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Idaho Republicans’ War on Books Has an Unbelievable New Target

Fellas, is it gay to hold hands?

Yang Kejia/China News Service/VCG/Getty Images

Idaho Republican lawmakers are pushing a bill to ban books that mention homosexuality, a broad definition that could include two characters of the same gender just holding hands.

The House of Representatives State Affairs Committee passed the bill 11–2 on Monday, along party lines. House Bill 384 now goes to the chamber floor for a vote.

The bill would ban all visual, audio, and written material that depicts “nudity, sexual conduct, or sado-masochistic abuse and that is harmful to minors” from schools and public libraries. These would be classified as “obscene materials.”

Obscenity laws are particularly hard to enforce, because definitions of obscenity still largely come down to individual interpretation. As a result, there will likely be more reports of material that should be banned, made by people who are either more conservative or just nervous about accidentally breaking the law.

Republican Representative Julianne Young, who sits on the committee, claimed that the proposed law would target “acts” of homosexuality, which could apply to characters of the same gender holding hands.

The measure says anything overtly sexual is harmful to minors, and specifically states that sexual conduct includes all acts of homosexuality. Any facility that violates the bill would be required to pay $250 in statutory damages, as well as legal fees and additional damages to the person who reported the offending material.

During Monday’s hearing, multiple library workers warned that this bill would prove devastating to libraries. One worker pointed out that libraries’ budgets are not big enough to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars in damages and legal fees from all the lawsuits that could result from this bill.

One thing I’ve learned is, there is something offensive about everything to someone,” she said.

Another library worker pointed out that many libraries employ people who are 16 or 17 years old. Under the bill, those teenagers would no longer be able to work in libraries.

Homosexuality does not equate to obscenity. It is your choice to sexualize children’s books,” she said.

At one point, Republican Representative Kevin Andrus said he had gotten a lot of emails from people concerned that the bill would require encyclopedias to be moved into the adult section of libraries. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Jaron Crane, said that encyclopedias do not violate the bill because they have “literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

Unfortunately, Crane’s defense doesn’t hold much water. Republican-led states have increasingly banned books that discuss race, gender, and sexuality. Most recently, a school district in Florida banned five dictionaries, eight encyclopedias, The Guinness Book of World Records, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not because those books mention sexual conduct.

Bernie Sanders to Force Vote That Could Freeze Military Aid to Israel

“I hope it is not controversial to ask how U.S. weapons are being used.”

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Bernie Sanders is forcing a Senate vote that could potentially freeze aid to Israel.

The independent senator from Vermont utilized a provision called the Foreign Assistance Act to introduce the resolution last week. If adopted, it would require the State Department to document any human rights abuses committed by Israel since October 7, 2023. Failure to produce a report within 30 days would stall military aid to Israel.

“In essence, we will be voting on a very simple question: Do you support asking the State Department whether human rights violations may have occurred using U.S. equipment or assistance in this war?” Sanders said on Wednesday, citing billions spent in military aid and the use of tens of thousands of American-supplied bombs in the conflict resulting in civilian deaths.

“I hope it is not controversial to ask how U.S. weapons are being used,” he added.

While the measure has small odds of passing—it would need to get through both chambers of Congress and be signed by President Joe Biden, who has vehemently sided with Israel in the ongoing conflict—Sanders’s resolution will elucidate which politicians really care about the widely documented crimes committed by the Israeli military.

As of this weekend, at least 24,100 Palestinians, including more than 9,600 children, have been killed since the war began, along with some 61,000 Palestinians injured, according to Palestine’s mission to the United Nations.

Gazans are also suffering from the complete bombardment of war as well as deliberate intervention by Israel to restrict humanitarian aid to the region, resulting in shortages of food, drinking water, medical supplies, electricity, and housing in Palestine.

The “great majority” of Gazans are “are actually in famine, not just at risk of famine,” Martin Griffiths, the U.N. undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, told CNN on Monday.

“In Gaza, 1.9 million people have been displaced by the bombing and the fighting, more than 85 percent of the population,” Sanders said in his statement last week. “Many of these people are homeless, and some 1.4 million are crowded into UN facilities. More than 100 of these UN facilities have been damaged in Israeli attacks. Tens of thousands of others are sleeping out in the cold as winter sets in.”

“All of us who know a little bit about history, when we hear the name Dresden, know that it is synonymous with the destruction of WWII. But that destruction happened over two years. Gaza matched this in two months,” Sanders noted.

Police Don’t Appear to Think Roger Stone’s Assassination Threats Were Just a Joke

The loyal Trump adviser is under police investigation yet again.

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The Capitol Police are reportedly investigating remarks made by Roger Stone, after explosive audio revealed the longtime Trump ally tried to plot the assassinations of two Democratic congressmen.

The FBI is aiding with the investigation, Mediaite reported Tuesday, citing anonymous sources.

A few weeks before the 2020 election, Stone told a member of his security detail that he wanted either Representative Eric Swalwell or Representative Jerry Nadler (or both) killed, according to audio obtained by Mediaite. Just a few months prior, Nadler had announced that the House Judiciary Committee, on which he and Swalwell serve, would investigate Trump’s decision to commute Stone’s sentence for federal crimes.

“It’s time to do it,” Stone told Sal Greco, then a member of the NYPD who was working as Stone’s security. “Let’s go find Swalwell. It’s time to do it. Then we’ll see how brave the rest of them are. It’s time to do it. It’s either Nadler or Swalwell has to die before the election. They need to get the message. Let’s go find Swalwell and get this over with. I’m just not putting up with this shit anymore.”

Stone, a notorious conservative political operative, has long been a loyal Trump adviser and ally. When Stone was convicted in July 2019 in relation to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, Trump indirectly intervened.

Stone was found guilty of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction of a proceeding. Prosecutors wanted Stone to be sentenced to nine years in prison, but Trump’s Justice Department reportedly stepped in to give him a shorter sentence. Then, just days before Stone was due to go to jail, Trump commuted his sentence entirely. Nadler announced the House Judiciary investigation into the commutation just a few days later.

Four of the prosecutors abruptly quit the case following the Justice Department’s intervention. At least one, Aaron Zelinsky, acknowledged he had left in protest. A separate audio recording revealed Stone wanted retribution against Zelinsky, as well.

Stone has denied making the comments about Zelinsky, Swalwell, or Nadler and said the audio had been made with artificial intelligence.

Nikki Haley Tries Weighing in on Racism Again—and It’s a Disaster

Why is the daughter of Indian immigrants like this?

Jim Vondruska/Bloomberg/Getty Images

GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley tried to claim that racism is no longer an issue on Tuesday, arguing that the United States isn’t a racist country and never has been.

“We’re not a racist country, Brian,” Haley told Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade. “We never have been.”

“I know, I faced racism when I was growing up. But I can tell you, today is a lot better than it was then,” the former South Carolina governor added. “I don’t want my kids growing up where they’re sitting there thinking that they’re disadvantaged because of a color or a gender. I want them to know that if they work hard, they can do and be anything they want to be in America.”

Viewers were quick to dredge up recollections from Haley’s own  2012 autobiography, Can’t Is Not an Option, as evidence that the daughter of Sikh Indian immigrants did experience discrimination on the basis of her race.

In one section of the book, Haley recounts how as a kindergartner she was cast as Pocahontas during a Thanksgiving play, despite the fact that she “wasn’t that kind of Indian.”

“It was annoying. I remember thinking to myself, Why can’t I be the pilgrim?” Haley wrote.

In another section, Haley recollects how her father was profiled by law enforcement due to his turban, how her brother begged to break with Sikh tradition and have his hair cut due to relentless bullying, and how, at the age of 8, she was disqualified from a local beauty pageant due to the color of her skin.

But despite Haley’s insistence that America—and her hometown of Bamberg, South Carolina—have changed, compatriots and local residents feel otherwise.

“I think all of us know what this country was built on. And [racism] still exists,” Tony Duncan, a Black business owner in Bamberg who went to school with Haley’s older siblings, told NPR last year. “It exists. As people here in America, we have to deal with these things.”

A 2023 Washington Post poll found that 51 percent of Black Americans felt racism would get worse over the rest of their lifetimes, with nearly 70 percent of respondents saying that now is a more dangerous time to be a Black teenager than when they were teenagers. That statistic includes nearly 80 percent of Black Americans who were aged 50 or above.

At the end of the day, the recent gaffe is just another sign that Haley has not yet figured out how to square the issue of race in her campaign. In December, Haley spurred controversy when she stumbled and fumbled her way through answering a point-blank question about the cause of the U.S. Civil War during a New Hampshire town hall, completely avoiding the topic of slavery.

Weeks later, the politico attempted to swat away comments about her perceived ignorance by claiming that she had Black friends.

“I knew half of South Carolinians saw the Confederate flag as heritage and tradition. The other half of South Carolinians saw it as slavery and hate. My job wasn’t to judge either side,” Haley said at the time, noting that “a leader doesn’t decide who’s right.”

Trump Unleashes Barrage of Attacks on E. Jean Carroll Amid Defamation Trial

Donald Trump is not handling any of this well.

Donald Trump
Jefferson Siegel/Pool/Getty Images

Someone is attacking E. Jean Carroll on Donald Trump’s Truth Social account—but it’s not the former president, who on Tuesday sat in a New York courtroom to face trial for defamation.

Trump entered the courtroom at about 9:42 a.m., according to multiple reporters on scene. Electronics were prohibited in the courtroom, so Trump could not have been on his phone.

But Trump’s social media account made 30 posts attacking Carroll and then re-shared two of those posts. The attacks began at 8:56 a.m. and continued until about 10 a.m. Trump could have scheduled most of the posts, but re-sharing something must be done manually, meaning Trump got someone else to keep up his diatribe.

Trump’s account shared media interview clips and social media posts that appear to come from Carroll, all stripped of context so as to paint her as some sort of sexual deviant. He also falsely claimed that President Joe Biden has pushed the lawsuit, that the co-founder of LinkedIn is paying Carroll’s legal fees, and that presiding Judge Lewis Kaplan and Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan (no relation) are Democratic operatives.

This isn’t the first time Trump has gone after Carroll in this fashion. Two weeks ago, he went on a similar posting spree trying to discredit the writer. In fact, his Tuesday posts include some of the same video and text clips.

Trump did not appear at his first trial against Carroll in May. But this time around, not only is he in the courtroom, he may even testify—although that will have to wait until January 22. But Judge Kaplan set a long list of restrictions on what Trump and his lawyers can say, and Trump’s most recent social media rant violates most of those rules.

Team Trump is barred from pushing conspiracies about Carroll’s lawyer or who might be paying her legal fees. They are prohibited from making comments about her “past romantic relationships, sexual disposition, and prior sexual experiences,” and they cannot argue that Trump did not sexually abuse Carroll or act with actual malice when making his comments about her. Kaplan has also ruled that Trump can’t argue he didn’t rape Carroll, because he was technically found to have done so.

In May, a jury unanimously found Trump liable 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 $5 million in damages.

Kaplan ruled in September that since Trump has already been found liable for sexual abuse, his 2019 comments are by default defamatory. Tuesday’s trial is to set damages, and Carroll is seeking at least $10 million.

Donald Trump May Have Won Iowa—but He Just Lost a Slew of Lawyers

Trump has lost an impressive number of lawyers in one day.

David Dee Delgado/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Despite his overwhelming popularity at the Iowa caucuses, Donald Trump can’t seem to keep a grip on his legal representation.

On Monday, one of the GOP front-runner’s star attorneys, Joe Tacopina, filed a declaration to withdraw his firm from two of Trump’s upcoming legal battles: his hush-money criminal trial in Manhattan and the E. Jean Carroll defamation case, which Trump has been desperately trying to appeal since being found liable for sexual abuse and defamation.

“I respectfully submit this Declaration in support of [law firm Tacopina Seigel and DeOreo’s] motion, made pursuant to Local Civil Rule 27.1, to withdraw as counsel (including TSD attorneys Joseph Tacopina, Chad D. Seigel and Matthew G. DeOreo) for Trump, with such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper,” Tacopina wrote in the legal filing, effectively pulling three of Trump’s attorneys in one fell swoop.

It’s not clear why Tacopina decided to withdraw, though the decision comes during a year of extreme legal uncertainty for Trump, who is on the line for 91 criminal charges in four separate legal cases—34 of which stem from the hush-money case, in which Trump is accused of using his former fixer Michael Cohen to sweep an affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels under the rug ahead of the 2016 presidential election. That trial is set to begin in late March.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing in the cases against him.

When asked for comment, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung did not acknowledge the recusal of Tacopina’s firm but instead slammed Trump’s upcoming legal challenges as partisan efforts to keep Trump away from the White House, reported The New York Times.

Trump “has the most experienced, qualified, disciplined, and overall strongest legal team ever assembled,” Cheung claimed, according to the outlet.

“A lawyer might attempt to withdraw as counsel of record for a client in a pending case for a number of reasons,” former federal prosecutor Michael McAuliffe told Newsweek.

“The attorney-client relationship might have suffered a fundamental breach of confidence, running in either or both directions. A strong-willed client who thinks he or she is more of a lawyer than the actual lawyer can create an untenable scenario for that lawyer to continue representing the client’s interests,” McAuliffe said, adding that there’s a chance the court may require Tacopina to identify a legal or factual basis to withdraw from representing the former president.

Rapist Republican Front-Runner Heads Straight to Court After Iowa Win

Donald Trump is back in the courtroom for another legal trial, fresh off his victory in the Iowa caucuses.

Trump at the New York state Supreme Court

Just hours after Iowa Republican voters cemented his status as the party’s front-runner, Donald Trump headed to New York on Tuesday to face the music for sexually assaulting and then defaming E. Jean Carroll.

Trump swept Iowa Monday night with 51 percent of the votes, the largest margin of victory since the state began holding Republican caucuses. The win established him more firmly than ever as the front-runner for the party’s nomination and set him up for another success at the New Hampshire primary next week.

But first, Trump has to face Carroll in New York. Trump is on trial for comments he made in 2019, when he said Carroll accused him of raping her just to promote her memoir. Presiding Judge Lewis Kaplan has already determined the former president is liable for defamation, so the trial is primarily to set damages.

Trump did not appear at his first trial against Carroll in May. But this time around, he is in the courtroom and may even testify—although that will have to wait until January 22, the day before the New Hampshire primary. (Trump isn’t required to attend, and he certainly isn’t required to testify.)

There are strict limitations on what Trump can and cannot say if he does take the stand. Kaplan issued an order last week barring Trump and his lawyers from pushing conspiracies about Carroll’s lawyer or who might be paying the writer’s legal fees. They are prohibited from making comments “concerning Ms. Carroll’s past romantic relationships, sexual disposition, and prior sexual experiences,” and they cannot argue that Trump did not sexually abuse Carroll or act with actual malice when making his comments about her.

Kaplan has also ruled that Trump can’t argue he didn’t rape Carroll. Although Trump was found liable for sexual abuse, Kaplan has repeatedly stated that Trump “‘raped’ her as many people commonly understand the word ‘rape.’”

In other words, a federal judge has recognized that Trump is a rapist.

Trump has already shown he is unwilling to listen to judges’ rules after he went on a courtroom rant on the last day of his financial fraud trial in New York. So there is no guarantee he’ll stick to Kaplan’s ruling if allowed to testify against Carroll.

In May, a jury unanimously found Trump liable 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 $5 million in damages.

Kaplan ruled in September that since Trump has already been found liable for sexual abuse, his 2019 comments are by default defamatory. Carroll is now seeking at least $10 million in damages.

Kansas Legislators to Kansas Voters: You Spoke Loud and Clear, and We Don’t Care

Kansas Republicans are bringing back their scheme to overturn voters on abortion.

Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Republican lawmakers in Kansas want to make sure you know they don’t care about the will of the voters. State representatives have introduced a bill completely banning abortion, despite Kansans voting less than two years ago to keep protections for the procedure in the state constitution.

House Bill 2492 was introduced Wednesday by eight Republican state representatives, seven of whom are men. The measure would ban all abortions except those necessary to save the patient’s life.

The bill bans prescribing, distributing, selling, or donating abortion medication. Anyone who helps someone get an abortion could face civil proceedings, while doctors who perform abortions would face a minimum fine of $10,000 per procedure.

The measure flies directly in the face of the will of the voters, as noted by Amber Sellers, the advocacy director of Trust Women, a pro-abortion nonprofit in Wichita, Kansas. “Kansans spoke—loudly—on the issue,” Sellers told the Kansas Reflector. “It’s time for anti-abortion lawmakers to wake up, remember and finally listen to the message that voters continue to send.”

In August 2022, less than two months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Kansans voted overwhelmingly to keep language in the state constitution protecting the right to abortion. The vote proved to be a bellwether, with multiple states voting to increase abortion protections since.

But that didn’t stop Kansas Republican lawmakers from trying to circumvent the will of the people. The Sunflower State GOP has tried to pass a bill that would let local governments of individual towns and cities ban abortion, as well as a bill that would force doctors to lie to their patients about abortion medication. Both measures were ultimately unsuccessful.

And just as the Kansas vote turned out to be an indicator of what voters wanted nationwide, so too have Republicans in other states followed the Kansas GOP’s model. Most recently, Ohio residents voted in November to enshrine abortion protections in the state constitution. Ohio Republican lawmakers immediately set about finding ways to enact legislation that would undermine the results.

If the Kansas bill passes the state legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, it will likely be vetoed by Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. The GOP does have a large enough majority to override Kelly’s veto, but the abortion ban is unlikely to survive a legal challenge. The state Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that the Kansas constitution protects abortion rights, meaning the bill violates those rights.

The Stable Genius Trump Just Got Hammered to the Tune of $400,000

Donald Trump has suffered another legal blow, this time over his lawsuit against the The New York Times.

A New York state judge on Friday ordered Donald Trump to pay The New York Times almost $400,000 in legal fees for a lawsuit he brought against the paper in 2021.

Trump accused the paper and three Times reporters of conspiring with his niece Mary Trump, who has contributed to The New Republic, in an “insidious plot” to illicitly obtain his tax records. The Times published a series of stories on Trump’s taxes in 2018 that revealed the president wasn’t the self-made billionaire he claimed he was. In fact, most of his wealth came from his parents or from dodging taxes, as his businesses continued to bleed money elsewhere.

State Supreme Court Justice Robert Reed dismissed Trump’s case in May, writing in his ruling that Trump’s claims “fail as a matter of constitutional law.”

Reed issued another ruling on Friday ordering Trump to pay the paper and the reporters Susanne Craig, David Barstow, and Russ Buettner a total of $392,638.69 in legal fees.

Trump made waves by refusing to release his tax returns when he first ran for president in 2016, which is not required but is precedent. He then actually brought more attention to his taxes by continually refusing to release the documents to the public or at the very least to Congress.

The House Ways and Means Committee finally obtained six years’ worth of the former president’s tax returns in late November 2022. After first reviewing the documents behind closed doors, the committee released Trump’s tax returns. The documents revealed Trump listed large charitable donations, millions of dollars in goods sold, and massive financial losses each year to avoid paying taxes.

Trump Must Return Millions He Got From Foreign Governments, Democrats Say

Democrats are tearing into Donald Trump for his violation of the Constitution.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Representative Jamie Raskin demanded Friday that Donald Trump return the nearly $8 million he was paid by foreign governments while he was president.

A report released last week by House Oversight Committee Democrats found that Trump made more than $7.8 million during his first two years in office. He did not ask Congress for permission to keep the money, as is required by the Constitution.

“I write today to demand that you immediately return to the American people the $7,886,072 that we know you have accepted from foreign governments,” Raskin said in a letter to Trump.

The Maryland Democrat noted that the report findings were likely incomplete, as it covers just half of Trump’s presidency and transactions at just four of his more than 500 businesses.

“I also demand that you give Congress a full accounting of the money, benefits and other emoluments ‘of any kind whatever’ you pocketed from foreign governments or their agents during your term as President and that you return the total sum of these foreign emoluments,” Raskin said in his letter.

“Your acceptance of foreign emoluments while in office was a stunning violation of the U.S. Constitution—and a profound betrayal of the interests of the United States and the trust of the American people.”

The money came from some of the “world’s most unsavory regimes,” according to the report, and Trump never asked for congressional approval to keep the funds, as mandated by the Constitution. The countries included China—which gave Trump $5.5 million, the largest sum listed in the report—Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Hungary.

Trump isn’t even trying to hide the fact that he received payments from foreign governments. In a Fox News town hall Wednesday night, Trump dismissed the amount as “a small amount of money.”

He then justified the fact that he received foreign payments by arguing he was “doing services for them.”

“People were staying in these massive hotels, these beautiful hotels,” Trump said. “I don’t get $8 million for doing nothing.”