentality and worldview have been informed by exploiting the weaknesses of American institutions (including the judiciary) believes that constantly ginning up the threat of violence is his best chance to fracture (and ultimately) escape that system, with its tools now so formidably deployed against him. It’s unlikely, however, that Special Counsel Jack Smith or Fulton County District attorney Fani Willis are going to be swayed by a scary mugshot. Trump’s only purpose in staging such a provocative pose was to inflame his supporters (or possibly the jury pool), hoping that somehow, some way, they will save him from the criminal convictions he now faces.

Trump came to power in the first place because there was — and still is — is a large bloc of voters who respond favorably to his authoritarian, “strong-man” pretense. The reaction by one Trump supporter, interviewed for an article by Shane Goldmacher, writing for the New York Times, and explaining a Times/Siena college poll of Republican “likely voter” preferences, is typical:

“He might say mean things and make all the men cry because all the men are wearing your wife’s underpants and you can’t be a man anymore,” David Green, 69, a retail manager in Somersworth, N.H., said of Mr. Trump. “You got to be a little sissy and cry about everything. But at the end of the day, you want results. Donald Trump’s my guy. He’s proved it on a national level.”

It’s people like Mr. Green who Trump hopes to impress by that menacing mugshot, the ones who will identify with Trump’s faux air of obstinacy and strength, who see Trump as a reflection of their own resentments and prejudices. And with poll after poll showing Americans — particularly conservative Americans --  increasingly voicing their willingness to condone political violence, it’s understandable how Trump could believe that these attitudes could be harnessed for his benefit (for Trump, cultivating a perception that he finds violence acceptable is also key to his ability to fundraise, and he and others will be monetizing this image ad nauseum, but that is a separate issue).

But the “conventional wisdom” that Americans are willing to tolerate violence, even violence performed towards others of a different political persuasion, is demonstrably countered by those who place a higher value on tranquility and stability in their own lives. The country Trump and his supporters evidently envision is one in which roaming gangs of his supporters dominate the streets, imposing their will on a helpless populace: A world where law and order are effectively ignored. This type of world might well appeal to the keyboard commandos who populate right-wing social media, but as one study shows, while voters when polled markedly overstate their tolerance for ambiguously stated, generic political  violence, their actual reaction to specific, violent acts is quite different.

In fact, as that research paper points out:

[E]ven though segments of the public may support violence or report that it is justified in the abstract, nearly all respondents still believe that perpetrators of well-defined instances of severe political violence should be criminally charged.

The plain fact is that voters have already weighed in — twice, actually  — on how they feel about the threats issued by Trump and his most virulent supporters. Further actions by Trump’s violent base won’t change that basic equation. That doesn’t mean there won’t be violence if and when Trump is convicted of anything. In fact, the record so far of “near misses” in this year alone confirms that there will most definitely be specific acts of violence from Trump supporters, some of whom will be influenced by this mugshot and Trump’s continued heedless antics on social media. Assuming the walls continue to close in on Trump, the tone of violent rhetoric from his backers can be expected to increase.

The record of the last two elections, however, suggests that this escalation won’t matter, and not simply because, as pointed out by research professor Christian Davenport in an interview conducted for an article by by NPR, “People will say a great number of things on a poll,” but never actually act on their professed beliefs.

Because Americans already have experience with Trump threatening their lives, and they’ve rendered their verdict multiple times. The abysmal and malevolent response by Trump and his Republican enablers to the COVID-19 pandemic was probably the singular factor in voters’ decision to reject Trump in 2020. Likewise, voters — Democrats and Independents alike — uniformly rejected those Republican candidates who modelled their own campaigns in 2022 on Trump’s election lies.  Those lies were inextricably associated with violence performed with breathtaking visibility, in an unprecedented, violent assault at our nation’s capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. For Trump, but more importantly for those who oppose Trump, his claims of a “stolen” election are now equated with raw violence from his supporters, and the majority of Americans clearly have expressed their reaction: They don’t appreciate it,  they don’t like it, and they don’t want it, no matter what Tucker Carlson may say.

It may be difficult for Republican voters to comprehend— ensconced as they are in their alternative universe silos of disinformation — but by any objective standards, the 2022 election should have been an electoral wipeout for Democrats. Adding to the historical recurrence of a president’s party losing control of Congress in a midterm election, inflation at the time was still at unprecedented levels. Gas prices were still high, if gradually coming down. Abortion rights were suddenly on the ballot, however, and Trumpian candidates were still peddling the same nonsense — including threats of violence. Then, as now, the Republican party was unable or unwilling  to separate itself from Trump.

There is no reason to expect that the political landscape will be much, if at all, different in a year from now, except Trump may have actually been convicted of some or all of the 91 felony counts currently pending against him. No white knight is going to come riding in to save the day for them. Abortion will still be a major factor. But for Republicans, it will be still be Trump, Trump, Trump, all the time, except this time saddled with the baggage of multiple criminal indictments and probably an even larger tally of violent and (literally) repulsive actions from his most rabid supporters. Those actions didn’t work to dissuade voters in 2020, they didn’t work in 2022, and they’re not going to work in 2024.

Next year, however, every time a violent act from some Trump-spouting psychopath occurs, Americans won’t need to search their memories for the reasons they voted the way they did in the prior two elections. This time, all Americans will have the benefit of a clear, distinct and unforgettable photograph in the back of their minds, when they are once again called on to vote. Trump evidently hopes Americans will be too scared or intimidated by his followers to re-elect president Biden. The record simply shows that they won’t.

Wisconsin Republicans ask newly elected liberal justice to not hear redistricting case

Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature asked that the newest Democratic-backed justice on the state Supreme Court recuse herself from lawsuits seeking to overturn GOP-drawn electoral maps, arguing that she has prejudged the cases.

Republicans argue in their motions filed with the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday and made public Wednesday that Justice Janet Protasiewicz can't fairly hear the cases because during her campaign for the seat earlier this year she called the Republican-drawn maps “unfair” and “rigged” and said there needs to be “a fresh look at the gerrymandering question.”

“Justice Protasiewicz’s campaign statements reveal that her thumb is very much on the scale in this case,” Republicans argue in their motion with the court.

Protasiewicz, who was backed by Democrats in her winning election in April, never said how she would rule on a redistricting lawsuit. She never committed to recusing herself from hearing the case. Her win gave liberals a 4-3 majority on the court.

Protasiewicz did promise to recuse herself from any case brought by the Wisconsin Democratic Party because it donated nearly $10 million to her campaign. There are two pending redistricting lawsuits, neither of which was brought by the Democratic Party.

However, the Republican-led Legislature argues that because Democrats would benefit from a redrawing of the maps, Protasiewicz must recuse herself from hearing the case. Staying on the case would violate Republicans' constitutional due process rights, they argue.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said that if Protasiewicz does not recuse herself from the redistricting case, he would look into pursuing her impeachment. Republicans have a two-thirds majority in the state Senate, which would be enough votes to remove Protasiewicz from office should the Assembly vote to impeach. However, her replacement would be named by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

Protasiewicz began her 10-year term in August. That week, two similar redistricting lawsuits were filed. The Legislature is seeking to intervene in both lawsuits and have Protasiewicz recuse herself from both.

Protasiewicz did not respond to a request for comment left with a court spokesperson.

Attorneys who brought the two redistricting cases had no immediate comment.

Wisconsin’s Assembly districts rank among the most gerrymandered nationally, with Republicans routinely winning far more seats than would be expected based on their average share of the vote, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Both lawsuits ask that all 132 state lawmakers be up for election that year in newly drawn districts. In Senate districts that are midway through a four-year term in 2024, there would be a special election, with the winners serving two years. The regular four-year cycle would resume again in 2026.

One lawsuit was filed on behalf of voters who support Democrats by Law Forward, a Madison-based liberal law firm, the Stafford Rosenbaum law firm, Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School, Campaign Legal Center, and the Arnold & Porter law firm.

The other case was brought by voters who support Democratic candidates and several members of the Citizen Mathematicians and Scientists. That group of professors and research scientists submitted proposed legislative maps in 2022, before the state Supreme Court adopted the Republican-drawn ones.