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Ranking the Senate’s Three Johns, From Horrible to Absolute Worst

So far, the main contenders to replace Mitch McConnell are all men named John. What differentiates them?

John Barrasso, John Thune, and John Cornyn stand behind Mitch McConnell
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Republicans have until the end of the year to replace Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who announced Wednesday he will step down as the longest serving Senate leader in American history. But that hasn’t stopped GOP lawmakers from clamoring about who would take his place.

So far, the candidate pool is (perhaps unsurprisingly) looking a little monotonous, with the top three contenders all old, white men named John. They include Minority Whip John Thune, former whip John Cornyn, and GOP Conference Chair John Barrasso.

HORRIBLE: John Thune

At 63 years old, the South Dakota senator is the youngest of the bunch. He’s also reputed to be the current favorite and most moderate of the three Johns, supporting sending more aid to Ukraine—a stance that soured many more extreme Republicans on McConnell.

Thune also has a long history of going head to head with Trump, initially endorsing Senator Tim Scott in the GOP presidential primaries over the former president, surviving a round of primary threats from Trump, and roundly criticizing him for interfering in the 2020 presidential election results. At the time, Thune argued that the former president’s efforts to “undermine faith in our election system and disrupt the peaceful transfer of power is inexcusable.”

WORSE: John Cornyn

The path to GOP leadership for the Texas senator is not as clear as it would have been two years ago, according to senior Republican aides. Out of the trio, Cornyn is the only candidate not currently in the inner sanctum of Republican leadership—though his resume is long. Previously, the 72-year-old served as the conference’s whip from 2013 to 2019. He also served as a committee chairman and has chaired the Senate GOP’s campaign arm two times.

Cornyn offers the party a goldilocks solution between Thune and Barrasso—he is a Trump skeptic capable of the kind of quintessential bipartisan deal-making that modern conservatives appear to loathe. In 2022, Cornyn worked with Democrats to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act after the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, putting some of the strongest gun restrictions on the books since the 1990s.

ABSOLUTE WORST: John Barrasso

The 71-year-old is the third-highest ranking senator in the GOP. Barrasso is a strong Donald Trump ally who became the second member of the upper chamber to endorse the GOP frontrunner for 2024. The Wyoming Republican could easily be considered the most conservative of the three Johns on sale. That could win him favor with a growing Trump base within the U.S. legislature, who have voiced that they would prefer a dark-horse candidate over more of the same—that is, another McConnell.

Out of the three, Barrasso is the only one lingering on whether to announce his official candidacy.

“There’s a much more important election between now and then,” he told Politico on Wednesday, referring to the general election. “And that’s the election we need to take the presidency and the Senate and the House, and that’s where my focus is.”

It remains to be seen if Trump’s favor will help—or hurt—any of the candidates.

“Trump’s support would definitely help with some senators, but it cuts the other way too,” a senior GOP leadership aide told The Daily Beast. “It probably helps more than it hurts, but this is a closed-door, secret ballot election. It’s really not like some local primary where everyone is waiting to hear from Trump.”

Ultimately, whoever wins will need the backing of about 25 senators. “Either Cornyn or Thune could probably get there with or without Trump’s endorsement,” the aide said.

But with so much time before decisions have to be made, most Senators appear to have no clear favorites.

“Listen, I don’t have a favorite candidate—I’m persuadable,” Senator Josh Hawley told Politico.

More on McConnell’s potential successor:

Hypocrite Mike Johnson Is Fooling No One with his IVF Stance

Johnson all but ran away when pressed on his past actions regarding IVF.

Mike Johnson looks forward
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Please don’t ask House Speaker Mike Johnson about his stance on IVF. It’s hard for him to give a comprehensible answer.

The far-right speaker struggled Thursday to answer a question about in vitro fertilization, which has taken center stage following an Alabama Supreme Court ruling earlier this month that determined frozen embryos can in fact be considered children.

“On IVF, do you favor a bill to protect IVF and do you believe discarding embryos is murder?” a reporter asked Johnson.

“Look, I believe in the sanctity of every human life. I always have. And because of that, I support IVF and its availability,” Johnson began.

“If you look at the statistics, it’s really an amazing thing. Since the technology became available in I think the 70s, maybe the mid-70s, an estimated eight million births in the U.S. have been brought about because of that technology,” he continued. “So it needs to be readily available, it needs to be something that every American supports, and it needs to be handled in an ethical manner.”

“I don’t think there’s a single person in the Republican conference who disagrees with that statement and there’s a lot of misunderstanding about it, but it’s something I think we ought to support.”

Well, there’s at least one person who disagrees with that statement: Mike Johnson.

Like many other anti-abortion lawmakers, Johnson has a long record of arguing that life begins “from the moment of fertilization.” And that’s the exact same logic the Alabama Supreme Court used when ruling that even embryos created through in-vitro fertilization are protected under the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act.

Johnson has used this logic to oppose nearly every form of reproductive rights, including contraception. Along with most other Republicans in the House, Johnson has also co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, which would grant legal personhood to fertilized eggs.

The Alabama ruling has already pushed at least three fertility clinics in the state to put a pause on IVF. A major embryo shipping company has also paused business, making it harder for Alabamans who’ve already started the IVF process to now seek that care out of state. The Life at Conception Act would give legal personhood to every fertilized egg much like the Alabama ruling, and thus it would have a very similar effect on restricting IVF—but on a national scale.

Shortly after becoming House speaker in November, Johnson was asked about his previous records on legislation against fertility treatments.

“I’m not sure what they’re talking about,” Johnson conveniently replied. “I don’t really remember any of those measures.”

Similarly, when the reporter tried to ask Johnson on Thursday whether he supports any legislation to protect the right to IVF, he quickly ended the press conference.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, blocked a bill to protect IVF treatment late Wednesday.

How Long Can the Corrupt Supreme Court Delay Trump’s Immunity Trial?

The Supreme Court’s decision to hear Donald Trump’s immunity case is slowing everything down.

Donald Trump stands while holding his fist in the air
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Supreme Court has said it will hear the case on whether former President Donald Trump can claim presidential immunity to get out of his federal election interference trial.

But that announcement, which came Wednesday, has legal experts concerned about how this could just be a delay tactic by the Supreme Court and its three Trump-appointed justices.

Until the Supreme Court issues its final decision on Trump’s immunity claim, the federal trial over Trump’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 election—overseen by Judge Tanya Chutkan and originally scheduled to begin next week—will remain on hold.

Legal analyst Lisa Rubin explained on MSNBC Thursday just how much the Supreme Court’s decision shifts back the timeline for when Trump could finally be in a courtroom and potentially face justice over his actions around the 2020 election.

“When Donald Trump’s case was paused to allow for further consideration of the immunity issue, there were 88 days left till trial,” Rubin said. “Judge Chutkan has publicly committed herself to giving Donald Trump around seven months to prepare for trial. So we have to assume that she takes that 88 day remainder fairly seriously. She has also said … that this is a trial that will take around three months. So you have to build into the calendar that 88 days plus 90 days to try the case, if you think that this is going to happen before the election.”

“And that’s why folks like me are asking the Supreme Court, why didn’t you write like you’re running out of time?” she continued. “Because time is quickly elapsing here.”

The Supreme Court has said it will hear arguments beginning the week of April 22.

While many legal experts agree that the Supreme Court will likely strike down Trump’s presidential immunity claim, as Rubin explained, they have different opinions on how quickly they think the Supreme Court will actually issue that decision after hearing the case.

Neal Katyal, the former acting U.S. solicitor general, thinks the decision will come pretty quickly, perhaps by early May. But if we consider Rubin’s math, even in the most sped-up version of the timeline, Trump wouldn’t face a decision in the federal election interference trial until early November. The 2024 election is on November 5.

The Supreme Court’s term usually ends at the end of June or early July. If the court waits until then to issue its ruling, the timeline looks even worse.

Former appeals court Judge Michael Luttig predicted that it is “unimaginable” that Trump will be tried in special counsel Jack Smith’s federal election interference trial before the 2024 election.

Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe also warned that the delay we’ve seen thus far “is just the beginning.”

“If [the Supreme Court] really had any interest in expedition, any interest in satisfying the public need to get this trial going and to have a verdict one way or the other before the election, they would have asked a narrower question,” Tribe told MSNBC Wednesday night. “They would have simply asked whether a president charged with criminally seeking to remain in office beyond the end of his term has absolute immunity from prosecution or crimes committed in that vein. That would have been the right question to ask, and it could have only had one answer.”

Of course, the Supreme Court’s scope in hearing the case is much broader—and it won’t even begin considering the many questions of immunity until April.

As a reminder, Trump’s immunity claim is so outlandish that it has been struck down by two courts already. At one point, his lawyers even tried to argue that a president would be immune from criminal prosecution if he ordered the assassination of a political rival, so long as Congress did not vote to impeach him first.

Guess Which Crooked GOPer Didn’t Even Listen to Hunter Biden’s Testimony?

Hunter Biden’s testimony did not appear to go as planned.

James Comer speaks into microphones
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Moments after the end of Hunter Biden’s closed-door deposition, Republicans signaled that the seemingly endless impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden had finally started to wrap up.

By all means, Wednesday did not look like a success for Republicans, who were roundly accused of ignoring evidence supporting the president’s innocence and pushing a double standard by refusing to examine the term-specific financial gains of former President Donald Trump, who “openly pocketed” money from his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s business dealings—including a $2 billion deal with a Saudi crown prince and Trump ally.

But none of that seemed to linger on the minds of the Republicans leading the probe, who hours later could only seem to remember that the hearing had proved extremely damaging for the Biden family—which, frankly, makes sense considering they hardly attended.

In an interview on Fox News’s Hannity, House Oversight Chair James Comer, Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, and Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith—who have led the charge against the Biden family—refused to acknowledge the startling truth.

“On a scale of one through 10, how damaging was today’s testimony—or deposition—to Hunter Biden?” asked Hannity.

“Well I would say that they’re pretty good at not recalling many things so I’d say an eight,” said Smith.

Oversight Democrats Communications Director Nelly Decker later pointed out that Smith was not present for the deposition.

“I’d say an eight,” Comer replied curtly, failing to admit that he had left the deposition early and didn’t ask a single question of the witness at the very center of their impeachment probe.

Tweet from Eric Swalwell

“Sean, Sean, I think it was very good for us,” Jordan said. “As I said I think we got a lot of information that we can use if in fact we have a public hearing as Chairman Comer has talked about.”

Republicans are preparing for a public hearing with Hunter Biden—though that was the format that the president’s son has demanded since at least December, when he risked a contempt of Congress charge by refusing the first closed-door invitation. Now we can see why.

Freedom Caucus to McConnell: Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out

The far-right wing of the House is overjoyed Mitch McConnell is stepping down from Senate leadership.

Mitch McConnell stands in profile next to an American flag
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

The far-right House Freedom Caucus couldn’t hide its glee after Mitch McConnell announced that he’ll step down as Senate minority leader by the end of the year.

The 82-year-old Kentucky Republican said Wednesday he’ll resign from his leadership position by November, and the Freedom Caucus responded by calling him a RINO.

“Our thoughts are with our Democrat colleagues in the Senate on the retirement of their Co-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-Ukraine),” the caucus wrote in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, clearly labeling McConnell a Democrat.

“No need to wait till November,” the statement continued. “Senate Republicans should IMMEDIATELY elect a *Republican* Minority Leader.”

A tweet from the House Freedom Caucus

Perhaps this statement shouldn’t be a huge surprise from the far-right caucus, which has bullied House Republicans into adopting more extreme stances at every turn. Most of the members who blocked former Representative Kevin McCarthy’s first bid for the speakership in January 2023 were members of the Freedom Caucus. And seven of the so-called “Gaetz Eight” representatives who successfully kicked out McCarthy just nine months later were also members of the caucus.

More recently, the group has pressured House Speaker Mike Johnson to resist voting on the border deal and on Ukraine aid, in line with the wishes of former President Donald Trump. McConnell, meanwhile, had tried to rally Senate Republicans in support of the legislation.

All this to say: It makes sense that the Freedom Caucus is excited by McConnell’s departure. But calling McConnell—the man who blocked campaign finance reform and helped Donald Trump appoint conservative judges and reshape the courts for decades to come—a RINO is truly next level.

McConnell’s decision to step down, and the Freedom Caucus’s immediate response, is a sign of where the Republican Party is headed. And it’s not looking good.

“Believe me, I know the politics within my party at this particular moment in time,” McConnell said during his resignation speech Wednesday. “I have many faults. Misunderstanding politics is not one of them.”

Another State May Kick Trump Off Its Ballot for Insurrection

A third state has determined Trump is ineligible to run for president.

Donald Trump leans towards a microphone
Kent Nishimura/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Donald Trump could be about to get kicked off another state’s 2024 ballot.

An Illinois judge ruled Wednesday that Trump’s name should be removed from the ballot because he engaged in insurrection on January 6, 2021. Illinois is now the third state to try to punish Trump for trying to overthrow the 2020 election, following similar decisions in Colorado and Maine.

“Based on engaging in insurrection on January 6, 2021 ... his name should be removed from the ballot,” Cook County Circuit Judge Tracie Porter wrote in her ruling.

For now, Trump hasn’t actually been removed from Illinois’s ballot. Porter put her ruling on hold until Friday, knowing that Trump’s legal team would likely try to appeal the decision to the Illinois appellate or the Supreme Court. That means Trump will appear on the ballot at least until then.

Porter also said her ruling would remain on hold if the Supreme Court hands down a ruling “inconsistent” with hers in the Colorado case it is currently hearing.

Another important note: Early voting in Illinois’s March 19 primary has already started. And Trump is still on that primary ballot. So for now, no real changes have occurred at the ballot box, and voters can cast their vote for Trump.

Trump, of course, has promised to appeal this decision as soon as possible.

“Today, an activist Democrat judge in Illinois summarily overruled the state’s Board of Elections and contradicted earlier decisions from dozens of other state and federal jurisdictions,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement Wednesday.

With the decision in Illinois, that makes three states that have ruled that Trump violated the Fourteenth Amendment when he tried to overthrow our democracy. We’ll see if other states choose to follow that path and whether the rest of America agrees in November.

Supreme Court Throws Huge Wrench Into Trump Trial Schedule

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Donald Trump’s case on whether he has presidential immunity.

Donald Trump stands with his hands clasped
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Supreme Court—with its three Trump-appointed justices—agreed Wednesday to weigh in on whether former President Donald Trump can claim presidential immunity to get out of his federal election interference trial.

The court announced in a brief order that it would hear arguments and issue a ruling on Trump’s presidential immunity claim. Until the Supreme Court does so, the January 6 trial is completely on hold, according to the order.

The high court agreed to expedite the case and hear arguments the week of April 22, more than a month after the Super Tuesday primaries. It’s not clear why the case is beginning in April. It could take months before we get an actual ruling—potentially by June at the earliest.

If the Supreme Court decides quickly to reject Trump’s bold immunity claim, it may permit a final trial on the 2020 election interference to occur later this summer or fall. But there’s no guarantee a final decision will actually come before November.

Former appeals court Judge Michael Luttig predicted that it is now probably “unimaginable” that Trump will be tried in special counsel Jack Smith’s federal election interference trial before the 2024 election.

Trump views the Supreme Court’s order on Wednesday as a win “for now,” one source told CNN.

Many legal experts do expect the Supreme Court to rule against Trump’s immunity claim, but Trump’s entire strategy in his legal cases thus far has been to delay, delay, delay. And the Supreme Court’s order Wednesday helps him do just that. The Supreme Court could have decided to weigh in on this case sooner, but by the time the federal election interference trial returns to Judge Tanya Chutkan’s court, Trump’s legal team could try a new excuse to get out of the whole thing: that it’s too close to an election to hear this case now.

The federal election interference trial was originally scheduled to begin on March 4, a date that certainly won’t happen now.

Trump has repeatedly tried to claim presidential immunity to get out of his federal election interference case. At one point, his legal team even tried to argue that a president would be immune from criminal prosecution if he ordered Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival, as long as Congress did not vote to impeach him first.

That argument didn’t hold up in a Washington, D.C., appeals court, which ruled earlier this month that Trump did not have “presidential immunity” when he tried to overthrow the 2020 election.

Trump’s first criminal trial, the New York hush-money case, is set to begin on March 25.

Hunter Biden Drags Republicans for Double Standard on Jared Kushner

Hunter Biden pointed out Republicans’ apparent indifference about Jared Kushner’s foreign business dealings.

Hunter Biden walks while flanked by two men
Kent Nishimura/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Hunter Biden brilliantly exposed Republican hypocrisy during his closed-door deposition on Wednesday with one simple question.

“How come they’re not curious about the $2 billion Jared Kushner got from the Saudis?” the younger Biden reportedly asked House lawmakers.

Democratic Representative Dan Goldman explained during a break in testimony that Biden was highlighting the difference “between what he has done in a business world with independent businessmen, versus foreign governments, which he did not do any business with—unlike Jared Kushner.”

Representative Jamie Raskin also said the questioning was largely cordial Wednesday morning, but Hunter Biden became more “assertive” when discussing the Kushner double standard.

“He may be a little bit frustrated by some of the double standards relating to Jared Kushner and money that’s just been openly pocketed by Donald Trump in office,” Raskin said. “And Jared Kushner of course brought back $2 billion from Saudi Arabia. And all of that has been a part of the conversation, and he was assertive about that.”

It’s a smart point to bring up, and one that begs repeating as we get closer to November. Shortly after he left the White House, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of former President Trump, accepted at least $2 billion from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That money went directly to Kushner’s new private equity firm, Affinity Partners. According to the original documents, The New York Times reported, in return for their hefty investment, the Saudis would receive at least a 28 percent stake in Kushner’s firm and be recognized as a “cornerstone” investor.

If that wasn’t concerning enough, a later report from The Intercept revealed that the pitch from Affinity Partners focused almost entirely on Kushner’s official roles in the Trump administration and the potential political connections he could offer the Saudi investors in return for their investment. Perhaps none of this is a huge surprise, given that during the Trump years, MBS reportedly bragged about having Kushner “in his pocket.”

The whole thing reeks so badly of corruption that even House Oversight Chair James Comer warned last year that Kushner “crossed the line of ethics,” before he suddenly renewed his focus on supposed Biden corruption and the GOP impeachment crusade that’s going nowhere.

On Wednesday, that fruitless impeachment quest hit another dead end with Hunter Biden’s deposition, as Republicans seemed to come up with virtually no new evidence.

“Hunter Biden is being defiant and also dishonest,” Republican Representative Nancy Mace told reporters in the middle of Biden’s deposition. “I would tell you that his testimony is in direct conflict with other witnesses that so far the House Oversight has interviewed.”

After a reporter asked which witnesses Mace exactly was referring to, she quickly ended her impromptu press conference.

“You’ll read the transcript. I’m not going to go into details,” Mace replied before walking away. She declined to specify whether Hunter’s testimony conflicted with statements from the indicted Chinese foreign agent or the man who reportedly confessed to spreading Russian disinformation.

Republicans' progress on the Biden investigation:

You Won’t Believe Mike Johnson’s Wild Plan to Avoid a Government Shutdown

The House speaker seems to think one week is enough time to get Democrats and Republicans to agree.

Mike Johnson walks away from the White House
Roberto Schmidt/Getty Images

Lawmakers had until Friday to do their primary job and coordinate a spending package to continue funding the government and avoid a partial shutdown. But now, that’s next week’s problem.

House leadership have indicated that they plan to vote Thursday on a one-week continuing resolution, and will use next week to vote on a combined five to seven appropriation bills, according to Fox News’s White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich.

But have no fear: Despite wasting the better part of nearly six months on in-party bickering, holding foreign aid measures hostage in exchange for a more aggressive border deal, and subsequently nixing that too, at the behest of Donald Trump, Republicans seem incredibly confident that they can get it done on time.

“We are not going to shut the government down,” House Speaker Mike Johnson told Fox News reporter Chad Pergram on Wednesday.

“We’re going to keep it moving forward with all the good work of all the committees and everyone who has been engaged with this for weeks will come together in due course,” he continued.

“Is there enough time to get this done?” asked Pergram.

“Yeah. There’s enough time,” Johnson said briskly.

A stopgap bill “would be part of a larger agreement to finish a number of appropriations bills, ensuring adequate time for drafting text and for members to review prior to casting votes,” a spokeswoman for Johnson told The New York Times.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats appeared optimistic at the relative progress, claiming the parties were on the verge of a deal for a budget that was supposed to close in October.

“We continue to make very good progress on an agreement, and we are very close to getting it done,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday morning, following an “intense” three-on-one meeting at the White House in which Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries ganged up on the freshman speaker. Schumer, McConnell, and Jeffries urged Johnson to find some sort of solution to avoid a shutdown.

“I’m hopeful that the four leaders can reach this agreement very soon so we can not only avoid a shutdown on Friday, but get closer to finishing the appropriations process altogether,” he added later.

Billionaire Donald Trump Can’t Post His New York Fraud Bond

The former president’s lawyers offered an 1,800-page explanation for why he shouldn’t have to pay up.

Donald Trump stands in front of a large American flag
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

For all his bravado about his fabulous wealth, Donald Trump clearly doesn’t have the cash to handle his legal comeuppance.

On Wednesday, the former president counter-offered his now $454 million penalty in his New York civil fraud trial, suggesting instead that he could post a $100 million bond until his appeal concludes.

In a nearly 1,800-page court filing, Trump’s attorneys argued that it would be “impossible” to secure a bond covering the full amount of the multimillion-dollar ruling.

“The exorbitant and punitive amount of the Judgment coupled with an unlawful and unconstitutional blanket prohibition on lending transactions would make it impossible to secure and post a complete bond,” Trump’s lawyers wrote, instead suggesting that Trump’s New York real estate could be used as collateral should he lose his appeal.

It’s unclear why Trump—who reportedly holds roughly $600 million in liquid assets—is struggling to pay off his legal debts, especially with all the help from his newly launched sneaker campaign and a fan-funded GoFundMe. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. New York Attorney General Letitia James has said that she would seize some of his assets if he can’t muster the moolah.

“If he does not have funds to pay off the judgment, then we will seek judgment enforcement mechanisms in court, and we will ask the judge to seize his assets,” James told ABC last week.

Justice Arthur Engoron had originally slapped a $354 million fine on Trump for committing real estate–related fraud in New York, but by last week, that sum had grown to $454.2 million thanks to added interest, which is tacking on an additional $112,000 with each passing day.

The penalty also came with an addendum that Trump cannot serve as an officer or director of a New York company for three years, including his own Trump Organization. His two adult sons were also penalized by the ruling: They’ll have to stay out of New York business for two years. All in all, Trump will owe roughly $354 million for the real estate–related fraud. His two sons will owe $4 million each.

They will also be prevented from obtaining loans from any New York financial institutes for three years.