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Mike Pence and Mark Meadows Just Ruined Trump’s Defense in Classified Docs Case

The former president appears to be caught in a huge lie.

Trump in the Oval Office with (l-r) Mike Pence, Steven Mnuchin, and Mark Meadows
Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images
Trump in the Oval Office with Mike Pence, Steven Mnuchin, and Mark Meadows on July 20, 2020

Former Vice President Mike Pence and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Sunday that they had no knowledge of then-President Donald Trump declassifying a large number of documents, completely undermining the former president’s main defense in the Mar-a-Lago case.

Special counsel Jack Smith indicted Trump for allegedly mishandling classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Trump’s main argument for his innocence is that as president, he could declassify whatever material he wanted. His allies had previously argued that he had a standing declassification order that would immediately declassify any document removed from the Oval Office. Trump himself claimed he could declassify things “just by thinking about it.”

But Pence and Meadows, two of Trump’s closest advisers in the White House, say differently. “I was never made aware of any broad-based effort to declassify documents,” Pence told ABC on Sunday.

Pence was quick to add it’s possible a sweeping declassification did happen without his knowledge. But his comments match Meadows’s testimony to Smith. Meadows told Smith’s investigators that he does not remember Trump ever ordering or even discussing declassifying huge swathes of classified documents, ABC reported Sunday, citing anonymous sources. Meadows also said he was unaware of any “standing order” to automatically declassify documents taken out of the Oval Office.

ABC also saw an early draft of the prologue to Meadows’s memoir about serving as Trump’s chief of staff. Meadows mentions a meeting Trump had at his Bedminster, New Jersey, club with Meadows’s ghostwriter and publicist, but not Meadows. The prologue mentions Trump had a classified war plan on the couch in his office, in plain view. Meadows later removed that detail because he knew it would be “problematic,” according to ABC.

This is the same meeting where Trump himself admitted he knew all his talk about automatic declassification was bunk. In an audio recording of the July 2021 meeting, Trump admits he had classified material and could not declassify it because he no longer holds office.

In the recording, Trump claims he has a big pile of papers that undermine previous reports that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley had convinced Trump not to attack Iran near the end of his presidency. Trump refers to one document as if he has it in front of him, and at one point there is the sound of paper rustling as if he was showing off the document.

According to the recording transcript, Trump says, “This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is, like, highly confidential. Secret. This is secret information.”

“As president, I could have declassified, but now I can’t,” he admits.

In addition to Pence and Meadows, 18 other former administration officials have said they knew of no standing declassification order. These officials include former Chiefs of Staff John Kelly and Mick Mulvaney. Notably, Trump’s lawyers do not mention a standing order in court documents because they could be penalized for making false statements.

Twitter Could Be Erased From App Stores If Elon Really Scraps Block Feature

This may be one of Elon Musk’s worst ideas yet.

Nathan Laine/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Elon Musk on Friday declared he wants to remove the block feature on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter—despite frequently using the block button himself.

There’s also one other big problem: Musk’s desire to limit this blocking feature could also cost X its spot in various app stores.

The Tesla CEO said he wants to remove the block option, in response to discourse surrounding the difference between blocking versus muting users on the app.

“It makes no sense,” he wrote. “Block is going to be deleted as a ‘feature’, except for DMs.”

Muting allows you to remove another user’s posts from your feed without unfollowing them, but blocking allows you to remove that user’s posts from your feed while also restricting contact and their ability to see your posts.

If Musk goes through with his promise, X may be removed from Apple’s App Store. The current guidelines state that apps with user-generated content must provide features such as blocking to protect users from abusive users on apps.

Google’s Google Play enforces similar user-generated content safety protocol.

“Apps that contain or feature UGC, including apps which are specialized browsers or clients to direct users to a UGC platform, must implement robust, effective, and ongoing UGC moderation that ... provides an in-app system for blocking UGC and users,” according to Google’s policy center.

If the block feature is only allowed for private messaging on X, users will also likely be at a higher risk of experiencing harassment or viewing harmful content on their timeline.

Musk has a history of using the block feature and even banning users from the app. Although Musk claims to be an advocate of free speech, he has banned numerous journalists from X. Earlier this week, a Washington Post report found that X has throttled traffic for social media competitors such as Threads and Substack, as well as news sites Musk simply doesn’t like.

This article has been updated.

Of Course They Are: The Right Is Blaming Hawaii Wildfire on Wokeness

Far-right figures are somehow blaming DEI for the disaster in Maui.

Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

As Hawaii reels from devastating wildfires and considers how to rebuild, far-right figures are… blaming wokeness for the whole thing.

The conspiracy theory essentially goes like this: An Obama-backed Hawaii official delayed the diversion of water to firefighters during the wildfires in Maui, because that official is a native Hawaiian who respects how water is used.

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy helped fan the flames of the right-wing conspiracy theory on Thursday, arguing that “DEI,” or diversity, equity, and inclusion, is to blame for the whole thing.

“[W]e’re learning that the official who delayed the approval is an Obama Foundation ‘Asia Pacific Leader’ & a climate activist,” Ramaswamy tweeted. He’s a “climate activist who believes water should be ‘revered’ first and foremost. The DEI agenda is literally costing people their lives.”  

The theory targets M. Kaleo Manuel, the deputy director of the Hawaii Commission for Water Resource Management (CWRM), following reports that requests for more water were delayed by officials.

On August 10, West Maui Land Co. Inc. sent a letter addressed to Manuel alerting him of a communication issue that occurred the day before.

According to the letter, West Maui Land Co. had reached out to CWRM to alert officials that the reservoirs firefighters were using to combat the wildfires were near-empty, and to request access to nearby streams. While much of the initial fire was already contained by then, West Maui Land was seeking additional resources for fire control. In response, CWRM asked if the Maui fire department was requesting commission, and directed West Maui Land Co. to inquire with a downstream user to ensure that their use of the stream would not be impacted by the diversion.

Permission was eventually granted, but only five hours after the initial request, and by that time “a flare up had shut down the Lahaina Bypass.”

“We watched the devastation unfold around us without the ability to help,” the letter said.

Here is the part that has right-wingers up in arms: Manuel had previously made comments about how native Hawaiians consider water one of the “earthly manifestations of God.” In a 2022 panel on sustainability, Manuel said that people have become used to “looking at water as something which we use, and not necessarily something we revere as that thing that gives us life.”

That comment has become the basis for right-wingers’ attack.

Elon Musk, happy to fan the flames of conspiracy, responded to a tweet which contained a clip of Manuel at the 2022 panel, saying that Manuel “refused” to release water. “Doesn’t that make him in large part responsible for their deaths?” Musk tweeted.

The clip first began circulating on X, formerly known as Twitter, after Jeremy Kauffman, a libertarian activist, shared it with the caption: “Meet M. Kaleo Manuel, the official who refused to release water in Maui, contributing to up to 106 deaths.” Kauffman also made sure to note that Manuel was a “Hawaiian studies major” in college.

Charlie Kirk, president of Turning Point USA, also reshared the video from Kauffman on X. “I’m sure all the victims of the Maui fire are grateful their leaders were focused on worshipping water rather than using it to save their lives,” Kirk wrote.

Conservative media outlets, like The Washington Examiner and The Free Beacon, have elevated the smear campaign further.    

Again, Manuel’s comments are from nearly 10 months ago, and they’re not even that wild on their face: It does make sense to think about how we use water, as our planet deals with a spiraling climate crisis. But the right really loves its own conspiracy theories.

Trump Plans to Upstage Republican Debate With Tucker Carlson

Tucker Carlson has privately told people he hates Trump “passionately.” Now, Trump wants to sit down with him for an interview.

Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson
Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Donald Trump has officially decided he will not attend the Republican presidential debate. Instead, he’ll do an interview with Tucker Carlson, who has privately said he hates Trump “passionately.”

Trump made the decision within the last 24 hours, The New York Times reported Friday, citing anonymous sources briefed on his plan. A date has not been set for the interview yet, but if he goes through with it, then all of the buzz and attention is expected to be on him instead of his opponents.

The former president has been toying for months with passing on the debate. His decision-making process involved talking to aides and asking crowds at rallies whether he should participate or not. Trump’s logic is that he is the frontrunner, so there’s no need for him to debate. (Trump should, of course, have to participate in the debate and explain his policy ideas to voters.) He also said he won’t sign the Republican loyalty pledge required to participate.

Why would I Debate? I’M YOUR MAN,” he wrote on Truth Social Thursday night.

Agreeing to an interview with Carlson is an extra poke in the eye for Fox News, which is broadcasting the debate. Trump has called Fox a “hostile network” and criticized his former favorite network for not covering his campaign events.

Carlson was the network’s star anchor, but he was unceremoniously fired earlier this year. He has since begun streaming a terrible show on Twitter, while Fox’s viewer numbers tanked. They have since bounced back somewhat, but nowhere close to the ratings that Carlson drew.

Fox never revealed why it fired Carlson, but it was likely due to private messages Carlson sent that were revealed during the network’s lawsuit with Dominion Voting.

Just two days before the January 6 attack, Carlson texted someone about Trump’s time in office. “We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest,” he said. “But come on. There really isn’t an upside to Trump.”

“We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait,” Carlson texted, adding, “I hate him passionately.”

Judge Smacks Down Trump’s Fourth Attempt to Delay E. Jean Carroll Case

Is E. Jean Carroll tired of winning yet?

E. Jean Carroll
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

A judge on Friday rejected Donald Trump’s fourth attempt to delay E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit against him, slamming the former president’s arguments as “frivolous” and “without merit.”

Trump was unanimously found liable in May for sexual abuse and battery against Carroll in the mid-1990s and for defaming her in 2022 while denying the assault. He was ordered to pay her about $5 million in damages. She has a second defamation lawsuit against him that is set to go to trial in January.

Trump has repeatedly tried to halt the second defamation suit. In December, he first began to argue that he has total presidential immunity against any lawsuits. The presiding judge rejected Trump’s three previous attempts to make this argument, and Friday was no different.

“Mr. Trump’s motion for a stay pending appeal…is denied. This Court certifies that the appeal itself is frivolous,” Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in the ruling.

Kaplan pointed out that Trump simply recycled arguments, sometimes verbatim, from his three previous unsuccessful appeals. Trump insists that the lawsuit should be delayed because he is likely to successfully appeal for presidential immunity and that he would be subjected to “irreparable harm” without a stay.

“Mr. Trump has not provided a single reason for the Court to find that there is any likelihood that he will succeed on appeal,” Kaplan said.

The judge also noted that Trump’s argument of irreparable harm is “entirely…without merit in the unusual circumstances of this case.” Trump waited three years before bringing up his presidential immunity defense, and then another seven months before he actually moved to use that defense. His actions prove that Trump is just fine continuing to litigate the case, Kaplan said, and he only began to argue about immunity when it became clear he would have to stand trial.

Carroll accused Trump in her 2019 memoir of raping her in the Manhattan Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s. She initially sued him twice for defamation: first in 2019, when he said she made up the rape allegation to promote her book, and again in November for posts he made about her on social media. Carroll is not the only woman to accuse Trump of sexual assault, but her first case was the first to make it to a courtroom.

Trump continues to vehemently deny all of the allegations and launched fresh vitriol at Carroll during the disastrous CNN town hall. She amended her second lawsuit, which is still pending, to include those comments.

Trump’s case for presidential immunity also recently lost a major argument in his favor: The Justice Department no longer considers him immune.

Trump’s Lawyer Was at the Capitol on January 6—With Alex Jones

Kenneth Chesebro was an architect of the fake electors plot, and he was caught on camera outside the Capitol.

Brent Stirton/Getty Images
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they try to storm the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The lawyer who came up with the idea of using fake electors to overthrow the 2020 election was at the Capitol on January 6, a revelation that experts say could add fuel to the federal indictment against Donald Trump.

Kenneth Chesebro, the original architect of the fake elector scheme, attended the rally on January 6 that eventually turned into the insurrection, CNN reported Friday. It is unclear if he entered the Capitol, but video footage shows Chesebro following conspiracy theorist and “Infowars” host Alex Jones into sections of the restricted area around the building.

Chesebro has been identified as one of the co-conspirators listed in special counsel Jack Smith’s federal indictment against Trump for trying to overthrow the 2020 election. He is also named as a co-defendant in the fourth indictment against Trump, on efforts to overturn Georgia’s election results.

Chesebro is the only unindicted co-conspirator in the federal case and the only member of Trump’s legal team now known to have been at the Capitol on January 6.

“Even if Chesebro is simply a diehard Infowars fan, I think that would further illustrate how thin the line was between the serious, credentialed people who sought to undermine election results and the extremist figures who sought to unleash havoc was in that period, to the extent it meaningfully existed at all,” Jared Holt, an expert at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which investigates extremism, hate and disinformation, told CNN.

Chesebro first gained national attention when it was revealed he had come up with the plan to use fake electors to swing the election for Trump. As it turns out, he never actually thought that plan would succeed. Chesebro acknowledged in an internal memo that he was suggesting a “bold, controversial strategy” that the Supreme Court would “likely” ultimately reject.

The point of Chesebro’s plan was not to actually pass legal and judicial scrutiny. Instead, Chesebro’s goals were to increase the spotlight on the baseless claims of voter fraud and to give Trump’s campaign more time to win its multiple lawsuits challenging the vote results. (Judges threw out every single one of those lawsuits because they had no basis.)

The new discovery that Chesebro was at the Capitol on January 6 could add another weapon to Smith’s arsenal. Ryan Goodman, a former Defense Department special counsel, suggested that prosecutors could threaten to charge Chesebro for unlawfully entering the Capitol grounds in an attempt to get him to flip on Trump.

Vivek Ramaswamy Wants to Give Putin Whatever He Wants in Ukraine

“Our goal should not be for Putin to lose,” the Republican candidate boldly claimed.

Ivan Apfel/Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has a reckless plan for achieving U.S. global dominance: giving away other countries’ territory.

Ramaswamy is already under fire for his objectively terrible plan to let China invade Taiwan after 2028 if he were elected. Now, the presidential hopeful thinks that Russia should be allowed to keep the parts of Ukraine it currently occupies.

“Our goal should not be for Putin to lose. Our goal should be for America to win,” Ramaswamy told CNN Thursday night.

Ramaswamy said that U.S. involvement in Ukraine is strengthening the RussiaChina military alliance—and the only way to break that alliance and bring Russia around to the American side is to give Vladimir Putin what he wants.

“I would freeze the current lines of control, and that would leave parts of the Donbas region with Russia,” Ramaswamy explained. “I would also further make a commitment that NATO will not admit Ukraine to NATO. But there are even greater wins that I will get for the United States.”

Ramaswamy seems to be under multiple false impressions with this diplomatic plan, the first being that the United States has the authority to simply give away parts of another sovereign nation. He also appears to believe that if he visits Moscow, he can single-handedly buddy up to Putin enough to convince the Russian leader to drop a highly advantageous military alliance.

And as anchor Jim Acosta rightly pointed out, Putin is unlikely to stop with Ukraine. He wasn’t satisfied with annexing Crimea in 2014 and now wants all of Ukraine. If he is allowed to keep parts of Ukraine, it’s possible that he’ll try to invade somewhere else such as Poland, a NATO member—which would require military intervention from the rest of the members.

This plan is just as bad as Ramaswamy’s strategy for Taiwan. Earlier this week, Ramaswamy proposed letting China take over Taiwan after 2028, which he believes is when the U.S. would build up its own supply of semiconductors. Taiwan produces about 60 percent of the global supply of semiconductors, which are microchips crucial to making all electronic devices.

Ramaswamy said he intends to dramatically up the firepower around Taiwan during his first term, to make clear to Beijing that they should “not mess” with the island until the U.S. has semiconductor independence. After that, China can do whatever it wants. It did not seem to occur to him that China would likely interpret these moves as acts of aggression and respond in kind. Nor does he seem to realize that it’s highly unlikely China would listen to his proposed arrangement.

But despite his only campaign points being battling “wokeness,” taking away rights, and, apparently, allowing authoritarian governments to do whatever they want, Ramaswamy is somehow rising in the polls.

Georgia Republicans Want to Impeach Fani Willis. They’re Going to Fail.

Republicans are so mad about Trump’s indictment they’re going after Fani Willis.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis

A Republican Georgia state senator is so mad that Donald Trump was indicted that he is moving to impeach the investigating district attorney—even though his plan has no chance of working.

Trump was indicted for a historic fourth time late Monday, and charged with racketeering for trying to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results. District Attorney Fani Willis spent more than two years investigating the former president and building her case against him and 18 co-defendants.

As a Georgia State Senator, I am officially calling for an emergency session to review the actions of Fani Willis,” Senator Colton Moore tweeted Thursday. “America is under attack. I’m not going to sit back and watch as radical left prosecutors politically TARGET political opponents.”

Moore called to strip funding from Willis’s office and impeach her. He shared a letter to Governor Brian Kemp, stating that the “undersigned” members of Congress, “comprising ⅗ of each respective house pursuant to Article IV, Section Il, Paragraph VI(b)” urged him to call a special session.

Here’s where Moore’s plan falls apart. In order to call a special session, either the governor or three-fifths of both the state House and Senate have to call one. This is clearly laid out in Article V of the Georgia state constitution. (Moore cites Article IV, which deals with the venue for a civil lawsuit.)

Moore also is the only member of the state legislature who has signed the letter. While Republicans have the majority in the state assembly, they only make up three-fifths of the Senate. House Democrats are unlikely to agree to Moore’s proposal.

Kemp is also unlikely to call a special session. He has been one of the most vocal Republicans to rejecte Trump’s claims that the Georgia election was fraudulent.

And even if a special session were somehow convened, the budget for Willis’s office is set by the Fulton County Commission, not the state assembly. So Moore’s plan holds absolutely no water. Instead, he and other Republicans are simply having a tantrum over Trump being held accountable.

Desperate Rudy Giuliani Visited Mar-a-Lago to Beg Trump for Help With Legal Fees

Things are not looking very good for Trump’s former lawyer.

Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

A desperate Rudy Giuliani traveled all the way to Mar-a-Lago to beg Donald Trump to pay his legal bills—but the former president didn’t seem all that interested in donating, according to a new CNN report

Giuliani and his lawyer Robert Costello visited the former president in April, in the hopes that an in-person appeal to Trump would better persuade him to help pay for Giuliani’s steadily growing legal bills.

Giuliani and Costello met with Trump twice while visiting Mar-a-Lago, and while Trump verbally agreed to pay some of Giuliani’s bills, he was unspecific about how much he’d be offering and didn’t give a timeline for his financial support.

“It’s not a smart idea” for Trump to deny Giuliani’s request for funds, a source told CNN.

Trump, of course, is notorious for not paying his legal team, but he may want to stay in Giuliani’s good graces in the wake of the newest indictment out of Fulton County, Georgia. 

On Monday, Giuliani was indicted along with Trump and 17 other co-defendants for helping to overturn the 2020 election. Giuliani faces 13 charges, including racketeering. It is likely that Giuliani will be under immense pressure to cooperate with federal and state prosecutors.

Trump did make some small promises to Giuliani, sources say. He agreed to stop by two fundraisers for Giuliani, and to cover an outstanding fee from Trustpoint, a data vendor hosting Giuliani’s records. A few months after their meeting, Trump’s Save America PAC paid $340,000 to Trustpoint.

Giuliani has been in dire straits for months and is facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills.

At a hearing on Wednesday in the ongoing defamation lawsuit against the former mayor brought by Smartmatic, the voting technology company, another attorney for Giuliani told the judge that Giuliani does not have the money to pay additional legal costs to produce records for that case.

“There are a lot of bills that he’s not paying,” Giuliani’s attorney Adam Katz said at the hearing. “I think this is very humbling for Mr. Giuliani.” 

With the new indictment, Smartmatic’s defamation suit, his former associate’s sexual abuse lawsuit against him, and yet another lawsuit over an anti-Biden documentary scam, this is looking like it will be a very expensive year for the former mayor. If only his partner in crime were willing to foot the bill.

New Explosive Roger Stone Video Dooms Donald Trump’s Main Legal Defense

The video was filmed before the election results had even been announced.

Roger Stone
Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg/Getty Images

New explosive footage of Roger Stone strategizing to overturn the 2020 presidential election—before the vote was even called for Joe Biden—dooms Donald Trump’s main legal defense.

The video, aired on MSNBC Wednesday night and shot by filmmaker Christoffer Guldbrandsen, depicts the right-wing lobbyist dictating a fake elector plot in key battleground states. The video was taken on November 5, 2020, two days before the election was called, thus disproving Trump’s main defense that he and his allies genuinely believed they had won the race.

“Any legislative body may decide on the basis of overwhelming evidence of fraud to send electors to the electoral college who accurately reflect the president’s legitimate victory in their state which was illegally denied him through fraud,” Stone said, as an associate transcribed his words. “We must be prepared to lobby our Republican legislatures … by personal contact and by demonstrating the overwhelming will of the people in their state—in each state—that this may need to happen.”

Trump was indicted for the fourth time and charged with 13 counts in Georgia on Monday.

Stone is not named as a co-defendant in the indictment. He could, however, potentially be one of the 30 unnamed, co-conspirators.

The clip was part of Guldbrandsen’s documentary, A Storm Foretold, released in March of this year. Guldbrandsen told The Daily Beast that Stone was “upset” when the documentary aired.

In another clip from the documentary taken on November 1, 2020, Stone said Trump needed to claim victory early on election night.

“I really do suspect it’ll still be up in the air. When that happens, the key thing to do is to claim victory. Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” he said.