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Bankman-Fried Considered Paying Trump to Not Run for President

Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of FTX, debated paying Donald Trump a hefty sum to not run in 2024.

Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg

Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange FTX, considered paying Donald Trump $5 billion not to run for president in 2024, a new book reveals.

Bankman-Fried, referred to as SBF, founded FTX in 2019. The crypto exchange rapidly accumulated value, making him a billionaire, only to crash spectacularly in 2022. The Securities and Exchange Commission has since charged SBF with multiple counts of fraud. But before that, SBF was a massive political donor—and apparently had no qualms about wielding that influence.

In a new book about SBF, author Michael Lewis describes how the crypto bro believed he could solve existential issues, including threats to U.S. democracy. “He saw [Donald] Trump trying to undermine the democracy, and he thought, ‘Trump … belongs on the list of existential risks,’” Lewis told 60 Minutes, in an interview that aired Sunday.

SBF offered to pay Trump not to run for president in 2024. Trump’s team allegedly told him it would cost $5 billion, although it is unclear whether that amount came from Trump himself.

“The question Sam had was not just, ‘Is $5 billion enough to pay Trump not to run?’ but ‘Was it legal?’” Lewis explained.

To try to counter Trump, SBF also met with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in 2022 to identify supposedly pro-democracy Republican candidates, and donated millions of dollars to support them. Neither McConnell nor Trump responded to 60 Minutes’ request to confirm Lewis’s reporting.

It’s unclear whether paying Trump not to run is illegal. PBS reported in 2016 that it depends on how the money is exchanged, for instance whether it’s routed through external parties (illegal) or just an offer to help pay off debt from an unwinnable campaign (feels wrong but does happen).

But SBF should have checked himself before working with McConnell too. The Kentucky Republican may say he is pro-democracy, but he gladly backed every terrible policy Trump pushed while in office. McConnell also took advantage of Trump to stack the Supreme Court.

Ultimately, there was no guarantee that Trump, McConnell, or any of the Republicans SBF backed would act in good faith. They might have just taken his money and run—straight into power.

Newsom Needs to Find Someone to Replace Dianne Feinstein ASAP

Here are some names who could take over the California Senate seat.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Senator Dianne Feinstein passed away Thursday at the age of 90, after a decades-long political career. Her passing has only added fuel to long-burning fires of speculation over who might succeed her as California senator.

Feinstein was first elected to represent the Golden State in the Senate in 1992, and her career since then has been marked by highs and lows of equal significance. As chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, for example, Feinstein led the investigation and publishing of the Torture Report, which detailed the CIA’s long history of horrific interrogation tactics before, during, and after September 11.

But in recent years, her insistence on remaining in office amid growing health issues marred her legacy. Earlier this year, the senator went missing from Congress for nearly three months after a particularly nasty bout of shingles. That illness led to her contracting Ramsay Hunt syndrome as well as encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that can cause lasting memory and language problems, as well as bouts of confusion. After returning to the Hill, there were several instances where Feinstein seemed lost, including during votes in committee. She was hospitalized anew in August.

So what happens next? All eyes are on California Governor Gavin Newsom, who gets to appoint someone to take over for Feinstein through the end of 2024.

It’s critical that Newsom appoints someone sooner rather than later. Feinstein’s absence leaves the Judiciary Committee with a 10–10 split across party lines, virtually guaranteeing a block on President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees. A spokesperson for Newsom said Friday that he did not have any information on when or how Newsom would replace Feinstein.

Newsom has repeatedly made public promises to appoint a Black woman to the seat. But he also vowed earlier this month that he would not select any of the California Democrats who are already running for the seat in 2024, saying he didn’t want to “tip” the results of the election.

That announcement was a huge blow to one of the most prominent progressives and Black Democratic politicians in the state: Representative Barbara Lee. Lee publicly fired back at Newsom at the time, saying that “the idea that a Black woman should be appointed only as a caretaker to simply check a box is insulting to countless Black women across this country who have carried the Democratic Party to victory election after election.”

Newsom’s decision to take all 2024 candidates out of the equation also rules out Lee’s competitors: Representatives Adam Schiff and Katie Porter.

Naturally, Newsom doesn’t have to actually keep his promise about appointing a Black woman. In 2021, when Kamala Harris resigned from her Senate seat to become vice president, Newsom appointed Alex Padilla, who became the state’s first Latino senator.

But assuming he does stick to his word, there are still some options. Names that have been floated include Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, who is less than a year into her first term, or San Francisco Mayor London Breed, though Breed is publicly supporting Lee’s 2024 campaign. Some political insiders have mentioned Bay Area Transit Board member Lateefah Simon, though she is already running to succeed Lee in a campaign that has drawn decent support.

Other contenders include Shirley Weber, California’s secretary of state; Holly Mitchell, a Los Angeles county supervisor; Angela Glover Blackwell, a civil rights lawyer in Oakland. No one knows if Newsom favors any of these potential candidates yet, but behind the scenes, the race to make a decision is likely already on.

“In the Shitter”: Democratic Rep. Reads Out Entire List of Trump Crimes

Representative Jasmine Crockett used Republicans’ Biden impeachment farce to remind everyone of Donald Trump’s 91 counts.

Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Representative Jasmine Crockett delivered an epic takedown on Thursday of Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden when she read out a long list of criminal charges against Donald Trump.

House Republicans held their first hearing on Biden’s alleged corruption. They have for months accused him of wrongdoing, but they have yet to provide any actual evidence. Crockett took a moment to remind them of someone who has actually done wrong.

“When we start talking about things that look like evidence, they wanna act like they blind. They don’t know what this is,” she said, holding up photos from the indictment against Trump for hoarding classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. “These are our national secrets, looks like in the shitter to me.”

“When we’re talking about somebody that’s committed high crimes, it’s at least indictments. Let’s say 32 counts related to unauthorized retention of national security secrets,” Crockett said, proceeding to list out all the things Trump has been indicted for.

“I will tell you what the president has been guilty of,” she thundered. “He has unfortunately been guilty of loving his child unconditionally.”

“Until [Republicans] find some evidence, we need to get back to the people’s work, which means keeping this government open!”

At another point in the hearing, Crockett highlighted Trump’s business dealings with China—something Republicans accuse first son Hunter Biden of doing. She also reminded Republicans that even though they keep accusing Biden of crimes, “repeating the same lies will not somehow turn them into truths.”

GOP Impeachment Fiasco Continues: They Turn Against Their Own Witness

Republicans suddenly really don’t want to hear from Hunter Biden’s business partner.

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House Oversight Chair James Comer

Representative James Comer on Thursday refused to let Democrats introduce testimony from one of his own star witnesses as evidence in the impeachment inquiry hearing into Joe Biden.

House Republicans held their first hearing on Biden’s alleged corruption. They have for months accused him of wrongdoing via his connection to his son Hunter’s business dealings. But they have yet to provide any actual evidence. The House Oversight Committee, which Comer chairs, had previously interviewed Hunter’s ex-business partner Devon Archer, touting his testimony as the thing that would finally break the dam open.

But when Democratic Representative Daniel Goldman tried to introduce Archer’s testimony as evidence, Comer spoke over him and tried to recognize another Republican to speak instead.

Goldman asked if they weren’t allowed to make points of order, to which Comer replied, “You keep speaking about no evidence. Why don’t you all just listen and learn?”

“I’m trying to introduce evidence!” Goldman snapped.

Republicans released Archer’s testimony in August, and his comments completely debunk everything the GOP has claimed about Biden and his son. Archer repeatedly stated that Biden was never involved in his son’s business and Hunter never asked his father to step in.

Archer said he was “not aware of any” wrongdoing by the president, and said he disagreed with the allegation that Biden accepted a bribe. So it’s really no wonder Comer is desperate to keep that testimony out of public record.

Watch: GOP Congressman Melts Down Trying to Explain Biden Corruption “Evidence”

Please do not question Representative Jason Smith about any of his claims, OK?

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Representative Jason Smith struggled to explain how Republicans’ “evidence” actually shows that Joe Biden is guilty of corruption.

Republicans held their first hearing Thursday for the impeachment inquiry into Biden. They have for months accused him of wrongdoing via his connection to his son Hunter’s business dealings. But they have yet to provide any actual evidence.

Smith, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, sought to connect those dots in a Wednesday press conference. In particular, he cited a WhatsApp message Hunter allegedly sent in June 2017 to a business associate, saying he would not “sign over my family’s brand.” (Which, despite Republicans’ claims, actually appears to imply that Hunter was trying to keep his family and work separate.)

When NBC reporter Ryan Nobles pointed out that 2017 was well after Biden had left the office of vice president, and well before he had declared his presidential campaign, Smith short-circuited.

Smith stumbled over his words, asked Nobles to repeat the question, and finally accused the reporter of being biased.

“Apparently, you’ll never believe us,” Smith said before moving on. He failed to actually answer the question.

Republicans continue to insist that they have proof of Biden’s corruption. But not only do they repeatedly fail to produce it, they sometimes even accidentally admit that they have none. One of their own witnesses in the impeachment inquiry hearing said Thursday that nothing they have “meets the standard” of an actual impeachment.

Gavin Newsom Pulverizes DeSantis’s Loopy Lies About California Crime

Gavin Newsom is not interested in Ron DeSantis’s claims on California, given all that’s happening in Florida.

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California Governor Gavin Newsom

California Governor Gavin Newsom is hitting back at Ron DeSantis’s exaggerated claims about California crime.

During the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night, which was held in Simi Valley, California, DeSantis claimed that he had heard several stories pointing to a crime increase in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“Just being in Southern California over the last couple of days, my wife and I have met three people who have been mugged on the street,” he said. 

After the debate, Newsom quickly fired back and invited DeSantis to be real about “crime rates in his own backyard.”

“This may be an opportunity, I appreciate, to look up ‘Jacksonville, Florida,’ and he may want to familiarize himself with ‘Miami, Florida’ and his homicide rates, which are 100 percent higher than San Francisco,” Newsom said.

DeSantis has been known to exaggerate crime rates in blue states while making factually inaccurate statements about the reality of crime in Florida.

It’s hard to do a proper comparison of crime between California and Florida, in part because of the latter’s flawed reporting methods. But in 2022, San Francisco had 56 homicides, while Jacksonville had 154 and Miami had 132, according to the Major Cities Police Violent Crime Report. And in general, violent crime—including the murder rate—is decreasing nationwide.

Newsom also took a swing at the Republican narrative that crime runs rampant in liberal states.

“I think people are getting a little exhausted by the fact that we’re focusing on New York’s crime rate and not the crime in these other Republican-led cities in Republican states,” Newsom said.

“Crime is a real issue, but I find the hypocrisy, the unwillingness to be honest with the American people, and the unwillingness to take responsibility—Ron DeSantis, take responsibility for his own crime rates in his own major cities. I find that curious, not surprising,” he added, calling out DeSantis directly.

Republicans’ Key “Biden Corruption” Witness Torches Their Entire Claims

If you want to hold a big impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden, maybe make sure your witnesses are on the same page first.

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House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer

Republicans’ own witness in their impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden completely destroyed their claims multiple times on Thursday.

The House GOP held its first hearing on Biden’s alleged corruption. Republicans have insisted for months that the president is guilty of criminal wrongdoing, but they have yet to produce any actual evidence of their claims.

As one of their first witnesses, Republicans called on Jonathan Turley, a conservative legal scholar who previously served as a Justice Department tax attorney. Turley was set to act as a content witness to help analyze the Biden family’s business dealings—but even he admitted there’s not enough evidence.

“In fact, I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of an impeachment,” he told the hearing.

Turley had previously expressed this belief in written testimony submitted ahead of the hearing. “I do not believe that the evidence currently meets the standard of a high crime and misdemeanor needed for an article of impeachment,” he wrote.

Turley also said in his written statement that he did believe it was “warranted” for the House to investigate potential connections between Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings. But Republicans have been doing just that for months, and they still haven’t found proof linking the president to Hunter Biden’s work.

A second Republican witness, forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky, shared a similar conclusion. “I am not here today to even suggest that there was corruption, fraud, or any wrongdoing,” he told Congress.

“In my opinion, more information needs to be gathered and assessed before I would make such an assessment.”

As Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jamie Raskin pointed out, “If the Republicans had a smoking gun, or even a dripping water pistol, they would be presenting it today.”

“But they’ve got nothing on Joe Biden,” he said in opening remarks.

This story has been updated.

Everything About Trump’s Michigan Speech Was a Stunt—Including the Workers

Here’s who actually showed up to that Trump speech where he pretended to care about autoworkers.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Donald Trump made a big show of appealing to union autoworkers at a campaign event in Michigan, but it turns out that none may have even attended.

Trump opted to give a speech Wednesday night at Drake Enterprises, a nonunion factory, instead of participating in the Republican debate. Drake management had invited him to appear, and the United Auto Workers union—which is currently on strike—does not represent the Drake workforce. About 400 to 500 people attended the speech, even though Drake only employs about 150, The Detroit News reported.

It’s unclear how many union workers, or even autoworkers, attended Trump’s speech. One person held a sign that said “union members for Trump” but told reporter Craig Mauger she wasn’t in the union. Another person held a sign that said “auto workers for Trump” but admitted he wasn’t an autoworker.

Undeterred, Trump said he supports the ongoing UAW strike for fair wages but warned that the “current negotiations don’t mean as much as you think.”

The real danger, he insisted, is electric vehicles. He described the transition from gas engines to electric as “a transition to hell” and said the auto industry “is being assassinated.”

His speech stands in stark contrast to the approach of Joe Biden, who on Tuesday became the first sitting U.S. president to ever join a picket line.

Trump is no stranger to filling a room with fake supporters. Former Trump aide Corey Lewandowski admitted in 2021 that they had paid actors to attend Trump’s first campaign launch in 2015.

Tim Scott Suggests Slavery Wasn’t as Bad as Welfare for Black Americans

The South Carolina senator delivered a very embarrassing talking point during the Republican presidential debate.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A lot of deplorable things were said during the Republican debate on Wednesday night, but this comment from Republican candidate Tim Scott may take the cake.

During the debate Scott argued that welfare assistance was harder than slavery for Black Americans.

“Black families survived slavery!” he exclaimed. “We survived poll taxes and literacy tests.”

“We survived discrimination being woven into the laws of our country,” he added, in a line that for a moment sounded like he might actually be acknowledging systemic racism.

“What was hard to survive was Johnson’s Great Society, where they decided to put money—where they decided to take the Black father out of the household to get a check in the mail.”

Johnson’s Great Society, launched in 1964, was one of the most significant federal social welfare programs in U.S. history. It greatly expanded welfare policy by writing Medicare and Medicaid into U.S. law, increasing Social Security benefits, and generally expanding assistance to the elderly and the poor.

That Scott had harsher words for welfare assistance than for slavery is not just an overt ahistorical reach. Frankly, it’s embarrassing.

Nikki Haley Delivers Absolutely Savage Burn of Vivek Ramaswamy at GOP Debate

The Republican presidential debate devolved into chaos once again.

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Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley finally snapped at Vivek Ramaswamy during the Republican debate Wednesday night.

Ramaswamy warned about the dangers of social media but also said he was trying to connect with younger voters through TikTok. Ramaswamy joined TikTok two weeks ago, just days after he referred to the app as “digital fentanyl.”

Haley tore into him for his flip—and for his talking points in general. “Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say,” she said.

She described TikTok as “one of the most dangerous social media apps” and called Ramaswamy untrustworthy.

But before you give her too much credit: Haley’s attack on Ramaswamy is particularly ironic considering the highly complimentary blurb she wrote for his book Woke, Inc., which was published in 2021.

Republicans love to hate on TikTok, warning that the Chinese-owned app is a threat to national security and data privacy. But the app is still hugely popular among young people. Restricting TikTok in any way could actually backfire on lawmakers and alienate younger voters.