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Merrick Garland Calls Republicans’ Bluff With Hunter Biden Special Counsel

Republicans claimed a special counsel was all that was needed to prove Biden corruption. Well, now there is one.

Hunter Biden
Julia Nikhinson/Sipa/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday that he has appointed a special counsel to oversee the investigation into Hunter Biden—but in doing so, he has annihilated several main Republican talking points.

Republicans have accused the Justice Department of dragging its feet on investigating the younger Biden for alleged tax fraud. They insist the department gave Biden a “sweetheart” plea deal and denied special counsel status to Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who oversaw the investigation.

So Garland has responded … by granting special counsel status to Weiss, whom he noted hadn’t even asked about it until this week.

“In a July 2023 letter to Congress, Mr. Weiss said that he had not to that point requested special counsel designation,” Garland told a press conference. “On Tuesday of this week, Mr. Weiss advised me that in his judgment, his investigation had reached a stage at which he should continue his work as a special counsel … I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint him as special counsel.”

It may seem like Garland and Weiss are caving to Republican demands, but in reality, they are obliterating them. By making Weiss special counsel, Garland has fully insulated the investigation from accusations of government interference. Garland will now be required to inform Congress if he or the president for some reason were to block the investigation or potential indictments in any way.

Garland and Weiss are also making clear that the latter only just requested special counsel status. Republicans have repeatedly cited testimony from two IRS agents, who insist that Weiss did not have final say on whether charges would be filed. One of the agents, Gary Shapley, also claimed Weiss said he had been blocked from pursuing charges in D.C.—where Hunter supposedly committed his most serious crimes—and that the Justice Department would not grant him special counsel status, which would have let him bring charges outside his jurisdiction.

Weiss has repeatedly smacked down Shapley’s claims, in the July letter Garland referred to and in a previous letter to House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan. Weiss, a Trump appointee, said in the second letter that he would have been granted special counsel status “if it proved necessary.”

Apparently, that status proves necessary now (could it be because people won’t shut up about him not having special counsel status?). Weiss had negotiated Biden’s original plea deal, in which the much-embattled First Son would have pled guilty to two misdemeanor charges of tax evasion and participate in a pretrial program for a gun offense, allowing him to avoid jail time. Republicans, of course, hated that plea deal, and celebrated when it fell apart last month.

But for now, Republicans will have to find another talking point about Justice Department “corruption” stopping any investigation.

WHO Head on Hawaii: This Is the “New Normal.” Actually, “Normal” No Longer Exists.

The extreme weather caused by climate change is upending our understanding of reality.

An aerial image of Lahaina in Western Maui, Hawaii
An aerial image of Lahaina in Western Maui, Hawaii, on August 10

Wildfires in Hawaii have now claimed at least 55 lives. One thousand more are still missing. Blazes leveled large parts of Western Maui, home to the original kingdom of Hawaii and the ancestral land of the Kānaka Maoli.

The drumbeat of climate disasters this summer have had many asking whether heatwaves, fires, and floods are signs of a “new normal” in an overheating world. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, suggested as much in a tweet on Thursday:

The phrase has also been thrown around liberally by politicians and major news outlets, including the The New York Times, looking to describe this summer’s extreme weather.

As experts have routinely pointed out, though, the climate crisis doesn’t promise a new normal so much as the abolition of normal as a means to understand our reality. There are a few things to expect: More people will become acquainted with tragedies they might have thought were confined to certain parts of the world, like when smoke from unprecedented Canadian wildfires blanketed the East Coast. There will be more instances of weather-induced mass death in the news. Climate science doesn’t broadcast a list of coming attractions so much as it coheres more and more data as reality unfolds, offering slightly more useful pictures of what might come next.

Many of the horrors climate change will fuel over the coming decades are the result of emissions unleashed before many of us were born; the payoff for climate actions taken now might not be realized until after we’re dead. For those feeling helpless in the face of climate-fueled tragedies, weary of the mismatch between the difficulty of emissions reductions and the destruction happening around us, there are some more proximate changes to work toward too.

Deep decarbonizarion is essential. Climate change consistently hits the poorest and (typically) least white corners of society hardest. The climate anxious among us—especially those with the capacity to donate and organize—might do well to push for more affordable housing and awarding tenants more power, while also taxing real estate magnates who make homes unaffordable and displace people. Building an economy that’s more welcoming to residents than tourists is every bit as essential to navigating the twenty-first century as cutting carbon.

There is no normal when it comes to climate change, but plenty of norms dictating governments’ response to it that can be upended.

“Disgusting”: Democratic Lawmakers Call on Corrupt Clarence Thomas to Resign

The Supreme Court justice is facing growing calls for his resignation, as reports of his “corrupt as hell” lifestyle pile up.

Erin Schaff/The New York Times/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Democratic lawmakers are calling for Justice Clarence Thomas to resign, after it was revealed that he has accepted gifts from billionaires for decades in exchange for access to the Supreme Court.

A new ProPublica report found that Thomas has happily accepted—and did not disclose—at least 38 luxury vacations from four different billionaires: Harlan Crow, David Sokol, H. Wayne Huizenga, and Paul Novelly. In return, Thomas hosts an annual fundraiser at the Supreme Court for an exclusive society to which they all belong. Experts have called Thomas’s behavior an “abuse of office” and “the height of hypocrisy.”

Representative Ted Lieu said Thomas “has brought shame upon himself and the United States Supreme Court” and should resign “immediately.” Pramila Jayapal also said Thomas should resign, calling his actions “disgusting.”

Bill Pascrell Jr. called Thomas “corrupt as hell,” and Gerry Connolly said Thomas has “repeatedly brought dishonor and ethical malpractice to our highest Court.” Robert Garcia and Hank Johnson also called for Thomas to resign.

They join nine other Democratic representatives and two Democratic senators who have been calling for Thomas to either step down or be impeached. Representatives Alma Adams, Don Beyer, Cori Bush, Chuy Garcia, Ro Khanna, Summer Lee, Ilhan Omar, and Nydia Velazquez, as well as Senators Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey began clamoring for Thomas to leave the court after the news of his relationship with Crow first broke in the April.

Johnson and Pascrell also called for Thomas’s resignation at the time. So did Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but she had already been demanding Thomas resign for more than a year by then, according to The New Republic’s Pablo Manríquez.

Some of the gifts Thomas has accepted from his billionaire friends include a trip on Sokol’s private jet to his private ranch in Wyoming (valued in the low eight figures), a deep-sea fishing trip in the Caribbean on one of Novelly’s yachts, and a standing invitation to Huizenga’s members-only golf club. Huizenga sold the club in 2010, and it currently has a $150,000 initiation fee.

Thomas was already under fire for failing to report the many gifts he received from Crow, which include island-hopping yacht vacations and tuition for Thomas’s nephew. The Nazi memorabilia collector Crow also bought and renovated a Thomas family property, where Thomas’s mother still lives.

Deeply Unpopular Michael Cohen Wants to Run for Congress (as a Democrat)

Who advised the former Trump adviser to do this?

Michael Cohen
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has decided that the best next career move is to run for Congress. Too bad America hates him.

Cohen is a former personal attorney and longtime fixer for Donald Trump. Given the fact that Trump has now been impeached twice, indicted thrice, and found liable for sexual abuse and defamation, it doesn’t seem like Cohen was all that good at his job. Cohen has also become an outspoken Trump critic (which could have something to do with his now-settled lawsuit alleging Trump owed him $1.3 million in unpaid legal fees).

Now, Cohen wants to run as a Democrat. He told Semafor Thursday night that he is considering challenging New York Representative Jerry Nadler in the primaries.

“There’s a multitude of folks encouraging me to run,” Cohen said.

It’s unclear who those folks are, though. A poll conducted in April by The Economist and YouGov found that just 15 percent of Democrats view Cohen very favorably. And switching tickets wouldn’t work, either, because Cohen is even less popular among independents and Republicans.

Nadler also has long-standing, solid support in his district. The 31-year-incumbent has name recognition and is backed by powerful Jewish communities in his district. He handily defeated primary challenger Carolyn Maloney in August 2022 with 55 percent of the vote, compared to her 24 percent.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Sees Profits Plummet by Colossal 75 Percent

The conservative media empire is falling apart.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is slowly but surely disintegrating, as his News Corporation reported more than a 75 percent drop in profit.

News Corp on Thursday recorded just $187 million in net profit for the 2023 financial year, down from $760 million the previous year. The company has arms in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, including the Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Company, The Sun, and News Corp Australia.

The plunge in profit was primarily due to lower print and digital advertising at News Corp Australia, as well as low print advertising in the U.K. News Corp said it was confident it could use AI going forward to create new content while also reducing overall costs.

News Corp is separate from Murdoch’s other notorious conglomerate Fox Corp, the parent company of Fox News. Murdoch split the companies in 2013. He briefly considered re-merging them in late 2022, but he abandoned the plan at the start of the following year because, according to The Economist, “some News Corp investors [were] unhappy at the prospect of being lumped together with Fox News, which they consider a toxic brand.”

Unlike the rest of News Corp, Fox profits seem to be surpassing expectations post–Tucker Carlson. But both of Murdoch’s news corporations, though, have been embroiled in costly legal battles. Prince Harry is suing News Corp’s British arm for multiple unlawful acts allegedly committed over several decades, including hacking his phone. And in the U.S., Fox Corp is fending off multiple lawsuits for spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election and defamation. Earlier this year, the company reported a $54 million loss thanks to the costly Dominion settlement.

Republican Congressman Accidentally Admits There’s No Proof of Biden Corruption

Representative Nick Langworthy tried to defend Republicans’ Biden investigation, and ended up rejecting their main talking point instead.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Representative Nick Langworthy

Republican Representative Nick Langworthy tried to defend the GOP investigation into Joe Biden’s alleged corruption—only to end up admitting that they still don’t have any proof.

Republicans have insisted for months that Biden is guilty of corruption and influence peddling overseas, despite producing no actual evidence. But they continue to claim they have proof that he and his son Hunter Biden accepted millions of dollars in bribes.

But Langworthy fumbled that point big time on Thursday during an interview with Fox News. Fox correspondent Gillian Turner pointed out that Republicans have yet to produce “a smoking gun: clear-cut, undeniable proof of the president’s involvement.”

Well, we’ve never claimed that we have direct money going to the president, but many members of his family have received money from foreign governments,” Langworthy said.

Turner interrupted to correct him: “That is precisely the claim that the chairman of your committee, James Comer, and also Jim Jordan have made many times,” she said, referring to House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, who alongside Comer has spearheaded the charge against Biden.

“We are putting an investigation together laying out the facts on the business dealings of this family,” Langworthy said awkwardly, trying to recover.

Langworthy did not fare much better in the rest of the interview. He also said that Hunter Biden’s former business partner Devon Archer had testified to the Oversight Committee under oath, which Turner again pointed out was not true. (And regardless of how he testified, Archer also refuted many of Republicans’ talking points against Joe Biden.)

Republicans’ main justification for continuing to investigate Biden is that they already have proof of his wrongdoing and are now just trying to expose the breadth of his crimes. Many Republicans, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, are starting to suggest opening an impeachment inquiry into Biden so that they can access more information and witnesses that will lead them to the truth.

But Langworthy’s stumble reveals the actual truth: Republicans have nothing on Biden. The reason they keep pushing forward is because they are looking for something to actually substantiate their allegations.

Stephen Miller Files Complaint That Gay Pop-Tarts Are Sexualizing Kids

The former Trump adviser has filed a civil rights complaint over “woke” breakfast foods.

Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Another day, another classic food brand gone woke. This time, it’s Pop-Tarts.

Former Trump adviser and current white nationalist Stephen Miller has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing Kellogg’s of targeting children through marketing campaigns that “politicize and sexualize its products.” Miller’s right-wing nonprofit America First Legal tweeted a list of such products, including a 2022 collaboration with GLAAD to make pink lemonade Pop-Tarts with neon pink filling.

There is nothing remotely sexual about the ad.

AFL also highlights Kellogg’s Pride cereal, a limited-edition cereal released in October 2022, which was just rainbow heart-shaped cereal but with all the cereal mascots on the box. The complaint also cites drag queen RuPaul’s appearance on the Cheez-Its box in September and Tony the Tiger posing with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney at the Tony awards in June.

Kellogg’s is yet another big corporation that will break the law and hurt its shareholders’ interests to serve the twisted woke ideology of its officers and directors,” AFL charged.

Miller stumbled across these marketing campaigns while investigating Kellogg’s for having too much diversity in its ranks. AFL on Wednesday requested that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigate the carbohydrates producer for racial discrimination … against white people, specifically white men.

AFL accused Kellogg’s of promoting people “based on skin color at the expense of others because of their skin color,” and complained that the company had special programs for underrepresented and underserved demographics such as Black people and women.

With Kellogg’s apparently lost to the wokeness rabbit hole, conservatives have to cross yet another company off a rapidly shrinking list of places they can comfortably eat, drink, and shop. People are also boycotting Chick-fil-A because it has an H.R. department. They are refusing to eat at Cracker Barrel after the chain posted favorably about Pride on social media.

Target, Walmart, and Kohl’s are all being boycotted for selling Pride merchandise. Nike and Adidas are selling trans-inclusive athletic wear, so they’re off the table too. The North Face and Patagonia did campaigns featuring a drag queen named Pattie Gonia.

People on the far right will probably also have to drop Ruger, Black Rifle Coffee, Home Depot, and Molson Coors, all of which have teams dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

Christianity Today Editor: Evangelicals Call Jesus “Liberal” and “Weak”

A former evangelical leader is sounding the alarm about the direction his religion is headed in.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The editor in chief of Christianity Today is warning that evangelical Christianity is moving too far to the right, to the point that even Jesus’s teachings are considered “weak” now.

Russell Moore resigned from the Southern Baptist Convention in 2021, after years of being at odds with other evangelical leaders. Specifically, Moore openly criticized Donald Trump, whom many evangelical Christians embraced. Moore also criticized the Southern Baptist Convention’s response to a sexual abuse crisis and increasing tolerance for white nationalism in the community.

Now he thinks his religion is in crisis.

Moore told NPR in an interview released Tuesday that multiple pastors had told him they would quote the Sermon on the Mount, specifically the part that says to “turn the other cheek,” when preaching. Someone would come up after the service and ask, “Where did you get those liberal talking points?”

“What was alarming to me is that in most of these scenarios, when the pastor would say, ‘I’m literally quoting Jesus Christ,’ the response would not be, ‘I apologize.’ The response would be, ‘Yes, but that doesn’t work anymore. That’s weak,’” Moore said. “When we get to the point where the teachings of Jesus himself are seen as subversive to us, then we’re in a crisis.”

Moore said he thinks a large part of the issue is how divisive U.S. politics are, which is now spilling over into the church. He pointed to how a lot of issues are “packaged in terms of existential threat,” leading to the belief among everyone, not just evangelical Christians, that “desperate times call for desperate measures.”

It makes sense, then, that evangelical Christians would embrace Trump, who portrayed himself as the answer to many of those supposed existential threats. Trump both campaigned and governed on a largely evangelical Christian platform. He moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; he cracked down on immigration from majority-Muslim countries; and he appointed multiple conservative judges, including to the Supreme Court, which has swung sharply right.

He made good on his anti-abortion promises when the high court removed the nationwide right to the procedure in June. Many LGBTQ protections were rolled back under his watch, and during the June 2020 protests over George Floyd’s murder by police, he tear-gassed demonstrators so he could take a heavily posed picture with a Bible in front of St. John’s Church near the White House.

And as Trump swings ever further right, it makes sense that people who believe he will solve their problems will follow blindly.

“Abuse of Power”: Clarence Thomas Scandal Is Worse Than You Thought

A stunning new report reveals how the Supreme Court justice sold access to the Supreme Court, as his Republican billionaire friends lavished gifts on him.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Clarence Thomas has for years hosted charity fundraisers in the Supreme Court building for his Republican billionaire friends. In return, they have taken the justice on dozens of luxury vacations worth millions of dollars, according to a stunning new ProPublica report.

“To use the Supreme Court to fundraise for somebody’s charity is, to me, an abuse of office,” Virginia Canter, a former government ethics lawyer who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, told ProPublica. “It’s pay to play, isn’t it?”

ProPublica found that Thomas has happily accepted at least 38 luxury vacations from four different billionaires: Harlan Crow, David Sokol, H. Wayne Huizenga, and Paul Novelly. The gifts include yacht trips around the world, tickets to sporting events, transport on private jets, and stays at their exclusive resorts and private properties.

Thomas has disclosed none of these gifts on his financial statements, but ProPublica estimates the total value to be in the millions. And this is likely just the tip of the iceberg.

“It’s just the height of hypocrisy to wear the robes and live the lifestyle of a billionaire,” Don Fox, the former general counsel of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and the senior ethics official in the executive branch, told ProPublica.

Thomas likely met all of his billionaire sugar daddies through the Horatio Alger Association, which costs $200,000 to join. Thomas was inducted into the society in 1992, a year after he joined the Supreme Court bench. He now hosts an annual fundraiser for the association in the Supreme Court’s Great Hall. Attendance costs $1,500 for members (five times that for nonmembers).

The Supreme Court does not have an official code of ethics, but the justices say they consult the judiciary’s code of conduct. That code explicitly discourages federal judges from using their position to fundraise for outside organizations.

Some of the gifts Thomas has accepted from his Horatio Alger friends include a trip on Sokol’s private jet to his private ranch in Wyoming (valued in the low eight figures), a deep-sea fishing trip in the Caribbean on one of Novelly’s yachts, and a standing invitation to Huizenga’s members-only golf club. Huizenga sold the club in 2010, and it currently has a $150,000 initiation fee.

Thomas was already under fire for failing to report the many gifts he received from Crow, which include island-hopping yacht vacations and tuition for Thomas’s nephew. The Nazi memorabilia collector Crow also bought and renovated a Thomas family property, where Thomas’s mother still lives.

The justice’s behavior prompted increased scrutiny on the Supreme Court, and the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill that would require the justices to adopt a code of ethics. The measure would create rigorous new financial disclosure rules, as well as establish a process for submitting and investigating ethics complaints against the justices.

Read ProPublica’s full story here.

Watch Joe Biden Drag Lauren Boebert for Celebrating Climate Bill She Opposed

10/10 for the delivery on this Boebert joke

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Joe Biden dragged Representative Lauren Boebert on Wednesday for celebrating the benefits of his clean energy initiatives after voting against them in Congress.

Biden spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for a wind tower manufacturing facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He hailed advancements in clean energy and how addressing climate change was also creating new jobs. Biden also noted that a wind energy plant for CS Wind is being built in Pueblo, Colorado. Both projects received funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, which almost every single Republican in Congress voted against.

Coincidentally, CS Wind is Congresswoman Lauren Boebert—you know, the very quiet Republican lady?—it’s in her district,” Biden said. “Who, along with every other Republican, voted against this bill. And it’s making all this possible. And she railed against its passage. But, that’s OK, she’s welcoming it now.”

This isn’t the first time Biden has called out Republicans for trying to claim wins from policies they voted against. In June, Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville celebrated a $1.4 billion investment to expand broadband access in his state, a major tenet of Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Biden roasted Tuberville for it, tweeting he would see the senator “at groundbreaking” and later commenting that “to no one’s surprise, [the act is] bringing along some converts. People strenuously opposed, voting against it when we had this going on.”