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Nikki Haley’s Trump Comment Exposes GOP’s New Authoritarianism Low

Even authoritarianism experts are sounding the alarm.

Nikki Haley puts her hand in Donald Trump’s.
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images

Nikki Haley refused to condemn Donald Trump for saying that people he doesn’t like should be killed, a chilling sign of how the Republican Party is starting to embrace authoritarian violence.

Trump went off the deep end two weeks ago, accusing former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley of treason and implying the now-retired general should be put to death. Republicans have been quick to echo Trump’s call.

In a Sunday night interview, Haley tried to avoid explicitly condemning Trump himself. “I just think it’s irresponsible,” she said blandly, when asked by NBC’s Kristen Welker if Trump should be disqualified from the presidential race over his statement.

“You don’t need to say things like that,” Haley continued, with all the force of reprimanding a mildly misbehaving toddler. “I think that any man or woman that has served our country deserves the highest respect.… They sacrifice a lot, their families sacrifice a lot, and we should honor them every chance we get.”

It should go without saying, but Trump making comments like this is incredibly dangerous. His followers have shown themselves quick to spring to action. Hundreds of January 6 defendants have said they descended on Washington because Trump personally called on them.

The fact that Haley refused to give a straightforward answer (which would have risked angering Trump and alienating his supporters) is a sign of how much influence Trump still holds over the Republican Party. And this is just as dangerous as his statement about Milley.

“Apparently the idea of executing Milley is now the Party Line,” historian and authoritarianism expert Ruth Ben-Ghiat tweeted about Haley’s interview. “We are living through real-time preparation for an authoritarian crackdown.”

“We are in [the] phase of ‘getting the public used to the idea of violence.’ Having authoritative voices like Haley endorse violence is key.”

Trump Organization Exec Admits He Considered Fraud Part of the Job

Jeff McConney is blowing the door wide open on exactly how the Trump Organization operated.

Michael Nagle/Bloomberg/Getty Images

One of the witnesses in Donald Trump’s New York business fraud trial admitted Friday that he regularly committed tax fraud.

Jeff McConney served as a Trump Organization executive from 1987 until February of this year. He was granted immunity in exchange for helping prosecutors, and has previously admitted to breaking the law to help company executives avoid taxes. On Friday, he shed even more light on what exactly that entailed.

Andrew Amer, a lawyer for the Office of the New York State Attorney General, asked McConney whether he had been asked more than once to help Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg commit tax fraud. McConney said yes.

McConney also admitted that Weisselberg had told him to process a payroll check for Weisselberg’s wife so she could get Social Security benefits, even though she was not a Trump Organization employee.

McConney has previously acknowledged he knew he was breaking the law. He testified Friday that he continued to commit fraud because Weisselberg was his boss, and McConney knew he would likely lose his job if he stopped obeying.

McConney also admitted to helping fraudulently inflate the value of multiple Trump Organization real estate assets. One such property was the Seven Springs estate in Westchester, New York. Trump’s son Eric was planning in 2012 to develop the property for seven houses.

The houses were valued at $161 million—how much they would be worth if they were immediately available. The Trump Organization did not take into account that the value would actually be lower in the present due to the years it would take to actually build the homes, the cost of building them, and the cost of marketing them.

McConney continued to value the homes as producing a $23 million profit for the next three years. In 2015, the homes had not been built, and the Trump Organization instead donated the land rights to conservation, giving the organization the right to a hefty tax deduction.

New York Attorney General Letitia James sued Trump and the Trump Organization in September 2022 for business fraud. She has accused him of dramatically inflating his net worth by lying about the value of his real estate holdings, including his Trump Tower apartment and his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Trump has denied the charges, but he more or less admitted to fraud earlier this week. He insisted Tuesday that his organization’s financial documents were not the least bit fraudulent—but even if they were, he couldn’t be held responsible because it was up to the lenders and insurers to fact-check that.

House Republicans Finally Did Something Smart

Republicans wanted to have a televised House speaker debate. Then they came to their senses.

Rep. Jim Jordan
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Representative Jim Jordan

The televised debate to be the next speaker of the House of Representatives is off—for now.

On Friday, only hours after speaker candidates Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan, and Kevin Hern apparently agreed to a live, televised debate on Fox News, all three backed out. It’s not entirely clear why the trio suddenly decided to cancel the debate, but it’s likely that it was the result of an entirely warranted freakout from their caucus’s more moderate members: A televised debate for the speakership was a monumentally stupid idea, one that would have made the already difficult job nearly impossible to do.

House Republicans have never been more ungovernable than they are now. On Tuesday, Matt Gaetz and seven confederates managed to oust Kevin McCarthy from his job as speaker, which he had held for less than nine months. Their objections basically boiled down to McCarthy failing to do every single thing they asked him to—even though many of those things either lacked the votes to pass or would have literally shut down the government for an indefinite period of time.

Speaker of the House may be the worst job in America, and yet the race to fill it is growing more crowded. Steve Scalise—a Louisiana Republican who once boasted he was “David Duke without the baggage”—is probably the front-runner; a longtime member of party leadership, he has the type of deep connections within his caucus that are necessary to run the show. Jim Jordan, a loudmouthed, bomb-throwing, Fox News favorite, is the candidate of the insurgents; he has the support of Donald Trump and much of right-wing media, where he is a mainstay.

Normally, the way these races unfold is fairly simple: Candidates make their case to the members of their caucus that they are the most effective person to lead the chamber. In some cases, deals are made—such a deal with Gaetz and his allies was ultimately what doomed McCarthy’s speakership. But this is not a normal Republican Party or a normal race for speaker. As such, the candidates hatched a plan: What if they debated the job, live on Fox News?

This was, to put it lightly, a self-defeating idea. A debate for speaker would force each candidate into grandstanding and promises that would arguably make whipping votes and bringing bills to the floor impossible. McCarthy’s speakership was just ended in part because of Gaetz’s ability to wield the kind of naked, fantastical partisanship represented by Fox News as a cudgel. A debate would accomplish nothing, but it would virtually guarantee that the kind of dysfunction we have seen over the past week would play out indefinitely. (It also made little sense from Scalise’s perspective, given that Jordan is far better suited for a Fox News debate.)

In any case, the candidates came to their senses: A few hours after the debate was announced, it was reported by multiple outlets that all parties had reconsidered. It still isn’t clear how the race for speaker will play out. It is still very likely that whoever becomes speaker will have many of the same problems McCarthy did. But one thing is certain: Whatever happens, it won’t be televised.

Donald “Never Surrender” Trump Surrenders

Trump is giving up on the lawsuits he initiated himself.

James Devaney/GC Images

Donald Trump is so sick of winning that he withdrew two major lawsuits in 24 hours just to give himself a break.

The former president talks a big game about how successful he is and how he never gives up until he wins. After he was arraigned in Georgia for trying to overthrow the state’s 2020 election results, his campaign released a line of merchandise featuring his mug shot and the phrase “Never Surrender.”

But on Friday, Trump surrendered: He dropped a lawsuit against Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the former president’s business fraud case in New York. Trump had sued Engoron last month for allegedly ignoring an appeals court order, a move that was widely seen as an attempt by Trump’s lawyers to delay the trial.

Engoron has handed Trump a steady stream of losses before the trial even began. The judge ruled last week that Trump committed business fraud and ordered that all his New York business certificates be canceled. This makes it nearly impossible to do business in New York and could effectively kill the Trump Organization as it exists today.

After the trial began Monday, Engoron issued a partial gag order for all involved parties after Trump tried to bully a court clerk. Engoron then ruled late Wednesday that Trump and his co-defendants must tell a court-appointed monitor if they transfer any assets of their companies.

Trump also moved Thursday to dismiss a lawsuit against his former lawyer Michael Cohen. Trump had sued Cohen in April for $500 million, accusing him of breaching his “fiduciary duty” and violating attorney-client privileges so he could be “unjustly enriched.”

At the time, Trump had just been indicted in New York for his alleged role in hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. Cohen was a key witness in the investigation, appearing multiple times before a grand jury.

Trump withdrew the lawsuit against Cohen “without prejudice,” meaning he reserves the right to refile it at any point.*

* This article was corrected to note that Trump withdrew the Cohen lawsuit without prejudice.

Trump Loves Sharing National Security Secrets With Random Strangers

A new report says Donald Trump shared nuclear secrets with an Australian billionaire. This isn’t the first time he’s shared classified intel.

Donald Trump
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Donald Trump allegedly shared sensitive nuclear information with a random member of his Mar-a-Lago club, who then went on to share that information with dozens of other people.

Trump allegedly told Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt in April 2021 that Australia should start buying its submarines from the U.S. Trump then told Pratt the supposed exact number of nuclear warheads a U.S. sub can carry, and how close it can supposedly get to a Russian sub without being detected, ABC News reported late Thursday, citing anonymous sources.

Pratt then told at least 45 other people—including six journalists, 11 employees at his company, 10 Australian officials, and three former Australian prime ministers—about Trump’s comments before he was approached by special counsel Jack Smith’s team.

Smith’s team was looking into whether Trump had mishandled national security secrets after leaving the White House. Pratt told investigators he didn’t know if Trump’s comments were true or just showing off, but investigators told him to stop sharing the numbers, “suggesting the information could be too sensitive to relay further,” ABC wrote.

Smith indicted Trump two years later for hoarding classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Of the 40 total charges against Trump, 32 are for willful retention of national defense information. He is accused of keeping an array of classified national security material after leaving the White House, despite being unauthorized to do so.

The incident with Pratt is far from the first time that Trump shared classified information with people unauthorized to hear it. In May 2017, Trump shared highly classified information with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador to the United States that the U.S. hasn’t shared with some of its closest allies. Current and former U.S. officials warned that Trump had jeopardized a crucial intelligence source on the Islamic State group.

Later that month, Trump told then-Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that the U.S. had positioned two nuclear submarines off the Korean peninsula. The locations of nuclear subs are meant to be kept secret, as a matter of national security. In fact, only the captains and crews know the sub’s exact location.

Then, in July 2017, CNN reported that the U.S. was forced to extract a spy embedded in the Russian government after concerns that Trump had shared classified information that could have exposed them.

Rather than learn his lesson, Trump met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit (also in July 2017). Trump confiscated the interpreter’s notes at the end of the meeting, an unusual move that led intelligence officials to believe he had shared more classified information.

Trump tweeted a video in December 2018 of the Al Asad Airbase in Iraq, exposing a SEAL team’s faces and location. The next year, he bragged about U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities to reporter Bob Woodward and tweeted photos that revealed the location of U.S. spy satellites.

And of course, it didn’t stop after he left office. One of the documents he allegedly kept detailed a plan to attack Iran. He is accused of waving the paper around in front of people.

King of Political Stunts Matt Gaetz Calls Biden Impeachment a Political Stunt

When you’ve lost even Matt Gaetz

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Representative Matt Gaetz

Just days before he successfully booted Kevin McCarthy as House speaker, Representative Matt Gaetz dismissed the Republican impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden as a pointless stunt.

Gaetz made the comments last week during an invitation-only Zoom fundraiser, where he spoke alongside Representative Matt Rosendale, NBC reported Friday. Rosendale was one of seven other Republicans who voted with Gaetz to oust McCarthy.

“I don’t believe that we are endeavoring upon a legitimate impeachment of Joe Biden,” Gaetz said.

“They’re trying to engage in a, like, ‘forever war’ of impeachment,” he continued. “And like many of our forever wars, it will drag on forever and end in a bloody draw.”

House Republicans launched an impeachment inquiry into Biden in September. They have for months accused the president of wrongdoing via his connection to his son Hunter’s business dealings, but they have yet to provide any actual evidence.

“I just don’t get the sense that it’s for the sake of impeachment. I think it’s for the sake of having another bad thing to say about Joe Biden,” Gaetz said.

The comments are surprising coming from Gaetz, who has previously admitted that the impeachment inquiry is not supposed to end in an actual impeachment. He said in August that the point of the inquiry is simply to undermine Biden’s credibility in the 2024 presidential election. Gaetz seemed fairly on board with the Republican plan at the time.

His comments last week struck a different tone, and that may have something to do with the fact that he was gearing up to kick out the man who launched the impeachment inquiry. McCarthy allowed Representatives James Comer and Jim Jordan to lead pointless investigations into Biden’s supposed corruption. McCarthy then formally opened the inquiry and tapped both Comer and Jordan to lead it.

McCarthy was then historically removed from power when Gaetz—whom members of his own party have since denounced as desperate for attention—started the process to vacate the speaker.

Trump’s Genius Legal Team Makes One More Sure-to-Lose Argument

Donald Trump is trying to throw out the federal election interference case against him. It’s not likely to work.

Mary Altafeer-Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump is trying one more time to throw out the federal indictment against him for trying to overthrow the 2020 election, this time by claiming presidential immunity—an argument with very little merit.

Special counsel Jack Smith indicted Trump in August for his role in the January 6 insurrection and other attempts to overturn the presidential election. Trump faces one count each of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to corruptly obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against the right to vote.

Trump has repeatedly denied the charges and insisted he did nothing wrong. He echoed that claim Thursday when he filed a motion to dismiss the charges.

“The incumbent administration has charged President Trump for acts that lie … at the heart of his official responsibilities as President,” the filing said. “The prosecution does not, and cannot, argue that President Trump’s efforts to ensure election integrity, and to advocate for the same, were outside the scope of his duties.”

Trump also tried to discredit one of prosecutors’ main arguments, which is that Trump knew he had lost the election and still tried to overturn it. Trump’s lawyers have argued that Trump truly believed he had won and was simply following his lawyers’ advice.

“The President’s motivations are not for the prosecution or this Court to decide,” the filing said. “Rather, where, as here, the President’s actions are within the ambit of his office, he is absolutely immune from prosecution.”

Trump is unlikely to be successful, especially as his entire legal team has all but admitted to the crimes. His lawyer Alina Habba undermined his defense by admitting that “everybody was made aware that he lost the election,” and his lawyer John Lauro also publicly confessed that Trump asked then–Vice President Mike Pence to delay certifying the nation’s votes (which is illegal).

Trump himself may have even undermined his own defense. In a September interview with NBC, he said that he was the one who made the final decisions regarding the 2020 election, not his lawyers.

So given all of the evidence coming out of Trump’s own camp, it’s hard to see how he can successfully argue that he was carrying out his presidential duties in good faith.

Donald Trump’s Favorite New York Judge Has Even More Bad News for Him

New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron is determined to keep a close eye on Trump and Trump Organization executives.

Donald Trump surrounded by his legal team
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s business fraud case in New York has made it much, much harder for the former president to squirrel away cash.

New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron ruled last week that Trump committed business fraud and ordered that all his New York business certificates be canceled. This makes it nearly impossible to do business in New York and could effectively kill the Trump Organization as it exists today.

Engoron has now ruled, in a document filed late Wednesday, that Trump and his co-defendants must tell a court-appointed monitor, retired federal Judge Barbara Jones, if they transfer any assets of their companies.

Trump, his sons Donald Jr. and Eric, longtime Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, and Trump Organization executive Jeffrey McConney must also tell Jones if they apply for a new business certificate or transfer any business rights, properties, or benefits to someone else.

Engoron has delivered loss after loss to Trump since issuing the partial summary judgment last week. He fined Trump’s lawyers $7,500 each for repeating arguments he had previously dismissed, and also issued a partial gag order barring involved parties from discussing court staff, after Trump tried to bully a court clerk and shared her personal information.

Trump appears to be spiraling. He has repeatedly accused Engoron of being a Democratic political operative who is acting out of bias. Trump has also leveled vicious attacks at New York state Attorney General Letitia James, who sued him for fraud in the first place.

James accused Trump of dramatically inflating his net worth, by as much as $3.6 billion in one year, by lying about the value of various real estate assets. Trump claimed his Trump Tower apartment in Manhattan was three times its actual size and worth $327 million, even though no New York City apartment has ever sold for that much.

Trump also valued Mar-a-Lago at $739 million. In reality, it’s worth about a tenth of that amount. His valuation was based on the property’s potential for residential development, but the terms of its deed prevent the land from ever being used that way.

New Jersey GOP Candidate Blames Poop-Smearing Incident on... Obama

Joseph Viso Jr. had an inane explanation when admitting to his history of poop-smearing.

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Republican candidate for New Jersey State Assembly Joseph Viso Jr. confessed to once smearing feces on a children’s day care center—but he says Barack Obama is to blame.

Viso, an electrician with a lengthy rap sheet, took a page out of a toddler’s handbook when, in an escalating feud with a day care center located adjacent to his electrical company, he smeared poop on the business’s doors.

When asked about the incident, which occurred in 2009, Viso said he was angry because he believed that employees of the day care, called Children’s Studio, were getting his employees’ cars ticketed anytime they parked near the business. “Those people harassed my men every day,” Viso told the New Jersey Globe.  

The police report of the incident noted that Viso Electric, his electrical company, would often blast music with offensive lyrics next to the playground of the day care center.

While Viso admitted the act was wrong, he also tried to explain his strange behavior in an oddly political and completely inane way.

“I was a young man. It was a horrible time, and I made a mistake,” he said. “Obama came into office the year before.”

Viso was about 38 years old at the time of the poop-smearing incident.

After the incident, Viso pleaded guilty to criminal mischief charges and was fined $250. Viso has a lengthy record of criminal convictions on federal and state gun and drug charges, including possessing enough methylone to make five million “Molly” or ecstasy tablets in 2016, and possessing a sawed-off shotgun in proximity to a school in 2014.

The Attack on Wisconsin’s Governor Perfectly Sums Up Our Gun Problem

The attempted attack on Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers captures the problem with guns in this country—and how it helps foment political violence.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers at the virtual Democratic National Convention
Melina Mara/Pool/Getty Images

A man tried this week to attack Democratic Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, twice in one day, first with a handgun and then with an assault rifle after posting bail, a state spokesperson said Thursday.

The man, who has not been identified, entered the state Capitol on Wednesday at 2 p.m. with a holstered handgun. He did not have a concealed carry permit, spokesperson Tatyana Warrick told the AP.

The man demanded to see Evers, who was not in the building at the time. The man was then arrested for openly carrying a firearm in the Capitol without a permit. He was booked into prison but later posted bail.

Then, at 9 p.m., the man returned to the Capitol with an assault-style rifle, again demanding to see the governor. The building had closed to the public three hours earlier. The man was then arrested again. Madison police said Thursday that the man had been hospitalized as well.

This is the second time in as many years that Evers has been targeted by a gunman. In 2022, Evers was on the hit list of a gunman who is accused of fatally shooting a retired Wisconsin county judge. The list also included Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Senator Mitch McConnell.

The attempted attack on Evers Wednesday perfectly sums up two rapidly growing issues in the United States. It’s terrifying that someone was able to procure multiple guns and carry them around without a permit.

There are also increasing attacks on political officials. Many of these attacks can be linked directly back to violent rhetoric from Donald Trump and his allies. Whitmer, who was the target of a kidnapping plot, and Evers are both Democrats who have championed more progressive causes.

Evers used a partial veto of the state budget in July to guarantee funding increases for public schools for the next four centuries. And Whitmer has successfully increased protections for abortion access and labor unions.